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2008/11/20 10:31 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 30 (November 20, 2008)


Earthquake Monitors to Watch for N. Korea Nuclear Activity

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's weather agency said on Nov. 13 it will install earthquake recorders in three regions adjacent to the inter-Korean border to detect possible nuclear activities by North Korea.

   The seismometers will be set up 100 meters below ground in the rural towns of Ganghwa, Yeoncheon and Inje to record seismic waves generated by nuclear tests and other artificial explosions as well as earthquakes, said the Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul.

   The devices cost 300 million won (US$21,587) each. Once installed, they will allow the weather agency to detect any unusual movements and whether or not they were artificially produced.

   "Seismic waves from natural earthquakes have a longer period of energy emission compared to artificially-generated waves linked to shorter energy emission periods," an official said.

   North Korea first detonated a nuclear device in Oct. 2006. Experts in Seoul have said the resulting explosive impact was smaller than that of a successful nuclear test.


N. Korea Threat Remains "Real," But Contained: USFK Chief

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea continues to pose a real threat to South Korea and the rest of Northeast Asia with its nuclear capabilities and weapons of mass destruction, Gen. Walter Sharp, the chief of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said on Nov. 14.

   Sharp added the South Korea-U.S. alliance is successfully deterring any aggression from the socialist nation.

   "While North Korea's capability has limitations, they can still cause enormous damage on South Korea with little or no warning," Sharp said, noting the North continues to deploy over 70 percent of its military assets along the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

   "Threats in Northeast Asia remain very real," said the USFK chief, who also heads the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC). He made the remarks during a seminar co-hosted by Seoul's Korea Institute for Defense Analyses and Washington's Institute for National Strategic Studies to mark the 30th anniversary of the CFC.

   Sharp said the CFC has been the cornerstone of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and has not only deterred aggression but enabled millions of Korean people to prosper and enjoy the liberties of a free nation.

   "The first responsibility of any nation is to provide security for its people, and the Republic of Korea armed forces have the proud tradition of doing just that," he said, calling South Korea by its official name.

   The time, however, has now come for the countries' combined forces to take the next step, Sharp said, referring to the scheduled dismantlement of the CFC.

   In April 2012, Seoul will reclaim wartime operational control of its troops from Washington, upon which the American commander of the combined forces will be left with control over U.S. troops only.

   Sharp said the transfer of wartime operational control, often called OPCON, back to Seoul is the "natural evolution" of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and is owed to South Korea's armed forces.

  The commander said South Korea now operates one of the strongest and most capable militaries in the world.

   "As we proceed with OPCON transfer, we enter into an era when Korean people can be proud of not only their strong armed forces today, but can also be proud of having the ultimate responsibility of their own defense," said the USFK chief, who also wears the hat of the commander of the United Nations Command in Korea.

   "The United States will continue to provide steadfast support, and after 2012, U.S. forces will still be in Korea, plan, train and exercise together with ROK counterparts and support this strong alliance," he added.

   Following the disbandment of the CFC, the U.S. plans to set up Korea Command, or KorCom, to take control of its own troops. Seoul is also expected to set up a corresponding command headquarters for its troops, tentatively named the Joint Forces Command.


Obama Gov't Advised to Prepare for Conflict with N. Korea

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The incoming Barack Obama administration should be ready to deal with a possible conflict with North Korea, China and in the Middle East, a progressive U.S. think tank has recommended.

   "The U.S. military must also maintain its readiness for possible contingencies, such as a conflict in the Middle East, with North Korea, or with China," the Center for American Progress Action Fund said on Nov. 14 in an additional contribution to the policy recommendation book titled "Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President."
"Because such contingencies may differ significantly from Afghanistan or Iraq, maintaining the readiness of the U.S. military writ large is a balancing act between the demands of ongoing operations and the possible requirements of other missions that may arise," the think tank said in the book, released recently.

   The policy recommendation of the think tank, headed by former White House chief of staff John Podesta, who leads Obama's presidential transition team, contrasts with Obama's pledge for greater engagement with North Korea, including a possible meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

   At a presidential debate last month, Obama dismissed Republic rival John McCain's criticism that it is naive to meet with Kim without preconditions, saying that any summit meeting should follow due preparations.

   The president-elect has said the Bush administration's reluctance to deal directly with North Korea resulted in the North's detonation of its first nuclear device in 2006 and the quadrupling of its nuclear weapons to eight by the end of Bush's eight-year term.

   Reports said that Obama may send a prominent figure as his special envoy to Pyongyang soon after his inauguration on Jan. 20 to prepare for a possible visit there himself to make a breakthrough in the often-troubled multilateral nuclear talks that began in 2003.


Kim Il-sung Supports Korea's Denuclearization: Chinese Dossier

BEIJING (Yonhap) -- North Korea's founder was opposed to the presence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, a declassified Chinese diplomatic document showed on Nov. 16.

   The document, which was declassified by China's Foreign Ministry last week, reveals a letter that Kim Il-Sung, father of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, wrote to Zhou Enlai, then China's premier, around Oct. 30, 1964.

   Kim writes: "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea) has consistently maintained that nuclear weapons should be completely banned and nuclear weapons should be thoroughly destroyed."
"The Korean people will stand shoulder to shoulder with the peace-loving people of the whole world for the realization of the complete ban and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons," he writes.

   The letter lends a measure of credence to claims by North Korean officials made in talks with South Korean counterparts that Pyongyang supports denuclearization in principle.

   In his summit in October 2007 with then South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Kim Jong-il said, "We have no intention of having nuclear weapons. It's the dying wish (of leader Kim Il-sung). We are firm on this position."

   Kim Young-nam, North Korea's second-ranking leader and president of the Supreme People's Assembly, also told visiting South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung in 2007: "Denuclearlization of the Korean Peninsula is the dying wish of leader Kim Il-sung, for which we'll continue our efforts."

   Contrary to its call for denuclearization, however, North Korea supported China's nuclear development in the 1960s as contributing to peace around the world, according to the document.

   In the letter to Zhou, Kim says, "China's possession of nuclear weapons and successful achievement of its first nuclear test is a defensive measure against the nuclear threats posed by the United States and is clearly the right thing to do."


Obama to Engage N. Korea Directly without Preconditions

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The incoming Barack Obama administration will engage North Korea directly without preconditions to persuade the communist state to abandon its nuclear ambitions, according to a policy plan issued by the presidential team on Nov. 18.

   "Obama and Biden will pursue tough, direct diplomacy without preconditions with all nations, friend and foes," said the Obama-Biden Plan posted in the Web site of the transition team. "They will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table and is willing to lead."
The policy direction is in line with Obama's campaign pledge that he is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il without any conditions attached.

   Obama dismissed Republican rival John McCain's criticism at a presidential debate last month that it is naive to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il without preconditions, saying incumbent President George W. Bush's reluctance to deal directly with North Korea resulted in the North's detonation of its first nuclear device in 2006.

   Obama is expected to send a prominent figure as his special envoy to Pyongyang soon after his inauguration on Jan. 20 to prepare for a possible visit there himself to make a breakthrough in the on-and-off multilateral nuclear talks that began in 2003, according to some reports and analysts.

   South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Nov. 16 expressed his support for a Pyongyang-Washington summit, saying, "It would be better for President-elect Obama to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-il personally if it is helpful to North Korea's abandonment of its nuclear weapons."

   The Obama-Biden Plan also said that if "America is willing to come to the table, the world will be more willing to rally behind American leadership to deal with challenges like confronting terrorism and Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs."

   The plan suggested that the Obama administration will "use tough diplomacy -- backed by real incentives and real pressures -- to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate fully and verifiably North Korea's nuclear weapons program."

   In one form of pressure, the Obama government "will crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions," it said.

   "Obama and Biden will forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea," it added.