PN's Voice 115

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PN's Voice 115, 18.05.2017
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PN's Voice No. 115,  18. 05. 2017 
Small steps, Road to peace

S. Korea-China Moving Toward Mending Ties

South Korea and China appear to be moving toward mending their strained ties over the installation of THAAD as exchanges and contacts in diverse areas have apparently been gaining traction since the inauguration of liberal President Moon Jae-in, experts said on Tuesday.

The recently wrapped-up ‘Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation’, hosted by China, served as a "good starter" for the two Asian neighbors' push to keep their ties back on track and maintain a unified approach to the ever-growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. China belatedly sent out an invitation to the Seoul government in time for President Moon Jae-in's inauguration last week, and the new government accepted it in a sign that both sides are willing to improve ties which have been rocky over missile system deployment. South Korea sent a delegation led by Rep. Park Byeong-seug of the Democratic Party to the two-day gathering at the invitation of China. On the side-lines of the forum, Rep. Park met with Chinese State Councillor for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi on Monday and discussed cooperation and issues of mutual concern, including North Korea. "Let us make efforts to restore South Korea-China relations upon the launch of the Moon Jae-in administration," Yang was quoted as saying during the meeting. "It is important to respect each other over issues concerning the interests of one another." Yang also told the delegation that China "will always closely discuss Korean Peninsula issues with South Korea without exceptions and will continue to cooperate with South Korea for the peace and stability of the peninsula."

Relations between the two countries took a turn for the worse when the previous South Korean government, headed by Park Geun-hye, agreed to deploy THAAD. China responded with retaliatory steps against South Korean companies including imposing restrictions on travel to Seoul. Cultural products such as K-pop, dramas and movies have also taken the brunt of the retaliation. That has spawned worries that the worsening Seoul-Beijing ties serve as a major hindrance to global cooperation against the North's nuclear and missile threats.
Source : Yonhap News

President Moon Seeks to Reopen North Korea Hotline

The Moon Jae-in government will push for the reopening of an inter-Korean hotline at the truce village of Panmunjeom, a security adviser said on Wednesday. The liaison office in Panmunjeom was closed last February after North Korea severed the hotline in protest of former President Park Geun-hye's closure of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean joint venture in the North Korean border city. The shutdown was in response to Pyongyang's nuclear test and missile launches.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies who was a key adviser to Moon on security issues during his campaign, said normalizing the liaison channel will be the first step toward reopening inter-Korean dialogue. "There will be a relevant announcement by the government soon," Yang said in an article published by the Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday. Yang also said the previous day that it would be too passive for the government to just wait for the North to ask for reopening the hotline first. "Once inter-Korean communication through the hotline takes place, the dialogue will be able to be expanded to working-level as well as high-level talks."

Responding to Prof. Yang's remarks, the Ministry of Unification said that reopening the liaison office is technically possible now, but no particular decision has been made. "The government's basic position is that an inter-Korean communication channel should be reopened to stabilize relations between the two Koreas," spokesman Lee Duck-hang said. "The ministry has reviewed various options in regard to this, but no decision has been made." Lee added that South Korean officials have gone to the liaison office at Panmunjeom every day and attempted to make a phone call, but their North Korean counterparts have not responded.

Throughout his campaign, President Moon stressed the need for holding inter-Korean dialogue to peacefully resolve various challenging issues including the North's nuclear and missile threats. But following the North's test-firing of a new type of a ballistic missile Sunday, the President made comparatively tough remarks, saying, "South Korea should firmly respond to any North Korean provocations to prevent the North from misjudging situations." Moon noted that he still leaves open the possibility of dialogue with the Kim Jong-un regime, but added: "Dialogue will be possible only when the North shows a change in its attitude." (See below for more)
Source : Al Jazeera, The Korea Times

Moon warns 'High Possibility' of Conflict with North

South Korean President Moon Jae-In warned Wednesday there was a "high possibility" of military clashes along the border with North Korea as tensions mount over Pyongyang's weapons ambitions. Moon has spoken at length at his preference for increased dialogue and negotiation with the North, however after Pyongyang launched what appeared to be its longest-range missile yet, the new President made it clear he was no pushover and wasn’t willing to accept Pyongyang’s threatening behaviour. "I will never tolerate the North's provocations and nuclear threats," Moon said on a visit to the defence ministry, urging the South's military to adopt a "watertight defence posture". "We are living in the reality where there is a high possibility of military clashes" along the disputed sea border off the Koreas' west coast or along the heavily-fortified land frontier that divides them, he said.
Source : The Korea Herald, KBS News

U.S. Ready for N. Korea Talks If It Halts Weapons Tests

The United States would consider talks with North Korea if it halts all nuclear and ballistic missile tests, Washington's envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday, as the U.N. Security Council considered new sanctions on Pyongyang. "We are willing to talk but not until we see a total stop of the nuclear process and of any test there," the U.S. envoy Nikki Haley told reporters ahead of a closed-door Security Council meeting.

On Sunday, North Korea launched what appeared to be the longest-range missile it has ever successfully tested, sparking global alarm. Pyongyang said the missile, the Hwasong-12, was capable of carrying a "heavy nuclear warhead". The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programmes - even from China - said the missile test was a legitimate defence against US hostility.

While keeping the door open for talks, the U.S. President Donald Trump and his team have been keen to reiterate that all options, including military options, are on the table for dealing with North Korea. Trump repeated this message when he warned in an interview with Reuters news agency this month that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible. It seems South Korean president Moon Jae-in is echoing the U.S. stance now. .
Source : Al Jazeera, Yonhap News


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