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PN's Voice 20, 17-11-2014
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PN's Voice 20, 17.11.2014
Small steps, Road to peace

NK Envoy Likely to Meet Putin

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is to send his trusted aide Choe Ryong-Hae, the senior secretary of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea, as a special envoy to Russia this week. Choe is expected to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in order to discuss issues of security and economy. It’s possible that this is a sign that Pyongyang-Moscow relations are warming as both countries find themselves increasingly isolated under tightening international sanctions. Russia has faced sanctions from the West after it annexed Crimea and supported rebels in eastern Ukraine. Similarly, North Korea is under multilayered international sanctions, yet Pyongyang has shown no signs of giving up its nuclear weapons, to the contrary its nuclear program has shown signs of becoming more sophisticated. Experts suggest the deepening international isolation of the two countries seems to be the main reason for their improving relationship. Although this could also be read as part of Pyongyang’s recent diplomatic charm offensive to try and shun the United Nations' resolution that called to refer North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to the International Criminal Court for his grave human rights violation.

Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior fellow of the Sejong Institute, agrees with the popular view that Choe's scheduled visit to Moscow will ultimately lead to a North Korea-Russia summit; "Russia would have felt relieved when the North approached and courted.” Cheong believes the warming Pyongyang-Moscow relationship could be a result of Seoul-Bejing ties, which have reached a high point since President Park Geun-Hye took office in February 2013, as well as the cooling of Chinese-North Korean relations.
Cheong added that it was little wonder that North Korea's elite harbored hard feelings toward China, for a long time the North's only supporter, because their relations were in stark contrast with what was happening between South Korea and China. "The leaders of South Korea and China have met five times for summits since President Park Geun-Hye took office," he said, "but there was no summit between China and North Korea during the period."

Cheong continued to explain that coverage of China had almost disappeared from North Korea's state-controlled newspaper Rodong Sinmun, but there had been a gradual increase of Russian news. Cheong said his recent visit to the northeastern part of China — which borders North Korea — provided evidence that North Korea and Russia had become closer. "I saw a train, which had 40 cars, near the Tumen River on the line connecting Russia and North Korea," he said. "I took this to mean that the two sides are trying to make things happen because a 40-car train is not insignificant."

Chung Eun-Sook, a Russia expert, also from the Sejong Institute, said President Vladimir Putin had pushed for a strong Russia policy since he took power, and was striving to regain influence on the Korean Peninsula by bolstering ties with North Korea. She said this was most likely behind Russia's push for a railway project and gas pipeline connecting the two Koreas and Russia.
Source : The Korea Times, Yonhap News

Clapper: NK Wanted Concession in Return for US Citizens’ Release

James Clapper, the director of US national intelligence, who recently flew to Pyongyang to secure the release of 2 detained American citizens, has spoken of his belief that the North Koreans were hoping for a diplomatic concession for their release of the US citizens. Clapper believes the North Koreans were “disappointed” when he made it clear he had no concession, diplomatic or otherwise, to offer: “I think the major message from them was their disappointment that there wasn’t some offer or some big – again, the term they used was ‘breakthrough’…"They were expecting some big breakthrough. I was going to offer some big deal; I don't know, a recognition, a peace treaty, whatever. Of course, I wasn't there to do that, so they were disappointed. I'll put it that way."

Pyongyang’s decision to release the detained Americans has been interpreted by many as a move to try and improve the country’s image in an attempt to tone down a proposed U.N. General Assembly resolution that calls for referring the communist regime to the International Criminal Court for its human rights violations.

It is widely believed that reason behind the North Korean authorities’ decision to close down Yodok is to allow international observers to visit the site in order to popularize the notion that “North Korea doesn't have any political prison camps.” In keeping with this hypothesis, Pyongyang recently granted permission for the special rapporteur on North Korean human rights, Marzuki Darusman, to visit the country. Darusman had stated in an interview that any visit to North Korea would have to include an inspection of prison camps.

Lastly, Clapper expressed his sense of optimism about the future of US-North Korean relations as General Kim, the North's state security minister “professed interest in more dialogue” and asked Clapper if he’d be willing to come back to Pyongyang, just prior to Clapper’s departure. Clapper replied that he would.
Source : The Guardian, Yonhap News

Lessons for the Two Koreas from the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Following last week’s 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall several media outlets have released pieces analyzing the lessons the two Koreas can learn from the reunification of Germany. The Diplomat website published an article by Lee Jongsoo author of The Partition of Korea after World War II: A Global History, Lee argues there are two main points of comparison and consequent lessons to take away from the collapse of the Berlin wall, the first of which is:

“The fall of the Wall could not have taken place without far-reaching changes in the Soviet Union, the main sponsor of the East German regime and its security guarantor. A key aspect of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms was the Soviet leader’s policy of eschewing the use of force and respecting the popular will of the masses in the Soviet satellite countries. “

Lee argues that this appreciation of human rights and free will produced crucial consequences when thousands of East Germans attempted to get to West Germany, often via Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland in the months building up to the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9, 1989. Lee points out that Gorbachev not only refused to aid the East German regime in trying to stop this outflow of East Germans, he actually facilitated their transit into West Germany. Lee states that “the success of this East German exodus undermined the credibility of the East German regime in the eyes of its people and emboldened the East Germans to challenge their regime, leading to the dramatic mass breaching of the Wall.”

The present relationship between China and North Korea is vastly different to that of the Soviet Union and East Germany; Beijing has been “aiding Pyongyang’s efforts to stem the outflow of North Koreans who seek to reach South Korea via China by capturing them and sending them back into North Korea.” Lee argues that this is because Beijing’s leaders appear to be focused first and foremost of “preserving their grip on power in China”, as well as preventing a sudden collapse of the North Korean regime. Lee argues that China needs to carefully rethink its policy towards North Korea, especially in light of the news that North Korea now may possess the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads so that they may be mounted onto ballistic missiles. Lee argues that China has far more to gain from “a reunified nuclear-free Korea under a stable democratic regime that is also prosperous and can benefit China’s own economy”, rather than a nuclear armed North Korea that can “blackmail the U.S. and extract concessions from China on key issues.”
The second lesson, according to Lee, is that the fall of the Wall was in part facilitated by the “relatively extensive inter-German contacts in the years before 1989 and thanks to the peculiar situation in Berlin, where millions of Berliners lived within walking distance of each other divided only by a concrete wall.” East Germans were fairly well informed on conditions and developments in the West as West Germans were allowed to visit relatives in East Germany and East Germans could access West German media broadcasts. Consequently, East Germans were aware of the dramatic changes that took place in the late 1980s and could therefore become galvanized for action.

Contrastingly, inter-Korean contact has been very limited, and there is no place comparable to Berlin along the DMZ; the DMZ has no largely populated area like Berlin did, is some 4km wide, heavily mined and heavily armed on either side, so simply storming across the border, if the guards allowed it (as they did in Berlin), just isn’t possible. As Lee points out, while a “significant number of North Koreans now have access to South Korean mass media via smuggled DVDs and the like, most North Koreans are still cut off from Internet access to the outside world and from regular South Korean media broadcasts.” Lee argues that “only after border tensions have been lowered and more extensive inter-Korean human contacts have been established will the conditions become ripe for “accidents” such as those on the night of November 9, 1989, in Germany, which would enable uncontrolled spontaneous actions by peoples of the two Koreas to peacefully overcome the Iron Curtain separating them.”
Source : The Diplomat

NK Slams Hoguk Drills, Threatens Retaliation

A statement released by the North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland has strongly condemned South Korean Hoguk military drills as war games that are designed to practice invading the North. “Our military and people will absolutely not allow these reckless war games aimed at attacking us,” the statement read. “If they provoke us even ever so slightly, we shall crush them with no mercy,” the committee announced, according to the North’s Party-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun last week.
The committee also criticized the South, saying that the Hoguk military drills were a further insult after the South called off the second round of high-level talks: “what they want is not to open dialogue. It has now become evident that they want to use dialogue as a cover-up, while they hold on to their ugly spirit of aggression and war-plotting.”
The Hoguk Drills commenced on November 10th and will continue through to the 21st. They involve 330,000 troops from all branches of the military, some 23,000 pieces of mobility equipment, roughly 60 naval vessels, and multiple aerial operations. These drills mark the largest since those carried out in 1996 and are known as counter-attack drills in the face of full-scale war with North Korea.

Additionally, South Korea is planning to carry out a military drill on the disputed Dok-do islets later this month to stop “outside forces” from attempting to land there.
Source : The Wall Street Journal,Daily NK

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