DPRK (North Korea) Chronology for 2012


DPRK (NORTH KOREA) CHRONOLOGY FOR 2012
Compiled by
Leon V. Sigal
Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project
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1/1/12:
New Year’s Editorial: “… It was an ennobling intention of Kim Jong Il to celebrate the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung as the most auspicious and significant event, which would solemnly declare the victory in the Songun-based great upsurge. In order to bring about a proud victory in 2012, he displayed super-human energy in leading the all-people advance. He continued his on-site guidance tours, up until the last moments of his revolutionary life, to major fronts of the building of a thriving nation, the army posts at the front line and various other parts of the country, thus bringing the 100-year history of the Juche era resplendent with great victories and changes to a close. Last year significant achievements were made in the great upsurge for improving the people’s standard of living, and solid foundations laid for building the country into an economic giant in the 21st century. Under the great General’s tireless leadership, the torch of the industrial revolution in the new century was kindled and our national economy has entered the stage of building a powerful country with the knowledge-based economy. The Huichon Power Station and other monumental edifices to be dedicated to the grand festival in 2012 are being set up in many parts of the country, and the flames of Hamnam, the banner of a fresh grand march, are flaring up fiercely. Amidst the great upsurge for improving the people’s standard of living, many light-industry factories were renovated and modern livestock and fish-farming bases and large-size fruit-farming bases, prototypes of their kinds in the new century, were built in various parts of the country; these are great products born of our Party’s strategy for achieving prosperity. Today we are confident in saying that we, with a great pride in being a victor, are at the epochal point of opening the gates of a thriving country. …As long as there are the Party, army and state, which Kim Jong Il developed to be invincible, as long as Kim Jong Un, successor to the revolutionary cause of Juche, leads us sagaciously and as long as there is an excellent people who support their leaders faithfully through generations, the cause of building a thriving country is sure to emerge victorious-this is an iron truth inscribed in our hearts as we set out on a fresh march. … The flames of Hamnam for great innovation should flare up more fiercely in the sectors of light industry and agriculture, the leading sectors for the building of a thriving country. The sector of light industry should direct utmost concern to making the modern production bases, which are associated with our Party’s great care, pay off. It should produce in larger amounts quality goods which cater to people’s tastes and are welcomed by them. The problem of raw and other materials necessary for this sector should be solved by relying on domestic resources, and the relentless drive be continued to develop the local industry. At present, the food problem is a burning issue in building a thriving country. Today Party organizations’ militant efficiency and officials’ loyalty to the revolution will be verified in solving this problem. They should implement to the letter the Party’s policy of agricultural revolution so as to radically increase the per-unit area yield of grain both in lowlands and highlands. It is important to achieve cyclic production between farming and stockbreeding, introduce the organic farming method of our style in a proactive manner and take timely measures to satisfy the demand for farming materials and machinery needed to hit the target for agricultural production. They should ensure that the modern bases for stockbreeding and poultry farming and large-size fruit and fish farms, all having an important share in the improvement of people’s living standards, run at full capacity. The vanguard sectors of the national economy, the sectors of basic industries, are charged with making breakthroughs in the grand onward march for the next 100 years following the flames of Hamnam. We should solve the problem of power shortage at all costs and on a priority basis. The sector of electric-power industry should continue to press on with the building of large-size hydropower stations and improve the operation of equipment and technical management at the existing power stations, so as to keep the generation of electricity going on a high level. The sector of coal-mining industry should direct its efforts to meeting the demands for coal from thermal-power stations and chemical and metallurgical factories, and actively develop new coal fields. The officials and working people in the sector of metallurgical industry should increase the capacity of the Juche iron production system, introduce the techniques of high-temperature air combustion which rely on domestic fuel, and accelerate the modernization of the rolled steel production lines. The sector of rail transport should give precedence to upgrading the railways of the country, increase rail transport capacity and consolidate its material and technical foundations. The sector of chemical industry should, while building up the Juche fertilizer production system, effect a radical increase in its capacity and normalize the production of vinalon and other chemical fibers and synthetic resins on a high level. … To improve the appearance of Pyongyang is an important project to greet in grand style the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s earnest behest. We should step up the construction in the Mansudae area and other major projects under construction on the highest level and effect a radical turn in urban management and landscaping, thus ushering in a new heyday of Pyongyang in the Songun era. Every province, city and county should sustain its local peculiarities in its designing and construction, and drastically improve the appearance of its urban and rural communities. We should consolidate the national defense capabilities in every way under the unfurled banner of Songun. The Korean People’s Army is the pillar and main force of the Songun revolution and the vanguard in the building of a thriving nation. This year marks the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and the 80th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Army; in this meaningful year, the KPA should bring about a radical turn in all aspects of military and political work by pressing ahead with the movement for winning the title of O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment, and thus demonstrate its heroic mettle and invincible combat efficiency as the army of the leader and the Party. The officers and men of the KPA should cherish an unshakable faith that the great Comrade Kim Jong Il will always be with them and a noble moral obligation to him, and firmly defend his achievements for army-building and add eternal glory to them by force of arms. The entire army should place absolute trust in and follow Kim Jong Un and become human rifles and bombs to defend him unto death, holding high the slogan “Let us defend with our very lives the Party Central Committee headed by the dear respected Comrade Kim Jong Un!” … Solving the problems of inter-Korean relations by rejecting aggressive foreign forces and pooling the efforts of our nation itself is the demand of the June 15 reunification era. All the fellow countrymen in the north, south and abroad should open a broad vista for national reunification with the conviction that our nation should be of the first and foremost consideration and that they will have nothing they cannot do if they maintain the thoroughgoing stand of national independence. Marking the fifth anniversary of the publication of the October 4 Declaration, the atmosphere of supporting the north-south declarations and the will to implement them should prevail across the whole of the national territory. The south Korean people should wage a fierce mass struggle aimed at resolutely frustrating the schemes to sell the interests of the nation in collaboration with the foreign forces. National reconciliation and unity is the precondition and guarantee for national reunification. The common interests of the nation should be given top priority, and everything should be subordinated to them. Confrontation between fellow countrymen that is driving the inter-Korean relations towards catastrophe should be strongly opposed and rejected. Acts against reunification, acts that disgrace the dignity of the north and foster distrust and antagonism between the north and the south, cannot be tolerated in the slightest. All the fellow countrymen should wage a nationwide struggle to frustrate the anti-reunification policy hostile to compatriots pursued by the group of traitors, hindering national reconciliation and unity and escalating confrontation. The prevailing situation urgently demands that the war moves of the bellicose forces at home and abroad be checked and frustrated. The entire nation, under the unfurled banner of anti-war and peace, should smash every move of reckless military provocation, arms buildup and war exercises against the north. Constant vigilance against the danger of military collaboration of the bellicose forces within the country and without should be maintained, and the US aggressor forces, the main obstacle to peace in the Korean peninsula, should be pulled out from south Korea.”(Rodong Sinmun, Joson Immingun, Chongnyon Jonwi, “Joint New Year Editorial,” January 1, 2012)

North Korea’s editorial included almost none of its typical criticism of Washington, though several times it mentioned the imperialist threat that surrounded it. The country also described the “U.S. aggressor forces” as the main obstacle to peace on the Korean Peninsula. But it gave no mention of its nuclear weapons program — a sign, experts said, that the country might be open to further talks. “Before Kim Jong Il died, North Korea started to have that dialogue and they were willing to accept the U.S.’s nutritional aid,” said Ryoo Kihl-jae, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies. “So it was very natural for North Korea not to denounce the U.S. in this editorial. It’s a sign that they are still willing for dialogue in the future.” (Chico Harlan, “North Korea Promises Prosperity, Demands Loyalty to New Leader,” Washington Post, January 1, 2012)

Chosun Sinbo: “The idea of succession is the thing that permeates the three dailies’ joint editorial of 2012 which marks the start of a ‘new century of Kim Il Sung Korea.’ However, it does not signify that tomorrow will the same as yesterday. The New Year’s joint editorial — that has declared the unfolding of a golden period of great revival with the upholding of General Kim Jong Il’s behest — is heralding a great change to be brought about this year by the DPRK. The DPRK spent the last month of the year 2011 in a tearful period of mourning. And it highly upheld Kim Jong Un, vice chairman of the Workers Party of Korea Central Military Commission, as the supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army. The spirit of the decision adopted at the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee proclaiming [Kim Jong Un] as the supreme commander was fully reflected in the three dailies’ joint editorial released at the beginning of the new year.

The DPRK has pursued lines and policies targeted at April 2012. The joint editorial explained that “it was the noble intent of the general to most splendidly and most meaningfully greet the centennial birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung as the most joyous event resounding with the salute of gunfire proclaiming the victory of the military-first great upswing.” This means that the headquarters with Vice Chairman Kim Jong Un at its head has made clear that it will precisely and unconditionally achieve the already-introduced historic stages by the 2012 target. The joint editorial suggests that the 2012 target decided by the general during his lifetime does not mean a simple extension of 2011. In economic construction for example, [the joint editorial] points out that light industry and agriculture have been pegged as the “main front” as before and emphasis has been placed on creating innovations here, but the goal for the next stage has also been presented. It means [the DPRK] will vigorously build up “our style knowledge-based economically powerful state.” The fact that a grand strategic line of transforming the landscape of the DPRK economy into a technology-intensive type, without remaining at the immediate tasks of eating, clothing, and spending issues, has been officially voiced through the joint editorial is probably because the guarantee for being able to do so has already been prepared. Opening the gate of a powerful state should be proven not by slogan but by results. The year 2012 was set as the year when the policy plan matured by the general during the past 10 years from the period of trials called the arduous march to today will bear fruit. The joint editorial confirmed that no change has been made in this timetable. In the year 2012, a bold movement is anticipated in foreign policy as well as domestic policy. To date, the DPRK has insisted on opening a new phase of reunification and prosperity, which is a long-cherished desire of the nation, by putting an end to DPRK-US hostile relations and realizing peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia. The fact that the 2012 joint editorial of three dailies addressed the country’s reunification issue with weight should be noted. The editorial pointed out that the fatherland reunification was “a lifelong desire” of President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il and stipulated it as the “biggest national task entrusted to our generation.” The successor to leadership held in high esteem by the people has adopted the reunification issue as one of the important pillars in the plan of powerful state construction. A passage from the editorial stating that the implementation of reunification behest today is a “patriotic struggle related to the destiny of the nation in the new century of the chuch’e era” tells us this. The turnabout phase of the fatherland reunification should also be shown not by slogan but by results. A guarantee has already been prepared. As pointed out in the joint editorial, this year marks the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the 4 October Declaration, which is the action program for the 15 June Joint Declaration. South Korean conservative ruling forces, which have denied North-South joint declarations and pursued a confrontation line, received an ultimatum of rejection and severance from the North’s compatriots for having committed an evil deed before the nation’s great state funeral. Refusing to associate with the current administration, whose term remains short, does not mean that the DPRK’s efforts to open a new phase of reunification and prosperity will be suspended. Article 4 of the 4 October Declaration stipulates the holding of “three- or four-party summit talks” to pursue the issue of declaring an end to the war on the Korean peninsula. A summit meeting was held between the DPRK and the PRC last year, as well. The DPRK and the United States held two rounds of high-ranking talks. Peace and stability on the Korean peninsula was addressed as a common agenda during the talks. Even in relations with long-time the hostile nation of the United States, the goal of historic interval by 2012 will have been set. In the process of conducting DPRK-US high-ranking talks in New York and Geneva last year, the media distorted and conveyed [the facts] as if individual agendas such as “uranium enrichment suspension” and “food provision” were basic issues between the DPRK and the United States, but the joint editorial stressing the “implementation of the general’s behest” expressed the goal to be attained by the DPRK in a straightforward manner. It is to “withdraw the US imperialist’s forces of aggression — fundamental obstacle to guaranteeing peace on the Korean peninsula — from South Korea.” This is the passage suggesting the direction and contents of denuclearization negotiation that will be held between the DPRK and the United States in the future. The year 2012 is the year of proudly displaying before the world a full account of the powerful state construction plan of the general — who never took off his army field uniform in his lifetime and continued the forced march road of implementing the president’s behest — together with the people. Turbulence is expected in the international environment this year in which the DPRK-related countries are greeting a period of power transition. In order to attain the far-sighted plan and high goal stipulated in the joint editorial without any deviation, one should not simply respond to the current of situational development but seize the initiatives by launching an offensive. The joint editorial pointed out that “the bold guts of the brilliant commanders of Mt. Paektu” and “offensive method” is the “precious sword of sure victory” in the grand march of 2012. This is the very political method that people’s army officers and soldiers and people are expecting and hoping from for the successor to leadership today. The spirit of the DPRK, which holds Vice Chairman Kim Jong Un in high esteem as the unitary center of unity and leadership, is soaring to the sky. A bold general offensive for the grand festival of April displaying the majestic appearance of a powerful state has begun since the beginning of the New Year. (Kim Chi-yong, “Three Dailies’ Joint Editorial Emphasize Full Realization of ‘2012 Initiatives’ — Bold General Offensive for Grand April Festival,” Chosun Sinbo, January 1, 2012)


1/2/12:
President Lee Myung-bak said that South Korea has left a “window of opportunity” open to improve relations with North Korea as the North’s new leader Kim Jong-un took over the communist state following the death of his father. In a nationally televised New Year’s address, however, Lee said that Seoul will “strongly respond” to any provocative acts from Pyongyang, calling for the South Korean military to maintain a heightened vigilance against the North. “The most important target at this moment is peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” Lee said. “We are leaving a window of opportunity open.” “If North Korea shows a sincere attitude, a new era on the Korean Peninsula can begin,” Lee said. Lee also expressed hope that this year will mark a “turning point” in resolving the North’s nuclear standoff but repeated his previous stance that the six-party talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs can resume only if Pyongyang halts all of its nuclear activities. “As long as the possibility of North Korea’s provocation remains, we will maintain a watertight defense posture,” Lee said. “If provoked, we will strongly respond.” (Yonhap, “Lee Leaves ‘Window of Opportunity’ Open for Better Relations with N. Korea,” January 2, 2012) “A big change is expected in the situation on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia following the death of Chairman Kim Jong-il,” Lee said. “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is now entering a new turning point. But there should be a new opportunity amid changes and uncertainty.” Lee vowed to “deal strongly with any provocations” from the North, but he kept open the possibility of inter-Korean talks despite North Korea’s repeated statements that it had no intention of dealing with his government. “It is South and North Korea, before anyone else, that must try to achieve the task of building peace, security and reunification on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “We are leaving a window of opportunity open. If North Korea shows its attitude of sincerity, a new era on the Korean Peninsula can be opened.” (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Predicts Changes in Peninsula,” New York Times, January 2, 2012, p. A-9)


1/3/12:
The United States is unlikely to continue talks with North Korea if it worsens relations with South Korea. Responding to Pyongyang’s announcement last week that it would not deal with South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak administration any more, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “That is not going to be conducive to getting us back to the table.” She told a press briefing that the U.S. maintains two key criteria in terms of resuming the six-way talks — continued improvement in inter-Korean ties and the North’s commitment to denuclearization that it pledged in a 2005 deal with South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan. “Both of those are still on the table from our perspective,” Nuland said. She said there is no indication of further dialogue with the communist nation. “I don’t think there’s any substantive change from where we were just before the new year, which is that we’re waiting to hear from the North Korean side,” said Nuland. (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. Reluctant to Talk with N. Korea without S. Korea,” January 3, 2012)

Kim Jong-nam, older brother of Kim Jong-Un, has reportedly told Tokyo Shimbun that he believes North Korea’s new leader is likely to be merely a symbol used by ruling elites to maintain their grip on power. The January 12 article was bylined Gomi Yoji, who next week publishes a book based on his extensive interviews with Kim Jong-Nam and e-mail exchanges between them. “Anyone with normal thinking would find it difficult to tolerate three generations of hereditary succession,” said the email, which the paper said was sent on January 3. “I question how a young heir with two years (of training as a successor) would be able to inherit … absolute power,” he said, according to the paper’s Japanese translation of the message. “It is likely that the existing power elites will succeed my father by keeping the young successor as a symbol.” (AFP, “NK Leader’s Brother Says Kim a ‘Symbol’: Report,” January 12, 2012)


1/4/12:
KCNA: “The Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea released a detailed report on Wednesday indicting the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors for its unprecedented brutal acts during the mourning over the great loss to the nation. According to the report, no sooner had the important report of the DPRK on the demise of leader Kim Jong Il been released than traitor Lee Myung Bak convened a ‘state security meeting’ and ‘state council meeting’ at which he issued an emergency alert posture to the puppet army and police and ordered them to keep themselves ready to go into military actions any time, vociferating about ‘the north’s possible provocation’ and ‘danger to the stability on the Korean Peninsula.’ Lee ordered Chongwadae, administration, agencies and even overseas missions to work on round-the-clock emergency duty. He phoned his masters the U.S. and Japan, begging them for cooperation in the confrontation with the DPRK. By his order, the puppet military instructed the whole puppet army to be on ‘alert posture B’ to keep itself ready for war from half past twelve on December 19. Chongwadae, administration and agencies were also put on emergency alert posture from the afternoon on the same day. From the outset, the group of traitors totally disallowed not only condolatory visits but also expression of condolences, talking about ‘division of public opinion,’ ‘infringement upon principle’ and ‘conflict inside the south.’ It claimed official mourning can never be allowed, talking about ‘counter-action by separating people from the north’s leadership’ and hurting the supreme leadership of the DPRK by preposterously shifting on it the ‘final responsibility’ for the warship ‘Cheonan’ sinking and shelling on Yeonpyeong Island. While claiming that it expresses ‘sympathy’ to the people in the north, far from mourning or expressing condolences, the group blustered ‘sympathy with them does not mean the expression of condolences’ in a bid to downplay even the meaning of sympathy. And the group described the ‘government’s’ statement as a very strategically and technically worked out one. It went the lengths of blustering that ‘the north would not have imagined the south had gone to such pass.’ While insisting that there can be no mourning, the group put up conditionalities that there should be invitation from the north if the parties of Ri Hui Ho and Hyon Jong Un wish to go to Pyongyang, the condolatory visit should be paid in a single day, they should come back as they are not allowed to attend the ceremony of bidding last farewell to the deceased. This was, in fact, an attempt to block the mourners’ visit. The group flatly turned down the request of the bereaved families of Rev. Mun Ik Hwan to allow their mourning. It rudely refused to allow the condolatory visits by the widow of former south Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and personages who came to Pyongyang when the October 4 declaration was adopted. South Koreans of various circles were very sincere in their will to express condolences and pay condolatory visits over the great loss to the nation, but the Lee group brutally blocked them. When south Koreans of various circles intended to send condolence messages, the puppet group invented complicated procedures and pretexts such as ‘applications for contact with inhabitants in the north,’ throwing obstacles and snatching all of them before they reached the north. It deleted all the expressions that courted its displeasure like the words ‘demise,’ ‘sorrow’ and ‘condolences.’ When various circles of south Korea expressed their intentions to dispatch mourners groups, the puppet group persistently blocked their condolatory visits, asserting ‘those visits may cause the worst division of public opinion and internal chaos’ and ‘If mourners visits were allowed, it would be impossible to put the situation under control as an increasing number of them might throng to the north.’ It prevented the personnel of its side in the Kaesong Industrial Zone from entering the mourning station in the zone, threatening them not to express condolences. A particular mention should be made of the fact that the group scattered anti-DPRK leaflets, timed to coincide with the day of bidding last farewell to the leader when the earth and sky shook with fellow compatriots’ bitter cries and the whole country turned into a veritable sea of wailers, rubbing salt into the wounds of the grief-stricken people. The report labeled Lee the worst type anti-reunification element, traitor and pro-U.S. fascist maniac and chieftain of evils without an equal in the world. The service personnel and people of the DPRK will surely force the puppet group to pay a thousand-fold price for hurting the most sacred dignity of the supreme leadership, the report noted, adding that it will keenly experience what dear price it will have to pay for its crimes.” (KCNA, “S. Korean Authorities′ Crimes against Ethics and Treachery under Fire,” January 4, 2012)

South Korea will soon sign a joint operational plan with the United States to counter potential North Korean provocations and will hold regular joint exercises accordingly, the defense ministry said. In a report detailing its policy plans for 2012, the ministry said the joint counter-provocation plan between the allies is scheduled to be signed this month. Seoul and Washington agreed to it in principle at their annual defense ministerial talks, the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM), in October last year. “After completing our joint contingency plan, we will hold regular exercises together to establish a strong defense posture,” the ministry said in a statement. In a press briefing, Lim Kwan-bin, the deputy defense minister for policy, said the signing will reaffirm the allies’ commitment to military preparedness. “South Korea and the U.S. already hold major joint exercises such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian and Foal Eagle, in addition to smaller ones between strategic echelons,” Lim said. “Once the joint operational plan is signed, we will engage in more exercises that will help us execute that plan. It will specify how such exercises should be held.” The ministry also said the military is on schedule for a smooth transition of wartime operational control from Washington to Seoul in 2015. “We are about halfway through in our preparation for the transfer,” the ministry said. “This year will be the final year of our first phase, during which we will try to lay the foundation for the transfer by reorganizing our command structure. During the second stage, we will try to attain core military capabilities, such as intelligence gathering, precision strikes and detecting ballistic weapons.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. to Bolster Readiness against N. Korean Provocations in 2012,” January 4, 2012)

The United States has called on China to use its influence with North Korea to urge “restraint” by the North’s new leadership, a senior U.S. diplomat said Thursday, as the international community keeps a wary eye on the sensitive transition of dynastic power in Pyongyang. Kurt Campbell, Washington’s top diplomat for Asia who arrived in South Korea yesterday following his two-day stay in China, held talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and other senior officials to discuss the North Korean issue. “We urged China to make clear the importance of restraint by the new North Korean leadership,” Campbell told reporters. He is the first high-ranking U.S. official to visit Asia since the December 17 death of Kim Jong-il. Campbell also called for North Korea to improve its ties with South Korea. “We believe an essential component in an improving relationship with North Korea and the international community has to be an improvement in north-south relations.” “So we stand firm on that and we believe that ultimately an improving relationship between the North and the South is essential going forward,” he said. (Kim Deok-hyun and Lee Haye-ah, “U.S. Urges China to Make Clear ‘Restraint’ by N. Korea’s New Leadership,” Yonhap, January 5, 2012)


1/5/12:
South Korea said it will push for working-level contacts with North Korea as part of efforts to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula following the sudden demise of leader Kim Jong-il. The move is designed to open high-level dialogue with North Korea and address an outstanding dispute over the North’s deadly attacks on the South in 2010, which has kept the two Koreas from moving their relationship forward. “The government keeps its door open for dialogue with North Korea,” Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said in a news conference after briefing President Lee Myung-bak on the ministry’s policy goals for this year. Yu also dangled the prospect of massive aid to the impoverished northern neighbor if Pyongyang “makes a wise choice and determination” to engage in dialogue with South Korea. He said he could propose Cabinet-level talks with North Korea if certain conditions are met. Yu suggested diplomatic efforts by regional powers to resume the disarmament-for-aid talks could also help the two Koreas engage in dialogue. (Yonhap, “S. Korea to Push for Contacts with N. Korea to Pave Way for High-Level Talks,” January 5, 2012)

KCNA: “Traitor Lee Myung Bak of south Korea, in a ‘special new year address on state policy,’ blustered if the north takes ‘a sincere attitude,’ the south can carve out a new ‘era of the Korean Peninsula’ together with it, asserting ‘a big change in the situation of the peninsula and the rest of Northeast Asia is expected’ and vociferating about ‘a window of opportunity.’ He cried out for ‘making a strong counterattack in case of provocation,’ trumpeting about ‘a firm security posture.’ He, at the same time, talked nonsense that if the north stops its nuclear related activities, the south can get rid of the ‘security concern’ of the north through the six-party talks and provide aid necessary for ‘reviving’ its economy. The Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in its Information Bulletin No. 989 Thursday: What he uttered is nothing but sheer sophism to cover up the heinous crimes he committed against ethics and the nation during its mourning over the great loss and another hideous provocation, an indication of his invariable sinister intention to escalate the confrontation with compatriots. If a change is to be expected in the peninsula, it is only a total ruin of the Lee group which is as good as the living dead. ‘Sincerity’ and ‘peace and stability’ touted by Lee is also no more than sophism intended to evade the blame for bringing the inter-Korean relations to a collapse and driving the situation to an extreme pitch of tension. ‘Possible provocation’ by someone and ‘strong counteraction’ touted by Lee are nothing but a hysteric fit caused by the firm resolution of the army and people of the DPRK to mete out a thousand-fold punishment for his thrice-cursed crimes. Unpardonable is his talk about ‘stop to nuclear activities’ and ‘aid.’ As recognized by the world, the DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear weapons state and its nuclear deterrent is the revolutionary heritage which can never be bartered for anything. The Lee group is seriously mistaken if it thinks it can have a bargaining over this precious revolutionary heritage with the promise of any ‘aid.’ As long as the enemy is persistent in his moves for aggression, the DPRK will further reinforce the position of the nuclear weapons state to protect its dignity and sovereignty. The remarks made by Lee in a ‘New Year address’ that south Korea keeps ‘the window of opportunity’ open are nothing but a shameless jargon. The balderdash about ‘window of opportunity’ and the like let loose again by the group of traitors only brought into bolder relief its shameless nature as it is no more than a mockery of the public opinion at home and abroad. What awaits the Lee Myung Bak group at present is only a stern judgment by the nation.” (KCNA, “Traitor Lee Myung-bak’s Reckless Remarks Blasted,” January 11, 2012)

The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) is pushing to change its conservative party platform to take a more conciliatory stance on North Korea and focus on economic justice, party officials said, in a bid to widen its appeal ahead of the April parliamentary elections. The GNP’s emergency council held a meeting and reached an agreement to change its hard-line stance on North Korea and market-friendly economic policies, officials said. It marks the first time in six years the party has sought to revise its policy principles. “We reached an agreement to adopt a flexible stance on North Korea to prepare for reunification, while emphasizing the importance of national security,” said Rep. Kwon Young-jin, an emergency council member, at a briefing. (Kim Eun-jung, “Ruling Party Considers Shifting away from Core Conservative Values,” Yonhap, January 5, 2012)

In the days after Kim Jong Il’s death last month, China’s most powerful leaders hurried to the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, where they fanned across the parquet floor and bowed three times to Kim’s portrait. One Chinese state councilor was “hardly” able to keep back tears, KCNA later said. The show of public support lasted more than a week, with odes to the “Dear Leader” and congratulations to his young heir, Kim Jong-un. But the message was also noteworthy for what it lacked: China said almost nothing about how North Korea’s new leadership should run or reform the country. China is trying to keep North Korea stable primarily by giving unconditional support to the succession and telling other countries to be cautious. Kim Jong-un received a key endorsement from President Hu Jintao, who sent a note of congratulations December 31 when Kim was named North Korea’s top military commander. Shortly after Kim Jong Il’s death, China’s foreign minister had called his counterparts in Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to urge “stability” in dealings with the North, the Beijing government reported. Still, China hasn’t always managed to parlay that support into influence. Kim Jong Il, with his ultranationalist ideology of self-reliance, often seemed ashamed of his need for a foreign benefactor. For all the headaches China gets from dealing with North Korea, it also gains access to a government that others in the region know almost nothing about. Among the biggest tasks, analysts say, is determining when and whether Pyongyang’s ruling elite will be willing to reenter talks on the denuclearization of North Korea. The Chinese government, which maintains close ties with Jang Song Thaek — a key senior official overseeing the power transfer — might be able to provide Seoul and Washington with answers. “China will use that information for power,” said Patrick Cronin, an Asia specialist at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security. “They won’t drive an easy bargain. They’re looking at the U.S. pivot [toward] Asia, and they’ll say, ‘We’ll cooperate with you on North Korea. But you’ve been too antagonistic in the region.’ ” If North Korea is interested, China could help broker a return to the six-party talks — the process designed to coax Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. Officials in Washington and Seoul are doubtful that Pyongyang will relinquish its nuclear arsenal, but shortly before Kim Jong Il’s death, U.S. officials were discussing a resumption of food aid to the North. In return, North Korea reportedly was considering a freeze of its uranium-enrichment program. (Chico Harlan, “China’s Leaders Seek Stability for N. Korea,” Washington Post, January 5, 2012, p. A-11)


1/6/12:
Announcing a new defense strategy, the United States said that it will slim down its armed forces in general but they will play a bigger role in Asia in the rebalancing of firepower abroad. The Pentagon assured that it would be able to handle possible simultaneous conflicts with North Korea and Iran. “Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats,” President Barack Obama said in his first appearance at a Pentagon press briefing. He was speaking just before the release of his administration’s fresh defense guide at a “turning point” with the end of war in Iraq and a legal mandate to slash military budgets. The war in Afghanistan is also winding down. Obama emphasized that Washington’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, however, will not be affected, hinting the military presence in Korea will remain unchanged. The U.S. has around 28,000 soldiers in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. The troop levels have fluctuated over the years. “As I made clear in Australia, we will be strengthening our presence in the Asia-Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of that critical region,” he said with a dozen uniformed military leaders standing behind him. Formally named “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” the document makes clear that the U.S. is moving Asia up in its defense strategy priorities. “While the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region,” it read. “We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security.” It said the U.S. will “maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula by effectively working with allies and other regional states to deter and defend against provocation from North Korea, which is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program.” In a press briefing later, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described the “destabilizing behavior of nations like Iran and North Korea” as one of challenges that call for a reshaping of America’s defense priorities. He dismissed views that America’s “smaller and leaner” armed forces will not be able to handle two wars at the same time, possibly sending a wrong signal to enemies. “The reality is that you could face a land war in Korea and at the same time face threats in the Straits of Hormuz,” Panetta said. “We have the capability with this Joint Force to deal with those kinds of threats, to be able to confront them and to be able to win.” Tensions are escalating in the strategic Strait of Hormuz as Iran has threatened to stop the flow of oil through it if more sanctions are imposed on the nation. “The U.S. Joint Force will be smaller and leaner, but its great strength will be that it is more agile, flexible, ready to deploy, innovative and technologically advanced,” added the secretary. “The U.S. military will increase its institutional weight and focus on enhanced presence, power projection, and deterrence in Asia-Pacific.” He said the Army and Marine Corps will no longer be needed to support the kind of large-scale engagements that have dominated military priorities over the past decade, when the U.S. was caught up with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he did not elaborate on how his department will cut its budget or on the size of expected troop cuts, saying Obama will probably release details shortly after his State of the Union Address on January 24. The Budget Control Act requires the U.S. to reduce defense spending by $487 billion over 10 years. (Yonhap, “U.S. Unveils Defense Plan Focusing on Asia, Budget Cuts,” Korea Times, January 6, 2012)

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt M. Campbell called on China to help restrain the new leadership in North Korea from military provocations during the transition of power there. The highest American official to visit Northeast Asia since the death of Kim Jong-il, spoke to reporters in Seoul after meeting with the South Korean foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan. Campbell said that when he met with China’s vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, and other senior officials in Beijing on Wednesday, he asked them to “consult closely” with Washington concerning developments in North Korea. “We also urge China to make clear the importance of restraint by the new North Korean leadership,” Campbell said. (Choe Sang-hun, “U.S. Asks China to Pressure North Korea to Avoid Provocations during Transition,” New York Times, January 6, 2012, p. A-7)

Xinhua commentary: “U.S. President Barack Obama rolled out a new defense strategy Thursday that will shift the country’s military focus to the Asia-Pacific region, and cut 489 billion U.S. dollars in defense spending in the next decade. With the strategy sure to considerably reshape the U.S. defense structure, the United States is welcome to make more contribution to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, but its possible militarism will cause a lot of ill will and meet with strong opposition in the world’s most dynamic region. Legitimate interests of the United States, the world’s biggest power, in the Asia-Pacific region are generally respected by other countries. The U.S. role, if fulfilled with a positive attitude and free from a Cold War-style zero-sum mentality, will not only be conducive to regional stability and prosperity, but be good for China, which needs a peaceful environment to continue its economic development. However, while boosting its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, the United States should abstain from flexing its muscles, as this won’t help solve regional disputes. If the United States indiscreetly applies militarism in the region, it will be like a bull in a china shop, and endanger peace instead of enhancing regional stability. Despite its latest defense budget cuts, the Pentagon still spends over 600 billion dollars annually for baseline budget and war-fighting tasks, and the U.S. defense budget continues to be larger than those of the next 10 countries combined. Therefore, the United States has the greatest potential to secure world peace and stability, but it also has the greatest power to create chaos. With power comes responsibility, so the United States should exercise the utmost caution in the use of its military forces. According to the new strategy, the United States should maintain a force that can win one major war while still being able to deter a second one, in contrast to the Pentagon’s previous plan that empowered the U.S. military to win two major wars at the same time. The new strategy suggests a retreat from former military ambitions for the United States, which is dealing with a severe economic crisis domestically and two expensive wars overseas. Over the past decade, the United States fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which cost thousands of lives and over 1 trillion dollars. The two wars became a heavy burden for the United States and caused a tremendous amount of suffering for the two Asian countries. History teaches us that military intervention can’t usher in lasting peace and prosperity in another country. The United States should learn from its past painful experiences and play a constructive role in the Asia-Pacific instead of recklessly practicing militarism. After all, might does not always make right.” (Xinhua, “Commentary: Constructive U.S. Role in Asia-Pacific Welcome, But Not Warmongering,” January 6, 2012) Some Chinese state media criticized Washington’s new strategy but it remained unclear whether this reflected a hard-line response from Beijing, political analysts said. “Anyone with an inkling of strategy can easily see who the region’s security protector is, who the troublemaker is,” said a commentary in People’s Daily Overseas. It is echoes in Global Times, an English language affiliate of People’s Daily. (Patti Waldmeir, “China Media Attack U.S. Defense Shift,” Financial Times, January 9, 2012, p. 3)


1/7/12:
An Iranian defense delegation visited North Korea in late November for talks with key officials, including military chief of staff Ri Yong Ho, apparently to confirm continued military cooperation and discuss advanced centrifuge technologies related to uranium enrichment, an informed Western diplomatic source said. (Kyodo, “Iran Envoys Visited N. Korea in Nov., Possibly on Uranium Enrichment,” January 7, 2012)


1/8/12:
North Korea’s young leader vowed in 2009 to wage war if the country’s enemies shot down a rocket, footage aired on state television showed today in the first official word of his role in military operations before his father’s death. Sunday’s footage — on the day believed to be his birthday — confirmed that he was being groomed as early as 2009 to succeed Kim Jong Il. The video showed Kim Jong Un shaking hands with officials at a satellite control center after scientists launched a rocket in April 2009 that stoked regional tensions and earned North Korea widespread international sanctions and condemnation. “I had decided to wage a real war if the enemies shot down” the rocket, Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying. A voice-over described Kim Jong Il as saying his son was in charge of the military’s anti-rocket interception operations at the time. North Korea has said it successfully sent a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful bid to develop its space program. U.S. and South Korean officials, however, said no satellite or other object reached orbit, and accused the North of using the launch to test its long-range missile technology. (Associated Press, “Kim Jong-un Vowed ‘Real War’ If Rocket Was Shot Down,” January 8, 2012)


1/10/12:
North Korea has held secret talks with Japan in what is believed to be their first contact since the death of long-time leader Kim Jong-il, Japanese media said, as Pyongyang’s closest ally China and South Korea vowed to work closely on denuclearizing the North. Nakai Hiroshi, a former Japanese state minister in charge of the abduction issue, met the North’s delegation on Monday for talks on the abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 80s, Kyodo news agency quoted sources as saying. The two sides are also believed to have discussed terms for restarting intergovernmental negotiations, the Mainichi Daily News reported. Nakai’s office confirmed his trip to China. A government official declined to comment on the trip. (Jeremy Laurence, “North Korea Diplomacy Picks up in China,” Reuters, January 10, 2012)

North Korea is likely to pursue continuity rather than change in its policies under the new leadership of Kim Jong-un, Seoul’s top envoy to Moscow said, expressing hopes that the communist country will soon reengage in denuclearization talks. Ambassador Wi Sung-lac, who served as Seoul’s chief envoy to the six-party denuclearization talks before taking office in November, said North Korea appears to be conducting a smooth transition of power from late leader Kim Jong-il to his son and chosen successor, Kim Jong-un. “In the short run, it appears that the policies of Chairman Kim Jong-il will be inherited and most of his policy line will remain intact,” Wi said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. “I also haven’t received the impression that there will be any major differences regarding the nuclear issue.” The ambassador said he saw no signs of confusion or disorder in the communist state that would suggest a rupture from past practices, but added that it was still too early to look beyond the short term. “Considering that North Korea will continue the policies of Kim Jong-il’s regime, I expect the process on denuclearization to be restored to its former state,” the ambassador said. “Both South Korea and the United States have held talks with North Korea to create the conditions for a resumption of the six-party talks, and I hope that dialogue process restarts early this year.” (Yonhap, “N. Korea’s New Leadership Likely to Seek Policy Continuity: Ambassador,” January 10, 2012)


1/11/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “Recently some forces have spread sinister rumor over the issue of the U.S. food aid to the DPRK by distorting the present situation of their own accord. What cannot be overlooked is the fact that the hostile forces have talked nonsense that the DPRK asked for food aid due to the hardships by the great loss to the nation. The issue of food aid now on the agenda between the DPRK and the U.S. came up early in 2011 when the U.S. raised the provision of 330000 tons of food it failed to do. The U.S. promised to offer 500 000 tons three years ago. At the beginning the U.S. asserted that food aid had nothing to do with politics as it is a humanitarian issue. The U.S., at the DPRK-U.S. high-ranking talks started in July 2011, proposed to take confidence-building steps such as suspension of sanctions as well as food aid in case the DPRK takes similar steps such as temporary suspension of uranium enrichment the former asked. After all the U.S. itself raised this problem as political. But, the U.S. has drastically changed the amount and items of provision contrary to the originally promised food aid of more than 300 000 tons. So, the DPRK cannot but have doubt about the U.S. will for confidence building, and this compels the former to return to the boundary discussed in May 2011. We will watch if the U.S. truly wants to build confidence. (KCNA, “DPRK Will Follow U.S. Moves: FM Spokesman,” January 11, 2012)

North Korea signaled it remains open to suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for U.S. food aid, a deal that appeared imminent before leader Kim Jong-il died last month. The North complained that the United States had “drastically” changed the amount and kind of aid it would send, but said officials would wait and “see if the United States has a willingness to establish confidence” with North Korea — which observers saw as Pyongyang’s precondition for making the food-for-uranium-suspension deal happen. The North’s statement offers an early look at how the government now led by Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, will handle two of North Korea’s most pressing issues: a long-running food crisis and years of international pressure to end its nuclear program. “The North is saying it is willing to go ahead with nuclear steps if it gets the food aid it wants,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University. “The North is telling the United States to provide a goodwill gesture. If Washington doesn’t, Pyongyang is threatening it will go down its own path.” (Associated Press, “North Korea Keeps Door Open for Food-Nuke Deal with U.S.,” January 11, 2012) North Korea indicated on Wednesday that it was open to further negotiations with the United States, which it said demanded a halt of its uranium-enrichment program in return for food aid before the death of Kim Jong-il last month. The day began inauspiciously as North Korea accused the United States of “politicizing” food aid, saying American negotiators had offered to ship humanitarian aid and temporarily lift economic sanctions if the North halted its uranium enrichment program. But a spokesman of the North’s Foreign Ministry struck a more conciliatory chord, saying, “We will wait and see if the United States has a willingness to establish confidence,” KCNA reported. Negotiators took that as a sign that the government might be willing to engage Washington in talks under Mr. Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong-un, even though it vowed not to negotiate with South Korea and even threatened to attack it. The North Korean spokesman said both sides began discussions early last year on completing a 2008 American promise to ship 500,000 tons of grain to North Korea. That program was halted in 2009, after 170,000 tons had been distributed, as North Korea and the United States squabbled over both the transparency of distribution and the North’s nuclear weapons program. The Americans offered nutritional supplements for children, rather than grain, in an effort to ensure that the aid reached the most vulnerable and would not be diverted to the military. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Suggests That It Is Open to More Nuclear Talks,” New York Times, January 12, 2012, p. A-11)

South Korea has set aside more than 540 billion won (US$465 million) for humanitarian aid for North Korea this year, the Unification Ministry said. Most of the budget is earmarked for the South Korean government’s possible rice and fertilizer aid to its impoverished northern neighbor. It is also designed to provide aid to the North in case of natural disasters, according to the ministry, which handled inter-Korean affairs. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Set Aside 540 Bn Won for Humanitarian Aid for N. Korea,” January 11, 2012)


1/12/12:
North Korea was placed at the bottom of a landmark ranking on the security of nuclear materials. The unprecedented Nuclear Materials Security Index, compiled by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) in Washington, examined the status of nuclear materials security conditions in 176 countries. It was issued ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in March. In the survey of 32 nations with one kilogram or more of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium, North Korea ranked 32nd. The index took into account the amount of nuclear materials, sites, domestic commitments, societal factors, and global norms. Iran and Pakistan ranked 30th and 31st, respectively. In 2008, during talks with the U.S., the secretive North reportedly declared that it possessed roughly 38.5 kg of plutonium. The NTI said it demanded that North Korean authorities verify information jointly collected with the Economist Intelligence Unit, but Pyongyang said no. In an interview with Yonhap, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, who co-founded the NTI, called for broader efforts to foil possible nuclear terrorism and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. He said the upcoming Seoul summit is a “great opportunity to have dialogue and discussion about the priorities for securing nuclear material” that could fall into the hands of terrorists. He also held out expectations for North Korea’s new leadership and the resumption of talks. “Dialogue, that kind of discussion, six-party talks, at some point has to resume,” he said. “In the meantime, countries have to have a lot more confidence-building measures, and some of the incidents and acts that have come from North Korea have been very disruptive to that process.” He said there is a chance now for North Korea to change course as the world takes a fresh look at Pyongyang. “I think we will certainly leave that possibility open,” he said (Lee Chi-dong, “N. Korea Ranked Worst in Nuclear Materials Security,” Yonhap, January 12, 2012)


1/13/12:
North Korea fired three KN-02 (Toksa) short-range missiles this week in an apparent routine test of its technology, a South Korean official said. The North fired the missiles, which are usually deployed against ground targets and have a range of about 75 miles (120 kilometers), into its eastern waters on December 11, a Defense Ministry official said. Sankei Shimbun first reported the tests. North Korea conducted a short-range missile test hours after it announced Kim’s death on December 19. The tests were seen as part of the North’s attempts in recent years to improve the range and accuracy of its short-range missiles. “If the North wanted to send a message, it would have fired a greater number of longer-range missiles,” said Kim Jin-moo, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in South Korea. (Associated Press, “South Korean official Says N. Korea Fired Short-Range Missiles in Routine Test of Technology,” January 13, 2012)

PM Noda Yoshihiko reshuffled his Cabinet, appointing former DPJ Secretary General Okada Katsuya as deputy prime minister. Noda replaced five ministers in total, including Defense Minister Ichikawa Yasuo and consumer affairs minister Yamaoka Kenji, both of whom were censured by the House of Councilors last month. Noda appointed the DPJ’s Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Hirano Hirofumi as education, culture, sports, science and technology minister. He also named Ogawa Toshio, DPJ secretary general for the upper house, as justice minister; upper house member Tanaka Naoki as defense minister; and Jin Matsubara, vice minister of the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister, as consumer affairs minister. The three joined the Cabinet for the first time. (Yomiuri Shimbun, “Noda Replaces 5 Cabinet Ministers; Okada Names Deputy Prime Minister; Censured Members Lose Posts,” January 14, 2012)


1/14/12:
Trade between South and North Korea reached US$1.71 billion last year, down 10 percent from 2010, government data showed. The data was posted on the Web site of the Korean International Trade Association. (Yonhap, “Inter-Korean Trade Drops 10 Pct. Last Year,” January 14, 2012)


1/15/12:
President Lee Myung-bak created the position of Overseas Strategy Planner within the office of the Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security in Cheong Wa Dae, naming 45-year-old Kim Tae-hyo to the post. The position of planner ranks between a senior secretary and a secretary, and is placed, like a senior secretarial position, on the vice-ministerial level. As a result, it seems the reshuffling took place in order to promote the newly-appointed planner, Kim. Kim is a key advisor to the president, having led hard-line North Korea policy as a secretary for overseas strategy since the 2007 launch of the Lee Myung-bak government. Cheong Wa Dae has warned against reading it as an indication that the government will now take a harder line toward the North. “This was a simple promotional reorganization that took place in consideration of facts including that Secretary Kim has dealt with various diplomatic matters easily, including the Korea-US FTA and has worked as a secretary from the early days of the administration,” said one high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official. Some in and outside Cheong Wa Dae however, interpret the reorganization as an attempt to balance North Korea policy by placing Kim, an “advocate of principle in North Korea policy,” in an influential position while unification minister Yu Woo-ik is espousing a friendlier approach to the North. On the other hand, some are criticizing the reorganization as evidence, along with President Lee’s New Year’s address, that the current government is going back and forth between soft and hard-line stances. (Ahn Chung-hyun, “Lee Government Sends Mixed Messages with Reshuffled North Korea Policy,” Hankyore, January 16, 2012)


1/16/12:
South Korea is willing to hold ministerial talks with and provide large-scale food aid to North Korea, even if Pyongyang does not apologize first over two deadly military attacks in 2010. “An apology wouldn’t necessarily be a precondition for talks, but it would be a very important item on the agenda,” South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said. “Bilateral dialogue would help ease tension” on the Korean Peninsula, Yu, 62, said in an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in Seoul. “As unification minister, I’m responsible for all South Korea’s affairs with North Korea. I can meet with whoever the North Korean leadership appoints for such talks.” Yu said the transfer of power from former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died last month, to his son Kim Jong Un, 29, “appeared to have gone smoothly in the initial stage.” (Ue Ichiro, “South Korea Willing to Hold Talks with North,” Yomiuri Shimbun, January 16, 2012)


1/17/12:
South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed to keep the door for talks with North Korea open, an official said after their trilateral meeting intended to discuss the next steps in dealing with the communist nation under a new leadership. “Through today’s meeting, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan agreed to an opinion that the path for the resumption of talks (with North Korea) is open,” the South’s chief nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam told reporters. Lim participated in a day-long meeting at the State Department with his American and Japanese counterparts, Glyn Davies and Sugiyama Shinsuke, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. It marked the first high-level talks among the three nations since the death of Kim Jong-il in December. (Lee Chi-dong, “Path for Dialogue with N. Korea Open: Allies,” Yonhap, January 18, 2012)

The South Korean government has refused to outline a specific plan to cut its oil imports from Iran in talks with the United States, citing concerns about a possible impact on its economy. A delegation led by Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, met South Korean officials in Seoul on January 17. Einhorn demanded a cut in Seoul’s oil imports, stressing that the Iranian issue was connected with North Korea’s nuclear program. South Korea says it wants to work with the United States on the Iranian nuclear issue, but is concerned about the effect on its economy of a sudden cutting of the oil imports. But South Korea declined to give details of specific steps it would take to cut the imports. “The question about Iran is a big variable to South Korea’s economy,” a senior South Korean government official said. “Minimizing the possible fallout is a challenge for us.” (Kaise Akihiko, “Seoul Treads Cautiously on Iranian Sanctions,” January 21, 2012)

A new book, “My Father, Kim Jong-il, and Me,” claims the estranged eldest son of Kim Jong-il believes that the impoverished government is in danger of collapse and that his young half brother, hailed as the new leader, is merely a figurehead. The author, Gomi Yoji, a journalist for Tokyo Shimbun, said that over a number of years, he exchanged 150 e-mails with the older son, Kim Jong-nam, and spent a total of seven hours interviewing him. “Jong-un will just be a figurehead,” the book quotes him as saying. “Without reforms and liberalization, the collapse of the economy is within sight,” Kim is quoted as saying. “But reforms and opening up could also invite dangers for the regime.” Kim Jong-nam is widely believed to have been dropped from consideration as a successor after he embarrassed the government in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport. He said he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. Gomi says he met Kim Jong-nam in person in 2004, in Beijing, and twice last year. He was not immediately available for comment on the book. “As a matter of common sense, a transfer to the third generation is unacceptable,” Kim Jong-nam was quoted as saying in an e-mail dated this month. “The power elite that have ruled the country will continue to be in control.” He added: “I have my doubts about whether a person with only two years of grooming as a leader can govern.” (Associated Press, “Doubts on North Korea from Dead Leader’s Son,” New York Times, January 19, 2012, p. A-9)


1/19/12:
As chairman of Wanxiang Group, a Chinese auto parts and mining conglomerate, Lu Guanqiu knows the headaches of doing business in diverse environments. He controls dozens of factories in the U.S. that serve the troubled auto industry and mines in Indonesia, remote western China, and North Korea. “North Korea is like China was 30-plus years ago,” the onetime farmer says in a chilly reception room at Wanxiang’s headquarters in Hangzhou, 100 miles southwest of Shanghai. “Through our contact, we are certain they will become more open and more liberated.” North Korea is attracting foreign companies with an appetite for risk and a tolerance for government meddling. Chinese, South Korean, and about 30 European companies have invested in copper and gold mines, factories producing medications and blue jeans, and even Internet service. (Americans and Canadians are largely barred from doing business there.) In Pyongyang, Egypt’s Orascom Telecom is building a 3G mobile-phone network and DHL delivers packages. Two Hong Kong-listed companies operate casinos for tourists (locals aren’t allowed in). France’s Lafarge owns 30 percent of a cement plant that employs 3,000 workers. German-backed outsourcer Nosotek offers North Korean programming help to Western companies developing cell-phone games. A Swedish group markets Noko Jeans, made in the North. Total accumulated foreign investment in North Korea reached $1.475 billion in 2010, up from $1.437 billion the previous year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Some $6.5 billion more is in the works as Chinese infrastructure companies plan new ports, highways, and power plants, according to the Samsung Economic Research Institute, a think tank in Seoul. With mineral reserves valued at more than $6 trillion, according to South Korean state-owned mining company Korea Resources, the North has become a magnet for Chinese enterprises. Of the 138 Chinese companies registered as doing business in North Korea in 2010, 41 percent extract coal, iron, zinc, nickel, gold, and other minerals, according to the U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. China’s investment in the North’s mineral sector since 2004 has reached $500 million, the Samsung Institute estimates. China accounted for 57 percent, or $3.5 billion, of the North’s foreign trade in 2010, up from 53 percent the previous year, according to South Korea’s statistical office. “The Chinese are storming in there and taking all the opportunities,” says Roger Barrett, managing director of Korea Business Consultants, a Beijing company that advises foreign investors in North Korea. With the death of Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il in December and the elevation of his son, Kim Jong-Un, things could open up further. “One way or another, it is crucial for North Korea to renew its economy,” says Lee Jong-Woon, a researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul. “We expect the new government to carry on attracting foreign capital.” Those who invest will face countless hassles. North Korea’s roads are narrow and potholed. The country’s railroads and ports are a shambles, and its power grid struggles to keep the lights on. “Leadership decisions can supersede legal agreements,” says Scott Snyder, a Korea fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, in an e-mail. A 2009 investment guide from China’s Commerce Ministry warned that “recent Chinese enterprises investing in North Korea have major problems” and have been forced into an “unfavorable situation.” In 2007, Wanxiang acquired a Chinese company that owned 51 percent of North Korea’s Hyesan Youth Copper Mine, an inactive facility two miles from the border with China. Two years later, after Wanxiang had revived the mine, the North Korean partner suddenly said it planned to take back full ownership with no compensation. Lu, who has close ties to Beijing’s central government and last year accompanied Chinese President Hu Jintao on a visit to the White House, contacted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. After Wen raised the issue with Kim Jong-Il, Wanxiang was allowed to stay. “Our cultural backgrounds and mindsets are very different,” Lu says. For some small South Korean companies, location trumps the political and infrastructure concerns. More than 100 enterprises from the South now run light manufacturing plants in the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone just north of the border, where production started during a thaw in North-South relations in 2005. “I save time and logistics costs compared with running a business in Vietnam or Indonesia,” says Ok Sung Seok, president of Nine Mode, which has a men’s shirt factory at Kaesong. While production slowed after Kim’s death, Ok says things are back to normal and that the hassles are outweighed by the low cost of labor. He estimates that his workers are about 60 percent as productive as South Koreans, but he pays them just $160 per month. That’s one-fifth the minimum wage in the South and a quarter the salaries in a factory he operated in Qingdao, China. “The poorer productivity comes from politics, not from laziness or a lack of skill,” Ok says. Government officials “put a priority on political events rather than spending more time for production.” (Dexter Roberts, “North Korea, New Land of Opportunity?” Business Week, January 19, 2012)


1/20/12:
KCNA: “The Disarmament and Peace Institute of the DPRK Foreign Ministry [today] released a report accusing the Lee Myung-bak regime of seriously disturbing the peace and security in Northeast Asia. The report said: During 4 years of office the Lee Myung-bak regime has put the north-south relations at the lowest ebb, placing peace and security in Northeast Asia at serious peril and throwing a stumbling block in the process of denuclearization. It was none other than the Lee regime that plays the role of an advance party to ignite a fuse for starting a war in the Korean Peninsula. Lee Myung-bak, obsessed with the pipedream of ‘achieving unification through absorption,’ talked about ‘unification tax,’ inciting confrontation. Finally, he pushed the situation on the peninsula to a touch-and-go one where the north and the south fired shells at each other for the first time since the war that broke out on June 25, 1950. The hundreds of thousands of south Korean troops deployed in areas south of the Military Demarcation Line have already been put into a de facto state of war as they are ready to ‘mount a preemptive attack and strike enemies’ bases’ in case of emergency. The report cited detailed facts that the Lee regime is a disturber of peace and security in Northeast Asia. Northeast Asia is the most sensitive area where the military powers and nuclear weapons states of the world are located close to each other or stand in military confrontation. The south Korean navy’s warship ‘Cheonan’ sank in south Korea in March, 2010. The Lee regime, however, blamed the DPRK for its sinking as if it had been waiting for it to happen. The U.S. deployed a carrier flotilla deep in the West Sea of Korea under the pretext of fulfilling its commitment to protecting south Korea as if an opportunity had presented itself for it, thus making an important strategic breakthrough for militarily containing China. The Lee regime doggedly refused to accept the DPRK’s request for receiving an inspection group of its National Defense Commission for fair probe into the truth behind the sinking case. It was against this backdrop that the U.S. reinforced its military forces forward-deployed in Northeast Asia under the signboard of taking countermeasures and staging joint military drills to be capable of seizing and containing its rivals and satisfactorily undertaking mobile strike duty in a matter of a few months. This led to dangerous military confrontation between China and the U.S. and more acute military conflict between Russia and the U.S. over the issue of building a missile shield. At a time when Japan was busy launching spy satellites, the existence of the undeclared plutonium was discovered to give rise to serious concern of the international community. The number of U.S.-south Korea joint military maneuvers and drills sharply increased and a triangular military alliance consisting of the U.S., south Korea and Japan took a clear shape, arousing distrust of neighboring countries. It is the unanimous judgment of many military experts at home and abroad that the construction of a large naval base on Jeju Island farthest from the Military Demarcation Line is not targeted against the DPRK but aimed at meeting the strategic purpose of the U.S. to put under control the operational theatres of the naval and air forces of China and Russia. The Lee regime is a war servant who plays the role as a guide and a springboard for the U.S. keen to return to Asia so as to realize its dream of dominating the world at any cost. The report brought to light the true colors of the Lee regime as a disturber of the process for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It is the desire of not only the Korean people but the neighboring countries and the peace-loving people of the world to denuclearize the peninsula as well as the rest of the world. The DPRK and other participating countries are making efforts to resume the six-party talks. But it is only the south Korean authorities that are pursuing a very ulterior aim. The Lee regime has resorted to all sorts of tricks and plots to politicize even the issue of the U.S. humanitarian food aid to the DPRK in a bid to bar confidence from being built between the DPRK and the U.S. for a solution to the nuclear issue. For instance, the chief executive of Chongwadae presumptuously claimed a few days ago that ‘it was not the U.S. but the north that changed its negotiating stance,’ though he was unaware of how the discussion was made on the food aid between the DPRK and the U.S. As a matter of fact, the six-party talks are an uncomfortable forum for the Lee regime as it is contrary to its ‘policy towards the north.’ The resumption of the talks would naturally help promote the implementation of the September 19 Joint Statement that calls for the normalization of relations among all participating countries for a solution to the nuclear issue and provision of aid to the DPRK including economic compensation. This would amount to such developments that may frustrate the moves of the hostile forces which begged their masters to follow ‘waiting strategy’ and ‘policy of strategic patience,’ hoping the DPRK would waver or yield to economic difficulties. In case the opportunity for resuming the talks is completely missed, its blame will go to the Lee regime which played sleight of hand on the basis of a wrong policy and judgment. The anti-DPRK confrontation maniacs in south Korea have already been sidelined or have become politically dead amid world people’s criticism as they were insensitive to the times and lacked vision as was the case with the Neo cons in the U.S., and the Lee regime will also be compelled to quit eventually, the report said, and continued: All the parties concerned in the region interested in peace, stability and denuclearization are called upon to take proactive steps to minimize the consequences caused by the Lee regime.” (KCNA, “Lee Myung-bak Regime Accused of Disturbing Peace and Security in Northeast Asia,” January 20, 2012)

The Seoul-based Korea Peace Foundation plans to deliver 180 tons of flour aid to North Korea to help ease its chronic food shortage next week, the first flour assistance to the communist country since the death of Kim Jong-il. South Korea approved the two-day trip by eight to nine officials of the foundation that is set to begin on January 27, according to Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk. (Yonhap, “S. Korean Group to Send First Flour Aid to N. Korea after Kim’s Death,” January 20, 2012)


1/21/12:
The Kaesong Industrial Complex saw its production expand 14.4 percent in 2011 from a year earlier. Total production reached US$369.9 million during the January-November period last year, up from $323.3 million worth of production for all of 2010, according to the Ministry of Unification. Output during the last month of 2011 has not been tallied yet, the ministry said, adding the on-year growth rate may be far greater. Production for the first 11 months of 2011 marks a 25.7-percent growth from the same period in the previous year, the ministry also noted. North Korean laborers working at the complex reached a peak of 48,708 as of November last year, the ministry said. The comparable figure at the end of 2010 was 46,284, it said. (Yonhap, “Production at Joint Industrial Kaesong Park Expands 14.4 Percent in 2011,” January 23, 2012)


1/24/12:
President Barack Obama made no mention of North Korea’s nuclear program in his State of the Union address, a fact that is being duly noted by observers. Observers are interpreting Obama’s unusual choice to not mention the North Korean nuclear issue as reflective of the sensitive process of regime change under way in Pyongyang. A foreign ministry official said, “It looks like he took into account that it’s been a sensitive time for North Korea internally since the death of Kim Jong-il late last year.” The official added, “I think he determined that instead of pressuring North Korea, it would be better to dodge the issue and leave some room open for Pyongyang to pursue dialogue,” indicating that the decision may have reflected a wait-and-see approach until Pyongyang resolves internal issues such as stabilizing the post-Kim Jong-il system. (Park Byong-su, “No North Korea Mention in Obama’s Address,” Hankyore, January 26, 2012)


1/26/12:
South Korea staged live-fire drills from a front-line island shelled by North Korea in 2010, in the first such exercise since North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died last month. Marines at Yeonpyeong Island and nearby Baengnyeong Island fired artillery into waters near the disputed sea border during the two-hour-long drills, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said. KCNA said later in the day that the South was “kicking up war fever” by simulating a pre-emptive strike. Similar drills at Yeonpyeong in November 2010 triggered a North Korean artillery bombardment that killed four South Koreans. (Associated Press, “South Korea Staging Live-Fire Drills from Front-Line Island Shelled by North Korea,” January 26, 2012)

North Korea abducted 571 South Koreans as part of a bizarre kidnapping campaign after the 1950-53 Korean War, according to document obtained by a North Korean defectors’ group. The South Korean government had put the number at 517. The document, apparently prepared by the North Korean Red Cross, was obtained from a source by Choi Sung-yong of activist group Family Assembly Abducted to North Korea. It shows that 554 South Koreans were abducted in the South and taken to North Korea, and 17 were kidnapped overseas. The document dates from August 2008 and contains the personal details of 14 of the 17 who were abducted abroad. “An investigation was conducted regarding the latest information on 554 people who entered the North and 17 who entered from overseas based on an inquiry into the Public Security Department,” it says. It states which of the 14 are still alive, as well as the date they died or whether they can still be accounted for. It adds that three of the 17 who were abducted abroad “never entered [North Korean] territory.” A Unification Ministry official said, “It is difficult to verify whether the document was really prepared by the North Korean Red Cross, but the personal details of abduction victims listed, including dates of birth, is correct.” (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea Kidnapped 571 S. Koreans after War,” January 26, 2012)

U.S. military personnel will travel to North Korea in March to restart efforts to recover thousands of servicemen missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, the Defense Department said. The U.S. and North Korean militaries agreed last October to restart recovery operations in what was seen a sign of easing tensions between the wartime enemies, but they did not announce a date. A January 17 letter from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta obtained by the Associated Press notes that the agreement sets a March 1 start date. Maj. Carie Parker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department’s POW/Missing Personnel Office, confirmed by email the North’s military will begin preparations March 1 for the arrival later that month of a small U.S. advance team that will evaluate conditions and prepare for operations. (Associated Press, “U.S. Team Due in N. Korea in March,” January 26, 2012)

Secretive North Korea is making rapid progress in building a uranium-fueled reactor that poses an alarming safety risk, Siegfried Hecker said. “In spite of their industrial difficulties they have continued to build it at a good pace,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview from Stanford University in the United States. “What alarms me is that I have never had the sense they had the sufficient regulatory oversight in order to be able to build this thing safely, and operate it safely,” he said, adding the light-water reactor could be operational in two years. “From a technical standpoint, they should not proceed with the completion of the reactor and operate it on the basis of lack of connection with the international safety community. That is just too high of a risk.” Hecker said the United States and South Korea found themselves in the dilemma of do they try force the North to stop construction of the experimental reactor, or do they allow North Korea to proceed and offer to help to avert a nuclear disaster? “The international and political community has another couple of years to come to a resolution,” said Hecker, who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the atomic bomb was developed. He said one solution, although difficult to swallow for the United States and South Korea, was to allow experts from China, the North’s main ally and benefactor, to assess the facility’s safety. Hecker said the biggest concern was that a seismic event could trigger a power cut at Yongbyon, drawing a comparison to the meltdown at the Fukushima plant in Japan last year. Although the Korean peninsula is not prone to major earthquakes, minor tremors are frequent. (Jeremy Laurence, “North Korea’s New Nuclear Plant a Safety Worry: Expert,” Reuters, January 26, 2012)


1/27/12:
The Seoul-based Korea Peace Foundation delivered the first flour aid to North Korea since the death of Kim Jong-il, 180 tons of flour, with eight foundation representatives traveling to the North’s border city of Kaesong. Two of the eight representatives will stay until Saturday to ensure the aid package reaches its targeted group, foundation officials said. Flour is to be delivered to an elementary school, a daycare center and a kindergarten in North Hwanghae Province near the Kaesong Industrial complex, officials added. “We’ve resumed humanitarian assistance to North Korea that had been suspended since the death of Kim Jong-il,” an official with the foundation said. “We’re expecting this flour aid to provide some breakthrough for inter-Korean dialogue,” the official added. The South government approved the foundation members’ trip last week. All trips across the border are subject to government permission. While the foundation was carrying flour into the North, the government said Seoul’s aid to Pyongyang fell by more than 50 percent last year. According to the Unification Ministry, the South’s humanitarian aid to the North amounted to 19.6 billion won (US$17.5 million) in 2011, down 51.5 percent from 40.4 billion won in 2010. Of the 19.6 billion won, private aid accounted for 13.1 billion won, an annual drop of 68.1 percent, and the government aid totaled 6.5 billion won, down 34.5 percent from a year earlier. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Sends First Flour Aid to N. Korea since Kim Jong-il’s Death,” January 27, 2012)


1/27/12:
Earlier this month, a government official from a country that participates in the six-party talks listed four geographical locations in North Korea: Pyongyang; Kongin-ri in Chagang Province; and Sowi-ri and Kumchang-ri in North Pyongan Province. According to the official, there are undisclosed facilities suspected of engaging in uranium enrichment at these four sites, which have captured the attention of intelligence agents and reconnaissance satellites. “The facilities may be producing weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium that can be used to make nuclear armaments,” the official said. Of the four sites, at least three are thought to be underground facilities, which are difficult to detect via satellite. According to intelligence from North Korean insiders, Pyongyang disguises them as a type of research laboratory. In October last year, a South Korean opposition party member testified he had heard from a serving North Korean soldier that there is also a uranium enrichment facility in Ryulgok-ri in North Pyongan Province. The South Korean lawmaker said the facility was located in an underground tunnel originally created for use in mining projects during Japan’s colonial rule. In an academic essay released this month, Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the U.S.-based Los Alamos National Laboratory, pointed out the possibility that North Korea may conduct nuclear experiments this year. He also inspected a uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon, North Pyongan Province, disclosed by the North Korean government in 2010. Hecker posits that North Korea could be trying to develop a small-size nuclear warhead that can be loaded onto a midrange Musudan missile capable of hitting Guam. The missile’s maximum range is estimated at about 4,000 kilometers. (Yomiuri Shimbun, “North Korea Keeps Kim Jong-il’s Nuclear Legacy,” January 27, 2012)


1/30/12:
South Korea’s embattled ruling Grand National Party softened its stance toward North Korea in a new policy platform that seeks to appeal to voters ahead of this year’s parliamentary and presidential elections. President Lee Myung-bak’s party today passed a manifesto pledging to restructure social welfare and boost employment, spokesman Hwang Young-chul said in a statement. The party leadership removed statements calling on North Korea to improve its human rights record and change its communist system into a democracy. Public discontent is rising over Lee’s economic management and ruling party scandals. Two GNP officials were indicted this month on charges of hacking into the National Election Commission’s website to disrupt last October’s Seoul mayoral race, which was won by an opposition candidate. Prosecutors today raided the foreign ministry following allegations a senior diplomat was involved in a stock manipulation scam. Interim party leader Park Geun-hye said, “the GNP is being born as a completely new party,” in a speech broadcast on radio. “If we want to be trustworthy party, the people must change and the policies must also change.” (Yoon Songwon, “S. Korea Ruling Party Softens North Korea Stance in New Platform,” Business Week, January 30, 2012)


1/31/12:
DNI Threat Briefing: “North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a serious threat to the security environment in East Asia. [not continental U.S.] Its export of ballistic missiles and associated materials to several countries including Iran and Syria, and its assistance to Syria – now ended – in the construction of nuclear reactor [nothing else] (destroyed in 2007), illustrate the reach of the North’s proliferation activities. Despite the October 2007 Six-Party agreement – in which the North reaffirmed its commitment not to transfer nuclear materials, technology or know-how – we remain alert to the possibility that North Korea might again export nuclear technology. [not Myanmar] We judge North has tested two nuclear devices. Its October 2006 nuclear test is consistent with our longstanding assessment that it produced a nuclear device, although we judge the test itself was a partial failure. The North’s probable nuclear test in May 2009 had a yield of roughly two kilotons TNT equivalent and was apparently more successful than the 2006 test. These tests strengthen our assessment that North Korea has produced nuclear weapons. In November 2010, North Korea revealed a claimed 2,000 centrifuge uranium enrichment facility to an unofficial U.S. delegation visiting the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, and stated it would produce low-enriched uranium to fuel a planned light-water reactor under construction at Yongbyon. The North’s disclosure supports the United States’ longstanding assessment that North Koreas has pursued a uranium-enrichment capability. The Intelligence Community assesses Pyongyang views the nuclear capabilities as intended for deterrence, international prestige, and coercive diplomacy. We also assess, albeit with low confidence, Pyongyang probably would not attempt to use nuclear weapons against U.S. forces or territory, unless it perceived its regime to be on the verge of military defeat and risked an irretrievable loss of control.” (DNI James Clapper, Unclassified Statement for the Record on the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, January 31, 2012)

In a message aimed at both Koreas, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said that Washington is open to settling the North Korean nuclear standoff through diplomacy, but only if Pyongyang improves ties with archrival South Korea. “We are open to diplomacy with North Korea, but there is a very clear set of steps that we think are necessary,” Campbell told reporters after meetings with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin and South Korean nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam. “We agreed that the path is open to North Korea toward the resumption of talks and improved relations” with Washington and Seoul, Campbell said, but “the road to improve these relations runs through Seoul for North Korea.” “We are still waiting to see whether the new government in North Korea is prepared to take the necessary steps,” Campbell said. (Associated Press, “Senior U.S. Diplomat: Improved Inter-Korean Ties Crucial for Resolution of N. Korea Nuke Dispute,” February 1, 2012)


2/2/12:
KCNA: “The Policy Department of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Thursday issued the following open questionnaire to the south Korean authorities. The south Korean puppet group is crying out for resuming north-south dialogue and mending ties from the outset of the new year. Lately it has so gone shameless as to urge the DPRK to come out for contact at an early date, saying it keeps the door of dialogue open. It went the lengths of warning that the north should not miss the window of opportunity and time has come for it to respond. Behind the scene, the group has been keen on discussing the schedule for Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises targeted against the DPRK and hatching whole gamut of anti-DPRK confrontation plots, claiming that it can not give up the fundamentals of the theory of adherence to the principle. What should not be overlooked is that it is abetted by its American master who keeps asserting that the improvement of the north-south relations should precede and ‘sincerity’ of the north as for the dismantlement of nuclear program should be confirmed before anything else. Under the prevailing situation the Policy Department of the DPRK NDC solemnly urges the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors to clearly answer following open questions reflecting the will of the army and people of the DPRK as the group loudly trumpets about resumption of north-south dialogue and improvement of relations. 1. Is the south Korean group ready to deeply repent of its heinous crimes concerning the great loss to the Korean nation and make apologies for them? Fresh in the memory of the army and people of the DPRK are crimes committed by the Lee group when the nation was grieving over the great loss to it. The Lee group only took the lead in hurting the people in the DPRK when the nation and other people of the world were sharing the biggest grief. The DPRK’s announcement that it would never deal with the south Korean authorities was attributable to the group’s hideous wrongdoings. Far from drawing a proper lesson from its wrongdoings, the group mocked at the army and people who shed tears of grief and sorrow and dared to fabricate a lie concerning the passing of leader Kim Jong-il, thus adding to its crimes in its anti-DPRK smear campaign. Can the DPRK sit with hooligans intent on sordid acts unimaginable by human brain, betes noires bereft of any intellectual awareness and elementary ethics and morality? National dialogue and contact can bear expected fruit only when they are based on humanity. The south Korean authorities should punish traitor Lee and his riff-raffs in the name of the nation if they truly hope for resuming dialogue and contact with the DPRK and improving relations with it. They should admit their crimes and apologize with the feelings of deep remorse and also give assurances that they would never try to hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and do harm to its sacred system and single-minded unity. 2. Do the authorities have an intention to make public at home and abroad their willingness to implement the historic June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration, its practical program? The two historic declarations were a patriotic heritage left by Kim Jong Il, matchless patriot and outstanding leader of the nation. They constitute an undying program for national reunification. Stand and attitude to the declarations are a touchstone distinguishing patriotism from treachery and reunification from division. It is exactly the Lee group which marred overnight the historical achievements of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity that were brought about by the declarations, denying their truth. Even at this moment traitor Lee is thinking about realizing ‘no nukes, opening and 3 000 dollars,’ oft-repeating ‘theory of principle,’ scenario for confrontation, being holed up in Chongwadae. We would like to question if they think we can sit with the group of traitors keen on obstructing what nation wants to do and laying stumbling blocks only in the way of reunification while pushing the north-south relations to an uncontrollable catastrophe? Genuine dialogue and contact are guaranteed by implementation of the two historic declarations, gains common to the nation. If the south Korean authorities truly stand for holding dialogue and mended ties, they should ostracize the Lee group as it made up its mind to deny and scrap the two declarations. They should push under the carpet the “theory of principle” and “no nukes, opening and 3 000 dollars”, a product of confrontation with fellow countrymen, and make public internally and externally their willingness to implement the two declarations under any circumstances. 3. Can Lee group promise the world it can no longer hurt the DPRK over “Cheonan” warship case and Yeonpyeong Island shelling incident? The frayed north-south ties are attributable to the Lee group which deliberately linked the “Cheonan” warship sinking case with the DPRK and shifted the blame for Yeonpyeong Island shelling incident on to the DPRK as part of its escalated campaign for confrontation with the DPRK. The army and people of the DPRK clarified more than once the truth regarding the case enough to be understandable by the Lee group by means of an open letter worked out by the inspection group of the National Defense Commission. Not only broad south Koreans but big powers including the U.S. are becoming increasingly assertive in branding the story of “north’s involvement” in “Cheonan” case as a sheer fabrication of the Lee group. Even Donald Gregg, former U.S. ambassador in Seoul, who brags his knowledge of south Korea said in an official appearance that he does not count on the ‘story of the north’s involvement in the warship sinking case.’ But Lee group, basing itself on lies, is abusing the “Cheonan” case in hurting the fellow countrymen in the north. As for Yeonpyeong Island shelling incident, it occurred as the puppet military warmongers fired into the territorial waters of the DPRK side first in an attempt to maintain the bogus ‘northern limit line,’ defying the repeated warnings of its army. The group should have drawn a due lesson from the cross-fire. But the Lee group is reviling the DPRK’s self-defensive step as a ‘military provocation,’ reminding one of a thief crying ‘Stop the thief!’ It seems to have come to the knowledge of the incoherence between the two incidents touted by it as it now talks about discussing the matters at the dialogue. Do the army and people of the DPRK really have to sit face to face with these brazen-faced villains, who master in orchestrating the farce? If the south Korean authorities so much want dialogue and contact, they should apologize to the nation for having kicked up anti-DPRK racket while peddling the ‘story of the north’s involvement’ in the warship case and for having branded the DPRK’s self-defensive measure as a ‘military provocation.’ They should promise before the world they would punish those responsible for the farce and stop the evil habit of groundlessly hurting others. 4. Can the south Korean authorities make a policy decision to stop big joint military exercises targeted against the DPRK? The big joint military exercises the Lee group has staged in and around south Korea in collusion with the U.S. imperialists are without exception aggression war moves aimed to militarily blackmail and stifle the DPRK. War and dialogue are incompatible. It does not make sense to sit face to face with enemy carrying a dagger by the belt and talk about peace. If the group has a true willingness to hold dialogue and improve relations, it should drop the dagger and create favorable atmosphere, to begin with. This was the reason why the DPRK took the resolute measures of suspending the valuable dialogues and contacts whenever there held war exercises in and around south Korea. Lately, the Lee group is sending puppet military warmongers to the U.S. to discuss the schedule of Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises slated for late February and signing operational plans worked out to cope with “military provocation” from the DPRK, talking about ‘dialogue.’ The group is paying lip-service to dialogue while whetting a sword to hurt the fellow countrymen behind the scene. What should not be overlooked is that the group plans staging aggression war exercises at a time when the people in the DPRK still grieve over the greatest loss to the nation. The smokescreen of dialogue and veil of improved ties are too thin, we think. The south Korean authorities should clarify their stand at the crossroads of peace or war and dialogue or confrontation. If they truly stand for dialogue, they should make a decision to stop all war exercises, away from the idea of flunkeyism and dependence on outsiders. 5. Are they ready to drop wrong view on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and practically work for it? Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula encompasses the whole territory of the north and south of Korea. The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula cropped up as the puppet authorities and the U.S. sneaked nuclear weapons into south Korea pursuant to the U.S. clandestine nuclear policy of neither denying nor confirming. The DPRK has more to say than the puppet authorities and the U.S. as regards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Problem is that the Lee group is working fool to destroy the nuclear deterrent which fellow countrymen in the north have built to cope with the outsiders’ nuclear threat. The group is siding with its master’s call for ‘the north’s dismantlement of nuclear program.’ Explicitly speaking, the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent is a just and self-defensive one to defend the nation from the U.S. nuclear threat, not a deterrent to hurt the nation. History proves that the destiny of the country and nation can not be defended unless nukes are responded with nukes and missiles with missiles. But for the U.S. nuclear threat, the DPRK would not have felt the need to keep even a single nuclear weapon. However, the Lee group introduced ‘extended nuclear deterrence’ into south Korea while becoming the first in echoing the U.S. talk about ‘north’s dismantlement of nuclear program’ and someone’ s ‘sincerity’ even though it was not aware of the meaning of the ‘principle of simultaneous actions.’ Does the DPRK have to sit at a negotiating table with the group of traitors who threaten the fellow countrymen with the U.S. nuclear weapons, being accustomed to flunkeyism, submission and dependence on outsiders? The south Korean authorities should have the common knowledge of the nuclear issue on the peninsula with a proper stand and do what they should do, free from the master’s nuclear umbrella, before talking about dialogue. To this end, it is necessary for them to promise the nation that it would buckle down to dismantling nuclear weapons in the south before impudently crying out for ‘north’s dismantlement of nuclear weapons.’ 6. Are they going to keep vicious anti-DPRK smear psychological campaign? Psychological campaign is, in fact, a war action. Intensified psychological campaign may lead the acute north-south relations to the point of explosion. The army and people of the DPRK clarified their stand to the matter more than once. The Lee group, however, is taking lightly the DPRK’s patience and countermeasures now in the making. Since the nation faced the greatest loss, the group has mobilized not only human scum but special agents of the puppet military, escalating different kinds of psychological warfare hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and slandering its system. The group even dreams in vain of inducing ‘contingency’ and ‘regime change.’ Can the group become the dialogue partner of the DPRK? They should stop psychological warfare and punish those involved in it and honor all the north-south military agreements that were reached in the course of implementing the historic June 15 joint declaration if they are true in their willingness for dialogue and improvement of relations. If the Lee group persists in describing anti-DPRK psychological warfare as ‘civilian deed’ and ‘people’s sentiment,’ it would deteriorate the north-south relations. The enraged revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK may deluge the psychological centers and strongholds with fire any moment. The group should bear this deep in mind. 7. Does the group have willingness to resume and keep going north-south cooperation and exchange in the direction of promoting nation’s peace, prosperity and common interests? North-south cooperation and exchange are a nationwide undertaking for nation’s common interests and prosperity. They guarantee national reconciliation, unity, peace, prosperity and reunification. Typical projects were Kaesong Industrial Zone and tour of Mt. Kumgang. Traitor Lee, however, put a brake on the cooperation regarding the Kaesong Industrial Zone throughout past four years in office, saying it “benefits the north only”. As for tour of Mt. Kumgang, Lee suspended it under the pretext of the death of a tourist who met death due to her own mistake. The Lee group tried to give impression that the north-south cooperation and exchange benefited the army of the DPRK and helped it have access to nuclear deterrent. ‘Probe of truth, measures for the prevention of recurrence and provision of personal safety’ are pretexts cooked up by the group to drop a bar on cooperation and exchange. The army and people of the DPRK have so far lived without cooperation and exchange with the puppet group of south Korea and they will be better off in the future without them. The DPRK also has emerged a full-fledged military power possessed of a powerful nuclear deterrent without them. How can the Lee group ignorant of the value of exchange and cooperation become the dialogue partner of the DPRK? The DPRK will never be taken in by a small amount of ‘nutritious food’ for children. The south Korean authorities should repent of having quenched the desire and wishes of the nation for exchange and cooperation, before talking about dialogue. They should voice their willingness to resume exchange and cooperation and keep them going in the direction of promoting national peace, prosperity and common interests. 8. Can the present south Korean authorities meet our principled demand for replacing the present armistice system by a peace-keeping mechanism? It is long since the situation in Korea has already reached a war phase due to such unstable state of neither peace nor war. The trend of this situation is attributable to the continuation of the armistice system, a leftover of the Cold War, and the existence of the belligerent relations though half a century has passed since the ceasefire. The U.S. is entirely to blame for this fact as it has persistently worked to ignite a war of aggression against the north on the basis of its scenario for the permanent presence of its aggressor forces in south Korea in actuality, while paying lip-service to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Greater responsibility for this situation rests with the Lee group who has created the above-said phase, clinging to the coattail of its master, while getting hell-bent on sycophancy towards the U.S. and confrontation with compatriots. It is none other than the Lee group that is busy with diplomacy aimed to get assurances from the U.S. for invariable ‘military assistance and security guarantee’ including the permanent presence of its imperialist aggressor forces as soon as it announced its military strategy which calls for attaching importance to Asia-Pacific. It is again traitor Lee that is obstructing by hook or by crook the DPRK-U.S. highest military contact which the former has already started for the purpose of defusing the tension on the peninsula and building a peace-keeping mechanism. It is only Lee who is swimming against the trend of the times at a time when all Koreans are waging a struggle to frustrate reckless military provocations of the bellicose forces at home and abroad and their arms build-up, war exercises, etc. holding loft the slogan of peace against war. If the Lee group truly stands for dialogue, it should take the lead in driving out of this land the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces, the main hurdle lying in building a peace-keeping mechanism on the peninsula, to begin with, and express the will to unconditionally respond to the DPRK’s just stand to replace the present armistice system by a peace-keeping mechanism. 9. Can the south Korean authorities make a decision to abolish at once the ‘Security Law’ and other evil laws against the nation and reunification? SL is the most draconic law designed to suppress the independent desire of the people in the south and block the improvement of the north-south relations. By invoking this evil law which should have been scrapped, Lee incriminates those who travel their own country and land and meet with their compatriots. He is punishing on charge of violation of this law even those fair-minded people who visited the bier of the father of the nation and expressed sorrow over his passing. As long as such evil laws as SL remain in force, it is impossible for the north and the south to meet for dialogue nor is it possible to achieve a substantial improvement in the relations and succeed in anything helpful to all Koreans. What matters is that Lee lends a deaf ear to the desire and wishes of the public for the repeal of all these draconic laws. SL is a product of the Yusin dictatorial system and a poisonous plant which should have been rooted out already long ago with the end of the Cold War. If the south Korean authorities truly wish dialogue, they should swear before the nation that they will eliminate the Lee group keen to maintain those laws and abrogate those laws to their last vestige. The Lee group had better stop recklessly talking about inter-Korean dialogue and the improved relations, properly understanding its position, and look back itself on whether it is entitled to be a dialogue partner. The people of various circles in south Korea have already set this year as a ‘year for settling accounts’ with the present puppet authorities and are becoming increasingly assertive that ‘they should fully settle accounts with traitor Lee and his gentries through a stern judgment,’ saying that they should never be allowed to step down of their own accord or ‘die natural deaths.’ It is the demand of people of various circles in south Korea to see the group’s ‘outdated political pattern-outdated system’ abolished and ‘new political pattern-new system’ established instead. It is the mind-set in south Korea that there should appear ‘a government for national reconciliation’ without traitor Lee. The situation has reached such phase that even ‘Grand National Party’ which Lee regarded as his own house posted on Internet even an animation file showing people pulling down the ugly looking statue of the traitor, shouting ‘Myung Bak, go away.’ It is long since his group of traitors has already been reduced to a living dead as it has gone against the trend of the times and the people’s desire. The service personnel and people of the DPRK will never deal with the Lee group forsaken by the people for the above-said crimes. Proceeding from the stand of national independence and the stance of giving priority to the nation, all of them will achieve national reconciliation and unity and foil every move of the warmongers at home and abroad for war and glorify new 100-year history of Juche era as a history of national reunification.” (KCNA, “Open Questionnaire of the Policy Department of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK,” February 2, 2012)

North Korea is open to immediate talks with rival South Korea if Seoul responds to several preconditions for dialogue, a North Korean military official told The Associated Press on Thursday. But Ri Son-gwon, a colonel working for the Policy Department of the North’s powerful National Defense Commission, also challenged South Korea to “state to the world whether it honestly intends to enter into dialogue with us.” The comments came a day after a senior U.S. diplomat said that Washington is open to settling a nuclear standoff with North Korea through diplomacy if Pyongyang first improves ties with Seoul. “The South speaks loudly of dialogue in public, but behind the scenes it also says it cannot shake the principles that plunged North-South Korean ties into complete deadlock,” Ri said in an interview in Pyongyang. “If clear answers are given, dialogue will resume immediately,” said Ri, dressed in an olive green military uniform. “The resumption of dialogue and the improvement of relations hinge completely on the willingness of the South’s government.” In the form of an “open questionnaire,” the North’s defense commission also laid out nine points for South Korea to respond to, including ending U.S.-South Korean military drills. The statement, however, backed away from earlier vows to shun Seoul’s conservative leader. The North’s defense commission also said South Korea should apologize for failing to show proper respect to Kim Jong Il during the mourning period that followed the late leader’s Dec. 17 death. It also posed questions about Seoul stopping criticism of Pyongyang over two deadly 2010 attacks blamed on North Korea, and following through on previous agreements that call for South Korean investments in the North. The North also said U.S.-South Korean military drills must end. “It does not make sense to sit face to face with (an) enemy carrying a dagger by the belt and talk about peace,” the North’s statement said. Pyongyang calls the drills a rehearsal for war. A round of military exercises by the allies is to start later this month. South Korea’s Unification Ministry released a statement Thursday saying it regrets the North’s “unreasonable claims as part of its propaganda at an important juncture for peace” and “does not feel the need to respond to these questions put forth by North Korea one by one.” Still, the North’s statement is “a bit of an olive branch” when contrasted with its previous promises to ignore Seoul, said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies in South Korea. But “the statement is meant primarily to pull the fig leaf off the South Korean government’s claims that it is open to dialogue,” Delury said. “Pyongyang is trying to call Seoul’s bluff by claiming South Korea is the intransigent one.” Today’s statement called Lee a “traitor,” but it didn’t repeat earlier pledges to never talk with Seoul. “It appears North Korea is cooling off after being infuriated at South Korea during the mourning period for Kim Jong-il,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University. “North Korea understands its relations with South Korea should improve for progress in its relations with the United States.” (Associated Press, “North Korea Opens Door to Talks with South Korea,” February 2, 2012)


2/3/12:
North Korea may have conducted two covert nuclear weapons tests in 2010, according to a fresh analysis of radioisotope data. The claim has drawn skepticism from some nuclear-weapons experts. But if confirmed, the analysis would double the number of tests the country is known to have conducted and suggest that North Korea is trying to develop powerful warheads for its fledgling nuclear arsenal. It might also explain a bizarre statement issued by North Korea’s state news agency in May 2010, which said that the country had achieved nuclear fusion. The news was largely ridiculed in the South Korean and Western media — but it was not so quickly dismissed by the small circle of experts who devote their careers to identifying covert nuclear tests. South Korean scientists had detected a whiff of radioactive xenon at around that time, hinting at nuclear activity in its northern neighbor, which had already tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. In August 2010, experts meeting in Vienna informally discussed the South Korean data and measurements from an international network of radioisotope monitoring stations operated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which supports an as-yet-unratified treaty that seeks to ban nuclear-weapons testing. Among those experts was Lars-Erik De Geer, an atmospheric scientist at the Swedish Defense Research Agency in Stockholm. When they looked at the monitoring data from Russian and Japanese stations close to North Korea, “the conclusion from everyone was, ‘Hell, we cannot explain them,'” De Geer recalls. Unwilling to let the matter rest, De Geer took the radioisotope data and compared them with the South Korean reports, as well as meteorological records. After a year of work, he has concluded that North Korea carried out two small nuclear tests in April and May 2010 that caused explosions in the range of 50–200 tons of TNT equivalent. The types and ratios of isotopes detected, he says, suggest that North Korea was testing materials and techniques intended to boost the yield of its weapons. His paper will appear in the April/May issue of the journal Science and Global Security. (Geoffrey Brumfiel, “Isotopes Hint at North Korean Nuclear Test,” Nature, February 3, 2012)


2/4/12:
Yim Tae-hee, a former South Korean presidential chief of staff, recently met with North Korean diplomats in the Chinese capital, a source here said on February 16. “Yim and an accompanying person met with two diplomats from the North Korean embassy here from February 2 to 4,” the source said. “I heard Yim told North Koreans that if Pyongyang shows more flexibility with issues on the Kaesong Industrial Complex and on the Mount Kumgang resort, then there could be more room for discussions.” Yim was reportedly accompanied by a North Korean expert surnamed Yoo, who is also an entrepreneur. Yim had previously contacted North Korean government officials in Singapore while he was the minister of labor in 2009. (Yonhap, “Former Chief of Presidential Staff Met with N. Koreans in Beijing: Source,” February 16, 2012)


2/6/12:
Japan and the United States reached a broad agreement to transfer 4,700 U.S. marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam, scaling down from the originally planned 8,000, Japanese government sources have said. DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Maehara Seiji told reporters the review of the realignment plan will ease the burden on Okinawa Prefecture. “It was originally decided that 8,000 U.S. marines were to be transferred to Guam when the relocation of the Futenma base to the Henoko district in Naga is carried out. But [under the new agreement] about 4,700 marines are to be transferred in advance [of the Futenma relocation],” Maehara said. “We’ve not changed our intention of eventually reducing the number [of U.S. marines based in Okinawa] to 10,000,” he added. (Yomiuri Shimbun, “Japan, U.S., Agree to Move 4,700 Marines to Guam,” February 7, 2012)


2/8/12:
Seoul and Washington are reportedly in favor of U.S. marines being deployed on South Korea’s west coast to prepare for an emergency. The mooted redeployment of U.S. marines from a base in Okinawa, Japan to South Korea on a rotating basis would fit in with their hopes. But the U.S. Marine Corps is essentially an attack unit focusing on amphibious operations, and its deployment to South Korea could upset neighboring countries other than North Korea, especially China. The issue already raised hackles in 2010. In June 2010, President Lee Myung-bak told his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama that Seoul would provide facilities in South Korea if a conflict then brewing with Japan over the relocation of the Okinawa base took “the worst possible turn,” according to Japanese monthly Bungeishunju. Cheong Wa Dae strongly denied the story at the time. More recently, the idea of deploying marines to South Korea has resurfaced due to the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the U.S. military’s decision to redeploy 3,300 of the marines in Okinawa to other countries on a rotating basis. The chief aim is to cut U.S. defense spending, because permanently stationing soldiers in a foreign country is vastly more expensive than rotating them. Many government officials are said to be counseling prudence because the political ramifications could be unpleasant. (Chosun Ilbo, “Deployment of U.S. Marines to S. Korea Raises Questions,” February 8, 2012) Both sides have agreed to rework part of the agreement that makes relocation of the air station, the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a precondition for moving the Marines, who along with their dependents were supposed to be transferred to Guam by 2014. “We decided to reduce Okinawa’s burden as much as possible rather than remain stuck in a stalemate by adhering to the earlier package,” Japan’s foreign minister, Gemba Koichiro, told reporters. “America is also committed, but Japan must take the lead in resolving this issue.” In a separate statement from the Pentagon, George Little, a Defense Department spokesman, said that by agreeing to delink the Marine removal from the air station relocation, negotiators from both sides can “make progress on each effort separately, yet we remain fully and equally committed to both efforts.” He was also vague on who would pay for the new realignment plan, a crucial question as both Tokyo and Washington try to cut fiscal deficits. Under the previous agreement, Japan was to pay 60 percent of the $10.3 billion cost to relocate the Marines to Guam, according to Japan’s Ministry of Defense. “I think this will be a big step forward,” Gemba said. “We are working hard to regain even a bit of the trust of the people of Okinawa.” That trust was lost two years ago, when Hatoyama Yukio, then prime minister, reneged on a campaign promise to move the Futenma base off the island. The resulting feelings of angry betrayal on the island have been so intense that most analysts and politicians now agree that the Futenma relocation plan is effectively dead. Under that plan, the base would have been moved from its current location in a crowded urban area to a safer spot on Okinawa’s less populated north. The United States says it needs the new base to maintain its ability to respond quickly to a crisis in the region even with the reduction in the number of Marines. Political analysts said those concerns also resonated with the government of Japan’s current prime minister, Noda Yoshihiko, who is seeking to maintain close ties to the United States at a time when Japan feels increasing anxiety about China’s military expansion. “The Noda government has come to the conclusion that the U.S.-Japan security alliance is too important to be deadlocked by a single base,” said Hosoya Yuichi, a specialist on international affairs at Keio University in Tokyo. After the 8,000 Marines leave, the United States would turn over to Japan a half-dozen military installations that it will vacate on the island’s more heavily developed southern half. Analysts said the return of this land, which accounts for about a fifth of all land on Okinawa occupied by the United States military, could soften opposition to a new air base by showing Okinawans tangible progress in reducing the American presence. (Martin Fackler, “U.S. and Japan Are in Talks to Expedite Exit of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa,” New York Times, February 9, 2012, p. A-7)


2/10/12:
Several members of the U.N. Security Council expressed concerns that China is blocking the function of a committee that is overseeing sanctions against North Korea as the council discussed the measures Friday, council sources indicated. ”Several council members expressed concern that the committee was not functioning as it should because certain council members were blocking (the committee’s) action,” one of the sources told Kyodo, without naming the members in question but apparently they include China. These states want action on updating the designation of goods, individuals and entities subject to the sanctions, and on giving advice to U.N. member states on implementation, among others, according to the source. (Sawa Yasuomi, “UNSC Members Concerned about China Blocking Sanctions on N. Korea,” Kyodo, February 11, 2012)


2/11/12:
The United States shipped US$9.4 million worth of goods to North Korea in 2011, up nearly five-fold from just $1.9 million the year before, mainly due to a rise in relief supplies, Radio Free Asia (RFA) said. The figures are based on data provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce. RFA said of the total, 95 percent was aid sent by private organizations. (Yonhap, “U.S. Shipments to N. Korea up Sharply in 2011,” February 11, 2012)

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering will advance into a special economic district in North Korea in a first among South Korean companies. The Hwanggeumpyong district, located in Sindo County, North Pyongan Province, is a project that North Korea and China are seeking to jointly develop. Daewoo’s investment will likely become the first in the North by a South Korean company after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. “We will construct a dockyard for ship repair and facilities for steel structure business in areas around Hwanggeumpyong, North Korea, and Dandong, China, in partnership with Rilin Group of China,” Daewoo said, adding, “We`re discussing with Rilin Group the investment amount and schedule for groundbreaking.” Hwanggeumpyong, a small island measuring 11.45 square kilometers at the estuary of the Yalu River, is linked with Dandong of China`s Liaoning province due to long-term sedimentation. Pyongyang and Beijing agreed to develop the area into a special economic district, and held a groundbreaking ceremony in June last year. They will start construction from late next month. (Dong-A Ilbo, “Daewoo Shipbuilding to Enter Economic District in N. Korea,” February 11, 2012)


2/12/12:
David Wright: “Press stories appearing in early December 2011 raised the possibility of a North Korean mobile intercontinental range ballistic missile (ICBM). Given what is known publicly about North Korea’s missile program, this is a surprising claim that is worth examining. The impression these and other stories give is that North Korea is developing a new ballistic missile — leap-frogging its previous efforts at building a long-range missile — and is on the verge of posing a new threat to the United States. This is almost certainly not the case. … The earliest public statement about a possible North Korean mobile ICBM was a comment by Robert Gates just before he stepped down as Secretary of Defense six months after his January 2011 remarks that Pyongyang might have a nuclear-armed intercontinental missile within five years. In particular, on June 4, 2011, responding to a question about North Korea during a meeting in Singapore, Secretary Gates talked about a looming threat and added the detail about a potential mobile ICBM: ‘With the continued development of long-range missiles and potentially a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, and their continued development of nuclear weapons, North Korea is in the process of becoming a direct threat to the United States.’ Just two and a half weeks later in a June 21 interview in Newsweek, Secretary Gates went beyond his previous statements, expressing much more certainty about both the threat to the United States and the existence of a mobile ICBM program: ‘North Korea now constitutes a direct threat to the United States. The president told [China’s] President Hu that last year. They are developing a road-mobile ICBM. I never would have dreamed they would go to a road-mobile before testing a static ICBM.’ Unfortunately, he was not asked to elaborate in either case. It is odd that in early June Secretary Gates referred to North Korea as “in the process of becoming” a direct threat to the United States — consistent with his statements the previous January — while two weeks later he said that the United States had already considered North Korea to be a direct threat the previous year. …The term “mobile missile” tends to bring to mind an image of a missile carried on a mobile launcher that can move to a desired location, and then raise the missile into launch position and fire it relatively quickly. Current examples of mobile ICBMs of this kind are the Russian SS-25 missile and the Chinese DF-31 and DF-31A missiles. But these three mobile missiles use solid propellant. As discussed below, North Korea does not have the ability to build large solid-fueled missiles. Liquid-propellant missiles of the same long-range capability tend to be much larger and more fragile. Such missiles cannot be transported, or erected into a vertical launch position from a horizontal traveling position, while fueled. The main reason that large liquid-propellant missiles cannot be transported while filled with fuel has to do with the missile’s structure. To attain the high burnout speed necessary to propel a warhead long distances, the mass of the metal missile body must be kept as low as possible, and this requirement is especially strict for ICBMs. Such a lightweight structure for the missile body would not be strong or rugged enough to withstand the stress of transporting a fueled missile or attempting to raise it into launch position. As a result, moving a large liquid-propellant missile by truck or trailer would require the missile to be transported without being filled with fuel. This would reduce the mass to well under 10 tons and reduce the stresses on the missile. While this would allow the missile to be moved to remote launch sites, it could not be launched quickly once it reached that site. Instead, the missile would have to be erected into a vertical position and then filled with fuel from large tank trucks that accompanied it. This process can take a couple hours. These missiles may therefore be ‘moveable’ but not ‘mobile’ in the typical usage of that term. In short, North Korea may be trying to acquire ‘moveable missile’ capability. …There have been repeated claims that Pyongyang received either Soviet-made R-27 medium-range missiles (originally a submarine-launched missile called the SS-N-6 in the West), R-27 missile components, and/or production equipment from Russian sources, and may have sold some to Iran. If North Korea has acquired some number of complete R-27 missiles from Russia then it could conceivably deploy them without flight-testing since they would have been previously tested. Even so, their range is only about 2,400 km with a 650 kg payload. If North Korea instead acquired components or production equipment for the R-27 from Russia, it would need to do a proof flight test of the missiles it produced to gain confidence in the production process and to consider the weapon an operational military system. The Musudan missile, which has been widely discussed in the press, has not been flight tested. Since this delivery-system is a significant modification of the R-27 it cannot be considered operational without such tests (more below). It appears to have a range of about 3,200 km with a 650 kg payload. The Taepodong-2 (TD-2), which is the name given to a long-range missile believed to use the technology of the Unha-2 space launcher, has also not been flight tested. The Unha-2 has not been successfully tested, although the first two stages appeared to operate largely as planned in an April 2009 launch. In addition, North Korea has not tested a reentry vehicle and heat shield for a long-range missile, which it would need for delivering a warhead by a missile like the TD-2. The most likely scenario, therefore, is that North Korea continues to develop the technology displayed in the Unha-2 launcher, which could be adapted to either a two- or three-stage TD-2 ICBM. A two-stage version of the TD-2 could have a range of more than 9,000 km with a 650 kg payload. A three-stage version, with sufficient structure to carry a heavy warhead and a heat shield instead of a lightweight satellite, could have a range of greater than 11,000 km. If North Korea had acquired or could produce enough R-27 engines it could get somewhat better performance by replacing the cluster of four Nodong engines in the first stage of the Unha-2 with four clustered R-27 engines. Getting higher performance out of these engines would require North Korea to have large amounts of the advanced propellant the R-27 uses; each missile would require some 60 tons. To reach intercontinental ranges, this missile would also have a fueled mass of roughly 80 tons, similar to the TD-2. Speculation about a mobile ICBM seems to center on the Musudan missile. For example, the December 5 Washington Times story states: ‘Officials familiar with the intelligence said government analysts believe the missile could be a variant of North Korea’s new Musudan intermediate-range missile, first disclosed publicly in October 2010.’ This statement is misleading since it suggests that a ‘variant’ with some relatively minor modification of the Musudan missile would result in a delivery-system with ICBM range. This is not true. …The second stage of the Unha-2 launcher that North Korea used — unsuccessfully — to try to place a satellite in orbit in April 2009 appears to be an R-27 missile, and the third stage appears to use the steering motors of the R-27. During the launch, the second stage appeared to function properly but the third stage did not. However, the fact that an R-27 was apparently flown as the second stage of the Unha-2 in 2009 does not mean that the Musudan can be considered to be flight tested, as some reports claim, because the Musudan missile has been substantially modified from the R-27. The missile body has been lengthened by some 2.5 m (more than 25 percent) to carry more fuel, which adds four to five tons of mass and significantly changes the mass distribution of the missile and of the stresses on the body. As a result, the fact that North Korea has never conducted a test launch of the Musudan is significant. It means that the Musudan cannot be considered operational, and North Korea cannot assume that a launch would be successful, and would therefore be unlikely to mate a nuclear warhead to the missile. Even if the Musudan were tested, its range is much shorter than an ICBM. As noted above, based on the characteristics of the R-27, modeling shows that the Musudan would have a range of roughly 3,200 km with a 650 kg payload. Reaching intercontinental range would require a missile that was significantly larger than the Musudan and had multiple stages. For comparison, the two-stage version of the TD-2 discussed above would have a length of some 26 m and a mass of 80 tons. This is more than twice as long as the Musudan (which is about 12 m in length) and more than four times heavier (the Musudan mass is about 18 tons). Moreover, it has a first-stage diameter of 2.4 m, compared to the 1.5 m diameter of the Musudan. A true ICBM, with a range of more than 11,000 km would be even larger. Even if North Korea had enough R-27 engines to develop a new first stage using a cluster of four of these engines rather than Nodong engines, so that the missile consisted entirely of R-27 technology, it would still be a multi-stage missile similar in size to the TD-2. It makes no sense to call this a ‘variant’ of the Musudan. Statements about a possible North Korean development of a mobile ICBM do not imply the development of a new missile. Instead they may indicate that North Korea is interested in finding a way to transport a long-range missile like the TD-2 and launch it from locations other than a fixed site, similar to what China did with its DF-4 intermediate-range missile. Mobile missiles would complicate the conduct of a pre-emptive strike on the missile compared to an attack against weapons launched from a known, fixed site. However, in the situation described above, the missile would be transported unfueled and would need to be accompanied by a set of trucks that would fuel it once placed in launch position. Preparation would probably take several hours. That, combined with the additional infrastructure at the site would remove some of the advantages typically associated with mobile missiles. In any event, the primary concern for the United States should be stopping the development and flight testing of intermediate- and long-range ballistic missiles, whether or not they are going to eventually be mobile. Currently, North Korea has not successfully flight tested a missile with range longer than 1,300 km. Without such tests, readily detected by U.S. satellites, a delivery system cannot be considered operational. As a result, there would be significant benefits to the United States engaging North Korea to reinstate the missile flight moratorium that it observed from 1998 through 2005 — which would keep the Musudan, TD-2, and other missiles from becoming operational — and then to seeking a permanent ban on such tests.” David Wright, “A North Korean Mobile ICBM?” 38North, February 12, 2012)


2/13/12:
An interagency team of U.S. officials led by Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies will meet with a North Korean delegation led by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in Beijing, China February 23, 2012. This meeting will continue the discussions that took place in July 2011 in New York and October 2011 in Geneva. (DoS, Office of the Spokesman, Media Note, February 13, 2012)


2/14/12:
The South Korean Red Cross proposed working-level talks to prepare reunions of separated families. The proposal is the first in 15 months after the South Korean government indefinitely postponed inter-Korean Red Cross talks in November 2010, shortly after the North’s deadly shelling of Yeonpyeongdo. South Korea’s Red Cross chief Yu Jung-keun said the South’s side sent a message to the North Korean Red Cross through their channel at the border village of Panmunjeom, offering to hold a working-level meeting next Monday, either in Kaesong in North Korea or Munsan in South Korea. “Reunion of separated families is a humanitarian issue, which should be resolved as a top priority, regardless of political situations between the two Koreas,” Yu told reporters in Seoul. She said more than 4,000 South Koreans who applied for a family reunion have died every year due to their age, urging for a speedy resumption of the meetings. “I hope this proposal can lead to family reunions and further consultations on inter-Korean humanitarian issues. I also anticipate a positive response from the North.” (Kim Yoon-mi, “South Korean Red Cross Proposes Talks with North,” Korea Herald, February 14, 2012)


2/15/12:
South Korea said it is ready to start talks with North Korea on further developing a jointly run industrial estate despite simmering political tensions. The unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said it would “seriously consider” holding dialogue about the estate in Kaesong just north of the heavily fortified border. “We hope North Korea will respond in a positive and sincere manner,” said spokeswoman Park Soo-Jin. (AFP, “S. Korea ‘Ready to Talk’ about Industrial Park in N. Korea,” February 15, 2012)

DPRK IDP, FoMin report: “The Institute for Disarmament and Peace of the DPRK Foreign Ministry released a report on leader Kim Jong Il‘s immortal contribution to security and peace in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia on Wednesday [2/15/12] on the occasion of his 70th birth anniversary. The full text of the report is as follows:

Leader Kim Jong Il’s was the life of a patriot and champion of peace dedicated to the country and its independent and peaceful reunification.

With his outstanding ideas and leadership, Kim Jong Il, endowed with deep love for the country and the nation, opened up a new era of reunification, June 15 reunification era, at the turn of a new century and brought national reunification within hailing distance, thereby making an immense contribution to the efforts aimed at securing peace and security in Northeast Asia and the world.

The international community still cherishes the happy memory of the meaningful days; the days which were inaugurated with the historic inter-Korean summit, first of its kind since the national division; a series of events that followed the DPRK-U.S. Joint Communiqué, the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration and talks for the declaration of the end of the Korean War and instilled hope into the heart of the mankind longing for national reunification and regional peace.

All these signal events were precious results of the June 15 era of independent reunification Kim Jong Il ushered in, pursuing Songun politics and fully guaranteeing the security of the Korean Peninsula.

The Institute for Disarmament and Peace of the DPRK Foreign Ministry hereby releases this report on the occasion of the 70th birth anniversary of Kim Jong Il after summing up research data which relate only to the part of what he contributed towards ensuring the security of the Korean Peninsula and peace in Northeast Asia in his immortal exploits for national reunification.

  1. Laying the keystone of peace on the Korean Peninsula

National reunification and security are issues of utmost importance for the Korean nation that has suffered from national division and constant threat of war for more than half a century. Reunification and security of the Korean Peninsula are closely linked with each other. Any way of thinking and attempt to achieve reunification by forcing the social system of one side upon the other would trigger confrontation and lead to a war in the long run.

The past history of inter-Korean relations is showing that the theory of “unification of systems” itself is one of the root causes which gravely threaten the security of the Korean Peninsula by feeding distrust and triggering tension.

It was all the more evident through the theory of “unification by prevailing over communism” sought by military dictatorial governments of south Korea. The theory of “unification of systems” advocated by the south Korean “civilian government” in the 1990s had also deepened distrust between the north and the south and wreaked havoc with the situation of the Korean Peninsula.

Leader Kim Jong Il unfolded the great Songun politics and opened up the June 15 era of reunification. Through this, he delivered a decisive blow to the attempts of hostile forces to stifle the DPRK as well as to the theory of “unification of systems” and opened up the future of independent and peaceful reunification of the country. Herein lie the immortal exploits for national reunification performed by him, who had made contribution to ensuring the security of the Korean Peninsula.

With the Songun politics, he decisively smashed the pressure and threats of the U.S. and its followers against the DPRK, secured a firm guarantee for defending security of the Korean Peninsula and provided the general principles for national reunification.

In his historic work “Let us Carry Out the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung’s Instructions for National Reunification” on August 4, 1997, Kim Jong Il formulated the great reunification legacies of President Kim Il Sung — Three Principles of National Reunification, 10-Point Program of the Great Unity of the Whole Nation and the Proposal for Founding the Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo — into the Three Charters for National Reunification and, thus, provided all Koreans with undying banner to be upheld in the efforts to reunify the country.

The core and goal of the Three Charters for National Reunification, as clarified by Kim Jong Il, is to establish an independent unified state on the Korean Peninsula by federal formula. Reunification by federal formula is not only reasonable but also just and fair reunification formula because it doesn’t presuppose supremacy or interest of one side only. So, this formula serves as the best way for ensuring security of the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Jong Il opened up the June 15 era of reunification based on the three charters with his prominent leadership ability and strong power of execution.

The inter-Korean summit, the first of its kind in the history of national division that lasted more than half a century, was held in June 2000, resulting in the adoption of the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration.

The north and the south, through June 15 Joint Declaration, came to agree at the highest level on the way of reunification which would defend security of the Korean Peninsula based on the idea of “By our nation itself”.

This made it possible for the inter-Korean relations to develop on the basis of co-existence and co-prosperity, and a new chapter recorded as the “June 15 era of reunification” could go down in history.

As the inter-Korean relations turned and moved towards reconciliation and unity, it became possible to agree on lots of measures to build up trust and ensure security, things that had looked impossible in the past.

The second inter-Korean summit, held on October 4, 2007, resulted in the adoption of the “Declaration for the Development of the North-South Relations and Peace and Prosperity”. This Declaration stipulated that a large portion of the disputed waters in the West Sea, where the risk of accidental clash was high, should be turned into a peace zone and that the two sides of Korea should cooperate with each other in encouraging parties concerned to declare the end of the Korean War. This is a good example of showing that the June 15 reunification era made not a small contribution to defending security on the Korean Peninsula.

The anti-DPRK confrontation fanatics took power in south Korea and advocated the old theory of “unification of systems”, driving the inter-Korean relations into the biggest catastrophe ever in history. The present situation goes to prove that only the June 15 reunification era can bring earlier the national reunification and safeguard national security.

The June 15 reunification era is a precious legacy of reunification leader Kim Jong Il left for the entire Korean nation. It is also a legacy of defending security on the Korean Peninsula.

  1. Contribution towards Ensuring Peace in Northeast Asia

Northeast Asia is of more importance than any other regions in ensuring global peace and security.

World War I which broke out in the 20th century began and ended in Europe. But World War II began in Europe and ended in Northeast Asia. This can be called a historical phenomenon indicating a gradual shift of strategic gravity of the world.

As we enter into the 21st century, strategic gravity of Northeast Asia is more striking and accelerated in its shift. Economic gravity is now on the move to the Asia-Pacific region. This also caused military and strategic importance to be moved into Northeast Asia.

What is also moved into Northeast Asia is the Cold War structure between the East and the West which once divided Europe, and there is a symptom that this Cold War structure would reappear as a “new Cold War” structure of dividing Northeast Asia into two.

Northeast Asia, far from having such a multilateral security regime at a regional level as can be found in Europe and Southeast Asia, only has in place the vestige of the cold war that exists in the form of U.S.-south Korea military alliance and U.S.-Japan military alliance. As the days go by, those military alliances are causing a threat to regional security and global peace.

As long as a force with its eye on global domination does exist in this world, it is a par for the course that there would be a limit to the build-up of trust between the countries, and the danger of conflict would never cease to hang over.

Such being the situation, Northeast Asia does need to form a buffer zone which is capable of dividing physically big powers which stand confrontational with each other. Buffer zone is to draw the line between those involved in the disputes in regions. This approach of establishing the buffer zone is recognized as an effective method of ensuring peace which stood the test of time through years of international practices.

The Korean Peninsula is in a delicate geographical position of being sandwiched between big powers, a position which is sensitive enough to bring the neighboring big powers to a fight or prevent them from doing it. If the Korean Peninsula is reunified and stands neutral and independent, it can hold in check possible conflicts between neighboring big powers. But, to the contrary, if it opts to remain divided and seek a confrontational approach, it would feed the excuse of a fight to big powers and get itself drawn into that fight. This is what we call the delicate position of the Korean Peninsula. History shows that if and when the inter-Korean relations remain tense, neighboring big countries also remain tense in their own relations and heightened their own military showdowns. It is from such a delicate position of the Korean Peninsula that the world expected that the peninsula, situated in the middle of Northeast Asia, would be a buffer zone between big powers.

What Kim Jong Il opened as the June 15 era of reunification made it possible to bring a new phase in ensuring security of the Korean Peninsula and peace of Northeast Asia.

In the past, people in neighboring and some other countries of the world took an ambivalent approach towards this formula of federal reunification. They said this formula is a good one for Korea’s reunification, but they remained skeptical over the possible realization of it, saying it would be difficult to do so unless the north and the south agreed on it.

Kim Jong Il agreed with the south Korean side, through June 15 North-South Joint Declaration, on the way of reunification which would guarantee security of both the north and the south of the Korean Peninsula, thus instilling a new hope and faith for national reunification into the people at home and abroad.

If federal reunification is achieved, our country would naturally be a national unified state which is independent, peace-loving and neutral. This would make it possible for the Korean Peninsula to become a rampart for ensuring peace in Northeast Asia enabling it to play a role of buffer zone between big powers.

The Inter-Korean Joint Declaration holds a great significance in ensuring peace in Northeast Asia and the rest of the world. This constitutes one of the reasons of why this Declaration has received full support and welcome from all countries of the world, and UN and other international organizations, let alone from the entire Korean nation.

The June 15 era of reunification proved that if the inter-Korean relations were improved, it would set a tone for the overall atmosphere of the region and would eventually go a long way towards providing an atmosphere of global detente.

Just after the June 15 Joint Declaration was made public, a special envoy of Kim Jong Il visited Washington and met the U.S. president first ever in the history of DPRK-U.S. relations, and a subsequent DPRK-U.S. Joint Communiqué was announced. Following that, the U.S. secretary of State visited Pyongyang.

The Japanese prime minister visited Pyongyang and a DPRK-Japan summit was held for the first time in the history of their relations, and a subsequent DPRK-Japan Declaration was adopted. This all had happened in the era of June 15 Joint Declaration. The West, which did not recognize DPRK for dozens of years, established diplomatic relations with DPRK all at once. This all had happened in the June 15 era of reunification.

Especially, six-way talks was held first time with the participation of the countries from Northeast Asia and an important regional agreement, i.e., the September 19 Joint Statement, was reached. This also had happened in the June 15 era of reunification.

The June 15 era of reunification showed that only when the inter-Korean relations were oriented towards co-existence and co-prosperity it would help defend security on the Korean Peninsula. That era also showed that neighboring countries are accepting such developments with a good grace.

The situation of the Korean Peninsula is now on the brink of war due to the present south Korean authorities and the U.S. capitalized on this to deploy its military force massively into Northeast Asia. Such situation is producing evidence that national reunification is holding a clinching significance in defending security of the region.

A dark cloud of cold war was hanging over Northeast Asia. Just at this time, Kim Jong Il held aloft the banner of Songun and brought to us the June 15 era of reunification. Through this, he provided a sure guarantee for peace and security in Northeast Asia. Herein lie his immortal feats for national reunification.

  1. Great Exploits that Will Be Everlasting in the World

The Korean nation started its movement for the country’s reunification at the very day when it was divided. Since then, it has undergone through a myriad of turns and twists year after year.

It experienced confrontations over policies between reunification and division, which all came out of the moves pursued by separatists at home and abroad. The same is truth in case of confrontations between the formula of federal reunification and the theory of “unification of systems”.

As the struggle for national reunification drags on and a generation changes, we also found some people in south Korea and some other countries who lost their hopes for reunification. Some even thought that reunification is as far off as North Pole.

But, all the fellow countrymen and the world people, getting along in the June 15 reunification era, came to have firm confidence that it is quite possible to achieve the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula and so there is practical possibility of ensuring a lasting peace in Northeast Asia.

Even today, exacerbating confrontation between the north and the south drives the situation of the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war. However, our army and people remain optimistic about the prospect of national reunification and are full of confidence to drive out confrontation maniacs and safeguard security in the peninsula. All this is attributable to treasured sword of Songun and inter-Korean declarations provided by Kim Jong Il.

It is important to steadily defend and enrich the valuable reunification achievements of Kim Jong Il, who made an immortal contribution to the prosperity of the nation and global peace. Herein lies a sure guarantee for finally ensuring national reunification and security of the Korean Peninsula all together.

What is important is to implement to the letter the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration and its action program, the October 4 Declaration, which were all provided by Kim Jong Il. Those two declarations are a symbol of the June 15 reunification era and beacon of reunification and peace.

First of all, we should base ourselves on the idea of “By our nation itself” in getting all of our efforts oriented towards the national reunification which would help defend security on the Korean Peninsula. The level of mutual confidence between the north and the south should be restored to the same level as it was in the June 15 reunification era without any delay by thoroughly demolishing the temporarily revived specter of “unification of systems”.

The first step in establishing the lasting peace regime throughout the Korean Peninsula is to turn the West Sea of Korea, where the risk of clash is high, into the area of peace as stipulated in the October 4 Declaration.

Implementation of the inter-Korean declarations is in full accord with the interests of all countries that show concern over peace in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

Neighboring and other countries concerned are worried about the present bedeviled relations between the north and the south of Korea. They all could hardly refrain from recalling the time, with a fond and nostalgic memory, when the inter-Korean declarations were adopted and implemented, a time when everybody felt safe and sound and got benefit from the adoption and implementation of the above declarations.

Now only a handful of people refuse to implement those declarations in the Korean Peninsula. Immediately after the present south Korean authorities took office, they spoke ill of the June 15 reunification era, defiling it as “lost 10 years.” But, they are now standing before the court of judgment for their crimes.

If a country truly wants to see the provision of security in the Korean Peninsula, it should squarely see that the only way to do it is to implement the declarations that would lead to improved relations between the north and the south and, further, to peace and security in Northeast Asia, instead of lending its ear to the sophism of the south Korean authorities.

If a country keeps its distance from mentioning the implementation of the inter-Korean declarations while talking about the need to improve the inter-Korean relations, this would rather be viewed as an unconstructive attitude of taking sides with the present south Korean authorities which remain dead set against the declarations. At present, the U.S. often talks that it wants to see the improved relations between the north and the south, but it still bypasses any chance of expressing its stand towards the implementation of those declarations, only to keep us doubtful about its willingness. This is a typical example of an unconstructive attitude by a certain country towards the inter-Korean declarations.

The stand towards the inter-Korean declarations is an acid test which will determine who stands for or against security of the Korean Peninsula and peace in Northeast Asia.

The cause of national reunification started by President Kim Il Sung and advanced victoriously by Kim Jong Il is truly entering into a new historical turning point.

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of our Party, state and army, now stands at the helm of our people in their general march to brilliantly accomplish the cause of national reunification, true to the behests of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

The movement of national reunification is sure to emerge victorious as there are the dear respected Kim Jong Un and the great idea of independent and peaceful reunification that guides all Koreans with the idea of “By our nation itself.” The immortal exploits of Kim Jong Il for national reunification will remain long in the history of a reunified country.”


2/18/12:
North Korea rejected South Korea’s offer to hold Red Cross talks on reunions of separated families, saying Seoul should first respond to its demand for an apology for not paying official respect over the death of former leader Kim Jong-il and for a promise to carry out previous summit agreements. Minju Joson newspaper carried a commentary accusing Seoul of talking about family reunions and exchanges while seeking sanctions on the communist nation behind the scenes in what it calls an attempt to evade responsibility for devastating inter-Korean ties. If the South is truly interested in family reunions and cooperation and exchanges, the newspaper said, it should respond to the National Defense Commission’s “questionnaire,” demanding that the South repent for halting inter-Korean dialogue, apologize for the disrespect showed in response to the death of former leader Kim and pledge to uphold the June 15 joint declaration. Seoul has said the questions raised by the North did not even merit a response. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Turns down S. Korea’s Offer of Red Cross Talks,” February 18, 2012)

Minju Joson: “South Korea is now holding the DPRK-targeted war exercises with outside forces despite its lip-service for dialogue. This is aimed to convince the public that the DPRK is to blame for the stalled north-south ties and elicit support for winning in the ‘National Assembly’ election. Dialogue can not be made amid gun-report and will naturally end up in disputes. South Korea hurt the people in the north when they were grieving over the greatest loss to the nation, far from paying respects during the mourning period. The commentary urges the Lee Myung-bak group not to talk about the north-south dialogue, bearing in mind the stand clarified by the army and the people of the DPRK that they will never deal with them.” (KCNA, “S. Korea’s Claim of Dialogue Termed Hypocritical,” February 18, 2012)


2/19/12:
KCNA: “The Command of Forces of the Korean People’s Army in the Western Sector of the Front issued an open notice on February 19 as regards the plan of the south Korean military warmongers to stage a brigandish naval shelling drill in the waters around five islands in the West Sea of Korea on February 20 with the territorial waters of the north side as their target. The notice says: Such move of the war-like forces is a premeditated military provocation to defend the illegal ‘northern limit line’ at any cost and drive the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula into the phase of war by straining the situation in those waters to the highest pitch of tension. As regards the prevailing situation, the Command of Forces of the KPA in the Western Sector of the Front is authorized to issue the following notice: The territorial waters of the DPRK side in the West Sea of Korea are the waters where its sovereignty is exercised. Once the group of traitors starts a reckless military provocation in those waters, trespassing on the DPRK’s inviolable marine demarcation line, and in case just a single column of water is observed in its territorial waters, the KPA will promptly make merciless retaliatory strikes. In this regard, all civilians who either live or engage in occupation on five islands in the West Sea and in their vicinity are advised to evacuate in advance to safe areas before nine o’clock on February 20 when the puppet military warmongers will kick off the provocative naval shelling. The Lee Myung-bak group of traitors should not forget the lesson taught by the Yeonpyeong Island shelling case that occurred on November 23, 2010.” (KCNA, “Command of Forces of KPA in Western Sector of Front Issues Open Notice,” February 19, 2012)


2/20/12:
South Korea carried out live-fire drills near its western border islands, despite North Korea’s threat of retaliation. “We had our routine maritime firing drills for about two hours starting 9:30 a.m.,” an official with the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “These were designed to test our weapons at Marine Corps units on the Yellow Sea and also to maintain our military’s combat readiness in the area.” The drills took place in waters near Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands, located just south of the tense Yellow Sea border with North Korea. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Conducts Live-Fire Drills Despite N. Korean Threat,” February 20, 2012)

North Korea’s Workers’ Party will hold a conference in mid-April, the government announced, affording its new leader, Kim Jong-un, the opportunity to inherit top party posts held by his late father. Neither the meeting’s date nor the agenda was disclosed, but party conferences have in the past helped leaders bolster their authority. “The April party conference means that North Korea is intent on an early completion of power transfer to Kim Jong-un,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea. “It is likely that those party elders who didn’t play key roles in Kim Jong-un’s consolidation of power will recede and those younger and closer to him will make their way into the party’s Central Committee and get promoted.” After his father, Kim Jong-il, died December 17, Kim was upheld in North Korea as supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army but the new leader, believed to be still in his late 20s, has yet to assume his father’s other top titles, including general secretary of the party and chairman of its Central Military Commission. Some analysts foresee April as the likely time for him to receive both. Kim Jong-il ruled the country as chairman of the National Defense Commission after making the presidency permanently vacant in memory of his own father, Kim Il-sung. Analysts said that the new leader may take the top commission title or make his father the commission’s “eternal chairman” and create a new governing agency through a constitutional revision. Either step requires action through the North’s rubber-stamp legislature, which usually meets in early April. “If that happens, by April, Kim Jong-un will likely have acquired all the top titles of the party, state and military,” said Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. (Choe Sang-hun, “Shift Expected As North Korea Sets Party Meeting,” New York Times, February 21, 2012, p. A-10)

South Korea’s foreign ministry said it plans to raise the issue of North Korean defectors detained in China at a meeting of the U.N. refugee agency next week. “We plan to bring the issue of North Korean defectors held in China to the attention of the U.N. Human Rights Council,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said. South Korea has urged China to deal with the plight of North Koreans “from a humanitarian perspective and the defectors shouldn’t be deported by force against their will,” Cho said. “Along with our efforts through the bilateral diplomatic channel with China, I think that seeking support at the U.N. Human Rights Council would help the defectors to not be sent to North Korea against their will,” Cho said. Ambassador Kim Bong-hyun, deputy minister for multilateral and global affairs, plans to attend the meeting of the U.N. refugee agency set for next week, officials said. South Korean lawmakers and human rights activists have recently stepped up demands calling on China to stop repatriating defectors following reports that dozens of North Koreans were rounded up earlier this month to be sent back to their home country. Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative minor Liberty Forward Party has said about 30 North Korean defectors were caught by Chinese police on four separate occasions in February this year in a strengthened crackdown on defectors near the border between the two nations. She said that four more North Korean defectors had been detained by Chinese authorities in the central city of Zhengzhou while fleeing their impoverished homeland, raising the number of defectors believed to be in custody to 34. In a statement, Park said she plans to launch an “indefinite” hunger strike in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul to protest the forced repatriation of North Korean defectors by China. A South Korean government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government will ask China to adhere to two international treaties, of which China is a member, to stop repatriating North Korean defectors. Chinese officials say they are handling the issue in line with “domestic and international laws and humanitarian principles.” Meanwhile, a total of 11 North Koreans have been held in South Korean consulates in Beijing and Shenyang for nearly three years, according to a local newspaper report. Five of them are family members of South Korean prisoners of war, they said. “The Chinese authorities are refusing to allow immigration procedures for them,” said a high-ranking Seoul official. The 11 defectors residing in the South Korean consulates include three family members of South Korean prisoner of war Baek Jong-gyu, whose remains were brought to the South in 2004 by his daughter Baek Yeong-sun, who defected from the North. Another daughter of his, Baek Yeong-ok, along with her son and daughter, entered the South Korean Consulate in Beijing in 2009 to come to the South, the official said. Two other defectors are also family members of a South Korean P.O.W., he said. “Those people, who escaped the North in search of freedom, have remained under inhumane conditions, kept in a small building for several years,” the official said, adding that China remains unresponsive even to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s appeal. (Yonhap, “N. Korean Defectors in China Becomes Hot Issue between Seoul, Beijing,” North Korea Newsletter No. 198 (February 23, 2012)

PRC Vice FM Fu Ying holds aid talks with DPRK Vice FM Kim Sung-gu, PRC FoMin spokesman confirms on February 27.


2/22/12:
Q: I’m from CCTV and my question is things now in North Korea with a new leader, what kind of particular information do you want to get at these meetings? DAVIES: Yes, well, the purpose of my meeting here – I’m not really here quite so much to try to investigate the new leadership is in North Korea. I’m much more interested in trying to find out what the new leadership in North Korea is prepared to do – and I think that’s what’s important about this diplomatic process that we’re engaging in. Are they prepared to pick up where we left off from the New York meeting in July and the Geneva meeting in October? Can we move forward on that basis, and can we find a way forward on, in particular, the question of denuclearization, but also on these other issues that I’ve mentioned: nonproliferation, obviously humanitarian issues and human rights issues are important to us, regional stability. We think it’s very important that North Korea quickly take up again its dialogue with its neighbors, in particular South Korea but also with Japan, that’s important. And so, those are the kinds of things I’ll be looking for when I meet with First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan tomorrow. And, as I say, I’m hopeful that we won’t spend too much time going back over positions that we have already outlined to each other, and that we can start from that spot and move forward. …Q: NHK, Japanese public TV, in terms of nutritional assistance, there is some differences between the U.S. and the DPRK. How is it influence on tomorrow’s meeting? DAVIES: Well, I don’t know, I mean, I think we’ve all seen what the North Koreans said in their statement from KCNA some weeks ago, quoting their Foreign Ministry. They have laid out a position that you’ve all read about their desire for a certain quantity of food, a certain mix … they in particular want to get as much grain as they possibly can. Our position that we have outlined to them, actually in this city, in Beijing, just prior to the announcement of the death of Kim Jong-il is there. They know about it, they know what it’s based on, that it’s based on, number one, our deep concern for the welfare of the people of North Korea, number two, our technical assessment of the need that exists in North Korea, and then obviously we have to make these decisions based on competing needs around the word for our own nutritional assistance. So all of that was laid out for them when Ambassador Bob King, who is our Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights, came out with Mr. Jon Brause, Deputy Administrator of AID. They got into a number of specific issues that relate to the modalities of the delivery of assistance. Exactly how long this might take, how we are hoping to reach certain populations — children under five in particular, but also pregnant and breast-feeding women, and certain elderly who are living alone off of the North Korea public distribution system — all of that was laid out to them, and those talks made very good progress but they didn’t achieve a final result. I expect that that may well come up in our discussions with the North Koreans, and we are prepared for that — we’re ready to talk about that — and to see if we can move that process forward as well. But right now, we’ve made no final decisions about the provision of nutritional assistance because we haven’t reached agreement on all of the modalities that we’ve discussed in Beijing. … Q: It’s me again. How much do you know about how Kim Jung Un and how much do you think his thinking will influence your job and the progress? DAVIES: You are now asking me an imponderable, quite frankly. I mean, North Korea has a new leader. This is obviously the backdrop to our having this conversation that begins tomorrow. What precisely his policies are, in what direction he wants to take his country, all of these are a bit unknown at this stage. I find it a positive sign that relatively soon after the beginning of the transition in North Korea, the DPRK has chosen to get back to the table with us. I think that’s a good thing. But the proof will be in the results of these discussions that we have with the North Koreans. Which is why I’m so interested in having this conversation with the First Vice Foreign Minister and his team, and exploring just exactly where they are, maybe beginning to get some answers to these questions, such as you are asking here today.” (Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies, Remarks upon Arrival in Beijing,” February 22, 2012)


2/23/12:
President Lee Myung-bak has picked former Vice Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United Nations Choi Young-jin as South Korea’s new top envoy to the United States, the foreign ministry said yesterday. Choi, a career diplomat with four decades of foreign service experience, will replace Han Duck-soo as ambassador to Washington. Han stepped down last week and took office as head of the Korea International Trade Association earlier this week. (JoongAng Ilbo, “Long-Serving Diplomat Picked as Envoy to U.S.” February 24, 2012)

DAVIES: Sorry I’m a little bit late. My late arrival goes to the fact that we are a little bit in overtime in our discussions with the North Koreans. In fact, they haven’t quite concluded. And we intend to pick up where we have left off this evening tomorrow. And I don’t yet have a time and a place to indicate to you. This evening we will have an occasion to have dinner with the North Koreans, and I think we will work out some of the details about tomorrow. But, with apologies to all of you because I know you have waited and you are looking for news and something specific. I don’t have anything yet to provide because we are still in kind of mid-negotiation, mid-talks with the North Koreans… Q: How would you characterize the talks today, then? DAVIES: The talks today were substantive and serious, and we covered quite a number of the issues, so, as I said, we’ll pick up again tomorrow, and see if we can’t make a little bit of progress and have something a bit more substantive to report to you. (DoS, Glyn Davis, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Evening Remarks to Press in Beijing, February 23, 2012)

DoS Daily Briefing: “Q: But there was a mention of the U.S. offering food aid. In return, is there anything you can say openly that you’ve asked the DPRK for? Perhaps suspension of uranium enrichments, anything like that? TONER: No. I can say – and I think he acknowledged as much – that it was brought up in today’s meetings. But again, we’ve been very clear about what we’re looking for in providing this kind of nutritional assistance to North Korea. They need to still come back and answer some of the questions and issues that we’ve raised previously. But again, I – it’s hard for me to say how much of a major topic that is in these discussions. Let’s let the second day take place, and he’ll give a fuller readout. Q: On North Korea again, it seems that the North Koreans and the Americans are into a catch-22 situation, where the North Koreans insist that you drop hostility and give them food in exchange for the dismantling of its nuclear facilities, and the U.S. insists the other way should be – it should be the other way around. Do you foresee the talks to fall into this kind of conundrum again, or do you think it will break – possibly break new ground? TONER: With due respect to Joseph Heller, I don’t know if that’s exactly a catch-22 situation. I think that we are cognizant of the challenges that we’re facing in these talks. But we are also steadfast in what we’re asking for North Korea to do, which is live up its prior commitments, and we’re going to continue to talk with them. But I don’t want to, again, get out – first day done. Second day is tomorrow, so let’s not preview this too much.” (DoS Daily Briefing, Mark Toner, Deputy Press Spokesman, February 23, 2012)


2/23-24/12:
U.S.-DPRK bilateral in Beijing. U.S. envoy Glyn Davies said that after a day-and-a-half of talks he made “a little bit of progress” on restarting nuclear disarmament in return for aid but no breakthrough had been made. Instead, he said Washington and its allies, Japan and South Korea, need to evaluate what the North Korean negotiators told him. Additional steps may be needed before a resumption of the six-nation talks. The North may first request food shipments, while the U.S. and its allies want assurances Pyongyang is committed to making progress on past nuclear commitments. (Associated Press, “U.S. Envoy Reports Progress in N.K. Talks,” February 24, 2012) Davies suggested that the talks had almost reached the goal of persuading North Korea to suspend operations at a uranium enrichment plant but narrowly failed to bridge differences. (Jane Perlez, “China: Nuclear Talks with North Korea Make Progress But Reach No Agreement,” New York Times, February 25, 2012, p. A-5)

DAVIES: “We will go from here to the United States Embassy to do a little bit of work and read some messages from Washington overnight and to do a little consulting. Then at 10am, at the American Embassy, the North Korean delegation led by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan will show up with their team and we will have what I think will be our final opportunity to discuss issues with them. I think by about midday our talks, exploratory talks with the North Koreans, will have been completed. Then, I have been invited very kindly by Ambassador Wu Dawei, to a luncheon where I will have a chance to brief him and his colleagues about the results of our two days of work here in Beijing. And then I think, you know the rest of the story, the rest of the schedule, that after staying overnight in Beijing, we will then fly off tomorrow morning to Seoul to consult with the government there, and on Sunday to Tokyo to consult with our friends, allies, and colleagues in Tokyo. So, that is the order of battle for today, tomorrow, and Sunday. Beyond that, I don’t really have anything new to relate to you from overnight. We are still in the middle of these exploratory talks with the North Koreans. We are hoping that we can build on the serious and substantive discussions that we had yesterday with them over three sessions. We had a very productive dinner conversation that was a mix of a continuation of discussions about the substance of the issues from our two daytime sessions, and then a little bit of a less formal discussion to talk about some of the broader issues. So, that’s it, that’s kind of where we are. What I would like to do, later on today, if this works for you, is after my opportunity to meet with and have lunch with Ambassador Wu Dawei, I would like to find a chance to come back and talk to you again and give you a little bit of a sense of how today’s discussions with the North Koreans went. But, as I’ve said before, since we will be going from here to Seoul and then to Tokyo and then, of course, importantly back to Washington, where I have to report to my colleagues, I won’t be able to tell you in terrific detail about the results of the talks. Q: Do you think the good terms between the two governments are still going? Are they still there, the atmosphere-wise? Do you think U.S. is still continuing talks on good terms, or…? DAVIES: We are still talking, and we are still talking about a very wide range of issues. All of the issues that you know very well that we have been talking about for many months, all the way back to July in New York, then Geneva in October. All those same issues that begin with denuclearization, but go onto non-proliferation, humanitarian affairs, human rights — all of those issues are on the table, all of those issues are being discussed. As you might imagine, given the fact it has been some time since we have had a Six-Party process up and running, and it has now been a number of months since we have had an opportunity on a bilateral basis to discuss issues with North Korea, there is a little bit of catching up to do and a little bit of ground that we have to cover again from our previous discussions. So, simply a lot of diplomatic work that we have to plow through ,work through, in order to try to get to a result that can take this process forward more broadly. That’s really where we are. Thank you very much for coming out. I hope I didn’t interrupt your breakfast. I managed to have a very fast breakfast — I had a seven minute breakfast this morning. But I think that was enough. Q: Sir, you have just mentioned that you are going to finalize the issue this morning. Can you make sure what the finalize issue exactly means? DAVIES: I don’t want to leave you with a mis-impression. What I’m saying is that I believe that this session this morning at the United States Embassy here in Beijing will be our final session in this round of exploratory talks with the DPRK. We don’t have any plans to come back this afternoon to continue. Whether that means that we will be able at the end of this session to say that we have “finalized the issues,” I think that is a bit much and I won’t want to go there. We’re going to try to make as much progress as we can. Diplomacy is a difficult process — it takes time-sometimes it takes weeks and months. We’ll see how far we can get and if we can get far enough, and if we can get something that we can then build on, that’s the important thing, so that’s what I’ve been seeking to do. Q: Is the U.S. considering increasing the amount of nutritional aid, including grains? DAVIES: We’re talking about all of the issues that you are aware of. What I don’t want to get into is any kind of negotiating with the North Koreans through the press. That wouldn’t help our case with them. I really don’t want to signal in particular where we are. All I will say on the issue of nutritional assistance is that the offer that we put on the table with the DPRK at the end of last year is still on the table. And that was an issue that they raised yesterday. They brought it up, and I was prepared to address it.” (DoS, Glyn Davis, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Morning Remarks to Press in Beijing, February 24, 2012)

DAVIES: “This morning at the U.S. Embassy we met for about two and a half hours with the North Korean delegation led by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan and his team. The talks were serious and substantive, and we ranged over, really, all the issues, so we found it very useful. What I have to do now is, number one, go on from here to consult with our close friends and allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan. Tomorrow morning I will fly off with my colleagues to Seoul, South Korea, to meet with Ambassador Lim Sung Nam and his colleagues, to report to them. Then on Sunday, I will go to Tokyo to meet with Director-General Sugiyama and others in the Japanese government. Now, I am not here to announce any particular result from these talks, because what we need to do is take what we discussed back to Washington and evaluate it, and see where we are, and see where we can go from there. So, while I had hoped that at this stage I might be able to give you all sorts of details and go in great depth into what it was we discussed, I am not in a position to do that at this stage, and I’m sorry about that. I wish I could give you more so that you could write long stories, and file long reports. … Q: Did the North Koreans agree to do anything on uranium enrichment? DAVIES: What I don’t want to get into is the substance of the discussions. Of course we talked about all of the issues with which you are very familiar, that relate to denuclearization, that relate to the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon that that North Koreans revealed to the world in 2010. We talked about nonproliferation, we talked about humanitarian issues, we talked about human rights. I, of course, raised the issue of the abductees, from the stand point of the concerns that are so important to the Japanese and quite frankly to all of us, and importantly, I talked about the importance of North Korea working hard to try to improve its relations with its neighbors, in particular on the Peninsula, in terms of better North-South relations and more frequent contacts between the DPRK and the ROK. So, all of those subjects that you know very well, we went over in some depth. That was one advantage of having three lengthy sessions with the DPRK, including a dinner last night. We could cover a lot of ground, so I was able to do all of that. Q: Could you elaborate a little more about the progress that you mentioned, is it related to denuclearization or food aid? DAVIES: I am not going to get into the specifics of any progress that we’ve made. The mere fact and I said this when I first came here that relatively soon after the political change in North Korea, the DPRK was willing to sit down with us and go over all of these issues in some depth, I think, in and of itself, is positive and demonstrates a degree of progress, and so that was for us quite useful. It gave us a chance to explain to them in some depth and some detail our position on all of these questions, to remind them of our positions on, in particular, denuclearization, which from our standpoint is job number one and I think there is a consensus on that among the other members of the six party process. All of that was for us quite useful and we took advantage of the many hours that we spent with the DPRK officials to explain all of that to them. And so I think that this third exploratory set of talks that we had with them was of some value, and that’s the progress I am talking about, that we were able to have this kind of a very in depth, wide ranging exchange. Q: Do you think there was a breakthrough to the six party talks? DAVIES: Oh my goodness, no. I think the word breakthrough goes way too far, folks. I wouldn’t want anyone using the word breakthrough. Q: Did you agree on meeting further with them? DAVIES: There are no agreements about any further meetings with the North Koreans. I suspect that we will, as we traditionally do, remain in contact with the DPRK through the New York channel That has been our method of communication with them regularly, and we will keep that up when we get back to Washington. … Q: Thank you. The people you were negotiating with weren’t new to this process, however they were answering to a new leadership. What can you say about what you were able to glean about North Korea under the new leadership? DAVIES: Well, now you’re getting into the issues, that, if you’ll permit me, let me first report to my authorities and we’ll see if in the fullness of time we can say a bit more about that. I would come back to what I said earlier, that there was nothing stylistically or substantively dramatically different in terms of how the North Koreans were presenting their positions. And I’m not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing. That’s simply, that was my impression from having dealt with them.” (DoS, Glyn Davis, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Afternoon Remarks to Press in Beijing, February 24, 2012)


2/25/12:
U.S. envoy Glyn Davies told reporters in Seoul that he made it clear to North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan in Beijing that the North should find a way to improve its relations with South Korea. “We hope and we expect that (North Korea) will choose to go down the path of greater engagement and, indeed, ultimately a greater cooperation, in particular, with (South Korea),” Davies said. “That’s fundamental, essential, and there’s no way to make ultimate progress unless they make that decision.” South Korean nuclear negotiator Lim Sung-nam said he expects nuclear talks between the Koreas “in the future” but didn’t provide any timetable. (Associated Press, “U.S. Envoy Calls for Better Inter-Korean Ties,” February 25, 2012)

In a flat rejection of South Korea’s plea to stop the repatriation of North Korean defectors, China sent home some recently captured refugees, sources told the JoongAng Ilbo. A source informed about the situation said nine defectors arrested in Yanji by the Chinese authorities were already sent back to the North last weekend. Another assertion of repatriation was made by civic group NK Intellectuals Solidarity. “Of the 34 arrested defectors, three were moved to the North Korea-China borderlands of Tumen on February 17,” the group said Thursday. “They were handed over to the North on Monday.” (Ser Myo-ja, “China Sends Defectors back to North,” JoongAng Ilbo, February 25, 2012)

Q (VIA INTERPRETER): “My question goes to Ambassador Davies. So, last time when you came to Seoul, in December last year, the denuclearization of North Korea and food aid to North Korea – the food assistance to North Korea – was directed to the vulnerable class of North Korea, and then it was the humanitarian assistance so they were not entirely connected, but this time there was a progress made, you mentioned there was some progress made, so in that sense how were these two issues of denuclearization and food assistance related, and if there are some specific issues, then what were those issues that were reconciled? DAVIES: [Cross talk to clarify question….] Right, well, our trip to Beijing to meet with the DPRK side was, of course, principally to discuss the issue of denuclearization and how to get back on the path of denuclearization and having North Korea once again fulfill its commitments, try to convince the North Koreans that what they need to do is fulfill their commitments made in the September 2005 Joint Statement. So that was the core issue of the talks that we had with the North Koreans. Now, they did raise the issue of humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian assistance and the nuclear issue are not directly linked. For us, the issue of humanitarian assistance is an issue that relates to the fact that the United States is deeply concerned about the welfare and well-being of the people of the DPRK. We make decisions about humanitarian assistance based on need, based on the availability of assistance to provide, and based on competing needs elsewhere in the world. Also very important to us is whether or not we can verify that that assistance reaches the populations in need. The issue came up in our discussions with the North Koreans so we outlined to them our policy, but there is no direct linkage between the nuclear issue and the issue of nutritional assistance. Q (VIA INTERPRETER): I would like to know if we can assess that there is improved willingness on the side of North Korea with regard to denuclearization. This question is directed to Ambassador Lim on denuclearization. And also, I would like to ask if following this third round of U.S.-DPRK talks you are planning to have another round of inter-Korean talks. INTERPRETER FOR LIM: With regard to whether or not North Korea has a serious willingness with regard to denuclearization will have to be proved through North Korea’s concrete actions. With regard to your question on the inter-Korean talks, as you know, there were two rounds of inter-Korean talks that were held last year, as well as the two rounds of the U.S.-DPRK talks. And it is our understanding that the U.S.-DPRK talks that took place during the last two days took place as a result of the talks that were held last year. And also, in the process of the resumption of the Six-Party Talks this year, I hope to have another round of the inter-Korean talks. … QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. Davies. This might be a question that adds to what the reporter just now asked Mr. Lim. He said, Mr. Lim said there is expectation that another round of inter-Korean talks is held. And was this type of issue ever raised during the talks in Beijing when you met Mr. Kim Gye Gwan, and do you have any hope or expectation for such a round of talks? DAVIES: To answer your question, I stressed, in my discussions with First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan and his team, that there can be no fundamental improvement, any full improvement in U.S.-DPRK relations without a fundamental improvement in the relationship between the DPRK and the ROK. That was a point that we always make when we meet with the DPRK. I made it again, quite categorically, in the discussions in Beijing. I cannot report to you that there was, in response from him, any indication of any immediate plans to hold another round of inter-Korean talks. Q (VIA INTERPRETER): Korea and the U.S. have been saying that in order to resume the Six-Party Talks in the future, North Korea and South Korea – the inter-Korean relationship – be improved and the inter-Korean dialogue should first take place. My question goes to both of the Ambassadors. Has this principle, this view, this position changed in any way? Since North Korea has been scoffing at our offer for dialogue, is there any future plan to bring North Korea back to the table? INTERPRETER FOR LIM: As Ambassador Davies has explained in detail right now, without improvement in the inter-Korean relations, there cannot be a fundamental improvement in relations between the U.S. and the DPRK. With regard to the importance and the necessity of improvement in inter-Korean relations, the ROK and the U.S. are in complete agreement. Now, with regard to how to translate this agreement into specific actions, I request you to stay put and watch how everything goes down the road. DAVIES: I agree completely with my good friend Lim Sung Nam that is our position as well and we will continue to raise this issue with any contacts that we have with the DPRK in the future. Q (VIA INTERPRETER): Since this was the first dialogue between the U.S. and DPRK after the new leaders in Pyongyang came into office, if is the difference between before and after the new leadership please tell us about it and if there are any new suggestions or offers from the DPRK can you let us know more about it. …DAVIES: Yes, thank you for that question very much. I spoke to this to some extent in Beijing. What we found in our two days of discussions with the DPRK side was more continuity, more similarity, than difference. So, both in terms in the positions articulated by the DPRK side and in terms of, let’s call it the style, it struck me that we were in fact dealing with a very much the same set of issues, and the same essential negotiating style with which we are familiar. I also said, and I would like to reiterate, that I think it’s significant that in a relatively short period of time after the change of leadership in the North they decided, the DPRK, to reengage. But as with any other difficult challenge in diplomacy, I think the answer to your question, which is a good one, will only become clear over time with greater interaction between the DPRK and the other members, all of the other members of the six-party process. So, finally, we hope, and we expect, that the DPRK will choose to go down the path of greater engagement, and indeed ultimately of greater cooperation, in particular with the Republic of Korea, that’s fundamental, that’s essential, and there is no way to make ultimate progress unless they make that decision and they follow through on that decision over time. So thank you for your good question.” (DoS, Glyn Davis, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Remarks to the Press at MOFAT, Seoul, February 25, 2012)

2/26/12:
DAVIES: “We’ve just finished an hour’s worth of very in-depth, detailed discussions. I briefed the Director General on the results of our meetings with the North Koreans on Thursday and Friday of last week. I sought the counsel of Director General Sugiyama on the way forward. I’m very pleased that I’ve been able to have the opportunity — so soon after completing these discussions with the North Koreans — to consult with first, of course, in Beijing, Wu Dawei, our counterpart in the Chinese government; then in Seoul with Ambassador Lim Sung Nam; and now here in Tokyo with Director General Sugiyama. As I’ve said before, and I’ll repeat it here, the talks in Beijing were serious and substantive, and we covered all of the issues. I reported to the Director General that among the topics I raised was, of course, the abductee issue. We always raise that issue when we meet with the North Koreans; we did it on this occasion quite early in the discussions, and of course we will do it on every occasion when we meet with the North Koreans. So, I’d like to thank the DG. I look forward very much tomorrow to further meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Sasae and Vice Foreign Minister Yamaguchi. Thank you. Q: May I ask the Ambassador two questions, if I may: what did the North Koreans suggest to do within the nuclearization sphere during the talks? That’s my first question. And my second question is: what fell short between the two governments to come to an agreement to put forward nutritional assistance, which you were at one point very optimistic about? DAVIES: Yes, well, I appreciate so much the spirit behind the question and I understand the curiosity of everyone to know in detail what transpired in our discussions in Beijing. But as I explained in Beijing when I sought to brief members of the press on what was happening, I am now engaged in a diplomatic process of, first of all, reporting to and consulting with our friends and allies, and then I have to go back to Washington and report on the results there. So, with apologies to you, what I’m not going to do is get into a great deal of detail about what it was that we discussed, and where there may still be differences that exist between the United States and North Korea. Ultimately, this challenge is a challenge for all members of the Six-Party process. And I realize that there’s a great deal of focus on the, let’s call it “bilateral” piece – the so-called “pre-steps” phase. I understand that. But quite frankly, what will be important, in terms of achieving the ultimate goal, which is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, will be a combined multilateral effort involving all members of the Six-Party Talks. So I’m dodging your question, I admit that, but I’m doing it for good diplomatic reasons – because I have to carry this forward in kind of a straight-line fashion and report first to my Secretary of State and to officials in Washington. And I’m hoping, before too long, some of these details can be made known. But thank you anyway.” (DoS, Glyn Davis, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Remarks to the Media with Asia Bureau Director General Sugiyama Shinsuke , Tokyo, February 26, 2012)

DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The warmongering drills have been scheduled at a time when the hard-won DPRK-U.S. talks were under way reflecting the unanimous desire of the Korean people and countries around Korea for the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula. Herein lie the brigandish arrogance and sinister attempt of the U.S. After publishing a new defense strategy in January which envisaged giving priority to Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. has extensively increased the number and intensity of the joint military exercises in south Korea. This clearly proves that the main target of the new strategy is the DPRK and countries around it. The U.S. strategic attempt is not only to stifle the DPRK but to put its neighboring countries under military siege and contain them in a bid to realize its wild ambition for world domination which faced serious challenge. It seems that the U.S. thinks it can exploit the DPRK for carrying out its strategy for reinforcing military forces in Northeast Asia under the pretext of the situation of the Korean Peninsula. This is an insult to the DPRK. The reckless war drills targeting the army and people of the DPRK, who are in the mourning period, amount to a grave provocation. War has never been notified in advance. The DPRK has long kept to the road of Songun in anticipation of the situation as now. It would be a mistake if one tries to rattle or test the DPRK by force. The DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war. The U.S. would be well advised to be aware that it would be left with no space for holding military exercises on the Korean Peninsula if it provokes the DPRK in an unlawful manner.” (KCNA, “DPRK Is Fully Ready for Dialogue and War: FM Spokesman,” February 27, 2012)

North Korea has developed and deployed improved long-range multiple rocket launchers in time to celebrate the centennial of its founder’s birth this spring, a source here said.

According to the source, North Korea recently completed upgrading the previous model of its 240-millimeter rocket launchers, and named them ‘Juche 100 Guns.’ The source said the new launchers have more than doubled the range of the earlier version, which could fire up to 60 kilometers, and that they have been deployed to some artillery units. North Korea is known to have been operating two types of 240-mm rocket launchers: the 12-round M-1985 and the 22-round M-1991. The Juche 100 is based on the M-1991, according to the source. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Deploys Upgraded Long-Range Rocket Launchers,” Korea Herald, February 27, 2012)


2/27/12:
The United States said that it has not made any decisions on further talks with North Korea or food aid for the communist nation despite “some moderate, modest progress” at their talks in Beijing last week. “No decisions have been made on the six-party talks side or on the nutritional assistance side,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing. She pointed out that Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, was still on his way back to Washington in the wake of two days of meetings with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan. “We did make some moderate, modest progress on the nuclear side and on the issue of DPRK-ROK relations, both of which are absolutely vital if the DPRK wants to get back into six-party talks,” she said. (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. Says No Decision Yet on Food Aid for North Korea,” Yonhap, February 28, 2012)


2/28/12:
Park Geun-hye, leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, and Han Myeong-sook, chief of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP), told a forum marking Seoul’s hosting of the Nuclear Security Summit next month their respective parties will work to improve inter-Korean ties amid persisting tensions over the North’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010. “The Saenuri Party and I are willing to support efforts for change in North Korea and work together (with the North), in order to swiftly improve South-North relations that have been marked by distrust since the (two attacks), and start on a path of sustainable peace and mutual growth,” Park said. In her speech, DUP leader Han called for dialogue with the North’s new leadership, saying inter-Korean cooperation should be expanded and deepened to lead the communist nation to abandon its nuclear weapons program. “The Lee Myung-bak administration, which has stood by waiting for North Korea to change, has failed in its policy (toward Pyongyang),” Han said, criticizing the current government’s hardline stance toward the North. “The DUP will push for normalization of inter-Korean relations and press for the lifting of the May 24 sanctions on North Korea, which have hampered our cross-border ties.” (Yonhap, “Rival Party Leaders Offer to Engage with N. Korea’s New Leadership,” February 28, 2012)

Japanese police raided offices related to a pro-Pyongyang organization in Japan in connection with an investigation into the illegal shipment of computers to North Korea.

Backed by some 100 riot police, 10 police officers entered the Tokyo offices of an organization connected to the Pyongyang-affiliated General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, Chongryon. The raid came after prosecutors last week indicted Lee Soon-Gi, 49, for illegally exporting 100 second-hand personal computers to North Korea through China in 2009, officials and local media said. (AFP, “North Korean Offices in Japan Raided over Exports,” February 28, 2012)


2/29/12:
DoS: “A U.S. delegation has just returned from Beijing following a third exploratory round of U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks. To improve the atmosphere for dialogue and demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization, the DPRK has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities. The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities. The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas, but today’s announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these. We have agreed to meet with the DPRK to finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with our proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance. The following points flow from the February 23-24 discussions in Beijing: The United States reaffirms that it does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK and is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality. The United States reaffirms its commitment to the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement. The United States recognizes the 1953 Armistice Agreement as the cornerstone of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. U.S. and DPRK nutritional assistance teams will meet in the immediate future to finalize administrative details on a targeted U.S. program consisting of an initial 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance with the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need. The United States is prepared to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports. U.S. sanctions against the DPRK are not targeted against the livelihood of the DPRK people.” (DoS, Press Statement, February 29, 2012)

DPRK FoMin spokesman: “Delegations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States of America (U.S.) met in Beijing, China on 23rd and 24th of February for the third round of the high-level talks between the DPRK and the U.S. Present at the talks were the delegation of the DPRK headed by Kim Gye Gwan, the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the delegation of the U.S. headed by Glyn Davies, the Special Representative of the State Department for the DPRK Policy. The talks, continuation of the two previous DPRK-U.S. high-level talks held respectively in July and October, 2011, offered a venue for sincere and in-depth discussion of issues concerning the measures aimed at building confidence for the improvement of relations between the DPRK and the U.S. as well as issues related with ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and resumption of the six-party talks. Both the DPRK and the U.S. reaffirmed their commitments to the September 19 Joint Statement and recognized that the 1953 Armistice Agreement is the cornerstone of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula until the conclusion of a peace treaty. Both the DPRK and the U.S. agreed to make a number of simultaneous moves aimed at building confidence as part of the efforts to improve the relations between the DPRK and the U.S. The U.S. reaffirmed that it no longer has hostile intent toward the DPRK and that it is prepared to take steps to improve the bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality. The U.S. also agreed to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports. The U.S. promised to offer 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance with the prospect of additional food assistance, for which both the DPRK and the U.S. would finalize the administrative details in the immediate future. The U.S. made it clear that sanctions against the DPRK are not targeting the civilian sector, including the livelihood of people. Once the six-party talks are resumed, priority will be given to the discussion of issues concerning the lifting of sanctions on the DPRK and provision of light water reactors. Both the DPRK and the U.S. affirmed that it is in mutual interest to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, improve the relations between the DPRK and the U.S., and push ahead with the denuclearization through dialogue and negotiations. Both sides agreed to continue the talks. The DPRK, upon request by the U.S. and with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere for the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks, agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activity at Yongbyon and allow the IAEA to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment while productive dialogues continue.” (KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman on Result of DPRK-U.S. Talks,” February 29, 2012)

SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL 1: “Now, the President and the Secretary of State also have long made clear America’s clear concern for the welfare of the North Korean people. Following an assessment last summer of humanitarian needs in North Korea, the U.S. put forward a proposal designed to feed babies, to feed mothers, to feed the elderly — which is to say the most at-risk marginalized population of North Koreans. These are people whom the regime either cannot or has chosen not to feed. And the plan to provide nutritional assistance included monitoring requirements designed to ensure that the right type of food gets to the right people. Until our meeting last week in Beijing, the North Koreans had declined to allow the program to go forward. They demanded large quantities of rice and grain that could be, in our view, diverted to elites or to the military. They’ve now dropped those demands and agreed to allow our program to move forward as proposed, with an understanding, as always would be the case, that further assistance would be based on verified need. … As positive as these very modest steps are, what they do is they merely unlock the door to the resumption, eventually, of Six-Party talks. We’ve consistently said — we’ve made clear — that we’re not interested in talks just for the sake and for the forum of talks. The next step on this process going forward from today is to work with each and every one of our Six-Party partners in order to set the stage for real and lasting progress in the multilateral phase. … I was wondering if you can talk about the kind of sequencing of this. Like, is it – are they going to get all the food assistance at once? Do they have to take – let some inspectors in first, stop a certain amount of uranium enrichment? Is it going to be a step-by-step thing? … SR. OFF. 1: We, of course, would like to see IAEA monitors get back in country to Yongbyon to get eyes on both the uranium and plutonium aspects of the program at Yongbyon as soon as possible. It’s up to the North to do the first reach-out to Director General Amano and the safeguards folks in Vienna. I have no doubt that there will be some tough negotiations going forward in terms of precise sequencing. No doubt there will likely be an insistence on the North Koreans’ part on a certain amount of – let’s call it simultaneity in some of this. So I wouldn’t look for people to be in motion right away here. I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to get straight on these modalities for the IAEA to work out with the North some of these issues of which – whether it’s the right foot or the left foot that goes forward first. But again, the broader point, we’ll be watching and we’ll be measuring and we’ll be, of course, working with the North Koreans and working with the IAEA to make sure that that’s all set up properly and that that goes forward as soon as possible. .. SR OFF 2: … What we’ve proposed is the regular delivery of about 20,000 tons a month over the course of 12 months. And we’re talking about foods that would be appropriate for young children, in particular those under five or six years old, pregnant woman as well because we want to make sure we address the sort of the first 1,000 days as the Administration has wanted to focus on. Q: This is the Plumpy – this is that Nut’Plumpy stuff, right, in the bars and stuff? SR OFF 2: We’re going to have things like corn-soy blend, we will have vegetable oil, some pulses, and then there will be probably a modest amount of the ready-to-use therapeutic foods depending upon the number of children that we see with acute malnutrition. So that will be there is necessary or be available if necessary. But you had asked whether monitoring would come first. And in the case of the nutrition program, we have said that our partner organizations will have to be fully operational – meaning fully in place on the ground with their offices functioning – before the food will begin to arrive and will begin to be distributed, because it’s very important that we maintain – or that we can demonstrate that the program is well managed because that’s critical to maintaining the support for the program. But if – just to be clear, if we are successful in finalizing the details that I’ve just laid out, this will be the most comprehensively monitored and managed program since the U.S. began assistance to the DPRK in the mid 1990s. Q: … In the North Korean statement, they specify that they’ve agreed to a moratorium on the uranium enrichment, but they don’t seem to allude to the plutonium program at all, which you say will also be open to monitoring. I’m just wondering why there’s – why there is that difference, and if there is any doubt at all in your mind that they’ve agreed to both aspects of that. And also, what further hurdles need to be sort of breached before the Six-Party Talks can resume now, because it appears that they’ve met the pre-steps. So what further needs to be done? SR OFF 1: Thanks a lot, Matt. But anyway, two quick things: One is, on the – on their omission in their own unilateral statement of what we’ve said about the – their undertaking to confirm the disablement of the 5 megawatt reactor and the associated facilities, that is our understanding. The negotiating record’s clear on that. We did talk about that. We expect that the IAEA will also confirm the disablement of that reactor and associated facilities. I can’t speak to why they didn’t include it; these were, after all, unilateral statements that each side made, and that is an issue that we will clearly have to come back on. But there’s no doubt in our mind that they’ve agreed to that, and we will expect that that will be addressed, though I have to say that job one here is this new uranium enrichment facility that’s been revealed to the world. So that, first and foremost, is what we want to get at. In terms of hurdles going forward to Six-Party, or why can’t we just rush right back to Beijing and sit down together and lights, cameras, action on Six-Party — look, a couple of things. One is we need to see how this goes forward. We’re going to be watching, we’re going to be measuring, we’re going to be working with the North Koreans, but it’s going to take some time for these particular unilateral undertakings – let’s call it the Leap Day Deal here – to play out and to pan out. And I think that’s important. And measuring how they implement this will be important, I think, to helping us gauge whether they and we are ready to go back to Six-Party, number one. Number two, the truth is we’ve been around the Six-Party block before. It has a history of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups. You all – many of you know the history of it. We’re determined to properly prepare any Six-Party round. We’ve made no commitment, at this stage, to going back to Six-Party. And that’s because we will need any number of consultations with the other parties in the Six-Party geometry. Why? Because we need to make sure that we have a winning strategy for not simply sitting down at the table at the Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing, but being able to stand up from the table with something meaningful and something lasting, a process that can deal with the concerns that all of us have with regard to North Korea. That’s going to take some time. A final thing is we will need to be able to signal to the North Koreans in a solid fashion, an undivided fashion, what will be on the table at Six-Party, and what can’t be on the table at Six-Party.” (DoS, Office of the Spokesman, Background Briefing on the DPRK, February 29, 2012)

North Korea announced that it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to monitor activities at its main nuclear complex. The surprise announcement raised the possibility of ending a diplomatic impasse that has allowed the country’s nuclear program to continue for years without international oversight. The Obama administration called the steps “important, if limited.” But the announcement seemed to signal that North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is at least willing to consider a return to negotiations and to engage with the United States, which pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation. A freeze on nuclear activity, if it holds, could significantly ease anxieties over North Korea’s behavior at a time when the Obama administration, in an election year, is focused on halting Iran’s nuclear program and reducing the possibility that Israel could attack Iran. “The United States, I will be quick to add, still has profound concerns,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said when she announced the agreement at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday. “But on the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations. Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.” Officials and analysts offered different theories about why Kim’s government would agree now to allow inspectors to return, but most said it could prove to be a significant concession. After years of negotiations, North Korea expelled inspectors and went on to test nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. American intelligence officials believe that the country has enough fuel for six to eight weapons, but the progress of its newly disclosed uranium-enrichment program at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, conducted without international scrutiny, remains unclear. Victor Cha, a senior analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the agreement differed little from previous ones that had failed to produce breakthroughs, but that it was nonetheless significant because the return of inspectors could shed light on the country’s nuclear progress. “We haven’t had any eyes on this program for over five years now,” Cha said in a telephone interview from Seoul. Some analysts and officials said the agreement might signal that the young and inexperienced Kim had consolidated power and had the backing of the military. Although administration officials said it was too soon to draw conclusions about Kim’s intentions, they said there was no doubt that he had directly authorized his negotiators to reach the deal, which the United States first offered in talks last July. An agreement appeared close during a second round of talks, but then the elder Kim died. “This was very much in motion before the leadership transition,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, who called the agreement a welcome step. Other analysts said the agreement allowed Kim to demonstrate his command and to use his early months in power to improve people’s lives after years of food shortages and a devastating famine. “It helps him show to his people that he is a leader who can deal with the Americans and bring back some practical benefits, namely the food aid,” said Kim Yong-hyun, an analyst at Dongguk University in Seoul. The State Department official cautioned that the agreements “merely unlock the door” to a resumption of negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program. “We can’t allow the same patterns of the past to repeat themselves,” the official added. “We can’t allow wasting arguments on topics that are irrelevant to the main challenges we face. And that’s simply going to take a long time to work out.” (Steven Lee Myers and Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Agrees to Freeze Nuclear Work,” New York Times, March 1, 2012, p. A-1)

Republican lawmakers criticized President Barack Obama and warned that North Korea was not to be trusted after it promised to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for U.S. food aid. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch critic of communist countries, said that the North Korea agreement “sounds a lot like the failed agreements of the past.” “North Korea’s promise to suspend certain nuclear activities can’t be taken at face value, given the almost certain existence of several undeclared nuclear facilities,” she said in a statement. “Pyongyang will likely continue its clandestine nuclear weapons program right under our noses. We have bought this bridge several times before.” Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican who has long sought more pressure on North Korea, said that the death in December of longtime leader Kim Jong-il should have prompted a “rethink” in policy toward the authoritarian state. “Years of getting duped by North Korea should tell us that verification on their turf is extremely difficult, if not impossible,” said Royce, who heads a House subcommittee on non-proliferation. “That applies to food aid distribution, where the military has stolen food aid, or nuclear disarmament,” he said. Royce last year authored a measure to bar any food aid to North Korea, arguing that it would benefit the regime by allowing it to spend money on nuclear weapons. The Republican-led House approved the ban in June. But a final version reached after consultation with the Senate, which is led by Obama’s Democratic Party, was less rigid and prohibited food aid to countries without adequate monitoring for misuse. (AFP, “U.S. republicans Criticize N. K. Deal,” March 1, 2012)

Q. And on North Korea, are you drawing any conclusions about what the direction of the new leadership is in North Korea based on this announcement today? CARNEY: Well, we believe that it is a positive sign that in a relatively short period after the change of leadership in North Korea, that the DPRK decided to reengage with the United States in substantive discussions and to take some positive initial steps. Now, our starting point is we expect continuity in behavior from the North Korean leadership, but it is also the case that the new leadership has agreed to take specific confidence-building measures, which were announced today, and we view that as a positive step. Again, as I mentioned earlier, these are agreements that have been made, and it is important for the North Koreans to follow through on them and to act in accordance with the agreements that they made. But I certainly agree with the assessment that this is a positive first step. Q. Jay, on the deal with North Korea, is it fair to characterize this as a continuation of the arrangement that was being worked on before the death of Kim Jong-Il? CARNEY: Well, I would say that there had been some progress or initial progress towards — in this direction prior to the change of leadership. But it is certainly the case that in a relatively short period after the change of leadership, that the DPRK has made these agreements — and that is certainly notable. But in general, like I said, we approach this with the expectation of continuity in behavior, but note that there has been this positive step.” (White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, February 29, 2012)


3/1/12:
DoS Briefing: “NULAND:First of all, with regard to North Korea, and we can come back to this if people are interested, this was not a food for nuke deal. The food conversation, the conversation, had been going on for some time. We could’ve made those decisions earlier if we’d had the information that we needed from the North Koreans, if we’d had their agreement. So I want – just wanted to dispel any sense that these things were linked from the U.S. perspective. That’s a different matter than whether the North Koreans linked them. So I don’t know what this individual has in mind, but as you do – as you know, we had in the past, had various proposals on the table in the talks to support research reactors in exchange for getting some of the highly enriched uranium out of the country. Whether these will come up again in future talks, I can’t speak to. But I don’t know what you mean by — Q: Just on the North Korea. I mean, I understand that perhaps you would have given them food assistance anyway, but if they’re not linked, why did you link them in a statement that said that you’re going to do this and they’re going to do this? I mean, it’s all part of one package deal in which you’re going to do things for North Korea and they’re going to do things for you. I mean, what’s the – why are you getting hooked up on the word “link?” It’s all part and parcel of where you’ve been moving with the North Koreans. NULAND: Well, the way this went down, as you know, is we had a nutritional assistance track that was founded in trying to establish the need and trying to ensure that if we chose to move forward, that we could monitor it. So the conversation we were having with the North Koreans was not only about the amount that we considered appropriate, but about the type of nutritional assistance. As we said, we were not prepared to give rice and wheat. We were not prepared to give things that could be diverted to other uses. On a separate track, we were discussing what it will take to get back to the. For the North Koreans, my understanding is, they were not prepared to make some of the moves that you saw them make yesterday on the nuclear track unless they knew that we had also concluded our discussion on the food. So as I said, this is their linkage; it is not our linkage. But it was in that context of their desire to see it all in one statement that we concluded – that we would put it out in one statement. And we would’ve been ready to move forward with the nutritional assistance sooner if we had been able to come to conclusion with them sooner about what we were going to send and what the amounts would be and how we would monitor. … Q: There was one thing I found that I could found only in North Korean version of the announcement – or agreement, I would say. They said when Six-Party Talks resumed, the issues of lifting sanctions and prohibition of light water reactor will be given priority. I guess this is not something that was agreed upon by both sides. So, how concerned are you about this difference? NULAND: Well, we spoke about measures that would be taken immediately and would be verified by the IAEA as pre-steps to being able to get back to Six-Party Talks. So that’s what our statement was focused on. The North Korean statement goes on to talk about what they hope will happen in the Six-Party Talks which, as we made clear when we backgrounded yesterday, we can’t consider going back to until we verify this first set of steps. So our statement was focused on step one, which is what we’ve agreed to and monitoring and verifying that. Now, we’ve always – the statements, both of them, the U.S. statement and the DPRK’s statement both reaffirm our commitment to the September 2005 joint statement. In that joint statement, the parties agreed to discuss the provision of a light water reactor at an appropriate time. So we’ve consistently made clear to the North Koreans that they first have to fulfill all their denuclearization commitments under the joint statement and its obligations and then we can consider other things. So what you see is our statement doing step one, their statement doing step one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Okay? Q: Yeah. Let me ask you one more difference I found. They said the U.S. sanctions against – I mean the United States said, U.S. sanctions against North Korea are not targeted against the livelihood of the North Korean people. And the North Korean version is that the sanctions are not targeted the civilian youth, including the livelihood of North Korean people. Do you see any difference here? NULAND: I don’t. I don’t see any difference there at all. Q: Okay. And one final question. There is a report that North Korean nuclear is coming to New York next week. Do you have anything to tell us about that? NULAND: Our understanding is that that envoy is coming to New York March 7 to 9 at the invitation of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University for unofficial track two discussions being sponsored there. So at the current moment, there are no plans for official U.S. Government meetings with the negotiator. … Q: Yeah. Going back to the subtle differences between the two statements, your statement says that the North Koreans will stop nuclear activities generally speaking. And then they say that they’ll stop uranium enrichment specifically. Is plutonium activity also a part of this? Is that your understanding? NULAND: Yeah. Have you – you’ve read our statement, right? Q: Yes, I have. But their – the North Koreans say they’ll stop uranium enrichment. They don’t say anything about plutonium. So I’m wondering if there – is there any disagreement here or is this – what’s your understanding? NULAND: I don’t have their statement in front of us, but are you talking about the part about the five-megawatt — Q: It’s the – basically the last section of their statement says: “agreed to moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activity.” Whereas your statement says that: “agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile test, nuclear test, and nuclear activities at Yongbyon.” So — NULAND: Including uranium enrichment activities. Q: Including uranium enrichment activities. So I’m asking, is plutonium part of this agreement as well? NULAND: Yes. … Most definitely. Q: Follow up on that? NULAND: Please. Q: So there’s some differences in statements issued by both sides. So are you ready to meet with North Koreans again to qualify the difference, or do you expect that this type of issue might be brought up in the next meeting with North Koreans on the nutritional aid? NULAND: No. As we clarified in the background briefing that we gave yesterday – and I would refer you to it if you didn’t get a chance to participate – the next step on the nuclear side with regard to the commitments that are made by both sides in these statements is that they now need to be implemented by the North Korean side and that implementation needs to be verified by the, So we are looking to the DPRK, as a next step, to invite the IAEA in to verify that all the steps that we’ve agreed upon, all the steps you see reflected in the U.S. statement, are, in fact, being implemented. So that’s the next step on that side. With regard to nutritional assistance, we do still have a little bit of technical work to do and we’re going to try to do it through existing channels before we can ship. Q: So you don’t see the need to clarify the difference at this point? NULAND: We don’t see any difference. The only thing that is effectively sort of left out, if you will, with regard to the DPRK’s statement is this issue of the five-megawatt reactor, and from our perspective, the U.S. and the DPRK both know that the DPRK agreed that the IAEA would be allowed in to confirm the disablement of the five-megawatt reactor and associated facilities. So that’s something that we’re expecting also to be on the list when the IAEA goes to North Korea. Q: Sorry. You said that the existing channels would be used for the finalization of the food or the nutritional — NULAND: That is my understanding. Q: Does that – but does that mean that there isn’t going to be a meeting in Beijing between AID people next week? NULAND: If necessary, there will be, but my understanding is nothing’s been scheduled yet. Q: But are you saying that it could be – it’s your belief that it could be finalized without any trip, any big trip, cross – transpacific trip, that it could be done in the New York channel and that would be — NULAND: That is my understanding, that if we can do it simply, we will. Q: One more on North Korea? …How long do you expect them to stop their nuclear activities? NULAND: Well, our expectation is that this would be the first step — Q: Permanent? NULAND:and that this would be permanent, obviously. Yeah. (DoS Daily Briefing, Spokesperson Victoria Nuland, March 1, 2012)

South Korea’s main opposition party announced a set of policy goals on North Korea that calls for dismantling Cold War tensions on the divided peninsula through a peace treaty and diplomatic recognition of the communist nation. The liberal-leaning Democratic United Party accused the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak of disrupting inter-Korean ties through hard-line policies and wiping out progress made under former liberal presidents. Its new policy objectives include seeking a peace treaty with North Korea and establishing diplomatic relations between the North and the U.S. and between the North and Japan; seeking economic prosperity through enhanced economic cooperation with the North. (Yonhap, “Main Opposition Party Announces New Policy Objectives in N. Korea,” March 1, 2012)

North Korea, as ever, is proving hard to deal with. It appears ready to renege on its latest agreement to suspend uranium enrichment if it cannot gain what it wants — a nuclear reactor, at the end of the day — from the United States and its allies in six-party talks. North Korea said February 29 it will suspend uranium enrichment in Yongbyon, along with nuclear tests and long-range missile launches, in exchange for U.S. food aid as part of an agreement following two days of talks with the United States. According to KCNA, however, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said these measures will be in place as long as “fruitful negotiations (with the United States) will continue.” The precondition was not included in a statement from the U.S. State Department on the agreement after bilateral talks in Beijing on February 23 and 24. North Korea’s stance is seen as tantamount to a declaration that it will renege on the agreement and resume uranium enrichment and other measures at any time if negotiations with the United States do not turn out as it expects. Analysts say a suspension of uranium enrichment in Yongbyon alone will not hurt North Korea. The United States and South Korea believe that Pyongyang operates more uranium enrichment facilities elsewhere. “Yongbyon is nothing but a show window,” said a source close the six-party talks. “North Korea could not care less even if it suspends activity (in Yongbyon) and readmits inspectors.” Analysts said North Korea has used Yongbyon as a bargaining chip with the United States. Some said it was ready to suspend uranium enrichment in Yongbyon when it invited U.S. experts to nuclear facilities there in November 2010. It is difficult to detect uranium enrichment sites by analyzing satellite photos because they do not require lots of structures, such as a nuclear reactor and a reprocessing facility for plutonium-based nuclear development. The United States appears to have factored in North Korea’s calculations in clinching the deal. The State Department statement said Washington continues to have serious concerns about Pyongyang’s actions. Still, the United States has given priority to getting North Korea to suspend uranium enrichment because it could represent a breakthrough on the nuclear issue, something that has eluded the Obama administration so far. The United States is also keen to avert any North Korean provocations ahead of the presidential election in November. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank, North Korea has largely refrained from taking provocative actions whenever it was engaged in negotiations with the United States during the past 35 years or so. (Kaise Akihiko and Murayama Yusuke, “Gap Overshadows Deal on N. Korean Uranium Program,” Asahi Shimbun, March 1, 2012)

The international community has welcomed North Korea’s decision in recent talks with the U.S. to re-admit nuclear inspectors, mainly because the North Korea will let the IAEA look at a uranium enrichment facility. But experts warn that North Korea has other uranium enrichment plants and is only letting the inspectors in to extract economic advantages, in a repeat of patterns that fooled the international community throughout the last decades. One researcher at a state-run think tank said, “We have to believe that there are more hidden facilities in addition to the uranium enrichment plant is has pledged to open to the inspectors.” In other words, North Korea may be seeking to focus international attention on the facility in Yongbyon while secretly running much larger plants elsewhere. A government official said, “We are aware of the possibility that the Yongbyon facility is just a showcase while the bulk of the operation is elsewhere.” Another official said, “The U.S. and South Korea have an idea where the actual enrichment facilities are, but they aren’t talking about it because otherwise North Korea could try to hide them.” Other experts say the facility should be dismantled rather than just inspected. The North’s plutonium extraction process can be monitored to prevent it from being used to produce nuclear weapons, but uranium enrichment takes up much less space and facilities can easily be moved out of sight. One government official said, “North Korea probably accepted IAEA inspectors because it wants to flaunt its uranium-enrichment capabilities, not because it is proposing to denuclearize. If the North shows IAEA inspectors its uranium-enrichment in operation, that proves its nuclear capabilities.” That in turn would in the eyes of the regime reduce the threat of a U.S.-led invasion of the kind suffered by fellow dictatorships Iraq and Libya, which had no deterrent weapons. Siegfried Hecker, in a report after his visit said he was “surprised” to see some 1,000 centrifuges at the Yongbyon uranium-enrichment facility and added it was state-of-the-art equipment. He said North Korean officials told him 2,000 centrifuges had been set up and were in operation, capable of producing up to 40 kg of highly enriched uranium a year. Nuclear experts say that is difficult to believe since North Korea’s power supply is so intermittent as to make it doubtful whether the centrifuges can be safely operated at all. (Chosun Ilbo, “Why Is N. Korea Willing to Open Its Nuclear Plant?” March 2, 2012)

Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation said the North appeared simply to have given up activities that were either politically risky or losses that could be reversed. “I’m sure within senior leadership in North Korea, this is going to be depicted as a great victory for Kim Jong-un,” Bennett, who was visiting Seoul, said in an interview. “He got it for agreeing not to do things that they don’t have to do in the immediate future.” Such tests, should they fail, would make Kim Jong-un look weak in the early days of the regime, Bennett said. A third nuclear test runs the risk of not producing a nuclear yield much bigger than the previous one in 2009, he said. A long-range missile test could also fail, as experts said the previous three did. Bennett said the “big gains” come in the form of Washington’s reaffirmation that it holds no “hostile intent” toward Pyongyang and recognition that the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War is the “cornerstone of peace and stability” on the peninsula. “In short, if there is instability in the North, the U.S. will not threaten to intervene because the armistice would preclude intervention,” Bennett said. “This is something even his father was unable to achieve.” [?] (Kim Young-jin, “’N. Korea Shuns Risk in Nuke Test Moratorium,’” Korea Times, March 5, 2012)


3/2/12:
DoS: Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues Ambassador Robert King and USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Jon Brause will travel to Beijing for meetings with DPRK officials to begin on March 7. These meetings will focus on administrative details for a nutritional assistance program targeting DPRK populations with the most need. Ambassador King and DAA Brause will return to Washington, DC on March 8. (DoS, Office of the Spokesman, Media Note, March 2, 2012) “The idea is to finalize all of the technical arrangements so that the nutritional assistance can begin to move,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said. “My understanding is we’re down to issues like what port, when, who manages it, how do we count, how do we monitor.” She did not reveal the name of King’s counterpart. A diplomatic source here said the North is expected to send Ri Gun, director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, U.S. to Meet in Beijing Next Week for Food Aid,” March 3, 2012)

More than 40 North Korean soldiers were killed or wounded when South Korea returned fire for the North’s artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010. “I was told by a North Korean battalion commander that more than 10 North Korean soldiers were killed and about 30 others were injured” during the conflict on Nov. 23, 2010, the source told Radio Free Asia. (Korea Times, “40 N.K. Soldiers Killed or Injured during Yeonpyeong Battle: Report,” March 3, 2012)

Recent congressional testimony confirmed North Korea’s development of a new long-range, road-mobile missile that can reach American shores, increasing the threat of a nuclear attack on the United States.” There is development within North Korea of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system that we’ve observed,” Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee.” We have not observed it being tested yet, to my knowledge. We are watching the development very closely.” The new mobile missile was first reported by The Washington Times on December 5. The road-mobile ICBM bolsters North Korea’s already-deployed launch-pad-fired Taepodong-2 missile that has been tested. The new missile is also raising concerns in the U.S. intelligence community that North Korea will sell the missile to Iran, as it has done with past medium-range Nodong missiles. Adm. Willard said the mobile missile is “advertised to be significant in terms of its range capability.” The admiral, who retires this month, said once the missile is proven, “there will be a decision made with regard to how we posture to deal with what could be something less predictable than Taepodong-2 or some of the other ballistic missile capabilities that are a little more easy to observe.” Road-mobile missiles are much harder to detect and counter than static missiles. They are usually solid-fueled, allowing them to be fired much faster than liquid-fueled missiles. Under questioning from Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican, Adm. Willard said the new North Korean mobile ICBM would cause an increase in missile defense efforts. “I think that’s one of the posture options that will have to be considered, yes,” he said. On March 6, Turner again raised the new North Korean missile during a hearing on missile defenses. “A rogue mobile intercontinental ballistic missile would be a profound leap forward in North Korea’s ballistic missile technology,” Turner asked. Bradley H. Roberts, deputy assistant defense secretary for missile defense and nuclear policy, acknowledged at a subcommittee hearing that the new missile poses a “direct threat” to the United States. (Bill Gertz, “Inside the Ring: North Korea’s ICBM,” Washington Times, March 7, 2012)


3/4/12:
Shortly after a 2012 nuclear deal with Pyongyang, the United States had asked North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy to meet bilaterally with his South Korean counterpart, according to a newly released email of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clifford Hart, then U.S. special envoy for six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, made the request during a phone call with North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador Han Song-ryol, days after the two sides reached a food aid-for-denuclearization steps agreement. Notifying Han of the U.S. decision to grant a visa for Pyongyang’s nuclear envoy and Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho’s visit to New York, Hart requested that Ri meet with Seoul’s chief nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam set to attend the same conference as Ri, according to the email. “I told Han that the U.S. government’s decision to approve a visa for Ri’s visit was a concrete demonstration of Washington’s intent to take steps to advance the relationship now that there was agreement on the denuclearization pre-steps,” Hart said in a March 4 email to Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy. Hart also told Han that should Pyongyang’s Ri and Seoul’s Lim meet and if the atmosphere in U.S.-North Korea relations remained positive, it was likely that the U.S. government would consider positively sending him and National Security Council Korea director Sydney Seiler to New York for a subsequent meeting with Ri. Han promised to convey the message to Pyongyang immediately, according to the email. The U.S. request was seen as part of U.S. efforts to put denuclearization pressure on Pyongyang jointly with South Korea. But the proposed meeting between Ri and Lim did not happen after all, a decision seen as reflecting Pyongyang’s intention to sideline Seoul and deal directly with the U.S. (Yonhap, “U.S. Asked N. Korea’s Chief Nuclear Envoy to Meet S. Korean Counterpart after 2012 Deal: Clinton Email,” Korea Herald, January 2, 2016)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered a front-line military unit to be on alert as Pyongyang renewed threats to stage a sacred war against South Korea for defaming the dignity of its supreme leadership. The North has accused a South Korean army unit in the western port of Incheon of writing aggressive defamatory words above and below portraits of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un and his late father, former leader Kim Jong-il. The South Korean military unit in Incheon reportedly posted photos of the two Kims inside a building with accompanying text that translates as, “Let’s Kill Kim Jong-un.” North Korea’s military and its people “will mete out a merciless punishment of their own style” to South Korea for committing what it considers the gravest provocation, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in an English-language statement carried by KCNA. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Steps up War Rhetoric against S. Korea over Alleged Slander,” March 4, 2012) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the heavily armed border with rival South Korea and ordered troops to be on high alert, state media reported, just days after Washington and Pyongyang agreed to a nuclear deal after years of deadlock. Kim’s visit to Panmunjom village in the Demilitarized Zone, his first reported trip there since the December death of his father, Kim Jong Il, comes amid escalating militaristic rhetoric aimed at U.S. ally South Korea. (Kim Hyun-jin, “North Korea’s Kim Visits DMZ, Orders High Alert,” Associated Press, March 4, 2012)

South Korea is set to discuss North Korea’s long-running demand for light-water nuclear reactors if the North makes good on denuclearization pledges, a Seoul official said. “If North Korea makes good progress on denuclearization, we can discuss the (light-water nuclear reactor) issue as the next step,” the government official said on condition of anonymity, citing a joint statement adopted at six-party talks on Sept. 19, 2005. Under the 2005 statement, the parties agreed to discuss helping North Korea construct a light-water nuclear reactor if Pyongyang gets rid of its nuclear weapons programs. “But we demand the North return to the frames of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and comply with all international regulations. Then we will discuss the issue,” the official said. “So this is not an issue being discussed yet.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea Set to Discuss Reactor Issue on Progress in Denuclearization Talks,” March 5, 2012)

A South Korean official says that the rival Koreas’ top nuclear envoys could meet during an unofficial security forum in the United States this week. Both envoys are scheduled to attend the three-day forum in New York starting Wednesday. It follows a breakthrough disarmament-for-aid deal between Pyongyang and Washington last week. MOFAT spokesman Cho Byung-jae said that no meeting between the envoys has yet been arranged at the forum but they could still meet. (Associated Press, “Official: Nuclear Envoys Could Meet during U.S. Security Forum,” March 4, 2012)


3/5/12:
The United Nations nuclear watchdog is preparing for a possible return to North Korea three years after its inspectors were expelled, but is not yet in direct contact with Pyongyang, Amano Yukiya, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said. “We do not have yet an invitation from North Korea,” the veteran Japanese diplomat told a news conference. “We want to know what was actually agreed between the United States and North Korea and then we have to identify the details of our possible activities in North Korea.” (Fredrik Dahl, “U.N. Nuclear inspectors Prepare for North Korea Return,” Reuters, March 5, 2012)

North Korea has made progress in recent months on a home-built reactor that experts fear could be used to bolster the communist state’s nuclear weapons program, satellite images showed. The images were taken on February 3. “The most significant part is that construction is continuing,” said Paul Brannan, a senior research analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security, which released the images. “In North Korea, projects can sometimes go in fits and starts, so to see any progress tells you something,” he said. (AFP, N. Korea Makes Progress on Reactor,” March 7, 2012)


3/6/12:
KCNA: “Servicepersons of the 2nd and 4th Corps of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) are in full combat readiness to mercilessly destroy south Korea’s Lee Myung Bak group of traitors, in revenge for its hideous provocation to the dignity of the supreme leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Kim Hyong Ryong, commander of the 2nd Corps, told KCNA: “Our Corps is fully prepared to wipe out traitor Lee Myung Bak and the military warmongers including Kim Kwan Jin and Jong Sung Jo and, furthermore, to reduce Seoul to a sea of flames, once an order is given.” Deputy Commander Ri Kum Chol said: “They dared defame the dignity of our supreme leadership we regard as the Sun and Heaven. Traitor Lee Myung Bak and his lackeys Kim Kwan Jin and Jong Sung Jo will never escape from our firing range. The Inchon-based unit has also been kept in our striking range. Those provocateurs will have to pay dearly for their high treason.” (KCNA, “Servicepersons of KPA 2nd, 4th Corps Determine to Show No Mercy to Enemy,” March 6, 2012)

Pyon In-son, North Korea’s vice minister of the People’s Armed Forces has been put in command of the Fourth Army Corps which controls the west coast. Pyon replaces Kim Kyok-sik, who was promoted to chief of the general staff of the People’s Army after masterminding the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea Appoints New Chief of West Coast Forces,” March 7, 2012)


3/7/12:
South Korea will launch a powerful retaliation against North Korea if provoked again, Seoul’s defense chief warned amid a spate of militaristic rhetoric by Pyongyang. In a rare trip to Yeonpyeong Island, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said he believes North Korea will make a carefully calculated provocation against South Korea to help its new leader Kim Jong-un consolidate his power and resolve internal friction. South Korea will powerfully retaliate against North Korea until the unit responsible and its support bases “completely surrender in case of the North’s provocation,” Kim told troops on the South Korean western border island shelled by North Korea in 2010. Yesterday, Pyon In-son, the new commander of the North’s 4th Corps that shelled Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, warned that either Seoul or Incheon “will be engulfed in flames and no enemy will survive our strikes” once the North’s artillery pieces open fire all at once. (Yonhap, “S. Korea’s Defense Chief Vows to Retaliate If Provoked by North,” March 7, 2012)

North Korea is expected to intensify its campaign to bash the administration of President Lee Myung-bak in order to cement internal unity under its young leader and to widen social fissures in South Korea ahead of major elections, a Blue House official said. “We expect North Korea to strengthen the level of its denunciation campaign to divide national consensus in the South in the run-up to next month’s general elections and the presidential vote at the end of the year,” a presidential official said. Yesterday, Lee held a security ministers’ meeting and discussed the situation related to the North, including the possibility of the regime attempting to cause social division in the South along ideological lines ahead of April’s general elections and December’s presidential vote. North Korea is one of the most divisive issues in South Korean society, with liberals calling for greater reconciliation efforts and conservatives calling for principles. In the past, Pyongyang used its propaganda outlets to influence elections in the South by criticizing or praising candidates mainly over their stances on the North. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Expects N. Korea to Ramp up Anti-Seoul Rhetoric,” March 7, 2012)

KING: “I told you this morning that these issues are complicated and we’ve had some discussions, we’ve had two very good sessions today, we’ve discussed a number of the issues, we’ve made progress, we still have issues to resolve and we’ll be meeting tomorrow to deal with those issues.” (DoS, Robert King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues,” Evening Walkthrough at Westin Chaoyang Hotel, Beijing,” March 7, 2012)


3/7-8/12:
The U.S. envoy for human rights in North Korea, Robert King, said he was confident proposed food aid to North Korea would flow to those who really need it, but stopped short of announcing a final deal, part of a nascent agreement to restart nuclear disarmament steps by Pyongyang. He said talks with North Korean officials in the Chinese capital helped clear administrative roadblocks to the aid. “We’ve had very productive, positive talks,” King told reporters, many of them Japanese and South Korean, at Beijing airport. “I’m very satisfied with our discussions.” King said one of main topics of the talks was U.S. concerns that the aid would go to truly needy people, and he answered “yes” when asked if he was confident on this point. “We’re still working on the details. Not all of those questions have been worked out,” said King, when asked about when North Korea would begin receiving new aid shipments. (Reuters, “U.S. Envoy Says Assured North Korea Aid Will Go Where Needed,” March 8, 2012)

In the absence of normalized relations between the US and North Korea, so-called “Track Two” dialogue plays a key role in the relationship. From March 7 to 9, North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, made a rare visit to New York for a conference that illustrated both the opportunities for and obstacles to rapprochement between Pyongyang and Washington. Ri attended in the capacity of “consultant to the Institute for Disarmament and Peace” to satisfy the provisions of a Track Two meeting.

Convened by Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the conference involved about 50 participants from nations included in the Six-Party talks plus two others, Germany and Mongolia. The senior US official in attendance was Senator John Kerry, joined by former officials Henry Kissinger, James Steinberg and Donald Gregg. Seoul dispatched chief nuclear envoy Sung-nam Lim at the last moment to join the South Korean delegation, which comprised National Assemblymen Sohn Hak-kyu and Kim Choong-hwan, former unification minister Lim Dong-won, scholars Paik Nak-chung, Lee Chung-min and Moon Chung-in. There were seven representatives from North Korea, and prominent figures representing China, Japan, Russia, Germany, and Mongolia. The conference’s most remarkable feature was the North Koreans’ eagerness, to the point of desperation, in pushing for normalization with the US, and the implication that Kim Jong Un might be behind it. The overall message from the North Korean delegation was clear: The top priority of Pyongyang’s “new diplomacy under new leadership” is improving ties with Washington. Taken from discussions during the conference, their argument could be paraphrased thus:

  • “Unlike past generations, the new leadership in North Korea does not want to fight the US. It wants peace.”
  • “The US portrays North Korea as a rogue state, a criminal state and a member of an Axis of Evil. For us, the threat from the US is real. And the lesson we have learned is that improvements in DPRK-US relations are virtually impossible without a change in Americans’ basic mindset.”
  • “There are only four countries — Bhutan, Cuba, Iran and North Korea — with which the US does not have diplomatic ties. Bhutan has refused ties to the US, while Iran and Cuba were diplomatically recognized but later diplomatic ties were severed. But the US has never recognized North Korea. No chance was given to us. The US is punishing us not because of WMD and terrorism, but because of political and ideological differences. This is unfair.”
  • “The American formula of ‘North Korea denuclearizes first, then we will engage in dialogue and normalization’ has not worked. A new formula should be sought. America is the great power, whereas the DPRK is a small country. It is very difficult for a small country like us to undertake proactive actions because they can be seen as signs of weakness that would trigger provocative behavior from strong countries. Can’t the US take steps first, actions such as the removal of hostile intent and policy, lifting of sanctions, normalization of relations and transformation of the armistice agreement into a viable peace treaty? If the US undertakes such proactive measures, then the North Korean nuclear issue, both horizontal and vertical proliferation, will be automatically resolved.”
  • “We are more than willing to give up nuclear weapons if the US provides us with a nuclear umbrella. We would even consider an alliance with the US. What we need from the US is security assurance.” Facing this push from the North Korean delegation for an improvement in ties, the American response was cold and firm. Key messages included the following:
  • “America is a democratic country. The US government cannot change the mindset of American people and politicians. North Korea should win American hearts and minds, and change them by demonstrating good behavior. The DPRK has no constituents or supporters in the US.”
  • “Look at your track record. You pledged to denuclearize, as indicated in the September 19 Joint Statement, but you violated agreements by undertaking two underground nuclear tests and test-launching long-range ballistic missiles. How can we trust you?”
  • “A peace treaty and diplomatic normalization both require ratification by US Congress. But no member of Congress would support ratification under current conditions. North Korea should show good behavior in order to win support in US Congress. In addition to the Beijing agreement on a moratorium and inspections, the DPRK should take additional measures. These include returning to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as concrete and visible steps toward denuclearization”
  • “Ideas such as an alliance with the US and provision by the US of nuclear umbrella are far-fetched. Unless the DPRK becomes a normal state, such arrangements are totally inconceivable.”

On the sidelines of this starkly bilateral dialogue, inter-Korean relations remained stuck in neutral. Seoul sent its nuclear envoy at the last moment, with the hopes of direct contact with his North Korean counterpart, but inter-Korean bilateral talks never materialized, although there were open exchanges of views during the conference between the two envoys. North Korean delegates were cold and firm toward South Korean delegates, avoiding any formal contacts. North Koreans argued that improvement in North Korea-US relations should come first, and that ties with South Korea and Japan will subsequently improve. The North Korean delegation also refused to engage with South Koreans in any meaningful way unless Seoul re-establishes inter-Korean exchanges and co-operation, lifts the “Cheonan” measures of May 24th, 2010, and implements the joint declarations from the two inter-Korean summits of 2000 and 2007. The North Koreans criticized the Blue House for playing a double game — calling for a dialogue with Pyongyang while heightening military tensions with military exercises. (Moon Chung-in, “Opportunities and Obstacles: Revelations from a Dialogue with North Korea,” Global Asia, 7, No. 1 (Spring 2012), 86-87)


3/8/12:
Q: “Are you satisfied with your discussions? King: I’m very satisfied with our discussions. Q: Did you resolve all the administrative issues with the DPRK? King: We resolved the administrative issues that we were concerned with, yes. Q: Are you confident that the aid’s going to go to the people of North Korea who need it? King: That was one of the main concerns of our discussions, yes. Q: And are you confident that it’s going to go to the people who need it? King: Yes.” (DoS, Ambassador Robert King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, Remarks at Departure from Beijing International Airport, March 8, 2012)

Another food crisis has spread across North Korea, caused by yet another poor harvest and Pyongyang’s disastrous currency ma­nipu­la­tion scheme, which wiped out the savings many people had used to feed themselves. We do not know how many people are dying, but it is not as bad as the famine of the 1990s, which killed as many as 2.5 million people. The Obama administration pledged 240,000 metric tons of food aid and nutritional supplements for children just as the president’s North Korean envoy, Steve Bosworth, announced that Washington would resume four-party nuclear talks. Bosworth acknowledged that the food aid would demonstrate to the North Koreans “that they are getting something in return for the freeze in their nuclear activities.” Obama officials are repeating the mistakes the U.S. government made in the 1990s when it used food aid in the midst of famine to coax North Korea to the nuclear table. We all know the results of that effort: North Korea has probably six to eight nuclear weapons, and its poor continue to endure hunger and starvation. U.S. actions have sent three unambiguous messages over the past year: If you want to eat, build more nuclear weapons. Connecting the nuclear talks, which resumed last week, and humanitarian assistance gives North Korea’s government a major incentive to continue its nuclear program. The regime’s inability to feed its people is the greatest existential threat to its survival, and survival is the central objective of Pyongyang’s domestic and foreign policy. For two years, the U.S. and South Korean governments did not respond to the United Nations’ need-based humanitarian appeals. But both approved food aid when they wanted Pyongyang to return to nuclear negotiations. When North Koreans were starving we did nothing, but when we want them to sit for nuclear talks, we offer to feed them. What’s the message? Without their nuclear weapons, they won’t get aid. If North Korea’s rulers give up their nuclear weapons, Washington may overthrow them. If the Obama administration viewed Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons as a priority, it should have thought twice before intervening in Libya to remove the one government that has voluntarily given up its weapons of mass destruction. North Korean leaders watched U.S. drones assist Libyan rebels in capturing and killing Moammar Gaddafi. It is immaterial whether Gaddafi deserved his fate. The North Koreans could see that giving up weapons puts you at risk. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said last March that the West’s effort to get Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction was “an invasion tactic to disarm the country” and that “the Libya crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson.” You may do whatever you want with U.S. humanitarian assistance because Washington’s strategic interest is vested in nuclear talks. The North Korean government depends on the loyalty of its Communist Party cadres, its 1.2 million-man army and its internal security forces. A hungry army is a threat to the regime, so Pyongyang has incentive to divert any external food assistance to party cadres, police, soldiers and their families. Between 2007 and 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development shipped food aid in monthly installments, and when the North Koreans violated the monitoring system — which happened twice — the next shipment was stopped. The North became enraged and shut down the program. But now the North Koreans might walk out of the talks if USAID enforces the strict monitoring protocols just negotiated, because they see the food aid as their reward for returning to talks — not as assistance to feed the poor and powerless. So what should the next U.S. president do to get us back on track? Unlink food aid from the nuclear talks. The purpose of humanitarian assistance under U.S. law and international humanitarian convention is to save lives and relieve suffering. It must not be used as a weapon of U.S. diplomacy and should not be manipulated by North Korean officials, military or secret police. Aggressive monitoring is the only way to ensure that food aid goes to poor families. U.S. authorities should insist on expatriate monitors and translators, unannounced site visits and frequent nutritional monitoring. If monitoring agreements are violated, shipments of food aid should be stopped. Under no circumstances should U.S. food aid go through the Public Distribution System, which is a Stalinist means for Pyongyang to control the population and triage the powerless. The latest nuclear negotiations are likely to yield what they have for 18 years: nothing. It is time to talk with the North Koreans about other things, such as their abysmal human rights record; the need for economic and political reforms; and health programs for children, many of whom face permanent damage from chronic malnutrition and preventable disease. North Korea is dying. Its economic system is a wreck, and it cannot feed its people. Most North Koreans I have interviewed over the years privately admit all of this. Washington should do nothing to prolong the agony of the long-suffering North Korean people by supporting the existing system. But perhaps we can begin to push them toward reform. (Andrew Natsios, “Stop Feeding North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions,” Washington Post, March 8, 2012)

North Korea delivered a “private message” to the U.S. government on its plan to conduct another nuclear test in 2009, along with its intent to enrich uranium. “In April the North Koreans sent Washington a private message making several threats: to explode a nuclear device, to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the United States, to enrich uranium to enable them to develop a light-water reactor,” Jeffrey Bader, who served as senior director for East Asian affairs on the National Security Council from January 2009 till April 2001, said in his memoir made public on Thursday. The 188-page book is titled “Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy.” The U.S. responded with a “strong warning” about the consequences, Bader said, but the North went ahead with its second-known nuclear test about a month later. When the North test-fired a long-range missile, which it claims was a satellite, in April 2009, the U.S. “considered a range of military options to deal with the highly unlikely contingency that the North’s missile might be equipped with a warhead and be aimed at American territory,” said Bader, who now works as a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution. (Lee Chi-dong, “N. Korea Informally Notified U.S. of 2009 Nuke Test Plan Beforehand: Bader,” Yonhap, March 8, 2012)


3/9/12:
Democrat Sen. John Kerry said that the North Korean also made a “profound statement” about wanting a different relationship and not wanting to fight with the United States. “They said that they will live by the agreement that they made last week, that we can count on that,” Kerry, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told reporters. “We have been here before. We have come to these points that have been constructive and something breaks down. We need to try and change that dynamic,” Kerry said. (Associated Press, “Prominent U.S. Senator Meets N. Korea Envoy Who Vows to Keep Nuclear Commitments,” March 9, 2012)

A much-anticipated inter-Korean meeting now appears unlikely to take place. The meeting was to be held at a seminar jointly hosted by the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. South Korean Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lim Sung-nam reportedly attempted to have discussions with North Korean Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong-ho at the seminar, but Ri avoided an actual meeting because of the recent worsening of inter-Korean relations over messages critical of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un that were posted at a military unit in Incheon. Analysts are saying it was a policy misstep by senior government officials to have a government figure attend the seminar, which was initially intended as an unofficial event and Lim was not among the original invitees. Speaking in a presentation at the seminar‘s first session on Friday, Ri said the nuclear issue “will be resolved if relations with the United States improve.” Ri said North Korea’s nuclear development “stems from the US‘s antagonistic policies,” reiterating Pyongyang’s message to Washington at a time when both have recently been engaged in direct dialogue, with both sides announcing the terms of their agreement at the same time. While attending the debate, Lim, South Korea‘s representative to the six-party talks on the nuclear issue, reportedly stressed that Pyongyang’s acting in accordance with the terms of the agreement reached at a third set of North Korea-US talks in Beijing recently was a “shortcut to resuming the six-party talks.” Lim was also reported as expressing his dismay at North Korea‘s unfavorable response to Seoul’s overtures for inter-Korean dialogue. “We can discuss the Korean Peninsula peace regime [demanded by Pyongyang] once progress has been made in inter-Korean relations and the six-party talks have been reopened,” Lim was quoted as saying. Ri reportedly responded that it would be better if South Korea followed the terms of the June 15 and October 4 declarations. (Kwon Tae-ho, “Six-Party Talks Representatives from North and South Fail to Meet at U.S. Seminar,” Hankyore, March 10, 2012)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear that her government is opposed to the forceful repatriation of North Korean refugees, a breach of international agreements. “We urge every country to act according to international obligations,” such as the 1951 U.N. refugee convention and the 1967 protocol, Clinton said in a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan after their talks at the State Department building in Washington. (Lee Chi-dong, “Clinton urges China to Stop Repatriation of N. Korean Defectors,” Yonhap, March 9, 2012)

Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, “has been invited to meet new leadership of” the North, according to an email that Clinton received from Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time confidant to Clinton, on March 9, 2012. Powell, then head of Inter Mediate, a British non-government organization, first contacted Blumenthal, saying he was going to visit the United States in late March and meet with then-Under Secretary of State William Burns. Powell asked Blumenthal for advice on which other State Department officials he should meet, according to the emails. Powell also briefed Blumenthal about what his NGO is going to do, saying he is trying to “replicate what we did in Northern Ireland by setting up secret channels between insurgents and governments and then, where appropriate, developing these into negotiations.” “We have live projects in Nigeria, Colombia, Bahrain, Afghanistan and — bizarrely — North Korea. We are starting work in Syria, in conjunction with Kofi Annan, in Yemen, in Somalia and in Burma,” Powell said in an email sent to Blumenthal, part of which was included in Blumenthal’s email to Clinton. Powell also said that his organization is working closely with Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, National Security Council and Secret Intelligence Service. After receiving Blumenthal’s email about Powell, Clinton responded on March 18, saying, “I’d like to see Powell when he’s in the building.” It was unclear whether that meeting was held and whether Powell visited the North at the time. But in March 2014, Powell did visit the North and met with then-Vice Premier Kang Sok-ju. In July 2015, Powell again visited the North as head of a delegation of European politicians and met again with Kang, who now serves as a secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party. (Chang Jae-soon, “Ex-British Official Was Invited to N.K. Shortly after Kim Jong-un Took Power: Clinton Email,” Yonhap, November 2, 2015)


3/12/12:
North Korean vice foreign minister Ri Yong-ho departed for Moscow after attending a seminar on Korean Peninsula security in New York organized by Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation and others. After that, Ri is believed be to heading to Beijing for discussions on the talks with Chinese special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs Wu Dawei before returning to Pyongyang. Ri initially scheduled a return flight when coming to New York from Beijing, but ended up canceling from the US and booking a new flight for Moscow, sources reported. Analysts believe Ri will be sharing the outcome of the New York seminar with Moscow and Beijing and soliciting their cooperation on the normalization of Pyongyang-Washington relations and the resumption of the six-party talks. While meeting with reporters in front of his accommodations at the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel before leaving New York, Ri said International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities would be taking place in the near future. He also appeared positive on the issue of relations with the US, saying Pyongyang would gladly comply if the US wanted improved relations. This stood in contrast with his remarks about inter-Korean dialogue. Ri said, “It’s important to fulfill the terms of the June 15 and October 4 Joint Declarations, but the South does not appear willing to do that yet.” Ri is also reported to have emphasized this point at the seminar. While Ri himself did not give any specifics, sources reported discussions taking place at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy seminar toward establishing liaison offices in Washington and Pyongyang. Meanwhile, Ri‘s emphasis on Pyongyang’s willingness to take early steps toward denuclearization, with its acceptance of IAEA inspectors, was geared to the ultimate goal of normalized relations with Washington. In multilateral meetings and discussions with the US, North Korea has consistently emphasized the matter of a peace agreement to replace the current armistice between the UN, China and North Korea. In that sense, Pyongyang has not altered its basic stance of building a peace regime on the peninsula through a four-stage process involving the end of hostile policies from Washington, the removal of international sanctions against it, normalization of North Korea-US relations, and the shift from an armistice agreement to a full-fledged peace treaty. But Pyongyang has shown signs of a tactical shift recently, emphasizing normalization of relations with Washington as a precursor to a peace agreement. Analysts said this could be read as intended to maintain distance from Seoul. Whereas discussions toward a peace treaty would be unable to proceed without South Korean involvement, discussions toward normalizing Pyongyang-Washington relations would leave little room for South Korean involvement. Ri reiterated Pyongyang‘s current position when asked when he expected inter-Korean dialogue to take place, saying, “We will gladly proceed hand-in-hand if [Seoul] is willing to respect and honor the terms of the June 15 and October 4 Joint Declarations, but the South does not appear willing to do that yet.” (Kwan Tae-ho, “North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Visiting Moscow and Beijing,” Hankyore, March 15, 2012) Ri, who arrived in New York on March 7 for the seminar, was approached by reporters in front of the Millennium U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York City on March 12 and asked when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors will be allowed to access the regime’s uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon, following the bilateral deal with the U.S. that was hammered out in Beijing.

“I think the IAEA inspection will happen in the upcoming days,” Ri said. “Concrete steps are being taken to carry out the DPRK-U.S. agreement made in February.” Ri also expressed hope for improving ties with Washington. “If the United States wants to improve relations with us, we are willing to accept the move,” he emphasized. “Ending the hostile relationship with the United States is the most important thing for us. This is the beginning point and basis for resolving all other problems.” However, Ri dismissed the report from Japanese media that North Korea and the U.S. had determined to open liaison offices each in Pyongyang and Washington. “Nothing has been proposed,” Ri said. But Ri also said his government was willing to improve ties with Washington if such a desire was reciprocated, reportedly reiterating Pyongyang’s position that it is willing to establish liaison offices in both countries. During the seminar, a news report claimed that Ri proposed establishing a liaison office in both nations’ capitals. The vice foreign minister said this was only a repeat of Pyongyang’s basic position. “We did not put forward a concrete proposal but just revealed a principled position.” But while Pyongyang is striving to improve ties with the U.S., which it sees as important for securing aid and moving toward its ultimate goal of normalized relations, there’s no sign it wants to do the same with Seoul. Ri said, “The problem is whether the South has an intention to implement the June 15 Joint Declaration and October 4 Declaration, but I don’t think the South is willing to do it.” Ri repeatedly stressed the importance of carrying out the two inter-Korean agreements, both of which were made with former South Korean Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, as a precondition for resuming inter-Korean talks. “If the South respects these declarations and has intentions to implement them, we are eager to hold their hands and go together,” Ri said. “We are willing to go hand in hand if the South respects the declarations and has a resolve to implement them. But (the South) does not seem to have such a will yet,” he said. Asked about the academic forum, Ri said, “The meetings went well. Plenty of opinions were exchanged. I am satisfied with the result of the meeting.” When it comes to the allegations that young heir Kim Jong-un reportedly expressed intentions to visit the U.N. headquarters, Ri refused to respond, saying, “I’m not in a position to talk about his intentions.” During the forum, Seoul’s representative was cold shouldered by his counterpart from Pyongyang, according to a source. Lim Sung-nam, Seoul’s representative to the six-party talks, and the North’s Ri Yong-ho both attended the forum held from March 7-9. The two diplomats stayed at the same Millennium U.N. Plaza Hotel, so expectations were high for contact between them. The forum was held in the hotel. Lim tried to make contact with Ri, but Ri gave him a cold reaction, the source said. The North’s tactic of trying to deal directly with the United States and exclude the South appeared to be playing out, the source said. During the forum, Ri suggested a formula for resolving the North’s nuclear issue in which progress could be made after improvement in relations with the U.S. “For the resumption of the six-party talks, North Korea should properly implement the Feb. 29 North-U.S. agreement,” Lim said at the forum. “Above all, the North Korean authorities need to accept a call for inter-Korean dialogue.” North Korea’s Ri Yong-ho and his South Korean counterpart, Lim Sung-nam, were among several dozen participants of the conference at a hotel near the United Nations headquarters. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg have also taken part, but no currently serving U.S. government officials have participated. Washington, meanwhile, said food aid would be delivered to the impoverished state “as soon as possible” in the agreement made last month. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the United States would discuss “logistical challenges” with officials from the World Food Program, which is slated to deliver about half of the U.S. aid later this month. The other half will be delivered by private U.S. groups, reports said. The deliveries are said to include biscuits and nutritional items for children amid widespread speculation that other items such as rice are easily diverted for military use. (Yonhap, “Pyongyang’s Chief Nuclear Envoy Attends Forum, Holds Talks in U.S.,” North Korea Newsletter No. 201, March 15, 2012)

The government will extend the sanctions against North Korea for another year after deciding there has been no tangible progress on resolving the abductions of Japanese nationals, according to sources. Prime Minister Noda’s Cabinet plans to approve the extension on March 30 or April 3, about two weeks ahead of the expiration of the current measures, which include a ban on North Korean vessels making port calls in Japan, the sources said. The sanctions, which expire April 13, will be extended for the first time by the Noda administration and the eighth time since they were introduced in 2006 following nuclear and long-range missile tests by North Korea. The Cabinet’s OK of the next extension will likely be moved up to as early as late March to avoid it taking place when North Korea commemorates the 100th anniversary of the April 15 birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung. (Kyodo, “Another Year to Be Tacked on North Korea Sanctions,” Japan Times, March 14, 2012)

Robert King: “The United States welcomes Special Rapporteur Darusman’s thoughtful report to the Human Rights Council. We hope the DPRK will work with Mr. Darusman, and recognize the benefits of cooperating with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and thematic special rapporteurs. The DPRK could use this opportunity to obtain valuable assistance from international human rights mechanisms. We urge the DPRK to allow the Special Rapporteur to visit the country and fulfill his mandate to observe and assess the human rights situation. While human rights conditions in the DPRK remain deplorable and the people of the DPRK continue to suffer from widespread human rights violations, we recognize the DPRK’s willingness to allow me, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, to visit the country this past May as part of a food assessment delegation. We also appreciate the human rights discussions that have taken place during other meetings I have held. We remain committed to building upon this foundation, which we hope serves as a first step towards dialogue on human rights. We would like to highlight a few points in the Special Rapporteur’s report. First, the Special Rapporteur notes the lack of due process in the DPRK. We seek his views on how the DPRK can develop a more transparent and impartial judicial system. The United States would be happy to work with the Special Rapporteur and the DPRK to develop programs on rule of law issues. We share the Special Rapporteur’s concerns about forced and compulsory labor and would welcome additional recommendations on how the DPRK could improve labor conditions for North Korean workers. We appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the abducted nationals from the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other countries, and his appeal to the DPRK to resolve this issue urgently. We share the Special Rapporteur’s specific concerns about the case of Oh Kil-nam and his wife, Shin Suk-ja and daughters, Oh Hae-won and Oh Kyu-won, whose whereabouts remain unknown. We reiterate his request that this family be reunited promptly. We share the Special Rapporteur’s assessment of the importance of resuming inter-Korean dialogue and would welcome another round of inter-Korean family reunions. We appreciate the modest progress between DPRK officials and the American Red Cross on family reunions between Korean-Americans and family members in the DPRK, but we seek greater progress in this area. Finally, we share the Special Rapporteur’s deep concerns about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from the DPRK. We urge the DPRK to end the punishment and imprisonment of North Koreans who have sought asylum abroad as well as their family members. The United States strongly supports the excellent work of the Special Rapporteur and urges the international community to continue to highlight the significant human rights concerns inside the DPRK by supporting the renewal of this important mandate.” (DoS, Remarks of Robert R. King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Geneva, March 12, 2012)

Pyongyang is apparently balking at humanitarian assistance from South Korean NGOs due to monitoring measures implemented by Seoul, aid workers said. Seoul last year lifted a ban on such aid, levied after the deadly Yeonpyeong Island shelling in 2010, but demanded stricter monitoring to ensure successful delivery to the intended recipients. “The North Korean authorities only want aid that is pure,” one aid official said on condition of anonymity in remarks that were echoed by other groups. “It means they won’t take it with conditions attached.” (Kim Young-jin, “’North Korea Shirks Conditions over Aid,’” Korea Times, March 12, 2012)


3/14/12:
KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army and supreme leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Korean people, guided a combined strike drill of the three services of the KPA. Present at the observation deck in the drill ground to greet him were KPA Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho, chief of the KPA General Staff, KPA Vice Marshal Kim Yong Chun, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, KPA Vice Marshal Kim Jong Gak, first vice-director of the KPA General Political Bureau, and KPA Generals Kim Myong Guk and Kim Won Hong. KPA Generals Pak Jae Gyong, Jong Myong Do, Ri Pyong Chol and Kim Yong Chol, staff members of the KPA Supreme Command and commanding officers of KPA large combined units were waiting for him on the spot. Among the observers of the drill were Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Kim Kyong Hui, Kang Sok Ju, Jang Song Thaek, Pak To Chun, Choe Ryong Hae, Kim Yong Il, Kim Yang Gon, Thae Jong Su, Kim Phyong Hae, Mun Kyong Dok, Ju Kyu Chang, U Tong Chuk and Kim Chang Sop, senior officials of the party, state and armed forces organs, chief secretaries of the provincial committees of the WPK, members of the leading organs of the WPK Central Committee in Pyongyang and officials of ministries and national institutions and in the fields of science, education, culture and arts, public health, media and defense industry. Kim Jong Un received a salute from the chief of the General Staff of the KPA before mounting the observation deck. After hearing a detailed explanation about the program of the drill and distribution of striking units, he issued an order to start the drill. Nose diving flying corps and warships of the KPA Navy making their ways through rough waters hit their targets and artillery pieces in their positions ridden with powder smoke dealt deadly blows at the “group of enemy warships” with volleys of fire. Greatly pleased to watch the valiant and resourceful aviation of pilots conducting contour flight, zooming and various upturns, he appreciated their successful drill. He put forth highly important tasks which would serve as guidelines for further developing the KPA into invincible revolutionary armed forces. He instructed the officers and men of the three services to think of battle fields at all times, whether they are in sleep or in dreams, adding that they should always keep themselves on such maximum alert as they are just before opening fire, deeply aware of the sacred responsibility to defend the country. The KPA service personnel ready to return fire for fire are filled with the will to deal merciless and deadly blows at the aggressors who provoke the DPRK even a bit, he said, ordering them to mercilessly wipe out the enemies with arms of justice and revenge once they go into action. A fight never starts after an ad is made and the enemies are watching for a chance to make a surprise attack, he noted, instructing the whole army to defend the sky, land and seas of the socialist country as firm as an iron wall while watching every movement of the enemies with vigilance. Our socialist system centered on the popular masses will shine forever as an invulnerable fortress as it is guarded by the heroic KPA, a strong elite army built under the care of President Kim Il Sung and general secretary Kim Jong Il, he added. He expressed belief that the KPA service personnel would firmly protect the security of the country and the happiness of its people by force of arms.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong-un Guides Combined Strikes Crill of KPA Three Services,” March 14, 2012)

A North Korean and a French orchestra have performed a landmark Paris concert, despite long-standing tensions between Pyongyang and the West. Under the baton of noted South Korean conductor Chung Myung-Whun, North Korea’s Unhasu Orchestra and Radio France Philharmonic played together on Wednesday night to a packed house at the Salle Pleyel music hall. (Associated Press, “North Korean, French Orchestras Play Concert Together,” March 14, 2012)

China has begun sending its biggest aid package to North Korea to help Pyongyang’s new leadership stabilize and increase Chinese influence over the North, multiple sources said. Beijing is known to have started sending the assistance this month after deciding to offer some 600 million yuan (94.8 million U.S. dollars) worth of food and goods late last month. “The aid is a pure grant and not in the previous forms of loans or barter trade,” one source said. “It seems that (the latest aid) is China`s largest ever in size among grants.” Rice and corn are being transported to the North via roads and railroads from China’s northeastern provinces including Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. Source said Pyongyang is also asking for fertilizer and construction materials that will likely be used to build statues of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and houses and buildings in Pyongyang. The North did not request oil, according to the sources. (Dong-A Ilbo, “China Offers N. Korea Record Aid Package of $94.8 Million,” March 14, 2012)


3/15/12:
Japan’s former state minister in charge of the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals and chief of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Nakai Hiroshi, is considering meeting with Song Il Ho in Mongolia March 17-18, several government sources said. But the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party is unlikely to approve Nakai’s plan to travel abroad, with LDP members saying they have heard nothing about his plan to go to Mongolia as his proposal for an overseas trip was made just for Taiwan. (Kyodo, “Japan’s Ex-Abduction Minister Eyes Talks with N. Korea,” March 16, 2012)

Korea-U.S. free trade deal officially takes effect.

Korean Central News Agency and the Associated Press opened a joint photo exhibition in New York on March 15 to mark the centenary of the birth of the North’s late founding leader Kim Il-sung. The joint photo exhibition, entitled “Window on North Korea,” opened at New York’s “The 8th Floor” gallery and will run until April 13, two days before the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth. (Yonhap, “KCNA, AP Open Joint Photo Exhibition in New York,” North Korea Newsletter, No. 202, March 22, 2012)

Zhang Dejiang was likely appointed as the Party Chief for Chongqing based on his past proven ability to handle uncertain situations and keep a low profile. Zhang spent most of his formative years from 1946 until 1996 in the border area near the DPRK or in the DPRK. Zhang is a known quantity to the North Koreans. Sino-DPRK relations are handled Party to Party, but on several occasions, Zhang has been the primary interlocutor. Thus he may represent a new comfortable channel to and from DPRK. Some indicators of positive motion would be exchanges or visits from DPRK to Chongqing. In Chinese this would be a case of “borrow a corpse to return the soul” or using Zhang and the DPRK leadership’s previous interactions to create a new channel. As long as both parties agree it is an established channel, that’s all that matters. Zhang can be trusted to keep the relationship low-key yet keep the Party informed. (Roger Cavazos, “Stability: The New Paramount Leader,” NAPSnet, March 15, 2012)


3/16/12:
Letter from Ri Je-son, director-general, DPRK General Department of Atomic Energy, to IAEA Director-General Amano: “I would like to invite IAEA delegation to our country to discuss technical issues with regard to the monitoring of moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon in accordance with the agreement of the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks held in Beijing recently.” (IAEA Board of Governors, GOV/INF/2012/9, March 30, 2012)

KCNA: “The DPRK is to launch a working satellite, Kwangmyongsong-3, manufactured by itself with indigenous technology to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung. A spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said this in a statement [today]. After successfully launching two experimental satellites, DPRK scientists and technicians have steadily conducted scientific researches to develop and utilize working satellites indispensable for the country’s economic development in line with the government’s policy for space development and peaceful use. Through the researches they have made a drastic progress in the field of space science and technology and laid solid material and technological foundations for working satellite launches and operation. Kwangmyongsong-3, a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite, will be blasted off southward from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province between April 12 and 16, lifted by carrier rocket Unha-3. A safe flight orbit has been chosen so that carrier rocket debris to be generated during the flight would not have any impact on neighboring countries. The DPRK will strictly abide by relevant international regulations and usage concerning the launch of scientific and technological satellites for peaceful purposes and ensure maximum transparency, thereby contributing to promoting international trust and cooperation in the field of space scientific researches and satellite launches. The upcoming launch will greatly encourage the army and people of the DPRK in the building of a thriving nation and will offer an important occasion of putting the country’s technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage.” (KCNA, “DPRK to Launch Application Satellite,” March 16, 2012)

KCNA: “A spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology made public a statement at noon [today] that the DPRK will launch an application satellite, Kwangmyongsong-3, manufactured by local scientists and technicians. … Prof. and Dr. Ko Kyong Dal, a candidate academician, said: ‘The news about Kwangmyongsong-3, a complex of science and technology, delights me very much. The DPRK owes the rapid progress of space science and technology to the wise guidance of President Kim Il Sung and general secretary Kim Jong Il, who laid solid foundations for the nation’s science and technology and self-supporting economy. The soon-to-be-launched Kwangmyongsong-3 will fully demonstrate the mightiness and dignity of the country.’” (KCNA, “Korean People Confident of Successful Satellite Launch,” March 16, 2012)

KCNA: “A spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology announced at noon [today] that the DPRK is to launch Kwangmyongsong-3, a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite, in mid-April. The announcement delights servicepersons and people of the country. …Ri Kil Sun, a researcher of the Central Mining Research Institute under the State Academy of Sciences, said: ‘The news about satellite launch reminded me of leader Kim Jong Il’s devoted efforts. It is entirely thanks to his wise guidance that our country turned into a nuclear state and a powerful state able to manufacture and launch satellites by itself.’ Choe Man Sun, a work-team head of the Mangyongdae Aeguk Aluminum Sash Factory, said: ‘The launch of satellite will display the potentials of the domestic industry, built up by our people under the leadership of the great leader and the Workers’ Party of Korea, and the country’s scientific and technological level. The Korean people will surely lead a better life in a thriving country. The world will again witness the dignity and invincible power of Songun (military-first) Korea.’” (KCNA, “Satellite Launch to Display National Strength of Korea,” March 16, 2012)

Analysts said that the launching appeared to be part of his efforts to consolidate power, though some suggested that the sudden reversal on the agreement might be a negotiating tactic to extract more concessions or simply a miscalculation by the North Koreans. “They honestly do believe there is a disconnect between a ballistic missile launch and a satellite launch,” said Victor Cha, a senior analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Whether intended or not, the planned launching is “a pretty blatant slap in the face” to the administration, he added. The United States learned of the pending announcement on Thursday evening through North Korea’s diplomatic channel in New York. In an indication of the gravity with which the United States viewed the announcement, Glyn T. Davies, the American special representative on North Korea policy, spoke by telephone with his counterparts in Japan, China, Russia and South Korea — before dawn Washington time — to coordinate a unified response. (Choe Sang-hun and Steven Lee Myers, “North Korea Says It Plans to Launch Satellite, Imperiling U.S. Food Deal,” New York Times, March 17, 2012, p. A-8)

SecState Clinton statement: “North Korea’s announcement that it plans to conduct a missile launch in direct violation of its international obligations is highly provocative. UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874 clearly and unequivocally prohibit North Korea from conducting launches that use ballistic missile technology. Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches. We call on North Korea to adhere to its international obligations, including all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. We are consulting closely with our international partners on next steps.” (DoS, Statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, North Korean Announcement of Missile Launch, March 16, 2012)

DoS: Q: Happy Friday. On North Korea, I am wondering if it is an indication of the urgency or the concern that the Administration has about this announced satellite launch that the statement was put out at 4:47 in the morning, before – I mean, I realize it was daylight in Seoul, and it was going out there, but it has been the case in the past that statements like these have waited at least until the sun came up. Is it something of that – is that momentous that it was felt that this statement had to go out at that particular time?

NULAND: Well, let me tell you, Matt, that I did think of you at 4:20 this morning when I – (laughter) – approved the release of the statement, and I had a feeling that we would hear from you about this issue. … Q: I just want to know if it’s an indication that this is something that the Administration thinks is so serious that it warrants putting out a statement when most people are asleep – here. NULAND: Well, our concern, as you know, was that the North Koreans had put out a public statement of their own about this satellite launch, and we wanted to make absolutely clear what our views were with regard to it without much time passing from the release of their statement. So had we waited until daylight in Washington, we would have had it just sitting out there un-responded to for some five hours. NULAND: Absolutely. Q: And then just on the other technical point on this before I get into the substance is that there were what seem to be two versions of it, one of it – one in your name and one in the Secretary’s name. NULAND: Yeah. It was meant to be in my name. We had a little bit of a technical glitch when it got switched to some of the web servers who push it out on the web. They put it on the wrong header. It was intended to be in my name. Q: All right. Now, in terms of the substance or the practical issues of this announced launch, are there consequences for such an act? NULAND: Well, first, for those of you who didn’t follow what the statement said, our concern is about the stated intention of the DPRK to launch a satellite at some future date. A North Korean launch of a satellite would be highly provocative, as our statement said this morning – to remind that UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 very clearly and unequivocally require North Korea to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program, including the conduct of launches. And Resolution 1874 actually says in the text – it demands that the DPRK not conduct any further nuclear tests or any launches using ballistic missile technology. So our concern about this, as you know, coming so quickly after the Leap Day agreement for a moratorium and IAEA-style inspections or IAEA inspections is that this calls into question whether, when the DPRK entered into that agreement with us, they did so in good faith, because at the time we did warn them that we considered that a satellite launch of this kind would be an abrogation of that agreement. Q: Okay. And does that mean, though, that they were told that there would be consequences if they abrogated this – if they did not go along with this agreement? In particular, I’m wondering about the food aid because you guys have gone to great lengths to try and separate the two, the nuclear issue from the humanitarian side. And though – but at the same time, … since they took the step of linking them, is it something that you could re-think now – food aid – because they have violated their part – or announced that they are – essentially announced that they are going to violate … their part of the agreement? NULAND: Well, as you say, Matt, we make it a practice not to link humanitarian aid with any other policy issues, particularly in the case of the DPRK. And we do want to assist the North Korean people, particularly those who the regime has chosen to neglect. That said, a launch of this kind, which would abrogate our agreement, would call into question the credibility of all the commitments that the DPRK has made to us, is making in general, including the commitments that we’ve had with regard to the nutritional assistance, which go to the questions of monitoring and ensuring that any food that we would provide would go to the needy folks and not to the regime elites. In addition, were we to have a launch, it would create, obviously, tensions. And that would make the implementation of any kind of a nutritional agreement quite difficult. It would very much imperil the environment. So frankly, if they were to go forward with this launch, it’s very hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward with a regime whose word we have no confidence in and who has egregiously violated its international commitments. … Q: I’m sorry – not to move forward on food aid? NULAND: Correct. … It’s very hard to imagine that if we have a satellite launch, which would call into question their good faith and whether they keep any of the commitments that they make, that we would be able to have confidence in the monitoring arrangements that we’re trying to make with them, or that the environment would be such – would be sufficiently tension free that we could actually implement those agreements. So it’s very hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward if this launch goes on. Q: Just one last one. Have they been told this? And when did it become apparent that they – was there any heads-up given to you that the – from the North Koreans that they were going to make an announcement of this kind? Was this statement really cobbled together in the couple of hours between the announcement and – or was it ready – teed up and ready to go? And then just have the North Koreans been told what you just told us about the assistance – food aid? NULAND: Well, first of all, in the context of working on the Leap Day agreement, we made clear unequivocally that we considered that any satellite launch would be a deal-breaker. So on the front end, they understood that. … We were called yesterday. We were contacted through the New York channel and advised late in the afternoon yesterday that they were likely to move forward with this. Obviously, the individual who took that message was uninstructed at that time, but made very clear what he considered the implications of this to be. And then just a few hours afterwards, the statement was released by the North Korean news service, which was why we felt we had to respond almost immediately. Hence the notification you got at 4 o’clock in the morning. So from our perspective, there shouldn’t have been any doubt in the North Koreans’ mind before this what the implications will be if they go forward. …Q: Just to follow on enlisting (inaudible), is that you said this launching will be in violation to the resolution. But is it correct to consider this as in violation to the U.S.-DPRK agreement you made on February 29th? NULAND: It would certainly constitute an abrogation of the agreement, yes. …Q: You said that the North Korea missile launch is not a linkage with the humanitarian aid? Why not? NULAND: Well, because the humanitarian aid, from a U.S. perspective, whether it’s in North Korea or whether it’s in Africa or anywhere else in the world, is designed to meet a humanitarian need. So we don’t, anywhere in the world, explicitly link political issues with the delivery of humanitarian foodstuffs. The problem becomes, as you know, in order to get those foodstuffs in and to ensure that they get to the right people, in regimes like this, you have to work with the government. So that takes you to the question of whether you can trust the government’s word, which takes you to where I started this, that it’s – so the issues are not linked and we don’t consider them linked, but there are complications as a result of dealing with a government who, frankly, we’re just not sure now whether they’re acting in good faith.

Q: On the statement, you mentioned this is a missile launch, but you – now you say this is satellite launch, so USA is considering this as a missile launch or (inaudible) a rocket launch? NULAND: Well, the DPRK announcement talks about a satellite launch. However, as we know, it requires the use of missile technology to launch a satellite. And it’s the use of the missile technology that is an explicit violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874. So it’s a matter of semantics, whether you call it – I mean, they say they’re launching a satellite. We say you’re launching it with ballistic missile technology, which the UN Security Council resolutions have explicitly precluded. Q: Has the U.S. been in contact with Japan or Korea or any of the other Six-Party Talk members? And what’s been the substance of these conversations? NULAND: We have been. While Matt and the rest of you were being woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning, our special advisor on these issues, Glyn Davies, was on the phone to each of the Six-Party Talks counterparts. So he has now spoken with all of them by the time it was daylight in Washington. Q: Including the North Koreans? NULAND: He has not spoken to the North Koreans. The only contact with the North Koreans was the contact that we had in New York last night. Q: What’s the next step? Will you plan to contact the North Koreans through the New York channel or meet with them in person? NULAND: Well, the – obviously, in the context of the Six-Party Talks consultations that we had in the wee hours here in Washington, the agreement is for everyone to use their influence with the DPRK to encourage them not to make this launch and not to violate their international obligations and to recommit to the Leap Day agreement. We’ll see if that is the way this goes. Q: So you, then – just on food and then – and the logistics for it, it had been getting pretty close to being done, correct, after the meeting that Ambassador King had in Beijing? Does that mean you basically have put that on hold until you – until either the North Koreans say never mind, we’re not going to do this launch, or they actually do it, in which case it’s cancelled completely? I mean, how do we describe where the food aid is now? Is it pending or is it (inaudible)? NULAND: Well, I think you can certainly describe the concerns that I articulated at the beginning here about whether they’re acting in good faith, and the fact that all of those things need to be clarified. As you say, we were relatively far advanced. Ambassador King, in fact, was in Rome talking to the World Food Program about delivery and that kind of thing. But I think we’re going to take a pause here and see what happens, yeah. Q: So on hold is the best way to say —

NULAND: I think you can say that we need more reassurance now. Q: Was it naive of the Administration to have reached and then announced the February 29th agreement, given that it’s only taken about 17 days for, in your view, the North Koreans to violate it, as they have violated a great many agreements in the past? NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just say that they have announced that they may have a launch, or that they will have a launch. They have not actually had that launch, so we all need to encourage them to change course. Remember, Arshad that the agreement that was reached on Leap Day was something that we had been talking about on the nuclear side since August, and we had been through three rounds of direct talks, U.S.-DPRK. We had had other members of the Six-Party working with the DPRK for those kinds of commitments. So there was nothing rushed or un-thought through about that agreement from our perspective. It took a long time to work through, and then, of course, we had a change of – death of the leader and change of leadership in the middle there. I think that our expectation, obviously, on Leap Day, when we issued our statement and the DPRK issued their statement, that the DPRK’s statement was representative of the full intentions of the regime, and that we could move forward on that basis. Obviously, at the time, the Secretary made clear that it was just a first step, that it had to be tested, that we had to get the IAEA in there to verify the various aspects of the moratorium that they had committed to. So at no time did we consider that this was a done deal or clear sailing and it was only a first step. But obviously, it’s of concern that we worked so hard together on these parallel statements, that we thought that that would be a good first step to getting ourselves back to a solid conversation with the DPRK about meeting its international obligations. And they understood from the beginning that a move like this would not be in keeping with that. Q: My question wasn’t whether it was rushed or whether it was not considered, because obviously, it did take a long time and I’m sure you did consider it. The question, I think, is more what is the utility of this particular agreement, given the history that the North Koreans have of violating many agreements that they have reached, notably the agreed framework, even more strikingly, the September 2005 agreement … to abandon all their nuclear programs, which was of course followed by a nuclear – their first nuclear test. NULAND: Well, I think it’s particularly – given that history, that we were so intent when the two statements were issued to say, “good first step,” but it has to be tested. The moratorium has to be real, the IAEA has to get in there to verify it, and only thereafter will we be able to decide what this means about the prospect of getting back to Six-Party, et cetera. Even on leap day itself, nobody was sort of jumping for joy and predicting that this was a massive turning of the page. That said, I think, obviously, the statement that we had today from the DPRK was – as I said, it’s really difficult to figure out how we move forward from here. Q: What about the logistical talks and meetings that were taking place? Has everybody just been told to stand down? NULAND: Well again, I think the stage that we were at was we were working with the IAEA on how they might plan for their trip to inspect. That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense until we get a little bit more clarity, but we’ll see. On the nutritional assistance side, we were working with the World Food Program and others on how the monitoring agreement might be implemented, who might actually deliver. So, as I said, we need to take some breath here and see what happens. Q: I’m sorry, what is it – what doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense? NULAND: I said it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that in the context of the potential that this deal might be abrogated that we would expect the IAEA to be getting on a plane now. So I think we need to talk to them, and we need to continue to talk to our Six-Party partners. Q: Why isn’t there a utility, even if they have said that they will violate one aspect of the agreement, why is there not utility … which would give you IAEA boots on the ground, which is something that the U.S. Government generally thinks is useful? NULAND: Well, it is a good point, Arshad. And I think we need to review all of those options as we go forward here. But all of us were woken up by this in the middle of the night, so we need to think about what makes sense. Q: Toria, just one kind of general question: This – it’s a new regime, a new administration in North Korea. Is there any way that this was handled – it is different from the way North Korea has handled things before? Anything that seemed a little odd? You’re saying it doesn’t seem to make sense, you’re not quite sure. We’ve heard phrases like that before, but is it the same modus operandi? …NULAND: I don’t think I have any particular – or we have at this point any particular insight into what may or may not have changed in the inner workings. You know how that – how closed that system is. … I mean I don’t think that there was anything particularly different as our envoy Ambassador Davies has said. Many of the individuals that were working on aspects of this deal in August were the same ones that we worked with in February. They’ve got the institutional memory on the DPRK side, but obviously, there’s a question of what is going on in Pyongyang. Q: In the past when they’ve – when you’ve been doing these deals, they never announce anything like a missile launch in the middle of the deal. So what do you think it means that he – they actually went ahead and announced this just as you are on the cusp of finishing the food aid deal? NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position to analyze their motives. These are questions to be asked of them. But from our perspective, obviously, it’s of concern and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.” (DoS Daily Briefing, Spokesman Victoria Nuland, March 16, 2012)

China`s state-run media Xinhua reported late Friday that Chinese Foreign Vice Minister Zhang Zhijun “expressed concern” over the North’s plan to launch its Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite in talks with North Korean ambassador to Beijing Ji Jae Ryong. Zhang said, “China is paying keen attention to North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite and the world`s response,” adding, “China believes that maintaining stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia is the joint responsibility of the parties concerned and serves their common interests.” Thus, the Chinese official effectively expressed Beijing’s internal discontent to Ji by using terms such as “concern” and “joint responsibility.” Experts had predicted the possibility of China changing its stance, citing the proverb, “A mistakes should not be repeated three times.” More voices are urging Beijing to take a stern stance against Pyongyang`s third attempt at a “satellite gamble.” An expert in Beijing said, “Chinese authorities didn’t call in the North Korean ambassador when the North announced its two previous satellite launches,” adding, “It means that China perceives the planned launch as a grave incident, and that Pyongyang held no prior consultations with Beijing whatsoever.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “China Genuinely Angry over NK’s Latest Launch Threat,” March 19, 2012)

Despite rising cross-border tension, the trade between South and North Korea surged 36 percent from a year ago to $320 million in the first two months of this year, government data showed. (Yonhap, “Inter-Korean Trade Surges 36% This Year,” March 16, 2012)


3/18/12:
North Korea has told the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization that its first stage of a rocket it is to fire next month will land in waters 140 km west of Byeonsan Peninsula and the second 190 km east of the Philippines. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea Tells Int’l Agency of Rocket Launch Plan,” March 19, 2012)


3/19/12:
North Korea invited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor the country’s nuclear facilities, Ri Yong-ho, vice foreign minister and chief nuclear envoy, told reporters after a meeting with Wu Dawei, China’s special representative on Korean Peninsula Affairs. The IAEA confirmed it received the invitation from the North on March 16, saying it will meet with Pyongyang and talk to “other related parties” on the details of the inspection. However, “Nothing has been decided yet,” said IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor. Speaking on the North’s recent disclosure of a satellite launch planned for mid-April, the vice foreign minister said it is “a different matter” from the bilateral agreement. (Yonhap, “N.K. Invites IAEA Inspectors to Monitor Nuclear Facilities,” North Korea Newsletter, No. 202, March 22, 2012)

Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki said he is considering giving an order to the Self-Defense Forces to destroy the rocket-mounted satellite North Korea is preparing to launch next month should it pass over Japan. ”I am thinking of ordering the SDF to shoot down (the rocket),” Tanaka told a parliament session, referring to what actions the SDF would take in the event it becomes likely the rocket will pass through Japan’s skies. (Kyodo, “Japan Mulls Shooting down N. Korea Rocket, If It Passes over Territory,” March 19, 2012)

KCNA: “The South Korean puppet forces are busy with an odd smear campaign over the issue of DPRK’s launch of Kwangmyongsong-3. Afloat on Saturday [March 17] alone were rumors aimed to disturb negotiations between the DPRK and the U.S. Dong-A Ilbo said “the north reduced the north Korea-U.S. agreement to a scrap of paper in 15 days”. Kukmin Ilbo asserted “this is little short of violating the agreement reached at the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks even before the ink of their signature was dry” and KBS noted “this showed the north’s will to take initiative, while boosting its negotiating power”, etc. Then why are they claiming the satellite to be launched by the DPRK is an inter-continental ballistic missile and it is a violation of the agreement reached at the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks on February 29? This can be explained by the political aims sought by the Lee Myung Bak “government” nearing its end. The Lee group cannot but feel afraid of the results of dialogue and negotiations between the DPRK and U.S. more than anything else. It is seized with uneasiness for fear that it may be forsaken by its master, finding itself with no one to relay on, and may be elbowed out even in the discussion of the regional issues. It was against this backdrop that the puppet forces seized the DPRK’s announcement of its projected launch of satellite as a golden chance to egg the U.S. neo-conservative forces on to drive the DPRK-U.S. talks into a collapse and cling again to the coattails of their U.S. master. This can be proved by their unusual propaganda claiming that “the DPRK’s satellite launch is a provocative plan contrary to the points agreed upon between the north and the U.S.” and “the possibility of dialogue and negotiations is doubtful.” This is no more than a petty trick of the stupid and ignorant guys. Explicitly speaking, the DPRK’s launch of satellite has nothing to do with the above-said agreement. The DPRK has already decided to put moratorium on nuclear test, long-range missile launch and uranium enrichment in Yongbyon while fruitful talks are under way and allow the IAEA to monitor it. It opened to the public its plan for the launch on the basis of the legitimate rights of all countries to use outer space for peaceful purposes and sent necessary information to international organizations according to the international regulations and procedures. The DPRK’s plan for satellite launch poses no problem as it is prompted by its noble desire to put the country’s up-to-the-minute science and technology on a higher level and thus reinforce the mainstay for building a socialist power and make a contribution to prosperity of the Korean nation and that common to humankind. The launch of the working satellite is an issue fundamentally different from that of a long-range missile. More than 100 space vehicles are put into the orbit around the earth by carrier rockets in a year on an average worldwide. How can the puppet and other hostile forces explain this fact. High vigilance is required against their false propaganda. In the past, the hostile forces floated story about “suspected uranium enrichment” in a bid to scuttle the DPRK-U.S. dialogue and render the situation extremely tense and this compelled the DPRK to have access to nukes. This lesson taught by history should not be forgotten. The DPRK’s sovereignty and right to existence can be firmly guaranteed by itself.” (KCNA, “DPRK Satellite Launch Not Contradictory to US-DPRK Agreement,” March 19, 2012)


3/20/12:
Kim Gye-gwan letter to Glyn Davies: “Dear Ambassador Davies, I was very disappointed of the US counter position dated March 21st, 2012. The DPRK had taken part in the last three round of the DPRK-US high level bilateral talks and moved very quickly for implementing the February 29 Agreement. Early this month in Beijing, our side displayed the maximum magnanimity and archived an agreement in the working meeting on the DPRK-US nutrition assistance. We also suggested the IAEA to hold a technical meeting to discuss ways of moratorium on our uranium enrichment and invited its officials. Our relevant agency had already entered technical preparation works to stop the operation of centrifuges at the Yongbyon uranium enrichment plant. Nonetheless, the US side took counter measures in haste to suspend the implementation of the DPRK-US bilateral deal, blaming our peaceful satellite launch as a violation of the deal, which is regarded as an action without discretion and fairness. The DPRK needs badly exploring and using the space science and technology for its economic construction and thus it can not be deprived of and abandoned. We have never hided or lied about it. Since the first round of the DPRK-US high level bilateral talks, I had made very clear that the moratorium on long range missile launch did not include our peaceful satellite launch and that provided us with a fundamental base for our deal. In order to show our sincerity and transparency that our launch does not aim at aggravating the situation and breaking the deal but at resolving our peaceful necessity on the occasion of the DPRK’s greatest national holiday, we invited satellite experts exceptionally from countries with advanced space exploration including the US to visit the launching station. The US should not judge our peaceful satellite launch as a ballistic missile fire a view of confrontation and should send its experts at our invitation to the launching station and let them have an chance to see the launching and operation with their own eyes and make objective and fair assessment on our intention unless it has any hostile intend as affirmed in the DPRK-US deal. We are concerned of the US decision to suspend the nutrition assistance process because it is a clear violation of a core element of the DPRK-US deal. We recall the US policy not to link humanitarian aids with politics and US side had mentioned that the nutrition assistance was the “irreversible step” in the previous talks. The US should not take a very indiscrete and unfair measure of stopping the nutrition aids unless it hopes to break all items of the deal with our peaceful satellite launch. It is our position that our satellite launching is totally separate matter from the DPRK-US agreement and DPRK is in a position to implement to the end. Regarding this, I would be willing to meet you at the earliest dates in Beijing or other convenient place to explain our position personally and discuss ways to control the situation following the launch. Your response on this suggestion would be highly appreciated. Sincerely, Kim Gye Gwan” (Nelson Report, April 9, 2012)

A senior Chinese diplomat said China has conveyed its concern over a plan of the DPRK to launch a satellite in April. Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Luo Zhaohui made the remarks at a press briefing here on Tuesday. According to Luo, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei met with DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho on March 19. Senior diplomats Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu have also kept in contact with all relevant sides. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said senior diplomats also exchanged views with ambassadors from DPRK, Russia, the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan. “China has expressed its stance and concern to all sides, and urged them to keep calm and restrained,” Luo said, adding the stability of DPRK is in all sides’ interests. Luo also called on the United States and DPRK to cherish the consensus they reached in February, saying that is the “dawn of peace” on the Korean Peninsula. “We hope the two sides will maintain contact and dialogue, and cherish the consensus,” Luo said. Hong also urged all relevant sides to make joint efforts for an appropriate handling of current situation. “It is in all sides’ interests to maintain the peace and stability in Northeast Asia and along the Korean Peninsula. This is also their common responsibility,” Hong said. (Xinhua, “China Expresses Concern over DPRK Satellite Launch,” March 20, 2012)

Evans Revere: “Last week was not the first time that the DPRK spoke of its plans to launch a satellite. I first became aware of this possibility on December 15, 2011, during an exchange with a DPRK official. The official spoke at length about the DPRK’s “sovereign right” to conduct such launches and warned that any U.S. effort to interfere with or oppose this plan would make the DPRK even more determined to carry it out. My North Korean interlocutor was well aware that a launch would violate a series of UN Security Council resolutions and would lead to serious consequences. This conversation convinced me that the DPRK was determined to carry out a launch in the near future. The Obama administration had already heard similar statements from North Korean counterparts, and had already delivered a strong warning to the DPRK. The warning included specific statements that a launch would violate of the U.S.-DPRK understandings that eventually resulted in the Leap Day agreement. Equally or even more important, my conversation took place three days before the death of Kim Jong-il. It thus seems likely that the decision to announce a launch had already been taken by the now-deceased Kim. After his death, the only question that remained was when to announce it. Why did Pyongyang make the launch announcement? Chinese officials believe that the DPRK made this decision for internal political reasons, and this judgment seems entirely credible. Domestic priorities, and particularly managing the succession of Kim Jong-un, have driven much of North Korea’s internal and external behavior since Kim Jong-il’s stroke in the summer of 2008. The North believed that announcing the launch would reaffirm the power and authority of Kim Jong-un, and perhaps help celebrate the conferring of additional titles on the young successor anticipated at a Korean Workers’ Party meeting in April. A launch would also elevate the North’s national prestige (at least in its own eyes), please the military, and provide a dramatic statement commemorating the centennial of Kim Il-sung’s birth. Moreover, if the decision to conduct a launch had been made on Kim Jong-il’s watch, his son and successor was in no position to reverse that decision. Why did the North Koreans think they could get away with a satellite launch, especially since they were in the midst of negotiations with the U.S. that would be put at risk by the announcement? The North Korean calculation probably consisted of two elements. Pyongyang may have convinced itself that the United States was so eager to impose a freeze on the North’s medium- and long-range missile program (and therefore reduce its threat) that Washington would accept the North’s assertion that satellite launches are not missile launches. Pyongyang may also have believed that the United States would not walk away from the Leap Day deal, since it had the potential to lead to a negotiation that would freeze and eventually dismantle significant parts of the North’s nuclear weapons program. Despite the DPRK’s frequent profession of its commitment to the “goal” of denuclearization, the DPRK has been consistently reminding U.S. interlocutors that it intends to keep its nuclear weapons capability for a long time to come. During the recent visit to New York of DPRK Vice Foreign Minster Ri Yong-ho, he said nothing to contradict this.” (Evans Revere, “North Korea: There They Go Again,” Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, Brookings Institution, March 20, 2012)


3/21/12:
North Korea had notified the U.S. about its plan to launch a satellite using long-range missile technology on December 17, days before the death of its leader Kim Jong-il, and said it would launch a satellite in commemoration of the 100th year of its late founder Kim Il-sung’s birth. An expert said the North’s behavior came out of immaturity, rather than any complicated strategy. Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said the North’s decision to launch a satellite after its deal with the U.S. shows new leader Kim Jong-un’s immature diplomacy. “If North Korea wanted something more effective, the agreement should have come later than the announcement of the satellite launch,” Cheong told Korea Herald, adding that he agreed with the view that North Korea had thought about launching Kwangmyongsong-3 a long time ago. “The decision dealt a heavy blow to the credibility of the Kim Jong-un regime. The North will not have much room to maneuver in future negotiations with the U.S. and it will not be able to expect nutritional assistance either,” he said. (Kim Yoon-mi, “’N.K. Told U.S. about Satellite Plan Last Year,’” Korea Herald, March 21, 2012)

KCNA: “The Korean nation has ardently wished to see the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at an early date as it has been exposed to a more direct nuclear threat for such a long period than any other nation in the world. However, this ardent desire and wish are facing a new grave challenge due to the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors’ policy of confrontation with the DPRK and moves to provoke a nuclear war. The south Korean puppet authorities are getting evermore undisguised in their moves to turn “the nuclear security summit” to be held in Seoul into a confab on a nuclear racket against the DPRK. Coming to the surface is their attempt to put the “nuclear issue in the north” on the agenda of the summit in the wake of such reckless remarks that “the summit is of particularly weighty significance for south Korea being exposed to a nuclear threat” and “it is the first process for building a world free from nukes.” Lee Myung Bak on March 19 let loose sheer sophism that “the summit may play a big role in expanding the international community’s support for the denuclearization of the north,” disclosing his ulterior motive. Kim Song Hwan, puppet minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Rim Song Nam, puppet chief delegate to the six-party talks, and others who are responsible for discussing the issue of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula are floating wild rumors that “there may be speeches on the north’s nuclear issue,” “written statements may be presented” and “there may be a message urging the north to scrap nuclear substance” at the summit. Also heard from the conservative media are outbursts echoing the puppet authorities’ claims that “the nuclear issue of the north is likely to be addressed in depth” and “the parties concerned to the six-party talks will address the nuclear issue of the north in an intensive manner.” Worse still, even an idea of working out a draft “Seoul communiqué” on the premise of “nuclear threat from the north” is high on the agenda. This clearly testifies to the fact that the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors is set to use the forthcoming international forum as a lever for confrontation with the DPRK by availing itself of its position as a host. The Seoul “nuclear security summit” is a continuation and extension of the group’s frantic anti-DPRK nuclear racket. The DPRK has already clarified its principle stand over this issue and made it clear that international norms are strictly observed in storing and managing nuclear substance. What should be stated emphatically is that the issue of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is that of denuclearizing the whole peninsula. Accordingly, “the north’s nuclear issue” has never existed, in fact, and there is no justification to bring it up for discussion at the summit. The Lee group’s persistent efforts to place “the north’s nuclear issue” on the agenda of the Seoul “summit” are nothing but a revelation of its sinister attempt to justify its moves for a nuclear war against the DPRK and a curtain-raiser to the worldwide politically-motivated farce to divert elsewhere public criticism of it and escape a miserable defeat in the forthcoming “election.” It is a ridiculous attempt and an absolutely unpardonable criminal act for Lee Myung Bak, traitor for all ages, to bring someone’s “nuclear issue” up for discussion. The Lee group is foolish enough to use the “summit” as a card for justifying its military threat and moves for a nuclear war against the DPRK. Crying out for “coping with the north’s possible terrorism by biological weapons and its attack to disturb GPS”, the group had already staged such war drills as “combined protection drills of civilians, officials, military and police forces” and “combined drill to combat terrorism.” Kim Kwan Jin, puppet minister of Defense, even issued an order “to shower a ten-fold retaliatory fire” in case the north provokes. He cried out for “retaliating against the north till its full surrender in the spirit of taking revenge upon it for the sunken ‘Cheonan’ warship and the Yeonpyeong Island shelling case.” Jong Sung Jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also issued an order to “take prompt strong retaliatory strikes.” He said the north should be forced to “deeply regret for its action.” The Lee group is keen to use the “summit” as a curtain-raiser to its nuclear war against the DPRK. The DPRK cannot but take a serious note of this fact. No one can vouch that Lee would not use the “summit” for achieving his sinister aim as he left no means untried to bedevil the inter-Korean relations in the past. (KCNA, “DPRK Will Regard Any Provocation as Declaration of War: KCNA,” March 21, 2012)

Washington has suspended plans to send a team to North Korea to search for U.S. the remains of US soldiers who died in the North Korean. The plans were cancelled after Pyongyang’s rocket launch announcement, a Pentagon spokesperson said on March 21. Asked about the planned visit at a news conference, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said, “We have suspended that effort because we believe that North Korea has not acted appropriately in recent days and weeks and that it’s important for them to return to standards of behavior that the international community has called for.” He added that North Korea was aware of the decision and the reason for it. (Kwon, Tae-ho, “The Washington-Pyongyang Plot Thickens,” Hankyore, March 22, 2012)

Nelson Report: On whether the DPRK understood it was promising no missile shoot of any kind … this from a Highly Informed Observer who must be protected: “Chris, reading through last night’s Report, I feel compelled to add a quick comment. I think that “what we should do about this situation” depends a lot on what happened in the negotiation, and therefore your examination of that issue was relevant. With a new regime in Pyongyang, the U.S. perhaps gave the North a bit too much benefit of the doubt with regard to our mutual understanding in the Leap Day Deal. We agreed to word statements publicly in a way that would make it easier for each country to explain to relevant audiences, but there was absolutely no lack of clarity with regard to our agreement re: the missile moratorium. The North clearly agreed that “missile moratorium” included satellite launches, suggesting that whatever they might have been planning before, it would be put on hold as long as the US held up its end of the bargain. This was quickly briefed to our allies, China and Russia after the deal … all the capitals understood this. North Korea’s bold faced lie to the U.S. (the most blatant I’ve ever seen in an international negotiation) is the key story here. Either the negotiators lied to our face, or they were kept completely out of the loop … and either way it fundamentally undermined everything we agreed to … everything (i.e., the North’s assurances on food aid monitoring, and other recent agreements we’ve made with them). Given this, we have no choice but to suspend activities that rely on North Korean assurances of future compliance. The new leadership in Pyongyang has quickly and completely squandered what little credibility it had left, and it gets very little in return. This strikes me as a somewhat desperate act for short-term domestic political gain, and I think Pyongyang is the big loser in this over all. If the North wants to invite IAEA inspectors in, then we should let that go forward, but if the North wants to dis-invite them and blame the U.S., then all I can say is that most informed people will see this situation for what it is … North Korean deflection of responsibility for a fiasco that is entirely of its own making … “And on the missile itself we were frankly dismayed to hear an Administration official involved in the policy discussion argue, in a private meeting today, that the Nelson Report shouldn’t use the word “missile” to describe the announced satellite “launch vehicle”. The thinking apparently was/is that “missile” is somehow misleading as to intent, and thus potentially robs the Administration of flexibility in response. We don’t think this person’s views are widely shared within the Administration, but they may well reflect what some may try to argue as a reason for the US not to insist that if the satellite is launched, it is a clear and legal violation of the existing UN sanctions, as well as the 2/29 bilateral agreement. Every missile expert we know says the “launch vehicle” distinction is balderdash, and it just happens that former State Dept. nuclear and non-proliferation expert, now consultant Chris Kessler, was weighing-in on this very topic via e-mail last night: “I’m seriously puzzled by the claims of some of your other Loyal Readers that there is a difference between a ballistic missile & a space launch vehicle. Some sound uninformed, but some sound ideological. The simple fact is that in both cases, the ‘vehicle’ (to use neutral terms for a moment) puts a payload (whether a satellite or a bomb of some sort) on a trajectory in space. Depending on how the (normally) 3rd stage of the “vehicle” is programmed. That may be “up” into orbit or “over” or “across” if delivering a weapon to a different point on earth. There is no/no mechanical difference between the “vehicle” used for one purpose and the “vehicle” used for the other purpose. There is a difference in the “driving directions” given to this “vehicle.” Where there are serious differences mechanically & otherwise is in the payload — a payload coming back to earth must obviously be packaged in such a way that it will survive the heat & vibration loads created by re-entering the atmosphere. A satellite is not designed to suffer those re-entry indignities. There are also differences in the shroud and mounting assembly attached to the terminal stage of the “vehicle” — but this is a simple matter of how you attach the payload to the “vehicle” so that it gets delivered correctly when it reaches the delivery (separation) point in space. The “vehicle” does not propel the weapon back to earth, it lets gravity and atmospheric friction to that, & the separation point was selected so that those forces would bring it back where intended. Basically, the way to think about this is that the “vehicle” is a truck. You put a box on the back, and it’s a U-Haul van, you put a platform on the back and it’s a Home Depot rental delivery vehicle. But it’s the same truck, and can be converted from one use to the other without changing the truck itself. And it goes where the driver (computer or person) is programmed to go. Whether North Korea has a right to launch a satellite, as opposed to test a weapon delivery missile, is a legal issue, not a technical one. And that question has been well documented by some of you Loyal Readers. The USG did not make this up. Accusations that this is really only about a bilateral promise is purely ideological — it falls under the freedom of speech that some of us spent careers defending. That means it’s okay to argue, but it does not make it substantively correct.” (The Nelson Report, March 21, 2012)


3/22/12:
The U.N. nuclear watchdog said it had begun talks with North Korea over Pyongyang’s invitation for it to visit the country, three years after its inspectors were expelled from the reclusive Asian state. North Korea’s invitation to the International Atomic Energy Agency appeared to be an attempt to show it was serious about a nuclear moratorium deal with the United States last month even though it drew international condemnation last week for saying it would launch a long-range rocket carrying a satellite. “I can confirm that the IAEA has started consultations with the DPRK about its invitation,” agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an e-mailed response to a question. (Fredrik Dahl, “U.N. Nuclear Agency Starts Talks with North Korea over Visit,” Reuters, March 22, 2012)

Siegfried Hecker, a professor at Stanford University, said, “North Korea argues that launching long-range rockets is its legitimate right but is the only country in the world to think so.” He was speaking to The Dong-A Ilbo at the 2012 Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference in South Korea`s largest port city of Busan. “The North’s (planned) long-range rocket launch makes a mockery of the February 29 North Korea-U.S. agreement,” he added. Dong-A: In Beijing on Monday [3/12], North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho claimed that the February 29 agreement and the North’s planned satellite launch are separate issues and thus denied a violation of the agreement with the U.S. Do you agree? Hecker: A rocket launch uses the same technology as a missile launch. North Korea is banned from using the technology due to U.N. sanctions. In the February 29 agreement, the North promised not to launch missiles. It seems to me that its claim is outrageous and makes a mockery of the agreement. Had the North not developed nuclear weapons, it would’ve had the right to launch rockets. But trying to launch a rocket while possessing nuclear weapons is in violation of U.N. regulations. It’s preposterous.” Dong-A: If the North planned to launch a rocket in advance, why did it agree on the February 29 pact? Does this indicate conflict between hawks and moderates (in the North)? Hecker: I cannot comment on political questions. Dong-A: Despite the planned rocket launch, North Korea said it will agree to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Hecker: The February 29 agreement announced by the U.S. mentions the monitoring of the North’s nuclear facilities and verification by international inspectors, while the North’s version cites only monitoring. It is unclear exactly what the agreement meant. While the February 29 accord is important, it’s not enough because the North probably has more enrichment facilities other than those in Yongbyon. If we go back to the timetable, the enrichment facilities in Yongbyon weren’t even ready for operation when the North announced in 2010 that it had succeeded in uranium enrichment. That’s why there’s no choice but to consider that the North has other facilities. North Korea will likely invite inspectors to use them as witnesses for its claim that it has no highly enriched uranium but merely low enriched uranium necessary for nuclear power plants. Iran did the same in the past. Dong-A: It has been a year and a half since North Korea announced its centrifuges. How much has it been able to increase its nuclear arsenal since then? Hecker: It’s hard to say exactly how many nuclear weapons the North has because I don’t know how many centrifuges it has. What is clear is that the North has more facilities other than those in Yongbyon and will produce highly enriched uranium there. Even if the North invites international inspectors, it will never show them the facilities. Since North Korea probably has nuclear weapons already, it must be prevented from launching additional missiles, conducting additional nuclear tests, and producing additional centrifuges. Dong-A: Why does North Korea plan to launch a long-range rocket? Does it mean that it is in the final stage of making a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on a missile?” Hecker: Not necessarily, but there is a risk. If the North possesses nuclear warheads, it can pose a threat to any country in the world. Therefore, the North must be stopped from conducting a third nuclear test. As it did in 2009 when it launched the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite, Pyongyang could conduct another nuclear test after launching a long-range rocket. I’m not concerned about the rocket launch per se but about nuclear warheads being made smaller through a nuclear test. In October 2010 (when the North held a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the ruling North Korean Workers` Party), a month before the North invited me, it showed its Musudan mobile missile (SS-N-6). The missile is modeled after a Soviet model mounted on a submarine. If a nuclear warhead is mounted on the missile, it will be very threatening. Dong-A: Do you plan to visit North Korea again? Hecker: No. North Korea didn’t invite me. Dong-A: Do you think that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons? Hecker: I am pessimistic over the short term but optimistic over the long term. North Korea will ultimately abandon its nuclear weapons if it learns that the gains from giving up its nuclear weapons are bigger than gains from keeping them. Look at how the North took one step ahead with the February 29 agreement and then took another backward. It claims its right to peacefully use outer space and launch satellites, but only North Korea thinks so while no other country in the world does.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “U.S. Export: N. Korea Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Test Missiles,” March 22, 2012)

South Korean and U.S. officials now believe that North Korea has set its sights since last year on test firing a long-range missile on the centenary of Kim Il-sung on April 15, and that its pledge of a moratorium on missile launches in an agreement with Washington in February was a cynical ploy to extract aid. The officials at first thought the announcement of what the North claims is a satellite launch was the result of pressure by hardliners in North Korea’s military, who were opposed to the agreement with the U.S., but that theory does not stand up to close scrutiny. The main reason is that the rocket launch takes a lot of preparation. A diplomatic source in Washington said Wednesday [March 21], “North Korea seems to have set its sights on launching the rocket in December last year, before North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death.” A government official here said, “Looking at the way North Korea said it would allow IAEA inspectors to visit the Yongbyon nuclear facility, [which it promised in the February agreement with Washington], right after it announced the satellite launch, there is a strong chance that it has been planned for a long time.” (Reuters, “N. Korean Rocket Launch ‘Long and Carefully Planned,’” Chosun Ilbo, March 22, 2012)

South Korea expects to reach agreement with the United States in the near future to allow Seoul to possess or develop ballistic missiles that can reach deeper into North Korea. “It is for defense against North Korean attacks at times of contingencies that we say we need to expand our missile range,” President Lee Myung-bak was quoted as saying during an interview published in Dong-A Ilbo. “We need an appropriate range.” Under a pact with the U.S., first signed in 1979 and revised in 2001, the range of South Korean ballistic missiles is limited to 300 kilometers and their payload weight to 500 kilograms. Seoul has sought to revise the agreement to match the range of missiles in the North Korean arsenal. “Various realities and circumstances have changed,” Lee said of the need for revising the agreement. Lee said the U.S. views Seoul’s demand as “fairly reasonable” and he believes the sides will be able to reach agreement in the near future, but gave no specific time frame. “If North Korea attacks with missiles, they can reach even the (southern) island of Jeju. Therefore, we need to be symmetrical,” Lee said. “There is an understanding between the South and the U.S. that it is right to extend our missile range to an appropriate level.” A presidential official said Seoul and Washington have been in talks on the missile range, but no specifics have been finalized. A South Korean government official said on condition of anonymity that the two allies could begin specific consultations on the missile range next month. (Yonhap, “Lee Says S. Korea, U.S. expected to Reach Agreement on Extended Missile Range: Report,” March 22, 2012)


3/23/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The DPRK’s preparations for launching Kwangmyongsong-3, an earth observation satellite, by its own efforts and with its indigenous technology have entered a full-fledged stage of action. The projected launch of the working satellite is a gift to be presented by the Korean people to the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung while entering the gate to a thriving nation and a work for implementing the behest of leader Kim Jong Il. It has become a law-governed requirement of the age of latest science and technology and a worldwide trend to launch and use a working satellite urgently needed for the country’s economic development. In order to prove the peaceful nature of a scientific and technological satellite launch in a transparent manner the DPRK invited experienced experts of space development institutions and media persons of the world to observe the course of the launch. The DPRK’s launch of the working satellite is an exercise of an independent and legitimate right pursuant to universally accepted international laws on peaceful use of space including the Space Treaty which reflects the general will of the international community which stands above the UNSC resolution. If the DPRK is not allowed to launch a satellite because such technology of ballistic missile as that of long-range missile is used, it will be deprived of the right to satellite launch for good. It is intolerable double standards for some countries to assert that the DPRK only is not allowed to launch satellites while they are launching them as commonplace events. They should not make an excessive reaction to the DPRK’s satellite launch for peaceful purposes from their viewpoint of confrontation but fairly and calmly accept it as it is. This will amount to proving in practice their commitment that they have no hostile will toward the DPRK. The DPRK’s satellite launch is an issue quite different from the February 29 DPRK-U.S. agreement. The DPRK had already consistently clarified at the three rounds of the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks that the satellite launch is not included in the long-range missile launch. The DPRK remains unchanged in its stand to sincerely implement the DPRK-U.S. agreement. We have already invited a delegation of the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss the procedures to verify the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities and are coming to sincere understanding for implementing the agreement with the U.S. side. For the U.S. to find fault with the DPRK’s satellite launch for peaceful purposes is laying hurdles in the way of implementing the agreement as it is contrary to the September 19 joint statement and the spirit of respect for sovereignty and equality of the DPRK-U.S. agreement based on it. If there will be any sinister attempt to deprive the DPRK of its independent and legitimate right and put the unreasonable double standards upon it, this will inevitably compel the DPRK to take counter-measures. The DPRK does not wish to see the repetition of vicious cycle of such confrontation and escalated tension. It is the expectation of the DPRK that its sincere efforts to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and realize its denuclearization through dialogue and negotiations will get due response from the parties concerned.” (KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman on Launch of Working Satellite,” March 23, 2012)

So far, Pyongyang can only deliver a nuclear bomb “by boat, by van or by airplane, not by missile,” according to scientist Siegfried Hecker of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. While it has enough plutonium for about four to eight “simple” bombs similar to what the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki in 1945, Hecker estimates, it doesn’t yet appear to have the ability to make bombs small enough to mount on a missile. Miniaturized warheads would require more nuclear tests, and Hecker warns that if North Korea breaks its nuclear test moratorium, “it will almost certainly be a test of a miniaturized design.” Governments and experts are worried that a new rocket launch will spur a chain of events that will mirror 2009, resulting in a breakdown of diplomacy, another nuclear test and soaring tensions, threats and bloodshed. Hecker said a rocket launch “makes a mockery” of the U.S.-North Korea nuclear deal. “You use the same technology in long-range rockets that you do in long-range missiles,” he said. “The only difference is what you put on top.” The new rocket will probably have better boosters and engines — and might even succeed in putting a satellite into space if it contains one, said Son Young-hwan, a South Korean rocket scientist who heads the privately funded Institute of Technology and Management Analysis in Seoul. North Korea may have loaded the rocket’s third stage with more fuel to increase capability, Wright said by email, part of improvements that “would translate to greater range if that technology was used to build a long-range ballistic missile.” (Foster Klug, “North Korea’s Planned Rocket Test: Why It Matters,” Associated Press, March 23, 2012)


3/24/12:
A senior US official has warned North Korea’s upcoming missile launch would be aimed south for the first time and impact in an area “roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.” Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, delivered the message in person to Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. “If the missile test proceeds as North Korea has indicated, our judgment is that it will impact in an area roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines,” Campbell was quoted as saying. “We have never seen this trajectory before. We have weighed into each of these countries and asked them to make clear that such a test is provocative and this plan should be discontinued.” (AFP, “U.S. Warns N. Korea Missile Aimed South,” March 24, 2012)


3/25/12:
President Barack Obama issued a warning to North Korea about its planned long-range rocket launch, saying the provocative move will deepen its isolation, hurt relations with neighboring countries and harm the prospects of future negotiations. “I’ll simply say North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or by provocations,” Obama said during a joint news conference after summit talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. “North Korea knows its obligations and must take irreversible steps to meet those obligations.” Obama also said North Korea should understand “bad behavior will not be rewarded.” Obama also said North Korea “still appears unsettled” after the death of Kim Jong-il, and it is “unclear who is calling the shots” and “what their long-term objectives are.” Obama arrived in Seoul earlier in the day for summit talks with Lee and for a global anti-nuclear terrorism conference. Lee also urged the North to call off the planned rocket launch, saying that Seoul and Washington will deal sternly with “any North Korean threats and provocations.” “The two countries agreed that North Korea’s announcement of a planned long-range rocket launch is a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution and an agreement between the United States and North Korea,” Lee said. “Therefore, we concurred that North Korea should immediately withdraw the planned launch and abide by its international obligations.” (Yonhap, “Obama Warns N. Korea Will Face Deeper Isolation If It Presses ahead with Rocket Launch,” March 25, 2012)

OBAMA: “We discussed regional security, and that obviously includes the issue of North Korea. Last month, North Korea agreed to a series of steps, including a moratorium on long-range missile launches. This month, North Korea announced its intention to conduct a missile launch. As President Lee mentioned, this would constitute a direct violation of Pyongyang’s own commitments and its international obligations. Moreover, it would only deepen North Korea’s isolation, damage further its relations with its neighbors, and seriously undermine the prospect of future negotiations. I’ll have more to say in my speech tomorrow about our commitment to security and peace on the Korean Peninsula and the choice Pyongyang must make. Today, I’ll simply say that North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or by provocations. North Korea knows its obligations, and it must take irreversible steps to meet those obligations. On this, the United States and the Republic of Korea are absolutely united. … Q. A question going out to President Lee. As predicted, you just explained that you and President Obama discussed the issue of North Korea’s impending rocket launch. But despite the international community’s warnings, how will you respond if North Korea goes ahead and test-fires its long-range missile? What will Korea do? What kind of sanctions are you planning to impose on North Korea? And could you explain the status of the negotiations regarding extending the missile range of South Korea? In a recent press interview you spoke about the fact that discussions are proceeding between the U.S. and Korea regarding extending the missile range of South Korea. Can you explain the status of the negotiations? LEE: Thank you. You asked about North Korea’s impending launch of its long-range missile, and let me just reiterate once again, ladies and gentlemen, if North Korea goes ahead with its plan to test-launch its long-range missile, this is a clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874. North Korea, if it goes ahead with its plan, will be going straight against its pledges that it made with the international community. The international community is urging the North Koreans to repeal its announcement to test-fire its long-range missile. Now, your question was, how are we going to respond? I just want to answer that question by saying that if North Korea goes ahead with it, North Korea must be the sole country to bear the entire responsibility. As President Obama just mentioned, if it goes ahead with its plan it will only deepen its isolation and all the consequences North Korea will have to face. And from the perspective of the people of North Korea, they will understand that its leader is spending hundreds of millions of dollars just to launch a long-range missile. And watching their leader do so, they’re not going to feel proud that their country was able to launch a long-range missile, but rather they will get — surely understand the nature of their leaders, and understand why they have to go through such hardships today. Domestically, I’m sure the North Korean leaders are hoping to achieve some sort of — an objective by test-launching its long-range missile. But they must clearly understand that if they go ahead with the plan that they will put themselves in a very difficult position. I urge the North Koreans to come out as a responsible member of the international community, and that is the surest way to ensure a better life for the people of North Korea. In this regard, there is no difference of opinion between the U.S. and South Korea. We’ll remain very calm and rational and we will be wise in dealing with the North Koreans if in fact they do go ahead with their announcement. You asked about extending the missile range of South Korea. We did not discuss that issue. Of course, working-level officials have been discussing this issue. But you have to look at this from a more holistic framework in that extending the missile range is part of increasing and enhancing our defense capabilities vis-à-vis North Korea. Q. …I would like to follow up on the North Korean threat on two fronts. The first is to follow up on the question my colleague had. Could you be more specific, from your perspective, what the consequences would be that you would bring to bear on North Korea should there be a rocket launch, in terms of the overall relationship, but also specifics, such as food aid and negotiations? And also, I’m wondering, sir, if you could give us some insight about whether you’ve developed an impression of North Korea’s new leader, and whether you’ve been able to yet take a measure of the man. And to President Lee, good to see you again. I wanted to ask you about the Nuclear Security Summit. Can you explain how it would have any true and lasting credibility when the two major antagonists of North Korea and Iran are on the sidelines? OBAMA: Well, first of all, with respect to the consequences should there be a launch by the North Koreans — as President Lee indicated, North Korea is already under an extraordinary battery of sanctions. They are the most isolated country in the world. They are cut off from basic commerce and exchanges beyond their borders that every other country — almost every other country takes for granted. Their people are extraordinarily impoverished. The contrast between living standards in the North and living standards in the South could not be greater, and couldn’t be a greater testimony to the benefits of living in a free society. And so the real consequence, should they go forward with a launch, is they will have missed an opportunity, because what we presented to them, and what we’ve consistently presented to them, is an opportunity for them to take a different path than the one they’ve been taking, which is resulting in not simply hardship for their people, but a state that is decades behind their counterparts in the region in terms of development, in terms of economic strength, in terms of influence in world affairs. And so immediate, concrete, tangible effects — we had offered them the possibility, as part of a series of confidence-building measures to move forward with a nutritional aid package, for example. We’ve indicated to them very directly — because this was part of discussions that had taken place among negotiators — that it would be difficult to move forward with that package if they show themselves unable to make commitments that they’ve made even a month earlier. Because part of the challenge for any nutrition aid package, for example, is that you makes sure it actually gets to the people who need it, and it doesn’t go to serve elites in that country or their military. That requires monitors. It’s very difficult to have monitors at a period of tension and friction. And it is difficult to provide aid if you don’t think that it’s going to get to the people who actually need it. So that’s just one example of the kinds of consequence that will take place. I’ll also note that every time North Korea has violated international resolution, the Security Council resolution, it’s resulted in further isolate, tightening of sanctions, stronger enforcement, greater support on part of the international community for stronger enforcement. I suspect that will happen this time as well. So they need to understand that bad behavior will not be rewarded. There had been a pattern, I think for decades, in which North Korea thought that if they acted provocatively then somehow they would be bribed into ceasing and desisting acting provocatively. And President Lee and I have agreed from the start of our relationship that we’re going to break that pattern. And I suspect that it will ultimately end up having the impact intended, but in the meantime, it’s the people of North Korea that are most likely to suffer. I do want to comment on the issue you raised with respect to the Nuclear Security Summit. Understand that the concept of the Nuclear Security Summit that we set up was not directed at the specific issue of Iran or North Korea, but was directed at one leg of a multi-legged stool when it comes to our nuclear security. Specifically, if you’ve got a lot of loose nuclear material, if countries, either historically because of old nuclear programs, or currently in terms of how they operate their nuclear energy facilities, are leaving a bunch of material out there that could potentially fall in the hands of terrorists, that poses an extraordinary threat to the United States, to South Korea, and to countries all around the world. … We still have outliers like Iran and North Korea that are potentially pursuing nuclear weapons and that pose a significant danger, and are engaging in potential nonproliferation activities. But that doesn’t diminish in any way the concrete work that’s gotten done here. That is significantly reducing the risk that an al Qaeda or a terrorist organization could get a dirty bomb and explode it in Seoul or New York City. And that’s always been the objective of the Nuclear Security Summit, and I think that because of the fine leadership that’s been shown by President Lee and his delegation, we’re going to see a whole bunch of concrete stuff get done over the next two days. Q. Kim Jong-un? OBAMA: Oh. I think it’s hard to have an impression of Kim Jong-un in part because the situation in North Korea still appears unsettled. It’s not clear exactly who’s calling the shots and what their long-term objectives are. But regardless of the North Korean leadership, what is clear is that they have not yet made that strategic pivot where they say to themselves, what we’re doing isn’t working. It’s leading our country and our people down a dead end. And, Ben, you were there at the DMZ, and it’s like you’re in a time warp. It’s like you’re looking across 50 years into a country that has missed 40 years or 50 years of progress. And if a country can’t feed its people effectively, if it can’t make anything of any use to anybody, if it has no exports other than weapons, and even those aren’t ones that in any way would be considered state-of-the-art, if it can’t deliver on any indicators of well-being for its people, then you’d think you’d want to try something different. I don’t get a sense that they’ve made that decision yet. But my suspicion is, is that, at some point, that’s what the North Korean people are going to be looking for. And they do have that opportunity. And when they make that decision, I know I speak for President Lee, no one will welcome it more than we do, because it is in our interests to see every country provide opportunity and prosperity for its people. But there are certain things that just don’t work, and what they’re doing doesn’t work. … Q. A question going out to President Obama. Mr. President, you just visited the DMZ this morning, and today the North Koreans are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung and so they were having this big parade in North Korea, also celebrating the new leadership of Kim Jung-un. If you can share with us your thoughts in visiting the DMZ and what you think about the leaders in North Korea. And the second question has to do with extending the missile range of South Korea. The South Korean government’s position is that since North Korea has a capability of more than 3,000 kilometers in its missile range, that is one reason why you hope to extend the missile range here in South Korea. What are your thoughts on this? And what are some of the preconditions in order to resume the six-party talks? The last question was also going out to both President Obama and President Lee. OBAMA: You just asked three questions. It’s hard to remember them. (Laughter.) Well, the first question I think I basically answered — my impressions with respect to the DMZ and the North Korean leadership. With respect to the issue of extending missile ranges, I think President Lee got it exactly right. We have this incredibly powerful alliance that is multidimensional and involves a whole range of coordination, training activities, making sure that there’s interoperability with respect to various weapon systems and our defensive capabilities. And so all these issues are being discussed as we move forward to implementing the 2015 plan. And so there are no specific preconditions around — or specific obstacles around the missile range issue. Rather it’s a broader question of what are the needs in order for us to fulfill our enduring goals around the alliance. And a lot of that is technical. A lot of it takes place not at the presidential level, but rather at the military level. And we will continue to instruct our teams that they work closely together to ensure what is the ultimate outcome — which is not any particular weapon system or any particular missile range, but rather can we protect our people, can we make sure that the objectives of the alliance are achieved. With respect to the six-party talks, look, we’ve been very clear about this again and again. It’s not that complicated. If the North Koreans are serious about entering into six-party talks they have to show that they are operating in good faith. At minimum, that requires them suspending activities that right now clearly are contrary to previous obligations that they’ve made and international law. And when they do that, then we’ll be able to sit down and resolve, hopefully, some of these longer-term issues. In the absence of that, it’s hard to figure out how these discussions would be productive. And frankly, President Lee and I both have a lot of things to do, and so we try not to have our team sit around tables talking in circles without actually getting anything done. And my hope is, is that at some point the North Koreans make the decision that it is in their interests to try to figure out how to feed their people and improve their economy rather than have big parades where they show off weapons. Mark Landler. You can use them both [mikes], Q. Exactly. Thank you both. A question first for President Obama. Mr. President, in the past you’ve been, particularly when frustrated with China on the issue of North Korea, not shy about telling President Hu that the U.S. will do what’s necessary to protect its national security interest. As you’re meeting President Hu tomorrow, I wonder what message will you give him regarding North Korea. Are you satisfied with the pressure that China has brought to bear on North Korea? Is there more they could be doing? And is it realistic to think that if they pushed hard enough they might persuade the North Koreans not to go ahead with the satellite launch? And a question for President Lee. As long as my colleague asked President Obama for his views on Kim Jong-un, I’d like to ask you your views. You live here. You’ve paid attention to North Korea for longer than our President has, I daresay. And I just wonder whether you think he is, as the President suggested, still in a very tenuous situation, or whether you see him as really establishing quite some control. OBAMA: Well, first of all, I look forward to my meeting with President Hu tomorrow. Obviously the issue of North Korea will be one among a number of topics that we discuss. My communications with the Chinese have been very consistent on this issue. It is my firm belief that it is in none of our interests to see either tension and instability on the Peninsula, and it’s not in anybody’s interest to see a nuclearized Peninsula. The Chinese say they agree with that. The question then is, given that they have more influence and closer diplomatic relations with North Korea than any other country on Earth, what are they doing to help guide or encourage North Korea to take a more constructive approach? And that certainly will be a topic of conversation. Now, I am sympathetic to the fact that they share a border with North Korea; they are deeply concerned about potential instability in that country and what ramifications it might have on China. And it is important to recognize that they have a broad range of equities when it comes to how they operate with North Korea, given that they’re neighbors. But what I’ve said to them consistently is rewarding bad behavior, turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations, trying to paper over these not just provocative words but extraordinarily provocative acts that violate international norms — that’s not obviously working. So in the same way that North Korea needs to do something new if it actually wants to do right by its people, my suggestion to China is, is that how they communicate their concerns to North Korea should probably reflect the fact that the approach they’ve taken over the last several decades hasn’t led to a fundamental shift in North Korea’s behavior. And the irony of course is, is that during the last 20 years China has leapt into the 21st century, in part by abandoning some of the practices that North Korea still clings to. You couldn’t ask for a better model of the difference at least on the economic front that different policies had made. And again, I believe China is very sincere that it does not want to see North Korea with a nuclear weapon. But it is going to have to act on that interest in a sustained way. And if it does, I think together, between the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese and ourselves, I think we can have a real impact. LEE: With regards to your question about Kim Jong-un and my impression of him, it’s a difficult question. I think it’s safe to say that it’s rather premature for anyone to make any initial assessment or analysis of Kim Jong-un, or have an accurate impression on Kim Jong-un. And I think it’s safe to say that the majority of North Korean people themselves are probably having a difficult time trying to assess their own leader because it hasn’t been very long since he assumed the leadership role. So I don’t think any leader around the world is going to give you a definitive impression or an answer to your question. But having said that, I initially did have a bit of an expectation that he will take a different path. But his recent announcement was a source of disappointment. Nonetheless, I will wait and see, and give you a more definitive answer of my impression on Kim Jong-un, and I think that will be more accurate. And new leader in North Korea will have to understand that he cannot survive alone in this world. In this day and age, no country or people — or leader, for that matter, cannot stand alone. It’s imperative that all leaders and countries work together as a responsible member of the international community. And this is the surest way to ensure a better life for the people of that country. And if they do so, of course including the Republic of Korea and the United States and many other members of the international community, will help the North Koreans realize a better life for their people.” (White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Remarks by President Obama and President Lee Myung-bak in Joint Press Conference, Seoul March 25, 2012)

“South Korean and U.S. military authorities understand that North Korea has moved the main body of a long-range missile to Dongchang-ri in preparation for launch,” a South Korean military official said, asking anonymity. The official was confirming the report by Japan’s Fuji Television, citing informed sources, that a train took the main body to the launch facility in Dongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, yesterday. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Transports Rocket’s Main Body to Launch Site: Official,” March 25, 2012)

The life expectancy of an average North Korean stood at 69.3, 10.8 years lower than comparable figure for a South Korean, a report by a social health institute said. The report by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) based on a census conducted in 2008, showed the average life expectancy for North Korean men standing at 65.6 years, while for women it reached 72.7. In the same year, an average South Korean was expected to live 80.1 years. Men and women were expected to live 76.5 years and 83.3 years, respectively, in the cited year. KIHASA’s findings said death while giving birth reached 77.2 per every 100,000 mothers in the communist country in 2008, up from 54 in 1993. This is five times higher than the maternal death rate in South Korea. The infant mortality rate in the North stood at 19.3 for every 1,000, which is again five times higher vis-a-vis the South. Other illnesses cited for fatalities were also high, with tuberculosis accounting for 344 deaths per every 100,000 in 2010 in North Korea. This is much higher than 97 deaths caused by the same disease in the South. (Yonhap, “N. Korea’s Life Expectancy 10 Years Lower than South’s: Report,” March 25, 2012)


3/26/12:
President Obama: “Here in Korea, I want to speak directly to the leaders in Pyongyang. The United States has no hostile intent toward your country. We are committed to peace. And we are prepared to take steps to improve relations, which is why we have offered nutritional aid to North Korean mothers and children. But by now it should be clear, your provocations and pursuit of nuclear weapons have not achieved the security you seek; they have undermined it. Instead of the dignity you desire, you’re more isolated. Instead of earning the respect of the world, you’ve been met with strong sanctions and condemnation. You can continue down the road you are on, but we know where that leads. It leads to more of the same — more broken dreams, more isolation, ever more distance between the people of North Korea and the dignity and the opportunity that they deserve. And know this: There will be no rewards for provocations. Those days are over. To the leaders of Pyongyang I say, this is the choice before you. This is the decision that you must make. Today we say, Pyongyang, have the courage to pursue peace and give a better life to the people of North Korea. …Looking out across the DMZ yesterday, but also looking into your eyes today, I’m reminded of another country’s experience that speaks to the change that is possible in our world. After a terrible war, a proud people was divided. Across a fortified border, armies massed, ready for war. For decades, it was hard to imagine a different future. But the forces of history and hopes of man could not be denied. And today, the people of Germany are whole again — united and free. No two places follow the same path, but this much is true: The currents of history cannot be held back forever. The deep longing for freedom and dignity will not go away. (Applause.) So, too, on this divided peninsula. The day all Koreans yearn for will not come easily or without great sacrifice. But make no mistake, it will come. (Applause.) And when it does, change will unfold that once seemed impossible. And checkpoints will open and watchtowers will stand empty, and families long separated will finally be reunited. And the Korean people, at long last, will be whole and free. Like our vision of a world without nuclear weapons, our vision of a Korea that stands as one may not be reached quickly. But from this day until then, and all the days that follow, we take comfort in knowing that the security we seek, the peace we want, is closer at hand because of the great alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea — (applause) — and because we stand for the dignity and freedom of all Koreans. ” (President Barack Obama, Remarks at Hankuk University, Seoul, March 26, 2012)

President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, agreed that a North Korean long-range rocket launch, if carried out, would be a breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit Pyongyang from being involved in ballistic missile activities. At a meeting on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in Seoul, the leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to diplomatic solutions to issues involving North Korea, Iran and Syria. “And with respect to North Korea, we are going to be both sending messages to North Korea that they should not go forward with this missile launch, which would violate existing U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Obama said after a bilateral summit with Medvedev. “And our hope is that we can resolve these issues diplomatically.” (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S., Russia Agree N. Korea’s Rocket Launch Would Violate U.N. Resolutions,” Yonhap, March 26, 2012)

Seoul warned it might shoot down a North Korean rocket if it passes over South Korean territory, as worries about what Washington calls a long-range missile test overshadowed an international nuclear security summit. “We are studying measures such as tracking and shooting down (parts) of a North Korean missile in case they stray out of their normal trajectory” and violate South Korean territory, said Yoon Won-shik, a Defense Ministry vice spokesman. “We cannot help viewing (the launch) as a very reckless, provocative act” that undermines peace on the Korean peninsula, he said. (Associated Press, “S. Korea Warns It Might Shoot down N. Korean Rocket,” Korea Herald, March 26, 2012) Experts point out that the missiles in South Korea’s arsenal are unequal to the task of engaging intercontinental ballistic missiles, which many believe is really what the North is testing, and will have to rely on the U.S. to shoot it down. A Defense Ministry official told reporters the military intends to shoot down the North Korean rocket if the first-stage booster drops on South Korean territory rather than 140 km west of Byeonsan Peninsula, as North Korea estimates. The military had apparently been thinking about using PAC-2 Patriot missiles to intercept the rocket from ground bases and SM-2 ship-to-air missiles with a range of 170 km from the King Sejong the Great and Yulgok Yi Yi Aegis destroyers. But experts said they are designed to intercept aircraft and could prove unable to shoot down rocket parts falling at supersonic speeds. The South is therefore discussing with the U.S. military whether the U.S. Forces Korea’s PAC-3 Patriot missiles and SM-3 ship-to-air missiles mounted on the U.S. Seventh Fleet’s Aegis destroyers could be used instead. The U.S. military is considering stationing the Aegis destroyers in the West Sea and moving some PAC-3 missiles from bases in Osan, Gunsan and Waegan for the eventuality. (Chosun Ilbo, “S. Korea May Need U.S. Help to Shoot Down N. Korean Rocket,” March 27, 2012)

Japan is to deploy surface-to-air missiles in central Tokyo in readiness for North Korea’s planned rocket launch, its defense minister said. The sitting of an anti-missile battery in the densely packed capital city would be in addition to facilities on the southern island chain of Okinawa Tanaka Naoki told lawmakers. “We are working on procedures to deploy the Patriot in the Tokyo metropolitan area, acting on precedent,” Tanaka told upper house members, referring to the PAC-3 surface-to-air missile defense system.

“We are also preparing to deploy the Patriot in the Nansei (southwestern) islands including Okinawa,” as the second stage of North Korea’s rocket is expected to fly over Japan’s southernmost island chain, Tanaka added. (AFP, “Japan to Deploy Patriot Missiles in Tokyo,” March 26, 2012) Japan is deploying guided-missile destroyers and antiaircraft batteries with orders to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it falls toward Japanese territory, Japan’s defense minister said March 30. “We want to be fully prepared for something coming down in our territory,” Tanaka told reporters. (Martin Fackler and Choe Sanghun, “Japan Readies in Case Rocket from North Korea Poses Risk,” New York Times, March 31, 2012, p. A-9)

Chinese President Hu Jintao urged North Korea not to proceed with its planned launch of a long-range rocket next month, saying North Korea is “wrong to launch a satellite and advised to give up.” He also said Pyongyang should focus on improving its people’s livelihood. In comments made in his summit talks with President Lee Myung-bak at the latter`s office in Seoul, Hu also said, “(The Chinese government) has been closely communicating with North Korea on this issue several times,” adding, “We`re making efforts to persuade the North to give up (the launch).” (Dong-A Ilbo, “Chinese Leader Hu Urges N. Korea Not to Launch Rocket,” March 26, 2012) Chinese President Hu Jintao implored Pyongyang to give up its planned satellite launch next month and focus on people’s livelihood, a rare rebuff of its close ally and neighbor. At a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of the two-day Seoul Nuclear Security Summit yesterday, Hu said, “The Chinese leadership is expressing deep concerns [about the North’s rocket launch plan] and making efforts to constantly communicate with the government to halt [the plan],” according to the Blue House. “China’s position is that it is wrong for North Korea to launch a satellite, and it is trying to persuade them to give it up,” Kim Tae-hyo, deputy national security advisor to Lee, told reporters at a briefing yesterday after the meeting. “And [Hu said] North Korea should pay attention to people’s livelihood rather than [developing] missiles.” Kim added, “The two presidents agreed that North Korea’s rocket launch could have a negative impact on peace on the Korean Peninsula and the restarting of six-party talks.” (Kim Hee-jin, “Hu Tells Pyongyang to Call off Its Satellite Launch,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 26, 2012) According to Chinese government sources, Hu used unusually strong language in his meeting with Lee. “We do not wish for any action that goes against the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which has been obtained through much difficult work,” Hu was reported as having said. The comments by Hu are in sharp contrast to 2009, when North Korea launched a ballistic missile carrying what it claimed was a satellite. At that time, Beijing backed North Korea and argued that the launch did not violate a United Nations Security Council resolution since a satellite was being carried into space. The current reversal marks a change in Beijing’s fundamental diplomatic course. According to a government source, Premier Wen Jiabao referred to North Korea in an internal meeting in late 2010. “Our relationship with the United States should not collapse because of the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” Wen said at that meeting. At that time, friction between China and its Asian neighbors as well as the United States had heightened because of the collision between a Chinese trawler and two Japan Coast Guard vessels in waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands, as well as due to Beijing’s hard-line stance on its vested interests in the South China Sea. Chinese government sources described 2010 as a year of diplomatic failure for China. As a result, Chinese officials shifted course to one of greater cooperation with the United States. That shift was marked by Hu’s state visit to the United States in January 2011. Although U.S. and South Korean officials welcomed Hu’s comment about the North Korean missile launch, concerns were raised about whether Beijing would be able to exert influence over Pyongyang in stopping the launch. “While saving face for the United States and South Korea, it was a very delicate approach because he did not want to negatively affect China’s relationship with North Korea,” a diplomatic source in Beijing said about Hu’s approach. The Chinese government version of what Hu said in his meeting with Obama was also careful not to antagonize North Korea. Hu was reported to have said, “I have called on the relevant officials to seek a diplomatic resolution by maintaining a calm and restrained posture.” For those reasons, a South Korean government official said, “There are doubts over what actual measures China will be able to implement.” (Minemura Kenji, Mochizuki Hirotsugu and Kaise Akihiko, “China Sides with U.S. But N. Korea Launch Likely to Proceed,” Asahi Shimbun, March 27, 2012)

President Obama urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to help the United States ratchet up international pressure on North Korea, as the White House sought to enlist China’s influence in its drive to halt Pyongyang’s plans to launch a long-range rocket next month. In a 90-minute bilateral meeting that White House aides said was dominated by talk of how to deal with the Pyongyang’s belligerence, Obama stressed to Hu that the North has repeatedly provoked the international community despite previous efforts to keep the authoritarian nation in line. “The Chinese indicated they take this very seriously. …They will work actively with us,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. (David Nakamura and Chico Harlan, “Obama Urges China to Add to Global Pressure on North Korea,” Washington Post, March 26, 2012)


3/27/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The U.S. chief executive called the DPRK’s planned launch of a satellite for development of science and technology for peaceful purposes a provocation threatening international peace and security. This reflects his wrong conception. The U.S. says that it has no hostility toward the DPRK, but it has not yet departed from the inveterate conception of confrontation. That is why it regards the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes as a launch of long-range missile. The DPRK invited foreign experts and journalists to clearly observe its satellite launch so as to prove with transparency that it is part of scientific and technological work for peaceful use of space irrelevant to any military purpose. The DPRK also invited experts of the U.S. National Aeronautics Space Agency so that they can witness for themselves the peaceful nature of the satellite launch in the DPRK. The DPRK and the U.S. took much effort to sign an agreement, creating a favorable situation. There will be no reason whatsoever for the DPRK to launch a long-range missile at this time. It is the behests of leader Kim Jong Il to launch a working satellite to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung and it is a routine work that was planned and has been pushed forward from long ago. At the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks, the DPRK consistently maintained that a moratorium on long-range missile launch does not include satellite launch for the peaceful purposes. As a result, the DPRK-U.S. agreement dated February 29 specified a moratorium on long-range missile launch, not “launch of long-range missile including satellite launch” or “launch with the use of ballistic missile technology.” The DPRK will not give up the satellite launch for peaceful purposes, which is a legitimate right of a sovereign state and requirement essential for economic development. The U.S. chief executive said that he has no hostility toward the DPRK. If it was sincere, he should drop the confrontation conception of standing in the way of the DPRK, though belatedly, and make a bold decision to acknowledge that the DPRK also has a right to launch satellites. Whether the U.S. applies double standards to the DPRK’s satellite launch or not will prove the sincerity of the U.S. chief executive’s remarks.” (KCNA, “U.S. Should Not Apply Double Standards to DPRK’s Satellite Launch: FM Spokesman,” March 27, 2012)

American officials accuse North Korea of reneging on a deal struck in good faith. But longtime North Korea analysts also say that it is one of the North’s negotiating tactics to abuse loopholes in the language of an agreement to strengthen its leverage or even kill the deal. “They have too often, frankly, been rewarded for engaging in provocative acts and bad behavior,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for Mr. Obama. “We’re not going to go forward with assistance to the North Koreans or outreach to the North Koreans at a time when they’re engaging in these type of provocative actions.” Rhodes called North Korea “a very oppressive, tyrannical and backward regime.” A crucial feature of the North Korean government’s campaign to legitimize the dynastic succession and protect the vested interests of the ruling elite has been to highlight the main legacies of Kim Jong-il: the country’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs. The government has blamed American sanctions for food shortages and exhorted its people to be proud of being “independent” with nuclear weapons. When Obama stood near the border between North and South Korea on Sunday and criticized the North for keeping its people in poverty while spending millions of dollars developing nuclear weapons, he challenged that basic tenet of North Korean propaganda. A Web site run by the North Korean government, Uriminzokkiri, employing a term that essentially means “mind your own business,” advised Mr. Obama to “wash his own snotty nose first.” (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Says It Will Launch Satellite despite the Threat of Sanctions,” New York Times, March 28, 2012, p. A-10)


3/28/12:
KCNA: Interview with vice director of the Space Development Department of the Korean Committee for Space Technology (KCST): “Q: What is the mission of Kwangmyongsong-3, first working satellite in the DPRK? A: Kwangmyongsong-3 as an earth observation satellite will assess the distribution of forests and natural resources of the DPRK, the level of natural disaster, the crop estimate, etc. and collect data necessary for weather forecast, natural resources prospecting and others. Q: What is its capacity? A: Kwangmyongsong-3 has video camera mounted on it and will send observation data including pictures to the General Satellite Control and Command Centre. It weighs 100kg and will circle along the solar synchronous orbit at 500km high altitude. Its life is two years. Q: The DPRK invited foreign experts and reporters to the satellite launch. What can they observe? A: They will go to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station to witness carrier rocket Unha-3 on the launching pad and Kwangmyongsong-3. They will watch the preparation for the launch of the carrier rocket with satellite on it in the General Launch Command Centre. They will also visit the General Satellite Control and Command Centre in Pyongyang and see the satellite being launched in a relevant place. We will organize special visits going beyond the international usage to show with transparency the peaceful, scientific and technological nature of the satellite.” (KCNA, “Official of KCST Interviewed by KCNA,” March 28, 2012)


3/29/12:
The Obama administration will overhaul its approach toward North Korea if it presses ahead with a multiple-stage rocket launch next month, a senior Pentagon official said. James Miller, nominated as undersecretary of defense for policy, made clear that the U.S. won’t be able to fulfill what it agreed to do in a Feb. 29 aid-for-concession deal with North Korea. “My view is that if North Korea goes forward with this test, we will stop this aid and stop the other steps that we had intended to take and have to have a complete reconsideration of where we go in the future,” he said in a Senate confirmation hearing. He is currently serving as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. If confirmed, he will replace Michele Flournoy, who retired in February. (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. to Rethink N. Korea Policy in Case of Rocket Launch: Pentagon Official,” Yonhap, March 30, 2012)

North Korea fired two short-range missiles off its west coast on Thursday believed to be part of a test to upgrade capabilities, said news reports published today, quoting South Korean military officials. “The launch is believed to be to upgrade missile capabilities and not related directly to the North’s long-range missile launch,” JoongAng Ilbo quoted a military official as saying. South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to confirm the reports, citing its policy of not speaking publicly on matters involving intelligence activities. Reclusive North Korea has said it is merely sending a weather satellite into space, but South Korea and the United States say it is a disguised ballistic missile test. (Reuters, “North Fires Short-Range Missiles to Test Capability,”JoongAng Ilbo, March 31, 2012)

The commander of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula expressed concern Wednesday that North Korea’s new leadership will trigger a military conflict based on a “miscalculation.” Before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. James Thurman said the North continues improving its ability to attack the South Korean capital of Seoul.

“The first thing I worry about every day is a miscalculation on somebody’s part that causes a conflict that he hadn’t planned for,” he said at a hearing on the security condition on the peninsula. He also said he is worried about the asymmetric capabilities, including special operations forces and cyber-attack units. “North Korea threatens Seoul with a mix of conventional artillery, multiple rocket launchers, and ballistic missiles, a significant percentage of which are positioned in protected positions dispersed across the western half of the peninsula,” he added. “They have a considerable number of indirect fire systems. And as expansive as Seoul is, any round coming our direction could potentially do damage.” He was skeptical that the North will stop the development of ballistic missiles despite restrictions under U.N. Security Council resolutions. “They will not — I don’t believe — give up their capabilities in regard to ballistic missiles, because they

see that as a means to protect the regime,” he said. (Korea Times, “N. Korea Honing Capabilities to Attack Seoul: USFK Chief,” March 29, 2012)

Moon Chung-in and John DeLury: “Hours after arriving in Seoul for his third visit as president, Barack Obama — behind a thick plate of bulletproof glass, wearing an Air Force One leather jacket that looked pretty bulletproof itself — stood on the demilitarized zone peering through binoculars into the haze of North Korea, a ritual performed by George W. Bush ten years ago and Bill Clinton a decade before that. Perhaps standing so close to North Korea inspired Obama to address Pyongyang directly for the first time since taking office. In the middle of a speech to South Korean students at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies the following day, Obama abruptly looked into the cameras and said: “I want to speak directly to the leaders in Pyongyang. The United States has no hostile intent toward your country. We are committed to peace. And we are prepared to take steps to improve relations, which is why we have offered nutritional aid to North Korean mothers and children.” Obama had the right idea in trying to get a direct channel to Pyongyang, but a public speech delivered on television in a third country isn’t enough. And despite Pyongyang’s recent bad behavior, if the U.S. president wants to avert the latest mini-crisis, kicked up by Pyongyang’s intention to launch a satellite rocket in mid-April, he’s got to find another way to actually reach the leaders of North Korea. … Now comes the moment of truth for Obama’s Korea policy. The safe response is to keep leaning on China and other countries to condemn Pyongyang’s planned launch, and then tighten sanctions and push for a U.N. Security Council resolution after it happens. But the safe, obvious move is also the wrong one. Washington needs to pay more attention to the domestic political context of North Korean foreign policy-making after the death of Kim Jong Il, and to advance down — not retreat from — the tortuous path of engaging Pyongyang. In looking at what is known about North Korean foreign policy, it appears that Kim’s move was actually somewhat restrained. Before his death, Dear Leader Kim Jong Il proclaimed April 15, 2012 — the 100th anniversary of Eternal President Kim Il Sung’s birth — as demarcating Year One of North Korea’s emergence as a “strong and prosperous great nation.” There are much more provocative ways that Pyongyang could have decided to celebrate the occasion — from a third nuclear test to another military clash in the West Sea. The space launch, while alarming to U.S. officials, is not nearly so bellicose. Rather, it is intended to serve as a dramatic, visible symbol of this new era in North Korea, one that overshadows the dark reality of economic hardship and privation. Given South Korea’s repeated failure to launch a satellite, the successful flight of North Korea’s “Gwangmyongsung-3” rocket has an added benefit as a propaganda asset in Pyongyang’s rivalry with Seoul — one of very few that remain. Although from an American perspective the satellite announcement is a slap in the face, by the standards of domestic politics in Pyongyang, the space launch seems the most moderate option, one that leaves a crack open for further negotiation. Washington’s top strategic priority is to rein in North Korea’s nuclear threat and continue to provide for the security of its close ally South Korea. Another satellite/missile launch is not a game changer. But in focusing everything on the planned launch — and ignoring the political constraints in Pyongyang in the early post-Kim Jong Il era — the United States and its allies seem ready to shut the door of engagement for good and throw away the key. That would be a terrible mistake. As it’s currently playing out, the satellite/missile quagmire will likely trigger another round in the vicious and protracted cycle of crime and punishment on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea, already in the middle of large-scale military exercises, has promised to show no restraint if provoked again by the North, and has requested enhanced long-range missile capability from the United States. Generals in Seoul and Tokyo are threatening to shoot the rocket down if it nears their territory. And the recent Nuclear Security Summit became a global forum for denouncing North Korea’s “provocation,” with even Chinese President Hu Jintao allowing others to quote him as taking (what is for China) a hardline on Pyongyang. But such megaphone diplomacy will not make things better. On the contrary, it will aggravate the problem by strengthening the hand of hardliners over the moderates in Pyongyang, and thus steel Kim Jong Un’s resolve to undertake the space launch as scheduled. The United States would then presumably take prompt measures to punish North Korea’s “crime” by bringing the case to the U.N. Security Council, which would probably produce some kind of statement denouncing Pyongyang’s behavior. Meanwhile, the United States and South Korea would further tighten the noose of sanctions around North Korea’s neck, and the situation would become tenser than before the Leap Day deal. Most experts — even many longtime advocates of engagement — are arguing that there is now simply no justification for dealing with Pyongyang. But as Obama may have mused when peering across the hazy border, there is a powerful tendency to ignore the complexity of what is happening inside North Korea. Both to de-escalate tensions and gather a sense of the situation inside, Obama should send an envoy to Pyongyang to discuss the deteriorating situation — among U.S. senators, John Kerry would be the obvious choice; among former officials, Colin Powell might make a strong pick. Whoever the individual, Obama’s envoy would ideally be someone senior enough for a first tête-à-tête with Kim Jong Un. Even announcing the idea of an envoy buys everyone some time, cools tempers, and puts the United States back in the driver’s seat. It also gives Obama a direct channel to the highest levels of decision-making power in Pyongyang. Although Obama risks attacks from the right for appeasing North Korea, he is better off trying to re-establish a constructive dynamic to monitor North Korea’s nuclear program, rather than risk drawing attention in an election year to North Korea’s runaway nukes, undermining the international nuclear security success story Obama wants to tell. The gesture of sending an envoy to Pyongyang also helps Kim Jong Un’s legitimacy and therefore represents a valuable gift to his nascent regime, affording those who seek improved relations with the United States — like the foreign ministry — some leverage vis-à-vis hard-liners. Given Obama’s promise that U.S. policy towards North Korea does not include regime change, it makes sense to learn how to work with their new leadership. Obama’s envoy to Pyongyang could put North Korea in a reactive position by floating bold initiatives, such as an offer to launch North Korea’s satellite into orbit on its behalf, or volunteer Russia or China to do so — an idea broached by Kim Jong Il in his 2000 summit meeting with Vladimir Putin. Obama’s envoy could also press to renew missile control talks, which were close to a breakthrough when President Bill Clinton sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang to meet directly with Kim Jong Il in late 2000 — as Wendy Sherman, now under secretary of state, then a counselor to Albright on the Pyongyang trip, knows better than anyone. In direct talks, Kim Jong Il showed considerable flexibility in devising a deal by which the North would give up its missile program in return for an American package — a package that included proxy launches of North Korean civilian satellites. But the incoming George W. Bush administration scuttled the deal as part of its ABC (“Anything but Clinton”) approach to foreign policy. No missile talks have been held in the dozen years since. Today, North Korea stands at the crossroads of sticking with “military-first” politics or striving to become a normal, integrated state under new leadership. The Leap Day deal signals that the Foreign Ministry has some leeway to pursue the latter. But inflexible reactions to the satellite launch, while completely justified from an American perspective, will most likely empower North Korean hardliners, while undercutting the position of party cadres and bureaucrats who are in favor of diplomatic normalization and economic opening and betterment. Particularly now, just months after only the second leadership transition in North Korea’s 63-year history, any policy toward that country must factor in domestic politics. President Obama should get this, given his recent hot mike candor about his election year delicacies to Dmitry Medvedev regarding the U.S. missile-defense program. This is not the time to overreact or fall back on the platitude that “the ball is in North Korea’s court.” President Obama’s more prudent course of action is to continue persistently, but cautiously, with the process of engagement. An envoy would be the logical first step. If Obama is serious that he wants to “speak directly to the leaders in Pyongyang,” the place to do that is not Seoul, Beijing, or New York. It’s Pyongyang.” (Moon Chung-in and John DeLury, “The Land of Lesser Evils,” Foreign Policy, March 29, 2012)


3/30/12:
March 16 letter from Ri Je-son, director-general, DPRK General Department of Atomic Energy, to IAEA Director-General Amano: “I would like to invite IAEA delegation to our country to discuss technical issues with regard to the monitoring of moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon in accordance with the agreement of the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks held in Beijing recently.” March 30 reply from Amano: “Thank you for your facsimile message dated 16 March 2012 inviting an IAEA delegation to the DPRK to discuss technical issues with regard to the monitoring of a moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon in accordance with the agreement of the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks held in Beijing in February this year. As I noted at the March 2012 IAEA Board of Governors meeting, the outcome of the DPRK-U.S. talks is an important step in the right direction. Also, the Agency has an essential role to play in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear program. The IAEA will follow up on your invitation in a constructive manner.” (IAEA Board of Governors, GOV/INF/2012/9, March 30, 2012)

The U.N. nuclear agency is taking a wait-and-see attitude on an offer from the North to allow agency experts back into the country, according to a letter shared with the Associated Press. In the March 30 letter, circulated internally among the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35 member nations, IAEA head Amano Yukiya expresses thanks for the March 16 overture by North Korean Atomic Energy head Ri Je Son and says “the IAEA will follow up on your invitation in a constructive spirit.” At the same time, the letter appears to make some linkage between an IAEA mission to the North and whether a February 29 agreement between Pyongyang and Washington can be salvaged despite North Korean plans for a long-range rocket launch in mid-April — a launch the U.S. says would sabotage the deal. The letter says the IAEA has “an essential role to play in verifying” the North’s nuclear program. But it also notes that the tentative deal between Washington and Pyongyang that is now being threatened “is an important step in the right direction.” The letter — and another one with the invitation from the North — was given to the AP by a diplomat from a board member nation who demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to share privileged material. In recent days, IAEA officials have said privately that the agency and the North are discussing timing and scope for any visit by agency experts as well as technical details. But the careful diplomatic language in Mr. Amano’s response nearly two weeks after the North’s offer suggested the IAEA chief was awaiting events tied to the planned rocket launch before formally committing his agency to specifics. (George Jahn, “Nuke Agency Wary of N. Korea’s Invitation,” Associated Press, April 4, 2012)


3/31/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “gave the following answer to a question raised by KCNA [today] as regards the U.S. moves to exploit the DPRK’s planned launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 for meeting its sinister political and military purposes: The U.S. overreaction to the DPRK’s plan to launch scientific and technological satellite for peaceful purposes has gone beyond the limit. The U.S. has so far insisted that it does not relate humanitarian issue with the political issue. But it responded to the DPRK’s planned satellite launch with the announcement to stop following through on its commitment to food aid. This would be a regrettable act of scrapping the DPRK-U.S. agreement in its entirety as it is a violation of the core articles of the February 29 DPRK-U.S. agreement. The DPRK extended invitation to satellite experts to visit the launching station to show the sincerity of the DPRK as regards the peaceful satellite launch in a transparent manner. But the U.S. clarified that it would not send its experts and also forced other countries not to send one. This stands in sharp contrast to its previous insistence that the DPRK should accept inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the transparency of its nuclear activities. What the U.S. fears is the objective confirmation of the peaceful nature of the DPRK’s satellite launch. It has its own political and military objective in describing the DPRK’s satellite launch as a long-range missile launch. By describing the DPRK’s ‘long-range missile capabilities’ as a ‘threat to the U.S. mainland,’ the U.S. seeks to justify its missile defense system, which is opposed by all the countries in Northeast Asia, and use it as a pretext for pressing forward the MD. The path chosen by the U.S. would harass peace and stability in Northeast Asia including the Korean Peninsula and spark off fresh cold war. The DPRK has not yet reached such a point as to discuss the severity and gravity of the consequences to be entailed by the U.S. wrong option. It just hopes that the U.S. would courageously accept peaceful satellite launch by a sovereign state, though belatedly, and prove in practice its words that it has no hostility toward the DPRK.” (KCNA, “FM Spokesman on U.S. Announcement of Suspension of Food Aid to DPRK,” March 31, 2012)


3/30-4/1/12:
Aspen Dialogue in Gut Klostermuhle, Germany with Li Gun: “The U.S. side transmitted a clear idea to the DPRK delegation of what they could expect as the result of a satellite launch: U.S. sanctions and the raising of the matter at the United Nations Security Council. In the plenary session, the DPRK announced its intention to react ‘appropriately’ [i.e. with a nuclear test] to ‘measures that affect the sovereignty of the DPRK’ [i.e. sanctions]. However, in a personal sidebar with two participants, Li Gun and his deputy claimed that the DPRK would abide by the obligations stemming from the agreement [i.e. no nuclear tests].” (Aspen DPRK-U.S. Dialogue II Conference Report)


4/1/12:
Leslie Gelb: “Just when it looked as if Washington and Pyongyang were tiptoeing once again toward negotiations on North Korean nukes and missiles, the North has thrown a predictable grenade into the process and set all parties onto yet another warpath. Threatening to violate U.N. resolutions and undercut a recent understanding with Washington, Pyongyang reaffirmed last week that it plans to launch a satellite into orbit in April. …To complicate and confound matters further, North Korea has done more than simply throw grenades. In recent weeks, Pyongyang officials have been telling Americans in private, frank, and explicit ways just how the two sides can resolve the nuclear and missile issues. These messages will present Washington with some incredibly hard choices in the months ahead-between continuing to live with North Korean nukes for some time in a Cold Peace or pushing for their elimination and risking confrontation. … Mr. Obama swiftly and angrily warned the North that he’d retaliate with more economic sanctions and more diplomatic isolation. Then, he added a rhetorical rocket of his own, one that must have rattled North Korean leaders much more than the prospect of stepped-up sanctions. He said North and South Korea were “one people.” To outsiders, that sounded like nothing; to North Koreans, it was the ultimate threat. To them, it had to sound like a U.S. commitment to destroy North Korea and reunify the peninsula under South Korean and American rule. (A footnote: the North told Washington about the prospective launch some time ago, and in the February 29 talks, U.S. officials warned them against doing it, but did not cancel the agreed talks. Like its predecessors, this White House must have hoped-mistakenly-that the North would back down. And the North hoped, also mistakenly, that it could have its launch and eat its food aid, too.) …When President George W. Bush did his lockdown on Macao banking in 2005, Pyongyang retaliated with missile tests in July 2006 and a nuclear test in October 2006. Bush later canceled the Macao sanctions and opened talks with the North. Obama, being a Democrat, will not be afforded the luxury of that concession, especially before the November elections. Or perhaps, this time, the North might not explode a nuke-it might sink another South Korea naval vessel, as it did in 2010. But this time, Seoul has promised it will meet force with force. And this time, the U.S. has pledged to back the South’s move. Now, prudent planners cannot count on the North’s saying “Uncle,” especially when it is being led by a new leader, Kim Jong-un, who also can’t afford concessions that make him look weak. In these ways, like it and want it or not, both sides could go off to confrontation land. Obama is pushing China, once again, to intercede and convince Pyongyang to cancel its rocket launch. The next two weeks could prove quite tense. Behind these macho moves lie some pretty dramatic and portentous policy decisions. For some time, North Korean officials have been hinting at how they would like to settle matters with the U.S., and in recent conversations, official and non-official, here’s what they said: we intend to keep our nuclear weapons for some time to come, until we feel secure from your American threats. We see these talks as “a process” that might take one or two decades. In that time, we might give up our plutonium reprocessing plant but retain our newer uranium enrichment facilities. We might even identify our nuclear capabilities, and perhaps reduce them somewhat. Of course, all this would be in return for unspecified U.S. goodies. American reaction to these ideas is bound to be negative, though Washington has been living with North Korea’s nuclear capability and nuclear weapons for decades already, since the days of President Reagan. To be sure, Washington has been trying to defang this capability, but it has been living with it. In all probability, Mr. Obama or a Republican successor will live with a nuclear North Korea as well-but won’t admit it.” (Leslie Gelb, “To the Brink in Korea, Unnoticed,” Daily Beast, April 1, 2012)


4/2/12:
North Korea and Russia will start a cross-border cargo train service in October, Pyongyang’s state media reported, in a move that could make a North Korean port of Rajin a regional hub for Europe-bound shipments. The announcement came more than three years after the two countries launched a project to rebuild two rail lines between Russia’s Far Eastern border town of Khasan and North Korea’s northeastern port city of Rajin. The North designated Rason, which includes the Rajin port, as a special economic zone in 1991. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, Russia to Start Cross-Border Freight Train Service in October,” April 2, 2012)

South Korea will attack Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in retaliation if the communist country strikes Seoul, the capital of the South, an official said. South Korea has set up the principle of tit-for-tat retaliation in dealing with North Korea’s possible aggression against Seoul and its adjacent areas, the senior military official said in a recent meeting with reporters. South Korea “will immediately retaliate” against North Korea “in self-defense in the event of a North Korean provocation,” the official said, without elaborating on North Korean targets. (Yonhap, “S. Korea to Strike Pyongyang If N. Korea Attacks Seoul,” April 2, 2012)

The U.S. suggested in an informal meeting in Berlin that North Korea ask China or Russia to launch its satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, but the North refused, Japan’s TV Asahi reported. A civilian U.S. delegation, which met with its North Korean counterpart, offered the alternative if the North’s planned rocket launch was for peaceful purposes as claimed. However, the North rejected the offer, it said. The report said Ri Gun, director-general of the North American affairs bureau of the North’s foreign ministry, met with former U.S. government officials including Thomas Pickering, former undersecretary of state for political affairs. Informal talks between North Korean and U.S. delegations would do little to stop the North launching the Kwangmyongsong-3 sometime between April 12 and 16, a South Korean government official said. The official’s comment came as Charles King Mallory, the executive director of the Aspen Institute think tank in Berlin, said yesterday that the informal so-called “track 2” dialogue took place over the weekend. “The informal talks in Berlin were almost negligible because none of the U.S. delegates were from the government,” the South Korean official said on condition of anonymity. “The meeting had been scheduled, even before the February 29 agreement (between the U.S. and the North), and can barely stop the North’s planned rocket launch, although we will exert full efforts to stop it,” he said. Calling the North’s rocket launch plan “a grave issue,” Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik canceled his planned visit to Japan this week, according to the ministry. Yang Moo-jin, a North Korean expert at the University of North Korean Studies, said the Berlin meeting was not a round of negotiations but an opportunity for both sides to gauge the strength of each other’s claim.

“It is highly likely that the North will go ahead with its plan, which will result in a U.N. Security Council meeting and new sanctions on the North,” Yang said. (Kim Yoon-mi, “U.S. Suggests N.K. Rely on China or Russia for Satellite Launch,” Korea Herald, April 2, 2012)

North Korea and the United States are keeping their informal communication channel open, although there have been no government-level talks between the two sides since Pyongyang’s revelation of its rocket launch plan, an informed diplomatic source said.

“(You) can say that the New York channel remains always open,” the source told Yonhap. Specifically, it means phone calls between Han Song-ryol, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., and Clifford Hart, the U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks. “There was no government meeting (in Berlin). There may have been some track two encounter between North Koreans and Americans, but there was no government meeting,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing. (Yonhap, “U.S., N. Korea Keep New York Channel Open: Source,” April 3, 2012)North Korea is building a missile that is even bigger than the long-range missile it is preparing to launch this month, sources claimed Monday. South Korean and U.S. officials believe the North will unveil the missile at a military parade on April 15, nation founder Kim Il-sung’s centenary, or on April 25, which marks the founding day of the North’s Army.

A government source here said U.S. reconnaissance satellites recently spotted a 40-m missile at a research and development facility in Pyongyang that is larger than the existing Taepodong-2 missile. “It remains uncertain whether this missile is functional or is just a life-sized mock-up,” the official added. The rocket North Korea is preparing to launch soon is apparently 32 m long, the same as the Taepodong-2 that was launched in April 2009 with a maximum range of 6,700 km. The new missile is believed to be larger and equipped with a bigger booster that gives it a maximum range of more than 10,000 km, making it capable of reaching the continental U.S. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea ‘Building Even Bigger Missile,’” April 3, 2012)


4/3/12:
The government will extend its sanctions against North Korea for one year, mainly because the reclusive country plans to launch a missile later this month in the guise of a “satellite” launch, government officials said. The sanctions were to expire on April 13. If North Korea launches the missile despite international calls not to, the government will strengthen the sanctions as the launch would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution, the officials said. At its meeting this morning, the Cabinet decided to extend a total trade embargo against Pyongyang and the prohibition on entries of all North Korea-registered ships, among other steps. (Yomiuri Shimbun, “Sanctions on North Korea Extended One Year; Missile Launch Cited; Tougher Steps Possible,” April 4, 2012)

News reports from Beijing said China allowed four North Korean defectors, who had been staying at a South Korean consulate in China for three years, to leave for South Korea on April 1. The reports came after China strongly urged North Korea to withdraw its plan to launch a satellite in mid-April, saying it would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. The North Korean defectors were taken to South Korea in secrecy. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm the news reports and gave no details. The secret arrival indicated that international pressure not to repatriate North Koreans may be having an effect. However, it is still unclear whether the move was part of a long-term policy change. The four who arrived in Seoul include three family members of Baek Dong-gyu, a deceased South Korean soldier who was taken prisoner during the 1950-53 Korean War. While Baek’s eldest daughter came to South Korea years ago, his second daughter, a grandson and a granddaughter entered the South this time. The other defector is reportedly a teenage girl. “I think it is China’s ‘minimal’ response to the international pressure. The ongoing protests by South Koreans in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul and the moves by the U.S. Congress to pressure China were somewhat effective,” said Kim Tae-woo, president of the Korean Institute for National Unification, a think tank on North Korea. “However, it is an overinterpretation to say China’s policy toward North Korean defectors is going in a new direction. China is likely to maintain its basic stance,” he said. Chung Gyu-sup, North Korea expert at Kwandong University, echoed Kim’s view. He also said the arrival of the four North Korean defectors was a result of years of “quiet” negotiations by the South Korean government which should have started since the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the predecessor of the current Lee Myung-bak administration. Since the Lee administration took office in 2008, China has refused to allow North Korean refugees who entered foreign consulates including South Korean and Japanese ones, to leave for South Korea. (Kim Yoon-mi, “China Seen Flinching on N.K. Defectors,” Korea Herald, April 4, 2012)

Political watcher Mike Chinoy said the international community, particularly the US, will likely write off future engagement with Pyongyang, sending tensions on the Korean peninsula rising. Chinoy, who is currently a Senior Fellow at USC’s US-China Institute, said, “This is a real potential turning point. For a long time, people who’ve promoted engagement with North Korea have argued that you can negotiate with them. They’re difficult, they’ll drive you crazy but in the end you can reach deals that can constrain, roll back or maybe even eliminate their nuclear and missile program. But this North Korean move may change the game altogether. The conclusion in Washington is that this is a dead end. Even when you think you’re making progress, the North Koreans slap you in the face.” He said: “It does seem that the North Koreans are trying with this satellite launch to make a point to the United States and to the rest of the world which is ‘We want to have a better relationship with you, but we’re not going to do it on your terms, it’s got to be on our terms’. That means they have to accept North Korea as a country that has a nuclear program and as a country that has a legitimate right to launch satellites.” And there’s also a message to its people Chinoy said: “This missile test is being driven to a significant degree by internal North Korean factors. The missile launch is designed to be a kind of muscular display for the North Korean people, the prowess of the regime and the system. No pressure from Washington, Seoul or Beijing is going to deter the North Koreans from doing this, especially because Kim Jong-il is reported to have sanctioned this launch himself before he died, so there’s no turning back.” (Sabrina Chua, “U.S. Likely to Write off Future Engagement with N. Korea,” Channel News Asia, April 3, 2012)


4/4/12:
North Korea could abandon its pledge not to conduct a nuclear test if the United States does not deliver food aid as agreed, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said. “North Korea’s commitment to a temporary moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and uranium enrichment activity can be canceled” if the deal is broken, Chosun Sinbo said on its website. Meanwhile, after arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport from Germany, Ri Gun, director general of North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, told reporters that Pyongyang refuses to scrap the missile launch, as it is “peaceful space research that falls on to the universal rights of a nation.”

Remaining firm in its position, the North also emphasized that the U.S. must not combine politics with humanitarian aid, denouncing Washington for its suspension of food aid. “No agreement between Pyongyang and Washington was made (during the talks), despite the exchange of views in lengthy meetings,” said Ri, alluding that the issue was discussed at the meeting. (Kim Young-jin and Kim Jung-yoon, “N. Korea Hints at 3rd Nuclear Test,” Korea Times, April 4, 2012)

The United States cautioned the world against any action that may send the wrong signal to North Korea as it seeks to justify its planned rocket launch. “We call on the international community to abstain from taking any actions, such as sending observers, that might be seen as endorsing a launch that would be in blatant defiance of the DPRK’s international obligations and commitments,” a State Department official told Yonhap. (Yonhap, “U.S. Argues against Observers of N. Korean Launch,” Korea Herald, April 5, 2012)

Pyongyang has invited Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to send its representatives to the planned launch this month of North Korean satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 but will ignore the invitation as “this launch is a direct violation” of a UN Security Council resolution, Roscosmos said. “Given the fact that this launch is a direct violation of Resolution No. 1874 of the UN Security Council, for which the Russian Federation voted, Roscosmos, as a federal executive body of government, cannot take any part in it,” a Roscosmos spokesman told Interfax-AVN. (Interfax-AVN, April 4, 2012)

North Korea’s determination to go ahead with a planned long-range rocket launch is indicative of the new regime’s “structural intransigence” under young leader Kim Jong-un and a “self-defeating” choice, Hyun In-taek, a unification policy advisor to President Lee Myung-bak said. “North Korea’s long-range missile launch is a clear case to reaffirm the structural intransigence of the North Korean regime,” Hyun told an academic forum in Seoul on the North’s planned rocket launch. “For the new Kim Jong-un regime, the forthcoming long-range missile launch will assuredly be an event just like the behavior of ‘buttoning the first button in the wrong hole,'” Hyun continued. “Eventually this event will be self-defeating behavior for North Korea.” “From North Korea’s perspective, the February 29 agreement was not destined to be dead-on-arrival by accident,” Hyun said. “It is highly likely North Korea’s decision on the missile launch was made far before the agreement. Under this circumstance, the Feb. 29 agreement seems to be the result of a highly calculated tactic by North Korea,” the former unification minister said. The North’s latest maneuver “shows us North Korea’s foreign ministry is no more than an ‘errand runner’ of the military authority of North Korea,” Hyun said. North Korea is believed to have advanced ballistic missile technology, though it is still not clear whether it has mastered the technology to put a nuclear warhead on a missile. “We already had the exact same situation in 2009,” Hyun said. “The whole message North Korea tries to convey through its plan for a long-range missile launch is that a nuclear warhead can be loaded onto the missile. By doing this, North Korea thinks the effect of their blackmail will be greater. This is part of their underlying and careful political calculation. Therefore, it is highly likely they will follow the same pattern.” (Yonhap, “Rocket Plan Shows New N.K. regime’s ‘Structural Intransigence’: Lee Advisor,” April 4, 2012)

If North Korea launches a missile in the next couple of weeks, as it has promised, it will be the result of international cooperation stretching from Moscow to Tehran and, perhaps, Beijing. Experts who track North Korea’s space program expect the communist regime will roll out a somewhat improved version of the Taepodong-2 (or the Unha-2 as North Korea refers to it) missile it last tested in April 2009. The Taepodong-2 has never had a completely successful launch but, according to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “We can go back and model that (2009) trajectory pretty well. The trajectory certainly appears to be the kind of trajectory they would have used for a satellite launch.” Experts expect the missile that the North Koreans are preparing to test is not drastically different from the vehicle used three years ago. “I don’t expect any major new things utterly visible on the launch vehicle. I expect it to be the same basic configuration as we saw in 2009,” said Charles Vick, senior fellow in space policy for GlobalSecurity.Org. Most large modern rockets are built in several parts, or stages. In this case, the first, or lower, stage provides the bulk of the power to lift the missile off the launch pad and into its initial flight trajectory. When the first stage runs out of fuel, it falls off and the second, or middle, stage kicks the missile to a higher altitude and gets it going faster. The third, or upper, stage carries the payload and provides that last kick of power to lift the payload (in this case a small satellite) into orbit at a speed that will keep it there. Wright believes the upper stage of the Taepodong-2 comes from a missile first built by the Soviets in their heyday 50 years ago. In 1962, the Soviets started developing a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, the SSN-6. It was made up of a large engine that provided lift and some small steering engines on top that kept it on course. About the upper stage Wright said that what many observers think, “having looked at both what we’ve seen of the structure of it and also how it operated in the 2009 launch, is that it uses small engines from a Russian submarine-launched missile that Russia built … called the SSN-6.”The small engines are liquid-fueled and originally were meant to steer the sub-launched missile. But this is where the experts Security Clearance spoke to disagree. Vick said the upper stage of the Taepodong-2 has a very different ancestry. “The third stage is of Chinese origin,” he said. “The third stage is actually a Chinese solid motor surrounded by shrouds.” Whatever the origin, that upper stage has never worked. Referring to the 2009 launch, Wright said, “As far as we can tell, the third stage simply didn’t fire and fell into the ocean with the second stage.” The two experts agree that the second stage of the Taepodong-2 missile comes from the SSN-6. “The second stage, from the size and the way it operated, was essentially one of these SSN-6 Soviet missiles,” Wright said. “We have some good photos of this launch vehicle that the North Koreans provided; it has the right size and shape. If you do some of the computer modeling that we’ve done, it has some of the performance you would expect of the Soviet missile.” The bottom or first stage represents about 80% of the Taepodong-2’s initial weight. While it appears North Korea had the most to do with its design and construction, it also may have started in the old Soviet Union. The stage is made up of a cluster of North Korea Nodong engines, which were developed from old Soviet Scud missiles. Vick is convinced that Pyongyang is working together with Tehran on the missile development. “Iran and North Korea have cooperated totally together on this launch vehicle. Iran did a lot of propulsion work,” he said. Wright agrees there is some link, but exactly how it works is unclear to him. “It’s sometimes hard to tell which direction the flow of knowledge and technology is going,” he said. “Iran developed a missile called the Shahab 3, which appears to be very similar to the Nodong missile. So there is always the question of whether North Korea gave them parts (or) it gave them help.” (Larry Shaughnessy, “North Korea’s Rocket Began Life Underwater,” CNN, April 4, 2012)


4/5/12:
Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea spokesman: “The south Korean puppet forces recently bluffed that they would “intercept” the DPRK satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, disclosing their attempt to make a fresh military provocation. The group of traitors aligned with the U.S. is saying that it would track the orbit of the DPRK’s satellite projectile with the mobilization of war hardware including various monitoring machines, missiles and Aegis destroyer, and intercept the satellite in case its debris fall out. The U.S. is now busy making the emergency transfer of an ultra-modern maritime radar base “SBX-1” from Hawaii for the purpose of tracking and monitoring satellite and backing its interception. Meanwhile, Japan is making reckless remarks that it would intercept the DPRK satellite if its propeller body drops on Japan’s archipelago. The puppet military warmongers worked out the “plan for mounting strike on corresponding targets” while talking about “assault” and “possibility of provocation” from someone. They did not hesitate to let loose a spate of such balderdash as “striking Pyongyang.” The military warmongers including Kim Kwan Jin, puppet minister of Defense, openly blustered that they would attack Pyongyang if Seoul is attacked, claiming that now it has become possible to independently “punish” in line with the “right to self-defense”. They used to say in the past they could not but restrain themselves in the face of attack by the north due to the belligerence regulations of the Armistice Agreement and the relations with the “UN Command.” The reckless racket for provocation kicked up by the puppet group of traitors is a dangerous act of causing an all-out war as it is a last-ditch effort of persecution maniacs. …To intercept the satellite for peaceful purposes is just an act of war and it is bound to entail tremendous catastrophe. …The group of traitors should be well aware of what the “interception” and “strike at Pyongyang” would mean. The army and people of the DPRK will never pardon the enemies’ attempt of reckless military provocations. Whoever intrudes into the territorial air and seas even an inch under any pretext and intercepts the DPRK satellite or collects its debris will meet immediate, resolute and merciless punishment by the DPRK. The DPRK will mete out the unimaginable and the most miserable punishment to its rival if it dares fire into the sky above the DPRK, Pyongyang, in particular. The cause of war must be rooted out without mercy. The group of traitors had better bear in mind the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless provocations.” KCNA, “Interception of Satellite Would Be Regarded as Act of War: CPRK Spokesman,” April 5, 2012)


4/6/12:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to uphold the instructions of his late father Kim Jong-il and praised the military’s devotion, urging the North to unite by dedicating their lives to the military-first revolution during a talk with officials of the Workers’ Party. He also stressed the need to improve people’s living conditions and the importance of economic rehabilitation in an apparent gesture to win public support despite his lack of leadership experience. Kim Jong-un’s speech was made on April 6 and later carried by Rodong Sinmun in an article on April 19 titled “Let Us Hold Great Comrade Kim Jong-il in High Esteem as General Secretary of Our Party Forever and Successfully Accomplish the Revolutionary Cause of Juche.” Saying that songun represents “our independence, dignity and life,” Kim said, “A country with weak military might can not defend its sovereignty and right to existence but will become plaything and fall victim to the imperialists in the long run.” “The People’s Army should become standard-bearers and a shock brigade not only in defending the country but in carrying out the party’s plan for building a thriving nation as the driving force of the revolution. It should also become pace-setters in creating and disseminating Songun culture in the new century.” “The traits of attaching importance to military affairs should be established throughout society and an all-people, nationwide defense system should be consolidated to turn the whole country into an impregnable fortress,” he emphasized. Kim Jong-un also called for the decisive turn for the improvement of people’s living and construction of economic power, while urging the party to make utmost efforts to solve food problems for the people. He then stressed the need for the development of light industry, the knowledge-based industries, land management, culture, education and others. “We should bring about a decisive turn in improving the standard of people’s living and building an economic power. We should put forward the people who have trusted in and followed the party only as the happiest people in the world by making the precious assets, which Kim Jong-il provided with much effort, pay off.” He continued, “We should wage an unflinching offensive in response to the flames of Hamnam (South Hamgyong Province) and rapidly develop vanguard economic sectors and basic industrial fields and thus lay a firm foundation for the economic development and increase production in all domains of the national economy.” Priority should be given to the power, coal and metal industries, and railway transport, he said. “Only then will it be possible to reenergize the national economy and stabilize and improve the people’s living standard.” “We should build a knowledge-based economic power in response to the flames of the industrial revolution in the new century. We should struggle with a high aim and ideal as intended by Kim Jong-il who used to instruct to look at the world with one’s feet planted on one’s own land, and thus beat the world in all aspects.” “In the spirit of exploration and creation displayed by workers in Ryonha who brought about drastic progress in CNC machine tools production, a drive should be waged to push back the frontiers of the latest science and technology to put the country’s overall technological equipment on the level of world standard and improve the economic structure to meet the requirements of the era of the knowledge-based economy,” Kim said. Saying that efforts should be given to land management to turn the country into a “land of bliss,” Kim Jong-un called for “focusing all the issues arising in the economy on the Cabinet and establishing strict discipline and order of solving them under the unified command of the Cabinet.” “Being the headquarters responsible for the country’s economy, the Cabinet should set a goal and work out strategy for economic development on a scientific and realistic basis under a long-term plan and push forward on its own initiative the work to control, guide and manage overall economic affairs in a unified manner.” “We should accomplish the historic cause of national reunification true to the life-long intention and behests of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. We should conduct positive external activities and contribute to the cause of global independence true to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s strategy and plan for external activities.” (Yonhap, “Kim Jong-un Vows to Uphold Kim Jong-il’s Instruction to Maintain Military Power,” North Korea Newsletter No. 207 (April 26, 2012)

KCNA: “Rodong Sinmun Thursday carried “Let Us Hold Great Comrade Kim Jong Il in High Esteem as General Secretary of Our Party Forever and Successfully Accomplish the Revolutionary Cause of Juche”, a talk the dear respected Kim Jong Un had with leading officials of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on April 6. In the talk Kim Jong Un said that the Fourth Conference of the WPK is to be held amid great expectation and concern of the people at home and abroad in the run-up to the significant Day of the Sun marking the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Un called for making the Conference serve as a turning point in providing an important landmark in upholding General Secretary Kim Jong Il as eternal leader of the WPK together with Kim Il Sung and successfully realizing their ideas and cause. He stressed the need to hold Kim Jong Il in high esteem as general secretary of the WPK forever. Doing so is a principled requirement for holding fast to his idea and line and victoriously advancing our revolutionary cause, Kim Jong Un noted, adding: This is by no means a symbolic meaning. This means invariably having Kim Jong Il at the post of general secretary of the WPK and carrying out the party building and activities in line his idea and intention. The idea and line of Kim Jong Il serve as eternal guidelines of our party and revolution and an ever-victorious banner whose validity and vitality have been proven in the revolutionary practice. The victorious advance and completion of our revolutionary cause is unthinkable without his idea and line. Only when Kim Jong Il is held in high esteem as general secretary of the WPK forever, will it be possible to dynamically advance the revolution and construction and successfully accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche as in the past. At the Party Conference we are going to declare internally and externally that the WPK is the glorious party of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un said, adding: The WPK is the party of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as it holds them in high esteem as eternal leaders. The guiding idea of the WPK is the great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism. The Workers’ Party of Korea is a glorious party that has Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism as its guiding idea and struggles for their realization. No matter what difficult and huge revolutionary duty we may face, we are sure to triumph as there are outstanding leaders, eternal sun of Juche, the invincible WPK, the people intensely loyal to the party and the leader as well as the strong revolutionary army of Mt. Paektu. We should hold Kim Jong Il in high esteem as the eternal leader of our party and people and glorify his revolutionary career and undying revolutionary feats for all ages. Kim Jong Il was a great leader, matchless patriot and kind-hearted leader of the people, the leader who devoted his all to the prosperity of the country and the happiness of its people with absolute loyalty to the President and warm love for the country and its people. His life was the most brilliant life of a peerlessly great man who performed undying feats for the party, the revolution, the country and the people true to the noble intention of the President. We should carry out all work for holding Kim Jong Il in high esteem for all ages and perpetuating the memory of the leader with pure conscience and moral obligation. To develop the WPK into the eternal party of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il means holding fast to Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism as the guiding idea of the WPK and conducting the party building and activities just as was thought and intended by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. What is important for strengthening the WPK as the eternal party of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il is to more thoroughly establish the party’s monolithic leadership system. All the party members, servicepersons of the People’s Army and other people should uphold the party’s ideology and leadership with faith and conscience, rally as firm as an iron wall around the Party Central Committee in thinking and purpose and sense of moral obligation and share their destiny with the party in good or grim days. We should strengthen the single-minded unity of the WPK and the revolutionary ranks in every way and thoroughly defend it. Single-minded unity is the most valuable revolutionary legacy bequeathed to us by Kim Jong Il and mainstay of the Korean revolution. The single-minded unity in which the leader, the party and the masses are united on the basis of great idea, warm loving care and feelings is the greatest treasure more valuable than hundreds of millions of tons of gold. It is essential to deeply respect the people, prioritize their interests and look after their life as their real mothers would do. Believing in the people as in Heaven was the maxim of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. True to their noble intention all the work should be conducted with priority given to the demands and interests of the people while boundlessly respecting them. It is necessary to make the noble and beautiful traits of helping and leading each other forward pervade the whole country and thus make society a great harmonious family in which all its members are united in single mind. Kim Jong Un said: The heroic deeds performed by Pak Thae Son, former miner of the Kumgol Mine, by laying down his valuable life for the collective and comrades and by Ri Chang Son who was a farmer of the Ohyon Co-op Farm of Yonan County are beautiful deeds which can be found only among the people in our era who were raised by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. They set examples for everybody to follow. Songun represents our independence, dignity and life. A country with weak military might can not defend its sovereignty and right to existence but will become plaything and fall victim to the imperialists in the long run. This is a hard fact. So we should consistently hold fast to the work of bolstering the military might. The might of Songun represents the might of the People’s Army and what is essential in strengthening the military might is to strengthen the People’s Army. The People’s Army should become standard-bearers and a shock brigade not only in defending the country but in carrying out the party’s plan for building a thriving nation as the driving force of the revolution. It should also become pace-setters in creating and disseminating Songun culture in the new century. The traits of attaching importance to military affairs should be established throughout society and an all-people, nationwide defense system should be consolidated to turn the whole country into an impregnable fortress. We should bring about a decisive turn in improving the standard of people’s living and building an economic power. We should put forward the people who have trusted in and followed the party only as the happiest people in the world by making the precious assets, which Kim Jong Il provided with much effort, pay off. This was his ardent wish and is the firm determination and will of our party. We should wage an unflinching offensive in response to the flames of Hamnam and rapidly develop vanguard economic sectors and basic industrial fields and thus lay a firm foundation for the economic development and increase production in all domains of the national economy. Priority should be given to power, coal and metal industries and railway transport. Only then will it be possible to reenergize the national economy and stabilize and improve the people’s living standard. We should build a knowledge-based economic power in response to the flames of the industrial revolution in the new century. We should struggle with a high aim and ideal as intended by Kim Jong Il who used to instruct to look at the world with one’s feet planted on one’s own land, and thus beat the world in all aspects. In the spirit of exploration and creation displayed by workers in Ryonha who brought about drastic progress in CNC machine tools production, a drive should be waged to push back the frontiers of the latest science and technology to put the country’s overall technological equipment on the level of world standard and improve the economic structure to meet the requirements of the era of the knowledge-based economy. Efforts should be given to land management to turn the country into a land of bliss. Kim Jong Un called for focusing all the issues arising in the economy on the Cabinet and establishing strict discipline and order of solving them under the unified command of the Cabinet. Being the headquarters responsible for the country’s economy, the Cabinet should set a goal and work out strategy for economic development on a scientific and realistic basis under a long-term plan and push forward on its own initiative the work to control, guide and manage overall economic affairs in a unified manner. All fields and units should solve all the problems related to the economic undertakings under a full agreement with the Cabinet and thoroughly carry out the Cabinet’s decisions and instructions for carrying out the party’s economic policy. Steady revolutionary turn should be effected in all the fields of the cultural construction including education, public health, literature and arts and sports and efforts should be made to glorify our country as a developed and highly civilized socialist country. State investment in the education should be increased and modernization of the education be realized. The level of the secondary general education should be drastically raised and university education be strengthened to bring up talented world-level scientists and technicians who would be responsible for the drive for building a thriving socialist nation. It is necessary to give full play to the advantages of socialist healthcare system and create and disseminate more masterpieces of the times. Sports should be popularized to make the hot sports wind sweep across the country. We should make the people create the noble and highly civilized socialist culture as well as enjoy them, thereby injecting vitality and enthusiasm into the whole society. In order to bring about a decisive turn in building a thriving socialist nation just as was intended and desired by Kim Jong Il it is necessary to increase the function and role of the party organizations before anything else and officials should fulfill their responsibilities and roles as commanding members of the revolution. The officials should become true and able persons like Kim Chaek who successfully carried out any tasks, upholding Kim Il Sung. They should stand in the van of the ranks, become scouts blazing a trail and play the role of a locomotive in leading the masses in the field. Officials exist for the people, not vice versa. The officials should learn from Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s view on the people and share weal and woe with them while sharing meal with them, and work harder and harder for them. We should accomplish the historic cause of national reunification true to the life-long intention and behests of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. We should conduct positive external activities and contribute to the cause of global independence true to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s strategy and plan for external activities. Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are always with us and encourage us. We should bear this in mind and work with redoubled efforts and successfully materialize their plan and desire and thus glorify the new century of the Juche revolution as a century of victory and glory.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Calls for Holding Kim Jong Il in High Esteem as General Secretary of WPK Forever,” April 19, 2012)


4/7/12:
DoS spokesman Victoria Nuland neither confirmed nor denied a news report that a senior U.S. government official visited Pyongyang a week before the North’s rocket launch in April. “I’m not commenting on it one way or the other,” she said. A diplomatic source said Joseph DeTrani, director of the National Counterproliferation Center (NCPC) under the Office of Director of the National Intelligence (DNI), made the secret trip to Pyongyang from Guam. DeTrani served at the DNI as the North Korea Mission Manager, where he was responsible for integrating collection and analysis on North Korea. (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. Tepid about N. Korea’s Overture,” Yonhap, May 23, 2012) Two senior U.S. figures apparently flew to Pyongyang aboard a U.S. Air Force plane in a secret mission six days before North Korea’s failed rocket launch on April 13. “At around 7:40 a.m. on April 7, a U.S. Air Force Boeing 737 entered North Korea,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said. “The aircraft flew from Guam and into North Korea along the same route on the West Sea used by former President Kim Dae-jung during his visit to the North back in 2000.” Experts speculate that the plane carried Joseph DeTrani, a nuclear negotiator in the George W. Bush administration, and Sydney Seiler, a National Security Council advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama. The secret visit appears to have been a last-ditch effort by Washington to stop North Korea from pressing ahead with the rocket launch. (Chosun Ilbo, “U.S. Officials in Secret Visit to N. Korea before Rocket Launch,” May 24, 2012)


4/8/12:
North Korea is believed to be gearing up for a nuclear test, an intelligence official said. Satellite images show the communist nation digging a new tunnel underground in the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country’s northeast, where it conducted two previous nuclear tests, first in 2006 and then in 2009. The construction is believed to be in its final stage, the official said.” North Korea is making clandestine preparations for a third nuclear test at Punggye-ri in North Hamkyong Province, where it conducted two nuclear tests in the past,” the official said. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Prepping for Nuclear Test: Intelligence Official,” April 8, 2012) Experts say the regime is pushing ahead with the tests to bolster new leader Kim Jong-un’s rule. “Kim Jong-un is seeking to celebrate North Korea’s emergence as a ‘powerful and prosperous’ with the long-range missile launch and nuclear test to try and consolidate the legitimacy of his rule,” said Paik Hak-soon at the Sejong Institute. “At the same time, North Korea is also warning the U.S. not to break its February 29 agreement with Pyongyang,” which pledged food aid if the North halts nuclear weapons and long-range missile development. Other experts believe North Korea is using the threat of another nuclear test as a ploy to gain more food aid. Baek Seung-joo at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said, “It’s clear that North Korea is preparing for a nuclear test, but it’s unclear whether it will actually conduct the test or use it simply as leverage for further talks. The aim is to pressure the U.S.” Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies said, “North Korea is making visible preparations for a third nuclear test to tell Washington it wants to hold nuclear arms reduction talks as a fully fledged nuclear state.” But Yang added it is unlikely the North has enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. (Chosun Ilbo, “Is N. Korea Planning Another Nuclear test?” April 9, 2012)

The top envoys of South Korea, China and Japan raised concern over North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite, with Beijing hinting at a tougher stance towards its recalcitrant neighbor. The concern was shared by Foreign Minister Kim Sung-whan and his Chinese and Japanese counterparts, Yang Jiechi and Gemba Koichiro during an annual trilateral gathering that took place in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo. While Beijing fell short of sharing the view that the launch slated for between April 12 and 16 would constitute a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, a Seoul official hinted that progress had been made on this count. During a press conference, Kim and Gemba reiterated that stance while Yang instead called for calm to prevent tension causing the situation from deteriorating further. But during one-on-one talks yesterday, Yang told Kim the sides should work not only bilaterally but also at the U.N. to prevent a situation that would threaten stability on the peninsula. An unnamed Seoul official said this implied that Beijing would consider the launch a violation of the resolution, Yonhap reported. (Kim Young-jin, “China Hints at Tougher Stand on N.K.,” Korea Times, April 8, 2012) China, the North’s closest ally, instead urged more dialogue and communication. The Chinese side is troubled by the developments, and strongly encourages everyone involved on all sides, at high and low levels, to remain calm and reasonable,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters. “These issues need to be worked out in a diplomatic and peaceful manner.” Kyodo News reported that Foreign Minister Gemba said the three sides failed to reach a consensus on the launch, an apparent reference to China’s softer approach. “We were able to increase our common views,” Kyodo quoted Gemba as saying. “But frankly speaking, I would not say the three countries completely shared the same view.” (Associated Press, “China Troubled by North Korean rocket Launch Plans, Urges More Diplomacy,” April 8, 2012)


4/11/12:
North Korea’s young new leader, Kim Jong-un, was named to a newly-created top post of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, “first secretary,” further consolidating his grip on power ahead at a crucial party conference held earlier in the day, KCNA said. “Most high-ranking officials at the Workers’ Party are around the same age as the late father of Kim Jong-un,” Professor Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University, said. “It seems that Kim Jong-un created the post of first secretary to show his modesty to the old guards of the Workers’ Party while exercising a practical power over the party,” (Yonhap, “N. Korea’s New Leader Named to Top Post of Workers’ Party,” April 11, 2012) KCNA: “His election as first secretary of the WPK is an expression of absolute support for and trust in the supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army by all party members, servicepersons and other people. He has developed the revolutionary idea of the peerlessly great persons of Mt. Paektu to glorify it as Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism with his gifted wisdom and through energetic ideological and theoretical activities and put forth unique ideas and theories of the revolution and construction and all other fields including politics, military affairs, economy and culture and successfully materialized them, thus making outstanding contributions to the Juche-based army building through his energetic Songun leadership. It also marks a great political event that demonstrates to the full the unshakable will of the army and people of the DPRK to fully preserve and glorify the immortal revolutionary exploits of Kim Jong Il and accomplish generation after generation the revolutionary cause of Juche, the Songun revolutionary cause started in Mt. Paektu, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. Only victory and glory will always be in store for the army and people of the DPRK advancing under the guidance of the WPK headed by Kim Jong Un and the party and country holding the great sun in high esteem will shine more brilliantly along with the new century of Kim Il Sung’s Korea.” (KCNA, “WPK Conference Elects Kim Jong Un First Secretary of WPK,” April 11, 2012)

The ruling Saenuri (New Frontier) Party held on to its majority in the National Assembly in a surprising comeback from behind attributed to the leadership of Park Guen-hye, the conservatives’ frontrunner for the presidential election in December. The Saenuri Party won 152 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, down from 162. The main opposition Democratic United Party followed with 127 seats. Its coalition partner, the Unified Progressive Party, followed at a distant third, winning 13 seats. The conservative minority Liberty Forward Party won five, and three independent candidates also managed to win. While Park was credited largely for rescuing the sinking conservative ruling party against the liberal alliance of the DUP and UPP, the liberals were most damaged by a furor over raunchy and sexist remarks by its candidate Kim Yong-min, a co-host of popular podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda,” who refused to leave the race. The DUP conceded defeat. “We will deeply reflect upon the meaning of today and try ceaselessly to be reborn as a party that the people can rely on,” said DUP spokeswoman Park Sun-sook. (Ser Myo-ja, “Saenuri Party Keeps Majority in Assembly with a Surprise Win,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 12, 2012) According to the National Election Commission, around 21.8 million people, or 54.3 percent of the electorate cast ballots yesterday at 13,470 polling stations across the country. Although the turnout is higher than in the previous legislative elections in 2008, when 46.1 percent of eligible voters voted, yesterday’s turnout was lower than the 60 percent hoped for by the Democratic United Party. (Lee Eun-joo, “Voter Turnout Lower Than Expectations,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 12, 2012)

With North Korea poised to launch a long-range missile despite a widespread international protest, the Obama administration is trying to play down the propaganda value for North Korea’s leaders and head off criticism of its abortive diplomatic opening to Pyongyang in late February. The White House is readying a blunt response to a launching by North Korea, which will include, as it has warned, the suspension of a food aid agreement announced just six weeks ago, a senior official said. The United States also plans to rally worldwide condemnation of the launching, which Pyongyang insists is intended to put a satellite into orbit, but which Washington says would be a breach of North Korea’s international obligations. Beyond that, however, the administration’s options are limited. The United States will not seek further sanctions in the United Nations Security Council, this official said, because North Korea is already heavily sanctioned and Washington needs to preserve its political capital with China and Russia to win their backing for future measures against Syria and Iran. The more likely scenario at the United Nations is a weaker statement from the Council president. Unlike the administration of President George W. Bush, this official said, the Obama administration did not give the North Koreans anything before they violated the agreement by announcing plans to go ahead with the satellite launching. And, he added, the administration expects the North Koreans to abide by the other terms of the deal if it hopes, as it has said, for a fuller diplomatic dialogue. Still, for President Obama, who prided himself on not falling into the trap of previous presidents in dealing with North Korea, the diplomatic dead end has been a frustrating episode: proof that a change in leadership in Pyongyang has done nothing to change its penchant for flouting United Nations resolutions, paying no heed to its biggest patron, China, and reneging on deals with the United States. Moreover, administration officials said they feared that the missile launching could be the first in a series of provocations, which could include the test of a nuclear bomb possibly fueled by highly enriched uranium. A nuclear test would almost certainly force the administration to go to the Security Council, they said. “North Korea should stop engaging in these types of provocative and destabilizing actions,” said a spokesman for the National Security Council, Tommy Vietor. “We’d like to see nations that have close relations with North Korea consider what else they could do to send a clear signal to this new leadership that it’s time for them to move in a different direction.” At a nuclear summit meeting in South Korea two weeks ago, Obama leaned on China’s president, Hu Jintao, to use his leverage to stop the launching. While administration officials said the Chinese were angry with Pyongyang and conveyed that message, it appeared to have not been enough to deter North Korea from a launching it says is intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the revered father of the country. The White House has urged media organizations not to overdo their coverage of the launching, saying it would give Pyongyang a propaganda victory. The satellite, one official said, was a “dishwasher wrapped in tinfoil.” But that has not stopped news organizations from sending correspondents to Pyongyang, where they have filed frequent reports on preparations. For weeks, the administration has had to contend with whispers from Korea experts that somehow its diplomats were duped, or that the Americans did not issue a clear enough warning to the North Koreans that a launching would be unacceptable — a narrative that the North Koreans have helped to propagate. But according to Evans Revere, a former principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the State Department, the new State Department negotiator for North Korea, Glyn Davies, told the North Koreans that a satellite launching would be a violation of whatever agreement they made, when he sat opposite a veteran North Korean diplomat, Kim Kye-gwan, in late February. “Administration officials have told me that the D.P.R.K. side understood clearly and accepted the U.S. position that a satellite launch would be violation of the Feb. 29 agreement’s ban on long-range missile tests,” Revere said. Revere said he had been told by North Korean contacts as early as December that the government planned to launch a satellite. The information was so alarming that he passed it to the administration before Davies traveled to Beijing to meet Kim, Revere said. The North Korean negotiator left Beijing knowing that if a satellite launching went ahead, the accord would not last, he said. Putting a best face on the North Korean disregard for the Feb. 29 agreement, an Asian diplomat with long experience in dealing with North Korea, who requested anonymity to preserve relations with officials in Pyongyang, said it was possible that Kim, a Foreign Ministry official, was not told of the North Korean’s military plans for a satellite missile launching. Some analysts question why the Obama administration did not insist on written assurances from North Korea that it would not launch a ballistic missile. Alternatively, the administration could have postponed the agreement to see if the North Koreans went ahead with the launching. “This seems to have been a strategic error that has left the administration with an unpalatable choice of denouncing or only partially enforcing an agreement it recently hailed,” said Douglas Paal, the director of the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and once an official both in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and his successor, President George Bush. Analysts expressed sympathy for the administration’s predicament. But some said they thought the political calendar — not just in the United States, but in China and South Korea, which are also facing political transitions — had led countries to relax pressure on North Korea. “Did the administration give a huge amount of aid and get sucker-punched? No,” said Michael Green, who served in the administration of President George W. Bush and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But the strategic context matters. Since the beginning of 2011, we have visibly been less urgent about North Korea.” (Mark Landler and Jane Perlez, “Few Options As North Korea Nears Launching,” New York Times, April 12, 2012, p. A-1)


4/13/12:
North Korea launched a long-range Unha-3 rocket in defiance of repeated international protests, but it failed to reach orbit, breaking apart soon after the blastoff, U.S. and South Korean officials said. The three-stage rocket — carrying a satellite that Pyongyang said was intended for weather observation — was fired from a launch pad in North Korea’s northwest at 7:39 a.m., but it quickly separated into several pieces and fell into the sea, South Korean officials said. A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the rocket broke up about 11 / 2 minutes into the flight. “The fact that it failed suggests there’s a little more time before North Korea has the capability to strike the U.S. directly,” said Scott Snyder, a North Korea analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations. Friday’s attempt was a “clear step backward,” said Peter Crail, a nonproliferation analyst at the Washington-based Arms Control Association. The first stage of the rocket dropped into the sea about 100 miles west of Seoul, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The later stages failed to fire and plummeted into the Yellow Sea. The White House said in a statement that the North is “further isolating itself” by engaging in provocations, but added that President Obama is “prepared to engage constructively with North Korea” if it lives up to its international commitments and deals peacefully with its neighbors. White House officials moved to claim some credit for the North’s failure, saying that sanctions have prevented the country from developing its technology, including an advanced electronic system for weapons guidance. But Mitt Romney, the lead Republican presidential candidate, was critical of the administration. “Instead of approaching Pyongyang from a position of strength, President Obama sought to appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived,” Romney said in a statement. (Chico Harlan and William Wan, “N. Korean Rocket Breaks up on Launch,” Washington Post, April 13, 2012 p. A-8) Roughly four hours after the Unha-3 rocket fell apart, Pyongyang’s state-run news agency released a brief statement saying that the “earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit.” A news anchorwoman then read the statement on domestic television. “Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure,” the broadcaster told viewers. The North’s admission marked a surprising reversal of the usual national narrative, which portrays a self-reliant country that thwarts larger imperialist powers with its military and technological might. It also threatened to turn a celebratory week into a humiliating one: Pyongyang’s leaders had planned the rocket launch as a showcase for the 100th birthday party of late leader Kim Il Sung. (Chico Harlan, “In a First, North Korea Tells Its People about a Failure,” Washington Post, April 13, 2012 p. A-8) Beijing, Pyongyang’s closest ally, urged world and regional powers to work to reopen stalled six-party talks between the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China. “We are convinced that the reaction to these challenges needs to be exclusively diplomatic and political,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said alongside his Chinese and Indian counterparts after a meeting in Moscow. “We call on all parties to show maximum responsibility and restraint and to make efforts for a renewal of six party talks,” he said, adding the Security Council should offer a strong but “balanced” response. “We do not believe in new sanctions. They would not do anything from the standpoint of settling the situation,” Lavrov said. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, speaking alongside Lavrov, said Beijing had been working hard to avoid future tensions and was disappointed with Pyongyang’s decision to proceed with the launch. Yang said China was “concerned by North Korea’s decision” and expressed hope that all sides “will promote mutual understanding through joint efforts and promote the six party process.” (AFP, “U.S. and Allies Slam Launch,” April 13, 2012) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had phone consultations with her Chinese counterpart, `Yang Jiechi. “We are asking them to use their relationship with North Korea to convey our concern about their recent actions,” Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for Clinton, said at a press briefing. One of the things that Clinton stressed was the need to consult closely with other members of the six-party team, he said, referring to nuclear talks with North Korea that also involve South Korea, Russia and Japan. “And that we move together in a deliberate and unified way to speak out and condemn this action,” added Toner. On a visit to Moscow, Chinese FM Yang Jiechi reiterated Beijing’s typical calls for all relevant parties to “demonstrate calmness and restraint and not undermine the peace and the stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.” (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. Cancels Food Aid for N. Korea: White House,” April 14, 2012) China’s foreign ministry said Sunday that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi talked with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan. A ministry statement appealed for all sides to “remain calm and exercise restraint.” (Associated Press, “China Appeals for Restraint from U.S., South Korea Following North Korea’s Rocket Launch,” April 14, 2012) North Korea’s failed rocket launch drew a carefully calibrated response from the United States and other countries, with officials seeking to condemn the North without inviting even more provocations from the reclusive government. At an emergency meeting, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement that censored North Korea’s launch — widely perceived as a thinly veiled ballistic missile test — but stopped well short of any imposing new penalties on Pyongyang. “The Security Council deplored this launch,” said U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, who is presiding over the 15-nation council’s rotating presidency this month. “Members of the Security Council agree to continue consultations on an appropriate response.” The North is already one of the most heavily sanctioned nations in the world, and any attempt to impose further sanctions through the Security Council would likely have been blocked by China, North Korea’s staunchest ally. White House officials, meanwhile, said they won’t pursue new sanctions but will seek to tighten the enforcement of existing U.N. sanctions. They also said they had suspended a deal to deliver food aid to North Korea in return for a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests. “Their efforts to launch a missile clearly demonstrates that they could not be trusted to keep their commitments, therefore we’re not going forward with an agreement to provide them with any assistance,” National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes told reporters accompanying President Obama on a trip to Florida aboard Air Force One. (William Wan, “U.N. Cautious in Censuring Pyongyang,” Washington Post, April 14, 2012 p. A-9) One noticeable difference is that it appears the Unha-3 carried more fuel in its third stage. This was to be expected, since the Unha-3 was launched from the new Sohae Satellite Launching Station (commonly referred to as “Tongchang-ri”) on the west coast to the south, rather than from the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (“Musudan-ri”) on the east coast to the east (as the Unha-2 was), to avoid flying over Japan early in flight. This change in flight path is significant because rockets launched east gain speed naturally from the rotation of the earth. Therefore, the extra fuel aboard the Unha-3 was needed to compensate for this difference when fired south. (David Wright, “Questions about the Unha-3 Failure,” 38North, May 4, 2012)

KCNA: “The DPRK launched its first application satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 07:38:55 a.m. on Friday. The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit. Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure.” (KCNA, “DPRK’s Satellite Fails to Enter Its Orbit,” April 13, 2012)

White House statement: “Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea’s provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments. While this action is not surprising given North Korea’s pattern of aggressive behavior, any missile activity by North Korea is of concern to the international community. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations, and is fully committed to the security our allies in the region. The President has been clear that he is prepared to engage constructively with North Korea. However, he has also insisted that North Korea live up to its own commitments, adhere to its international obligations and deal peacefully with its neighbors. North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry. North Korea’s long-standing development of missiles and pursuit of nuclear weapons have not brought it security — and never will. North Korea will only show strength and find security by abiding by international law, living up to its obligations, and by working to feed its citizens, to educate its children, and to win the trust of its neighbors.” (White House Press Spokesman Jay Carney, April 13, 2012)

Mitt Romney condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the North’s act. “Pyongyang’s action is another blatant violation of unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions and demonstrates once again that Pyongyang is committed to developing long-range missiles with the potential of carrying nuclear weapons,” he said in an emailed statement. He said the president sought to “appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived.” Romney criticized the government for scaling down missile defense programs for defense budget cuts. “This incompetence from the Obama Administration has emboldened the North Korean regime and undermined the security of the United States and our allies,” he said. (Yonhap, “N.K. Shows Obama’s Foreign Policy Failure: Romney,” April 13, 2012)

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on April 15 claimed North Korea’s failed rocket would, if successful, have a range of 10,000 km, which would make it capable of reaching the west coast of the U.S. Kim told the National Assembly’s Defense Committee, “We have discussed that this one was probably upgraded to fly about 10,000 km.” The rocket is 30 m long and has a diameter of 2.5 m, similar to a rocket launched in April 2009, which was 32 m long and had a 2.2 m diameter. But the new rocket is 13 tons heavier at 92 tons.

Rocket experts believe that North Korea tried to put in more fuel with an improved engine in order to increase liftoff thrust. The previous rocket was said to have a range of 6,700 km, which would make it just capable of reaching Alaska, but the South Korean military speculates that the North worked on improving the range. The first-stage rocket thus probably exploded one minute and 20 seconds after launch, so the cause is now more likely to have been a flawed engine or fuel leakage from the first-stage rocket. A source in the South Korean government said, “There was a strange occurrence that looked like an explosion at 50 km above sea level around one minute and 20 seconds after the launch. The rocket continued to fly thanks to thrust and inertia, and at two minutes and 15 seconds, at 70.5 km above sea level, it split in two.” (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea Rocket ‘Could Fly 10,000 Km.’” April 16, 2012)

North Korea appointed new members to the country’s top military commission, the country’s media reported Saturday, in a move widely seen as an attempt to solidify Kim Jung-un’s control over the country. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Choe Rong-hae, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Korea People’s Army (KPA) Gen. Kim Won Hong were elected to the National Defense Commission (NDC), along with Ri Myong-su, the head of public security. Four other officials were named as members of the powerful commission at the fifth session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Appoints New Members to Defense Commission,” April 14, 2012)

For the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, the spectacular failure of a rocket meant to put a satellite into orbit was more than a $1 billion humiliation. It could be the first test of whether anyone will dare challenge his rule, [?] and raises the question, American officials said, of whether he will be tempted to recover by staging a larger provocation. Kim [?] wanted to mark his formal ascension to top political power — timed to the country’s biggest holiday in decades, the 100th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung — with fireworks, real and symbolic. Instead, the rocket carrying the satellite splintered harmlessly into the gray-blue waters of the Yellow Sea, and the North Korean government apparently concluded it had no choice but to tell its citizens the embarrassing news, which was bound to get around in a country that now has at least one million cellphones. It was the first time the country had admitted such a defeat. For President Obama and his allies, though, the bigger question was not the fate of an aging rocket technology, but the future of a young dictator. The failure injected new unpredictability at an already uncertain time, when Kim Jong-un is trying to consolidate power, and raised new questions only weeks after Obama suggested that it was unclear who was really running North Korea. There was considerable speculation on Friday among American and South Korean officials that Kim and his military, to re-establish some credibility, would stage a new nuclear test, for which preparations have been evident on satellite photographs for several weeks. “The North Koreans have tended to pursue patterns of provocative actions,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters aboard Air Force One. The embarrassment means the United States probably has more time before it has to worry about the North’s ability to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, one that could reach the West Coast. Until now, the American assessment had been that the North could have that capability within five years. But American officials said that was little solace. There is a risk, even if a remote one, that the North will repeat the kind of attacks on a border island and a South Korean Navy vessel in 2010 for which it has been blamed. The very fact that the rocket test happened meant that the young Kim, believed to be about 28, was either willing to defy China, which warned against the test, or was overruled by others in the power structure. The first option is worrisome, because it would suggest that, as the Chinese claim, they have very little influence. The second could suggest a struggle for influence, if not actual leadership. In an opaque country that is fiercely armed and is believed to have a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons or the plutonium to produce them, the idea of power struggles makes officials nervous. “Frankly,” one senior American intelligence official said before the launching’s failure, “I’d rather have an unstable Kim Jong-un in charge than a free-for-all where you are wondering who’s really in control of the arsenal.” Recent machinations over a deal in which the North promised to suspend some nuclear work for American food aid, then reneged quickly on a pledge to suspend long-range missile tests, at least raised the possibility that such a power struggle could be under way. [?] And despite American officials’ worries, there is one situation in which it could lead to more moderate behavior: if the failed missile launching emboldens those who have long believed in reaching some accord with the West and now can make the case that hard-liners fumbled the provocation, which in the end scuttled the agreement to bring in much-needed food. For the launching, North Korea has recently completed a new site near the western border with China — at a cost of $400 million, according to South Korean estimates. The rocket itself cost another $450 million, the South Korean government believes. And the lost American food aid was estimated to be worth $200 million, driving the effective cost of the test above $1 billion in a country that cannot feed its own people. The rocket reached only about 94 miles in altitude, far less than the 310 miles required to place a satellite into orbit and, as North Korean officials liked to say, present “a gift” to the closest the North Koreans have to a deity: Kim Il-sung. In a socialist country steeped in the traditions of a Confucian dynasty, it is of paramount importance for the country’s new leader to embellish his rise to power with events that show his loyalty to his forefathers while demonstrating his own abilities to lead, analysts said. This launching was supposed to represent that moment: Both Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il, ever fearful of an attack from the United States, had dreamed of North Korea having an effective nuclear deterrent, and that requires functioning missiles that could be fitted with weapons and reach the West. “The main drive behind the rocket launch was domestic politics,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul and a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. “They wanted to introduce the Kim Jong-un era with a big celebratory bang. They wanted to make their people believe that they were now a powerful nation.” South Korea did not lose the opportunity to jab at the North’s hurt pride. “It is very regrettable that North Korea is spending enormous resources on developing nuclear and missile capabilities while ignoring the urgent welfare issue of the North Korean people,” said its foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan. Others were struck by the enormous loss of face for the country’s leadership. “It is hard to imagine a greater humiliation,” a North Korea expert, Marcus Noland, wrote on his blog at the Web site of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “The North Koreans have managed in a single stroke to not only defy the U.N. Security Council, the United States and even their patron China, but also demonstrate ineptitude,” Noland wrote. “Some of the scientists and engineers associated with the launch are likely facing death or the gulag as scapegoats for this embarrassment.” Launching failures are not uncommon even for rich and technologically advanced nations. “This stuff is really hard to do,” David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private group in Cambridge, Mass., said in an interview. But in the myth-filled world of the Kim dynasty, there is little room for failure. (Choe Sang-hun and David E. Sanger, “Rocket Failure May Test Leader of North Korea,” New York Times, April 14, 2012, p. A-1)


4/15/12:
North Korea rolled out what appeared to be a new ballistic missile as the impoverished state marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung with a massive military parade. The unveiling came after the North’s young and untested leader Kim Jong-un vowed to proceed with his late father Kim Jong-il’s “military-first” policy in his first public speech. A South Korean military official said the missile is presumed to have a range of up to 6,000 kilometers and capable of hitting Alaska, and that Seoul and U.S. intelligence authorities were looking into whether it had been deployed. Reports said the missile appeared to have several stages and was bigger than its mid-range Musudan missile unveiled in October 2010. (Kim Young-jin, “N.K. Rolls out New Long-Range Missile,” Korea Times, April 15, 2012) Michishita Narushige, a North Korea military expert at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, said the missile appeared to be new, but strongly resembled the rocket just launched and the long-range Taepodong-2, first launched, unsuccessfully, in 2006. He said it probably has three stages but did not appear to be big enough to have the 15,000-kilometre (9,000-mile) range needed to effectively attack the United States, which would be the goal of an ICBM for the North. “I don’t think this is a serious ICBM,” Michishita said. “Putting it on display has a psychological impact, and that would have been greater if Friday’s launch had worked. But North Korea has a very bad record with long-range missiles. I think this is more a propaganda ploy than a military advance.” (Associated Press, “Kim Jong-un Delivers Lengthy Surprise Speech,” April 15, 2012) The new intercontinental ballistic missiles displayed in a military parade in North Korea were mock-ups and the presentation was “a nice dog and pony show,” according to two German experts on North Korean missiles. “At first glance, the missile seems capable of covering a range of perhaps 10,000 kilometers. However, a closer look reveals that all of the presented missiles are mock-ups,” Markus Schiller and Robert H. Schmucker, analysts with Schmucker Technology in Germany, wrote in an English-language report posted on a nuclear arms control and nonproliferation blog last week. “There is still no evidence that North Korea actually has a functional ICBM.” The two said, “At a closer look, it is impossible to find a real warhead separation plane on any of the observed ICBMs,” adding that the surface structure is another indication that the warhead is a mock-up. “A real warhead’s casing has to resist thermal and structural loads of an atmospheric reentry and is certainly not designed this way,” the experts said. The two also said a road-mobile missile of this size is always solid-fueled, though there are visible elements at each stage that look like filling or draining valves for liquid propellants. “These elements only make sense on a liquid-fueled stage,” the report said. “North Korea obviously presented the World’s first liquid-fueled solid missile, in six different versions. There is no doubt that these missiles were mock-ups,” the two wrote in the report. “For now, the ICBM presentation was nothing else than a nice dog and pony show.” (Yonhap, “German Experts Dismiss N. Korean Missiles at Parade as Mock-Ups,” April 24, 2012) Jeffrey Lewis: “Are the mockups “complete fantasy missiles,” as Markus and Robert argue, or are they indicators of what’s to come? I have to say, I lean toward the latter view. The missiles are fakes, but they may be real fakes — that is to say genuine indications of North Korea’s technical path toward an ICBM. … It is normal to make mockups, sometimes called “missile simulators,” before building the real thing. In 1994, the United States intelligence community spotted two “missile simulators” — you know, mockups. Those two mockups were bestowed the names Taepodong 1 and 2. As it turns out, those two missile simulators fairly represented the missiles that North Korea would test fire in 1998 and — after abandoning the 1999-2006 launch moratorium — in 2006, 2009, and 2012. Here is how Barbara Starr described the Taepodong 2: Last month US intelligence detected what is described as a new ‘missile simulator’ at the Sanum Dong R&D Facility. Reports of a simulator apparently refer to a hardware mock-up detected by intelligence satellites. The missile has been given the provisional designation Taepo Dong-2 (TD-2). It is a two-stage missile. The mock-up was 32 m long, consisting of an 18 m by 2.4 m diameter first stage and a 14 m by 1.3 m second stage. The second stage appeared to be similar to a No Dong-1 missile with a rounded nosecone, while the fatter lower stage is around the size of a 1970s-vintage Chinese CSS-2/DF-3/ Dongfeng-3 IRBM propellant section. The dimensions turned out to be revealing — although the 2.4 m first stage would house a cluster of Nodong engines, rather than a DF-3 as Starr reported, and North Korea would replace the Nodong-based second stage with an R-27 (SS-N-6). … Ted Postol estimated the first stage of the Unha (better known as the TD-2) as 2.4 m in diameter and 16 m long. The simulator wasn’t exactly right, but one could learn a lot about where the DPRK was headed from looking at it closely. … It is plausible, to me, that North Korea created the mockups on parade as part of a program to develop real missiles that look more or less exactly like them. Many have observed that the missiles in the parade were numbered. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but many of the instances of poor workmanship were more visible in the units with lower numbers. If the mockups were numbered sequentially, there is a hint of increasing realism that suggests these were more than just parade dummies. Although North Korea has not flight-tested the Musudan IRBM, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center lists it as deployed, with fewer than 50 launchers. That’s strange — the intelligence community has a special term for missiles that are flight-tested but not deployed (“initial threat availability”) but not the other way around. … There is a huge discussion about what sort of technological path these ICBMs might represent, if any. Allow me to articulate just one view, which I suspect is the view of at least some people in the intelligence community. North Korea imported Scud missiles from Egypt, then proceeded to build an entire missile program on this technology. North Korean enlarged the Scud into the Nodong, stuck a Scud on top of a Nodong (Taepodong 1) and then clustered some Nodong engines with another Nodong on top (Taepodong 2.) Now, North Korea has imported the R-27 (SS-N-6) — a better baseline technology that uses more energetic propellants: unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). North Korea has apparently reconfigured the Taepodong 2, sticking an SS-N-6 on top of a cluster of Nodong engines, topped by a smaller SS-N-6-derived third stage (vernier engines only, it seems). North Korea also enlarged the SS-N-6 much as it enlarged the Scud, creating the Musudan IRBM. North Korea may try to replicate the approach it took to Scuds, just with a better technology. So, North Korea may try to either cluster SS-N-6 engines or stack SS-N-6-derived stages on top of one another. One of the big debates we are having now is about what North Korea might be able to squeeze into the 2 m first stage of the new ICBM.” (Jeffrey Lewis, “Real Fake Missiles?” Arms Control Wonk, May 1, 2102)

Kim Jong-un’s Supreme Assembly speech excerpts: “Comrades, the great 100-year history of the Kim Il Sung nation is a history that proves the iron truth that dignity and great prosperity of a country and nation exist only when an excellent leader is served. While prided itself on a 5,000-year-old long history and brilliant culture, because it was not under correct leadership and lacked the power to defend itself, the very appearance of our nation a century ago was a small and weak, pitiful colonial nation that had to endure flunkeyism and national ruin as its fate. However, the 100-year history of the Kim Il Sung nation put a permanent end to the stormy history of suffering, and lifted the dignity of our country and people to the highest state in the history of the nation. Then or now, there is no change in the geopolitical position of the nation, but the small and weak nation of yesterday – which had been mercilessly trampled upon at each festival scene of the powers – has today changed into a dignified political and military power and our people are displaying dignity as independent people who can never be toyed with by anybody. This phenomenal event that has taken place in the destiny of our nation is no accident brought about by time, but an inevitable history brought about by great Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il, who are the pioneers and leaders of the military-first revolution. …Comrade Kim Il Sung — who paid foremost attention to strengthening the revolutionary armed forces throughout the entire period of the long revolutionary activities — performed the military miracle of the 20th century of defeating the two most outrageous imperialisms in one generation, and prepared a powerful military guarantee for sovereignty of the country and prosperity of the nation for all ages by raising the people’s army into a revolutionary strong army of one-a-match-for-a hundred, and arming all the people and fortifying the whole land. Great Comrade Kim Jong Il — who put forward inheriting and completing the military-first revolutionary cause of chuch’e pioneered by Comrade Kim Il Sung as his lifelong mission — opened the highest stage of the development of our revolutionary armed forces with his extraordinary sagacity, outstanding art of command, and matchless pluck. During the period of the gravest ordeal for our revolution, Comrade Kim Jong Il strengthened! and developed the people’s army into the most elite combat ranks, led to constant victories, the unprecedented battles to protect socialism, and achieved the great historic feats of enhancing our country to the status of a world-class militarily powerful state through the ever-victorious military-first politics. …Military technological supremacy is not a monopoly of imperialists any more, and the time has gone forever when the enemies threatened and intimidated us with atomic bombs. Today’s solemn military demonstration will clearly confirm this. …In order for us to eternally glorify the dignity of military-first Korea and successfully accomplish the cause of building a powerful socialist state, first, second, and third, we must strengthen the people’s army in every way. …Commanders and soldiers are all equally valuable comrades-in-arms of the supreme commander. What we trust is not rockets or any other modern arms and equipment, but our loving soldiers. …The addition of the industrial revolution of the new century to single-hearted unity and invincible military power makes none other than a powerful socialist state. We will have to embark on the comprehensive construction of an economically powerful state by kindling more fiercely, the flames of the industrial revolution of the new century and the flames of South Hamgyong Province. The officers and men of the people’s army must make a breakthrough in the march of great upswing, continuously demonstrating the might of the revolutionary strong army, which knows no impossibility, at every major battle area for the construction of an economically powerful state and the improvement of the people’s livelihood.” (NK Tech)

Last month’s Supreme People’s Assembly session in Pyongyang saw Kim Jong Il enshrined as eternal chairman of the National Defense Commission and Kim Jong Eun elevated to 1st chairman of the same body, also saw North Korea amend the ‘Socialist Constitution of the DPRK’. Most controversially, the revised constitution declares North Korea to be a nuclear-armed state. The amendments now appear in the Korean version of the document carried by the country’s gateway portal, ‘Naenara’. Primarily, a multitude of references to Kim Jong Il that were absent from the last amendment in 2009 have been added following his death in December last year. “In the midst of the collapse of world socialism and the wicked attacks of the imperialist alliance,” the most notable phrase declares, “Kim Jong Il gloriously defended the noble socialist inheritance of comrade Kim Il Sung with military-first politics, turning our nation into an invincible political ideological state, nuclear-armed state and undefeatable militarily strong state, and paving the glorious way to the construction of the strong and prosperous state.” (Chris Green, “North Enshrines Kim’s Nuclear ‘Achievement,’” Daily NK, May 31, 2012)

Ahn Cheol-soo has made up his mind to run in the December presidential election and begun recruiting allies for his campaign, the JoongAng Ilbo reported yesterday, quoting a key aide to the 50-year-old software mogul and scholar. Ahn, the dean of the Seoul National University Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology and the founder of antivirus software company Ahn Lab, met with a senior liberal politician before last week’s general election to persuade him to join his campaign, a key aide to Ahn told JoongAng Ilbo. Instead of joining the Democratic United Party, the largest opposition party, or creating a new party of his own, Ahn intends to form a loose political alliance and recruit supporters independently, the source said. The source said the meeting with the senior liberal politician, who is of centrist, pragmatic leanings, took place in mid-March. He declined to name him. “I have made up my mind,” Ahn was quoted as telling the politician. “I will lead a new political experiment. Please join me.” (Kim Jung-wook and Ser Myo-ja, “Ahn’s Decided to Run for President,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 17, 2012)


4/16/12:
The United Nations Security Council officially censured North Korea over the failed rocket launching of a satellite last week, saying it “strongly condemns” the action and had ordered its sanctions committee to expand the blacklist of North Korean goods, companies, and individuals connected to that country’s nuclear and missile programs. “The Security Council underscores that this satellite launch, as well as any launch that uses ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a serious violation” of measures adopted against North Korea in 2006 and 2009, the council said in a measure known as a presidential statement. “The Security Council deplores that such a launch has caused grave security concerns in the region,” the statement said. Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan that often speaks for Pyongyang, said North Korea would embark on developing a rocket much bigger than the Unha-3, the rocket that disintegrated Friday a few moments after liftoff. (Choe Sang-hun, “Security Council Expands Sanctions on North Korea,” New York Times, April 16, 2012) “The swift and unanimous adoption of this strong presidential statement shows that the international community is united in sending a clear message to North Korea that such provocations are serious and totally unacceptable,” said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, the current council president who read the statement at a council meeting. “Clearly, the potential for that pattern to persist is one that all members of the international community are mindful of and think would be a disastrous course for the North to pursue,” Rice said. “It will only lead to the North’s increased isolation.” The presidential statement expressed the Security Council’s “determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test.” It said Friday’s launch, “as well as any use of ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a serious violation of U.N. resolutions.” It demanded that North Korea halt further launches using ballistic missile technology and suspend its ballistic missile program as required by the 2006 and 2009 resolutions. The council said in today’s statement that it asked the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea to prepare new additions for the sanctions list within 15 days, and said if it doesn’t the council itself would take action within five days to expand the sanctions list. Rice said the council intends “to designate additional North Korean entities, including companies, to be subject to an asset freeze, as well as to identify additional proliferation-sensitive technology to be banned for transfer to and from North Korea.” The sanctions committee will also take several other actions to improve enforcement of existing sanctions, she said. The United States, Rice said, will propose “a robust package of new designations, including the names of companies responsible for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and a list of technical items that North Korea needs to proceed with its illicit programs.” The sanctions committee will go over proposals for new additions to the sanctions list, Rice said, which “in 2009 yielded a very credible outcome, and we expect the same this time.” “This text is stronger than the one the council adopted in 2009, both in language and in substance,” Rice said. (Associated Press, “U.N. Strongly Condemns North Korea Rocket Launch, Warns of Further Action If New Nuclear Test,” April 16, 2012)

UNSC Presidential Statement: “At the 6752nd meeting of the Security Council, held on Monday, 16 April 2012, in connection with the Council’s consideration of the item entitled “Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, the President of the

Security Council made the following statement on behalf of the Council: “The Security Council strongly condemns the 13 April 2012 (local time) launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Security Council underscores that this satellite launch, as well as any launch that uses ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a serious violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009). “The Security Council deplores that such a launch has caused grave security concerns in the region. The Security Council demands that the DPRK not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology and comply with resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009) by suspending all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launches. The Security Council agrees to adjust the measures imposed by paragraph 8 of resolution 1718 (2006), as modified by resolution 1874 (2009). The Security Council directs the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) to undertake the following tasks and to report to the Security Council within fifteen days: (a) Designate additional entities and items; (b) Update the information contained on the Committee’s list of individuals, entities, and items (S/2009/205 and INFCIRC/254/Rev.9/Part.1), and update on an annual basis thereafter; (c) Update the Committee’s annual work plan. The Security Council further agrees that, if the Committee has not acted pursuant to the paragraph above within fifteen days, then the Security Council will complete action to adjust these measures within an additional five days. The Security Council demands that the DPRK immediately comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), including that it: abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner; immediately cease all related activities; and not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests or any further provocation. The Security Council calls upon all Member States to implement fully their obligations pursuant to resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009). The Security Council expresses its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test.” (Statement by the President of the Security Council, April 16, 2012, S/PRST/2012/13)

CAMPBELL:Good morning everyone, our team had excellent meetings this morning in the Prime Minister’s office, in the Diet Headquarters, and now in the Foreign Ministry. I think we made good progress on upcoming high level diplomacy between our two countries. I think we’ve seen also progress at the United Nations on Security Council actions on North Korea. I think the United States and Japan are again demonstrating very close coordination in the midst of provocative actions with respect to North Korea. We will be continuing close work with Japan on every aspect of our Asia-Pacific strategy, including the force posture reviews, issues associated with the ASEAN Regional Forum, and other steps that are of critical importance to both Japan and the United States.” Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, Remarks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tokyo, April 16, 2012)

David Hawk: “North Korea’s kwan-li-so consist of a series of sprawling encampments measuring kilometers long and kilometers wide. The number of these encampments has varied over time. They are located, mostly, in the valleys between high mountains, mostly, in the northern provinces of North Korea. There are between 5,000 and 50,000 prisoners per kwan-li-so, totaling perhaps some 150,000 to 200,000 prisoners throughout North Korea. Both perceived wrongdoers and up to three generations of their extended families are “arrested,” or, more accurately, abducted by police authorities and deposited in the kwan-li-so, without any judicial process or legal recourse whatsoever, for lifetime sentences of extremely hard labor in mining, timber-cutting, or farming enterprises. The prisoners live under brutal conditions in permanent situations of deliberately contrived semi-starvation. The kwan-li-so are usually surrounded at their outer perimeters by barbed-wire fences punctuated with guard towers and patrolled by heavily armed guards. The encampments include self-contained, closed “village” compounds for single persons, usually the alleged wrongdoers, and other closed, fenced-in “villages” for the extended families of the wrongdoers. Some of the camps are divided into sections called wan-jeon-tong-je-kyuk (total-control zones), where the sentences are lifetime, and sections called hyuk-myunghwa-kyuk (best translated as “revolutionizing zones”), so-called “re-education” areas from which prisoners eventually can be released. In the total-control zones, if the families are together, only privileged prisoners are allowed to marry and have children. With the only known exception of Camp No. 18,17 prisoners have no correspondence or contact with the world outside the political penal-labor colony, except for news provided by newly arriving prisoners. The kwan-li-so are also sometimes referred to as teuk-byeoldok-je-dae-sang-gu-yeok, which translates as “zones under special dictatorship.” The most strikingly abnormal feature of the kwan-li-so system is the philosophy of “collective responsibility,” or “guilt by association” — yeon-jwa-je — whereby the mother and father, sisters and brothers, children and sometimes grandchildren of the offending political prisoner are imprisoned in a three-generation practice. Former prisoners and guards trace this practice to a 1972 statement by “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung: “Factionalists or enemies of class, whoever they are, their seed must be eliminated through three generations.” According to the testimony of a former guard at Kwan-li-so No. 11 at Kyungsung, North Hamgyong Province, this slogan was carved in wood in the prison guards’ headquarters building. According to the testimony of YOON Dae Il, a former police official, the number of family members abducted and sent to the lifetime labor camps depends on the severity of the presumed political offense. …The other strikingly abnormal characteristic of the kwan-li-so system is that prisoners are not arrested, charged (that is, told of their offense), or tried in any sort judicial procedure, where they would have a chance to confront their accusers or offer a defense with or even without benefit of legal counsel. The presumed offender is simply picked up and taken to an interrogation facility and frequently tortured to “confess” before being sent to the political penal-labor colony. The family members are also just picked up and deposited at the kwan-li-so, without ever being told of the whereabouts or wrongdoings of the presumed wrongdoer. The most salient feature of day-to-day prison-labor camp life is the combination of below-subsistence food rations and extremely hard labor. Prisoners are provided only enough food to be kept perpetually on the verge of starvation. And prisoners are compelled by their hunger to eat, if they can get away with it, the food of the labor-camp farm animals, plants, grasses, bark, rats, snakes — anything remotely edible. It should be noted that below-subsistence-level food rations preceded, by decades, the severe nationwide food shortages experienced by North Korea in the 1990s. Many of the kwan-li-so involve mining for coal, iron deposits, gold, or various other ores, or logging and wood-cutting in the adjacent mountains. Prisoners undertake farm labor during planting and harvesting seasons. This back-breaking labor is often performed twelve or more hours per day, seven days per week, with time off only for national holidays (such as New Year’s Day and Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s birthdays, for example). Except for the “revolutionizing zone,” in Kwan-li-so No. 15 Yodok, and possibly a section of Kwan-li-so No. 18, these camps do not feature “re-education,” as it is not anticipated that the prisoners will be returned to society. Punishment for rule infractions or working too slowly include further reduction in food rations, or detention within punishment cells that do not have enough space for a person to completely lie down or stand up, causing the loss of circulation and atrophy of legs and often leading to death within several weeks. The combination of below-subsistence-level food rations and slave-labor working conditions leads to large numbers of deaths in detention. Persons who try to escape and other major rule-breakers are publicly executed by hanging or firing squad in front of the assembled prisoners of that section of the camp. …There has been a gradual consolidation of the kwan-li-so, according to former guards and police officials. Originally there were more than a dozen, but several have been closed, for a variety of reasons — primarily for being too close in proximity to the China border — and the prisoners transferred to other camps. According to former police officials, there are now six kwan-li-so in operation. Four of these six were confirmed by persons interviewed for this report. …The system of severe repression that awaits North Koreans forcibly repatriated from China is, in some ways, a separate phenomenon from the lifetime and long-term imprisonments that characterize the kwan-li-so (political penal-labor colonies) and kyo-hwa-so (prison-labor camps). It is a shorter-term detention/punishment system, which includes do-jip-kyul-so (provincial detention centers) and ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae (labor-training centers). However, it is related to the kwan-li-so and kyo-hwa-so in that it uses the same brutal forced-labor practices. The long-term imprisonment and short-term detention facilities are both characterized by below-subsistence-level food rations and very high levels of deaths in detention. And both, along with the police jails and interrogation centers that feed them, are administered by the In-min-bo-an-seong (People’s Safety Agency) police, which runs the kyo-hwa-so, and the Kuk-ga-bo-wi-bu (National Security Agency police), which runs the kwan-li-so. Most basically, the detention/punishment system for forcibly repatriated North Koreans is an outgrowth of the North Korean approach for dealing with petty criminals convicted of what would be considered, in other countries, misdemeanor offenses or petty infractions. The offenders are incarcerated in short-term provincial or sub-provincial detention facilities, where they are further punished with forced labor. However, many of the “minor” offenses in the DPRK would not normally be considered criminal elsewhere: leaving one’s village or traveling within the country without authorization, not showing up at one’s designated worksite, or leaving the country — a right guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which the DPRK is a State Party). …Upon repatriation to North Korea they are detained in a jail or detention/interrogation facility. In Korean, a police jail is called a ka-mok. Both the regular police, the In-min-bo-an-seong (People’s Safety Agency), and the Kuk-ga-bo-wi-bu (National Security Agency) political police, have such jails in the provinces along the North Korea–China border. Some of the former detainees use the word ku-ryu-jang, meaning a temporary detention place or facility, often inside a police station. Whether they took place in a ku-ryu-jang or ka-mok, and whether they were conducted by the In-min-bo-an-seong police or the bo-wi-bu police, the interrogations described by former prisoners all followed a pattern clearly outlined by Former Detainee #22, a young man originally from Kaesong. Essentially, the authorities ask: “Why did you go to China, where did you go, and what did you do in each place?” And then, more ominously: “Did you meet any South Koreans?” “Did you go to a Christian church?” “Did you watch or listen to South Korean TV or radio?” and “Were you trying to go to South Korea?” All the former detainees interviewed for this report firmly believed that an affirmative answer to the latter questions would result in execution or their being sent to a kwan-liso or kyo-hwa-so, so they initially denied any contact with South Koreans or Christians while in China. Their denials were not considered credible by their interrogators, who attempted to starve and beat admissions out of the detainees. Some of the former prisoners interviewed for this report stuck to their denials; others, broken by hunger and torture, admitted that they had met South Koreans or gone to a Christian church service. One interviewee said she was in such pain that she begged her jailers to kill her to end her suffering. Usually after several weeks of interrogation, the detainees were sent to short-term detention-labor facilities called in Korean jip-kyul-so and ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae. None of the former detainees interviewed for this report mentioned any kind of trial or judicial process before being sent to these hard-labor detention/punishment facilities. Jip-kyul-so literally translates as a “gathering place.” A do-jip-kyul-so is a provincial detention center. In practice, these are short-term hard-labor detention facilities for those serving up to six month sentences. Several interviewees reported that both the regular police and the political police run jip-kyul-so detention centers for small-time or “small crime” persons as well as for North Koreans forcibly repatriated from China. Jip-kyul-so are characterized by hard labor, such as construction work or brick-making, and sub-subsistence food rations, the combination of which causes large numbers of deaths in detention (even given the shortness of the sentences) and large numbers of “sick-releases” (the idea being that gravely ill prisoners will either die at home, thus reducing the number of deaths in detention, or recover at home before returning to the jip-kyul-so to complete their sentences). o-dong-dan-ryeon-dae literally translates as “labor-training corps” or “labor-training camp,” sometimes abbreviated in English by South Korean human rights activists as “LTC.” The LTCs are even shorter-term jip-kyul-so, set up to accommodate the overflow from the established detention centers caused by the large numbers of Koreans forcibly repatriated from China. One interviewee described the LTCs as localized “feeder” facilities for the jip-kyul-so. Another interviewee described the LTCs as a “not-in-the-statute-books” response to the burgeoning numbers of North Koreans traveling without authorization, working at enterprises other than their assigned occupations at idled state production facilities, or fleeing to China in response to famine conditions in Korea. One interviewee stated that it was becoming the practice to have separate facilities for Koreans forcibly repatriated from China because the returnees were telling the common “light crime” criminals in the jip-kyul-so about the “freedom and prosperity” in China. The LTCs seem to be sub-provincial facilities, where various labor or production functions are not performed on-site, but where mobile forced-labor brigades spend nights. The LTC detainees are made to march rapidly, or jog slowly, it is variously said, to their various and changing worksites — chanting political slogans or singing what they describe as “silly songs” of praise to Kim Jong Il as they move along. Apart from the torture during interrogation, and the high levels of deaths in detention reported by the former detainees, repatriated pregnant North Koreans thrown into the interrogation-detention system face ethnically-motivated infanticide and forced abortions. …All refugee accounts reported the same objective proclaimed by the North Korean prison and jail authorities for these atrocities: preventing women who became pregnant while in China from giving birth to “half-Chinese” babies, meaning babies that are half ethnic Han Chinese, China’s majority ethnic group. Indeed, some of the North Korean women who fled to China had married or were trafficked to (sold, or provided for involuntary or quasi-voluntary “arranged marriages”) ethnic Chinese men. Other North Korean women who fled to China had married or taken up with Korean-speaking citizens of China of Korean ethnic origin. But this potential distinction seemingly made no difference. North Korean women who were pregnant when they were repatriated were compelled to have abortions, or their babies were killed immediately after birth. Eight eyewitnesses or persons with firsthand accounts of ethnic infanticide were interviewed for this report. The accounts of ethnic infanticide occur in only three places: Sinuiju, Onsong, and Chongjin. Sinuiju and Chongjin are large port cities in north North Korea on the west and east coasts, respectively. Little information is presently available on the extent to which this practice is carried out elsewhere along the North Korea–China border, except for Onsong. But Chongjin and Sinuiju are the main population centers from which the largest number of “second-time” North Korean escapees would come. And the stories are too similar in too many details to be coincidental. … Recommendations …All intergovernmental contact with North Korea should include discussion toward the improvement of human rights conditions, particularly the verified abolition of political prisoner camps and detention centers and the release of those being held. Some repressive practices in North Korea could be ended rather easily. Other aspects may be more complicated. Emptying out the kwan-li-so may require, in part, an orderly departure program and some form of third-country resettlement for those whose treatment or condition is such as to preclude re-integration into North Korean society. An agreement that provides for economic assistance to North Korea should also mandate the following: 1. North Korea should decriminalize the right to leave and should release all North Koreans who have been detained upon repatriation from China. 2. North Korea should release all those prisoners held in arbitrary detention in the kwan-li-so political penal-labor colonies, and invite the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Imprisonment, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and/or Human Rights Watch to observe the closings through on-site visits to the locations of the former kwan-li-so to confirm that these political penal-labor colonies are no longer in operation.” (David Hawk, The Hidden Gulag, 2nd edition, A Report by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea,2012)


4/17/12:
DPRK FoMin statement: “The U.S. and its followers committed a hostile act of violating the DPRK’s right to satellite launch by abusing the United Nations Security Council again. On April 16 the UNSC issued a statement of its chairman ‘condemning’ the DPRK’s satellite launch for peaceful purposes. The DPRK took steps to show the sincerity and transparency of the satellite launch for peaceful purposes to the maximum from A to Z as an exception and aroused sympathy of broad world public. The U.S., finding it hard to conceal the truth, after hatching all sorts of dastardly trick to prevent the peaceful nature of the DPRK’s satellite launch from being confirmed objectively and persistently term it a long-range missile launch, imposed upon the UNSC its brigandish demand that the DPRK should not be allowed to launch even a satellite for peaceful purposes. The UNSC has been abused under the pressure of high-handed and arbitrary practices of the U.S. and its catastrophic consequences have been felt still today in various parts of the world. UNSC resolutions 1718 and 1874 which the hostile forces regard as the ‘ground’ to take issue with the DPRK’s satellite launch are a product of their high-handed policy for antagonizing and oppressing the DPRK and the height of illegality they faked up at random, disregarding even universally accepted international law. It is the brigandish essence of these resolutions that those countries which refuse to meekly obey the U.S. should not be allowed to develop their national defense capability and to this end they should be deprived of even their right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes. Such unreasonable double standards are possible at the UNSC because such standards are in line with the interests of those countries keen to monopolize such cutting-edge technology as satellite launch. The present developments clearly show that the principle of equality as regards sovereignty clarified in the UN Charter is a mere high-sounding word and justice should be protected by one’s own efforts. The DPRK Foreign Ministry declares as follows in connection with the grave infringement upon the right of the sovereign state to launch satellites for peaceful purposes: Firstly, we resolutely and totally reject the unreasonable behavior of the UNSC to violate the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellites. It is the unshakable principle of the army and people of the DPRK not to tolerate even the slightest element to deride and encroach upon the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country. Secondly, we will continue exercising the independent right to use space recognized by the universally accepted international laws which are above the UNSC resolutions. We will expand and strengthen space development institutions and continue launching a variety of working satellites needed for economic development of the country including geostationary satellites under the state plan for space development. Nothing can stand in the way of the DPRK’s space development for peaceful purposes. Thirdly, as the U.S. violated the February 29 DPRK-U.S. agreement through its undisguised hostile acts, we will no longer be bound to it. We have repeatedly clarified from the outset that we will sincerely implement the February 29 agreement to the last and took practical steps to implement it as the satellite launch for peaceful purposes is an issue quite different from the agreement. No sooner had the DPRK’s plan for satellite launch been announced than the U.S. suspended the process for the provision of food pursuant to the DPRK-U.S. agreement under that pretext. This time, the U.S. spearheaded the hostile act of encroaching upon the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellites by abusing the position as chairman of the UNSC. The U.S. finally reneged on its promise that ‘it respects the sovereignty of the DPRK and has no hostile intent toward it’ in practice, totally violating the February 29 agreement. We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement. The U.S. will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences. Peace is very dear for us but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us.” (KCNA, “DPRK Rejects UNSC′s Act to Violate DPRK′s Legitimate Right to Launch Satellite,” April 17, 2012)

North Korea dismissed a rebuke by the U.N. Security Council of its failed long-range rocket launch and said it was no longer bound by an agreement with the United States for a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and arms inspection. (Reuters, “North Korea Says No Longer Bound by Nuclear Test Moratorium,” April 17, 2012)


4/18/12:
Despite international condemnation over Pyongyang’s botched rocket launch, Seoul’s point man on the North said South Korea will “maintain humanitarian aid for vulnerable people through international organizations.” Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said in a meeting with reporters South Korea will also allow private relief agencies to provide aid to the North, though he said Seoul will take necessary punitive steps along with its allies and the international community. He did not elaborate. (Yonhap, “Seoul to Continue Humanitarian Aid for Pyongyang Despite Rocket Launch,” Korea Times, April 18, 2012)

U.N. officials are studying images of military equipment paraded by North Korea at the weekend after a tip-off that one of the new missile launchers included significant Chinese technology that could put Beijing in breach of international sanctions against Pyongyang. The panel 0f experts that advises the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee, which is charged with monitoring compliance with U.N. resolutions passed in 2006 and 2009, is studying images of the transporter bearing a large new North Korean missile. The panel was alerted to the images by IHS Jane’s, the military analysts. In an email seen by the Financial Times, a senior U.N. official close to the committee, states his intention to pass the matter to the expert panel. Marcus Noland, deputy director at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said China could lose its veil of “honest broker” if Beijing were found to be passing on military equipment or knowhow to North Korea in violation of resolutions it says it supports. “This would be really big; it really changes things. If China is seen to be violating Security Council sanctions by helping to militarize North Korea, it puts China in a different light and changes the diplomatic relations between it and South Korea, Japan and the U.S.,” he said. “It would also heat up the U.S. presidential election with Romney going after Obama for being weak on China.” The vehicle under examination is a transporter-erector-launcher, or TEL, that can carry, elevate to launch position, and fire a missile. Some, though not all, analysts believe its main modifications are based on a design from the Ninth Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, also known as the WoSang truck factory. China’s involvement would breach U.N. Security Council resolution 1874 if this technology was passed to North Korea after sanctions came into force in 2006. That could prove difficult unless the U.S., which has the world’s most sophisticated analysis capabilities, saw it in its interest to take up the issue. (Carola Hoyos, “UN Probes Claim That China Broke N. Korea Sanctions,” Financial Times, April 19, 2012, p. 6) Pinning a sanctions-busting charge on Beijing would be difficult, however, because it would be hard to prove that Beijing provided the technology for military purposes or even that it sold the vehicle directly to North Korea, the experts said. The vehicle also can be used in other fields, like oil exploration. At the same time North Korea might have gotten it from another country in a re-export deal. “It’s very possible there was no intended violation of sanctions by China on this piece of equipment,” said arms transfer expert Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China denied any wrongdoing in connection with the vehicle’s appearance at the North Korean parade. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular news conference that China is against the spread of weapons of mass destruction and carriers for such weapons. He said China follows international laws and has strict rules against the spread of such weapons. Analyst Ted Parsons of IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly first raised the possibility that the missile-carrying vehicle came from China, citing similarities to Chinese design patterns in the windscreen, the windscreen wiper configuration, the door and handle, the grill, the front bumper lighting configurations, and the cabin steps. “The 16-wheel TEL is apparently based on a design from the 9th Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation,” he said. China military analyst Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center in suburban Washington agreed, citing technological challenges as a major reason to believe that Pyongyang could not have developed the vehicle on its own. “This is definitely a CASIC vehicle that was probably produced specifically for export to North Korea,” Fisher said. “The North Koreans don’t have the ability to make something like this themselves.” Fisher said that keeping the 16 wheels in alignment would present a particular challenge to North Korea, because of the requirement to develop a sophisticated on board computer system. This kind of system, he said, was “almost certainly beyond them.” CASIC designs vehicles of up to 21-meter-long (68 feet) trucks with maximum loading capacity of 122 tons for production at its Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicles Co., Ltd. in central China. “The vehicle could have been re-exported to North Korea from a third country, such as Pakistan, which is known to have used Chinese chassis for its medium range ballistic and other missiles, or North Korea could have used a front company to obscure that it was the buyer” Wezeman said. “Also it is possible that it was supplied to North Korea for civilian purposes such as construction.” CASIC descriptions of its 16-wheel vehicle make specific reference to its possible use in civilian activities including oil exploration. While acknowledging the possibility that the vehicle seen in Sunday’s parade was re-exported from Pakistan, Fisher was adamant that it had almost certainly been built in China for North Korean customers. “I think that CASIC has put together as many as six or seven of these vehicles and that maybe half of them have been sold to Pyongyang,” he said. (Peter Enav, “Experts: N. Korea Missile Carrier Likely from China,” Associated Press, April 19, 2012)

Yomiuri Shimbun quoted an official of China`s Liaoning province near the border with North Korea as saying, “We cannot overlook the fact that repatriation means the end of life for repatriated North Korean escapees.” When China decided to stop sending back defectors to the North is unclear, the report said, but the assumption is that the decision likely came after last month’s Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, where Chinese President Hu Jintao told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak that Beijing would “respect” Seoul’s position on the defectors. The Liaoning official also said, “North Koreans have been escaping to China almost every day since North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died in December last year. Sometimes, the number reaches 30 a day.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “China Has Stopped Repatriating N.K. Defectors,” April 19, 2012)


4/19/12:
Letter from DPRK PermRep Sin Son-ho transmitting DPRK FoMin statement of 4/17 in annex: “The United States and its followers committed the hostile act of violating the right of the DPRK to a satellite launch by abusing the United Nations Security Council again. On 16 April the Security Council issued a statement of its President ‘condemning’ the DPRK’s satellite launch for peaceful purposes. The DPRK took steps to show sincerity and transparency in respect of the satellite launch for peaceful purposes to the maximum, from A to Z, as an exception and aroused the sympathy of the broad world public. The United States, finding it hard to conceal the truth, after hatching all sorts of dastardly tricks to prevent the peaceful nature of the DPRK’s satellite launch from being confirmed objectively and persistently terming it a long-range missile launch, imposed upon the Security Council its brigandish demand that the DPRK should not be allowed to launch even a satellite for peaceful purposes. The Security Council has been abused under the pressure of high-handed and arbitrary practices of the United States and the catastrophic consequences are still felt today in various parts of the world. Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009) which the hostile forces regard as the ‘ground’ for taking issue with the DPRK’s satellite launch are a product of their high-handed policy for antagonizing and oppressing the DPRK and the height of illegality; they are faked up at random, disregarding even universally accepted international law. It is the brigandish essence of these resolutions that those countries which refuse to meekly obey the United States should not be allowed to develop their national defense capability and to this end they should be deprived of even their right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes. Such unreasonable double standards are possible at the Security Council because such standards are in line with the interests of those countries keen to monopolize such cutting-edge technology as satellite launches. The present developments clearly show that the principle of equality as regards sovereignty set out in the Charter of the United Nations is a mere high-sounding word and justice should be protected by one’s own efforts. The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK declares as follows in connection with the grave infringement upon the right of the sovereign State to launch satellites for peaceful purposes: Firstly, we resolutely and totally reject the unreasonable behavior of the Security Council in violating the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellites. It is the unshakable principle of the army and people of the DPRK not to tolerate even the slightest element that derides and encroaches upon the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country. Secondly, we will continue exercising the independent right to use space recognized by the universally accepted international laws which are above the Security Council resolutions. We will expand and strengthen space development institutions and continue launching a variety of working satellites needed for the economic development of the country, including geostationary satellites under the state plan for space development. Nothing can stand in the way of the DPRK’s space development for peaceful purposes. Thirdly, as the United States violated the DPRK-United States agreement of 29 February through its undisguised hostile acts, we will no longer be bound by it. We have repeatedly made clear from the outset that we will sincerely implement the agreement of 29 February to the last, and took practical steps to implement it as the satellite launch for peaceful purposes is an issue quite different from the agreement. No sooner had the DPRK’s plan for a satellite launch been announced than the United States suspended the process for the provision of food pursuant to the DPRK-United States agreement under that pretext. This time, the United States spearheaded the hostile act of encroaching upon the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellites by abusing the position as President of the Security Council. The United States finally reneged on its promise that “it respects the sovereignty of the DPRK and has no hostile intent toward it” in practice, totally violating the agreement of 29 February. We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement. The United States will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences. Peace is very dear to us but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer to us.” (Letter from the DPRK PermRep to the President of the U.N. Security Council, April 19, 2012, S/2012/239)

South Korea unveiled two new missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere in North Korea. The Hyunmu-3 cruise missile has a range of 1,500 km and is capable of precision attacks on key North Korean facilities, including nuclear and missile installations, while the Hyunmu-2 ballistic missile has a 300 km range and can destroy a target the size of scores of a soccer field. The military had kept the existence of the missiles a top secret but decided to unveil them to ease public jitters after Pyongyang’s latest threats to strike Seoul. Major General Shin Won-sik told reporters the cruise missiles are “capable of striking targets anywhere in North Korea.” The Hyunmu-3 is said to be more accurate than the U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missile with a range of between 1,300 km to 2,500 km. It can be launched from both ground-based mobile platforms and Aegis-class destroyers and submarines. The Hyunmu-2 ballistic missile’s range is restricted to 300 km due to a treaty with the U.S. that limits the reach of South Korea’s missiles, but could apparently travel up to 500 km. It can hit targets with 30 m accuracy. (Chosun Ilbo, “S. Korea Unveils New Missiles,” April 20, 2012)

Dennis Gormley, “Cruise Missiles and NATO Missile Defense: Under the Radar?” Proliferation Papers, Institut Francais des Relations Internationales, Spring 2012

South Korea has asked China to verify claims that a missile launcher displayed by North Korea last weekend is of Chinese origin, in a potential violation of United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang, a senior Seoul official said. Kyodo reported, citing a South Korean government source, that another rocket is at the North’s Dongchang-ri missile site where the failed rocket was launched. That raised speculation the North Korea might attempt yet another launch, the report said. The foreign ministry official in Seoul, however, said he “is not aware of the fact” that a second rocket, believed to be the same type of the one which failed last week, is at the North’s missile base. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Asks China to Verify Claims of Breach of N. Korea Sanctions,” April 20, 2012) “China has provided repeated assurances that it’s complying fully with both Resolution 1718 as well as 1874. We’re not presently aware of any UN probe into this matter,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “I think we take them at their word,” Toner said, adding that he was not aware of specific conversations between the United States and China about the launcher. (AFP, “U.S. Takes China ‘at Word’ on North Korea Sanctions,” April 20, 2012)

Tanaka Hitoshi: “Moving forward in the aftermath of the satellite launch, the other Six-Party countries should keep the following three points at the fore­front of their minds. First, it is evident that negotia­tions must be conducted directly with North Korea’s power center and not necessarily the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Second, policy needs to be consis­tent across the other five Six-Party countries. And third, contingency planning is crucial, as we still cannot predict whether or not North Korea will live up to its commitments. This approach is necessary because a compre­hensive, negotiated settlement is the only practical way forward. North Korea needs to denuclearize. At the same time, the establishment of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, international economic and energy cooperation with North Korea, and the normalization of diplomatic relations with Japan and the United States are all critical. Given the complexities involved in negotiating such a compre­hensive settlement and the nature of past disagree­ments over the timing of implementation, the road to a meaningful result will be a long and difficult one. As such, the Six-Party process must continue, combined with informal bilateral negotiations to lay the groundwork for meaningful negotiations. North Korea cannot be recognized as a nuclear state. To this end, diplomatic negotiations with North Korea need to continue. But as is true in any negotiation process, it is crucial to interact with the right interlocutors. Dealing with a coun­terpart that cannot implement its end of a bargain is inherently a waste of time. Thus, if the United States is serious about resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, it must negotiate with those entities that control its nuclear weapons. This means deal­ing not with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but with the National Defense Council and establish­ing a streamlined and direct channel with North Korean negotiators who have unfettered access to Kim Jong-un, his inner ruling circle, and top mili­tary generals. While under normal circumstances diplomatic protocol dictates that negotiations between coun­tries be conducted through their respective foreign ministries, North Korea presents a special case. North Korea has a unique political structure; it is a military state, and the Korean People’s Army is given first priority in line with the state’s songun (military first) policy. Moreover, it is normal that military and defense ministry personnel would participate in ne­gotiations dealing with nuclear weapons in any con­text, as was the case in US-Soviet negotiations over nuclear arms reductions. It is clear that the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot give credible assurance on any measures relating to military matters and that any agreement negotiated with it regarding nuclear weapons will not be seriously imple­mented. Repeating this mistake will only result in further failed agreements destined to meet the same sorry fate as the 2005 agreement reached at the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks and the more recent Leap Day Agreement.” (Tanaka Hitoshi, “After the Launch: Moving Forward with North Korea,” East Asia Insights, Japan Center for International Exchange, April 2012)


4/20/12:
The Obama administration says it believes that a Chinese manufacturer sold North Korea the chassis and other parts for a missile-transport vehicle displayed in a military parade this week, a senior official said Friday, raising new concerns about China’s ability to enforce a ban on military sales to North Korea. Describing the sale as an “embarrassment” for Beijing, the official said the White House would use the episode to tighten pressure on the Chinese government to better enforce United Nations sanctions forbidding the sale of weapons or technology to North Korea that would aid its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. “We think this is poor Chinese performance in sanctions implementation, and not willful proliferation,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s diplomatic delicacy. “The Chinese system is so sprawling and poorly organized that they are not good at enforcing sanctions.” During the parade in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, six trucks hauled what appeared to be a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile. Arms control experts said the missiles might have been mock-ups rather than functioning weapons. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, testifying on Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee, said that American intelligence had not determined exactly what North Korea’s capabilities were. But he said, “I think the bottom line is if they, in fact, have a mobile capability to be able to have ICBMs deployed in that manner, that that increases the threat coming from North Korea.” Mr. Panetta added, “I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China,” though he declined to offer details at the hearing. The administration says it does not believe that the sale constitutes a clear violation of United Nations sanctions, the official said, because the Chinese manufacturer, suspected to be Hubei Sanjiang, sold only a chassis, not a complete vehicle. It might have been sold ostensibly for civilian purposes, like for use in mining. The firm most likely also sold the parts to a North Korean “cut out,” a term that refers to a front company set up to mask the ultimate buyer. A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Geng Shuang, denied that China had violated United Nations sanctions and said it was enforcing the ban. “We have our own export-control regime, which has been strictly implemented by all agencies and ministries of the Chinese government,” he said. Analysts who have studied photographs said it appeared that the North Koreans had modified the original vehicle by installing a launching stand for the missiles. They might also have added electronics. “Maybe the Chinese thought they could get away with it by saying they were for agriculture or lumbering purposes,” said Joel S. Wit, the editor of 38 North, a Web site on North Korea sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. However elaborate the efforts to disguise the sale, analysts said, it vividly demonstrates China’s continuing trouble in enforcing sanctions. The Chinese government, experts say, has little control over companies that have dealings with North Korea, particularly those with ties to the People’s Liberation Army of China. “It’s so huge, there’s so much corruption and state-owned companies have lots of autonomy,” said Michael J. Green, a China policy adviser in the George W. Bush administration. “The Chinese are incapable of being transparent with us on this system because they don’t understand it themselves.” But Green, who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also faulted the Obama administration as not putting enough emphasis on enforcing sanctions. After a “strong start,” he said the United States shifted its focus to diplomacy, which allowed Chinese officials to block pressure on enforcement. Until now, the administration official said, the United States has conveyed concerns about sanctions enforcement through its embassy in Beijing or the State Department. Now, though, the White House may get involved. (Mark Landler, “Suspected Sale by China Stirs Concern at White House, New York Times, April 21, 2012, p. A-)

Russia is in a dilemma dealing with North Korea’s provocations due to conflicting national interests, according to experts. “In order to resolve North Korea’s nuclear program, Russia needs to be tough when dealing with its Cold-War ally. However, its hard-line stance on the provocation could come at the expense of trade interests as Russia has moved to bolster trade ties with the two Koreas,” Chung Eun-sook, a senior fellow of the Sejong Institute, told Korea Times. Chung said Moscow has two key interests on the Korean peninsula. One is to find room for its influence amid an intensifying U.S.-China rivalry in the region and the other is trade, she said. Russia has stepped up efforts to realize a plan to provide natural gas to South Korea by way of the North and link the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the South via the inter-Korean railway. Russia has walked a delicate line between security concerns and trade interests. During nuclear summit talks held last month in Seoul, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev strongly denounced North Korea’s planned rocket launch saying Pyongyang should feed its people, not rely on provocation. Russia, like China, has been against Pyongyang’s move that can put regional stability at risk, such as a rocket launch or a nuclear test. Despite the strong rhetoric, Russia’s reaction to the launch was relatively weak. Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it opposed adopting new UN Security Council sanctions against the reclusive regime expressing “regret” concerning the incident that sparked global concern. “We are convinced that the reaction to these challenges needs to be exclusively diplomatic and political,” said Lavrov. “We do not believe in new sanctions. They would not do anything from the standpoint of settling the situation.” (Chung Min-uck, “Russia Wrestles with N.K.’s Bad Behavior,” Korea Times, April 20, 2012)

Senior party officials from China and North Korea hold their first meeting since the rocket launch. KCNA: “A strategic dialogue between the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Communist Party of China took place in Beijing on Saturday. Present there from the WPK side were members of the WPK delegation led by Kim Yong Il, alternate member of the Political Bureau and secretary of the C.C., the WPK, and Ji Jae Ryong, DPRK ambassador to China, and from the CPC side Wang Jiarui, head of the International Liaison Department of the C.C., the Communist Party of China, and members of the department. Both sides exchanged views on further developing the friendly and cooperative relations between the two parties and two countries and matters of mutual concern. The dialogue proceeded in a comradely and friendly atmosphere.” (KCNA, “Strategic Dialogue between WPK and CPC Held,” April 22, 2012)


4/21/12:
‘James Church’: “There is a regular posse of US policymakers and pundits who, when it comes to dealing with North Korea, like to say that Washington should not ‘buy the same horse twice.’ Sooner or later, when something goes wrong — and it usually does — they end up galloping off on their own steeds — the Three Horses of the Apocalypse: Hysteria, Hyperbole, and Hyperventilation. However, in what seems to be a short reprieve, this may be a good moment to take a deep analytical breath before things start going to hell again, which they inevitably will, and take a look around. As a general rule, following an unremarkable leadership transition is pretty much the same as watching paint dry on a summer afternoon. So far, to the chagrin and surprise of a number of observers who apparently expected a different outcome, the paint on the North Korean succession looks fine. Last week, the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) held another party conference, and with it, the new regime under Kim Jong Un (now KWP First Secretary and First Chairman of the National Defense Commission) has been fleshed out. As of April 15, we have what looks to be the new leadership ranking order. Alas, nothing on the personnel front really catches the eye. The trends set in place (and the decisions foreordained) by Kim Jong Il remain on track. The most one can say is that the KWP leadership structure, after a hiatus of nearly 18 years, appears to be back at full complement. A topped off Politburo list provides significant grist for analytical mills. Beware! For the last 60 years — more or less since Kim Il Sung firmly established his dominance over the North Korean system — it has not been wise to overanalyze leadership rankings. Of course, analysts do it anyway even while knowing there is always an inner core of advisors, a group which may or may not correspond to who is listed where in the rankings. Ultimately and apart from lists, much depends on the personality of the man on top, and as of yet, we seem not to know very much about what makes Kim Jong Un tick, much less who has his ear. Will he call people into his office one at a time, like his father; will he ask for the opinion of the Political Bureau, like his grandfather; or will he find another mode of getting advice and receiving reports? If so, I pray it is not twitter. Perhaps the one exception to the ho-hum personnel developments is the rise of Choe Ryong Hae, who ever since the third party conference in September 2010, has appeared to be on his way up. The son of Choe Hyon — a veteran of the anti-Japanese guerrilla struggle and close associate of Kim Il Sung — Choe Ryong Hae was head of the Socialist Youth League until he was removed in 1998, possibly for financial malfeasance (he had a lot of money that couldn’t be explained.) Instead of being shot, he was sent “down” for reeducation, spent a few years in the Pyongyang Water and Sewer Department, and emerged in 2003 as vice director of a central committee department. In 2006, he became chief secretary of North Hwanghae Province. In September 2010, he was one of several provincial party chief secretaries moved into the central leadership, though his case was special. In a series of moves meant almost certainly to position him to support Kim Jong Un’s succession, Choe not only became an alternate Political Committee member and party secretary, he also was made a four-star general and a member of the KWP Central Military Committee. Earlier this month, he was bumped up again, appointed vice marshal and head of the army’s General Political Department as well as a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau. At this point, he seems to occupy the same key position in the leadership as did Jo Myong Rok, who as Kim Jong Il’s ‘# 2’ visited Washington and met with President Bill Clinton in October 2000, the difference being that Jo Myong Rok was a career military officer while Choe Ryong Hae has had virtually no military experience. While we’re on the military, it’s worth noting that both the head of the army’s General Political Department and also the army chief of staff rank ahead of the defense minister in the Political Committee listings. This is not the normal state of affairs in North Korea. Whether it means the post of defense minister has been downgraded or just that the current occupant is not cut from the right cloth we’ll have to ponder. Overall, the military/security sector is well represented on the Political Committee, not terribly out of line with the norm. What is slightly unusual is that both the State Security Department (SSD) and the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) have maintained the increased visibility they’ve taken on since 2009, when the heads of both organizations were appointed to the National Defense Commission. Admittedly, for the past year, the MPS seemed to be in the doghouse — the minister was off the Politburo from April 2011to April 2012 — but apparently the problem has been fixed and the position again has Political Committee status. As for the SSD, it finally has a minister in charge — General Kim Won Hong, who previously served as head of the Defense Ministry’s Security Command. I say ‘finally,’ because the slot has either been vacant or held by Kim Jong Il since 1987. General Kim has appeared regularly with Kim Jong Un since the beginning of the year, whether because he was already acting SSD or was clearly slotted for the job there is no way for us mortals on the outside to know. Overall, it wasn’t a bad week for Kim Jong Un. I don’t know if he was embarrassed by the satellite launch failure. The young do not embarrass so easily, and we might have taken it more seriously than he did. In any case, Kim — or a very wise advisor — quickly cut the North’s losses by admitting the failure in a rather “Houston, we have a problem” vein. The scientists would look into what went wrong, we were told. Nor was this said sotto voce. The regime broke into domestic programming at the prime noon hour to make the announcement. If anyone is in trouble, it might not be the scientists who worked on the project but whoever assured Kim that there was no way the launch would fail. So far, there are no heads rolling around, not that we can see at least, but this may have been a learning experience for the young ruler. Advisors are fine, but don’t believe everything they tell you. Kim is likely pleased that Hu Jintao sent a message congratulating him on taking the party’s top post. Put under a microscope, the message looks a fraction less warm than one sent to Kim Jong Il in September 2010, but under the circumstances, it did the job nicely of signaling Chinese backing. It also may have softened (as probably intended) China’s support a few days later of the UN Security Council’s statement condemning the North’s rocket launch. If there was any real news, it’s inside Kim Jong Un’s maiden speech, delivered at the military parade on April 15. Given the massive display of military equipment, the tone of Kim’s speech was quite measured. There was no chest beating, no threats, no anti-US or anti-ROK rhetoric. On unification, Kim spoke of following a ‘responsible and patient’ approach, seemingly laying the foundation for reengaging with the ROK after the new administration comes to power next year. Despite his call for continued attention to military strength, he made a point of emphasizing the army’s role in economic construction and, rather than call for more sacrifice from the population, expressed the party’s determination not to make people ‘tighten their belts again.’ That is worth watching as it plays out over the next year to see if it revives the discussion (people hate it when I say ‘debate’) that played out in North Korean media from 2002-05 following Kim Jong Il’s promulgating new economic policies in July 2002. Is there still a chance of the succession going off track? Not only is there a chance, but it’s probably a lead-pipe cinch that someone will try to challenge Kim Jong Un. You have only to consider the fact that Kim Il Sung faced several direct challenges during his tenure, including a coup attempt as late as the 1970s. Not to be outdone, Kim Jong Il was faced with the revolt of entire army corps barely a year after taking power. The real question is not will the young Kim be faced with challengers, but will he (and his security team) be adept enough to detect and smash them. ” (James Church, “The Paint Dries,” 38North, April 21, 2012)


4/22/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “Prevailing on the Korean Peninsula is such emergency situation that the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors’ confrontation hysteria has gone beyond a tolerance limit and should not be allowed to go on any longer. The despicable group which has committed the worst evils went the lengths of recklessly hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK again. … The group of traitors was busy with the groundless false propaganda that ‘the north was stockpiling food for feasts on the Day of the Sun,’ not content with making desperate efforts to deter the international moves for food aid to the DPRK last year. At that time we had already branded him as an underwit. The service personnel and people of the DPRK are shaking with irrepressible resentment at the group which defamed the father of the nation whom they are holding in high esteem as the sun. They are now eagerly waiting for the issue of an order so that they may mercilessly punish the traitor. Loud shouts of slogan ‘Let us beat to death the group of rat-like Lee Myung Bak’ are also heard even from the women of the country known as a country of courteous people in the East from olden times. As the Lee group is making last-ditch efforts to seek a way out in escalated confrontation with fellow countrymen, the service personnel and people unanimously hold that this group should be eradicated as early as possible for being a cancer-like entity disturbing the peace and stability in the peninsula and the region. The situation on the peninsula is so tense that it may go beyond control due to the desperate frenzy of the traitor on the deathbed. In view of the prevailing situation, the DPRK Foreign Ministry solemnly declares that in case something happens on the peninsula now, the responsibility will entirely rest with traitor Lee. If any country intends to interfere in the internal affairs of the Korean nation under the pretext of being an ally or partner, patronizing the above-said human scum which wantonly violates human ethics and morality, it will not be able to escape the strikes of the extremely infuriated service personnel and people of the DPRK.” (KCNA, “Spokesman for DPRK Foreign Ministry Warns Lee Myung Bak Group of Extreme Confrontation Hysteria,” April 22, 2012)

The April 22-27 Russia-China joint naval exercise, taking place in the Yellow Sea off China’s east coast, involves a total of 16 vessels and two submarines from Chinese navy and four warships from Russian navy’s Pacific Fleet as well as three supply ships being summoned for the exercise. (Zha Chunming, “Chinese, Russian Navy Visit Each Other’s Warships,” April 22, 2012)


4/23/12:
Special operation action group of the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army notice: “The indignation of the army and people of the DPRK at the group of rat-like Lee Myung-bak is running high. Shouts ‘Destroy,’ ‘Beat to death’ and ‘Tear to death’ are ringing out on this land. But the Lee group of traitors is still doing mischiefs, not coming to its senses. On April 20 they toured the ‘Institute for Unification Studies,’ den of rats, in Suyu-dong, Kangbuk District, Seoul where they called for “orienting to system change in the north” if it does not give up its nuclear and missile ambitions, saying that ‘what is needed for the north now is not only bread but individual freedom and human rights.’ They have gone so impudent as to assert that ‘co-op farms should be disorganized and agricultural reform be effected to help improve the livelihood of the citizens in the north.’ On April 19 they appeared in the puppet Scientific Institute for National Defense where they heaped praises on a few poor-looking missiles, saying they have precision and power enough to immediately strike any part of the DPRK, inviolable land. They had temerity of dare talking about ‘striking the supreme headquarters through office window.’ Puppet Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin and other military warmongers danced to the tune. The situation proves that the group of traitors has long lost its reasoning power. In the meantime, paid conservative media which had long been reduced to a waiting maid of the group of traitors, worked with blood-shot eyes to build up public opinion in favor of the rats’ group. Involved in the campaign were Dong-A Ilbo situated in downtown Seoul as well as KBS, MBC, YTN and other media institutions. The Lee group should have apologized for its high treasons tens of thousands of times and chosen death by itself. This group is, however, challenging the north, grinding its teeth. In view of the situation getting graver as the days go by, the KPA Supreme Command special operation action group issues the following notice upon authorization: The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors. Those actions are an eruption of the public anger and resentment and a sacred war of all service personnel and people to protect the dignity of our supreme leadership. Their targets are the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors, the arch criminals, and the group of rat-like elements including conservative media destroying the mainstay of the fair public opinion. Once the above-said special actions kick off, they will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style. Our revolutionary armed forces do not make an empty talk.” (KCNA, “Lee Myung-bak Group Warned of Quick Action by KPA Supreme Command Special Operation Action Group,” April 23, 2012)

President Hu Jintao told Kim Yong-il, a top official of North Korea’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party, that the two countries should work towards “peace and stability” after a missile launch by Pyongyang, Xinhua reported. Hu called for greater cooperation with its traditional ally. “We will … strengthen strategic links and coordination on major international and regional issues for the purpose of safeguarding lasting peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” Hu was quoted as saying. Hu’s remarks echo China’s top diplomat who met with the visiting North Korean official yesterday. Dai Bingguo, praised the leadership of North Korea and vowed closer ties despite the international outcry over the recent missile launch. Dai told Kim Yong-il that Beijing would work with Pyongyang to “push friendly and cooperative China-North Korean relations to a new level”, a statement released by China’s foreign ministry said. “Under the leadership of Korean Workers’ Party First Secretary, comrade Kim Jong-un, the North Korean Party, government and people will certainly make new achievements in the cause of building a strong and prosperous country,” Dai was quoted as saying. (AFP, “China Urges N. Korea to Seek Peace: Xinhua,” April 23, 2012) Xinhua: “President Hu Jintao said here that advancing friendship and cooperation between China and the DPRK will continue to be the guideline of the ruling party and government of China. Hu made the remark as he met with a Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) delegation from the DPRK, headed by Kim Yong Il. Kim is an alternate member of the Political Bureau and secretary of the WPK Central Committee. He is also the head of the international department of the WPK. Hu expressed congratulations on behalf the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to Kim Jong Un on his election as the First Secretary of the WPK. Hu said the success of the Fourth WPK Conference and the fifth session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly, at which Kim Jong Un was elected the supreme leader, will be remembered as a major event in the political life of the WPK and the DPRK people. He described it as significant for the future in construction of the DPRK’s ruling party and nation. The president expressed confidence that, under Kim Jong Un, the WPK and DPRK government will lead its people to blaze new trails and make new achievements in the cause of building a prosperous and strong country. During the meeting, Hu said China-DPRK friendship was created and fostered by older generations of leaders and has become a common wealth of both countries. China will as always work with DPRK comrades to maintain high-level contact and exchanges between the political parties, promote practical cooperation and good-neighborly friendship and strengthen communication and coordination on major regional and international issues, according to Hu. He added the two sides will make unremitting efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, realize long-term security of Northeast Asia and promote common development. According to Kim Yong Il, Kim Jong Un’s election as First Secretary of the WPK and First Chairman of the National Defense Commission laid a solid foundation for the DPRK to carry through the unfulfilled will of late DPRK leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and advance the cause of revolution and construction. … He added the tradition of friendship between the ruling parties and the two countries was cherished by past leaders. The DPRK side is delighted to see strengthening relations between the two countries. Kim Yong Il said cooperation between the WPK and CPC followed the teachings of late Chairman Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il and it will remain the firm stance of the WPK. He said the DPRK will as always work hard to advance relations between the ruling parties and the two countries. Li Yuanchao, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and head of the Organizational Department of the CPC Central Committee, also met with Kim Yong Il Monday afternoon. (Xinhua, “Hu Talks Advancing Ties with DPRK Guests,” April 23, 2012)


4/25/12:
North Korea’s rocket launch in violation of a breakthrough deal in February with the U.S. is an indication of “deeper problems” within the leadership of the communist state, a former chief U.S. nuclear negotiator said. “I think it does suggest some disarray at the top or some lack of clarity on who does what in North Korea,” Christopher Hill, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told the Korea Herald. “There was no misunderstanding on the agreement and if there was misunderstanding, it was not between America and North Koreans. It was between North Koreans and other North Koreans … a lot to be worried about today.” Regarding the argument that China still views the impoverished state as a strategic buffer zone against American power, Hill said that North Korea is a “relic of China’s past, not an asset for its future.” “I don’t think a country whose only export is now refugees is particularly an effective buffer for China. I think China and all of us should look for buffers in the form of good neighbors,” said Hill. “I would hope that in the context of this very difficult time that … China will look to really be a close contact with the ROK (the Republic of Korea). Sooner or later, China and the ROK will have a common border.” As for the skepticism over the effectiveness of the multilateral denuclearization framework, Hill said that the problem was not the mechanism, but North Korea itself. “I don’t think we have a problem there, we have a problem with the behavior of North Korea,” he said. “I think the six-party process should be thought as a platform on which we can do a lot of things. One of the activities is to put more pressure on China (to use its influence over Pyongyang).” Underscoring China’s role in persuading the North to renounce nuclear ambitions, he said Beijing still should do more. “I think China needs to do a lot more in terms of making sure that it does not give conflicting signals to the North Koreans. Today, I think there are some conflicting signals,” he said. (Song Sang-ho, “N.K. Reneging on U.S. Deal Suggests Disarray at the Top: Hill,” Korea Herald, April 25, 2012)

“Game changing.” This was the word North Korea experts used to describe the recent volley of hard-line statements between Seoul and Pyongyang. Analysts suggested the situation may be a replay of previous instances where the Lee Myung-bak administration took a hard line on North Korea in an effort to “change the game,” only to have a concerned Pyongyang come back with even more provocative statements. The barrage of strong words from Lee began with a radio broadcast on April 16, shortly after the general election. At the time, Lee said, “the US$850 million spent on the missile launch could have bought 2.5 million tons of corn, the North Korean food shortfall for the past six years.” He also said, “In preventing itself from receiving 240,000 tons of nutritional aid by backing out of the North Korea-United States agreement [reached on February 29], it basically took food away from its people.” He followed this up with remarks made on an April 19 visit to the Agency for Defense Development in Daejeon, where he said South Korea “can deter enemy provocations when it is strong. Then [North Korea] can’t behave rashly.” Coinciding with the visit was the Ministry of National Defense’s sudden unveiling of the latest Hyeonmu-2 and Hyeonmu-3 missiles, which had been under wraps until then. Lee continued his strong remarks at an April 20 special talk for the Institute for Unification Education’s advanced unification policy program at the inter-Korean talks headquarters in Seoul’s Jongno district. There, he referenced last year‘s popular uprisings in the Arab world while speaking about freedom and human rights for North Koreans, saying, “A long-term dictatorship cannot be sustained as you enter the information age.” This was the first time since the Kim Dae-jung administration that a South Korean president explicitly used the term “dictatorship” in connection with North Korea. Pyongyang responded with a flurry of vehement denunciations. A senior diplomat from the South Korean embassy in Washington DC said on Apr. 16 that “the situation so far has been one of South Korea and the US reacting to a game scripted by North Korea, with the nuclear programs and missiles, and we’re looking into changing this.” The diplomat made reference to the “game change” theory reportedly used by Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential run. Analysts interpreted these remarks as meaning that Seoul would be seizing the initiative in inter-Korean relations and speaking out actively on North Korea’s problems. Senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security Chun Young-woo, who assists Lee with his North Korea policy, said at an Institute for National Security Strategy round table Monday that North Korea had a “theocratic and hereditary regime where Kim Il-sung is the religious leader.” Hun also said, “At some point, North Korea will arrive at a critical point where it has no choice but to change.” Speaking in a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh, Chun said, “Judging from what [North Korea] has done as soon as it had a new leader, with the missile and whatnot, there don’t appear to be any signs of a change.” “We’ll have to watch how things go, but if North Korea doesn’t change and engages in additional provocations, we’ll have fewer and fewer choices available,” he added. Experts voiced concern about the situation. Yonsei University professor Moon Chung-in said, “Not only has there been no change from the thinking the Lee administration showed when it first began, but it’s gotten more intense.” Moon said it was likely the administration would stick to its hard-line policies for the duration of its term, owing to domestic political factors such as corruption scandals implicating associates of the president. “Even the US and China, which could potentially check the intense confrontation between North and South, would have a hard time taking action because of North Korea’s rocket launch,” Moon said. “There doesn’t appear to be any solution in sight,” he added. (Kim Kyu-won, “Two Koreas Changing the Game,” Hankyore, April 25, 2012)


4/26/12:
The U.S. and Japanese governments said that they will move about 9,000 Marines off Okinawa to other bases in the Western Pacific, in a bid to remove a persistent irritant in the relationship between the two allies. “I am very pleased that, after many years, we have reached this important agreement and plan of action,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a statement. Still unresolved is the issue of establishing a replacement for Futenma. The failure to find a suitable spot for a new air base had held up a previous effort to relocate the Marines to Guam, but the current agreement removes that barrier. U.S. Marines would leave Futenma as soon as suitable facilities on Guam and elsewhere are ready. Under the current plan, the total cost of closing Futenma and transferring the 9,000 Marines off Okinawa will be about $8.6 billion. The Japanese government will pay about $3.1 billion to facilitate the moves. About 5,000 of the Marines will go to Guam, and a smaller number will head to other locations in the Pacific, such as Hawaii or Australia. Even after the moves, about 10,000 Marines will remain on Okinawa, as called for under the earlier agreement. Japanese officials offered mixed messages about their commitment to relocate the Futenma base to a less populated strip in Okinawa. Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki said during a press conference that the 2006 plan was still the only valid solution. But Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro said, according to the Kyodo news agency, that other relocation options for the Futenma base might be considered. The plan appears to have somewhat placated three senior U.S. senators on the Armed Services Committee, who this week raised concerns about costs and about how the move would affect broader military strategy in the region. In a statement, Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), ranking Republican John McCain (AZ) and James Webb (D-VA) said the revised plan had addressed “some” of the issues they raised. “We still have many questions about the specific details of this statement and its implications for our force posture in the Asia-Pacific region, and we will continue to work with the Administration and the Government of Japan to achieve the objectives we all share,” the three senators said in a statement. Earlier this week, they wrote a letter to Panetta raising doubts about the emerging proposal. They questioned “cost estimates, military sustainment and force management, and how it would support a broader strategic concept of operations in this increasingly vital region.” The senators suggested that no plan should be considered final without the support of Congress, which controls spending on base construction. U.S. officials said the failure to come to an agreement on the closure of the Futenma air base was hindering the overall American-Japanese alliance. “Because we’ve been spending so much time talking about the move from Futenma, we’re not making as much progress as we would have liked in other aspects of the alliance,” said a senior State Department official. The agreement should make it easier for the United States and Japan to advance on other issues, such as cybersecurity, intelligence sharing and missile defense, the official said. (Greg Jaffe and Emily Heil, “U.S. Comes to Agreement with Japan to Move 9,000 Marines off Okinawa,” Washington Post, April 27, 2012

Russia is under no illusions as to North Korea’s intentions, a news agency has reported, as concerns grow Pyongyang may carry out a nuclear test following its failed rocket launch. “If this or that country tries to create a weapon of mass destruction, it will be also trying to create a delivery vehicle,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said earlier this week, as reported by the Itar-Tass. “A WMD as such is worthless without a means to take it to the target,” Rogozin was reported as saying. “For North Korea it is important to have a weapon of intimidation to threaten not only its near neighbors, such as South Korea, but U.S. naval bases, too.” Rogozin said it is common knowledge North Korea is trying to develop a missile, stating, “We have no illusions” as to the North’s intentions, according to Itar-Tass. (Yonhap, “Russia Has No Illusions over N. Korea’s Intentions: Report,” April 26, 2012)

Olli Heinonen: “The Agreed Framework by and large brought the North Korean plutonium program to a halt from 1994 until 2002, when its implementation collapsed. While the 2007 agreement reached in the Six Party Talks initiated the dismantlement of its plutonium program, North Korea was, at the same time, working on a parallel secret indigenous light water reactor (LWR) program centered around an experimental 100 MWth reactor and a Uranium Enrichment Workshop (UEW) that was built in 2009. North Korea has long sought LWRs. It first tried to acquire them from the Soviet Union and then later used their acquisition as part of the bargain with the United States under the Agreed Framework. However, since this type of reactor fuel requires low enriched uranium (LEU), it opened another door to a weapons option since the centrifuge facilities needed to produce that fuel can also be reconfigured in a short period of time to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU). Therefore, by choosing the uranium route, Pyongyang has found itself an excusable recourse to a viable dual-track option — LEU for producing nuclear electricity with LWRs and HEU as a second route to the bomb to augment its small plutonium inventory. Satellite imagery analysis has revealed that North Korea has made important progress in its LWR construction at Yongbyon over the past year. Nevertheless, the reactor will probably not be ready for commissioning for another two to three years. As of November 2011, the North seemed able to complete external construction in six to twelve months. In order to do so, heavy equipment remains to be brought in and installed in the reactor building. That will require manufacturing key nuclear components, and delivering them to the site. Barring any hiccups in this process or any unexpected acceleration, it will most likely take an additional five to ten years before new plutonium production from a LWR could materialize. The parameters setting the timeline for the production of additional plutonium are calculated when the reactor is completed, fuel irradiated and then cooled. In the meantime, North Korea’s reprocessing plant at Yongbyon could be modified for plutonium separation from the LWR fuel without major difficulties. Current stocks are estimated to be 24 to 42 kilograms plutonium. This amount would be sufficient for four to six nuclear weapons. Once the 100 MWth LWR is operational, it could produce up to 12 kilograms of plutonium annually. This would mean producing sufficient fissile material for a little more than one bomb per year. There is some evidence that North Korea began research and development in uranium enrichment in the late 1980s, including acquisition of vacuum equipment from European companies. While such equipment was primarily meant for North Korea’s fuel fabrication plant then under construction, some of the vacuum pumps and valves had specifications that could have been useful for uranium enrichment experiments. These procurement efforts were coordinated through the DPRK’s Embassies in (East) Berlin and in Vienna. North Korean companies involved were Lyongaksan, and Daeson 6th Trading Corporation. The leadership and engineers of the Chongchongang Chemical Plant, whose location is not known, were also involved. Mr. Yun Ho Jin, a North Korean diplomat based in Vienna during that period, was a key figure in organizing meetings with European vendors. He is also known to have been involved in later proliferation cases. After this initial phase, Pyongyang received another boost in its enrichment efforts from Pakistan in the mid-1990s, when deliveries of P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, special oils, and other equipment flowed from Pakistan to North Korea. Former Pakistani President General P. Musharraf acknowledged this in his memoirs, In the Line of Fire. President Musharraf wrote that, separately, North Korean engineers were provided training at A.Q. Khan’s Research Laboratories in Kahuta under the auspices of a government-to-government deal on missile technology. There has been speculation that Pyongyang also received the blueprints for centrifuges and other related process equipment from the A.Q. Khan network during that time period. New attempts by the North Koreans to purchase vacuum technology in 2002 strongly pointed to the acquisition of additional equipment destined for uranium enrichment purposes. Information on North Korea’s procurement activities in the late 1990s to the early 2000s showed its objective was to achieve a semi-industrial scale enrichment capacity, based on the Pakistani P-2 centrifuge design. In 1997, the North attempted to acquire large amounts of maraging steel suitable for manufacturing centrifuge rotors. In 2002/2003, Pyongyang successfully procured large quantities of high strength aluminum from Russia and the United Kingdom, another requirement for making centrifuges. A simple tally of the amounts and types of equipment and material sought by North Korea suggests that it planned to develop, at least, an A.Q. Khan HEU production scheme, which requires about 5900 centrifuges. That means a 5000 centrifuge strong enrichment capacity. (The rest is spares and those which do not pass quality control tests.) This appears not only consistent with a separate earlier enrichment offer A.Q. Khan had made to Libya, but the timing and pattern of acquisitions is also interesting. Iran, Libya and North Korea appear to have started initial acquisition of enrichment technology through vendors in Europe around 1987. Then, between 1993 and 1996, these countries turned to the A.Q. Khan network and acquired larger deliveries of raw materials and probably also obtained more advanced P-2 technology. It is highly likely that the UEW at Yongbyon is not the only uranium enrichment installation in North Korea. At least one other workshop would have been needed to serve as a test bed for pilot cascades of P-1 and P-2 centrifuges prior to the beginning of semi-industrial scale enrichment operations. Such an installation should have a few hundred centrifuges. While no uranium hexafluoride (UF6) fabrication plant has been located in the North, its existence has been traced as far back as 2000, when subsequent investigations revealed that North Korea had shipped UF6 to the Libyan enrichment program. Concerns over high enrichment were also prompted by the detection of HEU particles from aluminum samples handed over by the North Koreans to a US monitoring team in 2007 as part of the Six Party Talk agreement. As contamination could have resulted from either tainted imported centrifuge equipment or from indigenous enrichment, its source remains unknown. If commissioning of the UEW has been successful, North Korea would have at present at least 3.5 tons of UF6, enriched to 3.5% U-235. This output is consistent with the annual needs of the 100 MWth LWR currently under construction. By 2013, there should be enough material, about four tons of uranium dioxide (UO2), for the first core of the 100 MWth LWR. …Such an enrichment plant could also be easily modified to produce HEU for nuclear explosives. If we look at possible future HEU production in North Korea, there are several permutations to consider from a technical standpoint depending on the availability of vital raw materials such maraging steel. The following are three possibilities with regard to operations at the UEW: utilize the current LEU cascades and install additional cascades to enrich LEU to weapons-grade HEU; modify the existing cascades to produce HEU; utilize the current LEU configuration at the workshop and construct additional cascades for LEU and HEU production. The first, most straightforward option would be to install an additional 1000 centrifuges to convert the annual production of 1.8 tons of LEU at Yongbyon to 40 kilograms of HEU. This is an amount sufficient to generate the necessary fissile material for one to two additional nuclear bombs per year. Such a step-wise scheme was foreseen in Libya by enriching 3.5% enriched uranium first to 20%, then from 20% to 60%, and finally from 60% to 90% U-235. The actual conversion of 3.5% to 90% would take only a couple of months. This scenario would require the availability of additional raw materials and key equipment. Here we are faced with a few unknowns. For instance, we do not know the source and amount of maraging steel — a key raw material for manufacturing additional centrifuges — available to North Korea. Second, the existing UEW could be reconfigured to produce HEU by recycling LEU. This would be a viable option if North Korea lacks the key materials to manufacture new centrifuges. However, this scenario would not be able to take full advantage of the installed centrifuges since the cascades for HEU production have a different layout, which forces the operator to leave a number of centrifuges unused. Consequently, the time needed to produce HEU would increase under this scenario. Third, for the DPRK to fully optimize its HEU production following the A.Q. Khan scheme, it would install an additional 2000 centrifuges that could produce 3.5% enriched uranium with an extra 1900 centrifuges for HEU production. This option, using 5900 centrifuges, would turn all natural UF6 into HEU and produce up to 80 kilograms of HEU annually or an amount sufficient for four nuclear bombs. However, there are no indications that the DPRK has required key raw materials to be able to manufacture thousands of additional centrifuges. Such a scenario would require, for instance, an additional 60 tons of maraging steel.” (Olli Heinonen, “The North Korean nuclear program in Transition,” 38North, April 26, 2012)

CRS: “Between 1995 and 2009, the United States provided around $600 million in

energy assistance to North Korea. The aid was given over two time periods — 1995-2003 and 2007-2009 — in exchange for North Korea freezing its plutonium-based nuclear facilities. In 2008 and 2009, North Korea also took steps to disable these facilities. However, no additional energy assistance has been provided since 2009. …In 2007 and 2008, the United States also provided technical assistance to help in North Korea’s nuclear disablement process. In 2008, Congress took steps to legally enable the President to give expanded assistance for this purpose. However, following North Korea’s actions in the spring of 2009, Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s requests for funds to supplement existing resources in the event of a breakthrough. Congress did approve monies for the State Department’s general emergency nonproliferation fund that the Administration could use in North Korea. U.S. food aid FY1995 $0; 1996 $8.3m; 1997 $52.4 m; 1998 $72.9m; 1999 $222.1m; 2000 $74.3m; 2001 $58.07m; 2002 $504m; 2003 $25.48m; 2004 $36.3m; 2005 $5.7m; 2006 $0; 2007 $0; 2008 $93.7m; 2009 $5.6m; 2010 $2.9 (budget adjustment for food provided in FY2008) Total aid incl. KEDO, HFO, nuclear disablement, and medical 1995-2011 $1,313.75m…From time to time, the United States also has provided small amounts of medical assistance to North Korea. In 2008, for instance, the Bush Administration allocated $4 million in assistance to U.S. NGOs to help several North Korean rural and provincial hospitals by improving their electrical supplies and by providing medical equipment and training. More recently, following localized floods in North Korea in the summer of 2010, the Obama Administration spent about $600,000 on the provision of relief items, such as medicine, to North Korea. …From 1995 to 2002, the United States provided over $400 million in energy assistance to North Korea under the terms of the U.S.-North Korean 1994 Agreed Framework, in which the DPRK agreed to halt its existing plutonium-based nuclear program in exchange for energy aid from the United States and other countries. …The shipments of fuel oil or equivalent (e.g., steel products to renovate aging power plants) assistance were to happen on an “action for action” basis, as North Korea made progress on denuclearization.32 The shipments of 1 million MT of heavy fuel oil or equivalent were to be divided equally by the five parties (i.e., 200,000 MT each). HFO shipments were delivered in a start-and-stop manner, slowed primarily by disagreements between Pyongyang and Washington over how and whether to verify North Korea’s disablement, and over whether the United States would remove North Korea from its State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Before the Six Party Talks broke down in March 2009, the DPRK had received 500,000 MT of heavy fuel oil and equipment and 245,110 MT of fuel equivalent assistance. …As part of Phase Two under the Six-Party agreements, the Departments of State and Energy worked on disabling the nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon complex in North Korea until April 2009. This effort was funded through the State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF). The State Department paid the North Korean government for the labor costs of disablement activities, and related equipment and fuel. Approximately $20 million in FY2007 and $25 million in FY2008 was approved for this purpose. NDF funds may be used “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” and are available until expended. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was contributing its personnel as technical advisors to the U.S. Six-Party delegation and as technical teams on the ground at Yongbyon overseeing disablement measures. Although disablement has been suspended, DOE programs continue preparatory work for future verification or denuclearization activities in North Korea. NNSA estimated that it spent approximately $15 million by July 2008 in support of Phase Two (Yongbyon disablement) implementation. NNSA estimated that disablement costs could have totaled up to $360 million if North Korea had agreed to the packaging and disposition of separated plutonium and spent fuel at Yongbyon. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that full nuclear dismantlement in North Korea would cost approximately $575 million and take about four years to complete. …Authorization was given for CTR funds to be used globally for the first time in the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 110-181, see §1305), which expressly encourages “activities relating to the denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” The FY2010 Defense Authorization bill (P.L. 111-84) gave the CTR program notwithstanding authority for a limited amount of funds to be used globally in response to urgent proliferation threats, which could include work in North Korea. …Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its monitoring activities at Yongbyon. Japan has provided the agency with $500,000 for this purpose. The European Union in 2008 contributed approximately $1.6 million (1.025 million euros) to the IAEA for Yongbyon monitoring and verification activities. North Korea expelled the IAEA inspectors in April 2009. Although unlikely, if North Korea invites the IAEA to monitor the moratorium of enrichment activities at Yongbyon as announced on February 29, 2012, the agency might need extra-budgetary contributions for this work.” (Mark E. Manyin and Mary Beth Nikitin, Foreign Assistance to North Korea, Congressional Research Service, April 26, 2012)


4/28/12:
New satellite imagery appears to show a train of mining carts and other preparations under way at North Korea’s nuclear test site but no indication of when a detonation might take place. Early this month, South Korean intelligence reported digging of a new tunnel at the Punggye-ri site, which it took as a sign that North Korea was covertly preparing for a third nuclear test. The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies provided The Associated Press on Friday with its analysis of a sequence of photos of the site obtained from a private satellite operator and taken between March 8 and April 18. The analysis estimates that 8,000 cubic meters (282,500 cubic feet) of rubble have been excavated at the site, where the communist country conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. “While it’s very clear from looking at these photos that the North has stepped up preparations for a nuclear test over the past few months, it’s unclear exactly when the blast will occur,” said Joel Wit, editor of the institute’s website, 38 North. (Associated Press, “New Photo Shows Work at North Korea Nuclear Test Site,” April 28, 2012)


4/30/12:
Lee Myung-bak said the South will not tolerate, and will respond strongly to any provocation by North Korea, urging Pyongyang’s new leadership to focus on improving the lives of its hunger-stricken people. “We do not want a military competition with North Korea. We have to compete over how to make the people live happily,” Lee said during a meeting with senior members of the National Unification Advisory Council, adding he hopes the North will move in that direction under its new leadership. “However, there will be a strong response that does not tolerate any provocation. That is to deter North Korean provocations, not to have a fight. We, the Republic of Korea, are not a country that wants war. We are a country that loves peace,” he said. Referring to the pro-democracy movement that swept through the Middle East and toppled dictators in Egypt and elsewhere, Lee said he expects the autocratic regime of Syria to face the same fate, as “nobody can block the wind.” “We have to prepare very peacefully for new changes,” Lee said. Lee did not elaborate, but the remark could be seen as suggesting that autocratic regimes are supposed to fall ultimately, and North Korea cannot be an exception. On April 19, President Lee said South Korea needs strong military power, both in hardware and psychological readiness, to deter North Korea, saying the communist regime is prone to carrying out provocations “when we are weak.” Lee made his statements during a visit to the Agency for Defense Development, the state-run weapons development agency in the central city of Daejeon, commending researchers there for contributing significantly to South Korea’s defense capabilities. “Strong (weapons) capabilities are needed to maintain peace, but their purpose lies not in destruction, but in realizing peace and deterring war,” Lee said. “If we are strong, (North Korea) cannot make provocations. North Korea makes provocations when we are weak.” Strengthening national self-defense capabilities is a key goal of South Korea, Lee said, stressing the country remains “the only divided nation on the globe” and “faces the world’s most belligerent forces” across their heavily armed border. When North Korea shelled the South’s border island of Yeonpyeong in November 2010, Lee said he asked China to relay a message to Pyongyang that the South would respond “not in word, but in action” with a counterstrike several times stronger than the North’s if it undertakes any additional provocation. “If we are going to do so, we should have strong weapons and more importantly, strong psychological strength and willpower,” Lee said at the time. The quality of South Korean-made weapons has improved significantly and they are now exported overseas more often, thus contributing to the country’s economy, Lee said. Many countries, especially those in the Middle East, view South Korean weapons highly, he said. On April 20, President Lee urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up the collective farm system and privatize state-owned agricultural land to help enrich the North and its residents. In a special lecture given at Seoul’s Education Center for Unification, Lee also called on the young North Korean leader to pay greater attention to human rights and defector issues. “North Korea should abandon its collective farm system and shift to the privatization of agricultural land. If so, rice will be abundant in two to three years. Farmland privatization will help individuals earn more and the state increase revenues,” Lee was quoted by his spokesman Park Jeong-ha as saying in the lecture. “(Farmland reform) is a must for North Korea. All the young leader has to do is the (reform). It is the most urgent matter and has to precede its market opening. Continued dependence on aid will only produce beggars.” Lee went on to ask Pyongyang to pay more attention to the defector and human rights issues.” Human rights is an issue as important as the North Korean nuclear problem. I believe what is most necessary for the North Koreans is human rights,” Lee was also quoted as saying. “Bread is important. But in this 21st century, freedom of individuals is as important as bread,” said the president, noting it is getting increasingly difficult to maintain a dictatorial regime in this informatization era. In response to Lee’s criticism of the socialist regime, North Korea threatened on April 23 to launch special military actions against key South Korean targets. “The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors,” the North’s military supreme command said in an English-language notice carried by KCNA. (Yonhap, “President Lee Vows Strong Response to Any N. Korea’s Provocation,” North Korea Newsletter No. 208, May 3, 2012)

Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko reached for a basketball analogy to explain his vision for the U.S.-Japan alliance at a joint press conference with President Barack Obama. If Obama was the power forward, Noda said, the Japanese leader’s role was that of point guard, a highly skilled player usually responsible for controlling the ball and setting up the offense. That partnership at last appears to be freeing itself from the impasse over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture that has dogged it for years, but it also appears to be at a turning point that may fundamentally change its nature. An alliance that has previously been seen in Japan as focused on defending the Japanese archipelago, now appears to be seen by both Tokyo and Washington as an important force for maintaining wider stability in Asia. It has been 16 years since the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma began to disrupt the bilateral relationship. After meandering efforts to grapple with the issue under 10 Japanese prime ministers, the solution to the knotty problem appears to be to simply set it aside, separating the Futenma relocation issue from the overall realignment of the U.S. military in Japan. One way of looking at the new approach is that the politicians have essentially written off the Futenma issue as an “uncollectible debt” and taken it off their main accounts. Basically, they have agreed to rebuild the Japan-U.S. alliance under a new corporate structure. Noda’s state visit to the United States was the first since the Democratic Party of Japan took over control of the government in 2009, and their joint declaration was the first in six years since one reached by Koizumi Junichiro and George W. Bush. The talks appear to have been productive. Obama said progress had been made in renewing the bonds between the United States and Japan, the two major liberal democracies on either side of the Pacific. The governments focused their attention on defense issues, partly because little progress could be expected in trade issues because of domestic resistance in both countries, and they found significant common ground. A U.S. administration wanting Japan to shoulder a greater burden in its wider Asian strategy encountered a DPJ-led government eager to ensure that the relationship with the United States does not turn into a long-term liability. However, the important changes being made by the Noda administration to the role of the Japan-U.S. relationship have not been preceded by sufficient public debate in Japan. It was the same situation with the relaxation of the three principles on the export of weapons last year. The DPJ government, which took power saying it would seek an equal partnership with the United States, has now pushed toward working more closely with the U.S. military in a manner never seen under governments led by the Liberal Democratic Party. If joint activities by the SDF with the U.S. military overseas are allowed to develop unchecked, it could eventually lead to an exercise of the right of collective self-defense, which past interpretations of the Constitution by the government have ruled out. The prime minister has not sufficiently explained to the Japanese public why such a major change in policy has been undertaken. There has also been no explanation of what can be learned from the handling of the sidelined Futenma issue. One possible lesson is that not paying attention to the feelings in local communities, even on issues of vital national security interest, can create major diplomatic entanglements that, in the end, hurt the nation. If Japan is to provide patrol ships and expand SDF activities into Asia, it is also incumbent upon the Japanese government to explain its policy not only to the Japanese public but also to neighboring states. Japan has a major responsibility to carefully explain its vision for stability in Asia to China and Southeast Asian nations. (Tachino Junji, “Noda Must Not Go It Alone on U.S.-Japan Alliance,” Asahi Shimbun, May 2, 2012)


5/1/12:
DoS: “Q: Do we ever raise the issue of forced labor camps when we are in direct talks with the North Koreans? A: The United States remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the DPRK, including forced labor camps. Promoting human rights is a key component of our policy toward North Korea, and how the DPRK addresses human rights will have a significant impact on the prospect for closer U.S.-DPRK ties. Ambassador King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, had direct discussions on human rights issues with North Korean officials in Pyongyang in May 2011, including with First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan. Both Ambassador Bosworth and Ambassador Davies raised human rights issues in their capacity as Special Representative for North Korea Policy in each round of high-level U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks. In addition to raising these issues in face-to-face meetings, we highlight our specific concerns about human rights in North Korea in our annual human rights report. Through international organizations, including the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, we call attention to specific human rights violations and with our bilateral and multilateral partners, we continue to identify areas where we can improve human rights conditions on the ground in North Korea.” (DoS, Office of the Spokesperson, Taken Question, May 1, 2012)

Jeffrey Lewis: “The President, the line of argument goes, is a reluctant realist or, better yet, a progressive pragmatist. The President has retained his progressive instincts, without dwelling upon them. After the high-minded rhetoric of his inaugural address, he “pivoted” in response to provocations by Iran and North Korea, embracing sanctions, which enjoyed even greater international credibility for his having given it his best shot. For three months. The Obama administration began with a decent and sensible view of the role of the United States in the world. Almost immediately, however, it seemed to glide past the invisible line demarcating progressive pragmatism from what can best be described as cynicism. A harsh word, I admit. It has been about 2,500 years since an organized philosophical movement described itself as cynics. Cynicism, however, best describes the administration’s general approach to North Korea and Iran. Whether or not the President believed his campaign rhetoric about engaging with Iran and North Korea, virtually none of the people he appointed did. Privately, most senior officials in the Obama administration believed from day one that the administration could do little or nothing to persuade or compel Iran and North Korea to slow their respective nuclear weapons programs. The appropriate metaphor involving clenched fists would involve the United States prying nuclear weapons from the cold, dead hands of several unpleasant world leaders. Of course, Iran and North Korea had already done plenty to earn the skepticism of the Obama administration’s new national security team. It is difficult to read either the memoirs of those who have negotiated with North Korea or even Jonathan Pollack’s book, No Exit, and conclude that the North is likely to abandon its nuclear weapons program any time soon. I happen to find the arguments for deep skepticism quite compelling, though I lack the great and unyielding certitude on this point that so many officials seem to express. This certitude helps explain, for instance, why administration officials express little or no concern about the effect of NATO’s campaign against Libya on nonproliferation efforts. Qaddafi, it should be remembered, surrendered his nuclear weapons and missile programs because he believed doing so would improve his relationship with the West and, presumably, prolong his awful reign. It may not have been the last thing to go through his mind as he was dragged to his ugly death — that was a 9 mm round — but Qaddafi surely wondered whether NATO would have launched airstrikes against a nuclear-armed Libya. So did senior figures from North Korea and Iran, who suggested the Libyan dictator would have been better off keeping his nuclear weapons program. Senior administration officials dismiss completely the possibility that Qaddafi’s fate makes an excellent advertisement for the bomb, which only makes sense if you think the bomb needs no further advertisement. Yet, if one really believes that we will not be able to pry nuclear weapons from Kim Jong Un’s hands, then why try diplomacy at all? The answer illustrates the difference between cynicism and pragmatism. In general, the Obama administration has viewed diplomacy not as a means to discourage Iran or North Korea in their nuclear pursuits, but rather as a means to demonstrate that Tehran and Pyongyang have only themselves to blame for their respective programs. Every effort is made to avoid legitimizing either program. The Obama administration, and its defenders, measure the “success” of diplomacy not by whether North Korea or Iran slow their efforts, but whether other countries beyond our closest allies join us in isolating Tehran and Pyongyang. That this is not the articulated policy of the Obama administration is hardly surprising. The administration is unlikely to announce it is preparing to live with an Iranian bomb or to accept North Korea’s nuclear weapons status. And if the goal is to ensure that blame for a collapse in negotiations attaches to the other party, it hardly helps to declare this policy in advance. Yet, I would argue, this is the policy all the same. And the best term that I can imagine for such approach is cynicism. There is something to be said, of course, for playing a bit of defense now and then. After any unsuccessful diplomatic engagement, the parties inevitably attempt to persuade international opinion that the other is to blame. It is only natural that we should be prepared to push back against accusations by the likes of Iran and North Korea. There is a fine line between preparing for the possibility of failure and counting on it. By my reckoning, the Obama administration has spent much of its time on the wrong side of that line. A cynic is usually defined as one who disparages the motives of others. By that narrow definition, of course, it is easy to slip into cynicism about Iran and North Korea. But the deeper meaning arises from what is objectionable; cynicism is contemptuous in that it plays upon the scruples of others. Simply put, cynics act in bad faith. The demise of the 2010 proposal for a “fuel swap” with Iran is a subject for another article, but it illustrates nicely the charge of cynicism. …The story of the Leap Day Deal follows a similar arc. The administration designed a policy that made North Korea look bad. The administration conditioned its return to Six Party Talks on North Korea’s compliance with a seemingly reasonable set of “pre-steps,” including moratoria on missile and nuclear tests as well as plutonium production and uranium enrichment activities. The approach was structured in such a way that the administration seemed a willing and frank interlocutor, would receive most of the benefits up front, but did not extend any concession beyond the provision of nutritional assistance which was, in any event, formally de-linked from Six Party Talks. Then North Korea did something totally unexpected: they agreed to the pre-steps. Or more correctly, they appeared to agree to the pre-steps, coaxed the administration out on a limb, then began sawing furiously by announcing a rocket launch to celebrate the centenary of the Great Leader’s birth. DPRK officials may have miscalculated about whether they could have their food aid and their rocket launch, too. Or, more likely, they planned the launch all along and were bargaining as a means to reduce the inevitable pressure that the launch would incite. Either way, the Obama administration looked foolish. Administration officials were initially dismissive when reporters pointed to disparities between the US and DPRK descriptions of the terms of the deal. Again, they appear to have been caught completely wrong-footed by another country saying “yes.” What is unusual about the Leap Day Deal is that it was not a deal at all — it was merely a pair of brief, unilateral statements. Although North Korea exploited this approach, it was apparently the United States that proposed such a format — largely to ensure that North Korea took the blame. In the February 29 Nelson Report — the daily record of American Asia watchers — one observer friendly to the administration summarized his perspective: “The important thing about all this is that, as you explained, this deal was structured differently, and it was set up as a test of NK seriousness. They failed the test.” One can see, in a number of statements in the Nelson Report, a sort of frustration on the part of the administration: This was supposed to blow up on the North Koreans; we’re not the ones who are supposed to look dumb. The 2010 Fuel Swap with Iran and the 2012 Leap Day Deal with North Korea were the diplomatic equivalents of letter-bombs sent by the United States. They just happened to blow up when returned to sender. The blunders, by the way, are not the problem — even the best administrations make mistakes and suffer setbacks. Mistakes are interesting because they reveal a lot more about an administration than its successes. Mistakes help us understand what makes an administration tick. The danger from cynicism is much worse than a little egg on the face. In the long run, cynicism tacitly accepts proliferation in Iran and North Korea. If you believe the administration’s claim that support for sanctions is a measure of foreign policy success, you must also believe that sanctions are likely to, in some way, alter the course of Iranian or North Korean behavior. I don’t know anyone who sincerely believes this, either in the US government or out. This policy substitutes sanctions that satisfy bureaucratic and political imperatives for diplomatic efforts that might manage the challenge posed by nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. What it amounts to is looking good, while failing. What might reluctant realism or progressive pragmatism really look like? Designing an agreement that remains in our interest even if the other side cheats is not quite the same thing as designing an agreement that is intended to collapse. One may believe that there is very little to do that would slake Pyongyang’s thirst for nuclear weapons, while also believing that limited agreements with strong verification measures still might help manage the situation even if the other side cheats. This was the primary advantage of the much-maligned and totally misunderstood Agreed Framework. I know this recommendation is a downer — like “eat your broccoli.” The 1994 Agreed Framework, and the Perry Process created to preserve it, were modest steps toward managing the threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. These were incremental, band-aid approaches that prevented a terrible situation from becoming much, much worse. (Had North Korea completed the two larger reactors under construction, Pyongyang would have been producing 280 kilograms of weapon-grade plutonium per year by 2000. Yes, North Korea cheated on the Agreed Framework. No, it did not represent a comprehensive settlement of security issues on the Korean peninsula. There is not much to say for it except, as the Bush administration discovered after 2002, it was better than any of the alternatives. Of course the reason that no administration races to embrace the 1994 Agreed Framework is that the politics of it were terrible. It was a modest contribution toward avoiding the further deterioration of an already terrible situation. Opponents of the agreement, of course, focused on the few kilograms of plutonium that North Korea might have retained, rather than the hundreds that were prevented. The reaction from opponents of the Agreed Framework was unpleasant to watch. Back in 1994, one US Senator accused Robert Gallucci, the lead negotiator on the agreement, of “appeasement” — and it isn’t as if the US political system has become more civil in the intervening years. But that is the point. Progressive pragmatism is hard. There is every reason to surrender to a defeated cynicism. If it were easy, it wouldn’t have a special name. If it were easy, we wouldn’t admire Kim Dae Jung for his courage and sacrifice. And, if it were easy, we wouldn’t get so excited when one-term Senators run for President promising: “Change you can believe in.” Of course, those are campaign slogans. The decision-makers are those who won their last election. Statesmen, on the other hand, are the ones who lost. The reality is that the dysfunctional pattern the United States has established with North Korea, and seems poised to replicate with Iran, exists for a reason. Lousy as it is, it satisfies the short-term interests of most involved, even if the long-term result is a losing situation for everyone. We know that. We also know that trying something else will most likely fail, usually at considerable cost to the person who sticks his neck out. But that’s why we admire those who try.” (Jeffrey Lewis, “Progressive Pragmatism or Cynicism in Confronting North Korea? 38North, May 1, 2012)


5/2/12:
Electronic jamming signals from North Korea have affected scores of civilian flights in and out of South Korea, a Seoul official said. “We’ve confirmed the GPS (global positioning system) jamming signals have been stemming from the North,” Lee Kyung-woo, a deputy director at the state Korea Communications Commission, told AFP. The transport ministry, in a statement and in comments to AFP, said the jamming had affected 252 flights since last Saturday, 241 flights by nine South Korean airlines and 11 flights operated by nine foreign airlines, but did not identify who was responsible. It said Seoul that day issued a warning notice for pilots and airlines. The North has been accused before by Seoul of jamming GPS systems but there was no previous widespread effect on civilian flights. Kim Choon-Oh, a ministry director, said GPS disruption was noticeable around Incheon airport, the South’s main international gateway. “Authorities are tracing the origin,” he told AFP. “Despite disruption in GPS, there is no serious threat to the safety of flights because planes are using other navigation devices.” Kim said there was a brief effect on the GPS systems of civilian flights last year, “but this kind of widespread disruption is unusual.” A spokesman for Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to say whether the jamming was also directed against the military. “There has been no problem in our military operations,” he said. The South’s then-defense minister said in October 2010 that a North Korean jamming device capable of disrupting guided weapons posed a fresh threat to security. Minister Kim Tae-Young told parliament the North had imported Russian equipment to jam South Korea’s GPS reception and could achieve this effect over a distance of up to 100 kilometers (60 miles). Kim said the North was thought to have been responsible for the intermittent failure of GPS receivers on naval and civilian craft along the west coast from August 23 to 25 that year. In March last year the South’s Yonhap news agency said the North had used jamming equipment to block South Korean military communication devices. It said the strong jamming signals had caused minor disruptions to phones and navigational devices using GPS at military units near Seoul. The latest incidents did not endanger civilian flights, a senior official at the Seoul Regional Aviation Administration told AFP on condition of anonymity. “No aircraft has ever been in danger as they can use different systems such as INS (Inertial Navigation System) when GPS systems are disturbed,” the official said. “There is absolutely no problem in air traffic control as we use radar for controlling aircraft.” (AFP, “N.K. Jamming Affects Flights: Seoul,” Korea Herald, May 2, 2012)

Korea Times editorial: “The number one concern among regional experts these days is whether or when Pyongyang will conduct its third nuclear test. We don’t pretend to know better than others but, like any other longtime watchers of North Korea, can bet the reclusive regime will do so someday soon if not tomorrow. The U.S., South Korean and Japanese governments also seem to think so. …Beijing may be able to put it off for some time ― several months at the most ― but not stop its troublesome protégé for good: It cannot give Pyongyang what it ultimately wants ― a normalized relationship with America. A widespread consensus in Washington is no one can, or should, expect the rogue regime on the northern half of the Korean Peninsula to stop its nuclear development programs and missile launches. Yet such defeatism and easy resignation have helped to expand the North’s nuclear arsenal, which expert estimate to have more than a dozen nuclear weapons or weapons-grade material for such. … It is also true Pyongyang broke promises with the U.S. not once but twice, in 1994 and 2005, respectively. But U.S. officials need to think whether they really did their best in working out closely-woven agreements that does not allow loopholes for North Koreans to slip through or just remained complacent with the political accomplishment. A more recent case in point is their bilateral accord on February 29, the so-called Leap Day Agreement, in which Pyongyang promised to suspend nuclear tests, missile launches and enrichment of uranium in exchange for 240,000 tons of nutritional aid. Had the U.S. side been careful enough to also include the launch of a satellite on the don’t-do list, North Korea couldn’t have passed the responsibility of its breakup onto Washington. And such scrupulosity might have been possible if the Obama administration had really wanted to solve the problem instead of just avoiding aggravation in an election year. This is never to say which side is right or more right. The North Korean leadership is inexcusable and unforgivable if for no other reason than ignoring its people’s plight for the system’s ― or regime’s ― continuity. Still what the U.S. has done was similarly pitiable, pulling back the “red line” from the banning of nuclear material to that of nuclear tests to proliferation to third countries and finally to weapons using uranium that are far smaller and easier to carry, leading to the birth of a nuclear power. The U.S. could conduct a surgical strike as an eventual solution, as it planned to do in 1994. If Washington instead takes up a solution through dialogue, it should do so far more efficiently ― and earnestly.” (Korea Times, “Stopping North Korea,” May 2, 2012)

A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee added three North Korean state companies to a United Nations blacklist of firms banned from international trade in response to the country’s launching of a rocket last month. The decision by the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee came after China consented to sanctions on the companies. It falls far short of the roughly 40 companies the United States, the European Union, South Korea and Japan had wanted to blacklist after the launching by the North, which they suspected was done to test missile technology. The newly blacklisted companies are “very significant North Korean entities” involved in its nuclear and missile programs, said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice. The three companies are Green Pine Conglomerate, Amroggang Development Banking Corporation and Korea Heungjin Trading Company. Analysts have said that North Korea often changes the names of companies once they are put on sanctions lists. (Reuters, “U.N. Puts 3 North Korean Companies on a Blacklist,” New York Times, May 3, 2012, p. A-4) The U.N. Security Council ordered the freezing of all assets abroad of three North Korean state companies to punish the recalcitrant state for its failed April 13 rocket launch. While some experts did not expect the move to inflict major pain on Pyongyang, it was seen as a warning over future provocations including a third nuclear test. Seoul, Washington and others suggested other entities be affected. But the committee, which decides by consensus, settled on the three because China, the North’s main ally, only approved that number. John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University, was skeptical over whether China would change course over its neighbor. “They think you minimize the sticks and continue to engage them as much as you can, opening up, over the long run, a different path for them,” he said. “These measures will increase North Korea’s isolation and make it harder for Pyongyang to move forward with its illicit programs,” the U.S. mission to the U.N. said in a statement. “The Committee’s strong and united response shows that the Security Council is determined that there be consequences for this provocation and any future North Korean violations.” (Kim Young-jin, “China Weakens U.N. Sanctions on North Korea,” Korea Times, May 3, 2012)

North Korea has spent enough time, money and human resources to have accumulated an arsenal of 13 [?] nuclear weapons, a senior nuclear expert of the South Korean government said. It was the first time that a government nuclear expert made public a comprehensive assessment of the North’s nuclear capabilities. “Including 200 advanced experts, the North is believed to have 3,000 professionals working in its nuclear programs,” the source said. According to him, some of the North Korean nuclear professionals studied in the former Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, and others were educated domestically. They work at the Yongbyon Nuclear Complex as well as other research facilities at schools and civilian institutions. According to the source, the North began operating a facility capable of reprocessing up to 80 tons of spent nuclear fuel annually in 1989. The North is believed to have acquired about 40 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium through at least three reprocessing stretches in 2003, 2005 and 2009. Six to eight kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium is required to build a nuclear bomb, and the North is believed to have six to seven bombs based on the assessment. In November 2010, the North showed a new nuclear facility to a visiting U.S. nuclear scientist, Siegfried Hecker, that enriched uranium. According to Hecker, the North claimed that 2,000 centrifuges were already installed and running at the time. “If the claim is true, we assess that the North is capable of producing up to 40 kilograms of highly enriched uranium annually,” the South Korean expert said. It takes about 15 to 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to build one atomic bomb, and the North is capable of building one or two nuclear bombs every year. (JoongAng Ilbo, “North Could Have 13 Nukes, South Estimates,” May 3, 2012) “(The issue) is whether (Pyongyang) has acquired enough information to produce a small plutonium-type warhead from the past two tests,” the expert said. (Hakoda Tetsuya, “Expert: North Korean Test Might Use Both Plutonium and Uranium,” Asahi Shimbun, May 3, 2012)


5/4/12:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed readiness Friday to work with North Korea if it halts provocative acts and changes its policy. ”The new leadership in Pyongyang still has the opportunity to change course and put their people first. If they focus on honoring their commitments and rejoining the international community, and on feeding and educating their citizens, the United States will welcome them and work with them,” Clinton said in prepared remarks on the second day of a two-day U.S.-China strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing. (Kyodo, “U.S. ready to Work with N. Korea If It Changes Course,” May 4, 2012)

According to the Coast Guard in Incheon, west of Seoul, a total of 122 ships were affected by the disruption to Global Positioning System (GPS) signals last Saturday. Among the vessels were eight patrol boats belonging to the Coast Guard, a passenger liner carrying 387 people and a petrol products carrier. (Yonhap, “122 Ships Affected by Suspected N. Korean GPS Jamming,” May 4, 2012)

Seoul notified Pyongyang of the approaching maturity of “food loans” given by two previous liberal governments to the Kim Jong-il regime, and said it was almost time to pay up. The Seoul-based Export-Import Bank of Korea reminded its North Korean counterpart, Chosun Trade Bank, of its obligation to make its first payment of part of the principal and interest for food loans by June 7, according to the Ministry of Unification, a South Korean agency overseeing inter-Korean affairs. The loans were made in the form of food and are supposed to be repaid in cash. In September 2000, the two Koreas signed the “Agreement on Provision of Food Loans” as a follow-up to the first-ever inter-Korean summit in June 2000 between then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Under the agreement, the South provided the North with 2.4 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of corns, worth $720 million in total, in six batches until 2007, throughout President Roh Moo-hyun’s term. The deal stipulates that the North will pay the loans back over the course of 20 years beginning June 7, 2012, the bank said. The bank is the operator of Seoul’s inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, through which the loans were provided. The first batch of food loans in October 2000 was worth $88 million and the principal and interest the North should pay next month is $5.83 million, the bank said. The interest rate on the food loans was 1 percent per year, the ministry said. (Moon Gwang-lip, “Seoul Warns Pyongyang of Payment Due for Loan,” JoongAng Ilbo, May 5, 2012)


5/5/12:
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak likened North Korea to a misbehaving child for failing to listen to the advice of other countries in regards to the launching of its long-range rocket. In a question and answer session held on the lawn of the presidential residence Cheong Wa Dae to mark Children’s Day, the chief executive told children invited to the gathering that the global community had unanimously urged the North not to test its rocket. “Unfortunately the North did not listen to such advice,” he said, adding that the country is like a misbehaving child. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Acts Like a Misbehaving Child: President,” May 5, 2012)


5/6/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The permanent members of the UNSC which took part in the first preparatory meeting for the 2015 NPT Review Conference now under way in Vienna released a “joint statement” pulling up the DPRK over its launch of satellite for peaceful purposes and demanding it stop its nuclear activities and dismantle its nuclear deterrence. This is a grave illegal action of violating the sovereignty of the DPRK and its right to use space and nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, pursuant to the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK. The gravity of the matter is that the member nations unilaterally accepted the U.S. brigandish demand in contravention of the principle of action for action laid down in the September 19 joint statement, turning their faces away from the crimes the U.S. has committed by spawning the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through ceaseless nuclear threats and hostile policy in breach of the principle of impartiality. It is the member nations that have conducted much more nuclear tests and stockpiled much more nukes than other countries in the world. They have no moral qualification to say anything about the nuclear issue of someone as they keep arsenals of nukes enough to kill the whole mankind hundreds of times. It is like a guilty party filing the suit first that these countries took issue with the DPRK which has been directly exposed to the threat of nuclear war for the longest period. They let loose such sophism at a meeting reviewing the implementation of the NPT in an effort to divert its attention in a bid to evade the fulfillment of the commitment to nuclear disarmament, prompted by their purpose to perpetuate their monopoly of nukes. If the nuclear powers are to deter more countries from withdrawing from the NPT, they should respect the rights of all the countries to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as required by the basic mission of the NPT, and stop making word-play and sleight of hand over their commitment to nuclear disarmament. Gone are days never to return when the U.S. could threaten the DPRK with A-bombs. The DPRK, depending on its nuclear deterrence for self-defense, will firmly protect its sovereignty and dynamically push forward the development of space for peaceful purposes and the industry of nuclear energy and proudly build a thriving nation where its people will fully enjoy prosperity under socialism.” (KCNA, “Anti-DPRK ‘Joint Statement’ of UNSC Rebuffed,” May 6, 2012)

It’s a boy,” Edward Teller exulted after the world’s first hydrogen bomb exploded in 1952 with a force 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. From the start, the nuclear era seethed with sexual allusions. Military officers joked about the phallic symbolism of their big missiles and warheads — and of emasculating the enemy. “Dr. Strangelove” mocked the idea with big cigars and an excited man riding into the thermonuclear sunset with a bomb tucked between his legs. Helen Caldicott, the antinuclear activist, argued in the 1980s that male insecurity accounted for the cold war’s perilous spiral of arms. Her book? “Missile Envy.” Today, the psychosexual lens helps explain why North Korea, in addition to dire poverty and other crippling woes, faces international giggles over its inability to “get it up” — a popular turn of phrase among bloggers and some headline writers. “Things like this never go away,” Spencer R. Weart, an atomic historian and director emeritus of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, said in an interview. “There’s little doubt that missiles are phallic symbols. Everybody agrees on that.” On Friday, April 13, North Korea fired a big rocket on a mission to loft the nation’s first satellite into orbit. But it fell back to Earth with a splash. The flop was the latest in 14 years of fizzles and outright failures in North Korea’s efforts to conduct showy tests of its long-range missiles and atom bombs. The blunders have damaged its military image and raised its profile among late-night comedians. Arms controllers, more comfortable with technical minutiae than erotic imagery, nevertheless concede that North Korea now most likely stews with worries akin to those that can accompany sexual failure. “It must be incredibly stressful,” noted Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He called it “performance anxiety.” Analysts say that a flustered North Korea might now be preparing to conduct its third nuclear test, after the rocket failure last month. They point to satellite indications of atomic test preparations. And North Korea resorted to underground blasts after botched rocket launchings in 2006 and 2009. A psychoanalyst might see the shift from blastoff to blast as a weird kind of substitute gratification. The recent rocket failure came during the impoverished state’s biggest holiday in decades — the centenary of the birth of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung. The pressure for a face-saving spectacular is seen as correspondingly large. “It was a huge loss of face,” Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior nonproliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an arms analysis group in London, said of last month’s rocket failure. “It’s almost certain they will double down by proceeding with a third nuclear test.” The odds of a new explosion rose on April 17 when North Korea scrapped a deal with Washington. In exchange for food, it had agreed to give up the enrichment of uranium and the testing of atom bombs and long-range rockets. Engineers use such tests to fix problems and verify advances, though most atomic states now adhere to a global nuclear test ban. A complication is that North Korea’s nuclear establishment is facing fundamental changes that could thwart an easy comeback. It is running out of plutonium bomb fuel, and is seen as probably trying to switch to highly enriched uranium. Atomic analysts differ on the likely makeup of the test device but agree that the country stands at a critical juncture in getting beyond the giggles — if not the sexual innuendo. North Korea fired its first bomb on Oct. 9, 2006. Surprised analysts judged the yield to be less than one kiloton — or equal to less than 1,000 tons of high explosives. By contrast, the first atomic blast of the United States was more than 20 times as powerful. James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, recently told Congress that federal analysts had judged the explosion to be “a partial failure.” North Korea’s second blast, on May 25, 2009, he added, “appeared to be more technically successful.” Mr. Clapper stopped short of calling it a roaring success. Its yield, after all, was estimated at two kilotons. By contrast, China’s second bomb was about 20 times stronger and Dr. Teller’s hydrogen bomb about 5 million times more powerful. Analysts see North Korea’s switch to a new fuel as likely because in 2007 it shut down a reactor that made plutonium — which fueled its first two atomic blasts. “Why base anything else on plutonium if it’s a dead end?” asked Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons lab who has repeatedly visited North Korea. A move to highly enriched uranium — or a mixture of the two bomb fuels, known as a composite core — would let North Korea expand its ways of shaking the earth and perhaps, one day, of mounting warheads atop missiles to intimidate neighbors. Jacques E. C. Hymans, who teaches international relations at the University of Southern California, argues in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that failed states like North Korea are doomed to poor workmanship, technical errors and finger pointing. “These problems,” he said, “cannot be fixed simply by bringing in more imported parts through illicit supply networks.” The phallic symbolism once centered on success. Nowadays, at least with North Korea, it seems as if it’s more about dysfunction. (William J. Broad, “North Korea’s Performance Anxiety,” New York Times, May 6, 2012, p. IV-5)


5/9/12:
More and more North Koreans are defying strict government controls on access to outside information that starkly contrasts with official propaganda, said a U.S. study released Wednesday. Avid consumption of South Korean movies and pop music as well as foreign radio and television broadcasts is changing North Korean views of its southern neighbor and even of the United States, a report by the InterMedia consultancy showed. “In 2012, North Koreans can get more outside information, through more types of media, from more sources, than ever before − and they are less fearful of sharing that information than ever before,” said InterMedia. The U.S. State Department-commissioned study, “A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment,” captures 10 years of research on refugees, travelers and defectors from North Korea, including face-to-face interviews with more than 650 adults in 2010 and 2011. North Koreans have been taking matters into their own hands since a 1990s famine prompted an opening of their country’s long border with China and official tolerance of markets where food and goods are traded. “Advanced media technologies such as mobile phones, computers, MP3 players and USB drives, have begun to make their way into North Korea in substantial numbers, particularly among the elites,” said the study. Many of the gadgets are smuggled in from China, whose low-cost televisions, DVD players and other equipment have helped the spread of information, it said, citing one refugee as saying “state officials or rich people” ran these operations. North Koreans are also buying technically illegal foreign radios that receive multiple channels, or rewiring domestic receivers to receive banned broadcasts, said the report. “These changes are creating greater space between North Korean citizens and their leaders, and between the regime’s portrayal of North Korea and the prevailing reality on the ground,” said the 94-page report, released in Washington. One key impact was that Pyongyang “backed away from its stance that South Korea was economically worse off than North Korea” after exposure to the South’s TV dramas made that pillar of state propaganda unsustainable, it said. Views of the United States, the stock villain of North Korea had also softened through media exposure, the report said. It quoted a refugee who said ordinary people often sarcastically quipped “blame it on the U.S.!” when things went wrong. The report said that while “severe and often arbitrary punishments are still handed down for accessing outside media,” North Koreans were generally less afraid of being caught. “Enforcement is irregular, bribes often allow one to avoid punishment and far fewer North Koreans appear to be reporting on each other than before,” it said. The InterMedia researchers cautioned that the refugees surveyed tended to come from North Korean provinces bordering China and did not represent the entire population. Advising against predicting political action from better-informed North Koreans, the report said: “North Koreans’ ability to express such views in North Korea is extremely limited and their ability to act on them is almost nonexistent.” (Paul Eckert, “U.S. Study Find North Korea Info Controls Weakening,” Reuters, May 9, 2012)

Park Guen-hae ally Chung: “The Korean government needs to come up with new North Korean policies with three main objectives: to defuse nuclear threats and military tensions; to facilitate reconciliation and cooperation between the South and the North; and to relieve the suffering of North Korea people. Furthermore, the policies should be sustainable and balanced, based upon strategies. As one of the contributors to the inception of the Lee Myung-bak government, I find it regrettable that inter-Korean relations have become strained under the current administration. Except for the Kaesong Industrial Complex, our efforts to expand inter-Korean economic engagement have been stalled. … Accordingly, to create a successful formula, the Korean government’s North Korean policies should be undertaken, based upon the following three criteria. First, the past achievements should be acknowledged so that they can serve as a basis for future policies. We can correct the mistakes of the past to formulate better policies. Pursuing continuity, rather than severance, and succession, rather than denial, will contribute more to the promotion of inter-Korean relations. In this regard, the spirit of the June 15 and October 4 Declarations should be honored and inherited and discussions should be resumed to put agreements into practice. Secondly, new policies should be carried out on the basis of agreement and consensus among the public. Reunification is a historic task that can never be achieved without gathering people’s consensus. There are so many things for which we should seek public opinions and build consensus. For example, we need to secure public consensus on the provision of assistance for North Korean defectors and humanitarian aid including food and medical assistance. Without public consensus, policies cannot be implemented on a consistent basis. Third, new policies should be based upon the principle of utilitarianism, implementing feasible objectives ahead of others. The Kaesong Industrial Park, which did not stop its operation even after military confrontations between Seoul and Pyongyang, remains a testament to the significance of economic cooperation for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.” (Chung Ui-Hwa, “Towards Peace on the Korean Peninsula — National Assembly Acting Speaker’s Vision for Reunification,” Korea Society, May 9, 2012)


5/10/12:
North Korea said that it will further strengthen its nuclear deterrent and other defense capabilities, the latest snub to international calls to give up nuclear and missile programs. “Our military and people will thoroughly safeguard our dignity and sovereignty by further boosting defense capabilities, including nuclear deterrent, at any cost,” the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a comment carried by KCNA. The committee lashed out at South Korea over its recent accusations that the North wasted about $850 million in the failed rocket launch last month. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Vows to Bolster Deterrent at Any Cost,” May 10, 2012)

Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea spokesman answer to the question put by KCNA: “The Lee group of traitors was reported to have impudently pulled up the DPRK over its satellite launch, etc. recently, claiming a huge amount of money might be spent for the missile launch and that amount of money would be enough to buy a lot of food. Traitor Lee Myung Bak invited even primary school children to Chongwadae and chided the north ‘for spending a lot of money for missile launch.’ Chon Yong U, presidential secretary for diplomacy and security of Chongwadae, Ryu U Ik, minister of Unification, and other yes men of Lee vied with each other to join in the anti-DPRK smear campaign. The U.S. was so ridiculous as to urge the DPRK to give up nuclear development and rocket launch and improve the people’s living standard as part of the anti-DPRK smear campaign over its moves to bolster its nuclear deterrence and push forward its plan for space development for peaceful purposes. There are some persons who blindly echo its rhetoric. This is an intolerable insult to the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and a grave provocation and mockery of its army and people. The hostile forces are noisily trumpeting that the DPRK would receive any reward in return for dismantling nukes and stopping the missile launch. They even claim that some other countries may launch the DPRK’s satellites. Such allurement may work on others but not on the DPRK. The people of the DPRK will never allow their dignity and sovereignty to be bartered for a huge amount of money or something else. It is preposterous, indeed, for the U.S. to talk about someone’s expense as it tops the world list of military spending. The above-said smear campaign kicked off by the Lee group and the U.S. is nothing but the last-ditch effort of those frightened by the Songun power of the DPRK and a foolish attempt to break its single-minded unity. No matter what high expense the army and people of the DPRK have to cover, they will further bolster its defense capability including nuclear deterrence to firmly protect its dignity and sovereignty.” (KCNA, “Lee Myung-bak Group and Other Hostile Forces Accused of Smear Campaign over DPRK’s Satellite Launch,” May 10, 2012)

The House Armed Services Committee, dominated by Republicans, approved an amendment to the fiscal 2013 national defense authorization bill Thursday that calls for the re-introduction of the sensitive weapons to South Korea, according to Foreign Policy magazine. It also would require Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to submit a report on the feasibility and logistics of redeploying nuclear weapons to South Korea, added the magazine. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who reportedly sponsored the amendment, and his staff were not available to confirm the report. “We in the last many years have appealed to China to help us negotiate with North Korea to bring them in line in the quest for peace in the world … China has now embarked on selling nuclear components to North Korea,” Franks was quoted as saying in the committee’s markup. (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. Lawmakers Push for Tactical Nukes in S. Korea,” May 11, 2012)


5/11/12:
Conservative presidential hopeful Chung Mong-joon said the nation should consider reintroducing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to bolster deterrence against an increasingly provocative North Korea. “The threat of a nuclear counterforce may be the only way to change the North’s perception of the South,” said Park, a seven-term lawmaker, during a press conference, referring to Pyongyang as a “de facto” nuclear weapons state. (Kim Young-jin, “Chung Calls for Nuke Redeployment,” Korea Times, May 11, 2012)


5/13/12:
South Korea’s military has reacted negatively to a possible U.S. push to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, saying such a move won’t be helpful in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. A source in the South’s military said that a redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea would run counter to a 1992 inter-Korean declaration on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work against persuading the North to give up its nuclear weapons program. The response came after reports last week that a U.S. congressional committee is pressuring the Obama administration to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. The House Armed Services Committee, dominated by Republicans, approved an amendment to the fiscal 2013 national defense authorization bill May 10 that calls for the re-introduction of the sensitive weapons to South Korea, according to Foreign Policy magazine. (Yonhap, “Seoul Responds Negatively to Redeployment of Tactical Nukes,” May 13, 2012) The Obama administration has no intention of deploying tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea in response to North Korean provocations, the State Department reaffirmed on May 14.The comments come after Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee last week adopted an amendment to the 2013 spending bill that expressed support for more conventional forces and for the United States to “redeploy tactical nuclear weapons to the Western Pacific region” in response to nuclear weapons and missile tests by North Korea. The amendment also requires the State and Defense departments to submit a report on what it would take to redeploy “forward-based nuclear weapons” to the area.” Our policy remains support for a nonnuclear Korean Peninsula, so we don’t have any plans to change that policy,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday. “Tactical nuclear weapons, in our view, are unnecessary for the defense of South Korea. So we don’t have any plans or intention to deploy them there.” (Julian Pecquet, “White House Shoots down GOP Proposal for Nuclear Weapons in South Korea,” The Hill, May 14, 2012)


5/13-14/12:
North Korea was an important issue discussed at the summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko during the annual talks that also covered regional economic cooperation and other security issues. During the summit, President Lee proposed closer cooperation among the three countries to study “more effective” and fresh measures to deter North Korean provocations. Lee did not elaborate. Despite the leaders’ concerns about regional security, they did not produce any tangible agreement on North Korea and its provocative behavior. President Lee took a step further and pressured Beijing to use its influence over Pyongyang to stop the regime’s provocations. “I evaluate China’s request to North Korea to pay special attention to the livelihoods of its people,” Lee said. “I proposed that the time has come for us to find a new, more effective measure to restrain the North’s provocations.” Lee, however, did not say how China reacted to the statement. While the three leaders agreed their security priority is lowering the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Wen showed a slightly different view toward the matter. “We should move beyond the Cold War way of thinking and resolve the issues with dialogue and negotiations,” Wen said. The next day on May 14, South Korea, China and Japan adopted a joint declaration that sums up annual summit talks between their leaders held the previous day, but the document made no mention of North Korea and its provocative behavior. The omission of any clause on North Korea highlights the difference that the South and Japan have with China over how to deal with Pyongyang. Beijing, the North’s last-remaining major ally that provides aid and diplomatic support, has been reluctant to openly criticize Pyongyang. The three sides had been expected to urge North Korea to refrain from further provocations after last month’s long-range rocket launch amid concern the Pyongyang regime could attempt to further escalate tensions with a nuclear test, further missile launches or other provocations. Seoul officials denied there were disagreements on the issue. “There were no significant differences in warning against North Korea’s provocations. But due to sensitivity of the issue, it was not in the joint announcement,” Kim Tae-hyo told reporters. “We exchanged views on the launch of North Korea’s new leadership, its long-range rocket launch and related developments,” Lee told the news conference in Beijing. “We appreciated the U.N. Security Council’s strong and swift presidential statement (on the rocket launch) and discussed that additional provocations are unacceptable.” Chinese Premier Wen, however, spoke in a softer tone during the news conference, calling for all sides to “abandon Cold War-style thinking” so as to resolve tensions and stressing the “most urgent issue for now is to prevent tensions on the Korean Peninsula.” President Lee and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao agreed to cooperate on devising measures to address North Korea’s jamming of satellite traffic navigation signals during their talks in Beijing on May 14. The leaders exchanged their views on the safety of passenger flight operations in South Korea, China and Japan, said Kim Tae-hyo. “Should North Korea possess a nuclear weapon and long-range missile, the dialogue between the two Koreas and between the North and China will enter a different phase,” Lee was quoted by Kim as saying during the talks. Hu, in turn, expressed his opposition to Pyongyang’s provocative moves. “China has an unequivocal position on its goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. We oppose North Korea’s nuclear test and a launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” he was quoted by Kim as saying. Meanwhile, on May 13 during a bilateral meeting in Beijing held on the sidelines of annual three-way summit talks President Lee and Japanese Prime Minister Noda agreed that the international community should respond strongly to North Korean provocations to make Pyongyang understand it will pay a price for bad behavior. “The two leaders fully agreed that a nuclear test or additional provocations by North Korea are unacceptable and (the North) should be made to understand bad behavior brings consequences through stern responses by the U.N. Security Council and the international community,” the presidential office said in a statement. (Yonhap, “President Lee Suggests New Approach on N. Korea at Summit with China, Japan,” North Korea Newsletter, No. 210, May 17, 2012)


5/15/12:
In a meeting with visiting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Myanmar President Thein Sein said his country never had nuclear cooperation with North Korea but did have deals for conventional weapons, Lee’s presidential Blue House announced. Thein Sein told Lee that Myanmar will no longer buy weapons from North Korea, honoring a U.N. ban, South Korean presidential official Kim Tae-hyo told reporters traveling with Lee, according to Blue House officials in Seoul. (Associated Press, “South Korea Says Myanmar Has Promised to Stop Buying Arms from North Korea,” May 15, 2012)

Chinese security forces launched a massive crackdown on North Korean defectors in Jilin Province’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Chinese officials say the crackdown is part of a nationwide bust of illegal aliens, but there are suspicions that the drive specifically targets North Korean defectors hiding out in northeastern China as well as South Korean activists and religious organizations who are helping them. Beijing in March arrested South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan (49) on the vague charge of threatening national security. Security forces in Yanbian told reporters the crackdown will continue until October and aims to wipe out all the places where North Korans hide, Chinese media reported on May 24. “Due to its proximity to the border [with North Korea], Yanbian has been the scene of illegal border crossings and other crimes,” said Yanbian immigration chief Li Yong-xue. “If we find illegal immigrants or foreigners without proper documentation, we will investigate immediately.” He also pledged to “root out activities by foreign NGOs or religious activists that violate laws or have a negative impact on national security and social stability.” (Chosun Ilbo, “China Starts 5-Month Crackdown on N. Korean Defectors,” May 25, 2012)


5/16/12:
China has been quietly and gently pressuring North Korea to scrap plans for a third nuclear test, said two sources with knowledge of closed-door discussions between the countries, but there is no indication how the North will react. If North Korea goes ahead with the test, China would consider taking some retaliatory steps, but they would not be substantive, a source with ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters. North Korea has almost completed preparations for the test, Reuters reported in late April, a step that would further isolate the impoverished state after last month’s failed rocket launch that the United States says was a ballistic missile test. “China is unhappy … and urged North Korea not to conduct a nuclear test near Changbai Mountain,” said the source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. China feared a radiation leak and damage to the environment from a blast, the source added. “China also complained about the environmental damage to the area after the first two tests.” When North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, it caused environmental damage to the mountain straddling the border with China. North Korea ceded part of the mountain to China in 1963. “The impact on China’s northeast would be huge,” the source said of a third test. Chinese officials have discussed whether threats of diplomatic action would be effective, but any action might be restricted to some economic measures to signal China’s displeasure and would not affect vital food aid for North Korea, the source said. A Western diplomat, who also asked not to be identified, confirmed that China has put pressure on North Korea to abandon the test. Major diplomatic repercussions were unlikely, however, said Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. Instead, Jin, who has knowledge of how China deals with North Korea, said China may use financial levers to influence its neighbor. “If closed-door negotiations fail to produce results, economic aid could be cut,” Jin said, adding that imports of mineral resources and unspecified “special local products” could also be reduced. China’s exports to North Korea rose 20.6 percent last year to $2.28 billion from 2010, while imports plunged 81.4 percent to $147.4 million, according to Chinese customs figures. China would also likely back another U.N. resolution slapping further sanctions on North Korea, including trade, said Jin. Despite pressuring North Korea to cancel plans for a third test, China would want to avoid serious diplomatic measures, such as recalling its ambassador, said Jin. “China does not want unnecessary external trouble ahead of the 18th congress. A major change in policy is not likely,” he said, referring to the Communist Party’s five-yearly conclave later this year when a broad leadership change is widely expected. (Benjamin Kang Lim, “China Pushes North Korea to Drop Nuclear Test Plans: Sources,” Reuters, May 16, 2012)

Three Chinese fishing vessels have been seized by North Koreans and are being held to ransom, CCTV reported. The unidentified North Koreans demanded 1.2 million yuan or W220 million. According to Chinese media reports, one boat left Liaoning and was seized by the North Koreans around 4:30 a.m. on May 8 when they were fishing in waters 123 degrees 57 minutes east and 38 degrees and five minutes north. Two more Chinese fishing vessels were seized later that day. A total of 29 was aboard the three vessels. Crew of other Chinese trawlers that managed to escape the scene alerted maritime police back home. CCTV said the fishing boats were seized in Chinese waters. The North Korean abductors handed a satellite phone to the fishermen, who phoned their family and told them they would be freed if the ransom was paid. They said they were already in North Korean waters. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Koreans Hold 3 Chinese Trawlers to Ransom,” May 17, 2012)

The government recently decided to temporarily hold off on a logistical support agreement with Japan. Seoul’s reluctance is being interpreted as an attempt to slow things down after objections back home over military cooperation with Tokyo. Seoul still plans to go ahead with an agreement on military intelligence protections. A Ministry of National Defense senior official said on May 15 that there had previously been plans to push for the signing of a mutual logistical support agreement and military intelligence protection agreement with Japan at a defense ministers’ meeting initially scheduled for the end of May. But a decision was reached to wait and proceed more cautiously with the mutual logistical support agreement in view of sensitive public opinion, the official added. The same authority said the military intelligence protection agreement would go ahead as planned, based on a perceived need for intelligence sharing with Tokyo on the North Korean nuclear weapon and missile programs. Critics are still contending that the military agreements with Japan could give Japan more room for military intervention in Korean Peninsula issues. Kim Jong-dae, editor-in-chief of the military affairs journal Defense 21+, said the intelligence exchanges and logistical support “form the basis for combined South Korean-Japanese operations in emergencies.” “Japan has always showed intention to intervene in any contingency situation on the Korean Peninsula in order to protect itself,” Kim explained. “So this agreement is a major issue in that it could be the point of departure for military intervention by Japan.” (Park Byung-soo and Ha Eo-young, “Seoul Treading Carefully on Military Agreement with Japan,” Hankyore, May 17, 2012)


5/18/12:
An expert panel’s report says North Korea continues to violate U.N. sanctions, citing possible attempts to ship arms to Syria and Myanmar and illegally import luxury goods, two Security Council diplomats said. The panel concluded the violations “illustrate elaborate techniques” used by North Korea to evade the discovery of its sanctions-busting. The report to the council committee monitoring sanctions is expected to be discussed by the 15 council members and could be changed before it is finalized. The panel’s latest assessment said member states did not report any violations involving the transfer of items related to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or ballistic missiles, “but they did report several other violations including illicit sales of arms and related material and luxury goods,” the diplomats said. “These cases provide ample evidence that the DPRK continues actively to defy the measures in the resolution,” the diplomats quoted the report as saying. The panel said it couldn’t confirm recent media reports and academic papers citing possible ongoing missile cooperation between North Korea and other states, especially Iran and Syria, the diplomats said. But they quoted the panel as saying this “would be consistent with reports of the DPRK’s long history of missile cooperation with these countries and with the panel’s observations.” In assessing the impact of sanctions, the panel concluded that “although the resolutions have not caused the DPRK to halt its banned activities, they appear to have slowed them and made illicit transactions significantly more difficult and expensive,” the diplomats said. The panel cited a number of cases including a report from France in April 2012 about its interception in November 2010 of “an illicit shipment of arms-related material originating from the DPRK and destined for Syria,” the diplomats said. The shipment contained brass discs and copper rods used to manufacture artillery munitions and aluminum alloy tubes useable for making rockets, the diplomats quoted the report as saying. The report referred to two North Korean ships heading for Myanmar — one in June 2009 and the other in May 2011 — which the U.S. has said were suspected to be carrying weapons or missiles, one diplomat said. The first turned back, apparently after it became aware it was being tracked, and the second headed home after being challenged by a U.S. Navy destroyer. The panel also found that activities carried out under a 2008 memorandum of cooperation between the armed forces of North Korea and Myanmar could violate sanctions, the diplomat said. (Associated Press, “Diplomats Say U.N. Experts Report N. Korea Continues Violating Sanctions, Citing Syria and Myanmar,” May 18, 2012)


5/21/12:
Davies: “Q: Your two counterparts today said that they are ready for a different path with North Korea. What exactly would that mean? What are the details, and have you already communicated that to the North Koreans? DAVIES: Well, this has been one of the main themes of our conversations with the North Koreans since we began our exploratory discussions with them last July in New York, followed on by Geneva and then of course by Beijing. We did a great deal of discussing of alternative futures for North Korea. So we have explained to them — and I think you know — the United States has a dual track policy of engagement on the one hand but pressure on the other. That engagement aspect remains open. If they make the right choices, there can be a different future for North Korea and the people of North Korea. So they understand full well, and we discussed for many hours, in three different cities, on three different continents, over a period of seven or eight months, what those kinds of futures could be. So I think there should be no doubt in the minds of North Koreans that there is a different future that is available for them, if they make the right sorts of decisions; if they put their people first; if they stop spending their resources on developing missiles and nuclear weapons; if they open up to the rest of the world and engage in a positive fashion. Instead, by miscalculating, by, you know, achieving a deal with the United States and then so soon after we announced it — a mere two weeks later — going back on their undertakings, they sent a signal that they cannot be trusted to follow through on their own undertakings and their own promises. So what we are saying to them is you should look at all the promises you have made over many, many years, and of course the centerpiece is the September 2005 Joint Statement, and you should begin to take action. Words are no longer, quite frankly, interesting to us. What we want to see is actions from North Korea. So they know what kinds of futures are available to them, if they step through that door to engagement and sincerely begin to take actions and fulfill the obligations that they themselves have made over many years.” (DoS, Glyn Davies, Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Remarks to the Press at MOFAT, Seoul, May 21, 2012)


5/22/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “We decisively denounce and totally reject the declaration of the summit held in the U.S. recently which unreasonably pulled up the DPRK over its satellite launch for peaceful purposes and nuclear deterrence for self-defense. Absolutely intolerable is G8’s reckless political provocation to violate the sacred sovereignty of the DPRK steeped in the bad habit of supporting the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK in disregard of justice and truth. We will bravely frustrate all the obstructions of the hostile forces and continue legitimately exercising our sovereign right to launch satellites to meet the indispensable requirements for building an economic power. We had access to nuclear deterrence for self-defense because of the hostile policy of the U.S. to stifle the DPRK by force and we will expand and bolster it nonstop as long as this hostile policy goes on. There is still the way for settling the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula peacefully through dialogue and negotiations, but this will never be paved unless the U.S. rolls up its hostile policy towards the DPRK in practice. Several weeks ago, we informed the U.S. side of the fact that we are restraining ourselves in real actions though we are no longer bound to the February 29 DPRK-U.S. agreement, taking the concerns voiced by the U.S. into consideration for the purpose of ensuring the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula necessary for focusing every effort on the peaceful development. From the beginning, we did not envisage such a military measure as a nuclear test as we planned to launch a scientific and technical satellite for peaceful purposes. There is a saying ‘he that lives ill, fear follows him.’ The U.S. which spearheaded such an illegal action as pulling up the DPRK over its launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes is talking about what it called ‘nuclear test’ in a bid to incite confrontation. If the U.S. persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure upon us despite our peace-loving efforts, we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense.”(KCNA, “Declaration of G8 Summit Pulling up DPRK over Satellite Launch Refuted,” May 22, 2012)

Davies: “Q: What about the nutrition aid? Will America change its status towards nutrition aid? DAVIES: Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say that we have a joint stance on that, but I obviously talked about the fact that the United States would like to get to a place where we could once again contemplate providing nutritional assistance to North Korea. I mean, I think as you all know the United States has been historically very generous, when it comes to the provision of nutritional assistance. Since the mid-1990s we have provided over 2.2 million metric tons of food, valued at over $850 million to the people of North Korea. And should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans’ ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance. Sadly, that is not the case right now, in the wake of their decision, in March, to announce that they would launch a Taepo-dong missile. They described it as a satellite launch, and then against the express wishes of the United States, the PRC, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and many, many members of the international community, obviously, North Korea went ahead on April 13 and launched that missile. And that was a miscalculation on their part. They missed an opportunity to demonstrate their seriousness of purpose and really getting back to negotiations with us, and ultimately with the six parties. So what we’re looking for now from North Korea is that they will now begin to take actions to demonstrate that they are serious about fulfilling their promises, their undertakings, in particular the promises that they made in the September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. So that’s really our position on nutritional assistance. Again nothing to report to you or to announce to you that is likely to happen in the near future on that front.” (DoS, Glyn Davies, Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Evening Press Stand-up at Westin Hotel, Beijing, May 22, 2012)

New satellite photos from April 29, 2012 indicate that a major upgrade of North Korea’s Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground — more commonly referred to as Musudan-ri — underway since summer 2011, is making rapid progress. The new construction is intended to support future launches of rockets larger than the recently tested Unha — more capable liquid fueled space launch vehicles or missiles with intercontinental ranges — that will also overfly Japan, further aggravating regional tensions. In addition to a new launch pad under construction, much of the nearby village of Taepodong has been razed to clear the way for what appears to be a new building designed to assemble larger rockets. The high bay portion of that building — the area where rockets are assembled — may have twice as much floor space as similar facilities at Musudan-ri and the new Sohae Satellite Launching Station (commonly referred to as Tongchang-ri). At the current pace of construction, the facilities should be operational by 2016-17. The new assembly building is somewhat similar to one at Iran’s Semnan Missile and Space Center. Nevertheless, while the two countries have a long history of missile cooperation, it is too soon to tell whether that cooperation extends to the design and construction of this facility or the new long-range liquid fueled rocket. (38North, “New Launch Facilities under Construction at Musudan-ri, Possible Iranian Connection,” May 22, 2012)

North Korea claimed it never planned to conduct a nuclear test and its missile tests were purely for scientific research. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the regime “from the beginning” never envisaged “such a military measure as a nuclear test,” and the aim of a failed rocket launch last month was to put a satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes. The North was responding to a statement on Saturday from the G8 nations condemning the April 13 rocket launch and pledging tougher UN sanctions against the Stalinist country in response to any further provocations or a nuclear test. But an intelligence official here insisted the North has nearly finished preparations for a third nuclear test at a facility in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province and that the only thing left is for Pyongyang to officially announce the move. “We have learned from U.S. and South Korean intelligence data that a few more specialized vehicles entered the shaft at the Punggye-ri site, proving that the North is preparing for a nuclear test as we speak,” a South Korean military source said. Citing military think tank IHS Jane’s Defense and Security Intelligence and Analysis, CNN reported Tuesday that afresh activity has been detected at Punggye-ri related to an impending nuclear test. IHS Jane’s analyzed recent photos taken by private satellite operators Digital Globe and GeoEye showing mining cars and other digging equipment near the shaft, and soil and rocks being moved out. But the denial itself was unusual. Experts speculate the statement was an excuse for the delay of the nuclear test, which was believed to be imminent. “This is related to speculation that North Korea postponed the nuclear test due to pressure from China,” said Yoo Ho-yeol at Korea University. “North Korea is trying to save face by pretending it has not caved into pressure from China but never planned a nuclear test in the first place.” (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea Denies Imminent Nuclear test,” May 23, 2012)


5/23/12:
North Korea appears to have finished preparations and is “technically ready” to conduct a third nuclear test, a Seoul official said. “North Korea will make a decision on conducting a nuclear test based on its political judgment,” the South Korean official told Yonhap by telephone. (Yonhap, “N. Korea ‘Technically Ready’ for Nuclear Test: Seoul Official,” May 23, 2012)

North Korea and the United States are walking a tightrope on signaling willingness to defuse tension diplomatically following Pyongyang’s firing of a long-range rocket last month. U.S. officials said that Washington will consider offering food aid to Pyongyang if the destitute country changes course and makes no additional provocations. While portraying its nuclear program as a “self-defense” measure, the North said yesterday it has no plan for an atomic test for now and remains open to dialogue. “I think the precondition is that North Koreans has to demonstrate that it is going to refrain from those types of provocative actions and they are serious about moving in a different direction,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House, told a news conference in Washington. Glyn Davies, U.S. special envoy on North Korea, indicated that food assistance may return to the table if the North changes its attitude. “I think, as you all know, the United States has been historically very generous when it comes to the provision of nutritional assistance,” Davies told reporters in Beijing after meetings with his counterpart Wu Dawei and other Chinese officials. He also met with Lim Sung-nam of South Korea and Sugiyama Shinsuke of Japan in Seoul on May 21. “And should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans’ ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance,” he added. (Shin Hyon-hee, “N.K., U.S. Signal Openness to Diplomatic Solutions,” Korea Herald, May 24, 2012)


5/24/12:
Thirty North Korean officials, once involved in inter-Korean talks, are believed to have been executed either by firing squad or killed in staged traffic accidents, Amnesty International said. It raised the suspicions in its annual report, citing unconfirmed reports in July. The alleged purge suggests that North Korea used the officials as scapegoats for soured inter-Korean ties. (Yonhap, “30 N.K. Officials Either Executed Or Killed: Amnesty International” May 24, 2012)

At the JoongAng-CSIS forum, co-hosted by JoongAng Ilbo and the Center for Strategic International Studies, Victor Cha, Korea chair at the CSIS, said that Kim Jong-un’s reign is adding uncertainty to the already volatile country. He said it could be threatened by the possible death of his ailing aunt Kim Kyong-hui, who Cha said is the only high-ranking blood relative of the young leader. Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, said Seoul and Washington also share responsibility of the behavior of North Korea for failing to send a consistent message that its bad behavior won’t be rewarded. He said the upcoming administrations of South Korea and the U.S., both taking office next year, need sufficient time to coordinate policies on North Korea. Kim Hyun-chong, Seoul’s former Trade Minister, said that the North’s military-first policy and its call for economic self-reliance are contradictory. He called for an injection of the capitalist system into the North. For instance, the South can contribute to it by opening a free economic zone in Dandong, a Chinese city bordering the North, and exposing the North to more market experiences, Kim said. Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of JoongAng Ilbo, said that despite all the speculation of provocative moves by North Korea, the world should not miss “subtle soft-line messages in Kim Jong-un’s words.” “It is obvious that this new leader is taking a different approach from that of his father and grandfather,” Hong said in an opening speech of the forum. “Therefore, it is considered wise to read between the lines of such changes and to maximize the new context by augmenting efforts of reconciliation while severely responding to physical provocations.” (Moon Gwang-lip, “Forum Discusses How to Handle Volatile North,” JoongAng Ilbo, May 25, 2012) In the two months since North Korea’s announcement of a missile launch scuttled a U.S. plan to offer humanitarian aid, there are signs that Washington may come under pressure to reconsider. And those signs aren’t just coming from North Korea and the aid groups who have an interest in delivering the food. At a conference on North Korean issues, Stephen J. Hadley, U.S. National Security Advisor from 2005 to 2009, said he was “troubled” that the so-called “Leap Day Agreement” (announced on Feb. 29) between the U.S. and North Korea connected humanitarian assistance with good behavior by Pyongyang. “I’m kind of pleased actually that the deal went down,” Mr. Hadley said at the CSIS-Joong Ang Ilbo Forum. “In terms of policy, they may need humanitarian assistance and I think we need to be free to provide it on humanitarian grounds. As you think about this period of uncertainty going forward, we’re liberated again to provide humanitarian assistance if we can be sure it’s going to go to the North Koreans in need.” (Evan Ramsted, “Ground Shifts in U.S. Aid Stance to NK,” Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2012)


5/25/12:
The remains of 12 South Korean soldiers found north of the military demarcation line arrived in Seoul. It is the first time for the remnants of South Korean soldiers killed in the Korean War to be returned from North Korea since the cease-fire in 1953. The remains were among the 226 bodies recovered in the northern part of North Korea by a U.S. excavation team between 2000 and 2004. The recovery efforts have since been halted over concerns for the safety of the U.S. personnel. The remains were taken to the U.S., and subsequent DNA tests showed that they were Asian. “The return is meaningful in that it was achieved through close cooperation between Korea and the U.S. Although the remains were retrieved by the U.S., this is the first step in bringing home the remains of other South Korean soldiers buried in North Korea,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “The Republic of Korea was defended as they fought at the risk of their lives. We have to find them, even their remains, who sacrificed their lives for the country, to the end. There are no greater patriots than them,” President Lee Myung-bak said to the families of the deceased soldiers ahead of the ceremony at the military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul where the remains were flown in via Hawaii. “There are many things to do if unification happens, but this will probably be the first thing we have to do. Finding the remains of those killed while defending the country is an important job we have to do.” (Choi He-suk, “Remains of S. Korean Korean War Casualties Return,” Korea Herald, May 25, 2012)

Davies-Matsubara: “MATSUBARA: (In translation) I heard you met the families this morning. They can speak English very well. At the outset, I would like to reiterate the importance of the U.S.-Japan coordination on the abduction issue. And besides the U.S. concrete action, I think it is also very important that the U.S. side express that they are sharing the feelings of the abductees and the abductee families. In that sense, I think it is very important that you met the Yokotas and Chairman Iizuka and Mr. Masumoto. I think Mr. Yokota has already told you this, but we understand that it is important to stress that time is limited. For instance, supporting that Ms. Megumi Yokota is coming back to Japan, I think it is very important that daughter and parents have each other and share their best feelings. In that sense, it is very important to solve the issue while the parents are still healthy. That feeling is not only with the Yokotas, but all the Japanese citizens are sharing those kinds of feelings. So, you may have an opportunity to talk to the press after this meeting, and I would be very happy if you could express your thought that you share the feelings of the families. I think that it is very important that a person like you, who is in charge of the negotiations with North Korea, continue to express that kind of thought that you share the feelings of the victims – besides making a concrete negotiation urging action, I think that kind of thing is also very important. Having said that, I would be very happy to listen to what you have to say about the negotiations with North Korea and the situation in North Korea after the people of the press have left. DAVIES: Yes, absolutely. First of all, thank you very much, Minister, for hosting us to this lunch and for this meeting. When I first came to Tokyo almost six months ago, the very first meeting that I held was with the families of the abductees and the organizations representing them. There was a delegation from Tokyo in Washington a couple of weeks ago, and I participated in a meeting at that point with representatives of the families and members of the Diet who came along to discuss the issue of abductions. MATSUBARA: (In translation) Talking about that delegation, I wanted to be one of them. But because of the situation in the Diet in this country, I couldn’t make it, and I’m quite sorry about that. As a matter of fact, as Secretary-General of the Parliamentary League for Abduction Issues, I have continuously visited Washington, accompanying the delegation in the past couple of years. DAVIES: Well, we would hope very much that you can come back again in the future. But the message that I delivered when I first came here in December of last year is the same message that I conveyed a couple of weeks ago in Washington and again this morning with the Yokotas and the representatives of family members, which is that the United States understands and sympathizes deeply with the human pain that they have felt for many decades about their relatives. Whenever we are in negotiations with the North Koreans, we raise this issue. And we impress upon them, we say to them, that it is essential that they understand that there will be no ultimate resolution of the differences between North Korea and the United States and the Six Parties unless they resolve this issue – and in particular, unless they keep their promise, their undertaking that they made back in August of 2008 to reinvestigate the cases of abductees. There is great sympathy in the United States among the people of the United States.” (DoS, Glynn Davis, Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Remarks with Japanese Minister for the Abduction Issue Matsubara Jin prior to Their Meeting, Tokyo, May 25, 2012)


5/29/12:
The U.S. military denied a report that it has been sending commandos into North Korea to spy on underground military facilities, a mission that would violate the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. A U.S. military statement said that The Diplomat, an Asia-Pacific current affairs journal, had “taken great liberal license” with the comments attributed to a top U.S. general. According to The Diplomat, Brig. Gen. Neil H. Tolley, commander of special operations for United States Forces Korea, said at a conference May 22 that both U.S. and South Korean commandos parachute into the North to conduct reconnaissance on underground tunnels that are hidden from satellites. “Quotes have been made up and attributed to him,” the U.S. statement said. “No U.S. or [South Korean] forces have parachuted into North Korea.” But analysts warned that North Korea, despite the U.S. denial, could seize the initial report as evidence of American aggressiveness, a central theme for its propaganda and a key rationale for its military spending and provocations. “Anything like this, it just plays right into the hands of North Korea,” said Dan Pinkston, a Seoul-based security expert at the International Crisis Group. “It proves their narrative that America just wants to topple the regime. They can pick up the original story and just run with that.” According to The Diplomat, Tolley gave details about a sensitive commando program last week in Tampa, Fla., at a conference for members of the special operations industry. The reporter, David Axe, who has spent time embedded with special forces in Afghanistan, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he’s an expert on war and technology, but not on Korea specifically. Given the backlash to his initial four-paragraph story, he had become uncertain about its accuracy, he said. He posted his notes from the event on a personal blog. “Is it possible [Tolley] was speaking hypothetically?” Axe said. “Absolutely it is. But unless I’m incompetent — and it’s possible I am — he didn’t make that clear. Man, if I had known this was going to start a war I would have hunted down. (Chico Harlan, “No Commandos Entered N. Korea, U.S. Military Says,” Washington Post, May 30, 2012, p. A9) Tolley said, “Concealment of their entire military infrastructure is hidden from satellites and other aerial reconnaissance and that is an issue for us, so our ISR platforms are not as effective as we need them to be. So we put humans in there. Without going into too much detail on our war plans, we send ROK soldiers, Koreans, to the north, and U.S. soldiers, to do the old special reconnaissance mission. We used to do it in the 80s in Europe. It’s roughly the same kind of thing.” (Nelson Report, May 29, 2012) Tolley replaced as chief of U.S. special forces in Korea. (Associated Press, U.S. General in S. Korea Replaced Following Comments on Spying Mission in N. Korea,” June 5, 2012)

Controversial members such as lawmakers-elect Lee Seog-gi and Kim Jae-yeon of the UPP are facing accusations of being pro-North, with some having received punishment for violating the National Security Law in the past or having joined groups and activities classified as benefiting “the enemy.” Lee and Kim, along with two other proportional representatives, are set to officially join the Assembly, which opens this week, despite pressure to leave their party over a vote-rigging scandal. The Saenuri members, in the meantime, vowed to take measures to prevent them from joining the respective standing committees. “As it appears that the lawmakers in question will not be able to join the Defense Committee anyway, we plan to further discuss how to fundamentally prevent pro-North forces (from accessing state secrets),” Rep. Won Yoo-chul, who headed the Defense Committee in the 18th National Assembly, told Korea Herald. He was referring to earlier news reports that quoted the Saenuri’s Kang Chang-hee and Chung Ui-hwa ― who are vying for the seat of National Assembly speaker ― as saying they are against assigning seats on the defense and foreign affairs committees to the UPP lawmakers in question. Won’s comments were echoed by Rep. Shim Jae-chul, who contended during the Supreme Council meeting that the National Assembly Act must be revised to prevent pro-North members from joining committees that handle confidential information, and to fortify the process in which lawmakers request that government organizations provide confidential documents. By law, the Assembly speaker, elected by the ruling party, is entitled to distribute seats of standing committees to a non-negotiating political party with fewer than 20 seats. The UPP has 13 seats. The opposition parties denounced the president for prompting ideological debate. “If the pro-North forces of South Korea are the bigger problem, the Lee Myung-bak administration should then answer for why it fostered such pro-North forces for the past four-and-a-half years that the people are concerned about,” said Democratic United Party floor leader Park Jie-won at a party meeting. DUP spokesman Park Yong-jin also questioned the Saenuri members’ move to block UPP members from certain committees and said, “We may be able to discuss the idea if the Saenuri Party first legally review and deem whether it violates the Constitution or not.” “Whether they are the forces of pro-North or pro-military coup, restricting any function of a lawmaker must be prepared naturally through public debate and verification, not as a way to gain a short-term upperhand that ignores the Constitution like the Saenuri does,” he added. The UPP’s interim chairman Kang Ki-kap also criticized the president’s comments in a radio interview with MBC, saying, “It is pathetic and laughable that the president would bring up such outdated politics of prompting an ideological divide.” While observers said the political parties are walking a fine line on politicizing the issue, they also said there are not sufficient measures to prevent an attempt by a parliamentary member to abuse state secrets. “While any pro-North politicians would have maintained a low-profile in the past, the purported pro-North political forces have made themselves more public by officially joining the Assembly,” said Dr. Kwon Tae-young of the Korea Research Institute for Strategy. “While it is a source of major concern, there are no specific measures that can prevent any (attempt to abuse confidential information),” Kwon said. A Defense Committee member and his or her assistants, for instance, are given access to second-level confidential information that would include the status of smart weapons and development plans, military deployment plans and other military operations as well as information related to the U.S. Forces Korea. About six members of the UPP, including Lee and Kim, are said to be pro-North Korea. Lee was sentenced to two years and six months in prison for heading the Gyeonggi division of Minhyukdang, or the “People’s Democratic Revolutionary Party,” created in 1992 under the “Juche” philosophy of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung. Lee Ui-yeop, who also served a prison term for his activity in Minhyukdang, chaired the UPP’s parliamentary campaign. Another lawmaker-elect, Lee Sang-gyu, was also cited as one of the Minhyukdang activists in a past court ruling, while Kim Jae-yeon was wanted for joining a group classified as benefitting the “enemy.” Hwang Kyo-ahn, advisor to Bae, Kim and Lee LLC and an expert on the National Security Act, said that while it would be against the Constitution to ban them as lawmakers outright, limiting a member with a previous National Security Act violation conviction from certain activities may be plausible by revising relevant laws. “The National Security Act would not be able to regulate those for simply being defined as ‘pro-North’ forces,” Hwang said. He explained a National Security Act violation refers to a specific action that benefits the enemy such as by collecting, spying and leaking state secrets, or praising the enemy at the risk of damaging the stability of the state. (Lee Joo-hee, “Ideology Disturbs New Assembly,” Korea Herald, May 29, 2012) South Korea unveiled two cases of North Korean spies in less than a week, fraying the nerves of opposition politicians who prioritized reconciliation with Pyongyang or even once worked for pro-communist organizations. The National Intelligence Service said June 1 that it is investigating a female North Korean defector on suspicion of spying for her homeland. Lee Kyung-ae, 46, who entered Seoul via Thailand late last year, reportedly confessed that she was an undercover agent for the North’s military intelligence unit. According to reports, she was professionally trained as a spy in the early 2000s. She was dispatched to China and dealt with counterfeit bills worth up to $1 million. She also assisted the North’s investigation of a Korean-American man, born in the North, suspected of working for the Central Intelligence Agency. “It is true that she is under investigation,” an official at the NIS said. The NIS began the investigation because of her dubious explanation of her life in China and North Korea. When entering South Korea, she had told the authorities that she had lived together with a South Korean man in China. She said after the mate left for the South, she decided to follow him. The NIS and the prosecution are investigating her purpose of entry and her activities in the South. The revelation came two days after police arrested two South Korean businessmen on charges of attempting to divulge sensitive military technologies to the autocratic regime. They are suspected of trying to pass electronic jamming gears and a radar system for anti-aircraft defense. The disclosures came at a sensitive time when leftist politicians of the United Progressive Party are criticized anew for their past pro-North Korea activities. Both conservative and liberal parties are demanding Lee Seog-gi and Kim Jae-yeon resign. They were members of activist groups following the North’s state philosophy of “juche.” The UPP’s leftists have refused to clarify their stance on the North’s hereditary power handover, communist principles and human rights issues, triggering worries that their membership of the fledgling National Assembly could risk national security. Conservative lawmakers, government officials and even President Lee Myung-bak relayed criticism against pro-North figures. “What North Korea claims is a problem, pro-North Korean forces among us echo that it is even a bigger problem,” Lee said May 28 on a biweekly radio address. Such tactics have often held sway in past elections. Nearly all presidential elections in democratic Korean history have seen similar communist labeling attempts, either by the incumbent government or challengers, just a few months before voting began. “It is pathetic and ridiculous that the president would bring up such outdated politics of prompting an ideological strife. Such a witch hunt doesn’t help the party innovate itself and get back on its feet,” the UPP’s interim leader Kang Ki-kab said. (Shin Hyon-hee, “Spy Arrests Fuel Ideological Dispute,” Korea Herald, June 1, 2012)


5/30/12:
International efforts to denuclearize North Korea face a bigger hurdle as the communist state recently codified its atomic-armed status, which analysts see as a move to enhance its leverage in future negotiations. Pyongyang’s state-run website on May 30 unveiled the text of its recent constitutional revision, which added “nuclear-armed state” to its preface. “National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il has turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation,” reads the constitution. The constitutional revision is designed to immortalize the country’s late leader Kim Jong-il and his son and successor, Jong-un. It also now refers Kim Jong-il as the “elder of world politics” and Kim Il-sung, the founding father of the nation, as the “sun of the Korean people,” respectively. It is the sixth amendment since the nation’s establishment in 1948. The last revision took place in April 2010. The text was released on the website Naenara, or “my nation” in Korean. The North has oscillated between the different legacies of the two deceased leaders. When the North negotiates with the U.S., it has stressed Kim Il-sung’s will that the country should not have nuclear arms. When it needs to rattle the saber, it also touted Kim Jong-il’s ambition to become a nuclear power.

The constitutional declaration definitely freed the regime of the founding father’s legacy, posing further stumbling block on the multilateral talks involving the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and two Koreas. Experts say with a young leader at the helm, the North should feel the need to consolidate his grip on power through the constitutional revision. It is in line with its efforts to stabilize the fledgling leadership, such as giving him the new title of “supreme commander,” they said. “By stipulating its (nuclear-armed) status in the constitution, North Korea can save face, maintain the system and safeguard the status quo at home. Outside, it could provide more bargaining power at the negotiating table, and emphasize that they are not a pushover and have no intention to scrap their nuclear programs,” Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, told the Korea Herald. South Korea and the U.S. maintain that Pyongyang should abide by international obligations under a 2005 disarmament agreement and U.N. Security Council resolutions that demand it forsake all atomic projects. “North Korea is not entitled to own nuclear weapons,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Byung-jae told a news briefing on May 31. “The country walked away from the NPT on its own and pledged to give up its nuclear development plan according to the September 19 joint statement. Disregarding such promises and breaking international laws will only make itself more isolated and exacerbate the lives of its people.” Now, long-stalled six-party negotiations may become more difficult to resume as they lose their initial goal of denuclearizing the North, some experts forecast. “Like it or not, the North is likely going to be a de facto nuclear nation in three to five years as its current development process nears maturity,” a senior government official said. “Now the problem is how to take a nuclear-equipped North Korea, not whether. We’ve got to reconsider the current North Korea and unification policies.” Hong Hyun-ik, a senior researcher at Sejong Institute, said that South should see the North’s nuclear issue as a matter of international relations, shifting from an ethnic point of view. “While six-party talks could serve an idealistic frame of diplomatic solutions to break the current standoff, stakeholders should continue to seek negotiation channels rather than focusing on convincing in vain the North not to develop atomic weapons,” he said. (Shin Hyon-hee, “Seoul, Washington Dismiss N.K. Claim to be Nuclear State,” Korea Herald, May 31, 2012)


5/31/12:
North Korea is reaching out to other Asian countries in an apparent drive to reduce its reliance on trade with China. Kim Yong Nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, visited Singapore and Indonesia recently as part of what appears to be a drive to establish alternative trading links. According to KCNA, Kim met with Singapore President Tony Tan when he visited in mid-May. “It is important to expand and develop the economic and trade relationship,” Kim was quoted as saying. Kim was accompanied by an official responsible for attracting investment to North Korea as well as the minister for light industry. The group visited an electronics manufacturing company as well as a food plant. Cho Bong-hyun, a researcher at the IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul and an expert on North Korea’s economy, said North Korea invited economic ministry bureaucrats and private-sector experts from Singapore to Pyongyang on several occasions last year to help educate high-ranking North Korean government officials. Kim’s meeting in Singapore is believed to have involved asking for a continuation of that program as well as cooperation in the development of natural resources. A source knowledgeable about North Korean matters said: “North Korea may be seeking to become a base for distribution and transit trade like Singapore.” North Korea has been constructing ports in the special economic zone of Rason as well as in Chongjin and Tanchon, facing the Sea of Japan, to serve as distribution bases. After the visit to Singapore, the North Korean delegation went to Indonesia where they had a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. According to the Internet edition of the Jakarta Post, the meeting focused on economic development, investment and trade. North Korean officials apparently wanted to learn about how to manage foreign investment. According to a study by the Korea International Trade Association, trade between the two Koreas totaled $1.71 billion (about 136.4 billion yen) last year, about a 10 percent decrease compared with the previous year. North Korean trade with China continues to grow. In 2011, trade reached $5.63 billion, an increase of about 60 percent over the previous year. However, Beijing has also increased pressure on Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear weapons development programs. “There is a growing desire to move away from excessive dependence on China,” said an expert on North Korea. (Nakano Akira and Kaise Akihiko, “N. Korea Seeking to Diversify Trade to Reduce Reliance on China,” Asahi Shimbun, May 31, 2012)


6/1/12:
A female North Korean agent has been apprehended while attempting to infiltrate the South disguised as a defector, reports said, corroborating continuing concern over Pyongyang’s activities here. According to reports, the National Intelligence Service discovered the 46-year-old identified as Lee Kyung-ae was a secret police agent during a debriefing in May because of inconsistencies in her testimony. She arrived via Thailand, a common route for defectors. (Kim Young-jin, “N.K. Agent Disguised As Defector Caught,” Korea Times, June 1, 2012)


6/2/12:
The United States’ top defense official unveiled for his Asian counterparts on Saturday a plan for redirecting the U.S. military’s focus toward the Pacific, at the start of a week-long trip seen as crucial to the Obama administration’s broader strategic pivot to Asia. By 2020, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told a conference of defense officials from 28 Asia-Pacific countries, the United States will have 60 percent of its naval forces in the Pacific and 40 percent in the Atlantic, in contrast to the current 50-50 split. The strategic shift to Asia aims to use traditional allegiances, as well as budding partnerships with countries such as Vietnam and India, to offset China’s rising military power and assertiveness. But since it was announced in November, the new policy has drawn questions from Asian leaders about what the pivot means, how substantive and permanent it will be and how it may affect countries caught in the struggle between the United States and China for regional influence. Panetta sought to allay the doubts about the policy that were spurred by a lack of specifics and by looming budget cuts. While he did not provide the level of detail many have demanded, the planned shift in the balance of U.S. naval forces was a concrete new takeaway, clearly intended to lend both symbolic and strategic heft to the pivot to Asia. But part of the upgrade to a 60 percent Pacific presence will probably be achieved through targeted attrition, with the weight falling in the Atlantic region. The U.S. fleet now stands at roughly 285 battleships, with about half deployed or assigned to the Pacific. Defense officials declined to say exactly how many ships will be deployed in the region by 2020 but insisted that even with cuts, the number would be higher than it is now. Panetta also pledged to expand U.S. military exercises in the Pacific and port visits in areas such as the Indian Ocean. And he referred to a handful of systems being developed with the Pacific in mind, including a new bomber, an aerial refueling tanker and advanced anti-submarine aircraft. “The budget does encompass what we need,” Panetta said, noting that the new strategy entails less expensive ways of projecting U.S. power into Asia, including military ex­changes and short rotations of American troops in strategic countries to shore up alliances. “We’re moving away from the Cold War strategy where you build permanent bases and basically impose our power on the region,” Panetta said. The Pentagon recently launched one such rotational deployment in Australia, and others are being discussed in the Philippines and elsewhere, although defense officials declined to specify additional countries. (William Wan, “Panetta Reveals Plan Focusing on Pacific,” Washington Post, June 2, 2012, p. A-7)

South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed to strengthen cooperation in policy-setting to better deter North Korean aggression, Seoul’s defense ministry said. The ministry said the understanding was reached during a meeting of senior defense ministers at the two-day-long 11th Asia Security Summit Shangri-La Dialogue under way in Singapore. South Korea’s Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Japan’s Senior Vice Defense Minister Watanabe Shu attended the talks. “The three officials concurred that North Korea’s provocations pose a threat to all countries and there is a need to further enhance ties to jointly cope with the challenges,” an official in Seoul said. Seoul, Washington and Tokyo said they will formalize defense ministerial talks at future security summit meetings. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S., Japan Agree to Expand Cooperation to Deter N. Korean Threat,” June 2, 2012)

Myanmar has abandoned research on a nuclear program that never progressed very far, and has stepped back from close military and political ties with North Korea, the Southeast Asian country’s defense minister said. “We have already said very clearly it was not for defense, it was not for weapons, it was just research in the past,” the defense minister, Lieutenant General Hla Min, said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security forum in Singapore attended by senior regional civilian and military leaders. Hla Min, speaking through an interpreter, said Myanmar maintained political and military ties with Pyongyang in the past but “because of our opening and our new efforts, we have stopped such relationships with North Korea.” A U.N. panel of experts that monitors compliance with sanctions on North Korea is investigating reports of possible weapons-related deals between Pyongyang and Syria and Myanmar, the panel said in a confidential report seen by Reuters. “According to our foreign policy, we have friendly relations with all countries so it is just a regular relationship,” the minister said of current dealings with North Korea. Hla Min said Myanmar’s progress on the nuclear program had been exaggerated in the media. “In reality we were just beginning on doing academic studies,” he said. “But in this new government we have already given up all activities on nuclear issues. And we have no further plans to extend on this.”

Hla Min said the nuclear program never got very far due to “our constraints” as a nation, adding “there were no practical ways” to advance it. He said there was little point in having the International Atomic Energy Agency visit the country. “We have nothing to check and nothing to see so it is irrelevant,” he said. (John O’Callaghan, “Myanmar Abandons Nuclear Research: Defense Minister,” Reuters, June 2, 2012)


6/4/12:
KPA General Staff open ultimatum to the south Korean group of traitors: The celebrations of the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children’s Union are now taking place in the revolutionary capital of Pyongyang with splendor. They are a great political festival of children unprecedented not only in the history of the Korean nation but in the long history of mankind. As many as 20 000 delegates of school children have come to Pyongyang on invitation from all parts of the country, including remote villages and solitary islands. It was the noble outlook of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il on the younger generation and the future that they showed paternal loving care and solicitude for them, calling them kings of the country. This outlook has been steadfastly carried forward by the dear respected Kim Jong Un. All the service members and people are immensely excited and pleased with this stirring reality. The world is becoming envious of the DPRK, noting that such great event can take place in socialist Korea only. But it is only the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors in south Korea that is chilling the atmosphere of these auspicious events of the children. From May 29 the group set in motion Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, “A channel” of Dong-A Ilbo, KBS, CBS, MBC, SBS and other media to launch a campaign defaming the above-said celebrations. It went the lengths of resorting to a new campaign of hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK, availing itself of this opportunity. The children of the kindergarten in magnificent and modern Changjon Street were so happy as to have a photo taken with Kim Jong Un and sons and daughters of ordinary working people are participating in the above-said celebrations. However, the Lee group is letting loose a string of vituperations describing all these blessings as “charades intentionally orchestrated” by the supreme leadership of the DPRK. The auspicious political festival was opened amid joy and cheers of three million of schoolchildren, hailed by their fathers and mothers throughout the country. The group, however, is playing down it as ‘events for publicity stunt,’ ‘events to win popularity,’ ‘events to curry favor with them.’ It made no scruple of letting loose a spate of such invectives as deliberately hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK, describing the great inheritance of the love for the younger generation and the future as ‘act of imitating gesture and copying after Hitler’ and ‘the north’s staging of a political show as that staged by the Nazis to train the Juvenile Corps.’ And the Lee group went the lengths of describing the unblemished naive schoolchildren as “children on markets” more familiar with capitalist markets than socialist policies and ‘mere children knowing nothing about the world.’ This is a new form of evil action hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK. It is a thrice-cursed criminal act as it is a monstrous mud-slinging at the rosy future of our revolution. There is no country in the world as the DPRK which projects children as kings of the country. When babies are born, they are taken care of at palaces of babies and children are rapidly growing at children’s palaces, bringing their talents into full bloom. They are leading such blessed lives under the immensely profound loving care of the great persons of Mt. Paektu, something rare to be found in any other parts of the world. It was President Kim Il Sung who brought up all the children under his deep care with the noblest viewpoint on the younger generation and the future, despite snow and rain. It was leader Kim Jong Il who saw off the children leaving for their camps while starting his journey to the front along rugged roads in adversity. It was Kim Jong Un who visited the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School on the New Year’s Day and put forward its children as future pillars. It was thanks to this profound care of the sun that the children were provided with ampler opportunities of learning and flags of the Children’s Union fluttered more vigorously over their camps under the clean and blue sky of the country even under the difficult situation where its people had to fasten their belts in manifold adversity. Children are the future of the country and a symbol of hope and victory. The above-said vituperation let loose by the group of traitors is nothing but a shriek made by the group, utterly discomfited by the bright future of the supreme headquarters of the DPRK and rosy future of the younger generation. From olden times, idiots are apt to see everything quite different from a reality. It is quite natural that the group of traitors branded as fools, idiots and blockheads can hardly see the present world correctly. If it is not true, how can the group describe the great inheritance of our nation as “imitation” and compare the children who would shoulder upon themselves the future of the nation with the juvenile organization of fascist Hitler? As for Hitler, he was the fascist fanatic who drove guiltless humankind into pitfalls of disasters and death, special class war criminal who destroyed his country and nation and die-hard tyrant who had no love for its children. The south Korean people had already branded the worst traitor Lee as a notorious ‘Hitler Lee’ and burned the traitor in effigy in Nazi uniform, bearing the same moustache as Hitler’s as he has been hell-bent on mercilessly suppressing the protestors at the point of bayonet and enforcing an unpopular rule. It is said that one’s wrong tongue-lashing is as harmful as a sword cutting off one’s head. Upon hearing the news that the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and slandered its loved children, the officers and men of the three services of the KPA are expressing towering resentment and pledging themselves as one to resolutely settle accounts by force of arms with those who violated the moral law of the nation and defamed the great man whom the people follow and the world look up to. Officers and men of the army corps, divisions and regiments on the front and strategic rocket forces in the depth of the country are loudly calling for the issue of order to mete out punishment, declaring that they have already targeted Chosun Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 56 minutes 83 [?] seconds North Latitude and 126 degrees 97 [?] minutes 65 seconds East Longitude in the Central District, Seoul, JoongAng Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 33 minutes 45 seconds North Latitude and 126 degrees 58 minutes 14 seconds East Longitude in the Central District, Seoul, the Dong-A Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 57 minutes 10 seconds North Latitude and 126 degrees 97 [?] minutes 81 [?] seconds East Longitude in Jongro District, Seoul, KBS, CBS, MBC and SBS, the strongholds of the Lee group orchestrating the new vicious smear campaign. In view of this grave situation the KPA General Staff sends the following ultimatum to the Lee group of traitors: The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK are the army of the supreme commander and the people’s army which is devotedly defending the supreme commander and protecting his idea and the people and children whom he values and loves so much. It is the iron will of the army of the DPRK that the dens of heinous provocateurs hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and desecrating its idea, system and people should not be allowed to exist as they are. We would like ask the Lee group if it wants leave all this to be struck by the DPRK or opt for apologizing and putting the situation under control, though belatedly. It should take a final choice by itself. Now it is impossible for the officers and men of the KPA three services to keep back their towering resentment any longer. In case dens of monstrous crimes are blown up one after another, the Lee group will be entirely held responsible for this. If the Lee group recklessly challenges our army’s eruption of resentment, it will retaliate against it with a merciless sacred war of its own style as it has already declared. We are fully ready for everything. Time is running out.” (KCNA, “General Staff of KPA Sends Open Ultimatum to S. Korean Group of Traitors,” June 4, 2012)


6/6/12:
KCNA: “President Obama, at the recent graduation ceremony of a military academy of the U.S. Air Force, said that the U.S. will never remain a passive onlooker to the threat of north Korea and Iran to the whole world with nuclear programs. This is a revelation of the U.S. foolish design to stir up atmosphere hostile to the DPRK and justify the modernization of its nuclear weapons under the pretext of non-existent “nuclear threat” from someone. The U.S. modernization of nukes is, in essence, aimed to bolster up its capability to mount a preemptive nuclear attack on other countries. The U.S. High-level Ad Hoc Investigation Committee in a report asserted that the U.S. should step up the modernization of the aging tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. Last year the U.S. decided to spend 4 billion dollars for the modernization of ‘B-61’-type nuclear bombs for replacing the aging nuclear bombs deployed in Europe. According to this decision, the U.S. gives importance to the role of nukes and puts spurs to their modernization. It is by no means fortuitous that the International Peace Institute in Stockholm said the U.S. is steadily improving the nuclear weapon system and will always remain a nuclear weapons state. The U.S. is the main source and arch criminal which poses a nuclear threat to the world. For their reactionary nature, gravity and hypocritical nature the above-said U.S. moves are strongly rebuffed and condemned by the people of many countries who wish to live in peace in the world free from nukes. The ‘nuclear threat from north Korea’ is the rhetoric let loose by the U.S. to justify the modernization of its nuclear weapons. The DPRK had access to nuclear deterrent to defend the socialist system from the U.S. outrageous nuclear threat. However, the U.S. cites this as a threat to its ‘security’ and ‘global peace.’ This is a mockery of the people of the DPRK and the international community. The army and people of the DPRK will never allow the U.S. to use ‘nuclear threat’ from someone as an excuse to bolster up its capability for preemptive nuclear strikes. The U.S. should roll back its hostile policy toward independent countries and defuse its ‘nuclear threat’ to them. Otherwise, they will spark off an arms race and increase the danger of a nuclear war not only in Northeast Asia but the rest of the world.” (KCNA, “KCNA Slams U.S. Foolish Moves to Justify Its Modernization of Nukes,” June 6, 2012)

Deputy Assistant SecState for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Jim Zumwalt told a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, “The United States is prepared to engage constructively with North Korea, but its new leadership must understand that there will be no rewards for provocations.” (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. Remains Open for Talks with N. Korea: Zumwalt,” Yonhap, June 7, 2012)

Lee Hae-chan, who is running for chairman of the Democratic United Party, yesterday dismissed a ruling Saenuri Party-initiated bill on North Korean human rights as a trick to send more anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border, as he tried to defend his recent controversial remarks that the South shouldn’t interfere with human rights in the North. The maverick former prime minister, who says that criticism of him and other opposition figures amounts to a “new McCarthyism” in Korea, has been sharpening his rhetoric against the conservative party and major media outlets. Whether this will help him, even within his own party, is doubtful, political observers say. The so-called North Korea human rights bill, submitted recently by 11 Saenuri lawmakers, is “not to improve North Korea’s human rights and inter-Korean relations, but has been pushed ahead to support the dissemination of anti-North leaflets by ultraconservative groups,” Lee said at a press conference yesterday. The bill “will only bring about the aggravation of inter-Korean relations” and “cause anti-North sentiment and tension and conflicts on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. (Park Sin-hong and Moon Gwang-lip, “Lee Goes after Saenuri’s North Human Rights Bill,” JoongAng Ilbo, June 7, 2012)

Prosecutors carried out a large-scale investigation of companies involved in inter-Korean trade over the past year. They were seeking evidence of violations of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act (IKEC Act) in their remittances to North Korea. The Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee, under chairman Jeong Yang-geun, estimated that as many as 200 companies involved in inter-Korean trade had been fined as of late May. The fined companies argue that their penalties are attributable to differing interpretations and application of the law by the Lee Myung-bak administration. The same actions were not deemed problematic under the administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun (1998-2008). Those governments took a softer line on North Korea; things changed significantly when the conservative Lee Myung-bak government took office in 2008. A biggest change was the Lee government’s May 24 measures, put in place after the March 2010 sinking of the Cheonan warship. The measures suspended almost all transactions with North Korea. Companies that were already on the brink of bankruptcy were stuck with fines ranging from one million to eight million won. Companies with high transaction volumes were fined the legal limit of 10 million won (about US$8500). They were accused of violating Article 13, Item 1 of the Exchange and Cooperation Act, citing Article 4 of a Jan. 2008 Unification Ministry notice stating that anyone sending a third-party remittance to North Korea through a Chinese bank account must receive separate permission from the Unification Minister. Unification Ministry figures show a steady increase in the amount of North Korean items brought in through inter-Korean trade (including consignment processing), rising from US$258 million win 2004 to a peak of US$645 million in 2007. The level stayed above US$600 million as recently as 2008, the first year of the Lee administration. But as relations with North Korean headed downhill, the numbers plummeted below US$500 million starting in 2009, finally bottoming out at US$4 million in 2011 after relations were severed with the May 24 measures. (Kang Tae-ho, “When It Comes to Trading with North Korea, It’s No Longer Business As Usual,” Hankyore, June 7, 2012)


6/8/12:
King: “Q: (Translated) Higashioka from Asahi Newspapers. Regarding the abduction issue, what kind of support is the U.S. Government thinking to provide to the Japanese Government? And your meeting with the family members of abductees? And an American called Sneddon, who went missing in Yunnan Province in China, people are speculating that maybe the person has been abducted by the North Koreans. So, what kind of approach is the U.S. going to take to rescue this individual? Thank you. KING: First of all, with regard to what we’re doing with the Japanese Government in terms of an effort to deal with the abductee issue, the primary focus and interest is obviously in Japan since these are mostly Japanese citizens that we’re dealing with here. What we have tried to do is work with the Japanese Government to reinforce, to assist them in what they’re doing. We have made a point of raising the issue of the Japanese abductees when we’ve had an opportunity to raise those issues with North Korea. We’ve had a few opportunities, not many lately. But that’s one of the things that we have tried to do. We’ve also emphasized in statements that we have made at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, our support for Japan’s effort to see the return of the abductees. So we continue to work with the Japanese; we share information; we try to reinforce what each other does in various forums; that we try to act. The second question that you raised was with regard to the American student David Sneddon who disappeared in southwest China. There have been suggestions that this may have been an abduction by the North Koreans. Thus far, we have not seen evidence that would directly indicate that. There may be some circumstantial evidence that would point in that direction. We haven’t seen that information, but we continue to follow the issue. We continue to review the information. We meet periodically with the Chinese to update the information we have on this particular case with this particular American citizen. And so we’re continuing to follow it very closely. Q: (Translated) Higashioka from Asahi Shimbun. With regard to Mr. Sneddon, the student, going forward you’ll be keeping an eye on the developments. On the possibility of abduction: do you think the possibility exists? Or do you think it’s not a possibility that he has been abducted. KING: We don’t have information – I haven’t seen information that would lead me to draw a conclusion. So, I don’t have any information that would lead me to any definitive conclusion. Q: The Republic of Korea has a much larger abduction issue than Japan. Do you link those two at all when you talk to North Koreans? I just wonder what the U.S. policy on that is. Because you don’t hear so much about it, even though it involves a much larger number of people. KING: Yeah. We’re supportive of the South Korean abductees as well, and the South Koreans have a very large number of abductees, many of whom were abducted during the course of the Korean War. Again, we tend to be supportive of what the South Koreans are attempting to do in terms of the return of their citizens. But again, the North Koreans are not easy to deal with on issues like this. But the South Koreans have been raising the issue of abductions, and there are family organizations there similar to what’s here in Japan. Q: Do you link them at all? I mean when you talk to the North Koreans, are those two issues brought up together, or are those seen as being separate issues? KING: We haven’t had a lot of conversations with the North Koreans on human rights. They’re not particularly anxious to discuss human rights with us. When I was in Pyongyang a year ago, we had discussions. We had brief discussions in New York last summer as part of the larger nuclear discussions that were going on in that case. We have attempted and expressed our interest in beginning a dialogue on human rights with the North Koreans similar to what has taken place in the case of China for some time. So far, we haven’t reached the point of being able to get into those kind of discussions, and so there isn’t any effort to link or to rank or to order issues in terms of giving them priority. I wouldn’t say that we link the Japanese abductions and the South Korean abductions. They’re both similar issues. They’re both humanitarian issues. We continue to press on both of those issues and urge that both of them be resolved. Q: At the risk of being tedious, one more question? Part of the package in February that was annulled by the rocket involved food aid, right? If my memory serves. Was there any discussion of food support for North Koreans? KING: We have attempted to separate those issues. It’s been difficult because the North Koreans have linked them. We were negotiating separately, but on somewhat of a parallel timetable, in terms of providing humanitarian aid to the North Koreans. At the same time, discussions were taking place in other fora, a different forum on the nuclear issue. We reached a tentative agreement on providing food assistance. We reached a tentative agreement on monitoring the food assistance so we would be assured that it would reach those that it was intended to reach. When the North Koreans announced that they were launching a missile, we were concerned about what this said about North Korea’s willingness to observe agreements that they had reached. And after the missile was fired, we made the determination that it was reasonable to believe that they would not follow the agreement that they reached, and so we’ve suspended the food aid. There was also concern that if there were Americans in North Korea involved in monitoring and management of the food assistance, of the humanitarian assistance, that there might be difficulties if the North Koreans engaged in provocations. So there were concerns about safety as well. Q: Akiko Fujita with ABC News. Building on that question, is the U.S. considering resuming food aid, and if so under what circumstances? KING: At this point there is no indication the North Koreans – at least we haven’t seen any solid indication yet – that the North Koreans are ready to re-engage. I think the speed with which they change their mind on the nuclear agreement raised questions about how willing they were to engage. … Q: Me and Higashioka-san – we’re going to keep you busy. Is there a possibility of food aid? I’m just curious whether – has the missile basically knocked that off the table? KING: You know, that’s put it out of the range of possibilities right now. Would we consider it in the future? Possibly. Are we considering it now? No. The issue on food aid is that we’ve got to have confidence that the North Koreans will allow us to monitor the aid in a way that we can satisfy our concerns to see that the food is delivered to those who really are in need. What our intention was, and the programs that we had looked at in the past, was aid programs that would target in particular children under six, pregnant and nursing mothers, and possibly elderly who were not living with younger family members. We were also looking at providing nutritional assistance in a form that would be geared to the needs of those groups. This was done in order to avoid the food being easily transferrable to other segments of the population, like those who wear military uniforms. And what we have tried to do was to develop a program that would be geared at those segments of the population that would be most suitable for them and less available to others, but also to provide a method of monitoring to make certain that the food was going to those groups. I think we had reached what was a fairly good agreement, but where our difficulty is is the question of whether the North Koreans will allow us to implement the agreement, whether they will remain consistent to the agreement that we had reached. So I think the real problem there is one of confidence that the regime is going to allow us to do that. Q: When you say “food for the elderly or for children,” can you give a specific example? How would you guarantee the food wouldn’t – would it be baby food? I’m just curious what that means. KING: There are certain kinds of food. For example, it would not be rice. We would not be providing rice, and that’s the most transferrable and most desirable commodity. What we were looking at doing was also providing the food through programs in hospitals, nurseries, schools, orphanages, this kind of thing, in settings where we would see that the food was being distributed to the right groups — where it wasn’t simply being diverted to public distribution or something like that.” (DoS, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King, Media Roundtable at the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo, June 8, 2012)

Classified documents seen by the Daily Telegraph show that Beijing has failed to act when confronted with evidence that Chinese companies are breaking UN Resolution 1874 and helping North Korea to build long range missiles. This measure, passed with China’s support on June 12, 2009, strengthens an arms embargo by urging all UN members to inspect North Korean cargoes and destroy any items linked to the country’s missile or nuclear programs. But a study compiled by the intelligence agency of a country in the region shows how North Korean companies are continuing to buy banned materials in China. These entities “have been smuggling in or out controlled items by either setting up and operating a front company in China, or colluding with Chinese firms to forge documents and resorting to other masking techniques,” says the report. The companies include the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, known as KOMID, which deals in weapons and military equipment and has been singled out for UN sanctions. Launch vehicles for long range missiles are among the items illegally purchased inside China. North Korea is currently trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would be able to reach the United States. The country has already built a handful of nuclear bombs. “The North Korean entities subject to UN sanctions are known to have been deeply involved in the North Korean procurement of Chinese ICBM transporter-erector-launcher vehicles,” says the report. In August 2011, Changgwang Trading Corporation, a front company for KOMID, bought four lorries in China that were then altered into ICBM launchers and displayed in a parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the centenary of the birth of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung. In addition, the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation purchased 2 tons of vanadium, which is used in the manufacture of missiles, from a Chinese company in May 2011. Much of the equipment was shipped to North Korea from the Chinese port of Dalian. “The UN North Korea Sanctions Committee has frequently asked China for clarification of North Korea’s weapons transport through the port of Dalian, but China is said to have been shifting the responsibility to shipping companies of other nations or refusing to answer,” says the report. Sometimes, a bribe of between £40,000 – £60,000 is paid to a customs official to send each 40ft container filled with illegal missile components through Dalian, according to the report. North Korea also conceals its shipments. “To hide its trade, North Korea has been using all available means, including falsely describing the contents of the shipments, forging the country of origin as China and purchasing the materials in the name of Chinese firms,” adds the report. Personnel from North Korean banks and trading companies regularly meet at Beijing International Airport to deliver large sums of money earned from weapons deals. This happens with the “connivance of Chinese authorities and the customs office,” says the report. China is North Korea’s oldest and most committed ally, sending millions of “volunteer” soldiers to fight for the North during the war caused by its invasion of South Korea in 1950. More recently, Beijing has propped up the bankrupt state with fuel and food supplies, while providing diplomatic support in the Security Council. China’s aim is to guarantee the presence of a friendly state on its north-eastern border instead of a united Korean peninsula that might fall into America’s orbit. (Julian Ryall, “Chinese Firms Breaking U.N. Embargo on North Korea,” Daily Telegraph, June 8, 2012)


6/9/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The Lee Myung Bak group of south Korea has virulently defamed the celebrations of the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the Korean Children’s Union and other auspicious events in the DPRK since it committed such thrice-cursed treasons as rubbing salt into the wounds of the Korean people grieving over the great loss to the nation and daring slander the peerlessly great men. A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry released a statement on Saturday disclosing the sinister aims sought by the Lee group in aggravating the situation through uninterrupted provocations against the DPRK. It said: Through those provocations the group seeks to rattle the nerves of the DPRK in a bid to cause it to conduct a nuclear test, though such a thing is not under plan at present, and take such strong retaliatory measures as Yonphyong Island shelling incident, and hype its “belligerent nature.” This scenario is aimed to strain the relations between the DPRK and the countries around it and create an atmosphere of putting pressure and sanctions on it. The Korean Peninsula has turned into a theater of military standoff among big powers and a fuse for a regional war due to the Lee group’s policy of confrontation and sycophantic mendicant diplomacy. It is the disgrace of the Korean nation and tragedy of the present times that such group of traitors exists. That is why the international community hopes that the Lee group quits as early as possible for the detente on the peninsula and regional peace and stability. It is in the interests of all the countries aspiring after peace and stability in the region to make the group stop going reckless and step down quietly. Should there be countries around the peninsula ceaselessly instigating and conniving at the group’s dangerous and reckless provocations in an effort to use south Korea for attaining their egoistic purposes even a bit, they will not be able to shirk the responsibility for the ensuing consequences.” (KCNA, “Spokesman for DPRK Foreign Ministry Slams Lee Myung-bak Group’s Defamation of Celebrations in DPRK,” June 9, 2012)


6/11/12:
South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said his government has put North Korea on notice that it will issue a swift and powerful retaliation to any military provocation, and urged the totalitarian state to adopt Myanmar’s example of political opening. “It is now our government’s clear policy to respond strongly and immediately in times of military provocation,” Lee, 70, said yesterday during a discussion with journalists at his office in the Blue House in Seoul. “This policy has been officially communicated to North Korea through China.” (Brett Miller and Yoon Sangwon, “Lee Warns on Swift S. Korea Riposte to Any Provocation by North,” Bloomberg News, June 11, 2012)


6/12/12:
Millions of North Korean children are not getting the food, medicine or health care they need to develop physically or mentally, leaving an entire generation stunted and malnourished, the United Nations said. Nearly a third of North Korean children under age 5 show signs of stunting, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce, and scores are dying from diarrhea due to a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and electricity, the agency said. Hospitals are spotless but bare; few have running water or power, and drugs and medicine are in short supply, the agency said in a detailed update on the humanitarian situation in North Korea. The United Nations called for $198 million in donations for 2012 — mostly to help feed the hungry but also to invest in programs designed to mitigate and prevent a chronic food shortage that has resulted in persistent malnutrition among North Korea’s young.

“Malnutrition over a generation can have a long-lasting effect on a population in terms of physical growth, cognitive capacity, the ability to learn,” said Jerome Sauvage, the U.N.’s Pyongyang-based resident coordinator for North Korea. “The long-term effect of malnutrition can be very severe for a whole generation and on the whole population.” (Associated Press, “U.N.: Food Supply Tenuous for 16 Million N. Koreans, June 12, 2012)


6/13/12:
When North Korea held an elaborate parade to show off its military might, it inadvertently provided further damning evidence against its only ally. Images of the April 15 parade in Pyongyang, held to commemorate the centennial of the birth of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, featured large 16-wheeler transport vehicles carrying ballistic missiles. The vehicles were believed to have come from China, the same ones mentioned in a shipping report obtained by the Japanese government. Japan, the United States and South Korea had solid evidence to prove that China, despite its repeated denials, had violated a U.N. Security Council resolution banning weapons exports to North Korea. But the three countries decided not to pursue the matter in the Security Council, underscoring the complexities in international horse trading. “That was not a good time to force China into a corner,” one Japanese government source said. The chief concern among the three nations was to prevent a third nuclear test by North Korea and alleviate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and they needed Beijing’s help on that matter. Japan had gone out of its way to prove that China was not adhering to the U.N. Security Council resolution, which prohibits the export of all weapons and related material to North Korea except for small arms and light weapons. The Japanese government solidified its case when it obtained a document showing that a Chinese company had exported four large vehicles — capable of transporting and launching ballistic missiles — to North Korea. The document was obtained through a search of the cargo ship Harmony Wish, which has long been suspected of having illicit ties to North Korea. According to Japanese government sources, although the Harmony Wish is registered in Cambodia, almost all its crew members are Chinese. Security experts suspect that Cambodian-registered ships operated mainly by Chinese crews have been used to provide underground support to such nations as North Korea, Myanmar and Laos. Over the past four years, the Harmony Wish has made close to 10 calls at such North Korean ports as Chongjin, Wonsan and Nampho. Japanese government officials got their chance to search the Harmony Wish when it docked at Osaka Port on October 3, 2011. After gaining the consent of the ship captain, officials of the 5th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, based in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, conducted an on-board inspection. Although no suspicious cargo was found, officials did discover a detailed export document showing that four large vehicles, developed for the Chinese military to transport ballistic missiles, had been shipped from Shanghai to Nampho in August 2011. China has shipped materials in the past to North Korea that could become part of weapon development programs, including hydrazine and kerosene, which can be used as rocket propulsion fuel, and lead glass that is used in nuclear facilities. Beijing brushed aside criticism from the international community on those occasions by explaining that the materials also had civilian uses. The WS-51200 off-road vehicle that was transported to North Korea was developed specifically to allow it to be equipped with a device that raises ballistic missiles in preparation for launches. China faced possible international criticism and demands for an explanation because the exported item was related to ballistic missiles that are obvious threats to neighboring nations. But nothing was made of the vehicle exports until they were seen in the April 15 military parade in Pyongyang. According to Japanese sources, officials of the United States, which had received information from Japan about the cargo shipment, informally sounded out their Chinese counterparts about the exports. Chinese officials acknowledged the export of the vehicles, but they again explained that they were meant for civilian use. Although Japan, the United States and South Korea could have taken the matter to the Security Council, concerns about a possible North Korean nuclear test took precedence. One Chinese official reportedly told a Japanese counterpart, “You probably do not realize the extent of the efforts we have been making (to prevent a nuclear test).” One event that greatly influenced the issue was an April 23 meeting in Beijing between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Kim Yong Il, head of the International Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea. One week earlier, on April 16, the Security Council unanimously adopted a president’s statement in response to North Korea’s launch of a long-range ballistic missile. The statement warned Pyongyang that the Security Council would take appropriate measures if it conducted another missile launch or a nuclear test. North Korea, clearly surprised that China accepted the hard-line stance, dispatched Kim to Beijing to meet with Hu. Chinese officials were also surprised by the sudden visit by Kim. Wang Jiarui, the head of the Communist Party’s International Department who was on a trip abroad, was instructed to change plans and return to Beijing. In his meeting with Kim, Hu said North Korea’s actions had strengthened the defensive posture of Japan, the United States and South Korea, which “affected China’s national security.” Hu added that if North Korea went ahead with another nuclear test, it would “produce a decisive effect on relations between China and North Korea” and possibly force Beijing to rethink its assistance and economic cooperation projects with Pyongyang. For his part, Kim issued a warning to the international community, saying, “If an inappropriate response is made to the peaceful rocket launch by North Korea, we will also take the appropriate retaliatory measure.” However, Kim also said, “As long as the current situation is maintained, we will not implement a hard-line measure.” After the Hu-Kim meeting, China began taking a softer approach toward North Korea. Japan and South Korea proposed at a meeting of the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council that about 40 North Korean companies and associations be added to a list of those subject to sanctions. But China objected, and only three companies were added in the end. Japan, the United States and South Korea concluded that China was acting based on Kim’s proposal made during his meeting with Hu. At the same time, the three nations also determined that the possibility had decreased that North Korea would conduct its third nuclear test in the near future. Japan has no effective diplomatic measure to use against North Korea since it has implemented all possible sanctions. The only alternative open to Japan was to go along with the decision by the United States to seek a compromise with China. (Makino Yoshihiro, “North Korea Nuke Fears Spare China on U.N. Resolution Violations,” Asahi Shimbun, June 13, 2012)

Beijing said Chinese companies were not involved in shipping missile launch vehicles to North Korea last year, denying an Asahi Shimbun report that accused it of breaking UN resolutions. The report — based on Japanese government sources — is the most strident of recent claims that China has been involved in helping to arm its wayward ally Pyongyang. The Asahi report said a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. — affiliated to the Chinese military — last August exported four trucks capable of transporting and launching ballistic missiles to North Korea. “China has been strictly implementing relevant Security Council resolutions and its own laws and regulations on non-proliferation export control,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in response to a question on the report. “Chinese companies did not export items that are banned by relevant Security Council resolutions or Chinese laws and regulations.” Asked whether China may have exported the vehicles through companies from third countries, Liu refused to comment further. But at Washington’s urging [U.S. engine?],Tokyo and Seoul have avoided confronting Beijing over the issue in a bid to keep North Korea’s patron onside in the international effort to contain tensions on the peninsula, it added. (AFP, “China’s Denies Firm Shipped Missile Trucks to N. Korea,” June 13, 2012) The Japan Coast Guard investigated a Cambodian freighter in October and found documents indicating Beijing had shipped four large military vehicles to Pyongyang, media reports said. They were used in a military parade in April to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government has taken notice of the situation but refused to comment further, including when the government obtained the information. “The Japanese government is paying attention to the matter, but I cannot comment further on the details of an individual case because it involves intelligence activities,” Fujimura said. Fujimura only explained that in general Japan will report to the U.N. any evidence it finds that a member state has violated the resolution. “We strongly believe that member states should adhere to the resolution,” Fujimura said. “Japan will continue to work closely with the countries concerned to ensure that the international community, including China, steadily and fully implements the U.N. resolution.” (Ito Masami, “North Korean Missile Launchers Came from China: Report,” Japan Times, June 14, 2012)

The North Korean government continues to require forced, uncompensated labor from workers, including even schoolchildren and university students, Human Rights Watch said today. In about 65 recent interviews, North Korean defectors say they have faced years of work for either no wages or symbolic compensation and either had to pay bribes or face severe punishments if they did not report for work at assigned workplaces. Defectors reported to Human Rights Watch that they were required to work at an assigned workplace after completing school. The effective collapse of much of the North Korean economy means that many of these jobs are either unpaid or provide minimal substitute compensation in the form of food or other rations. Failure to report to an assigned job for those who try to earn money in other ways can result in being sent to a forced labor camp for six months to as long as two years. (Human Rights Watch, “North Korea: Economic System Built on Forced Labor,” June 13, 2012)


6/14/12:
Seoul and Washington made plans at the so-called “2+2 talks” between their foreign and defense ministers at the State Department to work together on extending defense capabilities in response to North Korea’s recent long-range ballistic missile development. In a joint statement issued complex, the two countries said they had agreed to develop a “comprehensive alliance approach. By this, they meant not only extending the permitted firing range of South Korean missiles and building a missile defense system but also establishing detection, identification, strike, and flight capabilities. “It means building a South Korea-led missile defense system against North Korean missile attacks, with the US providing intelligence and detection support,” explained a government official. Analysts said the decision signifies a de facto agreement to build the “Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD)” system the two sides have long been discussing. The KAMD differs from the global US-led missile defense system in that it is restricted to the Korean Peninsula. But some observers are suggesting that in the long run it could lead to a US-led MD system, since the system construction and equipment and technology support for it are based on discussions with Washington. the statement made no mention at all of extending the maximum firing range for South Korean missiles, a focus of major attention ahead of the June 14 talks. Sources reported that the two sides did not discuss the issue in any great detail, but US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did make reference to “making good progress” on this area at the press conference afterwards. With the KAMD, any missile fired from North Korea would be intercepted by sea with an SM3 from the Aegis-equipped destroyer Sejong the Great, or by land with a Patriot PAC-2. The South Korean military plans to obtain the necessary equipment and weapons by 2020 for the system, including a surveillance/reconnaissance system, a strike system, an interception system, and cleanup capabilities. The Korea Development Institute and the Defense Department‘s Missile Defense Agency, which are collaborating on the research, are known to have already held several meetings of planning and analysis personnel to discuss development plans, including technical and strategic analyses. Kim Jong-dae, editor-in-chief of the military affairs journal Defense 21, said the building of an MD system was likely to gain momentum with the agreement at the talks to strengthen an alliance approach. “But there are worries that we could end up provoking Beijing unless we can allay suspicions that we are planning to join the US missile defense system,” Kim added. (Kwon Tae-ho and Park Byong-su, “Seoul and Washington Agree to Korean Air and Missile Defense,” Hankyore, June 16, 2012)

2+2 Press Conference: “Q: (Via interpreter) Kang from the Yonhap News Agency. My question is for Defense Minister Kim. It is written in this statement that you have decided to develop a comprehensive alliance approach towards the missile defense. I want to know what this means. If you are referring to the missile defense, are you intending to build a Korea air missile defense or are you saying that you will be integrated into a U.S.-led missile defense? Could you elaborate on what missile defense system you are envisioning? You mention comprehensive alliance defense system. How does this build into the U.S.-led assistance? DEFENSE MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) The position of the ROK military regarding the missile defense is this given the terrain of the Korean Peninsula. The most effective approach is a low-tier defense. And how will this be linked to the U.S. missile defense system? This is of the analysis – the studies that are being conducted right now. That’s what I mean by saying an effective combined air defense system. …QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Reporter from the SBS, Ju. This is a question for Defense Minister Kim and Secretary Panetta. Right now, the Korean media is dealing – covering very extensively about the range extension of the Korean ballistic missiles and that the ROK side is insisting on 800 kilometer whereas the U.S. is insisting on 500 kilometer, where although the countries have agreed on the payload. Senator Carl Levin said that he is positive when it comes to the range extension. Has this issue been discussed at the 2+2, and will the two countries be able to show a concrete outcome by the end of the year? One additional question is – this one is for Secretary Clinton. Kim Jong-un, the new leader, he has taken over his father, deceased father, and is now already six month as the new leader. How do you assess his leadership so far? KIM: (Via interpreter) Let me first address this range extension issue. This is still being discussed on the working level. This issue was not dealt at today’s 2+2 ministerial meeting. PANETTA: In consultation and negotiations with the Republic of Korea with regards to this area, I think we’re making good progress. And our hope is that we can arrive at an agreeable solution soon. CLINTON: Regarding the new leader in North Korea, I believe leaders are judged by what they do to help their people have better lives, whether they create stability and security, prosperity, opportunity. And this new young leader has a choice to make, and we are hoping that he will make a choice that benefits all of his people. And we also believe strongly that North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only continue to isolate the country and provide no real opportunity for engagement and work toward a better future. And so we hope that the new leadership in Pyongyang will live up to its agreements, will not engage in threats and provocations, will put the North Korean people first. Rather than spending money on implements of war, feed your people, provide education and healthcare, and lift your people out of poverty and isolation. This young man, should he make a choice that would help bring North Korea into the 21st century, could go down in history as a transformative leader. Or he can continue the model of the past and eventually North Korea will change, because at some point people cannot live under such oppressive conditions – starving to death, being put into gulags, and having their basic human rights denied. So we’re hoping that he will chart a different course for his people.” (DoS, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Remarks with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-wan and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin after Their Meeting, June 14, 2012)

U.N. Panel of Experts report: “Members for the period under consideration have been John Everard (United Kingdom) (Coordinator); Katsuhisa Furukawa (Japan, from October 2011); George Lopez (United States of America, to July 2011); Erik Marzolf (France); Duk Ho Moon (Republic of Korea); William J. Newcomb III (United States of America, from September 2011); Alexander Vilnin (Russian Federation); Xiaodong Xue (China);Takehiko Yamamoto (Japan, to September 2011). …25. To expand a centrifuge program would require significant quantities of specialty items such as maraging steel20 and high-strength aluminum tubes. Since May 2011, no attempts by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to import these have been reported to the Committee or brought to the attention of the Panel. It remains unclear whether this is because the country has succeeded in doing so undetected, or stockpiled these items before sanctions were introduced, or is not after all trying to procure them. During the Panel’s discussion with Member States and analysts, there were suggestions that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is itself able to produce maraging steel and even provided it to other countries. The press has reported that the country was engaged in assisting both Iran (Islamic Republic of) and the Syrian Arab Republic to build maraging steel production facilities. The Panel notes this conjecture but notes too that the production of maraging steel is technically demanding, and it has no evidence that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has acquired the relevant technologies. It therefore doubts that, even if the country has gained the capability to produce maraging steel, the product would be of a quality normally considered sufficient for use in enrichment centrifuges. Independent experts however have indicated the possibility that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could use materials of lower parameters than those specified by the lists of designations in the resolutions for its nuclear programs, though at an operational cost. …Live broadcast of the military parade celebrating the centenary of Kim IL Sung’s birth showed a considerable number of ballistic missiles. Alongside the already known missiles — commonly identified as KN-02, Hwasongs, Nodong and Musudan — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea paraded a new road mobile missile, called KN-08 by analysts, much larger than its other missiles. No fewer than six examples of this new missile were observed during the parade. Missile analysts express varying levels of doubts on the operational status of the Musudan and newest KN-08, neither of which has yet been flight-tested. Analysts debate whether the KN-08s on display may have been mock-ups. 38. The newly revealed missile was carried by a new 8-axle transporter erector launcher, bigger and more sophisticated than previous transporter erector launchers displayed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which have had up to 6-axle configuration. An off-road mobile transporter erector launcher of such dimensions needs very advanced features such as the ability to pivot wheels in the front and back to assist steering, divided axle with differential gear to assist off-road movement, and hydro-pneumatic suspension to handle sensitive payloads. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has not previously demonstrated its capacity to build such a vehicle. The Panel will further examine this. … 43. Similarly, the Panel does not know if and how many Member States decided against conducting inspections (in which case no reporting requirement arose) despite indications of illicit cargo from or bound for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But the Panel notes that, while the Security Council calls upon States to inspect cargo if there are reasonable grounds to believe that it may contain prohibited items, for many Member States a preponderance of evidence is deemed essential before deciding on inspection. The Panel’s informal contacts with Member States indicate also that there are disincentives to conducting an inspection. First, a seizure following an inspection may cause the Member State problems. There are concerns that shippers may challenge such seizures in court. Secondly, after a seizure the Member State is left with the problem of disposing of the seized goods. This varies — the problems in disposing of seized luxury goods are usually less than those in disposing of, for example, weaponry — but can involve cost and inconvenience, and even danger. Sometimes commercial considerations, such as reluctance by large ports to allow inspections to slow cargo flow, discourage inspections. There may also be other disincentives, including fear of political embarrassment, or through pressure from other States not to seize the goods. 44. Moreover, it is almost impossible for Member States to implement the sanctions on luxury goods unless they provide to their own law enforcement agencies lists of the goods whose export to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea they ban. In the absence of such lists law enforcement agencies usually cannot determine that the law has been broken even if they discover a relevant shipment. …53. Since May 2011, several Member States have voluntarily provided to the Committee information on incidents of non-compliance unrelated to inspection, seizure and disposal as defined by paragraphs 11 to 14 of resolution 1874 (2009). No less than seven reports were provided by Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. The majority of these reports relate to instances in which prohibited items had been successfully delivered to or by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 54. These valuable reports illustrate the importance of Member States providing to the Committee and to the Panel information on illicit movements of goods whether these are accomplished (when proscribed items are known to have been supplied to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea); attempted (when the export of proscribed items to the country is stopped before the items actually enter into international commerce); or denied (when acquisition or export permission is sought but immediately denied by private companies or the relevant authorities). 56. During the period under review, Member States provided to the Committee compliance-related reports describing several new incidents of non-compliance, and other such incidents came to the attention of the Panel through other sources. All these new incidents prove that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to reject and violate the sanctions. These new cases are described below, together with updates on previous violations that the Panel continued to investigate during this mandate (some of these cases were described in more detail in the Panel’s final report of 2011). National implementation reports show that many Member States have taken effective measures to prevent illicit transfers. Some have told the Panel of their application of such techniques as due diligence and “know your customer” rules, and of partnerships between national authorities and private sectors. …57. The Panel confirmed information reported in its final report of 2011 (para. 83) on a potential incident of non-compliance involving transfer of ballistic missile-related items. This shipment was seized by a Member State in October 2007. The Panel inspected the shipment and noted that it contained electrical and thermal switches, rolls of different materials and small quantities of metallic alloys, as well as Korean food and other items. The Panel was also shown photographs of 130 blocks of solid double-base propellant that had been removed for safety reasons (see figure VIII). It was confirmed by another Member State that 50 of the doublebase propellant blocks (6 cm in diameter and 13 cm in height) were usable for gas generators to power Scud missile turbopumps and that the other items were dual-use items having potential ballistic missile applications. This shipment originated in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was trans-shipped in Dalian (China), and Port Kelang (Malaysia), and transited through other ports. It was en route to Latakia, Syrian Arab Republic. According to the bill of lading, the consignor was an entity of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea named Korea General Trading Corporation and the consignee was Handasieh General Organization Engineering Industries, a reported front company of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre of the Syrian Arab Republic. A Member State has stated however that the real consignor was Korea Tangun Trading Company, an entity designated by the Committee on 16 July 2009. During its inspection, the Panel saw that the items’ wrappings were marked “Tangun” in Korean. 58. Recent media articles and academic papers have reported possible ongoing missile cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States, in particular Iran (Islamic Republic of) and the Syrian Arab Republic. The Panel can neither confirm nor deny any of this information, but notes that this would be consistent with reports of the long history of missile cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and these countries and with the Panel’s observations. As previously reported by the Panel, on 10 October 2010 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea displayed a new warhead for its Nodong missile, which presented a strong similarity in design with the Iranian Shahab-3 triconic warhead. The Panel observes that the Unha rockets also present significant design similarities with Iranian space launch vehicles. The first stage of the Unha strongly resembles the Simorgh unveiled by the Islamic Republic of Iran early in 2010. Released video footages of the Unha-3 confirmed previous estimates that both are constituted of a cluster of four Nodong/Shahab-3 motors. While the composition of the Unha third stage cannot be determined with certainty, its width and shape also suggest that it is similar to the upper stage of the Safir which successfully inserted a small satellite into low-earth orbit in February 2009. As indicated in the previous paragraph, the Panel also observed that a shipment containing ballistic missile related items seized in 2007 contained Korean food and other items. This indicates a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea presence at the destination. 59. The Panel notes that the President of Myanmar recently repeated previous statements to the effect that Myanmar does not have nuclear or weapons cooperation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But the Panel has also taken note of a recent declaration by another high-ranking official suggesting that Myanmar may have had other prohibited cooperation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Speaker of Parliament, Thura Shwe Mann, recently said “During my visit to North Korea as a general [in 2008], we signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperating between the two armed forces. It was not on nuclear cooperation as is being alleged … We studied their air defense system, weapons factories, aircraft and ships. Their armed forces are quite strong so we just agreed to cooperate with them if necessary.” It has been reported that the delegation also visited a ballistic missile factory. The Panel is concerned that the activities under that memorandum of understanding may be violating paragraph 8 (c) of resolution 1718 (2006). Member States have told the Panel that in May 2011 the MV Light was heading to Myanmar (as was the Kang Nam 1 in June 2009). The shipmaster’s refusal to allow the inspection authorized by the flag State heightened suspicion that the vessel was engaged in activity violating resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009). Additional information suggesting possible cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Myanmar is in paragraph 91 below. …61. The Panel obtained additional information on a potential incident of non-compliance reported in paragraph 81 of its final report of 2011. The Panel confirmed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea imported two computer numerically controlled lathes and one milling lathe from a country in the region. The law enforcement authority of that country found out that a trading company, owned by a national of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, functioned as an intermediary in this transaction. This case was brought to court, where the company was fined and its owner was sentenced to six months in jail. 62. The Panel learned also that an export control authority of the same country in the region prevented an attempt by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to procure a 5-axis computer numerically controlled machining centre that can be used for missile-related applications from a local company through an intermediary late in 2011. Subsequently, the authority revoked the company’s export license for this transaction. …65. On 19 September 2011, a Member State informed the Committee that in November 2009 it had discovered and seized four containers stuffed with items falling into the category of “all arms and related materiel”. The shipment contained 13,000 protective coats (see figure X) that the Member State reported to have military use for chemical protection, 23,600 gas indicator ampoules to detect specific chemical substances (see figure XI), as well as other items. During an on-site examination of the cargo in January 2012, the Panel confirmed that some of the items bore clear traces of manufacture in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Further, the Panel confirmed that the coats were identical to those seized in October 2009 on board the MSC Rachele. 66. The Panel concludes that these two shipments were linked and, considering the absence of protective boots in the second shipment, that one or several other shipments may have escaped seizure. As in the MSC Rachele case, the cargo originated from Nampo, was trans-shipped through the port of Dalian (China), transited through Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and other ports, and was en route to Latakia, Syrian Arab Republic. The intended recipient of the goods was again declared as the Environmental Study Centre in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Syrian Arab Republic had previously and repeatedly disavowed the shipment seized on the MSC Rachele. However, in March 2012, it indicated that the second shipment of suits and ampoules seized was for agricultural and laboratory use in the Syrian Arab Republic. As previously indicated by the Panel, the Environmental Study Centre appears to be linked with the Higher Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology, an educational institution which provides training to Scientific Studies and Research Centre engineers. 67. In April 2012, France reported to the Committee that it had inspected and seized in November 2010 an illicit shipment of arms-related materiel originating from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and destined for the Syrian Arab Republic. The shipment was seized on board the containership MV San Francisco Bridge. It was declared as containing copper bars and plates. However, France’s inspection of the cargo revealed that it contained brass discs and copper rods used to manufacture artillery munitions (pellets and rods for crimping cartridges and driving bands) and aluminum alloy tubes usable for making rockets. France concluded that this shipment of goods used for the manufacturing of arms and ammunition was a violation of resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009). 68. As indicated by the Panel in annex B to its previous final report, media articles reported in May 2011 that a vessel travelling from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had just been intercepted in the Indian Ocean by international maritime forces, who found 15 tons of rockets and US$ 15 million worth of explosives on board.47 The reports further claimed that the vessel travelled via Singapore and that it was now docked in an East African port. In discussions with Member States the Panel received confirmation that several containers packed with arms-related items had been inspected and seized at that time in an East African port. The Panel continues to investigate this potential incident of non-compliance. 69. The Panel had obtained information from media sources about a seizure of handguns, ammunition, narcotics and other illegal goods on board the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-owned and flagged vessel Chong Chon Gang in Ukraine late in January 2010. Responding to the Panel’s enquiries the Ukrainian authorities confirmed the seizure of limited quantities of ammunition, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and other contraband goods. In the opinion of the relevant Ukrainian agencies, the small quantities uncovered did not suggest involvement of the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 70. Since May 2011, the Panel has received five official communications from Member States in response to previous or new requests for information regarding the illicit shipment of arms and related materiel seized by Thailand in December 2009. The Panel still awaits responses from three other Member States and intends, on the basis of new or expected information, to send additional requests for information. 71. In October 2009 South Africa intercepted items on board the Westerhever that the Republic of the Congo later confirmed were part of a contract with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refurbish and upgrade armored military vehicles and other military equipment in the Republic of the Congo. During its visit to Brazzaville in December 2011, the Panel viewed some of the military equipment (see figure XII) and obtained useful documents detailing the role of entities and individuals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It also learned about earlier deliveries made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea before the one impounded by South Africa. In 2008, at least two other shipments containing arms-related materiel were delivered by sea, while a third was delivered by air. The Panel is expecting additional information regarding these shipments and other matters related to the contract with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Panel also hopes to visit South Africa to inspect the items seized before submitting a final incident report to the Committee. 72. The Panel has noted media reports that in October 2009 there was an illicit transfer of heavy machine guns from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to Burundi by a Seychelles-registered firm. The Panel has gathered information regarding this and has confirmed many details of the contract between the Seychelles-registered firm, called Cranford Trading, and Burundi, as well as of the arms delivered. The Panel has confirmed that heavy machine guns were delivered. However, because neither Burundi nor Seychelles has yet replied to its enquiries, the Panel has not yet confirmed if or when these heavy machine guns were transferred from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 73. On 21 November 2011 the United Kingdom notified the Committee that a criminal prosecution had started in relation to the suspected supply of goods from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that are subject to trade controls. No further official information on this case is yet available but the Panel notes informed media comment that the goods concerned were weapons. 74. A Member State told the Panel that it had stopped the sale of 32 retired fighter aircraft in 2009 because of the suspicion that they would be transferred to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The aircraft were later destroyed. Comment 75. Resolution 1874 (2009) bans the transfer to and from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of all arms and related materiel51 except for the provision to the country of small arms and light weapons, which can be supplied with five days’ advance notice to the Committee — although no Member State as ever done this. Many Member States have provided the Panel with details of their implementation, including domestic laws and regulations and arms export controls. Difficulties in confirming that seized goods originate in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are a recurring challenge, in which the Panel strives to be helpful. In all these cases the arms involved were old-fashioned, mostly of 1960s or 1970s types. Comment 88. The implementation of the sanction on luxury goods remains deeply problematic. Most Member States have not created the lists of luxury goods to be banned under the sanction despite the Committee’s encouragement to them to include these in their reports, so that it is unclear how or if the sanction is implemented in their territories. Moreover, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is able to exploit differences between such lists, where they exist, to avoid bans in one Member State by shopping in another — and the Panel sees little evidence of information-sharing between Member States on what might be included in these lists. Pyongyang residents and visitors say that luxury cars are seen in Pyongyang. They have also told the Panel that imported luxury goods, both authentic and forgeries, including expensive liquors and cosmetics, are widely and openly available there and perhaps elsewhere in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. While some Member States have reported seizure of luxury goods, many reports of Member States show that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was able to import these. All this indicates that the ban on luxury goods has not disrupted effectively the supply of such goods either to the elite of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or to the rising Pyongyang middle class. 89. The Committee’s IAN 3 of 5 December 2011 offers guidance on implementation. But despite this Member States continue to tell the Panel that this lack of coordination troubles them and to seek clarification from the Panel on the scope of the sanction. …94. In order either to procure illicit items or to export them, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea needs to move them by sea, air or land. The resolutions call for suspected illicit cargoes to be inspected. Below we consider the opportunities for and difficulties in achieving this. Geography imposes a special burden on neighboring States. 95. By sea. The majority of the inspections reported to the Committee involve movements by sea. The Panel reported on the capabilities of the merchant fleet of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in paragraphs 108 to 113 of its final report of 2011 and has nothing to add in the present report. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must know that its own vessels are watched, which may explain why the MV Light was a Belize-flagged ship (see paras. 51 and 59). In almost all cases reported to the Committee or brought to the attention of the Panel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea trans-shipped illicit cargo on to vessels operated by large international shipping companies. Because none of the mainstream shipping companies calls at ports of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, all containers to or from the country have to be processed through a Republic of Korea has progressively lost access to some of these ports. 96. By air. The Panel described the fleet of aircraft of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in paragraphs 114 to 118 of its final report of 2011, since when the fleet has not greatly changed. Air Koryo is reported, from May to November 2011, to have operated regular flights to Kuwait City (why this latter service was terminated after only six months is unclear). It has also opened a route to Kuala Lumpur. The Panel has not learned of any new case involving transport by air that occurred during the period under review, but it has learned of the transport by air of prohibited arms-related items in 2008 (see para. 71). As in other instances involving the shipment of items whose illicit nature is not obvious and which could escape visual and cursory inspection, the items were shipped on regularly scheduled flights. 97. By land. During the period under review, some roads in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leading to the border have been improved and there has been some work on rail links. There has been an increase in cross-border road and rail traffic. No inspection of a cargo being moved overland to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has ever been reported to the Committee.” (U.N. Security Council, Report of the Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1874 (2009), June 14, 2012)


6/17/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “U.S. authorities are imprudently talking about ‘human rights record’ in the DPRK and ‘the issue of its people’s living’ these days whenever an opportunity presents itself. Typical of them is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was the U.S. that has long antagonized and threatened the DPRK, compelling it to build defense capability to cope with it. It is, however, urging the DPRK to give priority to ‘people’s living.’ This is a hypocritical act of causing illness and then administering medicine. It was an undying historical feat that leader Kim Jong Il protected the dignity and supreme interests of the country and nation and built the DPRK into a self-defensive military power which no aggressor forces dare to provoke. This serves as an eternal foundation for accelerating the building of a thriving socialist nation. The dear respected Kim Jong Un has already set forth a goal of Korean-style development and strategies and tactics for enabling the Korean people to live well with nothing to desire more in the world. He is now wisely leading the general advance of the Korean people for economic construction and improving the standard of people’s living. The world witnessed the events in December last year when the Korean people bitterly grieved over the demise of leader Kim Jong Il, the auspicious events in April this year when the country shook with their cheers and the spectacular celebrations of the anniversary of the Korean Children’s Union on June 6 this year. These events clearly showed how foolish and ridiculous the U.S. was in its attempt to meddle in the internal affairs of the DPRK over its ‘human rights issue’ and ‘people’s living’ and hurt its single-minded unity. The DPRK will make sustained efforts to bolster up its nuclear deterrent to guarantee the peace and security of the country and the nation as long as the U.S. persistently antagonizes it, in actuality, while saying that it has no hostile intent on the former. The munitions industry of the DPRK has now a foundation and capacity to steadily boost its nuclear deterrent by itself without letting its people fasten their belts any longer. It is the U.S. where people’s livelihood and vital rights present themselves as serious problems, in fact, as 99 percent of its population is exploited by those who account for just one percent. Hillary would be well advised to pay more attention to the issues of economic crisis and huge hordes of jobless people, which have become so serious that they may dash the hope of the administration of the Democratic Party for stay in power. The passage of time will prove that the Korean-style socialist system chosen by the people of the DPRK will prosper fast unlike the American-style capitalist system.” (KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman Blasts U.S. Secretary of State’s Reckless Remarks,” June 17, 2012)


6/18/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The commander of the U.S. forces in south Korea on June 12 called for additionally deploying a squadron of attack-helicopters in south Korea and increasing the capacity of missile defense system. He, talking about “threat from north Korea”, said that the U.S. military would make its implementation a priority. The U.S. Defense Department announced on June 13 that the U.S.-Japan-south Korea joint military exercises, first of its kind, would be staged from June 21 in the West and South Seas of Korea and a U.S. nuclear-powered carrier would take part in the exercises. There took place in Washington on June 14 a military confab between American master and south Korean servants to discuss the issues of stepping up U.S. arms buildup in south Korea and making south Korea an advance base for the implementation of the U.S. strategy for domination over Asia. This is a wanton violation of the Armistice Agreement and an open provocation against the DPRK. The U.S. is apt to vociferate about the ‘provocation’ by the DPRK, but the facts prove that it is an arch criminal who escalates military tension by pursuing hostile policy towards the DPRK and making military provocations against it one after another. The aim sought by the U.S. in intentionally aggravating the situation of the Korean Peninsula is to lay hurdles in the general advance of the DPRK for stepping up economic construction and improving people’s living standard, and turn south Korea into a servant executing its war policy. The U.S. arms buildup moves in south Korea is a prelude to a regional war targeting not only the DPRK but also several Northeast Asian countries as they threaten the peace and security of the region, to say nothing of the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK is watching with high vigilance the U.S. preparations for war being expanded in a phased manner. It will increase its self-defense capabilities in every way to protect sovereignty and dignity of the country and nation.” (KCNA, “DPRK FM Spokesman Slams Arms Buildup against DPRK, June 18, 2012)

Deputy Assistant SecState for international security and nonproliferation Vann Van Diepen: “ACT: If I can just follow up on Iran and North Korea: When Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates spoke about these issues back in 2009, he mentioned in testimony to the Hill that the threat of potential Iranian ICBM capabilities has been slower to develop than anticipated in 2006. The same might be said for North Korea, which has had these long-range flight tests, most of which have been considered to be failures. What are the factors that you see as being essential to further slowing the ability of both these countries to successfully test and field these systems in the years ahead? What kinds of barriers can we be putting in the way and the international community be putting in the way? Van Diepen: First of all, we need to continue to find ways to make it politically uncomfortable for them to engage in this type of activity. I think it’s pretty clear that the North Koreans certainly don’t seem to be conducting their test activity on a technically driven schedule. It clearly appears to be a politically driven schedule. So the extent to which we the international community can continue to make it clear to them that that kind of behavior is unacceptable and there are consequences for that — hopefully, that will slow the pace of at least the flight-test portion of those programs. Likewise, we’ve got to continue our efforts to ensure robust implementation of UN Security Council sanctions, of restrictions like those of the Missile Technology Control Regime, and do what we can to try to make it harder for [the countries] to get better technology, force them to have to settle for less effective and less reliable technology, interdict shipments, et cetera, et cetera. So continue the ongoing efforts that we’ve been doing for really the past several decades to impede these programs, to make them take longer, cost more, be less reliable, less effective than would otherwise be the case….ACT: Going to some specific countries and their interactions with the MTCR: Under a 1979 agreement with the United States, South Korea restricted its ballistic missile range to 180 kilometers. In 2001, when South Korea joined the MTCR, the United States agreed to a South Korean request to extend the capability to 300 kilometers [with a payload of 500 kilograms] for its ballistic missiles. South Korea reportedly has been in discussions with the United States about the range limit. Has the United States agreed to grant South Korea an exemption to develop longer-range missiles? Van Diepen: South Korea joined the MTCR in 2001, based in part on understandings of the range/payload capability of its missile systems — not just range. There is an interactivity, ability to trade off range and payload, so it’s not just range in the picture. I think it’s pretty clear that we are in discussions with the South Koreans about their interest in being able to have more-capable missile systems. Basically all I can say is that we are in those discussions, and in those discussions we have to take account of both the legitimate defense requirements of our treaty ally, who is under very substantial threat, as well as our interest in upholding global nonproliferation standards. That’s kind of what’s going on right now. ACT: So how are you weighing those? In particular, if there are exceptions made, how do you make sure that the exception doesn’t become a precedent for weakening the regime? Van Diepen: Again, I really can’t get into the dynamics of this issue, but clearly South Korea has some distinguishing features in terms of the threat it faces from North Korea that clearly would have to be taken into account. ACT: And on that point, what effect might an exception have on North Korea’s missile activities? Van Diepen: North Korea’s already testing ICBM-class systems. I’m sure it can use as an excuse whatever the South Koreans do, but they’re already the world’s biggest missile proliferator. They have very extensive missile deployments of their own. They are already flight-testing ICBM-class systems. So I’m sure they could use for rhetorical purposes whatever they want, but realistically, whatever the South Koreans are doing is unlikely to be an actual driver.” Arms Control Today, “Missile Control: An Interview with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Vann Van Diepen,” July/August, 2012, pp. 14-20)


6/21/12:
A key aide to President Lee Myung-bak has admitted to a secret meeting with a top North Korean official in Singapore in 2009 to seek a summit between their leaders. Yim Tae-hee said in a television interview that he met with Kim Yang-gon, North Korea’s point man on the South, in Singapore in October 2009 to discuss details of a possible summit. When asked if he had met Kim more than three times, he said “several times,” though he did not clarify whether those meetings were all in Singapore or in other countries. Yim said he and Kim drafted a memorandum of understanding for a summit, which called for economic aid from South Korea to the North in return for the repatriation of some South Korean abductees and soldiers taken as prisoners during the 1950-53 Korean War. He said he explained South Korea’s food and other assistance to the North in response to North Korea’s humanitarian gesture to the issues of abductees, prisoners of war and families separated during the war. South Korea estimates about 517 civilians are still alive in the North after being kidnapped by the North following the Korean War. It also believes about 500 South Korean soldiers taken prisoner during the war are still alive in the North. South Korea has repeatedly called for the repatriation of its nationals but Pyongyang denies any kidnappings, claiming any South Koreans in the North are there voluntarily. Yim also said he discussed with Kim how to recover the remains of South Korean soldiers killed in the North during the war, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. South and North Korean officials held two follow-up talks in the North Korean border city of Kaesong in November 2009, but failed to reach an agreement on the summit due to unspecified differences. (Yonhap, “Lee Confidant Admits to Secret Meeting with N.K. Official in 2009,” June 21, 2012)


6/23/12:
North Korea’s official media continues to issue reports on the “worst drought in a century” in its western central areas, saying over the weekend that drought damage in a province just southeast of Pyongyang is serious enough to cause food shortages among its residents. Citing official data, KCNA said that nearly 20,000 hectares of farmland have been parched in North Hwanghae Province as of June 23 and crops are withering away in the province. KCNA went on to report that most reservoirs in the county have gone dry and some paddy fields still remain unsown because of a lack of water, saying, “this situation hinders the smooth supply of food to the residents.” Earlier this month, the KCNA said North Korea’s western coastal area has been seriously affected by the drought that started in late April, citing the lowest precipitation in a century. In a dispatch from Pyongyang on June 13, the agency said only 1 to 5 millimeters of rainfall has been reported in some parts of Pyongyang City, South Phyongan Province and North and South Hwanghae provinces since April, the lowest for Pyongyang City in 105 years. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Says Severe Drought Causes Food Shortage,” June 24, 2012)

The Russian government is this month set to agree a framework to settle North Korea’s $11 billion debt to Moscow dating back to Soviet times, a deputy minister said. Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak made a rare visit by a top Russian official to Pyongyang from May 31 to June 2 to discuss the settling of the outstanding debt. “There now needs to be an internal (Russian government) agreement and I think we will already submit a draft this month so that the government can confirm the results of the accords,” the finance ministry website quoted him as saying. (AFP, “Russia to Give N. Korea Debt Settlement: Official,” June 23, 2012) Toloraya: “The Russian Ministry of Finance in June announced that the Russian-North Korean negotiations for the repayment of North Korean debts had resulted in the signing of a joint protocol in Pyongyang (to be approved by the government), which will finalize negotiations that have continued for many years. This is a major milestone for bilateral relations, but not for any possible breakthrough in economic reforms or political settlement. The North Korean debt, which stood at about 5 billion rubles by the time its servicing was stopped in 1990 when the bilateral payments were transferred to hard currency base, now totals (with accrued interest) about US$11 billion. This debt was accumulated as a result of loans the Soviet Union granted the DPRK for industrial projects and military supplies, as well as to finance the trade imbalance. After the break-up of the USSR, North Koreans at first declined to recognize the debt, explaining that was a sort of Soviet investment into “protecting the Eastern flank of the Socialist system”. Only in the course of President Putin’s first meeting with Kim Jong Il in 2000 was the problem acknowledged. Later negotiations resulted in Russia proposing much of the same terms as was the case with other former socialist countries, which were required to make minimal payments. However, the DPRK’s position was not to pay a penny in cash. Russian negotiators were not insistent either, realizing that little to no money or meaningful resources could be gotten from the impoverished neighbor. Furthermore, the settlement of the debt would give the DPRK a formal right to ask for new credits (such as the construction of nuclear power plant in accordance with a still valid agreement, which was signed in 1985).The political effect of such a solution was not taken into much account in the Finance ministry of the Russian government. The negotiations were given a new boost after Kim Jong Il and President Medvedev’s meeting in August 2011. It was a painfully slow process, but finally a solution was found. Likely, it has something to do with North Korea’s desire to establish an alternative to their increasing economic and political dependence on China, by making a welcome gesture to Russia. According to reports, 90% of the debt is to be written off (this is more favorable terms than in was the case with some other debtor countries), while the remainder will be transferred to the Russian Vnesheconom bank account, which is opened at the North Korean Bank of Foreign Trade, to be used for the projects that will promote the development of education, health care systems and the energy industry. It should be noted, that although such projects would be technically considered to be Russian direct investment, in fact, North Korea will play a decisive role in determining these projects and their sequence – while the actual financing would depend on availability of North Korean money in the bank. However, while this is an important measure to remove the roadblock impeding Russia-North Korean economic relations, I do not expect any significant moves soon afterwards, given the economic crisis in the DPRK and the reluctance of Russian investors to venture into a country sanctioned by international rules. Had this agreement been reached earlier while the 6-party talks were underway, Russia could have received considerable diplomatic benefits by demonstrating through example how to successfully engage North Korea. Now it is only a part of the efforts by Moscow to normalize relations with Pyongyang and to have more leverage in Korean affairs in the wake of the break-up of multilateral diplomatic process. The absence of the debt problem will of course make the financial arrangements for future projects, like gas pipeline construction, easier, but the fate of such projects now depends on Seoul’s position, not on Pyongyang’s credit rating.” (Georgy Toloraya, “Roadblock Removed — The Issue of North Korean Debt to Russia Settled,” NAPSnet, June 29, 2012)


6/24/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The U.S. committed another grave provocative act of violating the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK. On June 22 the U.S. imperialist aggression troops in south Korea staged the largest-ever joint live firing drill in the area south of the Demilitarized Zone together with the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors and perpetrated such reckless act as firing at the DPRK flag. It is an extremely grave military action and politically-motivated provocation to fire live bullets and shells at the flag of a sovereign state without a declaration of war. The U.S. often talks about someone’s ‘provocation’ but the recent firing at the flag of the DPRK clearly showed who is a real provocateur. The U.S. imperialists’ reckless firing at the DPRK flag symbolic of its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation is the most vivid expression of their hostile policy toward the DPRK. The drill once again clearly proved that the commitment which the U.S. authorities made in the February 29 DPRK-U.S. Agreement that they would not antagonize the DPRK after uttering honeyed words that they have no hostile intent on it was a sheer lie. In recent days the U.S. has left no means untried in various aspects to more desperately enforce its hostile policy towards the DPRK and this has gone beyond the tolerance limit. Lurking behind the U.S. hostile policy is its aggressive ambition to stifle the DPRK and swallow up the whole of the Korean Peninsula. This indicates that this ambition remains unchanged after lapse of 62 years since the U.S. ignited the Korean war. However, the military and technological superiority is no longer a monopoly of the U.S. and gone are the days never to return when the U.S. could threaten and blackmail the DPRK with A-bombs. The Korean people are pushing forward the building of an economic power full of confidence as leader Kim Jong Il pursued outstanding Songun politics, providing powerful nuclear deterrent which no aggressor forces dare destroy. The DPRK’s nuclear deterrent for self-defense is, indeed, an all-powerful treasured sword for preventing a war and reliably protecting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK will further bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense as long as the U.S., the world’s biggest nuclear weapons state, persists in its hostile policy towards the DPRK. The ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy will finally result in making by itself a big hole in the system for monopolizing nuclear weapons which it is so keen to preserve.” (KCNA, “DPRK FM Spokesman Denounces U.S. Military Provocation,” June 24, 2012)

China has provided North Korea with 100,000 tons of food, half a million tons of oil, and goods worth $20 million as requested by the North yearly, informed sources in China said. This is regular assistance separate from relief supplies that China sends in the event of disaster in the North or free aid given when a Chinese leader visits Pyongyang. That China sends regular shipments of free aid to the North is well known, but the scale and content of the assistance had never been made public before. “The Chinese Commerce Ministry and the North Korean government usually discusses the items, volume and timing of free aid every year, but Beijing generally has been providing 100,000 tons of food, half a million tons of oil, and goods worth 20 million dollars as demanded by Pyongyang in a flexible way,” one source said. That is, the volume of China`s free aid to the North has been slightly adjusted yearly, with Beijing providing 90,000 tons of food and half a million tons of oil last year. An informed source on North Korean affairs said, “Regular assistance is pure aid that doesn’t entail conditions such as long-term loans or barter of goods and materials.” In 2009, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “For several years, we’ve provided North Korea with free aid to the extent possible. The aid is meant to enable the North Korean people to overcome economic hardship.” The ministry, however, stopped short of giving details. This year, however, the Chinese government shipped through mid-June just 10,000 of the 100,000 tons of food aid among items of regular assistance given to Pyongyang. The North depends on China to overcome a significant portion of its food shortage. According to statistical data on Chinese customs clearance obtained by Dong-A Ilbo, the volume of food the North purchased significantly increased from 125,000 tons in 2008 to 356,000 tons last year. In their analyses, informed sources on the North said China is delaying food shipments that it had customarily provided to the Stalinist country free despite this year being the first after the inauguration of the Kim Jong Un government and thus symbolically more important, as well as the North suffering serious damage due to drought in the spring food shortage. “This seems to be China’s act of retaliation for the North’s test-firing of a long-range missile in mid-April despite Beijing’s strong demand that Pyongyang reconsider,” one source said. China has usually pressured the North through free regular aid and administrative procedures, including delays in customs clearance in the past. For example, in the wake of Pyongyang`s second nuclear crisis in 2002, when the North unveiled its highly enriched uranium program, China shut off its oil pipeline to the North for three days in 2003 citing facility repair. Another source said, “The shutdown of the oil pipeline led to serious consequences at the time, with North Korean industry reeling from the aftereffects for more than a year,” adding, “Beijing can halt oil supply and inflict a direct blow to North Korean industry. China`s foot-dragging on food aid to the North is meant to send Pyongyang the message that Beijing could use food as a warning measure first instead of an extreme warning.” Still another informed source on the North said, “In late February, North Korea and China agreed that Beijing would ship 220,000 tons of corn by April 14, the eve of the Day of the Sun (the birthday of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung), but the shipment was completed around April 20 due to delays.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “Scale of Yearly China Unconditional Aid to N. Korea Revealed,” June 24, 2012)


6/25/12:
As Kim Jong-un, the young leader of North Korea, consolidates his grip on power, China s showing signs of increasing frustration at the bellicose behavior of its longtime ally. Now, the Obama administration and the Chinese government, who warily consult each other on North Korea, are waiting to see if Kim will follow in his father’s footsteps and carry out a nuclear test, which would be North Korea’s third. The previous tests were in 2006 and 2009. “We have made this absolutely clear to them; we are against any provocation,” Cui Tiankai, another Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs, said in a recent interview when asked about a possible third nuclear test by North Korea. “We have told them in a very direct way, time and again, we are against it.” Asked why China did not punish North Korea for its actions, Cui replied: “It’s not a question of punishment. They are a sovereign state.” China backed sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations Security Council after the first two nuclear tests, he said. “If they refuse to listen to us,” he added, “we can’t force them.” Kim’s erratic behavior unfolded early on. In late February, his government signed an agreement with the United States to freeze its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, giving hope that he would turn out to be more open to change than his father. But six weeks later, Kim ripped up the accord and, without informing China, ordered the missile test that Washington viewed as a test run for launching a nuclear weapon. “The North is on track to build a warhead that could in a few years hit any regional target and eventually the United States,” said Evans J. R. Revere, a former United States principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Since the failed missile test, Kim has formalized North Korea as a “nuclear armed state” in the Constitution, another signal that the government has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, Revere said. With virtually no contact between the United States and North Korea, Revere argued, it is time for Washington to toughen its approach. The China News Service, a state-run agency, headlined an article last week: “Smooth transfer of power six months after Kim Jong-il’s death. North Korea enters era of Kim Jong-un.” The top North Korean Army generals, some of them in their 80s, have joined ranks around Mr. Kim, presenting a unified command, said Daniel A. Pinkston of the International Crisis Group in Seoul, who has written a forthcoming report by the group on North Korea. “There are no indications of any opposition to the transfer of power in the party, state or military,” Pinkston said. “Although many North Koreans are dissatisfied with the government, the barriers to collective action make it very risky and nearly impossible to organize any resistance.” To recover from the embarrassment of the failed missile test, Kim unleashed a bellicose warning to South Korea in late April, threatening that a “special operations action” team would “reduce to ashes the rat-like” leadership of President Lee Myung-bak. On the basis of his years at a Swiss boarding school, Mr. Kim was thought by some analysts to be a potential economic reformer. These assumptions have turned out to be misplaced, and the new leader has shown no interest in following the advice of China to open up the economy, even in a modest way. Despite Kim’s obstinacy, China keeps the economy from collapsing. Right after Mr. Kim assumed power, for example, China gave North Korea 500,000 tons of food and 250,000 tons of crude oil, according to the International Crisis Group report. That helped overcome what a German aid official, Wolfgang Jamann, said in Beijing on Friday was the worst drought in 60 years. His organization, Global Food Aid, has run a food program in North Korea since 1997. “If it continues not to rain, it would be a problem,” said Mr. Jamann, who just returned from a trip to North Korea. So far, though, the aid seems to have prevented disaster. According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, food shortages, while still grim in many rural areas, do not seem as serious as might be expected, given the drought. China’s generosity has not bought it immunity against North Korean rancor. More than two dozen Chinese fishermen were held captive for two weeks by North Korea in May. After their release, one of the fishermen described how his boat was boarded by North Korean Navy men brandishing guns. After “13 days in hell,” the fishermen were released, according to interviews in the Chinese news media. But not before the boats and men were stripped, the men to their underpants, the fisherman said. Such behavior ignited protests on Chinese Web sites, and normally calm Chinese analysts who follow North Korea said they were infuriated by the indignities. “I was disappointed in our government’s soft line during the incident with the seized boats,” said a Chinese analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering his superiors. Nonetheless, senior Chinese officials “dare not use China’s economic leverage” against North Korea, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. That is because a collapse of the North Korean government could result in a united Korea allied with the United States, which would be a nightmare scenario for China, Shi said. Indeed, as China becomes more concerned about what it sees as the United States’ stepped-up containment efforts against China — including the positioning of more warships in the Pacific — the less inclined it is to help the United States on North Korea, said Yun Sun, a China analyst in Washington. “China will not help the U.S. and South Korea solve the North Korea problem or speed up a China-unfriendly resolution, since China sees itself as ‘next-on-the-list,’ ” she wrote in an article last week for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Hawaii, where Pacific Command, the arm of the American military overseeing the increased United States naval presence in the Pacific, is located. And over all, there are unyielding historical reasons for China’s protectiveness toward North Korea, said an experienced American diplomat and expert on China. “Beijing disapproves of every aspect of North Korean policy,” J. Stapleton Roy, a former United States ambassador to China and now vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, wrote in an article this month, also for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But with long memories of both the Korean War and how Japan used the peninsula to launch its invasion and occupation of much of China from 1937 to 1945, “Beijing has an overriding security interest,” Mr. Roy wrote, “in maintaining influence in Pyongyang and in not permitting other powers to gain the upper hand there.” (Jane Perlez, “North Korea Tests the Patience of Its Closest Ally,” New York Times, June 25, 2012, p. A-4)


6/26/12:
South Korea’s next president will start amid some of the worst inter-Korean relations in decades. Some of the next president’s priorities were outlined at a June 26 forum held by the Korea Peace Forum. Forum participants proposed pushing for inter-Korean talks, resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, and improving relations with Pyongyang as major tasks for the first year of the next administration. The forum, which is co-chaired by former Unification Minister Lim Dong-won and Seoul National University emeritus professor Paik Nak-chung, also said the next administration will need to speak out on North Korean human rights, in contrast with the Roh Moo-hyun or Kim Dae-jung administrations. The announcement of the “Vision and Tasks for Unification, Foreign Affairs, and National Security for the New Administration in 2013” was made at a press conference on June 26 at the 19th the Press Center in Seoul’s Central District. The format consisted of four major goals and ten tasks. Member Lee Jong-seok, a former Unification Minister, said the new administration “will have to push for dialogue and cooperation without making it contingent on an apology [from Pyongyang] for the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeong Island artillery attack or a resolution to the North Korean nuclear weapons issue.” On the human rights issue, the forum called for an emphasis on extending civil liberties and guaranteeing basic rights to survival. Its argument is that the next administration will need to be attentive to expanding liberties for North Korean citizens and abide North Korean human rights resolutions from the United Nations. But the forum also called for a cautious approach on the issue of extending civil liberties that takes into account the sensitivity of inter-Korean relations. On human rights issues, the Kim and Roh administrations focused on humanitarian aid and addressing inhumane conditions resulting from national division, including the separation of families and the holding of South Korean abductees and prisoners of war. The members also said the next administration will need to reopen the investigation into the Cheonan sinking. Yonsei University professor Moon Chung-in said the previous investigation “did not adhere to the procedures that are a core value of a democratic state.” As the main procedural flaw, Moon cited the key role of the Ministry of National Defense, which was itself the subject of the investigation. He also noted the rapid conclusion in the space of just two months, the failure to conduct the investigation jointly with Pyongyang as per the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement, and the government‘s obligation to answer questions raised by the public. (Kim Kyu-won, “Experts Outline Priorities for Next Administration,” Hankyore, June 27, 2012)


6/27/12:
In a significant step toward overcoming lingering historical animosities with its former colonial master, the South Korean government has unexpectedly announced that it will sign a treaty with Japan tomorrow to increase the sharing of classified military data on what analysts cite as two major common concerns: North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and China’s growing military might. The announcement set off a political firestorm in South Korea, where resentment of Japan’s early 20th-century colonization remains entrenched and any sign of Japan’s growing military role is met with deep suspicion. The opposition accused President Lee Myung-bak of ignoring popular anti-Japanese sentiments in pressing ahead with the treaty, the first military pact between the two nations since the end of colonization in 1945. North Korea accused Lee’s government of “selling the nation out.” The accord, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, provides a legal framework for South Korea and Japan to share and protect classified and other confidential data. Cho Byung-jae, the spokesman of the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said the South Korean ambassador to Tokyo, Shin Kak-soo, and Japan’s foreign minister, Gemba Koichiro, plan to sign the treaty tomorrow, after the Japanese cabinet’s approval. The United States has been urging the two countries to strengthen military ties, so the three nations can deal more efficiently with threats from North Korea. It was well known that South Korea and Japan, which enjoy thriving economic ties and cultural exchanges, were negotiating the deal, but the opposition and other government critics here were caught off guard by today’s announcement because earlier indications had been that historical hostilities would again delay a pact. The two remain locked in disputes over the ownership of a set of islets and over Tokyo’s rejection of talks on compensating “comfort women,” Koreans whom the Japanese military forced into sexual slavery during World War II. Military cooperation between the two has lagged, although a cautious military rapprochement sped up after North Korea’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island in 2010. China’s naval expansion has also prompted politicians in the two countries to call for closer military ties. In the past week, the United States, Japan and South Korea conducted a joint naval exercise in the seas south and west of the Korean Peninsula. Officials here said the need for the allies to share data on bellicose and enigmatic North Korea has grown with the increased uncertainty after the death of its longtime ruler, Kim Jong-il, in December. Under the rule of his son Kim Jong-un, North Korea has vowed to bolster its production of nuclear weapons. It launched a rocket in April, and although it failed to put a satellite into orbit, Washington condemned the launching as a test of intercontinental ballistic missile technology. The political opposition and several civic groups in South Korea warned that the new military cooperation deal would only intensify regional tensions and encourage Japan’s “militaristic ambition.” “When the Lee Myung-bak government started out, it was pro-American to the bone, and as it nears the end of its term, it is proving pro-Japanese to the bone,” said Park Yong-jin, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic United Party. Mindful of such a political offensive, Hwang Woo-yea, the head of the governing New Frontier Party, visited the disputed islets in the sea between South Korea and Japan on Thursday in a symbolic gesture reconfirming South Korea’s territorial claim. “Every grain of sand here, every rock here, belongs to South Korea,” he told South Korean police officers guarding the islets. (Choe Sang-hun, “S. Korea to Sign Historic Military Pact with Japan,” New York Times, June 29, 2012, p. A-4)


6/28/12:
South Korea announced it is holding off on signing a controversial military pact with Japan following strong backlash from political circles and the public over the sensitivity of entering into a military agreement with its former colonial ruler. The announcement came less than an hour before the two nations were scheduled to sign the deal in Tokyo, after South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party urged the government to put off the signing and discuss the issue with the National Assembly. Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae told reporters the government agreed to the party’s request and is in talks with the Japanese government over the next steps. “With regards to the South Korea-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which was due to be signed at 4 p.m., (the government) decided to discuss the matter with the 19th National Assembly and then push ahead with the signing,” Cho said. That decision came after the ruling and opposition parties agreed earlier in the day to hold an inaugural session of the new parliament July 2, the spokesman said. The 19th National Assembly, elected in the April 11 general elections, began its four-year term on May 30, but failed to hold its first session as rival parties wrangled over control of key parliamentary committees and other issues. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Postpones Signing Controversial Military Pact with Japan,” June 29, 2012) The government plans to sign a pact with Japan as early as this week on the sharing of military intelligence, marking the first military accord between the two countries since the Japanese occupation. There were indications that the government tried to smuggle the pact past public notice, probably due to its incendiary potential. It was brought up and passed in the Cabinet on June 27 without review at the lower ministerial level, and any reference to its military nature was omitted from the name of the pact, which is only labeled an “information” agreement. The government also did not mention the military pact in a press briefing following the Cabinet meeting. The government denied subterfuge. “There was no intention of surreptitiously signing the accord, and we intended to make an official announcement after the signing,” a government official here said. A senior government official said both sides are preparing to sign the accord, which involves sharing of intelligence information about North Korea. It will be signed “either this week or next week at the latest.” The official added the need for South Korea and Japan to share military intelligence “became clear each time North Korea tested a nuclear weapon or launched a long-range missile, but the lack of an accord made that impossible. We decided to rush things” after the North’s failed rocket launch in April. The pact would allow the two sides to share intelligence on the North’s social climate as well as its nuclear weapons and missiles, giving South Korea access to data gathered by Japanese spy satellites and surveillance aircraft. (Chosun Ilbo, “Cabinet Approves Military Pact with Japan,” June 28, 2012)


7/2/12:
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had ordered the development of enriched uranium nuclear weapons along with plutonium nuclear weapons during his reign, according to internal Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) documents obtained by Mainichi Shimbun. The documents clarify the North’s intention to enrich uranium for military purposes and disprove Pyongyang’s argument that enrichment activities were to manufacture nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. The WPK produced the in-house documents running 19 pages in February this year, following the death of Kim Jong Il in December. The documents detail and analyze international affairs and are believed to be an educational tool for the party’s midlevel career officers. (Mainichi Shimbun, “Kim Jong-il Ordered Development of Uranium Nuclear Weapons,” July 2, 2012)

DPRK FoMin spokesman: “Grigory Semyonovich Rogbinov, roving ambassador of the Russian Foreign Ministry for the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, paid a visit to the DPRK from June 29 to July 2. During his visit, he met officials concerned of the DPRK Foreign Ministry to have an in-depth exchange of views on the issue of developing the bilateral relations and other matters of mutual concern including the situation on the peninsula and in the region and the resumption of the six-party talks. At the talks held in an atmosphere of mutual respect and confidence both sides agreed to boost the traditional relations of friendship between the DPRK and Russia and continue to closely cooperate with each other in the efforts to achieve peace and stability in the peninsula and the region through dialogue and negotiations. The atmosphere of dialogue disappeared and a vicious cycle of confrontation and increased tension is repeating itself in the peninsula owing to the U.S. persistent hostile policy towards the DPRK aimed at bringing down the ideology and social system chosen by the Korean people. The U.S. violated the independent and legitimate right of the DPRK to launch satellites and is increasing its military pressure upon it and frantically stepping up the preparations for a war against it. This is a vivid expression of its hostile policy towards the DPRK which clearly proved the falsity of the commitment made by the U.S. in the February 29 DPRK-U.S. Agreement that it respects the former’s sovereignty and does not antagonize it. The U.S. claims that it does not link the humanitarian issue with politics, but it became clear that it is using food aid to the DPRK for its political purpose. It is the renewed expression of the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK that it reneged even on the promise of food aid under the pretext of the DPRK’s satellite launch for peaceful purposes. The DPRK never accepts such food motivated by a sinister political aim. The DPRK has its own strategy and ways for economic development. As already clarified more than once, it will steadily push forward the space development for peaceful purposes. The DPRK will also steadily bolster up its nuclear deterrence for self-defense as long as the U.S. hostile policy towards it goes on.” (KCNA, DPRK FM Spokesman Refers to Russian Roving Ambassador’s Visit to DPRK,” July 2, 2012)

Former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa and 49 of his allies officially submitted their resignations to the ruling party and may launch a new party later this week. But the 50 rebels — 38 from the Lower House and 12 from the Upper House — came up short of breaking the power balance in the Diet. In the lower chamber, the rebels can’t force the DPJ-Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) ruling bloc into the minority, and the exit of 12 Upper House lawmakers doesn’t strip the DPJ of its No. 1 position in the chamber, which is in overall control of the opposition camp, led by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. But the DPJ defectors may be just the first of the Ozawa loyalists to depart, so the threat to the stability of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s administration remains. The departures are due to the no-vote the Ozawa clan made last week against Noda’s bill to double the 5 percent consumption tax, a hike Ozawa said ran against the no-tax-hike vow the party made when it finally took power in 2009. The LDP and New Komeito backed the DPJ vote for the tax hike last week. “With the three-party agreement (on the tax hike), the DPJ has betrayed the public,” Ozawa told reporters Monday evening, slamming the party leaders for the “absurdity of discussing punishments against party members who try to deliver on the promises it made to the public.” (Ito Masami and Fukue Natsuko, “Ozawa, 49 Followers Resign from the DPJ,” Japan Times, July 2, 2012)


7/5/12:
A South Korean activist was arrested after he returned from an unauthorized visit to North Korea, where he called for the reunification of the two Koreas and bitterly criticized President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea for his hard-line North Korea policy. The activist, Ro Su-hui, 68, entered North Korea on March 24 through China to observe the 100-day mark after the death of Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, which he called “the greatest sorrow of the Korean nation,” according to the North’s state-run media. But he chose to return home by walking across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. Defying South Korea’s anti-communist National Security Law, seven other activists since the late 1980s have made similar unauthorized visits, in a gesture that they said symbolized their wish for Korean unification. The law bans sympathizing with North Korea and punishes unauthorized visits like Ro’s with up to 10 years in prison. Photographs in the South Korean media showed hundreds of North Koreans waving the “Korea is one” flag, which shows the Korean Peninsula, undivided, in blue on a white background, as they saw Ro off at the border. With a flag in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other, Ro waved back. As soon as he stepped across the low concrete curb that bisects the border-straddling village of Panmunjom north of Seoul, South Korean officials arrested Mr. Ro and bound him with white ropes. “As he crossed the border, he shouted: ‘Hurrahs for the reunification of the fatherland! Koreans together!’ ” North Korea’s state-run Central Broadcasting Station reported, adding that “as the plainclothed hooligans whisked him away, roars of anger rocked Panmunjom.” North Korea called Ro’s arrest a “fascist” act and an “antireunification racket” and threatened unspecified retaliation. On the highway near the border, hundreds of conservative South Koreans rallied to condemn Mr. Ro as a “commie.” (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Arrests Activist after Unauthorized Trip to North,” New York Times, July 6, 2012, p. A-6)

A top national security aide resigned under pressure, as the government of President Lee Myung-bak struggled to extricate itself from the political debacle it created by trying to enhance military cooperation with Japan. The aide, Kim Tae-hyo, widely considered a crucial architect of. Lee’s foreign policy, is the most prominent casualty so far of the fiasco Lee’s government unleashed when it quietly negotiated and approved a pact on sharing confidential military data on North Korea with Japan, Korea’s former colonial master. The public and Parliament were told about the deal June 28 only a day before it was supposed to be signed. It quickly became apparent, however, that the government had underestimated South Koreans’ misgivings about cooperating militarily with Japan. Mr. Lee’s political opponents quickly seized on that disquiet to begin an election-year offensive, accusing Mr. Lee of kowtowing to Washington and, with various civic groups, likening the conservative governing camp to the past Korean “traitors” who secretly cooperated with Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910. The military pact was not signed, and its fate is now mired in South Korea’s fractious election-year politics. The government said it would push for the signing, but the opposition has vowed to resist it, and even some governing-party members voiced skepticism. His declining political leverage was demonstrated July 2, when he gave a speech before the National Assembly during which no lawmakers interrupted him with the customary applause. Many opposition legislators refused to stand when he entered and exited the chamber. A professor of political science at Sungkyunkwan University, Kim, 45, followed Lee into the Blue House after his election in 2007, and helped shape a foreign policy that emphasized the alliance with the United States and took a hard line on the North. Aid was cut off, and the South demanded that the North renounce its nuclear weapons program. As inter-Korean relations deteriorated — one low point was the North’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean border island in 2010 — the political opposition accused Mr. Lee of mishandling North Korea. But Mr. Kim, labeled “South Korea’s neocon” by his critics, had survived reshuffles of top presidential aides, and Seoul’s tough stance on North Korea continued. (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Fires Top Presidential Aide over Pact with Japan,” New York Times, July 6, 2012, p. A-6)


7/7/12:
The United States received five North Korean refugees in June, bringing the number of North Korean defectors who settled down in the States to 135 since 2006. The U.S. has to date accepted 11 North Korean refugees for the fiscal year 2012 that began in December, according to figures released by the State Department. The total breaks down to nine for the fiscal year 2006, 22 for 2007, 37 for 2008, 25 for 2009, eight for 2010 and 23 for 2011. (Yonhap, “U.S. Has Received 135 N.K. Refugees since 2006,” July 8, 2012)


7/8/12:
The North Korean economy is believed to have marginally grown last year after contracting for two straight years on increased agricultural production, South Korea’s central bank said. The Bank of Korea estimated that the country’s economy grew 0.8 percent on-year in 2011, compared with a 0.5 percent contraction a year earlier. The 2011 data contrasted with a 3.6 percent expansion of the South Korean economy. In 2009, it fell 0.9 percent, according to the bank. “Despite contraction in the manufacturing sector, the North’s economy grew last year as agricultural production rose, aided by favorable weather conditions and a rise in the use of fertilizer,” said Park Yung-hwan, an economist at the BOK. The North’s agricultural and fishery industry grew 5.3 percent on-year in 2011, a turnaround from a 2.1 percent contraction the previous year, the bank report said. Its manufacturing sector declined 3 percent last year after falling 0.3 percent in 2010. North Korea’s nominal gross national income (GNI) amounted to $28.5 billion last year, which is equivalent of 2.6 percent of South Korea’s 2011 GNI, the bank said. Meanwhile, inter-Korean trade fell 10.4 percent on-year to $1.71 billion, the bank said. Park said shipments of goods produced at a joint industrial complex at the North’s border city of Kaesong accounted for most inter-Korean trade last year. The value of North Korean products shipped to South Korea declined 12.5 percent, while South Korean shipments to the North fell 7.8 percent, the BOK added. (Yonhap, “N. Korean Economy Logs First Growth in 3 Years in 2011,” Korea Herald, July 8, 2012)

The USFK Commander publicly apologized to citizens and the Pyeongtaek community for an incident in which military police handcuffed three South Korean civilians during a parking dispute in front of the Osan US Air Force base. But USFK military police told South Korean police that they had legitimately carried out their duty after perceiving a physical threat. Pyeongtaek Police Station announced today that it had summoned three of the MPs for more than four and a half hours of questioning at around 8 pm Saturday in connection with the incident. The MPs, who reported to the station voluntarily, said they perceived a physical threat after a 35-year-old South Korean civilian, identified by the surname Yang, failed to comply with a demand to move his car and engaged in finger-pointing and shoving at the scene. They told the police that they had exercised their duties according to the manual, which advises using handcuffs in such instances. But arrest regulations in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and South Korea state that US MPs must comply with the agreement with South Korean authorities outside of USFK facilities and zones, and that exercises of police authority are limited to enforcing rules and order among USFK personnel and taking necessary action to ensure their safety. This means that the MPs should have summoned South Korean police, since the incident arose with a South Korean civilian while the officers were patrolling outside the base. Yang and the other two civilians who were handcuffed told police that they had explained the situation to the MPs and complied with their demands but were illegally detained, and then forcibly handcuffed when they protested. The police plan to finish their questioning of four other MPs who were sent to the scene before deciding whether to take criminal action. In a press release Sunday, USFK Commander James Sherman apologized to the community. Sherman added that the individuals involved in the incident would be suspended until the investigation findings are released, and that USFK would continue to cooperate with the South Korean police’s investigation. USFK Deputy Commander Jan-Marc Jouas, who is commander of the 7th US Air Force, the MPs’ unit, also said at a press conference Sunday that the incident was being investigated for any SOFA violations in the town patrol procedures. Jouas declined to make a statement on whether the MPs had used excessive force against civilians or refused to turn them over to the police deployed to the scene, which he said would be determined through the police investigation. Lee Baek-soon, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s North American affairs bureau, summoned Jouas to the ministry’s office in Seoul’s Doryeom neighborhood Saturday to make a complaint over the incident. The city of Pyeongtaek also issued a statement urging an apology from USFK, calling the incident “unacceptable.” Yang, the manager of a musical instrument store on Rodeo Road, a thoroughfare located near the USFK base in Pyeongtaek’s Sinjang neighborhood, recalled his experience, saying, “We cannot have US soldiers armed with live rounds doing that sort of thing to civilians.” Yang’s forcible handcuffing by the MPs took place at around 8:15 pm on July 5. Three MPs were on town patrol when they asked him to move his car, a Damas, which was parked in front of his store. (Hankyore, “Korean Civilians Handcuffed by U.S. Military Police in Parking Dispute,” July 8, 2012)


7/9/12:
The House Foreign Affairs Committee launched an investigation into whether a U.N. agency sent computers and other technology to Iran and North Korea in possible violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions. The probe comes on the heels of a State Department review of the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization, which insisted last week that it did nothing wrong in providing “standard IT equipment” to the patent and trademark offices in the two countries. The 185-member organization focuses on patents, copyright, trademarks and designs. Those assurances failed to mollify members of Congress. “Providing these thugs with sensitive technology has the potential to enable their dangerous agendas,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the committee, said in a statement. “This serious offense cannot go overlooked or unpunished.” In Geneva last week, WIPO legal counsel Edward Kwakwa said none of the technology or training provided to Iran and North Korea violated U.N. Security Council sanctions. However, he said that because of American concerns the U.N. agency will “systematically refer relevant cases of technical assistance” to sanctions officials. State Department officials were pressed on the issue July 5. They said they were aware of allegations that the transfer or material may have violated U.N. sanctions and they were reviewing development projects for both countries. “We’re working with both the (WIPO) director general and other member-states to institute reforms that will ensure future development projects are properly reviewed prior to being approved and implemented,” said spokesman Patrick Ventrell. “And we’re working in New York to ensure that the U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committees play a more active role in advising international organizations on how to remain compliant with U.N. sanctions.” Last month, Rep. Howard Berman, the Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Democrat, raised concerns about the transfer with Commerce Department officials. “I have been closely following reports that WIPO officials have been transferring computers, firewalls, and other technological devices to the governments of North Korea and Iran,” said the California congressman. “Needless to say we find this highly distressing, not only because it potentially violates a slew of U.N. Security Council Resolutions and very possibly our country’s policies on internet freedom, but also because these technology transfers were carried out by an organization largely funded by U.S. inventors.” Teresa Stanek Rea, deputy undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and deputy director of the Patent and Trademark Office, told Berman and members of the House Judiciary Committee that the office found the allegations disappointing. “From what I understand (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry has not yet been fully open as to all of the issues and that more information will likely be forthcoming,” Rea said. “The World Intellectual Property Organization is operating in our U.S. innovators and stakeholders best interest, but this issue is something that’s particularly distressing to us at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and that in collaboration with other U.S. government agencies we will do and handle it in a way that’s appropriate.” (Associated Press, “House Panel Launches Probe of U.N. Agency over Technology Shipments to Iran, North Korea,” July 9, 2012)

North Korean state-run television on Monday showed footage of costumed versions of Tigger, Minnie Mouse and other Disney characters prancing in front of the leader, Kim Jong-un, and an entourage of clapping generals. The footage also showed Mr. Kim in a black Mao suit watching as Mickey Mouse conducted a group of young women playing violins in skimpy black dresses. At times, scenes from the animated Disney movies “Dumbo” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” were projected on a multipanel screen behind the entertainers; an article in the state-run press said unnamed foreign songs were on the bill. The appearance of the characters from the United States, North Korea’s mortal enemy, was remarkable fare on tightly controlled North Korean television, which usually shows more somber and overtly political programs. A Disney spokeswoman, Zenia Mucha, had no comment Monday beyond a statement: “This was not licensed or authorized by the Walt Disney Company.” As with many things in the North’s bellicose and reclusive Stalinist government, Kim’s rationale was a mystery, but there was a hint that the performance might be significant. An article about the performance by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said that. Kim, who took over after the death in December of his father, Kim Jong-il, had a “grandiose plan to bring a dramatic turn in the field of literature and arts this year.” The footage included a segment with a broadly smiling Kim — with his marked resemblance to his revered grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the nation’s founder — gesturing like a symphony conductor as he gave guidance on music and art to what appeared to be a half-dozen North Korean reporters busily scribbling in notebooks, one of them in a military uniform. The article on the performance said it featured a band organized by Kim himself. Adding to the enigma offered, an unnamed young woman was seated next to Kim. Speculation about her identity ranged from sister to love interest. (Martin Fackler, “On North Korean TV, a Dash of (Unapproved) Disney Magic,” New York Times, July 10, 2012, P. A-4)


7/10/12:
The Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea to which China and Taiwan have both made claim, fall within the scope of the 1960 Japan-U.S. security treaty which requires the country to defend Japan in the event of armed attacks, a senior State Department official said yesterday. “The Senkakus would fall within the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security because the Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the government of Japan since they were returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972,” the official told Kyodo. The treaty’s Article 5 states, “Each party recognizes that an armed attack against either party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.” This is the first time a senior U.S. official has referred to the security treaty since the government of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko indicated its intention to buy three of the five islands from a private owner and nationalize them. Earlier in the day, the official said, “The U.S. does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. We expect the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means, among themselves.” The Senkaku islets were under Washington’s control after World War II but were returned to Japan together with Okinawa, the official said. Meanwhile, another State Department official said Japanese and U.S. government officials discussed the Senkaku Islands issue when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Japan earlier this month to attend an international aid conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo. During the discussions, the Japanese officials said Japan is in talks with China over the matter, the State Department official said. In Tokyo on Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro told a news conference that the dispute over the Senkaku Islands was not discussed in talks between Clinton and Noda or himself. The administration of President Barack Obama remained vague over the issue of the Senkaku Islands until October 2010 when Clinton clearly recognized that the islets fall within the scope of the Japan-U.S. security treaty. In April, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara unveiled a plan to buy the islets. On July 7, Noda said, “We’re considering the issue from the viewpoint of maintaining and controlling (the islands) in a peaceful and stable manner. We’re having various kinds of contacts,” indicating that the government plans to nationalize the islets. The same day, China reacted to the Japanese plan. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that ”whatever unilateral action the Japanese side takes” regarding the islands would be “unlawful and invalid.” The Senkakus, which are called Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, are a group of uninhabited islets that belong to the city of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. (Kyodo, “U.S. Says Senkaku Islands Fall within Scope to Japan-U.S. Security Treaty,” July 10, 2012)


7/11/12:
South Korean firms at the Kaesong Industrial Complex have paid about $160,000 in tax to the North as their businesses thrive despite political tensions, an official said. It has continued to attract workers despite high political and military tensions in recent years, and is a source of legitimate hard currency for the cash-strapped and sanctions-hit North.

Some 50,000 North Koreans ― mostly women ― work for about 120 South Korean makers of clothes, machinery, utensils and other items. Under rules to encourage investment, factories are exempt from corporate income tax for the first five years after they begin making profits. They are given a 50-percent reduction on the 14-percent rate for the following three years. The first firm to pay tax was a machinery maker which paid $7,000 in respect of earnings in 2010, said a spokeswoman for the South’s unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs. This year the machinery maker and three other firms paid a total of about $153,000 on profits made in 2011, she said, adding businesses in the complex “are generally doing quite well.” Annual production was worth a record $400 million last year compared to $15 million in 2005. South Korea cut most trade with the North in May 2010 after accusing it of sinking a warship but exempted Kaesong. (AFP, “South Korean Firms in Joint Venture Pay Tax to N.K.,” July 11, 2012)

Japan protested to China as a new diplomatic row flared over a remote chain of islands, with Beijing asserting its “indisputable sovereignty” over the uninhabited territories. Three Chinese patrol boats approached the islands claimed by Japan in the East China Sea this morning, leading Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro to formally complain to his Chinese counterpart during talks in Cambodia. Gemba “strongly lodged a protest with the Chinese government with respect to the incident which took place this morning,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman told AFP in Phnom Penh. The crews of the vessels, which have since left the islands’ immediate vicinity, initially rebuffed Japanese orders to leave. “We are conducting official duty in Chinese waters. Do not interfere. Leave China’s territorial waters,” the crews said, according to the Japanese coastguard. The Chinese ambassador in Tokyo was summoned over the alleged violation, but the Chinese foreign ministry said it did “not accept Japanese representations over this.” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi countered to Gemba that the islands — known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese — “have always been China’s territory since ancient times, over which China has indisputable sovereignty.” (AFP, “Japan, China in Fresh Territorial Row,” July 11, 2012)

The elder brother and mentor of President Lee Myung-bak was arrested on bribery charges early Wednesday, further weakening the political leverage of Mr. Lee, a lame-duck leader already grappling with setbacks in both domestic politics and foreign policy. With the arrest of his brother, Lee is the latest in an uninterrupted series of South Korean presidents in recent decades to be disgraced by their own or relatives’ corruption scandals. The brother, Lee Sang-deuk, a 76-year-old former six-term lawmaker from the president’s party, was charged with taking 600 million won, or about $525,000, in bribes from two bankers. Prosecutors said the bankers had asked Lee to help stop government regulators from shutting their savings banks down for lax oversight and capital shortages. The bankers have been charged with embezzlement and bribery, and their banks’ operations have been suspended. Lee’s detention came hours after he appeared before a judge deliberating whether to issue an arrest warrant. Angry protesters at the court yanked at Lee’s tie and threw eggs at him but missed. Lee did not respond to reporters’ questions, including whether he had used the bribes he is accused of taking to help finance his brother’s election campaign in 2007. Lee Sang-deuk played a crucial role in helping his younger brother, a well-known business executive but a novice in party politics, win the presidential nomination for what was then the opposition party. “The brother’s arrest is the most symbolic sign yet of President Lee having become a lame duck,” said Kang Won-taek, a professor of political science at Seoul National University. Lee exerted little power in selecting his governing party’s candidates for the April parliamentary elections. Such power is the linchpin in a South Korean president’s control over his party. Instead, the party’s campaign was organized and led by Park Geun-hye, who lost the party’s presidential nomination to Mr. Lee in 2007. Ms. Park announced her second bid for party candidacy yesterday. (Choe Sang-hun, “Brother of South Korean President Is Charged with Bribery,” New York Times, July 11, 2012, p. A-7)


7/13/12:
Foreign minister Kim Sung-hwan proposed Seoul and Beijing sign a military pact similar to that of the stalled intelligence protection agreement with Tokyo during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. A foreign ministry official said “Kim requested Yang sign a General Security of Military Information Act (GSOMIA) much the same as the Korea-Japan agreement,” during Thursday’s bilateral talks held on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Cambodia. The GSOMIA with Japan was put off last month amid a backlash from the general public and bipartisan parties. The minister’s move comes as lawmakers here have called for signing a GSOMIA also with China, the nation’s No.1 trading partner, to avoid accusations that the Korea-Japan agreement is part of a stronger trilateral military alliance including the United States and to contain Beijing.

Kim was quoted as saying during the bilateral talks that “the Korea-Japan intelligence pact and the trilateral cooperation aim to deter North Korea’s provocation” and “does not mean to stimulate or target China.” The Chinese foreign minister said he is watching how things progress, according to a foreign ministry official. (Chung Min-uck, “Seoul Proposes Military Pact with China,” Korea Times, July 13, 2012)


7/14/12:
The powerful uncle of North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un has advised Kim’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam not to criticize the country, Yomiuri Shimbun reported. Jang Song-thaek told Kim Jong-nam to refrain from making comments critical of the power succession to foreign media, Yomiuri Shimbun reported from Guangzhou, citing an unidentified source on North Korean affairs in Macao. Kim Jong-un took over the communist country following the December death of his father, longtime leader Kim Jong-il, marking the second hereditary power transfer in the North. The late Kim also inherited power upon the 1994 death of his father, the country’s founder Kim Il-sung. (Yonhap, “Kim Jong-nam Told Not to Criticize Succession: Report,” July 15, 2012)


7/15/12:
China has reportedly demanded that North Korea pledge not to carry out a third nuclear test as a precondition to accepting the fledgling leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to Beijing. Citing multiple sources, Japan’s daily Tokyo Shimbun reported that Beijing made the request when Kim Yong-il, the international affairs secretary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, visited China from April 20-24. While expressing opposition to the demand, Pyongyang tried to reach a compromise with its biggest patron and ally, saying that it would inform Beijing of its nuclear test plan far in advance, the daily said. The North took China by surprise as it gave short notice when it conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Three days ago, the North’s Foreign Minister Park Ui-chun repeated Pyongyang’s stance that it would continue its nuclear and missile programs, stressing that his country has the sovereign right to do so. He made the comment while attending the annual ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia, which was hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A Seoul government official said that he was not informed of any deal between Pyongyang and Beijing, and that making such a deal is “not understandable.” “Of course, China may expect that North Korea would stop additional provocations including the nuclear test, should he visit China. That is diplomatic common sense,” the official told media, declining to be named. “(In my personal view), how Kim Jong-un can hold a summit right away when he did not ever meet any high-level Beijing officials? Another factor that could affect Kim’s visit to China would be the leadership handover in China slated for October.” (Song Sang-ho, “’Nuke Test, No Visit, China Tells N.K.,’” Korea Herald, July 15, 2012)


7/16/12:
KCNA: “A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea was held on July 15. Present there were members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee. The meeting dealt with the organizational issue. It decided to relieve Ri Yong Ho of all his posts including member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., WPK and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK for his illness.” (KCNA, Ri Yong Ho Relieved of All His Posts in DPRK,” July 16, 2012)

With a terse four-paragraph statement, North Korea announced the dismissal of its top military leader, the latest in what analysts describe as a series of increasingly bold shake-ups to strengthen support for young leader Kim Jong Eun. The North’s official media said that general Ri Yong Ho was “relieved of all his posts” because of illness. But North Korea watchers in Seoul, Washington and Beijing quickly cast doubt on the state’s story, noting that Ri, 69, had made several high-profile public appearances earlier this month and looked healthy. Typically, experts say, the North allows its senior officials to hold their jobs even when they have terminal illnesses. Ri was dismissed following a rare Sunday meeting that brought together a handful of the country’s top decision-makers, the North said. “My initial reaction is, this is a political move,” said Kenneth Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at CNA Strategic Studies, an Alexandria-based research center. The Kim family has long used purges to maintain power and weed out potential rivals, but the methods are typically less public: banishment to a labor camp or a mysterious car accident. North Korea, in this case, mentioned Ri’s removal but gave no word about his replacement. “I think it’s very, very unlikely that he was involved in some kind of coup plot,” said Dan Pinkston, a Seoul-based North Korea expert at the International Crisis Group. “If that was the case, he’d just disappear — he’d be dead.” Rather, Pinkston said, Ri was perhaps booted over a smaller disagreement that led to a loss of trust. The North’s army is involved in everything from mining to real estate to arms sales, an open invitation for senior leaders to skim money on deals. “I could imagine a situation where he was maybe too greedy,” Pinkston said. “He’s been described as an ambitious person.” Experts caution that Kim himself has shown no clear preference for reform and would face significant obstacles if he wanted to create major social change. Many of the North’s 24 million people are impoverished and food-deprived, but Kim is surrounded by a group of elderly elites who benefit from the system and receive the vast proportion of the country’s scant resources. “I don’t think Ri was purged because he has a different opinion from Kim Jong Eun on the route North Korea should take,” said Li Yongchun, a Korea researcher at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, a branch of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank. “Besides Ri, there are a bunch of hard-liners in the party. It is true that Ri is one important hard-nosed figure in the party, but it’s impossible for Kim Jong Eun to have any reform just by beating Ri Yong Ho.” (Chico Harlan, “N. Korea Ousts Top Military Official as Leader Shores up Support,” “In Surprise Move, N. Korea Strips Military Chief of All Duties,” Washington Post, July 17, 2012, p. A-9)

Saenuri Party presidential hopeful Rep. Park Geun-hye said she was open to holding inter-Korean summit talks with North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un as part of her confidence-building policy for Pyongyang. “I am open to holding the summit talks if I should get a chance (as president). I deem that it is always positive to hold dialogue with the North,” Park said during a debate hosted by the Korea News Editors’ Association at Korea Press Center in downtown Seoul. “Nobody would be able to ascertain how the North Korean system will turn out, or whether Kim Jong-un has taken hold of control,” Park said of the reclusive state. Park had met Kim Jong-un’s father and deceased ruler Kim Jong-il in May 2002 upon the North’s invitation. The presidential frontrunner has proposed a “confidence-building process” as the main facet of her North Korean policies in her declaration of the presidential bid on July 10. The proposal, reportedly designed by former members of the progressive Roh Moo-hyun government, was seen as an effort to differentiate from the rigid policy held by the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration. According to her platform, Park would uphold existing agreements between the two Koreas and between Pyongyang and the international community, as well as consistent humanitarian and mutual mutual exchanges unbound by political situations, and aims to expand and diversify economic cooperation. “I believe the matter of resuming Mount Kumgang tours is helpful to building confidence between the two Koreas,” Park said. But she preconditioned it with North Korea’s promise to prevent any reoccurrences of a security threat to South Korean civilians. The flagship inter-Korean tour project was suspended after a fatal shooting in 2008 of a South Korean civilian near the resort by a North Korean soldier. Park also said she hoped to see the reunion of separated families continue regardless of changing political situations. (Lee Joo-hee, “Park: ‘Always Open to Summit with N.K.,” Korea Herald, July 16, 2012)

Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik proposed unconditional talks with North Korea to discuss reunions of separated families, tours to Mount Kumgang and other stalled cross-border projects. In an interview, he expressed cautious optimism about the prospect of the reclusive country opening up to the outside world under new leader Kim Jong-un, though the signs are still meager. “I want to deliver my proposal to have dialogue, ease tension, raise the mood of peace and work together to deal with difficulties faced by the North,” Yu said. “The most urgent agendum is the reunion of separated families. We have no time to lose as most of them are very old … and many have already passed away,” he added. “Six months have passed. Once the North has made the power transition and overcome the difficulties … the North should accept my proposal for dialogue, working-level discussions,” he said. He said the South has no intention to threaten and destabilize the regime. “We are leaving the door of dialogue and the window of opportunities open. I do not attach any preconditions, even over the issues of the North’s apology for its attacks on Cheonan and Yeonpyeongdo and the security guarantee for (tourists to) Mount Kumgang. We can solve them through dialogue,” he said. In February, Yu proposed working-level meetings for the long-lost relatives across the border and cooperation for disease and pest control for ailing trees in the impoverished country. He made the offer after Pyongyang and Washington clinched a deal for food aid and halting the North’s nuclear and missile activities. “All the previous offers for dialogue by the South Korean government are still valid. If the North makes another proposal by its necessity, I’ll gladly accept it,” he said. “As for the (Kumgang) tour, a working-level meeting can be held immediately if a North Korean official in a responsible position ensures the safety of South Korean travelers.” (Shin Hyon-hee, “Seoul Proposes Talks with the North,” Korea Herald, July 16, 2012)

Talks between South Korea and the U.S. to revise bilateral missile guidelines seem to be stuck in their final stages. The talks, which aim to extend the range and payload of South Korean missiles, began in January last year, and officials have been saying since May that they are nearing completion. But while Washington has in principle agreed that Korea can extend the range of its missiles beyond the currently permitted 300 km, the question remains by how much and whether the payload can also be increased beyond the currently permissible 500 kg. Another question that has recently arisen is whether South Korean unmanned aerial vehicles could carry warheads of more than 500 kg. “The U.S. side recently agreed to extending the range of Korean ballistic missiles from 300 km to 550 km,” said a government source here. “But we feel it needs to be extended to at least 800 km,” which the U.S. does not like. A range of 800 km would enable South Korea to hit North Korean positions from relatively safe bases in the south of the Korean Peninsula in the event of an attack. But the U.S. is apparently against this because 550 km is enough to hit any part of North Korea from bases near the border, while a range of 800 km to 1,000 km could worry China and Japan. When it comes to the size of the payload, the U.S. is insisting on a 2001 agreement that said any increase in range beyond 300 km would require the payload to weigh less than 500 kg and vice versa. In other words, if Seoul is to get its wish of extending the range, it will have to accept a smaller payload. In the case of drones, South Korea also wants a payload of more than 500 kg to accommodate the long-range, remote-controlled surveillance aircraft it wants to develop. The U.S. has apparently accepted some of these demands. (Chosun Ilbo, “Missile Talks with U.S. Stuck on Range, Payload Size,” July 16, 2012)

Europe’s largest bank HSBC had dealings with North Korea until 2007 despite international sanctions, says a U.S. Senate report released today. The report by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee uncovered massive money laundering for drug lords and rogue states by the bank and has already led to the resignation of a senior bank executive. The Mexican branch of HSBC offered bank accounts to seven North Korean customers between 2005 and 2007, and their combined deposits in both U.S. dollars and Mexican pesos were worth over US$2.3 million. Nine other North Korean customers had bank accounts in U.S. dollars with savings totaling $46,000. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea’s Part in HSBC Money-Laundering Scandal,” July 18, 2012)


7/17/12:
North Korea promoted Hyon Yong Chol to the rank of vice marshal. Hyon, 61, is largely unknown but he is known to be commander of the 8th Corps of the North Korean People’s Army. The 8th Corps’ main mission is to defend the northern outskirts of Pyongyang, which is considered the “heart of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” and guard the west coast and border with China. A government source in South Korea said, “Nothing is known about Hyon’s place of birth, education and family relations, so we need to check.” Hyon was promoted to four-star general and appointed to the central committee of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party in September 2010, when Kim was promoted to a four-star general. This suggests that Hyon is a close aide to Kim from the military but has remained under wraps. Following his promotion to full general, Hyon reportedly took over the 8th Corps, which had been led by Lt. Gen. Kim Song Kyu since 1993. (Dong-A Ilbo, “Who Is North Korea`s New Vice Marshal Hyon Yong Chol?” July 18, 2012)


7/18/12:
KCNA: “Officers and men of the Korean People’s Army met at the April 25 House of Culture [today to extend the highest glory and congratulations to KPA Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un on his holding of the title of the DPRK Marshal, and vow to uphold his leadership with loyalty. Present there were Choe Ryong Hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, Hyon Yong Chol, chief of the KPA General Staff, Kim Jong Gak, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Hyon Chol Hae, first vice-minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and other leading officials of the ministry and KPA officers and men. Choe Ryong Hae read out a decision of the C.C., the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Central Military Commission of the WPK and the National Defense Commission and the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK on awarding the title of the DPRK Marshal to Kim Jong Un. (KCNA, “Servicepersons Vow to Be Faithful to Leadership of Kim Jong Un,” July 18, 2012)


7/20/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman statement “condemning the U.S. for going extremely reckless in prodding the south Korean puppet regime to such hideous act as hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK. It said: As already reported, a man who infiltrated into the DPRK to demolish a statue and monument in the DPRK, holy ones for its people, under the back-stage manipulation of the U.S. and south Korean puppet regime was arrested. His testimonies proved that the U.S. is being deeply involved in the conspiratorial plan which the south Korean regime worked out by putting to use defectors to south Korea. This is a token of the extremely vicious act of hostility against the DPRK prompted by the intention to stir up the people’s mindset, break the single-minded unity and overthrow its social system in the end, a vivid expression of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK. The U.S. rallies hostile elements of the countries which incur its displeasure and prods them to the actions of undermining and disturbing those countries and uses the ensuing social confusion as pretexts for military interference and war of aggression. It is a typical method the U.S. has employed in recent years to overturn social systems in other countries. It is an open fact that the U.S. has a special item in its state budget to fund the conspiratorial organizations against the DPRK every year to escalate the anti-DPRK psychological warfare and the operation to disturb it. The envoy of the U.S. State Department for the human rights issue in North Korea who visited south Korea in mid-June this year announced that the U.S. would offer 10 million U.S. dollars to the conspiratorial bodies active for the “disturbance of north Korea” this year. It is not just co-coincidental that the terrorist was arrested in the DPRK soon after the announcement. This incident is just a simple example of sabotage against the DPRK being conducted by the U.S. Even at this moment, the hostile elements bribed by the U.S. are hatching the second and third conspiratorial plans according to the U.S. scenario. The hostile act aimed at demolishing the statues of the peerlessly great persons of Mt. Paektu amounts to the most undisguised insult to the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and the mental mainstay of its people, and physical attack on it. Thus it is a war action as serious as the armed invasion. The prevailing situation proves that the U.S. has totally backtracked from the main points of the October 12, 2000 DPRK-U.S. joint communiqué in which it stated that it has no hostility toward the DPRK as well as those of the September 19 joint statement in which it confirmed its stand not to attack or invade the DPRK and promised to respect the DPRK’s sovereignty and co-exist with it in peace. Recently the U.S. authorities are often saying that it has no intention to take any act of hostility against the DPRK, but the situation clearly shows that the U.S. DPRK policy to antagonize its idea and social system and stifle it remains unchanged. The consistent hostile policy towards the DPRK pursued by the U.S. is giving rise to the evil cycle of confrontation and tensions on the Korean Peninsula, making the prospect of denuclearizing the peninsula all the more gloomy. The situation compels the DPRK to totally reexamine the nuclear issue. Without the U.S. fundamental repeal of its hostile policy toward the DPRK first, it will be completely impossible to settle the issue of ensuring the lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.” (KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Denounces U.S. Hostile Act,” July 20, 2012)

The United States government reaffirmed that it has no hostile intent towards North Korea as it seeks peace and stability on the peninsula. “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States is committed to the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and has no hostile intent toward the DPRK,” a State Department spokesperson said. The official was responding to a North Korean foreign ministry statement that it will “totally reexamine the nuclear issue,’ hinting that it may avert its earlier announcement that it has no immediate plans for a nuclear test. Pyongyang also accused South Korea and the United States of attempting to demolish statues of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung, in North Korea near the Chinese border, citing testimony from a North Korean defector, Jon Yong-chol. Jon, who has returned to the North, claimed earlier this week that he took part in the plot in return for the promise of money from South Korean and U.S. authorities. “We believe strongly that North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations; such behavior will only continue to isolate the country and provide no real opportunity for engagement with the international community,” the official said. “We continue to call on North Korea to adhere to its international obligations, including all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and human rights conventions.” (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. Stresses No Hostile Intent on N. Korea,” Yonhap, July 21, 2012)

With tighter border security and harsher punishments for those who cross into China, North Korea has forced a swift and drastic drop-off in defections this year, according to aid groups and South Korean officials. The crackdown, they say, suggests that his authoritarian police state is not only worried about people leaving the country, but also strong enough to stop them. As many as 20,000 additional soldiers have been dispatched to the Chinese border, according to Seoul’s Open Radio for North Korea, which has a network of contacts in the North. Those guards, threatened with punishment of their own, have become less willing to take bribes from would-be defectors, other aid groups say. As a result, outside experts say, the number of North Koreans entering the South after a circuitous journey through China is plummeting. Last year, 2,706 North Koreans came to the South. During the first half of this year, there have been only 751 — a 42 percent decline compared with the same period a year earlier. The unprecedented drop off reverses a 15-year trend. “At every lecture, security officers make sure to emphasize the threat that no one will be forgiven for betraying their country,” the aid organization, Good Friends, wrote in its weekly newsletter. Taken together, the measures make it costlier and riskier for those who want to leave. To bribe a border guard, one now needs as much as $6,000, said Son Jung-hun, who runs a Seoul-based organization that helps defectors escape and move through China. Several years ago, Son said, defectors could do the trick with $1,000. “Guards don’t want to take a risk unless they’re getting a lot of money,” said Son, whose organization used to help 10 escapees per month. This year, he said, that number has fallen to one, or sometimes none. The South Korean government attributes the relatively low numbers to “stronger control in North Korea after the death of Kim Jong Il,” according to an official at the Ministry of Unification who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of speaking about inner-workers in the North. “However, we still need to closely monitor the situation before making a judgment if the current situation will continue.” (Chico Harlan, “N. Korea Stems Defections with Tightened Borders, Tougher Punishments,” Washington Post, July 21, 2012, p. A-1)

Kim Jong-un has begun stripping his country’s powerful military of its lucrative export rights in a bold attempt intended to both rejuvenate its staggering economy and curtail top generals’ influence, according to a Seoul-based Web site run by defectors from North Korea. Although it is impossible to confirm most information about isolated North Korea, there have been hints that Mr. Kim might be unhappy with the stewardship of parts of the economy. In a speech distributed by the state news media in April, he said he intended to keep a tighter control on minerals exports, some of which analysts believe are controlled by the military. “Some people are now attempting to recklessly exploit the country’s valuable underground resources on the excuse of earning foreign currency by exporting them,” he said, without mentioning who the culprits were. In addition, South Korean news media this week quoted unidentified government sources who said an apparent fight over the military’s hold on important exports might have been behind this week’s dismissal of a top army official, Ri Yong-ho. According to the center, which cited unnamed sources in the North, the Workers’ Party in mid-June began transferring all the military’s foreign currency-earning operations to the cabinet or an independent committee. The report also quoted a policy statement that it says its sources read, but that was never published by North Korean state news media. “The military has developed a taste for money,” the Web site quoted Kim as saying. “From now on, the party and the state will provide bullets and guns for the military, and the military should just focus on how best it can fight.” Analysts see generals like Mr. Ri, who enjoyed the perks provided under Kim Jong-il, as the biggest potential stumbling block for attempts by Mr. Jang and party technocrats to experiment with economic reforms and openness. “Ri Yong-ho’s fall may not be the end, but just the beginning, of the power struggle,” Cho Han-bum, a North Korea specialist, said in an analysis published this week on the Web site of the South Korean government-run Korea Institute for National Unification. “The question is whether the old forces, centered around the military, will revolt.” (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Said to Remove Military’s Lucrative Export Privilege,” New York Times, July 21, 2012, p. A-8)


7/23/12:
South Korea held two rounds of secret talks with North Korea at an inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong at Pyongyang`s request late last year on joint development of rare earth metals in the North. The North’s proposal to hold the meetings was made after the South stopped almost all inter-Korean economic cooperation in May 2010, soon after a South Korean naval vessel was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. Whether this will lead to the resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation remains to be seen. The Korea Resources Corp., a South Korean state-run resources developer, said Sunday that it held working-level talks with officials of the North’s National Economic Cooperation Federation at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in September and December last year. In the second contact, the federation handed over four rare earth samples to the South Korean side. An analysis showed that the samples were a type of rare earth metals used to manufacture LCD panels and optical lenses. A South Korean official who participated in the talks said, “The North strongly proposed that the two Koreas jointly develop coal mines as well as rare earth metals.” The resources corporation tried to brief North Korea on the results of the sample analysis. No further talks have been held since, however, due to changes in Pyongyang’s political situation following the death of leader Kim Jong Il. Still, the corporation said it maintains a “hotline” with its North Korean counterpart and plans to develop resources in the North. CEO Kim Shin-jong briefed South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the results of the sample analysis in February. He said, “The president encouraged us to carry on after we reported that North Korean rare earth metals are economically promising.” The South Korean resources development industry estimates that North Korea has 42 types of minerals, including rare earth metals at nearly 700 mines under development. Their value is estimated at nearly 6,984 trillion won (6,133 billion U.S. dollars). In particular, the industry says that while China has made rare earth metals a strategic resource, the North has up to 20 million tons of rare earth deposits. China’s rare deposits are estimated at 55 million tons, accounting for about half of the world’s total. A South Korean official involved in economic projects in the North said, “We cannot rule out the possibility that inter-Korean economic cooperation projects will be resumed, as (the North’s No. 2 man) Jang Sung Taek and (military bigwig) Choe Ryong Hae, who are known as pragmatists, have rapidly emerged as powerful men,” adding, “Resource development is what the North needs the most and the South can approach this without political burden.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “Koreas Held 2 Secret Talks on Rare Earth Metals Last Year,” July 23, 2012)

Central Party inspection teams have been sent to assess the state of production facilities at each factory enterprise in North Korea prior to the implementation of the ‘6.28 Policy’, the name for planned economic reform measures set to go into effect in October. A source from North Hamkyung Province revealed the information to Daily NK, explaining that the teams are made up of officials from the department of the State Planning Commission responsible for production facilities, their provincial equivalents and the Central Prosecutors Office. They are now in the process of assessing the production facilities at each factory enterprise. The source said, “It’s a Central Party investigation of each factory enterprise before they bring in the new economic measures,” adding, “Because it’s an inspection of production facilities, managers in charge of those facilities have also been called in [by the inspection teams].” Daily NK has obtained confirmation from other sources that the same types of assessment inspections are ongoing in both Hyesan in Yangkang Province and Shinuiju in North Pyongan Province. The Central Party inspection teams are expected to follow-up their assessments by deciding what needs to be scrapped and what can be salvaged and reactivated, then reporting it all back to the State Planning Commission in order for decisions to be made on state investment. The 6.28 Policy, or ‘On the establishing of a new economic management system in our own style’, should see the state making initial investments in industrial and agricultural facilities and inputs, then procuring production at market prices according to pre-set targets while allowing a percentage of target production plus any over-fulfillment to remain with the production unit for distribution and/or sale. (Kim Kwang Jin, “Party Inspectors Assessing Production Facilities,” Daily NK, July 23, 2012)


7/26/12:
North Korea has sent balloons carrying leaflets across the border with South Korea for the first time in 12 years, the defense ministry said, a move seen as stepping up bellicose rhetoric against Seoul under its young leader. Balloons carrying about 16,000 leaflets were discovered by soldiers near the border area from Monday and Thursday, which condemned Seoul’s arrest of a pro-Pyongyang activist and its attempt to destroy the statue of one of its late leaders, the ministry said. (Kim Eun-jung, “N. Korea Resumes Sending Propaganda Leaflets after 12-Year Break,” Yonhap, July 26, 2012)

The head of the National Intelligence Service reported that North Korea is running a task force for changes to the country’s economy on the orders of new leader Kim Jong-un. The remarks were made by NIS chief Won Sei-hoon to the National Assembly Intelligence Committee and reported by the New Frontier Party’s representative on the committee, lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun. Previous reports and observations indicated that the Kim Jong-un regime was moving to reform the country’s economy, but this marks the first time an intelligence authority has reported such changes. Won also reportedly said North Korea was working to put Workers’ Party of Korea and military economic efforts under the control of the Cabinet, reduce subunit staffing at cooperative farms, expand company autonomy, and raise wages for workers. The NIS suggested that possible reasons for Ri’s reprimand included the response to the hereditary succession in the military and the issue of economic leadership being transferred to the Cabinet, Yoon reported. The Kim Jong-un regime also appears to be giving larger roles to family members, with aunt Kim Kyong-hee providing spiritual support and her husband, Jang Song-thaek, offering policy advice. It further noted the placement of associates in key administrative positions, with WPK official Choe Ryong-hae tapped as politburo chief and Kim Won-hong named to handle military oversight as Minister of State Security, a seat that had previously sat empty for 25 years. (Park Byong-su, “South Korean Intelligence Agency Reported Changes to North Korea’s Economy,” Hankyore, July 27, 2012)

U.S. Special Envoy Glyn Davies: “The February 29 agreement, sadly, is history. They made it history by announcing a little over two weeks after the February 29 decision was announced by both sides that they intended to launch a rocket… So what they need to now is take unilateral steps to demonstrate not just to the United States but to their neighbors and to the world that they’re serious about living up to their obligations.” (Davies, Interview with VOA reporter Baik Sungwon, July 26, 2012)


7/28/12:
Flooding in North Korea caused by torrential rains has killed 88 people and left 63,000 homeless, KCNA reported. About 74,700 acres of farmland were said to have been damaged by 10 days of flooding, according to the agency’s report. Agricultural experts said North Korea remained ill-prepared to deal with floods and droughts, as well as the food shortages they cause. This is because of a combination of factors: a dysfunctional state rationing system, deforestation, soil erosion, poor road conditions and a lack of fertilizers, fuel, pumps and other farm machinery. (Choe Sang-hun, “Floods in North Korea kill 88 and Leave Thousands Homeless,” New York Times, July 30, 2012, p. A-6)


7/29/12:
Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea spokesman: “in connection with the fact that the south Korean puppet group is talking loudly about the DPRK’s ‘policy change’ and ‘reform and opening’: The army and people of the DPRK are dynamically advancing toward the final victory full of fresh conviction and vitality with a great honor and pride of holding in high esteem Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of the party, army and state, as DPRK Marshal. They are bringing about remarkable events one after another in high spirit and stamina while demonstrating over the world the dignity and might as a power which is carrying forward the tradition of Mt. Paektu. This stirring reality is greatly admired by the whole world. Upset by this, the puppet group let experts in the north affairs and others interpret the stirring situation of the DPRK in a self-centered manner, vociferating about “signs of policy change” and “attempt at reform and opening”. This ridiculous rhetoric only revealed its ignorance and sinister intention against the DPRK. As far as ‘signs of policy change’ are concerned, there can not be any slightest change in all policies of the DPRK as they are meant to carry forward and accomplish the ideas and cause of the peerlessly great persons generation after generation, to all intents and purposes. … It is the hostile forces such as the U.S. and the south Korean puppet group that are running wild to isolate and stifle the DPRK with vicious sanctions while preventing it from conducting normal exchange with other countries. From decades of trumpeting ‘reform and opening’ to impose their corrupt system upon the DPRK, the hostile forces now seem to have been preoccupied by hallucination that such a move is taking place in the DPRK. Such idiots ignorant of the DPRK are professing experts in the north affairs. Pitiful are the U.S. and the puppet group which are resorting to foolish ambition on the basis of their sham analysis. Those obsessed by showdown can not properly see through the essence like a half blind. The puppet group is vociferating about DPRK’s possible ‘system change’ and ‘reform and opening.’ This is aimed to create wrong impressions of the DPRK, being upset by the world’s attention being focused on Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un, who is leading the Korean revolution to victory with his matchless grit, pluck and outstanding leadership while steadily carrying forward the great Songun revolutionary cause of the peerlessly great men, and the growing reverence of broad range of people in south Korea for him. It is also aimed at dampening the aspiration for reunification through alliance with the north mounting in south Korea, stoking confrontation and creating foolish impression of ‘north’s change’ in a bid to realize the ambition for ‘unification through absorption’ whose nature had been revealed. To expect ‘policy change’ and ‘reform and opening’ from the DPRK is nothing but a foolish and silly dream just like wanting the sun to rise in the west. The DPRK is effecting new innovations and creations in order to make its people enjoy modern and a highly civilized life and live in luxury and comfort under socialism to their heart’s content while pushing back the frontiers of latest science and technology in all fields. The puppet group should not get confused. Great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism is the immutable guidelines and invincible banner of the Korean revolution and it is the steadfast faith of all the army and people of the DPRK to unswervingly keep to the path of socialism, the road of independence and Songun, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.” (KCNA, “To Expect ‘Change’ from DPRK Is Foolish Ambition: Spokesman for CPRK,” July 29, 2012)


7/30/12:
A senior Chinese official in charge of the Communist Party’s external relations arrived in Pyongyang for talks with his North Korean counterpart. Wang Jiarui and Kim Yong-il “briefed each other on their party’s activities, and exchanged views on matters of mutual concern to further strengthen and develop the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries and the two parties,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said. Also on hand were Kim Song-nam, the deputy director of the North’s International Affairs Department, and China’s Ambassador to Pyongyang Liu Hongcai. Earlier on July 24-28, the North’s Minister of Public Security Ri Myong-su met with his Chinese counterpart Meng Jianzhu and Politburo member Zhou Yongkang in Beijing. There is widespread speculation here that the visits are a prelude to a trip to China by new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “Kim Jong-il would normally visit China a few months after the chiefs of public security and international affairs of the two countries met,” a diplomatic source recalled. “So this could be preparations for Kim Jong-un’s visit to Beijing.” A Unification Ministry official said, “When Kim Jong-il was alive, Wang used to meet with him whenever he visited Pyongyang. It’s highly likely that he will meet Kim Jong-un this time, too.” (Chosun Ilbo, “Is Kim Jong-un Preparing to Visit China?” July 31, 2012)


7/31/12:
DPRK FoMin spokesman: “The U.S. authorities are vying each other to commit politically-motivated provocations against the DPRK. The U.S. chief executive asserted that the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent for self-defense ‘threatens the world’ while its military chief made oft-repeated trumpeting about ‘provocations.’ Officials of the Department of State including its secretary groundlessly slandered the DPRK on the basis of a variety of wild rumors about its situation without their own judgments to distinguish truth from lies. They are still pulling up the DPRK over its launch of satellite for peaceful purposes in a clumsy bid to justify their hostile policy toward it. The outbursts let loose by the authorities, prompted by their inveterate rejection and hostile intents on the ideology and social system chosen by the people of the DPRK clearly proved that the U.S. remains unchanged in its hostile policy toward the DPRK. It is known to everybody that the U.S. is hostile to the DPRK. But the point is why the authorities of its administration are all out to kick up an unprecedented anti-DPRK smear campaign this time. This reflects their fear of the fact that world people are rapidly growing stronger in their admiration and expectation for the rosy future of the DPRK led by the dear respected Kim Jong Un admired by the whole world. Also lurking behind this is their black-hearted intention to calm down bitter denunciation and pressure of the international community to the effect that it is impossible to ensure durable peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula unless the U.S. drops its anachronistic hostile policy toward the DPRK. The U.S. claims that it has no hostile intent on the DPRK while malignantly slandering it. This is no more than sheer hypocrisy aimed to deceive the public, to all intents and purposes, because it is an incoherent one. This is proved by what the U.S. is now doing quite contrary to its claim. It is busy staging large-scale joint military exercises against the DPRK one after another after massively introducing ultra-modern war means into south Korea and its vicinity. While talking about ‘people’s living’ in the DPRK, the U.S. is persisting in its harshest and protracted sanctions and blockade against it, threatening its vital rights and barring it from developing the economy and improving people’s living standard. The U.S. is talking to the DPRK that its people would live well if it dismantles its nukes. This reminds one of a wolf preaching that it would not hurt sheep if the sheep has its horns curved. It is the DPRK’s steadfast option to counter the U.S. hostile policy with bolstered nuclear deterrent. Now that the DPRK has powerful nuclear deterrent and strong munitions industry capable of steadily bolstering it, it is capable of putting spurs to the building of an economic power, undeterred by the U.S. persistent hostile policy. The DPRK does not need any advice from others as it has strategy and orientation of its own style to develop the economy and improve the standard of people’s living and ways to carry them out. It will surely build a thriving socialist nation while countering the U.S. hostile policy with its toughest policy, with everybody holding arms in one hand and a banner of industrial revolution in the new century in the other.” (KCNA, “DPRK FM Spokesman Slashes at Anti-DPRK Smear Campaign,” July 31, 2012)

South Korea reiterated its demand that China investigate accusations by a South Korean activist that he was tortured by Chinese security officers. Following the assertions of the activist, Kim Young-hwan, the Foreign Ministry also said it would interview an estimated 620 South Koreans known to have been held in China on allegations of various crimes to see if any of them were tortured. In addition, a spokesman for the ministry said the government would “actively support” Kim’s plan to take his case to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. The spokesman, Cho Tai-young, said the Chinese government, which denied torturing Kim, has not responded to South Korea’s repeated demands for a new investigation. Kim, 49, who has said he was trying to help North Korean refugees in China, was arrested with three other activists from the South on March 29. They were held for 114 days on charges of endangering national security until they were expelled on July 20. The case has snowballed since Kim’s release. Last week, he called a news conference at which he announced that he was tortured and that the Chinese authorities had tried to make him sign a statement denying any mistreatment and admitting to violating Chinese laws as a condition of his release, something he refused to do. He has since provided South Korean news media with details of his alleged torture. “They put a cattle prod, wrapped in electric coils, inside my clothes and placed it on my chest and back,” Kim told Chosun Ilbo. “It felt like being continuously electrocuted. “I could smell my flesh burning,” he said. “They also threatened several times to send me to North Korea.” Some other activists who have been detained in China say they, too, were tortured and threatened with the possibility of being sent to North Korea during interrogations. “They said even if they killed and buried me, no one would notice,” one of the activists, Choi Young-hoon, said during an interview on TV Chosun. Choi, a South Korean human rights advocate who spent nearly four years in a Chinese prison starting in 2003 for trying to smuggle 80 North Korean refugees out of China by boat, said that Chinese inmates repeatedly beat him and that he was injected with something that made his legs “wooden” so he could not walk without help. Another activist, Chung Peter, said on the same TV Chosun program that “sleep deprivation” and “letting you hear the sound of torture from the next room” were standard interrogation tactics when he was held for a year and a half starting in 2003 for helping North Korean refugees. Kim has not said if his group was helping refugees flee, saying only that it focused on collecting information on human rights in North Korea and helping North Korean refugees living in China. (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Repeats Call to Investigate Torture Claim,” New York Times, August 1, 2012, p. A-8)

A much-hyped plan by China and North Korea to jointly develop two small islands in the Yalu River has been quietly put on hold because of disagreements about troop deployments. China was to have constructed an industrial complex on Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa islands but the project, which began last year, fell apart because China would not consent to allowing North Korean troops on the two islands. After repeated requests by North Korea to deploy the soldiers, Chinese officials informed their North Korean counterparts in June that they were suspending the development project, North Korean military sources said. The islands are within North Korea but right on the border between the two nations. One source said: “The North Korean military was opposed to the pullout, because they wanted to enjoy the benefits that would arise from the development project.” Hwanggumpyong, which is about 11 square kilometers and is separated from China by a narrow canal, was to have been developed before the 12-square-kilometer Wihwa Island. According to local farmers, part of the canal was covered to build a 10-meter-wide road to help construction. That road was turned back into a canal in July. North Korean military officers in charge of border control admitted that the joint development project had been suspended. (Ishida Koichiro, “Troop Deployment Row Halts China-N. Korea Island Project,” Asahi Shimbun, July 31, 2012)


8/2/12:
In a rare direct message, a senior North Korean official has told VOA the Pyongyang government intends to harden its opposition to international pressure against its nuclear weapons program. Choe Sun-hee, a deputy director of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, sent a note by email to VOA’s Korean Service, following three days of informal talks between North Korean diplomats and an unofficial American delegation. Choe said she led the North Korean team at the talks in Singapore earlier this week. She wrote that, as a result of the talks, her government has “no choice but to re-examine the nuclear issue due to the U.S.’s firm hostile policies” toward it. Unless there is a change on the U.S. side, she added, “The prospect of denuclearization [by North Korea] is very remote.” The North Korean official summed up her government’s position in this way: “If the U.S. sincerely engages in dialogue and withdraws its hostile policies – not through words but through action – to resolve the nuclear issue and improve the relations between the two sides, we will be willing to work to resolve the issues.” A U.S. State Department spokeswoman confirmed there were unofficial talks in Singapore this week between North Korean and American groups, but said there was no U.S. government involvement in the meetings. She told VOA that as a matter of long-standing policy, “the United States is committed to the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and has no hostile intent toward” North Korea. The spokeswoman said U.S. officials believe “North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations. Such behavior will only continue to isolate the country and provide no real opportunity for engagement with the international community.” (VOA, “North Korea Threatens Harder Line in Nuclear Disarmament Talks,” August 3, 2012) North Korean officials threatened to reconsider existing agreements with the United States in a recent meeting in Singapore, two sources familiar with the discussions told The Cable. The North Korean warning comes as analysts speculate that Pyongyang may be preparing a fresh nuclear test, a development that could raise tensions in Asia and embarrass U.S. President Barack Obama in the middle of a closely fought re-election campaign. Top U.S. experts held a “track two” meeting in the island nation in late July, during which the North Koreans hardened their negotiating position and rejected any return to the latest deal struck between the two sides, but nevertheless left the door open to further talks with the United States and the international community. The meeting was the first of its kind since North Korea tried and failed to launch a rocket into space in April, which precipitated a U.S. withdrawal from the February 29 bilateral agreement to give North Korea food aid in exchange for concessions on the country’s nuclear and missile programs. At the secret meetings in Singapore, the North Koreans told two U.S. experts they were no longer interested in resurrecting that arrangement and said they were reconsidering their previous agreements to eventually denuclearize as well. On the North Korean side of the table were Han Song-ryol, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations and Choe Son Hui, the deputy director-general of the North American affairs bureau in the DPRK foreign ministry. On the American side were six experts led by Joel Wit, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator, and including Corey Hinderstein, vice president of the international program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Some reports said that there was a also a July meeting in New York between Han and Clifford Hart, the U.S. special envoy to the defunct Six-Party Talks. “The agenda [in Singapore] focused on a variety of issues. One important topic was the future of U.S.-North Korean relations,” said one source familiar with the meeting. “The other topics were nuclear safety, nuclear security, cooperative ways of monitoring denuclearization, and the whole raft of issues people discuss at nuclear summits.” The source noted that as part of their formal presentation, the very first point the North Korean officials made was that their new leadership is not changing the late leader Kim Jong Il’s line that North Korea has no eternal enemies or eternal friends. “That’s a very clear signal that they still want to make continuing efforts to improve relations with the U.S. and are indeed are interested in that. But they are toughening their position and that’s in part because they are feeling pretty good about where they are,” the source said. The North Koreans believe they have weathered the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” — waiting for Pyongyang to make the first move while strengthening ties with U.S. allies in Asia. “The North Koreans feel pretty confident in their position. They are still keeping the door open to improving ties with the U.S. but the price is getting higher and it’s becoming more difficult,” the source said. “At some point somebody will be back to the table with them. They are getting ready for that with a much tougher negotiating position. They think they’re sitting pretty.” (Josh Rogin, “Exclusive: North Korea Threatens to Reconsider 2005 Agreement with U.S.,” The Cable, August 17, 2012) Last July North Korea was preparing its long-range missile launch and nuclear tests, and that the US government had been informed of the preparations. Joel Wit, an expert on North Korean issues, said during an interview with the Hankyoreh on February 16, “In July, it was very clear from talking to the North Korean foreign ministers that they were moving toward further development of their nuclear deterrent and missile forces. It was already clear at the time that we were headed for a difficult time after the elections in the US and South Korea”. Wit and another US civilian expert met at a ‘Track-II’ meeting in Singapore with Choi Sun-hee, deputy director of North Korea’s foreign ministry and Han Sung-ryul, North Korean deputy ambassador to the UN. Wit said, “The North Korean officials firmly stated they were dropping the principle of ‘action for action’ contained in the 2005 Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They wanted the US to take the first step to show that they were sincere”. He also said, “It was clear they were escalating their efforts to develop their nuclear deterrent”. In a situation where the US is demanding the North Koreans give up their nuclear weapons, asking the US to first open diplomatic relations is a sign that North Korea is willing to risk escalating the situation. Wit also said, “The North Korean officials didn’t specify what steps would be taken, but what they could do was pretty much common knowledge. Things North Korea could do to escalate this situation include a missile launch and a nuclear weapons test, mounting a nuclear warhead on top of a missile, producing highly enriched uranium (HEU), ditching denuclearization, and saying they no longer abide by the Sept. 19 agreement.” He added, “Privately, at the track-II meeting the North Koreans basically said that they can mount nuclear warheads on missiles but have been debating among whether or not to say so publicly.”It has been found that the North Korean officials requested their warning message be known to the press. Wit said, “Normally, these meetings are confidential. And the request from the North Koreans was a first. I refused to talk to the press because my job is not to be North Korea’s press agent. That’s not my role. However, the messages were relayed very clearly to the US government, the White House, the State Department, and the intelligence community. The government officials knew at least from us what North Korea was saying”. Although there have been leaks on news about North Korea abrogating the September 19 agreement on Foreign Policy’s website, it is a first for a conference attendee to speak directly with the press. (Park Hyun, “Last July, N. Korea Warned of Coming Missile Launch and Nuclear Test,” Hankyore, February 22, 2013)


8/3/12:
A junior official from the British Embassy in North Korea accompanied leader Kim Jong Eun on a roller coaster last week, British officials have confirmed, highlighting the tentative rapprochement between the two countries in recent years. Photographs of the ride, taken during a visit to a newly opened theme park in Pyongyang, were circulated as part of what appears to be a publicity drive by the authoritarian state’s new leader, who is promoting a youthful and upbeat image that contrasts with the grim militarism of Kim Jong-il, his father. (Simon Mundy, “U.K. and Kim Try Rollercoaster Diplomacy,” Financial Times, August 3, 2012, p. 4)

The number of North Korean defectors arriving in South Korea in the first half of this year dropped to half that of the same period last year. According to the Unification Ministry on Thursday, 751 defectors arrived from January to June, down 45.4 percent from 1,375. A tougher crackdown by the North Korean regime seems to be the main reason. A ministry official said, “Around the time of former leader Kim Jong-il’s death late last year, more guard posts were set up along the North Korea-China border, and the brakes were put on North Korean border guards taking bribes to turn a blind eye to defectors crossing the river.” “Since the North imported electromagnetic wave detectors from Germany last year, it has been difficult to make phone calls to anybody in the North,” points out Kim Hee-tae of Group for North Korea Human Rights, an NGO helping defectors. “The broker’s fee for arranging a defection has increased by more than 50 percent.” (Chosun Ilbo, “Fewer N. Korean Defectors Come to S. Korea,” August 3, 2012)


8/4/12:
Kim Jong-un called for building a “prosperous country” in a major policy guideline published today, a day after he told a visiting Chinese delegation that he was focused on “developing the economy and improving people’s livelihoods.” The statements were the latest in a series that Mr. Kim has issued in which he sounded more focused on tackling North Korea’s moribund economy than his father, Kim Jong-il, who championed a “military-first policy” that lavished resources on the armed services. “Developing the economy and improving livelihoods, so that the Korean people lead happy and civilized lives, is the goal the Workers’ Party is struggling toward,” Kim said when he met Wang Jiarui, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, yesterday, according to Xinhua. China’s help is crucial to an economic revitalization program that analysts believe Mr. Kim is pursuing, including a reported agreement to allow thousands of North Koreans to work in China on a guest-worker program as a way of building foreign currency reserves. North Korea’s reliance on China has deepened as international sanctions have tightened and outside aid has dwindled after the country’s nuclear and long-range missile tests in recent years. China’s trade with North Korea grew rapidly in the past several years as North Korea bolstered exports, mainly minerals, to China and imported more food and other Chinese goods to make up for losses in trade and aid from countries like South Korea and Japan. For years, Chinese leaders have urged North Korea to follow their route to economic reform. But so far, the country has only dabbled in such experiments. Wang’s group was the first foreign delegation Kim had received for formal bilateral talks since he took over the leadership after his father’s death in December. Official media in both countries quoted Kim and Wang as promising to consolidate their countries’ traditional friendship. Kim delivered the policy guideline calling for building a prosperous country in a talk he gave to leading officials of the ruling Workers’ Party, according to state media. He gave the speech July 26, but the media carried it Friday. Although Kim called for “steadfast confidence in justice of the Socialist system and victory of Socialism,” he has recently begun indicating at least some policy shift. Now that his father’s “military-first policy” has turned North Korea into “a world-level military power,” he said recently, the North must now try harder to “improve the livelihoods of the people and build an economically prosperous country.” He has also moved to strip the military of some financial perks, according to a Seoul-based Web site with contacts in the North, in what analysts described as a possible effort to give the cabinet more control of the economy. In the speech published today, Kim suggested a reason for change. “Not long ago, I told you that we must ensure that the people shout hurray for the Workers’ Party all the time and everywhere, not only during large rallies but also in far-flung islands and deep mountain valleys,” he said. “They will do that when we make the country prosperous and people’s lives affluent.” (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Must Become Prosperous, Leader Says,” New York Times, August 5, 2012, p. A-4)

The United Nations World Food Program has said it will send a first batch of emergency food aid to impoverished North Korea, where a typhoon and floods have left hundreds of people dead or missing. The North’s state news media reported that the death toll from flooding between late June and the end of last month had increased to 169. KCNA said the number of missing had risen to about 400, while 212,200 people had been left homeless. KCNA reported on Saturday that the floods had washed away 161,310 acres of farmland. It added that more than 1,400 educational, health care and factory buildings had also collapsed or been damaged. Such flooding is not unusual in North Korea, but it poses special dangers in a country where many are already living on the margins, with the United Nations estimating that two-thirds of the people there suffer chronic food shortages. Floodwaters also cause long-term problems, damaging crops and farmland. In a statement published on its Web site yesterday, the World Food Program said it would send corn to the country. A U.N. mission that recently visited the affected regions found considerable damage to corn, soybean and rice fields, the statement said. (Reuters, North Korea to Receive Aid after Flood, New York Times, August 5, 2012, p. 11)


8/5/12:
The Chosun Taepung International Investment Group, North Korea’s official investment firm, was disbanded in early May due to sluggish foreign capital inflows amid tightened sanctions, Yonhap reported., citing an unnamed source familiar with the country’s inner workings. The North’s state media last mentioned the company in late December when its president Pak Chol-su attended the funeral of its longtime autocrat, Kim Jong-il. Taepung was the communist state’s prime channel for drawing foreign investment and run by the National Defense Commission. The company made headlines last July as speculation spread that the Coca-Cola Company and KFC Corp. may enter the North Korean market, which proved untrue. The source indicated that the NDC may also have dismantled the State Development Bank that operated in concert with the firm. Taepung had been engaged in various projects including tours to Mount Kumgang since its inception in January 2010, only to produce meager outcome. But the joint tour program with Seoul-based Hyundai Group. In May, Bradley Babson, a former World Bank consultant who currently chairs the DPRK Economic Forum at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said the “expected merger” of Taepung and the committee was aimed at crafting a unified economic development strategy. “Streamlining investment promotion and approval authorities in conjunction with implementing the new foreign investment laws could make an important difference in getting deals done by reducing competition between different parts of the North Korean system and giving investors a clear understanding of their counterpart relationships in the new set up,” he wrote on the forum’s blog. (Shin Hyon-hee, “N.K.’s Official Investment Firm Disbanded,” Korea Herald, August 8, 2012)


8/6/12:
The U.S. imperialist aggressor forces and the south Korean belligerent forces are going to stage again Ulji Freedom Guardian joint military exercises for invading the DPRK from August 20 to 31 at a time when they are becoming evermore undisguised in their hostile policy and confrontation racket against it. The situation in the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity has reached an extreme pitch of tension owing to the reckless war maneuvers of the belligerent forces to be staged in different parts of south Korea in the wake of their attempted monstrous state-sponsored, politically-motivated terrorism aimed at hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK. The U.S. imperialists are so foolish as to stage such a burlesque as sending a ‘prior notice’ to the Korean People’s Army side through the bogus ‘UN Forces Command’ while claiming Ulji Freedom Guardian is an ‘annual and defensive one’ in a bid to conceal its aggressive nature. All facts go to clearly prove that the scenario of the U.S. and the south Korean puppet regime to seize the DPRK by force of arms at any cost has reached a phase of full-fledged implementation. In view of this prevailing situation, Pak Rim Su, chief of the Panmunjom Mission of the KPA, Monday sent the following protest notice clarifying the stand of the KPA to James D. Sherman, commander of the U.S.-south Korea Combined Forces: The U.S. is now working hard to paint the aggressive and offensive nature of Ulji Freedom Guardian joint war exercises against the DPRK as ‘annual and defensive’ while contemplating staging them together with south Korea. It is also making a serious mockery of the DPRK by sending ‘a prior notice allegedly based on trust and transparency.’ It is hostile towards the DPRK behind the scene while publicly uttering it had no intention to invade the DPRK. Not content with this behavior, the U.S. hatched a plot to perpetrate the above-said terrorism and is escalating the war maneuvers against the DPRK. This is the U.S. hostile policy toward it. The army and people of the DPRK have grown stronger in their will to take revenge on the U.S. Clear is the stand of the DPRK on the projected joint military exercises. This was fully reflected in a statement issued by a spokesman for the DPRK National Defense Commission on July 29. Their reckless saber-rattling against the DPRK would get nothing but disgrace and self-destruction. The DPRK once again clearly states the KPA will never deal with the ‘UN Forces Command’ which exists in name only. This is the reply of the KPA to the U.S.” (KCNA, “Chief of KPA Panmunjom Mission Sends Protest Notice to U.S. Forces Side,” August 6, 2012)

Sig Hecker and Frank Pabian: “Shortly after its failed April 13 rocket launch, North Korea was widely expected to conduct its third underground nuclear test. Such a test would have fit the pattern of the first two nuclear tests, both of which followed failed rocket launches and international condemnation. And Pyongyang has compelling technical, military, and political reasons to conduct a third nuclear test that would demonstrate it can miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit on a missile, making its nuclear arsenal more threatening. We believe the first two North Korean tests used plutonium as the fissile material. Without at least one more successful plutonium test, it is unlikely that Pyongyang could have confidence in a miniaturized plutonium design. The country has a very small plutonium stockpile, sufficient for only four to eight bombs, but it may be willing to sacrifice some material to gain additional data to augment information already obtained from the previous two tests. All the same, it appears that plutonium is a dead end for Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal because it shut down and has not restarted its five megawatt electric plutonium production reactor. Although we have seen no direct evidence of a highly enriched uranium (HEU) production program in North Korea, judging from the available evidence, we think the next bomb test will be based on HEU, or multiple bombs will be tested simultaneously, using both HEU and plutonium. Whether and when North Korea conducts another nuclear test will depend on how high a political cost Pyongyang is willing to bear. Beijing has continued to expand aid and trade with North Korea, but has also applied significant diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang not to test. Moscow recently forgave nearly $11 billion in North Korean debt, signed a new border treaty, and is still in the game for building a gas pipeline going through the North to South Korea, but Russia is also on record as opposing continued nuclear testing. In addition, North Korea’s new supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, has shown signs of striking off in his own direction, possibly putting rehabilitation of the civilian economy ahead of enhanced military strength. Even so, and although Pyongyang announced in June that it has no plans to test at this time, we cannot rule out the possibility that the technological and military benefits may sway Pyongyang to test again. Satellite imagery shows significant new activity at what has been identified as a likely third nuclear testing tunnel, and we find it important to re-examine North Korea’s past nuclear tests to learn about its future nuclear test capabilities. The seismic signal of North Korea’s first underground nuclear test, which took place on October 9, 2006, had a teleseismic body wave magnitude (the most common scale used for measuring the strength of seismic events from a distance) of 4.3. Using analytic methods based on arrival times of seismic waves at monitoring stations outside of North Korea, the location of the event was determined to be a highlands area north of the village of Punggye-ri, in North Hamgyong Province, in the northeastern corner of the country. While it has been reported that the North Koreans were expecting an effective yield of 4kilotons, estimates on the explosion yield of that test generally fall below 1 kiloton. The second test, with a magnitude of 4.7, occurred on May 25, 2009 in the immediate vicinity of the first. Despite Korean Central News Agency reports that the device yield was “Hiroshima sized” — that is, on the order of 12 to 20 kilotons — an official US intelligence estimate placed the yield as low as “roughly two kilotons.” A 2011 estimate by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers, incorporating available seismic data and known geology but using a different analytic model, placed the minimal effective yield of the second test at about 5.7 kilotons. The authors added that further refinement of this estimate would require a more realistic topography profile of the test area. A recent National Research Council report on nuclear testing points out that such discrepancies are not uncommon because no single relationship exists between teleseismic body wave magnitude and the yield of a nuclear test. Referring to the two North Korean tests, the report concludes that the relative locations and the ratio of their yields can be determined more accurately than their absolute locations and absolute yields. And since the seismic waveforms of the two tests are similar, the yield of the 2009 test should be scaled up by a factor of 4 to 6 from the roughly one kiloton of the 2006 test. Locating the epicenter of a nuclear test with high confidence to within less than a few kilometers in a little-known geologic area not previously used for nuclear testing is very difficult because of insufficient information about specific subsurface geology and its potential effects on the precise timing of the transmission of regional and teleseismic signals. As the National Research Council report points out, however, if multiple nuclear tests occur in the same region, then relative methods of detection, location, discrimination, and yield estimation can be brought to bear. Once an initial near-surface event has been recorded, all successive nearby seismic events can be fixed relative to the first recorded event in terms of direction and distance through comparison of the various arrival times at seismic monitoring stations. It is beneficial if a large number of seismic stations, including some in close proximity, monitor a test. Only 22 seismic stations of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System network registered the 2006 nuclear test, but 18 more stations were online to help register the larger 2009 event. In the immediate region, seven seismic stations in Japan, one in China, and one in South Korea recorded that latter test. In 2010, researcher John R. Murphy and colleagues at the Science Applications International Corporation used recorded regional and teleseismic data from the International Monitoring System to locate the 2006 and 2009 North Korean underground tests relative to one another. Their method provides the precise “relative” location of the two tests, but does not necessarily fix either one accurately in its real-world, “absolute” location. They integrated these locations with topographic data and satellite imagery to define what they considered reasonable and accurate absolute locations for the two tests. In 2011, these researchers revised their estimates by moving the relative location plot about 720 meters to the south-southeast as shown in Figure 1. Early in 2010, Stony Brook University seismologist Lianxing Wen and his colleague Hui Long reported an alternative interpretation. They employed commercial satellite imagery, including a Google Earth two-dimensional map overlain with a quite similar, but independently developed, relative location plot. With this technique, they pinpointed the epicenters of the 2006 and 2009 explosions at about 1.5 kilometers to the east and northeast of the locations determined by Murphy and his colleagues. These earlier attempts to locate the sites of North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests were commendable in terms of plotting relative positions of the respective epicenters. When we laid these earlier epicenter location estimates onto Google Earth imagery, however, we found that they did not match typical tunnel engineering practices for nuclear testing, which attempt to maximize the rise of terrain above the tunnel (hence providing the greatest burial depth) while minimizing the length of horizontal drilling into a mountain that is required. Also, these earlier location estimates failed to explicitly recognize that there were two portals, or starting points for tunneling, despite evidence derived from available commercial satellite imagery that the 2006 test had most likely occurred through the use of the east portal. By correlating the available overhead imagery, known tunneling practices (particularly those used by the Pakistani nuclear program, which has been accused of aiding North Korea’s efforts), and previous seismic analysis and reporting, we were able to make geo-location estimates for the 2006 and 2009 tests that we believe are more accurate than earlier efforts. Using these new geo-locations, we believe we have provided a basis for narrowing the wide disparity in estimates of the strength of the 2009 test explosion (by narrowing the range for what is known as the depth of burial). And the methodologies we applied to the earlier tests also provide a basis for determining the likely effective length and direction of a new tunnel that appears nearly ready to host a third North Korean nuclear test — or perhaps simultaneous tests of more than one weapon design. These test preparations — and circumstantial evidence that Pyongyang may be interested in testing both highly enriched uranium and plutonium devices — make clear that continued political pressure from the United States, China, and other interested regional powers is vital if North Korea is to be deterred from a dangerous refinement of its nuclear capabilities. In making our new estimates, we synthesized the information we considered consistent from the studies cited above and positioned the resultant plot on Google Earth. These superimpositions show that the 2006 event had to have been supported solely through the use of the east portal, from which a tunnel can only trend eastward, or, as was likely the case to achieve greater burial depth, northeastward. Likewise, the 2009 test would then have been uniquely supported by a tunnel beginning at the west portal, which commercial satellite imagery shows can only trend northward. Our geo-positioning was further constrained by the divergent ridgeline topography above both portals, to achieve maximum overburden with minimum tunneling (see Figure 2). The topography is best visualized in a three-dimensional context, as shown in Figure 3. Although we cannot presume an absolute geographic accuracy or precision for our epicenter locations that is better than that of the relative location plots from which they were derived (i.e., to within a few hundred meters), and being cognizant of the various potential horizontal positional errors (e.g., up to 100 meters) that can arise using Google Earth satellite imagery, particularly when imagery is draped over steep terrain, we nonetheless are confident that our estimates are the best to date. We have determined that the absolute locations are most likely constrained along narrow bands that parallel the ridgelines and afford the maximum topographic relief above each tunnel portal. Our resulting best estimates are that the 2006 test epicenter is located near 41.2849 degrees north latitude and 129.1084 degrees east longitude, and the 2009 test epicenter is near 41.2914 degrees north latitude and 129.0819 degrees east longitude (as derived from Google Earth and its displayed October 8, 2009 commercial satellite imagery). The effective lengths of the tunnels from the east and west portals to the epicenters are approximately 1.0 and 1.2 kilometers, respectively, or roughly equivalent to what Pakistan reported for its May 1998 tests. But tunnel length is just one of a number of similarities we found between Pakistani and North Korean nuclear testing tunnel design. North Korea and Pakistan have a long history of cooperation in the nuclear arena. North Korea sold missile technologies and manufacturing know-how to Pakistan in the 1990s. Pakistan sold centrifuge technology to North Korea and provided training for North Korean specialists at its Khan Research Laboratories. Although there have been numerous reports of North Korean–Pakistani exchange in weapons designs and nuclear testing, no definitive proof has surfaced to date. Both countries have publicized their nuclear test successes, however, and, in the process, provided surprising details that suggest some similarities in test containment practices. The Pakistani government allowed the release of remarkably detailed information about the five nuclear tests it carried out simultaneously in one tunnel in the Ras Koh Hills on May 28, 1998. The Pakistani test experience was widely publicized, both by nuclear scientists and the news media in books and articles; the publicity included videos showing the test site, during and post-test. A. Q. Khan, often called the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, claimed that the tests involved one large and four “low-yield” tests. Samar Mubarakmand, who was in charge of the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission’s super-secretive Directorate of Technical Development, claimed that the test tunnel, rather than being straight, was “designed in the form [of] a double-S shape,” while a Pakistani Defence Journal article repeated an earlier claim that the tunnel had a “fishhook” at the end to allow for a device emplacement that would result in the tunnel self-sealing after the detonation. Another report also claimed that the tunnel was “M” shaped, suggesting that the tunnel may have also bifurcated near the end to allow for the single large test to be emplaced in one fishhook, with the set of four smaller ones possibly at a second fishhook. The 2006 North Korean nuclear test was only partially successful and caused radioactive debris to seep from the test site; some of that debris was detected by American air sampling systems in the region. Pyongyang provided no additional details, except to hint that the device used two kilograms of plutonium, an unrealistic number, considering that the Nagasaki bomb contained six kilograms. On September 8, 2010, Pyongyang Korean Central Television broadcast a partially animated dramatization of the 2009 test. Several of the graphics from that video have surfaced in the open literature, including the alleged layout of the test tunnel shown in Figure 4. The video appears to be a propaganda piece, intended to impress its citizens, to inform the international community of the great precautions North Korea claims to have taken to prevent radiation leaks from the test, and to help convince doubters that the explosion was indeed a nuclear test. Clearly, some aspects of this video have no basis in fact, e.g., the massive arched portal door shown in the animation bears no resemblance whatsoever to the 2009 test portal area’s hamlet-like appearance, which can be observed on commercial satellite imagery. In addition, the video shows a topographical map of what is presumed to be the test epicenter and seismic monitoring stations, but the mountain contours do not match the Punggye-ri site. The tunnel layout shown in Figure 4 does, however, appear to have similarities to the described Pakistani tunnel at Ras Koh. It includes several flat S-shape and zigzag features, and a loop-around hook (e.g., “fishhook”) leading to the device emplacement chamber. Unlike the Pakistani tunnel, the North Korean tunnel is alleged to contain nine remotely operated internal isolation or blast doors and what we have identified as three blast and debris traps that appear plausibly located to capture any blast debris. In contrast, the Pakistani Ras Koh Hills tunnel, in addition to the self-sealing fishhook feature, was reported to have been sealed by a mixture of sand and 6,000 bags of cement. Although the similarities we cite in some North Korean and Pakistani nuclear test practices do not constitute proof of collaboration, they give us concern that North Korea could have learned a lot from the Pakistanis. Initial yield estimates of the 2009 test ranged from roughly 2 to 6 kilotons, but were generally viewed to be less than 4 kilotons. Two recent studies, one by researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and one by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers, have resulted in greater uncertainties in yield estimates. The Lawrence Livermore researchers concluded that the explosive yield was no more than 2 kilotons if the test were carried out at a depth of burial between 100 and 500 meters; the Los Alamos researchers concluded that explosive yield scales with dept