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.

In the News – Seoul Says N.Korean Rocket Launch a ‘Grave Provocation’

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In the News – Seoul Says N.Korean Rocket Launch a ‘Grave Provocation’

The government on Monday condemned North Korea’s planned rocket launch a “grave provocation aimed at developing a long-range nuclear weapons delivery system using ballistic missile technology.”

The government reached the conclusion in an emergency foreign and security ministers’ meeting chaired by President Lee Myung-bak, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Jung-ha said.

Park said, “Due to the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit slated for Mar. 26-27, the government will be able to cooperate closely with the leaders of the U.S., Japan, China, Russia, and the EU, and join international efforts to deal with the issue.”

The North Korean regime claims it is launching a scientific satellite, but Seoul has concluded that is a cover for an attempt to test propellants for a long-range missile.

“Intercontinental ballistic missile and satellite propellants are based on the same technology. The only difference is that one would deliver a nuclear payload and the latter a satellite module,” a government official said. “North Korea apparently wants to develop a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.”

The North launched a similar rocket on April 5, 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test on May 25 the same year. The UN Security Council on June 12, 2009 banned rocket launches using “ballistic missile technology,” which would make the planned launch illegal even if it is a bona fide satellite launch.

Original article can be found here

In the News – Defiant North Korea says rocket launch to go ahead

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In the News – Defiant North Korea says rocket launch to go ahead

(Reuters) – North Korea on Sunday rejected criticism of its planned long-range missile launch which threatens to upset its only major benefactor, China, and put relations with the United States back in the freezer just as they seemed to be starting to thaw.

Political analysts say the launch, which would violate U.N. resolutions on the heavily sanctioned state, is aimed at boosting the legitimacy of its young new ruler Kim Jong-un who inherited power after his father’s death in December.

“The peaceful development and use of space is a universally recognized legitimate right of a sovereign state,” the North’s state KCNA news agency said.

North Korea says it is using the rocket to launch a satellite to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding ruler and grandfather of the current ruler.

The United States, and others, say it is much the same as a ballistic missile test and therefore off-limits for the isolated state which has for years been trying to build a nuclear arsenal.

Washington, which last month agreed to supply North Korea with food in exchange for a suspension of nuclear tests, missile launches and uranium enrichment and to allow nuclear inspectors into the country, called the planned launch “highly provocative”.

More troubling perhaps for Pyongyang, which is long accustomed to trading invective with Washington, Beijing called the planned launch a “worry” in a rare attempt to put public pressure on its impoverished ally.

The North has invited foreign observers and journalists to attend the launch.

It announced the planned launch on Friday just weeks after the deal with Washington. It will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung.

In April 2009, North Korea conducted a ballistic rocket launch that resulted in a new round of U.N. sanctions, squeezing the secretive state’s already troubled economy and deepening its isolation.

That launch was dismissed as a failure after the first stage fell into the Sea of Japan without placing a satellite in orbit. Another test failed in similar circumstances in 1998.

The new launch is due to take place between April 12-16, to coincide with Kim Il-sung’s centenary celebrations and will coincide with parliamentary elections in South Korea.

Japan has said it would consider deploying PAC3 missile interceptors as it did in a 2009 launch by North Korea.

(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by David Chance and Jonathan Thatcher)

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea, U.S. to meet in Beijing next week for food aid

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In the News – N. Korea, U.S. to meet in Beijing next week for food aid

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Yonhap) — Diplomats from North Korea and the United States plan to meet in Beijing next week to discuss “technical” issues to implement Washington’s promise to provide 240,000 tons of “nutritional assistance,” the U.S. announced Friday.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, will meet a North Korean counterpart on Wednesday, according to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

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In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Yonhap) — A group of U.S.-based human rights activists staged an eye-catching protest rally Thursday right in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, demanding Beijing stop the forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors.

In a street performance, a participant, wearing the uniform of Chinese security officials, dragged two women, with their faces masked and hands tied with ropes. Continue reading

Unification minister pledges to start filling fund for Koreas’ reunification

NEW YORK, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) — Seoul’s top policymaker on North Korea pledged Friday to start filling a fund aimed at preparing for reunification with the North, calling on the South Korean people to also take part. Continue reading