PN's Voice 14

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PN's Voice 14, 06-10-2014

PN's Voice 14, 06.10.2014
Small steps, Road to peace

North and South Korea Agree to Talks After Surprise Top Level Visit

A group of senior members of North Korea’s ruling elite made a surprise visit to South Korea last Saturday for the finale of the Incheon Asian Games. The three man North Korean envoy was made up of some of the most senior figures in the North Korean ruling structure: Hwang Pyong-So, the General Political Department of the Chosun People’s Army, who is presumed to be Kim Jong-Un’s second in command, Choe Ryong-Hae Secretary of the Chosun Workers’ Party, and Kim Yang-Geon the director of the United Front Department of the Party.

The North Korean delegation met with South Korea’s Unification Minister, Ryoo Kihl-Jae, and national security adviser, Kim Kwan-Jin. While the delegation’s visit was too brief for any serious matters to have been discussed, both sides have agreed to resume high-levels talks and were said to have agreed on meeting again in the next few weeks.

The sudden visit comes as a surprise as “relations between the two have been practically non-existent for four years” and high level talks have effectively been suspended since February amongst a string of verbal mudslinging and missile tests. While the official purpose of the delegation’s visit was to attend the closing ceremony of the Incheon games, it is clear such a senior level delegation wouldn’t be sent to South Korea just to attend such an event.

Some experts claim the North’s visit, in addition to North Korean Foreign Minister’s recent charm offensive to several neighboring countries, shows a change in tact in the North’s foreign relations strategy, which has potentially been brought about by the North’s political isolation and economic troubles. Others view the delegation’s high-ranking make-up as an attempt to portray a state of normality to quell the growing rumors of a change in the North Korean power structure, caused by the prolonged public absence of leader Kim Jong-Un. There was also a suggestion that the delegation made the visit to personally deliver a message from Kim Jong-Un to the South Korean government. The fact that the delegation returned to North Korea swiftly after the meeting perhaps adds credence to this theory.
Source : BBC, Daily NK, The Diplomat

SK Considering Inviting NK to North-East Asia Peace Forum

Following on from Saturday’s surprise visit from the North Korean delegation, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called for regular inter-Korean talk to improve relations. "I hope that the two Koreas will open the door for peace through dialogue on the occasion of the visit" Park said in a meeting with her top advisors. The President also emphasized her expectation that North Korea demonstrates its willingness to improve inter-Korean relations through action.

President Park also issued instructions to make "thorough preparations” for the upcoming talks: "we should make efforts to ensure that the high-level contact will lay the groundwork for a peaceful unification by holding regular inter-Korean dialogue, not just a one-time dialogue" Park said.

Reports suggest that the South Korean President may reciprocate Pyongyang’s visit last Saturday by inviting North Korea to participate in its October forum aimed at implementing Park’s plan for promoting peace in Northeast Asia. The forum aims for countries in the region “to build trust through nonpolitical cooperation in areas such as the environment, nuclear safety and energy security before coping with political and security matters”; nuclear safety is also likely to feature heavily amongst issues discussed.

It has been reported that Seoul’s government is likely to invite officials from the U.S. China, Japan, Russia, Mongolia and possibly North Korea. However, it is not clear whether the North would accept such an invitation as it has been critical of the initiative in the past.
Source : Yonhap News, The Korean Herald, The Korean Herald

Reports Suggest North Korea Has Shut Down Its Nuclear Reactor

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a US based think-tank, has released a report that it claims shows that North Korea has shut down its sole plutonium-producing nuclear reactor either for refueling or maintenance purposes. ISIS reports that it reached its verdict as commercial satellite imagery showed the “absence of two key indicators of operations” at the 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon, namely: steam venting from the reactor and cooling water discharge from it:

"In imagery dated Aug. 27 and Sept. 29, 2014, both these signatures are missing," the ISIS report stated. Therefore the reported came to that assessment that "it is possible that the reactor is partially or completely shut down.” The significance of evidence of releases of steam and water in indicating whether the Yongbyon reactor is operating or not is further highlighted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s report released in the early part of September, which used the same two criteria to suggest the reactor was in operation.

The reasons leading to the shutdown aren’t clear, but the North could be carrying out a partial refueling of the reactor's core if some fuel rods are defective, the institute said. ISIS also suggested that the North could have shut down the reactor for maintenance or renovation purposes. ISIS argues that satellite images support this theory as they illustrate unidentified activity taking place on the roof of the reactor's turbine building.

The reactor at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear complex has been the source of weapons-grade plutonium for the isolated nation which sees its nuclear arms program as a key part of its national security. However, the reported shutdown of the nuclear reaction and Saturday’s top level visit to South Korea offer hope that the North has changed its tactic. This view is strengthened by the words of So Se-Pyong, North Korea's Ambassador to the United Nations, who told Reuters that Pyongyang was ready to resume the six-party talks and was not planning a nuclear or missile test.
Source : The Korea Times, ISIS Online,Reuters

THAAD Missile Defense System to be Deployed in South Korea?

The US is continuing its push to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea. Last August the US stated that it wanted to deploy THAAD alongside the Korea Air and Missile Defense System (KAMD). However, last week Robert Work, the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, said that the US is deliberating with the South Korean government, as well as with China and Russia, about deploying THAAD.

The US has been heavily promoting the need for the deployment of THAAS with its US Forces Korea since last year. However, the issue is one that both China and Russia have objected strongly to as the “1,000-km detection range of the THAAD’s X-band radar” would place many Chinese and Russian army bases movements in plain sight to the US if THAAD is deployed in South Korea. However, recent comments from Robert Work have lead some to worry that that the deployment of THAAD is a foregone conclusion and preparations are already under way.

Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations last week, Robert Work stated that the US is “considering sending a THAAD to South Korea.” Work also confirmed that the Pentagon was “working with the government of South Korea now to determine if that is the right thing to do.” Additionally, Work revealed that the US had been working hard to downplay Chinese and Russian fears on the potential deployment of THAAD: “We've emphasized to both China and to Russia that these are not strategic anti-ballistic missiles, they are essentially designed to address regional threats [in Northeast Asia]…we continue to work with the Russians and the Chinese to allay any concerns that they have.”

Work’s comments have lead some South Koreans to fear that they are not getting a say in whether or not THAAD is deployed in their country and that the US’ view is the only obstacle to the deployment of THAAD in South Korea is China and Russia. If the US can get China and Russia to yield there is concern that THAAD will be deployed, regardless of Seoul’s position on the matter.
Source : Hankoyreh, Hankyoreh,

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