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North Korea Tests Missiles Days before Chinese State Visit to Seoul
On Sunday 29th, North Korea test launched missiles into the East Sea for the second time in four days. The missiles launched on Sunday from a site near Wonsan, were believed to be two Scud missiles which have a range of around 500km. Whilst, those test-fired a few days prior were said to be precision-guided missiles and, according to Pyongyang's state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), were launched under the direct supervision of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The latest launches take the count up to eleven missiles tested this year for the North, already an increase in the total number for 2013. The Korea Times quoted the Joint Chiefs of Staff as saying that these launches were particularly reckless and provocative as “The North did not designate no-sail zones for civilian flights or vessels in advance."
These missile tests come just a few days before Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Seoul penciled in for Thursday or Friday. The timing of the launches has led some experts, such as Hong Hyun-Ik, a senior researcher at The Sejong Institute, to speculate that these actions are a way of the Northan to illustrate a “a show of force”. Additionally, the missile launches may have been a way for the North to protest President Xi’s notable decision to become the first Chinese president to visit Seoul before paying a visit to Pyongyang.
Source : The Christian Science Monitor, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Times
S. Korean Defense Minister Nominee Pledges to Speed Up Establishment of Missile Defense
In the face of growing military threats from North Korea, South Korean Defense Minister nominee Han Min-Koo has vowed to establish the South's home-grown missile defense system as soon as possible. The issue of missile defense is one of pressing importance for the South as the North has twice tested missiles in the last 4 days and carries the growing threat of developing nuclear weapons.
Han, speaking on the first day of the parliamentary hearing to verify his status as the next defense minister, emphasized the need for to quickly establish the indigenous KAMD (Korea Air and Missile Defense), which is designed to counter low-flying missiles launched from the North. Han went on to state that the so-called ‘Kill Chain’, a “pre-emptive missile destruction system”, is also being developed so that any North Korean nuclear and/or missile facilities may be detected and neutralized.
Following Pyongyang’s condemnation over U.S. proposals to deploy their Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the South, Han stated that he would “make sure North Korea realizes that it will never fulfill its demands through military provocations and threats". He further added that he would do his utmost "to ensure military preparedness against full-scale provocation as well as localized conflicts."
Source : The Korea Times
Kaesong Complex to Become International Business District?
South Korea’s proposal to hold official talks over developing the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex into an international business district has been accepted by North Korea. A Ministry of Unification (MOU) official confirmed the news in a briefing last week. The MOU official went on to announce that the talks will be conducted by high-level officials such as “Seoul’s Lee Gang-Wu, an official from the Unification Ministry official, will attend, as will his Northern counterpart Pak Chol-Su, the vice-director of the Central Special Zone Development Guidance General Bureau.”
Despite the signing of a joint declaration in July 2013, they pledged the Kaesong complex would not shut down regardless of the political situation; North Korea withdrew its workers from the complex in April 2013 when relations with the South soured. After re-opening the complex following a series of negotiations, both sides are aiming to develop the complex, where 125 South Korean companies are currently based, into an “international industrial park” that would pull in foreign investment.
To safe guard against the complex closing amid any future strained relations between the two countries, the two Koreas have planned to launch a joint committee to “to serve as the authority in the complex’s development”, as well as pledging to hold regular meetings with committee members at least once a quarter.
Source : Korea JoongAng Daily
South Korea in Talks to with US & Japan to Share Military Intelligence
The United States, South Korea (ROK), and Japan are currently discussing a possible trilateral military agreement, which would involve sharing military intelligence. Until now South Korea’s strained relationship with Japan has meant it has been reluctant to contemplate any such arrangement with its neighbor. Whilst the agreement may yet fail to come to fruition, the negotiations will be pleasing for President Obama’s administration that has seen plans to rebalance the region thwarted by struggles between South Korea and Japan over territorial and historical issues.
The U.S. already has bilateral military intelligence pacts with Seoul and Tokyo, but the two Asian neighbors do not have any official form of military cooperation. Recent diplomatic strains between the two Asian nations over historical issues such as revisions to the 1993 Kono Statement or visits to the Yasukuni Shrine had made any trilateral military cooperation look extremely unlikely anytime soon. However, President Obama did manage to get Part and Abe to sit together and engage in trilateral discussions at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague in the first top-level meeting between South Korea and Japan since Abe and Park took office.
A previous attempt to construct a similar military sharing strategy between Japan and South Korean by former President Lee Myung-Bak in 2012 was met with frenetic public opposition and didn’t go ahead. This time around opposition or debate hasn’t been as strong, perhaps due to the Sewol Ferry disaster occupying more attention in the eye of the public.
Source : The Diplomat
North Korea to Start Oil Exploration?
Mongolian oil company ‘HBOil JSC’ is planning to attract foreign investors in to North Korea’s energy sector by offering geological data which could point towards the presence of oil and gas resources. This plan could signal North Korean opening up to onshore oil exploration, which could lead to Pyongyang having a far greater degree of independence on issues of energy. Currently North Korea is completely dependent on China and Russia for fuel imports, if the North were able to produce its own oil and gas it would end its reliance on Beijing and Moscow, which might be particularly desirable for the North amid its declining relationship with China.
This is not the first time an exploration into North Korea’s onshore oil has been attempted, most recently an Anglo-Irish company, Aminex, tried and ultimately gave up in 2004. However, despite past ventures into this field, very little is known about North Korea’s geology and potential oil and gas reserves. Adding to this is the potential complications in exploring North Korea’s oil; how easy attracting foreign investment may be remains to be seen. The unpredictable geopolitical situation is a problem that would surely weigh heavy on the minds of any potential investor. Similarly, it is unclear how any development of oil or gas exploration in North Korea would be seen in relations to the international sanctions against North Korea.
Source : NK News
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