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China Tries to Distance Itself from North Korea
Recent developments appear to show that China is attempting to distance itself from North Korea. On June 17th Chinese Foreign Ministry official, Liu Jianchao, told a visiting Korean press pack that “there is no military alliance between China and North Korea.” Liu, who is the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Assistant Secretary, went on to say that “making a military alliance as a way to maintain security does not work in this era.” This is a surprising position for the Chinese to adopt as it has long been North Korea’s closest ally.
This recent Chinese move away from close alignment with Korean is contrary to the 1961 “Mutual Treaty of Cordiality and Cooperation between China and North Korea”. This Treaty lays out guarantees that both parties “shall take all measures together to prevent the invasion towards either party.” Additionally, if either country were to be attack or invaded, the other party “should provide military aid at once, turning into a state of war.” Sources suggest that China is overwhelmed with the need to provide military intervention to its highly volatile neighbor, and whilst its long been assumed that China had discarded this treaty, these recent announcements are a way for China to illustrate their distance from North Korea publically.
Source : Business Korea
Incoming U.S. Ambassador to S. Korea Calls for More Sanctions for N. Korea
Mark Lippert, the nominee to serve as US ambassador to South Korea, has laid out his plans to adopt a hard-line approach in dealing with North Korea. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing held on June 17th, Lippert responded to a question on how he would respond to the North Korean risk with a three point plan of action. The first of Lippert’s approaches would be to “build [an] international consensus to isolate North Korea” due to its appalling human rights record and pursuit of its nuclear program. Secondly, Lippert backed continued military drills as well as both “multilateral and independent sanctions and pressure’ that would send a strong signal to the North that “the U.S. is watching [their] behavior.” Lastly, Lippert emphasized the need for “strong defense and deterrence”, this leads observers to believe that the U.S. will further pressure South Korea to expand its missile defense.
Lastly, Lippert also vowed to encourage, but not mediate, talks between Seoul and Tokyo, as well as expressing the need for an expanded missile defense for the U.S. and its allies.
Source : The Hankyoreh
South Korea Turns Down Purchase of SM-3 Missiles
Despite recent pressure from the U.S. to expand its missile defense (see above article), South Korea confirmed on June 19th that it wouldn’t be buying U.S. made SM-3 anti-missile missiles for its three Aegis equipped destroyers nor for use on land based Aegis systems. Declining purchasing SM-3s is surprising to many. This is surprising as the 2010 sinking of a South Korea corvette by a North Korean torpedo, and the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island had lead the South scrambling to build more coast protection vessels and an enhanced anti-submarine capacity. It was believed that SM-3 missiles for its three Aegis equipped destroyers were to be a part of the South’s plan.
The South already has a very “potent navy” and perhaps feels it is sufficiently well equipped and can cope without the expensive SM-3 missiles. The South’s Aegis radar already has the capacity to “spot any missile launch in North Korea” and other systems to knock down North Korean rockets and missiles are already in place.
Source : Strategy Page
North Korean Political Prisoners in Decline
According to South Korea’s state-run think tank KINU (Korean Institute for National Unification) North Korea could have “reduced its number of political prisoners” and even shut down one of its prison camps. According to KINU’s recently published white paper report on human rights in North Korea there are currently an estimated 80,000 – 120,000 political prisoners detained across the North’s five political prisons. Those estimates, based on “a series of interviews with North Korean defectors and analysis of satellite images of North Korea” represent a significant drop from 2009 estimates from the National Human Rights Commission of Korea that thought the number of political prisoners to be around 200,000.
However, the report warns that reading the drop in the estimated numbers of political prisoner as a sign of improvement in human rights in the North or a change in its policies towards political prisoners shouldn’t be fooled. The report was unable to specify why the estimated number of political prisoners had decreased, but was keen to emphasize that “regardless of specific numbers, the important factor to remember is that the North Korean government still maintains the political prisoner camps.” It is also worth bearing in mind that the declining figures produced by the KINU are contrary to other reports such as the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea’s report, North Korea’s Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps, which reported a higher estimate of prisoners. Similarly, last year Amnesty International claimed satellite imagery showed the North had actually been expanding its prison camps.
Source : The Diplomat
Japan Aims to be New Arms Exporter in Asia
Japan’s recent promotion of the sale of twelve submarines to the Australian Navy is being read by many observers as Japan holding an ambition to become “a new arms exporter in Asia.” Fourteen major Japanese defense firms, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, were in attendance at Eurosatory defense trade show in Paris last week. Various examples of Japanese military hardware such as “armored vehicles and minesweepers” were on display from June 16-20 in the hopes of “attracting potential consumers in Europe.”
Since the end of World War II, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has prohibited any overseas Japanese sales of weapons systems. However, Japan has been allowed to revise Article 9 as part of President Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy and consequently now has the legal basis to sell defense equipment.
Some, such as the Chinese paper ‘The Guangzhou Daily’, have described these changes as a threat as they allow the “Japanese defense industry to profit by promoting war and conflict around the globe.” Even considering the fear of a return of Japanese militarism, the negative response coming from China is hardly surprising. China is currently locked in territorial disputes with countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, both of whom may seek to try and contain China through acquiring Japanese defense hardware, such as patrol boats.
Source : Want China Times
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