PN's Voice 54

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PN's Voice 54, 18-08-2015
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PN's Voice No. 54  18. 08. 2015 
Small steps, Road to peace

ROK-US Launch Joint Military Drill Amid N. Korean Threat

South Korea and the United States launched their joint military exercise yesterday amid North Korea's threat to retaliate with "the strongest military counteraction" against the drill. The Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise, the world's largest computerized military drill aimed at defending the South from a North Korean attack, kicked off earlier in the day in South Korea for a 14-day run and will end on August 28th. The drill involves some 80,000 troops from South Korea and the United States as well as the Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The drill has long since been denounced by North Korea as a rehearsal for invading the isolated country.

This year's UFG comes amid unusually heightened military tension between the two Koreas following the detonation of land mines on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone earlier this month. Three wooden-box mines exploded in a South Korean military patrol zone inside the DMZ on Aug. 4, maiming two South Korean soldiers. Seoul accused Pyongyang of secretly burying the mines in a pre-planned military provocation. Over the weekend, the North denied its responsibility for the mine blast and demanded the joint drill be scrapped. The country also threatened to react with "the strongest military counteraction" to the drill if it is not canceled; “If [the] United States wants their mainland to be safe, then the Ulchi Freedom Guardian should stop immediately,” a newswoman for the state TV station, KCNA, emphasized. North Korea is ready to “retaliate against the U.S. with tremendous muscle,” according to a spokesman for North Korea’s National Defense Commission (NDC). The spokesman also noted that the North Korean military is more equipped to deal with the US-ROk ‘threat’ than it previously was: “The army and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are no longer what they used to be in the past when they had to counter the US nukes with rifles. North Korea… is invincible.”
Mirroring such tension, both Koreas have intensified their military vigilance and ordered stronger counteraction for any provocations from each other. Admiral Choi Yoon-Hee, South Korea's military chief, also ordered operational commanders to "retaliate more powerfully and resolutely against any enemy provocation" during an emergency meeting held last week. "The (South Korean) military is standing with a war-readiness position under which any types of North Korean provocations could be retaliated against strongly at the spot," a military official said.

North Korea is also likely to test-fire missiles during the drill period as part of protests against it. During the allies' Key Resolve drill in March, the North launched nine short-range and surface-to-air missiles into the East Sea.
Source : Yonhap News, The Diplomat

South Koreans Not Satisfied with Abe’s Speech

In Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much anticipated speech on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender to end World War II (read the full text in English at the link below) Abe encouraged Japan’s postwar generations to move on and not feel as if they must continually apologize for a war they did not start.

While he affirmed that previous apologies and expression of remorse “will remain unshakable into the future,” he did not renew those apologies or offer any new ones, as some in neighboring countries, particularly China and South Korea, had hoped. Indeed, media coverage across the board noted that Abe’s carefully crafted speech stops short of new apology. Martin Fackler, former Tokyo bureau chief for the New York Times, wrote that “Emerging media consensus is that “Abe repeated Japan’s past WWII apologies, but didn’t offer new one of his own.”

An overview of over 17 Korean media outlets, including outlets that span the entire political spectrum, showed that the reception across the political spectrum is decidedly negative; Abe’s speech was called “insincere” and “disingenuous,” clearly not going as far as South Koreans demand. Below are some snippets of the reaction to Abe’s speech here in South Korea:

Donga Ilbo: “Abe’s speech not clear about ‘truth of aggression and colonization.’”
Chosun Ilbo: “[Breaking] Abe does not apologize directly for aggression and colonialism: Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe’s ‘70th anniversary marking end of war’ speech on August 14.” 
Voice of the People: “Abe’s ‘disingenuous apology.’
Ruling party: ‘Regretful,’
Opposition: ‘shirking responsibility.’” 
Hankook Ilbo: “Abe’s 70th year anniversary speech is ‘past tense’ apology… Disingenuous.” 
Hankyoreh: “Civil society organization: ‘Abe’s speech insulting, a bitter pill to swallow.’”

These findings are hardly surprising. As the Brooking Institute’s Katherine Moon notes in a recent interview with the Kyunghyang Shinmun, “criticizing Japan has become such an integral part of Korean daily mentality.” In other words, it transcends political divides — in a way similar to nationalism.
Source : The Diplomat, Full Script of Abe's Speech

US Expert: US-ROK Military Exercises have 'Null Effect' on Relations with N.K.

Military exercises between South Korea and the United States have little effect on Pyongyang's relations with either Washington or Seoul despite bellicose war threats the communist nation makes against such exercises, U.S. expert Victor Cha said on Monday. Cha, chief Korea analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that despite aggressive rhetoric from the North protesting the drills, the exercises do not have lasting effects and the situation usually gets back to where it was before the exercises:

"U.S.-ROK military exercises have a null effect in the overall U.S.-DPRK diplomatic relationship. They are not game-changers. The past 10 years of exercises demonstrated a rough correlation with the status of bilateral relationship prior to the exercises," Cha said. "If U.S.-DPRK relations were coded positively prior to the exercises, it remained positive after the exercise, despite North Korean rhetoric on the contrary. On the other hand, if the relationship was coded negatively prior to the exercises, the exercises tended to reinforce the negative relations in terms of both rhetoric and possible provocations," he added.

The North can also "insulate" positive inter-Korean relations from its belligerence against the U.S. during the exercise period, Cha said, adding that inter-Korean ties in 2005 and 2006 remained good despite belligerence against the military exercises. Cha, however, noted that small-scale North Korean provocations during and after the exercise period became more common after 2009. "Pyongyang's official rhetoric remains a good indicator of possible small-scale provocative actions during the exercise period. Washington and Seoul would do well to listen carefully to Pyongyang's rhetoric in the coming days for potential actions," he said.

South Korea and the U.S. have long argued that their annual drills are purely defensive in nature. On Monday, State Department spokesman John Kirby reiterated this point. "These exercises have been long planned and they are exercises that we routinely do with our allies in South Korea and you're right, they have started. They're proceeding normally and apace and we look forward to completing the exercise with them as we always do," Kirby said. "This is about improving alliance capabilities and meeting our security commitments there in the region and on the Korean Peninsula and nothing more than that," he said.
Source : Yonhap News

Park Geun-Hye Marks Anniversary of War’s End With Warnings to North Korea

South Korea’s President Park urged North Korea on Saturday to stop what she called military provocations on the border, hours after the North threatened to attack loudspeakers that the South has begun using to blast propaganda messages into North Korea.

Park’s comments, in a speech on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the Korean Peninsula, then unified, from Japanese rule, came a week and a half after two South Korean soldiers were severely wounded that the South says were planted by the North in the demilitarized zone now dividing the Koreas. “North Korea must wake up from its delusional belief that it can maintain its regime through provocations and threats,” Ms. Park said in her speech. “They lead only to isolation and destruction.”

South Korean leaders have traditionally commemorated the anniversary of the war’s end, called Liberation Day here, with a speech expressing hope for Korean reunification. The end of Japanese colonial rule seven decades ago was soon followed by Korea’s division, as the Soviet Union installed a communist government in the north and the United States a capitalist one in the south. Ms. Park’s speech on Saturday included both condemnations and overtures directed at North Korea. She urged it to learn from Cuba’s moves to improve relations with the United States, but said the North had been “walking in the other direction,” referring to its nuclear weapons development, executions of officials deemed disloyal to the government and recent provocations along the border.

Ms. Park also offered suggestions for improving relations, saying that the Koreas could resume their occasional efforts to reunited families separated by the Korean War of 1950-53, and could build trust by cooperating on fighting floods, droughts and epidemics, as well as sponsoring joint sports and cultural events. “For Koreans, the real liberation from colonial rule is not completed until we have reunification,” she said. In her address on Saturday, Ms. Park also responded to the Shinzo Abe’s much anticipated speech, in which he reiterated his country’s past expressions of remorse for World War II but did not offer a new apology of his own. Ms. Park said the speech “left much to be desired” and said Japan’s words should be backed up with “consistent and sincere conduct.”
Source : The New York Times, The Korea Times

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