PN's Voice 127

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PN's Voice 127, 22.02.2018
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PN's Voice No. 127,  22. 02. 2018 
Small steps, Road to peace

Pence was Due to Meet N. Koreans at Pyeongchang Olympics 

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un's sister during the Winter Olympics this month. However, the North Koreans cancelled at the last minute, U.S. officials said on Tuesday. "North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the Vice President softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics," Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said in a statement. But after Pence condemned North Korean human rights abuses and announced plans for new economic sanctions, "they walked away from a meeting or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down," Ayers said. 

The encounter would have been the first scheduled between senior officials from the Trump administration and Pyongyang, which are in a standoff over the North's development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States. Pence had criticized Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions and announced the "toughest and most aggressive" sanctions against Pyongyang yet, while also moving to strengthen the U.S. alliance with Japan and South Korea. This is thought to be the potential reason why the North Koreans cancelled the meeting a reported 2 hours before it was scheduled to take place. Kim Jong Un, through his sister, invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang to begin talks "soon." 
Source: The Guardian 

THAAD Cost may Fall to Seoul

Washington has been intensifying its pressure on Seoul over trade and could now be turning that attention to security negotiations as the top Korean defense chief noted Tuesday that Washington may ask Seoul to cover the cost of THAAD in South Korea by using funds set aside to maintain U.S. troops stationed here. 

“There is such a possibility, so we are planning a strategy,” said Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo, speaking to the National Assembly’s defense committee. He was answering a question by a lawmaker about whether Washington might dip into the bilateral burden-sharing fund to cover the cost of running THAAD. The Special Measures Agreement (SMA), a multi-year cost-sharing deal under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), establishes what Korea must contribute to the non-personnel costs associated with keeping U.S. troops in the country. Since 1991, the two countries have conducted routine negotiations to decide what Korea’s financial contribution should be. Under the current five-year agreement set to expire on Dec. 31, Korea has agreed to pay about 920 billion won ($856 million) in annual costs. 

The Korean Ministry of National Defense has said until now that the two sides had agreed the United States would cover the cost of THAAD’s deployment while Korea would provide the land and infrastructure. But Song’s remarks indicate that the Defense Ministry expects the United States to request Korea to pay the cost of maintaining THAAD. 
Source: Joongang Daily 

Ivanka Trump to Arrive in S. Korea on Friday

The presidential office has confirmed that U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, will arrive in South Korea for a four-day trip on Friday and have dinner with President Moon Jae-in. A top office official told reporters Thursday that the dinner will take place at the traditional wooden hanok house, Sangchungjae, within the presidential office. The venue is used to receive foreign dignitaries and is where Moon and Trump had tea when the U.S. president visited South Korea last November. She will be leading the American delegation to the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics set for Sunday. The delegation is set to arrive in South Korea via Incheon International Airport at around 4:30 p.m. Friday. 
Source: KBS News, The Guardian 

Progress at North Korea’s Experimental Light Water Reactor at Yongbyon

38 North, a reputed website devoted to analysis of North Korea, run by Johns Hopkins University, reported this week that satellite imagery from 2017 through to February 11, 2018 indicates steady progress has been made towards the operationalization of the Experimental Light Water Reactor at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Having been under construction since 2010, the reactor seems to be nearing operational status based on improvements made over the past year, including new provisions for a more consistent cooling water supply, installation of internal equipment and the connection of the reactor to the local electrical grid. The latest imagery from February 11 shows the reactor is externally complete, while the two adjacent construction support yards now appear relatively quiet as opposed to mid-2017 when equipment was actively being transferred from the yards into the reactor dome. Click the link below to see the photos and their photo analysis. 
Source: 38 North 


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PN's Voice

Small steps, Road to peace

 

Two Koreas to March under United Korea Flag at Olympics

North and South Korea have agreed to march together under a single "unified Korea" flag at next month's Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next month. They also agreed to field a joint women's ice hockey team in rare talks at the truce village of Panmunjom. These announcements are the result of the first high-level talks between the countries in more than two years. It marks a thaw in relations that began in the new year when North Korea offered to send a team to the games.

If the plans are realized, a hundreds-strong North Korean delegation - including 230 cheerleaders, 140 orchestral musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes - could cross into the South via the land border to attend the Winter Olympics; this will be the first opening of the cross border road in almost two years. The proposed joint womens ice hockey team would represent the first time athletes from both Koreas have competed together in the same team at an Olympic Games.

The agreement will have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday, because North Korea has missed registration deadlines or failed to qualify. South Korea will also need to find ways to host the North Korean delegation without violating any existing UN Security Council sanctions which ban cash transfers to Pyongyang and blacklisting certain senior North officials.

Source: BBC

US S. Korea Confirm Theyre Still on the Same Page

South Korea and the United States confirmed on Thursday that there will be no break in the rotational deployment of high-profile U.S. defence assets to and around the Korean Peninsula. The announcement came after the surprise olive branch offered by North Korea that led to the first inter-Korean talks for 2 years. Resultingly, the North now plans to participate in the PyeongChang Olympics next month.

Concerns had grown that the North's sudden peace offensive could lead to Seoul and Washington butting heads over selecting the correct course of action for dealing with Pyongyang. However, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense confirmed that "In today's meeting, the U.S. side reaffirmed its firm security commitment to the defense of South Korea using all categories of its military capabilities." The two countries have "agreed to continue the rotational deployment of U.S. strategic assets to South Korea and nearby areas as long as North Korea's nuclear and missile threats persist," it added. For South Korean officials and media, U.S. strategic assets usually mean aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines, strategic bombers and stealth fighter jets.

This announcement has been seen by some observers as an attempt to quell fears that Pyongyang is attempting to utilize peace talks as a strategy to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.

Source: Yonhap News

South Korea Vows to Continue NK Talks with Clear Eyes

South Korea has said it plans to continue high-level talks with North Korea with "clear eyes" amid global warnings that Pyongyang might be playing for time to continue its nuclear-arms programme. "We have to make the most" of the opportunity said South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during an interview with the BBC.

The recent talks and announcements about a joint Korean team at the upcoming Olympics come as the US and its allies vowed to keep pressure on the North. On Wednesday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the recent North Korean suggestion for talks showed that sanctions were "really starting to hurt", expressing confidence that the pressure would eventually force the North to the negotiating table over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Tillersons thoughts were mirrored by his Japanese counterpart, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who said the world should not be blinded by Pyongyang's recent "charm offensive". "It is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea," Mr Kono said. "The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working."

However, Ms. Kang affirmed that South Korea knew what it was doing in relation to its neighbour; "I think we understand North Korea better than anybody, having dealt with North Korea for decades, having had series of discussions off and on. We haven't had any significant engagement in the recent past - but this is an opportunityYou can have all kinds of theories of why there are here (at the talks). There are, obviously, calculations going on the part of the North Korea decision-makers as to their actions. But in the end we have to make the most of it.

  

Source: BBC News

  

Essay Moons Chance to Shine

Please click the link below to access the recent essay by Peace Network researcher Olly Terry on the prospects of President Moon Jae-in taking the opportunity given to him by Pyongyangs rapprochement into significant long-term progress on inter-Korean relations:

Link: Moon's Chance to Shine

  

 

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