PN's Voice 137a

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PN's Voice 137, 10.05.2018
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PN's Voice No. 137,  10. 05. 2018 
Small steps, Road to peace

U.S. Congress passes defense bill restricting down-scaling of troops in S. Korea

The United States Congress passed a defense authorization bill on Wednesday that limits any potential down-scaling of American troops in South Korea. The “U.S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act” has now been sent to U.S. President Donald Trump to sign into law.

The legislation notes that about 28,500 American troops are currently stationed in South Korea as a demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the bilateral alliance. Their "significant removal" is "a non-negotiable item as it relates to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization" of North Korea, it says under a section describing the Sense of Senate on U.S. military forces on the Korean Peninsula. In a conference report accompanying the legislation, Congress also prohibits the use of the funds to reduce the troops' number below 22,000 without certification from the secretary of defense that "such a reduction is in the national security interest of the United States and will not significantly undermine the security of United States allies in the region."

The new bill comes as Trump has repeatedly indicated a willingness to eventually pull out American forces from South Korea. Critics say such a move would play into the hands of China and North Korea, which wish to see U.S. troops removed from near their border.

Source : Yonhap News 

Despite Improve Relations, NK Suspected of New Missiles Development>

Recent reports suggest that North Korea appears to be building new ballistic missiles despite recent warming ties with the Trump administration and pledges to denuclearize. Unnamed US officials told said that spy satellites had spotted continuing activity at a site that has produced ballistic missiles.

After the of Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, the two men pledged to work towards denuclearization, after which Trump said North Korea was "no longer a nuclear threat". Trump was criticized at home for making concessions without securing any firm commitment from Mr Kim to end the nuclear and missile programmes.

On Monday, the Washington Post newspaper quoted officials as saying North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at the Sanumdong facility near the capital, Pyongyang. The factory is known to have produced the Hwasong-15, the first North Korean ICBM capable of reaching the US.

Satellite imagery of the Sanumdong facility shows that the site is "active", Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) told the Washington Post. "[The facility] is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination," said Mr Lewis. "We see shipping containers and vehicles coming and going. This is a facility where they build ICBMs and space-launch vehicles."

Another North Korean expert from MIIS, Melissa Hanham, told the BBC that the facility had "regular traffic in and out of the building", adding that this "traffic pattern" on the site stayed "about the same through the Panmunjom and Singapore meetings". This indicated that there had not been a complete stop in activity during the summit talks.

Source : BBC News

U.S. War Dead Returned by North Korea

The US military held a repatriation ceremony at Osan air base in South Korea. North Korea has returned 55 boxes believed to contain the remains of US troops killed during the Korean War, but included just one military identification tag, US officials say. A forensic expert said initial tests showed the remains were "likely to be American".

"There's no reason at this point to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses," said John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist working for the Hawaii-based agency in charge of identifying the remains. In 2011, Pyongyang returned purported remains of a British fighter pilot, but they turned out to belong to a dead animal. US officials have indicated that they believe the latest handover is a legitimate offer. The return of US remains was one of four points listed in a joint declaration after the June summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

The US government has said it wants to resume field operations in North Korea to search for an estimated 5,300 Americans who "have not yet returned home". Between 1990 and 2005, 229 sets of remains were returned to the US, but co-operation halted as relations deteriorated alongside the development of North Korea's nuclear programme.

Source : The Guardian

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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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