South Korea to hold artillery drills near border with North

2 12 2010

Tania Branigan (The Guardian, 1 Dec. 2010) South Korea plans to hold major artillery training exercises next week – including some in an area close to its disputed maritime border with the North, media in Seoul reported today. Analysts warned the move, which emerged as the South’s military completed joint drills with a US aircraft carrier group, could increase tensions already running high in the wake of last week’s attack by the North

Analysts believe the most likely outcome of the current stand-off is further negotiations, and that North Korea’s actions are in part intended to push Seoul and Washington back towards talks based on giving the North aid in exchange for a pledge on scaling back its nuclear capabilities. The US has described its participation in this week’s manoeuvres as a deterrent while the South’s defence minister warned there was an “ample possibility” of a provocation by the North when the USS George Washington aircraft carrier leaves today.

But some analysts warned that more military drills could escalate a delicate situation by angering the North. “The overall situation might be intensified and a new crisis might be brought by doing this,” said Professor Chu Shulong, an expert on international security at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. He added: “Because of the Cheonan incident in March and the shelling in Yeonpyeong, [South Korean] people are angry and their anger has not been addressed yet. They are not happy with the reaction of the government. “At the same time, South Korea cannot attack North Korea. They can only express their anger through military drills; it is their only way to show the determination to defend their country and to warn the North.”

Dr Leonid Petrov, an expert on the North at the University of Sydney, added: “Conservatives in Pyongyang and Seoul are driving the situation to a new extreme.” He argued that Lee’s choice was effectively to “either go to war with North Korea or reverse his policy and return to the sunshine policy [of his predecessors] and renege on his electoral promises”. Petrov added that the “responsible” course for the US would be to talk to the North.

Beijing – under pressure to rein in its ally – threw the ball back into Washington’s court by calling for an emergency meeting of the six nations involved in the stalled aid-for-denuclearisation talks. But the US, South Korea and Japan have snubbed that proposal, instead planning to hold trilateral talks next week. “I think there has to be a seriousness on the part of the North Koreans to get back to these [six-party] talks,” said the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs.

Japan sent its envoy to the nuclear talks to China today. The senior North Korean leader Choe Thae Bok is currently in Beijing and China’s state councillor Dai Bingguo is expected to travel to Pyongyang shortly. A Russian nuclear envoy, Grigory Logvinov, will meet officials in Seoul today to discuss the attack, the six-party talks and other issues, said South Korea’s foreign ministry…

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Military to hold firing drills near border island next week

SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s military plans to conduct large-scale artillery firing drills in seas around the Korean Peninsula, including waters close to the Yellow Sea border, starting Dec. 6, seeking to beef up its defense readiness posture against any possible additional provocations by North Korea, officials said Tuesday.

According to officials at the Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Administration, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has issued an advisory to local vessels planning to navigate 29 locations in waters around the peninsula from Dec. 6-12. The 29 locations include 16 in the Yellow Sea, seven in the East Sea and six in the South Sea, the officials said.

They noted that the 16 Yellow Sea locations do not include waters close to Yeonpyeong Island, which was attacked by North Korea’s deadly artillery shells on Nov. 23. Instead, Daecheong Island, close to Baengnyeong Island and located just south of the Yellow Sea border, was included among the venues of the naval firing drills, the officials said. “Naval warships plan to conduct firing exercises in waters southwest of Daecheong Island,” an official for the JCS said.

Next week’s naval firing drills, which will follow the large-scale South Korea-U.S. joint naval exercises scheduled to continue through Wednesday, are expected to further increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula…

…Government sources said that the military also has a plan to conduct shooting exercises in waters off Yeonpyeong Island in the immediate future. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that the military is now seeking to choose an appropriate time for live fire exercises in waters off Yeonpyeong Island.

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China to dump North Korea, really?

1 12 2010

By Sunny Lee (Asia Times On-line, 1 Dec. 2010) BEIJING – The WikiLeaks revelations on North Korea did not surprise analysts, who said they are after all not particularly substantial; and when it comes to North Korea, even ranking government officials can be wrong.

Leaked US diplomatic cables show China’s frustration with communist ally North Korea and present a picture that Beijing is likely to abandon its long-time ideological brother country by accepting a future unified Korea under South Korean control. That interpretation, analysts say, belies reality

“For North Korea watchers, it was not much of a news,” said Leonid Petrov, a Russian expert on Korean affairs, who teaches at the University of Sydney. Going against the predominant sentiment in the WikiLeaks documents, in which China is seen as ready to abandon its long-time communist ally, observers largely believe bilateral ties are intact, even after North Korea’s attack on the South last week, which drew international criticism on China as it long-time enabler, and calls for Beijing to do more to contain the North’s aggression.

What WikiLeaks did, according to analysts, was offer confirmation of the shallowness of the rest of the world’s understanding of North Korea, even at the very high level of a government bureaucracy, and how easy it is to be misled by one source or another.

“WikiLeaks helps us to know that, after all, intelligence is sometimes not reliable and sometimes even can be funny,” said Petrov. “It also reveals what could happen when you don’t have direct access to North Korea. People who really know North Korea don’t send cables to their government from neighboring countries [of North Korea.]”

Countries that really understand North Korea have diplomats in Pyongyang, like some European nations, Russia and China. “They all have embassies in Pyongyang and they have direct access to North Korean government officials and people,” Petrov said

Analysts believe that real, critical information is still outside the public realm. “I am pretty sure the Russian Embassy or the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang know and understand North Korea much better. They know personalities there. They know who is in what condition. Who’s controlling what. Yet they simply don’t share this [with diplomats of other countries]. So, what was leaked was just the tip of an iceberg,” said Petrov, the Russian expert.

WikiLeaks said China was preparing a contingency plan in the case of the collapse of North Korea and a flood of North Korean refugees to Chinese territory and outbreaks of unrest along its border that could happen if the with North Korean regime failed. Chinese officials in the leaks said China “could deal with up to 300,000 refugees but might have to seal the border to maintain order”. This is one of the most sensitive parts of WikiLeaks and is something that America has repeatedly nudged China to discuss, though China has so far refused…

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