Posts Tagged ‘South Korea’

North Korea says missile meets all specifications, ready for mass-production — “Raining warheads on America!”

May 22, 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to North Korean scientists and technicians, who developed missile ‘Hwasong-12’ in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) May 20, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS
By Ju-min Park and Jack Kim | SEOUL
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North Korea said on Monday it had successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile which met all technical requirements and could now be mass-produced, indicating advances in its ambitions to be able to hit the United States.

The North fired the missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, its second missile test in a week, which South Korea said dashed the hopes of the South’s new liberal government under President Moon Jae-in for peace between the neighbors.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of the Pukguksong-2, which confirmed reliable late-stage guidance of the warhead and the functioning of a solid-fuel engine, the KCNA state news agency said.

It quoted Kim as saying the Pukguksong-2 met all the required technical specifications so should now be mass-produced and deployed to the Korean People’s Army strategic battle unit.

Pyongyang has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, saying the weapons are needed for defense against U.S. aggression.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss the latest test, which defies Security Council resolutions and sanctions, at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea, diplomats said on Sunday.

The test could also alter the dynamics of Moon’s plan to review a controversial deployment of the THAAD U.S. anti-missile system in the South that is angrily opposed by China, which sees its powerful radar as a threat to its security.

“Saying with pride that the missile’s rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he approved the deployment of this weapon system for action,” KCNA said, quoting Kim.

(For a graphic on nuclear North Korea, click tmsnrt.rs/2lE5yjF)

“EARTH IS BEAUTIFUL”

The launch verified the reliability and accuracy of the solid-fuel engine’s operation and stage separation and the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead which was recorded by a device mounted on the warhead, KCNA said.

“Viewing the images of the Earth being sent real-time from the camera mounted on the ballistic missile, Supreme leader Kim Jong Un said it feels grand to look at the Earth from the rocket we launched and the entire world looks so beautiful,” KCNA said.

The use of solid fuel presents advantages for weapons because the fuel is more stable and can be transported easily in the missile’s tank allowing for a launch at very short notice.

The Pukguksong-2 flew about 500 km (310 miles), reaching an altitude of 560 km, South Korea’s military said.

The South’s military said the test provided more “meaningful data” for the North’s missile program but whether the North mastered the re-entry technology for the warhead needs additional analysis.

The reclusive state has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland and on Saturday said it had developed the capability, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.

Some experts believe it will be 2030 or later for the North to develop the technology. But KCNA said last week’s missile test put Hawaii and Alaska within range.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States which it accuses of preparing for invasion. South Korea hosts 28,500 U.S. troops to counter the threat from the North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

JAPAN “CANNOT TOLERATE LAUNCH”

Experts say solid fuel engines and mobile launchers make it more difficult to detect signs of launch preparations.

“For military purposes, solid-fueled missiles have the advantage that they have the fuel loaded in them and can be launched quickly after they are moved to a launch site,” David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a blog post.

“Building large solid missiles is difficult,” he said, adding it took decades for major superpowers such as France and China to go from a medium-range missile to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said economic and diplomatic pressure would continue.

“We cannot absolutely tolerate the missile launch on May 21 and repeated provocative remarks and actions by North Korea,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.

“It is important to lower North Korea’s foreign currency earnings and prevent nuclear missile related shipment and technological transfer in order to prevent North Korea’s nuclear missile development. We will fully implement our own sanctions against North Korea.”

China repeated its call for all parties to exercise restraint to not let tension mount further.

On Monday, the South’s Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said while Seoul will respond firmly to any provocations by the North, “it would not be desirable to have ties between the South and the North severed.”

Moon took office on May 10 after winning an election on a platform of a more moderate approach to the North, with which the South is still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-1953 conflict.

(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)

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 (If you believe that, Maybe you’d be interested in buying some swamp land in Nigeria….)

Trust (xìn)

Is China Really Helping The U.S. With North Korea? Probably not…

May 20, 2017

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US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, on April, 6, 2017

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After the Mar-a-Lago Summit, President Donald Trump told the world that China was helping the West with the “North Korea Problem.” But is this still the case?

After the U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea, on April 28, 2017, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side.”

When confronted with this statement by Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” on April, 30, 2017, U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said, “Well, he better talk to his president.”

Have the Chinese “played” the Trump administration? As each day passes, it seems that may be the case….

It wouldn’t be the first time China out foxed another nation….

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 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

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North Korea Missile Launch, May 14, 2017

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With North Korea speeding up its nuclear programme development and with less leverage with key countries in the Six-Party Talks, China is in a peculiar predicament, argues Bo Zhiyue.

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“All relevant parties should exercise restraint and refrain from further aggravating tensions in the region,” said Beijing’s foreign ministry in response to North Korea’s nuclear test on May 14. (Photo: AFP)

BEIJING: A ruthless yet calculating dictator armed with a limited nuclear arsenal, Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (i.e., North Korea), is playing a dangerous war game.

The only ally of the hermit country, China finds itself in a peculiar predicament in a possible military conflict between North Korea and the US, with significantly less leverage under President Xi Jinping. US President Donald Trump apparently has some trump cards in his hands. However, Moon Jae In, the new South Korean President, might offer some hope in dealing with the deadlock over North Korea’s nuclear issue.

KIM JONG UN’S WAR GAMES

Having supervised another missile test on May 14 that aimed at verifying the capacity to carry a “large-scale heavy nuclear warhead”, Kim Jong Un is playing a dangerous war game. Under his leadership, North Korea has sped up its nuclear programme.

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North Korea staged a huge military parade through Pyongyang to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, showing off some of its hardware. (Photo: AFP/STR)

His father, Kim Jong Il, conducted two nuclear tests: One on October 9, 2006 and one on May 25, 2009. But Kim Jong Un has supervised three nuclear tests since 2013. He conducted his first nuclear test on February 12, 2013, followed by a second on January 1, 2016 and a third on September 9, 2016.

Now he is reportedly preparing for his fourth nuclear test, which will also be North Korea’s sixth.

A ruthless dictator who executed Jang Song Thaek, Vice Chairman of the National Defence Commission (the number two position in North Korea) and the husband of his aunt, Kim Kyong Hui (the only daughter of his grandfather Kim Il Sung and the only sister of his father Kim Jong Il) and had his brother Kim Jong Nam assassinated, Kim Jong Un is threatening an all-out war with the US.

XI JINPING’S PREDICAMENT

Chinese President Xi Jinping has found himself in a peculiar predicament over the North Korean nuclear issue. Although Xi is widely believed to be far more popular as a global leader than his immediate predecessor, President Hu Jintao, he is significantly less effective in managing the North Korean nuclear problem.

When Hu was President of the People’s Republic of China, he managed to bring all relevant parties together in the Six-Party Talks. Five months after Hu became the Chinese President, the first round of talks among China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US began in Beijing on August 27, 2003. The talks went through six rounds between 2003 and 2009. Clearly, China was the dominant player in these talks.

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Wu Dawei, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, talks with Kim Hong Kyun, South Korea’s representative to the six-party talks, as they wait for South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se before their meeting in Seoul, South Korea April 10, 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

Moreover, China under Hu Jintao had cordial relations with all five other parties. The relationship between China and North Korea was the best since 1992. Kim Jong Il was a frequent visitor to China. He visited China five times between 2004 and 2011. President Hu paid a state visit to North Korea in October 2005.

China also had good relations with South Korea. Following his visit to Pyongyang in October 2005, Hu visited Seoul in November of the same year when South Korea formally gave China “market economy” status.

China-Japan relations were also very good. Two days after Hu’s successful state visit to Japan in May 2008, a huge earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 hit the Sichuan province. The Japanese rescue team was the first foreign rescue team to be permitted to enter the disaster zones.

Under Hu, China-US relations were also the best since 1989. US President George W. Bush would rather come to Beijing for the Olympic Games than meet with the Dalai Lama in Washington, D.C. in 2008. China also had good relations with Russia.

In contrast, China under Xi Jinping is no longer a dominant player in the Northeast Asian region and has found enemies among these previous partners. The relationship between China and North Korea has been at its lowest point since 1992. Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea since December 2011, has not visited China. Nor has Xi visited Pyongyang as the top leader of China.

China’s relations with Japan have become significantly worse. President Xi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe do not get along.

Although Xi successfully cultivated good personal relations with former President Park Geun Hye of South Korea, China-South Korea relations have witnessed the most drastic downturn since July 2016 when South Korea decided to deploy the US-backed Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system.

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THAAD interceptors arrive at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. (Photo: USFK/Yonhap via REUTERS)

Although officially hailed as an “exemplary partner” to China after Xi’s state visit to Seoul in July 2014, the Chinese government has recently taken more than 40 retaliatory actions against South Korea, including expelling Korean missionaries from China and cancelling concerts by Korean musicians. The Chinese people have also been involved in various forms of protests against South Korea including boycotting Korean products.

The bilateral relationship between China and Russia is a bit warmer under Xi Jinping, but Russian President Vladimir Putin does not work with China over the North Korean nuclear issue on the same terms. While China is staging economic sanctions against the hermit country along with the US, Russia is taking steps to develop closer economic cooperation with North Korea.

American President Donald Trump is working more closely with China over the North Korean nuclear issue, but he has been collaborating with President Xi on the US’ terms.

DONALD TRUMP’S TRUMP CARDS

Apparently, President Trump has some trump cards in his hands. On the one hand, he has sent a clear signal to Kim Jong Un that he is seriously considering a military option. In spite of China’s strong opposition, THAAD is now operational in South Korea. Called “an armada” by President Trump, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also on its way to the Sea of Japan, off the Korean peninsula. President Trump has also warned that another nuclear test by North Korea would trigger a US military response.

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The US has sent its aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson to the area as part of an effort to ramp up the pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programme. (Photo: AFP)

On the other hand, President Trump has indicated his willingness to talk to Kim Jong Un face-to-face. Calling the dictator a “pretty smart cookie”, President Trump said he considers it an honour to meet with the supreme leader of North Korea, “under the right circumstances”.

SOUTH KOREA’S NEW PRESIDENT AND HOPE

South Korean new president, Moon Jae In, seems to offer new hope for the deadlock. The son of a refugee from North Korea, President Moon favours a peaceful unification with North Korea. During his presidential campaign, he promised a first visit to North Korea as President of the Republic of Korea. A close friend and loyal aide of President Roh Moo Hyun, President Moon is also promoting a policy toward North Korea similar to the Sunshine Policy of Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun.

For President Xi, President Moon Jae is a godsend, very much like President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Days before a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration made a ruling on the dispute brought by the Philippines against China over the South China Sea in China’s disfavour in July 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines. The grandson of a Chinese immigrant, President Duterte has adopted a pro-China policy and since visited Beijing in October 2016.

Once a thorny issue, the South China Sea has lost its steam for China. It remains to be seen, however, whether President Xi can seize the opportunity to work with President Moon in dealing with the North Korean crisis.

It is not realistic to expect North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon programme through talks. But a more conciliatory approach by the South Korean leader might help ease tensions between the hermit country and the US and its allies.

Compared to a possible nuclear war, peace and stability are certainly more desirable.

Dr Bo Zhiyue, a leading authority on China’s politics, is founder and president of the Bo Zhiyue China Institute, a consulting firm providing services on China to heads of governments and CEOs of multinational corporations.

Source: CNA/sl
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/commentary-why-north-korea-is-turning-into-a-headache-for-china-8847292

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South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in reacts to North Korea’s ballistic missile launch on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Photo from Bloomberg

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USS Ronald Reagan arrives at the port of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. Credit KYODO — She joind the USS Carl Vinson group near North Korea on 18 May 2017

North Korea demands U.S. stop ‘hostile policy’ before talks — “He would prefer a diplomatic outcome.”

May 20, 2017

Reuters

By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS
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North Korea’s deputy U.N. envoy said on Friday the United States needed to roll back its “hostile policy” toward the country before there could be talks as Washington raised concern that Pyongyang could be producing a chemical used in a nerve agent.

“As everybody knows, the Americans have gestured (toward) dialogue,” North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Kim In Ryong, told reporters on Friday. “But what is important is not words, but actions.”

“The rolling back of the hostile policy towards DPRK is the prerequisite for solving all the problems in the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “Therefore, the urgent issue to be settled on Korean Peninsula is to put a definite end to the U.S. hostile policy towards DPRK, the root cause of all problems.”

North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has vowed to develop a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead that can strike the mainland United States, saying the program is necessary to counter U.S. aggression.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned in an interview with Reuters in late April that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, but said he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute over its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump later said he would be “honored” to meet the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, under the right conditions. A U.S. State Department spokesman said the country would have to “cease all its illegal activities and aggressive behavior in the region.”

The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 and has strengthened the measures in response to the country’s five nuclear tests and two long-range rocket launches. Pyongyang is threatening a sixth nuclear test.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley raised concern on Friday about an application by North Korea to patent a process to produce sodium cyanide, which can be used to make the nerve agent Tabun and is also used in the extraction of gold.

“The thought of placing cyanide in the hands of the North Koreans, considering their record on human rights, political prisoners, and assassinations is not only dangerous but defies common sense,” Haley said in a statement.

North Korea submitted the patent application to a U.N. agency, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), for processing. The agency does not grant patents.

U.N. sanctions monitors said they are investigating the case for any violations. Under U.N. sanctions, states are banned from supplying North Korea with sodium cyanide and Pyongyang has to abandon all chemical and biological weapons and programs.

WIPO said in a statement that it has strict procedures to ensure full compliance with U.N. sanctions regimes. It noted that “patent applications are not covered by the provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.”

Haley said: “We urge all U.N. agencies to be transparent and apply the utmost scrutiny when dealing with these types of requests from North Korea and other rogue nations.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)

Can South Korea’s Moon usher in a new climate era?

May 18, 2017

President Moon has briefly shut down dirty coal plants in South Korea, ushering in a new era for climate change. DW examines Moon’s climate policy and how he intends to clean one of the world’s most polluted countries.

Moon Jae-in Präsidentschaftskandidat Südkorea (Reuters)

Following through on a campaign promise to fight air pollution in South Korea, liberal President Moon Jae-in on only his fifth day in office ordered a temporary halt on ten coal-fired power plants for one month starting in June.

Korea’s presidential office, formally known as the Blue House, said that older coal plants would again be closed from March to June next year. In addition, Moon intends to close every coal power plant older than 30 years within his five-year presidential term.

“We can no longer delay the pursuit of safe and clean energies. I will reduce coal-fired power plants and nuclear reactors, and increase renewable natural gas power generation,” Moon said in a statement.

Though Moon’s policy directive has been hailed by climate activists as a step in the right direction, challenges still remain for Asia’s fourth largest economy.

 

Nearly half of Korea’s electricity demands come from coal power plants, which produce fine dust particles described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as carcinogenic. The micro-particles, which are known as PM 2.5, can penetrate deep into lungs and trigger a variety of illnesses. An Air Quality Index exceeding WHO’s daily safety standards of 10 micrograms per cubic meter is considered dangerous.

According to government data, over 30,000 tons of dust, sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide are emitted from just ten old coal-fired power plants, which account for around 20 percent of pollution in the country. The International Energy Agency states that coal power plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that South Korea has dramatically increased greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants. By 2060, OECD says nearly nine million people worldwide could die from the particles, with South Korea ranked near the top of the list among developed nations.

Pollution has also at times been blamed on neighboring China. Last year’s Environmental Performance Index ranked South Korea 173rd out of 180 countries in terms of air quality, making it one of the poorest performers among Asian countries.

Norwegen Forschungsstation in Svalbard (Reuters/A. Filipova)Moon intends to close every coal power plant older than 30 years within his five-year presidential term

To combat against this disturbing pollution trend, Moon has said he would invest around 60 billion Korean won (50 million euros) in air circulators and dust-measuring appliances, which will be installed “at some 11,000 elementary to high schools across the nation to constantly monitor air quality.”

The devices are meant to alleviate health problems in Korea, as around 100 “fine dust alerts” have been issued this year. Authorities in capital Seoul, meanwhile, have also distributed government-approved dust masks for school-aged children.

“To reduce fine dust emissions by 30 percent,” Moon said he would “decrease the number of coal-fired power plants in the country.”

While Korea’s dependency on dirty coal power plants seems to be shifting — and nuclear power has fallen from nearly 40 percent in recent years to currently around 30 percent, due to safety reasons and public distrust — the East Asian country presently lacks alternative energy production options.

Moon’s climate plans

To alleviate these concerns, Moon has sought to increase renewable production in the near future, Professor Kim Kyung-nam of Korea University’s Graduate School of Energy and Environment told DW.

“Under President Moon, Korea is pushing for renewable energy production to increase from around five percent to about 20 percent by 2030,” Kim said.

The increase in energy production could come from solar, wind, biomass and waste renewable sources, he added.

Südkorea Greenpeace Protest gegen Atomkraftwerk Kori (picture-alliance/dpa/Yonhap)South Korea’s dependence on nuclear power has fallen from nearly 40 percent to currently around 30 percent

But the dramatic increase in clean energy production, Kim admitted, could be difficult, as the populous and mountainous Asian country lacks an abundance of natural resources and relies heavily on imports. South Korea ranks among the top importers of coal, oil and gas in the world.

“Korea’s dependency on imports could change,” Kim said, adding that Moon’s government would look to offer major incentives to companies that offered clean energy solutions. “Renewable industries are soon expecting government support to assist with their energy efficiency endeavors.”

Just last year, South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced it would invest over 40 trillion Korean won (35 billion euros) in developing renewable energy industries. Under the plan, new renewable power stations would be constructed by 2020 to produce 13 million kilowatts of electricity annually, which is equivalent to around 25 coal plants.

Korea’s deputy trade minister for energy and resource also announced that “the government would lift unnecessary regulations and increase government support to foster a renewable energy sector.”

Expert Kim believes under Moon’s direction South Korea could usher in a new era by relying more on a renewed clean energy industry that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offset its dependency on imports.

http://www.dw.com/en/can-south-koreas-moon-usher-in-a-new-climate-era/a-38887074

S.Korea, Japan seek to lower tensions over ‘comfort women’

May 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A man (L) wearing a mask of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kneels down in a mock apology next to the statue (R) of a teenage girl symbolizing former “comfort women” who served as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with a senior South Korean envoy on Thursday, as the two countries try to lower tensions over Tokyo’s wartime use of “comfort women”.

The special envoy dispatched by South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-In said in Tokyo that Seoul wants regular summits and improved relations, which have been hindered by the memory of Japan’s harsh colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945.

Abe also struck a conciliatory note, saying: “With the new president, I wish to build future-oriented Japan-South Korea relations.”

In what both governments hoped was a major step forward, the two countries had agreed in 2015 to a deal designed to end a row over Korean “comfort women” forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers during the World War II.

However, the election this month of Moon as president, replacing the ousted Park Geun-Hye, has cast doubt over the agreement, which both governments previously had said “resolved (the issue) finally and irreversibly”.

Moon in a phone call with Abe last week said that most Koreans cannot accept the agreement.

That raised worries in Tokyo that the issue could again hinder ties, at a time when both countries are seeking unity to face the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

As part of the accord, Japan offered an apology and a payment totalling one billion yen ($9 million) to the dozens of remaining survivers.

But critics of the deal in South Korea said Japan did not go far enough, and earlier this year Tokyo recalled its ambassador over a statue symbolising “comfort women”, which was erected outside its consulate in the South Korean city of Busan.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s meeting, envoy Moon Hee-Sang confirmed that the “comfort women” issue had been raised, but did not offer further details.

“We had a serious discussion but I find it uncomfortable to say more about it,” Moon said, adding that both sides expressed their positions.

Japan has pressed Seoul to implement the deal and also to remove another “comfort women” statue near the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also China and other parts of Asia, were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

South Korea prepares for late June summit meeting with the U.S.

May 18, 2017

SEOUL — South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Thursday preparations have begun for a summit meeting with the United States slated for late June, as both countries aim to strengthen ties in the face of North Korea’s weapons development.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s envoy for China, Lee Hae-chan, had not met Chinese President Xi Jinping as of 0540 GMT (1.40 a.m. ET), foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said in a regular media briefing.

Lee left for China early on Thursday.

(Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)

U.S. Pacific commander visits Japanese East China Sea listening post

May 18, 2017

Reuters

Wed May 17, 2017 | 4:41pm EDT

 

South Korea’s Moon joins protest song at commemoration in nod to liberal values

May 18, 2017

Reuters

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (C) consoles family (L) of the deceased before a tomb at the annual 18 May Democratic Uprising memorial at the Gwangju 18 May National Cemetery in the southwestern city of Gwangju, South Korea, 18 May 2017, as the government holds an annual ceremony to mark the 37th anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising. REUTERS/Kim Min-Hee/Pool
By Cynthia Kim | SEOUL

South Korea marked the anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising on Thursday with new President Moon Jae-in leading a large crowd in singing an iconic song of protest, a symbolic closure to nearly a decade of conservative rule.

“March for the Beloved” has been a call to arms in protest movements since the early 1980s and an anthem for the country’s often deadly struggle for democracy.

The song was played officially for the first time since 2008 at a national cemetery in the southwestern city of Gwangju, where hundreds and possibly thousands were believed to have been killed when local citizens rose up against the military dictator Chun Doo-hwan on May 18, 1980 and were crushed by police, paratroopers and tanks.

An official death toll has never been disclosed.

“‘March for the Beloved’ isn’t just a song,” Moon said at the commemoration event in Gwangju. “It is the spirit of the May 18 democracy movement itself.”

More than 10,000 people attended, media said, the largest ever at the annual event.

Moon’s decision to have the song be part of the official program was among the moves the former human rights lawyer has made since taking office last week to reaffirm his liberal convictions and reverse the conservative legacy of his predecessor, the disgraced leader Park Geun-hye.

Moon has picked a former student activist, Im Jong-seok, once accused of being a pro-North Korea sympathizer, as his chief of staff.

Moon also ordered the project of drafting a state-issued history textbook be scrapped immediately. It was a signature initiative of Park, who said a standard textbook was needed to correct the bias in how history is taught at schools.

Critics have said the project was an attempt to whitewash the oppressive rule of military dictators, including that of her father, Park Chung-hee, who is credited with building a modern industrial country at the expense of democracy during his 18 years in power.

CONSERVATIVES’ COOPERATION

Moon was elected in a snap election after Park Geun-hye was removed from office in March over a corruption scandal. He has vowed to cut the cozy ties between big business and government and be more transparent and accessible to the public.

Moon, however, will need cooperation from conservative lawmakers to push through his agenda in the fractured parliament, including boosting fiscal spending to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

“I understand that (the liberals) are in a party mood over their victory,” said Jeong Tae-ok, a lawmaker at the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party said.

“But singing ‘March for the Beloved’ and removing the textbooks and such won’t help them when they need a lot of help (from the opposition) over bigger issues like job creation and North Korea.”

Like Moon himself, some of the political leaders attending the Gwangju commemoration had been jailed for taking part in democracy movement. They stood singing with hands joined, pumping their fists to signal defiance against injustice.

It was an extraordinary reversal after Moon’s two conservative predecessors attended the memorial event in Gwangju standing while a choir sang “March for the Beloved” and protesters scuffled with security guards.

Moon suggested he may try to reverse a landmark agreement reached by the Park administration with Japan in 2015 to resolve the issue of “comfort women,” as those forced to work in Japan’s wartime brothels are known.

Scrapping the agreement, which he said most South Koreans cannot accept, would be another move to erase Park’s legacy, who sought to move past the issue that has long plagued ties between the neighbors as they try to forge efforts to end the North Korean nuclear crisis.

“Moon is no different from any other new governments in terms of removing old legacies,” said Lee Jun-han, a political science professor at the Incheon National University. “These are no big policies, but he is taking symbolic steps to show that the liberals are now in the driving seat.”

(Reporting by Cynthia Kim, Editing by Jack Kim and Bill Tarrant)

South Korea’s Moon says ‘high possibility’ of conflict with North as missile crisis builds

May 17, 2017

Reuters

South Korean President Moon Jae-in carries a food tray as he has lunch with technical staff of the Presidential Blue House at an employee cafeteria of the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea May 12, 2017. Yonhap via REUTERS
By Christine Kim | SEOUL

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday there was a “high possibility” of conflict with North Korea, which is pressing ahead with nuclear and missile programs it says it needs to counter U.S. aggression.

The comments came hours after the South, which hosts 28,500 U.S. troops, said it wanted to reopen a channel of dialogue with North Korea as Moon seeks a two-track policy, involving sanctions and dialogue, to try to rein in its neighbor.

North Korea has made no secret of the fact that it is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland and has ignored calls to halt its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally.

It conducted its latest ballistic missile launch, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, on Sunday which it said was a test of its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”, drawing Security Council condemnation.

“The reality is that there is a high possibility of a military conflict at the NLL (Northern Limit Line) and military demarcation line,” Moon was quoted as saying by the presidential Blue House.

He also said the North’s nuclear and missile capabilities seem to have advanced rapidly recently but that the South was ready and capable of striking back should the North attack.

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IRBM launch from North Korea, Sunday, May 14, 2017. Image Credit Rodong Sinmun screen grab

Moon won an election last week campaigning on a more moderate approach towards the North and said after taking office that he wants to pursue dialogue as well as pressure.

But he has said the North must change its attitude of insisting on pressing ahead with its arms development before dialogue is possible.

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng told reporters the government’s most basic stance is that communication lines between South and North Korea should reopen.

“The Unification Ministry has considered options on this internally but nothing has been decided yet,” said Lee.

NO WORD YET ON THAAD

Communications were severed by the North last year, Lee said, in the wake of new sanctions following North Korea’s fifth nuclear test and Pyongyang’s decision to shut down a joint industrial zone operated inside the North.

North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programs as necessary to counter U.S. hostility and regularly threatens to destroy the United States.

Moon’s envoy to the United States, South Korean media mogul Hong Seok-hyun, left for Washington on Wednesday. Hong said South Korea had not yet received official word from the United States on whether Seoul should pay for an anti-missile U.S. radar system that has been deployed outside Seoul.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants South Korea to pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system which detected Sunday’s test launch.

China has strongly opposed THAAD, saying it can spy into its territory, and South Korean companies have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over the deployment.

The United States said on Tuesday it believed it could persuade China to impose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea and warned that Washington would also target and “call out” countries supporting Pyongyang.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also made clear that Washington would only talk to North Korea once it halted its nuclear program.

FILE PHOTO: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in this handout photo by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017. KCNA/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

As about Haley’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China would work hard at reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula and finding a peaceful resolution.

Trump has called for an immediate halt to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday that China’s leverage was key and Beijing could do more.

Trump warned this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

The U.S. troop presence in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War, is primarily to guard against the North Korean threat.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the UNITED NATIONS and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)

North Korea poses threat to China, Russia: US admiral says

May 17, 2017

AFP

© Navy Office of Information/AFP/File | Earlier this month naval exercises were conducted in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (pictured), with South Korean and Japanese aircraft also taking part

TOKYO (AFP) – A top US Navy commander on Wednesday pushed for a “sense of urgency” over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, stressing it even threatens Pyongyang’s allies China and Russia.

Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the Pacific Command, spoke during a visit to Japan after North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test raised further alarm over the pace of its weapons development.

North Korea on Sunday launched what appeared to be its longest-range ballistic missile yet, claiming it was capable of carrying a “heavy nuclear warhead” in a test aimed at bringing the US mainland within reach.

Pyongyang carried out two atomic tests last year, and has accelerated its missile launch programme, despite tough UN sanctions aimed at denying leader Kim Jong-Un the hard currency needed to fund his weapons ambitions.

“In every test he (Kim) makes, it’s a success because it takes North Korea one step closer to be able to deliver a nuclear-tipped missile anywhere in the world,” Harris said.

“I must assume Kim Jong-Un’s claims are the truth, because I know his aspirations certainly are… That should provide all of us with a sense of urgency to address this problem now,” he added.

The United States said the missile landed close to Russian territory, but Moscow later said it fell in the ocean about 500 kilometres (310 miles) away and posed no threat.

Harris, however, stressed that China and Russia, the North’s traditional backers, can no longer look the other way.

“The dangerous behaviour by North Korea is not just a threat to the Korean peninsula… it’s a threat to China, it’s a threat to Russia,” Harris told a an academic forum in Tokyo.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the test was dangerous, but warned against attempts to “intimidate” Pyongyang.

Harris is visiting Tokyo to discuss North Korea and other issues with Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who he met Tuesday.

He called for nations to “ratchet up sanctions” on the North, reiterating that the world needs to “bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees”.

After the missile launch on Sunday, the United States, Japan and South Korea called a UN Security Council meeting to press North Korea to change course and dismantle its missile and nuclear programmes.

Earlier this month naval exercises were conducted in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, with South Korean and Japanese aircraft also taking part.

The US vessel is reportedly still patrolling in the region.

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