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PN's Voice 25, 11-01-2015
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PN's Voice 25, 11.01.2015
Small steps, Road to peace

Park Geun-Hye’s New Year’s Address

President Park Geun-Hye’s live televised New Year’s address, given this morning, centered around plans to revive the economy and lay the foundations for unification. Her focus on the economy was highlighted by the fact she used the word "economy" 42 times throughout the 25-minute address.

Her other key area of focus, unification, was referenced a lot as Park emphasized her will to progress inter-Korean relations, especially as this year marks the 70th year since Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule. To facilitate progress on this front, Park Geun-Hye said she would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un without preconditions to lay the groundwork for a peaceful potential unification.

"I can meet with anyone if necessary to open the path of a peaceful unification," said Park.
While she attached no conditions for possible talks with Kim, she did say that North Korea should demonstrate its sincerity and take steps toward denuclearization. On the issue of reunions between separated family members, she mentioned the possibility of hosting a session over the Lunar New Year's holiday.
Source : Yonhap News, KBS World Radio, The Korea Times


U.S. - N. Korea to meet in Singapore for 1.5 Track Meeting

The United States and North Korea are set to hold semi-official talks in Singapore for two days starting next Monday. These semi-official meetings will be the first since similar contact took place eight months ago in Mongolia.

The North’s chief delegate to the six-way nuclear talks, Ri Yong-Ho, his deputy Choi Son-Hee and Jang Il-hun, the North's deputy ambassador to the United Nations are likely to represent the North at the 1.5 track dialogue Their American counterparts will be a mix of former negotiators and security experts; Stephen Bosworth, the former special representative for North Korea policy, former deputy nuclear negotiator Joseph DeTrani, Leon Sigal, the director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council and Tony Namkung, former deputy director of Berkeley's Institute for East Asian Studies. Leon Signal is believed to have played a leading role in organizing the meeting.

Interest is mounting in the response the North will unveil in the dialogue to the U.S.’s recent rejection of Pyongyang’s offer to temporarily suspend nuclear tests if the U.S. calls off its annual joint military exercises with South Korea. The U.S. has officially refused the offer, labeling the proposal as an "implicit threat." The poor state of relations between the U.S. and the North has been exacerbated further recently following a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. The U.S. has blamed the North for carrying out the attacks and imposed fresh sanctions, but Pyongyang has categorically denied its involvement.

According to a diplomatic source in Washington, although the upcoming contact is of an exploratory nature, it is unlikely the contact will to lead to government-level dialogue as Washington and Pyongyang remain at odds over issues concerning denuclearization. Nonetheless, the upcoming meetings should present the two sides with the opportunity to gain a better understanding of each other's position on how to resume the six-party talks that have been on hold since 2008.
Source : KBS World Radio, Yonhap News


S. Korea- U.S. to Conduct Joint Naval Drill This Week

South Korea and the United States plan to carry out a two-day joint naval drill this week on South Korea's east coast as part of efforts to enhance their joint military readiness, South Korean officers said on Monday. A naval officer speaking to Yonhap News on the condition of anonymity said that the allies are “are scheduled to conduct the exercise for two days starting Tuesday in the East Sea.”

The naval officer added that the joint exercise involves two U.S. Aegis destroyers, including the 9,200-ton USS Mustin (DDG 89), which arrived at the port city of Donghae on Sunday, and Seoul's 3,200-ton Aegis destroyer called Gwanggaeto the Great-class destroyer, a submarine and two Lynx helicopters.

A second naval officer emphasized that "the focus of the drills is on honing the joint ability to detect possible infiltrations of enemies into our territorial waters and destroy them. It is part of the annual regular exercises between the two nations."

The planned exercise comes amid simmering tensions on the Korean Peninsula after the U.S. rejected an offer from North Korea last week that it would halt its nuclear test should Seoul and Washington temporarily shelve their plan for joint military exercises this year (see below).

With some 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, the allies’ joint military drills have been a source of paranoia for Pyongyang since their launch in 1976 which calls it a rehearsal for an invasion. Seoul and Washington have dismissed these North Korean claims and have vowed to continue the drills as they are defensive in nature. The South Korean-US major annual programs ― Key Resolve and Foal Eagle ― are expected to start at the end of next month.
Source : Yonhap News, The Korea Herald,


U.S. Rejects N.K. Offer of Nuclear Test Suspension

Last week, the U.S .dismissed North Korea’s offer of a suspension on nuclear tests, if Washington shelves its planned military drills with Seoul this year, calling the proposal an “implicit threat” and urged the North to show a sincere commitment to denuclearization.

The North’s state media Korean Central News Agency reported on Saturday that the country is “ready to sit with the U.S. anytime if the U.S. needs dialogue regarding this issue.” The report continued on to say; “the message proposed the U.S. to contribute to easing tension on the Korean Peninsula by temporarily suspending joint military exercises in South Korea and its vicinity this year, and said that in this case the DPRK (North Korea) is ready to take responsive steps such as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the U.S. is concerned. The large-scale war games ceaselessly held every year in South Korea are the root cause of the escalating tension on the peninsula and the danger of nuclear war facing our nation.”

While leaving open the possibility of dialogue, Washington criticized Pyongyang for making an “implicit threat” by “inappropriately linking” routine, defense-oriented exercises dating back about 40 years to a potential new underground blast that would constitute a breach of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

North Korea has conducted nuclear tests three times since 2006, the latest and most powerful one in February 2013. It has threatened to conduct a “new form” of experiment after the council condemned its test-firing of a ballistic missile last March. Despite the threat of a 4th nuclear test, the North has showed multiple signs that it is ready to negotiate with other nations, including the US. This can be through the North’s release of three detained American citizens, the expression of a desire to resume the six party talks, an increased peace offensive towards South Korea, an increased cooperation with Japan over an investigation into the fate of kidnapped Japanese nationals and a charm offensive in the latter half of last year to improve relations with its Asian neighbors.

Despite these signals from North Korea, the US seems destined to stick to its policy of sticking by sanctions and pressure and avoiding engaging with Pyongyang until it has taken sincere steps towards denuclearization:
“We call on the DPRK to immediately cease all threats, reduce tensions, and take the necessary steps toward denuclearization needed to resume credible negotiations…the United States remains open to dialogue with the DPRK, with the aim of returning to credible and authentic negotiations on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters later that day in Munich while accompanying Secretary John Kerry on his trip to India.
Source : The Korea Herald


First Japanese High School Textbooks Delete References to Comfort Women

The heavy push in Japan under the Shinzo Abe administration to deny the country’s forcible drafting of comfort women has resulted in its first deletion of references to the women from a high school textbook.

The Tokyo-based textbook publisher Sugen received approval for a revision request submitted last November to the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to delete references to comfort women in the two volumes of its “Modern Society” textbook and its “Politics/Economy” textbook, the Yomiuri Shinmun newspaper reported on Jan. 9.

From April, the Sugen’s textbooks will omit a passage reading, “Japan has been faced with some unresolved issues, including matters raised in the 1990s involving military comfort women and forced mobilization and labor by North and South Korean soldiers and civilian military personnel.” Instead, the book will read, “Some individuals who suffered mistreatment by Japan initiated trials to demand compensation, arguing that the compensation issue had not been resolved.”

The question now is whether the example will be followed by other high school textbooks. “The concern is that textbook publishers that are worried about the Abe administration’s reaction are going to take it upon themselves to eliminate references to comfort women, like they did with middle school textbooks,” said Lee Sin-Cheol, a research professor at Sungkyunkwan University’s Academy of East Asian Studies.
Source : The Hankyoreh, The Korea Observer

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