PN's Voice 35

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 35, 23-03-2015
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PN's Voice No. 35, 23.03.2015 
Small steps, Road to peace 

NK Refuses to Apologize over Cheonan Sinking

North Korea refuses to apologize over its torpedo attack on warship Cheonan, calling for the South to reinvestigate the case, the North's top ruling body said on Tuesday."Pyongyang has nothing to do with the incident," the North's National Defense Commission said in a statement. This appears to be yet another blow for hopes of improving inter-Korean relations this year.

The tragedy took place near the West Sea border in March 26, 2010, killing 46 South Korean sailors. Following the incident, the South took punitive measures, namely the May 24 sanctions, against the North, effectively suspending all inter-Korean joint projects, except for the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The sanctions, imposed by former president Lee Myung-Bak in 2010, left inter-Korean relations at their worst in decades. Pyongyang has since demanded the Seoul government lift the sanction to improve their flawed relations.

The South has been putting more pressure on the North as it marks the fifth anniversary of the March 26 tragedy this week. The North's commission, however, argued that the South "cooked up" the Cheonan story in a bid to nullify the two inter-Korean summit deals in 2000 and 2007. "The warship sinking case and the ‘May 24 sanctions’ taken by them in its wake were a vivid manifestation of the anti-reunification acts," said the policy department of the organ directly headed by leader Kim Jong-Un."If the South Korean authorities truly wish for the improvement of the North-South relations, they should bear in mind that they have to move first to lift the measure," it added.
Source : The Korea Herald, The Korea Times

Civic Group Suspends Leaflet Campaign

Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK), a civic group known for its launch of propaganda filled balloons denouncing the North Korean ruling dynasty, has announced that it will temporarily suspend its plan to fly leaflets across the border.
Park Sang-Hak, president of FFNK, told KBS that he would stop the leaflet campaign altogether if the North acknowledged its responsibility for the Cheonan incident and offered an apology. Park, however, did set an ultimatum to the North; apologize for the Cheonan by Thursday, or his group will send the anti-Pyongyang leaflets as scheduled..

The group and some other conservative civic groups had originally planned to send half-a-million leaflets and USB drives, including the movie The Interview, to the North around Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the Cheonan’s sinking.

Park's announcement to suspend the launch came amid growing threats from North Korea of retaliation against the anti-Pyongyang leaflet campaign. In a message carried out by Pyongyang's state-controlled Korean Central News Agency, Sunday, the North warned that it will shoot down balloons transporting propaganda if the South Korean activists carry out the launch. The message went on to say “Responding physically against the launch of the propaganda balloons is a justified act of self-defense. If South Korea launches a strike on the source of our physical countermeasure, we will follow it with secondary and tertiary punitive strikes,” North Korea said.

Seoul has responded to both Park Sang-Hak’s ultimatum and brimming tensions with the North over Pyeongyang’s failure to apologize for the sinking of the Cheonan, as well as the threats over the propaganda balloons launches by banning any launches. In the past, South Korea has avoided intervening in the balloon launches, citing the importance of “freedom of expression” in a democratic society. However, the South has overturned that ruling this time and has stepped in to block the launch, saying there is a “limit” to the freedom of expression. South Korea’s unification ministry made the call on Friday citing the need to protect local residents:
“If such a movement is detected in advance, the government will take necessary measures because it may threaten the security of residents there,” ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-Cheol told reporters.
Source : KBS News, The Hankyoreh, The Guardian

U.S. urges N.K. to Abandon Nuclear Weapons after N.K. Ambassador Threatens Nuclear Strike

The United States urged North Korea on Monday to abide by its international obligations and give up its nuclear program after Pyongyang's top envoy to London warned that the communist nation is prepared to fire nuclear missiles.

The North's ambassador, Hyon Hak-Bong, made the remark in an interview with Sky News, saying, "It is not the United States that has a monopoly on nuclear weapons strikes" and the North would launch a nuclear attack only in the event of an American first strike.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf commented on the threats saying, "There's obviously an overwhelming international consensus against North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We have called on North Korea to abandon both programs in a complete verifiable and irreversible manner. This is required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and we remain fully prepared to deter, defend against and respond to the threat posed by North Korea. Obviously, we're steadfast in our commitment to the defense of not only the United States but our allies and our interests in the region," she said. Asked for further comments on the North's claim it has nuclear weapons, Harf said it is no secret, and that “There's a reason we're working to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula."

South Korea’s Defense Minister Han Min-Koo responded to the North’s threats with promises of Monday “swift and stern counterattacks” against possible provocations by North Korea. Han pointed out that that Pyongyang “has been looking for any excuses for future provocations while making threats against (South Korea’s) leaflets campaign.”

The conclusion of the group’s letter hinted at the potential legacy Obama could leave behind if he were to change tact towards North Korea; “Dear President Obama, as a Nobel Peace Laureate, it behooves you to take steps to make peace, to normalize the relations between the U.S. and North Korea, which the North Korean leadership has repeatedly indicated it desires so ardently. This could end the 70 years of enmity between the two countries. In so doing, you can help to bring about peace, denuclearization, an economic upswing, and eventual re-unification of the two Koreas.”
Source : The Korea Observer, Yonhap News

S. Korea, China and Japan’s Foreign Ministers Meet & Agree Trilateral Summit

The foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan, which have repeatedly stood in confrontation and conflict with each other due to different interpretations of history and to territorial issues surrounding their islands, gathered for the first time in three years. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida attended a ministerial meeting of the three countries at Shilla Hotel in Seoul on March 21 and announced a joint statement to the press saying, "We agreed to make an effort to hold a trilateral summit at the earliest convenient time for all three countries." They also said, "We expect to restore trilateral cooperation and we shared views that the trilateral cooperation system should be maintained and developed as an important framework for cooperation."

The latest meeting was assessed as an opportunity to restore the framework for improved relations among the three countries. But it also reconfirmed the grim reality that the three countries clearly had different views on regional issues and on improving relations. Thus, some experts claim the significance of the latest meeting was that the meeting was actually held rather than providing any results..

Seoul’s approach to the meeting was to separate the issue of a trilateral summit, which it sees as necessary in the near future, from bilateral issues such as Tokyo’s failure to acknowledge the forcible drafting of “comfort women” to serve as sex slaves to the imperial Japanese military. Due to Seoul’s stance, whether trilateral summit is held or not will largely depend on how much China and Japan can narrow their differences. Kishida stressed the “importance of a trilateral summit to make this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of [World War II] and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Japan, into a more meaningful year”, but did not mention any unresolved historical issues. In contrast, Wang went after Japan aggressively on historical issues throughout the meeting; “We are aware that Japan wants a summit, but rather than time, we need to create the necessary conditions.” “Historical issues are issues that cannot be avoided,” he declared. He then issued a message to Japan with a Chinese message that translates as “see history properly and open up the future.”
Source : The Hankyoreh, The Kyunghyang Shinmun

Our readers may also be interested in the following articles:

The Diplomat's article on the tricky position Seoul finds itself in as S. Korea is caught in the middle of Chinese and US interests over the controversial THAAD missile defence system:The Diplomat

38 North answers criticism of its recent paper on predicitions on North Korea's Nuclear Future:38 North

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