PN's Voice 128

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 128, 28.02.2018
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PN's Voice No. 128,  28. 02. 2018 
Small steps, Road to peace

NK Providing Syria with Materials for Chemical Weapons Factories 

North Korea has been sending equipment to Syria that could be used in chemical weapons manufacturing UN experts have found. The materials include acid-resistant tiles, valves and pipes, reports say. An as-yet-unreleased UN report also says Pyongyang's missile specialists have been seen at Syrian weapon-making facilities, the New York Times reported. he allegations come after fresh reports of chlorine gas being used by Syrian forces, which the regime denies. North Korea is already under international sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Wall Street Journal reports that the materials were sent via five shipments were sent to Syria via a Chinese trading firm during late 2016 and early 2017, the Wall Street Journal says. They are allegedly part of dozens of shipments over several years. The Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) - a Syrian government agency - is said to have paid North Korea via a number of front companies, the newspaper reports. A report compiled by the UN Panel of Experts, which assesses North Korea's compliance with UN resolutions. In a September 2017 report, which is publicly available, the group said it was "investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation" between Syria and North Korea. 

The Syrian government is reported to have told the UN panel that the only North Koreans present in Syria are sports coaches and athletes. Syria signed up to the Chemical Weapons Convention and agreed to have its declared chemical weapons stock destroyed in 2013 after a sarin gas attack killed hundreds of people in Ghouta. It has been accused of repeatedly using banned chemical weapons in the civil war since then. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that sarin nerve gas was used in Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, last April in an incident that killed more than 80 people. UN investigators said the Syrian air force was to blame. 

Experts say that North Korea has long offered military supplies and weapons know-how around the world in exchange for cash. The UN report is said to highlight its efforts to illicitly trade with dozens of countries and groups in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America. Syria and North Korea have decades-old military ties. 
Source: BBC News 

Moon Urges U.S.-N. K. Talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday the United States should lower its bar for bilateral talks with North Korea, adding that it is important to have such dialogue moving forward first. "The United States needs to lower its bar for dialogue and the North, too, must show its willingness to denuclearize," the president said. "It is important so that the U.S. and North Korea may sit down face to face," Moon added. 

The remarks came one day after the South Korean president held a surprising meeting with Kim Yong-chol, a senior official of the North's ruling Workers' Party who is believed to have masterminded a 2010 attack against a South Korean naval warship that killed 46 sailors. Kim, who is currently heading an eight-member North Koran delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, was quoted as saying that his country has "enough" willingness to hold talks with the United States. 

It marked the first sign that North Korea is interested in talking to the U.S. in years. However, just hours earlier on the same day, the North's Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said there will be no face-to-face meeting with officials from the Donald Trump administration "in 100 or even 200 years." Washington said later on Sunday it will first see if Kim's message represented the North's first step toward denuclearization. 

The possibility of talks between the U.S. and North Korea follows the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue last month after a two-year hiatus. "Recently, North Korea has been showing a willingness to actively seek North Korea-U.S. dialogue while the U.S., too, is talking about the need for dialogue," Moon said. He asked for China's support to realize U.S.-North Korea talks at an early date. 
Source: Yonhap News, The New York Times, Reuters 

US Links talks to NK Denuclearization

The United States says any dialogue with North Korea must have nuclear disarmament as the end goal. The US comments were in response to The North indicating on the last day of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang it was ready for talks. In the past North Korea has said it will not accept any preconditions. Reports about the North's willingness to speak to the US emerged after a meeting of its officials with the South Korean president before the Games' closing ceremony on Sunday. US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka also attended the ceremony but she is not expected to talk with any North Koreans, even though she sat a few feet from their main envoy, Gen Kim Yong-chol, at the Olympic Stadium. 

The revelation of a North Korean willingness for talks came via the he South Korean presidency and came just hours after a furious statement from the North that described fresh sanctions announced by Washington as "an act of war". The rapprochement between the two Koreas has been seen as a move by the North to drive a wedge between the South and the US. 

South Korean media is abuzz with suggestions that North-US talks could still take place while the respective delegations are in town. The BBC's Laura Bicker, in Pyeongchang, asked an official from South's government if the meeting could take place in the next two days, and the answer was: "We will see." Meanwhile, Allison Hooker - a Koreas specialist from the US National Security Council - is part of the US delegation. She met Gen Kim in 2014 in North Korea, as the US tried to free two American detainees. The scene could be set for a more low-key meeting than a failed attempt with US Vice-President Mike Pence. He had been set to meet Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean President Kim Jong-un, at the start of the Games but the meeting was cancelled inexplicably by the North Koreans, according to the US officials. North Korea made no comment. 
Source: BBC News, Reuters 

Ivanka Trump Calls for 'Maximum Pressure' on NK

Ivanka Trump led a US delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in an effort to show a softer side of US diplomacy on the peninsula while calling for maximum pressure to be put on North Korea. Trump watched snowboarding events in Pyeongchang with South Korea’s first lady, Kim Jung-sook, and foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha. Her trip comes less than two weeks after Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, visited the South and largely overshadowed US vice president Mike Pence.

At a dinner on Friday, Ivanka Trump’s message of “maximum pressure” seemed to clash with South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s strategy of denuclearisation through dialogue. Experts have said the North’s recent diplomatic overtures are aimed at driving a wedge between Washington and Seoul, and the mixed messages suggested there may be tension between the allies, which some experts have argued is exactly what Pyongyang’s recent rapprochement tactics have aimed for. 

As Ivanka Trump landed in Seoul, the US announced a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang in an effort to curb the country’s nuclear and missile programs. The measures targeted 27 shipping and trading companies, 28 vessels and one person, all suspected of helping North Korea circumvent current sanctions. Washington’s hard line emerged as the dominant theme of Trump’s trip, with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters: “We are going to continue a campaign of maximum pressure, the latest sanctions are the strongest that we have had on North Korea. We are going to continue in that form.” The US is “going to ask all of our allies and partners to step up and do more as well and join us in that effort,” she added. 
Source: The Guardian 

 


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PN's Voice

Small steps, Road to peace

 

Two Koreas to March under United Korea Flag at Olympics

North and South Korea have agreed to march together under a single "unified Korea" flag at next month's Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next month. They also agreed to field a joint women's ice hockey team in rare talks at the truce village of Panmunjom. These announcements are the result of the first high-level talks between the countries in more than two years. It marks a thaw in relations that began in the new year when North Korea offered to send a team to the games.

If the plans are realized, a hundreds-strong North Korean delegation - including 230 cheerleaders, 140 orchestral musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes - could cross into the South via the land border to attend the Winter Olympics; this will be the first opening of the cross border road in almost two years. The proposed joint womens ice hockey team would represent the first time athletes from both Koreas have competed together in the same team at an Olympic Games.

The agreement will have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday, because North Korea has missed registration deadlines or failed to qualify. South Korea will also need to find ways to host the North Korean delegation without violating any existing UN Security Council sanctions which ban cash transfers to Pyongyang and blacklisting certain senior North officials.

Source: BBC

US S. Korea Confirm Theyre Still on the Same Page

South Korea and the United States confirmed on Thursday that there will be no break in the rotational deployment of high-profile U.S. defence assets to and around the Korean Peninsula. The announcement came after the surprise olive branch offered by North Korea that led to the first inter-Korean talks for 2 years. Resultingly, the North now plans to participate in the PyeongChang Olympics next month.

Concerns had grown that the North's sudden peace offensive could lead to Seoul and Washington butting heads over selecting the correct course of action for dealing with Pyongyang. However, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense confirmed that "In today's meeting, the U.S. side reaffirmed its firm security commitment to the defense of South Korea using all categories of its military capabilities." The two countries have "agreed to continue the rotational deployment of U.S. strategic assets to South Korea and nearby areas as long as North Korea's nuclear and missile threats persist," it added. For South Korean officials and media, U.S. strategic assets usually mean aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines, strategic bombers and stealth fighter jets.

This announcement has been seen by some observers as an attempt to quell fears that Pyongyang is attempting to utilize peace talks as a strategy to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.

Source: Yonhap News

South Korea Vows to Continue NK Talks with Clear Eyes

South Korea has said it plans to continue high-level talks with North Korea with "clear eyes" amid global warnings that Pyongyang might be playing for time to continue its nuclear-arms programme. "We have to make the most" of the opportunity said South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during an interview with the BBC.

The recent talks and announcements about a joint Korean team at the upcoming Olympics come as the US and its allies vowed to keep pressure on the North. On Wednesday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the recent North Korean suggestion for talks showed that sanctions were "really starting to hurt", expressing confidence that the pressure would eventually force the North to the negotiating table over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Tillersons thoughts were mirrored by his Japanese counterpart, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who said the world should not be blinded by Pyongyang's recent "charm offensive". "It is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea," Mr Kono said. "The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working."

However, Ms. Kang affirmed that South Korea knew what it was doing in relation to its neighbour; "I think we understand North Korea better than anybody, having dealt with North Korea for decades, having had series of discussions off and on. We haven't had any significant engagement in the recent past - but this is an opportunityYou can have all kinds of theories of why there are here (at the talks). There are, obviously, calculations going on the part of the North Korea decision-makers as to their actions. But in the end we have to make the most of it.

  

Source: BBC News

  

Essay Moons Chance to Shine

Please click the link below to access the recent essay by Peace Network researcher Olly Terry on the prospects of President Moon Jae-in taking the opportunity given to him by Pyongyangs rapprochement into significant long-term progress on inter-Korean relations:

Link: Moon's Chance to Shine

  

 

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