Tag Archives: North Korea

Reactions to North Korea launch: does South Korea care?

A South Korean checkpoint in the DMZ.

The UN Security Council came together to warn North Korea that future actions deemed to be provocative would be dealt with “further consequences.” Experts say that North Korea is now preparing for an underground nuclear test. The warning included words from North Korea’s closest ally, China. From VOA:

China’s Communist Party-controlled Global Times newspaper said Tuesday that Pyongyang should not be misled into thinking it can ignore Beijing’s wishes with impunity. The paper said North Korea will “pay the price if it tries to abduct China’s North Korea policy.”

Last Friday’s failed launch of what North Korea called its attempt to put a weather satellite into orbit has sparked condemnation from the rest of the world. Many world leaders believe that the launch was a cover for testing long-range missile technology. The UN announced new sanctions and the US has canceled its food aid package.

But why doesn’t South Korea respond? In a special report to CNN World, Robert E. Kelly, a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University, South Korea, says:

South Korea doesn’t want to strike back for two reasons. One, South Korean population centers are extremely vulnerable to Northern aggression. Two, South Koreans just don’t care that much about North Korea anymore.

It’s been nearly 60 years, since the end of the Korean War and the establishment of the demilitarized zone, splitting a once united peninsula in two. Ever since then, the issue of reunification has been a pervasive one in South Korea shaping its politics, its identity as a nation and most importantly its people. But today that’s changing as younger generations of South Koreans find themselves less connected and therefore less passionate about the possibility of a unified Korea. America Abroad’s Danial Shin reports »

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions overshadow nuclear summit

The three-day nuclear summit in Seoul, South Korea, to discuss ways to combat nuclear terrorism ended with a warning from US President Obama of “dire consequences” if North Korea launches a long-range rocket next month. North Korea defended its future actions by saying the rocket launch was “essential for economic development.” This action would put the February 29th “Leap Day” agreement of suspending nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment in exchange for food aid in jeopardy.

From The Brookings Institution:

“The February 29th accord, even if fully implemented, would only have returned conditions to December 2008, when a tenuous, self-imposed “freeze” was in place on the North’s nuclear and missile programs. But it would have set the stage for the United States, North Korea, and other members of the Six-Party Talks to restart negotiations on implementing the September 19, 2005 denuclearization agreement – which the DPRK abandoned when it found it no longer useful.”

Negotiating with the North Koreans has always been a difficult road. For more than two decades the U.S. has had a series of confrontations with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions. In October 1994, the United States and North Korea signed the Framework Agreement. North Korea agreed to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for fuel aid and two light water nuclear reactors to be built by 2003. Take a look back at that history and why a lasting agreement has proven elusive on America Abroad’s After Kim Jong-Il »

North Korea to suspend nuclear efforts

North Korea has apparently agreed to halt its uranium-enrichment program, nuclear weapons tests and long-range missile launches in return for 240,000 metric tons of US food aid. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that North Korea’s nuclear moratorium is a “modest first step in the right direction.” As part of the agreement, North Korea will allow UN inspectors to return to take a look at its facilities. This also could mean a new opening to get back to the 6-party talks on nuclear disarmament.

Relations and tensions between the U.S. and North Korea date back to the 1950-53 Korean War. More than 30,000 U.S. troops are based in South Korea as part of an armistice between the two nations. America Abroad looks back at the more than 60 years of American involvement on the Korean peninsula. Read more.

Military exercises begin on Korean Peninsula

The yearly military exercises that involve some 200,000 American and South Korean troops begins on Monday. U.S. officials state that the computer-simulated war games are “entirely non-provocative in nature.” The North Koreans have warned that if the “enemy intrudes even 0.0001 millimeters into the waters” of North Korea they should make a powerful retaliatory strike. At least 4 people were killed on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in 2010 during an exchange of artillery fire during that year’s military exercises.

The strong rhetoric might mean that the young regime is asserting itself after the handover of power. Diplomats and analysts are also noting that after the death of Kim Jong-Il, little appears to have changed in the north with regard to negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program. It is believed that North Korea has been developing missiles and could have up to eight nuclear weapons.

Recent talks aimed at bringing North Korea to the negotiating table on its nuclear program ended with little change last week and no concrete results.

America Abroad’s Ray Suarez talks to Victor Cha from Georgetown University and Scott Snyder from the Council on Foreign Relations about what Kim Jong-Il’s death will mean for future relations between America and the two Koreas.

Ray Suarez: There’s been been speculation during the presidential campaign that the United States has it within its power to keep North Korea from strengthening its hand as a nuclear power. Can the United States stop North Korea from going nuclear?

Scott Snyder: I think that the right way of saying it is that the United States has not stopped North Korea from going nuclear. We have a dilemma here: the reality on the ground is different from what the U.S. government says it’s willing to accept. The prospect of achieving any kind of rollback – in the near term as Victor has suggested – is not very positive. That’s one reason why the administration has been trying to get the North Koreans to come back to where they were before [the administration] engages in talks. It’s awfully harsh to erase a nuclear test, or a missile test. It’s hard to get back to the status quo ante because the North Koreans believe they’ve changed the strategic reality in their favor.

Ray Suarez: We saw South Korea reach out to the north in the weeks after Mr. Kim’s death about reopening a dialogue with the North. The ruling party in South Korea announced its platform for upcoming parliamentary elections that included a softened stance for North Korea. Has there been any coherent response from the north to those overtures?

Victor Cha: There has been a response and it’s been thus far entirely negative. They don’t really seek the desire to work with the current government. I’m sure they’re going to watch very closely the elections in South Korea. We have two elections in South Korea this year: we have a legislative election and then we have the presidential elections. North Korea is going to be watching that very closely probably with the hope that they can somehow get a progressive government in power in South Korea that will go back to the policies of unconditional engagement that Scott described earlier. I think right now they are in a ‘wait-and-see’ mode. But at the same time, they would love to see a progressive government returned to power in South Korea.

Read more »

North Korea opens up

Photo: http://www.lindsayfincher.com

The 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in North Korean capital Pyongyang is set to open in the spring 25-years after construction began, Seoul-based Yonhap news agency reported.

North Korean developers began construction in 1987 as a response to South Korea’s new towers built for the 1988 Olympics. The building is taller than New York’s Chrysler Building and constructed almost entirely of concrete.

From The Washington Post:

“The North Koreans made it very clear that Kim Jong Il and other top officials considered this renovation a priority,” said Park Kil-sang, a liaison in the negotiations. “But it looked like a huge cement mountain, and it showed the wear of 20 years of just sitting there untouched. We actually figured it would be better to break it down entirely and build a new hotel from scratch.”

The goal for the North Koreans was to build it by April 15, 2012 which is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s “Eternal President” and father of the late Kim Jong-Il.

Unfortunately, “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il did not live long enough to see his project come to completion.

The death of Kim Jong-Il last December and the appointment of his unknown and untested 20-something son, Kim Jong-Un, as his successor, has left the world on the edge of it’s seat and with plenty of questions: Will his son have the personality and the power to match his larger than life father? Will this young leader be able to keep an iron grip on the people and how will he lead the 1.2 million-strong army with his fingers on the nuclear button? The US, South Korea and North Korea’s neighbors are watching closely and anxiously to see what comes next. After Kim Jong-Il: America and the Two Koreas, the latest radio documentary from America Abroad.

This news is on the heels of a YouTube video that has gone viral: young North Korean musicians playing a popular pop song from the 1980s on their accordions. Their video has attracted more than one million hits.

North Korea backs out of talks

After the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea’s rocket launch, the North Korean government retaliated by withdrawing from all talks and declared it would “never again” engage in six-party talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US. ABC news reports:

We will actively consider building our own light water nuclear reactor, we will revive nuclear facilities and reprocess nuclear fuel rods,” the statement said referring to its plutonium-producing nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon complex near Pyongyang.

AAM gathered three former government officials in 2003 with experience on the peninsula – Ashton Carter, Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1993-94, Arnold Kanter, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs from 1991-93, and Henry Sokolski, Deputy Director for nonproliferation at the Pentagon from 1989-93. Among the topics discussed is what a US strike on Yongbyon would do and if it would be effective:

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Listen to the full program.