PN's Voice 71

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PN's Voice 71, 11-02-2016
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PN's Voice No. 71   11. 02. 2016 
Small steps, Road to peace


South Korea Suspends Operations at Kaeseong

South Korea is to suspend operations at the jointly-run Kaeseong industrial park in North Korea following the North's recent rocket launch and nuclear test. Seoul said all operations at the complex would halt, to stop the North using its investment "to fund its nuclear and missile development". Kaesong is one of the last points of co-operation between the two Koreas and a key source of revenue for Pyongyang. It came as Japan imposed new sanctions against the North following the launch. South Korea, the US, Japan and others see Sunday's rocket launch - ostensibly to put a satellite into space - as cover for a banned test of missile technology.

"All our support and efforts... were taken advantage of by the North to develop its nuclear weapons and missile programmes," the South's Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo told reporters.

South Korea has said it will take all measures to ensure that its citizens can return home safely from Kaeseong. Presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk made the comments as the South began moving its personnel out of the factory park.
Source : BBC News, Yonhap News, Radio Free Asia


U.S. Senate Passes N. Korea Sanctions Legislation

U.S. senators voted unanimously to pass a strong North Korea sanctions bill yesterday, days after the North sparked global outrage with a banned missile launch following its fourth nuclear test. The Senate approved the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2016 in a 96-0 vote, demonstrating bipartisan support for a tough response to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests. The legislation calls for the mandatory blacklisting of those assisting Pyongyang with its nuclear and missile programs, human rights abuses, cyber attacks and other crimes. It is believed to be the strongest sanctions bill ever introduced in Congress against the isolated nation.

The bill now has to pass the House again before heading to President Obama, but House passage is seen as a formality. If passed by the House, it will be the first sanctions legislation exclusively targeting North Korea to pass both the House and the Senate. Many North Korea sanctions bills have been introduced, but none of them have passed both chambers.

"This legislation ...will use targeted sanctions to isolate Kim Jong-un and his top officials from the assets they maintain in foreign banks, and from the cash that sustains their weapons programs, their army, and their luxurious lifestyle," Rep. Ed Royce said. "It's an important response to North Korea's recent nuclear test and missile launch, and it's a break from President Obama's approach of 'strategic patience' that even the administration knows isn't working," he said.

In addition to imposing sanctions on those who contribute to the North's nuclear and missile development, other weapons of mass destruction programs, cyber attacks, import luxury goods into the country, continuing human rights abuses, money laundering, the manufacture of counterfeit goods or narcotics trafficking, the bill also targets Pyongyang's trade in minerals and precious metals, a key source of hard currency for Pyongyang.

Sen. Cory Gardner concluded the announcement by saying the bill was necessary as the "It is evident the regime's nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities are growing, not slowing.” However, some experts, such as Andrei Lankov, have expressed their doubt as to how effective the sanctions will be. Asked I he thought the sanctions could work this time Lankov replied “Of course not. North Koreans are not going to listen, as has always been the case…the efficiency of the sanctions is, to put it mildly, doubtful. The U.S. “secondary sanctions” are likely to be introduced soon…the North Korean leaders are not going to cancel their missile and nuclear programs simply because common North Koreans may have more difficult lives.”
Source : Yonhap News, Radio Free Asia


U.S. Says North Korea Has Restarted Plutonium Reactor

North Korea has restarted a plutonium reactor that could fuel a nuclear bomb and is seeking missile technology that could threaten the United States, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Tuesday. Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, joined Clapper to brief the Senate Armed Services Committee on the global dangers faced by U.S. planners. “North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and evolving missile programs are a continuing threat,” he said.

Clapper said the Kim Jong-un‘s secretive Pyongyang regime continues to develop cyber-espionage and cyber-attack capabilities, and has sold illegal weapons technology to other states. Last month, the regime tested what it said was a “hydrogen bomb,” but -- according to Clapper -- U.S. intelligence believes “the yield was too low for it to have been successful test of a staged thermonuclear device.” “Pyongyang continues to produce fissile material and develop a submarine launched ballistic missile,” Clapper told the lawmakers. “It is also committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that‘s capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, although the system has not been flight tested.”

Perhaps most worrying for the Americans, however, is North Korea’s resumption of plutonium production -- a sign it remains bent on producing a more powerful bomb despite international economic sanctions. “We further assess that North Korea has been operating the reactor long enough so that it could begin to recover plutonium from the reactor‘s spent fuel within a matter of weeks to months,” Clapper said.

North Korea mothballed the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord, but began renovating it after its third nuclear test in 2013. When fully operational, the reactor is capable of producing around six kilos (13 pounds) of plutonium a year -- enough for one nuclear bomb, experts say. However, last month, Washington-based think tank the Institute for Science and International Security said satellite images suggest the reactor is operating only intermittently and at low capacity.

A draft sanctions resolution prepared by Japan, South Korea and the United States has been in negotiations for weeks, but veto-wielding China, the North’s key ally, has been reluctant to back measures that would damage North Korea‘s already weak economy. “I don’t think there‘s any question that to the extent that anyone has leverage over North Korea, it’s China,” Clapper told the committee. The U.S. spy chief estimated that the otherwise impoverished state does 90 percent of its external trade with its giant neighbor China, which buys around $1.2 billion in coal from Pyongyang every year.
Source : The Korea Herald


U.S. Experts Say 'Strategic Patience is Over'

After North Korea launched its sixth satellite, or long-range missile, on Saturday, media reports suggest that U.S. experts of international politics seem to have given up all hope for changing Pyongyang's policy. Prevalent views among these gurus of regional politics are that Washington should put ultrahigh pressure on the North that exceed the sanctions it put on Iran before an agreement with the United States to abandon its nuclear programs.

"The recent nuclear test and missile launch have put an end to the possibility of improving the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea," Revere Evans, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency. "There is no room for passive approaches like ‘strategic patience' any longer in the face of escalating threats from North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles." Evans, also a former U.S. deputy mission chief in Seoul, said he could not rule out the possibility that Washington would turn toward changing the North Korean regime given Pyongyang's ability to increase its nuclear and missile capacity. "Some experts here think the only way to terminate the North's nuclear programs is put an end to its regime," he said. “This is a dangerous approach but the North Korean provocations and its pursuit of nuclear power have shut off room for all alternatives” said Evans. Evans said the allies should not only deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system but strengthen the joint military drills of the U.S., Japan and Korea, and put economic, financial and political sanctions on the North. "They should block oil supplies to the North, interrupt its access to the international financial system and adopt a ‘secondary boycott' of banks, businesses and individuals that deal with North Korea," Evans said.

Other experts agrees with Evans’ view; Robert Manning, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, agreed, saying, "The U.S., Korea and Japan will need to take strong measures in ways to drastically increase costs for the North's nuclear and missile development." Alan Romberg, a researcher at the Stimson Center, said North Korea has already crossed an important line or is on the border line, and the Obama administration has no other choices but to cope with it on a different dimension. "As direct military sanctions accompany too huge a cost, however, the U.S. administration would avoid them," he was quoted as saying.

However, Victor Cha, chief Korea analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has returned from "track two" (private) contact with the North, expressed concerns about escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula. "Sanctions may be important but we are entering into a dangerous phase," Cha said. "Regional countries conducting nuclear tests, and then having military exercises against them without any channel of dialogue are highly likely to lead to a misjudgment and likely raise the tension to an unthinkable level."
Source : The Korea Times


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