PN's Voice 51

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PN's Voice 51, 21-07-2015
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PN's Voice No. 51  21. 07. 2015 
Small steps, Road to peace


N. Korea Turns Down the South’s Invitation for Talks

North Korea rejected South Korea's recent offers for talks yesterday, claiming Seoul should first give up its confrontational policy toward Pyongyang. The North referred to the dialogue offers as the South's wicked attempts to politicize the inter-Korean talks, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"If the inter-Korean relations are to improve, an atmosphere where people can sit face-to-face should be first created," the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement. "But progress in inter-Korean ties cannot be expected due to the current situation." Pyongyang slammed Seoul for creating an unfavorable atmosphere for the talks, citing South Korean activists' practice of sending anti-North Korean leaflets to the North and a joint military exercise between the South and the United States.

South Korea had invited North Korea on Friday to join international security talks for vice defense ministers slated for September in Seoul, opening the door for a possible high-level meeting between the countries. South Korea had asked the North Korean Ministry of the People's Armed Forces to send a vice minister to the Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD); "Since the launch of the SDD in 2012, it is the first time South Korea has invited North Korea," a unification ministry official said. The invitation called on the North to "discuss a variety of agenda items on peace and security, as well as global issues," the official added.

The Unification Ministry voiced regret over the North's criticism, calling on North Korea to come to the talks for the improvement of the Seoul-Pyongyang relations. "We express deep regret that the North has rejected all of our proposals for the talks," Jeong Joon-Hee, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "It is highly regrettable that Pyongyang has disparaged Seoul's intents for pursuing the inter-Korean talks."Jeong stressed that there is no change in Seoul's stance that it will seek dialogue and cooperation with the North for better ties..
Source : Yonhaps News, KBS News


U.S. Prepared for N. Korea's ‘Destabilizing’ SLBM Threat

North Korea's development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles is "very destabilizing" to the security of the Asia-Pacific region and the United States is fully prepared to respond to any contingency situation, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Monday. The assurance by U.S. Navy Adm. Scott Swift came amid growing military threats on the Korean Peninsula, especially after North Korea's test-firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile in May.

In May, Pyongyang apparently succeeded in ejecting a dummy projectile from a newly built 2,000-ton submarine at a shipyard on the country’s eastern shore, a key early stage in SLBM development. Yet controversy persists over the program’s progress and even the authenticity of the test per se, though the South Korean military assesses that the North will likely be able to deploy a submarine equipped with a ballistic missile as early as within two years. It is very difficult to confirm the North's SLBM development due to a lack of transparency, the admiral said, refusing to say whether the test was real or only a photo shoot, as some critics claimed. Swift said in a meeting with select reporters at the U.S. military base in the Yongsan district of Seoul that "Even if it was a photo shoot, there was a desire to pursue that capability and that is very destabilizing. So we need to approach it as if it is real… we can’t afford to say there’s nothing there. We have to assume that there’s something there… We have to have a strategy for the worst case.” Swift confirmed that this is "is exactly the position that Gen. (Curtis) Scaparrotti (the commander of U.S. Forces Korea) has directed that we must assume it's real."

The Pacific Fleet commander is in Seoul to hold meetings with Adm. Choi Yoon-Hee, chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Jung Ho-sup as well as top U.S. envoy to Seoul Mark Lippert. The admiral stressed that given the uncertainly, the U.S. is confident with its ability to "respond to any contingency," also pledging a full U.S. commitment to safeguarding the region. "The only Navy that is more powerful than the Pacific Fleet is the U.S. Navy...So I am very confident that despite the uncertainly on the peninsula within the maritime domain we are fully prepared to support Gen. Scaparrotti and Chairman Choi and do whatever may be necessary as of the present and future." The Pacific Fleet is the Navy arm of the U.S. Pacific Command, which commands U.S. military operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, which covers nearly 50 percent of the world's entire surface area.
Source : The Korea Herald, Yonhap News


Japan's Mitsubishi Apologizes over WWII POW Slave Labour

As Japan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII one of the country’s biggest corporations, Mitsubishi, has made a landmark apology for using US prisoners of war as forced labour during World War Two. Mitsubishi has admitted to holding nearly 900 American prisoners-of-war when allied forces liberated its labor camps in 1945 during the final days of the war. A senior executive, Hikaru Kimura, expressed remorse at a ceremony in Los Angeles that prisoners had been put to work in mines operated by the firm. It is believed to be the first such apology by a Japanese company.

One of the few surviving former US prisoners forced to work in Japan was present to accept the apology. James Murphy, 94, said this was "a glorious day... for 70 years we wanted this." "I listened very carefully to Mr. Kimura's statement of apology and found it very very sincere, humble and revealing," he added. "We hope that we can go ahead now and have a better understanding, a better friendship and closer ties with our ally, Japan." Mr. Murphy told US media earlier that he spent a year at a copper mine near Hanawa, an experience he described as "a complete horror". "It was slavery in every way: no food, no medicine, no clothing, no sanitation," he said, adding that it was all the more galling to know that Mitsubishi built fighter aircraft used against American forces. He said that, while he had forgiven his captors, he still wanted the apology for his ordeal. Although no cash compensation is being offered by Mitsubishi, the apology was "a big deal", he had said.

Mitsubishi is acting independently of the Japanese government which has already issued a formal apology to American prisoners. Japanese government officials say that it is an important gesture ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in August. Correspondents say it is not clear why the apology has come so long after the war. Twenty-seven Americans died in the camps and others complained of lifelong health problems from grueling conditions, frequent beatings, poor sanitation, and lack of food and medical care. The American POWs worked alongside British, Chinese, Korean and Filipino prisoners. Mitsubishi has not offered financial compensation for forced laborers, but the company has faced lawsuits in South Korea and China.

Mitsubishi's move comes as the Japanese government attempts to move past the nation's war crimes and expand the role of its military for the first time since the war. Last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed a controversial security bill through Japan's lower house of Parliament, which gives the army and navy limited powers to fight abroad under certain conditions. The bill now moves to the upper house, where it is also expected to pass. Thousands of protestors stood outside the parliament building in Tokyo to protest the legislation, deemed a "war bill" by critics fearful of a return to the days of Imperial Japanese aggression. Abe's approval rating has plunged below 40%, the lowest since he was elected in 2012.
Source : CNN, BBC


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