In the News – S. Korea, Japan set to sign military pact Friday: official

Aside

In the News – S. Korea, Japan set to sign military pact Friday: official

SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) — South Korea is set to sign a military pact with Japan on Friday, marking the first military agreement between the two historical rivals, a senior Seoul official said Thursday, despite lingering bitterness over Tokyo’s colonial atrocities.

Japan notified South Korea that its Cabinet would approve the pact Friday and the signing will be made in Tokyo immediately after the endorsement, the foreign ministry official said. South Korea’s Cabinet already approved the pact on Tuesday.

The pact, named the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), allows Seoul and Tokyo to exchange delicate military intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as well as information about China, Seoul officials said earlier.

“If things go as planned, the two nations will sign the pact on Friday,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said he could not confirm the notification from Japan, but conceded the deal could be signed on Friday.

“I think signing of the pact will be possible tomorrow afternoon if there is no particular problem,” Cho told reporters during a press briefing.

Cho denied media speculation that South Korea was prodded to sign the agreement by the United States, which has urged Seoul and Tokyo, its two closet Asian allies, to strengthen military ties amid growing hostility from North Korea and the rise of China.

However, the spokesman stressed the need to increase three-way military cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.

“Many people would agree in principle that Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation is important in terms of our security, but it is not the truth that the pact has been hastily pushed,” Cho said.

About 28,500 U.S. troops, mostly ground soldiers, are stationed in South Korea and more than 35,000 U.S. troops, mainly consisting of navy, air force and marines, are stationed in Japan.

Ministry officials said the U.S. forces in Japan would become a rear guard for the U.S. forces in South Korea in case of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.

Officials said the pact with Japan is taking aim at the rise of China, allowing Seoul and Tokyo to share sensitive military information about Beijing.

Since early 2011, Seoul and Tokyo have been in talks to forge two military pacts, the GSOMIA and an accord on military logistics called the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA).

Seoul decided to shelve the ACSA, which could allow Japanese troops to enter South Korean territory, because of its sensitivity.

However, the official hinted at going ahead with the military logistic pact with Japan.

“Talks on the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement have been shelved because more time is needed for further consultations,” the official said.

South Korea’s ambassador to Japan, Shin Kak-soo, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba are likely to sign the military intelligence pact in Tokyo on Friday, according to the official.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin had planned to visit Japan last month to sign the GSOMIA but put the visit on hold due to some territorial and other unresolved issues that have arisen from their shared past. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45.

Military cooperation is one sensitive area that needs to be addressed in Seoul-Tokyo relations, but the two nations have lately agreed on the need to expand cooperation in the defense sector in the face of increasing military threats from North Korea, especially after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Many Koreans still harbor deep resentment toward Japan because of its brutal colonial rule. A series of disputes over history and territorial issues stemming from the colonial rule have plagued relations between the two countries for decades, though they are key trading partners for each other.

A North Korean propaganda media outlet criticized the South Korean government for moving to sign the pact with Japan, calling it an “unpatriotic act.”

The article posted on Thursday on the Uriminzokkiri (Among our People) Web site run by North Korea claimed that, “There is an urgent reason for South Korea to sign a military pact with Japan. That is the pressure from the United States.”

The article also described the pact between South Korea and Japan as a “confrontation and cooperation agreement” against North Korea.

Original article can be found here.

Advertisements

In the News – China to Reconsider N.Korean Investment Program

Aside

In the News – China to Reconsider N.Korean Investment Program

China has told North Korea that it will reconsider a dubious development project on North Korea’s Hwanggumpyong island.

The island located on the border between China and North Korea was designated a special economic zone last June. North Korea promised to lend the island to China for 50 years so Beijing can foster IT, tourism, light industry and modern agricultural industry there. In return for the development project from Chinese investors, North Korea would give China access to its Rajin port on the East Sea.

However, the Chinese government told North Korea last month that it will review the project from the scratch, apparently because it believes the island has little business value. North Korea’s rocket launch in April despite Chinese protests may also have provoked the rethink.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea Tests the Patience of Its Closest Ally

Aside

In the News – North Korea Tests the Patience of Its Closest Ally

BEIJING — As Kim Jong-un, the young leader of North Korea, consolidates his grip on power, China is showing signs of increasing frustration at the bellicose behavior of its longtime ally.

Since succeeding his father, Kim Jong-il, six months ago, Mr. Kim has quickly alienated the Obama administration and put North Korea on track to develop a nuclear warhead that could hit the United States within a few years, Chinese and Western analysts say.

Most surprising, though, is how Mr. Kim has thumbed his nose at China, whose economic largess keeps the government afloat. For example, shortly after Mr. Kim took over, a Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs, Fu Ying, visited Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, and sternly warned him not to proceed with a ballistic missile test. The new leader went ahead anyway.

Now, the Obama administration and the Chinese government, who warily consult each other on North Korea, are waiting to see if Mr. Kim will follow in his father’s footsteps and carry out a nuclear test, which would be North Korea’s third. The previous tests were in 2006 and 2009.

This month, the North Korean news agency said there were no plans for a third test “at present,” a statement analysts said suggested Mr. Kim was just waiting for a moment that better suited him.

“We have made this absolutely clear to them; we are against any provocation,” Cui Tiankai, another Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs, said in a recent interview when asked about a possible third nuclear test by North Korea. “We have told them in a very direct way, time and again, we are against it.”

Asked why China did not punish North Korea for its actions, Mr. Cui replied: “It’s not a question of punishment. They are a sovereign state.”

China backed sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations Security Council after the first two nuclear tests, he said. “If they refuse to listen to us,” he added, “we can’t force them.”

Mr. Kim’s erratic behavior unfolded early on. In late February, his government signed an agreement with the United States to freeze its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, giving hope that he would turn out to be more open to change than his father. But six weeks later, Mr. Kim ripped up the accord and, without informing China, ordered the missile test that Washington viewed as a test run for launching a nuclear weapon.

The missile test, in April, was a failure, but that did little to alleviate concerns within the Obama administration that Mr. Kim was intent on pushing ahead with its nuclear weapons program. “The North is on track to build a warhead that could in a few years hit any regional target and eventually the United States,” said Evans J. R. Revere, a former United States principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Since the failed missile test, Mr. Kim has formalized North Korea as a “nuclear armed state” in the Constitution, another signal that the government has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, Mr. Revere said. With virtually no contact between the United States and North Korea, Mr. Revere argued, it is time for Washington to toughen its approach.

In a series of quick maneuvers, Mr. Kim, whose exact age is not known (he is believed to be 28 or 29), assumed the mantle of power immediately after his father’s death and cast aside early assumptions that his tenure would be a regency largely run by his elderly relatives.

The China News Service, a state-run agency, headlined an article last week: “Smooth transfer of power six months after Kim Jong-il’s death. North Korea enters era of Kim Jong-un.” The top North Korean Army generals, some of them in their 80s, have joined ranks around Mr. Kim, presenting a unified command, said Daniel A. Pinkston of the International Crisis Group in Seoul, who has written a forthcoming report by the group on North Korea.

At a congress of the ruling Communist Party in April, members of the Kim family were appointed to senior positions in the Politburo. The new appointees included Kim Kyong-hui, a younger sister of Mr. Kim’s father. Her husband, Chang Song-taek, also won a spot on the Politburo.

“There are no indications of any opposition to the transfer of power in the party, state or military,” Mr. Pinkston said. “Although many North Koreans are dissatisfied with the government, the barriers to collective action make it very risky and nearly impossible to organize any resistance.”

To recover from the embarrassment of the failed missile test, Mr. Kim unleashed a bellicose warning to South Korea in late April, threatening that a “special operations action” team would “reduce to ashes the rat-like” leadership of President Lee Myung-bak.

In contrast to his taciturn father, Mr. Kim has been seen more in public, particularly with students and children, a propaganda campaign intended to present a more benign image to an impoverished and embittered population.

On the basis of his years at a Swiss boarding school, Mr. Kim was thought by some analysts to be a potential economic reformer. These assumptions have turned out to be misplaced, and the new leader has shown no interest in following the advice of China to open up the economy, even in a modest way.

Despite Mr. Kim’s obstinacy, China keeps the economy from collapsing. Right after Mr. Kim assumed power, for example, China gave North Korea 500,000 tons of food and 250,000 tons of crude oil, according to the International Crisis Group report. That helped overcome what a German aid official, Wolfgang Jamann, said in Beijing on Friday was the worst drought in 60 years. His organization, Global Food Aid, has run a food program in North Korea since 1997.

“If it continues not to rain, it would be a problem,” said Mr. Jamann, who just returned from a trip to North Korea.

So far, though, the aid seems to have prevented disaster. According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, food shortages, while still grim in many rural areas, do not seem as serious as might be expected, given the drought.

China’s generosity has not bought it immunity against North Korean rancor. More than two dozen Chinese fishermen were held captive for two weeks by North Korea in May. After their release, one of the fishermen described how his boat was boarded by North Korean Navy men brandishing guns.

After “13 days in hell,” the fishermen were released, according to interviews in the Chinese news media. But not before the boats and men were stripped, the men to their underpants, the fisherman said.

Such behavior ignited protests on Chinese Web sites, and normally calm Chinese analysts who follow North Korea said they were infuriated by the indignities. “I was disappointed in our government’s soft line during the incident with the seized boats,” said a Chinese analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering his superiors.

Nonetheless, senior Chinese officials “dare not use China’s economic leverage” against North Korea, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. That is because a collapse of the North Korean government could result in a united Korea allied with the United States, which would be a nightmare scenario for China, Mr. Shi said.

Indeed, as China becomes more concerned about what it sees as the United States’ stepped-up containment efforts against China — including the positioning of more warships in the Pacific — the less inclined it is to help the United States on North Korea, said Yun Sun, a China analyst in Washington.

“China will not help the U.S. and South Korea solve the North Korea problem or speed up a China-unfriendly resolution, since China sees itself as ‘next-on-the-list,’ ” she wrote in an article last week for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Hawaii, where Pacific Command, the arm of the American military overseeing the increased United States naval presence in the Pacific, is located.

And over all, there are unyielding historical reasons for China’s protectiveness toward North Korea, said an experienced American diplomat and expert on China.

“Beijing disapproves of every aspect of North Korean policy,” J. Stapleton Roy, a former United States ambassador to China and now vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, wrote in an article this month, also for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But with long memories of both the Korean War and how Japan used the peninsula to launch its invasion and occupation of much of China from 1937 to 1945, “Beijing has an overriding security interest,” Mr. Roy wrote, “in maintaining influence in Pyongyang and in not permitting other powers to gain the upper hand there.”

Original article can be found here.

In the News – ‘N. Korean attacks won’t be tolerated’

Aside

In the News – ‘N. Korean attacks won’t be tolerated’


President Lee Myung-bak, left, walks somberly away after placing a wreath to honor Colombian troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War at a memorial in Bogota, Columbia, Sunday, a day before the 62nd anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict. He is flanked by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon. / Yonhap


Lee marks 62nd anniversary of outbreak of Korean War

By Kim Young-jin

President Lee Myung-bak said that no future North Korean provocations would be tolerated on the eve of the 62nd anniversary of the communist state invasion that triggered the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Meeting Colombian veterans who participated in the fratricidal war during his visit to Bogota, Sunday (Korean time), President Lee said, “It is with our own power that we defend our nation and we won’t let the North get away with any provocations.”

Lee’s visit was the first by a South Korean leader to the nation in 50 years since their establishment of diplomatic ties. Colombia came to the aid as a member of a 16-nation coalition in the Korean conflict.

He noted that the two Koreas are still technically at war, pointing out, “No lasting peace achieved after the war is over. We have spent 60-plus years in a state in which war is put on hold.”

“What we want is to quickly achieve peace on the peninsula and unification through cooperative steps,” the President said.

He thanked the veterans for their contribution to the nation.

“The Republic of Korea of today exists because you fought for and staked your lives to defend the far-flung nation in the East without evening knowing its name,” he said.

Despite the decades that have passed since the war broke out, military tensions remain high, a fact highlighted over the weekend by U.S.-South naval drills meant as a show of force against the Stalinist regime that waged two deadly attacks in 2010.

Lee, on the last stage of a four-nation Latin America swing, earlier paid tribute to Colombian troops killed in the 62-year-old war, laying a wreath at a Korean War memorial in Bogota.

Lee was to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for deepening cooperation in areas such as trade and investment as well as infrastructure development.

He said that thanks to the allies’ help, Korea has become a “donor’ country that makes contributions to poor countries in a major turnaround from a country that lived on international handouts. “We, Koreans and Colombians are blood-sealed brothers,” Lee declared.

Korea and U.S have been staging massive naval drills in the West Sea, which can be taken as a show of force not just against Pyongyang but also its ally, China.

The two allies, plus a contingent from Japan, have been conducting an exercise aimed at increasing deterrence capabilities since the sinking of ROK warship Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. The North is to blame for both provocations that led to the tensest moments since the 1953 truce.

The exercise comes as the North maintains its hard line under the leadership of new leader Kim Jong-un, the son of the late ruler Kim Jong-il.

A total of 8,000 personnel were involved, manning 10 South Korean warships and the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier and hundreds of aircraft, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The war games followed the allies’ largest-ever single-day live-fire exercises, Friday, near the border with the North that featured 2,000 troops as well as jet fighters, attack helicopters and various rocket launchers.

Tensions linger following Pyongyang failed rocket launch in April, which was deemed a test of ballistic missile technology and scuttled efforts at engagement.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Experts forecast imminenet provocations by Kim Jong-un

Aside

In the News – Experts forecast imminenet provocations by Kim Jong-un

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is likely to keep tensions with South Korea high and continue provocations against the South to help consolidate his power, experts in Seoul forecast Thursday.

Kim would also be very reluctant to pursue reform or open his isolated country out of fear such steps could lead to the collapse of his regime, Koo Bon-hak, a professor of Hallym University Graduate School of International Studies, said at a Seoul forum.

Kim has made frequent inspection trips to military units in an apparent attempt to bolster his support from the military since he took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

“Instead of relying on the United States, South Korea should try to secure independent deterrence against North Korea” to cope with the North’s provocations, Koo said at the forum on the North Korean situation, organized by the private Sejong Institute think tank.

The U.S. keeps about 28,500 troops in South Korea to help deter North Korea’s possible aggression. South Korea has strengthened its defense posture following the North’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

Koo also said South Korea should strengthen ties with China, North Korea’s key ally and economic benefactor, to help Beijing nudge the North to pursue reform and openness.

China has repeatedly tried to coax its impoverished neighbor to follow in its footsteps in embracing reform similar to that which lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing’s rise to become the world’s second-largest economy. Continue reading