Saber Rattling Continues Near NLL

29 11 2010

(The Hankyoreh, 29 Nov. 2010) Both N.Korea and S.Korea have deployed troops and dispatched weapons systems to areas along the NLL

Tensions are heightening in the area around Yeonpyeong Island, with the confirmation that North Korean forces deployed multi-launch rocket systems (MLRSs) forward to a coastal location facing the island and opened additional naval artillery firing ports on Sunday, the first day of joint South Korea-U.S. exercises. The North Korean military was also reported to have stepped up its anti-air posture targeting aerial activity by South Korean fighter planes, with the forward deployment of SA-2 earth-to-air missiles in the area north of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.

“The North Korean military was found to have deployed some of its 122 mm MLRSs forward to an inland area near Kaemori, from which the attack on Yeonpyeong Island was launched, and opened additional 76.2 mm naval artillery firing ports besides the previous fourteen locations,” said a military official said Sunday. “The South Korean military is also stepping up its alertness posture to prepare for a potential provocation situation.”

Around thirty shots were detected in the Kaemori area around 11 a.m. Sunday, further raising tensions among South Korean military authorities. The South Korean military believes that North Korea fired thirty rounds of artillery inland for training purposes.

It was also confirmed that the North Korean military positioned anti-ship missiles on a launch pad in the area around Tungsangot in Hwanghae Province, near the West Sea Northern Limit Line (NLL).

“It appears that North Korea positioned SA-2 earth-to-air missiles to the front following the attack on Yeonpyeong Island,” said a government source. “The government is mobilizing all its resources to precisely monitor the movements.”

Military authorities are taking this activity from North Korea as targeting South Korean fighter planes flying in the area near the NLL. The SA-2 is an anti-aircraft missile developed by the former Soviet Union, and has a firing range of 13 to 30 kilometers. The anti-ship missiles positioned by North Korean on the West Sea coast north of the NLL include Samlets and Silkworms, with a firing range of 80 km.

“Vessels and forces with the North Korean Navy’s 8th squadron are on standby for emergency mobilization,” said another government source previously. “We suspect that a quasi-state-of-war has been declared.”

Currently, around 70 vessels, including patrol boats and high-speed boats, are reportedly on standby at Sagot in Ongjin County, Hwanghae Province, where the 8th squadron is stationed. This location is 32 km north of the NLL. The West Sea Fleet Command, which commands the 8th squadron, possesses around 420 escort vessels and guided missile boats, 130 air-cushioned landing craft, and 90 landing ships fast (LSF).

Leonid Petrov said to Russia Today TV (30 Nov. 2010) that American efforts to keep North Korea on edge are getting dangerously close to sparking a conflict. “It has been the fourth military exercise in the last eight months,” Petrov pointed out. “I believe the US is eager to make sure that the South Koreans, their main military allies in this region along with Japan, are well-trained, well-prepared. And that North Korea is weakened, paranoid, and intimidated. If South Korea and the United States start military exercises south of the 38th parallel or the northern limit line, their actions can easily be interpreted by North Koreans as a violation of the Armistice Agreement”…

Nordkorea klar til at »udslette« Sydkorea

(Berlingske Tidende 26.11.2010) Sydkorea har malet sig selv op i et hjørne, siger ekspert i koreanske forhold, Leonid Petrov, Australian National University. En militær aktion er udelukket. En længere konflikt ville være en katastrofe for landets økonomi, der er globalt orienteret og afhængig af eksport. Samtidig ville aktiemarkedet kollapse. For ikke at tale om enorme ødelæggelser af infrastruktur og tab af menneskeliv.

»Det forstår Lee Myung-bak. Men alligevel fortsætter han en selvdestruktiv politik, der afbryder dialogen med Nordkorea og kun resulterer i konfrontation. Han følger USAs linje, der forlanger en total afvikling af Nordkoreas atomvåben,« siger Leonid Petrov…

President Lee Feels Responsible and Apologises

29 11 2010

(Yonhap) The following are the fragments from President Lee Myung-bak’s address to the nation on Monday, Nov. 29, 2010 .

Fellow Koreans, Today, I am standing here keenly aware that I am responsible for not having been able to protect the lives and property of the people. I understand very well that you were greatly disappointed with how we responded to the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo (Yeonpyeong Island) by North Korea. I feel enormous frustration and regret over the fact that innocent lives were lost and the homes and livelihood of the islanders were devastated…

…Fellow citizens, North Korea’s provocation this time was entirely different and unprecedented in nature. Since the end of the Korean War, the North has perpetrated numerous provocations, but it has never launched a direct attack onto our territory before. Making matters worse, it indiscriminately shelled the island where some 1,400 residents are peacefully living.

A military attack against civilians is strictly prohibited even in time of war; it is a crime against humanity. Only a few meters away from where shells landed, there is a school where classes were going on. I am outraged by the ruthlessness of the North Korean regime, which is even indifferent to the lives of little children. Countries around the world are joining us in denouncing North Korea.

We have thus far tolerated provocations by the North time and again. On January 21, 1968, North Korean commandos infiltrated into Seoul with the intent of killing the President. A bomb explosion in Rangoon, Burma, set off by North Korean agents, killed many high-ranking South Korean Government officials who were accompanying the President. The North has already tried and failed twice to kill the South Korean head of state. North Korean agents blew up a civilian airplane in 1987, taking the lives of 115 passengers.

South Korea nonetheless endured these continual provocations because we entertained a slight hope that the North would change course someday and an unwavering commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Over the past 20 years, therefore, South Korea has striven to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue and collaboration while at the same time providing unstinted humanitarian assistance. North Korea, on the other hand, responded with a series of provocative acts, including the development of a nuclear program, the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan by an explosion and the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo.

At long last, we came to a realization that it no longer makes sense for us to anticipate that the North would abandon its nuclear program or its policy of brinkmanship on its own. The South Korean people now unequivocally understand that prolonged endurance and tolerance will spawn nothing but more serious provocations. Those who have so far supported the North Korean regime might now see its true colors.

We are aware of the historic lesson that a disgraceful peace achieved through intimidation only brings about greater harm in the end. Only courage that defies retreat under any threat or provocation will bring about genuine peace. If the North commits any additional provocations against the South, we will make sure that it pays a dear price without fail.

I have confidence in the courage and potential of the citizens of Korea. We are a great people who, as of this year, have built the world’s seventh largest export powerhouse in the face of the North’s incessant menace and belligerence. In the current national crisis situation, the Korean people have demonstrated patriotism and composure. Many young men and women went to the wake of the young soldiers who were killed in action. Citizens have volunteered to collect donations and have gone about their business with fortitude. The Republic of Korea is going to be safe and sound because of you.

There was a split in public opinion over the torpedoing of the Cheonan. Unlike that time, our people have united as one this time. Amid such unity and determination, any surreptitious attempt to create divisiveness in the nation will have no chance of success. Along with all the citizens of the Republic, I will never retreat.

The international community, too, is supporting us. Leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom as well as Russia and many other countries condemned the act of brutality by the North and are standing in full support of our position. Especially, as our ally, the United States has demonstrated a strong resolve to respond by taking action…

See the full text of President Lee’ s speech here…

Kim og Kim SKAL hænge på væggen

(Berlingske Tidende 28.11.2010) »Det har længe været en myte, at Korea er en homogen nation, hvor man taler samme sprog og har samme historie og kultur. Men efter delingen af Korea er de to lande drevet markant fra hinanden,« siger Leonid Petrov, der er ekspert i koreanske forhold og tilknyttet Australian National University. »De to lande forstår knap nok hinanden længere, og det er næsten umuligt at forestille sig, hvordan sydkoreanere og nordkoreanere kan bo under samme tag,« siger Leonid Petrov…

Pyongyang Casts a Deadly Cloud

28 11 2010

Rowan Callick (The Australian November 25, 2010) …Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says: “We have taken note of the relevant reports and we express concern for the situation. We hope that the relevant parties will contribute their share to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Thus the US, the country that Pyongyang most wishes to provoke into dealing with it directly, and China, North Korea’s sole surviving ally and chief supplier of oil and other strategic resources, both appear to be running on empty except of hope. Victor Cha, a former US national security official, said shortly before the latest attack began, that North Korea is “the land of lousy options”, for all involved.

Only three years ago, the world was largely ranged behind South Korea’s Sunshine Diplomacy towards its northern cousins. But president Roh Moo-hyun’s party disintegrated and, 18 months ago, he leaped to his death from a hill behind his home.

His phlegmatic successor Lee has taken a more pragmatic line on the north, behind which his country is now mostly ranged. He abandoned the Sunshine Diplomacy, which despite its good intentions developed into a pattern that rewarded Pyongyang every time it acted aggressively and then held back, awaiting the resulting material supplies and loosening of controls.

Leonid Petrov, lecturer in Korean studies at the University of Sydney, tells The Australian: “The worst-case scenario is that one [more] such skirmish may easily lead to the bombing of Seoul, the centre of many international economic and political interests.

“The response of South Korea would be supplemented by US involvement, which would open the door to China’s involvement, turning this conflict into a regional war – though not into World War III – a particularly bleak silver lining in this Korea expert’s scenario.

“The best option for both Koreas would be to end the Korean War [1950-1953] by signing the peace treaty and peacefully coexisting. The possibility of this scenario was demonstrated by the 10 years of Sunshine Policy pursued by the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments of South Korea,” Petrov says.

“The immediate result of this would be to make the US presence in the region, in both South Korea and Japan, redundant. China and Russia would welcome such a development, but Japan and Taiwan might not.”

He says that limited skirmishes and provocations justify the strengthening of the South Korea-US alliance “as well as being useful for the North Korean regime, which thus consolidates its grip on the population and weakens the drive for economic reform”.

In recent years there has been some discussion about creating a nuclear weapons free zone in Northeast Asia, as has already been agreed in Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Pacific islands, and Central Asia.

But the likelihood of putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle, and persuading North Korea to abandon its prestige possession, appears remote…

See the full text of the articlre here…

The National Council of Churches of Korea calls to prayer over the Yeonpyeong Island Incident

27 11 2010

(NCCK Statement, Seoul, 26 November 2010) …For nearly three decades, the NCCK and the global ecumenical fellowship have worked together to these ends. We have slowly built bridges and established regular, productive contact with the Korean Christians Federation in the North and we have shared our common prayers for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula with the global fellowship of Christian churches through the World Council of Churches.

We have sought to provide a model that governments, politicians and diplomats might follow, and we have therefore rejoiced at the successes of the two Inter-Korean summits of June 13-15, 2000 between President Kim Dae-jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il and of October 2-4, 2007 between President Roh Moon-hyun and Chairman Kim Jong Il. We are convinced that they provide a good basis and framework for the two sides to work together towards a shared future.

On 15 August this year, the NCCK, the KCF and churches in other parts of the world simultaneously prayed for peace and the reunification of Korea, using in part the following words: “We pray that mistrust and confrontation between the North and the South should die down, mutual trust should be built up through reconciliation, cooperation and exchanges. The June 15 unification mood that we have all enjoyed should be revived in full blossom, and therefore the warm atmosphere of unification should blow its way through all this peninsula.”

Given the current tensions, the NCCK further notes these important commitments in the October 2007 summit peace declaration:

1. South and North Korea committed themselves to work for mutual respect and trust in order to overcome differences in ideology, and system.

2. South and North Korea committed themselves to ease military tensions, hold ministerial defense talks in November in Pyongyang to discuss this and inter-Korean economic cooperation.

3. The two sides agreed on the need to end the current armistice and establish permanent peace.

4. The two sides agreed to create a special peace zone around Haeju in North Korea and nearby areas.

5. South and North Korea committed themselves to promote humanitarian cooperation and expansion of the reunions of separated families.

The tragic events in recent days underscore the importance of pursuing this course. We urge the parties to the stalled Six-Party Talks to follow this same path, to cease exploiting the divisions and differences and to put the welfare of the people at the center of their concern. The situation must not be allowed to deteriorate further and all military actions or retaliation must be avoided we urge all our partners to pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. We would welcome our partner councils and ecumenical organizations to support us also by urging all governments to work together to help resolve the dangerous crisis through diplomacy and peaceful means.

The World Council of Churches has repeatedly asserted that the future of the Korean Peninsula is ultimately to be determined by the Korean people. We shall fulfill this calling despite the challenges and obstacles because we believe that God is faithful and will perform mighty acts on our land. We are immensely grateful for the solidarity, prayers and support of the churches around the world. We give thanks to God for you.

What should be done by the Lee administration now?

26 11 2010

Leonid Petrov has answered the questions of <This Morning> program at the TBS eFM 101.3 Mhz

1. How did you view the Yeonpyeongdo  shelling incident? In your view, is this even more serious act by North Korea than the Cheonan incident?

LP – Both incidents, the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeongdo  shelling resulted from the ROK-US military drills. The former happened  in the middle of the “Key Resolve/Foal Eagle” joint exercise, and the latter  at the beginning of the “Safeguarding the Nation/Hoguk” joint exercise.  Both were staged on disputed waters, near the Northern Limit Line.  This time, in November 2010, South Korea mobilised some 70,000 troops to  participate in the military drill scheduled for nine days. Above all,  the purpose of this joint exercise was “to send a strong message to  North Korea”. It’s no surprise then that on both occasions the North has got the  message and overreacted. 

2. What is the intention of North Korea after the revelation of uranium enrichment plant? How do you view the timing of this incident?

LP – The incident comes at the time of DPRK’s revelations about an  active uranium-enrichment program, which can be understood as a  good-will gesture inviting the US to negotiations. Just before the  Yeonpyeongdo incident, the DPRK had proposed a  resumption of the 6-party talks and sent a list of delegates to Seoul for Red Cross talks  with South Korea, originally set for the 25th November.

However, after the Yeonpyeongdo  shelling, this round of Red Cross talks has already been cancelled by South Korea. In other words, the timing  of the shelling incident seems to contradict the major actions currently under way in inter-Korean and DPRK-US relations. It appears that some forces inside the North and the South are both interested in sabotaging the resumption of the 6-party talks as much as they are against the improvement of Inter-Korean reconciliation.

3. How do you view the reaction of major countries, especially close allies of North Korea, Russia and China? Russian Foreign Minister  Sergei Lavrov told reporters that “It is necessary to immediately end  all strikes,” and “There is a colossal danger which must be avoided. Tensions in the region are growing.” How do you view his remarks and  what can we expect from Russia?

LP – Russia is preoccupied by its self-serving interest of selling natural resources and energy to neighbouring countries and is vitally interested in preserving peace and stability in the region. But Russia lost any leverage in relations with impoverished North Korea long time ago and cannot exert any pressure (soft or hard). China is  irritated by North Korea’s brinkmanship of the recent years but  continues to support Pyongyang out of the fear that in the case the DPRK regime’s  collapses, a unified Korea will stay within the orbit of the US security alliance. Otherwise, China would have stopped supporting North Korea a long time ago. Only the end of strategic confrontation between China on one side and the US on the other can ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.

4. Some experts view that it was well calculated tactic by the North  to boost its leverage in international talks or reinforcing the status  of the young heir, Kim Jong-un. What is your take on this?

LP –  The image and reputation of the young general Kim Jong-un would benefit from the improved relations with South Korea and  the US in the  long run, but to make this improvement obvious an initial crisis must be engineered. This would allow the Kim clan to increase domestic control over it’s population and to divert people’s interest  from  market-oriented reforms. If this policy was successful, it would be  attributed to the genius of Kim Jong-un. If not, it would be easy to find  scapegoats to be punished later. 

Alternatively, one can assume that in the backdrop of the ongoing leadership transition in the DPRK something has irritated the military and resulted in the Yeonpyeongdo incident. It could be the result of  miscommunication within the structure of the DPRK’s military command or a  disagreement between the local military and the top political  leadership.

5. What should be done by the Lee administration now?

LP – A military retaliation is out of the question because Seoul is too close to the DMZ and vulnerable to the North’s counter-attack. Tightening sanctions further would likewise lead to a dead end and undermine the effectiveness of president Lee’s “pragmatic policy” towards North Korea, in the eyes of the South Korean citizens. Given the advances made in the DPRK’s nuclear program and economic  improvements, it is clear that sanctions simply don’t work. The only  hope appears to be engagement and cooperation in the same vein as it was done during the years of “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2007).

Both the ROK and the US should respond positively to the recent nuclear revelations of North Korea as a sign of good will and encourage Pyongyang to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program instead of  nuclear bomb-making. This would require South Korea and the US to acknowledge North Korea’s security concerns and stop the joint demonstration of military force near the DMZ and NLL. In fact there are  two guiding documents which could lead president Lee out of the current crisis: the Joint DPRK-ROK Declaration of June 2000, signed by Kim  Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, and the Joint DPRK-US Communiqué endorsed by the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in October 2000.

US, South Korea go to war games

(The Australian  25 Nov. 2010) Korea scholar Leonid Petrov, from the University of Sydney, said it was “difficult to imagine” a more dangerous situation and the risk of a war that could pit the US and Chinese forces against one another could not be discounted. Dr Petrov said the attack was clearly orchestrated by Kim Jong-il and his son, adding that he believed reports that the pair had visited the artillery batteries used in the shelling last weekend.

“It looks like it was carefully staged and engineered and prepared. I believe the North Korean artillery was given orders to respond to any kind of assumed provocation,” he said. “It was a strong message to the South; it’s also a strong message to their own population that the young general Kim Jong-un is in control and he’s going to defend the fatherland by all means.” Dr Petrov said the Korean Peninsula was on a knife edge and one slip from either side could trigger a major catastrophe in which “North Korea pushes the button and sends missiles at Seoul”.

“In that case, the Americans would get involved and probably launch missiles at North Korean territory,” he said. “Then North Korea might respond with the one or two nuclear devices that they have. Kim Jong-il’s underground palaces would be targeted and the Chinese response would be probably sending troops”…

Вечер на Би-Би-Си “На границе двух Корей все опаснее”

 Министр обороны Южной Кореи Ким Дэ Ён подал в отставку после критики в свой адрес за “нескоординированный ответ” южнокорейских военных на артиллерийский обстрел острова Йонпхендо. Перед программой “Вечер на Би-би-си” мы позвонили Леониду Петрову, известному эксперту по Корее. Он только что вернулся с совещания в южнокорейском посольстве в Австралии. Там как раз обсуждали эту ситуацию. Мы спросили эксперта, что, по его мнению может означать отставка министра обороны Южной Кореи?

Cho Bong-am case reopened after 51 years

20 11 2010

By Park Si-soo (The Korea Times, 11-19-2010) Escorted to an execution chamber on July 31, 1959, in Seoul, Cho Bong-am reportedly said, “If I committed something wrong, it was that I entered politics. Please give me something alcoholic to drink.” Shortly afterward, Cho — a 60-year-old politician at the time, sentenced to death on charges of colluding with North Korean spies to subvert South Korea — was hanged.

The execution was carried out just 17 hours after the Supreme Court rejected Cho family’s call for a retrial. At that time, his family claimed that the espionage charges were concocted using faulty evidence and manipulated testimonies. Following the rapid execution of Cho, who was the inaugural minister of agriculture and a two-term lawmaker, viewed as a strong challenger to then President Syngman Rhee during an authoritarian era, the bereaved family had to suffer fierce public attacks as they were labeled communists. They received no pension or other benefits usually granted to the family of former ministers upon their deaths.

But recently, Cho, also famously known by his penname Juksan, the former chairman of the Progressive Party, has been given an opportunity to be cleared of the charges as the Supreme Court held a hearing on the death Thursday, reopening the case for the first time in more than five decades to determine a second ruling on whether Cho’s execution was legally justifiable.

The retrial came after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in September, 2007 that the original trial was clouded by mystery and the case should be retried. The commission said Cho was viewed as the victim of a “judicial murder.” It said the subversion charge against him was created by the Syngman Rhee administration to “get rid of Rhee’s strongest rival in the presidential election.”

Cho earned nearly 2 million votes in the 1956 presidential election, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all eligible votes and posing a great political threat to Rhee who wished to stay at the helm “eternally.” Cho w arrested in January 1958 and was prosecuted for violating the National Security Law.

At the court hearing on Thursday, Lawyer Choi Byeong-mo who is representing the bereaved family claimed Cho was innocent, saying President Rhee killed Cho by having the subversion charges against him acknowledged by the top court. “This is a crime President Rhee committed to get rid of his political rival,” Choi said. “A special military unit questioned Cho and his aides, which was illegal. Moreover, tortuous interrogation techniques were used to have his aides falsely testify that Cho was financed by North Korea to launch pro-communism campaigns aimed at destabilizing society.”

The prosecution did not take a clear stance on whether Cho was guilty or not. Instead, it said it’s inappropriate to retry the case at the moment as neither witnesses nor detailed documents on the case exist. Asked whether Cho contacted a pro-North Korean activist, surnamed Yang, lawyer Choi said Yang was once a soldier specially trained to infiltrate the North to collect intelligence there so that Cho’s meeting with Yang does not constitute an espionage charge.
The top court said it will make a ruling by the end of the year.

On Jan. 13, 1958, Cho was arrested by police on charges of spying and violating the National Security Law. He was charged with being sympathetic with North Korea’s reunification policy and receiving funds from the North. He was initially sentenced a five-year jail term at a district court. But both the appellate court and the Supreme Court sentenced him to death on Feb. 27, 1959. He was executed five months later even despite opposition from the United States.

See the photos of the time by LIFE magazine here…

Medvedev Alarmed at North Korean Nuclear Activity

11 11 2010

MOSCOW (Reuters, 2010.11.10) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev voiced alarm over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme in an interview published on Tuesday on the eve of his visit to South Korea.

Medvedev told South Korean media that Pyongyang’s programme “presents a systemic challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime” and said he was worried about nuclear activities close to Russia’s borders.

“Naturally it alarms us that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions create military and political tension in Northeast Asia, in direct proximity to Russia’s eastern frontiers,” Medvedev said in the interview posted on the Kremlin website. “Not to mention that the North Korean nuclear testing ground is located just a little more than 100 km (62 miles) from our territory.”

North Korea’s nuclear activities are likely to come up in Medvedev’s talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and with world leaders attending a G20 summit in South Korea this week, including President Barack Obama and China’s Hu Jintao. As in the past, Medvedev stressed that the stand-off must be resolved through peaceful diplomacy.

A Soviet-era supporter of North Korea, Moscow is one of five regional powers — along with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea — pressing Pyongyang to curb nuclear activities. But six-way talks to denuclearise the Korean peninsula have been frozen since December 2008 because of disputes over how to verify North Korean steps to disable its nuclear programme, and Pyongyang declared the process dead earlier this year. Russia has voiced disquiet at Pyongyang’s tests of nuclear devices and a long-range missile since 2006.

Russia has also leaned harder on Iran, a longtime trade partner and weapons client, to rein in its nuclear energy programme in recent months, but Medvedev suggested North Korea was more of a threat. “Despite the fact that Iran is often given special attention, I should note that Tehran, unlike Pyongyang, has not declared itself a nuclear power, has not tested a nuclear weapon and … has not threatened to use one,” he said.

The Kremlin chief’s remarks preceded the imminent publication — delayed for months by China in an effort to protect states with which it has close relations — of a U.N. report suggesting that North Korea may have supplied Syria, Iran and Myanmar with banned nuclear technology.

Leonid Petrov‘s article “Russia’s ‘Power Politics’ and North Korea” can be viewed here…

LMB and Medvedev Agree to Bolster Ties on Energy and Regional Security

11 11 2010

By Lee Chi-dong (SEOUL, Nov. 10, Yonhap) South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev agreed Wednesday to further develop a “strategic cooperative partnership” between the two sides, especially in countering regional security threats, including the North Korean nuclear program.

The leaders also agreed to work together for “substantial accomplishments” in cooperation on trade, investment, energy, resources, infrastructure and cutting-edge technology. “We agreed to cooperate closely to create conditions for the resumption of the six-way talks (on the North Korean nuclear crisis),” Lee said in a televised press conference after a summit with the Russian leader.

Medvedev arrived here earlier Wednesday for a three-day state visit on the occasion of the G-20 economic summit in Seoul. The nuclear negotiations, also involving the U.S., China and Japan, have stalled for two years amid tensions over the North’s provocative acts highlighted by missile and nuclear tests and a deadly naval attack on South Korea.

Lee added that Seoul and Moscow will make joint efforts to cope effectively with global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, narcotics trafficking, piracy and cyber crimes. He took note of remarkable development in the two nations’ relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990, including the 2008 agreement to upgrade the bilateral relationship to a strategic cooperative partnership.

“I am very happy that the two nations have become able to develop the relations by one more notch through the visit by President Medvedev this time,” Lee said. Sitting next to Lee, Medvedev stressed the importance of a multilateral security channel, saying, “There is still possibility of conflict in the Northeast Asian and Asia-Pacific regions.”

After the talks, Lee and Medvedev attended the signing ceremony of about two dozen pacts between the two nations, which included memorandums of understanding on partnership on Russia’s economic modernization project, maritime cooperation and easing of visa regulations for South Korean workers and their families in Russia.

Yonhap News Agency, South Korea’s key news wire service, and Russia’s Itar-Tass News Agency also signed an agreement on expanding partnership in multimedia news service and co-sponsoring cultural activities between the two nations.

Medevedev pointed out the strengthening of legal and institutional systems via such diplomatic pacts will “buttress” Seoul-Moscow ties. In a 27-point joint statement, the leaders also “attached big meaning” to the measures to broaden human and other exchanges.

Russia proposed South Korea’s participation in a project to set up an “international nuclear energy infrastructure” and a global uranium enrichment center in Angarsk, an East Siberian city, the document said. Seoul is to review the offer.

The two sides said they will try to fully implement earlier agreements on joint development of East Siberia, which is rich in natural resources, and step up efforts for a greater role of the Group of 20 and the success of its Seoul summit this week, it added.

Russia firms up huge natural gas deal with S.Korea

SEOUL, Nov 10, 2010 (AFP) – Russia will ship at least 10 billion cubic metres (350 billion cubic feet) of natural gas a year to South Korea from 2017 under a preliminary deal to be signed Wednesday, Moscow’s energy giant Gazprom said.

Commercial talks will start next month on the deal, Gazprom head Alexey Miller told reporters on the sidelines of a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev to Seoul for a G20 summit this week. “We currently see a growing market in Korea,” Miller said. “Our partners are interested in increasing gas supplies.” Miller said the delivery method — a pipeline, compressed gas or liquefied gas — had yet to be agreed and gave no details on the value of the deal.

When the initial agreement was signed in 2008, an official quoted by Yonhap news agency said the gas imports would be worth about 90 billion dollars over three decades. South Korea, one of the world’s largest consumers of natural gas, is trying to diversify its sources from Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It has a separate 20-year deal to import 1.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas from Russia’s Sakhalin Energy every year. Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, estimated at 1,680 trillion cubic feet.

Medvedev called for a “strategic” partnership with South Korea, in comments at a G20 business summit which precedes the leaders’ gathering Thursday and Friday. “Russia is interested in the arrival of Korean investors. They bring in modern technologies and introduce a modern culture of production,” he said. The Russian leader stressed that apart from trade, “for us it is no less important to learn from our partners and establish with them the so-called modernisation alliances.” Medvedev has pushed for modernisation of Russia’s economy and a lessening of its dependence on oil and gas exports.

S. Korean, Russian watchdogs to cooperate for securities market transparency

SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s financial regulator agreed Wednesday with its Russian counterpart to boost cooperation in order to raise transparency in both countries’ securities markets, the Seoul watchdog said. Financial Services Commission (FSC) Chairman Chin Dong-soo signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Vladimir Milovidov, the head of the Federal Financial Markets Service, the local commission said.

The Russian official was in Seoul to accompany President Dmitry Medvedev for the summit of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies scheduled for Thursday and Friday. The MOU calls for both countries to expand cooperation and share information to raise transparency in their stock and bond markets by helping each other impose sanctions on those who rig prices and disrupt trading, the FSC said in a statement. “The two heads also agreed to further deepen their ties in the financial and securities sectors in the light of the G-20 summit,” the regulator noted.

Leonid Petrov‘s article “Russia’s ‘Power Politics’ and North Korea” can be viewed here…

To the Diamond Mountains with Tessa Morris-Suzuki

9 11 2010

To the Diamond Mountains: A Hundred Year Journey Through China and Korea (published by Rowman and Littlefield this month) takes readers on a unique journey through China and North and South Korea.

Following in the footsteps of a remarkable writer, artist and feminist, Emily Kemp, who traveled this route a century ago  in the year when Korea became a Japanese colony  the journey reveals an unseen face of China and the two Koreas: a world of monks, missionaries and smugglers, of royal tombs and socialist mausoleums; a world where today’s ideological confrontations are infused with myth and memory, and nothing is quite as it seems.

Northeast Asia today is poised at a moment of profound change as the rise of China is transforming the global order and tensions run high on the Korean Peninsula, the last Cold War divide. Probing the deep past of this region, To the Diamond Mountains offers a new and unexpected perspective on the region’s present and future.

Book Launch and Talk: “To the Diamond Mountains with Tessa Morris-Suzuki. A Journey through China and the two Koreas”
Monday November 15 at Asia Bookroom

An evening not to be missed for anyone interested in the present or past of this important, and lesser known, part of the world.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor of Japanese History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She has published widely on issues of history and memory in Northeast Asia; migration and ethnic minorities in Japan; Cold War history in Northeast Asia; and concepts of area studies, civil society and human rights. Her work has appeared in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Dutch and French translation. Her other recent books include The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History; Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan’s Cold War; and Borderline Japan: Foreigners and Frontier Controls in the Postwar Era. She is also an enthusiastic traveler and has published children’s stories and poetry (including the collection of poems Peeling Apples).

If you can’t join us on November the 15th but would like to buy a signed copy or would just like to look at the details just click here To The Diamond Mountains: A Hundred-Year Journey through China

When: 6pm Monday, 15th November

Where: Asia Bookroom, Unit 2, 1 – 3 Lawry Place, Macquarie. ACT

RSVP: By Saturday 13th November by phoning +61(2)6251 5191

Admission by gold coin donation. All money raised will go towards the excellent work done by the Eugene Bell Foundation

DPRK Restricts Private Car Use, Rattles Markets

5 11 2010

(IFES, NK Brief No. 10-11-01-1) The North Korean Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) recently issued an order restricting the use of automobiles and warning that any car or truck used to earn private income would be confiscated by the State. There were a few cases of authorities cracking down on the use of private buses in the mid-2000s, but this is the first time there has been a widespread crackdown on the private use of all vehicles.

According to a report from the Daily NK, a source from North Hamgyeong Province has revealed that “on an order from the MPS, a crackdown on privately-owned cars, buses, and 1.5-2 ton small trucks began last month,” and, “all traffic police were mobilized and are checking all registrations, car-use permits, and driving licenses.” According to the source, each regional transportation authority is filing comprehensive situation reports, which show that with the exception of cars used by the elite, all illegally-used cars are being confiscated. Even cars used by military-run foreign capital organizations are subject to inspection by police.

In North Korea, the lack of electricity has led, since the mid~2000s, to the sharp drop in the use of trains and a rise in reliance on the so-called ‘service car’ as the primary method of moving people and goods around the country. This crackdown on service cars will be carried out in two phases: Phase 1 will run until the end of the year, then Phase 2 will be carried out until April 2011. The ownership and use of cars by organizations and businesses will also be investigated, while other cars will be inspected one at a time as they travel the roads. If any illegal use is discovered, the car will be impounded.

This kind of measure appears to be one aspect of North Korean authorities’ on-going battle against “anti-socialism.” Cars and other government property being put to private use is problematic, but a crackdown of this size indicates that organizations and government workers are abusing the rules on such a scale that the government can no longer tolerate their corruption. In order for these service cars to exist, authorities must break laws, forge documents, and pay bribes to get a car registered, purchase gas, and handle profits.

However, a crackdown on these cars is expected to have many side-effects. Service cars began replacing trains in 2004, but the people’s reliance on them grew so quickly that they are now the primary means of transportation throughout North Korea.

Ultimately, the North can not avoid significant aftershocks of the measure; without service cars, not only will businesses suffer production problems, those people who make their living through wholesale and retail markets will suffer, and the standard of living for people across the country will take a hit.