PN's Voice 158

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PN's Voice No. 158  08. 09. 2020 
Small steps, Road to peace

S. Korean Vice FM Choi to visit U.S. for Talks
South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun will visit the United States this week for talks with his U.S counterpart Stephen Biegun on bilateral relations, regional situations and other issues. His visit comes as Seoul and Washington seek to address an impasse in negotiations over cost sharing for stationing the 28,500 U.S. troops currently in South Korea and coordinate on inter-Korean economic cooperation and other alliance issues, such as the US's intensifying rivalry with China on trade, technology and maritime security.
Source : Yonhap News

Speculation Grows that NK May Mark Party Foundation Day with Provocation
Diplomatic experts believe that North Korea may stage a military provocation to mark its ruling party's foundation day next month. Additional circumstances such as Pyongyang’s current economic woes from the Corona pandemic and natural disasters, combined with the upcoming U.S. presidential election are also raising the possibility over a "much-heralded October surprise” experts believe. The North is scheduled to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Workers' Party on October 10. The latest suggest of a possible North Korean military provocation came from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) saying the North was apparently preparing to fire a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the Sinpo South Shipyard on the east coast. CSIS’s analysis came amid speculation that the Kim Jong-un regime has boosted its missile capabilities despite its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing since April 2018. If the speculation is true and the North does test an SLBM next month, this is unlikely to spark a major response from or confrontation with the U.S. according to another expert. This is because an SLBM is an optimized weapon that does not cross U.S. President Donald Trump's "red line," or nuclear and ICBM tests that can pose a threat to the U.S. mainland. It’s thought Kim Jong-un may opt for a demonstration of the North's military capabilities to ease the domestic public’s displeasure with the economic challenges they face.
Source : The Korea Times

Seoul-Tokyo Relations Unlikely to Thaw under new Japanese PM
With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set to step down, all eyes here in South Korea are on who his successor will be and the consequences for the Korea-Japanese relations. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is currently the frontrunner to succeed Abe and holds a hard-line stance on historical issues with South Korea. If Suga does indeed become the next prime minister, cool South Korea-Japan relations over the compensation issue for surviving South Korean victims of wartime forced labour are unlikely to improve soon. In an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun at the beginning of this week, Suga said he would conduct a "stern response" to Korea's "breach of international law." The remark referred to the South Korean Supreme Court's October 2018 ruling that ordered Japanese companies to compensate surviving South Koreans forced to work for them during the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of Korea. Tokyo has firmly resisted the ruling and claimed that the issue of wartime compensation was resolved under the 1965 South Korea-Japan bilateral treaty for normalizing relations. Suga also announced last week that he "will continue Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's fully devoted work and effort to make further progress." This suggests that there will be no drastic changes in Japan's rigid position regarding issues with South Korea, including the history and trade rows that have seen Tokyo-Seoul relations hit a nadir. In addition to the forced labour ruling issue, the 2 neighbours have also been at odds over a foundation for the survivors of wartime sex slavery established under a bilateral agreement between former President Park Geun-hye and Abe. The foundation has been virtually closed under the Moon Jae-in administration, which has claimed that the agreement did not reflect the opinions of the victims. Tokyo has claimed this is also a breach of a bilateral agreement. Little is expected to change as during the announcement of six major policies last week, Suga did not even mention South Korea, which strongly illustrates the low priority and lack of diplomatic will to improve ties with Seoul.
Source : The Korea Times

Unification Minister: Inter-Korean Ties Best Way to Accelerate Peace and Nuclear Talks
Mutually beneficial inter-Korean relations will help move the stalled denuclearization talks forward, the unification minister Lee In-young said on Monday, calling for the two Koreas to take the lead in achieving "complete, verifiable and irreversible peace." Lee stressed that he will push for cooperation with the North in public health and other areas beneficial to the two Koreas. Lee said that he will seek exchanges in the humanitarian sector as part of efforts to resume cross-border exchanges and expressed hope for "concrete" cooperation in such areas as public health, the anti-virus campaign and climate change. "We should open the era of complete, verifiable and irreversible peace, with the two Koreas taking the lead in cooperation with the international community," Lee said. "We hope that the North will respond to this new start." Lee said that the Corona pandemic is making it harder for the two Koreas to find solutions to the current impasse in inter-Korean ties and stressed that they should not hope for luck without doing anything. Since a warming of inter-Korean ties around the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics that culminated in inter-Korean summits and the historic first-ever meeting between the leaders of the U.S. and the North, the peace process has significantly slowed. And relations between the two Koreas really went backwards after the North recently blew up a joint liaison office in its border town of Kaesong and cut off cross-border communication in protest of the sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets by activists in the South. Since his inauguration in July, the unification minister has said that his top priority is to resume severed dialogue with the North and vowed to push for "small-scale" exchanges in a way that does not violate global sanctions.
Source : Yonhap News

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