Korean War Armistice Signing Anniversary

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Truce In Korea 1953

This past July 27th marked the 59th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that officially put the Korean War on hold. It was a silent holiday that went nearly unnoticed by the world. However, for those soldiers who lived through the Korean War, this was an important day, no matter what side they fought on, and many gathered to remember and to celebrate.

In North Korea, this day was celebrated with war veterans visiting Panmunjom to pledge their unchanging loyalty to North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un. Fireworks were also fired to celebrate the day. The commemorations are meant to kindle patriotism and loyalty in North Koreans, and especially the young, by showcasing veterans who fought for their country, said Kim Yeon-su of Korea National Defense University in Seoul. Ahead of the anniversary, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its long-standing demand that the United States sign a peace treaty with North Korea to replace the armistice. However, the United States continues to stand by its claim that normal ties will only come after North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and takes other steps towards change. Continue reading

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In the News – Romney on North Korea

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In the News – Romney on North Korea

By Tong Kim

Despite U.S. concerns of proliferation and security threats, North Korea is not a critical issue that will affect the outcome of the American presidential election in November. The North is not likely to provoke military trouble serious enough to make a difference during the rest of this presidential election year for either the United States or South Korea.

Since Pyongyang’s failed satellite rocket launch in April that effectively cancelled a Feb. 29 agreement with Washington, the North has shown willingness to forego a third nuclear test and to reengage the United States. From its strategic calculation, the new North Korean leadership under Kim Jong-un seems to have decided to avoid further provocations.

However, it is also unlikely that there would be a breakthrough to the deadlock in inter-Korean relations or a new development that could help remove distrust and hostility between the United States and the DPRK, which has reached the worst level in the 60-year cycle of confrontation and engagement.

The Barack Obama administration knows that there is no satisfactory settlement of the North Korean issue achievable before the election. To protect his reelection chances, Obama would hope that the North does not stir up more trouble. The North appears to be cooperative for its own interests.

The North Koreans likely favor the reelection of Obama over the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, despite their disappointment and frustration with the minimal record of Obama’s North Korea policy.

From Romney’s statements on North Korea so far and in view of the known perspectives of his foreign policy team members, it is easy to understand why North Koreans would favor Obama. A Romney administration would resemble the hawkish George W. Bush administration preferring to rely on military force to resolve international disputes rather than diplomacy.

To appeal to voters, Romney speaks of “another American century,” “an American exception to stay as the sole superpower to lead,” and “a robust military presence in the Pacific.” He does not trust the sincerity of the North Koreans at the negotiating table. He does not talk about engagement or negotiation for non-proliferation but about implementation of verifiable inspections.

When Kim Jong-il died six months ago, Romney argued that the United States should push for regime change on the opportunity of the North Korean leader’s death, calling him “a tyrant who lived a life of luxury while the North Korean people starved,” and who developed dangerous weapons. To bring about regime change and to force North Korea to take a different path, Romney said, “America must show leadership.” In contrast, the Obama administration has called for stability and caution during Pyongyang’s transition.

On the launch of the North Korean rocket, Romney charged that Obama’s “efforts to appease the regime have emboldened Pyongyang.” He said Obama had “no effective response to North Korea’s weapons program and Obama supported “a food-aid deal,” ― a characterization of the Feb. 29 agreement ― “that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived.”

According to Romney’s official campaign website, he “will commit to eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and its nuclear-weapons infrastructure. A key mistake in U.S. policy toward North Korea has been to grant it a series of carrots in return for only illusory cooperation. Each step the world has taken toward North Korea has been met with further provocations and the expansion of its nuclear program.”

“Romney will reverse that dynamic.” He will make it “unequivocally clear to Pyongyang that continued advancement of its nuclear program and any aggression will be punished instead of rewarded.” Romney will “institute harsher sanctions on North Korea, such as cracking down on financial institutions that service the North Korean regime.”

“He will also step up the Proliferation Security Initiative to constrain North Korean illicit exports by increasing the frequency of inspections of North Korean ships and discouraging foreign ports from permitting entry to North Korean ships.” His people believe “such measures would shut off routes by which the regime supplies its nuclear program.”

A Romney administration would clearly be tougher in rhetoric and attitude, but it does not offer new ideas that could disarm North Korea. Its policy represents a rehash of the hardline aspects of what the previous and present administrations have tried without much success. Romney has yet to offer more specifics on how he can accomplish denuclearization and secure peace and stability in Korea.

Romney says he “will work to persuade China to commit to North Korea’s disarmament,” and “assure China it will not be alone in dealing with the humanitarian and security issues that will arise should North Korea disintegrate …and when the North Korean regime collapses…under the weight of its own economic and political contradictions”

The underlying assumption for this approach is not original. Under Obama’s policy of strategic patience, Washington and Seoul had erroneously anticipated an imminent fall of the Pyongyang regime or its surrender to international pressure to accept the conditions of engagement as dictated by them. The North neither fell nor surrendered.

Like Obama, Romney “will also pursue robust military and counter-proliferation cooperation with our allies and others in the Pacific region.” Similarly, he will also invigorate relationships with South Korea, Japan, and others to increase a collective military presence and cooperation,” to deal with the rising power of China.

The North is unlikely to collapse in the next five years. And, since neither Obama nor Romney seems to have any fresh ideas that will resolve the issue, perhaps, a solution should come from the next government of the South or the new leadership of the North. What’s your take?

 

Original article can be found here.

Kim Jong Un’s First Speech Exalts Military, Unification

Kim Jong Un speaks at a military parade in Pyongyang celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15th, 2012, as seen from space. Photo credit Digital Globe, Inc. via MSNBC.

As far as we know, Kim Jong Il, late president of North Korea, spoke publicly one time only during his thirty years in the limelight of his country’s ruling party. When he did, it was a single line. His father, Kim Il Sung, had given a speech during celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the North Korean People’s Army’s establishment; after the speech, the younger Kim stepped to the microphone and voiced his only public sentiment: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean people’s army!” (see it in this video).

That was in 1992. The Western media heard his voice a few more times; for instance, in this video from 2007. Still, he gave no more speeches that his own country would hear.

Kim Jong Un gave his first public speech on April 15th, during the 100th-anniversary celebrations of his grandfather’s birth. It is the nation’s most important holiday. The younger Kim’s speech was extensive—20 minutes long—and stands in sharp contrast to his father’s reclusiveness.

Yet the content of the speech matches the sentiment shared by his father’s single line almost perfectly. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

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In the News – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) — North Korea said Monday its military has entered map coordinates of some conservative South Korean media offices as it threatened to strike their headquarters for their alleged insult to North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un.

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said the country’s troops have been targeting the Seoul headquarters of the Chosun Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 56 minutes 83 seconds North latitude and 126 degrees 97 minutes 65 seconds East longitude. It also revealed the coordinates of the JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo newspapers, as well as the KBS, MBC and SBS television stations and CBS radio.

It is the first time the North has released coordinates of intended targets in South Korea.

“We would like to ask the Lee group if it wants to leave all this to be struck by the (North) or opt for apologizing and putting the situation under control, though belatedly,” the General Staff said in an English-language ultimatum, referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Seoul, the South Korean capital city of more than 10 million people and home to South Korean media headquarters, is within range of North Korea’s artillery and rockets.

“If the Lee group recklessly challenges our army’s eruption of resentment, it will retaliate against it with a merciless sacred war of its own style as it has already declared,” the General Staff said in the ultimatum carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

It also warned the North is “fully ready for everything” and “time is running out.”

South Korea defended its media reports on its communist neighbor, saying freedom of the press is a basic right guaranteed in free and democratic countries around the world.

The South Korean government said in a statement it “will maintain a posture to immediately cope with any North Korean provocation.” A South Korean military official said no particular movements in the North Korean military have been observed.

Also Monday, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk urged the North to immediately stop threatening the South’s media outlets. He said the North’s threat was a grave “provocation” against South Korea’s free and democratic system.

There is no freedom of the press in North Korea where authorities use state media as a propaganda tool to strengthen personality cults of the country’s leaders.

The North’s latest threat was in response to some South Korean media reports critical of the North’s celebration of the Korean Children’s Union (KCU) under way in Pyongyang.

About 20,000 North Korean children pledged their allegiance to Kim as the North began a six-day festival on Sunday to mark the 66th anniversary of the KCU, according to Pyongyang’s state media.

Some South Korean media dismissed the celebration as part of the North’s attempt to win support for Kim, who took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

Channel A, a television arm of the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, likened Kim to the late German dictator Adolf Hitler over the anniversary celebration.

The North has long bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and has made similar threats against the South over the past several months, although no actual attack has occurred.

South Korea has repeatedly vowed to avenge any North Korean attacks following two attacks by the North in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

 

Original article can be found here

U.S. Presidential Candidates on North Korea

The Korean peninsula is expected to enter a new phase as a result of leadership changes in 2012. South Korea will have a new president by the end of the year, and this is the first fiscal year for Kim Jong-un who assumed the supreme commandership of North Korea after his father’s sudden death in December 2011. In addition, the United States presidential election of 2012 will be held in November. Xi Jinping of China will succeed Hu Jintao as General Secretary and President. As six-party talks play a crucial role in determining the dynamics between South and North Koreas, all of these leadership changes should be taken into account when predicting the future of the peninsula. With the U.S. election being eight months ahead, now is the time to take a look at each candidate’s view on North Korea and how it can affect the South-North relationship in the future.

Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea threatens to reduce S. Korean targets to ashes in minutes

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In the News – N. Korea threatens to reduce S. Korean targets to ashes in minutes

SEOUL, April 23 (Yonhap) — North Korea threatened Monday to launch special military actions to destroy key South Korean targets, further escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula following the North’s botched rocket launch.

“The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors,” the North’s military supreme command said in an English-language notice carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“Once the above-said special actions kick off, they will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.”

In the News – Obama Calls for North Korea to Have Courage to Pursue Peace

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In the News – Obama Calls for North Korea to Have Courage to Pursue Peace
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak (L) poses with U.S. President Barack Obama as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul, March 26, 2012.

Photo: Reuters
South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak (L) poses with U.S. President Barack Obama as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul, March 26, 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s discussions Monday with the leaders of Russia and China appear to have yielded no breakthroughs regarding concerns about North Korea and Iran. The meetings came hours after the president delivered a speech in the South Korean capital calling on the North Koreans to “have the courage to pursue peace” and “take irreversible steps” to meet their international obligations.

Nuclear tensions with North Korea and Iran were the focus for Obama and many of the other leaders now in Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit.

Chinese President Hu Jintao met Monday with both South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and, then, President Obama to discuss an upcoming North Korean missile launch. Continue reading

In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea

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In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea

(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama urgedChina on Sunday to use its influence to rein in North Korea instead of “turning a blind eye” to its nuclear defiance, and warned of tighter sanctions if the reclusive state goes ahead with a rocket launch next month.

North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” a stern-faced Obama said after a tour of the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas resonant with echoes of the Cold War.

Such a launch would only lead to further isolation of the impoverished North, which much show its sincerity if on-again-off-again six-party aid-for-disarmament talks are to restart, Obama told a news conference in the South Korean capital.

Seoul and Washington say the launch will be a disguised test of a ballistic missile that violates Pyongyang’s latest international commitments. North Korea says it merely wants to put a satellite into orbit. Continue reading