PN's Voice 28

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PN's Voice 28, 02-02-2015
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PN's Voice 28, 02.02.2015
Small steps, Road to peace

US Nuclear Sub Visits S. Korea for Joint Drill

A nuclear-powered US submarine has arrived in South Korea to participate in an annual joint military drill this week, a South Korean naval officer said today. The USS Olympia, carrying some 120 sailors, arrived in the southern port city of Jinhae, 410 kilometers south of Seoul, on Friday, to attend the joint Seoul-Washington three-day naval drill starting Thursday, a naval officer said on the condition on anonymity.
"It is not unusual for a nuclear-powered submarine from the US to come here for the drill. Last year, the USS Colombia was here and took part in the annual Seoul-Washington exercise of Foal Eagle," the officer added.

The planned drill comes at a time when North Korea has called on the allies to stop their joint military drills, claiming they are a rehearsal for a northward invasion, while Seoul and Washington vow to carry them out as scheduled as they are defensive in nature.

This comes on the back off of Sunday’s news that the South Korean Navy inaugurated its submarine command as part of efforts to bolster its underwater capabilities and combat readiness against North Korea. With this launch, the South has become only sixth country to have a submarine command, joining the U.S., Japan, France, Britain and India.

“With the command, we have secured capabilities to more proactively deter North Korean threats by effectively controlling and managing our submarine forces ― strategic weapons systems that could stealthily strike the heart of enemy forces”, the navy said in a press release.

Calls for strengthening South Korea’s submarine forces and other anti-submarine capabilities have persisted since a North Korean midget submarine torpedoed the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010, killing 46 sailors.
Source : Yonhap News, The Korea Herald

Has North Korea Restarted Its Yongbyon Nuclear Facility?

38 North, a website run by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, reported new intelligence that indicates activity at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility, which hasn’t been operating since August last year. Satellite images posted on 38 North indicates signs of nuclear activity in the 5 MWe facility. 38 North noted the piles of snow on nuclear reactor structures melting, causing a flow of hot water into the nearby river. A number of experts interpret this as a sign that the facility has resumed operations, however, they warned that it is too soon to come to a definitive conclusion as the area has only been under observation for a matter of weeks.

Upon the news, some have asserted the purported resumption of operations at the nuclear facility to be the North’s method of expressing resentment toward the US, most specifically for its rejection to comply with North Korea’s offer to put nuclear tests on hold in return for a suspension of ROK-US joint military exercises. Other speculation names North Korea’s agitation with President Barack Obama’s latest remarks on the regime as reason behind the possible recommencement of operations. During a recent press interview, President Obama criticized the North Korean regime as being the “most isolated, the most sanctioned, the most cut-off nation on Earth” and that “over time you will see a regime like this collapse.”

However, the US State Department’s Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller has been quick to downplay the significance of this latest intelligence. Gottemoeller, in charge of arms control and international security affairs, said what the think tank spotted at the North Korean site is nothing new and is just "a continuation of the situation as it has existed." The US undersecretary's comments are in line with South Korean intelligence authorities that said such information was obtained months ago.
Source : KBS News, Daily NK

Russia Plans Joint Military Drills with N. Korea

US-based Voice of America reported on Saturday that Russia plans to hold joint military exercises with North Korea this year. Russia's Chief of the General Staff Valeriy Gerasimov said at a high-ranking defense meeting on Friday that Russia is planning to hold large-scale military talks with North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and Brazil and hopes to hold combined exercises with the countries later this year. Gerasimov added that Russia would aim to mobilizing its Army, Navy, and Air Force during joint drills with those countries. Gerasimov said Russia is placing higher priority on its defense ministry to prevent the U.S. and NATO from gaining strength and that Russia would increase contact with its historical allies.

This announcement comes off the back off Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev instruction to the defense ministry to conduct negotiations with North Korea and sign an agreement to prevent military activity in December last year. According to a draft of the agreement, the two parties are to display high caution when working with each other and create a system where military officials can freely communicate. In November last year, Noh Kwang-Chol, deputy chief of the General Staff of the North's military met with his Russian counterpart to discuss ways to expand bilateral military cooperation.

Cho Han-Bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification explained that, "Russia and the North have common interests in that Russia wants to resist US pressure and the North opposes the joint South Korea-US exercises."

Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watched a joint Navy-Air Force exercise to prepare for strikes on hypothetical US military targets at sea on Saturday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

During the exercise, Kim reportedly said the North will not sit still while "the rabid dogs are openly barking." The drill comes after US President Barack Obama predicted the eventual collapse of the North Korean regime.

This is likely to create fresh tensions reminiscent of the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula since South Korea in turn conducts several massive military drills with the US every year.
Source : Chosun Ilbo, KBS News

Ex-President Lee Myung-Bak’s Memoir Bring Scorn from The Blue House

Lee Myung-Bak, South Korea’s president from 2008-2013, memoir has drawn scorn from the Blue House. Major content from Lee’s memoirs, titled “The President’s Time,” was released in the media last Thursday, ahead of the book’s official publication this week. The Blue House expressed open messages of “dismay” and “concern” on January 30 over content in former President Lee Myung-Bak’s memoir, particularly the release of secret details of dealings with North Korea and a passage referring to a vote on revising the Sejong Special Autonomous City plan.

According to Lee, North Korea repeatedly but unsuccessfully pushed for a summit meeting with him during his presidency, demanding a huge aid package, including $10 billion in cash, as an incentive. Lee says in the book that he rejected the overture, which began in 2009, because he wanted to break the pattern of rewarding the unruly Pyongyang regime simply for agreeing to talk. Lee claims the North first suggested a summit meeting with him when Kim Jong-Il sent a delegation to Seoul, in August 2009 to mark the funeral of a former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung.

Lee goes on to claim, the repeated rejection of its proposal was the reason behind North Korea’s torpedoing of the Cheonan in March 2010, killing 46 South Korean sailors. The North denied involvement in the attack, but Mr. Lee cut off most trade with North Korea as retaliation. Inter-Korean relations spiraled further downward after North Korea launched an artillery attack on a South Korean border island in October 2010, killing four people. Lee claims that despite all that, the North reached out to the South, with a North Korean envoy making a secret visit to Seoul, but Lee says he refused to meet with him. According to Lee, the envoy was later executed by the North for his failing to strike a deal.

North Korea has yet to comment on Lee’s memoir.
Source : The Hankyoreh, The NY Times

Inter-Korean Talks Proposal Falls Through, Seoul Calls for Response

Seoul's proposal for inter-Korean talks this month has fallen through as Pyongyang remained silent on the last working day of January. As the deadline passed in vain on Friday, Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-Cheol again urged the North to respond to the offer for dialogue any time and in any form.

He told a news briefing that the government will consider various ways to approach the matter taking into consideration North Korea's recent attitude and other inter-Korean issues. The spokesman also remarked on the prospect of the family reunions Seoul had wanted to discuss at an inter-Korean meeting. He said the government is going to push on with preparations for such reunions, in the event that the North belatedly agrees to an event before the Lunar New Year holiday next month.

If you are interested in reading more on the issue of why inter-Korean relations are failing to improve, you can access an essay written by Peace Network employee Olly Terry at the Peace Network link below:
Source : KBS News, Peace Network

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