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PN's Voice 16, 20-10-2014

PN's Voice 16, 20.10.2014
Small steps, Road to peace

SK-NK Again Exchange Fire Across Land Border

Sunday saw North and South Korea exchange fire across their heavily militarized border for the second time in 10 days. South Korean officials reported that North Korean troops approached the demarcation line which prompted South Korean soldiers to fire off warning shots. The North returned fire, leading to a 10 minute-long exchange of fire; no injuries have been reported.

On October 10th, the two Koreas exchanged fire over their land border after the North shot down leaflet carrying balloons, with shells landing on the South Korean side of the demarcation line, prompting the South to return fire. Earlier in the month the two clashed again, this time near their maritime border in the West Sea, after a North Korea vessel crossed into South Korean waters. It is unclear whether the increasingly frequent border clashes, both across the maritime and land borders, are the careless actions of a handful of soldiers who are in a high pressure situation or are a part of a wider pattern of provocation.

Despite these frequent military clashes, Ju Chuk-Ki, a South Korean senior secretary for foreign affairs and national security, said yesterday during a briefing at the Blue House that he remained optimistic that high-level governmental talk would go ahead as planned: “because the two Koreas agreed [on high-level talks] during a luncheon on the final day of the Incheon Asian Games, I believe they will take place as scheduled.”

Military talks between the two nations took place for the first time in seven years at Panmunjom last Wednesday. Whilst Seoul decided to keep silent on the meeting, Pyongyang disclosed details about the talks the following day, and claimed that the future of high-level government contact is in danger. In addition to the military talks, high-level governmental talks are scheduled for the end of this month/beginning of next month. Despite the upcoming talks, the North has been openly critical of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, claiming that the South rejected their proposal of military talks twice, as well as claiming Park was sending out mixed messages; talking of peace-building whilst at the same time issuing military threats.
Source : BBC,JoongAng Daily,The Korea Times

SK-NK Clashes Spark Debate over Balloon Launches

Since October 10th’s propaganda leaflet-carrying balloon launch by South Korean NGOs sparked an inter-Korean exchange of fire, the debate over whether these balloon launches should be blocked has been discussed prominently in South Korea.

Since a top-level North Korean delegation visited South Korea to attend the finale of the Incheon Asian Games and the high-level talks scheduled during that visit, there has been strong hope for a new era of inter-Korean reconciliation. Pyongyang has made its position on the balloon launches clear by issuing several warnings, saying they are willing to “battle to wipe out the balloons”, and has followed up on these warnings with actions. Given Pyongyang’s stance towards the balloons and the desire for an improvement in inter-Korean relations, many South Koreans feel it may be time to re-evaluate the worth of these balloon launches. In a survey carried out by liberal South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh, 62.9% of the 500 questioned believed the South Korean government should block the release of these balloons, with 24.6% saying they thought the release of the balloons should be allowed, and 12.5% saying they weren’t sure.

Experts have said that the results show that the public’s priority is to prevent a potential clash with North Korea, as well as a desire to see an improvement in inter-Korean relations, as opposed to attempting to protect the freedom of expression or enlighten North Korean citizens. The results perhaps indicate that the feeling amongst South Koreans that the potential gain of distributing propaganda flyers to North Korean citizens is dwarfed by the potential harm it could have on inter-Korean relations.
Source : The Hankyoreh, The Hankyoreh

Japanese Nation Security Adviser to Visit S. Korea

The South Korean presidential office said on Monday that Japanese National Security Adviser Shotaro Yachi will make a two-day visit to South Korea this week for talks with his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-Jin. The two are expected to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia as well as issues of mutual concern during Yachi's visit on Tuesday and Wednesday. The visit is evidence of Japan’s efforts to repair bilateral relations and set up a summit between President Park Geun-Hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japanese-South Korean ties have long been strained over territorial issues; namely the claims to ownership of the Dokdo islets, as well as unresolved historical issues, such as the so-called South Korean ‘comfort women’ who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japan's World War II soldiers. South Korea has repeatedly urged Japanese leaders to face up to its history and make a formal apology for the use of South Korean sex slaves.

Before setting off for a trip to Italy, Abe said that the biennial summit of Asian and European leaders would provide a good chance for him to hold talks with Park. During her time in Italy, Park met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, as well as holding talks with her Danish and French counterparts on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting, held in Milan. However, the deep division between Japan and South Korea was highlighted by Park still not sitting down to have talks with Abe. Park has shunned a summit with Abe in the past, although they did meet in a trilateral summit with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague earlier this year; it was the first summit between Seoul and Tokyo in the best part of two years.
Source : Yonhap News

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