In the News – N.Korea’s Island Dream Dead in the Water

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In the News – N.Korea’s Island Dream Dead in the Water

A joint project between North Korea and China to develop the North’s Hwanggumpyong Island looks dead in the water. Japanese media already reported last month that the project has been stalled due to differences over details since a groundbreaking ceremony in June last year, and on Sunday the Asahi Shimbun said it was suspended last month.

“Plans for the project have been announced since 2010, but nothing has come of them because China doesn’t think it’s economically viable,” according to a diplomatic source here.

The plan to develop the island was a pipe dream from the start. The biggest problem is that the area is inappropriate for an industrial complex.

A child carries lumber along a farm road on Hwanggumpyong Island in North Korea on June 11.
A child carries lumber along a farm road on Hwanggumpyong Island in North Korea on June 11.

“The island was created from deposits by rivers, so the foundations are weak and susceptible to floods,” Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute said. “You’d first have to build flood walls and raise the ground by 3-5 m. North Korea wants China to do that, but Chinese companies just aren’t interested.”

Beijing reportedly asked Chinese businessmen several times to travel to the North and attend Pyongyang’s investment presentations, but they said that unless the North takes care of the foundation work, the project has no business value, a government official here said.

The island’s proximity to Dandong is another reason for Beijing’s lack of interest. China is already developing a new city and an industrial zone there and would rather focus investment on its own projects rather than across the border.

Original Article

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In the News – Koreas again in diplomatic war with Japan on East Sea naming

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In the News – Koreas again in diplomatic war with Japan on East Sea naming

NEW YORK, Aug.1 (Yonhap) — The two Koreas have informally teamed up against Japan in a war of diplomacy in the United Nations on the naming of the waters near them, sources said Wednesday.

The 10th United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names open earlier this week at the U.N. headquarters here, setting the stage for experts from around the world to discuss key issues relating to the handling of place names.

International organizations formally call the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan the Sea of Japan. But South and North Korea insist its original name is the East Sea and that should be used at least concurrently.

South Korean delegates are trying to publicize a nonbinding practice of using both of the names in case of disputes between countries, according to a U.N. source.

“North Korea directly requested the dual use of the names,” the source said, requesting anonymity. “South and North Korea are taking a virtually cooperative approach.”

But Japan claims that the single name should be maintained.

The ongoing U.N. conference is not aimed at produce a conclusion on the sensitive issue but it is important in enhancing the awareness and understanding of the international community.

During a meeting of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) in April, the South Korean government made a strong pitch for the East Sea to be used in the official maps of the international community.

The IHO, however, decided not to revise its current “Sea of Japan” appellation this time. The next session will be held in 2017.

Meanwhile, the U.S. made clear its longstanding policy of using a single name for the waters between Korea and Japan.

The State Department said, “We understand that the Republic of Korea uses a different term.”

The U.S., a key ally of both South Korea and Japan, has encouraged the two sides to “work together to reach a mutually agreeable way forward with the International Hydrographic Organization on this issue,” it added.

Original Article 

As One: more than a movie

 

With the 2012 London Olympics currently in progress, I thought I’d write about sports. Just in time for the international event, a movie was released this past May simply titled As One. It is based on the true story of Korea’s first unified sports team since the division, an event that brought patriotism and hope to the entire Korean Peninsula.

In February 1991, North and South Korean officials met at Panmunjum at the North-South border to make agreements on forming a unified soccer and table tennis team. Everything was decided on at this meeting. The flag was to be the unification flag, a blue Korean peninsula on a white background, and the anthem was to be the famous Korean folk song Arirang. And in April that same year, both the North and South Korean table tennis teams left for Japan to participate in the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships as the first ever unified Korean team since the division of the peninsula. History was in the making. Continue reading

In the News – Kim Jong-il’s Sushi Chef Returns to N.Korea

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In the News – Kim Jong-il’s Sushi Chef Returns to N.Korea

A Japanese sushi chef who worked for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and his family and has since made a career out of peddling his inside stories headed back to the North on Saturday, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

The chef, who goes by the alias Kenji Fujimoto, was invited by the new leader Kim Jong-un, Kyodo reported. Fujimoto worked for the Kim family for 13 years and has written several books about their secretive lives.

Speaking to reporters at Beijing Capital International Airport on Saturday, Fujimoto said, “I’m not sure when I will get to meet Kim Jong-un. I will be staying in North Korea for two to three weeks.”

He said he was taking a blue-fin tuna as a gift for Kim.

Original Article

In the News – Young general comes out as mother’s boy

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In the News – Young general comes out as mother’s boy

By Kosuke Takahashi

TOKYO – In a risky gamble, Pyongyang is resting its hopes for the survival of the Kim regime on one woman – a dead one at that. Struggling to cement his dynastic credentials, young North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun has launched a mass deification campaign for his mother and the first lady of late leader Kim Jong-il, Ko Young-hee, who is believed to have died in 2004.

Since May, Young-hee has been praised as the “Respected Mother”, the “Great Mother” and “The Mother of The Great Military First Korea”, as can been seen in a film and photographs obtained by Asia Times Online this month from Rescue the North Korean People! (RENK), a Japan-based citizens’ group supporting ordinary North Koreans.

The idolization of Young-hee connects a missing link in the blood-heir’s succession over three generations from the country’s founding father Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-il and to Kim Jong-eun.


Ko Young-hee poses with her husband for a propaganda shot

Experts say the deification campaign is part of accelerated North Korean efforts to mythologize and legitimize its revolutionary tradition. Pyongyang’s official accounts claim this originated in the sacred Mt Paektu, the highest peak in the Korean Peninsula and the birthplace, in propaganda accounts, of Kim Jong-il. (Soviet records show that he was actually born in a village in Russia’s Far East.)

The video of Ko does not mention an inconvenient truth – Young-hee was born in Japan – the brutal colonial ruler of Korea from 1910-1945. She was born in the famous Koreatown, Tsuruhashi, in Osaka, in 1952. Her father, Ko Kyung-taek, made Imperial Japanese Army soldiers’ uniforms in a sewing factory during World War II.

“North Korea needs to cover up the fact that Ko Young-hee was born and raised in Osaka,” said RENK spokesman Lee Young-hwa, adding that her family moved to North Korea only in the early 1960s as part of a repatriation program.


The video and photographs stress that Ko Young-hee had a strong relationship with the military.

Sound and vision
The rare 85 minutes of video footage and 93 photographs of Ko Young-hee for the first time reveal her vivid appearance and voice. In the video and photos, she accompanies Kim Jong-il to military camps, factories and farms. She is seen riding a white horse, following her husband on another white horse.

She inspects a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades with Kim Jong-il, with both wearing the same vintage Courreges sunglasses that became trademark apparel for her husband. They murmured words into each other’s ears and smiled. The video shows a very happily married couple.


This image of Ko Young-hee was likely inspired by the Korean song General on a Galloping White Horse.

In one scene, she visits a barrack and expresses concern about soldiers’ daily lives. She tastes a soldier’s home-made donut, then teaches them how to cook a potato-based donut. In the following days, she sends them sugar and cooking oils.

The movie aims to conjure an image of the “Mother of The Great Military First Korea”, which is the video’s title. The movie uses emotional female narration and a rousing musical score in the classic North Korean style of propaganda.

She is also seen holding a gun, suggesting a strong wife who always protects her husband. This was echoed scenes of Kim Jong-suk, or Kim Il-sung’s first wife and Kim Jong-il’s mother, who was a guerilla and communist politician. The images also showed Ko met many dignitaries abroad, stressing her precious role as the first lady.


Ko Young-hee pictured with an unknown foreigner.

The attempts to establish Ko’s authority also stress the Kim dynasty’s heroic family lineage, which stretches back to Jong-eun’s grandfather’s partisan guerilla activities against Japan in the 1930s.

After Ko’s family moving back to North Korea in the early 1960s, she worked as a dancer for the prestigious Mansudae Art Troupe in Pyongyang, where she met Kim Jong-il. She is believed to have died in Paris due to breast cancer in 2004, which the video also does not mention.


Ko Young-hee pictured with a young Kim Jong-eun.

By sanctifying the late Ko, Kim Jong-eun is trying to underscore his authority as the North’s new leader. The efforts also come as the “young general” has been repeatedly seen with a woman who is believed to Hyon Song-wol, a former singer in a popular group called Bochonbo Electronic Music Band.

However, making it tricky for propagandists there are no photos or scenes of Jong-eun with his parents. RENK’s Lee points out that this was because Kim Jong-eun was studying in Switzerland from 1996 to 2002 when the video was made. In contrast, North Korea has shown many photos of Kim Jong-il with his parents, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-suk.

An ugly truth
It is widely known among Japanese experts on North Korea that Ko Young-hee’s father moved from Cheju Island to Japan in 1929. He worked for Hirota Hokojo, a needlework factory under the control of the Imperial Army of Japan. This means Jong-eun’s grandfather was a collaborator with the Japanese imperialists. This can never be revealed by Pyongyang as it might shock the population.

In addition, Young-hee’s younger sister, Ko Young-suk, and her family defected to the United Sates in 1998 in the middle of the nation’s “great famine”, in which millions of people died of starvation. This makes Kim Jong-eun’s aunt a national traitor. According to the South Korean media, Kim Jong-eun himself has given orders to execute any defectors by a firing squad and their families expelled to internal exile.

Sanctifying Young-hee may provide indirect support for her son, but it is a risky ploy. Information on her birth and family may trickle out to the isolationist country, damaging his legitimacy as national leader. Ko Young-hee’s background continues to be one of Kim Jong-eun’s – as well as North Korea’s – dangerously weak spots.

Original Article

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

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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.

In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

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In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) — Senior South Korean and Russian diplomats will hold one-day talks this week in Seoul to discuss possible ways to revive the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, a Seoul official said Monday.

Russia’s deputy chief envoy to the six-party talks, Grigory Logvinov, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul later Monday for a three-day visit and hold talks with South Korea’s top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam on Tuesday, the senior official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

“During the talks, Ambassador Logvinov and Lim plan to hold in-depth discussions about North Korea’s nuclear issue and other overall matters with regard to North Korea,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

They will also discuss “the current state of the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s failed rocket launch and ways to move forward on the North’s nuclear issue,” the official said.

The visit by Logvinov to Seoul also coincides with the Russian government’s move to write off 90 percent of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt of US$11 billion.

Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, were frozen in April when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket.

The North’s failed launch ended a possible deal with the U.S. in which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid by Washington. Such conditions had been considered necessary steps to reopen the six-party talks.

The six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition have been stalled since late 2008. Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

In Seoul, the Russian envoy is also expected to discuss an ambitious plan to build a natural-gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via North Korea, the ministry official said.

The gas project, which has been discussed for about 20 years but never has materialized due in part to security tensions, gained momentum after late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his willingness to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through the nation during summit talks with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in August last year.

Kim died of a heart attack last December, and his youngest son, Jong-un, took the helm of North Korea.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – West Sea Becomes New Arena for Big-Power Rivalry

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In the News – West Sea Becomes New Arena for Big-Power Rivalry

The West Sea is turning into a new arena of competition between the U.S., China and Japan. China plans to launch its first aircraft carrier in August, while Japan is mulling the deployment of Aegis destroyers near the West Sea. The U.S. is willing to dispatch its own aircraft carriers to the West Sea at any time if necessary.

The West Sea drew international attention following the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010. Eight months later North Korea shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in the same waters. China fiercely protested when the U.S. dispatched the aircraft carrier George Washington to the West Sea to discourage further provocations from North Korea.

Japan’s Defense Ministry is mulling the deployment of Aegis destroyers to waters near the West Sea under the pretext of detecting North Korean missile launches. Experts suspect this is really a creeping expansion of the Japanese military’s range. “This appears to be a highly political move aimed at keeping China in check,” said a high-ranking government official here. The West Sea is a sort of gateway to China, so any moves to dispatch warships to waters nearby draw strong protests from Beijing.

◆ Extension of Naval Disputes

The U.S., China and Japan are vying for control of the East China and South China seas, and the West Sea looks increasingly like an extension of this power struggle. China is pursuing a policy of naval superiority powered by its newfound economic might.

Beijing plans to broaden its area of naval operations to Guam, Indonesia and Saipan by 2020 forming what it calls an “island chain,” while flying its red flag on the seven seas by 2050.

Under this broad strategy, China took a hard line in a dispute with Japan in September of 2010 over the Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands. China has also clashed diplomatically with ASEAN as well as the U.S. over the South China Sea. It has bolstered its arms spending by more than 10 percent every year and pursues an “anti-access” policy to waters near China.

In contrast, the U.S. views the West Sea as an area of joint operations with South Korea. In this situation, Tokyo’s moves to deploy Aegis destroyers to waters near the West Sea could heighten the possibility of disputes in the region, experts say.

◆ S.Korean Naval Base

While the U.S., China and Japan are engaged in a power struggle in the West Sea, the South Korean government is clashing with civic groups over plans to build a naval base on the southern resort island of Jeju as a forward base for operations. The government has pursued the base since the Roh Moo-hyun administration to protect southern ocean trade routes and respond more effectively with maritime disputes with China and Japan. But fierce opposition from a handful of civic groups caused a 13-month delay in construction.

Only 15 percent of construction has been completed so far. The Navy plans to complete the base by December 2015 and station troops currently based in Busan and Jinhae there for deployment on naval missions in case of a clash between China and Japan. Around 20 naval vessels are scheduled to be stationed at the base, but the project still faces many obstacles.

 

Original article can be found here.

A Song to Imjin River

I first heard the folk song, Imjin River, when I watched the Japanese film Pacchigi, the Korean word for head-butt. The 2004 film took place in 1968 Kyoto, a time when the Korean resident youngsters living in ghettos had taken on a hostile stance toward the discriminatory Japanese environment that confronted them. In 1965, the Japanese government had recognized the South Korean government, but did not initiate any policy with the North Korean regime. In 1965, Koreans living in Japan were offered South Korean citizenship or remained stateless if they either supported the North Korean regime or adhered to their hopes for a unified Korea in the near future by refusing South Korean citizenship.[1] The film featured the gang of a Chosen (North-Korean affiliated) high school “butt heads” with the gang of a local Japanese high school. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

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In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) — North Korea “can’t have” the status of a nation possessing nuclear weapons, South Korea said Thursday, responding to a report that North Korea recently revised its constitution to proclaim itself as a nuclear-weapon state.

An official Web site run by North Korea and monitored by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday in Japan, carried the full text of the reclusive communist nation’s revised constitution that included the term “a nuclear-armed state.”

“At first, nuclear-weapon state status is in line with the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but North Korea itself has admitted that it is not a member of the NPT,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

North Korea backed out of the NPT in early 2003, right after the outbreak of the so-called second nuclear crisis in late 2002.

Cho called on North Korea to “implement its commitments and give up all nuclear weapons programs from the September 19 joint statement.”

Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear programs in return for security guarantees and economic assistance from five nations participating in the six-party talks. But Pyongyang boycotted follow-up negotiations by making a series of unacceptable demands.

There are concerns that North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, may soon carry out a third nuclear test to make amends for the failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions following the two nuclear tests.

“As North Korea continues to ignore promises with the international community and breach international laws, it will only deepen its isolation,” Cho said.

The text of the North’s amended constitution reads that its late leader Kim Jong-il, who died last December, “has turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation.” The revision was made during a parliamentary session in April.

The North’s previous constitution last revised on April 9, 2010 didn’t contain the term nuclear-armed state.

Some analysts in Seoul said the North Korean constitution’s proclamation of a “nuclear-armed state” is expected to cast further clouds over the prospects of resuming the long-stalled six-party talks that bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea Striker Jong Tae-se to Tie Knot This Year

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In the News – N.Korea Striker Jong Tae-se to Tie Knot This Year

Striker Jong Tae-se (28) has seen his fortunes dip and dive for FC Köln, which got relegated from Germany’s leading Bundesliga at the end of last season, but off the pitch the ethnic Korean is enjoying life and will realize another key ambition by tying the knot later this year.

Jong, a third-generation Korean Japanese who has a South Korean passport but who plays for North Korea, has long expressed his desire to find a soul mate. He talked about his wedding plans for the first time on Wednesday in Bangkok, where he participated in the 2nd Asian Dream Cup, a charity football event hosted by Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung’s JS Foundation.

“She is Korean Japanese, like me, and we’ve been together for five years. She works at a company and is one year older than me,” he said, apparently reluctant to divulge too much information about his bride-to-be.

Jong Tae-se poses for a photo ahead of a luncheon organized on the sidelines of the second Asian Dream Cup at a hotel in Bangkok on Wednesday.

The couple got together after being set up by one of Jong’s university friends when he was playing for Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale. Since Jong moved to Bochum, Germany, in 2010, they have maintained a long-distance relationship.

In January, Jong moved up from Germany’s second-tier league to join Koln, but played in just five games and mostly served as a benchwarmer. Adding to his misfortune, the team got relegated. Jong expressed his disappointment and said he was not hopeful of finding another team to transfer to in the Bundesliga at this point in his career. Rather, he said, he will focus on trying to get as much playing time as possible in the lower league.

He also seemed open to the idea of playing in South Korea’s domestic league.  “If I receive a good offer, I will definitely consider it,” he said. “In the past, I heard rumors that a number of K League teams were interested in me, but I wasn’t prepared to make the move at that time.”

He named playing in the UEFA Champions’ League as one of his unfulfilled ambitions. “I wanted to become the first North Korean to play in the Champions’ League, but Park Kwang-ryong of Basel beat me to the punch. I will have to wait until I hear from him to find out how he found the experience, but I would still love to play on such a grand stage.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.N. committee sanctions three North Korea companies

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In the News – U.N. committee sanctions three North Korea companies

Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, speaks to the media at UN headquarters in New York, May 2, 2012.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS | Wed May 2, 2012 4:41pm EDT

(Reuters) – A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Wednesday added three North Korean state companies to a U.N. blacklist of firms banned from international trade in response to Pyongyang’s rocket launch last month.

The decision by the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee came after China consented to sanctions on the trio of companies. It falls far short of the roughly 40 firms the United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan had wanted to blacklist after Pyongyang’s launch.

The newly blacklisted firms are “very significant North Korean entities” involved in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said. Continue reading

North Korea’s Embarrassing Rocket Launch

If you’ve kept up with the news at all, you may know about North Korea’s recent failed rocket launch. I know it’s been in the news quite a lot but I thought I’d provide a simplified version of what happened.

This past March, North Korea and the United States entered negotiations once again. The United States offered to provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance if North Korea would “freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors.” This was big step both for North Korea and the U.S. because it meant that the North would possibly be giving up its biggest weapon and it also meant that the United States would be sending food aid to the impoverished country for the first time since 2009. It was also the first time North Korea and the U.S. had official talks since Kim Jong Un came to power. Thus, these negotiations had a lot of meaning because it would have determined DPRK’s future relationship with the United States. Continue reading

In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

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In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

(Reuters) – The United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan have submitted a list of about 40 North Korean companies to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee for possible blacklisting due to Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch, envoys said on Tuesday.

The committee, which includes all 15 Security Council members, received an initial response from China that it would only consent to adding two entities to the U.N. list of banned North Korean firms, which the United States and its allies see as too few, envoys told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

“The U.S., Europeans, Japan and ROK (South Korea) have together produced a list of around 40 entities to be designated by the 1718 Committee,” a senior diplomat told Reuters. “The challenge remains as usual squarely on PRC (China).”

The United States was continuing to press China to allow more North Korean firms to be sanctioned, envoys said. Continue reading

In the News – Obama: North Korean provocations a sign of weakness

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In the News – Obama: North Korean provocations a sign of weakness

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda On Monday decried aggressive acts from North Korea, including its recent failed rocket launch.

Obama said Pyongyang is operating from a position of weakness, not strength, and Noda said the launch undermined diplomacy to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Obama said the U.S. and Japan, along with other countries in the region are unified in insisting that North Korea abide by its international responsibilities.

“The old pattern of provocation that then gets attention and somehow insists on the world purchasing good behavior from them, that pattern is broken,” Obama said in a joint news conference with Noda at the White House.

Noda said that given North Korea’s past practice, there appears to be a good chance that it would undertake yet another nuclear test. The Japanese prime minister said China remains an important player in trying to restrain North Korea’s nuclear program.

Noda was in Washington looking to reaffirm Japan’s strong alliance with the U.S. and to boost his leadership credentials as his popularity flags at home.

Noda, who came to power in September and is Japan’s sixth prime minister in six years, faces huge challenges in reviving a long-slumbering economy and helping his nation recover from the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China Warns N.Korea Off Nuclear Test

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In the News – China Warns N.Korea Off Nuclear Test

A high-ranking official in China’s Foreign Ministry has issued a rare public warning to North Korea against another nuclear test, saying it would violate China’s national interest. The comments were made by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai to reporters at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

“I am opposed to any act that damages peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, since such acts can damage the national security and interests of not only other countries but China’s as well,” Cui said. “No side should commit acts that raise tensions.”

This is the first time for China to comment publicly on the North’s nuclear development since the possibility of Pyongyang conducting a third nuclear test was raised.

But Cui resisted U.S. demands that China step up pressure on North Korea. “Maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia is the joint responsibility of all of the concerned countries, not just China alone,” he said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea Boasts of Ability to Destroy U.S. Military in ‘Single Blow’

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In the News – N.Korea Boasts of Ability to Destroy U.S. Military in ‘Single Blow’

North Korea’s army marked its 80th anniversary Wednesday with a vow to retaliate against what its chief of staff terms the traitors in the South. The remarks are the latest in a series of harsh threats directed at Seoul in recent weeks.

◆ N.Korea’s Provocations

North Korea is boasting of “powerful, modern weapons” that can defeat in a single blow the United States, which it accuses of plotting a war against it.

Chief of general staff, Ri Yong-ho, gave no further details about the weaponry in his speech to mark the North Korean army’s 80th anniversary. His address, from Pyongyang’s House of Culture, was broadcast later in the day on North Korean television.

Vice Marshal Ri says the blood of North Korea’s military and civilians is boiling in anger with a desire for revenge against South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak. He reiterates a threat of “sacred war,” transmitted earlier in the week, to crush the bases of provocation in the South. Continue reading

China, Refugees… and Repatriation?

If you’ve been on our blog during the past few months, you may have noticed the news articles about the North Korean refugees being held in China. These refugees have gotten international notice from human rights activists, politicians, and celebrities alike but unfortunately it may not make a difference.

Let me give you some background information on this incident. Early in February, Chinese officials arrested a group of North Korea refugees who had crossed the Sino-Korean border in order to escape the grips of the North Korean government. This issue was first exposed to the world on February 14th through Donga News. It is believed that China eventually arrested 31 refugees and their fate has been up in the air since then. Among those captured, it is said that there are young children and maybe even an infant. Many of these people have family waiting for them in South Korea, family members that can do nothing but wait for their safe arrival. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. backs single name of ‘Sea of Japan’: State Dept. official

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In the News – U.S. backs single name of ‘Sea of Japan’: State Dept. official

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, April 23 (Yonhap) — The United States remains firm on a decision to use a single name for the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, an official said Monday.

Using only one name to refer to all high seas is a longstanding U.S. policy, the State Department official told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity.

“The U.S. government uses names decided by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The U.S. Board on Geographic Names’ standard name for that body of water is the Sea of Japan,” the official said,
Washington’s position is a setback to joint efforts by South and North Korea to add “East Sea” to international maps.

A sea-naming conference of International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) opened in Monaco earlier in the day. A South Korean delegation, supported by North Korean delegates, is making a final pitch to the IHO to name the waters as the East Sea and the Sea of Japan alike.
South Korean officials point out that the waters have been called the Sea of Japan in the international community since Japan’s colonial rule of Korea in the early 1900s. They say East Sea is its original name. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea’s nuclear test ready “soon” – source

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In the News – North Korea’s nuclear test ready “soon” – source

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING, April 24 (Reuters) – North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test and has the capacity to carry it out “soon,” a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters.

“Soon. Preparations are almost complete,” the source said when asked whether North Korea was planning to undertake a nuclear test.

North Korea said last week it was ready to retaliate in the face of international condemnation over this month’s failed rocket launch, increasing the likelihood the hermit state will push ahead with a third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

The source has correctly predicted events in the past, telling Reuters about North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 days before it took place. Continue reading