PN's Voice 57

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PN's Voice 57, 22-10-2015
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PN's Voice No. 57  22. 10. 2015 
Small steps, Road to peace

Return of Peace Network's English Newsletter
After a brief hiatus, Peace Network’s English newsletter is back! In addition to the usual summary of selected news articles, I’d like to share a link to a recently completed English essay by Peace Network’s Olly Terry and Yang Subin on landmines on the Korean peninsula.
Essay Link: Landmines: The Never-Ending War (Essay)


North-South Korea Hold Separated Family Reunions


South Koreans crossed the border with North Korea on Tuesday, 20th October to meet family members they had not seen since the 1950-53 Korean War. After the negotiated end to a recent armed confrontation across the border, the two Koreas agreed to restart the reunions. The reunion of 90 South Koreans and 96 North Koreans, the 20th of its kind, was held at the Geumggang Mountain resort in the North. However, their reunions were painfully brief; just 12 hours (six 2 hour sessions over 3 days). South Korea has repeatedly called for more reunions, which are widely viewed as a barometer of relations. But given the fluctuating political tensions on the peninsula, only 18,800 Koreans have been allowed to participate in the previous 19 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 1985, when the first gatherings were held, with more than 65,000 South Koreans currently on the waiting list.

A guide book distributed to the elderly South Koreans chosen by lottery to meet family members includes a long list of dos and don'ts – mostly don'ts. The booklet provided by the Red Cross, which organizes the reunions, advises South Korean participants not to press for answers on topics such as the North's political leadership or living standards. After staying overnight at a resort near the border and undergoing medical check-ups, the South Koreans boarded buses which drove through the heavily-fortified land border. The reunions are politically important for the South, where 66,000 people are on a waiting list to see long-lost relatives, a number that is shrinking fast, while the North also seeks to maximize their domestic propaganda value. On Tuesday, some visitors from the South carried prewar photographs to help their siblings recognize them. They had also packed photographs of their hometowns and of the grave sites of dead relatives, as well as underwear, medicine, cash and other gifts. After the last reunion, in February 2012, some South Koreans complained that their Northern relatives had felt obliged to deliver lengthy political sermons parroting Pyongyang's official propaganda. Others said they seemed more interested in what gifts they had brought than in talking about their family history or catching up with the lost decades.
Source : The New York Times, The International Business Times


S. Korea Open to Talks with N. Korea on “Every Issue”

South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-Pyo said on Wednesday that South Korea is willing to talk with North Korea on all issues of mutual concern if dialogues resume. Hong said the government is conducting an internal review on specific agenda items and the level of discussions, but those have to be finalized through consultations with North Korea.

After two South Korean soldiers were maimed by a landmine on August 4th, the two Koreas were in a state of heightened tensions. These tensions were eventually eased by the August 25th deal. In the deal the two Koreas agreed to hold talks "between their authorities in Pyongyang or Seoul at an early date to improve inter-Korean ties and have multifaceted dialogue and negotiations in the future." However, Minister Hong said in a recent forum in Seoul that there "has been no big progress yet in (efforts to open) government-level talks." He added that the government "partly understands" a call for expanding economic cooperation with the North to help keep the momentum created by the August 25th agreement. Inter-Korean trade, expect that conducted in the Kaeseong complex, is currently prohibited as part of the May 24th sanctions; unilaterally sanctions against North Korea applied by the South after one of their vessels, the Cheonan, was sunk by a missile, allegedly fired by North Korea in 2010. Minister Hong said that a "responsible" step needs to be taken by against Pyongyang in order to lift the sanctions. Hong’s words seem to suggest that the South is cautiously positive and enthusiastic about engaging with North Korea to work towards better North-South relations.

On the Pyongyang-Beijing relationship, Hong pointed out that it has repeatedly gone through ups and downs every a few years. The relations between the two sides appear to be warming with a visit to Pyongyang by Liu Yunshan, the ruling Communist Party's fifth-ranked official, earlier this month. Liu made the trip to North Korea to attend a massive military parade, becoming the highest-level Chinese official to travel there in years. "It seems like North Korea-China relations have recovered faster than expected as North Korea showed an active attitude (toward China) on the occasion of the (Oct. 10) military parade," Hong said.
Source : Yonhap News


Russian Envoy: N.K. Demand for Peace Treaty Worthy of Attention

It is worth taking note of North Korea's renewed demands for a peace treaty with the United States, Moscow's top envoy to Seoul said, in clear contrast to the positions of Seoul and Washington. North Korea has called for peace treaty talks with the U.S., claiming the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War does not ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula. Both Seoul and Washington have rejected the proposal as a ploy to divert attention away from its nuclear weapons program, which they say should be dismantled first before talks for a peace treaty can begin. "In my personal view, it is certainly worth taking note of proposals that aim to strengthen peace on the Korean Peninsula," Ambassador Alexander Timonin said in an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday. "The cease-fire situation hampers sufficient cooperation between South and North."

Russia is a member of the now-suspended six-party talks that produced a deal in 2005 to end North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for economic and political concessions. As Pyongyang backtracked on the agreement, Seoul and Washington have demanded the communist country first demonstrate its commitment to its obligations to restart the negotiations. "I believe the resumption of the six-party denuclearization talks should not be linked to any preconditions," Timonin said. "That's why I think Pyongyang's proposal (for peace treaty talks) is worth taking note. I think this proposal could contribute to building an environment for trust on the Korean Peninsula."

The ambassador stressed that Moscow has fully supported the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, an issue on which Russia and South Korea have "very similar positions."
Source : Yonhap News


Major Takeaways from Park Geun-Hye's Visit to Washington

South Korea and the United States reaffirmed their alliance and set out new areas for cooperation during President Park’s visit to Washington last week. Park met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, marking her second official visit to the United States during her tenure as president. The two discussed a range of issues such as bilateral defense, economic, and political cooperation with the United States, South Korea’s most important ally.

On Friday, following Park’s meetings with Obama, the two leaders released two joint statement: “The United States-Republic of Korea Alliance: Shared Values, New Frontiers,” a general statement on the state of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and its future, and “United States-Republic of Korea Joint Statement on North Korea,” a more specific statement on how the alliance will handle denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and North Korean provocations. Park and Obama agreed to maintain and deepen the U.S.-South Korea alliance, reaffirming several important bilateral developments on that front over the past year. They affirmed last October’s agreement on the postponement of the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON), South Korea’s development of a preemptive Kill-Chain and Korean Air Missile Defense system, and the “common goal” of “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner.” The joint statement also contains a detailed range of bilateral commitments on cybersecurity collaboration between the two countries. Notably, the issue of a possible deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to counter North Korean ballistic missiles did not make an appearance in the joint statement. China has been particularly sensitive to the possible deployment of THAAD systems on the Korean peninsula. In March, Chinese and South Korean diplomatic representatives exchanged sharp words over the issue.

During a joint news conference on Friday, Obama and Park addressed possible diplomatic approaches to North Korea. “At the point where Pyongyang says we’re interested in seeing relief from sanctions and improved relations and we’re prepared to have a serious conversation,” Obama noted, suggesting that the U.S. position on talks with North Korea may have softened from the earlier U.S. position that North Korea would have to take action to demonstrate a bona fide interest in diplomacy. Park echoed Obama’s remarks, noting, through a translator, that “you need to have this genuine willingness on the part of North Korea that they will give up nuclear capabilities.” Regardless, both leaders noted that they would never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.

Interestingly, when China came up at the joint press conference, Obama made it abundantly clear that the United States didn’t see South Korean closeness with China as a negative. Park’s participation at China’s September 3 military parade raised concerns about Beijing’s intentions toward Seoul. ”We want South Korea to have a strong relationship with China, just as we want to have a strong relationship with China. We want to see China’s peaceful rise. We want them to be cooperating with us in putting pressure on the DPRK,” Obama noted.

Overall, Park’s visit to the United States and the result of her talks with Obama highlight that the U.S.-South Korea alliance is as healthy as ever and the bilateral relationship continues to broaden. In fact, beyond what I’ve mentioned here, the joint statement notes cooperation on the environment, climate change, space exploration, science and technology, and cultural exchange. There’s no doubt that Washington continues to see Seoul as central to its position in the Asia-Pacific. Meanwhile, South Korea continues to acknowledge that both its security and regional relevance will be buttressed by ongoing coordination and cooperation with the United States. From here, it’ll be worth watching how Seoul’s burgeoning dialogue with Beijing affects its alliance with the United States. China won’t substitute what Seoul and Washington have, but it may increasingly set the parameters for what is possible within the alliance.
Source : The Diplomat


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