PN's Voice 137

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 137, 10.05.2018
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PN's Voice No. 137,  10. 05. 2018 
Small steps, Road to peace

North Korea frees three US detainees ahead of Trump summit

North Korea has freed three US citizens from prison; it is viewed as a goodwill gesture ahead of a historic summit between Mr Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Mr Trump said he would greet the men when they return with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been in Pyongyang to arrange the planned talks. Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul boarded the plane "without assistance", the White House said. They had been jailed for anti-state activities and placed in labour camps. "They seem to be in good health," he wrote, adding that a date and location had been set for talks after Mr Pompeo held a "good meeting" with Kim Jong-un.

Reporters travelling with Mr Pompeo said their meeting lasted about 90 minutes. In his tweet, Mr Trump added that he would personally greet the detainees when they arrive at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, the other two have been in prison for just over a year. Their convictions have been widely condemned as political and an abuse of human rights. The fate of the detainees has been a key factor in the build up to the Trump-Kim meeting.
Source : BBC News, Reuters

South Korea working for release of its citizens held in North Korea

South Korea will continue to make active efforts to secure the release of six South Koreans detained in North Korea, the Unification Ministry said Wednesday, after the release of three detained American citizens (see above).

"Our government has worked to resolve the detainee issue through inter-Korean talks and cooperation with the international community, and it will continue to make active efforts to bring back those detainees as soon as possible," Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said during a regular press briefing. Currently, six South Koreans are held in North Korea, most of whom were said to have been taken to the country near the North-China border. They include three pastors -- Kim Jung-wook, Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil -- who were sentenced to hard labor for life on charges of spying for South Korea's spy agency.
Source : Korea Times

Trump officials prepare for Singapore summit with North Korea

Administration officials have been instructed to move forward with plans to convene a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, according to two people familiar with the plans. The decision is ultimately up to Trump, who said on Wednesday he would announce the time and location in three days. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump ruled out the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean border as a potential location for the talks with Kim. Singapore and the DMZ are the only two places Trump has floated in public as potential venues for the meeting. The Southeast Asian city-state has been the preferred location among US officials, who saw its neutrality as an advantage over locations closer to Pyongyang.

Speaking during a briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders affirmed that a date and site had been determined. "I can tell you that a date and location are set but beyond that, I don't have any other announcements at this point," Sanders said. "But we expect that to be announced here in the next few days."

Even as Trump on Wednesday sought to heighten expectations for his summit, he acknowledged that the plans could fall apart. "Everything can be scuttled. Everything can be scuttled," he said. "A lot of good things can happen, a lot of bad things can happen. I believe that we have -- both sides want to negotiate a deal. I think it's going to be a very successful deal." But, he repeated, "lots of things can happen. And, of course, you'll be the first to know about it if it fails."
Source : CNN News, The Guardian

Kim Jong-un meets Xi Jinping in second surprise visit to China

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has made a second surprise visit to China to meet its president, Xi Jinping, amid a flurry of diplomacy as Kim prepares for a summit with Donald Trump. Kim flew to the Chinese port city of Dalian and held talks “in a cordial and friendly atmosphere” with Xi over two days before returning to Pyongyang on Tuesday, China’s state news agency Xinhua said in announcing the trip. It is the second meeting between the two leaders in about 40 days, and was kept secret until Kim had left China. Shortly after the summit was reported, Trump said on Twitter he would speak to Xi by phone about North Korea, where he said “relationships and trust are building”. Kim and Xi discussed relations between their two countries as well as “major issues of common concern”, and Kim restated Pyongyang’s desire to relinquish its nuclear arsenal. 

“It has been the DPRK’s consistent and clear stand to achieve denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” Kim said according to paraphrased remarks reported by Xinhua. “As long as relevant parties abolish their hostile policies and remove security threats against the DPRK, there is no need for the DPRK to be a nuclear state and denuclearisation can be realised.”

It was not immediately clear what security threats Kim was referring to, but experts have said North Korea may push for the removal of some or all of the 28,000 US soldiers currently stationed in South Korea. The meeting comes as Kim prepares to meet Trump, who has said the date and location of the summit is fixed but has yet to make details public. “I hope to build mutual trust with the US through dialogue,” Kim was quoted as saying. He said he hoped to take “phased and synchronous measures” in order to “eventually achieve” a formal peace treaty with Seoul – the two neighbours are still technically in a state of war – and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. The statement seemed to be at odds with demands from the US, which has called on North Korea to immediately disarm.

Although Kim’s meeting was reported in North Korean media, his remarks on denuclearisation were noticeably absent. Kim travelled to Dalian by plane, in a public and telling break with his father’s traditional means of travel – he insisted on only using an armoured train due to a fear of flying.
Source : The Guardian 


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PN's Voice

Small steps, Road to peace


Two Koreas to March under United Korea Flag at Olympics

North and South Korea have agreed to march together under a single "unified Korea" flag at next month's Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next month. They also agreed to field a joint women's ice hockey team in rare talks at the truce village of Panmunjom. These announcements are the result of the first high-level talks between the countries in more than two years. It marks a thaw in relations that began in the new year when North Korea offered to send a team to the games.

If the plans are realized, a hundreds-strong North Korean delegation - including 230 cheerleaders, 140 orchestral musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes - could cross into the South via the land border to attend the Winter Olympics; this will be the first opening of the cross border road in almost two years. The proposed joint womens ice hockey team would represent the first time athletes from both Koreas have competed together in the same team at an Olympic Games.

The agreement will have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday, because North Korea has missed registration deadlines or failed to qualify. South Korea will also need to find ways to host the North Korean delegation without violating any existing UN Security Council sanctions which ban cash transfers to Pyongyang and blacklisting certain senior North officials.

Source: BBC

US S. Korea Confirm Theyre Still on the Same Page

South Korea and the United States confirmed on Thursday that there will be no break in the rotational deployment of high-profile U.S. defence assets to and around the Korean Peninsula. The announcement came after the surprise olive branch offered by North Korea that led to the first inter-Korean talks for 2 years. Resultingly, the North now plans to participate in the PyeongChang Olympics next month.

Concerns had grown that the North's sudden peace offensive could lead to Seoul and Washington butting heads over selecting the correct course of action for dealing with Pyongyang. However, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense confirmed that "In today's meeting, the U.S. side reaffirmed its firm security commitment to the defense of South Korea using all categories of its military capabilities." The two countries have "agreed to continue the rotational deployment of U.S. strategic assets to South Korea and nearby areas as long as North Korea's nuclear and missile threats persist," it added. For South Korean officials and media, U.S. strategic assets usually mean aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines, strategic bombers and stealth fighter jets.

This announcement has been seen by some observers as an attempt to quell fears that Pyongyang is attempting to utilize peace talks as a strategy to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.

Source: Yonhap News

South Korea Vows to Continue NK Talks with Clear Eyes

South Korea has said it plans to continue high-level talks with North Korea with "clear eyes" amid global warnings that Pyongyang might be playing for time to continue its nuclear-arms programme. "We have to make the most" of the opportunity said South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during an interview with the BBC.

The recent talks and announcements about a joint Korean team at the upcoming Olympics come as the US and its allies vowed to keep pressure on the North. On Wednesday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the recent North Korean suggestion for talks showed that sanctions were "really starting to hurt", expressing confidence that the pressure would eventually force the North to the negotiating table over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Tillersons thoughts were mirrored by his Japanese counterpart, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who said the world should not be blinded by Pyongyang's recent "charm offensive". "It is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea," Mr Kono said. "The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working."

However, Ms. Kang affirmed that South Korea knew what it was doing in relation to its neighbour; "I think we understand North Korea better than anybody, having dealt with North Korea for decades, having had series of discussions off and on. We haven't had any significant engagement in the recent past - but this is an opportunityYou can have all kinds of theories of why there are here (at the talks). There are, obviously, calculations going on the part of the North Korea decision-makers as to their actions. But in the end we have to make the most of it.


Source: BBC News


Essay Moons Chance to Shine

Please click the link below to access the recent essay by Peace Network researcher Olly Terry on the prospects of President Moon Jae-in taking the opportunity given to him by Pyongyangs rapprochement into significant long-term progress on inter-Korean relations:

Link: Moon's Chance to Shine





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