DPRK (North Korea) Chronology for 2014


DPRK (NORTH KOREA) CHRONOLOGY FOR 2014
Compiled by
Leon V. Sigal
Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project
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1/1/14:
In an annual New Year’s message delivered live on the North’s television and radio, Kim Jong-un called for improved ties with South Korea and pledged to rebuild the North’s moribund economy in 2014 with emphasis on food production. “We will make aggressive efforts to improve relations between the North and the South,” Kim said in the speech which lasted 25 minutes. “The South side should also come forward to improve relations between the North and the South.” (Kim Kwang-tae, “N. Korea Extends Olive Branch to S. Korea,” Yonhap, January 1, 2014)

Excerpts: “Last year we consolidated our capabilities for self-defense and achieved a brilliant victory in the acute showdown with the imperialists. The scientists, technicians and workers in the sector of defense industry, by going beyond the cutting edge of military science with steadfast faith and mettle, demonstrated the strength of Songun Korea and rendered great services to consolidating the national defense capabilities. The officers and men of the Korean People’s Army and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, cherishing the spirit of defending their leader and motherland unto death, defended their Party and leader, country and people at the risk of their lives and smashed the reckless moves of the enemy for igniting a nuclear war and their rackets of confrontation with the DPRK at every step, thus highly exalting the dignity and might of their country. Though the circumstances were harsh and complicated last year, our service personnel and people, by pooling their efforts, achieved great successes in the struggle to build their country into an economic giant and improve the people’s standard of living. …We should clearly prove the validity and vitality of the theses by waging the ideological, technological and cultural revolutions dynamically in the rural areas and bringing about a decisive turn in agricultural production. This year we should keep up agriculture as a major thrust of our effort in the struggle for economic construction and improving the people’s standard of living, and concentrate all our efforts on farming. The agricultural sector should proactively introduce scientific farming methods and do farm work in a responsible manner so as to hit without fail the target of agricultural production set by the Party. It should improve animal husbandry and do greenhouse vegetable and mushroom farming on an extensive scale so as to ensure that larger quantities of meat, vegetables and mushrooms are supplied to the people. …The metallurgical and chemical industries are twin buttresses of an economic giant. Developing these industries is a major guarantee for economic construction and improving the people’s standard of living. These industrial sectors should hold high the slogan of making them Juche-oriented and modern and launch a vigorous campaign for boosting production by relying on our own raw materials and fuels and on the latest science and technology. In this way they should supply sufficient amounts of steel and various kinds of chemical goods that are needed to reenergize the national economy as a whole and improve the people’s standard of living. We should give definite priority to electric-power and coal-mining industries. While taking measures for generating electricity to the maximum at the existing power stations, we should draw up correct prospective plans for radically easing the strain on electricity supply and exert ourselves to carry them out. It is important to produce more electricity with priority given to hydraulic resources and by using wind, geothermal, solar and other kinds of natural energy. We should proactively increase production in coal mines and drastically solve the problem of rail and other types of transport. The electric-power and coal-mining industries and the rail transport sector should make coordinated innovations and thus give strong impetus to the development of the national economy. We should direct great efforts to developing light industry which plays a major part in improving the people’s standard of living. By stepping up modernization of and introduction of CNC technology into their production lines and increasing the proportion of locally-available raw and other materials, light-industry factories should put production on a normal footing. And all cities and counties should produce various kinds of quality consumer goods in larger amounts by developing local industry in conformity with their specific conditions. The state should take measures to bolster up the fishing sector. The sector should follow the example of the fishing sector of the People’s Army that landed a huge haul of fishes by carrying out the order of the Supreme Commander unto death. By modernizing fishing vessels and implements and launching a dynamic fishing campaign by scientific methods, it should ensure that all ports resound with whistles of vessels returning with full loads. It should also conduct shallow-sea farming on an extensive scale. We should protect and increase the country’s priceless natural resources including underground, forest and marine resources, and conduct an energetic mass-based tree-planting drive to cover all the mountains with thick forests. All the sectors of the national economy should increase production by tapping all potentials and latent reserves, and at the same time launch a brisk economization campaign. Economizing is precisely production and a manifestation of patriotism. We should intensify the economization campaign throughout society so as to make economical use of every watt of electricity, every gramme of coal and every drop of water. All the people should establish a habit of meticulously managing the country’s economy with a high sense of patriotism and attitude as befitting masters. We should decisively improve the guidance and management of the economy. We should tighten the unified guidance of the economy by the state under the leadership of the Party, enhance the sense of responsibility and creativity of enterprises and encourage all the working people to discharge their responsibility and role as masters of production and management. …We should continue to channel great efforts into building up the country’s defense capabilities. Strengthening defense capabilities is the most important of all state affairs, and the country’s dignity, people’s happiness and peace rest on powerful arms.We should further develop the People’s Army into the powerful revolutionary army of Paektusan that is unfailingly faithful to the Party, the leader, the country and the people. The main link in the whole chain of developing the People’s Army is strengthening the company which is the basic combat unit of the army and base of soldiers’ life. We should make all the companies elite combat ranks fully prepared politically and ideologically, militarily and technologically and their dear homes overflowing with brotherly affection. By stepping up political and ideological education among service personnel, we should train them to be strong in ideology and faith and ready to defend the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and the Party Central Committee unto death. They should intensify combat training and launch a brisk movement for becoming crackshots so as to prepare themselves to be a-match-for-a-hundred combatants with excellent marksmanship, strong physique and a high sense of discipline.The Korean People’s Internal Security Forces should creditably discharge its noble mission and duty of defending the leader, system and people by thoroughly establishing the Party’s command system and revolutionary military climate in it, and the Worker-Peasant Red Guards should intensify combat training and remain fully ready for action at all times.The sector of defense industry should manufacture larger numbers of modern military hardware of our own style that are light, unmanned, intelligent and of high precision to solidify the self-defense capabilities. We should further consolidate the political and ideological position of our revolution. … It is imperative to establish the monolithic leadership system in the Party, definitely ensure the purity of Party ranks and improve the militant functions and role of Party organizations. We should intensify ideological education among officials, Party members and other working people to ensure that they think and act at all times and in all places in line with the Party’s ideas and intentions with the steadfast faith that they know only the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and our Party. We should ensure that they approach with political awareness even the slightest phenomenon and element that infringe on the unity of the Party and revolutionary ranks and undermine their single-hearted unity, and eliminate them in a thoroughgoing way. They should wage a vigorous struggle to stamp out any sort of alien ideology and decadent lifestyle which may undermine our system and thus resolutely smash the enemy’s schemes for ideological and cultural infiltration. …It is necessary to establish stringent revolutionary discipline and order in all domains of the revolutionary struggle and construction work. This is an important factor in demonstrating the advantages of collectivism of our society and making a success of all undertakings. All sectors and all units should carry out to the letter the policies of the Party and the laws, decisions and directives of the state, and encourage the officials and working people alike to observe laws, regulations and order with full awareness of being masters of our society and citizens of the DPRK. Officials should make redoubled efforts to fulfill their duty as leading members of the revolution and faithful servants of the people. They should organize undertakings in a big way with absolute loyalty to the Party, a high sense of responsibility for their work and fervent zeal, and strive with unflinching perseverance to implement the Party’s plans and intentions without fail. … This year marks the 20th anniversary of the date when President Kim Il Sung wrote his last signature on a historic document concerning the country’s reunification. True to the behests of President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il, we should make fresh headway in the national reunification movement for this year. To resolve the reunification issue in keeping with the aspirations and desires of our fellow countrymen, we should reject foreign forces and hold fast to the standpoint of By Our Nation Itself. The driving force for national reunification is all the members of the Korean nation in the north, in the south and abroad; only when we remain steadfast in this standpoint can we reunify the country independently in line with our nation’s interests and demands. To go on a tour around foreign countries touting for “international cooperation” in resolving the inter-Korean relations issue, the one related with our nation, is a humiliating treachery of leaving its destiny in the hands of outside forces. The north and the south should uphold the principle of independence which is one of the three principles for national reunification and has been confirmed in the north-south joint declarations, hold fast to the standpoint of By Our Nation Itself, and respect and implement the declarations with sincerity. We should make positive efforts to defend national security and peace. The US and south Korean war maniacs have deployed legions of equipment for a nuclear war in and around the Korean peninsula and are going frantic in their military exercises for a nuclear war against the north; this precipitates a critical situation where any accidental military skirmish may lead to an all-out war. Should another war break out on this land, it will result in a deadly nuclear catastrophe and the United States will never be safe. All the Korean people must not tolerate the maneuvres for war and confrontation by the bellicose forces at home and abroad but stoutly resist and frustrate them. A favorable climate should be established for improved relations between the north and the south. It is heartrending to see our nation partitioned by foreign forces, and it is more intolerable to see one side slinging mud at and showing hostility to the other. This will serve merely as an occasion for the forces who are undesirous of seeing one Korea to fish in troubled waters. It is high time to put an end to such slander and calumny that bring no good to both sides, and they should desist from doing anything detrimental to national unity and reconciliation. The south Korean authorities should discontinue the reckless confrontation with their compatriots and the racket against the “followers of the north,” and choose to promote inter-Korean relations in response to the call of the nation for independence, democracy and national reunification. We will join hands with anyone who opts to give priority to the nation and wishes for its reunification, regardless of his or her past, and continue to strive for better inter-Korean relations. All the Korean people in the north, in the south and abroad should achieve solid unity under the truly patriotic banner, the principle of By Our Nation Itself, and turn out in the nationwide struggle for the reunification of the country. By doing so, they should open up a new phase for independent reunification, peace and prosperity this year. Last year, in the international arena, the imperialists persisted in interference and war moves threatening the independence of other sovereign states and the right of mankind to existence. Especially the Korean peninsula, the hottest spot in the world, was in a hair-trigger situation due to the hostile forces’ maneuvres for a nuclear war against the DPRK, which posed a serious threat to peace and security in the region and the rest of the world. Nothing is more precious for our people than peace, but it is not something that can be achieved if we simply crave and beg for it. We can never just sit back with folded arms and see the dark clouds of a nuclear war against us hovering over the Korean peninsula. We will defend our country’s sovereignty, peace and dignity by relying on our powerful self-defensive strength. Holding fast to the ideals of our foreign policy — independence, peace and friendship — our Party and the government of the DPRK will, in the future, too, strive to expand and develop relations of friendship and cooperation with all the countries that respect our sovereignty and are friendly to us, and safeguard global peace and security and promote common prosperity of mankind.” (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year Address,” January 1, 2014)

Carlin: “While initial reaction to Kim Jong Un’s relatively positive remarks about inter-Korean dialogue in his New Year’s address has been mixed, Seoul has apparently decided to return the volley. In her January 6, 2014 news conference, President Park Geun-hye “welcomed” Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech, and said a summit meeting with Kim could occur at any time “if it were required to prepare for unification and a peaceful peninsula.” At the same time, she said that what was important was not words but “action and sincerity,” and in that regard, proposed a resumption of North-South family reunions. What is going on here? First, it’s important to understand that a New Year’s speech by North Korea’s leader is in many respects like a State of the Union address—i.e., much of it, at least to outsiders, is cotton candy, but occasionally there is something of real substance to which attention must be paid. In New Year’s speeches (or more recently, joint editorials) rarely have sections on inter-Korean relations signaled very much that is new. Rarely, but not never. When something about inter-Korean relations in the New Year’s speech is new, or at least noteworthy, it needs to be read as a signal, not as a proposal. It would be unusual for a North Korean leader to use the vehicle of a New Year’s speech to lay out a full-scale initiative toward Seoul. The real purpose is most likely, depending on the current situation, to prepare the ground, reinforce behind-the-scenes discussions, test the waters, or gauge the wind direction. Signals left unanswered by the other side, or rejected outright, usually end up leading nowhere. This is a game both sides understand. They’ve played it often in the past. They know a signal when they see it, and they know how to respond if they want to move ahead to the next step. … The immediate point about what Kim Jong Un said in his 2014 New Year’s address has nothing to do with where contacts might lead or what dialogue might produce. It has to do with the possibility that this was to signal an opening, and if it was, whether or not—from Seoul’s vantage point—it was worth exploring. … We’re not talking about the matured process, much less the outcome, of a dialogue. Later stages develop—or not—depending on a number of variables. We’re talking here, in January 2014, about the possibility of introductory steps, of starting the necessary minuet that needs to be carefully choreographed before anything substantive can even begin. Then what about these “signals” in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s address? … Often, a signal comes in the form of the resurrection of a formula used in the past at a time of a thaw. Put another way, a signal is potent not in what it literally says, but because of what its use recalls. There were two such signals that were woven into Kim’s New Year’s address. First was his reference to stopping slander. Analysts in the ROK Unification Ministry and the National Intelligence Service know perfectly well the historical significance of the reference; they know that one side or the other has often proposed as an early step the cessation of high-level invective aimed at the other’s leadership or system. One of the early signs that dialogue, once launched, has run into headwinds has been when one side or the other accuses the other of breaking the taboo on slander. Here, it is important to pay attention to what Kim said, and did not say. Though he criticized the South, he did not say that the South Koreans alone must stop slander. The observation of many analysts that the North has used harsh language against President Park Geun-hye is hardly something Pyongyang would dispute. In fact, what Kim said appears to have been carefully formulated implicitly to acknowledge that both sides had engaged in the practice, and that both sides should stop. (As a separate issue, exactly how the North has personally criticized Park, when, at what level, and how frequently is worth close analysis, and deserves more than the passing observations and tut-tutting it usually gets.) The second formula Kim used from the past—as rendered by KCNA—was that the North “will join hands with anyone who opts to give priority to the nation … regardless of his or her past and continue to strive for better inter-Korean relations.” This does not have quite the unambiguous pedigree as Kim’s reference to the issue of slander, but there are certainly instances over the years when Pyongyang used “regardless of his past” formulation to indicate it was prepared to deal with the ROK authorities. My own impression over the years is that it has not always been used as a crucial signal, but it is often part of the mix when the moment seems ripe for dialogue. The observation that Kim’s remarks contained nothing new misses the point entirely. The real question is, when was the last time Pyongyang used a particular formula, what was the context, and what was the history? These things are never going to be cut and dried; they will never arrive with flashing neon lights attached.” (Robert Carlin, “A Little Dance Music,” 38North, January 6, 2014)


1/2/14:
Newly manufactured Canadian snowmobiles, Swedish snow-blowers and Italian and German snow cats have all been spotted at North Korea’s recently opened Masik Ski resort, raising concerns that UN Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from purchasing “luxury goods” have been broken. The equipment, clearly visible in pictures released by North Korean state media, has appeared just months after ski equipment manufacturer Bartholet Maschinenbau AG Flums was blocked from completing a $7.5million ski lift deal with North Korea. While Switzerland’s Federal Council blocked the ski-lift company from providing Pyongyang with “infrastructure and equipment for sports facilities with a luxury character,” it appears that North Korea was able to evade UN sanctions blocking the acquisition of luxury goods by obtaining ski-resort equipment from other international providers. A “Ski-Doo” Snowmobile manufactured by Canadian owned Bombardier Recreational Products & Vehicles
was visible in pictures circulated by AFP, while at least seven snow blowers produced by Sweden’s Areco and at two snow ploughs produced by Italy’s Prinoth were visible in pictures released Thursday. A further snow plough produced by Germany’s Pisten Bully was also visible. “On the face of it snowmobiles are clearly luxury goods and so their sale to the DPRK is banned by the UN Security Council. If they are not on the banned list of the relevant exporting country, they should be,” one UN sanctions expert who requested anonymity told NK News. “Switzerland determined that equipment for a ski resort was banned, so this would include snow ploughs too,” the expert added. Although UN sanctions prohibit member states from providing “luxury goods” to North Korea, no list of proscribed goods has ever been published by the international body, making international implementation of the rules particularly difficult, the expert underscored. But following North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test the European Union published a list of “luxury goods” that were banned from transfer to Pyongyang. This list specifically included “Articles and equipment for skiing, golf, diving and water sports” and “Luxury vehicles for the transport of persons on earth, air or sea, as well as their accessories and spare parts.” The EU list would mean that Sweden’s Areco, Italy’s Prinoth and Germany’s Pisten Bully may have broken regional and UN regulations on the provision of luxury goods to North Korea. (Chad O’Carroll, “Equipment at N. Korean Ski Resort May Breach UN Luxury Goods Sanctions,” NKNews, January 2, 2014)

Lankov: “…The North Korean government has at last begun to implement modest but real economic reforms. The new policy is very similar to Chinese experiments of the late 1970s. It might be too early to say but it appears that these policies may be as suitable as they were for China. The changes began with instructions issued by the Supreme Leader Marshal Kim Jong Un on June 28th 2012. These instructions have never been published and probably technically remain classified. Nonetheless, the content of the “6.28 instructions”, as they are usually called, became widely known last year. …For a time it even seemed that the instructions had been discarded and forgotten altogether. It has subsequently turned out however, that the “6.28 instructions” have been quietly implemented, though the new model has yet to become universal in its application– many North Korean farmers still continue to toil under the hyper-Stalinist North Korean model of ‘socialist agriculture.’ In essence, the “6.28 instructions” envision two radical changes. First, the work teams that toil North Korea’s cooperative state-run farms are to be reduced from 15 to smaller groups of 5 or 6. This is not a mere technicality, the smaller teams are equal in size to the normal farming household, and it is widely understood that under the new system, most of the teams will be family-centered. In other words, North Korean farmers have been given the right to thinly disguise their family as a production team. This makes much sense in light of the second radical change. Since the late 1950s until now, North Korean farmers have been compelled to surrender the entire harvest to the state. In exchange, they were issued with rations of grain and other daily necessities. This meant that they worked for fixed rations and relatively small, essentially token pay. Under the new system however, things are set to be very different. Production teams will be allowed to keep some 30% of the harvest for themselves. It is assumed that they will be able to sell whatever they do not consume on the private market, and/or use it in any other way that they see fit, like rearing animals for sale and/or personal consumption. The new system has many potential issues and is fraught with uncertainties. For example, it is not clear how the North Korean state will pay those agricultural workers who are not directly engaged in crop cultivation — like drivers, vets and agronomists. Given the rather primitive nature of North Korean agriculture however, such issues are of lesser importance compared to other countries. North Korean agriculture is still largely based on ploughmen who guide oxen while tilling the earth. The average field produces cereals like rice and corn, and does not have much in the way of supporting infrastructure. It seems that first results of the reforms are quite encouraging. Chinese experts who recently visited North Korea told this author that the reforms have produced an immediate 30% increase in output. This year’s harvest in North Korea is significantly better than usual, and it is possible, but by no means certain that the introduction of the new system has contributed to the palpable increase in food production. There is therefore good reason to expect that the reforms will be rolled out nationwide and will become standard in the next year or two. As stated above, these reforms are reminiscent of similar changes that began in China in the late 1970s. …One wonders why the North Korean leadership is so late in implementing a set of reforms that have been so successful when tried elsewhere. …The North Korean state understood that by maintaining the existing economic system it was able to maintain to some extent the state’s waning control over its people. Given Kim Jong Il’s overriding political concerns, and his desire to maintain stability at all costs, this choice is not surprising. There is good reason however to believe that Kim Jong Un has a different agenda. Objectively speaking, agricultural reforms are the least risky of all economic experimentation. Farmers have been known to rebel, but generally speaking they are the most conservative and least well organized, not to say politically apathetic, of social groups in most societies. …The risks are therefore small and the prospective gains are considerable. One should not expect that in a predominantly urban country like North Korea, the reforms will be as successful as they were in China 30 years ago. Nonetheless, things are beginning to change and this is to be welcomed. It seems that changes in agriculture, if successful, may encourage reforms in other sectors including industry. This seems to be what the North Korean government is going to do. Such reforms however, are likely to be far more risky than the current experiments with agricultural management.” (Andrei Lankov, “How Economic Reforms Are Changing N. Korea’s Farming Industry,” NKNews, January 2, 2014)


1/3/14:
South Korea expressed doubt over the North Korean leader’s rare peace offensive as it urged Pyongyang to make serious efforts to denuclearize itself. “We have no choice but to question the sincerity” of Kim’s conciliatory gesture, unification ministry spokesperson Kim Eui-do said in a comment. The comment came two days after leader Kim Jong-un called for “a favorable climate” to improve ties with South Korea and pledged to make aggressive efforts to strive for better relations in his New Year’s message. Last year, the North also issued a similar charm offensive before taking a series of provocative actions, including a third nuclear test, threats of nuclear war and unilateral closure of an inter-Korean factory park. The ministry said the North is to blame for worsening the inter-Korean ties. “North Korea should show sincere attitude to build trust and take sincere efforts for denuclearization,” the ministry said. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Doubts Sincerity of North’s Peace Offensive,” January 3, 2014)


1/4/14:
The international Red Cross has earmarked US$5.6 billion to aid North Korea, down some 15 percent from a year earlier, a media report said. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies allocated the budget for 2014 to launch diverse projects on disaster management and sanitation for people in the impoverished communist country, according to the Voice of America. Last year, the IFRC set aside $6.63 million for its projects in North Korea, and had expected to increase the amount by some 8 percent in 2014. Most of the resources will go to activities aimed at some 8.25 residents in the North’s Pyeongan and Hamgyeong provinces, according to the report, with $1.96 million, or the largest share, to be earmarked for disaster management, $1.89 million for public health and $950,000 for providing clean drinking water. (Yonhap, “Red Cross Cuts 2014 Budget for N. Korea Aid, Korea Herald, January 4, 2014)

1/6/14:
In her first New Year press conference, President Park Geun-hye said that she is prepared to meet with North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. However, she came up with conditions to be met in advance before she would get together with the heads of the two estranged neighbors for the first time since her inauguration last February. “To achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula or prepare for reunification, I will stick to my previous stance that I am willing to meet with the North Korean leader at any time,” Park said. “However, I am against talks for the sake of just talks. The environment should come first, where tangible results can be produced for peace on the Korean Peninsula.” As the first step to improve the inter-Korean relationship, Park proposed a reunion of family members separated by the Korean War (1950-53) timed for Lunar New Year’s Day later this month. The two Koreas agreed to hold a reunion last September for the first time in three years, but Pyongyang cancelled the humanitarian event just four days before for dubious reasons. The country’s first female chief executive also did not rule out a meeting with Abe, whose provocative remarks and activities have dampened ties between Seoul and Tokyo. “Since taking office, I have wished to improve the relationship between Korea and Japan. And to build mutual trust, I have stressed an appropriate historic view and a sincere attitude,” Park said. “It is regrettable that the atmosphere has been broken repeatedly at this important time when cooperation between the two nations must be expanded.” Park added that, “I never said that I will not meet the Japanese leader.” But she said that stringent preparations were necessary to enable win-win results for both countries. She was apparently referring to Abe’s recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the dead from World War II and houses the remains of 14 Class-A war criminals. The visit angered not only Korea and China, victims of imperialist Japan during World War II, but representatives of other countries around the world. (Kim Tae-gyu, “’I am Willing to Meet Abe, Kim,’” Korea Times, January 6, 2014) President Park Geun-hye called on North Korea to give up its nuclear program. “The most crucial barrier that blocks preparation for unification is North Korea’s nuclear problem,” Park said during a news conference marking the New Year. “As long as the North’s nuclear threat exists, there can’t be any inter-Korean economic cooperation or exchanges taking place.” Park further added that the South will work closely with neighboring nations to prevent Pyongyang from making more sophisticated nuclear weapons, and to get the reclusive nation to dismantle its nuclear programs. The comments show Park is still sticking to her “Korean Peninsula Trust-building Process” policy that calls for the North to abandon its nuclear programs “sincerely via action” before any development in inter-Korean cooperation can take place. The government sees no change in the current security condition surrounding North Korea’s nuclear provocations, insiders said. Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February last year, right before Park’s official inauguration, and has recently reactivated a reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, signaling a possible fourth test. “If North Korea intends to give up its nuclear programs and become a responsible member of the international community, we plan to work together with the international community to provide active support to it,” Park said. Against this backdrop, experts say they are negative about an improvement in inter-Korean relations any time soon. “The government is saying that Pyongyang first demonstrate its sincerity by making concrete steps toward denuclearization before cooperation,” said Chung Young-chul, a professor of Sogang University. “The stance is the same as before and so I don’t think ties will get any better.” In an article published in Rodong Sinmun today, Pyongyang criticized the South saying the current confrontational atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula was because of South Korea’s “anti-unification” policy represented by President Park’s “principled” stance on denuclearization. “The future of the North-South relationship is in the South’s hands,” the article stated, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s message where he pledged to “make aggressive efforts” to improve relations with the South without mentioning any moves for denuclearization. (Chung Min-uck, “’North Korea Should Drop Nuclear Programs,’” Korea Times, January 6, 2014) In her New Year’s press conference on Monday, President Park Geun-hye presented the establishment of foundation for a reunified Korean Peninsula era as a key goal of state administration for her second year in office. Unification is the Korean people’s cherished aspiration and the surest way to secure peace on the Korean Peninsula. Chances are high that unification could come through sudden collapse of the North Korean regime like the case of Germany, rather than through compromise between the two Koreas. For this reason, South Korea should steadfastly make preparations from now, although it is impossible to predict when reunification will come. The two Koreas have been separated for the 69th year. Since most South Koreans were born after the separation, there is an emerging tendency that South Koreans accept divided Koreas as a reality. In a survey conducted late last year by the youth policy research center at the Yeouido Institute under the ruling Saenuri Party, 47.3 percent of college students replied “unification is not necessary.” College students who replied “unification is necessary” were slightly more at 52.4 percent. North Korea claims “Between the Korean People” in its rhetoric, but has brainwashed the North Koreans as “Kim Il Sung people” in reality, dampening the homogeneity of the Korean people. President Park said, “I think unification is a big bonanza,” in expressing her commitment to unification. The Hyundai Economic Institute predicted last year that a reunified Korea will become the world’s ninth largest economy around 2050. International organizations and experts predict that with a population of 75 million, Korea will emerge as a leading nation in the world. Jim Rogers, a world renowned investment expert, said that if integration of the two Koreas begins, he would invest his entire wealth, amounting to at least 300 million U.S. dollars. Unification is needed not only for Korea to overcome separation but also for the country to take a leap forward. Some raise concern about costs for unification, but costs stemming from separation are bigger. Considering security concern arising from confrontation between the two Korea, and “Korea discount” of the national economy, the path we must take is too obvious. Only when the public and the government share recognition that happiness and benefits expected after unification are far larger than pain and costs from division, then will Korea come closer to unification. (Dong-A Ilbo, “Unification Will Become ‘Big Bonanza’ Only through Preparation,” January 7, 2014)


1/7/14:
The United States is sending an additional Army combat force of 800 soldiers to South Korea with tanks and armored troop carriers, and pledged to continue to modernize its military capability to face any threat posed by North Korea. The 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, will deploy to two locations in South Korea on February 1, the Pentagon said in a statement. The announced troop increase came as Secretary of State John Kerry met in Washington with his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se. Kerry reiterated that the U.S. would maintain its nuclear defense for South Korea, a key Asian ally, and would not accept North Korea as a nuclear state. The U.S. already has about 28,500 troops in South Korea. “We remain fully committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea, including through extended deterrence and putting the full range of U.S. military capabilities in place. We will continue to modernize our capabilities so that we are prepared to face any threat,” Kerry said after meeting Yun at the State Department. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said the increase in troop strength and firepower had been in the planning stages for more than a year and is part of a “rebalance” of U.S. military power toward the Asia-Pacific region. (Robert Burns, “U.S. Sending Extra Combat Unit to South Korea,” Associated Press, January 8, 2014) The Defense Ministry denied that the battalion was dispatched in response to recent uncertainty in North Korea following the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong-un who was once considered to be the second-most powerful man in the regime, and his followers. “The U.S. already decided upon [the deployment] way before,” Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters, stating the decision was finalized last year. “It is unrelated to the recent purging of Jang Song-thaek by Kim Jong-un.” But “the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea has continuously cooperated in order to increase defense capabilities in the Korean Peninsula and with the goal of combined security,” he added. “Korea and the U.S. are cooperating in order to strengthen defense in the Korean Peninsula.” (Sarah Kim, “U.S. Deploys a Battalion to Korea,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 8, 2014) The U.S. is reinforcing its military strength on the Korean Peninsula in an apparent move to better cope with potential security threats from an unpredictable North Korea and a more militarily assertive China. The move comes as Washington is pushing for a strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific, where an ascendant China is feared to be challenging the regional order through its growing military and economic clout. The U.S. plans to deploy a dozen F-16 warplanes and some 300 troops to Korea on a rotational basis later this month. Next month, it will rotationally deploy a mechanized infantry battalion to the first brigade of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division north of Seoul. The new deployments will be the latest addition to the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea. The U.S. returned the 23rd Chemical Battalion to Camp Stanley in Uijeongbu last April, some nine years after its withdrawal. The 4th Squadron of the 6th Cavalry Regiment was also brought back to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek last October, five years after their pullout. The U.S. military says that these deployments are part of its efforts to maintain a “prudent deterrent” against threats to regional security and stability. The primary purposes of the U.S. military moves are to better deter North Korea and prevent any inter-Korean conflict from escalating into a full-blown war, given that uncertainties have increased in the North due to the unpredictable leadership in Pyongyang, and its adherence to its nuclear programs. (Song Sang-ho, “U.S. Military Reinforcements Target North Korea, China,” Korea Herald, January 14, 2014) — The U.S. Navy announced January 14 that it would deploy a newer nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Japan to replace USS George Washington. USS Ronald Reagan, commissioned in 2003 and currently based in San Diego, will be deployed at the Yokosuka Naval Base as part of the Pentagon’s efforts to bolster combat readiness in the region. It is known to carry more than 6,000 crew members. “The security environment in the Indo-Asia Pacific requires that the U.S. Navy station the most capable ships forward,” the Navy said. “This posture allows the most rapid response times possible for maritime and joint forces, and brings our most capable ships with the greatest amount of striking power and operational capability to bear in the timeliest manner.” (Lee Chi-dong, “U.S. to Replace Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier near Korea,” Yonhap, January 15, 2014)

In talks in Washington, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Secretary of State John Kerry concurred on the need for more systematic and frequent discussions at various levels focusing on North Korea conditions, which would progress to involve China and other neighbors later on. “We decided to intensify our consultations to assess the North Korean situation and explore our policy options,” Yun told a news conference after the meeting. “These efforts will ensure that our two countries remain very much on the same page in dealing with the uncertain North Korean situation. In the event of any North Korean provocation, South Korea and the United States will firmly respond based on our robust combined defense posture.” The two top diplomats also recognized the growing uncertainty in Northeast Asia, Yun said, taking a swipe at Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s worship at the Yasukuni Shrine which triggered condemnation from Seoul and Beijing. “In particular, I pointed out that historical issues stand in the way of reconciliation and cooperation in this region, and I emphasized the need for sincere actions. The secretary and I agreed to strengthen our efforts to alleviate tension and promote peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia,” Yun added. Kerry noted that the allies remain aligned in their resolve not to accept Pyongyang as a nuclear state, calling on it to abide by its previous denuclearization pledges and international resolutions. “The United States and the Republic of Korea stand very firmly united, without an inch of daylight between us ― not a sliver of daylight ― on the subject of opposition to North Korea’s destabilizing nuclear and ballistic missile programs and proliferation activities. And the international community stands with us,” he said. The two countries have been “more actively consulting than ever” since the December 12 execution of Jang Song-thaek, leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle who was once considered the communist state’s second-in-command, a top Seoul official said. “While the six-party talks are aimed at denuclearizing the North, what we’re trying to do is to look in depth into its uncertainty given the new circumstances. It would not work as a separate consultation body but we are seeking more frequent, intensive coordination,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. “There was a consensus that at some point later on, the bilateral consultations could include China and become a five-way dialogue (also involving Japan and Russia).” Though any sudden change in Pyongyang has been a perennial concern on the peninsula, a recent string of moves and remarks by Seoul and Washington officials has been rekindling speculation over the stability and durability of the Kim dynasty. Yesterday, President Park Geun-hye called for preparations for reunification, which she called a “jackpot” that would bring the Korean economy to new heights. During his three-day stay, Yun also met with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other former and incumbent officials from the administration, Congress and think tanks, including Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Shin Hyon-hee, “U.S., S. Korea to Coordinate More Closely on N.K. Uncertainty,” Korea Herald, January 8, 2014) Kerry did not make a comment on Japan-Korea friction during a joint press conference with Yun, although Yun brought the subject up. Yun said in a press briefing following his one-hour talk with Kerry that he “pointed out that historical issues stand in the way of reconciliation and cooperation in this region” and “emphasized the need for sincere actions,” without mentioning Japan by name. Prior to the meeting, Yun said that he planned to raise concerns in regard to the increasingly nationalistic behavior of Japan, which seems to deny its violent role in the past, highlighted by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s December 26 visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Kerry did not address the issue publicly despite anticipation that he may. A high-ranking diplomatic source said that while Kerry did not mention Japan, “most officials understand our government’s position.” He said, “There is talk that there needs to be reform in Korea-Japan relations.” But the United States has emphasized its close defense alliance with Japan and is not expected to jeopardize that relationship, the source said. (Sarah Kim, “Top Envoys Unite against North, But Not against Japan,” JoongAng Ilbo, November 9, 2014) South Korea and the US decided to irregularly have meetings among high-level to assess the situation in North Korea. The meetings are intended to provide a forum to intensely deliberate the situation in the North following the execution of Jang Song-thaek and to take preemptive action according to developments on the Korean peninsula. With reports suggesting that measures to speed up change in North Korea will also be discussed in these meetings, there is expected to be considerable controversy. At a press conference after the bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the US State Department building in Washington, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said, “We decided to hold consultations about the situation in North Korea a little more often and with a little more intensity,” Yun said. “We also agreed to pursue various kinds of talks, including not only bilateral talks between US and South Korea but also other small group meetings with other countries.” “As far as what we mean by ‘in-depth discussions on the North Korean situation,’ it can be understood in connection with our policy approach of trying to elicit faster change from North Korea, based on an analysis of the situation as it unfolds,” said a senior government official to Washington correspondents on the same day. “There are a number of ways to respond to North Korean nuclear weapons, including the six-party talks and UN sanctions. Since there are limitations to dealing with the North Korean nuclear weapons issue by itself, we are making another effort to lead North Korea to change from the perspective of viewing this as a North Korean issue.” It is highly unusual for a senior government official to use the expression “lead North Korea to change” while explaining the establishment of a US-ROK consultative body to assess the situation in the North. It is not difficult to predict that the North Korean authorities, who are quite touchy in regard to their regime, will not react in a positive way. Even if US and American diplomats had engaged in such discussions, it would be customary for them to express this obliquely, such as by saying that they had agreed to work on maintaining the stability of the situation in North Korea.

But that was not all. When Yun met with correspondents after his conference with Kerry in Washington on January 7, he said, “The execution of Jang Song-thaek reflects how unpredictable the leader of North Korea is, and the situation inside the North is in a state of flux.” While the senior government official declined to answer a reporter who asked whether the question of a sudden change in the North had been discussed in the meeting between U.S. and South Korean diplomats, the official did say that such a topic couldn‘t be ruled out. This is the kind of remark that North Korean officials could easily take as a provocation. Nevertheless, it is not certain if the South Korean government official’s remarks about “trying to elicit faster change in North Korea” are a direct reference to pushing for regime change in Pyongyang as Washington and Seoul did during the administration of George W. Bush. Instead, the remarks appear to be more closely connected to the context of the “formation of a foundation for unification of the Korean peninsula,” which South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced during her New Year press conference. Yun addressed this during the press conference. “The U.S. and South Korea agreed to strengthen strategic cooperation to bring about sustainable peace on the Korean peninsula that transcends the nuclear issue, and beyond that to create the foundation for peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula that President Park mentioned during her New Year’s press conference,” the minister said, explaining that this was why they had decided to hold the consultations to assess the situation in North Korea. The comments made by a senior government official on condition of anonymity are consistent with this. When asked what kind of policies could lead North Korea to change, this official said, “There could be the standard methods dealing with the North Korean government, there could be methods dealing with the North Korean people, and there could be a variety of formats for achieving those things.” The official also said that South Korea would not be applying these policies independently, but that they would be pursued in a way that would allow the participation of the international community, including the US, China, and the UN. However, it is very unlikely that China will agree with the approach outlined by the US and South Korea. The U.S. appears to have had slightly different reasons for agreeing to hold meetings of high-ranking officials on an irregular basis to assess the situation in North Korea. The Obama administration is reportedly paying close attention to the instability of the regime in North Korea following the execution of Jang Song-thaek around the end of 2013. During an interview with ABC on December 15, John Kerry said that Jang’s execution revealed the rashness and the instability of Kim Jong-un’s regime. “To have a nuclear weapon, potentially, in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong-un just becomes even more unacceptable,” Kerry said. “We need to factor that into the urgency of getting China, Russia, Japan, South Korea to stay on the same page and to put as much effort into the denuclearization as possible.” “The U.S. government already had some degree of anxiety about the new regime in North Korea,” a South Korean government official said. “When you add the execution of Jang Song-thaek to the mix, the US appears to be responding even more acutely than before to developments in the North.” But there are concerns that Seoul and Washington’s new policy direction may further weaken the framework of the six-party talks, which have not been held for more than five years. Not only could the North use this as an excuse to show less interest in the six-party talks, but it could also overlap with the channels of dialogue that already exist between the chief envoys to the six-party talks. While the government official said that it has not yet been decided what the format of the North Korean situational assessment meetings will be, the official noted that they could involve officials who are more senior than the six-party talks envoys. “We will start out with the US and South Korea, and if necessary we can add China and other countries,” the official added. (Park Hyun, “S. Korea and U.S. Discuss New Framework for Dealing with North Korea,” Hankyore, January 9, 2014)

South Korea and the United States will meet again in April for negotiations on renewing a bilateral nuclear energy pact, the foreign ministry said after the allies closed their two-day talks on the accord without progress. Seoul and Washington kicked off their ninth round of talks on the renewal of the accord, also known as the “123 agreement,” on Tuesday in South Korea’s central city of Daejeon, home to major nuclear research facilities. “The two sides agreed in the latest talks that their cooperation in key nuclear energy issues, including exporting nuclear plants and the management of spent fuel, is vital in promoting the peaceful use of atomic energy in both nations and strengthening the international nonproliferation system,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement after wrapping up the second day of the negotiations. “We partly had progress during Tuesday’s talks but still have a long way to go, as we are dealing with a lot of issues spanning from export competitiveness (in the commercial nuclear sector) as well as the management of spent nuclear fuel and the stable supply of fuel to nuclear plants,” a Seoul government official said. The two sides still remain divided over the key issues, the official added. (Yonhap, “Talks between S. Korea, U.S. on nUclear Accord Close without Progress,” January 8, 2014)

KCNA: “A basketball game was played by the American basketball team of ex-NBA stars and Korean players of the Hwaebul team of the DPRK at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium. The American team is now on a visit to the DPRK for sports exchange. … Supreme leader Kim Jong Un came out to the stadium together with Ri Sol Ju to watch the game. He was warmly greeted by Dennis Rodman, American ex-NBA star. Kim Jong Un welcomed the American basketball players’ visit to the DPRK and said that the game served as a good occasion in promoting the understanding between the peoples of the two countries. Rodman presented Kim Jong Un with a gift he prepared with the deepest respect for him. In his speech made before the match, he said he felt the Korean people were respecting Kim Jong Un while staying in the DPRK. He sang a song [Happy Birthday] reflecting his reverence for Kim Jong Un, touching the spectators. The first two rounds of the match were held between Hwaebul Team of the DPRK and the team of ex-NBA stars and its last two rounds were played as a mixed game of players of the two countries. … At the end of the match, Kim Jong Un met the players of the two teams. Kim Jong Un said he watched a good match and wished the American basketball players pleasant days in the DPRK. He had a photo taken with the American basketball players. Pak Pong Ju, Choe Ryong Hae and Kang Sok Ju watched the match together with their wives.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Watches Basketball Game of DPRK, American Players,” January 8, 2014)


1/9/14:
KCNA: “The Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) sent a notice to the Ministry of Unification of south Korea [January 9] via Panmunjom. The notice recalled that all Koreans and public at home and abroad are becoming more vocal calling for the improvement of the inter-Korean relations, greeting the New Year, pointing out that the same situation as what happened last year should not be allowed to repeat itself. The notice said: Prompted by this purpose, we clarified an important principled stand on improving the relations between the north and the south on the occasion of the New Year and showed our will in practice.

The south side, however, behaved from the outset of the New Year quite contrary to our sincere efforts; media, experts and even authorities were indiscreet in their speeches and behaviors. It staged war drills firing bullets and shells. What was worse, the south side at a New Year press conference argued even our internal matter pro and con, blaming us. As regards the principled questions raised by us, it gave incoherent answers to them under the pretext of the nuclear issue. The notice said with great regret that there is no fundamental change in the south side’s present stance of confrontation. It went on: The south side proposed arranging a reunion of separated families and relatives on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. This is a good offer if it was prompted by its sincere good will to alleviate the pain resulting from division and improve the inter-Korean relations. By origin, the issue of arranging the reunion of separated families and relatives was proposed by the DPRK and reached almost the phase of implementation last year but it was not realized due to the south Korean authorities’ improper attitude and hostile acts. Now we are glad that the south side proposed it. But in south Korea, one war drill is being followed by another saber-rattling and huge joint military exercises are slated soon, the notice said, querying can the separated families and relatives have reunions in peace amid gunfire. Moreover, the Lunar New Year’s Day should be taken into consideration in the light of the season and timing, the notice said, adding if there is no other thing happening in the south side and if the south side has intent to discuss the proposals of our side, too, both sides can sit together in a good season. The notice expressed the stand of our side to make efforts for the improvement of the north-south relations in the future, too.” (KCNA, “CPRK Secretariat Sends Notice to Unification Ministry of S. Korea,” January 9, 2014)

On January 9, the South Korean government gave a positive interpretation of the CPRF’s message, declaring it to be not a rejection of the reunions but rather a delay. But the government remains opposed to resuming tourism to Mt. Kumgang, which is effectively the condition that the North has placed on holding divided family reunions. “North Korea’s telephone message rejected the working-level meeting that we proposed holding on January 10 to prepare for the divided family reunions,” said Kim Ui-do, spokesperson for the Unification Ministry. At the same time, Kim said, “We think that the North is not saying it will not participate in the reunions, but rather that it wants to delay them.” In support of this interpretation, Kim noted that the North did not explicitly state that it rejected the proposal to hold the reunions, instead saying that it could sit down with the South at an appropriate time. However, the South Korean government is placed in an awkward position by the fact that North Korea basically said that resuming tours to Mt. Kumgang is a condition for holding reunions for the divided families. In regard to North Korea’s suggestive statement that it could meet with the South “if the South is willing to discuss our proposals as well,” even Kim agreed that this was probably a reference to the issue of resuming tours to Mt. Kumgang. The problem is that the South Korean government has little intention of acceding to North Korea’s request to resume tourism to Mt. Kumgang. When the South Korean government was working toward holding divided family reunions in October and September 2013, it delayed the date of talks about tourism to Mt. Kumgang that North Korea had requested on three occasions. The North responded to this by indefinitely delaying the divided family reunions. In other words, the general view is that it is unlikely that the divided family reunions will occur as long as the South Korean government refuses to accept North Korea’s request to resume tourism to Mt. Kumgang. But as of yet, the South Korean government’s position remains the same. This was made perfectly clear in the regular briefing on October 8 by Unification Ministry assistant spokesperson Park Su-jin. “Tourism to Mt. Kumgang and the reunions of divided families are separate issues,” Park said. “The government‘s stance of dealing with these separately remains unchanged.” (Park Byong-su, “Family Reunions Delayed, But Not Rejected,” Hankyore, January 10, 2014)

Kim Kyung-hui, aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and wife of recently purged Jang Song-thaek, is reportedly in a near vegetative state after undergoing brain surgery, a local newspaper said. “According to a reliable source, Kim Kyung-hui had surgery for a brain tumor in Paris last year,” an unnamed U.S. official was quoted as saying. Earlier yssterday, Yonhap reported that Kim’s health had deteriorated, citing a South Korean diplomatic source, mainly due to her alcohol addiction and heart problems. (Ock Hyun-ju,, “’Kim Kyung-hui in Near Vegetative State,’” Korea Herald, January 9, 2014)


1/12/14:
South Korea said it had agreed to pay about $866.6 million this year to keep on its soil US troops who help guard against threats from North Korea. Seoul’s foreign ministry, after months of negotiation with Washington, confirmed this year’s contribution of 920 billion won ($866.6 million), up 5.8 percent from last year. The two allies also agreed on a maximum 4 percent annual increase in the amount until 2018, the ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young told reporters. (AFP, “S. Korea to Pay $866.6M to Host U.S. Troops,” January 12, 2014)


1/13/14:
The chief of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) vowed to establish a policy on North Korea that centers on national unity. Kim Han-gil made the pledge in a New Year’s press conference as he cited President Park Geun-hye’s recently announced goal of laying the groundwork for reunification. “Reunification without preparation will bring great chaos to the Korean Peninsula,” Kim said during the news conference at the National Assembly. “Therefore, the government should present the people with (a plan for) how it will build reunification as a process.” (Yonhap, “Opposition Leader Vows to Create N.K. Policy Centered on National Unity,” Korea Times, January 13, 2014) Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gill has thrown his support behind a law to protect the human rights of the people of North Korea, a significant U-turn in the opposition party’s stance on North Korean affairs. “The Democratic Party considers democracy and human rights as the utmost value and also acknowledges problems regarding human rights for the North Korean people,” Kim said in a New Year’s address at the National Assembly. “The party will arrange a law to improve human rights and the livelihoods of North Koreans.” In the past nine years, ruling party lawmakers have proposed five bills regarding human rights in North Korea. None were passed due to lack of cooperation from the DP. Ironically, the opposition party, which is very active on various human rights issues in South Korea, was reluctant to support improving the lack of freedom and dire living conditions of North Koreans. The liberal politicians were worried about criticizing the North Korean government. In general, the ruling Saenuri Party and conservatives have condemned the DP’s silence on human rights in the North. The abrupt shift came a month after the brutal execution of Jang Song-thaek, uncle and former mentor of the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un. The Saenuri’s bills suggest starting a three-year government plan to improve human rights for North Koreans, launching a government-controlled foundation to record violations of North Koreans’ human rights and supporting civic activists. Saenuri Party’s spokesman Yoo Il-ho said the ruling party “welcomes” the DP’s changed position on human rights for North Koreans. “We hope a law regarding human rights in North Korea is passed within this year,” Yoo said. “Policy making on North Korean issues should not be a source of conflict anymore.” Still, the two parties are expected to spar over any North Korean human rights bill. The DP wants to emphasize expanding humanitarian aid for North Korean people and disagrees with the ruling party’s idea of supporting human rights activists, who are often North Korean defectors critical of the regime. “The reason why we have opposed the Saenuri lawmakers’ bills was they were mainly aimed to support civic groups critical of North Korea,” Jun Byung-hun, the floor leader of the DP, said in a radio interview yesterday. “But there would be no reason for us to be against a bill if it is implemented in a way to improve inter-Korean relations.” (Kim Hee-jin, “DP Will Support Human Rights Bill about North,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 14, 2014)

Jeffrey Lewis: “In 2012, I attended a Track II meeting with some North Koreans where they mentioned a series of space launches. A series, I asked? They didn’t want to say more, but left me with the distinct impression that we’ll be seeing a lot more launches from the DPRK. After that meeting, North Korea tried twice—a failed launch in April and then succeeding in December 2012. Iran, too, has been launching satellites—and monkeys—into space. While I am sure most North Koreans and Iranians dream of the stars, it is understandable for those of us in the United States to wonder whether they have more earthly aims. One need not be a cynic to look askance at North Korean and Iranian aspirations regarding the peaceful use of outer space when Pyongyang publishes pictures of the now famous ‘Map of Death.’ …Can we reach an agreement with Iran to deal with its worrisome nuclear and ballistic missile programs if there are no constraints on North Korea? How about the other way around? We have known for a long time that North Korea and Iran cooperate on missiles—just look at the resemblance between Iran’s Shahab-3 and Pyongyang’s Nodong missile. But in recent months, there have been rumors about a relationship that go beyond the odd missile sale (or six). Last year, Western diplomatic sources told Kyodo’s Tomotaro Inoue that Iran now stations four missile experts at a facility in North Korea about 85 kilometers from the Chinese border. The source said the mission included experts from Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics as well as the private sector. Subsequent stories linked the Iranian “engineering team” to the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group. Although none of the stories say so, the rumor is that the Iranians are stashed in the Chongju area safely out of Pyongyang. …Then Bill Gertz at the Washington Times got into the act, claiming that a team of Iranians traveled to Pyongyong to work on a larger “super ICBM,” long suspected to be under development. Like all of his stories, this one seems to be a mixture of genuine reporting, balderdash, and naked partisanship. Gertz wrote the story to discredit the interim nuclear deal with Iran, on the laughably flimsy premise that the Iranians were in North Korea at the same time Kerry was in Geneva. …The technical details are awfully confusing. Gertz refers to the “80 ton” “super ICBM or heavy-lift space launcher.” North Korea’s Unha space launch vehicle’s first stage is already about 80 tons. So, this is a “super ICBM or a heavy-lift space launcher” that is the same size? Definitely not, right? A real heavy ICBM, like the old Soviet SS-9 or SS-18s deployed during the Cold War, would have a first stage that is much, much larger than 80 tons. It’s hard to know, precisely, what sort of cooperation is going on between the Iranians and the North Koreans. First, we know they do cooperate when it comes to missiles. Pakistan and Iran both bought Nodongs from North Korea in 1990s. But while Pakistan deployed a clone called the Ghauri, Iran worked very hard to make the Shahab-3, based on the North Korean missile, its own. Robert Walpole, then-the National Intelligence Officer for Strategic Systems, told Congress “Iran procured No Dongs and then sought Russian assistance to modify that into the Shahab-3…” There are other indications, as well. Iran’s Simorgh SLV bears more than a passing resemblance to the first stage of the North Korean’s Unha. There are reports that, in 2004, North Korea probably sold Iran the same Soviet sea-launched ballistic missiles that are believed to be the basis for North Korea’s Musudan, the new road-mobile intermediate-range missile. Finally, the US intelligence community’s formerly annual 721 reports describe support from North Korean and Russian entities for Iran’s ballistic missile program. Second, there are rumors the Iranians and the North Koreans signed a secret annex to the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on scientific and technical cooperation. Both country’s official news agencies, KCNA and IRNA, reported that they signed an MOU, which the Iranians described as “conducting research studies, exchange of university students and researchers, setting up joint laboratories, sabbatical studies, exchange of technological know-how, Information Technology, energy, environment, sustainable development, agriculture and food stuff.” Inoue reports that the parties also exchanged a secret two-page document that provides for the permanent stationing of an Iranian mission in North Korea. Obviously, neither official news agency is going to report on a secret document, but KCNA’s description noted that Ahmad Vahidi, Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, attended the signing, as well as a welcome function and a banquet. It is not unreasonable to suspect that that the agreement has a defense component. That, or Vahidi just loves buckwheat noodles. Third, Shahid Hemmat Industrial is the manufacturer of the Shahab-3, and responsible for working with the North Koreans, Russians and others. It is also a US-sanctioned entity. If the Iranians sent experts from their defense industry to North Korea, this company would be the obvious choice. Some of the news stories even note that the engine test stand at Shahid Hemmat’s facility in Iran resembles one in North Korea, but engine test stands all look alike to me. Finally, both Iran and North Korea are probably working on larger space launch vehicles than the existing models. The North Koreans have said they want to place a satellite in geostationary orbit, which means a bigger rocket is needed. The Three Revolutions Museum’s space exhibit in Pyongyang shows an artist’s conception of a much larger rocket in a larger gantry tower that we’ll call the Unha-X. The North Koreans also have gantry towers at the Sohae launch pad that, as Nick Hansen has observed, suggests something larger than the Unha is in the works. Iran, too, wants to place satellites in geostationary orbit. We don’t know that they’ve discussed the matter, but let’s assume it came up. This is where things get interesting. North Korea and Iran might choose to cooperate to make a larger SLV that could also serve as an ICBM, just as the US Titan II, built in the early 1960s, could put astronauts in orbit or, if the balloon went up, rain megatons of death and destruction down on the Soviet Union. But a large liquid-fueled ICBM would have significant military limitations—such a missile takes a long time to fuel and must be based in a vulnerable silo. (Although the North Korean’s road-mobile KN-08 is hardly a model of invulnerability, a workable mobile missile would offer North Korea far more survivability.) In fact, there have been stories in recent weeks suggesting that North Korea is building silos near Samjiyon in the shadow of Mount Baekdu but something stands out about them: the United States and South Korea reportedly identified the silos (if they exist, that is) during construction, before North Korea could have camouflaged them. Newly declassified documents demonstrate that the United States also watched China build silos and cave sites for its early large liquid-fueled rockets, before attempting to cover the sites with camouflage. (In fact, the act of camouflaging a mountain valley frequently drew the attention of satellite imagery analysts in the leafy Washington exurbs.) Given the vulnerability of their silos, Chinese designers took to describing this mode of basing as placing a missile in a ‘tomb.’ Why would North Korea want a “super heavy” (really, semi-heavy) ICBM anyway? There are basically two advantages to increasing the size. One is that it would allow the North to put multiple warheads on a single missile—but North Korea doesn’t seem to have enough plutonium (or even highly-enriched uranium) to do that. Moreover, given the vulnerability of silos, North Korea would be crazy to parcel a small stockpile of nuclear weapons out to an even smaller stockpile of missiles. The other possibility is that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are too large to place on a long-range rocket. Perhaps North Korean nuclear weapons are much too big for the Unha. Or maybe the North Koreans envision much heavier warheads—like thermonuclear warheads. Perish the thought. It’s a really interesting question what North Korea would even do with a sorta-super-ICBM (other than the stated purpose of putting a satellite into geostationary orbit). …In recent weeks, the Obama administration has made it clear that it isn’t interested in sitting down with the North Koreans, unless they do a lot of things first. The North Koreans themselves, haven’t been exactly cheery, referring to Barack Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons as “a smokescreen and sophism to cover up the U.S. wild ambition to dominate the world by dint of nuclear superiority.” Once upon a time, we might have prevailed on the Chinese to intervene, but they tried that most of this year. It didn’t work, and now one of their preferred interlocutors is taking a dirt nap for anti-party factionalism. Frankly, things don’t look so hot if you think a missile deal would be helpful. It’s pretty hard to even find a plausible conference room to meet, let alone get the North Koreans into it. North Korea isn’t even a member of the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna—although Iran is. Say, there’s an idea. Perhaps we might imagine Iran’s cooperation with the DPRK as a source of access, rather than concern. Bill Burns might ask his new best friends in the Iranian backchannel [19] if we couldn’t extend an invitation to the DPRK to participate in an international meeting on access and use of geostationary orbit. We’re a long way off from reviving missile negotiations with the DPRK or extending the Geneva process with Iran, but it wouldn’t hurt to sit down and simply talk to the Iranians and the North Koreans about their plans for putting more satellites in orbit.” (Jeffrey Lewis, “The Axis of Orbit: Iran-DPRK Space Cooperation,” 38North, January 13, 2014)


1/14/14:
South Korea spent 296.4 billion won (US$280 million) last year, or 27 percent of the 1.09 trillion won earmarked, for the inter-Korean cooperation fund, according to the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs. The figure represents the highest level in six years as the government paid insurance money to small South Korean companies that operate plants in the North’s border city of Kaesong. The South Korean companies received insurance money worth 177.7 billion won due to the months-long shutdown of the inter-Korean joint factory park in Kaesong last year. In 2008, the ministry spent 18.1 percent of the inter-Korean cooperation fund. The ratio dropped to 8.6 percent and 6.5 percent in 2009 and 2012, respectively, as inter-Korean relations soured. The factory park resumed operations in September, more than five months after the North unilaterally closed it in anger over joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States. More than 44,600 North Koreans work at 120 South Korean firms operating in the park to produce clothes, shoes, watches and other labor-intensive goods. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Uses Less Than One-Third of Its N. Korea Fund Last Year,” Korea Herald, January 14, 2014)

South Korea’s point man on North Korea has vowed not to link reunions of separated families to suspended tours to a scenic mountain resort in the North. North Korea may hope to stage reunions of families separated after the 1950-53 Korean War on the condition that South Korea agrees to resume the tour program to Mount Kumgang, a mountain resort on North Korea’s east coast, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said. Previous South Korean governments had provided humanitarian aid to the North in return for family reunions as if it were a condition, Ryoo said. “Didn’t we indulge in that too much? Let’s change that,” Ryoo said in a meeting with reporters. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Vows Not to Link Family Reunions to N.K. Tour Program,” January 15, 2014)

The United States and South Korea this week are reviewing their strategy for deterring North Korean nuclear attacks, Yonhap reported. Last fall, Seoul and Washington concluded a new bilateral extended-deterrence plan designed to enhance the U.S. nuclear umbrella over South Korea. The plan encompasses military, diplomatic and political responses that could be used to respond to a variety of unconventional threats coming from the North. The meetings this week will focus on plan implementation. Today and tomorrow at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, officials from the two allies’ Extended Deterrence Policy Committee will stage their third theoretical exercise on responding to North Korean threats. David Helvey, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of Defense for East Asia, and Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, will take part in the discussions with South Korean Deputy Defense Minister Ryu Se-seung. “At this exercise, the allies will discuss the tailored deterrence strategy and how to apply extended deterrence policy to handle [the] threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program and weapons of mass destruction,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said in released comments. Pyongyang lashed out at Seoul for its “confrontational acts” and said it was up to the South to foster a climate for better bilateral relations. “The improvement of inter-Korean relations is crucial to deal with reunification matters from our perspective,” the North Korean regime said in an editorial published by Rodong Shinmun. A former senior Obama administration official said it is time for Washington to hold talks with Beijing and Seoul on responding to various contingencies in North Korea. “My own view is that the U.S., South Korea and China need to be talking about future scenarios in the Korean Peninsula, including instability in North Korea,” said Jeffrey Bader, a former National Security Council senior director for East Asian affairs, in an interview with Yonhap. (Global Security Network, “U.S., South Korea Confer on Preventing North’s Nuclear Attack,” January 14, 2014)

The World Peace Park in the demilitarized zone that President Park Geun-hye is promoting aggressively will likely be created into a nature-preserving ecological park. The government plans to make it into a park that traverses the demilitarized zone so that global visitors freely access South and North Korea within the place. The government will make the park into the bridge between South-North exchange and cooperation, and a place for preparing reunification. Multiple government officials said, “The peace park will traverse the DMZ between the South and North,” adding, “We have recently formed a basic direction of the plan. The park will be opened not only to South and North Koreans but also to foreigners to enable them to freely pass between the two Koreas.” A government official said, “When the park is realized, visitors to the park can feel the pain of divided nation and the need for peace.” Another official said, “Creating a park only in the South DMZ will enable a stable attraction of U.N. organizations and operations. But an eco-park under an agreement between South and North will be much meaningful.” The Unification Ministry received 30.2 billion won (28.52 million U.S. dollars) budget for the creation of the peace park, and will come up with concrete construction plans. The government had initially planned to carry out negotiations with the North when the family reunion took place in September last year, which the North turned down at the last minute. At her New Year`s press conference last week, President Park said, “Unification will draw nearer by building a DMZ world peace park that will tear down barriers of mistrust and confrontation as well as linking Eurasia railroad to make the Korean Peninsula a channel for trust and peace.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “Government to Materialize DMZ World Peace Park Plan,” January 15, 2014)

More than half of lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party polled said in a survey that they are in favor of updating the government’s North Korea policy and supplementing the late President Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy, South Korea’s engagement with Pyongyang. Kim Han-gill, chairman of the Democratic Party, said that while sticking to the broad principle of the Sunshine Policy, the party needs to “upgrade its North Korea policy to reflect the current situation and the change in the thoughts of the people.” In a two-day telephone survey conducted by JoongAng Ilbo yesterday and today, 82 of the 127 members of the Democratic Party were surveyed about their stance on North Korea policy. Of those surveyed, 65 DP lawmakers agreed that its North Korea policy should be upgraded to reflect the times and the changes in the public’s perspective. Nine lawmakers opposed the statement, while eight declined to answer. When asked whether the Sunshine Policy should be upheld, supplemented or discarded, 56.1 percent of those surveyed, or 46 lawmakers, responded that it should be supplemented. Thirty lawmakers, or 36.6 percent, favored keeping the Sunshine Policy in its current form, while only one lawmaker said to discard the policy altogether. Five declined to answer.

All those who chose to supplement the policy said that they were supportive of the Sunshine Policy’s basic principles of reconciliation and cooperation, but they said they favored overall reforms to the policy. “We cannot agree to North Korea’s terror policies,” said one DP lawmaker, who chose to remain anonymous and favored supplementing the Sunshine Policy. “The Sunshine Policy played a superb role during the [inter-Korean] cold war period, but while keeping with its fundamental principles, it needs to be upgraded to match today’s North Korea and the situation in neighboring countries.” Another DP representative responded that “while the Sunshine Policy is considered unnecessary, its principles should be adhered to. But the policy has to be adjusted to a suitable level so that it does not appear that we are simply giving everything to the North.” Additionally, 68 lawmakers, or 85 percent, said they were supportive of the passing of a North Korean human rights bill, while 10 were opposed and four declined to answer. But some DP lawmakers were less than welcoming of a change in the Sunshine Policy. “I am not sure why the subject of North Korea came up suddenly during [Chariman Kim Han-gill’s] New Year address,” one lawmaker said. “North Korea’s nuclear tests and the Sunshine Policy are unrelated to each other, so I am not sure what has to be changed,” added Park Ji-won, the DP floor leader. But many Democrats who supported a revision of the policy said it should be advanced to match the times or that there was a need for a policy that went beyond simply giving. Another lawmaker responded, “In reality, it is possible to supplement the policy to make it suitable for a nuclear-armed North Korea.” (Chae Byung-gun and Sarah Kim, “North Korea Policy Needs Update, DP Says,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 17, 2014)


1/15/14:
Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea spokesman’s statement: “Marshal Kim Jong Un in his historic New Year Address clarified the principled and sincere stand to ease tension and ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula and improve the north-south relations. The address has commanded support and aroused sympathy from all Koreans and other people around the world. The public at home and abroad are hoping the situation on the Korean Peninsula is eased and the north-south ties are improved to open a new phase for reconciliation, peace and reunification. But ill-boding provocative remarks are heard from south Korea from the outset of the New Year and powder-reeking war exercises are being waged, vitiating the hope-filled atmosphere at the beginning of the new year. Despite the unanimous denunciation by the public at home and abroad, it was openly announced that huge Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises will be staged for months from the end of February. This has created such a deplorable situation in which huge aggression troops of the U.S. are deployed in areas close to the Military Demarcation Line. The projected military exercises will reportedly activate huge transport planes, landing ships, high-speed landing boats, surface-effect ship and landing armored vehicles of the U.S. and the puppet army of south Korea as well as huge marine and air war means. To be involved in the drills are ill-famed U.S. third marine task force from Okinawa which will wage the second biggest landing drill after the 1989 Team Spirit joint military exercises. The U.S. and puppet warmongers are claiming that the purpose of the drill is to take control of nuclear facilities in the north and occupy Pyongyang in case of “emergency in the north” This is another serious military provocation against the DPRK and an outright challenge to the good faith of the DPRK and the public opinion at home and abroad. We take special note of the fact that the announcement of the saber-rattling is timed to coincide with the new year press conference given by the chief executive of south Korea. Outwardly, south Korea welcomed the New Year Address and said that it hopes for opening the first button through the reunions of separated families and relatives, providing a fresh occasion and shaping the framework for mending the south-north ties. But behind the scene it is planning to wage war exercises against its fellow countrymen. How can this be understood? The prevailing situation proves that the south Korean chief executive made a lie and has an axe to grind. The north-south ties have suffered greatly from the war drills that were repeatedly held in south Korea every year. By straining the situation through such war drills as Key Resolve, Foal Eagle and Ulji Freedom Guardian from the outset of each year, they wasted away time, preventing anything favorable for improving the north-south ties from being achieved. This is the history of the north-south ties. What was gained were only escalated tension, increased danger of a war and stalemate in the north-south ties and extreme discord, antagonism and hostility between the fellow countrymen. Such an evil cycle can never be allowed to go on any longer. The present situation shows who truly stands for detente and peace on the Korean Peninsula and who pursues confrontation and war and who is a hypocrite, provoker standing in the way of improving the north-south relations. The puppet forces are making extremely serious provocation like the DPRK-targeted war exercises together with outsiders. Yet, they are talking about “provocation” by someone. This is like a guilty party filing a suit first. The U.S. and the puppet group, much upset by the disclosure of their bellicose nature and increasing voices of criticism, are claiming that those are ‘annual exercises for defense.’ But they should know that such deceptive and shameless sophism will never work on anyone. The recent announcement of the huge DPRK-targeted war drills by the U.S. and puppet warmongers is a total denial of the improvement of the north-south ties and dialogue and is little short of the declaration of a total nuclear stand-off. We sternly warn the U.S. and the south Korean authorities to stop the dangerous military exercises which may push the situation on the peninsula and the north-south ties to a catastrophe. They should clearly understand that the north-south ties will plunge into a deadlock and unimaginable holocaust and that disaster will follow should they go ahead with the nuclear war drills and make military provocation, defying our warning.” (KCNA, “CPRK Warns U.S., S. Korean Authorities to Stop Projected Joint Military Exercises,” January 15, 2014)

South Korea should adopt a multi-layered missile defense to complement the current system that is insufficient to counter growing missile threats from North Korea, a ruling party lawmaker said. Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the Saenuri Party, who chairs the parliamentary defense committee, said the indigenous missile program aimed at shooting down low-flying missiles is not enough to deal with North Korea’s long-range missiles. South Korea currently operates 48 PAC-2 missiles imported from Germany, which have an interception rate of less than 40 percent. It is allocating a budget to upgrade the system to the “hit-to-kill” PAC-3 with improved accuracy as part of the indigenous Korea Missile Defense System (KAMD). Seoul is also seeking to develop indigenous medium- and long- range surface-to-air missiles as part of its mid-term defense plan. “I question whether the current missile defense system is enough to protect people’s lives. If that’s not enough and people are in danger, we should establish a new security strategy,” Yoo said during a panel discussion at the National Assembly. The discussion was also attended by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, military officials and security experts. (Kim Eun-jung, “S. Korea Needs Multi-Layered Missile Defense against N. Korea: Lawmaker,” Yonhap, January 15, 2014)

The US House of Representatives passed 2014 spending bill with an amendment urging the US Secretary of State to encourage the Japanese government to address the issues contained in the House’s “comfort women resolution” from 2007. This is the first time that the comfort women issue has been officially addressed in legislation passed by the US Congress. The 2014 spending bill for the US government passed on Wednesday after being put to a vote before the entire house. The document about the comfort women is included in a report that addresses spending for the State Department. The section draws attention to the July 30, 2007 passage of House Resolution 121, which dealt with the comfort women issue, and strongly urges the Secretary of State to encourage the Japanese government to resolve the issues that are contained in that resolution. The comfort women resolution (H. Res. 121), which was adopted in 2007, was sponsored by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who is of Japanese descent. The resolution calls on the Japanese government to acknowledge its responsibility for the past, on the Japanese prime minister to officially apologize, and on Japan to follow the recommendation of the international community by teaching the post-war generation about these issues. Along with Honda, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) also played an instrumental role in seeing that a document about the comfort women was attached to the bill. The comfort women document is likely to have a considerable political impact, pushing the executive branch to renew diplomatic efforts to bring about a change in the attitude of the Japanese government. The handbook to the bill states that the Federal Government must abide by the reports attached to the spending bill in its implementation of the bill. Since the executive branch must report to Congress at the end of the year about the extent to which it implemented the provisions of the spending bill, it will inevitably feel pressure to carry out Congress’s requests.. (Park Hyun, “Bill Related to Comfort Women Passed in U.S. Congress,” Hankyore, January 17, 2014)


1/16/14:
KCNA: “The National Defense Commission (NDC) of the DPRK made the following principled proposals to the south Korean authorities Thursday upon authorization of the government, political parties and organizations of the DPRK: We propose taking practical measures in hearty response to the warm call for establishing a climate for improved north-south relations. We officially propose the south Korean authorities to take a practical measure of halting all acts of provoking and slandering the other side from January 30, a day before the Lunar New Year’s Day. We propose taking a practical step of halting all hostile military acts against the other side in response to the historic call for defending the security and peace of the nation. So, we again propose immediately and unconditionally halting all military and hostile acts targeting the fellow countrymen in collusion with outsiders. For the present the south Korean authorities should take a political decision of canceling Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises which they plan to stage from the end of February under the pretext of “annual and defensive” drills. If the “coordination” and “cooperation” with the U.S. are so precious and valuable, they had better hold the exercises in the secluded area or in the U.S. far away from the territorial land, sea and air of the DPRK. This is the stand of the DPRK. We specially propose stopping all acts provoking the other side on the ground and in the sea and air including five islands in the West Sea, hotspots where both sides are in acute show-down, leveling their guns at each other. The DPRK side will show its practical action first for the realization of this proposal. We propose taking a mutual practical measure to prevent a nuclear holocaust from being inflicted on this land. Our nuclear force serves as a means for deterring the U.S. from posing a nuclear threat. It will never be a means for blackmailing the fellow countrymen and doing harm to them. We courteously propose the south Korean authorities not to resort to reckless acts of bringing dangerous nuclear strike means of the U.S. to south Korea and to areas around it, taking this occasion as an opportunity. It is the stand of the DPRK that the south side should resolutely break with the double-dealing stand of tolerating nuclear weapons of outsiders which are harmful to the fellow countrymen while denying the nuclear weapons of fellow countrymen which protect the nation. If these proposals are put into practice, it will be possible to settle all issues, big or small, arising in the north-south relations including the reunion of separated families and relatives. We express the expectation that the south Korean authorities will positively respond to our principled crucial proposals.” (KCNA, “NDC of DPRK Advances Crucial Proposals to S. Korean Authorities,” January 16, 2014)

KCNA: “The bellicose forces of the United States and south Korea are bringing dark clouds of a war again to the Korean Peninsula at the beginning of the year, in disregard of the desire of the DPRK and the international community for peace and stability. With the U.S. deploying its aggression forces massively in areas close to the Military Demarcation Line, they announced that huge Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises would be staged for months from the end of February. The projected exercises, involving the U.S. 3rd marine task force to deploy before all others on the Korean Peninsula in case of emergency, will be the biggest military rehearsal in scale after the 1989 Team Spirit. Its purpose is apparently to take control of nuclear facilities in the DPRK and occupy Pyongyang in case of ‘emergency in the north.’ This is another serious military provocation to the DPRK and an outright challenge to its good faith and the public opinion at home and abroad as it is aimed to drive the situation of the Korean Peninsula again to phase of confrontation. No matter how vociferously the U.S. may talk about other’s ‘threat’ and about its role in ‘defending peace,’ it can no longer cover up its nature of the very one who has continued aggravating the situation on the peninsula cyclically. Ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula is an important link in the chain for securing regional peace and stability and, furthermore, global peace. That is why the DPRK’s principled stand and sincere measures clarified in the New Year to ease tension, defend peace on the peninsula and improve the north-south relations have commanded full support and aroused a great response from peoples at home and abroad. The U.S. and south Korean bellicose forces have made provocative remarks from the beginning of the year only to come under criticism of the world community. They are describing the projected military exercises as ‘annual’ and ‘defensive,’ but it is no more than sophism to cover up the aggressive nature of the exercises and their insidious intention. It is a bad habit of the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces to annually stage large-scale war drills all the year round, extremely aggravating the situation. Such war moves of several decades have only engendered antagonism and hostility among the Korean nation, resulting in bedeviled north-south relations, escalated tension and increased war danger in the Korean Peninsula and the region. The recent announcement of joint war exercises is tantamount to the total denial of improved relations and dialogue between the north and the south of Korea and a declaration of overall nuclear showdown. The provokers had better ponder over the serious consequences to be entailed by the exercises.” (KCNA, “KCNA Commentary Hits U.S.-S. Korea Joint Military Exercises,” January 16, 2014)


1/17/14:
South Korea scoffed at North Korea’s proposal for a mutual moratorium on verbal mud-slinging, and rejected Pyongyang’s renewed calls to cancel planned military drills with the United States. “We don’t slander North Korea so there is nothing for us to stop,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Do told reporters. The Unification Ministry argued that the offer was moot, as the only provocation and slander came from North Korea. Despite North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s New Year speech urging greater cooperation, Pyongyang has “continued to slander and threaten us,” spokesman Kim said. The NDC also renewed calls for South Korea to scrap its annual joint military exercises with the United States, which Pyongyang routinely condemns as provocative rehearsals for invasion. But Kim stressed that the drills — slated to begin at the end of February — would go ahead as planned. Analysts said both sides were jockeying for the moral high ground ahead of what is gearing up to be a re-run of last year’s display of military brinksmanship, which triggered global concerns of a full-scale conflict. “They both want to be able to accuse the other of bearing responsibility for any surge in tensions,” said Yang Moo-Jin a professor at the University of Korean Studies in Seoul. “This is a clear snapshot of the current confrontational situation on the Korean peninsula,” Yang said. (Park Chan-Kyong, “S. Korea Brushes off North’s Calls to Halt Insults, Scrap Drills,” AFP, January 17, 2014)

China called on both South and North Korea to take steps to nurture better cross-border relations, with Pyongyang’s “peace offensive” raising fresh concerns that tension on the peninsula may rise sharply again ahead of joint military drills between Seoul and Washington. “The DPRK (North Korea) and the ROK (South Korea) are of the same ethnic group,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters during a daily briefing, when asked about the North’s proposal. “Improving bilateral relations and realizing reconciliation and cooperation serve the fundamental interest of the two sides.”

Hong said, “We hope that the two sides will demonstrate goodwill and take concrete actions to improve bilateral relations so as to bring the situation of the region to stability.” (Yonhap, “China Urges Koreas to Improve Ties amid Pyongyang’s ‘Peace Offensive,’” Korea Herald, January 17, 2014)

Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim said that his country is strengthening readiness posture to provision against any situation in North Korea including emergencies. Regarding the possibility of an “implosion” in the North Korean regime, the U.S. envoy said that Seoul and Washington are strengthening coordination to be able to effectively respond in the event that such an incident occurs. Kim made the remarks during an interview with Dong-A Ilbo at his official residence in central Seoul. “It is in the same vein that the two allies agreed at a bilateral foreign ministers` meeting in Washington Tuesday to strengthen discussions on changes in the North Korean situation and broaden bilateral cooperation,” he stressed. (Dong-A Ilbo, “U.S. Envoy: Seoul, Washington Step up Readiness for N. Korean ‘Implosion,’” January 17, 2014)

A recent geological study indicates North Korea could hold some 216 million tons of rare earths, minerals used in electronics such as smartphones and high definition televisions. If verified, the discovery would more than double global known sources and be six times the reserves in China, the market leader. British Islands-based private equity firm SRE Minerals Limited announced the study results in December, along with a 25-year deal to develop the deposits in Jongju, northwest of the capital, Pyongyang. The joint venture, called Pacific Century Rare Earth Mineral Limited, is with state-owned Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation. The potential bonanza could offer the isolated and impoverished North a game-changing stake in the rare earths industry. The East-West Center’s Scott Bruce said South Korea opposes mining the minerals because they could be a valuable resource to help bankroll a future re-unification of the Korean peninsula. “The extent to which they’re being packaged and sold off now is of great concern to the South,” Bruce said, “because it’s effectively taking the economic benefit of re-absorbing the North, if they’re able to do that at some point, and selling it off now.” Other analysts question the estimated size of the deposit. Choi Kyung-soo, president of the North Korea Resource Institute in Seoul, is among the skeptics. “If you look at what SRE Minerals announced, it seems like North Korea has the largest amount of rare earths in the world,” he said. “But I do not think the amount is that large.” The U.S. Geological Survey, which compiles data on sources of minerals, said there was insufficient information to comment on the significance of the announcement. SRE acknowledges the rare earth estimates are conceptual and not yet proven. It plans, through its joint venture, to take further samples in April to better assess North Korea’s rare earth potential. (Daniel Schearf, “North Korea’s Rare Earths Could Be Game-Changer,” Voice of America, January 17, 2014)


1/18/14:
KCNA: “An enlarged plenary meeting of the Cabinet of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took place. Present there were Premier Pak Pong Ju and members of the Cabinet. Leading officials of the organs under the Cabinet, directors of its management bureaus, chairpersons of the provincial, city and county people’s committees, the provincial rural economy committees and the provincial regional planning commissions, directors of the provincial food and essential goods production management bureaus and managers of major industrial establishments were present as observers. The meeting discussed ‘On thoroughly carrying out the important tasks set forth by the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un in his New Year Address.’ Pak Pong Ju made a report at the meeting to be followed by speeches. The reporter and speakers said that last year the service personnel and people of the DPRK, closely rallied around Kim Jong Un, exalted the brilliance of the ideas and cause of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il, extraordinarily strengthened the political and ideological might of our revolutionary ranks and the capabilities for self-defense, achieved proud successes in the drives for building an economic power and improving the people’s standard of living and took a big step forward for building a highly civilized socialist nation by creating the ‘Masikryong speed.’ The meeting referred to the great advance made on all fronts for building a thriving socialist nation last year.The production on all indices of products increased last year compared with the previous year: Production of Juche iron increased by 28 percent, cement 14 percent, iron ore 6 percent, electricity 4 percent and coal 3 percent. Many successes were achieved in implementing the state budget. The meeting set forth tasks and ways to be fulfilled by the Cabinet this year. The sectors of agriculture, construction and science and technology should hold the torch of innovations in the van and all the fields of national economy including the vanguard sectors and basic industrial sectors should make fresh innovations. In order to raise a fierce wind of making a fresh leap forward on all fronts for building a thriving socialist nation, all officials should organize undertakings in a big way with absolute loyalty to the Party, a high sense of responsibility for their work and fervent zeal, and strive with unflinching perseverance to implement the Party’s plans and intentions without fail. A relevant decision was adopted at the meeting.” (KCNA, “DPRK Cabinet Enlarged Plenary Meeting Held,” January 18, 2014)


1/19/14:
The primary reason that North Korea is calling for an improvement in inter-Korean relations and an easing of tensions appears to be economic. A North Korean article that came to light recently argued that political and military stability are critical to building the economy. The latest issue of the quarterly publication of North Korea’s Social Science Institute — published on November 15, 2013, and viewed on January 19 — included an article titled, “Major Issues Pertaining to Making the North Korean Economy Stronger by Establishing and Expanding Economic Development Zones.” The article identified “creating the right political and military environment” as one of the five important tasks for developing economic zones. The other four tasks were building infrastructure such as roads and railroads, enacting laws for the special economic zones that take into account the profit of the government and of investors, providing benefits for foreign investors, and operating and managing projects in a way that is suitable to the characteristics of the zones. In November 2013, North Korea announced plans to set up 13 special economic development zones around and one special economic zone in Sinuiju with the goal of attracting foreign capital and developing rural regions. “Before making an investment in a particular country, investors are bound to consider the political and military situation there,” the article said. “The basic objective of the political and military situation in an economic development zone is to insure the stability of investment.” “Some major objectives to consider are stabilizing the political situation, eliminating the threat of war, and strengthening military power,” the paper said. It argued that there is a critical need for easing military tensions with South Korea and with the US, even if only to attract foreign investment. Furthermore, the ROK-US joint military exercises to which North Korea is so adamantly opposed place a direct burden on the soldiers and civilians of the North. During the two months of the drills — when thousands of American and South Korean troops are mobilized, fielding weaponry that is capable of carrying out a nuclear strike — the North must go on emergency footing to counter this. In North Korea, the military performs a variety of economic roles, including construction, fishing, and trade. Consequently, it is possible to say that the ROK-US exercises have a negative effect not only in military terms but also economically speaking. Another relevant factor here appears to be that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentioned “improving inter-Korean relations” on three separate occasions during his recent New Year’s address, along with promising an improvement in the people’s livelihoods in areas such as agriculture. “North Korea is attempting to create a peaceful environment so that it can build its economy,” said Jeong Chang-hyeon, adjunct professor at Kookmin University. “We can infer that this is why it is attempting to take the lead in dialogue with the South and with the US.” (Choi Hyun-june, “N. Korea Connects Politics and Military to Economic Development,” Hankyore, January 20, 2014)

Nago Mayor Inamine Susumu won re-election, dealing a setback to the government’s plans to build a replacement air base for the U.S. Marines in the Henoko district just weeks after Okinawa’s governor approved the deal. “This election was easy to understand. It was about one issue, the Henoko issue, and whether you were for or against the new base,” Inamine told supporters. “The people have spoken and they have said no.” Inamine, 68, defeated former Okinawa Assemblyman Bunshin Suematsu, 65, by a vote of 19,839 to 15,684. Turnout was high at 76.71 percent. His re-election comes less than a month after Okinawa Gov. Nakaima Hirokazu granted Tokyo permission to proceed with a base-related landfill project in Henoko Bay despite opposition from the mayor and the Nago city council. Inamine received support from traditional anti-base opponents as well as conservative and unaffiliated voters who were angered by what they saw as a backroom deal between Abe and Nakaima to sell out Nago in exchange for ¥346 billion in development assistance in fiscal 2014, as well as a promised ¥300 billion annually for Okinawa until 2021, despite lacking any guarantee Tokyo could keep the promise in the event of political change. Calls on Okinawa for Nakaima to resign before the next gubernatorial election, scheduled to be held by late November, are growing, and Inamine’s victory is likely to intensify efforts to oust him. (Eric Johnston, “Nago Mayor Wins Re-Election in Blow to Abe, U.S., Japan Times, January 19, 2014)


1/20/14:
KCNA: “An American criminal, Kenneth Bae, was interviewed by local and foreign reporters at the Pyongyang Friendship Hospital [January 20] at his request. He said he called the press conference to clarify some facts. Over the past 15 months he, through meeting with officials of the Swedish embassy and calls and correspondence with his family, he correctly informed the U.S. government and his family of his criminal acts and humanitarian measures taken by the DPRK government in his behalf, he said, adding: But some media are spreading misinformation about me and launching smear campaign against the DPRK, driving me into a difficult situation. For example, the U.S. vice-president, at a press conference over the release of another U.S. citizen, Mr. Newman, in December last year, claimed that I have been detained here for no reason. Some time ago even my sister reportedly told reporters that I am not guilty. I think such facts enraged people here. This is why I am in a puzzle. Over the past five months I have been hospitalized, but now I am afraid I may be sent back to the labor camp. Worse still, I am afraid the pardon for me becomes more difficult. To cite another example, I was told that some media reports alleged that the DPRK is a ‘human rights violator,’ its human rights records are not good and that I have been treated unfairly. What I would like to clarify here now is that there has been no human rights abuse and no unfair, severe act for me. The DPRK government has done every possible thing for me from the humanitarian point of view. It allowed me to contact with the Swedish embassy and have correspondence and calls with my family. It also gave me an opportunity to meet my mother here and offered me a medical service at the hospital when my disease got worse.

I, availing myself of this opportunity, call on the U.S. government, media and my family to stop link any smear campaign against the DPRK and false materials with me, making my situation worse. I hope that I will be pardoned by the DPRK and go back to my family. I request the U.S. government, media and my family to pay deep concern and make all efforts to this end. Bae gave answers to questions raised by reporters.” (KCNA, “American Criminal Interviewed,” January 20, 2014)

Rodong Sinmun bylined article: “Only when the north-south relations are improved to be turned into the ones of deep trust and unity, can the basic conditions for national reunification be provided and independent reunification, peace and prosperity be achieved by the concerted efforts of all Koreans. … Improving the north-south relations is the essential task for ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and realizing the independent reunification of the country and the prosperity common to the nation. The nearly 70 year-long history of the Korean nation’s division teaches a bitter lesson that the escalated confrontation between the north and the south of Korea brings nothing but the lasting partition and war disasters. The north-south relations can never remain the ties of confrontation. Although differing ideologies and systems exist in the north and the south, they are not the reason of the distrust and confrontation. The inter-Korean relations should become the ties between the homogeneous compatriots and the ones of By Our Nation Itself, whereby they advance toward peace and reunification hand in hand. Converting the present inter-Korean ties plagued by distrust and confrontation into ones of trust and reconciliation is the best way for averting a war on the Korean Peninsula and achieving independent reunification, peace and prosperity by the concerted efforts of the nation. If the south Korean authorities give up the narrow-minded conception of confrontation and make a bold decision to join hands with compatriots in the north, there are no insurmountable difficulties in mending the inter-Korean relations. This was evidenced by the June 15 era of reunification.” (KCNA: “Rodong Sinmun Calls for Improved South-North Ties,” January 20, 2014)


1/20/14:
Hani: North Korea’s uranium enrichment program has been considered a major factor to exacerbate the U.S.-North Korean relationship since 2002. You mentioned in your book, “Midlevel officials in the State Department were already devising a strategy to address that problem with the North once the intelligence community gave the okay to raise the issue in the diplomatic arena.” Do you think the U.S. could resolve the uranium enrichment program at that time if the necons didn’t change the existing policy toward North Korea? Carlin: Dealing with counterfactual history is usually dangerous, and almost always an intellectual trap. All I can do is lay out the positive elements that existed in January 2001 and that, it seemed to me, formed the foundation for eventually moving into talks with Pyongyang on both the missile and the highly enriched uranium (HEU) issues. Secretary of State Albright had visited Pyongyang and held hours of discussions with Kim Jong Il in October. DPRK Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok had visited Washington weeks before that bearing a letter from Kim Jong Il for President Clinton. KEDO was functioning well and moving beyond its previous focus on building infrastructure at the site to real progress on the first of the two planned light water reactors at Kumho. Crucially, Kim Jong Il was already beginning to put in place elements of his economic reform package that would begin in July 2002. Finally, and very important, North-South dialogue was picking up speed following the June 15 summit. In those circumstances, it seems to me, there was considerable room for us to raise the HEU problem in ways that would keep the Agreed Framework process overall moving ahead. What we had learned after nearly 8 years of negotiating on various issues was that progress in one area was helpful getting the dialogue over tough spots in other areas. No doubt negotiations on HEU would have been difficult, no doubt opponents of the Agreed Framework (and these were not just neocons) would have insisted that the discovery of the North’s move onto the HEU route was a violation of the Agreed Framework. Nevertheless, based on our experience the developments I just mentioned, I think we had a good environment for tackling the HEU issue. That’s all you can ask when you go into negotiations. The idea that you’ll know ahead of time that the talks will succeed, and that you’ll get everything you want in the final agreement is fantasy. Hani: In your response to my question about “the uranium enrichment program”, you mentioned, “…and that, it seemed to me, formed the foundation for eventually moving into talks with Pyongyang on both the missile and the highly enriched uranium (HEU) issues.” Did the Clinton administration perceive the issue as an HEU problem before Bush administration came into office? Carlin: As I mentioned in the book, the Clinton Administration saw a developing HEU problem, but was waiting until the intelligence community gave its approval to raise the issue with the North in the diplomatic arena. Hani: Some people argued that the October 2000 joint communiqué included expressions indicating the U.S. and North Korea would deal with the uranium enrichment issue. Could you please explain to me which expressions represent those contexts? Carlin: The section noting the relevance and positive example of the resolution of the Kumchang-ri issue was designed to provide an opening for discussing the HEU problem at some point. The exact passage is: “To this end, the two sides agreed on the desirability of greater transparency in carrying out their respective obligations under the Agreed Framework. In this regard, they noted the value of the access which removed U.S. concerns about the underground site at Kumchang-ri.” Note the phrase — “the value of access.” That formulation was used very deliberately. It is worth noting that we gave the North Koreans a draft of this document as early as January 2000, and we referred to it in meetings with the North Koreans throughout the year. As I recall, at talks with the North Koreans in Rome, we also broadly hinted about the possible need for further access, and I had the impression at the time they knew we had something specific in mind. As I note in the Chapter 17 in the book, I think it is worth reexamining the commonly accepted notion that the North Koreans were taken completely by surprise in October 2002 when the US delegation raised the enrichment issue. Hani: You mentioned that the action-reaction cycle between the U.S. and North Korea has been described as “the cycle” of North Korean provocation-negotiation-reward erroneously. Could you please explain to me the reason why it is wrong? Carlin: We’ve become fixated on this idea of the “cycle” as if it describes something essential about North Korean policy and, in effect, absolves us of responsibility for shaping events. We seem to have forgotten that we (the US and South Korea) are in some sense part-a large part–of what goes on. Some North Korean actions (“provocations”) are actually tactical moves, for example, an effort to apply pressure when the US or South Korea are laggard in implementing their side of a bargain. I once had a North Korean diplomat tell me that they don’t like operating on the edge of the cliff, but sometimes they feel they have to in order to get Washington or Seoul to take matters seriously and focus on solutions rather than just left the situation drift. That isn’t to say everything the North can be explained in these terms. I still don’t understand what the motivation was for the shelling of Yeonpyeong-do in 2010, an act completely and dangerously out of character with North Korean actions for the previous 40 years or so. In some sense, it might make more sense to view the larger problem less as one of North Korean cycles than it is of vicious circles, each side feeding the other’s worst tendencies. I’ve often thought that hardliners in the South were in a curious way actually the best friends of the hardliners in the North, and vice versa. It’s not as if these cycles/circles are a force of nature or an enduring fixture in the heavens. There are breaks, windows of opportunity when events can be nudged in one direction or another. Whether we take advantage of these windows, or indeed help create them, is another question. Hani: In your response to the “cycle” of the North Korea, you mentioned, “We seem to have forgotten that we (the U.S. and South Korea) are in some sense part-a large part-of what goes on. Some North Korean actions (“provocations”) are actually tactical moves,….” and also wrote, “In some sense, it might make more sense to view the larger problem less as one of North Korean cycles than it is of vicious circles, each side feeding the other’s worst tendencies.” Could you please present one or two specific examples of your explanations for my clearer understanding? Carlin: During the Agreed Framework period, the North would sometimes slow or stop the canning of the spent fuel rods at Yongbyon, or delay visas for US experts involved in the canning process not simply to cause trouble but because the US was slow in fulfilling its own obligation. (Most often that was because we were laggard in shipping heavy fuel oil, an obligation under the Agreed Framework.) Such actions on the North’s part may seem minor from the distance of time, but when they are actually happening, these DPRK moves are magnified in importance and labeled either provocative or examples of bad faith. It is difficult to get people to consider them in the context of US actions. To take another example, the Panmunjom “axe incident” of August 1976 was a horrendous, completely unjustified overreaction on the North’s part, but the sequence of events is not as simple as commonly understood. Rather than an unprovoked attack coming out of the blue, the incident stemmed from a dispute over whether or not the UNC Command side could trim a tree in the Joint Security Area without the permission of the North Korean side. At the time of the slaying of the two US officers, no one in Washington seemed to know that the North Koreans had a few days earlier warned the UNC side not to trim the same tree. This is not a question of excusing the North’s actions, but rather of understanding the cycle that can lead to clashes. Hani: The United States and South Korean government have argued that the Agreed Framework have presented the “failure” of the Agreed Framework as major argument against negotiation with North Korea. How do you think about such argument? What’s your overall view on the Agreed Framework? Carlin: The Agreed Framework was much more than the words on paper. Under its umbrella, there began a range of meetings and activities with the DPRK, a process of multilateral engagement and discussions with the North on a variety of important issues, including missiles. The North Koreans were not particularly interested in discussing missiles at first, but the US was insistent, and at that point keeping the Agreed Framework on track by keeping on the good side of the Americans was a central goal for Pyongyang. Washington tended to view the Agreed Framework primarily as a non-proliferation agreement, but I always saw it as something of broader significance. To the North Koreans, it was a way to operationalize Kim Il Song’s strategic decision to improve relations with the US, as a hedge against Chinese and Russian influence. It was not about getting heavy fuel oil or light water reactors, it was about achieving more normal relations with the United States. For that reason, in some ways, Pyongyang may have been more committed to the Agreed Framework in the early years than was Washington, which at that point didn’t place much importance on the broader political reach of the framework. For that reason, sustaining the Agreed Framework over its initial four or five years was a challenge. It was already wobbling by the time of the North’s rocket launch in August 1998 and the Kumchang-ri episode, both of which opponents of the framework raised as reasons to scrap the deal. Instead of scrapping it, however, the Clinton Administration moved to reevaluate it — and the entire basis for engaging the North — in the Perry process, which was an intellectually honest and thoroughgoing review of the policy. The result was that in its final 18 months, the Clinton administration spent a lot of time and effort on putting the framework on a stronger foundation, revitalizing and reshaping the agreement in order to move it to a new level. In many ways, the October 2000 joint communique symbolized that new plateau. The idea that the framework “failed” comes exclusively from events swirling around how the Bush administration handled the HEU problem, and the charge that the North “cheated.” It is further based on the mistaken notion that because the Agreed Framework was bilateral, the North felt it could violate the deal without serious consequences. Two points here need to be understood very clearly. First, senior members of the Bush administration came to office deeply opposed to the Agreed Framework, with absolutely no commitment to sustaining it, and with every intention to doing away with the agreement if they possibly could. From the time Bush’s inauguration in January 2001 until the Kelly visit to Pyongyang in October 2002-almost two years-there were no US-DPRK talks outside of largely sterile contacts through the “New York channel.” In other words, by the time James Kelly visited Pyongyang, the Agreed Framework had been virtually suffocated. The only part of it that was working — the Korean Energy Development Organization — was on the chopping block in Washington. The second important point is that once the Kelly visit ended and senior officials in Washington became transfixed by the idea that the North had admitted that it had an HEU program, the thinking turned completely to how to punish the North-not how to deal with the HEU problem while keeping the Agreed Framework intact, but simply how to punish the North. At that point, Washington did not care if the Agreed Framework disappeared, and had no idea of what to put in its place. There is no doubt in my mind that the North’s pursuit of an HEU program was a major miscalculation. The details of the decision making in Pyongyang to go that route we will only learn at a later date, if at all. In any case, it was very typical of Pyongyang’s view that it can exploit the seams of agreements it reaches. That is — or ought to be — understood as a given in dealing with North Korea, and it is something that can be factored into any serious agreements. It is a reason to be careful, but it is not an excuse for policy paralysis. The question that faced us at the time was always one of balance-how to make sure that US interests were protected and our goals achieved while dealing with the inevitable twists and turns on the road of implementation. It was absolutely imperative to stop the North’s HEU program, and for that, we needed both a careful strategy and the best possible tactical environment for achieving that goal. I don’t know if, in the end, our approach would have worked, but it is beyond dispute that the alternative path that was chosen, destroying the Agreed Framework in favor of Six Party talks, has failed. Hani: You pointed out that the neocons had no intention of improving the Agreed Framework and wanted to destroy it. So, I am wondering which country was more responsible for destroying the Agreed Framework. Carlin: The neocons wanted to do away with the Agreed Framework, and the North Koreans certainly played into their hands. If Washington had wanted to keep the Agreed Framework-strengthen it, update it, improve it — I think those would have been possible and certainly the wiser course. At this point, assigning responsibility is probably less useful than studying and learning from decisions (on both sides) that had bad consequences. Hani: You described the details of the Kang Sok Ju-James Kelly meeting held in October 2002. In particular, you wrote, “Looking back years later, several of the delegation members saw what had gone wrong in their first reaction.” Do you mean by those expressions that some delegation members admitted their wrong interpretation of Kang’s statements? Carlin: Several people eventually admitted that Kang’s remarks were more ambiguous than they first concluded. Having seen the notes of what Kang said soon after the meeting, it seemed to me that he never “admitted,” nor did he explicitly deny, anything. In any case, I never understood what difference it made what the North Koreans said in this regard at that meeting. If we had evidence that they were pursuing an HEU program, then that was a problem and it had to be solved. Whether or not they admitted it — explicitly or implicitly — or denied it wasn’t relevant. If Washington hadn’t been so intent on doing away with the Agreed Framework, a more fruitful approach would have been to do what we had done in November 1999-tell the North Koreans that we had evidence that they were engaged in activity that was going to make it impossible to move ahead with the Agreed Framework until the problem was resolved, and then go into negotiations to fix the problem. Instead, we told the North Koreans, in so many words, that they had been caught cheating, and until they fixed the problem there was nothing to talk about. Hani: September 2005 Joint Statement failed to be implemented due to the verification issue. Which party was more responsible for a failure of Joint Statement and six party talks? Carlin: There is an assumption in this question the 9/5 joint statement was a solid agreement to begin with. My own view is that it never had a strong base, and that whatever shallow foundation it did have was destroyed immediately by the final US statement at the meeting delivered by Ambassador Hill, and then by the Treasury announcement the following day on Banco Delta Asia (BDA). Things were cobbled together again after BDA was resolved-which, notably, was soon after the North’s first nuclear test in October 2006. But this was only patchwork. By the time the verification issue arose in 2007 and 2008, there was not much to support or sustain the process. Everything was focused on verification, there was little in the way supporting structure. The whole edifice was extremely vulnerable. It was like skating on thin ice that is cracking behind you as you go. You have to hope to skate fast enough to avoid falling in. Hani: The U.S. and North Korea reached a temporary agreement on February 2012 and they published the different versions of agreement. You mentioned that the differences were not minor. Despite such differences, why did they publish Leap Day Deal? Carlin: A key problem for me is that we don‘t know all the details of what went on the negotiations. That’s not to say that there are “secrets” about the talks, but that the nuances of the negotiations, and especially the final stages, aren’t yet understood. My experience is that it’s very hard to know what went on in talks unless you were actually sitting in the room, and even then, many of the participants will differ on what transpired. Those sorts of differences may be less important when there is an agreed text at the end of the negotiations. In this case, there was no agreed text; I don’t know why not. If the argument is that there was no time to work out an agreed text, or that it would have been too difficult, that would seem to weaken the idea that there really was a “deal” to begin with. Hani: What did you want to focus on in your book? Carlin: Mainly to clear away the myths that have grown up over the past 13 years about what is possible in terms of dealing with the North. We have so burdened ourselves with stereotypes and misimpressions that it is no wonder we seem to be tied to the mast while the ship slowly sinks. If our assumptions about the situation in the North are faulty, or if our understanding of how the situation reached this point is skewed, then it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll be able to achieve our goals. If we believe that it is impossible to negotiate with North Korea or that reaching agreements with them is a waste of time because they will only break them anyway, we will not only be misreading history but also dooming ourselves to shortsighted policies. Hani: If there were major updated parts in earlier sixteen chapters, please let me know about those ones. Carlin: I added recently available information on a number of the earlier sections, for example: Kim Il Song’s trip to Beijing in 1975; the 1976 Panmunjom incident; and Chinese efforts to engage South Korea in the late 1990s. Hani: Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in ABC’s This Week last month North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s execution of his uncle makes denuclearization even more of a priority for the United States. What effect do you think the execution of Jang Song Taek on U.S policy toward North Korea? Carlin: I have no idea. Our public reaction struck me as somewhat hysterical. It seems to me it would have been enough to say that we had seen reports on events in the North, that we were following the situation closely, and that we remained fully prepared to cope with all contingencies. It’s probably natural for those people writing the talking points to connect Jang’s execution to the nuclear issue. Washington is fixated by the nuclear issue (they would say, rather, that they are focused like a laser on the issue), and in this mind-set, virtually everything that happens is in some sense linked to it. To some people that might seem a sensible, principled, and effective position to adopt. To others, it might look like a policy straight jacket. Hani: You have observed the U.S.-North Korean relationships for decades very closely. What are the fundamental causes they could not resolve the stalemate? Carlin: The stars are rarely aligned for the two sides to engage and make real progress. One side or the other is usually out of phase. The North Koreans are much smaller and weaker; it is rare for them to take the initiative out of concern that they will be exposing their vulnerabilities. That doesn’t mean the North Koreans don’t think seriously about various options, but that, at least in their minds, the U.S. has to make the first move, even if it is only a positive gesture. I recall once a ranking North Korean diplomat was visiting the United States at a crucial time, and it made a good deal of sense for us to meet with him. Washington was hesitant to initiate the contact, windows of opportunity closed, and we were running out of time. At the last minute, arguments in favor of contacting the diplomat won the day, but by then he was at the airport, boarding his plane. When months later, I ran into this diplomat and mentioned that it would have been helpful if a meeting had taken place while he was in the US, he nodded. “Yes, it would have been,” he said, adding that he had some ideas to raise if there had been a meeting. In that case, I asked, why didn’t you call us? His reply highlighted the problem: “I couldn’t take the first step,” he said. “My instructions were to wait for your side to contact me.” Hani: Please let me know your proposals to improve the relations between the U.S. and North Korea. Carlin: I’m long out of the government and not in a position to make recommendations. Hani: What do you think about prospects for inter-Korea relations considering the New Year speeches of both leaders? Carlin: All I know is that when what look like openings appear, it’s important to test and, if possible, build on them. Waiting for something better to come along has never proved to be wise. In some sense, the old adage “good things come to those who wait,” is exactly wrong when dealing with the Korean situation. At the moment, the two sides look to be sniffing the air and sending half-way positive signals. I don’t try to predict where things will go, sometimes it’s hard enough just to figure out where they are at the moment. (Park Hyun, “U.S. Expert Questions ‘Provocation-Negotiation-Reward’ Cycle of North Korea,” Hankyore, January 20, 2014)


1/21/14:
The U.S. said it was ready to send an envoy to North Korea to bring back a jailed American who pleaded in front of reporters to go home. Kenneth Bae, a tour operator arrested in November 2012, made a public confession of wrongdoing ― often seen as a prerequisite for the totalitarian state to release foreign prisoners. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. remained “very concerned” about Bae‘s health and was “actively” working to release him. “We continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Bae amnesty and immediate release,” Psaki said. Another U.S. official voiced hope that North Korea’s decision for Bae to address reporters “signals their willingness to release him.” The official said that Robert King, the U.S. envoy on human rights in North Korea who has visited in the past, was prepared to bring home Bae. “We have offered to send Ambassador King to Pyongyang to secure Mr. Bae’s release. We have asked the North Koreans this, and await their early response,” the official said. (AFP, “U.S. Ready to Send Envoy to N.K. to Free Citizen,” January 21, 2014)

The United States and South Korea are concerned about the recent development in North Korea and its possible provocations, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said, expressing commitment to talks for denuclearizing the communist country.Burns made the remarks during a press briefing in Seoul following the meeting with Seoul’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun. The deputy secretary is here for a two-day visit from Monday on the first leg of his three-nation visit to Northeast Asia. “I think the United States and our friends here share a lot of concerns about the recent behavior of the DPRK leadership, and the dangers of further reckless behavior and provocations in the future,” Burns told reporters. The deputy secretary also vowed continued cooperation with South Korea “in dealing with challenges posed by the North Korean leadership,” expressing “strong American support for ROK President Park’s principled approach” to North Korea, and to South Korea’s defense and security. “Regarding the possibility of North Korea’s (military) provocations, both sides re-confirmed their former stance that they will strongly react to (North Korean) provocations, if they occur, on the basis of allied South Korea-U.S. defense posture,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement, following the vice-ministerial talk. (Yonhap, “U.S. Concerned about Reckless N. Korea: Deputy Secretary,” January 21, 2014)

South Korea said it will allow North Korean athletes to compete in the Asian Games to be held in Incheon from September 19 to October 4. The North has yet to officially inform the committee of its plans. (Yonhap, “S. Korea to Allow N. Korea to Compete in Incheon Asian Games,” January 21, 2014)

China yesterday unveiled a memorial to a Korean national hero who assassinated a Japanese official a century ago as Sino-Japanese relations hover at their lowest point in years. In 1909, Ahn Jung-geun shot and killed Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister and its top official on the then-Japan-occupied Korean Peninsula, at a railway station in the northeast city of Harbin. Ahn was hanged by Japanese forces in March 1910, when Korea also formally came under Japanese colonial rule. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide criticized the opening of the memorial. “The coordinated move by China and South Korea based on a one-sided view (of history) is not conducive to building peace and stability” he said in Tokyo. “The move is truly regrettable as we had made our stance and our concerns clear to the Chinese and South Korean governments,” Suga said, adding Ahn was “a terrorist who received a death sentence.” The memorial hall that opened yesterdaySunday at Harbin Railway Station honors Ahn, who is viewed as a hero in South Korea for his resistance against Japanese rule. Ahn shot Ito on October 26, 1909. The memorial got under way after South Korean President Park Geun-hye suggested erecting a monument to Ahn to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting last June. Ihara Junichi, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, lodged protests by phone with ministers at both embassies in Tokyo.“People have cherished the memory of Ahn for the past century,” Sun Yao, the vice governor of China’s Heilongjiang province, said at the unveiling Sunday, Xinhua reported. “Today we erect a memorial to him and call on peace-loving people around the world to unite, resist invasions and oppose war.” (AFP, Jiji, Kyodo, “Korean Who Assassinated Japan’s First Leader Honored in China,” Japan Times, January 21, 2014)


1/22/14:
Rodong Sinmun: “The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a goal common to the nation and invariable will of the army and people of the DPRK. The U.S. threat of nuclear war against the DPRK is a fundamental factor which spawned the nuclear issue on the peninsula. The U.S. has systematically introduced nuclear weapons into south Korea from the period of the Korean War and frequently staged small and large-scale drills for a nuclear war against the north, posing a constant nuclear threat to the DPRK. These nuclear war moves of the U.S. compelled the DPRK to have access to nuclear weapons as a means for protecting peace on the peninsula and the sovereignty of the nation. Had the DPRK failed to have access to nukes, it would have upset the equilibrium of force on the peninsula and the Korean nation would have met such tragic fate as suffering a nuclear disaster imposed by the aggressors. The DPRK’s nuclear force is a means to cope with the U.S. nuclear threat, to all intents and purposes. They are by no means aimed at blackmailing and hurting compatriots. Its nuclear force serves as an all-powerful treasured sword common to the nation to put an end to the U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail and defend peace and security of the nation. The south Korean authorities remain unchanged in their distrust and hostility toward their compatriots. Absolutely unjustifiable is the double-dealing posture and stand of allowing nukes of foreign forces designed to do harm to the compatriots and denying the nukes of compatriots for protecting all Koreans. If the south Korean authorities truly want the improved relations between the north and the south of Korea and peace and denuclearization on the peninsula, they should stop such reckless acts as introducing U.S. nuclear offensive means into south Korea as proposed by the DPRK.” (KCNA, “Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula Is Invariable Will of Army and People: Rodong Sinmun,” January 22, 2014)

The Eighth U.S. Army is seeking to deploy more than 80 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to South Korea in the coming years in an apparent move to strengthen its preparedness for possible scenarios of North Korean instability. The EUSA said that pending approval from the U.S. Department of Army, the heavily armored vehicles will be sent from outside Korea to unspecified U.S. military units on the peninsula. Currently, there are no MRAPs in Korea. “Recognizing the value of MRAPs, the Eighth Army identified an enduring requirement for MRAPs for use in support of both logistics and command and control operations,” the army told Korea Herald. “Eighth Army continues to work closely with the Department of the Army in the planning, procurement and fielding of more than 80 MRAPs in the coming years.” (Song Sang-ho, “U.S. to Send 80 Mine-Resistant Vehicles to Korea,” Korea Herald, January 22, 2014)

Egyptian telecom service provider Orascom, which provides mobile services in North Korea, is unable to send back around US$400 million of its investments, Voice of America reported. An audit report by Deloitte posted on Orascom’s website recently says, “North Korea has implemented currency control restrictions and, in particular, rules surrounding the repatriation of dividends to foreign investors.” Orascom started offering 3G mobile services in North Korea in a joint venture with North Korea’s postal service in 2008. Koryo Link is 75-percent owned by Orascom and 25 percent by the North. It has managed to attract 2 million subscribers. According to the audit report, Koryo Link’s gross profit during the first nine months of last year rose 40 percent from the same period of 2012 to $230 million thanks to a rise in the number of subscribers. But red tape is preventing it from sending back the profits. (Chosun Ilbo, “Egyptian Telecom’s Investment Frozen in N. Korea,” January 24, 2014)


1/23/14:
National Defense Commission (NDC) open letter “to the authorities, various political parties, social organizations and people of various circles of south Korea by a special order of the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the NDC of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army.” The letter says: “The history of the territorial partition which has lasted for several decades has brought untold misfortune and pain to the Korean nation. Foreign forces are wholly to blame for this tragic and disgraceful history of the Korean nation which started following the liberation of the country. Firmly determined to put an end to the history of the territorial partition and national split in view of the hard reality to which the Korean nation can no longer remain a passive on-looker, the supreme leadership of the DPRK in the New Year Address clarified internally and externally realistic ways of opening a fresh phase of national reunification. The ardent appeal sent by the NDC of the DPRK to the south Korean authorities on January 16 represents an important proposal for opening a wide avenue for improving the north-south relations. The important proposal of the DPRK reflects the steadfast will of its army and people to improve the north-south relations by concerted efforts of the two sides, not asking about all inglorious happenings in the past. This offer also reflects the desire and wishes of all Koreans for independent reunification, peace and prosperity of the country. Regretfully, however, the south Korean authorities still remain unchanged in its improper attitude and negative stand towards the proposal. What is most important for mending the inter-Korean ties is to have a proper attitude and stance towards this issue. The issue of improving the inter-Korean ties is a prerequisite for achieving the national reconciliation and unity and the starting point to provide a shortcut to reunification. The DPRK has already unilaterally opted for halting all acts of getting on the nerves of south Korea and slandering it. What is also important for paving a wide avenue for mending the north-south relations is to make a bold decision to stop all hostile military acts, the biggest hurdle stoking distrust and confrontation. The creation of atmosphere is required for repairing the inter-Korean relations but what is more important is to definitely terminate hostile military acts, the main obstacle to it. The DPRK did not urge the south Korean authorities to stop ordinary military drills. It urged them to halt drills for a war of aggression to be staged against their compatriots in collusion with outside forces. The south Korean authorities should not thoughtlessly doubt, misinterpret and rashly reject our sincere, important proposal. The north-south relations will be improved on a solid basis only when both sides take realistic measures to prevent impending nuclear disasters with concerted efforts of the Korean nation. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a goal common to the nation as it should be realized by concerted efforts of all Koreans. The south Korean authorities should have no doubt about the DPRK’s will for denuclearization. No matter how many regimes and authorities have been replaced, the south Korean authorities should utter any word after having a proper understanding of the root cause of the nuclear issue on the peninsula. Before finding fault with the nation’s precious nuclear force for self-defense to which the DPRK had access, they should make a bold decision to stop their dangerous acts of introducing outsiders’ nukes to do harm to their compatriots. It is our determination to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and unity, completely halt hostile military acts, realize the reunion of separated families and relatives, resume the tour of Mt. Kumgang and reenergize multi-faceted north-south cooperation and exchanges. Unshakable is the stand of the service personnel and people of the DPRK to pave a wide avenue for mending the north-south relations by concerted efforts of the Korean nation. Improved inter-Korean relations precisely mean the independent reunification, peace and prosperity desired by all Koreans.” (KCNA, “NDC of DPRK Sends Open Letter to South Korean Side,” January 24, 2014)

The United States is updating its contingency plans for a possible regime collapse in North Korea and various other scenarios, a top military commander said. Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said his troops have “detailed planning” for many different types of scenarios of what might unfold on the Korean Peninsula. “And one of those would be a rapidly changing situation that would require stabilization of the peninsula. So that planning is ongoing,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. The admiral voiced worries about Kim’s leadership. His behavior “makes me wonder whether or not he is always in the rational decision-making mode,” Locklear said. He described the nuclear-armed North as a “potentially very dangerous place.” The commander in charge of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region made clear that the U.S. will continue annual joint military drills with South Korea as scheduled. “We don’t plan to stop the exercises,” he said. “We are going to continue to do them as long as the risk on the Korean Peninsula persists.” On the Pentagon’s increased deployment of “rotational” troops and advanced weapons to Korea, Locklear said it is aimed at maximizing the combat readiness of the allies. He dismissed a view that such a move may reflect a change in the U.S. defense strategy on the peninsula. The Pentagon announced a decision to deploy 800 additional Army troops and advanced weapons just south of the border between the two Koreas for nine months from February 1. It also plans to send a dozen F-16 fighter jets to South Korea for a temporary mission. “It got played out like it was a big strategic move, but in reality it was just part of the pre-planned decision we had made in the alliance to make sure we had the most capable forces on the peninsula,” Locklear said. Meanwhile, he stressed the need to establish a key military communication channel with China. “I don’t have the ability to pick up a phone and talk directly to a PLA navy admiral or general at the time of a crisis. And we need to work on that,” he said, using the acronym for the formal name of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army. Washington and Beijing are discussing the issue but “things take time,” he said. He added he is concerned about the growing risk of conflict between China and Japan, stuck in territorial stand-offs. “Any time you have two large powers, two large economic powers, two large military powers that have a disagreement that they’re not talking to each other about that has no clear diplomatic end-state in sight … the risk calculation can grow,” he said. (Yonahp, “U.S. Updating N.K. Contingency Plans: Pacific Commander,” Korea Herald, January 24, 2014)


1/24/14:
North Korea made an abrupt proposal for the reunions of separated families living in both Koreas, and the South Korean government immediately welcomed the proposal. The North Korean Red Cross proposed holding the reunions at the Mount Kumgang resort “at a convenient time” after the Lunar New Year holiday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency said, adding that the proposal was made through a telephone message sent to the president of South Korea’s Red Cross. The North said in the message that the separated family reunions are in accordance with the wishes at home and abroad to improve inter-Korean relations. Seoul’s Unification Ministry welcomed the North Korean proposal, confirming that the Red Cross message was delivered through the Panmunjom channel at 6:30 p.m. a reply on details of the reunions, including the timing and preparatory consultations, to the North later. Pyongyang blamed Seoul for the long delays in the separated family reunions in the message, the ministry said, adding that it will send a reply on details of the reunions, including the timing and preparatory consultations, to the North later. (Yonhap, “North Korea Proposes Separated Family Reunions,” Korea Herald, January 24, 2014) On January 27, South Korea proposed in a message to North Korea that the sides hold a new round of family reunions at Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort on North Korea’s east coast, from February 17 to 22. The South also offered to hold Red Cross talks on January 29 at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss details of a new round of family reunions. “We hope that North Korea will positively respond to our proposal,” said Kim Eui-do, spokesman for the unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean relations. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Proposes Family Reunions with N. Korea in Mid-February,” January 27, 2014)

The State and Treasury departments are investigating whether Dennis Rodman broke the law on his most recent trip to North Korea, The Daily Beast reports. The former basketball star reportedly offered luxury gifts to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un for his 31st birthday, including expensive whiskey and a fur coat for his wife. The gifts would violate the 2010 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as well as several United Nations sanctions. (Julian Pecquet, “Report: Rodman under Investigation for North Korea Trip,” The Hill, January 24, 2014)


1/25/14:
President Park Geun-hye said she was skeptical about North Korea’s recent conciliatory proposals, including the offer to hold reunions for separated families, saying such peaceful gestures were always a prelude to an attack on South Korea. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Sub-committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, met with Park at the Blue House. The meeting was part of a trip to the region to better understand North Korean affairs and other diplomatic issues in Northeast Asia. “Given our previous experiences, such conciliatory propaganda [by North Korea] has always been followed by provocation,” Park told Rubio, according to transcripts released by the Blue House. “Their words were always inconsistent with their actions. “Now it is the time for them to prove [their sincerity] not by words but by actions.” “If North Korea indeed wants peace on the Korean Peninsula, they should come forward to resolve the matter of its nuclear weapons program, the biggest hurdle for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Park told Rubio on Saturday. “North Korea is becoming increasingly unpredictable, and the two allies [South Korea and the United States] should closely cooperate to maintain tightened security.” The Korea-U.S. joint military exercises are scheduled for early March, and the South Korean government will soon be sending official notifications to China and North Korea about the drills, the source said. However, a military official told JoongAng Ilbo that U.S. aircraft and strategic bombers would not be participating in the coming drills. “Last year, we mobilized bombers for the drills due to the highest military tensions raised by North Korea,” the military official said. “But this year’s situation is not so tense as to bring the bombers.” (Kim Hee-jin, “Park Demands Actions, Not Just Words, by North,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 27, 2014) “All of a sudden, North Korea has come out recently with a campaign of conciliatory propaganda,” Park said during the meeting. “From past experience, every time it has waged this kind of campaign, there has been a provocation, or it has said and done the opposite.” She went on to call for closer coordination with Washington. “Judging from things like the execution of Jang Song-thaek, North Korea is increasingly becoming an unpredictable place,” Park said. “At times like this, our two countries [South Korea and the US] need to work together closely to establish a security posture.” Park also reiterated her stance that unification could be a way of “relieving the suffering of the North Korean population.” “The most basic means of addressing the suffering of North Koreans is by achieving unification,” she said. “In addition to bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula, it would also be a way of securing the peace and stability of the other countries in the region.” Park also spoke out about the North Korean nuclear program. “If North Korea wants peace on the Korean Peninsula, it needs to take steps to address the nuclear issue, which is the single biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean Peninsula,” she said. “Dialogue with North Korea must be substantive to achieve denuclearization,” she said. “They cannot simply buy time to refine their nuclear weapons through dialogue for the sake of dialogue.” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, recommended a softer tack. “Even if the President feels a strong sense of distrust, it isn‘t appropriate to openly characterize North Korea’s calls for dialogue as a ‘disguised peace offensive,’” Yang said. “She needs to consider North Korea’s sincerity closely and manage and control her message on North Korea to the outside.” Paik Hak-soon, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, expressed similar concerns. “What worries me is that she seems to view North Korea as politically unstable depending on the analyses of a very limited group of people — the Blue House national security office and conservative scholars — and she’s moving forward on that basis,” Paik said. (Seok Jin-hwan and Choi Hyun-june, “Pres. Park Maintains Her Critical Stance on N. Korea,” Hankyore, January 27, 2014)

Methamphetamine, known as orum, or “ice,” is a rare commodity manufactured and sold in North Korea, where most factories sit idle, the equipment rusted or looted. The North Korean government once produced the drug, and others that are illicit in the West. Resourceful entrepreneurs have since set up their own small facilities, and evidence suggests that they are distributing the drug beyond the nation’s borders. Last month, five alleged drug smugglers — Chinese, British and Thai men among them — appeared in federal court in New York, extradited from Thailand in a plot to smuggle 220 pounds of crystal meth to the United States. They said that their product originated in North Korea. A Harvard University researcher, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, has tracked 16 drug busts from 2008 to the present in China involving crystal meth from North Korea in quantities of up to 22 pounds. “Meth is a product you can make in bathtubs or trailers,” Greitens said. “You have a wide range of people involved in production and trafficking.” . Through the 1990s, the North Korean government ran the production of opium, meth and other drugs for Office 39, a unit raising hard currency for late leader Kim Jong Il, according to narcotics investigators. But the North Korean government has largely gone out of the drug business, according to the U.S. State Department‘s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. (Barbara Demick, “In North Korea, Meth Is Offered As Casually As a Cup of Tea,” Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2014)

Hastings: “The actors within the North Korean business community can be categorized by the scale of their business operations, the sophistication of their transactions, and nature of their relationship to the North Korean state. At the lowest level are the private traders (mostly women) who do business in North Korean won in the informal markets that have sprung up as survival mechanisms in the North Korean countryside. Aside from bribes to local officials when necessary, they probably have little connection to the state. Second are the private traders who do business in hard currencies, such as Chinese yuan, US dollars, or Euros, who may have to pay more substantial rents to local and mid-level officials to operate. Third are what might be called hybrid traders –actual state officials who use their position to go into business for themselves, and private traders with more substantive connections to state institutions, either because they have formed networks with local officials seeking rents in exchange for permission to operate and access to certain state resources, or because they have bought their way to state status. A private trader with a black market opportunity, for example, might partner with a licensed state organization that can buy and sell in China. The trader can then be given ranks in state organization and invest money through them, akin to Chinese ‘red hat’ companies who buy status as state firms to take advantage of certain business incentives. Fourth are state-owned entities with trading licenses. With the collapse of the North Korean economy after the end of the Cold War, and the years of famine in the late 1990s, even state entities (albeit at the provincial and local level) were told to fend for themselves, or more specifically, they were told to engage in profit-making enterprises that could then be taxed by the central state. The results is that state-associated organizations (that is, party, state, and military organizational units) often have subordinated trading corporations which are quite entrepreneurial and use state connections to make money through anything sellable. Some can export resources, build partnerships with foreign investors, or establish enterprises outside of North Korea, subject to the central state’s power to grant licenses to do business overseas. Others let their workers work in the market in exchange for a portion of the proceeds, which is then taxed by the central state. Finally, there are the trading entities of the central state — the highest levels of the military, party, and cabinet, and the agencies, such as Bureaus 38 and 39, specifically tasked with trading both mundane goods, natural resources, weapons, and other goods for the purpose of bringing in foreign exchange to support the top echelon of North Korean society. … While North Korean diplomats had been implicated in a number of smuggling incidents since the 1970s, and poppy cultivation in North Korea had been ongoing since the Japanese occupation, official large-scale state production of drugs, first heroin, and later crystal methamphetamines, apparently ramped up in the early 1990s on the order of first Kim Il-Sung, and then Kim Jong-Il, as a way of raising hard currency in the aftermath of the loss of subsidies from the Soviet Union. State-encouraged drug production and trafficking was thus at its height in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s. However, whether due to international pressure or concern over spreading drug addiction within North Korea itself, the North Korean central state apparently abandoned large-scale drug production as a matter of formal policy some time between 2004 and 2007. The central state’s turn against drug use and trafficking seems to have begun in earnest in North Korea at least by August 2005, with crackdowns in Sinuiju, Hamheung, and Pyongyang. Where drug users used to be sent to labor camps for detoxification, they were now sent for longer sentences at prison camps. The state was actively cracking down on drug production and drug addicts by 2007 (as well as, at the same time, placing restrictions on private traders within the country). For instance, the annual US presidential report on countriesof concern in drug trafficking stopped mentioning North Korea after 2007. The last verified drug trafficking incidents with official North Korean state involvement were in 2004, and the scholarly and analytical literature devoted to North Korean drug trafficking dried up around the same time. … There are several implications from this paper for our understanding of the relationship between the North Korean state and North Korean trade network’s integration into the global economy. First, changes in state involvement were associated with changes in the governance and geography of the networks that had consequences for the societies around North Korea. While Japan and Taiwan saw dramatic drops in North Korean drug exports after 2004, China as both a transit point and a destination for North Korean-produced drugs bore the brunt of the change in geographic scope. Yanbian, for instance, saw 407 drug cases in 2006, with 10502 grams of ice confiscated. By 2010, this figure had more than doubled to 924 drug cases, with 20,700 grams of ice confiscated. Convincing a state to give up drug trafficking may, depending on the domestic context, merely result in a territorial shift and restructuring of drug trafficking networks rather than their disappearance. Second, while various analysts have argued the apparent drop in state-centered trafficking since the early 2000s may be due to the North Korean state using more plausibly denial means, the paper suggests that if indeed the North Korean central state is still engaged in drug trafficking, it is not using state resources outside of North Korea, and the central state is capturing a considerably smaller portion of the value of drug trafficking than before, although its ‘taxation’ system on state officials ameliorates this somewhat.” (Justin V. Hastings, “The Economic Geography of North Korean Drug Trafficking Networks,” Review of International Political Economy (forthcoming)


1/28/14:
South Korea carried out a live-fire drill on its northwestern islands despite North Korea’s warning of “grave consequences,” but the closely-watched exercise ended without clashes with the communist state. Ahead of today’s exercise, the North’s National Defense Commission sent a fax through the western military hotline to National Security Office chief Kim Jang-soo urging President Park Geun-hye to cancel it, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. “North Korea called on South Korea to stop the live-fire artillery exercise, threatening grave consequences,” Kim said during a morning briefing. The South Korean defense ministry’s policy director immediately replied to the North to stress that the naval drill is a “legitimate exercise” that is held in its own territorial waters, and the family reunions should not be affected by the exercise, Kim said. The South Korean military is maintaining a firm readiness against any North Korean attacks and will strike back if provoked, Kim added. Later in the day, artillery batteries stationed at Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong islands, located just south of the western maritime border, carried out the live-fire exercise for an hour, involving K-9 self-propelled howitzers, tank guns and Vulcan anti-aircraft guns. There were no special movements by the North Korean military, according to military officials. The routine drill was closely watched amid rising hope of thawed inter-Korean ties as the two Koreas are seeking to hold reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in mid-February. Following Pyongyang’s recent peace gestures, Seoul officials have been analyzing the intentions behind the unpredictable regime’s recent move, while keeping close tabs on the North Korean military. The North Korean military has been carrying out its winter drills since early December, but it has temporarily stopped sending propaganda leaflets through the border since earlier this month, according to multiple sources. North Korea has occasionally floated fliers condemning the South Korean government over the border, but its military had sent large numbers of leaflets using hot air balloons near its western front, starting in early December. The leaflets, under the name of the Korean People’s Army, threatened to mercilessly strike Marine Corps bases on South Korea’s northwestern islands, stressing its words were not empty. Since Pyongyang called on Seoul to halt all acts provoking and slandering the other side in mid-January, propaganda balloons have not been detected near the western front, sources familiar with the matter said. “As the North Korean military has halted sending propaganda leaflets in the last two weeks, we are conducting an in-depth analysis into their intentions,” a senior military official said, asking for anonymity. “Leaflets that strongly denounce South Korea have not been found near Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.” Marine Corps troops are stationed on the front-line islands in the Yellow Sea, where several naval skirmishes with North Korea have taken place in the past decade. Another source said the leaflets haven’t been collected near the northwestern islands since Jan. 4, noting an intelligence analysis is currently underway. “At this point, it is not clear whether North Korea didn’t fly leaflets due to weather conditions or stopped because of a certain intention,” the source said. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Holds Live-Fire Drill Despite North’s Warning,” January 28, 2014) North Korea has temporarily stopped flying propaganda leaflets to South Korea near its western border since the communist state offered a series of peace gestures earlier this month, multiple sources said. Its military had sent large numbers of leaflets using hot air balloons near its western front, starting in early December. The leaflets under the name of the Korean People’s Army threatened to mercilessly strike Marine Corps bases on South Korea’s northwestern islands, stressing its words were not empty. Since Pyongyang called on Seoul to halt all acts provoking and slandering the other side in mid-January, propaganda balloons have not been detected near the western front, sources familiar with the matter said. “As the North Korean military has halted sending propaganda leaflets in the last two weeks, we are conducting an in-depth analysis into their intentions,” a senior military official said, asking for anonymity. “Leaflets that strongly denounce South Korea have not been found near Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.” Marine Corps troops are stationed on the front-line islands in the Yellow Sea, where several naval skirmishes with North Korea took place in the past decade. Another source said the leaflets haven’t been collected near the northwestern islands since January 4, noting intelligence analysis is currently underway. “At this point, it is not clear whether North Korea didn’t fly leaflets due to weather conditions or stopped because of a certain intention,” the source said. (Yonhap, “North Temporarily Stops Sending Propaganda Leaflets to South,” Korea Herald, January 28, 2014)

South and North Korea began the pilot operation of a new border entry system for Kaesong Industrial Complex, Seoul’s unification ministry said. Some 21 out of 51 South Koreans who crossed the border on the day entered the Complex using the radio frequency identification (RFID) system. Earlier this month, South Korea completed the RFID system, a data transfer system to facilitate travel to and from the industrial complex, and has since conducted a test-run. Until now, Seoul has had to fax a list of names a day before any trip to the North, which would then allow those on the list to cross the border only during a designated time, an obstacle to the overall competitiveness of the complex. “The new system will significantly reduce the time required for entry procedures from 13 seconds per person to five seconds, and from 15 seconds per car to seven,” a ministry official said. (Yonhap, “Koreas Launch New Entry System for Joint Industrial Park,” January 28, 2014)

Davies: “Q: Let me start with the dialogue between the DPRK and Japan. It is reported, some reported, you know they had a meeting in Hanoi. Do you have some information, did you know about it in advance? DAVIES: I don’t have any information about official contacts between Japan and North Korea. I look forward to my visit to Tokyo, where I will obviously hear from the Japanese government about any efforts they’ve undertaken, but I don’t have any particular information from here. I’m here in Beijing and I have yet to get to Tokyo, so perhaps I’ll know more then. Q: Which means the Japanese Government didn’t consult the United States in advance? DAVIES: Well I’m not even certain that there have been meetings between Japan and North Korea. If you know for a fact there have been, that’s news to me, but we’ll find out. When I get to Tokyo in a couple of days, I’ll certainly raise that, that issue. …Q: How do you think North Korea making conciliatory gestures to South Korea recently? DAVIES: Well, I think you’re referring in that respect to the issue that’s been raised by North Korea, the offer to go forward with family reunions. And, this is a humanitarian issue; it’s a north-south issue between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK. Obviously, we’re very supportive of these reunions going forward. Many of the, of the individuals involved are elderly, getting on in years, they haven’t seen family members in decades, in a number of instances. So it’s exceedingly important that these humanitarian meetings be allowed to go forward. But we’ll see, because we all know that a week and a half or so prior to the North Korean offer, they had rejected a South Korean proposal to go forward with reunification, so it’s very difficult to know what’s likely to happen. But we are supportive of it, we think it’s important, and we hope it goes forward without any linkage to any other issues. Q: Mr. Davies, about the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, are you looking forward to it, and also what did you and your Chinese counterpart talk about regarding going back to the negotiating table? DAVIES: Sure, well we both share an interest in getting back to Six-Party Talks as soon as possible. Here, the principal obstacle, and you all know this, has been the lack of not just interest, but meaningful steps on the part of North Korea to demonstrate that it understands that it has to live up to its obligations and its commitments, principally those it made back in September 2005, that’s encapsulated in the joint statement. And it’s, I mean, I’ve been at this job now over two years, and I’ve been struck with the…the lack of interest on the part of North Korea in meaningfully addressing this denuclearization issue, which is the principal issue that underpins the Six Party talks process. We haven’t seen any signs that they are willing to move on that, willing to take steps to address the concerns that we’ve had. What they’ve said are things like that they have…that they’re interested in coming back to talk without preconditions, which means that they’d like to talk about everything except their obligations to denuclearize. So this is of great concern to us. So of course, here in Beijing, the bulk of the time I spent in meetings with Chinese officials was about how best to move the process forward, get back to Six Party, convince North Korea, if necessary, through further pressure, that it needs to begin taking steps now and get back on to that, into that process of denuclearization.” (DoS, Glyn Davies, Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Remarks at the Westin Chaoyang Hotel, Beijing, January 28, 2014)

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine shattered the painstaking groundwork Japanese and South Korean foreign policymakers were laying for a bilateral summit. While the United States is calling on its two Asian allies to mend broken ties, Japanese officials are bracing for another possible haymaker from Abe. “Far from restoring relations, the prime minister may visit the shrine again,” a government source said. South Korean officials were appalled when Japan informed them on the night of December 25 that Abe might visit the shrine, where 14 Class-A war criminals are commemorated, the next day. The day before, South Korean diplomats met with their Japanese counterparts in Tokyo to discuss a possible trilateral summit among Japan, South Korea and China. In a meeting on December 18, Japanese and South Korean officials also considered arranging vice-ministerial dialogue in January to smooth the way for a future bilateral summit. Foreign policymakers of the two countries were holding out hopes that Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye might sit for one-on-one talks around March, when a nuclear security summit is scheduled. Abe’s December 26 visit meant all their hard work had come to naught, however. “A sense of weariness has sunk in,” a Foreign Ministry source said of the mood among ministry bureaucrats. Around October, Abe’s lieutenants in the prime minister’s office told Foreign Ministry officials that he would decide between visiting Yasukuni and flying to Beijing to improve ties with China on the first anniversary of his administration in December. The ministry sprang into action to arrange a summit with China, another with South Korea and a three-way summit as ways to keep Abe from paying his respects at Yasukuni. “If the prime minister visits the shrine, the wheels of Japanese diplomacy will fall off,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said. Japan and South Korea had already begun consultations for a summit when their foreign ministers met in July and September. On November 7, vice-ministerial officials from Japan, South Korea and China met in Seoul, raising hopes of a three-nation summit. A week later, Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki called on Lee Byung-kee, South Korean ambassador to Japan, to work toward a trilateral summit by the end of the year. “We will consider whatever date is feasible,” Saiki told Lee during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry on Nov. 14. South Korea, however, set several conditions for a summit with Japan. Seoul asked for Abe’s promise to abide by Japan’s past apologies for its wartime actions issued in the names of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. The 1995 Murayama statement expressed remorse and an apology for Japan’s aggression and colonial rule, while the 1993 Kono statement acknowledged that the nation’s military forcefully recruited “comfort women” to provide sex for its troops before and during World War II. Seoul also called for a letter of apology to former comfort women from Abe, and Japanese government assistance to those women for reasons other than humanitarian support. Japan’s Foreign Ministry was not amenable because Abe had demanded there be no strings attached to a summit with Park. Negotiations were brought to a standstill when the ministry asked South Korea to refrain from anti-Japan activities in the international community and to guarantee that Japanese assistance to former comfort women would be its last. Meanwhile, confrontation with China intensified after Beijing declared an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea on November 23 that includes the disputed Senkaku Islands. Japan planned to let South Korea continue to preside over a three-nation summit in 2014, but then sought to take over the chairmanship to break the stalemate with its two neighbors. In vice-ministerial dialogue with South Korea on December 19, however, China made it clear that it would never accept a trilateral summit if Japan chaired the framework. Japanese and South Korean diplomats failed to reach a consensus when they met in Tokyo on December 24. “In Japan, a handful of close aides in the prime minister’s office were acting in a different dimension, which is not governed by the logic of diplomacy,” a South Korean government source said. Abe’s Yasukuni visit drew a rebuke of “disappointment” in a U.S. government statement, an unexpectedly blunt response apparently reflecting criticism on the part of Vice President Joe Biden. When Biden met with Park in Seoul on December 6, he called for cooperation with Japan after briefing her on what he had discussed with Abe in Tokyo three days earlier. According to sources, Biden said Abe had admitted some excessive responses had been made in regards to Japan-South Korea relations. He also said the prime minister indicated that he would stand by the Murayama and Kono statements and would not visit Yasukuni. Japan was taken aback when it learned about the exchange between Biden and Park. “The prime minister can never be expected to promise to a foreign dignitary that he will not visit Yasukuni,” a government source said. Japanese officials contacted their U.S. and South Korean counterparts to confirm what was discussed. Their responses were largely in line with what Japanese officials believed. Some sources said it remains a mystery why Biden interpreted Abe’s words in those ways. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel went to the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery to pay their respects to Japan’s war dead, not Yasukuni, when they visited Japan in October. The Foreign Ministry took the gesture as a U.S. warning against a visit to Yasukuni, a ministry official said. “Biden probably got his wishful thinking mixed in when he talked with Park,” a source said. Last summer, the ministry heard about Abe’s intention to visit Yasukuni by year-end, a secret shared by a select group in the prime minister’s office, according to government sources. The ministry secretly sought opinions on the prime minister’s shrine visit from administration officials, members of Congress and experts in the United States. The reactions were invariably negative. Some said they completely supported the Abe administration’s foreign policy, but the pilgrimage would turn such an assessment on its head. The Foreign Ministry reported the results to the prime minister’s office. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide became cautious about the visit, while Abe remained unfazed, according to sources. Biden apparently made the remarks in Seoul, aware of these developments. After Abe’s Yasukuni visit, the Japanese government studied how it was received in the United States. “Biden’s reaction was the fiercest,” a government source said. Government officials believe that his stance led to the “disappointment” expressed by the U.S. government. “Biden alone handles the Obama administration’s coordination with Congress,” a government source said. “We cannot say the prime minister is on good terms with President Obama. There could be a negative consequence to our relations with Congress as well.” After Biden’s remarks, South Korean government sources said Washington has leaned closer to Seoul than to Tokyo. The sources also said negotiations will stall over Abe’s defense initiatives, such as lifting the self-imposed ban on the right to collective self-defense and acquiring the capability to strike enemy bases, as far as the Korean Peninsula is concerned. According to the South Korean government, the United States has sought an understanding about Abe’s policies on the grounds that Japan will exercise the right to collective self-defense within the framework of the Japan-U.S. alliance. The United States has also given its understanding to South Korea’s stance on the issues of comfort women and Yasukuni. South Korea has indicated it will not allow Japan to strike bases in North Korea, at least without its approval. In January, Yachi Shotaro, chief of the secretariat of Japan’s National Security Council, traveled to the United States, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns came to Japan. On both occasions, the United States called on Japan to improve ties with South Korea. “It is not easy to restore relations,” a South Korean government official said. (Makino Yoshihiro, “Abe’s Shrine Visit Blew Japan-S. Korea Efforts for Summit Sky-High,” Asahi Shimbun, January 28, 2014)


1/29/14:
Japan’s conservative government has ordered schools and textbook publishers to take a more strongly nationalist line when describing disputed island territories, prompting the latest acrimonious exchange with South Korea and China. South Korea’s foreign ministry demanded that Tokyo retract the new teaching guidelines, which require that three groups of disputed islands — one administered by Seoul, another controlled by Russia and third controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan — be described as “integral parts of Japan’s territory.” A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman also expressed “grave concern” over the new Japanese directive. “It is important to teach students correctly about their country’s territory,” Shimomura Hakubun, Japan’s education minister, said on Tuesday in announcing the directive, which will take effect in April and be reflected in new editions of middle school textbooks beginning in 2016, and in high school textbooks beginning in 2017. Current guidelines do not specify how teachers or textbooks should refer to the territories. Under the new rules, lessons and materials are to specify that the Korean- and Russian-held islands are “illegally occupied”, and “make it understood that no dispute over territorial rights exists” with China over the third, Japanese-held group. PM Abe Shinzo has long favored reshaping Japanese school curricula to deliver more “patriotic education,” and, like many members of his right-leaning Liberal Democratic Party, sees schoolteachers and their leftist national trade union as a malignant influence on the young. Abe has also sought to impose his conservative stamp on other cultural institutions. Late last year he appointed a group of close allies to the board of NHK, the national broadcast network, engineering a political shift that led to the appointment of Momii Katsuto, a former businessman, as its new chairman. On January 27, in his first news conference since taking the position, Momii caused widespread outrage by defending the sexual abuse of women by the Japanese army during the second world war, remarks for which he later apologized. He also said NHK’s international news programs should reflect official government positions. “International broadcasting is different from domestic,” Momii said. “It would not do for us to say ‘left’ when the government is saying ‘right.’” (Jonathan Soble, “Tokyo Decree over Islands Causes Upset,” Financial Times, January 29, 2014, p. 4)

The U.S. military is scaling back an annual exercise with South Korea next month and carrier involvement in exercise Key Resolve this year,” a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP. In addition, there were no plans to send out nuclear-capable bombers as in last year’s drill, the official said. “Every year the scenario is slightly different,” said a second official. The two officials acknowledged that the United States tends to calibrate what ships and aircraft are featured in drills partly in response to North Korea’s behavior. (AFP, “U.S. Scales back Military Exercise with S. Korea,” January 29, 2014)

DCI Threat Briefing: “North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a serious threat to the United States and to the security environment in East Asia, a region with some of the world’s largest populations, militaries, and economies. North Korea’s export of ballistic missiles and associated materials to several countries, including Iran and Syria, and its assistance to Syria’s construction of a nuclear reactor, destroyed in 2007, illustrate the reach of its proliferation activities. Despite the reaffirmation of its commitment in the Second-Phase Actions for the implementation of the September 2005 Joint Statement not to transfer nuclear materials, technology, or know-how, North Korea might again export nuclear technology. In addition to conducting its third nuclear test on 12 February 2013, North Korea announced its intention to ‘adjust and alter’ the uses of existing nuclear facilities to include the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon, and to restart its graphite moderated reactor that was shut down in 2007. We assess that North Korea has followed through on its announcement by expanding the size of its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarting the reactor that was previously used for plutonium production. North Korea has publicly displayed its KN08 road-mobile ICBM twice. We assess that North Korea has already taken initial steps to field this system, although it remains untested. North Korea is committed to developing long-range missile technology that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States. Its efforts to produce and market ballistic missiles raise broader regional and global security concerns. Because of deficiencies in their conventional military forces, North Korean leaders are focused on deterrence and defense. We have assessed that, in Pyongyang’s view, its nuclear capabilities are intended for deterrence, international prestige, and coercive diplomacy. We do not know Pyongyang’s nuclear doctrine or employment concepts. … Two years after taking the helm of North Korea, Kim Jong Un has further consolidated his position as unitary leader and final decision authority. He has solidified his control and enforced loyalty through personnel changes and purges. The most prominent was the ouster and execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek in December 2013. Kim has elevated the profile of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) through appointments of party operatives to key leadership positions and the convening of party conferences and plenums. Kim and the regime have publicly emphasized his focus on improving the country’s troubled economy and the livelihood of the North Korean people while maintaining the tenets of a command economy. He has codified this approach via his dual-track policy of economic development and advancement of nuclear weapons.” (DCI James R. Clapper, Worldwide Treat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, January 29, 2014)

Hansen: “Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates that North Korea may be preparing the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (“Tongchang-ri”) for a more robust rocket test program in the future involving larger space launch vehicles and road-mobile ballistic missiles able to attack targets in Northeast Asia and the United States. Specifically: The Sohae gantry tower has been undergoing significant modifications to enable it to launch a large rocket up to 25 percent longer than the Unha-3 space launch vehicle tested in 2012. It is unclear when that rocket will be ready. Because of construction, the pad will not be available for launches until March/April 2014 at the earliest. Construction has continued since summer 2013 on a growing number of projects consistent with preparations for using Sohae as a training and launch facility for North Korea’s new generation of regional and intercontinental-range mobile missiles. The latest projects are the construction of two 45,000-gallon tanks that could be used to fuel vehicles in mobile missile units and a pad possibly intended for use by those units for training.A possible test of a rocket engine used by the road-mobile KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile took place between late December 2013 and early January 2014. Imagery from late December indicated the presence of what appears to be a rocket stage consistent with the KN-08 ballistic missile’s first stage and possibly a crane that would be used to place the engine into the test stand and remove it after a test. Imagery taken two weeks later showed that the rocket stage and other equipment were gone. North Korea continues to upgrade the facility’s instrumentation site including the installation of a new permanent dish antenna for tracking launches, providing a further indication that Sohae will be the location of an active space launch vehicle and missile test program in the future.” (Nick Hansen, “Significant Developments at North Korea’s Sohae Test Facility,” 38North, January 29, 2014)


2/3/14:
North Korea agreed to hold border talks with South Korea this week to discuss arranging reunions where relatives separated by the Korean War would meet for the first time in six decades, officials here said. North Korea agreed last month to restart the reunions after a three-year hiatus and asked South Korea to pick the dates. On January 27, the South suggested that the reunions be held from February 17 to 22 and that the two sides hold Red Cross talks on the border January 29 to sort out the details. Despite the South’s repeated appeals, however, the North did not respond for a week. Today, it said such talks could be held February 5 or 6. Later today, both Koreas agreed to hold them February 5 at the border village of Panmunjom. “We welcome the North Korean response, even if it is belated,” Kim Eui-do, a spokesman for the South Korean government, said at a media briefing on Monday. South Korea had hoped to hold the Red Cross talks last week to allow the Koreas time to prepare for the reunions before the South and the United States begin joint annual military exercises scheduled for late February. North Korea has denounced the drills for being what it says are a rehearsal for an invasion, and has used such exercises as a reason to scuttle or delay family reunions. About 22,000 Koreans participated in 18 rounds of government-arranged reunions from 1985 to 2010, when the program was suspended. About 73,000 South Koreans, half of them older than 80, remain on a waiting list to meet their relatives in the North for the first time since the war. After months of harsh talk after the North’s nuclear test last February, the Koreas agreed in August to revive the reunions, although the North later backtracked from that agreement. The South selected 100 people by lottery to participate. Two have since died. (Choe Sang-hun, “North K0orea Agrees to Talks on Reunions,” New York Times, February 3, 2014, p. A-6)

KCNA: “The chairman of the C.C., the Red Cross Society of the DPRK sent a notice to the president of the south Korean Red Cross [today]. He in the notice proposed holding a working contact between the Red Cross organizations in the north and the south for the reunion of separated families and their relatives from both sides at the Thongil House in the portion of the north side in Panmunjom on February 5 or 6. The notice said that if the south side fixes a convenient date, the north side’s delegation will go out for the working contact on that day.” (KCNA, “DPRK Red Cross Head Sends Notice to His S. Korean Counterpart,” February 3, 2014)

It’s late afternoon at the e-library in North Korea’s Kim Il Sung University, where row after row of smartly dressed students sit quietly, their faces bathed in the glow of computer displays as they surf the Internet. On the surface, it’s a familiar-seeming scene, which is exactly why officials are offering it up for a look. As with so many other aspects of its internal workings, North Korea has tried hard to keep its relationship to the Internet hidden from foreign eyes. But it opened that door just a crack recently for The Associated Press to reveal a self-contained, tightly controlled Intranet called Kwangmyong, or “Bright.” North Korea thinks Bright is the authoritarian answer to the freewheeling Internet. Chats and email? Monitored. Content? Restricted to the point that the use of Bright hardly even needs to be watched by officials. How about the OS? It’s “Red Star,” now available in version 3.0, which looks a lot like the Microsoft operating system, but is used only in North Korea. Red Star has audio and video players, and even a game — Korean chess. There’s a Firefox-style search engine called “Our Country” that helps users navigate around an estimated 1,000 to 5,500 websites, mostly for universities, government offices, libraries and state-run corporations. Most North Koreans have no access to the Internet at all. “The goal is to reap the benefits of information technology, while keeping out potentially corrosive foreign influences,” said Scott Bruce, a North Korea IT expert and analyst at the Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit CRDF Global. Copies of Red Star have found their way outside of the North and been studied abroad. But North Korea is so secretive about Bright, which it launched more than a decade ago, that it is off-limits to even the foreign technical advisers it brings in. It can be accessed only in the North and is meant exclusively for domestic use. “I haven’t had a time when I’ve been allowed to use the Intranet — since the point is that it is not open to foreigners,” said Will Scott, a computer sciences instructor at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology who has worked about as closely with North Korea’s attempt to get wired as any other foreigner. Through daily interactions with North Korean students at his university, however, Scott has been able to glean a general outline of what Bright is all about. “The Intranet provides a connection between industry, universities and the government. It seems to be focused on information propagation, rather than commerce, entertainment or communication,” he told the AP. “Given the limited resources in the country, where computers are likely not to be owned by individuals, and are a valuable resource, this has a striking resemblance to the uses first made of the Internet in the U.S. when it was introduced in the ’80s.” Technologically, he said, North Korea’s Intranet is a mini-Internet, with a combination of joint venture companies and vaguely government-affiliated labs that collectively maintain the core infrastructure that exists on the global Web. Graduate students and North Korean professors at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology are allowed to access the real Internet from a dedicated computer lab, similar to the e-library at Kim Il Sung University. They receive the same speed and unfiltered access that foreign instructors do, although everyone’s access is monitored. Scott said the graduate students don’t use the Internet nearly as much as Americans would, treating it more like the way Western students might visit a library to find books. Students’ emails must be reviewed and approved by one of the vice presidents of the university before they can be sent, which, Scott said, means they rarely use email. “There is some resistance to providing Internet access to students because it requires some level of political capital, and is generally discouraged by higher-up ministries as not worth the potential danger,” he said. “I think you would find a surprising lack of technical surveillance on the Intranet, due largely to the high level of self-censorship built into the collective psyche in the country.” (Eric Talmadge, “Wary N. Korea Struggles to Stay Afloat in Info Age,” Associated Press, February 3, 2014)

Jeffrey Lewis: “On April 15, 2012, North Korea paraded what appeared to be six road-mobile missiles, quickly identified in the media as KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), through Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. Attention immediately focused on these unusual vehicles, after Chinese bloggers identified them as Chinese-manufactured transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) used by Beijing’s strategic missile forces. Officials in Beijing initially denied exporting “any items prohibited by relevant UN Security Council resolutions and Chinese laws and regulations.” However they later stated that the Chinese firm in question had only exported civilian-use chassis, which can be used for a variety of civil purposes, including logging and construction. Although the chassis export appeared to violate sanctions on North Korea and Chinese domestic law, the Chinese showed evidence that the North Koreans had provided the name of a false end-user for the vehicles, a standard tactic for evading export controls, and stated that North Korea had added the erectors and other specialized equipment to the chassis themselves. It is possible, using open source information, to make some preliminary judgments about China’s claim, as well as North Korea’s infrastructure for producing TELs. Although it is hard to believe that the Chinese were not aware that North Korea would use the vehicle chassis for its illicit missile program, available evidence suggests that Pyongyang did indeed add the erectors at facilities known to assemble missile TELs. Following the April 2012 parade, Chinese officials told the United Nations Panel of Experts charged with monitoring sanctions enforcement that a Chinese firm, the Wanshan Special Vehicle Company (WSV), had exported six heavy-duty vehicle chassis to North Korea in 2011. The delivery appears to have been made in two shipments: two chassis in May 2011 followed by another four in October 2011. In retrospect, information concerning the shipments was available in the public domain. The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) announced the export of heavy-duty vehicle chassis to an unnamed foreign customer at the time of the sale, as did WSV. Neither statement mentioned the number of chassis or the identity of the customer, but they did indicate that the recipient—China’s first foreign customer for such vehicles—paid 12 million RMB in advance on a 30 million RMB order. Chinese officials subsequently claimed that Pyongyang had told them that the vehicles were to be used in logging by the Ministry of Forestry. Although the story is difficult to believe, logging and construction are plausible civil uses for these otherwise highly specialized vehicles. One question that remained was whether the Chinese exported fully assembled launchers, or, as Chinese officials claimed, just the chassis-and-cab assembly, leaving North Korea to mount the launcher and other specialized equipment. In 2013, North Korea released a commemorative video entitled, Kim Jong Il’s Efforts to Defend the Country, posted by pro-North Korean groups on YouTube. Although it is strange to think of North Korea using social media extensively, the country’s state-run propaganda apparatus and affiliated groups in foreign countries make extensive use of such platforms to share and distribute the regime’s propaganda internationally. This propaganda also can provide outside analysts with important clues about activities in the North that otherwise are off limits to foreigners, for example, factories where North Korean leaders conduct field inspections. Kim Jong Il’s Efforts to Defend the Country contains the only known footage taken inside North Korea’s facility for completing assembly of TELs for ballistic missiles. Three clips lasting a few seconds show Nodong TELs inside a spacious, rectangular, high-bay building as well as a KN-08 TEL in a very similar building. Kim Jong Il appears in some frames, looking at a Nodong TEL. The first analysis of the film, along with still images, appeared on North Korea Leadership Watch, a website which regularly analyzes North Korean propaganda. Because the internal images show a distinct building, it is possible to model the outside of the structure by first simulating the inside. First, along one of the long sides of the building there is an unusual pattern of clerestory windows—high windows above eye level—as well as the cupola-like structure near the center of the building. Second, windows run along only one of the long sides of the building, suggesting that it is either partially buried or has an adjoining structure on the opposite side. Finally, the windows along the short side of the building are spaced in an irregular manner and make an identifiable pattern. Referencing the video footage, we digitally constructed the building interior on SketchUp, a free, widely-available 3D modeling program. This rendering revealed the structure’s approximate dimensions, and based on the windows and roof, suggested that the two clips may have been filmed in different buildings. Combining what we knew about the windows, roof, and building dimensions, we created external models of the two buildings—one with a square cupola, and another with a larger cupola spanning the width of the roof. Once the configurations of the structures were identified, the next question we addressed was, where might such unusual buildings be located? Google Earth houses an enormous repository of high-resolution satellite and aerial images, including fairly comprehensive coverage of built-up areas of North Korea. Additional images can be purchased from other providers, such as Astrium. The only problem is where to start looking. A number of defector accounts describe the location of various North Korean defense industries, including some linked to the production of vehicle chassis and the final assembly of transporter-erector-launchers. We mined Korean-language social media sites and other electronic resources containing defector accounts to create a search area. Although the accounts differ from one another, descriptions of facilities to assemble missile launchers converged on an area in Chagang Province that is well known as the heart of North Korea’s defense industries. (Chagang is also a center of forestry, an amusing coincidence given the stated end-use for the Chinese vehicles.) For example, Ko Chong Song, a North Korean defector, published a book in Japan describing the locations of defense enterprises, stating Pyongyang produces “missile launchers” at the No. 81 Factory located in the Chungsonggan workers’ district, Songgan County, Chagang Province, about 2.5 to 3 kilometers from Songgan-up.” However, Ko cautions that the No. 81 Factory may only produce some components for launchers with final assembly done elsewhere. Another account, posted online by an anti-DPRK dissident group, describes a gruesome incident of cannibalism at the “No.11 munitions factory (Hakmu worker’s district 6 km northwest of Jonchon, Jagang) where missile launchers are manufactured…” Jonchon and Songgan are close to one another, lying about 10 kilometers apart along a river valley.Songgan, Chunsonggan and Jonchon (Chonchon) all appear in the Gazetteer maintained by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Hakmu does not—although the description of the place as about 6 kilometers northwest of Jonchon is consistent with a mention in a survey conducted by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Ko also mentions Factory 11—although he claims it is near Songgan. All of these locations are within a few kilometers of each other, creating a manageable search area centered on the river valley between Songgan and Jonchon, particularly the Chungsonggan and Hakmu Worker’s Districts, which lie between the two locations. There are other possible locations mentioned in defector accounts, but this is the only cluster of possibilities. This became our initial search area. While the ten kilometers along the river valley between Jonchon and Songgan represent a manageable search area, it was further simplified through crowdsourcing. The social media site Wikimapia and the North Korea Uncovered KMZ file offered by North Korean Economy Watch provide the locations of many known defense sites, including surface-to-air missile installations. Although the No. 81 and No. 11 Factories are not listed, clusters of surface-to-air missiles sites often help identify locations that the North Koreans regard as important enough to warrant air defenses. The area six kilometers northwest of Jonchon—consistent with the location of the Hakmu Worker’s District—appears to be well-defended so our search started there. Less than one kilometer from a surface-to-air missile site, and 4.6 kilometers northwest of the Jonchon train station (a proxy for central Jonchon), lies a building located at 40°38’44″N, 126°25’58″E that matches one of our models. We will call this structure Site A. Several interesting details emerge right away looking at the satellite imagery. The Site A building is a close match based on the modeled dimensions and the windows. The building has a single row of high, clerestory windows because the main building has an adjoining structure. The completely windowless opposite side appears to be flush with another hall. The windows at the eastern short end match very closely. The large cupola is revealed to be a curved, fan-like structure (consistent with the arc made by the tip of an erecting missile on a TEL inside). As it turns out, the two different roofs are actually from the same building. Satellite images show that North Korea remodeled the roof at Site A between 2004 and 2011—probably at the same time it negotiated for the export of the KN-08 chassis. Most conclusive, was the fact that a KN-08 missile could easily be erected on a launcher under the 2011 cupola, where the previous 2004 cupola could only support the shorter Nodong missile. Frank Pabian and Tamara Patton built a model of the KN-08 TEL and missile using parade images and SketchUp. Wanshan’s original marketing materials for the WS51200 chassis also included specifications, thus they were able to scale the model to the correct size. This detail not only provides strong confirmation of the site’s purpose, but indicates that China probably only exported the bare chassis. It would seem the launcher modifications were added here near Jonchon. Working with 38 North, we purchased new satellite images, including a low-angle view that shows the windows running alongside the south of the building. They are not evenly spaced, presenting the opportunity to match the inside of the building with the outside. The matching window pattern is strong evidence that the KN-08 launchers seen in the video were located in the building at Site A. The windows in one video clip of the Nodong launcher, however, do not seem to match. In particular, one image shows a Nodong with a row of continuous windows behind it. It is possible that the windows were altered when the roof was remodeled. There is, however, another possibility. In addition to the building at Site A, we found a nearly identical building a few kilometers away at what we call Site B (40°36’43″N, 126°25’34″E). This structure appears to be located in the same industrial facility, which is spread out over many square kilometers in the river valleys. This roof was also modified to receive a new cupola sometime before 2011. The available evidence strongly suggests these buildings are the ones shown in Kim Jong Il’s Efforts to Defend the Country, as well as described in defector accounts. Based on Kim Jong Un’s visit, as well as the presence of the KN-08 launchers, this would appear to be North Korea’s most important facility for the final assembly of TELs.) While much remains unknown about North Korea’s infrastructure for producing ballistic missiles and launchers, a persistent analyst can identify the primary facilities for ballistic missile TEL assembly by referencing various resources—in this case, footage available online, a 3D modeling program, published defector accounts, mapping projects, and satellite images. In isolation, none of these tools would offer much insight into North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Together, they make it possible to establish with high confidence when and where North Korea fixed the erectors and launchers to imported Chinese heavy-duty vehicle chassis. Many of these steps were already possible but labor-intensive (perhaps prohibitively so). Today, nearly all of the necessary information is available to any nongovernmental analyst with a decent internet connection. Satellite images purchased from private companies can simply be downloaded. Questions can be asked, and answered, by email or social media. Images and models can be shared online. Our team operated virtually, using email and Dropbox to connect participants from offices in Monterey, California; Washington, DC; and Vienna, Austria. The result helps answer an interesting policy question—yes, the North Koreans added the KN-08 launch hydraulics—but more importantly, this analysis illustrates both the new realities and opportunities for open source research in the field of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. (Jeffrey Lewis, “That Ain’t My Truck: Where North Korea Assembled Its Chinese Transporter-Erector-Launchers,” 38North, February 3, 2014)


2/3-4?/14:
China confirmed February 12 that a group of its diplomats in charge of Korean affairs visited North Korea last week, marking the first visit by Chinese officials since the high-profile purge of leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle about two months ago. The Chinese delegation, led by Deputy Director-General of Asian Affairs Xing Haiming, to North Korea is aimed at letting “the Chinese embassy in the DPRK carry out relevant works,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. Describing last week’s visit as “routine work,” Hua said, “They exchanged views on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.” Earlier in the day, a diplomatic source told Yonhap that the Chinese delegation included some diplomats who are working to persuade North Korea to return to the long-stalled talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear weapons development. “To my knowledge, the Chinese delegation included working-level officials in charge of the six-party talks,” the source said. (Yonhap, “China Confirms Its Diplomats Made First Visit to N. Korea Since Purge,” February 12, 2014)


2/5/14:
South and North Korea agreed to stage a new round of reunions later this month for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, an official said, a move that could help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The reunions — the first since October 2010 — will be held at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on North Korea’s east coast February 20-25, according to the text of an agreement reached at their Red Cross talks. The deal is the first sign of progress in improving inter-Korean relations that have worsened due to the North’s military threats against the South in recent months. North Korea’s chief delegate Pak Yong-Il said that the Red Cross meeting “is a very important starting point for improving the North-South relations.” Pak made the comments at the beginning of the meeting at the border village of Panmunjom, according to a brief audio file released by the unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.The planned reunions coincide with South Korea’s annual joint military exercises with Washington, which are set to run from late February through April. North Korea has pressed South Korea to scrap the drills, condemning them as a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it. The North had indicated that the reunions could not be held “amid gunfire,” referring to the military drills. The North mentioned the joint military exercises and its recent conciliatory overture at the border talks, though it did not attach a condition for the family reunions, said the unification ministry official. South Korea said it can discuss other issues with North Korea if the reunions go well. The sides also agreed to hold Red Cross talks after the reunions to resolve humanitarian issues, in an apparent reference to South Korean prisoners of war and abductees being held in the communist country, as well as Seoul’s food aid to the North. (Kim Kwang-tae, “Koreas Agree to Hold Family Reunions in Late February,” Yonhap, February 5, 2014)

KCNA: “North-south Red Cross working contact was made at the Thongil House in the north’s portion of Panmunjom [today] for the reunion of separated families and their relatives. At the contact both sides discussed the issues arising in successfully ensuring the reunion of separated families and their relatives before adopting an agreement. According to it, the north and the south decided to hold the reunion at Mt. Kumgang resort from Feb. 20 to 25, 2014 and agreed to fix the number of the persons involved in the event according to the final lists exchanged last year and follow practice as regards the way and method of arranging the reunion. Both sides decided to arrange indoor reunion instead of outdoor reunion, taking weather conditions into consideration, and hold group reunion at the Mt. Kumgang Reunion Centre and Kumgangsan Hotel. It was also decided to open the north-south Red Cross working contact after the event to further the discussion on settling humanitarian issues.” (KCNA, “North-South Red Cross Working Contact Made,” February 5, 2014)

The Obama administration has significantly sharpened its rhetoric about China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea amid growing pressure from allies in the region for Washington to take a firmer line. In public statements in recent days, senior U.S. officials placed the blame for tensions in the region solely on China and warned that the U.S. could move more forces to the western Pacific if Beijing were to declare a new air defense zone in the South China Sea. Although President Barack Obama is due to visit the region in April, several Asia governments have complained privately that the administration has become distracted in the Middle East and has left the way open for China to pursue its claims with greater confidence. “They [the administration] are definitely trying to turn up the volume about China,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. “This is as close as the Obama administration has come to saying that the nine-dash line is illegal. It is quite significant because they previously danced around the issue.” The nine-dash line is a map produced by China which appears to claim that the bulk of the South China Sea is under Chinese control. The U.S., along with several other governments in the region, believes that China is pushing these claims as part of a broader strategy to exert greater control over large areas of the western Pacific. “There are growing concerns that this pattern of behaviour in the South China Sea reflects incremental effort by China to assert control over the area,” Danny Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia said at a hearing. China had “created uncertainty, insecurity and instability in the region.” Russel urged China to “clarify or adjust its nine-dash line claim to bring it in accordance with the international law of the sea.” In a separate statement, Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House national security council, warned China against declaring an air defense identification zone for the South China Sea, following its announcement in December of new rules for airspace in the East China Sea. “We have been very clear with the Chinese that we would see that [the establishment of a new air zone] as a provocative and destabilizing development that would result in changes in our presence and military posture in the region,” Medeiros told Kyodo. Speaking at a congressional hearing, Russel made a series of statements that represent a hardening of the US position over the various territorial disputes. While the U.S. claims to be neutral on the territorial disputes, he said that China was responsible for the increased tension in the region. Russel said that any claims to the seas must be based on genuine land features, rather than just rocks that can be covered at high tide. Under the UN convention on the law of the sea, a country can claim a 200km economic zone around islands. Russel also endorsed the effort by the Philippines to take its territorial dispute with China to an international court, part of its efforts to find a “peaceful, non-coercive” solution. One of the difficulties for the Obama administration is that while it bases some of its arguments on the UN convention on the law of the sea, the US Senate has refused to ratify the same treaty. (Geoff Dyer, “U.S. Toughens Line on China Sea Clash,” Financial Times, February 10, 2014, p. 4) “We oppose China’s establishment of an ADIZ in other areas, including the South China Sea” where China is involved in territorial rows with Southeast Asian countries, Evan Medeiros, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, said in an interview. “We have been very clear with the Chinese that we would see that (setting of another ADIZ) as a provocative and destabilizing development that would result in changes in our presence and military posture in the region,” Medeiros said. …Medeiros said the U.S. government has been working with the Japanese government in “very strong coordination” on the ADIZ issue. Washington thinks Beijing set up an ADIZ over the East China Sea “to try and bolster its claims to disputed territories,” he said, referring to the uninhabited Senkakus, islands that China calls the Diaoyus. …“We do not accept, we do not acknowledge, we do not recognize China’s declared ADIZ,” Medeiros said. Washington has said the Senkakus are covered by its security treaty with Tokyo, which obliges the United States to defend Japan. …Medeiros dismissed a view that the United States will try harder to join hands with China and lead decision-making on international issues under a so-called Group of Two framework. “Nobody wants it,” Medeiros said, referring to the G-2 concept. The NSC official said there are “serious sources of competition in the U.S.-China relationship and that these need to be managed.” “When we look at major powers in East Asia who share our interests, who share our values, and who are actively working with us to solve problems, Japan is at the top of the list,” he said. (Japan Times, “U.S. Could ‘Change Military Posture’ If China Sets up Second ADIZ,” February 1, 2014)


2/6/14:
North Korea threatened to cancel reunions of families separated by the Korean War, accusing the United States of flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers on a training mission over the Korean Peninsula. North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to hold the family reunions from February 20-25, when hundreds of elderly Koreans would be allowed to meet their relatives for the first time since the war ended in 1953. But today North Korea warned that it could scrap the agreement unless South Korea canceled joint annual military exercises that it planned to start with the United States the last week of this month. “How can we they talk about trust and improvement of relations while they are opening their sky for a fleet of American nuclear-capable strategic bombers?” Korean Central Television quoted its National Defense Commission as saying in a statement. “We will not just sit and do nothing about this farce.” The U.S. Pacific Air Force Command declined to comment on operational details of specific missions but said that it “has maintained a rotational strategic bomber presence in the region for more than a decade.” “These aircraft, and the men and women who fly them, provide a significant capability that enables our readiness and commitment to extended deterrence, provides assurances to our allies, and strengthens regional security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” its public affairs office said in an emailed statement. Kim Min-seok, a spokesman of the South Korean Defense Ministry, said Seoul and Washington would press ahead with their joint military exercises regardless of the North’s warning. Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, South Korea’s top North Korea policy maker, urged the North not to cancel family reunions. “If an agreement is reached and then retracted, we cannot move forward,” he said. “The agreement yesterday must be kept for a South-North relationship where trust is multiplied.” North Korea has routinely accused the United States of sending B-52 bombers on missions over the peninsula, although the Pentagon often does not publicize them. But last March, during the height of tensions with North Korea following its nuclear test, the Pentagon not only dispatched an aircraft carrier but also took the rare step of announcing practice sorties over the peninsula by nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers. Yesterday’s deal to allow family reunions was unusual because of its timing. North Korea has often refused to discuss or has even canceled talks for such reunions when Seoul and Washington have staged joint military drills. Today, the North said it had reached the deal a day earlier, taking into consideration “the intention of the South Korean leader.” President Park Geun-hye of South Korea has often urged Pyongyang to prove through “action” that it was sincere with its recent proposals to improve relations. (Choe Sang-hun, “U.S. Bomber Training Run Imperils Family Reunions in Korea,” New York Times, February 6, 2014)

National Defense Commission (NDC) Policy Department spokesman’s statement: “The south Korean authorities have become frantic with the racket of confrontation with compatriots in the north these days contrary to the sincere efforts made by the DPRK to improve the north-south relations and achieve the reconciliation and unity of the nation. Its typical example is that they dared hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK as regards the field guidance given by it to a baby home and orphanage and the schedule of the election of the deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly, etc. while unhesitatingly perpetrating reckless acts of groundlessly hurting the social system in the DPRK. At the moment when the north and the south were reaching an agreement on the reunion of separated families and their relatives at Panmunjom, the south Korean authorities let formations of U.S. B-52 nuclear-capable bombers based on Guam fly into the sky above Jik islet in the West Sea of Korea for a whole day for staging drills for a nuclear strike at the DPRK. The south Korean warmongers are busy making final arrangements to go ahead with Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint war exercises as scheduled, claiming that they are irrelevant to humanitarianism. Shortly ago they, defying the repeated warnings of the DPRK, openly staged such naval strike drill targeting it under the signboard of ‘regular drills’ on Paekryong and Yonphyong islands, the hotspots in the West Sea, though it is taking a goodwill measure to halt military hostile acts first. The Policy Department of the NDC of the DPRK clarifies the following principled stand reflecting the unanimous will of its service personnel and people: First, the DPRK will be compelled to consider the implementation of the agreement reached as long as the dignity of its supreme leadership is malignantly hurt and the acts of groundlessly slandering and defaming its social system persist. Nothing is more foolish than the calculation that reconciliation and cooperation can be achieved while the reckless remarks hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK are floated and connived at under the pretext of ‘liberal democracy’ and media’s smear campaign against it is going on under the pretence of ‘freedom of speech.’ The south Korean authorities should bear in mind that the consequences of the smear campaign against the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and its social system will be unpredictably disastrous whether it is spearheaded by the authorities or staged by media. Second, we will not remain a passive on-looker to their farce staged allegedly to build confidence when formations of U.S. nuclear strategic bombers are flying into the sky, threatening and blackmailing against fellowmen. It is none other than the U.S. which has instigated the south Korean authorities, claiming they should react to the DPRK’s principled and crucial proposal and open letter ardently appealing to the Koreans by raising the nuclear issue. It is again the U.S. which is throwing all sorts of obstacles to the DPRK’s patriotic and positive efforts to create an atmosphere for improving the inter-Korean relations and chilling them. Third, we would like to take this opportunity to clarify once again that war exercises and racket for confrontation are incompatible with dialogue and reconciliation. The south Korean authorities should get rid of the existing state of affairs and stance, abandon their narrow-minded prejudice and inveterate motive of confrontation and make a bold policy decision to meet the expectation of the nation. They should no longer pursue such distrust and confrontation as rejecting the warm sincerity of their compatriots with evil will and reacting to compatriots’ call for reconciliation with hostile war drills and nuclear threat. They should neither misjudge nor abuse with a wrong way of thinking the goodwill, tolerance, patience and self-restraint shown by the service personnel and people of the DPRK to pave the way for improving the north-south relations in the spirit of By Our Nation Itself. All Koreans in the north, south and abroad will closely follow the stand the south Korean authorities are obliged to clarify and their future attitude.” (KCNA, “S. Korean Authorities Urged to Clarify Its Ulterior Design before Whole Nation,” February 6, 2014)

South Korean and U.S. forces will apply a new bilateral strategy for the first time in this year’s joint military exercises to enhance their deterrence capabilities against North Korea’s nuclear program, the defense ministry said. In this year’s policy briefing to President Park Geun-hye, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said the allies will further develop the “tailored deterrence strategy” by applying it in various scenarios during this year’s joint exercises. Signed in November in light of Pyongyang’s third nuclear test early last year, the strategy covers how to deal with different levels of nuclear threats posed by North Korea in peacetime and wartime, taking into consideration the development of weapons programs and the political situation in the communist state. As the strategy largely remains a conceptual action plan, the two allies will develop specific action plans by conducting drills under various nuclear crisis scenarios in this year’s joint drills, the ministry said. Based on the results of the exercises, Seoul and Washington will craft guidelines for the tailored deterrence strategy by the end of this year to determine how to handle a nuclear crisis under specific circumstances, as well as countermeasures that could be taken, the ministry said. South Korea and the U.S. will step up the joint operation of surveillance assets, including spy planes and satellites, and establish an early warning system to better monitor North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, the ministry said. As part of the efforts, the military plans to acquire five more surveillance satellites in early 2020 capable of monitoring North Korea. South Korean and U.S. forces will also enhance defense capabilities against biochemical weapons, jointly carrying out drills annually, the ministry said. This year, the two nations’ military officials and government officials will carry out the biochemical drills in August. “We will prepare for both provocations and an all-out war and establish deterrence posture against any provocations by the enemy,” Kim said. (Kim Eun-jung, “S. Korea, U.S. to Apply Tailored Deterrence Strategy in Joint Drills for First Time,” Yonhap, February 6, 2014)

President Obama called on North Korea and Iran to release two Americans held captive since 2012, using an address at the National Prayer Breakfast to demand that foreign nations respect religious freedoms and to declare that the men “deserve to be free.” Obama said Kenneth Bae, a missionary held in North Korea, and Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor held in Iran, were victims of religious intolerance by foreign governments and that the United States would continue to press for their release. “Around the world, freedom of religion is under threat,” Obama said, addressing the annual gathering of religious leaders in Washington. “We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faith.” “Promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy,” he said. “I’m proud no nation on earth has done more to stand up for freedom of religion around the world than the United States.” Bae, an American father of three, was arrested in North Korea in 2012 and accused of preaching against the Pyongyang government. He has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Although the Obama administration has pushed for his release, his case gained added notoriety when former NBA star Dennis Rodman made two trips to Pyongyang for exhibition basketball games. “Let us pray for Kenneth Bae. . . . His family wants him home, and the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release,” Obama said. (David Nakamura, “Obama Pushes for Release of Americans Held in North Korea, Iran,” Washington Post, February 6, 2014)

Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates that North Korea is nearing completion of modifications to the gantry at the launch pad of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri). A new eleventh level has been added—one more than previously estimated—allowing the facility to handle large rockets of up to 50 meters in length and almost 70 percent longer than the Unha-3 space launch vehicle (SLV) tested twice in 2012. Structural beams present in early January that appeared intended to support a roof for the tenth level are instead being used to support the additional level. Work appears nearly complete since there are no additional structures on or above that level and the roof is almost finished. (Nick Hansen, “North Korea Nears Completion of Larger Rocket Launch Pad,” 38North, February 6, 2014)


2/8/14:
South and North Korea launched a working-level meeting on Internet connectivity at their joint industrial park in the North’s border city of Kaesong, Seoul’s unification ministry said. Inter-Korean discussions have been under way to boost the Kaesong Industrial Complex, with a focus on launching Internet services at the park, along with how to make South Koreans’ access to the park easier and to simplify the customs process for products produced there. “The two sides are planning to continue discussions on technical issues regarding Internet connectivity,” Seoul’s unification ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said during a regular briefing. The sub-panel meeting of the joint Kaesong management committee last took place in January. (Yonhap, “Inter-Korean Talks Underway on Internet Connectivity at Joint Complex,” February 7, 2014)

Stephen J. Kim, a former State Department contractor charged with leaking information from a highly classified report about North Korea to a Fox News reporter in 2009, pleaded guilty and agreed to serve a 13-month prison sentence. Kim became the sixth official to be convicted in a leak-related prosecution by the Obama administration, which has pursued eight such cases to date. Only three leak cases were prosecuted under all previous administrations. Kim’s leak led Fox News to report in June 2009 that “the Central Intelligence Agency has learned, through sources inside North Korea” that North Korea was likely to respond to a United Nations resolution condemning its nuclear and missile tests with even more tests. C.I.A. officials were said to be furious that a top-secret analysis had been leaked almost as soon as it had been written. Kim’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, portrayed his client’s actions as identical to “what so many government officials do every day in Washington.” (Charlie Savage, “Ex-Contractor in State Department Pleads Guilty in Leak Case,” New York Times, February 8, 2014, p. A-10)


2/9/14:
For a second time, North Korea has rescinded an invitation for a special American envoy to visit Pyongyang, the capital, to seek the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary held in the country for over a year, the State Department said. In blocking the trip by Ambassador Robert King, Washington’s special envoy on North Korean human rights, North Korea again appeared to blame the tensions it said were caused by military exercises that the United States and South Korea are scheduled to begin this month. “We are deeply disappointed by the D.P.R.K. decision — for a second time — to rescind its invitation for Ambassador King to travel to Pyongyang to discuss Kenneth Bae’s release,” said Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, using the acronym of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. She pointed out that North Korea “announced publicly in May it would not use the fate of Kenneth Bae as a political bargaining chip.” Bae, speaking on February 7 to Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan, from his penal labor camp outside Pyongyang, said he had heard that Pyongyang had extended an invitation to King to visit North Korea as early as this week to discuss his fate. North Korea abruptly canceled a similar invitation for Mr. King in August, citing the military exercises as its reason. The exercises are “transparent, regularly scheduled and defense-oriented,” Psaki said. “These exercises are in no way linked to Bae’s case. We again call on the D.P.R.K. to grant Bae special amnesty and immediate release as a humanitarian gesture so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.” She said Washington maintained its longstanding offer to send Mr. King to North Korea. Separately, under a request from Bae’s family, the Rev. Jesse Jackson offered to travel to Pyongyang on a humanitarian mission to help win Bae’s release, she said. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Balks Again at Bid to Free American,” New York Times, February 10, 2014, p. A-7)

Tamogami Toshio’s strong showing in today’s election for Tokyo governor far exceeded the expectations of campaign strategists even in his own camp and in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, suggesting an undercurrent of ultraconservatism among the electorate. The former Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff, who denies Japan’s war of aggression, came in fourth with 611,000 votes, double the separate projections by his camp and the LDP. The figure represents 12 percent of all ballots cast. A senior official of the Tamogami camp declared that a new political force was born. “We do not feel we lost,” said the official, visibly agitated. “So many people are fed up with the delusions and the hypocrisy of postwar Japan.” Tamogami on February 8 spoke before 200 people who braved the heavy snow to gather in front of JR Akihabara Station. The crowd erupted into applause when he said the war of aggression, the 1937 Nanking Massacre and “comfort women,” a euphemism for women forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, were all fabricated. The 65-year-old said he will continue to visit Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead, to restore pride in the nation’s history. He also expressed opposition to granting suffrage for foreign residents. While middle-aged and elderly men usually dominated the audiences at Tamogami’s speeches, Asahi Shimbun exit polls showed that he captured strong support from young men. Twenty-four percent of those in their 20s cast ballots for Tamogami, second only to 36 percent for former welfare minister Yoichi Masuzoe, who won the election with 2.11 million votes. The ratio for Tamogami was 17 percent among those in their 30s. For all people who voted for Tamogami, men outnumbered women by 70 percent. The LDP, which backed Masuzoe, believes that Tamogami encroached on its supporters, particularly conservatives who back Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. “We thought that he would receive 300,000 votes,” an LDP official said. “We were shocked (by his tally).” Abe campaigned for Masuzoe in Tokyo’s Ginza district on February 2. The Masuzoe camp had requested his appearance to make it clear that the prime minister was backing Masuzoe’s bid, according to a senior official. Still, Asahi Shimbun exit polls showed that 16 percent of LDP supporters voted for Tamogami. LDP Secretary-General Ishiba Shigeru apparently downplayed the defection of party supporters. “Tamogami was in complete agreement with LDP policies,” he told a news conference Feb. 10. “It is understandable if some LDP supporters shifted toward him.” Ishihara Shintaro, the nationalist former Tokyo governor and co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, backed Tamogami. Some lawmakers who supported Tamogami are members of Sosei Nippon, a conservative policy group headed by Abe that calls for constitutional revisions and Yasukuni visits. Hiranuma Takeo, Sosei Nippon’s top adviser and chief of the caucus of Japan Restoration Party Diet members, campaigned for Tamogami. Twenty-five percent of Japan Restoration Party supporters voted for Tamogami, while 36 percent voted for Masuzoe, according to Asahi Shimbun exit polls. Satoru Mizushima, chief of the election strategy headquarters of the Tamogami camp, said people who post nationalistic messages online, known as Internet right-wingers, turned out to be Tamogami’s core supporters. Furuya Tsunehira, a commentator who backed Tamogami’s candidacy, said Internet right-wingers have emerged as a new political force. “Until now, the reality of anonymous online conservatives remained unclear,” said Furuya, who wrote books on Internet right-wingers. “Given low voter turnout, the latest election apparently showed the close-to-actual strength of online conservatives.” By comparison, an LDP candidate supported by an organization of postal workers, a traditional interest group, garnered 430,000 votes in the Upper House election last summer. An LDP candidate backed by an organization of agricultural cooperatives received 340,000 votes. However, online news editor Nakagawa Junichiro said Internet right-wingers alone cannot mobilize 600,000 voters. He said a broader spectrum of conservatives supported Tamogami partly because media outlets treated Tamogami as one of the four major contenders with Masuzoe, lawyer Utsunomiya Kenji and former Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro. Tamogami was dismissed as ASDF chief of staff in November 2008 after he wrote an essay seeking to legitimize Japanese military action before and during World War II. (Akiyama Soichiro, Okada Noboru, Miwa Sachiko and Tsuruoka Masahiro, “600,00 Votes for Tomogami Mya Signal Rise of Ultraconservatives,” Asahi Shimbun, February 11, 2014)

Officials from three South Korean companies set to participate in an economic project between Pyongyang and Moscow will visit North Korea’s northeastern port of Rajin February 12-14 for an on-site inspection, the unification ministry said. The companies are state-run Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL), top steelmaker POSCO and No. 2 shipper Hyundai Merchant Marine. No government official will join the 18 officials, the ministry said. Their inspection is part of South Korea’s participation in the Rajin-Khasan development project, the Russian-led rail and port development venture in North Korea. It’s designed to develop Rajin into a logistics center linked to Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. Last September, a double-track railway reopened between Rajin and Khasan, the nearby Russian town, after years of renovation. (Yonhap, “S. Korean Corporate Officials to Visit N. Korea as Part of Pyongyang-Moscow Venture,” February 9, 2014)


2/10/14:
Rodong Sinmun: “No force on earth can stem the trend of the times toward the improved inter-Korean relations in the idea of By Our Nation Itself. All the Koreans in the north, the south and abroad call for putting the earliest possible end to the history of harmful distrust and confrontation and ushering in a new heyday of independent reunification, peace and prosperity through national reconciliation and unity. The DPRK has entered the road of totally stopping slandering and defaming the other side in order to create a climate required by the trend of the times towards mending the north-south relations. It, at the same time, solemnly declared that it would never take military actions obstructive to ensuring the nation’s security and peace by introducing outside forces. The north and the south are taking technical measures for arranging the reunion of separated families and their relatives thanks to the DPRK’s compatriotic goodwill and positive efforts for mending the inter-Korean relations. The hard-won atmosphere of mending the inter-Korean relations should prove successful to meet the requirements of the times and the expectation of all Koreans. The inter-Korean relations cannot be achieved by the efforts of one side only. The south Korean authorities should not misunderstand the DPRK’s sincere efforts, pay heed to the voices of all Koreans, boldly drop their wrong interpretation and conception of confrontation and opt for improving the inter-Korean relations. Only when the south Korean authorities positively respond to the DPRK’s call, will new steady changes take place in the inter-Korean relations.” (KCNA, “Rodong Sinmun Calls for Improvement of Inter-Korean Relations,” February 10, 2014)

North Korea appears ready to conduct its fourth nuclear test, but no imminent signs have been detected at its main site on its northeastern tip, South Korea’s defense chief said in a parliamentary interpellation session. Kim Kwan-jin said Pyongyang has prepared for an underground nuclear test at the Punggye-ri site, which was used for the third atomic test a year ago, and has taken “initial steps” for a missile launch at its northwest test site in Tongchang-ri. “These things (the nuclear test and the missile launch) depend on the decision by the North Korean leadership. As seen in the past, the long-range missile test and the nuclear test are connected to each other,” Kim told lawmakers. “We are closely watching (the North Korean military) to prepare against any provocations.” (Kim Eun-jung, “N. Korea Ready for Atomic Test, Yet No Imminent Sign: Seoul’s Defense Chief,” Yonhap, February 10, 2014)

Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, arrived in North Korea, Pyongyang’s state media reported, a trip seen to help facilitate the release of a Korean-American man detained there. In a brief report, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Gregg, now chairman of the U.S. Pacific Century Institute, and other members of the institute are visiting Pyongyang. (Yonhap, “Ex-U.S. Envoy Visits Pyongyang: State Media,” February 10, 2014)


2/11/14:
The two Koreas will hold their first high-level talks in seven years tomorrow, the Unification Ministry said, as the North ramps up efforts to put their strained relations back on track. The meeting will open at the truce village of Panmunjeom at 10:00 a.m. led by Kim Kyou-hyun, vice chief of the presidential National Security Office, and Won Dong-yon, deputy head of the United Front Department in the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. The vice ministerial contact will mark the first high-level dialogue between the divided states since 2007. The talks were arranged following Pyongyang’s request on Saturday. North Korea asked a presidential official lead the Seoul delegation. With no agenda set, each side would raise issues of concern, including the planned reunions of families separated by the Korean War from February 20-25 at Mount Kumgang, the ministry said. “At the talks, (the two sides) are expected to confer on key issues of interest including ways to ensure the smooth handling of the family reunions and (how to) make it a regular event,” ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said at a news conference.

Kim Kyou-hyun, a former vice foreign minister who assumed the post just a week ago, faces the daunting task of untangling a web of longstanding cross-border issues including deep-rooted mistrust and the North’s nuclear program. His delegation will also include officials from the unification and defense ministries. (Shin Hyon-hee, “Korea’s to Hold High-Level Talks,” Korea Herald, February 11, 2014)

An adviser to Japanese Premier Abe Shinzo held a meeting with North Korean officials in China in October, Kyodo reported, kindling speculation that Tokyo is seeking to reopen talks with Pyongyang over the issue of Japanese abductees. In response to the report, South Korea cautioned against any unilateral move by Japan regarding Pyongyang. “Japan’s talks with North Korea should be conducted in close communication and coordination with South Korea and the United States,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a briefing, adding that the government is still verifying the report. The four-day visit by Iijima Isao was made to the northeastern port city of Dalian, where the two sides had met for covert negotiations in the past, Kyodo said, citing diplomatic sources in Beijing. The latest trip coincides with the pending sale of the headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents, a Tokyo-based pro-North Korea group better known as Chongryon. Though a Mongolian firm won the bid for the property on October 17, a Tokyo court rejected it, saying its documents were not “trustworthy,” the news outlet added. But the meeting’s main focus was likely to have been the issue of Japanese nationals kidnapped by the North decades ago, observers say.

After Iijima traveled to Pyongyang last May, he advised Abe to pursue talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The nationalist premier has displayed his resolve to tackle the long-festering issue since taking office in December 2012. Iijima was a top aide to former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro and accompanied him on his two trips to Pyongyang in 2002 and 2004 for summits with late leader Kim Jong-il. Kyodo also said earlier that Ihara Junichi, director general for Asian and Oceanian affairs at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and other two officials met with three working-level North Korean officials in Hanoi from January 26-27. Tokyo’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide denied the report. Iijima’s surprise trip last year prompted South Korea and the U.S. to express discomfort over Japan’s failure to inform them in advance. Seoul’s Foreign Ministry openly said the visit was “unhelpful.” “If the Abe government is indeed looking for any unilateral move regarding North Korea, it will create another awkward situation for all of us,” a Seoul official said. (Shin Hyon-hee, “’North Korea, Japan Held Secret Meeting,’” Korea Herald, February 11, 2014) “Japan needs to deal with issues with North Korea under close (trilateral) communication and consultation with South Korea and the United State as it does over the North Korean nuclear missile issue,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a briefing. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Urges Japan’s Concerted Approach to N. Korea,” February 11, 2014)


2/12/14:
With no agenda set, the two sides were expected to chiefly discuss the planned reunions of families separated by the Korean War on Feb. 20-25 at Mount Geumgangsan. Seoul may also have raised the need to break the impasse over the North’s nuclear programs, trilateral economic projects with Russia, its plan to create a peace park in the Demilitarized Zone, and other key issues. Pyongyang, for its part, would try to explain its “crucial proposals” made last month, which include a cessation of slander, military drills by South Korea and the U.S., and mutual steps to “prevent a nuclear catastrophe.” “The discussions took place in an earnest atmosphere with no particular point of issue,” a Unification Ministry official told reporters in the afternoon on customary condition of anonymity. “They are not to strike a deal at this point, though our delegation may have been trying to carry through our position on any given issue. But primarily both sides were asking each other’s issues of interest, then answer and explain.” The North’s potent National Defense Commission offered a gathering on Saturday, asking for a presidential official as head of the Seoul delegation. Four additional officials from related agencies accompanied each side’s representative. “We are seeking to put emphasis on how to ensure that the family reunions will get underway as agreed,” Kim told reporters before leaving for the border town. “I will engage (in the talks) with an open attitude and mind to explore opportunities to usher in a new peninsula.” Rodong Sinmun today called for defused tension on the peninsula and efforts for enduring peace, warning against “attempting to test” the nation’s resolve to safeguard peace. Sources of contention remain, however, including joint annual military exercises by South Korea and the U.S. that are slated to begin midway through the family reunion sessions. The North urged the allies to drop their plan, threatening to reconsider the agreement on the much-anticipated event. “During the latest talks, North Korea may propose an exchange of special envoys or a fresh round of ministerial or prime ministerial dialogue, and discuss a road map for the development of inter-Korean ties,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the independent Sejong Institute. “It also appears to have the intention of making way for a summit in the longer term, given the appointment as the chief delegate of Won who took part in the preparations of past inter-Korean summits.” (Shin Hyon-hee, “Two Koreas Hold Senior-Level Talks,” Korea Herald, February 12, 2014)


2/13/14:
South and North Korea will meet today at the border village of Panmunjom for a second round of high-level talks, according to the Ministry of Unification. Kim Kyou-hyun, head of the secretariat of the National Security Council, and Won Dong-yon, the deputy head of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party, will again be leading their respective sides. However, it is still uncertain whether the much-hoped-for reunions of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War will take place as Pyongyang is calling for a delay in the upcoming ROK-U.S. military exercises that partly overlaps the scheduled get-togethers. During high-level talks Wednesday, the North demanded that the South postpone the war games until after the reunions, scheduled for February 20 to 25, are held. The joint drills ― Key Resolve and Foal Eagle ―are set to run from February 24 through April. The reunions will come in two parts ― one taking place from February 20 to 22 and the other from February 23 to 25. “The North said it is willing to hold the family reunions as scheduled, but in principle, it cannot do so during the exercises,” said an official at the unification ministry. However, South Korea rejected the North’s request, noting that family reunions should not be linked to the exercises and the first high-level talks in seven years ended with little progress made. “We made it clear that we cannot accept the North’s request to delay the drills, and holding the reunions without a hitch is the first step to better inter-Korean ties,” said Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-jae during a meeting of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. The unification minister also expects the family reunions to take place as scheduled. “Despite the North’s demand, it was neither agreed nor notified, so we do not have to worry about the North backing out of the reunions. Should the North do something about the pullout, we will seek countermeasures,” Ryoo said. “But I think it will go well this time. The reunions will be held without a problem.” As part of the South’s efforts to keep the get-togethers alive, the unification ministry plans to send a team to the venue where the scheduled reunions of separated families are to be held at Mount Geumgang, north of the Demilitarized Zone, this week. North Korea watchers say that the South needs to be flexible when dealing with the issue. “As the North has willingness to hold the family reunions, the South need to make efforts to keep the reunions alive such as less promotion of the joint military drills and provocations of the North,” said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. (Kang Seung-woo, “Second High-Level Talks Today,” Korea Times, February 13, 2014) Carlin: “Barely a month since Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s address signaling a major North Korean decision to push for improved inter-Korean ties the two Koreas on Wednesday held a high-level “contact” (quietly proposed by the North several days ago) at Panmunjom. Despite the lack of any agreement at Wednesday’s exceptionally long meeting, and early reports that there had been “no progress,” official ROK accounts of the meeting characterized the atmosphere as “sincere,” noting that the session had provided an opportunity for the two sides to lay out their positions. Altogether, that sort of delicate public portrayal was a pretty good sign that the session had been productive in laying foundations for further engagement. Indeed, today it was announced there would be a second meeting [today]. Without being in the room or seeing a transcript of the meeting, of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what went on, but the most significant development may have been that the North Korean delegation, led by deputy director of the Central Committee’s United Front Department and including two uniformed officers from the National Defense Commission (NDC), suggested that rather than cancel the US-ROK joint exercises (due to begin on February 24), the South postpone them for a couple of days, so they would not overlap with the scheduled family reunions, due to take place at the Mt. Kumgang resort in North Korea from February 20-25. Depending on whether both sides are looking for progress or want to dig in their heels, this would seem to have opened the way to explore various compromises. When they want to be—which unfortunately is not all that often—both sides are capable of imaginative solutions to what, at first, looks to be intractable problems. Not incidentally, the North’s suggestion that the start of the exercises be postponed fits with indications in the NDC proposal last month that Pyongyang did not expect the South to call off the exercises and that it might be looking for (or already had in its pocket) ways to work around the problem. There is no sense in arguing about where things might go from this point, but it is well worth reviewing how we got here. Recall, the Blue House dismissed Kim’s New Year’s offer, as well as a subsequent NDC proposal, as a “trick.” One might wonder whether President Park, at first, demurely turned away from Kim’s advances so as not to seem too eager. Is she, in other words, crazy like a fox? If so, she played things brilliantly, even to the point of keeping a straight face while lecturing a visiting US senator that, “Given our previous experience, such conciliatory propaganda [by the North] has always been followed by provocation.” In this scenario, her defense minister also probably deserves an Oscar for thundering about the likelihood of a North Korean provocation even while his president was edging toward more engagement. On the other hand, it may be that the Blue House wasn’t acting, and it was only through the persistence of what the press loves to label the North’s “charm offensive” that Pyongyang got to first base. Persistence in this case means a mode that the North has from time to time taken with Washington or Seoul over the decades—a “not going to take no for an answer” posture. In that case, the critics might ask themselves how long a “charm offensive” has to last before it is judged to be a serious policy opening? A question still much on people’s minds at the moment is whether the North will go through with family reunions scheduled for the Mt. Kumgang resort in a few weeks. That may be answered at tomorrow’s meeting. There was a straw in the wind a few days ago when unusually heavy snows blanketed the east coast of Korea (North and South—weather does not observe the demilitarized zone) making access to the site extremely difficult. It would have been—and still might be—relatively easy for Pyongyang to put off the family reunions on account of the weather. Instead, ROK media reported that several South Korean snowplows have been dispatched to the site to clear the roads. South Korean snowplows do not willy-nilly show up in North Korea. Unless they go in by ship, they have to cross the DMZ, which on the North Korean side is controlled by the Korean People’s Army (KPA). The KPA does not easily open the gates on the highway (a threatening high-speed access route poked through the DMZ as far as they are concerned). The only reason they would do this without a lot of paperwork and “internal discussion” is if they had very clear orders from Pyongyang to open the damned highway and be quick about it. The shift in Seoul’s stance toward Pyongyang did not take place overnight, of course. By late January, the tone of ROK characterizations of the situation was, by degrees, softening, with parallel changes in South Korean media comment. Also by mid-January, there were several North-South meetings in the business sphere, all of which seemed to go relatively well. On Monday, it was reported that several ROK businessmen would travel to the North Korean port of Rajin on February 11 to discuss the possibility of additional work restoring the railroad from the Russian border at Khasan. ROK businessmen do not plan to go to North Korea without the ROK government’s approval, not unless they want to end up in jail upon their return. The North is now positioned in an interesting spot. Having rescinded the invitation to Ambassador Robert King to come to negotiate the release of Kenneth Bae, but pressing ahead on inter-Korean contacts, it can test how far the ROK is willing to get out in front of Washington in engaging Pyongyang. Again, the parlor game of predicting what happens next is wide open for those who enjoy that past time. For now, maybe it is enough to note where we are at this moment—on the edge of the dance floor, the band back from its break, and this metaphor, thankfully, about to run out of gas. (Robert Carlin, “Shall We Dance?” 38North, February 13, 2014)

Background briefing: “…On North Korea, the way that you might want to think about the issue is that we are embarked in an effort to translate denuclearization from a noun to a verb. The Secretary believes strongly that the North Korean nuclear threat is not a problem that we can all admire from a distance. What he seeks to do is to enlist greater and greater levels of Chinese cooperation in actually helping to achieve the goal of denuclearization, not just talking about it. So he will discuss with the Chinese what more we can do together, what more we can do as the five of the Six Party Talks, and what more China can do, given its unique set of ties and leverage with North Korea. What we’re trying to achieve is an effect, an effect in which North Korea takes real and meaningful steps in the direction we are asking it to go, and demonstrate that it’s prepared to negotiate denuclearization, not merely to posture. …Q. A question about the Secretary’s appeal to the Chinese regarding North Korea: Have the Chinese responded to that so far? Has there been any specific action from China in response? And second of all I wonder, do you have any concern that the absence of Kim Jong-un’s uncle now, who was an intermediary for the Chinese, whether that will make communication more difficult? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The question is the degree of responsiveness the Chinese have shown to the Secretary’s importuning and argumentation on North Korea and the extent to which it is a handicap for the Chinese to be bereft of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s lamented uncle ,who, per the question, served a role as an intermediary. I personally have been present at most if not all of Secretary Kerry’s engagements with Chinese officials on North Korea and can personally attest from experience to the intensity and the effectiveness of his representations. The conversation that he will have in China is building on a very solid foundation of explaining the U.S. perspective, of explaining the threat that North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear capability presents to U.S. interests and those of our allies and partners, but also a clear articulation of the objectives that the U.S. holds in terms of helping to create a stable, secure, and prosperous region in which the Korea Peninsula is a net contributor and not a major liability. I think that — although I obviously won’t speak for the Chinese — that the Secretary gets a good hearing and a good response. I can’t attribute to the Secretary all of the steps — each of the steps that China has taken over the previous months to signal to North Korea the intensity of its interest in seeing North Korea take steps to end its nuclear program and to denuclearize. But I certainly am of the view that Secretary Kerry’s clear articulation of the stakes of the U.S. position and of the importance of this issue in terms of U.S.-China cooperation have had a significant effect. On the subject of Jang Song-thaek, no analyst that I have heard is of the opinion that Jang Song-thaek was the premier conduit through which the Chinese communicated to North Korea. However, I think there is a widely held view among analysts that the purge of the number two in the Chinese system and the brutality manifested in that purge — excuse me, in the North Korean system — is evidence of weakness not of strength, and is the source of concern to all of North Korea’s neighbors, frankly, as well as to the international community. The type of policies that the North Korean leadership claims to want to pursue, in other words a growing and strengthening economic capability, are utterly incompatible with both a nuclear program and with the kind of personnel management that was reflected in the purge of Jang Song-thaek. …Q: A small administrative question and then a follow-up question to Paul’s question. Secretary Kerry’s gone to the region five times. As I count it, this is his second visit as Secretary to Beijing and to Seoul, and he was last there in April. Is that right? And — so it’s his second visit to these two places. And since he was there last, the American policy has been to seek — to induce China to use its influence with North Korea to constrain their nuclear program. But North Korea seems to moving on the plutonium front by reactivating the Yongbyon reactor. They’re moving to expand their program — their parallel program in terms of centrifuges and enriched uranium. Can you point to a single thing that has led to a tangible constraint on the North Korean program since Secretary Kerry was there in April? In what respect has that program slowed or paused or halted, if at all, in — since you made the same entreaties last time? Thank you. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Mike, I think you’re factually correct, although I have one of the world’s worst memories. But if you’re not, we will fact-check the first part of your question for you. The second, more substantive, question gets at the challenge of proving a negative: What is it that one could establish has not happened as a consequence either of Secretary Kerry’s diplomacy or of Chinese actions? I think the way to look at it is instead take a step back and acknowledge that unless and until North Korea has made the basic decision to come into compliance with its international obligations and its commitments by beginning a process of denuclearization through irreversible steps that have credibility in the eyes of certainly the other six party members, as well as the international community. Until and unless that happens, our efforts have not yet borne fruit. They are — there is still much more work to be done, and that’s where we are. Taking that as both the goal and the starting point, the question then becomes: What more can be done, who can do what, and how do we operate together bilaterally and multilaterally to bring North Korea to that decision? It’s a decision the North Koreans need to make. My belief — and I think this is widely shared — is that it’s not the decision North Korea wants to make. It is a decision that they will make only by weighing the alternatives and reaching the conclusion that it is simply not viable to continue down the path of threatening its neighbors and threatening the international community. Now, already it is fair to say that unlike in the past, North Korea has been unable to elicit benefits from the international community by virtue of its provocation, by virtue of its threats, by virtue of its nuclear and missile programs. That is not trivial but it is not enough. So the point that Secretary Kerry has made and I know intends to make to the Chinese is that as a nation with unique ties, including important economic and logistic trade and financial ties with North Korea, the proof is in the pudding. And if North Korea is, as you say, continuing to expand its plutonium, its uranium programs, it’s continuing to defy its international obligations, is continuing to make the wrong choices, then by definition the international community collectively, and China specifically, have not yet done enough. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just add very quickly to that answer. … North Korea has done us the backhanded favor of making explicitly plain over the last couple of years that it has no desire to denuclearize. We’ve seen the announcement of their so-called Pyongjin policy that elevates the pursuit of nuclear weapons to one of the two main aims of the state. We’ve seen them change their constitution. We’ve seen the nuclear threats. This, I think, has helped clarify thinking not just in Washington and among the other states who form the five parties among the six parties, but also in Beijing. And so the quality of conversations that we’ve had with the Chinese, to my knowledge, has never been better on this. We’ve made a great deal of progress in narrowing differences, but it’s no secret that the United States and China do not have perfectly congruent sets of interests when it comes to North Korea. So it’s not the simplest of tasks to chart a way forward, but that’s the path that we’re embarked on. Q: Official Number One, in your opening comment you made a point of saying that North Korea and climate change would be high on the Secretary’s agenda in Beijing, but that he would also talk about the maritime disputes. One, should we deduce from that that the maritime disputes come sort of third on his list and the other two issues are higher up on his agenda? Second, what kinds of consequences — what kinds of consequences, if any, might China face from continuing to pursue its territorial claims in the uncoordinated fashion that you’ve described and you find objectionable? One of your NSC colleagues was recently quoted as talking about if a second ADIZ was established that there could be a change in the U.S. military posture in the region. Is that something that is actively under discussion? And then lastly, what do you specifically want to see China do on North Korea? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: You’ve exceeded my brain buffer there and I may have to come back to you to remind me of your multipoint question. …Well, other than me trying to telegraph prescriptive formulas for China, I would draw you back to the point I sought to make earlier, which is the effect that we seek to have. We want cooperation and actions from China and with China that will have the net effect of bringing the North Korean leadership to the realization that the consequences for continuing on the dead-end path they are on, namely a path in pursuit of a nuclear missile capability, does not bring them security, does not bring them prosperity, and is simply not tenable. And we ask that China apply all of the tools at its disposal to bring North Korea to that realization. Q: Thank you. In Korea — South and North Korea had high-level talks. They are first in seven years. It’s quite a fast-moving development, I think. Are you comfortable with the speed and pace of their inter-Korean reconciliation or rapprochement? Thanks. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I know that the Secretary looks forward to hearing more directly from the leadership of the Republic of Korea about the current status of discussions and the overall state of inter-Korean relations. As a matter of policy and a matter of practice, the U.S. strongly supports improved North-South ties, and we welcome inter-Korean dialogue. We hope that North Korea is sincere and that North Korea is cooperative in its discussions with the Republic of Korea. We are particularly concerned about and sympathetic to the plight of the separated families and certainly hope that the North Koreans will not pull back from previous agreements to allow separated families to be reunited, even briefly. In a similar vein, with respect to humanitarian issues, we ourselves have been sorely disappointed at the North Korean decision to rescind its previous agreement for Ambassador Robert King to visit North Korea in the hopes of being able to bring Kenneth Bae, an American citizen in failing health, back to his family. We very much hope that North Korea will listen to the voices in South Korea who are asking for compassion for your countrymen who want to have a chance to see their relatives and that they will listen to the voices of Americans and the international community who similarly are asking for compassion to be shown to Kenneth Bae. Q: You talked about how the purpose of this trip — regarding North Korea, you said you’re going to look at what more can be done to make sure that North Korea starts denuclearizing both bilaterally and multilaterally. Aside from seeking the effects of a pressure via China, what, from the U.S. perspective, are you seeking to do to push North Korea towards the goal of denuclearization? Can you talk a little bit more about what actions U.S. bilaterally can do regarding North Korea? And second of all, the purge, do you — I mean, I know the DNI has commented on this, but from your perspective is that pretty much done and over with, or do you see remnants of that still happening? How stable is the regime, if you can comment? Thanks. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: To answer your second question first, which is how stable is the North Korean regime in the aftermath of the purge and whether it’s underway or over, I’ll be honest and say that I do not know, and I don’t think that the — our time is best spent in speculating on that. I think it is the first part of your question that bears focus, which is namely what combination of actions on the part of the U.S., the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, Russia, others in the international community can have the effect on North Korea that we seek, namely, bringing it to the conclusion that it has no viable alternative but to engage seriously in pending negotiations to bring to an end its nuclear program. I think that the actions on the part of the United States can fall broadly in two categories: actions that we take or that we facilitate in tandem with partners to bring home to North Korea the consequences and the effect that continued intransigence will have on North Korea as well as on its prospects; and secondly, to continue to make clear that there is a real alternative available to North Korea. President Obama has said — and Secretary Kerry has underscored — that North Korea has a choice to make. North Korea has an option that will end its international isolation that will bolster its security and that will create opportunities for prosperity for its people. But to avail itself of that opportunity, North Korea has to make a real choice and demonstrate its commitment to take steps to come into compliance with international obligations. The days are long gone when the international community will take North Korea’s IOU. North Korea has not honored its own commitments in the past, and so words alone won’t do. What the international community, including the five members of the Six-Party Talks, seek from North Korea are convincing steps and real evidence that North Korea is prepared to negotiate denuclearization. And our willingness to respond to bona fide steps by North Korea provides an incentive. Our unwillingness to offer concessions in advance, in the hope that it will induce good behavior from North Korea, is a pressure point that we hope will lead North Korea to make the right choice. Q: I wanted to ask about (inaudible) and no one asked the fate of Bae, who’s in detention, and when anyone’s last heard from him and what’s known about his circumstances, and he’s back in a prison camp. And I know it’s not done through intermediaries, but can you update us on that please? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I can tell you what we know, which shouldn’t differ from what you know because we’ve seen the video released by the North Koreans and by Choson Simbo, the news organization that was in there. It would appear that he has been moved back to the camp and is once again at — in a labor camp performing eight or nine or 10 hours of labor a day. And this makes even more urgent the need to resolve the matter, which is why our efforts continue to prevail upon the North Koreans to accept a visit from Ambassador King to Pyongyang to discuss the matter. And we hope to bring Kenneth Bae back to the United States. So we believe he has returned to a camp. Our protecting power, the Swedes, have sent us some reports. And that’s the status as far as we know it at this stage.” (DoS, Senior Administration and State Department Officials, Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry’s Trip to Republic of Korea, China and Indonesia, February 13, 2014)

Kerry: “Q: (Via interpreter) My name is Kimi Joon. I’m from YTN. I would like to ask a question about North Korea. You said that progress is very important. Yesterday, for the first time in seven years, there was a high-level meeting. And at the meeting, North Korea said that — demanded that the military exercises be postponed until after the family reunions. And if the military exercises go on as planned, do you think that this might impact the reunions, family reunions? So I would like to know your reaction. … Regarding the nuclear issue, yesterday, during the high-level meeting, they said — North Korea said that this shouldn’t be discussed between South and North. So regarding nuclear — denuclearization, it could mean that North Korea wants to talk directly with the U.S. So what is your position? KERRY: We’re — our — well, let me be clear, first of all, on the reunification issue. The United States does not believe that it is appropriate to link a humanitarian issue such as reunification with any other issue. And since the exercises are exercises that are not changed — not bigger, not different, occurring at exactly the same time as they have occurred every year, in the same manner that they have occurred as a matter of readiness between the United States and the Republic of Korea — there is no legitimate excuse for linking the two. The family reunification is a matter of human rights. It’s a matter of decency. It’s a matter of living up to normal standards of human behavior and of human — of shared values and standards in the international community. And we would urge a complete separation of these two and no use of one as an excuse to somehow condition the other. With respect to the Six-Party Talks versus individual talks, nuclear talks, the United States position has not changed. It is clear. We are in full agreement with President Park’s stance on North Korea. Today we reaffirm our commitment to a common goal, which is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. And we are committed to going to talks only if there is a clarity with respect to the steps that need to be taken for denuclearization by the North. We are not in favor of talks for the sake of talks. We’ve been through that exercise previously. We want to know that this is real. And it’s — frankly, the responsibility is on North Korea to take meaningful actions to demonstrate that denuclearization is real. And it’s time for the North to choose the path of peace and to refrain from provocations and/or using excuses to avoid the responsibility that they bear. So we are not engaged in back-channel efforts to have face-to-face talks or bilateral talks. We are committed to a process, together with our allies and friends in this effort, to guarantee that when and if we get back to talks those talks are meaningful.” …Q: I wanted to ask about the rift between our allies. How can U.S. and Korea present a united front and coordinated Asia policy when our two biggest allies — the U.S. allies in Asia, Japan and South Korea, are at each other’s throats? And what practical actual steps can you take, on the part of Secretary Kerry, and do you intend to take, on the part of Minister Yun, to bring those two sides together? KERRY: Look, there is no question but that positive relations between Japan and its neighbors are in the best interests of the United States, the region, and the two countries themselves. That’s our belief. And we respect the fact that the Republic of Korea and Japan are both developed free-market economies that share values. They share a robust economic relationship, and they also share with us compelling strategic interests. So while the United States obviously has a strong interest in the relationship and in the security component of the relationship, it’s up to Japan and the Republic of Korea to put history behind them and move the relationship forward. And it is critical at the same time that we maintain robust trilateral cooperation, particularly in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat. So we urge our friends in Japan and in North Korea — in North Korea and South Korea — excuse me, in the Republic of Korea — we urge both of them to work with us together to find a way forward to help resolve these deeply felt historic differences that still have meaning today. And we respect the meaning that they still have today. We understand the meaning that they still have today. So I made this case to Foreign Minister Kishida last week when he visited Washington, and again — we talked about it today with President Park and with Foreign Minister Yun. So we will continue — the United States will continue, I will personally continue to encourage both allies to find mutually acceptable approaches to legacy issues from the past and find ways to enhance bilateral and trilateral cooperation that will define the future. We believe it is possible to do both. And we’re going to work very hard, obviously, over the course of the next weeks and months to do so. FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: (Via interpreter) I would just like to add (inaudible) regarding the relationship between Korea and Japan. Of course, with the new government we have made a lot of efforts to stabilize the relationship between Korea and Japan. But unfortunately, as the international society has seen, during the past few months, some Japanese political leaders have made a lot of historically incorrect remarks. And so these revisionist — historically revisionist remarks, as long as they last, till then it will be difficult to build trust between our two countries. And so these leaders must look at history as it is, and they must be very sincere. And we are always willing to dialogue with them. And so they must make the efforts to create an environment conducive to dialogue. International society these days regarding the sexual slavery as well as the view on history is a matter of concern for international society. So they must listen to these concerns and must take the appropriate measures to correct the situation. This must be the foundation for the improved Korean-Japanese relations.” (Secretary of State Kerry, Remarks with ROK Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, February 13, 2014)

38North: “Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates a significant acceleration in excavation activity at the West Portal area since last viewed in early December 2013. The size of the pile of spoil excavated from a new tunnel appears to have doubled in a period of a little over a month. Exactly what accounts for this acceleration remains unclear. However, it is unlikely Pyongyang intends to use this tunnel for its next nuclear test since two other tunnels in the Southern area of the site appear complete. Because the Southern area is often covered in shadows during the winter, coverage by commercial satellites can prove to be spotty. As a result, it was not possible to view the tunnel entrances in the most recent February imagery. Once a decision is made in Pyongyang, indicators visible in satellite imagery of an impending nuclear test can appear 4-6 weeks prior to the test, both near the tunnel entrance and in other areas of the site. In the past, they have included: camouflage netting deployed to conceal activities at the tunnel entrance itself during preparations for a blast; a satellite communications dish for relaying data off-site in the vicinity of the test tunnel; a special vehicle covered by an awning and surrounded by many personnel in the central support/staging area; and a marked increase in overall activity at the central support area and roads leading to the test tunnel. Based on the most recent satellite imagery, there are no signs that a test is in preparation. (Jack Liu, “North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: Significant Excavation Activity; No Test Indicators,” 38North, February 13, 2014)


2/14/14:
South and North Korea agreed to hold reunions of separated families later this month as scheduled, an official said, a deal that could help improve inter-Korean relations after months of tensions. The rival Koreas also agreed to stop making slanderous remarks against each other to boost mutual confidence, South Korea’s chief delegate Kim Kyou-hyun told reporters. He further said the two Koreas vowed to make efforts to improve their relations and agreed to hold another round of high-level talks at a later date, which has yet to be set. The deal was reached at the high-level talks — the second such meeting in three days — at the border village of Panmunjom that separates the two Koreas. “It is meaningful that the two Koreas took a first step toward development of inter-Korean relations based on confidence,” Kim said. “I expect the two Koreas to continue to build confidence through dialogue in the future.” (Yonhap, “Koreas Agree to Hold Family Reunions As Scheduled,” February 14, 2014)

KCNA: “A north-south high-level contact took place in Panmunjom on February 12 and 14. Present there were the delegation of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK headed by Won Tong Yon, vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, from the north side and members of the delegation with Kim Kyu Hyon, first vice-chief of the “National Security Section” of Chongwadae and secretary general of the “National Security Council”, as chief delegate from the south side. Both sides confirmed the will to open a new phase of national unity, peace, prosperity and independent reunification by improving the inter-Korean relations, sincerely discussed various issues arising between the north and the south and issued a joint press release: The north and the south held a high-level contact in Panmunjom on February 12 and 14, 2014 and reached the following consensus:

The north and the south agreed to hold the reunion of separated families and their relatives as scheduled.

The north and the south agreed to refrain from slandering each other in order to promote mutual understanding and trust.

The north and the south agreed to continue discussing the issues of mutual concern and make positive efforts to develop the inter-Korean relations.

The north and the south agreed to hold a high-level contact at date convenient to both sides.” (KCNA, “Inter-Korean High-Level Contact Held,” February 14, 2014)

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said he had held a very constructive meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping as he sought Beijing’s help in deterring North Korea from pursuing nuclear weapons. He described his morning meeting with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing as very positive. “I’m glad we had an opportunity to dig into the detail of some of the North Korea challenges,” he said. “And also I appreciate his willingness to move forward on the climate change initiative.” China remains the key to pushing North Korea toward denuclearization. Long seen as a key factor in propping up the Pyongyang regime, China has maintained stalwart support for North Korea for years — watering down international sanctions and sending desperately needed aid. But early last year, after North Korea ignored its pleas to avoid the nuclear test, China began showing signs of frustration. Kerry and other U.S. officials said they were encouraged by the signs — such as tougher government statements and editorials debating China’s long-standing support of Pyongyang. “China has responded. China has done positive things,” Kerry told reporters in Seoul, but he said that more is needed and vowed to ask the country “to use all the means at its disposal.” “No country has a greater potential to influence North Korea behavior than China,” he said. “All of the refined fuel that goes in to move every automobile and airplane in North Korea comes from China. All of the fundamental, rudimentary banking structure it has with the world passes through China. Significant trade and assistance goes from China to North Korea.” But China — which values stability above all else — is unlikely to abandon North Korea anytime soon. And much of its outspokenness against Pyongyang from last year has died down, especially after Kim Jong Un’s dramatic purge of his uncle Jang Song Thaek. Jang, Kim’s most prominent adviser, was executed in December and derided as “despicable human scum” by the regime. “It’s been really quiet ever since then,” said Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor and a national security official under President George W. Bush. “I think the Chinese are as worried by the shake-up as everyone else. They’re in wait-and-see mode.” (Simon Denver and William Wan, “Kerry Pushes China on North Korea Nukes,” Washington Post, February 14, 2014) Wang Yi said the “top priority is to seize the opportunity to resume dialogue as soonas possible.” He urged all parties to “have the overall situation in mind; speak and act prudently; show flexibility; do more things beneficial to the relaxation of situation; and take practical measures to create favorable conditions for pushing the resumption of six-party talks.” (Bonnie Glaser and Jacqueline Vitello, “China’s maritime Disputes Top the Agenda,” Comparative Connections, May 2014)

A former U.S. ambassador to South Korea said Friday that he called on North Korea to swiftly release detained American Kenneth Bae during this week’s visit to Pyongyang and expressed “regret” over the North’s cancellation of a U.S. envoy’s visit aimed at securing his release. “That was not why we went. That was not part of our agenda,” Gregg replied, when asked whether his visit was aimed at seeking the release of Bae. However, Gregg said he held “very interesting” talks with North Korean officials. “We had three good meetings,” Gregg said, describing the mood as “friendly.” He didn’t elaborate further. (Yonhap, “Ex-U.S. Envoy Urges N. Korea to Free Detained American ‘Soon,’” February 14, 2014)


2/14/14:
Kerry: “Q: Just to make clear on the DPRK issue, you said that the Chinese voiced their commitment to taking action on this. Did you receive a specific commitment from China to do more to try to prevent North Korean provocations? … KERRY: Yeah. On the DPRK, China could not have been more emphatic or made it more clear that they will not allow a nuclear program over the long run, that they believe deeply in denuclearization, that denuclearization must occur, that they are committed to doing their part to help make it happen, and that they also will not allow instability and war to break out in the region. They believe it has to be done in a political negotiation and through diplomacy. That is their preference. But they made it very clear that if the North doesn’t comply and come to the table and be serious about talks and stop its program and live up to an agreed-upon set of standards with respect to the current activities that are threatening the people, that they’re prepared to take additional steps in order to make sure that their policy is implemented. And when I say “their policy,” their shared policy together with the other participants of the Six Party group and those in the region. And there is a very firm commitment to achieving that. Now what we’re talking about are some of the specifics of how you do that. And they put some ideas on the table, and we put some ideas on the table. And both of us are taking those under evaluation. I will report back to the President those things that the Chinese thought might be helpful, and they are taking under advisement — I shared with each leader at each level our thoughts about what must be done and what we need in order to proceed forward. And they have agreed to take that under advisement. And we will continue this dialogue in the days ahead in a very serious way with a great sense of the urgency of time and purpose.” (Secretary of State John Kerry, Solo Press Availability in Beijing, February 14, 2014)


2/17/14:
A United Nations panel has served notice to Kim Jong-un that he may be personally held liable in court for crimes against humanity committed by state institutions and officials under his direct control. A letter conveying this notice is part of a report by the panel to the United Nations Human Rights Council, released after a yearlong investigation. In the letter, dated January 20, the panel chairman, the retired Australian judge Michael Donald Kirby, summarized the investigation’s findings of crimes against humanity committed by officials that could be inferred to be acting under Kim’s personal control and wrote that his panel would recommend that the United Nations Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court, to make all those responsible for crimes accountable, “including possibly yourself.” “I hope that the international community will be moved by the detail, the amount, the long duration, the great suffering and the many tears that have existed in North Korea to act on the crimes against humanity,” Judge Kirby told reporters in the Geneva offices of the United Nations. “Too many times in this building there are reports and no action,” Judge Kirby said. “Well, now is a time for action. We can’t say we didn’t know.” A statement from the North Korean Mission in Geneva, quoted by Reuters, said that such rights violations “do not exist in our country,” and that the findings were “an instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system.” The North Korean authorities repeatedly denied the panel’s request for permission to visit the country to investigate. The report relied heavily on testimony from North Korean refugees, escapees and asylum seekers. The panel’s 36-page summary report and a 372-page annex detail what the report calls a wide range of crimes against humanity. The report also criticizes the political and security apparatus of the North Korean state, saying that it used surveillance, fear, public executions and forced disappearances “to terrorize the population into submission.” “Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its institutions and officials,” the report asserted, referring to North Korea by its official name. The report stopped short of alleging genocide but specified among others the crimes of “extermination,” murder, enslavement, torture, rape and persecution on grounds of race, religion and gender. The report also reported in detail on the abduction of foreign citizens, notably from Japan and South Korea, observing “these international forced disappearances are unique in their intensity, scale and nature.” In many instances the abuses constitute crimes against humanity, the report said, adding that “these are not mere excesses of the state; they are essential components” and have been committed “pursuant to policies at the highest level of the state.” “It really opens up a whole new chapter in the international reaction to North Korea,” Lee Jung-hoon, South Korea’s ambassador for human rights, said by telephone. “It’s not just an investigation and a report and that’s the end of it. It’s giving a road map and blueprint to end this thing. There’s a very strong sense of urgency.” There appears to be little immediate prospect of winning approval for International Criminal Court prosecution, however. Approval is necessary from the Security Council’s permanent members, which include North Korea’s long-term protector, China. Still, Lee said, “just the fact that they are getting the vocabulary of crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court and Kim Jong-un on the same page is a huge step forward in the debate on North Korean human rights.” The panel also listed some other possible options for prosecution, including the formation of an ad hoc tribunal such as those convened to investigate crimes in the Balkans and Rwanda. It also called for the Human Rights Council to establish a structure to keep up the collection of evidence of human rights violations. “The U.N. has been more or less indifferent about these issues for six decades — the panel are trying to jump-start the reaction of the international community,” said Julie de Rivero, Geneva representative of Human Rights Watch. “Steps need to be put in place so that North Korea gets the message loud and clear that the issue won’t be ignored and it won’t just be the nuclear issue that triggers an international response.” (Nick Cumming-Bruce, “U.N. Panel Says North Korean Leader Could Face Trial,” New York Times, February 18, 2014, p. A-8)

UN Report: “24. The commission finds that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In many instances, the violations found entailed crimes against humanity based on State policies. The main perpetrators are officials of the State Security Department, the Ministry of People’s Security, the Korean People’s Army, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the judiciary and the Workers’ Party of Korea, who are acting under the effective control of the central organs of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the National Defence Commission and the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 25. The commission emphasizes that the current human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been shaped by the historical experiences of the Korean people. Confucian social structures and the experience of the Japanese colonial occupation have to some degree informed the political structures and attitudes prevailing in the country today. The division imposed on the Korean peninsula, the massive destruction caused by the Korean War and the impact of the Cold War have engendered an isolationist mindset and an aversion to outside powers that are used to justify internal repression. The particular nature and the overall scale of human rights violations in the State can be more easily understood through an appreciation of the nature of its political system, which is based on a single party led by a single Supreme Leader, an elaborate guiding ideology and a centrally planned economy. A.Violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion. 26. Throughout the history of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among the most striking features of the State has been its claim to an absolute monopoly over information and total control of organized social life. The commission finds that there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association. 27. The State operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader (Suryong), effectively to the exclusion of any thought independent of official ideology and State propaganda. Propaganda is further used by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to incite nationalistic hatred towards official enemies of the State, including Japan, the United States of America and the Republic of Korea, and their nationals. 28. Virtually all social activities undertaken by citizens of all ages are controlled by the Workers’ Party of Korea. Through the associations that are run and overseen by the Party, and to which citizens are obliged to be members, the State is able to monitor its citizens and to dictate their daily activities. State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes.” 29. Citizens are denied the right to have access to information from independent sources; State-controlled media are the only permitted source of information in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Access to television and radio broadcasts, as well as to the Internet, is severely restricted, and all media content is heavily censored and must adhere to directives issued by the Workers’ Party of Korea. Telephone calls are monitored and mostly confined to domestic connections for citizens. Citizens are punished for watching and listening to foreign broadcasts, including foreign films and soap operas. 30. Strengthening market forces and advancements in information technology have allowed greater access to information from outside the country as information and media from the Republic of Korea and China increasingly enter the country. The State’s monopoly on information is therefore being challenged by the increasing flow of outside information into the country and the ensuing curiosity of the people for “truths” other than those provided by State propaganda. Authorities seek to preserve their monopoly on information by carrying out regular crackdowns and enforcing harsh punishments. 31. The State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State. Apart from the few organized State-controlled churches, Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted. People caught practising Christianity are subject to severe punishments in violation of the right to freedom of religion and the prohibition of religious discrimination. B. Discrimination 32.The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea presents itself as a State where equality, non-discrimination and equal rights in all sectors have been fully achieved and implemented. In reality, it is a rigidly stratified society with entrenched patterns of discrimination, although these are being modified to some extent by the transformative socioeconomic changes introduced by market forces and technological developments. State-sponsored discrimination in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is pervasive, but is also shifting. Discrimination is rooted in the songbun system, which classifies people on the basis of State-assigned social class and birth, and also includes consideration of political opinions and religion. Songbun intersects with gender-based discrimination, which is equally pervasive. Discrimination is also practised on the basis of disability, although there are signs that the State may have begun to address this particular issue. 33. The songbun system used to be the most important factor in determining where individuals were allowed to live; what sort of accommodation they had; what occupations they were assigned to; whether they were effectively able to attend school, in particular university; how much food they received; and even whom they might marry. This traditional discrimination under the songbun system was recently complicated by increasing marketization in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and by the influence of money, including foreign currency, on people’s ability to have greater access their economic, social and cultural rights. At the same time, significant segments of the population who have neither the resources nor favourable songbun find themselves increasingly marginalized and subject to further patterns of discrimination, given that basic public services have collapsed or now effectively require payment. 34. Early reforms aimed at ensuring formal legal equality have not resulted in gender equality. Discrimination against women remains pervasive in all aspects of society. Indeed, it might even be increasing, as the male-dominated State preys on both economically advancing women and marginalized women. Many women, survival-driven during the famine of the 1990s, began operating private markets. The State imposed, however, many restrictions on female-dominated markets. Gender discrimination also takes the form of women being targeted to pay bribes or fines. There is recent evidence that women are beginning to object and to resist such impositions. 35. The economic advances of women have not been matched by advances in the social and political spheres. Entrenched traditional patriarchal attitudes and violence against women persist in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The State has imposed blatantly discriminatory restrictions on women in an attempt to maintain the gender stereotype of the pure and innocent Korean woman. Sexual and gender-based violence against women is prevalent throughout all areas of society. Victims are not afforded protection from the State, support services or recourse to justice. In the political sphere, women make up just 5 per cent of the top political cadre and 10 per cent of central government employees. 36. Discrimination against women also intersects with a number of other human rights violations, placing women in a position of vulnerability. Violations of the rights to food and to freedom of movement have resulted in women and girls becoming vulnerable to trafficking and increased engagement in transactional sex and prostitution. The complete denial of the freedoms of expression and association has been a large contributing factor to the generally unequal status of women vis-à-vis men. These limitations have, inter alia, prevented women from collectively advocating for their rights as women have done elsewhere in the world. 37. While discrimination exists to some extent in all societies, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has practised a form of official discrimination that has had a very significant impact on individual enjoyment of human rights. Given the exceptional extent of State control, this official discrimination influences most aspects of people’s lives. Discrimination remains a major means for the leadership to maintain control against perceived threats, both internal and external. C. Violations of the freedom of movement and residence. 38. The systems of indoctrination and discrimination on the basis of social class are reinforced and safeguarded by a policy of isolating citizens from contact with each other and with the outside world, violating all aspects of the right to freedom of movement. 39. In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the State imposes on citizens where they must live and work, violating their freedom of choice. Moreover, the forced assignment to a State-designated place of residence and employment is heavily driven by discrimination based on songbun. This has created a socioeconomically and physically segregated society, where people considered politically loyal to the leadership can live and work in favourable locations, whereas families of persons who are considered politically suspect are relegated to marginalized areas. The special status of Pyongyang, reserved only for those most loyal to the State, exemplifies this system of segregation. 40. Citizens are not even allowed to leave their province temporarily or to travel within the country without official authorization. This policy is driven by the desire to maintain disparate living conditions, to limit the flow of information and to maximize State control, at the expense of social and familial ties. 41. In an attempt to keep Pyongyang’s “pure” and untainted image, the State systematically banishes entire families from the capital city if one family member commits what is deemed to be a serious crime or political wrong. For the same reason, the large number of street children migrating clandestinely to Pyongyang and other cities — principally in search of food — are subject to arrest and forcible transfer back to their home provinces, experiencing neglect and forced institutionalization on their return. 42. The State imposes a virtually absolute ban on ordinary citizens travelling abroad, thereby violating their human right to leave the country. Despite the enforcement of this ban through strict border controls, nationals still take the risk of fleeing, mainly to China. When they are apprehended or forcibly repatriated, officials from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea systematically subject them to persecution, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention and, in some cases, sexual violence, including during invasive body searches. Repatriated women who are pregnant are regularly subjected to forced abortions, and babies born to repatriated women are often killed. These practices are driven by racist attitudes towards interracial children of Koreans, and the intent to punish further women who have left the country and their assumed contact with Chinese men. Persons found to have been in contact with officials or nationals from the Republic of Korea or with Christian churches may be forcibly “disappeared” into political prison camps, imprisoned in ordinary prisons or even summarily executed. 43. Despite the gross human rights violations awaiting repatriated persons, China pursues a rigorous policy of forcibly repatriating citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who cross the border illegally. China does so in pursuance of its view that these persons are economic (and illegal) migrants. However, many such nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be recognized as refugees fleeing persecution or refugees sur place. They are thereby entitled to international protection. In forcibly returning nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China also violates its obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee and human rights law. In some cases, Chinese officials also appear to provide information on those apprehended to their counterparts in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 44. Discrimination against women and their vulnerable status in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as the prospect of refoulement, make women extremely vulnerable to trafficking in persons. Many women are trafficked by force or deception from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into or within China for the purposes of exploitation in forced marriage or concubinage, or prostitution under coercive circumstances. An estimated 20,000 children born to women from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are currently in China. These children are deprived of their rights to birth registration, nationality, education and health care because their birth cannot be registered without exposing the mother to the risk of refoulement by China. 45. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has repeatedly breached its obligations to respect the rights of its nationals who have special ties to, or claims in relation to, another country, in this case the Republic of Korea, to return there or otherwise to enjoy a facility to meet long separated families. The severe impediments put in place by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to prevent contact and communication with family members in the Republic of Korea are a breach of the State’s obligations under international human rights law. The restrictions are arbitrary, cruel and inhuman. This is particularly the case when previously agreed temporary reunions of separated families are cancelled for wholly unpersuasive reasons, especially given the advanced age of the persons concerned. D. Violations of the right to food and related aspects of the right to life. 46. The rights to food, freedom from hunger and to life in the context of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cannot be reduced to a narrow discussion of food shortages and access to a commodity. The State has used food as a means of control over the population. It has prioritized those whom the authorities believe to be crucial in maintaining the regime over those deemed expendable. 47. Confiscation and dispossession of food from those in need, and the provision of food to other groups, follows this logic. The State has practised discrimination with regard to access to and distribution of food based on the songbun system. In addition, it privileges certain parts of the country, such as Pyongyang, over others. The State has also failed to take into account the needs of the most vulnerable. The commission is particularly concerned about ongoing chronic malnutrition in children and its long-term effects. 48. The State was aware of the deteriorating food situation in the country well before the first appeal for international aid in 1995. State-controlled production and distribution of food had not been able to provide the population with adequate food since the end of the 1980s. The lack of transparency, accountability and democratic institutions, as well as restrictions on freedom of expression, information and association, prevented the adoption of optimal economic solutions over those in accordance with Party directives. The State has evaded structural reforms to the economy and agriculture for fear of losing its control over the population. 49. During the period of famine, ideological indoctrination was used in order to maintain the regime, at the cost of seriously aggravating hunger and starvation. The concealment of information prevented the population from finding alternatives to the collapsing public distribution system. It also delayed international assistance that, provided earlier, could have saved many lives. Despite the State’s inability to provide its people with adequate food, it maintained laws and controls effectively criminalizing people’s use of key coping mechanisms, particularly moving within or outside the country in search of food and trading or working in informal markets. 50. Even during the worst period of mass starvation, the State impeded the delivery of food aid by imposing conditions that were not based on humanitarian considerations. International humanitarian agencies were subject to restrictions contravening humanitarian principles. Aid organizations were prevented from properly assessing humanitarian needs and monitoring the distribution of aid. The State denied humanitarian access to some of the most affected regions and groups, including homeless children. 51. The State has consistently failed in its obligation to use the maximum of its available resources to feed those who are hungry. Military spending — predominantly on hardware and the development of weapons systems and the nuclear programme — has always been prioritized, even during periods of mass starvation. Nevertheless, the State still failed to feed the ordinary soldiers of its disproportionately large army. Large amounts of State resources, including parallel funds directly controlled by the Supreme Leader, have been spent on luxury goods and the advancement of his personality cult instead of providing food to the starving general population. 52. The State has also used deliberate starvation as a means of control and punishment in detention facilities. This has resulted in the deaths of many political and ordinary prisoners. 53. The commission found evidence of systematic, widespread and grave violations of the right to food in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. While acknowledging the impact of factors beyond State control over the food situation, the commission finds that decisions, actions and omissions by the State and its leadership caused the death of at least hundreds of thousands of people and inflicted permanent physical and psychological injuries on those who survived. 54. In the highly centralized system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, decisions relating to food, including its production and distribution, State budget allocation, decisions relating to humanitarian assistance and the use of international aid, are ultimately made by a small group of officials, who are not accountable to those affected by their decisions. 55. While conditions have changed since the 1990s, hunger and malnutrition continue to be widespread. Deaths from starvation continue to be reported. The commission is concerned that structural issues, including laws and policies that violate the right to adequate food and freedom from hunger, remain in place, which could lead to the recurrence of mass starvation. E. Arbitrary detention, torture, executions and prison camps. 56. The police and security forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea systematically employ violence and punishments that amount to gross human rights violations in order to create a climate of fear that pre-empts any challenge to the current system of government and to the ideology underpinning it. The institutions and officials involved are not held accountable. Impunity reigns. 57. Gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea involving detention, executions and disappearances are characterized by a high degree of centralized coordination between different parts of the extensive security apparatus. The State Security Department, the Ministry of People’s Security and the Korean People’s Army Military Security Command regularly subject persons accused of political crimes to arbitrary arrest and subsequent incommunicado detention for prolonged periods of time. Their families are not informed of their fate or whereabouts. Persons accused of political crimes therefore become victims of enforced disappearance. Making the suspect disappear is a deliberate feature of the system that serves to instil fear in the population. 58. The use of torture is an established feature of the interrogation process in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, especially in cases involving political crimes. Starvation and other inhumane conditions of detention are deliberately imposed on suspects to increase the pressure on them to confess and to incriminate other persons. 59. Persons who are found to have engaged in major political crimes are “disappeared”, without trial or judicial order, to political prison camps (kwanliso). There, they are incarcerated and held incommunicado. Their families are not even informed of their fate if they die. In the past, it was common that the authorities sent entire families to political prison camps for political crimes committed by close relatives (including forebears, to the third generation) on the basis of the principle of guilt by association. Such cases still occur, but appear to be less frequent now than in past decades. 60. In the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades. The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century. 61. Although the authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea deny the existence of the camps, this claim was shown to be false by the testimonies of former guards, inmates and neighbours. Satellite imagery proves that the camp system continues to be in operation. While the number of political prison camps and inmates has decreased owing to deaths and some releases, it is estimated that between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners are currently detained in four large political prison camps. 62. Gross violations are also being committed in the ordinary prison system, which consists of ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso) and various types of short-term forced labour detention facilities. The vast majority of inmates are victims of arbitrary detention, since they are imprisoned without trial or on the basis of a trial that fails to respect the due process and fair trial guarantees set out in international law. Furthermore, many ordinary prisoners are, in fact, political prisoners, who are detained without a substantive reason compatible with international law. Prisoners in the ordinary prison system are systematically subjected to deliberate starvation and illegal forced labour. Torture, rape and other arbitrary cruelties at the hands of guards and fellow prisoners are widespread and committed with impunity. 63. As a matter of State policy, the authorities carry out executions, with or without trial, publicly or secretly, in response to political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious crimes. The policy of regularly carrying out public executions serves to instil fear in the general population. Public executions were most common in the 1990s. However, they continue to be carried out today. In late 2013, there appeared to be a spike in the number of politically motivated public executions. F. Abductions and enforced disappearances from other countries. 64. Since 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has engaged in the systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons from other countries on a large scale and as a matter of State policy. Well over 200,000 persons, including children, who were brought from other countries to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea may have become victims of enforced disappearance, as defined in the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. More information would have to emerge from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to provide a more precise estimate of the number of victims. 65. For a nation State that seeks to live alongside others, the above-mentioned actions, in defiance of the sovereignty of other States and the rights of foreign nationals guaranteed under international law, are exceptional. 66. The vast majority of abductions and enforced disappearances are linked to the Korean War and the organized movement of ethnic Koreans from Japan that started in 1959. However, hundreds of nationals of the Republic of Korea, Japan and other States were also abducted and disappeared between the 1960s and 1980s. In more recent years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea abducted a number of its own nationals and nationals of the Republic of Korea from China. 67. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea used its land, naval and intelligence forces to conduct abductions and arrests. Operations were approved at the level of the Supreme Leader. The vast majority of victims were forcibly disappeared to gain labour and other skills for the State. Some victims were used to further espionage and terrorist activities. Women abducted from Europe, the Middle East and Asia were subjected to forced marriages with men from other countries to prevent liaisons on their part with ethnic Korean women that could result in interracial children. Some of the abducted women have also been subject to sexual exploitation. 68. A number of the forcibly disappeared travelled to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea voluntarily. Others were abducted through physical force or fraudulent persuasion. Subsequently, they were all denied the right to leave the country. They have also been subject to severe deprivation of their liberty and freedom of movement within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, denied the right to recognition as a person before the law, and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. All of the forcibly disappeared have been placed under strict surveillance. They have been denied education and employment opportunities. 69. Ethnic Koreans from the Republic of Korea and Japan, forcibly disappeared by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, have been discriminated against for their origins and background. They were categorized as “hostile” and forced to work in mines and farms in remote marginalized areas of the country. Many of them were likely to have been the first victims of the famine in the 1990s because of their lower social status. 70. Non-Korean abductees were not able to integrate into social and economic life in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as they were detained in tightly controlled compounds. They were denied the right to work, to leave their place of residence or to move freely in society, and they were unable to choose educational opportunities for themselves and their children. 71. Family members abroad and foreign States wishing to exercise their right to provide diplomatic protection have been consistently denied information necessary to establish the fate and whereabouts of the victims. Family members of the disappeared have been subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They have been denied the right to effective remedies for human rights violations, including the right to the truth. Parents and disappeared children have been denied the right to family life. 72. Despite admitting to the abduction of 13 Japanese nationals by agents of the State, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has never adequately disavowed the practice of international abductions. Since the 1990s, its agents have abducted a number of persons from Chinese territory, including nationals of China, the Republic of Korea and, in at least one case, a former Japanese national. 73. The commission finds that almost all of the foregoing victims remain disappeared. Human rights violations continue against them and their families. The shock and pain caused by such actions is indescribable. IV. Crimes against humanity 74. In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 22/13, the commission carried out its inquiry with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity. The commission is neither a judicial body nor a prosecutor. It cannot make final determinations of individual criminal responsibility. It can, however, determine whether its findings constitute reasonable grounds establishing that crimes against humanity have been committed so as to merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice. 75. According to that standard, the commission finds that the body of testimony and other information it received establishes that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State. 76. These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation. The commission further finds that crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place. 77. Persons detained in political and other prison camps, those who try to flee the State, Christians and others considered to introduce subversive influences are the primary targets of a systematic and widespread attack against all populations that are considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This attack is embedded in the larger patterns of politically motivated human rights violations experienced by the general population, including the discriminatory system of classification of persons based on songbun. 78. In addition, the commission finds that crimes against humanity have been committed against starving populations, particularly during the 1990s. These crimes arose from decisions and policies violating the right to food, which were applied for the purposes of sustaining the present political system, in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths of much of the population. 79. Lastly, the commission finds that crimes against humanity are being committed against persons from other countries who were systematically abducted or denied repatriation, in order to gain labour and other skills for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. V. Conclusions and recommendations 80. Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its institutions and officials. In many instances, the violations of human rights found by the commission constitute crimes against humanity. These are not mere excesses of the State; they are essential components of a political system that has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded. The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world. Political scientists of the twentieth century characterized this type of political organization as a totalitarian State: a State that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within. 81.The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea displays many attributes of a totalitarian State: the rule of a single party, led by a single person, is based on an elaborate guiding ideology that its current Supreme Leader refers to as “Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism”. The State seeks to ensure that its citizens internalize this guiding ideology by indoctrinating citizens from childhood, suppressing all political and religious expression that questions the official ideology, and tightly controlling citizens’ physical movement and their means of communication with each other and with those in other countries. Discrimination on the basis of gender and songbun is used to maintain a rigid social structure that is less likely to produce challenges to the political system. 82. The State’s monopolization of access to food has been used as an important means to enforce political loyalty. The distribution of food has prioritized those who are useful to the survival of the current political system at the expense of those deemed to be expendable. Citizens’ complete dependence on the State led to one of the worst cases of famine in recent history. The authorities have only recently come to tolerate the fact that markets can no longer be fully suppressed. Instead of fully embracing reforms to realize the right to food, however, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea maintains a system of inefficient economic production and discriminatory resource allocation that inevitably produces more unnecessary starvation among its citizens. 83. The key to the political system is the vast political and security apparatus that strategically uses surveillance, coercion, fear and punishment to preclude the expression of any dissent. Public executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps serve as the ultimate means to terrorize the population into submission. The State’s violence has been externalized through State-sponsored abductions and enforced disappearances of people from other nations. These international enforced disappearances are unique in their intensity, scale and nature. 84. Today, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea finds itself surrounded by a world that is changing rapidly in political, economic and technological terms. These changes offer opportunities for incremental social change within the State. In response, the authorities engage in gross human rights violations so as to crack down on “subversive” influences from abroad. These influences are symbolized by films and soap operas from the Republic of Korea and other countries, short-wave radio broadcasts and foreign mobile telephones. For the same reason, the State systematically uses violence and punishment to deter its citizens from exercising their human right to leave the country. Persons who are forcibly repatriated from China are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortion and other forms of sexual violence. 85. A number of long-standing and ongoing patterns of systematic and widespread violations, which were documented by the commission, meet the high threshold required for proof of crimes against humanity in international law. The perpetrators enjoy impunity. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is unwilling to implement its international obligation to prosecute and bring the perpetrators to justice, because those perpetrators act in accordance with State policy. 86. The fact that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as a State Member of the United Nations, has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community. The international community must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has manifestly failed to do so. In particular, this responsibility must be accepted in the light of the role played by the international community (and by the great powers in particular) in the division of the Korean peninsula and because of the unresolved legacy of the Korean War. These unfortunate legacies help not only to explain the intractability of the human rights situation but also why an effective response is now imperative. 87. The United Nations must ensure that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are held accountable. Options to achieve this end include a Security Council referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal by the United Nations. Urgent accountability measures should be combined with a reinforced human rights dialogue, the promotion of incremental change through more people-to-people contact and an inter-Korean agenda for reconciliation. 88. On the basis of its findings and conclusions, the Commission makes the recommendations below. 89.The commission of inquiry recommends that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: (a) Undertake profound political and institutional reforms without delay to introduce genuine checks and balances upon the powers of the Supreme Leader and the Workers’ Party of Korea; such changes should include an independent and impartial judiciary, a multiparty political system and elected people’s assemblies at the local and central levels that emerge from genuinely free and fair elections; reform the security sector by vetting the entire officers’ corps for involvement in human rights violations and by limiting the functions of the Korean People’s Army to defending the nation against external threats; and dismantle the State Security Department and place the Ministry of Public Security under transparent democratic oversight. An independent constitutional and institutional reform commission, consisting of respected members of society in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, should be constituted to guide this process and should be assisted by appropriate international experts; (b) Acknowledge the existence of human rights violations, including the political prison camps described by the commission in the present report; provide international humanitarian organizations and human rights monitors with immediate access to the camps and their surviving victims; dismantle all political prison camps and release all political prisoners; and clarify with full detail the fate of any disappeared persons who cannot be readily traced; (c) Reform the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure to abolish vaguely worded “anti-State” and “anti-People” crimes and to fully enshrine the right to a fair trial and due process guarantees articulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; enforce existing provisions in the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure that prohibit and criminalize the use of torture and other inhuman means of interrogation that are illegal under international law; reform the ordinary prison system so as to ensure humane conditions of detention for all inmates deprived of liberty; end reprisals against persons on the basis of guilt by association; and abolish immediately the practice of forcibly resettling the families of convicted criminals; (d) Declare and implement an immediate moratorium on the imposition and execution of the death penalty, followed without undue delay by the abolition of the death penalty both in law and in practice; (e) Allow the establishment of independent newspapers and other media; allow citizens to freely access the Internet, social media, international communications, foreign broadcasts and publications, including the popular culture of other countries; and abolish compulsory participation in mass organizations and indoctrination sessions; (f) Introduce education to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and abolish any propaganda or educational activities that espouse national, racial or political hatred or war propaganda; (g) Allow Christians and other religious believers to exercise their religion independently and publicly, without fear of punishment, reprisal or surveillance; (h) End discrimination against citizens on the basis of their perceived political loyalty or the sociopolitical background of their families, including in matters of access to education and employment; dismantle the neighbourhood watch (inminban), the secret resident registration file system, and all surveillance of persons and their communications that serve purposes of political oppression and/or are not subject to effective judicial and democratic control; and publicly acknowledge the extent of surveillance practices carried out in the past and provide citizens with access to their resident registration file; (i) Take immediate measures to ensure gender equality in practice, such as by providing equal access for women in public life and employment; eradicate discriminatory laws, regulations and practices affecting women; take measures to address all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, sexual and gender-based violence by State agents and/or within State institutions; and respond immediately and effectively to trafficking in women, and address the structural causes that make women vulnerable to such violations; (j) Ensure that citizens can enjoy the right to food and other economic and social rights without discrimination; pay particular attention to the needs of women and vulnerable groups, such as street children, the elderly and persons with disabilities; promote agricultural, economic and financial policies based on democratic participation, good governance and non-discrimination; and legalize and support free market activities, internal and external trade and other independent economic conduct that provide citizens with a livelihood; (k) In the light of the past expenditures by the leadership, the military and security apparatus, realign priorities and dedicate the resources made available to ensure, as necessary, freedom from hunger and other essential minimum standards for citizens, including those citizens serving in the armed forces; (l) Where necessary to ensure the right to food, seek international humanitarian assistance without delay; provide international humanitarian organizations with free and unimpeded access to all populations in need, including for the purposes of effective monitoring; and hold accountable State officials who illegally divert humanitarian aid for improper purposes; (m) Abolish the de facto prohibition on foreign travel imposed on ordinary citizens; decriminalize illegal border crossings and introduce border controls that conform to international standards; renounce orders to shoot and kill at the border; cease to regard citizens repatriated from China as political criminals or to subject them to imprisonment, execution, torture, arbitrary detention, deliberate starvation, illegal cavity searches, forced abortions and other sexual violence; and abolish the State’s compulsory designation of places of residence and employment, as well as the requirement to obtain a permit for domestic travel outside a person’s designated province; (n) Provide the families and nations of origin of all persons who have been abducted, or otherwise forcibly disappeared, with full information on their fate and whereabouts, if they have survived; allow those who remain alive, and their descendants, to return immediately to their countries of origin; and, in close cooperation with their families and nations of origin, identify and repatriate the physical remains of those who have died; (o) Allow separated families to unite, including by allowing citizens to travel or emigrate where they choose; and immediately provide such persons with facilities for unmonitored communications by way of mail, telephone, email and any other means of communication; (p) Prosecute and bring to justice those persons most responsible for alleged crimes against humanity; appoint a special prosecutor to supervise this process; ensure that victims and their families are provided with adequate, prompt and effective reparation and remedies, including by knowing the truth about the violations that have been suffered; launch a people-driven process to establish the truth about the violations; provide adults and children with comprehensive education on national and international law and practice on human rights and democratic governance; and seek international advice and support for transitional justice measures; (q) Take immediate steps to end all other human rights violations and to address the human rights concerns raised by the commission in the present report, as well as in successive resolutions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, in the procedures of universal periodic review and in the reports of special procedures mandate holders and the treaty bodies; (r) Ratify without delay the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization; (s) Accept immediately a field-based presence and technical assistance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant United Nations entities to help to implement the above-mentioned recommendations. 90. The commission of inquiry recommends that China and other States: (a) Respect the principle of non-refoulement and, accordingly, abstain from forcibly repatriating any persons to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, unless the treatment there, as verified by international human rights monitors, markedly improves; extend asylum and other means of durable protection to persons fleeing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who need international protection; ensure that such persons are fully integrated and duly protected from discrimination; stop providing information on activities and contacts of persons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea living in China to the State Security Department and other security agencies in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and allow persons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea free access to diplomatic and consular representations of any State that may be willing to extend nationality or other forms of protection to them; (b) Provide the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and relevant humanitarian organizations, full and unimpeded access to all persons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seeking such contact; (c) Request technical assistance from the United Nations to help to meet the obligations imposed under international refugee law, and ensure the effective protection of persons from trafficking; (d) Adopt a victim-centric and human rights-based approach to trafficking in persons, including by providing victims with the right to stay in the country and access to legal protection and basic services, such as medical treatment, education and employment opportunities equivalent to those afforded to their own citizens; (e) Regularize the status of women and men from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who marry or have a child with a Chinese citizen; and ensure that all such children may realize their rights to birth registration and Chinese nationality where applicable, and have access to education and health care without discrimination; (f) Take immediate measures to prevent agents of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from carrying out further abductions from Chinese territory; prosecute and adequately punish apprehended perpetrators of abduction and demand the extradition of those giving such orders so that they may be tried in accordance with law. China should raise with the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other high-level authorities the issues of abductions, the infanticide of children entitled to Chinese nationality, forced abortions imposed on repatriated women and other human rights violations that target persons repatriated from China. 91. The commission of inquiry recommends that the Korean people foster inter-Korean dialogue in a phased approach leading to an agenda for reconciliation. Inter-Korean dialogue could be furthered through such initiatives as friendly sporting events; academic and business interactions; scholarships and apprenticeships for young people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; student exchanges; exchanges between civil society organizations, including national Red Cross Societies; contacts between professional organizations and women’s groups; and the development of “sister city” relationships and, eventually, the re-establishment of transport and communication links. 92. The commission of inquiry recommends that States and civil society organizations foster opportunities for people-to-people dialogue and contact in such areas as culture, science, sports, good governance and economic development that provide citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with opportunities to exchange information and be exposed to experiences outside their home country. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States should remove applicable obstacles to people-to-people contact, including measures that criminalize travel and contact to the extent that these are not in accordance with relevant obligations under international human rights law. 93. The commission also recommends that States, foundations and engaged business enterprises provide more support for the work of civil society organizations to improve the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including efforts to document human rights violations and to broadcast accessible information into each country. Eventually, and once conditions are deemed to be appropriate, such foundations and enterprises should join forces with the Governments concerned to coordinate efforts to adopt a coherent plan for the development of the country, creation of livelihoods for the population and the advancement of the situation of human rights. 94. With regard to the international community and the United Nations, the commission makes the following recommendations: (a) The Security Council should refer the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court for action in accordance with that court’s jurisdiction. The Security Council should also adopt targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity. In the light of the dire social and economic situation of the general population, the commission does not support sanctions imposed by the Security Council or introduced bilaterally that are targeted against the population or the economy as a whole; (b) The General Assembly and the Human Rights Council should extend the country-specific human rights monitoring and reporting mechanisms on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that predate the establishment of the commission; these include the periodic reports of the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Such mechanisms should be mandated to focus on ensuring accountability, in particular for crimes against humanity, and should report on the implementation of the commission’s recommendations; (c) The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with full support from the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, should establish a structure to help to ensure accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in particular where such violations amount to crimes against humanity. The structure should build on the collection of evidence and documentation work of the commission, and further expand its database. It should be field-based, supported by adequate personnel deployed to the region so as to enjoy sustained access to victims and witnesses. In addition to informing the work of human rights reporting mechanisms and serving as a secure archive for information provided by relevant stakeholders, the work of such a structure should facilitate United Nations efforts to prosecute, or otherwise render accountable, those most responsible for crimes against humanity; (d) The High Commissioner should continue the engagement of OHCHR with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, offering technical assistance and enhancing advocacy initiatives. The High Commissioner should facilitate the implementation of a strategy led by the Special Rapporteur and involving all concerned human rights mechanisms of the United Nations system to address, coherently and without delay, the special issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances and related matters described in the present report. Member States should afford full cooperation to ensure the implementation of such a strategy; (e) The High Commissioner should periodically report to the Human Rights Council and other appropriate United Nations organs on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the present report; (f) The Human Rights Council should ensure that the conclusions and recommendations of the commission do not pass from the active attention of the international community. Where so much suffering has occurred, and is still occurring, action is the shared responsibility of the entire international community; (g) The United Nations Secretariat and agencies should urgently adopt and implement a common “Rights up Front” strategy to ensure that all engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea effectively takes into account, and addresses, human rights concerns, including those collected in the present report. The United Nations should immediately apply this strategy to help to prevent the recurrence or continuation of crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The strategy should contemplate the possibility of the Secretary-General referring the situation to the Security Council; (h) States that have historically friendly ties with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, major donors and potential donors, as well as those States already engaged with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the framework of the six-party talks, should form a human rights contact group to raise concerns about the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and to provide support for initiatives to improve it; (i) States should not use the provision of food and other essential humanitarian assistance to impose economic or political pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Humanitarian assistance should be provided in accordance with humanitarian and human rights principles, including the principle of non-discrimination. Aid should only be curbed to the extent that unimpeded international humanitarian access and related monitoring is not adequately guaranteed. Bilateral and multilateral providers of assistance should coordinate their efforts to ensure that adequate conditions of humanitarian access and related monitoring are provided by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; (j) Without prejudice to all the obligations under international law that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must immediately implement, the United Nations and the States that were parties to the Korean War should take steps to convene a high-level political conference. Participants in that conference should consider and, if agreed, ratify a final peaceful settlement of the war that commits all parties to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. States of the region should intensify their cooperation and consider following such examples as the Helsinki Process.” (U.N. Human Rights Council, Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, 25th Sess., Agenda Item 4, February 4, 2014)

DoS: “We strongly welcome and support the final report released by the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which provides compelling evidence of widespread, systematic, and grave human rights violations by the D.P.R.K. The COI report reflects the international community’s consensus view that the human rights situation in the D.P.R.K. is among the world’s worst. We urge the D.P.R.K. to take concrete steps — as recommended by the COI — to improve the human rights situation for the North Korean people. The COI’s investigation — through, for example, its public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington — clearly and unequivocally documents the brutal reality of the D.P.R.K.’s human rights abuses. We continue to work actively with our partners and with international organizations to raise awareness of and address the deplorable human rights conditions in the D.P.R.K. The United States was proud to co-sponsor, along with Japan, the EU, and the R.O.K., the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council that established the COI in March 2013. We look forward to thoroughly reviewing the report and discussing its recommendations with our partners, who share our deep concern about the human rights situation in North Korea. We look forward to the COI’s presentation of its report in front of the UN Human Rights Council in March.” (Deputy State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf, Press Statement, February 17, 2014)


2/18/14:
Japan’s point man on Northeast Asia, Ihara Junichi, director general of the foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and met with his South Korean counterpart Lee Sang-deok in an apparent bid to improve ties frayed over territorial and historical issues, Seoul officials said. It marks the first direct-general level gathering of the neighbors after Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo ‘s visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine last December seriously inflamed public opinion in South Korea. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, Japan Hold Talks amid Tensions,” February 18, 2014)

China strongly criticized a high-profile U.N. report on human rights situations in North Korea that said Beijing may be “aiding crimes against humanity” by repatriating North Korean defectors to their homeland against their will. “We totally cannot accept this accusation,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. China, the North’s key ally, has considered tens of thousands of North Koreans hiding in the border areas as illegal migrants, not asylum-seekers, and routinely sends them back to North Korea, where they face harsh penalties, even death. Hua repeated China’s stance on North Korean defectors, saying Beijing views them as “illegal border-crossers,” not “defectors,” therefore not subject to protection. Hua also said China would block any attempt to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC). (Yonhap, “China Rejects U.N. Accusations of Aiding N. Korean Rights Abuse,” February 18, 2014)


2/19/14:
A 75-year-old Australian missionary has been detained in North Korea for allegedly distributing Korean-language Christian pamphlets, his wife told AFP. Hong Kong-based John Short was taken from his Pyongyang hotel on Monday by North Korean police, two days after arriving from Beijing as part of an organised tour group, Karen Short said. “On Monday they (the officers) came early, around 7:00 am,” she told AFP in Hong Kong. (Jennifer O’Mahoney, “Australian Missionary Held in N. Korea,” AFP< February 19, 2014)

A graduate student at UCSD, Akshay Bharadwaj, recently brought a handful of things to our attention on India-DPRK relations. In the early-2000s, North Korea’s imports from India hovered between $100-200 million, not a trivial figure at around 8 percent of total imports (in 2003-2004). Between 2006-2008, however, imports from India increased 786 percent to top $1 billion. As evidenced in Figure 2, the reason is the rapid growth in trade of fuel oils, petroleum products and distillates. Aviation spirit (jet fuel) in particular is responsible for much of the spike: In 2003, India was exporting only $5.5 million in aviation fuel, by 2008 this figure was above $750 million. Ms. Baree explains this spike as a classic political economy tale. In the late-2000s Indian refining capacity got ahead of domestic demand, particularly at two large firms: Reliance Industries and the Essar Group. In addition, massive oil subsidies kept pump prices low. While state-owned refiners were compensated, private refiners had to turn to the international market and India became one of the largest exporters of refined fuels east of the Suez. Iran and North Korea took advantage of the opportunity: not only does trade data show a marked increase in North Korea’s total fuel imports, but also huge trade diversion from its existing supplier China. In 2005, China supplied 83 percent of the DPRK’s jet fuel imports; in 2007 China had plunged to 3 percent, with the other 97 percent now coming from India. Competitive prices must have played a role in this big shift, which no doubt financed an increase in military inventories of fuel. But things contracted as swiftly as they had grown, with fuel exports falling dramatically in 2009-10 and virtually disappearing by 2011-12. A variety of organic chemicals now make up a growing share of what looks like a more diversified portfolio of exports. Incidentally, China has now replaced India as the main supplier of petroleum and distillates, making up over 80 percent of North Korea’s imports in this category in 2011 and 2012. But what explains this drop? India’s petroleum exports on a whole contracted significantly in 2009, but have since seen robust growth. Perhaps the difficulty of doing business with the DPRK became too much to bear. A slightly dated report by the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on trade relations with North Korea (updated through August 2012) notes “there are certain draw back (sic) for trade with DPRK such as limited foreign exchange with DPRK, non-availability of direct shipping and non-guarantee of payments through an established banking and insurance system.” The page goes on to note that the DPRK has a “keen interest” in importing consumer goods on a “deferred payment basis” and is engaged in some countertrade or barter of raw materials, but that “Indian exporters have not shown much enthusiasm in exploring this market.” We wonder if the oil exporters got burned, but we doubt it; exports of that magnitude must have been secured through some form of payment. Which raises the interesting question of exactly how North Korean trade and payments works. Was Pyongyang spending its hard currency Kaesong proceeds — or even forex reserves — in India during 2007-8? While the trade spike is likely the result of a number of anomalous factors, it looks as if the current India-DPRK relationship is returning to historical norms: low level (but non-trivial) trade in a fairly diversified number of goods, and a sizable Korea-side export deficit. (Stephan Haggard and Kevin Stahler, “Obscure Dissertations We Would Like to Read: India-DPRK Relations,” North Korea: Witness to Transformation, February 19, 2014)


2/20/14:
Hundreds of South and North Korean families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War met each other for the first time in emotional reunions at a North Korean mountain resort. A total of 82 elderly South Koreans, accompanied by 58 family members, met with 180 North Korean relatives at a hotel at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North’s east coast. (Kim Kwang-tae and Joint Press Corps, “Korean Families Reunited after Six Decades of Separation,” Yonhap, February 20, 2014) The lists of divided family members originally traded by North and South Korea in preparation for the reunions, scheduled for Sep. 25, 2013, included 250 people from the South and 200 from the North. Of the 250 applicants from South Korea, 167 were confirmed to have family in the North, and 117 indicated that they were able to attend the reunions. However, only 96 of these actually wanted to participate in the reunions. Of the 200 applicants from North Korea, 149 were found to have family in the South. 127 of these said they were able to participate in the reunions, and 100 were included on the final list of reunion participants.

But after North Korea unilaterally delayed the reunions in September 2013, the number of participants decreased even further. Fourteen more South Korean participants had decided not to attend the reunions by Feb. 19, and two of these were laid to rest without ever being reunited with their families. The reason that the other 12 chose not to participate was because of their worsening health. Sadly, it is very unlikely that the people who chose not to participate in this reunion will ever have another chance. The number of participants from North Korea also decreased by 12, from 100 to 88. Since 1988, 129,287 people have registered with the Unification Ministry as members of divided families. So far, 57,784 of these have passed away, with 71,503 still alive. (Kim Kyu-won, “Fewer Divided Family Members Participating in This Week’s Reunions,” Hankyore, February 20, 2014) Among the families, there were five people whose relatives were abducted to North Korea during and even after the war, an unusual phenomenon for the reunions. Park Yang-gon, a 53-year-old from South Korea, was reunited with his elder brother, Yang-su, who was abducted to North Korea while working on a fishing boat in 1972. He was one of 24 crew members fishing in the Yellow Sea on a vessel called the Odaeyang (Five Oceans) 61 that was seized by a North Korean patrol ship. (Kim Hee-jin and Joint Press Corps, “Reunions Feature Tears, Surprises,” JoongAng Ilbo, February 21, 2014)

China said it has been working hard to restart long-stalled six-nation negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program, with one of its senior diplomats set to visit South Korea this week immediately after leaving the North. The back-to-back trip by China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin to the two Koreas is highly unusual and believed to be part of U.S.-involved diplomacy to revive the six-party talks. Wrapping up a four-day visit to Pyongyang on Thursday, Liu will arrive in Seoul later in the day. “China is committed to peace and stability, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, when asked about Liu’s visit to the two Koreas. “We will continue to make positive efforts in our own way to press ahead with the resumption of the six-party talks,” Hua said, without giving further details. During the three-day visit to South Korea, Hua said Liu “will meet with his ROK (South Korea) counterparts as well as officials from other relevant departments. The two sides will exchange views on bilateral relations as well as other issues of common interest.” Liu’s trip to North Korea came days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Beijing that he discussed with Chinese leaders specific ideas to revive the six-party forum that has been dormant since late 2008. Late last week, Kerry met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. He later told reporters, “Now what we are talking about is sort of the specifics of how you do that. They put some ideas on the table and we put some ideas on the table.” Immediately thereafter, Liu flew to North Korea where he is believed to have discussed with Pyongyang officials specific ideas broached and shared by Kerry and Chinese leaders. (Yonhap, “China Pressing to Revive N. Korea Nuclear Talks,” February 20, 2014) China has told North Korean senior officials it “will never allow war or chaos” on the Korean Peninsula and agreed with Pyongyang to seek an early resumption of multilateral nuclear disarmament talks, the Foreign Ministry said. China’s position was delivered by Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin to North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun and other senior officials, including Ri Yong Ho, the country’s chief negotiator at the long-stalled six-party nuclear talks. Liu’s four-day visit to North Korea February 17-20 comes after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a meeting on February 14 in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. (Kyodo, “China’s Senior Diplomat Tells N. Korea ‘War or Chaos’ Not Allowed,” February 19, 2014)

A series of defiantly nationalistic comments, including remarks critical of the United States, by close political associates of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has led analysts to warn of a growing chill between his right-wing government and the Obama administration, which views Japan as a linchpin of its strategic pivot to Asia. Rebuttals from the American Embassy in Japan have added to concerns of a falling-out between Japan and the United States, which has so far welcomed Abe’s efforts to strengthen Japan’s economy and military outreach in the region to serve as a counterbalance to China. The comments, which express revisionist views of Japan’s World War II history, have also led to renewed claims from Japan’s neighbors, particularly China and South Korea, that Abe is leading his nation to the right, trying to stir up patriotism and gloss over the country’s wartime history. One of the most direct criticisms of the United States came this week, when Eto Seiichi, a governing party lawmaker and aide to Abe, posted a video online in which he criticized the Obama administration for expressing disappointment in the prime minister’s recent visit to a shrine. The visit to the shrine, which honors the war dead including war criminals, stoked anger in South Korea and China, which both suffered under Imperial Japanese rule. “It is I who am disappointed in the United States,” said Eto on YouTube, which was removed on yesterday as the prime minister’s office sought to control the diplomatic damage. “Why doesn’t America treat Japan better?” he added. The disconnect between Washington and its strongest Asian ally comes at a time of rising regional frictions that Abe has likened to Europe on the eve of World War I. The disputes over history and territory have complicated the United States’ already fraught attempts to persuade Japan and Korea to present a united front to a more confident China, while also trying to avoid antagonizing the Chinese. American officials express frustration that Abe is not doing enough to allay fears in South Korea, a crucial American ally in Asia, about a conservative agenda they worry includes rolling back the apologies that Japan made for its early 20th-century empire-building. American officials also fear he could undermine his own efforts to restore Japan’s standing in Asia by playing into what they call Chinese efforts to paint the Japanese as unrepentant militarists. Analysts say such concerns are behind the United States Embassy’s taking the unusual step of publicly criticizing Abe’s trip to the shrine. For their part, Japanese officials express their own exasperation that the United States does not take a clearer stand in favor of Japan in its continuing dispute with China over the control of islands in the East China Sea. They also complain that the Obama administration has not rewarded Abe enough, despite his self-proclaimed efforts to improve ties with Washington by taking such politically difficult steps as pushing to restart a stalled base relocation in Okinawa. “Prime Minister Abe feels frustrated,” said Hosoya Yuichi, an expert on United States-Japan relations at Keio University in Tokyo. “He feels he is not being thanked enough for expending his political capital to strengthen the alliance.” One of the most provocative comments from Abe allies came this month, when an ultraconservative novelist, Hyakuta Naoki, who was appointed by the prime minister himself to the governing board of public broadcaster NHK, said in a speech that the Tokyo war tribunal after World War II was a means to cover up the “genocide” of American air raids on Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States Embassy called the comments “preposterous.” Hyakuta’s comments came days after the new president of NHK, who was chosen last month by a governing board including Abe appointees, raised eyebrows in Washington by saying that Japan should not be singled out for forcing women to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during the war, saying the United States military did the same. Most historians say the Japanese system of creating special brothels for the troops, then forcing tens of thousands of women from other countries to work there, was different from the practice by other countries’ troops in occupied areas who frequented local brothels. The Japanese discontent with treatment by the Obama administration goes back to early last year, when a newly elected Abe tried to arrange an immediate trip to meet the president, only to be told to wait a month. More recently, Japanese officials have appeared hurt that Obama wants to spend only one night in Japan during a visit to the region in April. Some analysts say this feeling of being held at arm’s length may be driving some of the recent criticisms of the United States. “This is one of the most dangerous moments in U.S.-Japan relations that I have seen,” said Kawakami Takashi, an expert on international relations at Takushoku University in Tokyo. “Japan is feeling isolated, and some Japanese people are starting to think Japan must stand up for itself, including toward the United States.” Analysts note that many of the comments are being made by relatively minor figures, and not members of Abe’s cabinet. They also say that Japanese public attitudes remain overwhelmingly favorable toward the United States, which has been the guarantor of Japan’s postwar security with its 50,000 military personnel stationed in the country. At the same time, the analysts say, frustrations on both sides are real. In the United States, they reflect an ambivalence toward Abe, as some worry that he is returning to the agenda he pursued the last time he was prime minister — trying to revise the country’s pacifist Constitution and downplay wartime atrocities in the name of restoring lost national pride. “I think the Yasukuni visit was a turning point in U.S. attitudes toward Abe,” Daniel C. Sneider, associate director for research at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, said of the visit to the shrine. “It was a reminder that he is still trying to push his patriotic remake of postwar Japan.” The Yasukuni Shrine visit, and the American criticism of it, also appeared to unleash the current wave of revisionist statements. American analysts and officials have faulted Abe for failing to sufficiently distance himself and his administration from the nationalistic statements. Instead, his government’s spokesman has merely said the statements represented the speakers’ “personal views” without criticizing them, though the spokesman did say the administration had asked Mr. Eto to remove the video expressing disappointment in the United States. Visiting members of Congress have also warned that revisionist statements as well as Mr. Abe’s visit to Yasukuni would only benefit China. They added, however, that the American relationship with Japan is still sound enough to be easily fixable. “There are always unfortunate statements and unfortunate comments even among the best of friends, and this is something that is going to have to be worked out and gotten over with,” said Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) who was part of a group of visiting Congress members in Tokyo who met on Wednesday with Mr. Abe. “It is important that we have an economically vibrant and strong Japan to act as a counterbalance to China.” (Martin Fackler, “Nationalistic Remarks from Japan Lead to Warnings of Chill with U.S.,” New York Times, February 20, 2014, p. A-4) Honda Etsuro, a key economic adviser to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, denied stressing that one of the main goals of “Abenomics” is for Japan to build up a more powerful military and stand up to China, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide quoted Honda during a daily news conference as denying the report published two days ago on the financial newspaper’s website. Suga quoted Honda as saying: “I was surprised to read the article. It’s true I was interviewed, but what I meant to say was erroneously reported. I never made a remark to the effect that a goal of Abenomics was military in nature.” The WSJ interview story states: “Beyond the imperative to raise wages and improve livelihoods, Mr. Honda says Japan needs a strong economy so that it can build a more powerful military and stand up to China. ‘We feel a serious threat,’ he says.” Honda was also quoted by the paper as defending Abe’s contentious visit in December to war-related Yasukuni Shrine: “As long as a top Japanese leader refrains from visiting Yasukuni, Japan’s position in international society is very inferior. We don’t want to see a handicapped Japan, we want to see Japan as a stand-alone country.” According to Kyodo, Honda told reporters today that he just argued that “(Japan) needs to (strengthen) basic economic power to maintain the power balance in East Asia,” and he didn’t argue that Japan needs to build up a powerful military to stand up to China. The WSJ story also described Honda as “an ardent nationalist who gets emotional about his country’s wartime past.” “Tears well up in Mr. Honda’s eyes during an interview as he talks about the ‘sacrifices’ made by kamikaze pilots during the final stages of World War II,” the story states. Honda is considered one of the key economic advisors who helped Abe come up with Abenomics, a combination of super-aggressive money-easing measures, more fiscal spending and measures to promote economic growth through various deregulation measures and subsidies. (Yoshida Reiji, “Abe Advisor Says WSJ Story on Military Buildup Is False,” Japan Times, February 20, 2014)

Which of the two will North Korea choose as its partner for economic cooperation: China or South Korea? If the administration of President Park Geun-hye is to move beyond the slogan and actually achieve the “unification jackpot,” this is the question that it must confront. Considering that Pyongyang has been showing considerable interest in foreign investment recently, there is a good chance that it will choose China as its partner for long-term development if the South Korean government hesitates or fails to take action. If this happens, it is very likely that South Korea will have to watch China win the jackpot instead. The fact that a district of Pyongyang has been designated as an economic zone illustrates just how eager North Korea is to attract foreign capital. According to a promotional video for investment produced by North Korea’s joint-venture investment committee — recently acquired by Hankyoreh — the North designated the Eunjong district of Pyongyang as a high-tech development zone. In the video, a North Korean official said that the government was planning to set up an industrial complex focused on high-tech industry in the Eunjong Science Cluster in north Pyongyang, one of the best-known science and technology clusters in the North. The video is believed to have been produced in 2013, when North Korea was actively working to attract foreign capital. While Radio Free Asia reported in January 2013 that the North was planning a high-tech industrial complex in Pyongyang, this is the first time that the details have been confirmed through a video. North Korea was planning to create a high-tech complex on 300 hectares in the Eunjong district of Pyongyang for data processing technology, nanotechnology, new materials, high-tech industrial equipment, and biotech, Radio Free Asia said in its report. “The economic development zone law became law in May 2013, and North Korea officially announced its detailed plans in November 2013,” said a businessperson who has been trading with North Korea for a long time on condition of anonymity. “These movements move well beyond the point->line->plane principle that the Chinese used in its reform and liberalization program.” The businessperson said that North Korea appears to be pursuing “line” and “plane” liberalization at the same time as “point” liberalization. This is evidence that the North Korean authorities desperately want to attract foreign capital to boost its economy. However, analysts argue that the South Korean government needs to recognize that it is very likely that this plan targets investment from China — not South Korea. “Most of the thirteen economic development zones and the new special economic zones are concentrated on the coast and on the border between North Korea and China,” said a North Korea researcher who works at the institute of a company. “In contrast, virtually the only one that we could say was made with South Korea in mind is the Kaesong high-tech development zone, which is located next to the Kaesong Complex.” In fact, North Korea appears to see little chance of attracting South Korean investment to its special economic and development zones. This becomes clearer when we look at how investors are defined in laws made public recently. the Rason Economic Zone Act and the Hwanggumpyong Island Economic Zone Act, both enacted on Dec. 3, 2011, and the Economic Development Zone Act, enacted on May. 29, 2013, define investors as “corporations from other countries, individuals, economic organizations, and ethnic Koreans living overseas.” “South Korean capital” is not included in the list of investors. In contrast with this, the Kaesong Industrial Complex Act nd the Mt. Kumgang Special Zone for International Tourism Act specify “South Korea” as possible investors. This has raised concerns that North Korea is already thinking of China as its long-term partner for economic development. Another fact that cannot be ignored is that economic cooperation between North Korea and China coincides with the interests of China. Economic cooperation with North Korea is indispensable for the economic development of China’s three northeastern provinces. “North Korea is essential as a source of cheap labor and resources for the three northeastern provinces of China, which are experiencing more than 10% of economic growth each year, and investment is already brisk there,” said Kim Jin-hyang, director of the Korean Peninsula Peace and Economy Research Institute. One good example is how China invested in Rajin Harbor to gain rights to use wharf no. 1 and also received the right to construct wharves no. 4, no. 5, and no. 6. Taking these points into consideration, North Korea looks less like a region that will be subjected to unification and more like a master that will decide who gets to win the jackpot. Naturally, with UN sanctions and the hostile relationship between North Korea and the US continuing, the fact is that the North does not currently have much room to maneuver. In addition, it is unclear whether Pyongyang will be able to meet its foreign investment targets in the short term. But it is precisely at such a time when it is important for South Korea to take action. “If the South Korean government does not take action now, China, which is increasing its investment little by little, will ultimately win the lottery. South Korea may find itself watching this happen and unable to stop it,” said Kim Gyeong-seong, chairman of the Inter-Korean Sports Exchange Association and operator of a handmade football shoe factory in Dandong, China, that employees North Korean workers. (Kim Bo-geun, director of the Hankyoreh Unification Institute, “In Economic Development, Will N. Korea Choose China or S. Korea,” Hankyore, February 20, 2014)


2/20/14:
China has been training for a “short, sharp war” against Japan in the East China Sea, Captain James Fanell, director of intelligence for the US Pacific Fleet said, citing a large-scale Chinese military exercise in 2013 designed to prepare forces for an operation to seize disputed islands in the East China Sea, which Japan calls the Senkaku and China the Diaoyu. “We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross military region enterprise — Mission Action 2013,” Capt Fanell said at a navy conference last week in San Diego. “We concluded that the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has been given the new task of being able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be an expected seizure of the Senkakus,” he added. Conducting a training exercise is very different from having an actual plan to seize the islands. For years, the Chinese military has staged exercises designed to mimic a possible invasion of Taiwan. However, the comments about China’s military training plans come at a time of considerable tension surrounding the contested islands. The regular presence of both Chinese and Japanese vessels and aircraft in the region has raised the risk of an accident that could spark a wider confrontation. Although Capt Fanell’s remarks were unusually blunt in their assessment of China’s intentions, they represent a growing tide of anxiety from senior US officials about Beijing’s ambitions in both the East China Sea and South China Sea. Earlier in February, Danny Russel, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, warned “there are growing concerns that this pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects incremental effort by China to assert control over the area”. He said that China’s recent actions had “created uncertainty, insecurity and instability in the region.” Capt Fanell said that Chinese maritime training had shifted in character in the second half of 2013 to prepare for “realistic maritime combat” that its navy might encounter. Last year, it conducted nine operations in the western Pacific that were designed to “practice striking naval targets.” “I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent,” he said. When Beijing described its activities as the “protection of maritime rights,” this was really “a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors,” Capt Fanell said. At the same conference last year, Capt Fanell issued another sharp assessment of China’s naval ambitions. The country’s “expansion into the blue waters are largely about countering the US Pacific fleet,” he said. “The PLA Navy is going to sea to learn how to do naval warfare. … Make no mistake: the PRC navy is focused on war at sea, and sinking an opposing fleet.” Although there is growing concern among US military officers and diplomats about what they believe to be China’s increasingly assertive behavior, the US Navy is also placing considerable emphasis on trying to forge a better working relationship with China’s navy. “We have got to find the common ground and figure out how we are going to operate in this big ocean of the western Pacific together without incident or miscalculation,” Rear Admiral James Foggo, assistant deputy chief of naval operations, told the same conference. He described his interactions with Wu Shengli, commander of the Chinese navy, as “the greatest and most challenging chess match of my career.” (Geoff Dyer, “China Training for ‘Short, Sharp War,’” Financial Times, February 21, 2014, p. 2)


2/21/14:
DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman today gave the following answer to the question put by KCNA “refuting a ‘report’ recently released by the Commission of Inquiry (CI) on the human rights situations in the DPRK organized under the UN Human Rights Council: The Commission was set up highhandedly at the meeting of the Council last year by the U.S. and its satellite forces out of inveterate repugnance towards the DPRK. The DPRK, therefore, has never recognized its existence as it is no more than a marionette under their clutches. The DPRK categorically rejects this “report” as it does not deserve even a passing note. The “report” misrepresents the true picture of the Korean people enjoying genuine rights and is peppered with sheer lies and fabrications deliberately cooked up by hostile forces and riff-raffs such as some “elements with ambiguous identities who defected from the north”, criminals escaped from it after committing crimes against the country to earn money.They are becoming frantic with their smear campaign against the DPRK while making far-fetched assertions that the ‘human rights situation’ in the DPRK should be referred to the International Criminal Court or to the UN Security Council. This is an extremely dangerous politically-motivated provocation aimed to tarnish the image of the dignified DPRK and ramp up pressure on it in a bid to bring down its social system. That is why many countries and even various Western media claim that the ‘report’ is so biased that it does not sound plausible, querying how such thing could be distributed as a document of the UN body. The U.S., the worst human rights abuser, should be brought to an international human rights tribunal as it killed innocent people in various parts of the world through aggression and intervention, causing unspeakable disasters, and systematically committed illegal wire-tapping and surveillance against citizens of other countries, to say nothing of those in its mainland, sparking uproar. The U.S. had better stop its futile anti-DPRK ‘human rights’ racket and mind its own business.” (KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman Refutes CI’s Report,” February 21, 2014)

South Korea approved a shipment of $988,000 worth of medicine and powdered milk for North Korea and promised more humanitarian aid as the two Koreas continued the emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War six decades ago. The Seoul government’s approval of the aid shipment by two civic relief groups came a day after the two countries began the reunions in an event widely seen as easing tensions on the divided peninsula. President Park Geun-hye has promised to increase humanitarian aid if the North improves ties through “trust building” projects like the family reunions, which were last held more than three years ago. (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Aids North As Families Are Reunited,” New York Times, February 22, 2014, p. A-8)


2/23/14:
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a meeting with North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Gil Song in Tehran underlined the need for the further expansion of bilateral relations. During the meeting in the Iranian capital today, the Iranian foreign minister and the North Korean deputy foreign minister explored avenues for bolstering and reinvigorating the two countries’ bilateral ties. Noting the two states’ common views over a number of regional and international issues, the Iranian foreign minister stressed Tehran’s determination to establish sustainable relations with Pyongyang, and said continued consultations and exchange of views between the two countries’ senior officials is a necessity to this end. He also reiterated Iran’s continued support for the reunification of the two Koreas, and expressed the hope that the North and the South would remove their misunderstanding through peaceful means, especially through talks. The Iranian foreign minister reminded that resolution of misunderstandings in the Peninsula would serve the interests of both nations and help preserve peace, security and stability in the region. Zarif stressed Iran’s firm stance on global nuclear disarmament, but meantime underlined all countries’ entitlement to the right to benefit from the peaceful nuclear technology. The North Korean deputy foreign minister, for his part, said that Pyongyang’s high-ranking officials pay special attention to the consolidation and expansion of ties with Iran. “The people and government of (North) Korea have always wanted the success and increasing progress of Iran; they have always supported Iran’s peaceful nuclear policy and opposed imposition of political and economic pressures on the country,” the North Korean deputy foreign minister said. Last year, Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tehran’s readiness to play a mediating role in East Asia to soothe escalating tensions between the two Koreas. “I ask you as a friend to settle the problems wisely and through talks and negotiations as in the past,” Ahmadinejad said last April, addressing East Asian countries, including China, Japan and South and North Koreas. “You should be vigilant and Iran is ready to do mediation to help resolve problems through talks and negotiations,” he added. Ahmadinejad warned that enemies of East Asian states had plotted to prevent these countries’ further progress through staging a devastating war in the region, and said, “You shouldn’t allow the enemies of humanity to destroy you in a bid to improve their own conditions.” (Fars News Agency, “Iran, North Korea Discuss Expansion of Ties,” February 24, 2014)

Trade between South and North Korea fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2013 due to their strained relations, data showed. Inter-Korean trade reached US$1.15 billion last year, down a whopping 41.9 percent from the previous year’s $1.98 billion, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA). South Korean exports to the North nose-dived 41.1 percent on-year to $531.8 million, with imports from the communist country sinking 42.5 percent to $617.2 million. The 2013 inter-Korean trade volume was the lowest since 2005, when the figure came to $1.06 billion. The KITA attributed the tumble in inter-Korean trade mainly to the suspension of a jointly run industrial complex in North Korea. (Yonhap, “Inter-Korean Trade Hits 8-Year Low in 2013,” February 23, 2014)

A total of 357 South Koreans were reunited with 88 elderly relatives from the North on the first of three days of family reunions at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North’s east coast. The South Koreans traveled by bus to the North earlier in the day. The meetings are the second set of reunions in a week. On Saturday, 82 elderly South Koreans, accompanied by 58 family members, came back from the North’s mountain resort after three days with their long-lost loved ones. (Yonhap, “Hundreds of Koreans Hold Tearful Reunions,” February 23, 2014)

The Abe administration plans to ease Japan’s self-imposed restrictions on weapons exports by not ruling out delivery to nations involved in an international conflict, a major policy shift in the nation’s long-held “three principles” that ban such action, a government source said. Critics warn the change could undermine Japan’s pacifist stance since World War II and pave the way for Japanese-made weapons and technology to be used in global conflicts. Under new rules governing arms exports, the administration is not expected to ban exports to countries that are or may be involved in international conflicts, apparently out of consideration for the United States, Japan’s top ally, and Israel, which also has close ties with the U.S., the source said. The new rules will also stop blocking the transfer of weapons to communist states, as stated in the three principles, because this section was created during the Cold War, the source said. PM Abe Shinzo launched a review of the arms export control guidelines based on his notion that the lucrative business of exporting weapons would help boost security ties with the nation’s allies. The three principles on arms exports were adopted in 1967 to block the transfer of weapons to communist states, countries subject to embargoes under U.N. resolutions, and those involved in international conflicts. The rules became a virtual blanket ban in 1976, with some exceptions made by past administrations. In 2011, the rules were relaxed to allow exports for humanitarian and peaceful purposes, and to make it easier to participate in joint development and production of weapons. The administration will try to work out the new guidelines on arms export controls and seek Cabinet approval next month after consultations with the ruling parties, the source said Sunday. New Komeito, the ruling coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, remains wary of such a move. A Kyodo News survey of 1,011 people nationwide over the weekend showed that 66.8 percent opposed relaxing arms export controls and 25.7 percent expressed support. Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori, appearing today in Gifu, said Japan’s security will be reduced if it does not engage in joint development of defense equipment with other nations. Onodera said Japan can offer its aircraft manufacturing technology to international development efforts. He also told reporters that the administration can allay concerns over efforts to relax the restrictions by emphasizing that Japan will remain a peaceful nation. The new rules will state that weapons exports will not be allowed in certain cases where it is clear that doing so would hinder efforts to maintain global peace and security, the source said. The guidelines will also stipulate that Japan will conduct strict screening of arms exports and will only allow the transfer of weapons to a third country or use of weapons for purposes other than originally stated if they can be properly controlled, the source said. The rules will retain the clause that blocks the transfer of weapons to countries subject to embargoes under U.N. resolutions. Arms exports will also be blocked to countries violating international pacts such as the Chemical Weapons Convention. Exports to international organizations will be allowed. (Kyodo, “Abe Looks to Ease Arms Export Ban for States in Strife,” Japan Times, February 24, 2014)


2/24/14:
South Korea kicked off its annual joint military exercises with the United States, despite vocal opposition from North Korea which will test a recent upswing in cross-border ties. Pyongyang had initially insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunion finishes on Tuesday, but Seoul refused and — in a rare concession — the North allowed the family gathering to go ahead as scheduled. The annual “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” drills — routinely condemned by North Korea as rehearsals for invasion — will last until April 18 and involve a combined total of 12,700 US troops and many more from South Korea. “Key Resolve” lasts just over a week and is a largely computer-simulated exercise, while the eight-week “Foal Eagle” drill involves air, ground and naval field training. Seoul and Washington insist they are both defensive in nature, playing out various scenarios to combat a North Korean invasion. (Giles Hewitt, “Military Drills to Test Inter-Korean Détente,” AFP, February 24, 2014)

A North Korean patrol boat repeatedly crossed the tense western sea border with South Korea overnight Monday in the first violations of the year, the defense ministry said Tuesday. The North Korean vessel’s first intrusion across the Northern Limit Line (NLL) occurred at 10:56 p.m., and it crossed the border again at 11:46 p.m. No shots were fired and the ship finally retreated at 2:25 a.m. after the South Korean Navy repeatedly broadcast warnings, according to the ministry. The patrol ship sailed into the South-controlled waters as far as four kilometers, the ministry added. The ministry spokesman said the North’s incursion was an intentional action. “The North Korean ship’s NLL violation is seen as part of military drills or an inspection of the South Korean military,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. “It is believed that the North Korean vessel intended to test the South Korean military.” He also said that the North itself revoked its proposal on January 16 to halt all hostile military actions by both sides.

The intrusion marks the Stalinist country’s first border violation since its patrol violated the NLL on August 16. The North intruded across the border three times last year. “We are closely looking into possibilities that the North Korean intentionally violated the NLL,” Kim said, adding that the South Korean military is prepared to counter any provocations. (Kang Seung-woo, “N. Korean Patrol Boat Violated NLL,” Korea Times, February 25, 2014)

North Korean athletes will compete in all events at the Asian Games in South Korea later this year, North Korean officials said. Preparations are under way to compete in all events, a group of North Korean officials and reporters said during a rare lunch with South Korean pool reporters. The South Korean reporters are at a North Korean mountain resort to cover the reunions of hundreds of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea will compete in “all events” and processes are under way to select athletes who can win medals, said a reporter of Minju Joson, the North’s Cabinet newspaper. (Yonhap, “N. Korea to Compete in All Events at Incheon Asian Games: Official,” February 24, 2014)

North Korea has asked the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to help contain the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the communist country, Radio Free Asia reported. North Korean officials met with their counterparts from the U.N. agency in Italy on February 24 to discuss the issue, a day after Pyongyang made the request to the Rome-based U.N. body, the Washington-based The U.N. agency plans to quickly send a team of its officials to North Korea to assess the situation, it said. On that day, South Korea offered to ship disinfectants and preventive medicine to the North to help it combat the outbreak of the disease — the first since April 2011. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Asks U.N. to Help Contain FMD,” February 26, 2014)

An advisory panel to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo will propose another change in the interpretation of the Constitution that will allow Japanese peacekeepers to use force in a broader range of situations. Kitaoka Shinichi, deputy chairman of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, told Asahi Shimbun that a reinterpretation of “international disputes” will be included in a report submitted to Abe as early as April. If the government accepts that proposal, members of the Self-Defense Forces in U.N. peacekeeping operations would be able to use weapons, for example, to rescue foreign troops on the same mission who come under attack in distant locations. “It may be a more important proposal in our report than (one calling for lifting a ban on) exercising the right to collective self-defense,” Kitaoka, president of the International University of Japan, said. Under Article 9 of the Constitution, Japanese “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” The clause is understood to mean all international disputes. But Kitaoka said, “In light of the history of international law, the words ‘international disputes’ should be interpreted as those in which Japan is involved.” If the government changes its interpretation of “international disputes,” Kitaoka said, the use of weapons in peacekeeping operations would not constitute force prohibited under the Constitution because Japan would not be a party to the international dispute in question. The United Nations allows peacekeepers to use weapons for two purposes: (a) to protect personnel and (b) to deter and confront obstructions to mandate implementation. Until now, Japan has allowed SDF members in U.N. peacekeeping operations to use weapons only to protect personnel, such as its own and foreign peacekeepers and employees of international organizations who are nearby. Kitaoka said SDF members would be able to use weapons for deterrence and confrontation purposes if the government changes its interpretation of “international disputes.” He also emphasized that the government must establish standards for weapons use under law even if constitutional restraints are removed. However, the scope of situations in which SDF members can use weapons could expand unlimitedly because any administration can change the standards simply by revising the SDF Law or through other means. The Abe administration is already working to change the government interpretation of the Constitution to lift Japan’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense. The panel’s report is expected to include five conditions to allow for that right. “A careful judgment will be made because mobilizing troops is an act of national importance,” Kitaoka said. The first condition is that a nation with close ties to Japan comes under attack. Kitaoka said “a nation with close ties” is not limited to an ally. Some panel members have said Australia, as well as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, will be included. “If the nation (with close ties) launches an attack, Japan will not come to its rescue,” Kitaoka said. The second condition is that a situation left unattended will have a major impact on Japan’s security, such as a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, among other places. A fifth, related condition says Japan must gain the permission of a third country other than the nation under attack if the SDF passes through its territory or territorial waters. “(The SDF) may pass through South Korean territorial waters if it is to rescue U.S. warships that come under attack along the coast of the Korean Peninsula,” Kitaoka said. Touching on the second condition, Kitaoka reiterated that he does not expect “an incident on the other side of the world” to bring a national security crisis to Japan. Still, the condition appears open to interpretation. Kitaoka acknowledged that suspension of oil transportation from the Persian Gulf to Japan would “have a major impact on Japan’s security.” He said that to prevent abuse of the right to collective self-defense, the panel agreed on a third condition that the nation under attack must clearly request that Japan exercise that right. The United States and the former Soviet Union cited the right to collective self-defense as a pretext for intervention when an unfriendly regime was about to be born. The fourth condition is that the prime minister will consider the situation in a comprehensive manner and gain Diet approval. Lawmakers, however, could end up confirming the government decision after the fact. Kitaoka said it would be desirable for the government to seek Diet approval before exercising the right to collective self-defense, but later approval would be acceptable if there is no time beforehand. However, Yanagisawa Kyoji, a former assistant chief Cabinet secretary who is calling for caution in exercising the right to collective self-defense, said strict procedures, such as requiring prior approval for all cases, are necessary. Meanwhile, Komatsu Ichiro, director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, indicated that he intends to support Abe’s policy to lift the ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense. “Our bureau is a division of the Cabinet,” Komatsu told reporters as he returned to office after being hospitalized for one month for tumor treatment. “We will do what we should do in accordance with the prime minister’s policy.” The Abe administration picked Komatsu to head the bureau, which is tasked with providing opinions to Cabinet members on legal issues and examining all government-proposed legislation. After receiving the report from the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, Abe will discuss the new interpretation of the Constitution with the ruling parties and decide a government policy to change the interpretation at a Cabinet meeting. In the process, Komatsu is expected to state his opinions in line with the government policy on the interpretation. (Asahi Shimbun, “Advisory Panel Seeking Wider Weapons Use for SDF Peacekeepers,” February 26, 2014)


2/25/14:
The official who accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong-un most on field trips this year was not the ostensibly powerful military hardliner Choe Ryong-hae, but a Workers Party official dealing with the Army. Analysis of Kim’s official appearances in the first two months of this year shows that the top spot went to Hwang Byong-so, a deputy director in charge of the military in the Workers Party’s Organization and Guidance Department, who accompanied Kim 12 times. Second was Army Chief Ri Yong-gil (eight times). But Choe Ryong-hae, who heads the Army Politburo and was widely seen as having replaced Jang Song-taek as the North’s eminence grise, only came third with seven times. (Chosun Ilbo, “Powerful N. Korean Hardliner Fading from View,” February 25, 2014)

Rodong Sinmun: “The U.S. and south Korean warmongers finally started the large-scale Key Resolve joint military exercise in south Korea on Monday [February 24]. The exercise is supposed to last till March 6 and will be followed by Foal Eagle joint military drill to be staged in the land, sea and air under the simulated conditions of an actual war till April 18 with huge troops of the U.S. aggressor forces and south Korean army and latest offensive means and war hardware including nuclear submarines involved. This saber-rattling is a blatant challenge to the DPRK’s sincere efforts for mending the north-south ties and defusing the tension on the Korean peninsula. They claim that the on-going war exercises are ‘annual and defensive ones’ as they did in the past. However, this is nothing but a third-rate tactics for covering up their provocative and aggressive nature.

It is the U.S. invariable strategy to realize its scenario for dominating Korea by keeping the Korean nation into two and inciting the north-south confrontation. … The U.S. is sadly mistaken if it calculates it can get anything by pushing the situation on the peninsula to a war. The DPRK has already made every possible effort for peace and stability on the peninsula. It will make sustained efforts to ensure peace on the peninsula by exercising self-restraint and patience in the future, too. But if the warmongers at home and abroad misinterpret the DPRK’s will for peace and launch a preemptive attack, the DPRK will resolutely counter it to protect its national security and dignity.” (KCNA, “Rodong Sinmun Denounces Start of Key Resolve,” February 25, 2014)

On September 8, 2012, Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko sat across from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vladivostok, Russia. She asked if it was really necessary. Clinton was referring to the decision made by the Noda administration two months earlier to have the central government purchase the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea from a private owner. The meeting with Noda was held Clinton was standing in for President Barack Obama, who was attending the Democratic Party national convention. Clinton went on to ask Noda how he foresaw the situation playing out. Reading from notes prepared by Foreign Ministry officials, Noda explained that more stable maintenance and management of the islands would be possible if the central government owned the islands rather than the Tokyo metropolitan government. He added that it was China that had initiated the first change to the situation surrounding the Senkakus. However, Clinton did not look convinced. During a dinner reception that very same day, Nagashima Akihisa, a special adviser to Noda who sat in on that day’s meeting with Clinton, tried to explain the Japanese position to Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. The Obama administration was skeptical about the course that Japan had decided on. On July 8, Campbell met with Nagashima at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo. Campbell asked Nagashima, “Is this the best way? Do you believe that is the only way forward?” In its previous day’s edition, Asahi Shimbun reported that the Noda administration planned to bring the Senkakus under state ownership. Noda had also formally announced the decision on July 7. The fact that no Japanese official informed Campbell or other high-ranking U.S. government officials beforehand was one of the reasons for the suspicions held by Washington. “Japan told us that they believed that they had gotten ‘the understanding of the Chinese,’ ” Campbell said. “We doubted that. We did not think that was likely to be accurate.” Campbell and two of his subordinates met separately with Sugiyama Shinsuke, head of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry. Sugiyama also mentioned that a certain level of understanding could be reached with China. That stance left doubts in the minds of the U.S. diplomats. According to Nagashima, he interpreted Campbell’s strong suggestion that Japan take alternatives as a message that the United States did not want to be dragged into any military encounter between Japan and China. Campbell reflected on the U.S. position at that time and said, “I don’t think anyone ever said anything like that. Our primary concern was that Japan was not understanding what was going to happen in Japan-China relations, not that we would be dragged in.” While the Obama administration may not have come out in direct opposition to the decision to purchase the islands, it did try to do everything possible to avoid a direct encounter between Japan and China. One U.S. official even asked, “Is it possible to say to (then Tokyo Governor Shintaro) Ishihara ‘no, it is illegal to buy these islands.’ ” However, central government officials could not find any legal problems to the Tokyo metropolitan government purchasing the islands. On September 11, 2012, the Noda administration signed a contract with the private owner to purchase the three islands of Uotsurishima, Kita-Kojima and Minami-Kojima. As tensions between Japan and China rose dramatically, several moves were also going on simultaneously between Japan and the United States. Shortly after the purchase, officials at the Foreign Ministry received a report that Japanese activists were planning to land on Kubashima island, another of the Senkakus. Then and now, the Japanese government has not allowed any private individual to land on the Senkakus on the grounds that it would interfere with the stable maintenance and management of the islands. If activists were allowed to land on one island, Japanese officials were concerned that would give China the opening to argue that it was Japan that had changed the situation surrounding the islands. Moreover, Kubashima was under the control of the U.S. military, which referred to the island as the Kobisho firing and bombing range. It was another of the U.S. military facilities in Japan, much like the U.S. bases. Officials from the relevant Japanese government agencies discussed how to handle the matter. Among the most likely scenarios were applying either the special criminal law in line with implementation of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which prohibits unlawful entry into areas under the control of the U.S. military, or a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry. However, an official with the National Police Agency said, “It will be difficult to crack down unless there are clear signs that say the island is under the control of the U.S. military.” Informally, Japanese officials asked their U.S. counterparts about the possibility of erecting signs on Kubashima that said it was under the control of the U.S. military. Those officials felt there was a need for such signs to prevent landings on the island and for its stable maintenance and management. However, the Obama administration was cautious because officials surmised that Japan’s true intent was to involve the United States in the issue in order to gain its strong support. There were even some in the administration who suspected it was all a scheme drawn up and enacted by the Japanese government. There were some in the Japanese government who held expectations that they could show China that it had U.S. support by having Washington clearly display that Kubashima was under U.S. military control. One official who was involved in the discussions in Japan said, “We felt it was only natural for the United States as an ally to take the position of protecting Japan.” However, without taking up the matter with key Obama administration officials, the decision was made and passed on to Japan that no sign was needed on Kubashima. Campbell said he never heard about any such plan. Among the reasons given by U.S. officials for not installing a sign were that the island had not been used for training since 1978 and that under U.S. regulations, there was no obligation to install such signs on an island that was used for firing and bombing exercises from the air. U.S. officials further told their Japanese counterparts that Japanese law enforcement officials were welcome to detain anyone who tried to land on the island. After the government took over ownership of the islands, China repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters and tensions in the East China Sea heightened quickly. While the Obama administration wanted to avoid becoming involved in an encounter between Japan and China, there were calls from within the administration as well as Congress to clearly express U.S. support for Japan as a means of deterring China. In October 2012, a counselor with the Japanese Embassy in Washington explained the Senkakus issue to staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the invitation of Michael Schiffer, who served as a senior adviser to the committee. Many within the Japanese government initially thought that China’s intrusions into Japanese waters would end after a short period of time. However, there were no signs of any letup even in October. The Japanese Embassy counselor laid out the analysis of the Japanese government, which was that China’s aim was to argue it was demonstrating administrative control over the Senkakus through a constant presence in the waters. The further aim was to create a rift within the United States, which had recognized Japanese administrative control over the islands. During the question-and-answer session, Schiffer raised his hand and asked if there would be any significance to having Congress express its opinion on the issue. The Japanese counselor responded there would be major significance. That led Schiffer to begin compiling a draft statement. The standard position of the Obama administration had been to “oppose any unilateral action to change the status quo.” That stance did not clarify if it was China or Japan that was trying to make such a change. On the other hand, the draft by Congress included the wording “The unilateral action of a third party will not affect the United States’ acknowledgement of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands.” It was clear that the “third party” was a reference to China. The draft turned into an amendment that was submitted by Democrat Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, among others, and approved unanimously on November 29 as an attachment to the National Defense Authorization Bill. Subsequently, officials of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau of the U.S. State Department also began coordinating with their Japanese counterparts on what new message to transmit abroad. State Department officials were aware of information that China was trying to find a gulf between Japan and the United States, which led them to be cautious about creating any such opening. At the same time, not everyone within the Obama administration was on the same page. Some senior White House officials were critical of Japan’s decision to purchase the Senkakus. Amid that background, State Department officials began working on their own document. In the end, it contained wording different from the congressional amendment in part due to points raised by the legal adviser. In particular, the inclusion of the word “will” in the amendment raised concerns among officials who felt it would bind the United States even into the future. That wording also was not considered consistent with other wording that said Washington “(does) not take a position on territorial disputes.” Meanwhile, in Japan, a change in government brought Abe Shinzo back as prime minister. The decision was made to have Clinton refer to the Senkakus issue when newly installed Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio visited Washington. At a joint news conference held on Jan. 18, 2013, at the U.S. State Department, Clinton said, “Although the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, we acknowledge they are under the administration of Japan and we oppose any unilateral action that would seek to undermine Japanese administration.” The strongly worded comment by the United States led to Japanese government officials describing Clinton’s statement as “extremely major and significant.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition. The sharp response only highlighted the importance of what Clinton said. Clinton stepped down as secretary of state in February. While Japan held hopes that her successor, John Kerry, would make the same statement, he did not go as far as Clinton when he met Kishida for the first time in Washington in February. However, Clinton’s statement that the United States opposes “any unilateral action that would seek to undermine Japanese administration” became the Obama administration’s policy after U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a similar statement. However, the differences between the more confrontational Japan-China relationship and the direction of U.S.-China ties only widened. In June 2013, Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Sunnylands, Calif. When Obama met Xi again in September, the U.S. president told reporters, “We had excellent meetings in Sunnylands earlier this year. And we agreed to continue to build a new model of great power relations based on practical cooperation and constructively managing our differences.” Beijing had long sought to create a new model of “great power relations.” U.S. views of Japan also began to become more complicated as the Senkakus issue became intertwined with historical recognition issues. In December, Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine. Washington expressed its “disappointment,” but that criticism had its roots in the spring of 2013. In April, Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro visited Yasukuni shortly after a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. The White House was incensed because Biden had made a point of asking Japan to deal with historical issues cautiously. Abe also visited Yasukuni less than a month after a meeting with Biden. The Obama administration was shocked by the visit because it was under the impression Abe would not make such a visit as Washington had asked Japan to show restraint. One factor behind the unprecedented U.S. criticism is the Senkakus issue. Thomas Berger, associate professor of international relations at Boston University, said, “Our view is changing on this partly because the territorial issues have become more serious, especially the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue. I mean, this is a qualitative shift. There is a fundamental change in how international relations in East Asia is working.” He was referring to the name used by Beijing to refer to the islands. Campbell said the Senkakus issue was “one of the most challenging” for him as assistant secretary. At a January 15 seminar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Campbell said about Abe’s Yasukuni visit, “I think it hurts us; it puts us in a difficult position. But I think, more importantly, it creates substantial challenges for Japan. The tension level between Japan and China is very high. It is also very high between Japan and South Korea.” On January 17, Yachi Shotaro, the first head of the newly established National Security Secretariat, met his U.S. counterpart, Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, at the White House. After the meeting, a Japanese government official who accompanied Yachi to Washington repeatedly told Japanese reporters “The objective of the meeting was not to discuss the Yasukuni visit.” Although the issue was not a major one on the agenda, Rice did refer to Abe’s Yasukuni visit and asked that Japan improve its relations with its neighbors. One U.S. government official with knowledge of what transpired in the meeting said, “We believe that constructive relations between countries in the region promote peace and stability and are in the interests of the United States.” While concerned about China’s rise and still requiring Japan as an ally, the United States is also seeking relaxation of tensions and stability in the region. That means when Washington focuses its attention on the Asia-Pacific region, it cannot but be concerned about the Senkakus. (Oshima Takashi, “Reality Check: What the Senkakus Issue Entail for Washington,” Asahi Shimbun, February 25, 2014)

The “unification preparatory committee” announced by President Park Geun-hye in her address today appears to be an advisory body for fleshing out the “unification-as-jackpot” idea that she announced in her New Year’s press conference last month. It is also being described as a sign that the President, emboldened by improved ties with North Korea after the divided family reunions and strong public support for her administration’s North Korea policy, is committed to working more actively on reunification. It is not yet clear exactly what the committee’s role will be. Blue House spokesperson Min Kyung-wook stressed that it was still in its “early stages,” adding, “Our next step now is to establish the organization and develop a concrete action plan.” He added, “We anticipate there will be an announcement once it is ready.” From what Park said in her address, the committee is expected to be a kind of social consensus body aimed at hearing opinions on unification and inter-Korean relations and seeking the public’s support for government ideas. The President described it as “civilian experts in all areas of foreign affairs, national security, the economy, society, and culture, working together with civic groups and various other representatives of society to reflect the public’s unification debate and draft a concrete blueprint for a unified Korean Peninsula.” This suggests that the committee’s role would not be specialized information collection and research, as with the National Intelligence Service or Ministry of Unification, but as a channel for explaining major developments in unification and inter-Korean relations to the public and seeking its support. And with opinions on specific unification steps divided sharply along political and philosophical lines, another of the committee’s aims would be to mediate opinions and resolve conflicts. (Seok Jin-hwan and Park Byong-su, “Pres. Park’s Vague Plans for a ‘Unification Preparatory Committee,” Hankyore, February 26, 2014)


2/26/14:
Secretary of State John Kerry has described North Korea as an “evil, evil place” during a television interview on MSNBC. Kerry asserted that North Korea is “one of the most closed and cruel places on earth,” before going on, “There’s no question about it. There’s evil that is taking place there that all of us ought to be deeply and are deeply concerned about.” “This is an evil, evil place. And it requires enormous focus by the world in order to hold it accountable,” he said. “I think every aspect of any law that can be applied should be applied.” (Chris Green, “Top U.S. Official Slams ‘Evil’ North Korea,” Daily NK, February 27, 2014)

North Korea appears to have recently reinstated two key officials in charge of economic projects with China, a diplomatic source said, in a sign Pyongyang may try to restore business partnership with Beijing. Kim Ki-sok and Kim Chol-jin, chief and deputy chief of the North’s State Economic Development Commission, had been sacked in connection with the purge and execution of leader’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in December last year, but have been reinstated after undergoing an “ideology re-education,” the source said. “Kim Ki-sok and Kim Chol-jin were forced to resign from the posts after being involved in the case of Jang Song-thaek, but reinstated as they were considered not so close to Jang,” the source said. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Reinstates Key Officials on Economic Projects with China,” February 26, 2014) A senior North Korean economic official recently paid a secret visit to China to attract investment. The trip by Kim Ki-sok, chairman of the State Commission for Economic Development, was the first visit to China by a high-ranking North Korean official since the execution last year of eminence grise Jang Song-taek, who spearheaded business relations with China. A source in Beijing said Kim visited Beijing, Shenzen, Singapore and Malaysia last week. He met with businesspeople interested in developing North Korea’s special economic zones.

Kim also met with Chinese officials who had experience in developing special economic zones, the source said. In Singapore, Kim discussed the development of a tourism zone in Wonsan. But he apparently returned empty-handed. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korean Official Secretly Courts Chinese Investments,” February 26, 2014)

Ireson: “While there has been periodic speculation since Kim Jong Un took power about his appetite for reform, a recent development may foretell substantial changes for North Korea’s agricultural sector. On February 6-7, 2014, North Korea held its first national conference of farm sub-work team leaders in Pyongyang. …Kim’s personal attention and the presence of other high ranking officials strongly indicates that the policies previewed at the meeting represent the direction of agricultural development for at least the immediate future. Implementation remains uncertain, but Kim’s letter suggests game-changing modifications to farm policy. …A renewed call to implement a revolution in seeds is accompanied for the first time with a clear statement that high yield is not the only criterion for selecting good seed: a short growing period, efficient uptake of available fertilizer and pest resistance are now also listed as considerations. These criteria have actually been used by some DPRK plant breeders for several years, but are now given Kim’s public stamp of approval. This should lead to seed varieties that are more suited to the environmental conditions and less dependent on super high fertilizer applications. With regard to Juche farming, long described as planting the right crop in the right field at the right time, Kim says that every land parcel is different, and that the crop grown as well as the timing of farming tasks (planting, harvest, etc.) must be in accordance with the conditions of that particular parcel and the weather of that year, rather than dictated in general by rigid county or province plans. This change by itself could give farmers much needed flexibility to adapt their cropping strategy to changing local conditions. Organic farming is extolled as the future of productive agriculture, and farmers who erroneously believe they cannot do their job without chemical fertilizer are criticized. In the North, “organic farming” means increased use of organic methods, but not necessarily 100 percent organic production. In that context, Kim strongly calls for more balanced fertilizer application, specifically including phosphate, potash and micro-nutrients. This has long been recommended by the international aid community to little effect either at the farm level or in the supply chain, but now stands a chance of being implemented if appropriate fertilizers can be produced or procured. Integrating animal husbandry and crop farming is also recommended, in order to have enough manure to apply to the fields, though there is no discussion of how that can be practically managed or how enough livestock feed will be produced locally. Agroforestry and the protection of sloping lands is strongly recommended (a good thing), but is linked to increased grain production, a contradictory idea as annual grain crops should not be grown on hillsides because of erosion. Another contradiction is seen in the call to increase production of vegetables and fruit, while in the same breath farmers are told to “reduce the area of cultivation of non-cereal crops…” Technical concerns about North Korean farming, however, have in the past been far outweighed by institutional obstacles. Farmers have been paid only a small fraction of the open market value for any surplus grain production and, lacking both convertible currency and access to a market for agricultural supplies, have been unable to make investments in improved productivity even when they did produce a surplus or profit. Kim’s letter at least partly acknowledges this situation. He criticizes the distribution of inputs and assignment of targets to work units without taking into consideration the characteristics of their fields, and calls on farmers to “remove the tendency to insist on old experience and make light of science and technology.” Kim goes on to hint at some significant changes. First, sub-work team leaders now appear to be empowered for practical farm management, both by virtue of this large-scale meeting as well as five specific tasks named by Kim. They are exhorted to “become active defenders, propagators and implementers of our Party’s agricultural policies and Juche farming method.” They should be better versed than anyone in Juche policies, be masters of their sub-work teams and work harder than anyone else. They should be knowledgeable in modern scientific agriculture and bold in introducing new methods. They should be “dutiful caretakers of public property of their farms.” And finally they should become the elder brothers and sisters of their team members, looking after them as their own kin (which they likely are). Kim then appears to begin to unveil a policy that if actually implemented, could be a game-changer. He argues that the superior sub-work team system created by President Kim Il Sung and implemented by Kim Jong Il, “encourages farmers to take part in production and management as befitting masters with the feeling of attachment to the collective economy.” (The Korean translated as “masters” can also mean “owners,” but here seems to refer to control and mastery rather than property rights.) Kim Jong Un adds that a “field responsibility system” has been created within the sub-work team management system “so as to inspire farmers with enthusiasm for production.” No further details are given, but the term 포전, referring to a specific field or plot, suggests that families may be given long-term responsibility for production on designated plots of land. It appears that Kim is trying to motivate the grass-roots with economic as well as ideological incentives. Kim continues with a statement that requires quoting as a whole: What is important in operating the sub-work team management system is to strictly abide by the socialist principle of distribution. Equalitarianism in distribution [평균주의, literally “mean average-ism”] has nothing to do with the socialist principle of distribution and has a harmful effect of diminishing farmers’ enthusiasm for production. Sub-work teams should assess the daily work-points of their members accurately and in good time according to the quantity and quality of the work they have done. And they should, as required by the socialist principle of distribution, share out their grain yields to their members mainly in kind according to their work-points after counting out the amounts set by the state. The state should define reasonable amounts of grains for compulsory delivery on the basis of accurate calculation of the country’s demand for grains, interests of farmers and their demands for living, thereby ensuring that they make redoubled efforts with confidence. (Emphasis added.) Does this mean that farmers will receive food and cash in accordance with their production? Will the state’s share be moderated enough to provide an incentive for farmers to work harder? At this point we do not know and history has taught us to be cautious. But this policy statement comes unambiguously from the top and appears to legitimate economic incentives to individuals to increase effort and production. Every cooperative farm is called upon to identify model sub-work teams which others should strive to out-do. Local competition seems to be encouraged. Farmers and team leaders are directed to be “masters” of their farms, with a sense of management control and independent action, and therefore of enthusiasm. But before we skip giddily down the path crying “reform,” other important questions need to be answered. Will farms actually receive the resources they need? In the KCNA article on February 7, which reports the closing of this conference, the ministers of the metallurgical and chemical industries committed to producing the steel and agrochemicals needed. But serious issues of industrial capacity have to be addressed before that can happen as well as how much grain the state will require from the farms and what sub-work teams will be allowed to do with any surplus production. Will they be allowed to legally sell it, and if so, at what prices? Will they be allowed to seek resources (i.e. equipment, seed, fertilizer, etc.) on the market? Under the field responsibility system, will a team have enough confidence that it will farm the same parcel(s) of land for many years that it will be willing to make the long-term investment in improving the soil in those fields? Despite all these concerns, the government appears serious about changing key policies for the farm sector. Some of the changes listed above have reportedly been implemented in select areas of the country over the last two years. Have they had the desired effect, and is there now a commitment to move forward more widely? The number of grass-roots leaders involved, the presence of important political leaders, and the timing of the conference (far enough before spring planting that sub-work teams can actually implement the new system this year) all suggest a commitment to change. That may not be enough, however. The changes (which are bound to be disruptive and unevenly implemented in the short-term) will have to be given enough time to have an effect on the rural economy, rather than being second-guessed and pulled back after only one season. But for now, it is time to be hopeful that some of the structural obstacles to agricultural modernization will be removed. (Randall Ireson, “Game-Changing Agricultural Policies for North Korea?” 38North, February 26, 2014)


2/27/14:
North Korea launched what are believed to be four short-ranged ballistic missiles off its eastern coast. The Ministry of National Defense said the North fired the missiles from the Gitdaeryeong area starting at 5:42 p.m., which prompted the South to beef up its vigilance. “Originally, we thought they were an improved version of the KN-02 ground-to-ship missiles but we now believe they were Scud missiles because their range was longer than 200 kilometers,” a ministry official said. “However, we don’t exclude the possibility that they could have been the latest KN-02 or a new ground-to-air missile. We need additional analysis to reach a final conclusion.” The North has not fired a Scud missile since July 4, 2009. It has three types of Scuds with ranges of 300, 500 and 700 kilometers, respectively. Defense officials said that the missile test might have been a response to the ongoing ROK-U.S. Key Resolve joint military exercise along with its recent infringement of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea. Key Resolve is a regular computer-based command post exercise, which will continue through March 6, and involves 10,000 South Korean and 5,200 American troops. The North has claimed repeatedly that it is a prelude to an invasion. Domestic experts came up with different analyses on the unexpected military action by the belligerent regime. “In consideration of its short range, the Scud missile is about South Korea, not Japan or the United States. The North may want to give some signal to the South timed for the joint drill with the U.S.,” said Shin In-kyun, head of the Korea Defense Network. “The chances are that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wasn’t aware of the missile launch in advance. I am worried that inter-Korean relations will worsen in the future.” In contrast, others refused to regard the case in an overly serious manner. “I think it is just a military drill by the North, which might want to show that it can carry out its own exercise while the South is doing so with the U.S.,” said Jang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Institute of Peace and Unification Studies affiliated with Seoul National University. Yang Moo-jin at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul concurred. “You may think that it is serious because it coincided with the family reunions. But it is nothing. The North can fire its missiles into its own sea at any time and that’s it,” he said. (Kim Tae-gyu, “N. Korea Fires Four Missiles,” Korea Times, February 27, 2014) “Given its timing, we believe that the North’s missile launch was very intentional and a kind of provocation,” Seoul’s defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a regular briefing. Noting that the government believes what the North fired “were Scud type ones,” he said Pyongyang “made the plan deliberately” to resist the joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States that kicked off on Monday. The launch was the North’s first firing of a Scud missile since 2009, which “poses a threat to South Korea as the whole Korean Peninsula is in range,” he added. On the first day of the drills, North Korea briefly violated the tense western sea border three times, following last week’s firing of what military sources believed to be a new type of rocket larger than 300 mm caliber from a multiple rocket launcher. Though the defense ministry spokesman said no signs of additional missile launches or other types of provocation have been detected, sources here said the North has banned its fishing boats from operating in the East and Yellow Sea, and put its troops in the border region on “special alert.” “Since earlier this week when the military drills began, the North has kept its ground and naval forces in the border regions on special alert,” a senior government source said. “We also can see the North’s reinforcement of artillery exercises in response to the joint drills.” Another military source also speculated that “chances are that the North would provoke further given that the authorities have controlled fishing boats in the East and Yellow Sea border regions.” Still, the South Korean government expressed hope that the North’s latest missile launch won’t affect inter-Korea relations and Seoul’s move to hold further reunions. “We expect family reunions and inter-Korean relations to fare well down the road,” without being affected by the missile launches, said Kim Eui-do, the spokesman for the unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean relations. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Says N. Korea’s Missile Launch ‘Intentional Provocation,’” February 28, 2014)

A South Korean Baptist missionary who was arrested more than four months ago on suspicion of trying to establish underground Christian churches in North Korea told reporters yesterday that he is sorry for his “anti-state” crimes and appealed to North Korean authorities to show him mercy by releasing him from their custody. Kim Jung-wook told a news conference held in Pyongyang yesterday that he was arrested in early October after entering the North from China and trying to make his way to Pyongyang with Bibles, Christian instructional materials and films. He said he received assistance from South Korea’s intelligence agency. Kim said he was unsure what punishment he would face. He asked for the mercy of North Korean authorities and requested the media show his family that he is in good health. He also claimed that he was arrested on October 8, the day after he crossed into the North. Kim, in his first public appearance since his arrest, said he had met numerous times with South Korean intelligence officials before crossing into the North from Dandong, China, and claimed he had received thousands of dollars from them for his service. He also said he wanted to go into North Korea to establish a series of underground churches to spread Christianity there. “I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country, and destroying its present government and political system,” he said. “I received money from the intelligence services and followed instructions from them, and arranged North Koreans to act as their spies. “And I also set up an underground church in China, in Dandong, and got the members to talk and write for me to collect details about the reality of life in North Korea; and I provided this to the intelligence services.” At the news conference, Kim said his actions constituted a crime against North Korea’s state and called himself a “criminal.” He added that he has not been mistreated during his incarceration. In the past, however, similar statements have been recanted once prisoners have been let go. North Korea’s state media reported in November that the country had arrested a South Korean spy. But South Korea’s top spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, denied it had sent such an agent to the North, calling the allegation “a groundless claim.” South Korea called for the identification of the alleged South Korean spy that Pyongyang claimed to have detained last November, though the regime refused that demand. Following the press conference, the South Korean government officially confirmed Kim’s identity and called his detention “an anti-humanitarian act.” “We think it is regrettable for North Korea to unilaterally detain one of our citizens without any prior explanation,” Kim Eui-do, the spokesman of South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, said at a briefing yesterday. “Our government strongly calls for the immediate release of our citizen and his repatriation to our side.” (Ki Hee-jin, “Detainee in N. Korea Claims NIS Assisted Him,” JoongAng Ilbo, February 28, 2014) The South’s Unification Ministry said on February 28 it had attempted to send a written demand for Kim Jeong-Wook’s immediate release through the border truce village of Panmunjom. But North Korean officials refused to accept the message, the ministry said. (AFP, “N. Korea Snubs South Request on Detained Missionary,” February 27, 2014)

The World Food Program has provided emergency food aid worth $3.2 million for children and pregnant women in North Korea earlier this month, Radio Free Asia reported, citing a spokesman handling North Korean affairs. The U.N. body has said earlier that it will close five out of its seven factories within this month that produce nutritious biscuits for lack of funding. The WFP said in November that food production in the North is estimated to have been around 5.03 million metric tons in 2013, up 5 percent from the previous year. Still, the food security situation remains serious, with 84 percent of all households having borderline or poor food consumption, according to the U.N. food agency. (Yonhap, “WFP Provides $3.2 Million Emergency Aid to N. Korea,” Korea Herald, February 27, 2014)


2/28/14:
Japan will re-examine a landmark apology it made two decades ago to women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, chief cabinet secretary Suga Yoshihide said, in a move that could further outrage South Korea, where many of the women came from. Suga said a team of scholars would examine what historical evidence had been used in composing the apology, known as the Kono Statement. The statement, issued in 1993 by the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yohei Kono, acknowledged for the first time that the Imperial military had been at least indirectly involved in coercing those known euphemistically as “comfort women” to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II. Suga did not say whether the inquiry could possibly lead to a scrapping of the statement, an action that would most likely draw an explosive reaction from South Korea, where the women are seen as an emotionally potent symbol of their nation’s brutal early-20th-century colonization by Japan. It was also unclear whether Suga was offering to form the team simply as a way to deflect pressure from Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s supporters in the political far right. They have argued that the statement should be scrapped because, they say, there is insufficient objective evidence supporting the testimony of the women that the Japanese military forced them to provide sex. (Most scholars reject that, saying the military was at least indirectly complicit because it allowed the brothels to operate.) Officials in the Abe administration have said that Suga does not support discarding the statement because he is well aware that such a move would be condemned in nations like the United States, which view the matter as a human rights issue. Visiting American officials have repeatedly urged Abe, an outspoken conservative, not to engage in historical revisionism that might isolate Japan in the region. Recently, nationalist lawmakers have demanded that the government look into whether the Kono Statement was based on inadequate evidence. A former official who helped draft it was called in to testify that the main evidence was the testimony of 16 former sex slaves and that no documents were found to corroborate their stories. That testimony seemed to confirm the position of the lawmakers, who have questioned the women’s testimonies, accusing them of being politically motivated. They say the women were not coerced but were prostitutes who worked in the brothels to earn money. Suga appeared to bow to that pressure, saying that a team of researchers would work in secret, apparently to avoid political interference. “We’d like to launch a team to re-examine and understand the background” of the statement, Suga told a parliamentary budget committee. “It will be extremely difficult, but it’s important to review and see what the situation was.” Scholars say that tens of thousands of Korean and other women worked in Japanese military brothels, and many of the survivors, now in their 80s and 90s, say they were tricked or coerced into laboring in wretched conditions that left them sterile for the rest of their lives. (Martin Fackler, “Japan to Revisit Apology to Wartime Sex Slaves,” New York Times, March 1, 2014, p. A-5)


3/1/14:
DPRK FoMin spokesman “blasting U.S. Secretary of State Kerry’s recent malignant mud-slinging at the DPRK: Kerry in an interview on February 26 dared term the DPRK an “evil place” and next day he again pulled it up when he was releasing the U.S. Department of State’s ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013.’ This is another vivid expression of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK. The U.S. secretary of State obsessed with hostility toward the DPRK can hardly understand supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s politics based on his love for the people and the situation of the DPRK where his people-first principle is being strictly observed thanks to it. Such hostile elements like Kerry would not like to see them though all other people in the world will be able to understand them in the future. Kerry’s malignant invectives against the social system in the DPRK are no more than a manifestation of his frustration and outbursts let loose by the defeated as the DPRK is winning one victory after another despite the whole gamut of pressure upon it over the nuclear issue. Before blaming others, Kerry had better ponder over what to say of the U.S., tundra of human rights, as it commits horrible genocide in various parts of the world in disregard of international law under the signboard of ‘liberty’ and ‘democracy.’ The above-said reports do not deserve even a passing note as they are peppered with all lies and hypocrisy. No matter what a wicked hypocrite he is, he should bear in mind that no pressure is workable on the DPRK. No problem can be solved between the DPRK and the U.S. as long as the U.S. persists in its hostile policy toward the DPRK. The DPRK will keep going its own way.” (KCNA, “FM Spokesman Refutes Remarks of U.S. Secretary of State,” March 1, 2014)


3/3/14:
North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast, Seoul’s defense ministry said, in its latest provocation seen as a reaction to the ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the United States. One missile was fired from the Gitdaeryeong area and the other from Wonsan, both on the North’s southeastern coast, in the northeast direction beginning at 6:19 a.m. “The missiles are evaluated to have flown over 500 kilometers,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing, adding they were believed to be of the Scud-C type. It is the second such launch of the short-range missiles in a week. “North Korea is taking a two-faced approach, showing the reconciliatory peace gesture on the surface, while launching provocations on the other hand,” the spokesman said in a briefing. “We sound a serious warning to North Korea, urging it to stop provocations.” Kim said Pyongyang’s missile launches are a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban use of the ballistic missile technology, though the missiles were fired into its territorial waters. “In light of the border trespassing and short-range missile launches, South Korean and U.S. forces have stepped up their surveillance status to closely watch the North Korean military’s latest moves,” Kim said. “We are ready to strike back if provoked.” Another government official echoed Kim’s stance, saying that Seoul will consult with related countries about how they will proceed after the North’s U.N. resolution violation. “North Korea’s latest short-range missile launch constitutes a violation of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions against the North,” the government official said. “We will discuss with related countries (how to handle the violation).” According to an analysis of the missiles’ trajectory, both of them fell within Japan’s air defense identification zone. One fell in a region 400 km northwest of Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, while the other landed in a region 456 km northwest of the same area. “North Korea fired the missiles into an area where civilian airlines and ships pass by. Not proclaiming a no-sail, no-fly zone (before the missile launch) is a violation of international regulation,” a senior government source said, asking for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. Military officials say there are chances of additional missile launches considering that the North has been controlling fishing boasts in both East and Yellow Sea border regions. “Considering that the North fired the missiles into the sea, it is deemed a low-level provocation,” a senior military official said, asking for anonymity. “But it is worrisome that (the missile launch) could negatively affect inter-Korean relations when hopes are high for better ties in light of the family reunions.” (Kim Eun-jung, “N. Korea Fires Two Short-Range Missiles,” Yonhap, March 3, 2014)

North Korean and Japanese Red Cross officials started talks in China on the possible repatriation of the remains of Japanese nationals who died in the communist country during World War II. The talks, the first of their kind since August 2012, are scheduled to last two more days in Shenyang. The four-member North Korean delegation includes two North Korean diplomats handling Japanese affairs in the foreign ministry, which spawned speculation that some additional issues may be discussed at the meeting. Japan sent Ono Keiichi, chief of its Northeast Asia division, to the talks. The Japanese delegation is led by Tasaka Osamu, director general of the International Department at the Japanese Red Cross. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, Japan Red Cross Hold Talks in China,” March 3, 2014) A four-member delegation from each side gathered in the northeastern city of Shenyang for the three-day meeting led by Ri Ho-rim, secretary-general of the North Korean Red Cross’ central committee, and Osamu Tasaka, director-general of the Japanese Red Cross’ international department. “There has been much change and progress since the talks in Beijing,” Ri said as the meeting convened, citing a number of working-level governmental dialogues and a visit to Pyongyang by some families of deceased Japanese nationals. “This meeting bears a greater importance and higher social interests in light of the participation of government officials from the two countries.” Yu Song-il, director of Japanese affairs at the North Korean Foreign Ministry, and his Japanese counterpart Ono Keiichi are also taking part in the talks. Tasaka, in response, highlighted the significance of bilateral Red Cross projects, expressing appreciation in particular over the North’s donation of $1 million after the 2011 earthquakes and tsunami that ravaged eastern Japan. “The funds greatly helped stabilize the livelihoods of the victims and smoothly carry out relief programs,” he added. (Shin Hyon-hee, “Pyongyang, Tokyo Hold Talks over Remains of Japanese,” Korea Herald, March 3, 2014) Government officials from Japan and North Korea held informal talks Monday in Shenyang, northeastern China, raising hope for the resumption of bilateral negotiations that have been suspended since November 2012. The two-hour talks on the sidelines of a meeting of the two countries’ Red Cross societies involved Ono Keiichi, director of the Northeast Asia Division of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and Ryu Song Il, chief of the Japanese affairs section of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, according to a Japanese official. (Kyodo, “Japan, N. Korea Officials Hold Informal Talks,” March 3, 2014) Ri Ho-rim, secretary general of the North’s Red Cross Society who heads the Pyongyang delegation, described today’s talks as “productive.” “Both North Korean and Japanese sides reached common ground that we need to continue to meet in the future to resolve the issue of the remains of Japanese,” Ri told reporters after ending six hours of talks. “This round of talks becomes more important as government officials from the two nations attended,” Ri said. “The talks were underway in a serious mood and were productive.” (Yonhap, “North Korea, Japan Red Cross Hold ‘Productive’ Talks in China,” Korea Herald, March 3, 2014) Japanese Red Cross Society officials will meet with their North Korean counterparts today in Shenyang, China, a move that could lead to direct talks between the two governments. The repatriation of remains of Japanese who died in North Korea during World War II and its immediate aftermath and permission for Japanese to visit graves in North Korea are expected to be the main points on the agenda, the Japanese Red Cross Society said February 27. Officials of the two Red Cross organizations last met in August 2012 in Beijing. Later that month, government discussions resumed between Japan and North Korea. In the background of next week’s Red Cross talks is Pyongyang’s aim to resume government-level discussions with Japan. According to officials of the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Foreign Ministry, a fax from the North Korean Red Cross was received on the evening of February 24 requesting the meeting. “The proposal was unexpected,” a Japanese Red Cross official said. The fax also asked that North Korean Foreign Ministry officials be allowed to sit in. Osamu Tasaka, head of the International Department at the Japanese Red Cross, will attend the discussions, accompanied by Keiichi Ono, director of the Northeast Asia Division at the Foreign Ministry. The latest proposal indicates that Pyongyang is eager and may have the way to resolve the longstanding issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the Red Cross officials are not expected to discuss the abduction issue or Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs. And actually arranging government-level talks could prove difficult under the current circumstances, with North Korea becoming increasingly isolated in the international community. Japan will likely step up the pace of secret meetings with North Korea on the abduction issue. According to several sources, three officials, including Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, visited Hanoi on January 25 and 26. It was later confirmed that North Korean Foreign Ministry officials were in the Vietnamese capital at the same time. That led to speculation that the two sides held secret talks. There were also reports that a second round of secret talks was held in Hong Kong on February 22-23.Japan has officially denied any contact was made between government officials of the two nations in Hanoi, and directly informed the United States and South Korea on the matter. However, extreme confidentiality is needed during the negotiation process because any resolution of the abduction issue will require political decisions at the highest levels. The negotiations that led to the first meeting of Japanese and North Korean leaders in 2002 were also kept secret from Washington. “Some steps will likely be taken to allow for the development of trust between Japan and North Korea, which hold mutual distrust toward each other,” said a source knowledgeable about North Korean matters. (Suzuki Takuya and Makino Yoshihiro, “Red Cross Meeting between Japan, North Korea Could Set Stage for Government Talks,” Asahi Shimbun, February 27, 2014)

North Korea released a 75-year-old Australian Christian missionary who was arrested last month for committing a “criminal act” by distributing religious material. KCNA reported the decision to release and deport evangelist John Short was made “in full consideration of his age” and because he had “deeply apologized for what he had done.” (Kyodo, “N. Korea Releases Australian Missionary Arrested Last Month,” March 3, 2014)

A frustrated Japanese academic and a former diplomat decided to distribute a book to politicians to bolster Japan’s security policy and end the nation’s sense of helplessness experienced in the 1990s. The two agreed in the summer of 2001 that something should be done to put Japan on a more equal footing with its superpower ally, the United States. When asked who should be the first person to receive the book about the right of collective self-defense, the former diplomat named a promising young politician only in his third term as a Lower House member. “Abe Shinzo, because he does not waver,” the former diplomat said. More than a decade later, Abe is forging ahead with his plans to change the interpretation of the pacifist Constitution to lift Japan’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense. Using long-time supporters, he has stacked the deck in his favor and gained the backing of those worried about China’s maritime expansion and North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs. And now, with tensions high between Japan and China over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the proponents of changing the constitution are even citing the unreliability of Japan’s main ally. A Foreign Ministry survey of U.S. public opinion released late last year showed 67 percent wanted the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to be maintained, a drop of 22 percentage points from the previous year. Washington, however, has repeatedly assured Tokyo that it will come to its defense in the event of a conflict arising in the region. Under the current interpretation of the Constitution, Japan would only be able to exercise its right of individual self-defense for a military encounter on the Senkakus. It would be the United States that exercised the right of collective self-defense in coming to the rescue of the SDF members. However, the United States has increasingly scaled back its role as the world’s police officer following the heavy burden it bore in the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Doubts have risen among the U.S. public on whether U.S. troops should become involved in any military skirmish over the Senkakus. “The United States does not want to fight for such islets,” said a member of an advisory panel related to national security issues for the Abe administration. “Unless Japan shows that it is prepared to fight together with the United States when the time comes, the United States will say to Japan about defense of its outlying islands, ‘OK, sayonara.’” The logic is that Washington will only defend the Senkakus if Tokyo is willing to allow the SDF to fight in wars involving the United States. And the only way to do this is to allow for Japan’s exercise of the right of collective self-defense. However, opponents of the change say a reinterpretation would only further antagonize China and exacerbate mutual distrust between the countries. They say greater efforts should be made to prevent the need for using the right of individual self-defense, such as defending the islands if armed fishermen land on them. “Is allowing for the exercise of the right of collective self-defense really something that is of top priority for Japan?” a high-ranking Defense Ministry official asked. Changing the government interpretation would fundamentally alter Japan’s exclusively defensive posture and open the door to allow SDF members to use armed force abroad. All administrations since the end of World War II have banned the use of force by SDF members. “Is Japan currently prepared to allow SDF members to be sacrificed for the sake of defending other nations?” a high-ranking GSDF officer asked. Abe, who was heavily influenced by his grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, has long criticized the government interpretation concerning collective self-defense. “Individuals judged to be incompetent have the right to property, but they cannot exercise that right,” Abe has said. “The government interpretation is an extremely embarrassing one that effectively states that Japan is also judged to be incompetent.” When Kishi served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960, he worked to revise the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty because he considered it unequal. Before the revision, the treaty allowed the U.S. military to be called upon to quell domestic strife in Japan. Abe feels that Tokyo would become an even more equal partner to Washington if it could also exercise the right of collective self-defense and help protect the United States. He has not been alone in his work to change the government interpretation. Ishihara Nobuo, deputy chief Cabinet secretary during both the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the nuclear crisis involving North Korea in 1993-94, said the interpretation effectively handcuffed Japan. “There was very little we could do in the form of cooperation because of the barrier created by the interpretation by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau of Article 9 of the Constitution that such acts would constitute an exercise of the right of collective self-defense,” Ishihara said. Diplomats with bitter experiences dealing with the United States in the 1990s also wanted a change in the interpretation. In summer 2001, Okazaki Hisahiko, a former Japanese ambassador to Thailand, called Masamori Sase, a former professor at the Japan National Defense Academy. It was Sase’s book on the right of collective self-defense that Okazaki suggested they use to educate Japanese politicians, starting with the young Abe. Okazaki, Sase and other like-minded individuals saw their chance in 2006, when Abe became prime minister for the first time. Reiichi Miyazaki, who was director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau at the time, came under fire for insisting that the government’s interpretation be maintained. “Do you realize how long we have had to put up with the wrong interpretation made by the bureau?” a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official close to Abe told Miyazaki. “We have finally reached this stage.” The bureau was considered an “evil empire” among those seeking to allow for the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. As prime minister, Abe frequently called Miyazaki to his office to discuss the issue. Miyazaki would invariably say there was no logic that would allow for changing the government interpretation. Although Abe said he understood Miyazaki’s words, it was apparent that he was not convinced. Abe later told his close associates, “I want to change the interpretation through my responses in the Diet.” However, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Matoba Junzo put a stop to that move, saying Abe had to solidify his overall standing first. Matoba had heard rumors that Miyazaki would resign in protest if Abe went ahead to allow Japan to exercise the right. Matoba felt that such a development would be fatal to the Abe administration, which was already reeling from scandals and gaffes by his Cabinet ministers. Abe followed Matoba’s advice, but the prime minister also began preparations to form an advisory panel to look into the possibility of changing the government interpretation. Among the members Abe had in mind for that panel were Okazaki and Sase. That move also led to resistance. In April 2007, Abe called to his office Yanagisawa Kyoji, a former Defense Ministry official who was then assistant chief Cabinet secretary. Abe wanted Yanagisawa to head the secretariat for the advisory panel. Abe proposed the panel study Japan’s need to exercise the right of collective self-defense for a number of specific examples that he provided, including how the SDF would respond if a U.S. naval ship came under attack. Yanagisawa told Abe such cases could be handled under Japan’s right of individual self-defense. Abe asked about the possibility of Japan intercepting ballistic missiles heading toward the United States. “With the current technology, it would be impossible to physically shoot down such a missile,” Yanagisawa told Abe. Having spent years working on defense policy, Yanagisawa explained why the right of collective self-defense did not have to be used. However, Abe told him: “I am thinking about a time in the future when it would be possible to intercept such missiles.” Even today, following advances in defense technology, Yanagisawa feels that the examples being used by Abe are unrealistic. “If any nation should fire missiles on the United States, it would face a devastating retaliation from the United States,” he said. “What nation would dare fire missiles?” After the LDP suffered a major defeat in the 2007 Upper House election, Abe stepped down as prime minister before the advisory panel could reach any conclusion. But his determination to change the interpretation regarding collective self-defense did not subside. In June 2013 in the prime minister’s office, Abe told Okazaki he was planning to nominate Ichiro Komatsu as director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. A career Foreign Ministry official, Komatsu had come out in favor of changing the government interpretation of the Constitution. Nominating Komatsu would break a tradition extending more than half a century of appointing the director-general from among those who had worked in the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. Abe also appointed close associates as staff members to prepare the way for changing the interpretation. For example, after the National Security Council was established in December 2013, Abe appointed Yachi Shotaro as the first head of the newly established National Security Secretariat. Another career Foreign Ministry official, Yachi worked with Komatsu during Abe’s first stint as prime minister to provide advice on the specific examples of collective self-defense the advisory panel was to consider. Acting like he is making up for the six years between his terms as prime minister, Abe has accelerated the pace at which he is seeking to change the government interpretation, even suggesting at one point that he alone has the power to do so. A former Cabinet Legislation Bureau director-general, Akiyama Osamu, has criticized the prime minister’s moves. “If exercise of the right is allowed, it would set a precedent that would let those in power freely change interpretations of the Constitution,” Akiyama said. “The Constitution also contains such fundamental elements as respect for basic rights, freedom of expression and separation of state and religion. What is most worrisome is that administrations could move toward unilaterally changing the interpretation of such elements as well.” (Sonoda Koji and Kuramae Katsuhisa, “The Deep Roots of Abe’s Drive for Self-Defense,” Asahi Shimbun, March 3, 2014)


3/4/14:
North Korea fired seven short-range projectiles from its east coast using a multiple rocket launcher, Seoul’s defense ministry said, the latest in a series of provocations by the communist country as the U.S. and South Korea entered the second week of joint military drills. The North fired off three short-range projectiles using a 240 mm multiple rocket launchers at around 6 a.m from Wonsan on its southeastern coast, the ministry said. They flew about 55 kilometers in the northeast direction. It launched four more beginning at 4:17 p.m. using a longer-range rocket launcher from the same region, with the range of about 155 km, it said. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Fires Seven Additional Sort-Range Projectiles,” March 4, 2014) North Korea tested a new multiple-rocket launcher with a range long enough to strike major American and South Korean military bases south of Seoul, South Korean military officials said. Four rockets were launched Tuesday afternoon from Wonsan, a coastal city east of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, flying 96 miles to the northeast before crashing into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said. The spokesman said his ministry had determined that the rockets were fired from a new multiple-rocket launcher that North Korea had been developing. Earlier on Tuesday, North Korea tested an older multiple-rocket launcher, firing three rockets that flew 34 miles off its east coast, the spokesman said. “We believe this is an intentional provocation to raise tensions,” the South Korean ministry spokesman said. South Korea recently deployed Israeli-designed Spike missiles and their mobile launchers on its western border islands. The Spike missiles, with a range of 12 miles, target North Korean coastal guns and rocket batteries. But the range of North Korea’s new 300-millimeter multiple-rocket launcher means that the North can keep the launchers outside the range of the Spike missiles and still be able to hit Seoul, officials here said. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Tests Launcher with Range beyond Seoul, South Says,” New York Times, March 5, 2014, p. A-10)


3/5/14:
The Pentagon said North Korea has at least six Hwasong-13 road-mobile long-range missile launchers, as the U.S. updated the assessment of the secretive nation’s military power. It said the Hwasong-13 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) have a range of more than 3,400 miles, but its capability has yet to be tested. The Hwasong-13 has not been flight-tested and “their current reliability as weapon systems would be low,” the Pentagon said in its annual report, titled “Military and Security Developments involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2013.” In the previous version, the U.S. Department of Defense did not mention the Hwasong-13, but said the launchers of the Taepodong-2 long-range missiles have “not yet deployed.” In this year’s document, the department noted launches of the Taepodong-2 have been observed from both east and west coast launch facilities. The report also carried the U.S. military’s formal view on the recent purge and execution of Jang Song-thaek, who was once the No. 2 leader in the North. Jang’s death is unlikely to lead to major changes in defense policy or internal stability in the near term, the Pentagon said. “His absence will most likely be felt in the economy,” as Jang was in charge of several high-profile initiatives, particularly with China, to attract foreign currency and investment to the North, it added. (Lee Chi-dong, “Pentagon: N. Korea Has at Least 6 Road-Mobile ICBM Launchers,” Yonhap, March 6, 2014)

The United States is asking the U.N. Security Council to take action against North Korea for firing two rounds of ballistic missiles in the past week in “clear and calculated violations” of U.N. sanctions. A report by the United States to the council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea, which was seen by the Associated Press today, asks its members and experts to examine the Scud missile launches and take “appropriate action” in response to the violations of multiple Security Council resolutions. Under U.N. sanctions dating back to 2006, North Korea is prohibited from carrying out any launches that use ballistic missile technology. Subsequent U.N. resolutions require the North to abandon all ballistic missile programs. The report said that according to U.S. government information, North Korea launched two Scud short-range ballistic missiles from its southeastern coast on Feb. 27 and two more Scud missiles from the same coast on March 3. It said all four missiles flew in a northeasterly direction and landed in the sea. “Both the February 27 and March 3 launches clearly used ballistic missile technology and were therefore prohibited,” the report said. (Edith M. Lederer, “U.S. Wants U.N. to Act against N. Korea for MissileTests,” Associated Press, March 6, 2014)


3/5/14:
South Korea proposed holding Red Cross talks with North Korea next week to arrange regular reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Seoul offered the proposal through the inter-Korean liaison telephone channel in the border village at 11:15 a.m., according to sources. “The government plans to propose holding a working-level contact next Wednesday on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom,” unification ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin said earlier in a briefing. “(South Korea) expects North Korea’s speedy response to our proposal, given the pain and agony of the separated families.” The planned overture comes after South Korean President Park Geun-hye proposed Saturday that the Koreas hold family reunions on a regular basis, saying time is running out for the elderly waiting to see their long-lost relatives. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Offers Red Cross Talks to North,” March 5, 2014)

South Korea may be able to use the North Korean port city of Rason for logistical purposes as early as early next year, the unification ministry said. “The flow of goods through the Rason region may become possible around next spring if things go smoothly,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said in a lecture to a group of former lawmakers. “In early February, South Korean companies paid an on-site visit to the Rason area and if this (cooperation project) goes smoothly, major progress would take place around September this year,” the minister said of Seoul’s push to join the Rajin-Khasan development project between Pyongyang and Moscow. The project is designed to develop Rajin, the northeastern North Korean port city now reintegrated into Rason, into a logistics center linked to Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. In a summit meeting last November, South Korean President Park Geun-hye signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to help South Korean companies join the joint North Korea-Russia logistics project. In a follow-up step to the summit agreement, officials of three South Korean firms — Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL), top steelmaker POSCO and No. 2 shipping company Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. — visited the North Korean port city for a feasibility study. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Port of Rason to Be Open to S. Korea As Early As 2015: Minister,” March 5, 2014)

KPA Strategic Force spokesman’s statement “blasted the U.S. and its allies for misbehaving, steeped in enmity toward the DPRK, resorting to a malignant smear campaign from the moment when its rockets soared into the sky, and clarified the following principled stand of the force: Units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army successfully conducted rocket-launching drills from February 21 to March 4 according to the regular training plans of fire power units. The rockets made the safest flights without the slightest deviation northeastward from the launching points and accurately struck the targets in the designated waters, demonstrating the highest-ever rate of hits. The drills were smoothly conducted with no slight impact not only on the regional peace and security but on international navigation order and ecological environment as they were based on a scientific calculation of the whole course of the rocket launching and the scrupulous advance security measures for flight orbit and targets in the designated waters, in particular. The U.S. and its followers should dare not make much fuss, terming the DPRK’s just rocket launching drills ‘provocation’ and ‘threats.’ As far as provocation is concerned, it is the brigandish Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises kicked off by the U.S. against the DPRK and base remarks made by such guy as U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, who labeled the DPRK ‘closest closed country,’ ‘evil place’ and ‘country of evil.’ It is the brazen-faced judgment of American style to label the just self-defensive drills in one’s own land as “provocation” and it is the shameless standard of American style to describe its war exercises for aggression to serve a sinister purpose in the land of other country as ‘defensive’ and ‘annual.’ The U.S. and its followers should bear in mind that if their reckless provocation against the DPRK goes beyond tolerance limit, its defense rockets in the process of drills will lead to a retaliation of the most powerful attack rocket launching in a moment. The U.S. and its followers should no longer resort to such a foolish act as escalating tensions under the pretext of the DPRK’s rocket launching. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, the U.S. has deliberately screwed up and escalated the situation on the Korean peninsula under the groundless pretext. In recent years alone, the U.S. termed the DPRK’s satellite launch a missile launch and fabricated UN resolutions on ‘sanctions,’ bringing the situation to the brink of war. This time, too, it is seeking to opt for such reckless way as escalating tensions again, vociferating about ‘such sanctions as those against Iran and ‘more stringent blockade’ under the pretext of the DPRK’s rocket launching drills. It was prompted by the U.S. displeasure with recent signs of the north-south dialogue and the DPRK-Japan contact thanks to the DPRK’s positive steps. The U.S. should clearly realize that its acts of kicking off frantic war maneuvers for aggression and aggravating the situation under the pretext of the DPRK’s regular rocket launching drills can neither work nor can be overlooked. The U.S. and its followers should dare not let loose foolish sophism persistently taking issue with the DPRK over its nuclear issue with its rocket launching drills as a momentum. The U.S. is now spreading rumors that it ‘does not recognize not only the DPRK’s rocket launch but its access to nuclear weapons,’ ‘the south-north relations can be mended only when the north dismantles its nuclear weapons first’ and ‘the U.S.-north dialogue and the U.S.-north relations are possible only when the north moves first.’ This is rather an absurd jargon than ignorance. The nuclear force of the DPRK is by no means something to which it had access in the hope of ‘recognition’ by the U.S. and its followers. It is the self-defensive treasured sword to defend the whole Korean nation and preserve the regional peace and security from the U.S. increasing nuclear threats and blackmail. Nothing is more serious miscalculation than to assert that the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence exists if anyone recognizes it and disappears if anyone does not recognize it. The U.S. had better coolly judge the situation and drop the bad habit of deliberately taking issue with others.” (KCNA, “U.S. Ought to Drop Bad Habit of Deliberately Blaming Others: KPA Strategic Force Spokesman,” March 5, 2014)

OSD Annual Report: “Under Kim Jong Il, DPRK strategy focused on internal security; coercive diplomacy to compel acceptance of its diplomatic, economic, and security interests; development of strategic military capabilities to deter external attack; and challenging the ROK and the U.S.-ROK Alliance. We anticipate these strategic goals will be consistent under North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Un. …North Korea fields a large, forward-deployed military that retains the capability to inflict serious damage on the ROK, despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware. … At the beginning of his second year in power, Kim sought to use another coercive campaign to advance the longstanding goals of gaining international recognition and de facto acceptance as a nuclear state. …As of October, North Korea continued to repeat publicly that it was open to resuming dialogue with the United States and the region, but it was unlikely to make significant concessions on relinquishing its nuclear program. … Kim Jong Un’s decision in December 2013 to purge and execute his powerful uncle, Jang Song-taek, is unlikely to lead to major changes in defense policy or internal stability in the near-term. …His absence will most likely be felt in the economy, as Jang was in charge of several high-profile initiatives, particularly with China, to attract foreign currency and investment to North Korea. Jang was believed to be a relatively pragmatic advisor to Kim Jong Un, but his influence probably waned in 2013. …Jang’s execution is the most significant step to date in Kim’s establishment of his authority, eliminating arguably the most influential senior Party official remaining from his father’s era. The sudden and brutal purge sends a strong message to regime elites that the formation of factions or potential challenges to Kim Jong Un will not be tolerated. … North Korea uses limited provocations―even those that are kinetic and lethal in nature―such as military actions and small-scale attacks to gain psychological advantage in diplomacy and win limited political and economic concessions, all while likely believing it can control escalation. … Although North Korea is unlikely to attack on a scale it assesses would risk its survival by inviting overwhelming counterattacks by the ROK and the United States, North Korea’s calculus of the threshold for smaller, asymmetric attacks and provocations is unclear. North Korea’s special operations forces (SOF), artillery, and growing missile force provide significant capabilities for small-scale attacks that could rapidly spiral into a larger conflict. North Korea is making some efforts to upgrade its large arsenal of mostly outdated conventional weapons. It has reinforced long-range artillery forces near the DMZ and has a substantial number of mobile ballistic missiles that could strike a variety of targets in the ROK and Japan. However, the DPRK’s emphasis will likely be on defensive and asymmetric attack capabilities, and it will attempt to leverage th perception of a nuclear deterrent to counter technologically superior ROK and U.S. conventional forces. North Korea will seek to continue to develop and test-launch missiles, including the TD-2 ICBM/SLV. Missile tests and programs to improve denial and deception, electronic warfare, road-mobile ICBM development, and SOF, are driven by North Korea’s desire to enhance deterrence and defense, and to improve its ability to conduct limited attacks against the South. … As the NKAF’s aircraft continue to age, it increasingly relies on its ground-based air defenses and on hiding or hardening of assets to counter air attacks. During a 2010 military parade, North Korea displayed a new vertical launched mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) launcher and accompanying radar. It bore external resemblance to the Russian S-300 and Chinese HQ-9. North Korea publicized a March 2013 military live-fire drill that for the first time featured an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in flight. The drone appeared to be a North Korean copy of a Raytheon MQM-107 Streaker target drone. …North Korea displayed what it refers to as Hwasong-13 missiles, which appear to be intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), on six road-mobile transporter-erectorlaunchers (TELs) during military parades in 2012 and 2013. If successfully designed and developed, the Hwasong-13 likely would be capable of reaching much of the continental United States, assuming the missiles displayed are generally representative of missiles that will be fielded. However, ICBMs are extremely complex systems that require multiple flight tests to identify and correct design or manufacturing defects, and the Hwasong-13 has not been flight-tested. Without flight tests, its current reliability as a weapon system would be low. North Korea continues to develop the TD-2, which could reach the United States if configured as an ICBM. In April and December 2012, North Korea conducted launches of the TD-2 configured as a Space-Launch Vehicle (SLV). The April launch was a failure but the December launch was a success. … North Korea has several hundred Toksa, SCUD SRBM and No Dong MRBM missiles available for use against targets on the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The developmental IRBM, though untested and unreliable as a weapon, could also be launched at targets in the region. North Korea leverages information collected by four intelligence organizations … The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is North Korea’s primary counterintelligence service and is an autonomous agency of the North Korean government reporting directly to Kim Jong Un. The MSS is responsible for operating North Korean prison camps, investigating cases of domestic espionage, repatriating defectors, and conducting overseas counterespionage activities. The United Front Department (UFD) overtly attempts to establish pro-North Korean groups in South Korea such as the Korean Asia-Pacific Committee and the Ethnic Reconciliation Council. The UFD is also the primary department involved in managing inter-Korean dialogue and North Korea’s policy toward the South. North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) is responsible for clandestine operations. The RGB includes six bureaus charged with operations, reconnaissance, technology and cyber, overseas intelligence, inter-Korean talks, and service support. The 225th Bureau is responsible for training agents, infiltrating South Korea, and establishing underground political parties focused on fomenting unrest and revolution. … Cell phone subscribership increased beyond 2 million with the growth of Koryolink, North Korea’s 3G cellular network. Mobile phone users consist primarily of high-ranking officials in Pyongyang and their families, though ownership is beginning to spread into smaller cities and towns. Most cell phones cannot access the Internet and can only make calls within North Korea.” (Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the DPRK, Annual Report to Congress, March 2014)


3/6/14:
North Korea rejected South Korea’s proposal to hold Red Cross talks to discuss regular reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War as Seoul’s point man on Pyongyang called for the sides to build mutual trust. The North’s Red Cross said in a message to its South Korean counterpart that an appropriate atmosphere has not been created for the proposed talks, according to the unification ministry. The North did not elaborate on what it meant by atmosphere, though it may have referred to its displeasure with the ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the United States. Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae called for confidence between the two Koreas for possible exchange and cooperation projects. He also asked South Koreans to view potential unification with North Korea from the broader perspective that it can bring benefits to Northeast Asia as well as the international community, not just the Koreas. In the latest sign of lingering tensions, however, the North’s powerful National Defense Commission sent a message to South Korea’s presidential office yesterday and took issue with the latest leaflets flown into the reclusive country criticizing its leader Kim Jong-un, the ministry said, without elaborating. The North’s complaint came three weeks after South and North Korea agreed to halt slander against each other during their first high-level talks in seven years. But South Korea has said there are no legal grounds to prevent activists from floating the leaflets, citing freedom of expression. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Snubs South’s Offer of Red Cross Talks,” March 6, 2014) North Korea apparently indicated willingness to engage in a higher-level dialogue in the future. “Given the current state of inter-Korean relations, such a critical humanitarian issue as regular family reunions is not a matter to be resolved through consultations between the two sides’ Red Crosses,” it said via a border telephone line. The South expressed regret, urging again for the North to reconsider. “As we have said repeatedly, the separated families issue is something that the two Koreas should resolve preferentially without linking it to any other issue, and will provide a major opportunity for developing inter-Korean relations,” the Unification Ministry said in a statement. (Shin Hyon-hee, “N.K. Passes up Seoul’s Offer of Talks on Family Reunions,” Korea Herald, March 6, 2014)

China expressed “concern” over North Korea’s firing of an artillery shell that happened minutes before a Chinese passenger jet passed through the trajectory of the shell. North Korea has fired short-range missiles for days into the East Sea and launched a volley of artillery shells into the sea two days ago, in an apparent show of force against ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S. Minutes after North Korea fired an artillery shell into the sea on Tuesday, a China Southern Airlines Co. airplane carrying 220 people, which was heading from Tokyo to the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, passed through the airspace, according to South Korea’s defense ministry. Asked about the incident, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters during a regular press briefing that, “I want to stress that we attach great importance to the safety of national civil airlines.” Nations must take “necessary measures in accordance with international practices to ensure the safety of civilian aircraft and ships in relevant airspace and maritime space” when they conduct military drills, Qin said. “China will verify the relevant situation with the relevant party and express concern over that,” Qin said. Today’s comments by Qin were compared with a somewhat muted reaction yesterday when Qin replied, “We have noted the relevant report.” “China urges relevant parties to stay calm and exercise restraint, be discreet in words and deeds, avoid a repeat of the scenario where there is a progressive escalation of tensions and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula,” Qin said. (Yonhap, “China Expresses ‘Concern’ over N. Korea Shell Fired Near Passenger Jet,” Korea Herald, March 6, 2014)

Experts’ Panel Report: “There have been no signs that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea intends to respond to the Security Council’s calls to abandon its nuclear, ballistic missile and other weapons of mass destruction programs. On the contrary, it is persisting with its arms trade and other prohibited activities in defiance of Security Council resolutions, while activities related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue. At the present time, the Panel does not see new measures as necessary in order to further slow the prohibited programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to dissuade it from engaging in proliferation activities or to halt its trade in arms and related materiel. Rather, the Panel believes that Member States already have at their disposal adequate tools. …Other incidents show that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains dependent on foreign procurement for certain items, especially some that figure in nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In particular, it lacks sufficient domestic precision machine tool manufacturing capability and it purchases off-the-shelf items for its ballistic missile-related programs. The Panel also assesses that it will likely seek out foreign suppliers for components it will need to fabricate fuel rods for its reactors. …During the period under review, the Panel submitted nine incident reports to the Committee and has taken account of these incidents in the present report, as well as providing information regarding cases still being investigated. The Panel held consultations with 13 Member States, three United Nations bodies and other interested parties. Such consultations included seven visits to gather information about various incidents of non-compliance, including two for cargo inspection, seven to discuss the implementation of sanctions and 11 to attend conferences and seminars to raise awareness of the resolutions. …e extension of a building reportedly housing the uranium enrichment workshop, identified by IAEA as having started in March 2013, seemed to show progress throughout the year. This extension will almost double the size of the original building. Here also, additional construction or refurbishment work on nearby buildings and landscaping alteration of an adjacent area could be observed during the second half of 2013. Further activities were observed in the Yongbyon nuclear complex. In particular, old buildings north of the pilot fuel fabrication plant were converted into a new larger one and construction work continued in the area north of the reported uranium enrichment workshop. No major developments were observed at the exterior of the light water reactor since the IAEA report. The Agency stated that external work on the building appeared to have been completed in June 2013 and construction activities on and around the building included installation of a ventilation stack, construction of an electrical switchyard and excavation of trenches, apparently to accommodate water pipes for cooling the reactor. Using satellite imagery, the Panel also observed various activities at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site such as excavation, building demolition and renovation, and new construction. While the purpose of these activities cannot be determined through satellite imagery alone, some analysts suggested they could be related to the sealing of the tunnel used for the last nuclear test, the maintenance of other available tunnels and/or excavation of new tunnels. Operation of the light water reactor would need a large quantity of fuel rods that may require the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to expand its nuclear fuel fabrication capacities. Nuclear experts indicated to the Panel that they suspected it might not yet have the domestic capacity and might have to procure the necessary equipment and technology abroad. In general, such equipment would include pilger milling machines and their mandrels, dies and lubricants for zirconium alloy tubes production, as well as ultrasonic test equipment for inspection. The Panel recommends that Member States exercise due vigilance on export to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of the above-mentioned items. …The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted further tests of large liquid rocket motors at the test stand of its West Coast facility. Commercial satellite imagery shows that several tests were conducted in the past year. As with previous tests, these could be of either the first stage of the Unha-3 rocket, or of the KN-08 road mobile missiles (which remain non-flight tested), or related to the development of new and more powerful rockets. …The Panel also investigated the foreign-sourced items found in the Unha-3 debris, which revealed the use of off-the-shelf items or items just below prohibited parameters, which are then assembled or integrated into systems or subsystems. Information about the new acquisition of computer numerically controlled machine tools and their components also indicates that the precision manufacturing capability of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains dependent on foreign procurement. …In March 2013, Japan reported to the Committee that it had seized five aluminum alloy rods found onboard the container ship Wan Hai 313 (IMO number 9248708) in August 2012. Japanese authorities determined that the rods originated from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and met the criteria of IAEA document INFCIRC/254/Rev.7/Part 2. According to information published by Japan, they were shipped via Dalian, China, and were bound for a third country. …In January 2014, in response to the Panel’s inquiry, Chinese authorities confirmed that the shipment had originated from the port of Nampo and said that the declared destination port was in Myanmar. They also reported that the declared consignor was an entity named Korea Kumpyo Trading. The Panel continues its inquiries and has requested further information from Myanmar. …inancial measures in the resolutions, along with the strengthening of standards governing international finance, have combined to change fundamentally the financial environment in which the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea operates. In particular, it has become much more difficult to make direct use of its banks to remit earnings and make payments for transactions in prohibited goods, training and technology. The long-term trajectory of changes to improve standards promoted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) promises it will face even more difficulty in future. The technical efforts of FATF, especially recent steps taken to help counter the financing of proliferation, complement Security Council actions. Consequently, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has had to adapt, explore and perfect ways to evade detection and circumvent constraints on the financing of prohibited programs and activities. All evasion techniques involve higher risk, extra cost and loss of timeliness. The Panel has begun to examine more deeply the institutional frameworks and operational techniques it employs. It is experienced in using foreign-based individuals, front companies and shell companies and joint ventures engaged in legitimate business to mask illicit activities associated with sourcing nuclear, ballistic missile and other weapons of mass destruction programs. Ownership structures often are complex and opaque and take advantage of lax rules in some Member States regarding the identification of beneficial owners. …In the light of paragraphs 11 to 13 of Security Council resolution 2094 (2013), the Panel has begun to examine how funds may be stashed abroad or remitted in ways that obscure ownership of the accounts or transactions associated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It has identified some commercial operations and banking practices that offer such opportunities. …n example of a transaction being financed in an unusually complex manner was an Air Koryo contract in 2012 to purchase new aircraft. Payments were structured through eight Hong Kong, China-registered companies, which asserted that they were trading partners of Air Koryo and were wiring funds they owed it. The resolutions do not prohibit the purchase of civilian passenger and cargo aircraft. The Panel, however, was dubious of the explanation that debts were the source of the funds; some companies appear to be recently formed shell companies. It also finds remarkable the coincidence of all eight firms owing significant amounts to Air Koryo at the time funds were contractually due to be paid to the seller of the aircraft. The names of shells and activities of others appear to share a connection with gold trading. The Panel is suspicious that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea may be using or considering the use of precious metal sales on credit terms to create “accounts payable”. Such sources for funds would not necessarily show as being under its control and even could be swapped with other firms to further distance its connection and thereby better evade sanctions and enhanced due diligence by banks.” (U.N. Security Council, Report of the Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1874, March 6, 2014)


3/7/14:
China said that it has conveyed its “concerns” to North Korea over reports that Pyongyang had fired a volley of long-range artillery shells into waters off its east coast without advance warning, threatening the safety of a Chinese passenger jet that happened to be passing through the affected airspace. “We have already contacted the DPRK side to express our concerns,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters during a regular press briefing. (Yonhap, “China Conveys Concerns to N. Korea over Shells Fired near Airplane,” March 7, 2014)


3/9/14:
North Korea held its first parliamentary elections under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, who was expected to use the polls and a newly elected legislature to elevate officials loyal to him and further consolidate his power. North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly has served as a rubber-stamp Parliament, endorsing whatever decisions were made by the top leader and his inner circles. In the last parliamentary election, held five years ago when Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, was still alive, a single candidate ran unopposed in each of the 687 districts, and all the deputies were elected with 100 percent support. The government reported voter turnout of 99.98 percent. The North Korean authorities run parliamentary elections as an effective political census, a chance to check up on the whereabouts and the political allegiance of citizens, as well as the ability of local Workers’ Party officials to mobilize residents. People pile into voting booths casting unmarked ballots in rapid succession. Those who oppose the state-selected candidate are supposedly allowed to pause to cross out the candidate’s name, effectively making the process a monitored event, according to defectors from the North. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Uses Election to Reshae Parliament,” New York Times, March 10, 2014, p. A-6) The results of the election released by KCNA showed that most officials believed to be close to Jang, including Kim Yang-gon, Pyongyang’s point man on inter-Korean relations, were elected to the legislature. North Korea’s ambassador to China, Ji Jae-ryong, was also elected as a new deputy to the legislature. Ji’s political fate had been the focus of intense media attention because he was considered one of the closest aides to Jang. However, two other officials close to Jang — Mun Kyong-duk, a senior Workers’ Party official in Pyongyang, and Ro Song-sil, former chairwoman of the Central Committee of the Democratic Women’s Union of North Korea — were removed from the rubber-stamp legislature. Mun, who was last seen in public in a massive rally on Jan. 6, appears to have been dismissed from his post or purged, said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute, a private security think tank near Seoul. Cheong said the election results “indirectly confirmed that there aren’t as many of Jang’s proteges in the North’s leadership as believed by the outside world.” Other high-profile officials who were elected to the rubber-stamp parliament include Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, and Won Dong-yon, the deputy head of the United Front Department, who represented North Korea during last month’s high-level talks with South Korea. Those elected may also possibly include Kim Kyong-hui, a senior party secretary and Jang’s wife. The unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said it remains unclear whether the Kim Kyong-hui who was elected is the leader Kim’s aunt or a different person with the same name. Choe, meanwhile, had disappeared from state media reports for more than two weeks, touching off rampant speculation that the North Korean military’s top political officer might have been taken into custody. Last Friday, the North’s state media reported that Choe had accompanied Kim in an inspection trip to an air force unit, quelling speculation of any change in Choe’s political fate. Kim’s inspection trips, which are accompanied by top officials, offer rare glimpses into the rise and fall of his aides. In 2012, Jang accompanied the leader on 106 occasions, followed in a distant second by Choe with 85. A year later, Jang accompanied Kim on 52 occasions while Choe accompanied the leader on 153 occasions, according to the unification ministry. Some old military officials, including Hyon Chol-hae, a former first deputy director of the People’s Armed Forces, were removed from the legislature in the latest sign of a power shift in the North. Kim Yo-jong, who received the media spotlight for accompanying her elder brother Kim Jong-un on Sunday when he cast his ballot in Pyongyang, was not elected to the parliament. The younger Kim, 27, was listed among senior officials of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party who accompanied Kim Jong-un on Sunday, according to the KCNA. (Yonhap, “Most Officials Close to Jang Elected to N. Korea’s Parliament,” March 11, 2014) North Korea’s state-run media on Tuesday revealed the names of the 687 members of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament who were elected unanimously amid a 99.97 percent voter turnout.The election saw 55 percent of the Supreme People’s Assembly members replaced, suggesting that new officials were elected to support North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The previous elections five years ago replaced 45 percent of members. (Chosun Ilbo, “New Faces Make up Halp of N. Korea’s New Parliament,” March 12, 2014)


3/10/14:
Japan will not revise a landmark apology to women forced to work in military brothels during World War II even as it moves ahead with a review of the testimony used to create that apology, Suga Yoshihide, the chief cabinet secretary, told reporters. “We have no intention to rethink the Kono Statement,” he said. The apology admitted for the first time that the Imperial military played at least an indirect role in forcing the women, known euphemistically as “comfort women,” to provide sex to Japanese soldiers. Suga was responding to rising criticism from South Korea of an announcement made two weeks ago by Suga that the government would form a panel of experts to review the evidence used to back up the statement, mostly testimony made two decades ago by 16 aging former sex slaves. (Martin Fackler, “Japan Won’t Alter Apology to World War II Sex Slaves,” New York Times, March 11, 2014, p. A-9) Japan insists it will uphold the 1993 statement of apology to wartime “comfort women,” but the Abe administration still plans to investigate doubts raised on its veracity. The review is intended to determine if South Korea played a role in producing the Kono statement and to check the accuracy of testimonies provided by former Korean comfort women. The investigation can also be seen as a counterstrike against Seoul’s demands for official redress and a gesture to appease conservatives in Japan who slam the statement for its conciliatory tone. Prime Minister Abe has long called for a review of the statement, but he knows that any revisions will hurt Japan’s relations with the United States and further strain ties with South Korea. (Asahi Shimbun, “Japan Vows to Uphold Kono Statement But Pledges to Review It Anyway,” March 12, 2014)


3/11/14:
North Korea has continued to export weapons and other prohibited items despite the international community’s tough sanctions, according to an annual report written by a UN Security Council Panel of Experts established under Resolution 1874, North Korea has persisted with arms trades with countries in the Middle East or Africa in “perfect ways to evade detection.” “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea exports weapons and ammunition, but it also exports services or assistance related to the manufacture and maintenance of arms and related materiel,” said the report, which was dated on March 6 but released today. “Since 2009, the Panel has gathered evidence showing that it is active in the refurbishment of arms produced in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, such as jet fighters, surface-to-air missile systems or antiaircraft cannons, submarines, main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, howitzers, multiple-rocket launchers and mortars.” The suspected trading partners of North Korea include Myanmar, Syria and also some African countries, the report said. “The Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group recently obtained and published new evidence that a shipment of machine tools in May 2011 may have been part of ongoing arms-related cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Eritrea,” the report said. “In July and December 2013, the United States designated two individuals and three entities … involved in arms trading between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Myanmar.” In July 2013, a North Korea cargo vessel named Chong Chon Gang was caught by Panamanian authorities, concealing arms beneath more than 200,000 bags of sugar, the report mentioned. “Although the precise income it earned from this trade is subject to debate, there is no question that it is one of the country’s most profitable revenue sources,” it said. (Kim Hee-jin, “Pyongyang Keeps Exporting Arms, Says U.N. Panel,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 12, 2014) Recent inspections and seizures of banned cargo have shown that North Korea is using increasingly deceptive techniques to circumvent international sanctions, a panel of experts said in a report to the United Nations Security Council. In its latest annual report, posted today on the United Nations website, the panel of eight experts said that North Korea has persisted in defying those resolutions not only by continuing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs but also by engaging in illegal arms trade. “It is experienced in actions it takes to evade sanctions,” the panel said. “It makes increasing use of multiple and tiered circumvention techniques.” The panel said the case of the North Korean cargo ship Chong Chon Gang had provided unrivaled insight into some of those techniques. The vessel was stopped by the Panamanian authorities in July 2013 while carrying undeclared weapons that had been hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar from Cuba. An investigation showed that the North Korean crew had used secret codes in communications, falsified the ship’s logs and switched off an electronic system that would otherwise have provided real-time information on the ship’s location to the international maritime authorities, the panel said. It added that it suspected the North Korean embassies in Cuba and Singapore of helping to arrange the arms shipment. The hidden cargo amounted to six trailers associated with surface-to-air missile systems and 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MIG-21 jet fighters, 15 MIG-21 engines, and missile and other arms components, the panel said. Cuba has acknowledged that it was sending Soviet-era weapons to be repaired in North Korea. The Chong Chon Gang case helped confirm that one of North Korea’s most profitable sources of revenue remains weapons exports, as well as technical support to manufacture and refurbish arms produced in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, the panel said. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Ably Evades Its Sanctions, Panel Says,” New York Times, March 12, 2014, p. A-6)


3/12/14:
South Korea and Japan held vice ministerial level talks to discuss their strained relations, raising hopes for a diplomatic thaw. The meeting of South Korea’s newly named Vice FM Cho Tae-yong with his Japanese counterpart Saiki Akitaka is the first high-level talks between the neighbors following Japanese Prime Minister Abe ‘s much-denounced visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine last December. “It is an occasion to test whether South Korea-Japan relations would work out in the future,” Cho told reports before the talks held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ headquarters in central Seoul. (Yonhap, “Seoul, Tokyo Vice Ministers Discuss Mending Ties,” March 12, 2014) The government is trying to arrange a trilateral summit with South Korea and the United States for this month in a bid to thaw Tokyo’s frozen relations with Seoul, an official said. But Seoul appears cool to the idea of a meeting between Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, President Park Geun-hye and President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a global nuclear security summit in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 24 and 25. (Reuters, “Abe Pitches Trilateral Meet to Kick-Start Chilly Ties with Seoul,” Japan Times, March 12, 2014)

North Korea has joined hands with a Hong Kong-based company to develop the country’s northwestern border city of Sinuiju into a special economic zone, a North Korean official said. Sinuiju, which borders China’s Dandong city, has drawn much attention from foreign investors for its geographical advantage as North Korea’s western gateway to China, Ri Chol-sok, vice chairman of North Korea’s economic development committee, said in an interview in the March issue of Kumsugangsan magazine, a North Korean government mouthpiece. “Now a joint development company has been established for the development of (Sinuiju) and is striving to win back lost opportunities,” said the North Korean official. Hong Kong-based conglomerate Great China International Investment Groups Ltd. reportedly signed the deal with North Korea. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, Hong Kong Firms to Develop Border City of Sinuiju,” Korea Herald, March 12, 2014)

North side delegation spokesman for the for north-south high-level contact made public a statement “clarifying the DPRK’s principled stand concerning the grave hurdle lying in the way of implementing the hard-won agreement made at the north-south high-level contact. It said: The south Korean authorities have talked a lot about improving the north-south relations and laying a foundation for national reunification through ‘confidence-building’ whenever an opportunity presented itself. However, they have gone the lengths of daring slander even the election of deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK. 1. The south Korean authorities should not deliberately wag their tongues. It is none other than the south Korean authorities that take the lead in mud-slinging at the DPRK in gross violation of the agreement made at the north-south high-level contact. The minister of Foreign Affairs is persistently letting loose such very provocative and reckless remarks as the north is conducting a dialogue offensive ‘but, in actuality, it is busy with such provocations’ as demanding a halt to the joint military exercises ‘while showing no sign of change.’ The minister of Unification is obsessed with such accusations against compatriots that he is letting loose base and disgusting outbursts that ‘even soup would not be offered’ to the north in case it fails to keep a promise. What he uttered is lashing the service personnel and people in the north into fury. It is no exaggeration to say that it is none other than the bosses of ministries and agencies in charge of the north affairs of south Korea who recklessly wag their tongues to turn its whole into a theatre of anti-DPRK smear campaign. If they are truly concerned for the improved north-south relations, the authorities should stop their reckless mud-slinging, though belatedly, as it is the root cause of all disasters. 2. The south Korean conservative media had better behave themselves. When Choson Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and other conservative newspapers release misinformation on the basis of sheer lies, KBS, MBC, SBS and other broadcasting services kick up a smear campaign by adding silly stories to it. Mass media in south Korea should not act as organizations of hack writers inciting distrust and enmity and fostering division after being reduced to waiting maids serving the wrong regime but act as a patriotic guide contributing to national reconciliation and peaceful reunification. 3. The south Korean authorities should stop resorting to such foolish acts as protecting despicable human scum by force of arms and hurling them into scattering anti-DPRK leaflets. As far as human scum called ‘defectors form the north’ are concerned, they are good-for-nothings worse than dogs as they took to flight, forsaken even by their kith and kin for perpetrating all kinds of evils such as murder, robbery, a dissipated and corrupt life and scandals. How poor and mean the south Korean authorities’ attitude is as they use such disgusting dregs of the times for their smear campaign and confrontation with the north. The DPRK sent meaningful warning notices to Chongwadae twice that south Korea would get nothing in future if it doesn’t stop such mud-slinging as scattering leaflets against the DPRK. The south Korean authorities should bear deep in mind that the more persistently they insist that ‘they cannot restrict the mud-slinging at the north as long as there is no clear reason,’ making absurd excuses such as ‘freedom of expression, rally and association,’ the more clearly they will reveal their incompetence, much less shirking their responsibility for bedeviling the north-south relations. Although the north-south high-level contact was held and a precious national agreement was reached amid the great expectation and concern of all Koreans, the situation prevailing at present less than a month since then is so beyond imagination. The south Korean authorities should bear deep in mind that there can be confidence-building touted by them and a bright prospect for improving the inter-Korean relations when they respect the other party and honestly implement the agreement. The present time does not allow fooling the nation with an empty talk. The DPRK will closely watch the attitude and moves of the south Korean authorities.” (KCNA, “DPRK Clarifies Principled Stand,” March 12, 2014)


3/13/14:
An inter-Korean panel on the arbitration of legal disputes discussed details of arbitration procedures and rules at its meeting today, the unification ministry said. The meeting at the jointly run factory park in the North’s western border city of Kaesong is the first of its kind since 2000 when the rival Koreas adopted a deal on solving legal disputes through arbitration. “The two sides shared the view that the arbitration system has an important meaning as one of the ways of solving disputes in the Kaesong industrial complex and exchanged opinions focusing on the details of arbitration procedures and the delivery of the list of arbitrators from North Korea,” it said. (Yonhap, “Koreas Discuss Arbitration Procedures for Kaesong,” Korea Herald, March 13, 2014)

The Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, an association of civic groups working for unification, abruptly canceled an ambitious plan to send fertilizer to North Korea, raising suspicions of pressure from the government amid strained inter-Korean relations. The council was supposed to hold a special event in central Seoul yesterday to promote its campaign to send 1 million bags of fertilizer, totaling 20,000 metric tons (22,046 short tons), to North Korea to help its farmers and boost its food supply. But at 8:22 a.m., Hong Sa-duk, chairman of the council, sent text messages to reporters saying the ceremony has been postponed due to lack of preparation. “With my apology, I inform you that we postponed the event scheduled to be held at Dangun Shrine, Seoul, this afternoon,” Hong said in the text. “The biggest problem was that I pushed forward with the event despite concerns raised at yesterday’s board meeting. Due to the delayed updating of our home page, we could not properly arrange the tools for promotion,” he said. “We sent invitations to the event to more than 1,000 guests and heads of 187 organizations by email or texts in the early morning on the day of the occasion. There was too much trouble for us.” An official of the council said: “There was no pressure from outside or communication with the government over the cancelation. There was no change in our principle to move forward with the plan to send the fertilizer.” According to the council’s website, the group intended to raise up to 12 billion won ($11 million) for the fertilizer campaign. But concerns were growing in the government about the campaign as fertilizer is a banned item under the so-called May 24 sanctions imposed by the Lee Myung-bak administration in 2010. The sanctions only approve the sending of humanitarian aid to North Korea, such as medicine or milk powder for underprivileged people. It bans the sending of rice, corn or fertilizer, which could go to the regime’s military. The campaign was also ill-timed because the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan falls on March 26. The sinking provoked the May 24 sanctions. On March 7, Unification Ministry spokesman, Kim Eui-do said at a briefing, “We see the council’s plan [for the fertilizer aid] is far from a purely humanitarian assistance,” implying the aid would not be approved. (Lee Young-jong and Kim Hee-jin, “Aid for North Is Abruptly Called off,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 13, 2014) At her New Year’s address, President Park Geun-hye pledged to “expand private humanitarian aid to North Korea.” But now a tug-of-war is under way between private groups who want to donate fertilizer to the North and a government that is insisting on slowing things down. “This is not to time to send fertilizer to North Korea,” Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-jae said March 19, after a lecture at a forum organized by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. The Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC), an umbrella organization including 187 progressive and conservative civic groups, said on March 18 that it is continuing on with its campaign to send one million bags of fertilizer to North Korea, even after it canceled an announcement event after government calls to “slow down.” The million bags would amount to a sizable 20,000 tons, worth the equivalent of US$12 million. By the afternoon of Mar. 18, five days after launching its fundraising campaign, the KCRC said it had already gotten 77,040 bags. “We’re planning to make our first shipping request to the government once we reach 100,000 bags,” explained Lee Woon-sik, secretary-general of KCRC, adding that this would “probably be this weekend or early next week.” (Choi Hyun-june, “Tug-of-War Underway over Fertilizer Aid to the North,” Hankyore, March 19, 2014)

The Red Cross societies of Japan and North Korea will hold a two-day meeting from March 19 in Shenyang, northeastern China, with the participation of government officials from the two countries, the Foreign Ministry said. Along with Foreign Ministry officials, Japan plans to send Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare officials to the meeting, which will be a follow-up of the previous session March 3 in Shenyang, according to the ministry. Foreign Ministry officials from the two countries are expected to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the upcoming session. Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties. (Kyodo, “Japan, N. Korea to Hold Red Cross Talks March 19-20 in China,” March 13, 2014)

Toloraya: “The reunification of Crimea with Russia might have unexpectedly turned a page in modern history, ushering the world into a new era of geopolitical competition. There is little doubt that the West is seeking to contain Russia as a re-emerging global player, using this controversial action as a de facto casus belli (hopefully, just a cold variety of it). This shift in the geopolitical paradigm will surely affect almost all the problem zones in the world, including the Korean peninsula. After all, the Cold War never ended there and the possible reemergence of it would only bring global realities closer to those of the peninsula. The most immediate loss is probably the drying-up (at least temporarily) of Russian-American cooperation on the North Korean issue. The first sign was the cancellation in early March by the US side of the April Vladivostok meeting of the North-East Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD)—the unique Track 1.5 format uniting scholars and officials including diplomats and defense officials in a private capacity from the Six Party process countries (US, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas) sponsored by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). This forum, in which North Koreans participate regularly (they agreed to come to Vladivostok), has served as a back-channel venue for high-level US-DPRK dialogue in the past. It also has been a de facto substitute for the defunct Six Party Talks, permitting the sides to exchange views and probe the intentions of each other. …Hopefully the pause in exchanges, such as the cancellation of the April NEACD meeting, will not last since it is the duty of academics to play a proactive role in helping advance understanding and possible solutions that governments might use. However, it can be predicted that Russians will now be less receptive to US arguments that North Korea should be pressured and isolated as well as denied access to global trade and financial systems because of its nuclear and missile programs. The Ukrainian experience of the US going to extremes to oppose what most Russians see as a just cause will weigh heavily on any sincere exchange of views. Furthermore, North Korea’s “nuclear deterrent” theory might seem more justified for Russians now than ever before. In short, Russia, as a member of the Six Party Talks (although the prospects for their renewal are dimmer than ever), the UN Security Council and other international bodies dealing with the North Korea problem, will likely be less inclined to support measures of pressure or sanctions against DPRK. I doubt, for example, that the next North Korean rocket launch will cause as much indignation in the Kremlin as the last one did in December 2012. After all, many Russian experts even then argued that the ban on all ballistic missile launches, denying the country the possibility of developing its space programs, was rather artificially tied to the sanctions for the nuclear test in UN Security Council Resolution 1718 of October 2006. They argued that this ban was only introduced because of the possible danger of the DPRK ballistic missile program to the US and Japan, while there was no threat to Russia. The next time the controversy over North Korea’s missile program arises, such logic may well play into Pyongyang’s hands. Of course, further development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is unacceptable to Russia. But given current developments in Ukraine, Moscow will press harder than ever for a more measured response, targeting only dangerous DPRK activities, not sanctioning the entire country and its population. I personally doubt the ban on “luxury goods” exports, designed to cause dissatisfaction among North Korea’s elite, was consistent with Russia’s aims at developing dialogue with this same constituency. Moreover, it sometimes resulted in ridiculous episodes like banning pianos or the delivery of embassy cars. Also, Russia is concerned with what North Koreans are doing at their ‘peaceful’ nuclear facilities, as the safety of the indigenous experimental light water reactor being built now raises many questions. This is a direct environmental challenge to Russia’s Far East and the need for control is obvious. Therefore, Russians feel the need for measured cooperation with North Korea in the nuclear field (of course, in accordance with IAEA standards), especially as it has ample experience in peaceful nuclear energy program development in the DPRK and a ready market. Therefore, a political decision to increase economic cooperation with the DPRK on more lenient terms may follow. Several high-level economic exchanges with the DPRK are planned for the coming months, starting with the meeting of chairmen of an intergovernmental commission in Pyongyang later this month. The issue is financing since the government has not encouraged investing in North Korea. Given what may be decreased possibilities for Russian businessmen to invest in the West due to differences over Ukraine, they might explore even such exotic markets as North Korea since concerns about possible “punishment” from the US will also decrease. In the past, for example, almost all Russian banks refused to deal with the DPRK—even for humanitarian projects—for fear of being blacklisted by US banks through which the transfers would transit. That may change if the Russian Rouble would be used for bilateral settlements. For example, a Russian company “Mostovik ” is planning to invest in North Korean coal deposits and modernize the railroad along the North’s western coast for exporting the coal abroad. The Russian Railways (“RAO ZHD”) state company will also continue its Hasan-Rajin transit cargo project and may expand it. The possibility of modernizing the obsolete North Korean industrial infrastructure, based on Soviet technology, using money from the debt compensation investment fund placed in the North Korean Foreign Trade Bank (about US$ 1.1 billion) is also possible. I do not even rule out the possibility of resuming limited military cooperation between the two countries—even an ally like North Korea is better than none. A more general consequence with regard to North Korea is the change of perception of US intentions in Russian public opinion and political circles. When General Martin Dempsey, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he does not exclude the possibility of US military intervention in Ukraine, this suddenly resonated with US threats to North Korea. This type of rhetoric may induce a more sympathetic attitude toward the DPRK among a broader Russian audience. My old warning of the possibility of returning to a confrontation of “continental” and “ocean” powers on the Korean peninsula (a China-Russia-DPRK triangle against a US-Japan-ROK one) may, unfortunately, become more realistic. North Koreans will surely use the opportunity to emphasize their view of the US as “aggressors” to Russian counterparts who would have less reason to oppose such a view. The game on the Korean peninsula might once again become a multilateral “zero-sum” one. Another consequence is that Russia’s position will probably shift closer to China’s views in the Six Party Talks, losing its sought-after status of an ‘honest broker.’ Regretfully, that will limit Russia’s foreign policy maneuverability in Asia. As the Korean issue is much more important to China than to Russia, I would not be surprised if Moscow would just trade off its unequivocal support for Beijing on Korean matters in return for Chinese support on more vital issues. These developments will make North Korea even less inclined to make diplomatic concessions. Any chance of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula will move over the horizon as US policy faces new challenges in Northeast Asia. At the same time, the “strategic partnership” between Russia and South Korea may, for the time being, remain just wishful thinking. Of course, Seoul has disapproved of, although cautiously, Russia’s actions in Crimea. But even before that Russia was offended by the refusal (some people suspect prompted by the US) of President Park to come to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. That looked strange not only because South Korea is hosting the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018, but also because the Chinese and Japanese leaders were in attendance. The North’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, also attended and met with President Putin, even though DPRK athletes had not passed the qualifications and were absent. The hastily arranged ROK Prime Minister’s visit to the closing ceremony helped just marginally. The controversy with Korean figure skater Yuna Kim winning the silver medal instead of the gold also created a negative attitude in Korea, tarnishing Russia’s image. Given the ROK’s strong alliance commitment to the US, I doubt South Korea will share Russian views on vital international issues. It is unlikely that we will see an upsurge of bilateral political relations or greater understanding by Russia of South Korean priorities with regard to inter-Korean relations in near future. However, the sheer scope of economic relations between the two countries would preclude any real controversy. Also, skillful diplomacy and more exchanges between Russia and South Korea should be initiated to compensate for any negative fallout. As Russia’s ties with the West will probably suffer as a result of the current political situation, Moscow will have even more reason to “turn to the East” and more actively pursue its policy interests in Asia. It should be noted that Russian experts argue that Northeast Asia is the gateway for Russia into Asia and the Pacific. They see the Korean peninsula as is the key to this region, so its importance to Russia may grow.” (Georgi Toloraya, “A Tale of Two Peninsulas: How Will the Crimean Crisis Affect Korea?” 38North, March 13, 2104)


3/14/14:
National Defense Commission statement “in connection with the fact that the U.S. hostile policy towards it and its recent moves pursuant to the policy have gone to such a grave pass that they cannot be overlooked any longer: It is none other than the U.S. which has deliberately infringed upon the sovereignty of the DPRK, the life and soul of its people, century after century. It is again the U.S., the sworn enemy, which has resorted to crafty and foolish moves to undermine the ideology of the DPRK and bring down its social system. The National Defense Commission of the DPRK clarifies the following principled stand on the U.S. hostile policy towards it, representing the unanimous will of the Workers’ Party of Korea, state, army and people: 1. The U.S. should make a policy decision to roll back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and lift all the measures pursuant to the policy, though belatedly. The above-said policy is the harshest one aimed at undermining the ideology of the DPRK and bringing down its social system by dint of U.S.-style democracy and market economy, and swallowing up all Koreans and the whole of Korea by force of arms for aggression. The U.S. would be well advised to lift by itself all unjust measures in all fields before facing the disastrous consequences to be entailed by its anachronistic hostile policy towards the DPRK. 2. The U.S. should have a proper viewpoint and stand on the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence and stop behaving foolishly, letting loose a string of reckless remarks that the ‘DPRK’s dismantlement of its nukes first’ is the ‘keynote’ of the hostile policy towards it. The U.S. should properly understand that Pyongyang’s nuclear deterrence is neither a means for bargaining nor a plaything to be used by it keen on dialogue and blinded by the improvement of relations. Moreover, the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence is by no means a ghost-like means which does not exist when it is not recognized by the U.S. or remains when it is ‘recognized’ by it. The U.S. is resorting to what it calls ‘patience strategy,’ hoping the DPRK to move and make changes first, but such things desired by Washington will never happen. It is the stand of the DPRK to wait with a high degree of patience for the time when the White House is bossed by a person with normal insight and way of thinking. The U.S. should bear in mind that the efforts of the army and people of the DPRK to bolster up its nuclear deterrence for self-defense will go on and additional measures will be taken to demonstrate its might one after another as long as the U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail persist as now. 3. The U.S. should stop at once its groundless ‘human rights’ racket against the DPRK which began as part of its new hostile policy towards the latter. National sovereignty is more important than human rights. Probably this is the reason why the U.S. has kept more prisoners than any other countries in the world, mercilessly brandishing sharp swords against any forces opposed to the state and endangering its existence. The DPRK also does not show any mercy and leniency towards a tiny handful of hostile elements doing harm to the ideology and social system chosen by all its people who are the masters of the sovereignty. The U.S. would be well advised to mind its own business, being aware of where it stands, before talking nonsense about others’ affairs. The U.S. had better roll back its worn-out hostile policy towards the DPRK as soon as possible and shape a new realistic policy before it is too late. This would be beneficial not only to meeting the U.S. interests but also to ensuring the security of its mainland. The U.S. should judge the situation with a cool head and make a policy decision in line with the trend of the times, the statement concludes.” (KCNA, “NDC Clarifies Stand of U.S. Hostile Policy toward It,” March 14, 2014)


3/16/14:
North Korea fired 25 short-range missiles toward the East Sea late today, according to the Ministry of National Defense. According to the defense ministry, the first salvo of 10 missiles was launched around 6:20 p.m., followed by an additional eight at 8:03 p.m. and seven more at 9:28 p.m. The launches from the eastern coastal city of Wonsan lasted 10 minutes each and the missiles flew about 70 kilometers before landing in the sea. “Following the North’s launch, our military has been watching closely for further provocations,” the ministry said in a statement. “We urge Pyongyang to stop provocative actions that will heighten military tension in neighboring countries.” The ministry assumed that the weapons were FROG short-range surface-to-surface missiles. This is the fifth missile test by North Korea this year. (Kwan Mee-yoo, “North Korea Fires 25 Missiles into East Sea,” Korea Times, March 17, 2014)

The parents of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by North Korean agents in 1977 at the age of 13 and became a symbol of Pyongyang’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals, met for the first time their granddaughter earlier this month in Mongolia, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday. According to the ministry, Shigeru and Sakie Yokota met 26-year-old Kim Eun Gyong, who was born to Yokota Megumi and Kim Young Nam, a South Korean man abducted by Pyongyang, last March 2-7 in Ulan Bator. The meeting, one of the sticking points in the issue surrounding North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, could clear the way for the resumption of long-stalled intergovernmental talks between the two nations. (Kyodo, “Parents of Abductee Yokota Megumi Meet Granddaughter for First Time,” Japan Times, March 16, 2014)

Japanese and North Korean foreign ministry officials are expected to resume talks soon to discuss bilateral issues, including North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, according to government sources. The sources said that the Japan-North Korea talks will be agreed upon at an unofficial meeting of foreign ministry director-level personnel to be held over a two-day period, probably March 19 and 20, in Shenyang, northeast China. At the meeting, the officials will likely agree to resume the meetings at the director general level. At the projected director general meeting, normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries will be one of the main items on the agenda. North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles would also figure prominently. The bilateral talks would be held in a third country, possibly China or Mongolia, with Ihara Junichi, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, likely to represent Japan. From North Korea, Song Il Ho, ambassador in charge of Japan-North Korea negotiations, will likely participate. (Yomiuri Shimbun, “High-Level Talks with N. Korea to Resume,” March 17, 2014)

North Korea’s per-capita gross domestic product rose 4.8 percent on-year in 2013 from an improved grain harvest and expanded investment in the mining, utility and other segments, according to a report released by the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI).The North’s per-capita GDP for last year is estimated at US$854, up $39 from a year earlier. The North’s 2013 per-capita GDP amounts to a mere 3.6 percent of South Korea’s per-capita GDP of $23,838 for the same year, it said. The communist state’s grain production is estimated to have grown some 5 percent last year from a year earlier. The country saw an 8.5 percent on-year rise and 10 percent gain in its grain production, respectively, in 2011 and 2012. Also, the reclusive nation increased its budget spending for railroads, metal and power generation sectors, which contributed in boosting its economy, the report showed. Trade between North Korea and its strongest ally China jumped 10.4 percent on-year to reach $6.5 billion last year, while inter-Korean trade sank 42 percent to $1.1 billion due to a five-month halt of an jointly run industrial park. It is the lowest since 2005 when the comparable figure was $1.06 billion. (Yonhap, “N. Korea’s Per Capita GDP Grows 4.8% in 2013: Report,” March 15, 2014)


3/17/14:
North Korean Ambassador to the UN Ja Song-nam said Pyongyang is making efforts to improve its relations with South Korea. In a meeting with UN General Assembly President John Ashe, Ja added that Pyongyang’s priority is to raise the quality of life of the North Korean people by expanding welfare and developing infrastructure. Ashe asked Ja about the details of measures the regime has taken to make inter-Korean relations better. The remarks suggest that North Korea is hoping to tackle economic hardship and diplomatic isolation by improving inter-Korean relations. Huh Moon-young at the Korea Institute for National Unification said, “The regime knows that if they fail to solve economic difficulties, they won’t be able to stay in power for long. In order to solve economic problems, they are probably trying to improve their relationship with the South first, and then aim to get the UN and U.S. to lift sanctions.” (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea Keen to Improve Cross-Border Relations,” March 19, 2014)


3/18/14:
China strongly hinted that it would veto a United Nations resolution holding North Korea’s leadership responsible for crimes against humanity, dashing hopes for the international community to act on the North’s grim human rights record. Asked whether China would veto a U.N. resolution on North Korea’s human rights abuses at the Security Council, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that Beijing would “oppose politicizing the issue of human rights and intervening in the internal affairs of a country.” Hong reiterated China’s stance, saying, “To bring the human right issues to the International Criminal Court does not help improve a country’s human rights conditions.” (Yonhap, “China Hints at Veto of U.N. Action on N. Korea Human Rights,” Korea Herald, March 18, 2014)

DoS: “On March 18, 2014, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Korea concluded an agreement extending the duration of the existing U.S.-R.O.K. Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation until March 19, 2016. The agreement entered into force immediately. The United States and the R.O.K. are pleased that the extension of the existing agreement will allow our two sides to continue our extensive and long-standing bilateral cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in an environmentally responsible manner. The two-year extension will also provide additional time for the two sides to complete negotiations on a successor nuclear cooperation agreement.” (Department of State, Office of the Spokesperson, “Extension of the Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Korea,” March 18, 2014)


3/19/14:
A trilateral summit among South Korea, the United States and Japan has become highly likely following the Japanese leader’s acknowledgment of a previous government apology made to Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II, sources in Seoul said. “A bilateral summit is difficult for now, but considering the U.S. requests for reconciliation between South Korea and Japan, and Japan’s tokens of sincerity, it appears that a trilateral summit would be possible,” said a government source in Seoul, asking that he not be identified. “Once our government decides on its position, we will carry out negotiations over the agenda.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea-U.S.-Japan Summit Highly Likely: Sources,” March 19, 2014) At the behest of the United States, the leaders of Japan and South Korea will meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit March 25 in The Hague. But that does not mean a sudden patching up of bilateral differences. The primary issue–different interpretations of history–that has bedeviled relations between Japan and South Korea will likely not be discussed. According to a high-ranking Abe administration official, U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy broached the topic of a three-way meeting to those close to Abe in late February. Obama himself touched upon the subject during a phone conference with Abe on March 7. Despite the strong sense of mistrust within the Abe administration toward South Korea, officials agreed to the proposal because Abe has left himself little room to move. When he visited Yasukuni Shrine in December, not only did China and South Korea express outrage, but even the United States said it was “disappointed” that Abe had chosen to visit a shrine that memorializes Japan’s war dead along with 14 Class-A war criminals. The expression by a close aide to Abe of disappointment at the Washington reaction only added fuel to the diplomatic fire enveloping the prime minister. To make matters worse for Abe, he also had to abandon his previous course of seeking closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and join the leaders of Western nations in condemning Russia’s annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine. Abe needs the strong backing of the United States in dealing with China over the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea as well as in negotiating with North Korea over the abduction of Japanese nationals. The scheduled April visit to Japan by Obama was an opportunity to again display the strong alliance with the United States. However, Japan may have very little to offer Obama when he visits. It is still unclear whether an agreement will be reached by then in talks related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement. The fact that Obama will only spend one night in Japan also makes it difficult to welcome him in the same way as a state visit with all the formal trappings involved. With that as background, Abe was forced to maintain the relationship with Washington by demonstrating that he was making an effort to improve ties with Seoul. In attempting to bring about a three-way summit meeting, the Abe administration dispatched Vice Foreign Minister Saiki Akitaka to Seoul on March 12 for talks with First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong. Sources said Cho presented conditions that would have to be met before South Korea could agree to a meeting with Japan and the United States. One condition was to have Abe clearly state his intention to maintain the 1993 statement released in the name of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that offered an apology to the “comfort women” who provided sex to wartime Japanese military personnel. Other conditions mentioned were a new approach to dealing with the comfort women issue and restraint on the part of those close to Abe regarding statements about historical understanding. The Obama administration had also lobbied Japan informally to not review the Kono statement. At the March 14 Upper House Budget Committee session, Abe clearly stated that he had no intention of revising the Kono statement. Japanese officials also used diplomatic channels to inform their South Korean counterparts beforehand about Abe’s comment. While such efforts led to the agreement on the three-way meeting in The Hague, the Abe administration continues to be wary of Seoul. Abe himself told close associates that he had become fed up with the hesitancy shown by South Korea before agreeing to the three-way talks. Abe administration officials also apparently do not have high expectations that the meeting will provide a breakthrough for bilateral ties with South Korea. Regarding the significance of the meeting, one high-ranking official said, “The most important element politically will be to have a photo taken of the leaders meeting each other.” For South Korea, the persistent lobbying by the United States was a major factor behind its decision to agree to the three-way talks. The moves by Abe also helped convince Seoul. His comment about not touching the Kono statement was the deciding factor. South Korea was also heartened by Japan’s agreement to talks on the comfort women issue among officials at the level of ministerial bureau director. One South Korean government source described the difficult position Seoul faced. “It ended up being a two-against-one situation with Japan and the United States on one side and South Korea on the other,” the source said. “South Korea’s position would have been hurt if it had rejected the three-way meeting.” Due to concerns about the reaction from the South Korean public, government officials also announced that Japanese and South Korean officials would discuss the comfort women issue in the same statement released about the three-way meeting. South Korean officials also made clear that any future bilateral meeting between Park and Abe would depend on the level of sincerity shown by Tokyo. Park also plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit and there is the possibility that she might raise the historical recognition issue at that meeting. (Emman Ryota, Suzuki Takuya, Kaise Akihiko, “At U.S. Insistence, Japan, South Korea Agree to 3-Way Talks,” Asahi Shimbun, March 22, 2014)

The Belgium branch of Handicap International earmarked $1.12 million for this year to support medical and rehabilitation facilities in North Korea to promote the health and wellbeing of the disabled there, the Voice of America reported, citing an e-mail from the agency’s official Dominique Delvigne. The budget is also to be spent for such projects as nurturing teachers in charge of special education for visually- and hearing-impaired people, and assisting the (North) Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled, the official added. (Yonhap, “Belgium-Based NGO to Spend $1.1 Million for Disabled N. Koreans,” Korea Herald, March 19, 2014)


3/20/14:
Jeffrey Lewis: “In recent weeks, a number of news outlets have reported that North Korea may be readying for another nuclear weapons explosion at its test site. The stories resulted from a remark by the South Korean Minister of Defense, who told lawmakers in Seoul that North Korea had finished preparations for another test at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site—although he added that no test was imminent. The Minister’s statement matches closely the reports that have appeared at 38 North—one in October 2013 noting the presence of new tunnel entrances, followed by reports in December 2013 and February 2014 showing a significant acceleration in excavation of one of the new sites. (North Korea appears to be digging into the same mountain on the north side of its test site—usually called the West Portal area—where it conducted its 2009 and 2013 nuclear tests, while stopping excavation at another mountain south of the site—the South Portal—where digging is either done or on hold.) We generally think of North Korea as digging tunnels and then conducting a single test in each tunnel in 2006, 2009, and 2013. The pattern of excavation at Punggye-ri, however, raises a disquieting possibility. What if North Korea’s recent excavations are not for new tunnels that will be used only once, but represent an effort to transform the mountains north and south of the site into complexes that could allow it to conduct multiple tests—two or more—in drifts off a single main tunnel with multiple entrances. If and when North Korea has a steady supply of fissile material in the form of highly enriched uranium from facilities at Yongbyon (and who knows where else) as well as a steady but smaller supply of plutonium from its reactivated five megawatt reactor, might the North prepare to conduct nuclear explosions on a much more regular basis? After North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 under a mountain to the east of the test complex, Pyongyang began digging a tunnel under a different mountain to the north, referred to as the West Portal. After its second nuclear test in 2009, the North Koreans began digging a tunnel into a third mountain to the south of the site—but there was a surprise. North Korea’s third nuclear test occurred under the same mountain to the north as the 2009 detonation. Now, imagery reveals a new entrance again at the northern mountain, while the tunnels or tunnel complex under the southern mountain appear complete. It is possible that each entrance into the West Portal is for a separate tunnel that runs parallel to the others. But an alternate hypothesis suggested by patterns of US, Russian and Chinese underground nuclear testing is that, rather than parallel tunnels, North Korea may be conducting tests in drifts that branch off a main tunnel. This is how those three countries conducted underground nuclear tests. Here are diagrams from “P-tunnel” at the Nevada Test Site (now known as the Nevada National Security site). If North Korea is not digging parallel tunnels, but is rather opening multiple entrances to the same main tunnel, then it is probably planning to conduct more than one additional test under the north mountain (West Portal), in addition to the two that have already been conducted there. The continuing excavation at the south mountain looks rather different in this light. If the South Portal is a tunnel complex, rather than simply two or three tunnels, North Korea might have plans to conduct more than two or three additional detonations in that area alone. If his hypothesis proves correct, it would represent a change in how we view North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing program. Tom Schelling once told me that, for North Korea’s first few nuclear explosions, the term “test” was perhaps less accurate than “demonstration.” Schelling’s insight was that North Korea’s nuclear explosions were political events to demonstrate capabilities or perhaps Pyongyang’s resolve, not technically-driven events intended to result in successively better capabilities. Of course, that is just one wonk’s opinion and it is difficult to discern the balance between the need to demonstrate and technical goals in Pyongyang’s calculus. But it is clear that the pace of testing to date appears to have been constrained—either by political pressure, a lack of fissile material or both. What would happen if North Korea were to acquire an ample supply of fissile material and political pressures were to subside? Pyongyang may soon have ample material if it does not already. And, although China may have pressured North Korea to refrain from nuclear tests in past years, its influence on Pyongyang seems to have waned. In November 2012, a Chinese delegation arrived in Pyongyang carrying “a letter from China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, which is said to have contained a simple message: Do not launch a ballistic missile.” KCNA released a picture of the Chinese handing over the letter. Then, the next day, KCNA announced the Unha launch. Pyongyang also executed Beijing’s preferred interlocutor, Jang Song Thaek, for various crimes including selling “coal and other precious underground resources at random”—a veiled reference to his business dealings in China. As of right now, Beijing’s track record when it comes to pressuring Pyongyang isn’t so hot. If the North does step up its nuclear testing program, in the near-term, Pyongyang will probably seek to continue developing smaller nuclear weapons that can arm the country’s ballistic missiles. They claim to have developed a miniaturized device, but we do not know how small these weapons are. Perhaps further miniaturization is needed to arm more than Scud or Nodong missiles; certainly this is the case for longer-range delivery systems. Thermonuclear weapons—something the Chinese were able to achieve within six tests—are a worrisome possibility. But the good news is that Punggye-ri appears unsuitable for very large explosions above more than tens of kilotons in yield. This is because the mountains can only contain so much explosive power as well as the fact that a major cross-country railway runs relatively near to the test site, probably causing concern about the impact of large explosions on the rail tunnels. North Korea would probably need another test site to conduct very large nuclear tests in vertical boreholes—something we have yet to see. The bad news is that our current North Korea policy of malign neglect may be more costly than we imagine. The current rate of one nuclear test every three or four years is unpleasant, but manageable. We muster outrage over these tests long enough to send Pyongyang a sternly worded letter and maybe sanction some iPads, before returning to years-long periods of ignoring them. After all, historically, North Korea—perhaps constrained by a small stockpile of fissile material—couldn’t stage nuclear temper tantrums all that often. However, this may be about to change. North Korea may soon have access to regular amounts of fissile material if it doesn’t already and could be preparing Punggye-ri for a number of nuclear tests if the above analysis is correct. What if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, or even two, on an annual basis? Have we really considered the implications of an increase in the frequency of tests for our current policy of strategic patience? Have we prepared our allies for such a change? The answer is, of course, “No, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”” (Jeffrey Lewis, “The Tunnels at Punggye-ri: An Alternative View,” 38 North March 20, 2014)


3/19-20/14:
Red Cross and government officials of North Korea and Japan resumed talks in China, with attention focused on whether the two nations would agree to reopen formal government-level negotiations. this week’s meeting was again led by Ri Ho-rim, secretary general of the North’s Red Cross Society, and Tasaka Osamu, director general of the International Department at the Japanese Red Cross. Upon his arrival at the Shenyang airport earlier in the day, Ri told reporters, “The agenda of this round of talks, like the previous one, is the remains of Japanese nationals in our republic.” Ri added, “But the different point at this round of talks is that more in-depth discussions would be made with government officials and experts from the two sides attending the talks.” Ryu Song-il, a North Korean diplomat dealing with Japanese affairs who also join the talks, declined to comment on the possibility of reopening director-level government negotiations between Pyongyang and Tokyo. “It is bad manners to speak anything before the talks begin,” Ryu told reporters. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, Japan Resume Talks in China,” March 19, 2014) Japanese and North Korean diplomats have agreed to work toward the resumption of formal intergovernmental talks for the first time since November 2012, at an early date, an official said March 20. (Karube Takuya, “Japan N. Korea to Restart Govt. Dialogue at an Early Date,” Kyodo, March 20, 2014) The agreement was reached at an informal meeting between Ryu Song-il, head of Japanese affairs division at North Korea’s foreign ministry, and Ono Keiichi, director of the Northeast Asia Division at Japan’s foreign ministry, Ono told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting here. “Both sides agreed on the resumption of formal government-to-government talks,” Ono said, adding a date for the new talks has not been set. The two-day Red Cross talks were led by Ri Ho-rim, secretary general of the North’s Red Cross Society, and Tasaka Osamu, director general of the International Department at the Japanese Red Cross. After seven hours of talks on the 19th, Tasaka told reporters, “I think there is progress if you compare with the things that were being discussed during the previous round of talks.” Describing the mood at the talks as “very good,” Tasaka said he “felt sincerity” from the North Korean side. At the end of the two-day talks on the 20th, the North’s chief delegate Ri said the two sides held “very constructive and useful” discussions. “Both sides held in-depth talks in a serious and candid manner,” Ri said, adding the two sides agreed to continue talks on the issue of repatriating Japanese remains in the future. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, Japan Decide to Restart Government Talks,” March 20, 2014) “It’s an important step,” Abe said at a news conference, referring to the agreement. “I’d like to resume talks as soon as possible.” “Our goal is to properly settle outstanding issues of both sides,” Ryu Song-il, identified as the official in charge of Japanese affairs at the North Korean Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying by Kyodo. “I believe it is important that relations between the two countries can be improved soon.” Last May, speaking a day after a top aide returned from a secretive visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Abe told Parliament that he would consider meeting with Kim to resolve the issue of abducted Japanese. Analysts now say that visit may have laid the groundwork for the recent warming in relations. Abe first rose to national prominence at this time, when Koizumi, his political mentor, put him in charge of the emotional abduction issue. Analysts have said that Abe may be hoping to resume where Koizumi left off by reaching an accord that could finally open the way for normalizing ties. “I was overwhelmed with emotion. I’m very glad the meeting came about,” Abe said on March 17, speaking of the meeting between Yokota’s parents and her daughter. “We are determined to resolve the abduction issue at any cost.” (Martin Fackler, “Japan and North Korea Said to Agree to Formal Talks,” New York Times, March 21, 2014, p. A-6) Japan and North Korea will hold intergovernmental talks in Beijing on March 30 to 31. (Kyodo, “Japan, North Korea to Hold Governmental Talks in Beijing March 30-31,” March 21, 2014)

On February 25th, a year after President Park’s inauguration, the public opinions on the international relations of the former Lee administration and that of Park government were compared. The most prominent difference between the February 2013 and 2014 results was the assessment on the relationship of the North and the South. Whereas merely 1.4% responded that inter-Korean relations have improved over the five years during which the former President Lee was in the office, as much as 33.9%of those surveyed (up by 32.5%) responded that the relations of the two Koreas have improved over the one year of President Park’s administration; showing a considerable increase with statistical significance. The aforementioned results can be seen as the byproduct of the resumption of family reunions, indicating the ameliorating ties between the two Koreas and the growing discussions regarding the reunification issue in 2014, after the president’s remark on reunification as ‘Dae-baak’ (a Korean term for ‘bonanza’) in her new year’s press conference. However, although the results regarding relations with China jumped up 20.4%, from 17.5% in Feb. 2013 to 37.9% a year after, many deemed the relations with the US ‘similar (2013: 55.2%→2014: 56.9%).’Due to the Japanese prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, aggressive anti-Korean protests that took place in Japan and the ‘cyber warfare’ between the two countries regarding the installation of a comfort woman statue in the U.S., a large proportion of respondents answered that the relations with Japan have ‘worsened,’ at 70.7% compared to 58.5% in 2013; but it was not a statistically significant level. At the end of 2013, concerns over the conflicting relations between the U.S. and China in the Northeast Asia region in line with China’s self-declared Air Defense Identification Zone (CADIZ) had heightened. Against such diplomatic upheaval, the so-called “Sandwich Theory,” urging South Korea –being squeezed between two superpowers, the U.S. and China –to side with one country, has been raised. In response, based on TNS’s self-imposed omnibus poll, respondents were asked, “Which country will you support if conflicts occur among South Korea’s neighboring countries in the future?” When Sino-U.S. relations were assumed to exacerbate, those who answered to support the U.S. were 64.4% and 67.2% in Oct. 2013 and Dec. 2013, respectively, appearing to be higher than those who supported China (11.6% in Oct, 5.4% in Dec.). On the contrary, when conflicts between Japan and China were assumed, those who responded to side with China were quite high at 71.2% (Oct. 2013) and 69.7% (Dec. 2013), but the support rate for Japan amongst respondents in the two consecutive studies appeared to be less than 10%. Depending on the response rate only, the support rate for China seemed to have somewhat decreased in Dec., but no significant difference was observed statistically. Amid the confrontational and adversarial tensions between the U.S. and China, concerning the countries being favored, a meaningful difference was identified between Japan and China, but even when the U.S. was supported, a majority of respondents (more than 70%) appeared to side with China over Japan. However, more than half of the respondents answered that ‘China will side with the North’ (Oct. 58.6%, Dec. 68.2%) if the ties between the two Koreas remain extremely tense in the future, indicating that there is still a strong perception that China is a close ally to North Korea as opposed to South Korea. Those who answered that ‘China will side with the South’ appeared to be 19.0% (Oct. 2013) and 16.7% (Dec. 2013), and those who answered that ‘China will remain neutral’ were less than 10%. On the other hand, in regards to the U.S.’s stance toward the tensions between South Korea and Japan, ‘the U.S. will side with South Korea’ was answered at 38.5%, and those who claimed that ‘the U.S. will side with Japan’ was 35.3%; also, ‘the U.S. will remain neutral’ was responded at 15.1%, making it harder to clearly determine the predominance regarding the presence of South Korea and Japan as allies to the U.S. (TNS Perspective, “Korea’s International Relations upon President Park’s First Anniversary, March 21, 2014)


3/22/14:
North Korea launched 30 short-range rockets into waters off its east coast early Saturday, South Korea’s military said, in what appeared to be its latest show of force against Seoul and Washington. North Korea fired three bursts of rockets between 4 a.m. and 6:10 a.m. from a coastal area near Wonsan, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It said the projectiles appeared to be FROG surface-to-surface rockets, noting that they are estimated to have flown around 60 kilometers. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Launches 30 Rockets into Waters Off Its East Coast,” Korea Times, March 22, 2014) North Korea did not give a warning to vessels in the region in advance like the previous launch, Seoul said. (Kim Hee-jin, “North Fires 46 Short-Range Rockets into the East Sea,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 24, 2014)


3/23/14:
North Korea fired 16 short-range rockets from its east coast for a second straight day, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, the latest in a series of provocative launches that are in apparent protest of ongoing joint military drills between Seoul and Washington. The North fired 30 FROG ground-to-ground rockets from the eastern city of Wonsan, the same test site, early yesterday, without making a pre-announcement for civilian flights or vessels. The North launched the same type of rockets over two times between 00:52 a.m. and 2:31 a.m. , which flew about 60 kilometers into the sea, according to the military. “The military has maintained vigilance against additional launches,” the JCS said. (Yonhap, N. Korea Launches Rockets for Second Straight Day,” March 23, 2014)

Amid rising military threats from North Korea, South Korea conducted its own missile test, successfully launching a newly developed ballistic missile capable of striking most of North Korea, its Ministry of National Defense said on April 4. The new missile, with a range of 310 miles and a payload of 2,200 pounds, was launched on March 23 from a test site in Taean, a coastal town 68 miles southwest of Seoul. “The test was successful,” Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, said during a media briefing. Kim declined to comment on when South Korea planned to deploy the new missile. But Yonhap quoted an unidentified government official as saying that the missile will be deployed next year. (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Tests Missile That Ca Target Most of North,” New York Times, April 5, 2014, p. A-5) The Ministry of National Defense said yesterday it fired the indigenously built missile from Taean on the coast of South Chungcheong and it accurately hit its intended target, which wasn’t specified. It added that South Korea plans to develop longer-range ballistic missile that can fly 800 kilometers. With a capacity to strike any part of North Korea, the newly developed ballistic missile with a payload of one ton trumps its precursor, the domestically developed Hyunmoo ballistic missile, which has a range of 300 kilometers and a 500-kilogram payload. “Because there is great danger in regards to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats as well as WMD (weapons of mass destruction), South Korea and the U.S. determined that there is a need for South Korea-made ballistic missiles with a reach of 800 kilometers,” said Kim. (Sarah Kim and Jeong Yong-su, “Seoul’s 500-Km. Missile Passes First Test,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 5, 2014)

President Park Geun-hye stressed in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the third Nuclear Security Summit this afternoon that the Korean Peninsula should be the starting point for the world to realize a goal of “no nuclear weapons.” “I believe that as long as North Korea remains a nuclear challenge, a world without nuclear weapons will not come,” she said during the address as the leader of the host country of the summit’s previous edition, which was held two years ago in Seoul. “And so it has been my long-held conviction that the journey toward a world without nuclear weapons should start from the Korean Peninsula. I look forward to working with everyone here to make that vision a reality.” Citing a recent report by an international research institute, President Park also noted in her speech the potential dangers posed by the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea. “North Korea’s Yongbyon is home to such a dense concentration of nuclear facilities that a fire in a single building could lead to a disaster potentially worse than Chernobyl, according to the report,” she said. “By any measure — whether non-proliferation, nuclear security or safety — North Korea’s nuclear programs are cause for enormous concern. The peace and security of the world demand no less than their dismantlement.” Park was apparently referring to the IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly in January. The report noted that North Korea’s decision to restart its 5 megawatt electric reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear scientific research complex threatens Northeast Asia with a disaster potentially worse than Chernobyl, citing two nuclear academics. However, some other experts later refuted the theory, arguing that the reactors in Yongbyon and Chernobyl are different in scale and structure. Her speech was immediately followed by a warning from North Korea. Pyongyang’s deputy United Nations Ambassador Ri Tong-il said at a news conference Monday in New York that as long as the United States continues “nuclear blackmail,” Pyongyang will continue to take “additional measures” to demonstrate the power of a defensive nuclear deterrent. Although Ri did not specify what the additional measures would be, he seemed to be suggesting a fourth nuclear weapons test. Ri also said the North’s nuclear weapons are not a “political bargaining chip.” (Seo Ji-eun, “Park Addresses Security Summit,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 26, 2014)

North Korea will take additional “nuclear measures” if the United States continues its current approach toward Pyongyang, the communist nation’s senior envoy here said.

Speaking at a news conference, Ri Tong-il, the North’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., warned his nation is set to demonstrate its nuclear capability. “We are ready to take a series of additional nuclear measures to demonstrate the power of the self-defensive nuclear deterrent,” he said. But Ri would not specify what those additional steps might be. “I think you can wait and see later,” he said, adding it is entirely up to Washington’s attitude down the road. He accused the Obama administration of deliberately continuing a hostile policy towards Pyongyang, citing the ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military drills as an example. He also took issue with Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent description of North Korea as an “evil” place. (Yonhap, “N.K.’s U.N. Envoy Threatens Further Nuclear Measures,” Yonhap, March 25, 2014) North Korea called on the U.S. to stop isolating it politically, militarily and economically, citing the totalitarian regime’s recent engagement with South Korea as proof of a commitment to relieving tensions. In dealings with neighboring countries starting last month, North Korea participated in the first high-level talks with South Korea since 2007, allowed family reunions between the two Koreas and made plans to hold talks next week with Japan for the first time since November 2012. “The DPRK did not hesitate to accept the request from South Korean authorities on holding the separated families’ reunion,” even though “in view of the harsh conditions of the political environment,” the situation “was not mature yet,” Ri Tong Il, a top North Korean diplomat at the United Nations, told reporters in New York. The U.S. must “roll back” its “hostile policies” and stop raising tensions through continued military drills with South Korea and orchestrating “conspiracies” on the North’s human rights situation, Ri said. (Sungwon Yoon, “N. Korea Citing Improved Ties with South Urges U.S. to Engage,” Bloomberg, March 24, 2014)

The South Korean Navy has beefed up the combat capabilities of its warships to counter rising threats from North Korea in the wake of a deadly torpedo attack that sank a corvette four years ago, military officials said. “Following the Cheonan incident, the South Korean Navy has deployed the advanced escort vessels and guided-missile high-speed ships and additionally acquired maritime patrol aircraft for improved combat capabilities,” R. Adm. Choi Yang-sun, who oversees the Navy’s weapons program, told reporters during his visit to the Second Fleet Headquarters in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul. In the past years, South Korea has armed its warships and submarines with cruise missiles that have a range of over 1,000 kilometer and additionally deployed 2,300-ton naval escort ships. About 20 more naval ships will replace the existing fleet of patrol ships in the next 10 years, while 15 guided-missile destroyers with advanced sonar systems capable of detecting submarines have been deployed in the east and western seas. In response, the North has increased the operations of its submarine fleets and the training of coastal artillery units, conducting amphibious landing operations targeting the South in the past years. Most recently, North Korea has been building a new high-speed, wave piercing craft called Very Slender Vessel (VSV), which Seoul officials believe is aimed at infiltrating the inter-Korean sea boundary to quickly occupy South Korean border islands in case of war. The communist state has already deployed about 70 air-cushion vehicles on its west coast and 60 of the amphibious vehicles in the east at its four hovercraft bases. Pyongyang has also put in place 200-ton new combatant ships with guns of longer ranges, while adding one or two submarine midgets every year to the fleet of 70 submarines. The need to strengthen naval capabilities has grown even larger in light of China’s increasing assertiveness and Japan’s military buildup. South Korea currently operates one naval task group with three Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyers. It plans to deploy three more 7,400-ton Aegis destroyers from 2023 to 2027. The defense reform plan for 2014-2030 calls for reorganizing naval task groups. Ahead of the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan, South Korea’s Navy on March 19 carried out a large-scale drill in waters off the Yellow Sea under a scenario in which a North Korean submarine crosses the maritime border. The 7,700-ton Aegis destroyer, King Sejong the Great, destroyers and patrol escort ship as well as seven other naval vessels and a Lynx helicopter participated in the exercise. (Kim Eun-jung, “S. Korea Strives in Naval Build-up Following Cheonan Sinking,” Yonhap, March 23, 2014)

President Park Geun-hye said that South Korea is open to studying various options to restart six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program if there is guarantee of real progress in the negotiations. Park made the remark during one-on-one talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in The Hague, just days after Beijing’s chief nuclear envoy returned from a visit to North Korea on a mission aimed at mediating the resumption of six-party talks on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Park’s remark may suggest that South Korea could soften its position that North Korea should first take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitment. “President Park said that various options can be studied with regard to dialogue resumption if there are guarantees that real progress can be made in denuclearization efforts and that North Korea will be prevented from advancing its nuclear capabilities,” her office said in a statement. (Chang Jae-soon, “Park: S. Korea Open to Various Options to Restart Six-Party Talks,” Yonhap, March 23, 2014)

Japan will announce today that it will turn over to Washington more than 700 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium and a large quantity of highly enriched uranium, a decades-old research stockpile that is large enough to build dozens of nuclear weapons, according to American and Japanese officials. The announcement is the biggest single success in President Obama’s five-year-long push to secure the world’s most dangerous materials, and will come as world leaders gather here for a nuclear security summit meeting. Japan’s agreement to transfer the material — the amount of highly enriched uranium has not been announced but is estimated at 450 pounds — has both practical and political significance. For years these stores of weapons-grade material were not a secret, but were lightly guarded at best; a reporter for the New York Times who visited the main storage site at Tokaimura in the early 1990s found unarmed guards and a site less-well protected than many banks. While security has improved, the stores have long been considered vulnerable. The nuclear fuel being turned over to the United States, which is of American and British origin, is a fraction of Japan’s overall stockpile of more than nine tons of plutonium stored in various locations. It is scheduled to open in the fall a new nuclear fuel plant that could produce many tons more every year. American officials have been quietly pressing Japan to abandon the program, arguing that the material is insufficiently protected even though much of it is in a form that would be significantly more difficult to use in a weapon than the supplies being sent to the United States. (Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger, “Japan to Let U.S. Assume Control of Nuclear Cache,” New York Times, March 24, 2014, p. A-1)

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru cruised to re-election in a snap contest supporters and critics criticized as a waste of time and taxpayer money. The voter turnout rate was a pathetic 23.59 percent — the city’s lowest ever. Combined with the tally for early voting, that means about a quarter of Osaka’s voters went to the polls, more than 30 points less than in the 2011 mayoral election. The snap election, called by Hashimoto in February after a city assembly committee refused to endorse his plan and timetable for integrating the city of Osaka with the prefecture, pitted the mayor and his Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) political group against three minor nonaligned candidates who opposed the merger plan. (Eric Johnston, “Hashimoto Wins Snap Mayoral Election amind Record Low 23.6% Turnout,” Japan Times, March 23, 2014)

The political and historical war of words between Japan and South Korea has found another battleground: the United States. One of the first volleys in the battle for America’s sympathies was played out in a park in New Jersey in 2010, where Korean-Americans in Palisades Park won the right to install a plaque memorializing “comfort women,” many of them Korean, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II. Since then, more Korean communities — sometimes backed by activists and even diplomats from South Korea — have begun their own campaigns either to acknowledge the suffering of the comfort women or, more recently, to win recognition for the country’s arguments that a nearby sea should not automatically be named after Japan, its onetime colonial ruler. Legislators in Virginia passed a bill this month requiring books mentioning the Sea of Japan to also use its Korean name, the East Sea. New York is considering a similar measure. The ambassadors of South Korea and Japan visited the governor of Virginia in January to press their countries’ cases. Japan also hired four lobbyists to argue that the name change was unnecessary. “There is not one tenured professor on the East Coast who has not been contacted” by one or both of the countries, said Jonathan Berkshire Miller, chairman of the Japan-Korea Working Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Pacific Forum in Honolulu. (Martin Fackler, “U.S. Emerges As Central Stage in Asian Rivalry,” New York Times, March 23, 2014, p. 13)


3/24/14:
South and North Korea should pour continued efforts into national unification without being swayed by changes in cross-border relations, Seoul’s unification minister said. “We need to strive to improve the inter-Korean relations, but it is wrong if it causes our discussions for the reunification to be neglected,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said during a meeting of the Central Association for National Unification of Korea in Seoul. “Better inter-Korean ties do not always guarantee national reunification … and for decades, we’ve paid little attention to the crucial and comprehensive issue of unification,” he pointed out, stressing it should be “a main, regular issue on the table.” (Yonhap, “Unification Efforts Should Not Be Swayed by Inter-Korean Ties: Minister,” March 24, 2014)

The building that has served as North Korea’s de facto embassy in Tokyo is expected to be handed over to a real estate agent after years of wrangling over its sale, a move likely to deal a severe blow to operations of the pro-Pyongyang Chongryon that has occupied the property. The Tokyo District Court gave permission today for the Tokyo headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, better known as Chongryon, to be sold to Kagawa-based real estate developer Marunaka Holdings Co. for ¥2.21 billion. While Chongryon has already appealed today’s court decision, a public safety agency source said the group presumably has an exit strategy and the court action is probably a step to buy time until its May general assembly. “The Chongryon head office is a de facto embassy. If you are going to force us out, we have no choice but to harden our attitude,” a Chongryon executive said following the court’s approval of the sale of the property to Marunaka Holdings, the runner-up that emerged as the buyer after the top bidder was disqualified for a second time. (Kyodo, “Pro-North Korean Group Waging Last-Ditch Fight over De Facto Embassy in Japan,” Japan Times, March 25, 2014)


3/25/14:
The south Korean puppet military group Monday [March 24]committed such hideous provocations as firing bullets and shells from the five islands and in their vicinity in the West Sea of Korea including Paekryong Island and Taeyonphyong Island and scattering leaflets hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership and the social system in the DPRK. The Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea in its information bulletin 1058 issued [today] said that such reckless actions of the puppet military gangsters can never be tolerated as they are a very serious case pushing the north-south relations to an uncontrollable catastrophe. The above-said leaflets-scattering operation carried out on the five islands and in their vicinity in the West Sea of Korea, the biggest hotspots, is an extremely reckless action that can be perpetrated only by the puppet military hooligans steeped in confrontation hysteria to the marrow of their bones, the bulletin noted, and continued: With no rhetoric can the south Korean authorities justify the hideous provocative act of hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership and the social system in the DPRK committed by the puppet military group. The south Korean chief executive had better put under control something serious happening inside south Korea, not resorting to the charade of misleading the public opinion at home and abroad by creating impression that she is interested in the improvement of the inter-Korean relations with such words as ‘confidence’ and ‘unification.’ The reality goes to clearly prove that there can be neither improved inter-Korean relations nor peace on the Korean peninsula as long as the diehard military gangsters are allowed to dare hurt the inviolable dignity of our supreme leadership. Our army and people will never pardon even the slightest act of hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership and the social system in the DPRK but deal merciless sledge-hammer blows at its perpetrators. The provocateurs will be held entirely accountable for the disastrous consequences caused to the inter-Korean relations in the future.” (KCNA, “S. Korean Authorities Accused of Scattering Leaflets Hurting Dignity of Supreme Leadership of DPRK,” March 25, 2014)

The leaders of the U.S. and China differed over the resumption of the long-stalled multilateral talks on North Korea’s denuclearization despite their shared opposition to Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear arms. During their meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, U.S. President Barack Obama remained cautious about reopening the talks when Pyongyang shows no willingness to abandon its nuclear programs. Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed hope that the aid-for-denuclearization talks could resume at an early date. “Any discussions or dialogue among the six parties around the situation in North Korea needs to be based upon actions taken by North Korea, which has not yet demonstrated its willingness to come to the table seriously,” Ben Rhodes, deputy U.S. national security adviser, told reporters after the bilateral summit. Obama also stressed the need for close coordination in sending a clear message that there should be denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, according to the White House official. Rhodes also told reporters that Obama spoke of the need for the two global leaders to continue to insist that Pyongyang abide by its obligations and change its course toward nuclear armament. During his talks with President Park on March 23, Xi said that Beijing had been trying to persuade Pyongyang to come to the negotiating table and guide it in the way the international community wants it to go. Apart from the North Korea issue, the two leaders also discussed ways to promote mutual cooperation over various bilateral and global issues including climate change and developments on the Crimean Peninsula. “I think it is fair to say that this bilateral relationship has been as important as any bilateral relationship in the world, and we’ve made great strides,” said Obama before the summit began. “I believe ultimately that by working together, that China and the U.S. can help to strengthen international law, respect for the sovereignty of nations, and establish the kinds of rules internationally that allow all people to thrive.” Xi, in return, said that China was committed to its position of “no confrontation, no conflict, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation” with the U.S. “We will adopt a more positive attitude and more vigorous actions to strengthen cooperation with the U.S., and also to effectively manage our differences and sensitivities and make sure the China-U.S. relationship will continue to move forward in a healthy and steady fashion,” said Xi. (Song Sang-ho, “Obama, Xi Differ over Resuming Six-Partyt Talks,” Korea Herald, March 25, 2014)

The leaders of South Korea, the United States and Japan stressed the importance of trilateral unity in dealing with North Korea, as they sat together on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. “The North Korean nuclear issue poses a grave threat to regional peace and stability and I think it is very important for the international community, including South Korea, the United States and Japan, to fashion a united response,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye said at the start of talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Park added it is meaningful itself for the three leaders to meet and discuss the North Korean nuclear issue. Should Pyongyang take steps toward denuclearization, it will also help resolve the hardships of the North Korean people, she said. Obama agreed to the need to continue close coordination among the three regional powers, saying it has succeeded in “changing the game” with North Korea. It has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response and that the U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan is unwavering, and that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable, he added. In particular, Obama said he expects discussions on specific steps to deepen tripartite cooperation both diplomatically and militarily. “That includes joint exercises and on missile defense,” Obama said. The Japanese prime minister said it’s “extremely important” to continue close trilateral partnerships on the North Korea issue. “The three countries would like to cooperate so that North Korea will be able to take a positive stance with regard to nuclear and missile issues and also humanitarian issues, such as the separated families of the Republic of Korea,” he said. The meeting was set up after Abe promised earlier this month to honor Japan’s two previous apologies for the colonial rule — known as the “Kono Statement” and the “Murayama Statement.” Park welcomed the pledge, saying she hopes it will lead to better ties between the two countries. On March 24, however, a special adviser to Abe, Koichi Hagiuda, angered South Korea again by suggesting that Japan replace the “Kono statement” with a new one if it finds any new evidence on the sexual slavery. Seoul denounced the remark as “very inappropriate” and “very regrettable.” Japan’s government said March 25 the country remains committed to upholding the 1993 statement. (Chang Jae-soon, “Park Calls for United Response to N. Korean Nuclear Issue,” Yonhap, March 26, 2014)

China for the first time will likely have subs equipped with long-range nuclear missiles later this year, part of an increasingly potent submarine fleet. The head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said the latest class of Chinese subs would be armed with a new ballistic missile with an estimated range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,500 kilometers). “This will give China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, probably before the end of 2014,” Locklear told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Locklear was referring to the production of China’s JIN-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine and the new JL-2 missile on board the vessel. “China’s advance in submarine capabilities is significant. They possess a large and increasingly capable submarine force,” the admiral said. In October, Chinese state media for the first time showed images of the country’s nuclear-powered submarines, touting it as a “credible second-strike nuclear capability.” Locklear said China’s submarine modernization effort was impressive. “I think they’ll have in the next decade or so a fairly well modernized force of probably 60 to 70 submarines which is a lot of submarines for a regional power,” he said. (AFP, “China to Have Nuclear Missiles on Subs Soon: U.S. Admiral,” March 25, 2014)


3/26/14:
North Korea test-fired two Nodong ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast as the leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan held a summit in the Netherlands to pressure Pyongyang to denuclearize. Seoul condemned the launch as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and vowed to take countermeasures against the latest “provocations.” North Korea fired the midrange missiles — one at 2:35 a.m. and the other at 2:42 a.m.– from the Sukchon region, north of Pyongyang, which flew about 650 kilometers before dropping into the East Sea, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in an emergency briefing. “North Korea’s ballistic missile launch clearly violates U.N. Security Resolutions and is a grave provocation to Republic of Korea (South) and the international community,” Kim said. The trajectory indicated that the missiles were of the Nodong class, as they flew over at altitudes of more than 160 km and with a top speed of over Mach 7.0, the spokesman noted. The foreign ministry said the “government will begin to take countermeasures against the North’s latest provocations through close collaboration with allies and the United Nations Security Council.” The foreign ministry also denounced the ballistic missile launches as grave threats to international navigation activities and civilian safety, warning the North against further provocative actions. “The missile launch constitutes provocations that violate the UNSC resolutions and add tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the Northeast Asian region,” the ministry said in a statement. “The government calls on the North to immediately halt such provocations and fully comply with its obligations and promises with the international community.” The missiles, which were fired without a preannouncement, fell within 10 km of Japan’s air defense identification zone, a senior military official said, citing analysis of their trajectory. “Although there were no airplanes flying near the trajectory of the missiles before and after the launch, launching missiles without declaring a no-fly, no-sail zone is a violation of the international regulations,” the official said. (Kim Eun-jung, “N. Korea Fires Two Ballistic Missiles into Sea,” Yonhap, March 26, 2014) North Korea’s firing of two ballistic missiles early yesterday morning was a protest against a three-way summit between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan in The Hague that affirmed a united front against Pyongyang, pundits believe. The missiles were fired at the same time that the summit was taking place. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korean Missiles Were Protest at 3-Way Summit,” March 27, 2014) North Korea’s test-firing of two midrange Rodong ballistic missiles on March 26 seems to have been aimed at testing if its midrange ones could target South Korea by skirting South Korean and U.S. interception systems, military sources here said. Though the missiles have an estimated range of 1,000 kilometers to 1,500 km, those in March flew about 650 km before dropping into the East Sea. “North Korea fired the Rodong missiles at a higher than usual launch angle in order to shorten their maximum range,” a senior military officer here said, requesting anonymity. Though Rodong-class missiles mostly target American bases in Japan, while parts of China and Russia are within their range, shooting them in the way that was adopted in March could cause them to hit South Korea. “By carrying out such a test, North Korea appears to have come up with a way not to be caught by either the South Korean or American missile interception system when launching an attack against South Korea with its midrange missiles,” he added. “At that time, the Rodong missiles flew at altitudes of more than 160 kilometers and with a top speed of over Mach 7.0. In that case, it is not easy for Patriot PAC-3 missiles to shoot them down,” Seoul’s defense ministry spokesman said at a regular briefing. South Korea now has a missile interception system with Patriot PAC-2 missiles, and the U.S. Forces Korea employs PAC-3 missiles. Both PAC-2 and PAC-3 missiles target Scud short-range missiles with a range of up to 500 kilometers. They also can intercept missiles at an altitude of under 40 kilometers. “That’s why we have been developing our own long-range surface-to-air missiles (L-SAM) with our indigenous technology,” the spokesman said, reaffirming the government’s earlier stance that it will not buy the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery. THAAD, which can shoot down missiles at an altitude of up to 150 kilometers, is an integral part of the U.S.-led missile defense (MD), and South Korea has said it will not join the air defense system that Japan takes part in and aims to counter a rising China in the region. (Yonhap, “N.K.’s March Missile Test Aimed at Evading Interceptor Systems: Sources,” June 19, 2014) The missiles North Korea test-fired into the East Sea this year ascended to an altitude of 130 to 150 km, and some were fired to a higher altitude to reduce their range, according to data. Saenuri Party lawmaker Yoo Seung-min revealed military data on the range on November 4, 2014, altitude, maximum speed and flight time of the 13 ballistic missiles the North test-fired from February to July. They show that a Rodong missile fired from Sukchon, South Pyongan Province on March 26 ascended to an altitude of 150 km and flew a distance of 650 km in seven minutes and 30 seconds at a top speed of Mach 8. That means it could strike any target in South Korea within seven minutes. Most of the Scud missiles the North fired flew 500 km at an altitude of 130 km. But a Scud fired from Wonsan, Kangwon Province on February 27 flew a shorter distance of 250 km at a higher altitude of 150 km. Yoo said South Korea currently lacks the means to intercept incoming Scud or Rodong missiles, but the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system is designed to intercept missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km. “We should deploy at least three THAAD batteries since the PAC-3 missiles the government is going to purchase can only intercept missiles at a low altitude,” he added. Defense Minister Han Min-koo agreed with Yoo’s assessment of the PAC-3 missiles but denied there are plans to deploy THAAD batteries. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea’s Missile Tests Analyzed,” November 4, 2014)

Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) spokesman Wednesday [March 26] gave the following answer to a question put by KCNA “blasting Park Geun Hye of south Korea for making provocative remarks for no reason over the DPRK’s nuclear issue at the 3rd ‘nuclear security summit’ held in Netherlands: Recently Park let loose a string of very reckless remarks against the DPRK, groundlessly accusing it over its nuclear issue at the summit. Though she is a faithful servant and stooge of the U.S., she should have properly wagged her tongue on the basis of hard facts or elementary common sense. Had she had the idea of uttering even a proper word at the summit, she should have chided the U.S., among others, for being the first to produce nuclear weapons, proliferating them, bringing horrible nuclear disasters to humankind and stockpiling more nukes than any other countries in the world to pose constant nuclear threat still now. As far as the instability of nuclear facilities is concerned, she should have mentioned, first of all, nuclear power plants in south Korea which had to stop operations due to troubles many times in a year and sparked rows over the leakage of contaminated nuclear substance and horrible disasters at nuclear power plants in Japan and the U.S. Funny enough, Park, a U.S. nuclear war servant, talked about a ‘world without nuclear weapons,’ parroting what her master uttered. But great irony was that she asserted the building of such world should start from the “north’s dismantlement” of its nukes. This either betrayed the lack of her knowledge about where to start or where to end or revealed that she had the same ulterior motive as the U.S.’s. This time Park took issue even with the DPRK’s line of developing the two fronts simultaneously, groundlessly finding fault with its nukes. By doing so, she crudely violated the agreement made at the north-south high-level contact on halting the smear campaign. Does she have the face to talk about ‘confidence and ‘sincerity’? The north-south agreement is neither an ‘election commitment’ on which the south Korean rulers are apt to renege anytime nor an empty promise which the philistines used to fail to keep. If Park truly wants to improve the inter-Korean relations, she should be careful about what she says, and have discretion and reason to get a habit of refraining from making reckless remarks. She made a serious blunder. Explicitly speaking about the nuclear issue, there may be the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula but no ‘north’s unilateral denuclearization’ under any circumstances. She had better not have even a dream about it. The ‘world without nuclear weapons’ is, of course, a good thing but she should cogitate again about what should be its starting point and have the courage to say what she would like to talk to her American master who produced nuclear weapons first and poses the biggest nuclear threat to the world. Only then is it possible to find a right way of solving the nuclear issue.’ We will keep a watch on Park’s undesirable behavior.” (KCNA, “CPRK Denounces Park Guen Hye’s Provocative Remarks over Nuclear Issue,” March 27, 2014)

Frank Jannuzi: “This week in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has an opportunity to do something important when it considers how to respond to the 372-page report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (COI). As Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty has written, “A strong resolution needs to be adopted sending a clear message…that the Commission’s recommendations will be acted upon and not kicked into the diplomatic long-grass.” Avoiding the long grass will require some creative leadership by members of the HRC and the UN Security Council (UNSC). For more than 20 years, the international community has struggled to rein-in the nuclear ambitions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), while largely turning a blind eye to the root causes of the suffering of the North Korean people. …But that excuse for inaction no longer exists. In a report as remarkable for its lack of hyperbolic language as for its stunning conclusions, the COI has documented a litany of human rights abuses inside the DPRK, including torture, rape, execution and mass incarceration of prisoners of conscience under horrifying conditions. …The COI found that crimes against humanity have likely been committed by North Korea, and it has written to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warning him that senior officials may be held responsible. So now the question is no longer whether the North Korean government is responsible for systematic violations of human rights. The question is what realistically can be done about it. Ideally the United Nations will rally and take action to address the concerns raised by the COI report. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, put it this way: “[The Commission of Inquiry] has published a historic report, which sheds light on violations of a terrifying scale, the gravity and nature of which—in the report’s own words—do not have any parallel in the contemporary world. There can no longer be any excuses for inaction.” … The members of the HRC should seize this opportunity and use their power and influence to coax a reluctant UNSC into action. The United Nations should publicly and privately urge the North Korean government to act on the Commission’s findings, and it should be prepared to devote its own resources and expertise to support initiatives that will promote greater respect for human rights inside the DPRK. Unfortunately, all of the early indications are that mobilizing the UN Security Council and persuading the DPRK to listen to its admonitions won’t be easy. With China, Russia and Cuba back on the HRC, getting a strong consensus for the first step—submission of North Korea’s human rights situation to the UNSC—is not a given. And assuming the Security Council does take up the matter, China is almost certain to block the most serious possible outcome—referral to the International Criminal Court for investigation of crimes against humanity. Even getting a strongly worded statement out of the UNSC, much less a binding resolution, will be a challenge given China’s posture. At best, the HRC and the UNSC seem poised to shine an unwelcome spotlight on North Korea’s human rights record and to approve continued modest efforts to collect evidence of crimes against humanity that could be used in the future. But “naming and shaming” alone will not positively influence the North’s behavior, and for now, the prospects for any sort of justice/accountability mechanism are remote. The DPRK’s state-run news media KCNA wasted no time in denouncing the UN report as libel based on fake evidence manufactured by the United States and other hostile forces. “The DPRK [North Korea] once again makes it clear that the ‘human rights violations’ mentioned in the so-called ‘report’ do not exist in our country.” Later, KCNA personalized its attack, condemning Michael Kirby, the distinguished Australian judge who led the COI, saying his mission was “…to manipulate ‘evidence’ on the orders of Washington, lie about (North) Korea and oppose the republic under an international alliance that is controlled by the United States.” Shaming alone also is unlikely to convince North Korea’s “enablers”—especially China—to change their behavior. No country has more influence over the path of the DPRK than does China (although foreigners often exaggerate that influence, wrongly believing that Beijing can dictate policy to Pyongyang). But China has made plain its contempt for the COI, which probably would never have been brought into being by the HRC in the first place had China not rotated off the Council in 2013. Speaking in Geneva last week, Chen Chuandong, a counselor at China’s UN mission, said the COI had made “unfounded accusations.” Dismissing the Commission’s findings, he said, “The inability of the commission to get support and cooperation from the country concerned [DPRK] makes it impossible for the commission to carry out its mandate in an impartial, objective and effective manner.” …Given the DPRK’s refusal to cooperate with the COI, and assuming China intervenes to prevent the UNSC from referring the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, what can the international community do that might begin to fulfill its “responsibility to protect” those suffering inside the DPRK? Some will call for more sanctions and pressure. One can easily envision the talking points from Washington. A senior government spokesman will solemnly declare: “North Korea has a strategic choice to make…it can choose the path of denuclearization and respect for international norms, or it will find itself increasingly isolated from the global community.” This mind-numbing mantra—a policy of “strategic patience” thinly masking the symptoms of diplomatic sclerosis—will not do diddly-squat to help the North Korean people. The daily tragedy of life inside the DPRK will almost certainly continue unless the international community becomes more creative and much more committed to a sustained process of principled, comprehensive, top-to-bottom multilateral engagement. There are a few modest steps that could be taken in response to the COI’s report that might actually work over time to improve human rights conditions for the North Korean people, including those living outside the DPRK. For instance:

  • The United States and the European Union, working with like-minded countries, should quietly press China to immediately cease the unlawful practice of forcibly returning North Korean refugees to a country where they face persecution, torture and death. Consistent with its international obligations, China should be called upon to allow North Koreans to peacefully transit China or depart China for South Korea or other safe haven.
  • The United States should back South Korea’s play to expand exchanges with the DPRK, to include family reunification visits and cultural and educational visits.
  • The United States should back South Korea’s Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), endorsing Track II engagement on less sensitive issues such as public health, the environment and food security.
  • The effective US visa ban on visitors from the DPRK should end, and large-scale people-to-people initiatives—such as the long-delayed reciprocal visit to the United States by the national symphony of the DPRK—should be encouraged rather than blocked.
  • The United States and like-minded countries should invest heavily in internet freedom and other means to increase the ability of the North Korean people to access reliable information online or over their cell phones. With broad backing by a coalition of religious groups, civil society organizations and human rights advocates, including Amnesty International, USA, the US Congress recently made a down payment on this approach by requiring the US Broadcasting Board of Governors to spend not less than $25 million in FY 2014 on research and deployment of internet censorship evasion technologies.
  • The World Food Programme, in partnership with other UN agencies, private international aid organizations and the Red Cross, should resume carefully monitored food aid deliveries to the DPRK, with an emphasis on trying to reach some of the estimated 120,000 men, women and children incarcerated in the North’s prisons.

Longer-term, a Helsinki-style multilateral initiative offers the best hope of creating an environment in Northeast Asia conducive to peace and security and respect for human rights. Attempting to isolate the DPRK has not worked, and isolation will not help create the conditions necessary for those responsible for crimes against humanity to eventually be brought to justice. More sanctions—piled on top of some of the most comprehensive sanctions ever imposed on a country—are unlikely to bring about an epiphany in the thinking of North Korea’s leaders when it comes to human rights. Only pressure from within—brought by a generation of North Koreans who have more contact with the outside world and a deeper understanding of the failure of their own government to deliver justice and development to the people—is likely to convince the leaders of the DPRK to change course and begin to change the conditions now chronicled for all the world to see.” (Frank Jannuzi, “Engage, Just Don’t ‘Name and Shame,” 38North, March 26, 2014)


3/27/14:
Members of the U.N. Security Council condemned North Korea’s Nodong ballistic missile launch one day ago as a violation of U.N. resolutions and will continue discussions on an “appropriate response,” said Luxembourg’s U.N. Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, president of the 15-nation Security Council for the month of March, after a closed-door meeting on North Korea requested by the United States. “Members of the Security Council condemned this launch as a violation of Security Council resolution(s),” she said. “Council members agreed to consult on an appropriate response.” “There was unanimous condemnation of the launches,” Lucas told reporters, adding that, “We also all agreed that this response should be given quickly.” Several council diplomats said negotiations on possible council action would likely continue into next week. There is a possibility, the diplomats said, of the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee expanding the current U.N. blacklist to include additional North Korean entities involved in Pyongyang’s missile program. But they said it could take weeks to reach agreement. “That (expanding the blacklist) would be an appropriate response by the council,” a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “The first step will be some kind of more formal statement condemning the launch.” The ability of the council to take such steps will depend on China, a veto-wielding council member and North Korea’s traditional ally and most significant trading partner. Beijing issued a muted response to the North Korean launch. “In the present situation, all sides ought to dedicate themselves to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing today. During the closed-door council session in New York, Beijing’s delegation reiterated that the Chinese wanted de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula and to resume stalled six-party aid-for-disarmament talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, a Western diplomat said. The diplomat, who was inside the closed-door meeting, said China’s delegation also made clear that any council response to North Korea should be proportional to Pyongyang’s actions. (Louis Charbonneau, “U.N. Security Council Members Condemn North Korea Missile Launch,” Reuters, March 27, 2014)

The Navy seized a North Korean fishing boat this evening after it intruded into southern waters across the West Sea maritime border. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the boat crossed over the Northern Limit Line (NLL) at around 5.26 p.m. and moved about 1.8 kilometers into South Korean waters near Baengyeong Island. A naval ship seized the boat at around 8 p.m. after it refused to retreat despite warning shots. ” The boat was boarded and captured. We had to move in because weather conditions were worsening and we needed to ensure the safety of the North Korean crew,’’ the JCS said.

”The crew will be questioned as to why they crossed the NLL.” The JCS then warned that should the North use the seizure as an excuse to provoke the South, its forces will respond in a resolute manner. (Kim Tong-hyung, “North Korean Fishing Boat Seized near Maritime Border,” Korea Times, March 27, 2014)


3/28/14:
DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman “blasting the U.S. for disclosing its attempt to intensify military provocations disturbing peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity: The U.S. president at a recent summit of the U.S., Japan and south Korea held in Hague openly justified the on-going joint military exercises, disclosing his provocative intention to further intensify them. The danger of a war on the Korean peninsula is increasing obviously due to the U.S. massive introduction of aggression forces and destructive weapons and its ceaseless madcap maneuvers for a nuclear war. It is a vicious strategic scenario of the U.S. to bar detente on the Korean peninsula created thanks to our sincere efforts and prevent the inter-Korean relations from being mended through such military provocations in a bid to deliberately escalate tensions and invent a pretext for arms buildup in the Asia-Pacific region. The joint military exercises for aggression staged by the U.S. in south Korea and in its vicinity with nuclear war hardware involved several times every year are, indeed, the most vivid expression of its hostile policy toward the DPRK. Facts go to prove that a series of commitments made by the U.S. that it has no hostile intent toward the DPRK are a sheer lie. The U.S. had better fulfill its commitments, not taking issue with others for no reason. The U.S. is describing its joint military exercises aimed at ‘occupying Pyongyang’ in other country as ‘defensive’ and ‘regular ones’ while terming regular drills of the DPRK army in its land ‘provocations.’ This is not workable on anyone. The U.S. insistence on such logic would only compel the DPRK to develop all its steps for bolstering up its war deterrent and demonstrating it into more annual and regular processes.” (KCNA, “DPRK Will Bolster up War Deterrent: Spokesman,” March 28, 2014)

General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) spokesman gave the following answer to a question raised by KCNA [today] in connection with the fact that a speed boat flotilla belonging to the second fleet of the south Korean navy illegally intruded into the waters of the DPRK side in the West Sea of Korea and forcibly seized a peaceable fishing boat of the DPRK on Thursday night: “22 HP fishing boat ‘539-52456’ belonging to the Ongjin Fishery Station lost its route due to engine breakdown when it was engaged in regular fishing in the waters near Mahap Islet in Ongjin County on [last] night. As there was thick sea fog, sailors of the boat dropped an anchor and was judging direction with a compass. Suddenly unidentified warships appeared and encircled the fishing boat, firing more than 50 bullets. Speed boats belonging to the second fleet of the south Korean navy crossed the maritime military demarcation line and intruded into the territorial waters of our side all of a sudden. The gangsters stormed the fishing boat that had its engine barely repaired, beat our sailors with iron sticks, making them fall in a faint. Then they shackled and blindfolded the sailors and began taking the boat to Paekryong Island. What matters is that the gangsters threw an iron hook at the peaceable boat that went adrift after losing its route and seized the boat by force although its sailors stated that they did not want to surrender. Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff of south Korea formally admitted in an official notice sent to the DPRK that the boat was a peaceable fishing boat and normal navigation was not possible due to an engine trouble and that the sailors had no idea of submission. However, the gangsters of the south Korean navy separated our sailors and forced submission upon them with guns leveled at them on the island. The KPA General Staff sized up the situation and sent an emergency warning notice through the north-south military hotline on the west coast at 22:20 [yesterday], urging the Joint Chiefs of Staff of south Korea to immediately send back the fishing boat and warning that in case the return of the boat is delayed, that will entail unpredictable consequences. It, at the same time, took a military countermeasure of immediately dispatching patrol ships of the KPA to the waters where the incident occurred. Much upset by this, the group of gangsters belonging to the second fleet of the south Korean navy told lies and made excuses that our fishing boat ‘illegally crossed the northern limit line’ and that they seized the boat because it did not respond to several warnings. It was compelled to hurriedly notify the KPA of the time and place of handover. As a result, at 01:28 [today], our sailors could come back to the motherland aboard the fishing boat. The sailors have not yet come back to their senses but are still in coma due to the shuddering barbaric atrocities committed by the gangsters who forced submission on them. The DPRK side will take various measures to prevent abnormal incidents from happening to all fishing boats engaged in fishing in sensitive waters. But we will never overlook the inhumane and monstrous atrocities committed by the south Korean military warmongers by forcibly seizing the fishing boat and committing gangster-like crimes against its crew. The KPA will certainly force the group of gangsters of the south Korean navy to pay a dear price for their shuddering atrocities.” (KCNA, “KPA Will Never Pardon Gangsterism of S. Korean Military Warmongers: Spokesman,” March 28, 2014)

The north-south relations have been driven into a catastrophic phase again due to the south Korean authorities’ frantic scattering of anti-DPRK leaflets. The spokesman for the north side’s delegation to the north-south high-level contact issued a statement revealing its gravity [March 28]. It says: “The south Korean authorities headed by Park Geun Hye dared take issue with the nuclear issue of their fellow countrymen outside Korea. Inside south Korea they are busy openly encouraging the operation to scatter leaflets against fellow countrymen and smear campaign against them. The ceaseless leaflet scattering operation in south Korea is an open breach of the valuable agreement reached between the north and the south and the most serious act of treachery that can never be pardoned. The north and the south reached a historic agreement at the high-level contact on February 14 in which they solemnly stated to the nation that they would refrain from slandering each other. But the situation is quite contrary to our expectation. It is because the pledge which south Korea made upon authorization of Park Geun Hye turned out to be a smokescreen to cover up the leaflet scattering operation that was carried out at the connivance of the authorities and the smear campaign against the north that has gone beyond the tolerance limit. We cannot but query is it Park’s style negotiating tactics to produce a honeyed agreement in a bid to attain her goal and is it her special skill for ‘confidence-building’ as she is unhesitatingly reneging on the agreement under such absurd pretexts as ‘nature of social system’ and ‘freedom of speech.’ The leaflet scattering operation and smear campaign against the DPRK going beyond the tolerance limit are undisguised acts of declaring a war against the DPRK. Park named the leaflet scattering against the DPRK a ‘balloon operation’ and is making sure that a military posture is taken to cope with the possible counterattack of the DPRK. In the long run, this tells that she is aware that a leaflet scattering operation conducted under the signboard of ‘balloon operation’ is a dangerous source of a military retaliation. We have long regarded the leaflet scattering by the south side as a declaration of a war and papers for sentencing death to human scum who orchestrated the leaflet scattering operations. Does she really want to see such leaflets becoming a source of war for reducing the base of provocations to ashes? She should bear in mind that now is the time to make a choice herself. The more desperately Park is hurling bêtes noires and conservative media into the smear campaign against fellow countrymen, the deeper she will find herself in an inescapable quagmire. Those who go frantic with the anti-DPRK leaflet scattering and smear campaign against compatriots going against the trend of the times can never be called human beings with normal way of thinking and fair media persons. All of them are without exception bêtes noires disqualified to be members of the nation and top class criminals who will not be able to live in the peaceful and stable reunified country. The more zealously Pak harbors betesnoires, the worse smell she will feel. In the long run, she will earn the ill fame of being an owner of huge dumping ground. Ethics and morality are more important than politics. A politician should be more human than any others and pursue justice and truth. Otherwise she will consider the presidential chair as a commanding tower for smear campaign and make no scruple of throwing the nation into an abyss of misfortune by misusing it. If the south Korean authorities are to have an elementary face to appear before the DPRK side, they should properly implement the north-south agreement, to begin with. All compatriots are closely watching the moves of the south Korean authorities.” (KCNA, “Spokesman for N. Side’s Delegation to N-S High-Level Contact Blasts S. Korea’s Scattering of Anti-DPRK Leaflets,” March 29, 2014)

President Park: “It pained me to see a recent footage of North Korean boys and girls in the foreign media. Children who lost their parents in the midst of economic distress were left neglected out in the cold, struggling from hunger. Even as we speak, there are North Koreans who are risking their lives to cross the border in search of freedom and happiness. The agony inflicted by division is also captured by the plight of countless people who were separated from their families during the war and who have ever since been yearning to see their loved ones without even knowing whether they were still alive. Just as the German people secured freedom, prosperity and peace by tearing down the Berlin Wall, we too, must tear down barriers in our march toward a new future on the Korean Peninsula. Today, a ‘wall of military confrontation’ runs through the center of the Peninsula. A ‘wall of distrust’ has also been erected during the war and the ensuing decades of hostility. Formidable still is a ‘socio-cultural wall’ that divides southerners and northeners who have long lived under vastly different ideologies and systems in terms of how they think and live. Then there is a ‘wall of isolation’ imposed by North Korea’s nuclear program, cutting North Korea off from the community of nations. All of these curtains must be swept away if we are to unite the Korean Peninsula. And in their place we must build a ‘new kind of Korean Peninsula:’ a peninsula free of nuclear weapons, free from the fear of war, and free to enjoy life, peace and prosperity. I harbor no illusions that these tremendous barriers could be torn down with ease. But the future belongs to those who believe in their dreams and act on them. To make today’s dream of peaceful unification tomorrow’s reality, we must begin meticulous preparations now. Nor do I believe that a nation is made whole again simply by virtue of a reconnected territory or the institution of a single system. It is when those in the south and the north can understand each other and can get along as people of the same nation, that the Korean Peninsula can truly experience renewal as one. In my view, Germany was able to overcome the after-shocks of unification fairly quickly and achieve the level of integration we see today because of the sustained people-to-people interaction that took place prior to unification. Now more than ever, South and North Korea must broaden their exchange and cooperation. What we need is not one-off or promotional events, but the kind of interaction and cooperation that enables ordinary South Koreans and North Koreans to recover a sense of common identity as they help each other out. And so I hereby present three proposals to North Korean authorities in the hope of laying the groundwork for peaceful unification. First, we must take up the agenda for humanity — the concerns of everyday people. For a start, we must help ease the agony of separated families. It makes little sense to talk about solidarity as one nation, when members of the same family are refused their god-given right to live together. It has been 70 long years. Last year alone, some three thousand eight hundred people who have yearned a lifetime just to be able to hold their sons’ and daughters’ hands — just to know whether they’re alive — passed away with their unfulfilled dreams. I am sure the same is true of their fellow family members in North Korea. Allowing reunions should also give family members in North Korea solace. In order to address problems arising from family separations, East and West Germany permitted family visits in both directions and steadily promoted exchanges. It is about time South and North Korea allow family reunions to take place regularly so we could ease their anguish and build trust in doing so. We will reach out to North Korea to discuss concrete ways to achieve this and engage in necessary consultations with international bodies like the International Committee of the Red Cross. Going forward, the Republic of Korea will expand humanitarian assistance to ordinary North Koreans. The Korean Government will work with the United Nations to implement a program to provide health care support for pregnant mothers and infants in North Korea through their first 1,000 days. Furthermore, we will provide assistance for North Korean children so they could grow up to become healthy partners in our journey toward a unified future. Second, we must pursue together an agenda for co-prosperity through the building of infrastructure that support the livelihood of people. South and North Korea should collaborate to set up multi-farming complexes that support agriculture, livestock and forestry in areas in the north suffering from backward production and deforestation. Working together from sowing to harvesting will enable South and North Korea not just to share the fruits of our labor, but also our hearts. As the bonds of trust begin to burgeon between the two sides, we can start to look at larger forms of development cooperation. To help make life less uncomfortable for ordinary North Koreans, Korea could invest in infrastructure-building projects where possible, such as in transportation and telecommunication. Should North Korea allow South Korea to develop its natural resources, the benefits would accrue to both halves of the peninsula. This would organically combine South Korean capital and technology with North Korean resources and labor and redound to the eventual formation of an economic community on the Korean Peninsula. In tandem with trilateral projects among the two Koreas and Russia, including the Rajin-Khasan joint project currently in the works, we will push forward collaborative projects involving both Koreas and China centered on the North Korean city of Sinuiju, among others. These will help promote shared development on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. The international community also needs to take greater interest in getting involved if development projects in North Korea are to proceed more efficiently. I call on those NGOs from Germany and Europe which have extensive experience working with North Korea on agricultural projects and forestry to join us. I also hereby ask international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank for their support and cooperation. Third, we must advance an agenda for integration between the people of South and North Korea. As the state of division persists year after year, the language, culture and living habits of the two sides continue to diverge. If there is to be real connection and integration between the south and the north, we must narrow the distance between our values and our thinking. To achieve this, those from the south and the north must be afforded the chance to interact routinely. We will encourage exchanges in historical research and preservation, culture and the arts, and sports — all of which could promote genuine people-to-people contact — rather than seek politically-motivated projects or promotional events. Should North Korea so desire, we would be happy to partner with the international community to share our experience in economic management and developing special economic zones, and to provide systematic education and training opportunities relating to finance, tax administration and statistics. We could also look at jointly developing educational programs to teach future generations and cultivate talent, for it is in them that the long-term engines to propel a unified Korean Peninsula forward will be found. I hereby propose to North Korea that we jointly establish an ‘inter-Korean exchange and cooperation office’ that would be tasked to realize these ideas. The armistice line bisecting the peninsula and the demilitarized zone, which is in fact the most militarized stretch of real estate on the planet, best epitomize the reality of our division today. My hope is to see South and North Korea, together with the United Nations, moving to build an international peace park inside the DMZ. By clearing barbed-wire fences and mines from parcels of the DMZ, we can start to create a zone of life and peace. This international peace park will presage the replacement of tension with peace on the DMZ, division with unification, and conflict in Northeast Asia with harmony. If South and North Korea could shift the adversarial paradigm that exists today, build a railway that runs through the DMZ and connect Asia and Europe, we will see the makings of a genuine 21st century silk road across Eurasia and be able to prosper together. North Korea must choose the path to denuclearization so we could embark without delay on the work that needs to be done for a unified Korean Peninsula. I hope North Korea abandons its nuclear aspirations and returns to the Six Party Talks with a sincere willingness to resolve the nuclear issue so it could look after its own people. Should North Korea make the strategic decision to forgo its nuclear program, South Korea would correspondingly be the first to offer its active support, including for its much needed membership in international financial institutions and attracting international investments. If deemed necessary, we can seek to create a Northeast Asia Development Bank with regional neighbors to spur economic development in North Korea and in surrounding areas. We could also build on the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative to address North Korea’s security concerns through a multilateral peace and security system in Northeast Asia. Here lies the road to shared prosperity between South and North Korea and here lies the path to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia. Korea will aspire to a unification that promotes harmony with its neighbors, that is embraced by the community of nations, and that serves the cause of the international community. With a view to ushering in an era peaceful unification on the Korean Peninsula, I will soon be launching a committee to prepare for unification — one that reports directly to me as president. People from inside and outside the government will come together through this committee to muster our collective wisdom as we more fully prepare for the process of unification and integration.” (President Park Geun-hye, “An Initiative for Peaceful Unification on the Korean Peninsula — Beyond Division, toward Integration,” Dresden, March 28, 2014) Called the “Dresden Doctrine,” the South’s proposal to the North offers a comprehensive package of economic assistance. “Some projects like extending humanitarian assistance and seeking cultural integration would begin without the North abandoning its nuclear programs,” presidential secretary for foreign affairs Kim Hyoung-zhin said. Some analysts and presidential secretaries said it is still too early to expect a dramatic or abrupt arrival of detente on the Korean Peninsula. They said how the North responds to Park’s proposals will hold the key to easing tension. Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said that the plans will only start when the North makes substantive moves toward giving up its nuclear ambitions. “It depends on how the North reacts to the proposals,” Min said. “It will be hard to carry out all the aid without sincere action by the North.” Analysts also remained cautious about the prospects of thawing the chilly ties between the two Koreas even after the declaration of the Dresden Doctrine. “Park reaffirmed her long-held stance that North Korea sticking to its nuclear programs is unacceptable,” said Ko Yoo-hwan, a professor of North Korea studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “At the same time, Park successfully dispelled criticism that her North Korea policy has no action plans, by offering series of specific measures.”

However, pundits still remain skeptical about the potential effectiveness of Park’s policy. “This is no new message to the North,” said a North Korea analyst who declined to be named. “The North will not react positively unless Park carries out some groundbreaking appeasement policy. I don’t think inter-Korean relations will improve anytime soon, at least until the end of the ongoing joint Korea-U.S. military exercise.” (Kim Tae-gyu and Chung Min-uck, “Park Hints at Flexible Approach in Aid to N.K.,” Korea Times, March 29, 2014)

Uncertainty is lingering over whether President Park Geun-hye’s proposals to bolster humanitarian aid to North Korea and bilateral exchanges will lead to a turnaround in the strained ties, given high military tensions and mutual distrust. After Park’s announcement of the proposals on March 28 in Dresden, Germany, Seoul is poised to hold consultations among related government agencies to formulate a plan to put them into practice. But Pyongyang has yet to officially respond to the proposals. Instead, its media continued their verbal criticism of Park’s statement, which Seoul decried as an act that did not show even a “minimum level of courtesy” to a foreign head of state. “Park Geun-hye traveled around European states, churning out embarrassing words such as unification, co-prosperity and exchanges,” said Rodong Sinmun March 30. “We are seeing right through it … Park’s unabashed intention to harm us with poison embedded in her outward smiles.” Analysts said that Pyongyang might have felt offended by the “patronizing” nature of Park’s proposals, and that it would see them as being aimed at absorbing the North to the South’s advantage. But the impoverished state might be exploring ways to extract as much as possible from the situation to shore up its economy, they added. “At this point in time, Park’s proposals are likely to be perceived by Pyongyang as a ‘poisonous apple’ — a package that ultimately seeks to achieve reunification by absorbing the North,” said Cheong Seong-jang, a senior research fellow at the think tank Sejong Institute. “Thus, persuading the North to believe that there is no poison at all in the package will be the major task facing the Park Geun-hye government.” Aimed at laying the groundwork for reunification, Park’s proposals for “humanity, co-prosperity and integration” included extending aid to mothers and their babies; building infrastructure in the North in return for rights to develop underground resources; and increasing bilateral exchanges in various sectors. Experts say that Seoul could propose high-level talks with Pyongyang to explain Park’s proposals. But Seoul appears cautious, as current tensions between the two sides could prevent fruitful dialogue. For Seoul, the biggest hurdles to inter-Korean cooperation are Pyongyang’s refusal to show willingness toward denuclearization and its failure to take any steps to apologize for its 2010 torpedo attack on the corvette Cheonan that killed 46 South Korean sailors. While ignoring Seoul’s calls to show “sincerity” in its denuclearization commitment, the North has called for an early resumption of the multilateral aid-for-denuclearization talks. Pyongyang has already declared itself a nuclear-power state in its constitution and adopted a policy of simultaneously pursuing nuclear development and economic reconstruction. The North has also called on Seoul to lift the so-called May 24 sanctions while continuing to deny responsibility for the torpedo attack. After the corvette sank in March 2010, Seoul imposed the May sanctions, which cut off all government economic exchanges and cooperation with Pyongyang. Observers say that rather than presenting any clear stance over inter-Korean relations, the North may continue to watch Seoul’s moves until the allied military drills end next month and U.S. President Barack Obama completes his trip to Asia, including visits to South Korea. (Song Sang-ho, “Uncertainty Lingers over Park’s Dresden Proposals,” Korea Herald, March 30, 2014) The South Korean government has reportedly set a principle that if any issues incompatible with the May 24 sanctions against North Korea occur in the implementation process of “Dresden unification proposals,” “lifting of May 24 measures would be necessary.” Multiple sources in the Seoul government said Sunday, “Of the three proposals, expansion of humanitarian aid to North Korea can be implemented within the boundary of the May 24 measures,” adding, “(However) in order to establish infrastructure for people’s livelihoods in North Korea, May 24 measures banning new inter-Korean investments and trade, and South Koreans’ visits to North Korean territory except Kaesong and Mount Kumgang regions should be gradually eased.” The South Korean government judges that in order to implement the Dresden proposals, it will start with regularization of family reunions, and assistance with “maternal-childhood health packages” targeting mothers and infants, but in the phases of investment for infrastructure such as transportation and communications, development of natural resources in the North, and implementation of the Seoul-Pyongyang-Beijing cooperation project centered in the North Korean city of Shinuiju, lifting of the May 24 sanctions is necessary. Thus far, Seoul has been approaching the Najin-Hasan project, as an “exception” to the May 24 measures that ban the South’s new investment in the North. A source in the South Korean government said, “We made a detour route in order to secure national interests through the Euroasia Initiative.” To achieve the Dresden Proposals, however, the South Korean government is apparently seeking the fundamental solution of lifting the May 24 measures, rather than recognition of such exception. Seoul seems to judge that as the Park administration’s proposals to Pyongyang make progress, areas incompatible with the May 24 measures will inevitably increase, and the administration cannot afford to create exceptions for such cases every time. However, many officials in the Seoul government maintain a cautious stance, saying, “Seeking to realize the Dresden proposals in itself will not directly lead to lifting of the May 24 measure.” They argue that in order for Seoul to lift the May 24 measures, Pyongyang should take responsible measures on the sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan through inter-Korean dialogue. A source in the South Korean government said, “The government will hold consultations between relevant government agencies, including the presidential office, the Unification Ministry and the Food, Agriculture and Forestry Ministry within this week, before taking follow-up measures for the Dresden proposals.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “`Seoul Could Lift Sanctions against Pyongyang If Dresden Proposals Progress,’” March 31, 2014)

South Korea sent back a North Korean fishing boat that had drifted across a disputed maritime border off the west coast, the defense ministry said, defusing tensions in an area which has been the scene of deadly clashes in recent years. South Korea’s military had seized the boat after it ignored warnings to retreat, but later confirmed the vessel had experienced engine failure and the three crewmen had no wish to defect to the South, a ministry official said. (Jun-min Park, “South Korea Sends back Stray North Korean Fishing Boat,” March 27, 2014)

North Korea continued to buy fertilizer from China in bulk last month, data showed, as the impoverished nation has revved up efforts to increase food production. The North brought in 13,769 tons of Chinese fertilizer in February, a whopping 13 times more than some 1,064 tons from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Korean Rural Economic Institute (KREI). In the first two months of the year, Pyongyang imported 48,882 tons of Chinese fertilizer, which is far higher than 1,066 tons from the same period a year earlier, the data showed. “The 2013 figure is unprecedented, as the North used to buy a limited amount in the winter season. It seems to be very proactive in securing fertilizer long ahead of its usual schedule, and that indicates farm output improvement is its top priority,” said KREI researcher Kwon Tae-jin. In his New Year’s message, the North’s young leader Kim Jong-un stressed boosting food production, saying all efforts “should go for agriculture … in order to build a strong economy and to improve the people’s livelihoods.” Last year, Pyongyang bought a total of 207,334 tons of fertilizer from China, down by 18 percent from the previous year. (Yonhap, “N. Korea’s Fertilizer Imports from China Soar in Feb.,” March 28, 2014)


3/29/14:
Rodong Sinmun commentary: “The present south Korean chief executive made very provocative remarks for no reason over the DPRK’s nuclear issue at the 3rd ‘nuclear security summit’ held in Netherlands. The DPRK laid bare the injustice of her remarks and drew attention to her undesirable demeanor in an answer given by the spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) to the question raised by KCNA. However, the south Korean authorities are making much fuss about the ‘serious violation’ of the agreement on halting the smear campaign between the north and south. Rodong Sinmun [today] observes in a commentary in this regard: The south Korean chief executive let loose a string of very reckless remarks against the DPRK, groundlessly accusing it over its nuclear issue at the summit, though she is not well informed of the essence of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. The DPRK told truth as it could not remain a passive onlooker to the behavior of the south Korean chief executive agitating confrontation in violation of the above-said agreement. … If the south Korean regime persists in its malignant smear campaign defying the DPRK’s warnings, the north-south relations are bound to collapse. The north-south relations are put at serious peril due to the provocative Foal Eagle joint military maneuvers now under way in south Korea. She should have expressed concern about this situation and cogitated about how to put it under control. If she calls on foreign forces to boost cooperation in the confrontation with the DPRK, urging it to dismantle its nukes, the north-south relations are bound to meet tragic consequences. The fate of the inter-Korean relations entirely depends on the attitude of the south Korean authorities.” (KCNA, “Fate pf North-South Relations Entirely Depends on Attitude of S. Korean Authorities: Rodong Sinmun,” March 29, 2014)


3/30/14:
DPRK Foreign Ministry statement “blasting the United Nations for its illegal action of taking issue with the justifiable rocket launching drills conducted by the Korean People’s Army (KPA): The sincere efforts of the DPRK to prevent a new war and ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula are facing a grave challenge of the hostile forces. The UN Security Council at a closed-door consultative meeting held on March 28 at the urgent request of the U.S. committed an illegal provocative act of ‘denouncing’ the DPRK’s justifiable rocket launching drills for no reason. The drills were self-defensive military drills of the KPA to cope with the grave situation created by the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK which has been pursued for the past several decades and the evermore intensified exercises for a nuclear war. The climate for detente is being created on the Korean peninsula thanks to the proactive and peace-loving sincere efforts of the DPRK this year. Nevertheless, the U.S. kicked off the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises with south Korean puppet forces with huge aggression forces and destructive weapons involved. With their scale and danger increased, the largest-ever forces since 1993 are involved in the Ssangyong drill which started on March 27. The U.S. dared declare that its main objective is to ‘occupy Pyongyang.’ It is quite natural for the KPA to make full preparations to cope with the prevailing grave situation as its mission is to protect the security of the country and its people and defend peace. However, the UN Security Council, shutting its eyes to the U.S. madcap nuclear war exercises, “denounced” the KPA’s self-defensive rocket launching drills to cope with them as a ‘violation of resolutions’ and ‘threat to international peace and security’ and is set to take an ‘appropriate step.’ It is absolutely intolerable. As far as UNSC’s ‘resolutions’ which it claimed were ‘violated by the DPRK are concerned, they are full of brigandish paragraphs to wantonly encroach on the sovereignty of the DPRK and the security of the nation and deprive it of its right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes as they are a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK. The DPRK, therefore, categorically rejected them as soon as they were adopted and there is no ground whatsoever for the DPRK to be bound to them. If something is measured by a wrong ruler, a wrong result is bound to be produced. That is why there is such absurdity that the DPRK’s efforts to defend the security of the country and the nation are labeled a ‘provocation’ and the U.S. moves for igniting a nuclear war are described as ones for ‘defending peace.’ If the UNSC persistently tries to deny the exercise of the DPRK’s just right by partially citing the unreasonable ‘resolutions’ according to the U.S. scenario, it will end up escalating tensions and sparking conflict only, far from contributing to keeping peace and security on the Korean peninsula and in the region. The farce staged by the U.S. to ‘denounce’ the DPRK’s rocket launching drills for no reason after bringing them up for discussion at the UNSC is aimed to divert the blame for escalating tensions to the DPRK and hype the DPRK’s ‘threat’ to have a justification for arms buildup pursuant to its pivot to Asia-Pacific strategy. As the U.S. persists in its moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK by abusing the UNSC, prompted by its strategic interests, the DPRK has the right to defend itself and is fully ready to do so. Now that the U.S. is staging ceaseless nuclear war exercises by mobilizing all type nuclear strike means aimed at ‘occupying Pyongyang,’ etc. while describing the exercises as ‘annual ones,’ the KPA’s drills to cope with them will involve various forms of exercises in which more diversified nuclear deterrence will be used for hitting various medium- and long-range targets with a variety of striking power. The DPRK is fully ready for next-stage steps which the enemy can hardly imagine in case the U.S. considers them as a ‘provocation’ again. It would not rule out a new form of nuclear test for bolstering up its nuclear deterrence. The U.S. had better ponder over this and stop acting rashly. If a catastrophic development which no one wants occurs on the peninsula, the U.S. will be wholly responsible for it.” (KCNA, “DPRK FM Blasts UN for Taking Issue with DPRK over Its Justifiable Rocket Launching Drills,” March 30, 2014)


3/30-31/14:
Senior Japanese and North Korean diplomats kicked off a two-day meeting in Beijing at the North Korean Embassy, resuming official talks between the two countries for the first time in 16 months. The second day will be held at the Japanese Embassy. Tokyo plans to reiterate its demand that Pyongyang reopen an investigation into Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents decades ago and have them returned home. North Korea has been insisting that the abduction issue was politically settled in September 2002, when then Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro visited Pyongyang. The two countries should hold serious and candid discussions on matters of mutual interest to achieve progress toward resolving pending issues, said Ihara Junichi, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, at the opening of the meeting. Song Il Ho, North Korean ambassador in charge of talks on normalizing relations with Japan, responded by saying that he completely agrees to the views. The Japanese side plans to reiterate its stance that the two countries cannot normalize diplomatic relations unless the issues of North Korea’s abductions and its nuclear and missile programs are resolved altogether. Japan also plans to lodge a protest against North Korea’s firing Wednesday of two mid-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, saying the action violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and the 2002 Pyongyang declaration between the two countries. (Jiji Press, “Japan, N. Korea Resume Official Talks,” Yomiuri Shimbun, March 30, 2014) North Korea has become open to discussing the issue of its abductions of Japanese nationals as the two countries agreed March 31 to carry on with governmental talks. During the first formal negotiations in more than a year, in Beijing, Japan appears to have demanded that North Korea reinvestigate the whereabouts of nationals Pyongyang agents abducted decades ago and allow all victims to return home.( Karube Takuya, “N. Korea Ready to Discuss Abductions of Korean Nationals,” Kyodo, March 31, 2014)


3/31/14:
The two Koreas exchanged artillery fire across the western maritime border after the North staged a live-fire drill that sent artillery shells into southern waters and prompted the evacuation of South Korean islanders. The North fired about 500 rounds of artillery shells into waters north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea from 12:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. After some 100 rounds fell south of the NLL, the South Korean military shot about 300 artillery shells into North Korean waters with K-9 self-propelled howitzers and dispatched F-15K fighter jets near the maritime border, it said. (Kim Eun-jung, “Koreas Exchange Live Fire near Western Sea Biorder,” March 31, 2014) In a fax message sent to the South Korean 2nd Navy Fleet Command on Monday morning, Pyongyang pinpointed seven spots where their artillery shells were expected to land, all of them above the NLL. But some 100 shells landed below the NLL, all near South Korea’s Baengnyeong Island. (Kim Hee-jin and Jeong Yong-soo, “North Warns Its Ship in East Sea,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 2, 2014) North Korea fired some 500 artillery shells near the Northern Limit Line, with about 100 of them falling south of the de facto inter-Korean sea border. In response to the 100 shells having dropped into its territorial waters, the South fired back some 300 shots with its K-9 self-propelled howitzers. All of the rounds fell north of the maritime border, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said. The ministry called the North’s live-fire drills a “premeditated, deliberate” provocation. “The live-fire drills came on the heels of the North’s launches of rockets and ballistic missiles, as well as the threat of another nuclear test. It is part of this provocative package,” ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters. “Given that the North fired the shots southward, we judge the drills to be a deliberate provocation. Those rounds having fallen in our waters were all concentrated in sensitive areas adjacent to Bangnyeongdo, meaning it was a very deliberate, threatening move.” (Song Sang-ho, “Koreas Trade Fire across Sea Border,” Korea Herald, March 31, 2014) North Korea and South Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells across their disputed western sea border, escalating military tensions a day after the North threatened to conduct more nuclear tests. South Korean officials said the shells from both sides fell harmlessly into waters from which naval and fishing boats had stayed clear. But the exchange of fire marked the most serious episode along that border since an artillery duel there in 2010. Earlier today, North Korea had told the South that it would conduct live-fire military drills in seven zones along the maritime border, which hugs the southern coast of North Korea. Then its artillery pieces and multiple-rocket launchers rolled out of shoreline tunnels and fired 500 shells and projectiles between 12:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. About 100 of them flew across the disputed sea border and fell into South Korean-controlled waters near Baengnyeong Island, said Kim Min-seok, the spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. Baengnyeong, a South Korean marine garrison, lies only 10 miles from the southwestern tip of North Korea. In retaliation, South Korean marines fired K-9 self-propelled artillery pieces, pounding North Korean waters north of the disputed sea border with 300 shells, Kim said. With guns from both sides rumbling, residents of the five South Korean border islands, including hundreds of children, hurried into bomb shelters. South Korea suspended ferry services to the islands and ordered fishing boats operating near the border waters to return to port. “This is a premeditated provocation to test our will to defend the maritime border, and if the North provokes again using our response today as an excuse, we will act decisively,” Kim said. “We have increased our vigilance along the western frontier islands and boosted weapons’ readiness there.” Artillery exchanges in the disputed waters are not unprecedented, but they raised fears that the often-repeated cycle of peace overtures followed by military provocations was resuming on the Korean Peninsula. “Pyongyang prefers to strike when it sees Washington as weak or distracted, beset by bigger problems,” Lee Sung-yoon, a North Korea expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said, referring to the North’s capital. President Obama “is seen as wavering on Russia and Syria,” he said. “It would be a good time to raise the stakes once more with a nuclear or long-range missile test, as Pyongyang has intimated in recent days.” North Korea’s latest hostilities came as the country was preparing for major anniversaries, like the April 15 birthday of Kim Il-sung, the deceased grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un, and the April 25 anniversary of the North Korean military. The North was also scheduled to convene its recently elected rubber-stamp Parliament on April 9. The regime traditionally uses such events to bolster internal solidarity, sometimes with the aid of missile and nuclear tests and other provocations. Kim Jong-un, who came to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011, has so far “turned out to be more of a hard-liner and far more bellicose in external relations than his father,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at Sejong Institute of South Korea. (Choe Sang-hun, “North and South Korea Exchange Fire across Disputed Sea Border,” New York Times, Apri1 1, 2014, p. A-) North Korea’s artillery firing drills in the West (Yellow) Sea on Mar. 31 were very likely a response to the recent joint military exercises by South Korea and the US. The fact that they came on the same day as the largest joint landing exercise in 21 years, and were announced to the press, indicates that Pyongyang may indeed be ratcheting up its response. At the same time, the decision to alert South Korea to its plans appeared to be an attempt to keep tensions at a predictable level while maximizing the impression from the show of force. The drills came on the same day that the Ssang Yong (Double Dragon) exercise, part of ongoing joint military exercises by South Korea and the US, was being opened up to the press. Staged off Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province, it was the largest landing exercise since 1993, with around 12,500 South Korean and US marines taking part. The scenario, which involves the allied forces moving back north after being pushed back by the North Korean military, reportedly included an occupation of Pyongyang. Having been on the wrong side of the Incheon landing during the Korean War, North Korea is especially sensitive to landing exercises that involve the US. Also factoring into the strong objections it has raised to the exercises each year is its awareness of the weakness of its conventional weaponry compared to the allied forces. “In the broader sense, North Korea’s artillery drills were a response to the South Korea-US military exercises in general,” said Peace Network director Cheong Wook-sik. “In a narrower sense, they were responding to the South Korea-US landing exercise.” During last month’s agreement on the staging of reunions of divided family members, North Korea appeared to back down once on the issue of the exercises. Some analysts said that ruled out the possibility of another concession this time. “North Korea already made one concession back in the February agreement with South Korea on the family reunions, when it agreed to hold the reunions even though they overlapped with the exercises,” said Kim Dong-yeop, a research professor at the Kyungnam University Institute of Far Eastern Studies. “They may have felt that if they didn’t do anything this time, it would be less a ‘concession’ than an implicit approval of the exercises, and they might lose ground in later talks with Seoul,” Kim explained. The two sides have also recently been facing off over a North Korean fishing boat that drifted over the Northern Limit Line (NLL). In the process of South Korea capturing the boat and sending it back, North Korea accused the South of “abusive behavior,” prompting the South to describe the North as “the one that caused the problem in the first place.” A piece the same day in the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the Workers’ Party of (North) Korea, with the title “They will pay the price for their unpardonable thuggishness,” featured a chorus of agitated representatives of North Korean society denouncing the South. For these reasons, North Korea had multiple goals in mind when it staged the artillery drills and announced them beforehand. First, by alerting South Korea to the drills, it sought to keep tensions at a predictable level. Second, it also appears to have sought a propaganda effect by sending as loud as message a possible to the South Korean public about the reasons for the drills and the nature of the South Korea-US exercises. The military tensions look likely to continue at least through the end of the Foal Eagle exercises on Apr. 18. Judging from the rigid stance coming from Seoul, even the unification policy presented in President Park Geun-hye’s recent Dresden statement is unlikely to be pushed for the time being. The administration wants to avoid giving the impression of capitulating to North Korea’s military actions, while the Blue House is insisting that it has “no plans at the moment for proposing a senior-level meeting” with the North. At their root, the recent exchanges have mainly been about both sides facing off ahead of the turnaround that many are predicting for late April, when the exercises end. Once the schedule for North Korea’s internal political events and South Korea’s joint military exercises with the US are over, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit South Korea in late April, and the two sides will be forced to find some way of thawing the chill. Still, the rising influence of hardliners on both sides as tensions mount could result in a situation that is beyond fixing. (Choi Hyun-june and Kim Oi-hyun, “N. Korea’s Live-Fire Exercise Likely a Response to ROK-U.S. Joint Exercise,” Hankyore, April 1, 2014)

With Pyongyang having threatened to conduct a “new type” of nuclear test, attention is being drawn to what method it might employ for a fourth test and how far its military nuclear technology has come. For the fourth test, the North is most likely to carry out an experiment using highly enriched uranium, which would differentiate it from past tests.

The North conducted plutonium-based tests in 2006 and 2009. What fissile material was used for last year’s test remains unknown as the South and the U.S. failed to obtain and analyze post-test radioactive materials. “The most likely scenario is that Pyongyang uses highly enriched uranium and publicly announces it to the outside world, so as to corroborate its claim that it has succeeded in having a variety of nuclear detonation methods,” said Kim Tae-woo, nuclear politics expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University. “Then, it may also warn that it could mass-produce those various types of nuclear arms as it has claimed.” Another likely scenario is that Pyongyang will test a “boosted fission weapon,” which experts have called a “1.5-generation” nuclear bomb. The development of this weapon is known to be a preliminary step toward the production of a hydrogen bomb, regaarded as a “second generation” nuclear weapon. Some observers also raise the possibility of the North conducting a test of a hydrogen bomb, while many say the North has not reached a high enough level of technology for this. “The North could also shock the world by claiming that it will test a boosted fission weapon. Although the chances are low, the North could also declare that it had conducted a test of a hydrogen bomb,” said Kim. (Song Sang-ho, “Attention Turns to ‘New Type’ of N.K. Nukes,” Korea Herald, March 31, 2014)

With the launch today of a special intraparty panel directly under his lead, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party are ready to kick off their full-fledged drive to reinterpret the Constitution to allow Japan to help defend its allies. Abe says he wants Japan to make a more “proactive contribution to peace,” and to do this he plans to change the government’s official interpretation of war-renouncing Article 9 so the nation can exercise the right of collective self-defense, which means coming to the aid of Japanese allies who come under military attack. Previous governments have maintained that Japan can’t exercise the right to collective self-defense, which Article 51 of the United Nations Charter defines as an inherent right, because Article 9 of the Constitution prohibits Japan from using force to resolve international disputes and bans it from maintaining “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential.” Yet some politicians and experts note Japan already has policies in place that cross that boundary. “In a way, Japan has been effectively exercising the right,” said Nishihara Masashi, president of the Research Institute for Peace and Security. “Rather than reinterpreting the Constitution, the government should make exceptions in the way they have done with the arms exports ban,” Nishihara said, referring to past instances in which the government, in the form of chief Cabinet secretary statements, allowed certain exceptions to the limits on exporting weapons. Despite what is stated in the Constitution, Japan has supported U.S. military operations by providing logistic support and has taken part in some international peacekeeping efforts. Back in 1960, in the course of revising the Japan-U.S. defense treaty, Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke— Abe’s grandfather — said that even allowing a foreign nation to maintain military bases on Japanese soil and defending Japan alongside those forces could be interpreted as engaging in collective self-defense. The bases in Okinawa proved to be of great use to the United States during the Vietnam War. In 1965, the U.S. Air Force began flying B-52s out of Kadena Air Base to bomb North Vietnam. Japan also enacted a law to allow the Self-Defense Forces to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations in 1992 without amending or reinterpreting the Constitution. The law was enacted in response to Japan’s bitter experience in the first Gulf War, from 1990 to 1991, in which it provided $13 billion in financial support to help the allies battle Saddam Hussein but no troops. This earned Tokyo a great deal of international scorn. The Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines drafted in 1997 also led to Japan enacting a law in 1999 to let it provide logistic support to the United States in emergencies in “areas surrounding Japan,” which was understood to include the Korean Peninsula. It also passed a law in 2001 allowing it to refuel U.S. vessels in the Indian Ocean for free in support of Operation Enduring Freedom — the war in Afghanistan launched after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — and enacted one allowing the SDF to conduct policing operations against pirates off Somalia in 2009. “There are many things Japan can do to contribute to the international community without reinterpreting the Constitution,” said Masahiro Sakata, former secretary-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, which vets the constitutionality of government-proposed legislation. The bureau has historically said that Japan cannot exercise the right to collective self-defense. “There are limits to what Japan can do, but Abe should ask the public if they want to push the limit by putting the issue of constitutional revision on the table rather than just bulldozing the reinterpretation through,” Sakata said. Yearning to depart from the long-accepted postwar system and to put the alliance with the U.S. on a more equal footing, Abe has long sought the reinterpretation of Article 9. One move he made during his first stint as prime minister in 2006 was to task a government panel with examining the conditions under which Japan could engage in collective self-defense. Its report in 2007 envisioned bolstering the alliance by allowing Japan to shoot down missiles targeted at the U.S. and to help protect U.S. naval ships on the high seas in joint operations. It also called for expanding Japan’s role in international missions by letting the SDF use arms to defend foreign troops during peacekeeping operations. Yet Yanagisawa Kyoji, a former Defense Ministry official who was assistant chief Cabinet secretary in charge of crisis management from 2004 to 2009, noted that Japan can legally shoot down a missile headed for Guam if it travels over Japanese territory because that would be individual self-defense. One of the biggest changes in assuming an unlimited right to collective self-defense could be the ability to participate in joint military exercises with countries other than the United States. Yanagisawa said exercising the right could ultimately mean entering situations in which Japan is helping to defend friendly countries like the Philippines or Vietnam. But those scenarios appear to have been left out of the discussion. “It’s easier for the public to understand the necessity of collective self-defense if the government says it’s for the sake of preserving the U.S. alliance,” said Yanagisawa. “Abe wants the legacy of having been the leader who enabled Japan to exercise the right.” The panel, which was reconvened after Abe returned to power in December 2012, has discussed five specific questions: 1) Can Japan assist the U.S. by conducting ship inspections when the latter comes under attack? 2) Can Japan join U.N.-authorized operations if contingencies break out in areas near Japan? 3) Can the SDF remove mines near Japanese waters? 4) Can Japan join U.S.-authorized military actions such as those in the first Gulf War? 5) How should Japan respond to armed incidents when they are not considered full-scale attacks against Japan? Some people worry Japan could be dragged into American wars, especially after Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Takamizawa Nobushige implied last September that Japan could send the SDF to defend friendly nations on the other side of the Earth. But a high-ranking government official said last week the panel is likely to only say Japan can use the right under limited circumstances where inaction would harm its interests, implying Japan could engage in activities like removing mines from international sea lanes. “The report won’t include cases in which Japan would participate in a large-scale war under the right to collective self-defense,” said the official, referring to the report the panel is scheduled to produce in April. “Now we can say that we can’t exercise the right because we have Article 9, which was imposed by the United States,” said Michishita Narushige, director of the security and international studies program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. “But after the government gives the green light, Japan will not be able to make any excuses for not doing enough and more.” (Mie Ayako, “Abe Ready for Full-on Military Drive,” Japan Times, March 27, 2014)


4/1/14:
An unmanned drone crashed on a South Korean island near a disputed maritime border with North Korea, a South Korean defense ministry official said, triggering an investigation into whether the aircraft was from the North. The drone fell on Baengnyeong island at about 4 p.m. yesterday, when North Korea fired hundreds of artillery rounds in seas close to a disputed maritime line. That triggered a similar show of strength from South Korea. The South Korean military was trying to verify where the drone had come from and what its purpose might have been, and was also looking into any possible link to North Korea’s espionage operations, the military official told Reuters. Yonhap, quoting an unidentified South Korean government official, reported that the drone was 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 ft) long and comprised a Japanese engine and Chinese parts, as well as a small camera. Yonhap also said the drone was similar to another found in a border city late last month. (Ju-min Park, “Unidentified Drone Crashed on South Korean Border Island: Military,” Reuters, April 1, 2014) South Korea has concluded that the two drones that were recently found near the border with North Korea were from the communist nation, a defense ministry official said, prompting the military to seek measures to tighten air space security. South Korea recovered two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) near the border — one found in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone, on March 24, and the other discovered on Baengnyeong Island near the tensely guarded western maritime border on Monday when North Korea held a live-fire drill.A team of military officials and experts dissembled the drones to conduct an in-depth analysis and came to the conclusion that Pyongyang has developed the two UAVs for surveillance of South Korea, the ministry said. “The two unmanned aerial vehicles are prime-type spy drones,” the defense ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity. “While advanced spy drones can adapt their flight paths to different terrains, the North’s drones cannot change their flight altitudes though they use the Global Positioning System.” The sky blue drones were equipped with a Japanese camera and Chinese parts, but they didn’t have wireless transmission system that can send image data in real time. The aircraft that crashed on Baengnyeong Island was briefly spotted by a radar on Monday, when the two Koreas exchanged hundreds of rounds of artillery into the western sea during the North’s live-fire drill. The 3.2 meter-long fixed-wing drone can fly at an altitude of 3 km with a maximum speed of 162 km per hour, capable of conducting missions within a 4-km radius. It can carry 20 kg to 25 kg of ammunition and land on the ground using a parachute. The other drone found in Paju, which is smaller in size, has inscriptions in Korean with North Korean spelling standard on the back of its lithium-ion battery, along with an expiration date. It flew in a southward direction to Seoul and then turned back toward north, but the aircraft was not detected by the low-altitude surveillance radar, the official said. The aircraft is known to contain pictures of military installations and even the residential quarters of Seoul’s presidential compound, revealing holes in South Korea’s air defense. “The drones could be used in terrorism if developed, though they cannot conduct such missions,” the official said, stressing urgent need to prepare countermeasures. In light of the incident, the defense ministry pledged to work together with other related agencies to draw up measures to defend against such drones and other small aircraft that are hard to detect by radar. “The military is preparing measures to deal with unmanned aerial vehicles, including North Korea’s lightweight aircraft, to complement the air-defense operation system,” the defense ministry said. “The ministry will also consult with the related agencies to draw up measures to control civilian UAVs and the registration system,” it added. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Says Two Drones Are from N. Korea,” April 2, 2014) The drone that crashed on a South Korean border island during Pyongyang’s live-fire drill earlier this week is believed to have been sent from an airport on the west coast of North Korea, a military official said. While experts believe Pyongyang developed the small drones based on the Soviet-era designs to enhance its surveillance of South Korea, the drone incursions have raised concerns over South Korea’s air defense capacity as the drone recovered in Paju had taken 193 photos of the border and the capital city Seoul. Among them were photos taken from airspace above the presidential office in downtown Seoul and military installations near the border, revealing holes in the air security of South Korea. While some reports said Pyongyang may have acquired the photos with a data transmission system, Seoul’s defense ministry said the antiquated drone does not have that capability. “Although the drone had a 0.9 GHz transmission system, it is used to control the vehicle and receive GPS signals, not for sending images,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. “Although the cameras can take photos, (the drone) cannot send the images.” Fingerprints were collected from the UAV found in Paju, which belongs to no South Korean citizen, Kim said, corroborating evidence that shows the North’s involvement. (Kim Eun-jung, “N. Korean Drone Sent from Southwestern Airport during Firing Drill,” Yonhap, April 3, 2014) Paul Schulte, a visiting senior research fellow in the department of war studies at London’s Kings College, said: “The aircraft is so small that it looks as though it could not have flown from anywhere else [other than North Korea] — that is unless it is from South Korea and they haven’t identified it, but that is less likely.” North Korea is known to operate several types of UAVs. The first model introduced in the late 1990s was the VR-3 Reys, an eight-meter-long reconnaissance drone made by the Russian aerospace and defense company Tupolev. Its range stretched up to 90 kilometers.

The North also has the 2.78-meter Pchela-1T, manufactured by the Russian Yakovlev Design Bureau, for surveillance and observation in battlefields with a range of 60 kilometers. There are also two types of larger remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) based on China’s D-4. Two years ago the North was reported to be developing unmanned attack aircraft based on the MQM-107D Streaker, a U.S. target drone. According to South Korean intelligence sources, the North has conducted tests on high-speed drones fitted with high explosives but failed to master the technology. Inspired by the first Gulf War in 1991, South Korea started developing its own UAV Songgolmae in 1993. The 4.8-meter-long aircraft model named RQ-101, which is capable of flying at a maximum speed of 185 kilometers per hour for as long as six hours with a range of 110 kilometers, was put into service in 2002. Seven years later, Seoul introduced the Skylark II, an unmanned aircraft with a range of 60 kilometers from Israeli manufacturer Elbit Systems. Just last month the Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced it would buy four units of Global Hawk unmanned aircraft from Northrop Grumman, an American aerospace and defense firm. (Seo Ji-eun and Jang Hyuk-jin, “Two Crashed Drones Are N. Korean, Says Govt.,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 3, 2014) Seoul’s Defense Ministry said May 8 that its probe team had secured the “smoking gun” confirming that the three crashed drones, discovered in frontline areas in March and April, came from North Korea.

Announcing the result of its investigation, the investigation team, consisting of South Korean and U.S. experts, presented its analysis of photos and mission data from the drones’ cameras and memory chips, which revealed that they took off from the North and were programmed to return to the North. “Analyzing the travel routes of the three drones, the investigation team secured definitive scientific evidence, or a ‘smoking gun,’ to prove that Pyongyang is responsible for sending the drones,” ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters. The military authorities discovered three drones, one in Paju close to the western Demilitarized Zone on March 24, one on the border island of Baengnyeongdo on March 31 and another in Samcheok, close to the eastern DMZ on April 6. Based on its analysis, the ministry said that the drone found on Baengnyeongdo Island took off from 27 kilometers southeast of Haeju, Hwanghae Province. Its planned travel route, stored in the drone’s memory chip, matched the routes along which the drone took photos, officials explained. The drone from Paju took off from 5 kilometers northwest of the North Korean border city of Gaeseong, while the drone from Samcheok originated from 17 kilometers east of Pyonggang in the North’s Gangwon Province. Seoul officials suspect that the North produced the drones based on Chinese drones it imported via Hong Kong. Seoul has requested through a diplomatic channel that Beijing confirm if there was any connection between Chinese firms and Pyongyang authorities. (Song Sang-ho, “Seoul Finds ‘Smoking Gun’ Proving N.K. Sent Drones,” Korea Herald, May 8, 2014)

North Korea told its ships to avoid the waters near Wonsan, a coastal city off the East Sea, between March 31 and April 4, raising concerns of more missile launches following live-fire exercises in the Yellow Sea, officials from the South Korean military told reporters it learned through intelligence. But North Korea did not give any similar notification to the International Maritime Organization. Some weapons not seen recently near the East Sea have been spotted by South Korea, officials said, such as a missile transporter-erector-launcher (TEL), a mobile missile launcher. “Although North Korea withdrew all the weapons it used for the live-fire drills on Monday right after the exercises in the Yellow Sea,” an official said, “we detected some moves of a missile launch near the East Sea.” South Korea’s military does not rule out the possibility of an attack in the ocean or on land, another government official in Seoul said. “Considering that North Korea does not repeat strategies used already, they could stage an attack near the Military Demarcation Line, such as attacking our guard posts, while everyone is keeping an eye on the Yellow Sea and the East Sea,” the official said. The Military Demarcation Line is the inter-Korean border. Sources said North Korea’s military carried out exercises targeting front-line guard posts of South Korea during winter drills this year. Since Pyongyang has deployed artillery and missiles at a training field near Mirim Airport in Pyongyang since mid-March, officials are also wary of a large-scale military provocation, possibly around the time of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Seoul this month. “North Korea has carried out a series of drills by deploying various kinds of weapons recently,” a military official said. “Although they have only threatened South Korea and Japan so far, they could now use other weapons targeting the United States.”

On March 30, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned in a statement that it will conduct “a new form of nuclear test,” implying a fourth underground nuclear test following tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. Experts wonder whether a “new form” of test signifies a device made from uranium rather than plutonium. The first two tests were confirmed by specialists as plutonium bombs. The type used in the February 2013 test has not been confirmed. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel denounced Monday’s live-fire drills by North Korea. “The provocation that the North Koreans have, once again, engaged in is dangerous and it needs to stop,” he said at a briefing on Monday. “And obviously, when I’m in China, that will be a subject that I will discuss with my counterpart in China.” Hagel will visit China next week. In the meantime, South Korean military said Monday that Pyongyang has recently tacitly recognized the Northern Limit Line as the maritime border with the South. In a fax message sent to the South Korean 2nd Navy Fleet Command on Monday morning, Pyongyang pinpointed seven spots where their artillery shells were expected to land, all of them above the NLL. But some 100 shells landed below the NLL, all near South Korea’s Baengnyeong Island. As of yesterday, Pyongyang did not refute claims by the South Korean military that it violated the NLL. In 1959, North Korea also marked the NLL in its annual defense yearbook as the effective maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea. But, starting in the 1970s, Pyongyang has challenged the line and its patrol ships have crossed it more than 500 times, according to the South Korean military. “Since North Korea announced a new western border unilaterally drawn up by itself in 1999, they have tried to nullify the NLL,” a South Korean military official said. “But recently, they seem to recognize the NLL as a real boundary.” (Kim Hee-jin and Jeong Yong-soo, “North Warns Its Ship in East Sea,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 2, 2014)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un assessed the current political situation on the Korean peninsula to be extremely serious and claimed that the North must tear down the United States’ hostile North Korean policy. At a resolution meeting of the commanders of the joint forces in the Korean People’s Army held at the Samjiyon Grand Monument in Ryanggangdo on April 1, First Secretary Kim mentioned in his speech, “We made a grand proposal and continued to adopt realistic measures in order to provide a new turning point for reunification based on our desire to open a new path to improved inter-Korean relations, but the current political situation in this land is extremely grave.” This day’s meeting marked an end to a march carried out by the commanders of the joined forces which began on March 23 under the direction of Kim. First Secretary Kim said, “The United States and the hostile powers are ignoring our generosity and good will, trying to politically destroy and economically isolate our republic, and embarking on vicious schemes to crush us with military force. Our military and our people will never tolerate the U.S. policies hostile to North Korea and will thoroughly destroy them.” (Yi Ji-seon, “Kim Jong-un: ‘Grave Political Situation … Will Crush U.S. Hostile Policy,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, April 3, 2014)

Danny Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, acknowledged that a growing China has been unhappy with efforts by the United States to strengthen defense cooperation with allies Japan and South Korea. “The most direct way for China to affect those military deployments and those strategic alliance plans is by applying its leverage to North Korea to bring about a decision on the part of Pyongyang to choose the right path,” Russel told a conference call organized by the Asia Society. (AFP, “U.S. Says China to Gain by Pressing N. Korea,” April 1, 2014)

A ranking North Korean diplomat said that whether his country and Japan can improve their relations hinges on the fate of Pyongyang’s de facto embassy building in Tokyo. “Without resolving this issue, there is no need to make progress on Korea-Japan relations,” Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for talks on normalizing ties with Japan, told reporters at Beijing Capital International Airport before flying back to Pyongyang. Song, who took part in a two-day meeting with Japanese diplomats through in the Chinese capital, was referring to the possibility that the pro-North Korean group Chongryon will be evicted from its Tokyo headquarters, which is the closest thing Pyongyang has to an embassy in Japan. (Kyodo, “North Links Relations to De Facto Embassy’s Fate,” Japan Times, April 1, 2014)

Taking his nation another step away from its postwar pacifism, the government of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo discarded a nearly half-century ban on the export of weapons and military hardware, a move aimed at helping Japan assume a larger regional security role to offset China’s growing military might. The decision, which had been under consideration for years before Abe took office, replaced the self-imposed ban dating to the late 1960s with new, still-restrictive guidelines that permit the export of weapons only to allies and partners that agree not to sell them to third nations without Japanese approval. The new guidelines will also make it easier for Japan to join multinational development projects for expensive new weapons systems, like the American-led effort to build the F-35 stealth fighter jet. The move formalizes a change that had already begun in incremental steps a few years ago, as Japan created a growing number of exceptions to its export ban, known as the three principles, one of the most visible pillars of Japan’s post-World War II renunciation of war, along with its pacifist Constitution, which Abe has also said he wants to revise. Adopted in 1967, the three principles originally prohibited arms sales to Communist nations, countries under United Nations sanctions and countries in armed conflict, but it eventually grew into a blanket ban on all weapons exports. Analysts said getting rid of the principles was partly aimed at opening new markets for Japanese defense companies at a time when Japan’s own military spending, while up for the first time in a decade, remained severely constrained by ballooning budget deficits. But they said Abe had finally decided to carry out the long-discussed change to achieve a larger strategic goal: augmenting Japan’s regional influence by offering its technologically sophisticated defense hardware to other countries locked in territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China. Analysts described the decision as a step toward Abe’s goal of turning long-passive Japan, which has Asia’s second-largest economy after China, into a more proactive player in regional security. Japanese officials say Abe wants to do this by turning Japan into a full-fledged defense partner of the United States, which has guaranteed Japan’s security since the war but has recently been forced to cut military spending because of fiscal problems of its own. American officials, who have long urged Japan to assume more of the defense burden, have said they would welcome a lifting of the ban. (Martin Fackler, “Japan Ends Decades-Long Ban on Export of Weapons,” New York Times, April 2, 2014, p. A-4)

A former State Department arms specialist was sentenced to 13 months in prison for leaking classified intelligence on North Korea to a Fox News reporter in 2009. Stephen Jin-woo Kim, a Korean-American, earlier pleaded guilty to passing information about the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test to James Rosen, Fox’s chief Washington correspondent. The ruling by the U.S. District Court here ends Kim’s four-year court battle. (Yonhap, “Ex-U.S. Official Sentenced to 13 Months in Jail for Leaking Information on N. Korea,” April 3, 2014)


4/2/14:
Concerns expressed by the junior partner in the ruling coalition have done nothing to deter Prime Minister Abe Shinzo from his ultimate goal of amending the Constitution. At a high-level meeting April 2, Ishiba Shigeru, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, suggested delaying Cabinet approval for changing the government interpretation of the Constitution out of consideration for partner New Komeito. “The words ‘collective self-defense’ must be included” in any Cabinet approval decision, Abe said, rejecting Ishiba’s proposal. Those close to Abe explained that the reinterpretation is only the first step in the prime minister’s long-term plan. “By first changing the interpretation, approval will be given to allowing for the exercise of the right to collective self-defense within the realm of the possible,” one source said. “However, that alone will not allow for implementing security measures of an international standard. That would make it even clearer that the only alternative will be amending the Constitution.” The April 2 meeting at the prime minister’s office, which included LDP Vice President Komura Masahiko and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, was held to discuss ways to persuade a reluctant New Komeito to go along with reinterpretation plan. It was not the first time Abe has refused to budge on the collective self-defense issue. An aide to Abe once suggested the option of not using “collective” in the document to be approved by the Cabinet. Abe replied, “That is totally unacceptable.” In September 2007, after a disastrous LDP showing in the Upper House election, Abe stepped down as prime minister after about only a year in office. Inoue Yoshiyuki, an aide to Abe during that period and now an Upper House member of Your Party, recalls what Abe told him about two months after he resigned as prime minister: “I wanted to visit Yasukuni Shrine while in office. I also wanted to amend the Constitution.” After the party swept to a landslide victory in the Lower House election held Dec. 16, 2012, Abe again became prime minister. Two days later, one of Abe’s closest confidants handed him a list of priority issues for his administration. The memo reflected the views of political scientists and others with close ties to Abe. After the Abe administration was formed, the list was revised about 10 times because of changing economic conditions and the international situation. At important junctions, Abe met with his confidant to iron out the priorities. One of the major items on the very first memo was constitutional revision. The aide suggested to Abe that he first work on amending Article 96 of the Constitution to ease the conditions for initiating constitutional revision from a two-thirds or greater majority in both houses of the Diet to a simple majority in both chambers. Abe had made that issue a key policy plank when he ran for LDP president in 2012. “Even if half of the public is in favor of amending the Constitution, it cannot be carried out if one-third or more of the members of the Diet oppose it. That is wrong,” he argued at the time. However, the move to lower the hurdle for constitutional revision was criticized even by conservatives who generally favored amendments. Kobayashi Setsu, a professor emeritus of constitutional law at Keio University, described the proposal to amend Article 96 as equivalent to “gaining admission to a university through a back-channel process.” Public opinion polls by media organizations found more voters were opposed to the proposal than in favor. For those reasons, Abe began taking a cautious approach toward amending Article 96 around May 2013. Shortly thereafter, amending Article 96 was deleted from the list of priority issues kept by Abe’s aide. Recent policy memos contained about seven or eight items, such as collective self-defense, repairing the Japan-U.S. relationship, the Senkaku Islands and historical understanding. “Constitutional revision is an objective that serves as the major precondition for this administration,” the aide said. “While we have not given up on amending Article 96, we no longer feel that has to be amended first.” Abe, in fact, has spoken out in favor of amending the Constitution ever since he was first elected to the Diet in 1993. In 1994, an LDP body chaired by Gotoda Masaharu, a former chief Cabinet secretary and political heavyweight, looked into fundamental issues. The body considered revising the party stance of compiling a new Constitution, which had been included ever since the LDP was established in 1955. Abe vigorously opposed the proposed change. His challenge to the moderate Gotoda gained the attention of conservative scholars who viewed Abe as someone with a promising future. Abe began developing a network of personal ties to such academics, including Yagi Hidetsugu, a constitutional law scholar, and Nakanishi Terumasa, a political scientist. He also gained the support of experts and groups in favor of amending the Constitution. Those aligned with Abe on constitutional revision have begun raising the possibility of a new objective. Last November, a meeting attended by about 800 individuals who favored constitutional revision was held in Tokyo. Among those in attendance were Takaichi Sanae, the LDP policy chief, and Eto Seiichi, an adviser to Abe. Journalist Sakurai Yoshiko, who is also close to Abe, was one of speakers at the event. During the second part of the closed-door gathering, Momochi Akira, constitutional law professor at Nihon University, laid out his vision of the political future. “The Upper House election scheduled for the summer of 2016 should be held concurrently with a Lower House election. The national referendum on whether to amend the Constitution should be held at the same time,” he said. The expectations of those in favor of constitutional revision have grown as support ratings for the Abe Cabinet have remained stable. However, a referendum cannot be held unless two-thirds or more of the members of each Diet chamber agree to initiate an amendment. Lawmakers and scholars close to Abe are now considering first proposing an amendment that can gain the approval of even opposition party members so that a two-thirds majority can be obtained. Those close to Abe point to the fact that the Constitution contains no provisions about how to deal with emergencies, such as natural disasters. They propose submitting an amendment that can gain the approval of a large majority of the public and putting off revisions of pacifist Article 9 until later. “If we can show the public how the constitutional revision procedure works, we should be able to have them understand that amending the Constitution is not something to be feared,” said Yosuke Isozaki, who serves as both a special adviser to Abe and secretary-general of the LDP’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution. (Asahi Shimbun, “Abe Refuses to Bend in Quest for Constitutional Revision, May 3, 2014)


4/3/14:
South Korea named its new chief negotiator for the six-party talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program ahead of a scheduled meeting with the envoys from the United States and Japan. Hwang Joon-kook, the ambassador in charge of negotiations for the South Korea-U.S. defense cost sharing pact, replaces Cho Tae-yong, who was promoted to vice foreign minister earlier this year, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Yonhap, “Seoul Names New Envoy on Six-Party Talks,” April 3, 2014)

Japanese Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori issued an order without disclosing it for the Self-Defense Forces to destroy North Korean ballistic missiles if any are launched, a government source said April 5. In line with the order, the SDF deployed to the Sea of Japan the Aegis-equipped destroyer Kirishima carrying long-range SM-3 interceptor missiles, the source said. The order was kept secret to avoid revealing Japan’s missile detection capabilities, they said. (Kyodo, “Japan Ordered SDF to Destroy Any N. Korean Missile Lauched,” April 5, 2014)

Rodong Sinmun erupted, describing South Korean President Park Geun-hye as a “bitch” and “old cat groaning in her sickbed.” A trio of articles organized under the headline “We Accuse Park the Bitch” showcased a variety of angry public reactions to a keynote speech Park delivered in Germany last week on Korean reunification. “Park Geun Hye had never married, nor given birth to child. It is really ridiculous that such a cold-blooded animal talked about human affairs, feigning to be concerned about our women and children. It would make even a cat laugh,” Pyongyang doctor Kim Jong Hui reportedly told the Rodong. (Chad O’Carroll, “N. Korean Newspaper Erupts over Park’s Unification Speech, Labels Her ‘Bitch,’” April 3, 2014)

Milonopoulos and Blandford: “South Korean President Park Guen-hye, in her statement at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague last week, warned, “North Korea’s Yongbyon is home to such a dense concentration of nuclear facilities that a fire in a single building could lead to a disaster potentially worse than Chernobyl.” Yet, this claim, which was first made in a recent study by a South Korean physicist, has not been critically evaluated using available, and known, information about North Korea’s past practices in reactor operation and construction, and the technical capacity of the reactors at the Yongbyon site. Our analysis differs from these recently prevailing speculations, in terms of the scale and scope of a potential nuclear meltdown at Yongbyon, in part, due to the significantly smaller size of North Korea’s experimental reactor and available radionuclide inventory. However, based on our analysis of the potential safety vulnerabilities of the ELWR’s construction, North Korea’s isolation, and its lack of safety culture, we believe the probability of an accident at the ELWR is high and should be a concern for the international community. …Very few details are known about the design of North Korea’s ELWR. What is known was obtained from information gathered by a visiting American delegation in November 2010 and through close examination of satellite imagery of the facility. During the site visit by Dr. Siegfried Hecker and his Stanford University colleagues, the reactor’s chief engineer stated that the ELWR would use a pressurized water reactor (PWR) design—the most common commercial reactor constructed around the globe. The reactor will operate with a full fuel-load of four tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU) at 3.5 percent of the uranium-235 isotope—a level of enrichment consistent with typical PWR fuel—to be produced in the newly constructed uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon. At the time of the November visit, the concrete foundation of the reactor’s containment vessel was estimated to be 28 meters squared. The chief engineer said the vessel was expected to be 22 meters in diameter, 0.9 meters thick, and 40 meters high. These dimensions have been confirmed by analysis of commercial satellite imagery. As of January 2014, the external construction of the reactor appeared complete. The containment structure has been welded shut, the turbine generator hall seems finished, a ventilation shaft has been erected, and a transformer park used for electricity generation has been set up on the east side of the reactor. Still, there is probably a significant amount of work to be done inside the reactor before it becomes operational. For example, the control system will need be installed and all the internal components, including the vessels and piping, will need to be designed, installed, and tested. The testing of the reactor’s components may occur in the coming months. However, it is unlikely the ELWR will be fully operational for one to two years at the earliest, assuming the North Koreans do not run into any large-scale problems. …While the ELWR appears similar to the LWRs that KEDO was supposed to have built in North Korea, it is unclear how the North’s involvement with that project has influenced the reactor design or how much technology transfer occurred. When the KEDO project was terminated, some reactor components, fabricated abroad, were left onsite. It is unknown any of these components have been used for the new reactor or if the North Koreans—who are very good at reverse engineering—may have used the components instead to learn how to fabricate them for the ELWR. Satellite imagery of the KEDO site from 2009 shows activity around many of the areas where the components were stored indicating the North Koreans may be using them in some way for the new reactor. The large amount of unknowns about the ELWR is cause for concern. After closely examining the available data, we have identified four potential safety vulnerabilities. 1. Possible flawed reactor safety design and inadequate quality of construction From our observations of satellite imagery, we believe the new ELWR has features similar to standard Generation II pressurized water reactors. While the specific safety features of the ELWR are unknown, reactors with a similar design generally rely on “active” safety systems, which require operator actions or electronic feedback to ensure safety of the reactor. The specifications of the safety system can make the difference under a disaster scenario between a reactor core melting down and shutting off just in time. Because these key details remain unknown, it exposes a serious safety vulnerability and raises considerable alarm that a natural disaster onsite could precipitate a core meltdown of the reactor. For an active safety system to be adequate, onsite power needs to be supplied to the reactor constantly in order to pump cooling water through the core to keep the temperature constant and prevent a meltdown. However, North Korea’s antiquated energy grid is unlikely to be reliable enough to guarantee a constant stream of onsite power. In addition, backup diesel generators are usually used to provide power to the cooling system in the event a station blackout occurs. However, no generators appear present at the site. In short, without a reliable source of onsite power or adequate back-up generators, North Korea’s ELWR runs the risk of losing power and not being able to provide adequate cooling to the core. The ability of the North Koreans to fabricate specialized safety-related equipment and components is another important concern. Everything in the reactor, from the piping to the pressure and containment vessel to the concrete used for the containment building, requires special materials and quality-assured fabrication to prevent any radiological leaks. Pyongyang does possess a large steel industry, including a 10,000-ton forging press at the Chollima Steel Complex, which could be used to forge reactor components. However, these components require precise and accurate fabrication, a process only a few countries have perfected through many years of trial and error. While not impossible, it would be surprising for North Korea to be able to flawlessly fabricate these components without outside assistance. An additional concern is that basic details of the ELWR design appear to have been decided on an ad hoc basis even as construction had already begun. As of November 2010, North Korea’s reactor engineers admitted to not yet knowing what type of cladding would be used for the fuel: either zirconium alloy or stainless steel. This decision is usually made early in the reactor design phase, well before construction has begun, because the type of cladding can affect the overall design of the reactor’s core and safety features. Moreover, North Korea has no experience fabricating fuel for an ELWR. That might leave the reactor susceptible to fuel failures. Once the reactor becomes operational, the fuel rod’s protective cladding sleeve could degrade and the hot exposed fuel pellets would leak radiation into the containment vessel, possibly contaminating the reactors components. 2. Inexperienced design and safety engineering While some North Korean engineers were trained in aspects of LWR construction and operation by KEDO, Pyongyang evidently decided not to capitalize on this experience. Rather, the reactor design team is composed of young men in their 40s without any prior experience designing or building these reactors, making them more susceptible to misjudgment and errors in their calculations. …An additional potential problem is what appeared to be inadequate nuclear standard best practices during the early construction of the containment building. For example, with only a single backhoe visible onsite, Dr. Hecker asked if the North Koreans had conducted the proper seismic analysis to ensure the reactor was not sited in a location susceptible to earthquakes. Although the chief engineer assured him they excavated down to the bedrock, there was little visible evidence that such an analysis had occurred. In addition, the method of laying the foundations for the reactor’s containment structure appeared inadequate. Best practices for reactor design requires special reactor-grade concrete poured in large, unbroken units whose drying must be carefully watched through close temperature control. However, only a small mixer was visible at the site and the concrete containment shell was being poured only one meter at a time. Even the siting of the ELWR raises serious questions. Located adjacent to the Kuryong River, the reactor uses the river as its ultimate heat sink—the source of water to cool the core of the reactor. A constant, reliable supply is needed to cool the reactor system to prevent a meltdown. However, based on satellite imagery, rather than constant and reliable, the supply seems variable depending on rainfall. The river tends to flood during the late summer monsoon period and dries up and freezes during the winter. This unpredictable water level complicates the reactor design’s need for active cooling. 3. Lack of a strong safety culture and an independent nuclear regulator The absence of a strong, transparent nuclear regulatory framework in North Korea is of significant concern. One of the key objectives during the KEDO project was to establish such a framework through working with the DPRK’s State Nuclear Safety Regulatory Commission (SNSRC), the authority that is responsible for licensing and overseeing the ELWR’s construction. That was to be accomplished by training operators and teaching its specialists best practices in nuclear safety. The SNSRC’s ability to effectively implement its mission is in doubt for three reasons. First, the employees of the SNSRC, while university graduates, probably only have practical experience working at Pyongyang’s gas-graphite reactor and have never licensed an LWR. This lack of experience is a significant problem. …Second, the SNSRC is unlikely to qualify as an independent and strong body operating outside the political influence of the regime, an essential requirement for ensuring nuclear safety. The need for such an authority is a lesson many countries unfortunately do not learn until it is too late. For example, Japan established such an authority in the aftermath of Fukushima, which, unlike its predecessor, is solely regulatory with no responsibility for technology promotion. In the case of North Korea, there are no government agencies that operate outside of the control of the regime and the importance of Pyongyang’s nuclear program ensures an even greater degree of oversight. It should be noted that North Korea does have experience constructing and operating reactors in a safe manner. Since 1986, North Korea has been operating its 5 MWe gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor off and on, which was constructed indigenously, without any major accidents or safety issues. However, because of fundamental design differences between the gas-graphite reactors and LWRs, especially related to reactor safety, this experience does not directly translate or inform the ability of North Korea’s engineers to ensure LWR safety. In fact, the gas-graphite design has more inherent safety features than LWRs and is less susceptible to a severe accident. … The nuclear facilities at Yongbyon are located adjacent to large fields used to grow crops and many of the buildings at the nuclear research center, are interspersed with others associated with processing agricultural products. If an accident were to occur, there would be a high risk of contaminating the surrounding agricultural areas and ground soil. In addition, if the accident is not successfully managed, this contamination could be made worse, for instance, it might also spread to the adjacent Kuryong River….This issue of ELWR safety should be of concern to the international community. However, little can be done to address these safety vulnerabilities if tensions between North Korea and the United States continue and there are no talks about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. If those talks resume, nuclear safety should be addressed. But in the meantime, national governments, if they have not done so already, should prepare for the day when Pyongyang’s ELWR becomes operational and the possibility that an accident will occur. (Nico Milonopoulos and Edward Blandford, “’Safety First: Not One Accident Can Occur’: Nuclear Safety and North Korea’s Quest to Build a Light-Water Reactor,” 38North, April 3, 2014)


4/4/14:
North Korea said that the world would have to “wait and see” when asked for details of “a new form” of nuclear test it threatened to carry out after the United Nations Security Council condemned Pyongyang’s recent ballistic missile launch. “The DPRK made it very clear, we will carry out a new form of nuclear test. But I recommend you to wait and see what it is,” Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ri Tong Il said during the normally reclusive state’s third U.N. news conference this year. “The U.S. is hell bent on eliminating the DPRK politically, isolating DPRK economically and annihilating the DPRK militarily,” Ri told reporters. “There is a great question mark why the U.S. is hell bent on increasing the tension, ignoring the DPRK proposals, very important for peace and security.” He also said Washington was blocking a bid for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula by ignoring North Korean proposals, so it can maintain military presence in the region. “There is no human rights situation existing in the DPRK,” Ri said. “The DPRK has the best social system in the world, it is based on one family as a country, fully united around our leadership, the people and the party.” “The U.S. is behaving as if it is a human rights judge while it should be subjected to the International Criminal Court more than anybody else. They made a lot of crimes,” he said, citing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ri criticized military drills by the United States and South Korea, called Foal Eagle and due to end on April 18. “The U.S. is now going around crazy with these joint military drills without caring about peace and security on the Korean peninsula,” Ri said. A U.S. diplomat said that Washington had long made clear that it was open to improved relations with North Korea if Pyongyang lived up to its international obligations. “North Korea’s nuclear programs will not make the country more secure. The only way for North Korea to achieve the security and prosperity it seeks is by complying with its international obligations and commitments,” the diplomat said. Nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in the United States, said North Korea’s reference to a new form of nuclear test could mean simultaneous detonation of two or more devices as part of a program of more intense testing expected over the next few years. Lewis said he thought it unlikely North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would move for the moment from underground to atmospheric testing–something he might do to demonstrate an ability to deploy nuclear armed missiles or artillery–for fear of inflaming Chinese public opinion. “He’s only likely to do that … if he no longer cares what Beijing thinks,” Lewis said. “Still, it is useful to remember that Kim Jong Un has a number of other unpleasant provocations from which he might choose.” (Reuters, “North Korea Tells World ‘Wait and See’ on New Nuclear Test,” April 5, 2014)


4/5/14:
A senior North Korean diplomat in charge of talks to normalize relations with Japan did not arrive in Beijing today, despite a Japanese media report that Pyongyang and Tokyo would hold informal high-level talks here over the weekend. Ambassador Song Il-ho, the North’s chief negotiator in the normalization talks with Japan, did not show at the Beijing Capital International Airport. Earlier in the day, Tokyo Shimbun reported that North Korea and Japan would hold two-day informal talks from Saturday in Beijing at the request of the North. After the Beijing talks, Song warned that government-level talks between North Korea and Japan aimed at improving ties would fail if a prime real estate in Tokyo, owned by a Japan-based pro-Pyongyang Korean residents’ group, is auctioned off. (Yonhap, “Senior N. Korea Diplomat No-Show at Beijing Airport,” April 5, 2014)

KPA Strategic Force spokesman: “The south Korean puppet forces conducted a ballistic missile test-fire in secrecy at the Anhung firing range in Thaean, South Chungchong Province on Mar. 23 and opened it to public more than ten days later. South Korean media are loudly advertising that the puppet forces succeeded in the test-fire of a ballistic missile with a range of 500 km by applying foreign technology. They are openly claiming that if these ballistic missiles are deployed to be ready to go into action next year, they can put the whole area of the northern half of Korea except North Hamgyong Province within the striking range. …Great irony is that the puppet forces are claiming that they did a great job by conducting a test-fire of a ballistic missile with a range of just 500 km. And it cannot but be construed as a comedy that they opened to public the test-fire so late. As already known, units of the Strategic Force of the KPA successfully conducted their regular rocket launching drills from late February to late March. At that time the south Korean puppet forces made much fuss together with the U.S. as if the rockets launched by the KPA had dropped in the heart of Seoul. It was none other than the south Korean puppet forces which worked more desperately than any others in a bid to slap fresh “sanctions” against the DPRK while labeling the launching drills as a “violation of the UN resolutions” and a “provocation.” Ceaselessly heard from south Korea these days are voices chiding the puppet forces’ poor military reaction to the regular artillery naval firing drills of the KPA. To make matters worse, even drone cases occurred all of a sudden, more badly tarnishing the image of the puppet forces which had fallen to the ground. Thrown into a pretty fix by the artillery naval firing drills in waters, a hotspot in the southwestern sector of the front, and the drone cases, the puppet authorities urgently required a way to put the situation under control. They orchestrated a charade out of agony. It was to open to public in great haste the missile test-fire conducted in secrecy and advertise it as something great and “big success” in a bid to calm down the mounting accusation and derision. With no rhetoric could they improve their poor position. This farce only brought disgrace to them. People are anxious to know how the U.S. will approach the opening to public of the missile test-fire by the south Korean puppet forces. This is because what approach the U.S. will take towards the rocket launching drills conducted by the KPA and the south Korean puppet forces’ missile test-fire, both of which happened on the Korean peninsula, would help judge again the American style standards and mode of action. Now the south Korean puppet forces will have no face to find fault with the DPRK over its justifiable rocket launches and its exercise of the right to self-defence any longer no matter how desperately they may wag their tongues. The south Korean puppet forces should properly know that their position is becoming more pitiful as they are hell-bent on the confrontation with compatriots. The U.S., too, would be well advised not to groundlessly take issue with the DPRK over its measures to bolster up its deterrence for self-defense.” (KCNA, “Purpose of S. Korea’s Delayed Opening to Public of Missile Test-Fire Laid Bare,” April 5, 2014)


4/6/14:
The U.S. will deploy two additional ballistic missile defense destroyers to Japan by 2017 as part of an effort to bolster protection from North Korean missile threats, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a news conference following a meeting with Japan Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori. Hagel said the two ships are in response to North Korea’s “pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions” that violate U.N. resolutions and also will provide more protection to the U.S. from those threats. The two additional ships would bring the total to seven U.S. ballistic missile defense warships in Japan, and it continues U.S. efforts to increase its focus on the Asia Pacific. They carry sophisticated systems that can track missile launches, and their SM-3 missiles can zero in on and take out short- to medium-range missiles that might be fired at U.S. or allied nations. They can also carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can be launched from sea and hit high-value targets or enemy weapons systems from afar, without risking pilots or aircraft. In unusually forceful remarks about China, Hagel called the Asian nation a “great power” and said that when he travels to China later this week he will tell its officials that they must have respect for their neighbors. Japan and China have been at odds over territorial claims and other issues. “With this power comes new and wider responsibilities as to how you use that power” and how to employ military might, Hagel said, adding that he looks forward to an honest, straightforward dialogue with the Chinese. Hagel is on a 10-day trip across the Asia Pacific, and just spent three days in Hawaii meeting with Southeast Asian defense ministers, talking about efforts to improve defense and humanitarian assistance cooperation. The U.S. will begin sending long-range Global Hawk surveillance drones to Japan this month for rotational deployments. They are intended to help step up surveillance around the Senkaku islands, a source of heated debate between Japan and China over claims to the remote territories. In its latest symbolic gesture of support for Japan, the U.S. decided not to send a warship to participate in a Chinese naval parade as part of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium because the Japanese were not invited. U.S. military leaders, including the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, will attend the symposium and ship review. (Lolita Baldor, “U.S. to Deploy 2 More Destroyers to Japan by 2017,” Associated Press, April 6, 2014)

South Korea found a third suspected North Korean drone on a mountain on the east coast, officials said, in what could be the latest in a series of border incursions by North Korea’s unmanned spy aircraft. South Korean soldiers found the crashed drone on a mountain in Samcheok, 290 kilometers east of Seoul, earlier in the day after three local residents informed the military that they had seen the unmanned aircraft on October 4, defense ministry officials said. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Finds Third Suspects N. Korean Drone,” April 6, 2014)

Seoul repatriated three North Korean sailors rescued April 4 in the aftermath of a cargo ship accident off South Korea’s coast via the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, Sunday. Two dead bodies of North Korean sailors who drowned during the accident were also returned home, according to the Ministry of Unification. The move comes following Pyongyang’s call yesterday for “concerned parties” to rescue the missing sailors who have been missing since a cargo ship with 16 North Koreans aboard sank off the southwestern coast of South Korea the previous day. The Mongolian-flagged 4,300-ton boat, named Grand Fortune 1, ran aground at around 1 a.m. on April 4, some 74 kilometers off the coast of Yeosu, South Jeolla Province. (Chung Min-uck, “Seoul Repatriates N. Korean Sailors,” Korea Times, April 6, 2014)


4/7/14:
In a show of unity in dealing with North Korea, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan jointly warned the communist nation not to take any more provocative steps. “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test, we, along with the international community, will make it pay the price for that,” South Korea’s top nuclear envoy Hwang Joon-kook told reporters in Washington. “North Korea’s nuclear test would be a direct challenge to the international community, and a threat to peace and security in the world.” He was briefing the media on results of a trilateral meeting with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts — Glyn Davies and Ihara Junichi. The three countries also vowed to continue close cooperation to address the human rights problem in the secretive North, according to the U.S. State Department. “We pledged to continue working closely with each other and with our allies and partners in the international community to focus international attention on the deplorable human rights situation in North Korea, and to hold the DPRK (North Korea) accountable for its systematic and ongoing violations of the human rights of its people,” it said. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S., Japan Issue Joint Warning to N. Korea,” April 8, 2014) South Korea, the United States and Japan have agreed to lower the bar on conditions for resuming long-stalled nuclear talks with North Korea, a diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter said April 14, saying Pyongyang must show its sincerity through the same pledges it made in a scuttled aid-for-disarmament deal with the U.S. more than two years ago. The agreement was reached at the trilateral talks in Washington last week among top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. They listed several conditions, which were originally set by the U.S. and North Korea in February 2012, as steps the North should take before the resumption of the six-party talks, the source said on condition of anonymity. Under the so-called “Leap Day” deal between Washington and Pyongyang, North Korea agreed to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests and allow international inspectors to monitor its nuclear sites in exchange for food aid. The deal fell apart when North Korea launched a long-range rocket two months later and conducted its third nuclear test a year later. Subsequently, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan had called on the North to take steps beyond what it agreed to in the “Leap Day” deal before resumption of the talks. The move to relax the conditions for talks comes amid threats by North Korea to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test ahead of visits by U.S. President Barack Obama to South Korea and Japan later this month. “Two principles have been set before resumption of the six-party talks can take place. The first is to make practical progress in denuclearizing North Korea and the second is to prevent the North from sophisticating its nuclear capability,” the source said. “Under the principles, there are various ways to resume the six-party talks. But, North Korea must meet conditions set under the February 29 agreement,” the source said, referring to the deal between the U.S. and North Korea. After the trilateral talks in Washington, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Hwang Joon-kook, visited Beijing last week, during which he discussed the issue with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei. Wu is now on a week-long visit to the U.S. for talks with his U.S. counterpart, Glyn Davies. “China agrees on the need for North Korea to meet preconditions ahead of the six-party talks, but it insists that the level of preconditions should be reasonable,” said the source, who also is involved in the talks between Hwang and Wu. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S., Japan Lower Bar for Nuclear Talks with N. Korea,” Korea Herald, April 14, 2014)

President Park Geun-hye has been taking a confused approach to North Korea recently, following up her emphasis on inter-Korean exchange and cooperation in a late March speech in Dresden with mention of “internal insecurities” at an April 7 meeting of Blue House senior secretaries. Analysts are now saying that Park’s “my way or the highway” approach, which may work in the domestic politics where she has a solid support base, is now being extended to inter-Korean relations as well. Speaking at a meeting at the Blue House this morning, Park prefaced her remarks by saying, “North Korea’s decision not long ago to break the agreement it had with Seoul not to engage in slander or provocations may be an attempt to shut down internal insecurities.” Park’s primary aim may have been to respond to recent remarks in the North Korean media that denounce her by name. But her decision to make such a blunt reference to “internal insecurities” in North Korea is also seen as somewhat unusual. Moreover, the perceived provocations in the remarks could get in the way of realizing some of the aims she laid out in the Dresden speech. Indeed, signs already point to North Korea taking her remarks as slanderous. While laying out her “three-point proposal” to North Korea in the Dresden speech, she used a number of expressions that could upset Pyongyang, including references to “famine-stricken North Korean children” and a “nonstop string of defections that continues to this day.” A senior government official warned of the consequences of ill-chosen language. “President Park really didn’t show any consideration for the other side when she said that,” the official said. “When you go overseas and start talking about how North Korea is ‘starving,’ they’re going to have a tough time accepting your proposal even if they wanted to.” Questions are even being raised about her commitment to reunification, with analysts characterizing her approach as “shaking hands and slapping their face at the same time.” The charge is that her “North Korea policy” isn’t aimed at the North at all, but is purely for South Korean political effect. The “my way” approach can sometimes be an asset, since it means Park is not letting the situation dictate her response. In the same April 7 opening remarks, she went on to say, “This is all the more reason we need to keep making efforts to solve the humanitarian issues affecting North Korea’s people, build infrastructure for the public welfare, and restore parity between people in South and North Korea.” This reads as a pledge of continued efforts at exchange and cooperation in spite of tensions between the two sides. The problem could be that all of the proposals were focused squarely on the North Korean people. Many said this emphasis in the three-point proposal in Dresden — resident humanitarian issues, resident infrastructure, parity with South Korean residents — was the result of an approach that views the North Korean administration and people as intrinsically separate. It’s also a view of the North Korea held by many conservatives in South Korea and the US. “While it’s more forward-thinking that what’s come before, this Dresden speech is going to seem off-putting to the regime in Pyongyang because it separates out the regime and the public and talks about support as a way of ‘improving people’s lives,’” said Dongguk University professor Koh Yu-hwan. (Choi Hyun-june and Seok Jin-hwan, “Pres. Park’s ‘My Way or the Highway’ North Korea Policy,” Hankyore, April 8, 2014)

Nick Hansen: “Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates that North Korea may have experienced problems ensuring an adequate water supply essential for the operation of reactor cooling systems at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. These difficulties resulted from the extensive rainfall and subsequent flooding in July 2013, which moved the main channel in the Kuryong River away from the water supply, filled the collection cisterns and ponds with sand and possibly destroyed pipes leading to them that had been laid along the river bottom. Because of these difficulties: The recently restarted 5 MWe plutonium production reactor may have been temporarily shut down or operated at a lower power level in early 2014 in order to repair problems with the secondary cooling system’s water supply. North Korea quickly completed major water channel excavations and dam construction from December 2013 until February of this year to ensure adequate water would be available for the cooling system of the experimental light water reactor (ELWR) now nearing completion. Despite these short-term fixes, the danger posed by an unreliable supply of water for the Yongbyon reactors remains, particularly since the channels and dam constructed are made from sand and could be washed away by future floods. If the 5 MWe reactor’s secondary cooling system were to fail, so would the entire cooling system. The result would be a fire in the graphite core and the release of radioactivity. While North Korea’s experience operating this system would increase its chances of quickly shutting it down before a fire broke out, the reactor’s lack of airtight containment could lead to the escape of some radioactivity even in small accidents. As for the ELWR, Pyongyang has no such experience operating the new facility, the first indigenously built reactor of its kind in North Korea. The rapid loss of water used to cool the reactor could result in a serious safety problem. Contrary to recent assertions by ROK President Park Geun-hye, a nuclear accident in North Korea would not cause damage worse than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 because of the small sizes of Yongbyon reactors. However, a radioactive release in the atmosphere or river would cause an expanded local area of contamination. Also, Pyongyang’s likely lack of transparency could create a regional crisis, panicking the public in surrounding countries and raising tensions with governments anxious for further information. A key hurdle for North Korea in restarting its 5 MWe plutonium production reactor in August 2013 was reactivating the secondary cooling system for that facility. The system had been shut down since July 2007 and disabled since 2008, with the destruction of its cooling tower as a result of an agreement reached through the Six Party Talks. Hot water, used to cool the carbon-dioxide gas primary cooling system, had flowed from the reactor’s secondary system to the large tower and then was recycled back into the reactor. The tower also cooled the steam and hot water from the turbines that powered the electrical generators. Without the secondary cooling system operating, the primary carbon-dioxide gas cooling system would quickly become hot, causing the heat in reactor core to increase as well as a fire in the graphite moderators. To accomplish the objective of restarting the 5 MWe reactor, rather than rebuild the cooling tower, in mid-2013, Pyongyang connected the pipes that originally went to the tower to new pipes being installed as part of the ELWR cooling system to ensure that the 5 MWe reactor had a backup supply of cooling water. One result of not rebuilding the cooling tower is that the North Koreans now need more river water. A new pipe was also constructed before the 5 MWe restart that dumps the steam and hot water from the turbines directly into the river. Since the restart of the 5 MWe reactor took place a month after the July 2013 floods at the Yongbyon facility, the cisterns needed to collect the cooling water were already covered with sand. It is unclear why the North Koreans did not immediately clear them. But to temporarily access the water, they appear to have put in place two or three pipes from the pump house to a pond of open water 25 meters away. During this period, a combination of indicators from commercial satellite imagery points to an alteration in reactor operations, either operating the facility at a lower power level or shutting it down. …If the reactor was shut down or operated on low power, it seems to have been restarted by February 13, indicated by the reappearance of hot foam, and was operating as of early March.” (Nick Hansen, “Nuclear Safety Problems at North Korea’s Yongbyon Facility?” 38North, April 7, 2014)


4/8/14:
Burns: “We’ve consistently said we are willing to engage when countries show a credible and serious interest in abiding by their obligations. This was true in Burma. It’s the case with Iran. And it can be the case with North Korea as well. But we are not willing — to borrow a phrase from former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates — to “buy the same horse twice.” We are not going to talk for the sake of talks or respond to North Korean provocations with inducements and concessions.” (Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Address at the Asia Society Policy Institute, New York, April 8, 2014) Burns plans to step down in October as the State Department’s second-ranking official, administration officials said April 11. He has twice delayed his retirement, most recently at the request of President Obama. (Michael R. Gordon, “Diplomat Who Led Secret Talks with Iran Plans to Retire,” New York Times, April 12, 2014, p. A-8)

KCNA: “A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea was held under the guidance of Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, on April 8. It was attended by members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK, and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK. Vice-premiers of the Cabinet and some department directors, first vice-department directors and vice-department directors of the C.C., the WPK were present at the meeting as observers. The meeting discussed the issue of reinforcing the organization for increasing the leadership role and function of the Party as required by the developing revolution. It discussed a proposal for forming the state leadership body to be submitted to the First Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly. It also discussed an organizational matter. Decisions on the relevant agenda items were unanimously adopted at the meeting. Kim Jong Un at the meeting set forth important tasks to be fulfilled to further strengthen the WPK to be an invincible revolutionary party, firmly protect the dignity and sovereignty of the country and dynamically accelerate the work to improve the standard of the people’s living and the building of a rich and powerful country. The meeting held under the guidance of Kim Jong Un marks a historic occasion that encouraged the service personnel and people in the struggle to dynamically advance along the road of independence, Songun and socialism under the uplifted banner of great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism and provided an important milestone in bringing earlier the building of a thriving nation and a great revolutionary event of national reunification.” (KCNA, “Meeting of Political Bureau of C.C., WPK Held under Guidance of Kim Jong Un,” April 8, 2014)

North Korean Ambassador to China Ji Jae-ryong was recently summoned by China’s foreign ministry and received a message that China would “clearly oppose any nuclear tests and medium- and long-range missile tests by North Korea,” a diplomatic source briefed on the matter said. “Throughout various channels, including the summons of Ambassador Ji Jae-ryong, the Chinese side has repeatedly urged North Korea not to conduct a nuclear test,” the source said on the condition of anonymity. The source declined to elaborate further, including on when the North Korean envoy was summoned. When asked about the recent summons of Ambassador Ji, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei replied, “Under the current circumstances, we hope that all sides can do more things that are conducive to the stability of the Korean Peninsula and make their contribution to ease tensions.” Hong was speaking to reporters during a regular press briefing. (Yonhap, “China Summons N. Korean Ambassador over Nuclear Threat: Source,” April 8, 2014)

In one of the clearest signals that Japan is trying to allay fears that it is whitewashing wartime atrocities — and to repair somewhat frayed relations with the United States — the foreign minister said that his government would not try to push revisions of that history. In an interview, the foreign minister, Kishida Fumio, distanced his government from far-right statements about World War II made recently by political associates of the conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, including denials of the sexual servitude of thousands of Korean, Chinese and other women. “The criticism about historical revisionism is coming because people who are not members of the government are making outlandish remarks, and these are then misunderstood as being the historical views of the Abe cabinet,” Kishida said. “This is unfortunate and regrettable.” He also restated the government’s intention to uphold apologies made by earlier Japanese leaders to Japan’s wartime and colonial-era victims. “Prime Minister Abe and the Abe cabinet are firmly continuing the views on history, and the position on history of previous administrations,” he added. “We must face history, and be humble before it. This is a matter of course.” Kishida said that the Abe government would use the visit by Obama to showcase its efforts to strengthen Japan’s postwar security alliance with the United States, which maintains 50,000 military personnel at bases in the country. He said these accomplishments include the restarting of a long-stalled deal to relocate an air base on Okinawa, and the willingness to make painful political concessions necessary to negotiate a trans-Pacific trade deal that the Obama administration hopes will cement American regional leadership. However, he said reaching a deal on the pact, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, might prove too complicated to happen in time for Obama’s visit, although American negotiators are in Tokyo for last-minute talks. Kishida also said emphasizing Japan’s contributions to the stability and prosperity of the region since the end of the war would be one of the best ways to combat the criticism that it is dabbling in revisionism. “What our nation needs to do is show that it has accepted the past humbly, repeatedly expressed remorse and above all, walked a path of peace for 69 years,” Mr. Kishida said. “And we need to explain that there will be no change in these diplomatic policies in the future, either.” (Martin Fackler, “Japan’s Foreign Minister Says Apologies to Wartime Victims Will Be Upheld,” New York Times, April 9, 2014, p. A-6)

The United States and China clashed over Japan as China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan asserted that Beijing had “indisputable sovereignty” over a group of islands in the East China Sea and that his country’s military stood ready to protect its interests in territorial disputes. Chang said that China would not be first to launch an attack over the territorial dispute. But he accused Japan of “confusing the right with the wrong” in its assertion of control over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are known as the Senkaku in Japan and as the Diaoyu in China. “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands,” Chang said. He added that on the issue of what he called “territorial sovereignty,” China would “make no compromise, no concession, no treaty.” He continued, “The Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.” Chang made his comments at a news conference with the United States defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, after a morning of meetings at the Ministry of National Defense. It is Hagel’s first trip to China as defense secretary. While both men sought to present their meetings as constructive, they espoused divergent views on a number of issues, particularly the territorial dispute in the East China Sea, and a similar dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. At one point, Hagel appeared impatient, wagging his finger. “The Philippines and Japan are longtime allies of the United States,” he said. “We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of those countries,” he continued, adding that the United States was “fully committed to those treaty obligations.” Hagel accused China of adding to tensions in the region by declaring an air defense zone in the East China Sea with “no collaboration, no consultation.” Such moves, he warned, could “eventually get to dangerous conflict.” The exchange punctuated a visit that American defense officials had sought to present as a long-awaited deepening of military relations between the countries. Yesterday, Hagel became the first foreign dignitary allowed on board a Chinese aircraft carrier, and today the United States and China announced modest steps toward improving communications. But there appeared to be no closing of the gaps on more contentious issues. Hagel, for instance, called on China to be more open about its cyberwarfare capabilities, which American officials have said Beijing uses for commercial espionage. Hagel portrayed the United States as transparent about its own capabilities in telecommunications security, pointing to a recent briefing that the Defense Department gave to Chinese officials on the Pentagon’s doctrine for defending against cyberattacks. “More transparency will strengthen China-U.S. relations,” he said. “Greater openness about cyber reduces the risk that misunderstanding and misperception could lead to miscalculation.” Beijing, American defense officials said, still has not responded to Hagel’s invitation to reciprocate with a briefing of its own. Chang stood impassively during Hagel’s call for more openness on cybersecurity. When it was his turn to talk, he said that “the defense activity of the People’s Liberation Army in cyberspace abides” by Chinese law. “It will not pose a threat to others,” he added. The disagreement with China over digital security issues puts Hagel in the difficult position of arguing with Beijing over what is acceptable to spy on and what is not. American officials have maintained that a barrage of attacks that originated in China aimed at stealing technology and other intellectual property from Silicon Valley and from military contractors and energy firms in the United States. Many of those attacks have been linked to cyberwarfare units of the People’s Liberation Army, acting on behalf of state-owned, or state-affiliated, Chinese companies. But the United States has not always been transparent about cyberespionage, either. Last month the New York Times and Der Spiegel reported that the United States had infiltrated the networks of Huawei, China’s networking and telecommunications giant. Additional disclosures about American spying were revealed in National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former contractor at the agency. After his meetings at the Defense Ministry, Hagel went to the National Defense University in Beijing to give a speech and hold a question-and-answer session with about 120 Chinese military officers. Most of the questions from the audience centered on the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute, as Chinese officers repeatedly complained that American policy in the region favored Japan. The dispute over the islands also figured prominently today at the New York debut of the Asia Society Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group created by the Asia Society. China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, participating in a panel on Asian peace and prosperity, politely but firmly warned the United States about taking sides with Japan. Without identifying Japan by name, Cui said America should think hard about whether its military alliances with other countries in Asia were serving American interests. He also rejected the idea of settling the island dispute through arbitration, challenging the United States to put itself in China’s position. “I don’t think the United States would subject itself to any international arbitration when its sovereignty and territorial integrity is concerned,” he said. “Most probably you would send out an aircraft carrier task force there. We are not doing that — yet.” William J. Burns, the deputy secretary of state, said in a keynote speech at the event that the island dispute and North Korea’s bellicose behavior were the two most serious security issues facing Asia. Burns also sought to allay concerns that the Obama administration was wavering in its so-called “pivot to Asia” because of crises elsewhere in the world. Going forward, Mr. Burns said, “no region will be more consequential for American interests and for the shape of the global system than the Asia Pacific.” (Helene Cooper, “Hagel Spars with Chinese over Islands and Security,” New York Times, April 9, 2014, p. A-6)

A Chinese pro-Japan advocate with close ties to President Xi Jinping secretly met with Prime Minister Abe Shinzo today in an effort to mend bilateral ties, Asahi Shimbun has learned. According to sources familiar with the inner workings of the politics of both countries, the confidential meeting between Hu Deping and Abe took place on April 8. During his visit to Japan from April 6 to 13, Hu, the son of the late Chinese leader Hu Yaobang, met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio, former Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo and Kono Yohei, a former speaker of the Lower House. They talked about Tokyo’s stance toward Beijing, and discussed the future of Japan-China relations. During the meeting, Abe is believed to have told Hu that Tokyo is ready to hold dialogue and make efforts to mend bilateral relations. Hu’s trip to Japan was organized by Tokyo’s Foreign Ministry. (Kurashige Nanae, “Cofindate of Xi Met with Abe to Smooth Bilateral Relations,” Asahi Shimbun, April 15, 2014)


4/9/14:
The first session of the newly formed Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) reelected North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as head of the National Defense Commission. Kim Yong-nam, the North’s ceremonial head of state, retained his position as president of the Presidium of the SPA, and Premier Pak Pong-ju also kept his job. Choe Ryong-hae, the North Korean military’s top political officer, was elected vice chairman of the defense commission to replace Jang Son Thaek. The North also appointed Ri Su-yong, a former ambassador to Switzerland, to replace Pak Ui-chun as the foreign minister of the communist country.Analysts and government officials said the North’s regime reshuffle indicates that Pyongyang is seeking for internal stability amid tensions with South Korea and the United States. “There were no big changes in the leadership nominations during the SPA session and new policy directions were not announced,” said an official from Ministry of Unification that handles inter-Korean affairs. “We believe the North has chosen stability more than change. “There is little possibility that the North will bring about any big policy shift. We see the North’s future policies to be an extension of the previous ones,” the official added. (Chung Min-uck “N. K. Chooses Stability over Change,” Korea Times, April 10, 2014) Cho Chun-ryong appears to have replaced Paek Se-bong, the ousted chief of the Second Economic Commission in charge of the munitions industry, according to a government official. The National Defense Commission is the North’s top governing body consisting of only nine members, including leader Kim Jong-un. But Cho is an almost unknown quantity to outsiders. “It seems probable that Cho had been a vice chairman of the Second Economic Commission or head of its missiles bureau and worked in the missile development sector for a long time,” the official speculated. “The regime may have concealed his identity for security reasons.” (Chosun Ilbo, “The New Face in the N. Korean Regime,” April 11, 2014)

The United States and China have agreed to set up a high-level consultation channel to discuss North Korea and other regional security issues, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on a landmark trip to Beijing. (Korea Times, “U.S., China to establish Regular Dialogue Channel on N. Korea,” April 9, 2014)


4/10/14:
The United States is giving China a “mission impossible” by insisting it exert pressure on neighboring North Korea to halt its nuclear program or face US consequences, Beijing’s ambassador said. “There is one thing that worries me a little bit, and even more than a little bit, is that we’re very often told that China has such an influence over DPRK and we should force the DPRK to do this or that,” Cui Tiankai told a Washington think-tank. “Otherwise the United States would have to do something that would hurt China’s security interests. You see you are giving us a mission impossible.” Tiankai, who has been China’s envoy to Washington since April 2013, said he did not “think this was very fair, I don’t think this is a constructive way of working with each other.” Cui told an audience at the United States Institute of Peace that Beijing was very worried by the threat of nuclear arms on the Korean Peninsula and the risk of another war, armed conflict or chaos. “The peninsula is just at our doorstep, any chaos, any armed conflict there will certainly have cross-border effects on China,” Cui said. “But this problem cannot be solved by China alone. We need cooperation among the relevant parties.” (AFP, “Envoy: U.S. Has Given China a ‘Mission Impossible’ on North Korea,” April 10, 2014)

Just weeks after Japan agreed to give up a cache of weapons-grade plutonium, the country is set to push ahead with a program that would produce new stockpiles of the material, creating a proliferation risk for decades to come. Though that additional plutonium would not be the grade that is most desirable for bombs, and is therefore less of a threat, it could — in knowledgeable hands and with some work and time — be used to make a weapon. The newly created stockpiles would add to tons of other plutonium already being stored in Japan. “The government made a big deal out of returning several hundred kilograms of plutonium, but it brushes over the fact that Japan has so much more,” said Mabuchi Sumio, an opposition lawmaker who served as adviser to the government in the early days of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. “It’s hypocritical.” Plutonium staying in Japan would be used for a nuclear recycling program that has become one of the most contentious parts of the nation’s first comprehensive energy plan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The plan is expected to be approved by the cabinet as early as tomorrow. The recycling program, which seeks to separate plutonium from used nuclear fuel so it can be reused to power reactors, is seen by supporters as a way of ensuring resource-poor Japan more energy independence. (Hiroku Tabuchi, “Japan Pushes Plan to Stockpile Plutonium, Despite Proliferation Risk,” New York Times, April 10, 2014, p. A-10) The U.S. government has expressed “grave concern” to Japanese officials over Tokyo’s spent nuclear fuel reprocessing program as it increases Japan’s stockpile of plutonium and the risk of proliferation, according to a joint investigation by Asahi Shimbun and the Center for Public Integrity, a U.S. nonprofit journalism organization. With the nation’s 48 nuclear reactors offline, the planned start-up of a plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, which will extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, will only increase Japan’s already-growing stockpile of plutonium, U.S. nuclear policy experts said. If the plant starts operations as early as this year, it would pose serious concerns about the Obama administration’s efforts to control nuclear proliferation, they said. In April last year, Daniel Poneman, U.S. deputy secretary of energy, told Tatsujiro Suzuki, then vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, during Suzuki’s visit to the United States that he was deeply concerned that Japan would have more stocks of separated plutonium from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel while there is no plan for consumption. The remark surprised Japanese officials because Poneman, known as a pro-nuclear expert, was believed to be sympathetic with Japan’s reprocessing program. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the operator of the Rokkasho facility, plans to complete construction of the plant by October. The maximum reprocessing capacity will be 800 tons of spent nuclear fuel per year, recovering up to 8 tons of plutonium. Japan already has a stockpile of 44 tons of plutonium, which can make up several thousand nuclear weapons. During a recent interview, Jon Wolfsthal, who served as a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the U.S. National Security Council between 2009 and 2012, expressed disappointment over Japan’s failure to make changes to its reprocessing program even after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. “I’m disappointed that Japan and everything they’ve gone through in the last three years hasn’t fundamentally re-evaluated their need for this material,” Wolfsthal said. “I think it would be better, personally, if Japan did not have a MOX (mixed oxide fuel) program and operate Rokkasho.” Wolfsthal added that there was a general sense in the Obama administration that Japan would not listen to U.S. advice on the matter and that harping on it would only deteriorate bilateral relations. At a symposium in Tokyo in December, Robert Einhorn, who had been special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control at the U.S. State Department, questioned the moves by Japan and France to proceed with nuclear fuel reprocessing. “Why did all (other) advanced countries take the decision to abandon reprocessing?” Einhorn asked. “Is there something different about Japan and France, which led these countries in a different direction?” In a speech in Tokyo in October, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also said, “The United States continues to believe the separation of plutonium needs to be in balance with a corresponding pathway for the eventual consumption or disposition of that material.” Meanwhile, the Abe Cabinet approved on April 11 the nation’s new basic energy plan, which regards nuclear power as a key electricity source and will restart idled nuclear reactors if their safety is confirmed. The plan also pointed to pushing forward the reprocessing program and the completion of the Rokkasho plant as a pending policy goal. But it also tries to address Washington’s concern by including a clause that says, “We do pay due consideration to the balance between supply and demand of plutonium.” For Japan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel requires the consent of the U.S. government based on a Japan-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement, but Washington is concerned of the negative effects that Japan’s large plutonium stockpile can have on negotiations with South Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs. During Suzuki’s U.S. visit in April, Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, also expressed “grave concern” over the Rokkasho plant from the standpoint of its ramifications on U.S.-South Korea nuclear cooperation and Iran’s nuclear program. (Okuyama Toshihiro and Douglas Birch, senior reporter for The Center for Public Integrity, “U.S. Alarmed about Plutonium Stockpile Growing from Rokkasho Plant,” Asahi Shimbun, April 13, 2014)


4/11/14:
National Defense Commission Policy Department spokesman’s a statement: “The south Korean puppet forces conducted a 500 km range ballistic missile test-fire in secrecy on March 23 and made it public later. The U.S. keeps mum about this, feigning ignorance of it, and the UN Security Council also says nothing about it. This stands in sharp contrast to their response to the DPRK’s satellite launch and the rocket launching drill for self-defense. …The U.S. double-dealing attitude and despicable mode of action have been brought to light with the recent case as a momentum. As far as the ballistic missile test-fire of the south Korean puppet forces is concerned, it is a co-product of the master and the stooge as the former allowed the latter to increase the range to 800 km and encouraged the latter to launch the missile in secrecy by stealthily handing over the core technology. We take this opportunity to strongly urge the U.S. to take proper policy decision as befits a big country. First, it should behave with a fair stand if it wants to save its face and be treated as a big country. It should come to its senses, though belatedly, clearly understanding that the army and people of the DPRK will never surrender to the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK which undergoes steady modification. The U.S. has extreme complacency and deep-running self-exaltation. For this the owners of the White House always mistook their rivals and provoked them only to fail and drink bitter cups. The U.S. should admit this. The biggest mistake made by the U.S. is that it is oblivious of the stark fact left by the history of the DPRK-U.S. confrontation and its lessons.The U.S. should set out to have clear understanding of the DPRK and take a bold decision of rolling back its wrong hostile policy toward the DPRK, though belatedly. For present, it should repent of its wrong past by lifting all sorts of ‘sanctions’ which it masterminded to be inflicted on the DPRK for no justifiable reasons. If the ballistic missile launched by the south Korean puppet forces is not problematic, the DPRK’s launch of satellites or rockets will be of no problem, either. The U.S. should, therefore, no longer pull up all the military measures taken by the DPRK to bolster its deterrence for self-defense. We clarify once again that as long as the U.S. persists in its hostile policy toward the DPRK according to its high-handed, arbitrary and gangster-like double standards, the DPRK will push ahead with the countermeasures for self-defense to put an end to the policy as it had already declared. The U.S. should clearly know that it has neither face nor justifications to find fault with the DPRK any longer.” (KCNA, “Policy Department of NDC Warns U.S. Not to Find Fault with Military Measures of DPRK,” April 11, 2014)

South Korea’s top nuclear envoy warned of a “grave” situation on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea has threatened to conduct a fresh nuclear test, saying “closer and strategic cooperation” with China is essential in preventing further North Korean provocations. Hwang Joon-kook made the remarks upon his arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport ahead of talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, later in the day. “At present, the situation is grave as North Korea threatens to carry out a nuclear test, and there could be an additional provocation by the North,” Hwang told reporters. “So, it’s time for South Korea and China to forge closer and strategic cooperation,” Hwang said. (Yonhap, “S. Korean Envoy Warns of ‘Grave’ Situation after N. Korea’s Nuclear Threat,” April 9, 2014) In Beijing on April 11, Hwang and Wu Dawei, China’s top nuclear envoy and special representative for Korean affairs, discussed ways to resume “meaningful dialogue” while boosting consultations to deter Pyongyang from an additional underground explosion. The meeting came on the heels of three-way talks with the United States and Japan in Washington earlier in April. The Beijing talks also came as South Korean officials voiced “flexibility” in its preconditions for North Korea before resumption of the talks could take place, indicating that they could lower the bar for North Korea to sit down at the negotiating table. Diplomatic sources said South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have agreed to lower the bar on conditions for resuming the long-stalled nuclear talks with North Korea. The top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan listed several conditions, which were originally set by the U.S. and North Korea in February 2012, as steps the North should take before the resumption of the six-party talks, the source said on condition of anonymity. But controversy is brewing after a ranking Seoul official displayed willingness to apply “flexibility” toward preconditions for what would be the first gathering in more than five years. His remarks imply a softened stance for South Korea and the U.S. compared with their previous demand for preemptive, stronger commitments from the North than those enshrined in the now-defunct Feb. 29, 2012, agreement. In the so-called “leap day deal,” Pyongyang agreed to put a moratorium on its nuclear program, cease atomic and missile tests and let in international inspectors in return for 240,000 tons of food aid from Washington. The deal fell apart when North Korea launched a long-range rocket two months later and conducted its third nuclear test a year later. At her recent three-way summit with the leaders of the U.S. and Japan, South Korean President Park Geun-hye also indicated movement in her position, saying the allies can “explore various ways to resume dialogue if there is a guarantee that we can make substantive progress on the denuclearization front and block North Korea from beefing up its nuclear capabilities.” But other Seoul and Washington officials cautioned against over-interpreting the “flexibility” remarks, saying no concrete ideas were being floated for the restart of the talks and tension remains high on the peninsula on the back of Pyongyang’s threats of a nuclear test and military drills on both sides of the border. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that nothing has changed regarding their approach. “Obviously, there are steps North Korea would need to take. The ball remains in their court,” she told reporters on April 11. (Yonhap, “Diplomatic Efforts under Way for Resumption of Six-Party Talks,” North Korea Newsletter No. 309, April 17, 2014)

South Korea and the United States carried out a live-fire exercise near the border with North Korea as part of their annual joint drill aimed at enhancing military readiness, the Eighth U.S. Army said. About 350 Korean and American soldiers participated in the drill held at Rodriguez Firing Range in Pocheon, north of Seoul, featuring a wide array of Army aviation, artillery, armor and infantry assets. Battle tanks and armored vehicles of the two nations, as well as U.S. Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, joined the drill. The armed reconnaissance helicopters returned to South Korea last year after completing a five-year mission in Iraq. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. Carry out Live-Fire Exercise,” April 11, 2014)


4/12/14:
National Defense Commission spokesman’s statement “clarifying its views and principled stand as regards the fact that the south Korean authorities are talking nonsense that they ‘expect’ positive response from the DPRK to the ‘Dresden Declaration,’ which does not deserve even a passing notice said: First, the “Dresden Declaration” is nothing but a jargon let loose by a traitor to the nation as she was so servile as to peddle the internal issue of the nation in other country. Park called on outsiders to help solve the issue of the territory and nation divided into two by foreign forces and vociferated about the application of mode of unification in which ‘one side is swallowed up and the other absorbs it’ to the ‘unification’ of the Korean peninsula. This was the daydream of a psychopath and a reckless behavior. Second, the ‘Dresden Declaration’ is a nonsensical one made by an anti-reunification element who deceived the public with hypocrisy and deception as she offered no solution, ignorant of the present state of the north-south relations. The ‘three-point proposal to the north’ is all irrelevant and indifferent to the improvement and development of the north-south relations. As far as the issue of solving the humanitarian issue is concerned, it called for putting on a ‘regular basis’ the reunions of separated families and relatives to build ‘confidence’ between the north and the south and ‘rendering nutritional aid to women in childbed and babies’ to carve out a ‘future of unification’ together with the world community. Park should have studied the order of priority in the work for improving the north-south relations if she wished to talk about peaceful reunification, though belatedly. Park described the ‘recovery of homogeneity’ through ‘common prosperity’ and ‘exchange’ based on ‘aid’ and ‘cooperation’ of the international community as a priority task for mending the inter-Korean relations. Her assertion only self-exposed that she is no more than a blind person as she is politically ignorant and dull-witted and insensitive to realities. What matters is that she desperately hurled mud at the DPRK with such lies as ‘pain’ and ‘hunger’ while crying out for ‘aid,’ ‘cooperation’ and ‘exchange.’ Third, the ‘Dresden Declaration’ is nothing but anti-reunification outpourings intended to improve her poor image in utter disregard of the interests of the country and the nation. The ‘Dresden Declaration’ is no more than rubbish of the times as it is peppered with treachery, hypocrisy and anti-reunification intention too base to tout. As the south Korean authorities requested the DPRK to clarify its formal stand on the ‘Dresden Declaration,’ it would like to clarify the following principled stand on this occasion: They should bear in mind that the tongue lashing of Park Geun Hye is the first root cause of deteriorating the north-south relations and beclouding the prospect of the nation. It is the unanimous view of the public that the north-south relations will be smoother than now only if Park keeps her disgusting mouth closed. Park should not use the worn-out signboard of ‘confidence’ any longer to cover up her wicked intention. The word ‘confidence’ should never be abused as a veil for covering the sinister intention of fostering distrust and inciting confrontation and deceiving the nation. Next, the south side should put an end to the anachronistic way of thinking and behavior sticking to the dark past. Nothing is more foolish and nonsensical than trying to bring back the inglorious past under the influence of ‘yusin’ perfume. Park should not talk about ‘miracle of the Han Riverside’ and the ‘then time of laying a strong foundation of economic growth’ instead of mentioning her father’s name in a manner of making distant allusion whenever an opportunity presents itself. She had better draw a lesson taught by the history in which one met a tragic death for trampling down the democracy and enforcing ‘yusin’ dictatorship. She should clearly know that she may reduce Chongwadae to her tomb during her office and meet execution after the expiry of the term of her office, if she persistently behaves as now. She had better not waste time doing anything reckless but do anything helpful to the interests of the country and the nation and this would be more beneficial to prolonging her remaining days.” (KCNA, “NDC Spokesman Blasts Park Guen Hye’s ‘Dresden Declaration,’” April 12, 2014)


4/13/14:
Rodong Sinmun commentary: “The United States has escalated hostile acts against the DPRK under the pretext of its nuclear and ‘human rights’ issues, revealing the sinister intention to intensify sanctions against the DPRK, talking about ‘missile threat.’ Meanwhile, the U.S. is staging the Foal Eagle joint military exercises at the climax stage together with the south Korean authorities, posing a serious threat to the DPRK. The south Korean puppet forces are driving the inter-Korean relations into a catastrophe again, while positively cooperating with the U.S., their master, in its anti-DPRK nuclear, “human rights” and missile rackets. This grave situation goes to clearly prove that the sinister intention of the U.S. and other hostile forces against the DPRK remains unchanged and cannot be changed. The army and people of the DPRK are drawing a clear conclusion from the fact that the U.S. and south Korean authorities are escalating confrontational moves against the DPRK while resorting to the unprecedented madcap nuclear and “human rights” rackets against it. The conclusion is that the DPRK should win the final victory under the uplifted banner of Songun. History and the situation prove once again that it is the very just option that the DPRK has access to nuclear deterrence for self-defense to protect the sovereignty and security of the country and the nation. The U.S. and the south Korean authorities would be well advised to clearly understand that any pressure and confrontational moves can never work on the DPRK and make a bold decision to roll back the hostile policy toward the DPRK at once.” (KCNA, “U.S. and Other Hpstile Forces’ Sinister Intention against DPRK Remains Unchanged: Rodong Sinmun,” April 13, 2014)

Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) Secretariat statement “denouncing the south Korean regime for driving the inter-Korean relations into a catastrophe through a malignant smear campaign against the DPRK in violation of the agreement between the north and the south. Accusing the south Korean authorities of malignant mud-slinging at the DPRK’s efforts for dialogue and peace, the statement goes on: Looking back on history, the south Korean authorities have not ceased the smear campaign against the DPRK and are still persisting in it. This campaign has gone on under the Park Geun Hye regime, too. Since the outset of the year, the Park group has gotten frantic with mud-slinging, talking about “the instability of the north’s social system” and “provocations.” It responded to the historic New Year Address and the important proposal of the DPRK by groundlessly denying and slandering them. During her foreign junket on January 18, Park termed the DPRK’s important proposal a “propaganda offensive” and cried out for taking a strong security posture to firmly cope with provocations against the south whenever the north launches a propaganda offensive.” At the prodding of the authorities the conservative media malignantly slandered the proposal of the north as an “appeasement gesture”, “camouflaged peace offensive,” “red herring for creating instability in the south” and “scheme for sparking conflict in the south.” The south Korean authorities noisily grumbled about the DPRK’s self-defensive nuclear and missile force, terming it “provocation” and “violation” and calling for “sanctions.” On February 7 Park talked rubbish that “the north is still sticking to the line on simultaneously pushing forward nuclear and economic development and the situation remains unstable.” She further said it seems the “north has launched a peace offensive all of a sudden these days, but the south should not slacken the vigilance even under this situation.” In a congratulatory speech made on March 6, she spoke ill of the north’s above-said line and incited confrontation, asserting that it is the nukes of the north that are throwing a stumbling block in the way of economic cooperation between the south and the north.” Addressing the 3rd “nuclear security summit” held in Netherlands on March 24 she let loose provocative sophism that the settlement of the issue of the north is indispensable for building a world without nuclear weapons and it is necessary to send a stronger message to the north urging it to dismantle its nukes.” The puppet group has never ceased its malignant smear campaign against the DPRK as regards the “Cheonan” warship sinking case. While persisting in its madcap drills for a nuclear war, the puppet clique justified them through sheer sophism. Late in March and at the beginning of this month they launched a large-scale joint landing drill aimed at “occupying Pyongyang” and joint air strike exercises Max Thunder designed to make air strikes at all areas of the DPRK, pushing the situation to the brink of war. The south Korean authorities’ mud-slinging has reached its height by letting loose a whole string of invectives against the dignity and social system of the DPRK. Park let loose a torrent of malignant outbursts slandering the DPRK during her German tour in March last. She blabbered that “orphans roaming about streets are not taken care of and they are enduring hunger in the cold due to economic difficulties.” Daily NK, Chosun Ilbo and other wicked conservative media made such intolerable reckless behavior as daring slander the field guidance given by the supreme leadership of the DPRK to the baby home and orphanage and the election of deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly. Espionage and intelligence organs including the Intelligence Service took away those who fled to the third country after committing crimes in the north and abandoning their parents, wives and children and are hurling them into a false propaganda against the DPRK after giving them a petty amount of money. Agents of those institutions are also taking them to foreign countries and using them as “witnesses” in their anti-DPRK smear campaign. The puppet group is busy hurling the human scum into the operations for scattering leaflets into areas of the north side. The south Korean authorities can never shirk the responsibility for having pushed the inter-Korean relations to catastrophe through the above-said smear campaign against the DPRK. They should be careful about their tongue wagging, bearing in mind that their mud-slinging would get them nowhere but ruin and the collapse of the inter-Korean relations. If the south Korean authorities persist in their smear campaign against the social system and dignity of the DPRK despite its repeated warnings and denunciation at home and abroad, they will not be able to escape the most shameful fate, cursed and censured by all Koreans.” (KCNA, “CPRK Secretariat Blasts Smear Campaign of S. Korean Regime against DPRK,” April 14, 2014)

North Korea agreed to reopen its investigation into the abductions of Japanese nationals if Japan relaxes some unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang, during the first formal negotiations held in more than a year in Beijing in late March, it was learned recently. Sources familiar with Tokyo-Pyongyang diplomacy said that the two countries are negotiating behind the scenes, eyeing to host a second round of bureau chief-level talks if they reach an agreement. During the Beijing round of the talks, Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for talks on normalizing ties with Japan, listed Pyongyang’s desires and interests to be discussed. “If Japan removes sanctions banning personnel exchanges and port calls of (North Korean) vessels, it will be worth considering the start of reinvestigation into the abductions issue,” Song told his Japanese counterpart, Ihara Junichi. Ihara, director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, did not immediately reply. He brought the proposal back to Tokyo and discussed it with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On April 5 and 6, ministry officials again met unofficially with Song and other North Korean representatives in Shenyang, China, to further discuss the matter. In June 2008, Japan agreed to remove restrictions on travel between the two nations and port calls by North Korean vessels in Japan for humanitarian reasons in exchange for Pyongyang’s reinvestigation of the abductions issue. But the agreement fell apart after then Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo stepped down. In upcoming unofficial talks, the two sides appear to be seeking a settlement similar to the 2008 agreement. (Asahi Shimbun, “Pyongyang Poised to Reopen Abductions Issue If Tokyo Eases Sanctions,” April 13, 2014)


4/14/14:
National Defense Commission (NDC) inspection group statement “opened to public the truth about the drone case touted by the south Korean authorities, terming the fiction about the “drones sent by the north” a replica of the Cheonan warship sinking case from A to Z…. It was reported that crashed drones were found in various parts of south Korea recently. The south Korean military authorities on April 2 hastily announced the “results of the first investigation” in which they concluded that the drones were sent by the north. On April 11 they announced the “results of intermediary investigation” insisting that the drones “belong to the north.” They claimed those photos available from the drones are the most convincing evidence proving that the “drones belong to the north.” If one follows the south side’s assertion, flying bodies coming from the north to the south and from the south to the north should belong to the north and if photos of south side areas are available from the flying bodies, all of them should belong to the north. If then, flying bodies coming from the south to the north and from the north to the south in the areas north of the Military Demarcation Line should belong to south Korea and if photos of areas of the north side are available from the flying bodies, they should belong to south Korea. The “central joint inspection team” produced the writing style in the north marked on the engine battery as one of the most convincing evidence proving that the drones belong to the “north.” It is said that the front side of the engine battery of a drone at present bears the trade mark “date of kiyong (use) June 25, 2013” and “date of stop using June 25, 2014.” They insist that this is the method of writing trade mark commonly used in the north and to write “naltsa (date)” used by south Korea as “nalja” is the writing of the north Korean style. People in the north never use the word “kiyong” on any product. There is no explanation about the word “kiyong” in the large Korean dictionary in the north. The recent “results of investigation” claimed that Chinese and Japanese letters are seen on the back of the battery and the device supporting the flying posture of the drones was made by Futaba of Japan. If they assert the drones belong to the “north” as they bear Korean letters, how they will explain the Chinese and Japanese letters and Japan-made device. Fingerprints were cited as one of the evidence proving the claim that the drones belong to the north. If one with normal way of thinking insists that the fingerprints they claim found on the drones belong to north Koreans simply because they are not south Koreans’, no one can trust the assertion. A spokesman for the south Korean Ministry of Defense announced at the outset that “it would not be easy to find the place where the north’s drone took off even if over 30 trillion won was spent out of the defense budget.” Some days later, he claimed that the take-off point of the drone was confirmed, adding that it was Onchon airfield in South Hwanghae Province. Onchon airfield of the DPRK is situated in South Phyongan Province, not in South Hwanghae Province. A few days later, he corrected the take-off point of the drone announced earlier, noting that an airfield near Ongjin in South Hwanghae Province was the place where it took off. People in the north have never heard there is an airfield near Ongjin. The south Korean authorities cited the blue color of the drone as evidence to proving that the drones belong to the north. They claim blue and white colors are “colors used in north Korea”. Is there anyone who can agree with this? “One cannot but construe that drones were sent by the north as it is a short distance for neighboring countries to launch such drones and they were not launched in the south either”. This is one clause of the “intermediary investigation results” which judged on the basis of the flying range that the drones were sent by the “north.” If then, do all flying bodies in the world with either short or long flying range belong to the “north”? The south Korean Ministry of Defense on March 31 claimed it confirmed those drones were launched from the area of the north side as a radar of E-8 detected a drone flying to Paekryong Island from the north. It made a poor excuse that the south side fired at least 300 shells from Vulcan artillery pieces three times the moment the drone was detected but could not shoot down the drone flying at the altitude of 5-6 km because the maximum firing range of those guns is just 2 km. The “central joint inspection team,” as if it had forgotten all what it had said, made public that the drone discovered on Paekryong Island crashed due to the lack of fuel, flying zigzag at the speed of 100-120 km per hour at the altitude of 1.4 km. When public became increasingly skeptical about its announcement, the team asserted that another drone which the authorities did not know might be sent to Paekryong Island. Besides, the south Korean authorities made the claim as evidence proving the “north’s involvement” that the drones were “cast in iron mould”, electronic circuit board attached to wood is not the south Korean style and there is neither witness nor informer who said that they found a launching pad and additional equipment needed for the drone take-off in south Korea. This is the “results of the intermediary investigation” full of lies. Seeing these ambiguous behaviors, people whisper that it was not an easy job to cook up and prove the story about the “north’s involvement.” The more water flows under the bridge and the more facts are known to public, the more saliently they will bring to light truth that the story about the “north’s involvement” is a sheer lie. The open statement laid bare the sinister criminal aims sought by the south Korean authorities through the drone case: The first aim sought by the south Korean authorities is to blame the DPRK for orchestrating the drone case and shift the responsibility for the acute north-south relations and the situation on the Korean peninsula inching close to a war on to the DPRK. The second aim is to take the second “May 24 anti-north measure” by fabricating the second Cheonan warship sinking case in a bid to keep the north-south relations in the state of confrontation. The third aim is to plug their American master into their arms buildup under the pretext of “strengthening the security posture” and thus make up for the “vacuum of force” and stifle the DPRK by force of arms at any cost. It is an inveterate bad habit of the south Korean authorities to cook up shocking cases and kick up anti-DPRK confrontation hysteria by linking those cases with the DPRK whenever they are driven into a crisis. The inspection group of the NDC has the willingness to make everything clear now that the south Korean authorities have not yet ceased floating the story about “the north’s involvement” in Cheonan warship sinking case and are fabricating the second and third Cheonan cases. The DPRK remains unchanged in its stand to jointly investigate all cases including the Cheonan case as they claim the north was involved in them. Security room chief of Chongwadae Kim Jang Su, who allegedly looks after “state security” of south Korea, may take part in the investigation on behalf of the south side as it will draw great attention of the nation. If the south Korean authorities have no compunction, there will be no reason whatsoever for them to shun the just and reasonable claim made by the DPRK from the very day of the occurrence of the Cheonan case. We will wait for the south Korean authorities’ response.” (KCNA, “Inspection Group of NDC of DPRK Opens to Public Truth about Drone Case Touted by S. Korean Authorities,” April 14, 2014)


4/15/14:
North Korea has moved a mobile rocket launcher to its east coast in apparent preparation for a missile launch ahead of the anniversary of the birthday of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, today amid ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, a source told JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. “We discovered that North Korea is moving a transporter erector launcher (TEL) toward the east coast, which had previously been deployed at its central front,” a high-ranking South Korean government official said yesterday. “North Korea made similar moves before the launch of its short-range FROG rockets and KN-09 ballistic missiles in late February and early March.” On April 5, Mainichi Shimbun, citing a Japanese government official, reported that during bilateral talks with Tokyo, officials from Pyongyang notified them that they would conduct artillery drills and missile launches by April 17. (Jeong Yong-soo and Kim Hee-jin, “North Transports Rocket Launcher,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 15, 2014)

In a rare public warning to its unruly ally North Korea, China on Tuesday urged the North not to carry out a nuclear test. “We do not support the joint military drills (between South Korea and the U.S.) and do not support the threat of a nuclear test (by North Korea),” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters during a regular press briefing. (Yonhap, “China Issues Rare Public Warning over N. Korea’s Nuclear Threat,” April 15, 2014)

South Korea on rejected Pyongyang’s proposal for a joint investigation into three crashed drones that Seoul believes originated in North Korea. “The proposal is not worth considering,” defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters. He accused North Korea, which has flatly denied having anything to do with the drones, of distorting basic facts “to cover up its provocations.” (AFP, “South Korea Spurns North’s Call for Joint Drone Probe,” April 15, 2014)


4/16/14:
The 6,825-ton Sewol sank on its way to the southern resort island of Jeju from Incheon, west of Seoul. Of 476 passengers aboard the ill-fated ferry, most of who were high school students on a field trip, 302 died.

South Korea and Japan agreed to hold regular director general-level talks on the Japanese imperial army’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II in their first meeting on the contentious diplomatic issue, a foreign ministry official here said Wednesday. Today’s meeting between the director generals for Northeast Asian affairs from Seoul and Tokyo — Lee Sang-deok and Ihara Junichi — was the neighbors’ first official negotiations to tackle the sexual enslavement issue, which has long been a vexing source of diplomatic tension between Seoul and Tokyo. Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea and China, were coerced into working at front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during the war. The grievances of the 55 known South Korean survivors remain unresolved. During the inaugural meeting, both sides agreed to hold regular monthly talks on the issue, with the next meeting slated for May in Tokyo, the foreign ministry official said. “In the first negotiations, both sides reaffirmed their basic stances on the (so-called) comfort women issue,” the official said. “Both sides shared the opinion that this issue should be settled speedily in order to remove obstacles in South Korea-Japan relations.” The details of the next meeting in Japan, including the date and the venue, will be determined through further discussion via the countries’ diplomatic channels, he said. But the agenda of the regular director-general meeting may expand to cover other bilateral issues like North Korea, the official also said. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Japan Agree to Hold Regular Talks on Sex Slavery,” April 16, 2014)

As President Park Geun-hye continues her pitch for unification as a potential “bonanza,” one government organ that would conventionally be at the vanguard of the drive appears to be increasingly inconspicuous: the Unification Ministry. With foreign affairs and security being the conservative president’s fortes, CheongWa Dae has gradually been taking over the ministry’s traditional role ― along with its influence. While regular, administrative tasks associated with inter-Korean affairs remain business as usual, the ministry is seen to have been excluded from the decision-making core dominated by hard-line, former military commanders in the presidential office. “I think the Unification Ministry is arguably at one of its lowest ebbs since being founded,” a government source said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. “Compare now and 10 years ago. Back then it wielded formidable power at the core of the decision-making process regarding North Korea affairs.” A major blow came when the two Koreas held their first high-level dialogue in about seven years in February, for which Pyongyang demanded a presidential official represent Seoul. The talks were thus led by Kim Kyou-hyun, vice chief of the National Security Office, and Won Dong-yon, deputy head of the United Front Department in the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. Earlier that month, controversy erupted after Cheong Wa Dae abruptly withdrew its appointment of Chun Hae-sung, chief of unification policy at the ministry, as security strategy secretary at the NSC. That means there are no unification ministry officials in key positions within the presidential office. The office said the decision reflected Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae’s request for the return of his “essential, core” aide but this was insufficient to quell speculation. The ministry’s reduced influence has been felt even across the border. During reunions of separated families at Mount Geumgangsan in February, a senior North Korean official expressed regret over Chun’s situation and the ministry’s status. “I don’t understand why they did this to him just after making him a secretary,” he told reporters. “Shouldn’t there be Unification Ministry officials at the NSC?” Concerns are growing in and around the ministry over its future standing as CheongWa Dae gears up to launch a unification preparation committee as Park outlined in a speech marking the first anniversary of her administration in February. The president will chair the panel, which would consist of some 50 senior government officials, scholars and members of related nongovernmental organizations. Observers say the roles of the committee and the ministry would inevitably overlap, though ministry officials said they were different. If Ryoo becomes a vice chairman of the panel, as recent news reports have suggested, it would be a relief for many. “We don’t see the Unification Ministry and the unification preparation committee as overlapping or conflicting in terms of their functions,” ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters earlier. “The committee is to oversee public discussions over unification and lead the development of unification policy, while the ministry will pursue the key national task of establishing the foundation of a unification era as the central agency in charge of unification policy.” As Park accelerates her campaign at home and abroad, the Foreign Ministry is gaining in clout, fostering partnerships and various projects with other countries. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se boasts a bigger say as a main architect of the conservative president’s key diplomatic and security initiatives, whereas Ryoo is seen as having often been swayed by hard-line presidential officials at numerous crucial moments for cross-border ties. “With Yun essentially at the forefront of foreign policy, may inevitably have the Foreign Ministry to take over a chunk of unification-related work,” another government source said, requesting anonymity. “Given the recent furor over the Unification Ministry’s role, Cheong Wa Dae would try to have ministry people aboard the preparation committee and make clear what should be done by which body.” (Shin Hyon-hee, “Park’s Unification Drive Dwarfs Ministry,” Korea Herald, April 16, 2014)

CRS: “This report focuses primarily on unclassified and declassified U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) assessments and reports over the past two decades. These assessments indicate that

  • no public evidence exists that Iran and North Korea have engaged in nuclear related trade or cooperation with each other, although ballistic missile technology cooperation between the two is significant and meaningful, and
  • Syria has received ballistic missiles and related technology from North Korea and Iran and also engaged in nuclear technology cooperation with North Korea.

It should be noted that nonofficial assessments, including journal articles, foreign and domestic media reports, and Internet commentaries, are not always consistent with the official assessments summarized in this report. Although such unofficial sources allege a fairly significant and persistent level of cooperation among these three countries on their ballistic missile and nuclear programs, such reports lack the credibility of official assessments because they are often unsourced or attributed to anonymous government officials, frequently at odds with each other, and unverifiable. …Iran has developed a close working relationship with North Korea on many ballistic missile programs, starting with acquisition of Scud missiles from North Korea in the 1980s. In the mid-1980s, North Korea developed the 300-kilometer range Scud B ballistic missile “from prototypes obtained from Egypt” and subsequently began to export them. Pyongyang developed the 500-kilometer range Scud C in 1991. North Korea sold both types of missiles, as well as missile production technology, to several countries in the Middle East, including Iran and Syria. In 1992 testimony, then-Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Robert Gates identified Iran and Syria as recipients of North Korean Scud missiles. In 1993, then-DCI R. James Woolsey provided more detail, stating that North Korea had sold Syria and Iran extended range Scud C missiles and apparently agreed to sell other forms of missile technology. A Russian intelligence report, which the U.S. IC deemed “credible,” stated that Iran’s missile potential during this period was confined to Scud B SRBMs received from Syria and North Korea. During the 1990s, IC annual threat assessments described several recurring trends between Iran and North Korea. First, North Korea’s ongoing export of ballistic missiles provided a qualitative increase in capabilities to countries such as Iran. Second, Iran was using North Korean ballistic missile goods and services to achieve its goal of self-sufficiency in the production of medium range ballistic missiles. Third, Iran’s acquisition of missile systems or key missile-related components, including potentially significant inputs of space launch vehicle technology and support, could significantly improve Iran’s ability to produce an ICBM. In the latter 2000s, the IC continued to assess that North Korean cooperation with Iran’s ballistic missile programs was ongoing and significant. More recently, 2013 and 2014 Department of Defense reports to Congress on North Korea’s military capabilities and proliferation activities identified Iran as a past recipient of North Korean ballistic missiles and associated technology. In 2006, Iran publicly acknowledged for the first time that it had obtained missiles from North Korea during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, but added that it no longer needed Pyongyang’s assistance: “We received these [Scuds] from foreign countries like North Korea but 17 years after the war we were able to design all of these pieces and even their fuel,” said the chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran has likely exceeded North Korea’s ability to develop, test, and build ballistic missiles. But Tehran may, to some extent, still rely on Pyongyang for certain materials for producing Iranian ballistic missiles, Iran’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding. For example, some observers argue that Iran may not be able to produce even its Scud B and Scud C equivalents (Shahab-1 and Shahab-2, respectively) without some foreign support for key materials or components. Nevertheless, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper stated during a February 11, 2014, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that Iran is not currently receiving assistance with its ICBM program. Syria acquired both Scud B and Scud C missiles from North Korea, according to a 1995 CIA assessment. Damascus has also produced missiles with North Korean-supplied equipment, according to official U.S. accounts; a 1997 State Department document indicated that Syria had received missile “production technology” from North Korea and was producing “Scuds with North Korean assistance.” Furthermore, a State Department report to Congress covering 2008 explained that: “Over the past decade, Syria has focused on enhancing the capabilities of this [SRBM] force while also achieving self-sufficiency in indigenous missile production. With North Korean assistance, Syria has made progress toward domestic production of Scud missile variants.” Syria continues to rely on North Korean and Iranian assistance for its missile programs, according to official U.S. accounts. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn testified on April 18, 2013, that “Syria’s liquid-propellant missile program”—apparently a reference to Syria’s Scud B, Scud C, and Scud D missiles—“depends on essential foreign equipment and assistance, primarily from North Korean entities.” Flynn also stated that “Damascus relies on foreign help, mainly from Iran, to advance its solid-propellant rocket and missile development and production capability.” According to official sources, Iran, North Korea, and Syria have engaged in various forms of clandestine nuclear cooperation possibly related to nuclear weapons. North Korea and Iran obtained designs and materials related to uranium enrichment from a clandestine procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. The CIA expressed concern in 2004 that the network could also have transferred nuclear “expertise or technology” to Syria, but there appears to be no public official evidence that this potential transfer is still a matter of concern. Syrian President Bashar al Asad stated in a 2007 newspaper interview that his government had been approached by the Khan network but had conducted no transactions with it. North Korea assisted Syria with building a nuclear reactor that may have been part of a Syrian nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. official accounts. Both the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessed that Damascus was building a nuclear reactor; Israel destroyed the facility in a September 2007 air strike. According to a May 2011 IAEA report, the agency assessed that the destroyed Syrian structure “was very likely a nuclear reactor,” a claim Syria denied. The IC assessed that the reactor’s purpose was to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, a senior intelligence official stated during an April 2008 briefing, but added that the IC had “low confidence” in this judgment. According to a 2013 State Department report, the United States assessed that “the reactor’s intended purpose” was to produce plutonium, rather than to conduct research or produce electricity, “because the reactor was not configured for power production, was isolated from any civilian population, and was ill suited for research.” Syria was constructing the reactor with “North Korean assistance,” the same 2013 report said. A senior U.S. intelligence official stated during the 2008 briefing that “North Korea has assisted Syria with this reactor,” citing similarities between the Syrian reactor and the North Korean reactor that has produced plutonium for that country’s nuclear weapons program. The official also cited the “involvement of nuclear-related North Koreans in a project somewhere in the area,” as well as “evidence of cargo being transferred from North Korea, most likely to [the] reactor site, in 2006.” More recently, a February 2014 Defense Department report stated that North Korea “provided Syria with nuclear reactor technology until 2007.” It is worth noting that an IAEA investigation discovered Syrian uranium conversion activities that the government had failed to declare to the IAEA. Uranium conversion is the process by which uranium hexafluoride (the feedstock for centrifuges) is produced. However, the IAEA has apparently resolved its concerns regarding these activities. U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concern that North Korea might export its nuclear technology or fissile material. According to testimony from DNI Clapper before Congress in February 2012, North Korea’s export of “ballistic missiles and associated materials,” as well as its assistance to Syria’s nuclear reactor, “illustrate the reach of the North’s proliferation activities.” The IC “remain[s] alert to the possibility that North Korea might again export nuclear technology,” he added. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has been based on plutonium produced in a nuclear reactor located at Yongbyon. North Korea also has a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program. North Korea tested nuclear explosive devices in October 2006, May 2009, and February 2013. The first device contained plutonium; whether the others contained plutonium or HEU is still unclear. The 2014 Defense Department report said that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test at any time. Iran has a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program and is building a heavy-water moderated nuclear reactor. However, the reactor program is a lesser proliferation concern because Iran does not have a reprocessing facility, which, as noted, is required to produce plutonium for weapons. A November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Iran “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003. The estimate, however, also assessed that Tehran is “keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.” The intelligence community has reaffirmed this conclusion on several occasions. Then-DNI Dennis Blair discussed in 2009 the circumstances under which North Korea might transfer nuclear weapons or fissile material: Pyongyang is less likely to risk selling nuclear weapons or weapons-quantities of fissile material than nuclear technology or less sensitive equipment to other countries or non-state actors, in part because it needs its limited fissile material for its own deterrent. Pyongyang probably also perceives that it would risk a regime-ending military confrontation with the United States if the nuclear material was used by another country or group in a nuclear strike or terrorist attacks and the United States could trace the material back to North Korea. It is possible, however, that the North might find a nuclear weapons or fissile material transfer more appealing if its own stockpile grows larger and/or it faces an extreme economic crisis where the potentially huge revenue from such a sale could help the country survive. Nuclear-related cooperation could also include sharing technology related to nuclear weapons material production, or data from nuclear or explosive testing. Some analysts have argued that both Pyongyang and Tehran could benefit if the former were to provide nuclear test data to the latter in exchange for Iranian information about enrichment, missile, or other nuclear-related expertise. Iran could also pay for North Korean nuclear assistance with currency or petroleum. Some press reports have pointed to alleged instances of nuclear-related cooperation, such as the possibility of Iranian officials witnessing North Korean nuclear tests. However, this information remains speculative and unconfirmed by official sources. Furthermore, U.S. intelligence assessments have not mentioned nuclear cooperation between the two countries, even though such assessments have described cooperation on ballistic missiles. For example, although the 2013 and 2014 Defense Department reports did, as noted, describe North Korean nuclear assistance to Libya, they did not indicate that North Korea had provided or received nuclear assistance to or from Iran. Moreover, U.S. officials have stated publicly that there is no nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea. During a February 27, 2007, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, U.S. officials stated that there is “no evidence” that Iran and North Korea are cooperating to develop 2008, background briefing that the two countries are not cooperating on “nuclear issues.” More recently, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman indicated in June 2013 that North Korea and Iran were not engaged in nuclear cooperation, but added that “it’s a valid reason to be concerned and we keep an eye on it.” Similarly, when asked during a February 20, 2014, press briefing about nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea, a senior Administration official responded only by noting that the United States “is always concerned about reports of shared technology and proliferation of technology and of nuclear weapons technology.” Lastly, knowledgeable current and former U.S. officials contacted by CRS said that they were unaware of official unclassified U.S. government evidence of nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea. The two countries may not have recently engaged in nuclear cooperation because Iran has, according to the IC, apparently halted its nuclear weapons program. Furthermore, the extent to which Iran and North Korea could benefit from nuclear-related cooperation is uncertain. Although some analysts have argued that Pyongyang could provide nuclear test data to Tehran, the extent to which Iran could benefit from such data is unclear. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to date has apparently been based on plutonium; Iran would most likely use weapons-grade HEU, rather than plutonium, as fissile material in nuclear weapons, at least in the short term. Although Tehran could provide Pyongyang with access to Iran’s enrichment technology, such access would be of limited benefit to North Korea because North Korea’s centrifuge appears to differ from the two types of centrifuges that Iran has installed. It is also possible that, rather than collaborating, the two countries may be competing with each other in their efforts to circumvent international sanctions by obtaining dual-use technologies from the same supply networks, particularly via trading companies in China. Both Tehran and Pyongyang remain dependent on foreign suppliers for their nuclear program, and some components may be in demand by both countries. The Institute for Science and International Security has concluded from examining procurement data that both countries have well established supply chains in China, but North Korea is able to secure shipments with greater ease than is Iran. The two countries may be reluctant to export components to one another that they themselves have difficulty procuring. Moreover, involved Chinese trading companies would have a financial interest in maintaining business with both Iran and North Korea. (Paul Kerr, Mary Beth Nikitin, Steven Hildreth, Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation, Congressional Research Service R43480, April 16, 2014)


4/17/14:
The United Nations Security Council should slap targeted sanctions on North Korean officials responsible for grave human rights abuses and refer them to the international criminal court (ICC), the head of a special UN inquiry said. The retired Australian judge Michael Kirby told an informal meeting of the Security Council convened by Australia, France and the United States he wanted leading members of the reclusive regime hauled before the ICC for prosecution. “More monitoring and engagement alone cannot suffice in the face of crimes that shock the conscience of humanity,” Kirby said. “Perpetrators must be held accountable, it is necessary to deter further crimes.” North Korea did not send a representative and the meeting was snubbed by China and Russia. “A new generation of senior officials now surrounds the supreme leader Kim Jong-un,” Kirby said. “They must be made to understand that they will themselves face personal accountability if they join in the commission of crimes against humanity or fail to prevent them where they could. The commission of inquiry therefore recommends to the security council the adoption of targeted sanctions against those individuals most responsible for crimes against humanity.” Kirby said most countries present supported the proposal to refer North Koreans to the ICC, but UN diplomats said any move was likely to face fierce opposition from China, the North’s economic lifeline. (AFP, “U.N. Security Council Urged to Target North Korean Officials over Atrocities,” The Guardian, April 17, 2014)


4/18/14:
Russia’s parliament has agreed to write off about $10 billion of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt, in a deal expected to facilitate the building of a gas pipeline to South Korea across the reclusive state. The State Duma lower house in Moscow ratified a 2012 agreement to excuse the bulk of North Korea’s debt. It said the total debt stood at $10.96 billion as of September 17, 2012. The rest of the debt — $1.09 billion — would be redeemed during the next 20 years, to be paid in equal installments every six months. The outstanding debt owed by North Korea will be managed by Russia’s state development bank, Vnesheconombank. Russia’s deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak told Russian media that the money could be used to fund mutually beneficial projects in North Korea, including a proposed gas pipeline and a railway to South Korea. (Reuters, “Russia Writes off 90% of North Korean Debt, Expected to Build Gas Pipeline,” April 20, 2014)


4/20/14:
South Korea’ Unification Ministry said it approved a trip to Pyongyang by Choi Yeon-hye, president and CEO of the Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL), and four other officials for a meeting of the Organization for Co-Operation between Railways (OSJD) set for April 24-28. The rail conference is meant to boost international cooperation between railway operators, the source said, adding that it is expected to bring together top rail officials from China, Russia and 25 other member states of the OSJD. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Allows KORAIL Chief to Visit N. Korea,” April 20, 2014)


4/21/14:
DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman’s statement: “It is reported that U.S. President Obama is to tour Asia soon. Pursuant to the U.S. pivot to Asia-Pacific strategy, his projected trip is a reactionary and dangerous one as it is aimed to escalate confrontation and bring dark clouds of a nuclear arms race to hang over this unstable region. This strategy which the Obama administration adopted under the signboard of “rebalancing” in the Asia-Pacific region late in 2011 is, in essence, designed to focus efforts on this region in a bid to encircle and contain its rivals and maintain its political and military edge. The U.S. is citing the DPRK’s “nuclear and missile threats” and “provocation” as a pretext for hiding the hegemonic nature of the above-said strategy and warding off the resistance of big countries in Eurasia. “The Quadrennial Defense Review Report” announced by the U.S. Department of Defense early in March took issue with the DPRK over its “provocation” and “threat”, reconfirming that the U.S. would deploy 60 percent of its naval force in the Asia-Pacific region till 2020, pursuant to the “strategy for rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific region”. During his recent trip to a neighboring country, the U.S. secretary of Defense announced that the U.S. would additionally deploy two Aegis in Japan till 2017, citing “invasion” from the DPRK. Touring south Korea and China in mid-February, the U.S. secretary of State vociferated about the DPRK’s promotion of nuclear development and possible “provocation” while blustering that the U.S.-south Korea joint military exercises would be staged in the same period and by the same method in the future, too, regardless of the crucial proposal made by the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and the north-south high-level contact. It is as clear as noonday that Obama will trumpet about the same thing to accuse the DPRK this time, too, just as he habitually did in the past. Clear is the reason why the U.S. is ceaselessly staging extremely offensive and aggressive joint military exercises in south Korea only among various areas in the Asia-Pacific region and steadily increasing their number and scale in a bid to deliberately keep the vicious cycle of tensions. Its aim is to steadily rattle the nerves of the DPRK and compel it to bolster up its nuclear deterrence, take military retaliatory steps and thus label it a “bellicose country” and justify Washington’s military moves. But the U.S. is seriously mistaken. The U.S. arms buildup in the Asia-Pacific region and joint military exercises are not justified but facing an unprecedentedly open rebuff of countries in the region. Moreover, the DPRK is not such a country which may allow itself to make even a slight concession or seek any lucky chance over the fundamental issue related to the security of the country and the nation for fear of the nonsensical label of “bellicose country.” It is the policy stand of the DPRK to redouble the efforts to bolster up justifiable deterrence for self-defense in every way to resolutely counter the U.S. hostile action. If the U.S. seeks hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region as now and continues working hard to infringe upon the interests of the DPRK under this pretext, this will bring adverse consequences to the U.S. itself in the long run. The U.S. reckless moves will have a very negative impact on resuming the six-party talks and realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula for the present and, moreover, inevitably spark a nuclear arms race in the whole region. The nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia which will prove more destructive than the nuclear issue in Mid-east is bound to end up making a mess of the initiative for building a “world without nuclear weapons” advocated by Obama. The Obama administration would be well advised to coolly examine its hostile policy toward the DPRK whether it is in the final interests of the U.S., in actuality, when there is still time for it.” (KCNA, “Spokesman for DPRK FM Lays Bare Reactionary, Dangerous Nature of Obama’s Asian Junket,” April 21, 2014)


4/22/14:
Just days before President Obama is to arrive in South Korea, North Korea has increased activities at its main nuclear test site, raising suspicions in Seoul and Washington that the country may be preparing to conduct a new underground nuclear test, the South Korean Defense Ministry said. Yet the level of activity, at least as visible on commercial satellite photographs of the test site, suggests that the country might not be ready to touch off a new test — which would be its fourth — before Obama leaves Seoul on Saturday afternoon. “We have to be prepared, but some of the necessary preparations simply aren’t visible yet,” a senior South Korean official said. In recent days there had been some indication that the United States was moving to reduce the conditions the North would have to meet to restart some kind of dialogue over its nuclear program, for the first time in more than two years. The report of increased activity also came as South Korea was preoccupied with a disastrous ferry accident. It is possible that North Korea’s leaders are merely trying to rattle South Korea and the United States before Obama’s arrival in Seoul. American intelligence officials told Congress earlier this year that the North could conduct a test “at any time,” but some of the usual warning signs of an imminent event, such as the presence of large wiring going into the test tunnel to measure the blast, were not visible on the few commercial satellite images, according to an analysis published by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security. Still, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman, Kim Min-seok, said that “various types of activities” had been detected at Punggye-ri, referring to the place in northeastern North Korea where the country has conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and, most recently, in February 2013. The South Korean military said it activated an emergency task force to monitor the events and prepare for other provocations, but that seemed to be motivated in part by an abundance of caution and in part, one South Korean official said, “to make it clear that we would be ready to respond.” The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said officials were closely watching the situation, but he would not speculate about how the United States would respond should North Korea go ahead with a test. “I would note that there is a kind of cyclical nature to the provocative actions that North Korea tends to take,” he said. Yonhap quoted an anonymous government official as saying that the North had placed a large screen at the entrance of a tunnel in Punggye-ri, likely to thwart Western spy satellites. There was no evidence yet, Yonhap reported, of moves to seal entrances to the tunnels, a major step to contain the leakage of radioactivity. But the timing, officials say, would depend on a political calculation by Kim Jong-un, the country’s young leader, whose unpredictability has become one of the hallmarks of the North’s tactical steps. “North Korea wants attention ahead of Obama’s visit,” said Lee Byong-chul, senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul. It is not clear how much advantage, if any, Kim could get from such a test, American officials say. He has already demonstrated the ability to set off a crude nuclear device. But recently North Korea’s official news media suggested something different was coming. That has prompted speculation that the North could demonstrate that it could develop a bomb from highly enriched uranium, which it is beginning to produce in quantity to supplement its original source of nuclear material, plutonium. It could also conduct multiple tests, as Pakistan did in 1998. Or it could claim to have developed a smaller nuclear weapon that it could fit atop a missile, though demonstrating that to the world would be difficult. Lee said another nuclear test by North Korea “would add fuel to the fire” among South Koreans who were already troubled by the ferry disaster. Fears of a fourth nuclear test by the North have increased since late last month, when it threatened to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test. Washington and its allies have warned that another test by the North would lead to more international sanctions. North Korea is already under heavy sanctions for its previous tests of nuclear devices and long-range missile technology. Washington and its allies have long suspected North Korea of trying to make nuclear devices small and sophisticated enough to be delivered by the intercontinental ballistic missiles it has also been developing. It remains unclear how close the North has come to that goal, although it claimed after its last nuclear test that it had “diversified” and “miniaturized” its weapons. After the test last year, relations on the divided Korean Peninsula plunged to their chilliest in years, with the North and the South trading threats of attacks. The tensions eased in the second half of the year. But they rose again starting in February, when the United States and South Korea conducted their annual joint military drills and North Korea launched a series of short- and midrange missile tests off its east coast. The North had produced plutonium from spent fuel from its once-mothballed nuclear reactor, which the North is believed to have recently restarted. North Korea is also running a uranium enrichment program that officials and analysts in the region fear will provide the country with a steady supply of fuel for nuclear tests and bombs. (Choe Sang-hun, “Increased Activity at North Korean Nuclear Site Raises Suspicions,” New York Times, April 23, 2014, p. A-4) During a briefing on April 22, the Ministry of National Defense informed the media of the status of North Korea’s nuclear preparations, and the Ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff activated a combined crisis management task force, lending credence to the argument that a nuclear test is imminent. The Ministry even took the unusual step of revealing private remarks by North Korean officials about “getting ready for a major strike,” intelligence likely obtained through wiretapping, which is raising suspicions that the Ministry might have ulterior motivations. “We are picking up a lot of chatter,” said Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok. Kim quoted North Koreans as saying, “We are preparing to take the next step, which will be unimaginable for our enemies,” “Something big is going to happen before Apr. 30,” and “We are getting ready for a big strike.” When asked about the source of these remarks, a military officer said on condition of anonymity that he understood that the remarks, which are being openly made in North Korea, were captured through various channels. The Unification Ministry is adopting a more cautious stance on the imminence of the nuclear test, pointing to the fact that North Korea has not made a specific remark about the timing of a nuclear test in its official statements. Opinions also differ among experts. “When we consider past experience and the current international political situation, it is likely that the movements toward a nuclear test are more of a bluff than a reality,” said Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies. Yang believes that they are a sort of protest before Obama’s visit to South Korea. But Kim Yeon-cheol, professor in the unification department at Inje University, has a different take on things. “North Korea believes there is no need to wait any more since the path of dialogue is blocked,” Kim said, though he conceded that it was unlikely that North Korea would carry out the nuclear test before Obama visits South Korea. In Kim’s analysis, North Korea will concentrate on improving the technical quality of its nuclear weapons even after Obama’s visit to South Korea if there is no breakthrough in the political situation. (Choi Hyun-june and Kim Oi-hyun, “Pyongyang Could Be Prepping Nuke Test before Obama’s Visit,” Hankyore, April 23, 2014) The Defense Ministry here claimed Wednesday that the North appears to have improved its capacity to miniaturize nuclear warheads so they can be fitted on to missiles. The nuclear payload needs to be reduced to less than 1,000 kg and the diameter to less than 90 cm to fit on a missile. The ministry based its claim on assessment from South Korean and U.S. intelligence services.

“The North has reduced the nuclear payload to about 1,500 kg, but not less than 1,000 kg, which means that its nuclear weapons aren’t warfare-ready yet,” a ministry spokesman said. “But we presume that the North’s three previous nuclear tests have enabled it to improve technology to increase nuclear yield and make the payload smaller.” (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea Improves Nuclear Technology,’” April 24, 2013)

Another North Korean nuclear test is “quite likely” in the “not-too-distant future,” a veteran former American diplomat told CNN’s Paula Newton, in for Christiane Amanpour. “They’re well along on this path of theirs to the development of nuclear weapons, and testing is an important feature of that program. So I expect there will be another test in the relatively near future,” Stephen Bosworth, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and former special representative for North Korea policy, said. “At some point, as their missile program continues to develop and their nuclear weapons program continues, they will reach a point where I think we will all conclude they are a very grave threat to regional stability, and indeed to nuclear non-proliferation,” Bosworth said. Recent experience shows, the former diplomat told Newton, that the “one way that we have of at least slowing them down, or gaining some additional time, is to engage with them.” Engagement with the North Koreans is “very painful,” he admitted. “It’s very aggravating to have to deal with these guys. But unfortunately, we really don’t have an alternative.” When the international community did engage with North Korea, in the 1990s, it “gained eight years in which we know that they were not producing any fissile material,” he said. “The record is that when [the North Koreans] are not engaged, or when they are not bound by any international agreements that they are observing — which is the case now — then they proceed ahead with their nuclear development.” Seoul’s warning comes as U.S. President Barack Obama kicks off a trip to the region, including South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Chief on his agenda, Bosworth said, should be a better explanation of what his administration’s so-called “Pivot to Asia” really means. When the policy was announced, he told Newton, it was interpreted either as a refocusing of American interest away from the MiddleEast, or as an effort to “contain” China’s rise. “I don’t think really that it’s either one of those two things.” Being “distracted by events elsewhere” may be an explanation, he said, but it is no excuse. “If we still consider ourselves a global power we’ve got to be able to deal with more than one important issue at a time.” (Mike Krever, “N. Korean Nuclear Test ‘Quite Likely,’” CNN, April 22, 2014)

A naval code of conduct approved by more than 20 nations around the Pacific, including China, Japan and the United States, could reduce the risk of accidental encounters’ spiraling into conflict, experts said. But Beijing’s firm rejection of President Obama’s comments on Wednesday about islands claimed by both China and Japan underscored the maritime tensions that continue to trouble Asia. The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea was endorsed by naval officials from the United States, China, Japan and other states at a symposium in the northeastern Chinese port city of Qingdao, China’s Xinhua reported. The agreement comes at a time of growing concern about territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbors. China claims islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Several countries, including China, Vietnam and the Philippines, have overlapping maritime claims. Obama told a Japanese newspaper that the disputed islands fell under the United States-Japanese mutual defense treaty. “And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,” he said in a written response to Yomiuri Shimbun. A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Qin Gang, said Wednesday that China was “firmly opposed to treating the U.S.-Japan security treaty as applying to the Diaoyu Islands.” “The United States should respect the facts, in a responsible manner abide by its commitment not to choose sides over a territorial sovereignty issue, be cautious on words and deeds, and earnestly play a constructive role for peace and stability in the region,” Qin said during a news conference. Last year, a Chinese Navy vessel cut within about 100 yards of the Cowpens, an American cruiser that had been monitoring China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the South China Sea. Chinese and Japanese vessels in the East China Sea have also had several potentially dangerous encounters in recent years. In 2013, Japan said Chinese warships used radar that helps target weapons on a Japanese military vessel and a helicopter near the disputed islands. In an interview on Tuesday, the day the rules were approved, Adm. Wu Shengli, the commander in chief of the Chinese Navy, said the tensions with Japan remained serious and the risk of incidents at sea persisted. “Nothing can be excluded,” Admiral Wu said in the interview with Phoenix Television, a satellite service based in Hong Kong. “That’s what we often call accidental discharge when cleaning a gun. The gun is an objective fact, but what we need to study is how to avoid accidental discharge when cleaning a gun.” Military analysts say the lack of formal “rules of the road” for encounters between vessels of major navies in the Pacific increases the risk that an incident at sea could escalate sharply, possibly causing loss of life and inciting diplomatic crises. A code on interactions between warships could help reduce unintended conflict. “Over all, I think it’s a very positive development, but it remains to be seen how effectively it will be implemented,” Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said in an interview. The rules will help countries “effectively manage and control maritime crises, reduce misjudgments, and avoid incidents of mutual interference and collisions when on the high seas,” Zhang Junshe, a researcher with the Chinese Navy, told Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese military. The Western Pacific Naval Symposium had been discussing a code on sea encounters for more than a decade. China had objected to previous versions over concerns about foreign military vessels in its exclusive economic zone, waters within 200 nautical miles of a nation’s coast. The code is nonbinding and is a less substantial protocol than earlier bilateral agreements on incidents at sea, said Sam Bateman, a research fellow at the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong and a retired Royal Australian Navy commodore. Bateman said he had not seen the final version of the code, but previous drafts were “not much more than sort of a set of principles for exchanging messages and keeping clear of each other.” Naval chiefs in Qingdao praised the agreement. Admiral Wu called the new rules a “document of milestone significance,” Liberation Army Daily reported.Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, said the code was “an important step forward to reduce tension on the sea in the region,” the state-run China Daily reported. (Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley, “Pacific Rim Deal Could Reduce Chances of Unintended Conflict in Contested Seas,” New York Times, April 24, 2014, p. A-8)


4/23/14:
Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK): “open questionnaire to Park Geun Hye [today] asking her to give responsible answers to the questions as to whether she stands for the improvement of the north-south relations or seeks to escalate confrontation and whether she wants reunification and peace against war. Recalling that months-long Key Resolve and Foal Eagle war exercises for invading the north are over, but the south Korean authorities’ confrontation with their compatriots and moves for a war against the north are going on and their anti-reunification hysteria under the signboard of “unification” is flouting the nation and disturbing the world, the questionnaire goes on: 1. What kind of “unification” does Park mean? Confrontation of the social systems means one side swallowing up the other side and the latter being swallowed up by the former, the showdown which is bound to lead to a war. Does she want this? Park seems to call for the confrontation of the social systems, mistaking Korea for Germany. This is a day-dream which will never come true. The confrontation of the social systems precisely means a war. Does Park really stand for the war? 2. Does Park have the face to talk about “confidence-building process” while desperately pursuing the policy for confrontation with fellow countrymen? When she met a head of state of a certain country, she talked rubbish that “the north should be made to change” and “if one hundred attempts to bring it down fail, one hundred and one attempts should be made to succeed.” Does this mean the “confidence-building process” on the lips of Park? Confrontation and confidence can never go together. What does she choose between the two? 3. What is the difference between the “north policy” of the present south Korean regime and Lee Myung Bak’s watchword “no nukes, opening and 3 000 dollars”? Does she wish to drive the north-south relations to a catastrophe just as traitor Lee did? Park is blustering that she is fully ready to ensure “security of the social system” in the north and support its economy in cooperation with the international community once the north dismantles its nukes, asserting the “issue of the north’s nukes is a stumbling block lying in the way of making arrangements for the era of unification. “Park’s claim that the “north should dismantle its nukes first” is nothing different from the above-said watchword of Lee. To insist on the issue of the “north’s nukes” as regards the inter-Korean relations is little short of denying the process to mend the relations. Park should explicitly clarify her stand: whether to persistently bedevil the north-south relations by following the above-said watchword or to opt for repairing the relations. 4. Park was reported to have said the “building of a world without nuclear weapons” should start on the Korean peninsula. Then, is she willing to cease staging with outside forces north-targeted nuclear war drills in south Korea with U.S. nuclear war hardware involved? The DPRK proposed turning the Korean peninsula into a nuclear free zone long ago. It is none other than the U.S. and south Korean puppet forces that have staged madcap nuclear war exercises against the north by introducing more than 1000 nuclear weapons, turning south Korea into the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal in utter disregard of the north’s offer. Nevertheless, Park is finding fault with the north’s nuclear deterrent for self-defense while keeping mum about the U.S. nukes for aggression. This is, indeed, sheer sophism. The U.S. nuclear blackmail and war drills targeting the north are the root cause of the escalating tensions on the peninsula and the worsened inter-Korean relations. Park should now talk what she has to as regards the U.S. nukes and make a bold decision to put an end to the north-targeted nuclear war drills staged together with the U.S. To this end, is she willing to announce the cancellation of Ulji Freedom Guardian drills scheduled to be staged again between August and September? 5. Can Park make a decision to pull down the concrete wall built by the “yusin” regime in the area south of the Military Demarcation Line to demolish the barrier between the north and the south and abolish “Security Law”? The concrete wall dividing the peninsula into two parts is a barrier of division and confrontation conceived by Park Chung Hee after visiting the Berlin Wall during his visit to the then West Germany 50 years ago. The ill-famed “Security Law”, an anti-reunification fascist law, is also a barrier of distrust, social and cultural barrier and a factor of severance and isolation as it is meant to antagonize compatriots and freeze the bonds between the north and the south. If the Korean nation is truly to usher in a new era of peaceful reunification, it is imperative to pull down the barriers of confrontation against reunification, the leftover of the outdated Cold War in the last century, as early as possible. Can Park make such a decision? 6. Does Park think the “aid to women in pregnancy and malnourished children” would help de-escalate the tensions and improve the inter-Korean relations? The “aid to women in pregnancy and malnourished children” touted by her is an insult and mockery of the people in the DPRK including children and women who receive the greatest special benefits as the king of the country and its flowers thanks to the great politics of love for the people. If the inter-Korean relations are to be mended, it is necessary to defuse the acute political and military confrontation. The DPRK in the historic New Year Address clarified an important principled stand on improving the inter-Korean relations. Does Park have the willingness to accept the proposal and appeal of the DPRK, though belatedly, not pretending ignorance of them? 7. It is self-contradiction to talk about “NGO exchange” and “cooperation” while totally blocking the inter-Korean relations, isn’t it? Park is persistently clinging to the “May 24 steps” taken by Lee Myung Bak, a heinous confrontation maniac, to bedevil the inter-Korean relations. This is as foolish an act as tarnishing her image and binding her hands and feet by herself. This behavior only gives the impression that she is just the same confrontation element as Lee Myung Bak. There is neither reason nor pretext whatsoever for her to keep the long bankrupt “May 24 steps” in force any longer. Does Park have the willingness to lift the steps? 8. Is it more urgent to turn the hotspots around the five islands in the West Sea into peace waters than to build a “world peace park” in the Demilitarized Zone? The urgent issue along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) to be settled by the north and the south in actuality is to turn hotspots around the five islands in the West Sea into peace waters. If Park has a “plan” to turn the MDL area into a peace zone, she should pay attention to this issue, first of all. Does Park have intention to turn the hotspots around the five islands in the West Sea into peace waters? 9. Who is the arch criminal violating the agreement on stopping the smear campaign and escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula through political and military provocations? The south Korean authorities now claim that the DPRK is violating the agreement made at the north-south high-level contact and slandering the south. This is just like a guilty party filing the suit first. It is none other than the south Korean authorities and Park herself who are slinging mud at the DPRK. Does Park have the face to grumble that the “north is reneging on the promise to halt the smear campaign and provocations”? 10. Does Park have the willingness to respect and implement the historic July 4 joint statement, June 15 joint declaration and October 4 declaration? These are the great programs and landmarks for national reunification common to the nation. Is Park ready to show her will to respect and implement them, though belatedly? If Park has a sincere stand to promote the confidence between the north and the south and open the door for peace and reunification, she should give correct answers to the solemn questions put by the DPRK on behalf of the era and the nation in the eyes of all fellow countrymen and the whole world, pondering over them, questionnaire stressed, adding: The prospect for the inter-Korean relations entirely depends on the attitude of Park Geun Hye.” (KCNA, “Prospect for North-South Relations Depends on Park Guen Hye: CPRK Open Questionnaire,” April 23, 2014)

North Korea has expressed its condolences over the sinking of a South Korean ferry in a telephone message through its Red Cross Society, the unification ministry said. The message under the name of Kang Su-rin, the chief of the Red Cross Society of North Korea, was sent to Yoo Jung-keun, the president of the (South) Korean Red Cross, the ministry said. Of 476 people on board, 174 people survived the sinking of the 6,325-ton ferry Sewol. “In the message, the North expressed its deep sorrow over the many victims of the disaster,” the ministry said. The North’s condolences are the first of their kind since 2003, when a subway fire and typhoon Maemi rocked the country. The South has yet to respond to the North’s message, ministry officials said. The South conveyed its condolences over flooding in North Korea in 2006. KCNA confirmed the delivery of the condolence message in an English-language report. “The Central Committee of the Red Cross Society of the DPRK Wednesday sent a message of sympathy to the South Korean Red Cross,” it said, adding “The message expressed deep sympathy as regards the sinking of the ferry ‘Sewol’ in waters off Jin Island, South Jolla Province on April 16 claiming many casualties including young schoolchildren and leaving many persons missing.”

North Korea experts said that the North’s move seems to be intended to improve chilly inter-Korean ties. “Saying it will keep an eye on President Park Geun-hye’s stance on inter-Korean relations, the North sent its condolence message (over the disaster). It appears to be the North’s intention to thaw the frozen inter-Korean relationship,” said Yang Moo-jin, a political scientist at the University of North Korean Studies. “It remains to be seen whether the North carries out its fourth nuclear test.” (Yonhap, “N. Korea Offers Condolences over S. Korea Ferry Victims,” Korea Times, April 23, 2013)


4/24/14:
U.S.-Japan Joint Statement: “Close U.S.-Japan cooperation is essential in managing and responding to long-standing and emerging threats and challenges in Asia and around the world. Recent events underscore the importance of coordinated action to uphold regional and global rules and norms. At the March 25 Trilateral Summit in The Hague, the leaders of the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea urged North Korea to take concrete actions to meet its international obligations on nuclear and missile issues and to address, without delay, humanitarian concerns, including the abductions issue. In concert with our G-7 partners, the United States and Japan have condemned Russia over its illegal attempt to annex Crimea and are consulting closely on further measures against Russia over its deplorable conduct, while strongly urging Russia to deescalate tensions in Ukraine. Together, we are taking concrete steps to support Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and economic stability. The United States and Japan are working collaboratively to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, support Middle East peace efforts, contribute to Afghan reconstruction, and improve the situation in Syria, including through the disposal of its chemical stockpiles. The United States and Japan recognize that China can play an important role in addressing all of these challenges, and both countries reaffirm their interest in building a productive and constructive relationship with China. The United States and Japan, as maritime nations with global trade networks that depend on open seas, underscore the importance of maintaining a maritime order based upon respect for international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight. The United States and Japan share strong concern over recent actions that have raised tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea, such as the uncoordinated declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea. Our two countries oppose any attempt to assert territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force. The United States and Japan urge the establishment of confidence-building measures among governments and militaries in the region to address these tensions. In the South China Sea, we call on countries concerned to clarify the basis of their maritime claims in accordance with international law. We support efforts for the early establishment of an effective Code of Conduct as a way to reduce the risk of an unintended incident. The United States and Japan fully support the use of diplomatic and legal means, including international arbitration, to settle maritime disputes in the South China Sea.” (White House Office of the Press Secretary, U.S.-Japan Joint Statement, April 24, 2014)

Abe, Obama: “Q. I’d like to raise a question with regard to security. First, my question is addressed to Prime Minister Abe. President Obama, with regard to the defense of the Senkaku Islands, he had clearly stated his security stance based on the security treaty. And what kind of discussion did you have on the exercise of collective security rights? To President Obama, the following question: Based on the security treaty, the obligation to defend the Senkaku Islands, this is the first time that you referred to this issue. Why did you mention this? Could you talk about the import of your statement? ABE: (As interpreted.) Through the talks with President Obama, as President Obama mentioned at the outset in his speech, between our two countries we have the security treaty and under the security treaty, all of the abilities and capabilities to perform the commitment is provided. And this includes all territories under the administration of Japan, inclusive of the Senkaku Islands. And any unilateral action to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands will be opposed by the United States. We agreed on this point. On the exercise of the right of collective defense, presently in Japan the legal basis for security is being discussed and with regard to the stability of Japan and regional safety and stability, and to function the alliance effectively, and to contribute to the stability of the region we are making these studies. This is what I have explained to President Obama. Concerning such studies and examinations being made in Japan, this was welcomed and this would be supported. That was the position expressed by President Obama. OBAMA: Our position is not new. Secretary Hagel, our Defense Secretary, when he visited here, Secretary of State John Kerry when he visited here, both indicated what hasbeen our consistent position throughout. We don’t take a position on final sovereignty determinations with respect to Senkakus, but historically they have been administered by Japan and we do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally. And what is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan. So this is not a new position, this is a consistent one. In our discussions, I emphasized with Prime Minister Abe the importance of resolving this issue peacefully — not escalating the situation, keeping the rhetoric low, not taking provocative actions, and trying to determine how both Japan and China can work cooperatively together. And I want to make that larger point. We have strong relations with China. They are a critical country not just to the region, but to the world. Obviously, with a huge population, a growing economy, we want to continue to encourage the peaceful rise of China. I think there’s enormous opportunities for trade, development, working on common issues like climate change with China. But what we’ve also emphasized — and I will continue to emphasize throughout this trip — is that all of us have responsibilities to help maintain basic rules of the road and an international order so that large countries, small countries, all have to abide by what is considered just and fair, and that we are resolving disputes in peaceful fashion. And this is a message that I’ve delivered directly to the Chinese and it’s one that I think is entirely consistent with China being successful. I think the alternative is a situation in which large countries, like the United States or China or Russia or other countries, feel as if whenever they think it’s expedient they can take actions that disadvantage smaller countries, and that’s not the kind of world that is going to be stable and prosperous and secure over the long term. So we are invested in an international order, and that applies to a whole range of issues, including maritime issues. My hope is, is that China will continue to engage with us and other countries in the region where we do not take a position on the particular sovereignty of this piece of land or this rock but we do take a position in making sure that all countries are following basic international procedures in resolving these disputes. And if that happens, then I think not only will China be successful, but I think there’s a great potential for Chinese and Japanese cooperation, Chinese and Vietnamese cooperation, cooperation with the Philippines and China — all of which will benefit the peoples of the region. Q. …In regards to the Senkaku Islands, I just want to make sure that this is absolutely clear. Are you saying that the U.S. would consider using military force were China to have some sort of military incursion in those islands to protect those islands? And how does that not draw another red line that you would have to enforce — of putting U.S. credibility, your credibility on the line once again, as it was in the case with Syria and Russia? And on another key security issue, you mentioned North Korea in your meeting with the Prime Minister. Are you issuing a warning to North Korea that there should not be another nuclear test? And to Prime Minister Abe, do you have confidence in President Obama’s assurances about your security when the U.S. and the West were unable to stop Russia’s advances in Ukraine? OBAMA: Well, Jim, let me unpack that question because there’s a whole bunch of assumptions in there, some of which I don’t agree with. First of all, the treaty between the United States and Japan preceded my birth, so obviously, this isn’t a “red line” that I’m drawing; it is the standard interpretation over multiple administrations of the terms of the alliance, which is that territories under the administration of Japan are covered under the treaty. There’s no shift in position. There’s no “red line” that’s been drawn. We’re simply applying the treaty. At the same time, as I’ve said directly to the Prime Minister that it would be a profound mistake to continue to see escalation around this issue rather than dialogue and confidence-building measures between Japan and China. And we’re going to do everything we can to encourage that diplomatically. … Q. Is there a warning to North Korea to not conduct another nuclear test? OBAMA: North Korea has engaged in provocative actions for the last several decades. It’s been an irresponsible actor on the international stage for the last several decades. So our message on North Korea has been consistent throughout. They are the most isolated country in the world. They are subject to more international sanctions and international condemnation than any country in the world. As a consequence, their people suffer as much as any peoples in the world. And what we’ve said is if you are, in fact, serious about North Korea being a normal nation, then you’ve got to start changing your behavior. And that starts with the basic principle of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Now, am I optimistic that there’s going to be a major strategic shift in North Korea’s attitudes any time soon? Probably not. But what I am confident about is, is that working with Japan, working with the Republic of Korea, and working with China and other interested parties in the region, that we can continue to apply more and more pressure on North Korea so that at some juncture they end up taking a different course. In the meantime, they’re dangerous, and we have to make sure that we are guarding against any provocations getting out of hand. This is one of the reasons why the alliance is so important and collective self-defense is so important. But we are not surprised when they engage in irresponsible behavior. That’s been their pattern for the last couple of decades. And what we have to do is to continue to try to contain and mitigate the potential damage that this behavior has and continue to put pressure on them so that we can see a shift. And China’s participation in pushing the DPRK in a different direction is critically important as well. They have not only an opportunity but I think a security interest and a broader interest in a peaceful resolution to what has been a generation-long conflict and is the most destabilizing, dangerous situation in all of the Asia Pacific region.” (Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Abe before Bilateral Meeting, Akasaka Palace, Tokyo, April 24, 2014)

President Barack Obama’s pledge to protect the Senkaku Islands was one major sign of the rare developments that unfolded before and during his meeting with Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. After Abe and Obama dined on sushi in the Ginza district of Tokyo on April 23, lights were still burning at the Foreign Ministry in the Kasumigaseki district as officials of the two nations were ironing out the details of the joint statement to be released after the Abe-Obama meeting on April 24. A Japanese government source could not hide his irritation at the slow pace at which wording about security issues, especially with China in mind, was proceeding. “National security is part of a set along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement,” the source said. “Adjustments will have to be made in the joint statement depending on progress in the TPP negotiations. This may take us until the morning [of April 24].” Abe and Obama agreed over sushi that further talks should continue between Amari Akira, the state minister in charge of the TPP, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. The two continued their negotiations until 3 a.m. on April 24, but no agreement was reached. At the joint news conference held April 24 after his meeting with Obama, Abe said: “TPP negotiations will continue today between the two officials. The release of the joint statement will be made after the results of those negotiations are taken into consideration.” Ordinarily, joint statements released after summit talks have been all but finalized prior to the actual meeting. That allows for the announcement of the joint statement immediately afterward. The latest meeting was particularly unusual because no joint statement was released right away, and also because negotiations resumed even after the two leaders had already met. Commenting on this unusual situation, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s farm lobby said, “The joint statement has been taken hostage.” The United States was apparently using the joint statement as a lever to put pressure on Japan to reach an agreement on the TPP. A high-ranking official of the Abe administration said: “That is only evidence that the two sides are involved in negotiations with much at stake in terms of national interests. There will be no problem as long as the joint statement is released before Obama leaves Japan.” While no TPP agreement in principle was reached on April 24, Obama clearly stated Washington’s obligation to protect the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by China. “Our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands,” Obama said at the news conference. At the same time, he reiterated the U.S. position and said, “We don’t take a position on final sovereignty determinations with respect to the Senkakus, but historically they have been administered by Japan and we do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally.” The Obama administration was initially hesitant about excessively emphasizing China during the president’s meeting with Abe. However, in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, U.S. officials also stressed that one objective of Obama’s trip to Asia would be to reconfirm Washington’s responsibility to its allies. In the end, Obama agreed to mention the Senkakus in response to Japan’s exhortations. Similar wording will be included in the joint statement. A high-ranking Japanese government official said mention of the Senkakus by Obama would be an important result of the meeting with Abe, especially with no final agreement on the TPP. Because the Japanese request was accepted, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said, “From the standpoint of deterrence, the contents of what he said could not have been any stronger.” At the same time, the Obama administration did not completely overlook China. While emphasizing the importance of abiding by the rule of international law, Obama also stressed the importance of China’s role in global affairs. “We have strong relations with China,” he said. “They are a critical country not just to the region, but to the world.” When Obama was asked if he was drawing a new red line on the Senkakus with his comment, he replied, “This isn’t a red line that I’m drawing. It is the standard interpretation over multiple administrations.” He then added, “I’ve said directly to [Abe] that it would be a profound mistake to continue to see escalation around this issue rather than dialogue and confidence-building measures between Japan and China.” In a sense, the Obama administration has not displayed a new view on the Senkakus issue since it has stuck by its past position of neutrality on the sovereignty question. When asked about that point at his own separate news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said: “Perhaps you should read his comments more honestly. The president clearly said Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty applied to the islands. The comments are no more nor no less than that.” While issues concerning interpretation of history, which have dogged Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, were not raised during Abe’s meeting with Obama, the prime minister was asked about his December visit to Yasukuni Shrine by a member of the U.S. media. “I made a pledge of not entering into war under my firm resolve to create a world in which people never again suffer from the ravages of war,” Abe said. “I will continue to make that explanation in order to gain understanding.” He obviously had in mind the expression by the U.S. State Department of its “disappointment” at his visit, which enraged China and South Korea. Visits are controversial because the shrine memorializes 14 Class-A war criminals along with Japan’s war dead. Abe also explained how Japan had reflected on the wartime suffering it had caused to the peoples of Asia. This was an obvious reference to the wording of the 1995 statement issued under the name of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, which expressed deep remorse and an apology for Japan’s colonial rule and aggression before and during World War II. Abe also expressed his intention to abide by positions taken by past Japanese administrations, a veiled reference to the 1993 statement issued under the name of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono expressing apology to the “comfort women” who were forced to provide sexual services to wartime Japanese troops. Abe tried to be conciliatory toward both China and South Korea, much as he did before his meeting in The Hague in March with Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Prior to those trilateral talks, Abe said in the Diet that his administration would not revise the Kono statement. However, Abe concluded the news conference with a veiled reference to China. “After World War II, Japan created a nation that respects human rights and values the rule of law,” Abe said. “We want to increase such regions throughout the world.” (Yamada Akihiro, Oshima Takashi, Funakoshi Takashi and Tsuruoka Masahiro, “A Series of Firsts in Obama Meeting with Abe,” Asahi Shimbun, April 25, 2014)

China did not export any oil in the first three months of 2014, according to South Korea’s Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), citing data it collected from Cinese customs authorities. China’s total trade with North Korea fell 2.83 percent to $1.27 billion in the January-March period compared to the same period last year. (Yonhap, “China Didn’t Export Crude Oil to N. Korea in Q1,” Vantage Point (June 2014), p. 60)

Sigal: “As President Obama heads to Asia, strategic patience in Washington is stirring strategic impatience in Pyongyang. For over a year North Korea has waited for the United States to resume negotiations—but it will wait no longer. It has restarted its reactor to generate more plutonium, is close to completing a new reactor, and is expanding its uranium enrichment. It has test launched two medium-range missiles and has displayed new, untested longer-range missiles starting in 2010. Worst of all, indications are that it will very soon conduct a nuclear test that breaks with the past, both militarily and politically. Militarily, the North has dropped hints in November 2010 and October 2012 that it is developing a thermonuclear weapon. If successful, the tests could demonstrate its ability to mount a nuclear warhead on its missiles, destabilizing the strategic balance in Northeast Asia. Politically, the Kim dynasty has long justified its rule by juche or self-reliance — the legitimizing myth that it, unlike its sibling rival in the South, has stood up to all its neighbors and forced them to respect its sovereignty, safeguard its security, and strengthen its economy. Just as it played off China against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, since 1988 it has sought to force the United States, South Korea and Japan to end enmity and provide alternatives to dependence on China. If Kim Jong-un goes ahead with the tests, he will put that strategy in jeopardy. Counting on Beijing for much-needed investment and aid to grow his economy may become fraught: China has just displayed its displeasure by impeding cross-border commerce, though it won’t cut off the North completely. When the Obama administration took office in January 2009, South Korea was withholding energy aid to the North promised under an October 2007 six-party agreement in order to get a written commitment from the North on verification of nuclear programs. The October agreement said nothing about verification, however, which had been deferred to the next phase of negotiations. Yet, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on June 18, 2008, Washington had moved the goalposts: “What we’ve done, in a sense, is move up issues that were to be taken up in phase three, like verification, like access to the reactor, into phase two.” In response to the South’s renege on energy, the North moved in late January 2009 to launch a satellite. Pyongyang delayed the launch until April, time for Washington to resume negotiations—the only way to head off the launch and curb other weapons programs. Instead, the Obama administration embraced strategic patience. That pose, adopted in the interregnum, was confirmed in a March 2009 National Security Council meeting chaired by Obama. As NSC senior director for East Asia Jeffrey Bader recalls: “The president told his senior staff he wanted to break the cycle of provocation, extortion, and reward that various U.S. administrations had confronted and ultimately accommodated in the past fifteen years. … Defense Secretary Gates stressed the importance of not providing inducements to bring North Korea back to the table, or ‘not paying for the same horse three times.’ The president agreed. There was no mention then, or at any subsequent time, of candidate Obama’s suggestion of a willingness to meet Kim Jong-il.” Bader’s account makes it sound as if it was Washington, not Pyongyang that needed convincing. Strategic patience manifested the belief prevalent in Washington that the North alone had failed to live up to past agreements and was determined to arm so negotiations would be fruitless. Yet Pyongyang had stopped reprocessing plutonium for twelve years from 1991 to 2003, had disabled its nuclear reactor in 2007 (and did not restart it until late last year), and had seldom conducted test launches of medium- and long-range missiles. Washington’s belief soon became a self-fulfilling prophecy as Pyongyang went ahead with the rocket launch, and soon followed with its second nuclear test. By March 2010 the administration was inching back to the negotiating table only to have the North torpedo a South Korean navy vessel—the Cheonan—eliminating any chance of talks that year. With U.S. elections on the horizon, the administration moved to head off trouble by resuming negotiations in 2011. With preparations for resumption of testing underway, North Korea agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, keep its reactor at Yongbyon shut down, and allow international monitoring. It also accepted a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing while “productive dialogue continues.” Left unresolved was whether that moratorium precluded satellite launches. North Korea insisted on its right to launch despite a UN Security Council ban. The United States warned a launch would be a deal-breaker. These arrangements were to be finalized at talks in December 2011, the very week that Kim Jong-il died. They were delayed until February 29, 2012. Whether Kim Jong-il would have gone ahead with the launch and subsequent nuclear test is not known, but his son (and successor) did. Some in Washington experienced in negotiating with the North thought it was a mistake not to get a written deal that covered satellite launches. That sidestepped a more significant question: why did Pyongyang proceed with the launch and a third nuclear test when it had every reason to believe that the Obama administration was finally negotiating in earnest? No one outside Pyongyang knows for sure. Administration officials understandably felt double-crossed, which only reinforced their reluctance to resume negotiations. Last fall, North Korean officials indicated their willingness to return to Leap Day and possibly not exercise their “right” to launch satellites. But that was not good enough for Washington, which insisted that Pyongyang had to do more—and without reciprocity from Washington. That was unacceptable to Pyongyang, which saw “commitment for commitment, action for action,” enshrined in the September 2005 six-party joint statement, as the only way to build trust. Last week, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo agreed to soften this stance, but without a commitment to reciprocal steps, it was too little, too late. The North Korean strategy of forcing others to improve relations has now reached a dead end. So has U.S. strategic patience. With little prospect for a negotiated way out, the security of all of Northeast Asia is in peril.” (Leon V. Sigal, “A Nuclear North Korea vs. a Strategically Patient U.S.: Who Wins?” The American Interest, April 254, 2014)


4/25/14:
President Obama arrived here offering solace to a country traumatized by the sinking of a ferry that killed scores, and showing solidarity at a time when the Korean Peninsula is rife with tension. With North Korea threatening provocations like long-range missile tests or even a fourth test of a nuclear weapon, Obama warned that the United States, South Korea and their allies would consider levying new sanctions against Pyongyang. “It is important for us to look at additional ways to apply pressure on North Korea, further sanctions that have even more bite,” Obama said after meeting with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea. But Obama acknowledged that diplomatic pressure alone would have limited impact on a government that does not play by the normal rules of diplomacy. “North Korea is already the most isolated country in the world by far,” Obama said. “We are not going to find a magic bullet that solves this problem overnight.” ark was even more pointed, warning the North on Friday that testing a nuclear bomb would dissolve any prospect for a resumption of multiparty talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear program or a rapprochement between North and South. The South Korean government, Park said, has estimated that North Korea is ready to carry out a nuclear test at any moment. Recent activity at a nuclear test site, picked up by satellites, heightened the tension just before Obama’s trip. Given the continuing tumult in relations between the Koreas, Obama reiterated a position expressed by other American officials, saying that he was open to delaying the transfer of operational control of the South Korean military during wartime from the United States to Seoul. (Mark Landler, “Obama Offers Suppiort to South Korea at a Moment of tTrauma and Tension,” New York Times, April 26, 2014, p. A-8) President Obama says it may be time to consider further sanctions against North Korea ‘‘that have even more bite’’ as the country is threatening its fourth nuclear test. Addressing a joint news conference alongside South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Obama said threats by North Korea will get it ‘‘nothing except further isolation’’ from the global community. But Obama acknowledged there are limits to what impacts additional penalties can have on the country. ‘‘North Korea already is the most isolated country in the world by far,’’ Obama said. ‘‘Its people suffer terribly because of the decisions its leaders have made. And we are not going to find a magic bullet that solves this problem overnight.’’ Obama said the missile technology and nuclear weapons that North Korea is developing pose a direct threat to Korea and Japan, two very close U.S. allies in the region, but to the United States as well. ‘‘We can’t waver in our intention. We have to make sure that, in strong concert with our allies, that we are continuing to press North Korea to change its approach,’’ Obama said, presenting a united front in the presence of Park. The White House said it was keeping close tabs on activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site, where commercial satellite imagery this week showed increased activity. Park said the assessment of her government is that North Korea is ‘‘fully ready now’’ to conduct another nuclear test. ‘‘This is a very tense situation,’’ she said. ‘‘President Obama’s visit to South Korea sends a strong message to North Korea that its provocative acts cannot be tolerated,’’ she said. (Darlene Superville, “Obama Speaks out on Possible N. Korea Nuke Test,” Associated Press, April 25, 2014)

Obama-Park: “PRESIDENT PARK: (As interpreted.) I’d like to extend my sincere welcome to His Excellency President Obama. To the victims of the sunken ferry ship, Sewol, and their families, President Obama expressed consolation and sympathy, and to provide support. I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. President Obama’s visit to Korea is the fourth time, and Seoul is the city he most frequently visited during his term. Of all the U.S. Presidents, the number of his visits to Korea outnumber that of his predecessors. This reflects President Obama’s special interest in Korea and full commitment and confidence to further strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance. Most recent North Korea provocation is a public announcement on possibility of engaging another nuclear test, thereby imposing threats and provocation. Amidst the situation, President Obama’s visit to Korea sends a strong message to North Korea that its provocative acts cannot be tolerated. President Obama and I will spare no effort to exercise deterrence against North Korea’s provocation and strengthen our mutual cooperation. Above all, faced with the DPRK’s threat, the U.S.-ROK’s defense capabilities is solid and will be further cemented. Tomorrow, President Obama and I will jointly visit ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command for the first time ever since it was formed in 1978 to reaffirm U.S.-ROK’s defense capabilities against the DPRK. The DPRK’s so-called new pattern of provocation will bring about a new level of international pressure. We also exchanged views on what measures Korea and the U.S. need to take jointly, together with the international community, in the face of the DPRK’s provocation. I sincerely hope that North Korea takes the course towards peace and stability while making a right choice to resolve the stress and hardship that North Korea is undergoing. We considered that the security environment is experiencing threats imposed by DPRK’s nuclear program and missile activities. Therefore, we shared the view that the timing and condition of the OPCON transfer slated for 2015 can be reviewed. We also agreed to beef up our capacities to effectively deal with DPRK’s nuclear and missile threats. As a part of that effort, Korea’s air and missile defense, KAMD, will be developed into an independent system and will collaborate to enhance KAMD’s interoperability while securing its efficient operation. The vital foundation of our alliance is high-level situated dialogue, which we plan to further reinforce. In the later part of this year, defense and foreign affairs ministers talk is scheduled. We expect the talks will be meaningful opportunity to discuss current issues, visions of our alliance, present and future, of the Korean Peninsula. Based on strong deterrent capabilities of ROK and the U.S., we decided to lay the groundwork for sustainable peace and peaceful unification and make joint efforts to build a new Korean Peninsula. To realize that it is crucial to achieve progress in DPRK’s denuclearization. We share the concern over DPRK’s continuous attempt to advance its nuclear capabilities, so with a sense of urgency, we will make progress in the denuclearization. Based on our close coordination, we will continue our efforts to induce consistent response and active cooperation from the international communities, including the five parties. North Korea’s pursuit of two goals at once — on nuclear arsenals and economic development — are incompatible. DPRK must realize that. And therefore, to lay the groundwork for peaceful unification in the Korean Peninsula, I explained to President Obama my initiative for peaceful unification presented in Dresden last month. In December 2012, as President Obama mentioned himself, residents of both North and South Korea will eventually become free citizens of an integrated country. Reflecting development process of human history, barriers built due to conflict, distrust, social cultural differences eventually collapse. During that process, I believe we need to shower the North Korean residents with caring interest and deliver a message of hope, especially efforts necessary to provide humanitarian assistance to North Koreans and recover our common sense of identity. Peaceful unification in the Korean Peninsula will provide new economic opportunities to its neighboring countries and allies, and contribute to promote global peace and stability. Though the North Korea regime rejects the initiative I proposed in Dresden, my proposal will assure minimal level of value of life to be enjoyed by North Koreans and recover common sense of identity between North and South Koreans. With that principle in mind, we will pursue the initiative.

President Obama and I share the view that while the tension and conflict persist in the Northeast Asian region, we must actively seek ways to promote peace and collaboration in Northeast Asia. In that context, I strongly support the U.S. policy of rebalance toward the Asia Pacific region as it contributes positively to the regional peace and cooperation. I firmly believe that President Obama’s Asia trip demonstrates his strong commitment toward his policy of rebalancing toward the region and his pledge to implement the commitment. As the U.N. Security Council member, South Korea stands side by side with the U.S. to resolve any major issues undermining peace and stability in the global community. The U.S. and Korea are marching together to carry out development cooperative activities in Asia, Africa, and also poverty fighting. We’ll gather our wisdom to tackle new global challenges such as climate change, energy, nuclear security, cybersecurity, marine security. Another important pillar of our alliance is practical cooperation in economic, social and cultural sectors. This topic has continued so far and will continue. KORUS FTA will, together with the U.S.-ROK mutual defense treaty, have become two major linchpins of our alliance. We plan to expand mutual beneficial cooperation based on KORUS FTA. We share the view that, followed by FTA between the two countries, TPP will enable both of our countries to expand our cooperation in the future. We will closely coordinate with each other regarding Korea’s participation in TPP. Regarding the issue of energy, scientists from the two sides are conducting research in the field of IT, high-tech manufacturing, space exploration. In these areas they are closely collaborating further down the road. Energy-related companies and experts from both sides have strengthened cooperation in clean energy and shale gas sector. Thus we are stepping up the bilateral partnership to a new level. Today, after 60 years, precious nine Korean cultural artifacts were returned to Korea. Such social and cultural cooperation between the U.S. and Korea will enrich our friendly ties and achieve further development. Based on the past 60 years of unwavering trust built between the two nations, the U.S.-ROK alliance will advance further as we effectively handle the challenges in the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and the world. Our alliance will continuously strengthen its role as a linchpin for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region and also contribute to the people of the U.S. and Korea and the world. Once again, welcome to Korea, President Obama, and I wish you a successful Asia trip. Thank you. OBAMA: Thank you, President Park, for your kind words and warm welcome. And I want to thank the people of South Korea for their enduring friendship and unfailing hospitality. As I said earlier, I know my visit comes at a time of great sorrow for your nation. And again, on behalf of all Americans, I want to express our deepest condolences — our aedo — to all the families who lost loved ones on the ferry Sewol. So many were young students with their entire lives ahead of them. I’m a father of two daughters of the same age, or close to the same age, as those who were lost, and so I can only imagine what the parents are going through at this point and the incredible heartache. I brought with me on this trip, in addition to the flag that I mentioned earlier, a magnolia tree from the South Lawn of the White House. These magnolia trees have stood for more than a century, and they represent in our country beauty, and with every spring, renewal — the same qualities embodied by all those students. So during my visit this tree will be presented to Danwon High School as a reminder of their beautiful lives and the friendship between our nations. And going forward, the United States will continue to offer whatever support we can provide as you respond to this tragedy. These difficult days remind us that, whatever the challenges, our two nations stand together. Our alliance remains a linchpin of security in Asia. Our solidarity is bolstered by the courage of our servicemembers — both Korean and American — who safeguard this nation. America’s commitment to the South Korean people will never waver. And, President Park, I want to thank you for your strong personal commitment to our alliance. I was honored to welcome you to Washington for your first foreign trip as President, and we’ve worked closely ever since. In our discussions today we agreed to continue to modernize our alliance, including enhancing the interoperability of our missile defense systems. At the same time, President Park recommended, and I agreed, that given the evolving security environment in the region, including the enduring North Korea nuclear and missile threat, we can reconsider the 2015 timeline for transferring operational control for our alliance. Together we’ll ensure that our alliance remains fully prepared for our mission. With regard to North Korea, the United States and South Korea stand shoulder-to-shoulder both in the face of Pyongyang’s provocations and in our refusal to accept a nuclear North Korea. Threats will get North Korea nothing other than greater isolation. And we’re united on the steps Pyongyang needs to take, including abandoning their nuclear weapons and ballistic weapons programs and living up to their international obligations. Of course, we’re also deeply concerned about the suffering of the North Korean people, and the United States and South Korea are working together to advance accountability for the serious human rights violations being committed by the North. I mentioned to President Park that the United States supports the Korean people’s desire for unification, and I share President Park’s vision — as you outlined, Madam President, in your recent speech in Dresden — of “a unified Korea that’s free from the fear of war and nuclear weapons.” It’s a vision of a unified Korea where people throughout this peninsula enjoy the political and economic freedoms that exist here in the South. Beyond this peninsula, our alliance is increasingly a global one. We’re grateful for South Korea’s partnership, from typhoon relief in the Philippines to humanitarian efforts in Syria. AS Madam President mentioned, we’re working closely on new clean energy technologies to address climate change and with the international community on an ambitious new climate agreement. Around the globe, we’re leaders in development, because we want more people to experience the kind of incredible growth and progress that South Korea shows is possible. And finally, we agreed to continue expanding our extraordinary economic ties. Since we signed our free trade agreement two years ago, our overall bilateral trade has gone up. The United States is exporting more to South Korea, and South Korea is exporting more to the United States, which supports good jobs in both countries. Today, President Park and I discussed how we can make sure that we implement KORUS fully, which would also help ensure that South Korea can eventually meet the high standards of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So, President Park, thank you again for your partnership and for all that you’ve done to keep our alliance strong. I’m looking forward to our working dinner tonight. Time and again, we’ve seen how much our people can accomplish together, not just for our own countries but for the security and prosperity of the people around the world. And we very much appreciate your leadership on that project. Kamsahamnida. Q. I have a question for President Park. Madam President, last month in Dresden, Germany, you announced your unification initiative centering around the three main proposals for laying the groundwork for peace and unification, but North Korea flatly rejected and has continued with its threats of provocation. In particular, North Korea is showing signs for an attempt at the fourth nuclear test against this backdrop. The two leaders said that there will be — at their opening statements — strong sanctions against North Korea by the international society, and they will not — the two countries will not tolerate a nuclear test. I would like to know what the President’s evaluation is. Is there a possibility of North Korea actually carrying out the nuclear test? And if the provocations continue, if you are to improve and move forward the Korean relations, are you considering a more flexible measure to be taken against the North? Next, with regards to the U.S.-Korea transfer of the command or the OPCON, the two leaders have said that they will review the timing and conditions for transfer. And if the transfer schedule is pushed back again, have you discussed with President Obama specifically on when that timing will be? PARK: The Korean government and also the Defense Ministry — our assessment is that North Korea is actually fully ready to carry out the fourth nuclear test, so it can actually carry out the test whenever it deems necessary. That is our assessment. We’re not very certain of what the timing will be, but I think we believe that they are fully ready now. And this is a very tense situation. To come up with some flexible measure — that is your question — actually, the Dresden initiative is a case in point for a win-win of the two Koreas and for improvement of the quality of life for North Korean residents. It’s indeed a flexible policy. But North Korea is responding with threats of provocation and about carrying out nuclear tests. So this is a point that we really need to think seriously. With regards to the transfer of OPCON, Korea and the United States have decided that the basic direction should be to strengthen the KORUS, combine the defensive posture. We believe that it should not incur any negative situations on the defense posture for Korea. And, therefore, against the heightening tensions of the threats currently, the timing is 2015. But we have agreed that that we could revisit this issue about reviewing the timing and conditions for transfer. So, currently, I don’t think it is quite appropriate that I give you the exact timing or the conditions. But the authorities — the defense authorities of the two countries will be able to come to a coordination effort together, and that is what we will do to encourage the defense authorities to move forward. … PARK: When it comes to Korea and Japan, there are a number of shared interests amongst the two countries. However, there has been some conflict going on between the two countries because of historical views. And your question is how we are going to resolve those differences. … On this issue, at The Hague, we had a trilateral Korea-U.S.-Japan summit meeting, I think my point can begin from the trilateral summit meeting, so I think my talk can begin from the trilateral summit meeting. The United States, particularly President Obama, has exerted a lot of effort for the trilateral summit to be realized in Hague. And at that summit meeting, the three countries have come to an agreement that will be coordinated efforts for resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. However, I’d like to say that before we had this trilateral summit meeting, what the Japanese leader has done, the commitment that he has made — I’d like to trace the talks back to the (inaudible) dialogue and the (inaudible) dialogue — the leader has said that he will faithfully abide by those two dialogues and that there will be some effort for resolution of the issues related to the Korean comfort women victims. And since there has been some consensus reached we should make sure that we do not lose that momentum and carry forward to make progress from that. So I think what is most important is that we go back to the pledges made by Prime Minister Abe and their truthful actions be implemented from the Japan side. That is very important. And for the comfort women issue, for the Korean victims, at the director general level at the Foreign Ministry there will be further consultations. We hope that there will be talks carried out at that director general meeting and that there will be truthfulness displayed by the Japanese side so that we can carry on the momentum for cooperation. And if we’re not able to achieve much progress as we anticipated at that moment, we won’t be able to carry on, to make progress from the momentum that we were able to realize at that time. With regards to the Korean comfort women victims, many have passed away and we only have 55 remaining survivors. And I think it’s very important that we come up with efforts, truthful efforts for these victims because if we let go of this, if we do not make progress in the near future, we won’t be able to do anything about those victims. And, therefore, by implementing truthful actions based on those commitments that we have made, we’ll be able to make progress with the momentum that we were able to achieve at the time. However important the coordinated efforts will be between our three countries, I think efforts should be exerted by all the parties concerned. And progress cannot be achieved by efforts of a single party. And, therefore, in this regard, I really look forward to efforts made by the Japanese side. Q. I have a question for President Obama. Despite numerous warnings from the international community, North Korea is continuing with threats and provocation. And because of the new developments of Ukraine, there are voices of concern about the possibility that U.S. attention is going to be diverted to Europe and that the North Korean nuclear issue is going to go down in the U.S. foreign policy priority list. I’d like to know what your ideas are for resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. And for resumption of the Six-Party Talks, I’d like to know if you’re considering relaxing the pre-conditions you set for resumption of the talks. And next, I’d like to talk about the conflicts going on in Northeast Asia. Korea, Japan and China are the three countries in Northeast Asia engaged in close political cooperation relative to their historical territorial disputes. How do you foster a friendly atmosphere for cooperation? What can the United States do? And in regards to Prime Minister Abe’s statement at the press conference yesterday, he has made statements justifying the visit to Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese political leaders. I’d like to hear your views over the historical views held by Japanese politicians. OBAMA: Well, as I said earlier in response to one of your American counterparts’ questions, the United States and I don’t have the luxury of choosing just one problem at a time. So the North Korea situation is of direct concern to us not only because it threatens our key allies in the region, the Republic of Korea and Japan, but it also poses a direct threat to us. Some of the missile technology that’s being developed, the nuclear weapons that are being developed in North Korea when matched up with a thoroughly irresponsible foreign policy and a provocative approach by the North Korean regime poses a threat to the United States. And so we can’t waver in our attention. We have to make sure that in strong concert with our allies, that we are continuing to press on North Korea to change its approach. Now, in terms of what the United States believes is going to be most effective, we’ve been very consistent over the last five years. We don’t reward bad behavior. We don’t go through a constant cycle in which provocative actions by North Korea result in dialogue that leads nowhere and concessions to the North Koreans. And we have also been consistent in saying that if North Korea is serious about talks, here are the specific steps that we can begin to take. Denuclearization has to be on the table. There has to be a discussion about how we are going to remove a key threat not only to the region, but also to the world because North Korea is also one of the principal proliferators of dangerous weapons around the world. So far, at least, we have not gotten a positive response from North Korea on that front. What’s been encouraging is the degree to which China — partly because of consultations with President Xi and Madam President Park, conversations between myself and President Xi and others — China is beginning to recognize that North Korea is not just a nuisance, this is a significant problem to their own security. And we’ve encouraged them to exert greater influence over North Korea because China has the most significant effect on North Korean calculations. President Park and I agree that in light of what we expect to be further provocative actions from the North Koreans, whether in the form of long-range missile tests, or nuclear tests, or both, that it’s important for us to look at additional ways to apply pressure on North Korea, further sanctions that have even more bite, as well as highlighting some of the human rights violations that make North Korea probably the worst human rights violator in the world. It is also important for us to recognize, however, that North Korea is already the most isolated country in the world by far. Its people suffer terribly because of the decisions that its leaders have made. And we are not going to find a magic bullet that solves this problem overnight. What we’re going to have to do is to continue with a consistent, steady approach. And the single most important thing is making sure that there’s strong unity of effort between ourselves, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other like-minded countries in the region. We have to present a strong, forceful alliance and we have to prepare for any eventuality while still opening the prospect for a negotiated resolution to this longstanding conflict. With respect to some of the other issues in East Asia, the United States’ position has been clear and consistent throughout. We consider ourselves a Asia Pacific power. We don’t have a stake in the specific claims that have caused some of these disputes. We’re not parties to the disputes over the Senkaku Islands, for example. Our primary interest is making sure that international norms and rule of law are upheld and that disputes of this sort are resolved through peaceful, diplomatic means. And we will continue to encourage all the parties concerned — whether it’s Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, or with respect to disputes in the South China Sea — to use the law and diplomacy to resolve these disputes. And my message to China has consistently been that although clearly there are going to be differences between ourselves and China on certain issues, there are also enormous areas of cooperation. We’re not interested in containing China; we’re interested in China’s peaceful rise and it being a responsible and powerful proponent of the rule of law and an international system. In that role, it has to abide by certain norms. Large countries have to abide by rules perhaps even more than small countries because when we don’t, it worries people. And we want to move away from a system in which might alone makes right. So we’ll continue to encourage all parties concerned to take steps to resort to international norms and rule of law. We’ve been encouraging ASEAN and China, for example, to come up with a code of conduct that can resolve some of these maritime disputes. We will make sure that freedom of navigation and other principles that have underwritten the prosperity of the Asia Pacific region and the growth in trade and commerce of this region continue and we’ll continue to project ourselves in the Pacific to ensure that that continues. Finally, with respect to the historical tensions between South Korea and Japan, I think that any of us who look back on the history of what happened to the comfort women here in South Korea, for example, have to recognize that this was a terrible, egregious violation of human rights. Those women were violated in ways that, even in the midst of war, was shocking. And they deserve to be heard; they deserve to be respected; and there should be an accurate and clear account of what happened. I think Prime Minister Abe recognizes, and certainly the Japanese people recognize, that the past is something that has to be recognized honestly and fairly. But I also think that it is in the interest of both Japan and the Korean people to look forward as well as backwards and to find ways in which the heartache and the pain of the past can be resolved, because, as has been said before, the interests today of the Korean and Japanese people so clearly converge. They’re both democracies. You both have thriving free markets. Both are cornerstones of a booming economic region. Both are strong allies and friends of the United States. And so when you think about the young people of the Republic of Korea and Japan, my hope would be that we can honestly resolve some of these past tensions, but also keep our eye on the future and the possibilities of peace and prosperity for all people. That’s one of the most important lessons I think from the horrors of war, is being able to look back and learn lessons that allow people to avoid war in the future. Q. Madam President, thank you. …And, President Park, in light of the fact that, as President Obama points out, North Korea is already the most isolated country on the planet, the most sanctioned country, what do you think should be done specifically if they go through with another nuclear test? PARK: (As interpreted.) That was a long statement, I must say. So going back to the question posed to me, when nuclear test is actually carried out by North Korea, what will the Korean government do? That is the question, if I remember it correctly. Now, if North Korea is actually going to carry out the fourth nuclear test, that is going to change fundamentally the security landscape and I believe that all our efforts to resolve the nuclear issue through the Six-Party Talks is going to be completely dissolved. It’s going to go in the air. We tried to resolve the problem through dialogue, but what North Korea did was to buy time to upgrade its nuclear capability. And now with this upgraded nuclear capability, North Korea is not willing to listen to anyone. If this is going to be the situation there’s no actual meaning in us carrying out Six-Party talks. And to the neighboring countries, there may be a nuclear arms race triggering. So there’s actually no stopping — for other neighboring countries, North Korea is not stopped. And South and North Korea have tried to improve relationship, but I think we’re going to lose the momentum for the South Korean efforts to improve that relationship if the North Korean test is going to take place. And also, there is a close linkage between the North Korean nuclear program and others, so I believe that North Korea’s nuclear capability is going to bring a serious threat to world peace, too. And about such an analysis, I believe this is not going to be a problem only for the Northeast Asia region; this is going to be a serious threat to global peace. And if such an event is going to be realized, the U.N., in order to uphold the peace, will have to impose very strong sanctions. That is my view. And I also believe that there is a strong role to be played by China. I’d like to emphasize the role of China. China, with regards to possession of North Korea’s — of their capabilities, of their testing, China is strongly opposed to the idea and it has also maintained a very strong position for the U.N. sanctions. So against a very bad situation, if China is going to maintain a very strong position, take very strong measures to make sure that China will not tolerate the situation, then it’s going to be very important — the trade relations, about 90 percent of trade relations and about 80 percent of economic support is going from China to North Korea, and therefore China’s influence in North Korea is indeed huge. And against this very dangerous situation, I really look forward to China’s leading role in making sure that the threat is not going to be translated into action. That is my hope.” (White House Office of the Press Secretary, Remarks by President Obama and President Park of the ROK in Joint Press Conference, Blue House, Seoul, April 25, 2014)

North Korea has completed all of the preliminary steps required to conduct a nuclear test, a South Korean government official said. The South detected the closure of the entrance of a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site in a northeastern region of North Korea. It means that Pyongyang is now ready for what could be its fourth nuclear test, the official said. “This is the final step in preparing to test a nuclear device,” the official said. “In theory, there are seven to 14 days to conduct a test once the entrance is sealed.” (Stella Kim, Jethro Mullin, and Andrew Demaria, “South Korea: North Korea Ready for Nuclear Test,” April 25, 2014)

North Korea should abandon its nuclear ambition and refrain from conducting “nuclear and ballistic-missile tests,” Xinhua said in a commentary, shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama warned the North against carrying out its fourth nuclear test. “For the DPRK, it needs to understand that a nuclear-armed Korean Peninsula serves the fundamental interests of none,” Xinhua said. “It is imperative that it comply with its due international obligations and refrain from such moves as nuclear and ballistic-missile tests.” It appears to be rare for the Chinese official news agency to speak against North Korea’s possible provocations by mentioning the North by name. The commentary also urged the U.S., South Korea and Japan not to flex their military muscles. “For the United States and its allies in the region, they need to make a convincing case about their proclaimed commitment to regional stability,” it said. “Demanding the DPRK to back down on the one hand but flexing military muscles at its door on the other is not helpful; it would only ratchet up Pyongyang’s distrust and sense of insecurity,” it said. (Yonhap, “China Media Urges N. Korea Not to Conduct ‘Nuclear, Missile Tests,’” April 25, 2014)

Almost everything American intelligence agencies and North Korea-watchers thought they understood two years ago about Kim Jong-un, the North’s young leader, turns out to have been wrong. The briefings given to President Obama after Kim inherited leadership said it was almost certain he would be kept in check by his more experienced uncle, Jang Song-thaek. Instead, Kim had his uncle and dozens of others executed. The early betting was also that Kim, who was briefly educated in Switzerland, would emphasize economic overhaul over expanding the nuclear and missile arsenals that were his father’s and grandfather’s legacy. Instead, the nuclear program has surged forward, and recent missile tests are demonstrating that after years of spectacular failures, the North’s engineers are finally improving their aim. Their next big challenge is proving that an intercontinental missile they have shown only in mock-ups can reach America’s shores. As a result, he will be confronting the question of whether his strategy of “strategic patience” with the North has been overtaken by reality: an unpredictable, though calculating, ruler in Kim, who has proved to be more ruthless, aggressive and tactically skilled than anyone expected. “We have failed,” said Evans J. R. Revere, who spent his State Department career trying various diplomatic strategies to stop the North. “For two decades our policy has been to keep the North Koreans from developing nuclear weapons. It’s now clear there is no way they will give them up, no matter what sanctions we impose, no matter what we offer. So now what?” It is an assessment some of Obama’s aides say they privately share, though for now the administration refuses to negotiate with the North until it first fulfills its oft-violated agreements to freeze its nuclear and missile programs. A recent effort inside the National Security Council to devise a new approach resulted in a flurry of papers and classified strategy sessions — and the conclusion that all the alternatives to the current course were worse. “We’re stuck,” one participant in the review said. The only place any real change is visible is in the military planning by South Korea and the United States, which maintains a shrunken force of 28,000 troops in the South. For the first time since the armistice in 1953, officials say, the contingency plan for a conflict with the North treats the nation as a nuclear-capable adversary, despite the administration’s official refusal to acknowledge it as a de facto nuclear state. (What appear to be North Korea’s preparations for a fourth nuclear test, perhaps in the coming days, seem intended to remove all doubt.) The latest revision of OpPlan 5029, the war plan for the Korean Peninsula, assumes that if a conflict broke out, the North would be able to deliver a crude nuclear weapon, though perhaps by truck or ship. American intelligence officials do not believe the North is yet able to shrink a bomb to a size that could fit on one of its Nodong missiles, the key breakthrough it needs. “He’s put new effort into his nuclear program, missiles, special operations forces and long-range artillery,” said Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who took over last fall as commander of United States Forces Korea and the United Nations Command here. “They are using more underground facilities. He’s gone to school on how we operate.” Defense officials say they now have less warning time on missile launchings than they had two or three years ago because Kim has put his resources into mobile launchers that are regularly moved from tunnel to tunnel, making them harder for American satellites to track. Although details of the revised plan are classified, officials have talked about elements of it. Since the North shelled a South Korean island and was blamed for sinking a South Korean warship four years ago, there are now extensive plans for immediately responding to and then de-escalating small attacks along the border regions. But in recent interviews here and in Washington, a picture has emerged of Kim’s new focus on inexpensive weaponry, from missile launchers to crude cyberweapons, that are hard to detect and harder to halt. Kim has also nurtured his reputation for unpredictability, keeping adversaries on edge. Administration officials acknowledge they have largely left North Korea on the back burner while focusing on sanctions, cyberattacks and pressure on Iran, forcing it into negotiations. “The administration decided, consciously or implicitly, that Iran was more important and there was a greater prospect of getting something done,” said Robert Einhorn, who ran the sanctions enforcement program against both countries until he left the State Department last year. “While you can squeeze Iran and its oil money, it’s much harder to squeeze North Korea” while China continues its financial support. White House officials argue that focusing first on Iran made sense. Its program can still be halted before it gains a weapons ability, if that is Tehran’s goal, and the administration believes that North Korea is less likely to set off a regional arms race. “You could argue that the best North Korea strategy now is to get a deal with Iran, and use it as a model for the North about what the world can look like,” one senior administration official said. But others inside the administration fear that policy is too passive — and perhaps a prescription for a much larger North Korean arsenal by the time Obama leaves office. At the heart of the problem are dashed hopes that Kim would conclude that his grandfather’s and father’s pursuit of a nuclear ability was a Cold War relic, and that he would gradually steer the country to integration with the world economy. There was modest reason for optimism just months after Kim came to power in 2011 and struck yet another deal to freeze all his nuclear and missile activity, in return for a resumption of the episodic six-party talks with the United States and other nations. That brief effort ended when the North launched a satellite in honor of Kim’s grandfather. Diplomacy froze for the next two years, with the administration unwilling to make concessions as previous administrations did only to find that the North was reneging on its promises. In recent months the Chinese have led an effort to restart diplomatic talks, and the United States has quietly met with the North. But the goal is unclear. To the United States, the purpose of the talks would be denuclearization; Kim’s government has already declared that the one thing he will not do is give up his small nuclear arsenal, especially after seeing the United States help unseat Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, who surrendered his own nuclear program in 2003. Joel Wit, a former North Korea strategist for the American government, said Kim drew an indelible lesson from that history. “It’s not an accident he’s positioning himself to make sure the inventory of nuclear material in the hands of the North is about to take off,” said Wit, who edits 38 North, a website that follows the murky, often murderous politics of the Kim government. He was referring to the North’s effort to expand the production of highly enriched uranium, which would give Kim a steadier, more plentiful supply of nuclear fuel than its past reliance on extracting plutonium from a small nuclear reactor. “I’m now convinced North Korea would prefer to collapse with nuclear weapons than try to survive without nuclear weapons,” Chun Yung-woo, who recently served as the South’s national security adviser, said this week. Yet the strategy Washington is pursuing is based on the opposite assumption. (David E. Sanger, “U.S. Confronts Consequences of Underestimating North Korean Leader,” New York Times, April 25, 2014, p. A-6)

KCNA: “A relevant organ of the DPRK put in custody American Miller Matthew Todd, 24, on April 10 for his rash behavior in the course of going through formalities for entry into the DPRK to tour it. He had a tourist visa for the DPRK, but tore it to pieces and shouted hoarse that “he would seek asylum” and “he came to the DPRK after choosing it as a shelter.” This was a gross violation of its legal order. The relevant organ put him in custody after taking a serious note of his behavior, and is now investigating the case.” (KCNA, “KCNA Report on Putting American Citizen in Custody,” April 25, 2014) North Korea has detained a 24-year-old American man for improper behavior while he was being processed to enter the country as a tourist, state media reported. KCNA identified the man as Miller Matthew Todd — possibly putting his surname first — and said he entered the country on April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. In a statement issued April 26, New Jersey-based Uri Tours said it has “been working closely and continuously with all relevant government and diplomatic entities to resolve this matter in a speedy and favorable manner.” Uri Tours identified the man as Matthew Miller. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. is aware of the report, but she did not confirm an American was being held. She said the department is in touch with the Swedish Embassy which handles consular cases for the U.S. because Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. “There is no greater priority to us than the welfare and safety of US citizens. We don’t have additional information to share at this time,” Psaki said. (Associated Press, “North Korea Detains 24-Year-Old American Tourist,” April 26, 2014)


4/26/14:
President Barack Obama warned that Washington was prepared to use military force to defend its allies, while ratcheting up pressure on North Korea to renounce its nuclear ambitions. During his visit to Yongsan Garrison, the U.S. military headquarters in central Seoul, he also underscored that the South Korea-U.S. alliance would not waver with “each bout of Pyongyang’s attention-seeking.” His strongly worded speech came as the communist state has warned of a “new form” of nuclear test and made a set of saber-rattling moves including the firing of ballistic missiles last month. “We will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life,” he told a gathering of some 1,500 U.S. military personnel and family members at the garrison. “Like all nations on earth, North Korea and its people have a choice. They can choose to continue down a lonely road of isolation, or they can join the rest of the world and seek a future of greater opportunity, greater security and greater respect.” Referring to the North as a “pariah state” that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams, Obama said that nuclear weapons would not make the North strong. He also stressed that Washington’s security partnership with Seoul would only grow stronger in the face of aggression. “North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a path that leads only to more isolation. It is not a sign of strength. Anybody can make threats, anyone can move an army and anyone can show off a missile,” he said. “It does not give you security, or opportunity or respect. Those things don’t come through force. They have to be earned.” Obama also expressed sadness over the tragic loss of hundreds of people in the recent ferry disaster, reaffirming the U.S.’ continued support for the rescue-and-search operations off the country’s southwestern coast. “America will continue to support every rescue and recovery effort. It is the spirit that allows this alliance to endure. That’s what we are about. That’s been our commitment for more than 60 years, in good times and in bad.” His meeting with U.S. service members came right after he and President Park Geun-hye visited the Combined Forces Command. It was the first time the two presidents of the allies had jointly visited the allied institution since the CFC was incepted in 1978. Their visit to the CFC highlighted their resolve to sternly deal with additional provocations, particularly at the time when the North threatened to conduct a fourth nuclear test, which would significantly enhance its military nuclear capability. “I believe that (our visit to the CFC) is very meaningful at the time when North Korea’s military threats are increasing,” Park was quoted as saying by her spokesperson Min Kyung-wook. “I ask you to maintain strong deterrence with a robust allied defense posture so that North Korea dare not launch provocations.” After a briefing on the security situations by CFC Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, Obama signed the guest book on the table where the Korean War Armistice was signed in July 1953. He called the table a symbol of the sacrifices of many people. During the visit to the CFC, Park was accompanied by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Choi Yoon-hee, her chief of staff Kim Ki-chun and National Security Office chief Kim Jang-soo. Obama was with U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Sung Kim and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. (Song Sang-ho, “Obama Warns N.K. of U.S. Military Might,” Korea Herald, April 27, 2014)

Hwang Pyong-so, North Korea’s first vice director of the ruling party’s Organization and Guidance Department, replaced top military chief Choe Ryong-hae as the new director of the powerful General Political Bureau of Pyongyang’s Korean People’s Army. Hwang’s appointment as the military’s de facto No. 2 was confirmed by KCNA May 2 amid speculation over Choe’s dwindling public appearances. KCNA reported that Hwang, 65, was introduced as the first deputy director of the ruling party’s Organization and Guidance Department during his May Day speech at the newly built workers’ hostel at the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Textile Mill. Kim has now switched up all three top military positions with Hwang’s appointment. The young commander also tapped Ri Yong-gil as chief of the General Staff of the Army last August and the relatively unknown Gen. Jang Jong-nam as minister of the People’s Armed Forces last May.

Hwang came into the public eye in the mid-2000s and emerged as a key close aide to Kim Jong-un after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December 2011. He also became more prominent after the execution of Kim’s powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, last December. Officials said Hwang was appointed during an April 26 meeting of the Central Military Commission, which was presided over by Kim. “Chinese authorities have put a lot of focus on Hwang since he emerged as the behind-the-scenes heavyweight last year following the purge of Jang Song-thaek,” a Chinese source said. Hwang was recently promoted as one of North Korea’s six vice marshals, the second-highest functioning military rank, and has been seen accompanying Kim. Choe’s public appearances, on the other hand, have decreased in recent weeks, with a few reports claiming that he may be in poor health. (Sarah Kim and Jeong Yong-soo, “Hwang Now N. Korea Military’s De Fact No. 2,” JoongAng Ilbo, May 3, 2014)


4/27/14:
Chung Hong-won, South Korean prime minister, has tendered his resignation, after becoming a lightning rod for criticism of the government’s response to the Sewol ferry disaster. Divers are still recovering bodies from the wreck, with the death toll from the April 16 sinking expected to reach 302, mostly schoolchildren. The tragedy has captured national attention far more than any other event during President Park Geun-hye’s 14-month tenure, and has produced what appears to be the most serious threat so far to her government. A spokeswoman for Ms Park said that the president had accepted the resignation, and that Mr Chung would leave once the Sewol disaster response was complete. But his departure will not silence criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis, which has already damaged Ms Park’s popularity. Her showing in opinion polls had been consistently strong ever since her perceived firm response to elevated tensions with North Korea in spring 2013. Yet her approval rating fell from 71 per cent to 56.5 per cent between April 18 and 23, according to the research group Realmeter. (Simon Mundy, “S. Korean PM Resigns over Handling of Ferry Disaster,” Financial Times, April 28, 2014, p. 2)

Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea spokesman’s statement “assailing U.S. President Obama’s tour of south Korea from April 25 to 26: Due to the tragedy of sinking of a ferry the whole land of south Korea looks like a mourner’s house. Had Obama have even an iota of ethics and morality, he should have postponed or shelved his trip. The American master and his servant staged the farce of insulting, threatening and blackmailing the DPRK during the former’s criminal tour of south Korea utterly indifferent to the sorrow of south Koreans. This was entirely to serve the purpose of collusion and conspiracy in their campaign against the DPRK. What Park did before Obama this time reminds one of an indiscreet girl who earnestly begs a gangster to beat someone or a capricious whore who asks her fancy man to do harm to other person while providing sex to him. Through her ugly behavior Park answered with a war the question put by the DPRK if she wants peaceful reunification based on the inter-Korean reconciliation or a war through the confrontation of the social systems, and fully revealed that her policy of “confidence- building process” is just the same policy of confrontation as that pursued by traitor Lee Myung Bak. She, at the same time, declared before the whole world her intention to drive the situation to the worst catastrophe through the confrontation with the DPRK to the last in utter disregard of the north-south relations. She fully met the demands of her master for aggression, keeping mum about the nukes of the U.S. and desperately finding fault with fellow countrymen in the north over their nukes. She thus laid bare her despicable true colors as a wicked sycophant and traitor, a dirty comfort woman for the U.S. and despicable prostitute selling off the nation. She visited together with Obama even the “south Korea-U.S. combined forces command” for the first time as a puppet chief executive and went off confrontation hysteria, crying out for “deterrence against the north” and “resolutely countering provocation from it.” She even donned a dress unfit for the atmosphere of the mourner’s house in the wake of the big tragedy and embarrassedly flattered Obama in a bid to please him, sparking off uproar. The anti-DPRK charade staged by Obama and his servant became a laughing stock of world people as it was nothing but an odd burlesque rare to be found in the world. The outcome of Obama’s south Korean junket clearly proved that the DPRK was entirely just when it judged and determined that it should counter the U.S., the sworn enemy, by force only, not just talking, and should finally settle accounts with it through an all-out nuclear showdown. This, at the same time, only hardens the will and resolution of the DPRK to keep to the road chosen by it. Park’s true colors and ulterior motive were brought to daylight. There is no remedy for Park and there is nothing to expect from her as far as the inter-Korean relations are concerned as long as she remains a boss of Chongwadae. She is steeped in sycophancy and treachery and confrontation with compatriots in the north. Her preoccupation is to realize the dream of confrontation of the social systems. Genes remain unchanged. Needless to say, her present behavior suggests that her fate will be just the same as that of her father Park Chung Hee who met a miserable death after being forsaken by his master and public while crying out for “unification by prevailing over communism” and “unification by stamping out communism.” The DPRK will never pardon anyone who dares challenge its dignity, social system and its line of simultaneously developing the two fronts, the statement warned.” (KCNA, “Challenges to the DPRK Will Never Be Pardoned,” CPRK Spokesman,” April 27, 2014)


4/28/14:
Simon Mundy: “As the appalling scale of South Korea’s Sewol ferry tragedy became clear, bereaved relatives chartered a bus to Seoul, where they planned to present their grievances to President Park Geun-hye. Their path was blocked by a crowd of police that grew to 450 officers. On the same day, a group of handicapped people marked the national Day of the Disabled by trying to board a bus in Seoul, to demonstrate South Korean buses’ poor accessibility for disabled people. They too were blocked by police, who sprayed liquid tear gas in their faces. The twin incidents a week ago reflect broader concerns about the strength of democratic institutions in South Korea — a military dictatorship until just 27 years ago. The man who instituted that dictatorship was Ms Park’s father, Park Chung-hee. Nostalgia for his transformative economic agenda helped her to win the election. However, his record of human rights violations has been seized on with delight by her opponents. Their barbs have at times been shrill, even distasteful. One lawmaker warned Ms Park not to follow her father’s authoritarian example lest she share his ultimate fate: assassination. But some actions taken under her government have helped to fuel accusations of authoritarianism, while raising concerns among foreign diplomats and other neutral observers. Although the police behavior towards the bereaved on April 20 was particularly questionable — “totally illegal”, according to the civic group Lawyers for Human Rights — it is part of a broader trend. Even small, peaceful protests are typically attended by huge crowds of police. In December, 4,600 police stormed the headquarters of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions in search of the leaders of a wildcat rail workers’ strike. Meanwhile, a shadow has been cast over Ms Park’s election victory by revelations that national intelligence agents slandered her opponents with thousands of messages on social media. The chief prosecutor leading the investigation into the claims was forced out last year by press allegations of marital infidelity; it later turned out that before the stories appeared, an official in the presidential Blue House had illegally made inquiries into the official’s private life. There is no evidence connecting Ms Park with these misdeeds but some of her actions have done little to dispel allegations of authoritarian tendencies. In August she appointed as her chief of staff one of the men who drafted the anti-democratic 1972 Yushin constitution, which in effect installed her father as perpetual leader. In December, she requested the banning of a political party — the first time this would have happened since 1958. The Blue House said the move to dissolve the leftwing Unified Progressive party was necessary because several members were accused of making treasonous statements and plotting an uprising in support of North Korea. One lawmaker was later sentenced to 20 years in prison. South Korea’s civil institutions have made huge strides since 1987 and public discourse is incomparably freer. The biggest daily newspapers are broadly sympathetic to Ms Park’s conservative New Frontier party but they — along with their liberal rivals and a diverse array of popular news websites — regularly criticize the government, sometimes harshly. Prime minister Chung Hong-won’s resignation yesterday followed a mauling by media over his handling of the Sewol disaster. Yet there is backsliding in some areas, dating back to the term of Ms Park’s predecessor Lee Myung-bak. In 2011, Freedom House downgraded South Korea from “free” to “partly free”, citing increased online censorship and claiming that 160 journalists had been penalized for criticizing the government or lobbying for press freedom under the Lee administration. Prosecutions under the controversial 1948 National Security Act — which has broad wording prohibiting “anti-state” activity, and was condemned last year by the UN special rapporteur on human rights — have risen steadily from 31 in 2008 to 102 last year. With the eyes of the world on South Korea last week following the Sewol tragedy, Ms Park did little for the country’s reputation for due process when she stated publicly that the actions of the ferry’s crew were “tantamount to murder” — a remark that could prejudice the trials that almost certainly lie ahead. The ferry disaster has sparked a bout of national soul-searching on everything from government agencies’ recruitment policies to South Korean children’s respect for their elders. It is as good a time as any to take stock of the country’s incomplete journey towards the democracy its people deserve.” (Simon Mundy, “Seoul Keeps Stumbling on the Path to Democracy,” Financial Times, April 28, 2014, p. 2)

One of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s right-hand men has been promoted to vice marshal for the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Hwang Pyong-so, 65, first deputy director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Organization and Guidance Department, was promoted to the position of vice marshal, according to the North Korean news reports. The move, which comes less than two weeks after he was confirmed to have been promoted to four-star general, has many observers watching closely to predict his future role in the regime. Hwang’s promotion may have been intended to check the power of North Korea’s current “number two,” KPA general politburo chief Choi Ryong-hae. In an April 28 report, Korean Central Television announced, “the title of Korean People’s Army vice marshal has been conferred upon Comrade Hwang Pyong-so.” “Related decisions by the Workers’ Party Central Military Commission and the Democratic People’s Republic of Choson [Korea] Central Defense Commission were announced on April 26,” the report continued. Hwang’s promotion to four-star general was confirmed during a first annual aviators’ meeting in Pyongyang on Apr. 15. At present, only five other people in North Korea hold the rank of vice marshal — besides Choi, they include “old guard” figures Kim Yong-chun, Kim Chong-gak, Ri Yong-mu, and Hyon Chol-hae. The only higher positions in the North Korean military are “marshal of the republic,” held by Kim Jong-un, and marshal of the KPA, held by 93-year-old Ri Ul-sol. “Our understanding is that no one in North Korea besides Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, or Kim Jong-un has ever risen to the rank of vice marshal so fast,” said a Ministry of Unification official on condition of anonymity. Now that he has been promoted, Hwang is expected to take on major duties within the KPA general politbureau. He could be groomed as a successor to Choe, who is reportedly in ill health. Some are speculating he may have already taken over the position of first deputy director, the politbureau’s second highest post. Hwang’s promotion also hints at a stronger role for the Organizational Guidance Bureau, which serves as a check on the military within the WPK. For this reason, the move could be intended as a check against Choi. “It looks as though the Organization and Guidance Department’s role in the party has gotten stronger, while Choi Ryong-hae’s has diminished, with Kim Jong-un making indirect criticisms of him,” said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. “Now that Jang Song-thaek has been purged, it looks like they’re moving to a ‘two-headed’ system, with Hwang Pyong-so in charge of the party and Choi Ryong-hae of the military,” Chang added. (Choi Hyun-june, “In N. Korea, Hwang Pyong-so’s Speedy Rise to Vice-Marshal,” Hankyore, April 29, 2014)

Nearly 70 years after the Enola Gay took off from here, the US Air Force is considering the same airstrip on Tinian as one of the facilities it could develop as part of its response to the military build-up in China. With an eye on the theoretical possibility of a pre-emptive strike from China’s growing array of sophisticated missiles, the Pentagon has been scouring the western Pacific for alternative airfields for its aircraft, harbors for its ships and bases for its troops. “The basic idea is to complicate things for Chinese military planners, so that they cannot neutralize American capabilities by taking out a few large bases, like Kadena [in Japan] and Guam,” says Michael Auslin, an Asia expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The plan to spread the US military’s presence across the region accelerated today as President Barack Obama visited the Philippines. Although Manila asked the US to vacate its longstanding bases in the country as recently as 1991, Chinese assertiveness has generated a change of heart: the U.S. and the Philippines signed a new agreement today that will allow more visits by U.S. aircraft and ships and a rotating presence of marines. Evan Medeiros, Asia director at the White House national security council, said the agreement did not give the U.S. permanent bases in the Philippines. But he said the two militaries would work more closely together on “disaster relief and maritime security”. The facilities that the US will use include Subic Bay, a former US naval base. Obama’s visit to the region has run up against criticism that his much-hyped “pivot” to Asia was losing steam as a result of political opposition to a major trade deal and broader uncertainty about American firmness of purpose. Yet at the same time, the US military has been quietly putting in place arangements that will give it a much broader geographic presence in the Asia-Pacific region to deal with the growing challenge from China. One part of that new approach has been to boost co-operation with longstanding allies. As well as the planned new arrangement with the Philippines, the US now has marines stationed in Australia for the first time and has expanded the number of flights it operates from Singapore, while Japan wants to operate more closely with the US military. Pentagon officials have also raised the prospect of some sort of temporary presence in other countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, which Mr Obama visited at the weekend. “We’re not going to build any more bases in the Pacific,” General Herbert ‘Hawk’ Carlisle, commander of US Pacific Air Forces, said in 2013. “The term you’ll hear that we use often is places, not bases. It’s building that relationship.” The other approach has been to revamp older facilities on the many small islands further out into the Pacific, most of which are at the outer edge of China’s missile range. The Pentagon already has a major base on Guam, 2,500km south of Japan and the same distance east of the Philippines. But because of concerns that Guam might come under attack, the US has also developed plans for alternative airfields on two of the nearby Northern Mariana Islands — Tinian and Saipan — which could also be used for training. Two years ago, the marines refurbished the Baker airstrip on Tinian so that a KC-130J Hercules transport plane could land and take off — the first such flight there since 1947. The 2014 Pentagon budget also contains funds to expand the existing international airport on Saipan — which was also a second world war base for Japan and then the US — to accommodate fighter jets and transport aircraft. This expanding web of facilities is causing angst to those in China who believe the US wants to contain its rise. Xinhua news agency described Obama’s trip to Asia as part of a “carefully calculated scheme to cage” China. Yet for the Pentagon, it allows the US to disperse its assets without building expensive and politically charged new bases in populous countries. There are two problems, however, with the plans to expand in small Pacific islands. Residents of Saipan have objected to the Pentagon’s plans for their airport. As a result, earlier this month Gregorio Sablan, who represents the Northern Marianas in Congress, asked that the money be used to expand the airfield on the less-populated Tinian. (The Northern Marianas are US territory with similar status to Puerto Rico.) Some observers also believe the islands are of limited strategic value because they will be just as vulnerable as Guam and because they bring enormous logistical headaches. Auslin argues that the better approach is to expand basing arrangements with the countries in the region deeply anxious about China, such as the Philippines or in the future, Vietnam. “It is a lot more complicated than world war two when we built a few landing strips on some Pacific islands that we now control,” he says. “Instead, it makes political and military sense to have as many partners as possible. That means that China will need to go to war against basically the whole region if they want to attack us.” (Geoff Dyer, “U.S. Eyes Pacific Islands as Part of Military Strategy,” Financial Times, April 29, 2014)


4/29/14:
DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman’s statement: “U.S. President Obama toured Japan, south Korea, Malaysia and Philippines from April 23 to 29. As warned by the DPRK of the danger of his junket on April 21, it was clearly confirmed that Obama’s tour was a dangerous one as it was aimed to bring dark clouds of more acute confrontation and nuclear arms race to Asia. Obama proved in practice that the U.S. hegemonic “strategy for rebalancing” in the Asia-Pacific region is being pushed forward in real earnest. In Japan he officially declared for the first time as U.S. president that islets of dispute between China and Japan come within the scope of the application of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, thus confirming that it is natural for the U.S. forces to interfere in case of military conflict between China and Japan. He also supported Japan’s readiness to exercise the right to collective self-defense though it is censured by regional countries for attempting to call back the departed soul of militarism. After flying into south Korea he agreed to postpone indefinitely the transfer of the right to command wartime operations by the U.S. forces present in south Korea and build a missile shield with the south Korean puppet forces involved. He went the lengths of blustering that “the U.S. would not hesitate to use military force to protect its allies and their lives.” In Philippines he signed a new military agreement which calls for regularly dispatching U.S. forces to Philippines and jointly using their base, etc. Facts clearly prove that his tour was designed for undisguised confrontation to retain a tighter grip on allies of the U.S. and encircle and contain its rivals in Eurasia, pursuant to the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy for domination and scenario for aggression from A to Z. The danger of his Asian junket found a more vivid manifestation in the issue of the Korean peninsula. Before his tour the U.S. kicked off together with south Korean puppet forces the largest-ever war maneuvers aimed to “occupy Pyongyang”, the military exercises to apply the “tailored deterrence strategy”, the scenario for preemptive nuclear attack on the DPRK. Such being a hard fact, Obama, touring Japan and south Korea, cried out for harsher “sanctions”, “pressure” and did not rule out the use of military force, labeling the DPRK’s inevitable steps for self-defense “provocation” and “threat.” Not content with this, he did not conceal his inveterate repugnancy toward the social system of the DPRK, describing it as a “forsaken state” and jabbering its pursuance of the program to develop nuclear weapons would leave it further isolated. He also uttered that the denuclearization should be placed on the agenda of dialogue but, in actuality, he flatly denied dialogue for discussing something. By doing so, he declared before the world that the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK remains unchanged, the U.S. tries to bring down the DPRK by force and it began to carry out such scenario. The DPRK had already advised the Obama administration to coolly ponder over whether its hostile policy toward the DPRK is in the final interests of the U.S. or not. However, he declared that the U.S. seeks to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula to realize its Asia-Pacific strategy, thereby throwing his initiative to build “a world without nuclear weapons” into a wastebasket and making the prospect of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula gloomier. He will have to pay for this in the mid-term parliamentary election due in November this year. During his tour he took much pain to bring the U.S. allies closer to it, vociferating about someone’s “provocation” and “threat,” but failed to reap desired results. On the contrary, he openly revealed the hegemonic nature of the “strategy for rebalancing” in the Asia-Pacific region only to spark off strong rebuff of his rivals from the very outset and arouse great concern worldwide. His reckless acts only escalated the danger of confrontation and conflict in the Asia-Pacific region and gave further momentum to the opposition to him. The Obama group is making desperate efforts to prop up the position of the U.S. as “the only superpower” on decline in the Asia-Pacific region but it is too late. What remains to be done by the Obama group is to watch what kind of seeds of fire sown by him this time would develop into flames that may affect the U.S. The DPRK will advance along the road of bolstering up nuclear deterrent, unhindered, now that the U.S. brings the dark clouds of a nuclear war to hang over the DPRK.There is no statute of limitations to the DPRK’s declaration that it will not rule out a new form of nuclear test clarified by it in the March 30 statement. This is the exercise of the inviolable right to self-defense.” (KCNA, “U.S. President’s Asian Tour Censured by Spokesman for FM of DPRK,” April 29, 2014)

North Korea staged a live-fire drill near the western maritime border without provoking the South to fire back as none of the shells fell south of the boundary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The North fired about 50 artillery shells from two coastal bases for about 10 minutes starting at 2 p.m. The drill came hours after the North notified the South that it would carry out the exercise in waters north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea. “The North’s shells fell in waters about 3 kilometers north of the NLL,” JCS spokesman Eom Hyo-sik said. “The South Korean military is currently monitoring North Korean artillery units, while maintaining high military readiness.” (Kim Eun-jung,, “N. Korea Conducts Live Fire Drill near Western Maritime Border,” Yonhap, April 29, 2014) The 10-minute drills began at 2 p.m., some five hours after the North’s southwestern frontline command sent a fax notification to the South’s Second Fleet of its plan to stage the drills around its border islands of Wollaedo and Jangjaedo. “In the North’s notification, it claimed the drills were part of its regular exercises. But they could be intended to raise tension near the NLL or probe the South Korean military to find out our responses,” a senior JCS official told reporters, declining to be named. “But the exact cause still remains uncertain and we need to analyze it.” After receiving the notification, the South Korean military directed fishing crews and residents on the country’s frontline islands to evacuate to safe zones, and strengthened its readiness posture. The military deployed four fighter jets and several warships including a guided missile destroyer to prepare against any provocations that would encroach upon South Korean territory.

President Park Geun-hye ordered the military to respond “in line with principles” when any shells fell into South Korean waters in a show of her resolve to sternly deal with North Korean provocations. Kim Jang-soo, head of the presidential office of national security, kept the crisis management center up and running, and closely monitored the North Korean military, presidential spokesperson Min Kyung-wool told reporters. (Song Sang-ho, “N. Conducts Live-Fire Drills,” Korea Herald, April 29, 2014)

Jack Liu: “New commercial satellite imagery from April 29, 2014 shows that a high level of activity continues at North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, probably related to preparations for an underground nuclear test. The imagery indicates: Continued movement and an increase in number of boxes or crates of possible instrumentation and monitoring equipment at the entrances of both South Portal tunnels. There are now approximately 13 boxes near the western-most tunnel entrance and 4 in front of the other entrance, indicating that equipment is still being moved inside. Moreover, appears that none of the tunnels have yet been sealed in preparations for a test. There is significant vehicle traffic including a white panel truck, first sighted on April 25, at the South Portal and likely used to transport these boxes or crates. Also present are what appear to be three other darker olive drab vehicles of the same size and commonly used by the the military. There is an unidentified object near the trucks that appears to have three petals 120 degrees apart. This is the first time this object has been spotted at Punggye-ri. Its purpose remains unclear. At the Main Support Area, in addition to vehicles present in the April 25 imagery, there is now a row of boxes at the upper part of the parade ground. Excavation of the new tunnel at the West Portal resumed last week after the collapse of the mining cart track in early April. This activity began in mid-May 2013, accelerated at the beginning of this year, but was temporarily stopped when the track collapsed. It appears that this site is not yet complete. If North Korea follows previous test practices, a continued high level of activity indicates that a nuclear test is not yet imminent. Before the February 2013 detonation, all equipment, vehicles and personnel were withdrawn immediately before the blast. Whether North Korea will follow the same time line in 2014 remains unclear. If Pyongyang is preparing to conduct a “new form” of test, including possible multiple detonations, prior practice may be altered. That would make what is already a difficult task predicting the timing of a detonation even more complicated.” (Jack Liu, “North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: April 29 Update,” 38North, April 30, 2014)

China has signaled that it will impose international and unilateral sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang follows through with announced plans to set off a fourth underground nuclear test. Meanwhile, North Korea has stepped up anti-U.S. rhetoric, issuing an official government statement that referred to President Obama as a “wicked black monkey.” The over-the-top verbal attacks are viewed by U.S. intelligence analysts as a response to international pressure not to conduct nuclear or missile tests that would further destabilize the region. The indication China will impose sanctions on North Korea for another nuclear test appeared in a pro-Beijing news report from Hong Kong April 30 that quoted a Chinese professor. “If the DPRK should indeed conduct another nuclear test, China will definitely be prepared to play a leading role in joining other nations to endorse another U.N. Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on the DPRK in a collective international manner,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor at the Communist Party’s People’s University in Beijing. Shi warned during the Phoenix TV interview that China is prepared to impose unilateral sanctions on North Korea if actions by Pyongyang undermine stability on the peninsula. “If the action of the DPRK should bring about serious threat to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula, or if it should seriously violate the denuclearization principle by conducting nuclear tests or long range missile tests, then China will impose its own unilateral sanctions on the DPRK—apart from joining the international community in imposing collective sanctions,” he said. The comments are being viewed by U.S. officials as the first clear indicator that China is attempting to use its diplomatic and economic leverage to prevent a fourth underground nuclear test. Joseph DeTrani, former special envoy for North Korean nuclear talks during the George W. Bush administration, said the Chinese report of possible sanctions is significant. “If China were to impose unilateral sanctions on North Korea if they had a fourth nuclear test, it would be a powerful message to the leadership in Pyongyang that they have gone too far; that their escalation of tension over the past two years has created a dangerous international environment that China will not tolerate,” said DeTrani, now head of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. “For the region and the world, this would be a welcome response from China, a neighbor and ally of North Korea.” (Bill Gertz, “China Signals Plan to Sanction North Korea for Tests,”Washington Free Beacon, May 8, 2014)

Russia appears to be preparing for a test operation of its newly renovated railway linked to North Korea, but the economic feasibility of South Korea’s joining the logistics project remains to be seen, a Seoul diplomat said. Late last year, Russia reopened the 54-kilometer track linking the Russian eastern border town of Khasan to the North’s port of Rajin following a five-year renovation. “I have been sensing that Russia is preparing to export its coal through the Rajin-Khasan railway in the near future as part of an experiment,” Lee Yang-goo, council general in Vladivostok, told reporters. “But it seems that there is no substantial demand for the rail line now.” (Yonhap, “Russia Preparing to Test-Run Joint Railway with N. Korea: Seoul Official,” April 30, 2014)


5/1/14:
Nick Hansen and Jack Liu: “New commercial satellite imagery from May 1, 2014 indicates a significant increase in activity in the West Portal area of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site related to the excavation of a new test tunnel begun one year ago. At the same time, there appears to be a drawdown in activity in the South Portal area, believed to be the likely location of North Korea’s next nuclear test. Specifically: In the West Portal area, imagery indicates that Pyongyang is continuing and perhaps stepping up excavation activities resumed in late April after repairing a collapsed track leading from a new test tunnel entrance to the spoil pile. On May 1, mining carts are visible on the tracks. Moreover, they may also be present on an older set of rails leading to a different dumpsite last used in 2009. There is new logging activity just outside the fence line a short distance up the mountain just north of the tunnel entrance. No activity was present on April 25, but four days later there appeared to be two log skid trails with trees removed. By May 1, a third skid trail is seen and more trees have been removed. The logs may be used to shore up the tunnel under excavation or for new construction of a nearby small building. (Work began in late April on that building and as of May 1, construction material appears piled up.) Also between April 29 and May 1, part of the main building at the West Portal appears to have been removed. One possible explanation is that this area was a vehicle shelter or carport that has been taken down. In the South Portal area, the May 1 imagery shows continued vehicle activity—two dark color vehicles are on or near the bridge over an adjacent creek and a white box body truck is parked on a spoil pile across the road from the left tunnel entrance.The crates or boxes that had been present near the entrance of that tunnel have been removed as of May 1. There is now sufficient room in front of the entrance to bring in earthmoving equipment to seal the tunnel in preparation for a nuclear test. As of May 1, there was no indication this was being done. Between April 29 and May 1, the number of crates outside the right tunnel entrance in the same area has decreased to one, probably indicating continued activity inside the tunnel. Despite statements last week by the ROK Ministry of Defense that a North Korean nuclear test was imminent and could well happen during the visit of US President Barack Obama to Seoul, almost a week has gone by with no detonation. The passage of time may indicate that, in fact, a test may not be imminent. Leaving aside Pyongyang’s recent statement implying that a test might not be in the immediate works, the May 1 imagery of Punggye-ri indicates a number of developments that would tend to lead to the same conclusion. Most important is the stepped up excavation and construction activity at the West Portal area, which would be cleared of personnel in the event of an imminent test. Moreover, in the South Portal area, movement of crates near one tunnel entrance reinforces the conclusion that activity is still ongoing inside the tunnel. Even at the second South Portal test tunnel, where activity has been greatest in the past week, even though crates have been cleared from the entrance, there is no evidence to suggest that the tunnel has been sealed in preparation for a detonation.” (Nick Hansen and Jack Liu, “Update on Pungye-ri: Stepped up Activity at West Portal, Drawdown at South Portal,” 38North, May 2, 2014)

Nick Hansen: Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates that North Korea is conducting a number of significant activities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (“Tongchang-ri”) related to the development of larger space launch vehicles (SLVs) and long-range ballistic missiles. Specifically, these activities are: One and maybe more engine tests of what is probably the first stage of a KN-08 road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) were conducted in late March/early April 2014. With this latest activity, three KN-08 rocket engine test series have been identified for the first and possibly second stages dating back to mid 2013. As this effort progresses, the next technically logical step in the missile’s development would be a flight test of the entire system. Continued modification of the gantry previously used to launch the Unha SLV intended to enable it to launch larger rockets of up to 50 meters in height. Construction may not be completed until early summer, effectively preventing a launch from the facility in the meantime. New construction of what appears to be a circular structure with a diameter of about 40 meters and multiple interior walls. The purpose of the project—which has progressed rapidly over the past month, indicating a high priority—remains unclear, although the possibility that it is a new launch pad can