NAPSNet Daily Report 24 November, 2010
Contents in this Issue:
1. ROK-US Military Exercises
CNN (“US WARSHIPS HEAD TO YELLOW SEA FOR MILITARY DRILLS”, Incheon, 2010/11/24) reported that the United States is dispatching an aircraft carrier strike group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula for joint military exercises that President Obama said would reinforce the U.S. alliance with the ROK in the wake of a DPRK artillery attack Tuesday. The U.S. military headquarters in Seoul announced Wednesday that the USS George Washington carrier group would join ROK naval forces west of the peninsula from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 to conduct exercises that have been planned since July. “This exercise is defensive in nature,” the military said in a statement. “While planned well before yesterday’s unprovoked artillery attack, it demonstrates the strength of the [South Korea]-U.S. Alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence. It is also designed to improve our military interoperability.”
2. Inter-Korean Relations
Xinhua News Agency (“S KOREA SUSPENDS PLEDGED AID TO DPRK FOLLOWING MARITIME CLASH”, Beijing, 2010/11/23) reported that the ROK has suspended delivery of pledged aid to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) following its artillery barrage on a ROK island, the unification ministry said Wednesday. The package of aid, including the first government-financed rice aid in years, was meant to help the DPRK cope with flood damages sustained in August. But the planned delivery of some 7,000 tons of cement and medical supplies worth 580 million won (500,000 U.S. dollars) will be suspended, and the government will stop civic groups from sending humanitarian aid to the DPRK, ministry spokesman Chun Hae- sung told reporters. The ministry on Tuesday postponed indefinitely Red Cross talks over reunion of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean war in protest against what Seoul sees as Pyongyang’s unprovoked shelling on Tuesday afternoon. The talks were originally slated for Thursday.
3. US on DPRK Nuclear Program
Chosun Ilbo (“US MOVES SPY AIRCRAFT IN PREPARATION FOR N. KOREAN NUKE TEST”, 2010/11/24) reported that the U.S. Air Force moved a WC-135 Constant Phoenix reconnaissance jet from the U.S. mainland to the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, in September in preparation for another nuclear test by the DPRK, the Sankei Shimbun reported Tuesday. The WC-135, a modified aircraft, is able to detect nuclear explosions from the air by collecting samples from the atmosphere. Japan’s Defense Ministry has also been gathering information with EP3 and YS11E electronic intelligence aircrafts, according to the daily. A Japanese government official said the DPRK’s preparations for a nuclear test “seem to have taken place for over half a year now, so after spending such a long time building a new tunnel, it seems unlikely they won’t act.”
Joong Ang Ilbo (“CAUTIOUS STAND BY US OVER REDEPLOYING NUKES”, 2010/11/24) reported that Washington ruled out redeploying tactical nuclear weapons on the ROK at least in the near future, a possibility raised by ROK Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young as a deterrence against the DPRK’s growing nuclear threat. “The U.S. and our international partners are consulting on what steps to take in light of this new information,” U.S. Defense Department spokesman Dave Lapan told reporters on Monday. “So I’d say it’s premature to talk about any specific steps.” Kim, answering a question at a National Assembly session on Monday, said that he would consider discussing the U.S. bringing back tactical nuclear weapons in an upcoming meeting between Seoul and Washington defense chiefs. A high-ranking official at the National Defense Ministry said yesterday that Kim’s comments were taken out of context, in that they were meant only to say that the issue would be a point of consultation with the U.S. on the DPRK’s nuclear threat. The official said the government will not talk about the redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons because discussing the issue counters efforts to denuclearize the peninsula.
4. Sino-DPRK Relations
The Sydney Morning Herald (“CHINA ‘REGRETS’ N KOREA ATTACK CASUALTIES “, 2010/11/25) reported that the PRC on Wednesday expressed regret over the casualties of the DPRK’s deadly bombardment of an ROK island and urged the two sides to start talks to avoid any further such incidents. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing was “concerned” about the situation on the Korean Peninsula, echoing remarks he made a day earlier. “China pays close attention to the incident. We regret the casualties and property losses, and are concerned about the situation,” Hong said in a statement reported by the official Xinhua news agency.
5. Japan-DPRK Relations
Wall Street Journal (“JAPAN OFFICIALS THREATEN TOUGHER SANCTIONS ON NORTH KOREA”, 2010/11/24) reported that Japanese officials Wednesday threatened tougher economic sanctions against the DPRK in response to the shelling of a ROK island, amid growing concerns about the potential economic impact from intensifying tensions in the region. “We may move to strengthen sanctions,” against the DPRK, Economy Minister Banri Kaieda said at a news conference, noting that the Korean conflict could weigh on Japanese share prices. Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda also voiced concern over the possible impact of the skirmish on Japan’s fragile economic recovery, and he predicted the government will consider strengthening sanctions already in place. “We must do our utmost to ensure there will be no impact on our economy,” Mr. Noda said at a separate news conference. Mr. Noda also called the firing by DPRK “an utterly unforgivable action that targeted those including even civilians” and vowed to back the ROK in cooperation with the U.S. The government will step up intelligence-gathering and prepare for emergencies, he added.