PN's Voice 42

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 42, 14-05-2015
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PN's Voice No. 42  14.05.2015 
Small steps, Road to peace

N. Korean Defense Minister Executed

South Korea's main intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service, reported on Wednesday that the North executed its defense chief, Hyon Yong-Chol, late last month with an anti-aircraft gun for showing disloyalty to leader Kim Jong-Un. Hyun, 66, was punished for dozing off when leader Kim was delivering a speech at a military event last month, talking back to the leader, failing to carry out his instructions, and expressing complaints about him, according to the NIS.

South Korea responded to the news on Thursday by saying it will closely monitor the political situation in North Korea following reports that its defense chief was purged. The Ministry of Unification said that it will keep close tabs on the situation to gauge the alleged execution's implication on inter-Korean ties. "For now, it is hard to predict its effect. But Seoul will closely monitor the related situation and manage the inter-Korean relations in a stable manner," said a ministry official, asking not to be named.

The US State Department reacted to the news by saying North Korea's alleged execution of a top military official, if confirmed, would show "another extremely brutal act" by the North. "We've seen the press reports about the execution of North Korean officials. I'm not in a position to confirm any of those specifics. But these disturbing reports, if they are true, describe another extremely brutal act by the North Korean regime," said the State Department's acting deputy spokesperson, Jeff Rathke. "And these reports, sadly, are not the first in this regard," he said.

Seoul also called on Pyongyang to end its threatening rhetoric and military provocations against the South. North Korea held a firing drill Wednesday near the tensely guarded western sea border with South Korea in the latest of a series of tension-escalating military maneuvers. "The North should end its condemnation of the South and threatening rhetoric, which are not helpful for inter-Korean relations," the official said. He said that there is no change in Seoul's stance over inter-Korean dialogue, adding that the South will spur civilian exchanges to build trust.

North Korea has often carried out public executions in what critics say is aimed at instituting a reign of terror to consolidate Kim's grip on power that he inherited upon the death of his father and long-time leader, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011. In 2013, Kim ordered the execution of his once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, who was accused of treason, a shocking purge that drew widespread condemnation and sparked concerns over possible instability. Since taking power, Kim has had about 70 senior officials executed, according to the NIS.
Source : Yonhap News, Yonhap News, The Korea Herald

N. Korea Conducts Live-Fire Drill Near NLL

North Korea conducted live-fire drills near its western maritime border with the South late last night. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North fired about 130 rounds between 9pm-10.30pm on Wednesday night near waters north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), but none of them crossed the disputed maritime border. The drills started about six hours after the North had notified the South of its plans.

The South Korean military convened an emergency counterattack force immediately after the firing began and upgraded its military response position. South Korea's military authorities said the drill was a clear attempt to raise tensions, warning that the South's military is in a combat-ready posture in preparation for additional provocations.
Kim Moon-sung, the ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-Sung called for the South’s for military's to adopt a watertight defense posture. "Since the North Korean regime is unpredictable from a common-sense standpoint, provocations of any kinds are likely at any time," Kim said during a meeting of senior party members. Additionally, many experts point to a growing stability in the North Korean regime's internal power structure and increasing opposition to the Kim Jong-Un regime, the ruling party chief said. "These conditions significantly raised the possibility of North Korea launching provocations in order to quell internal discontent."

The Northern Limit Line is a western maritime border that South Korea has patrolled since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North does not recognize the border and insists upon a demarcation line that lies south of the Northern Limit Line, encroaching deeply into waters controlled by the South. Thus, the maritime border has often been the scene of skirmishes in recent years. North Korea also held a live-fire drill in waters north of the NLL at the end of March last year, when some of the rounds fell south of the NLL.
Source : Yonhap News, KBS News, The New York Times

Call for S. Korea to Enhance its Submarines Grows Stronger

North Korea's successful simulated ballistic missile launch from a new Sinpo-class submarine (2,000t) has ignited voices calling for South Korea to enhance the fighting power of its naval submarines. The waters of Northeast Asia have long been a battleground of submarines from neighboring countries.

As North Korea concentrates on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), the underwater military landscape in Northeast Asia is expected to undergo a significant change. North Korea has more than seventy Romeo-class (1800t) submarines and submersibles in operation. Romeo-class submarines are loud and often taunted as an "underwater coffin" but their capacity cannot be ignored. These submarines are responsible for mine laying, surface attacks, and supporting the infiltration operations of special warfare units.

Military authorities believe North Korea only has one new Sinpo-class submarine, but if Pyongyang increases the number according to its needs, it will be that much harder to monitor and strike. Experts claim that the Sinpo-class submarine is restricted in operating submarine-launched ballistic missiles because it is not big, and even suggest the possibility that the North may build larger submarines of over 3,000 tons.

The United States is expected to increase the frequency of nuclear submarines in ROK-US and US-Japan joint exercises, since submarines are best to track submarines. The U.S. has 72 strategic nuclear submarines. If U.S. submarines become more active, this will inevitably provoke China to respond. China has long utilized its submarines as a key strategy in realizing their anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy, a plan which blocks the military forces of other powerful countries to stay in a territory which China sees as its scope of influence. In recent years, China stationed an additional strategic nuclear submarine (Jin-class) equipped with the JL-2 ballistic missiles, which have a range of over 8,000km. China also has 65-70 new diesel submarines and nuclear submarines in operation.

In the case of Japan, it is engaging in an aggressive operation of submarines according to its new defense concept. Reportedly, Japan plans to increase its 18 submarines in four submarine units to 22 submarines in six units. If North Korea manages to add the submarine-launched ballistic missiles to its naval forces, Japan is expected to respond by adopting new maritime forces. Eventually, this will further fuel the arms race in Northeast Asia.
Source : The Kyunghyang Shinmun, The Hankyoreh

Civic Group Plans to Arrange Family Visits to North

A South Korean civic group will push to allow families separated by the Korean War to visit the graves of their ancestors in the North around the Chuseok holiday. The Korean Assembly for the Reunion of Ten Million Separated Families (KARTS) announced the plan during a press conference at the Press Center in central Seoul on Wednesday.
KARTS will select candidates from separated families who are over the age of 80 and arrange three four-day trips to the North between August and October. Chuseok, a traditional harvest festival observed in both Koreas, falls on September 8 this year. The holiday centers on family and visiting the graves of ancestors is a common ritual.
A Ministry of Unification official said the ministry will review the project if KARTS makes an official request and files the necessary documents, including written consent from the North. The two Koreas have allowed reunions between separated families nearly 20 times since 2000, but only through the Red Cross.
Source : KBS News

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