PN's Voice 33

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PN's Voice 33, 10-03-2015
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PN's Voice No. 33, 10.03.2015 
Small steps, Road to peace 


Chinese FM Hints at Summit with N. Korea

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has hinted at the possibility of a summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un this year. After a session of the National People's Congress last Sunday, Wang told reporters that a bilateral summit between the two countries can be held at "a mutually convenient time." The most convenient time for Xi and Kim to meet could well be the 70th anniversary celebration of Russia's World War II victory in Moscow in May or in China in September. Wang went on to describe the China-North Korea relationship as having “a strong foundation”, and that the relationship “should not and will not be affected by temporary events."

"Political ties between North Korea and China have been strained, particularly after the North's third nuclear test in February 2013 and high-level exchanges between Pyongyang and Beijing have completed halted since the execution of Kim Jong-Un’s uncle, Jang Song-Taek, in December 2013. Despite a cooling in relations China remains the North’s only formal ally, although Pyongyang has recently been seeking to deepen both diplomatic and economic ties with Russia.

Kim Jong-Un has yet to meet any foreign heads of state since coming to power three years ago, including China, although Russia has said that Kim would attend the aforementioned May 7th Russian celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. Additionally, Xi broke with tradition by visiting South Korea before visiting the North. However, China did send Liu Yunshan, the fifth-ranking member of the Politburo, to the North Korean Embassy in Beijing to pay his respects on the third anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-Il's death in December.
Source : NK News, Donga Ilbo, Reuters


Ambassador Lippert Set to Leave Hospital

The U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, is set to leave hospital this afternoon after recovering from last Thursday’s assault. Lippert was left needing 80 stitches in his face and wrist after being violently attacked by a knife wielding assailant during a breakfast conference in Seoul on Korean reunification.

The assailant, 55 year old Kim Ki-Jong, allegedly shouted “stop the joint military drills!” and “the two Koreas must be reunited!” during the attack, in an apparent reference to his belief that the US stood in the way of that aim. Kim has been described in some quarters as a professed nationalist, a North Korean sympathizer and a radical activist, with a history of erratic outbursts of violence including throwing a concrete block at the Japanese Ambassador and burning the US flag.

North Korea issued a commentary through its state-run Korean Central News Agency calling the assault "deserved punishment for warmonger United States" and praising the assailant for delivering “a knife-attack shower of justice” to Lippert, although Kim claims he acted alone without support from the North. South Korea and the US were quick to condemn not only the act itself but the North’s response to it. Official statements made by both Seoul and Washington have been quick to reaffirm their commitment to the US-South Korean alliance and stated that the joint-military drills will continue. Many experts speaking in the wake of the incident have suggested that the attack is likely to prove counter-intuitive to its aims. Far from revealing gaps in the U.S.-South Korea alliance or growing discord over the drills, the incident is likely to strengthen South Korean feelings of support for the alliance with the United States," he wrote.
Source : Radio Free Asia, The New York Times, The Diplomat


Mixed Messages from Seoul & Washington over THAAD

The deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula is the subject of “constant” discussions with the South Korean government, according to a Pentagon Press Secretary said. “We all recognize the importance of the capability,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said at a February 10th briefing when asked if the deployment was being discussed with Seoul. “There’s constant discussions and certainly with our South Korean allies about that,” Kirby added. “It’s important capability. It‘s one that we talk to them about,” he continued.
The remarks suggest that the US is continuing to press Seoul on the THAAD deployment issue. The message marks a change from Washington, which previously maintained that no official discussions were taking place. US ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert called the matter a “non-issue” in late January, while Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Feb. 9 that there had been “no decision” and “no active discussions” on it.

South Korea, however, yesterday reaffirmed its long-held stance of not purchasing an advanced missile-defense battery from the US, despite growing calls from its ruling party lawmakers to introduce it to better guard against North Korea's missiles. South Korean defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said “the defense ministry has no plan to purchase a THAAD system.” However Kim did go on to state the potential benefits of deploying THAAD and refused to close the door completely on its deployment, “basically, the system would be useful to better defend the country from missiles from North Korea but we will make a judgment by putting the national interest as our top priority." Kim’s words echo those of Han Min-Koo, the defense minister, who has also publically spoken in the past of the potential security benefits that THAAD could bring to South Korea, although the country isn’t planning on buying the system.

The issue has been the focus of attention in South Korea as the move is seen by critics as part of a broader US attempt to get the Asian ally to join its missile-defense (MD) system. But instead of joining the U.S. system, South Korea has been developing its own Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), a low-tier air defense program, and the Kill Chain, which is designed to launch strikes right after signs are detected of imminent nuclear or missile provocations by Pyongyang. Opponents of THAAD also highlight the impact on South Korea’s relationship with its neighbors if the system were to be employed. China and Russia see the move as a threat to their security interests and have both repeatedly expressed concern and opposition at THAAD’s deployment in South Korea. However, those supporting THAAD’s deployment, such as lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party, say that its essential to ensure the safety of South Korean citizens, as well as that of the US troops who are stationed in the South.
Defense ministry spokesman Kim was keen to stress that the South would aim to “establish an MD system of its own against North Korea's ballistic missiles by developing L-SAM and M-SAM surface-to-air missiles." The mixed messages coming out of Seoul and Washington have only acted to further perpetuate the theory that the two governments could be discussing the issue behind the scenes.
Source : Yonhap News, The Hankyoreh


UN Pressures N. Korea Over Abductions

Marzuki Darusman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea has urged “sustained and resolute action” from the international community to pressure the North over its abductions of foreign nationals. Darusman made the call in a report submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Monday ahead of an official briefing at the UN Human Rights Council next week.

Darusman said in the report that after the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) concluded last year that crimes against humanity were committed in the North, Pyongyang appeared, for a while, to cooperate with the UN, but has since backtracked. Darusman said efforts to improve human rights in the North should be made simultaneously with endeavors to refer those responsible for the crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court. He said in order to realize those aims, light should be shed on all cases of abductions and forced disappearances committed by North Korean agents.

The COI’s report last year said that the North systematically engaged in the abduction of foreigners beginning in 1950 and has refused to return the abductees to their homeland which has resulted in a large number of forced disappearances. North Korean agents abducted hundreds of foreign citizens from the 1960s to the 1990s, mostly from Japan, China and South Korea, the report states, but a commission of inquiry into North Korea’s human rights practices also recorded abductions of people from Lebanon, Malaysia, Romania, Singapore and Thailand, and possibly other countries. The Japanese authorities have identified 12 abducted citizens who still have not been returned to Japan, but they are investigating 881 other possible abductions, Darusman said.
Source : NK News, The New York Times


S. Korea Writes to UNSC Regarding N. Korea's Missile Launches

South Korea has sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee to raise issue with the North’s recent missile launches. A Seoul official said on Monday that in the letter, the government called for proper measures to be taken in response to the North’s missile launches, pointing out that launches of ballistic missiles are in violation of the UNSC resolutions. The government sent a similar letter to the sanctions committee when the North launched ballistic missiles between February and March, and between June and July last year.

South Korea has sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee to raise issue with the North’s recent missile launches. A Seoul official said on Monday that in the letter, the government called for proper measures to be taken in response to the North’s missile launches, pointing out that launches of ballistic missiles are in violation of the UNSC resolutions. The government sent a similar letter to the sanctions committee when the North launched ballistic missiles between February and March, and between June and July last year.
Source : KBS News


Our readers may also be interested in the following articles:

The Independent’s report on how the North-South Korean divide is still strong even amongst Korean expats living in New Malden, UK; Europe’s biggest Korean community:The Guardian

Daily NK’s look into economic and political reform in North Korea:Daily NK

The Diplomat’s analysis of what South Korea’s New Ambassador to China should be aiming for: The Diplomat


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