NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 52 (April 30, 2009) |
*** FOREIGN TIPS
Clinton Calls on N. Korea to Return to Six-party Talks
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on April 22 urged North Korea to refrain from provocative acts and return to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
"We have made it clear that we are prepared to resume the six-party talks," Clinton told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "The Chinese and Russians, the Japanese and South Koreans have equally made that clear. As you know very well, the North Koreans have not demonstrated any willingness to resume the six-party process."
North Korea has threatened to boycott the multilateral nuclear talks for good, restart its nuclear facilities being disabled under a six-party deal and strengthen its nuclear arsenal, defying the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of what the North April 5 launch of a rocket that it claimed carried a satellite.
Pyongyang also expelled international inspectors from its nuclear facilities and jeopardized the joint industrial park in the North's border town of Kaesong by threatening to terminate preferential treatment for South Korean companies.
"We have to be strong, patient and consistent and not give in to the kind of back-and-forth and the unpredictable behavior of the North Korean regime," Clinton said. "I was pleased by the strong statement that we got unanimously from the United Nations condemning the missile launch, saying that it was in contravention of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718."
Clinton stressed the importance of the international community making concerted efforts to deal with North Korea.
"I think the strong support that we see among the parties against what North Korea's doing will eventually yield fruit," she said.
Foreign Minister Warns N. Korea Not to Worsen Situation
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's foreign minister urged North Korea on April 23 to stop raising tension and rejoin the six-way talks on its nuclear program.
Yu Myung-hwan also hinted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov may try to persuade the North to release a South Korean worker detained there for more than three weeks.
"I can't help but express serious concern that North Korea is rejecting the international community's agreement and further damaging all the accomplishments in the six-way talks," Yu said during his monthly press briefing.
His comments were in reference to a series of moves by Pyongyang to protest the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch.
The North announced on April 14 it would "never" return to the six-way talks also involving the U.S., China, and Japan. It also expelled U.N. and U.S. monitors from its main nuclear site in Yongbyon and warned it would bring the nearly disabled facilities back into operation.
"North Korea should not exacerbate the situation any more, abide by the U.N. Security Council statement and push for denuclearization," the minister said, adding if the North reactivates its plutonium reprocessing factory, the U.N. will seek additional punishment.
Campbell Named Assistant Secretary of State: White House
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Kurt Campbell, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, has been nominated as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, the White House said on April 23.
In announcing Campbell's nomination, the White House said in a statement that he "is chief executive officer and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), an organization dedicated to advancing a strong, centrist national security strategy."
He is to replace Christopher Hill, who was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Iraq on April 21 by the Senate amid controversy over his lack of experience in Middle Eastern affairs.
Hill doubled as the chief U.S. negotiator at the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but Campbell's role will be different.
Hill's deputy, Sung Kim, was promoted to lead the U.S. delegation to the multinational nuclear disarmament talks. Meanwhile, Stephen Bosworth, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, is President Barack Obama's special representative for North Korea, so he could oversee the six-party talks and other North Korea issues.
Bosworth has said he will report directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama, meaning Campbell is either being sidelined or at least will consult closely with Bosworth on North Korea, which is under Campbell's jurisdiction.
In February, Campbell, who also serves as director of the Aspen Strategy Group and chairman of the editorial board of the Washington Quarterly, met with a group of South Korean officials and scholars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., in closed-door meetings to discuss North Korea's nuclear ambitions and other issues of mutual concern.
N. Korean Leader's Son Appointed to Post in Top Military Body
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The third son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been assigned to a post in the communist nation's top military organization headed by Kim, apparently a sign of being groomed as the North's next leader, multiple sources privy to North Korean affairs said on April 26.
"Kim Jong-un had been appointed to a low-level post, called 'instructor' at the National Defense Commission days before the first session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly meeting was held" on April 9, the source said. Another source also said that Jong-un works at the commission, but that his exact post remains unconfirmed.
Sources noted that Jong-un's course of "succession lessons" is different from that of his father, who started his political career in the Workers' Party. They said the move shows the authority of the National Defense Commission headed by Kim under his military-first policy.
Kim Jong-il was tapped as successor at 32 by his father and the nation's founder, Kim Il-sung, in a general meeting of the Workers' Party in 1974. He took over after his father's death in 1994.
Early this year, the North's leader delivered a directive on his nomination of Jong-un as his successor in the Workers' Party leadership, according to the sources.
The 26-year-old is the youngest of Kim's three sons. Jong-un was educated at the International School of Berne and is known to be a fan of NBA basketball. After returning to Pyongyang in his late teens, he has lived a reclusive life, and very little is known about his character.
The North's leader, who turned 68 in February, suffered a stroke last year, according to South Korean intelligence officials. However, he has recovered from the illness well enough to meet foreign guests and appear in public events.
U.N. Committee Sanctions Three N. Korean Firms
NEW YORK (Yonhap) -- The United Nations imposed financial and trade sanctions on three North Korean companies on April 27 in the wake of North Korea's rocket launch in early April.
The companies are the (North) Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, the (North) Korea Ryonbong General Corporation and Tanchon Commercial Bank, said Turkish U.N. Ambassador Baki Ilkin, who heads the Security Council's sanctions committee.
The committee also banned U.N. member states from trading in dual-use items related to the production of ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction, officials said.
The sanctions decision comes nearly two weeks after the 15-member U.N. Security Council adopted a presidential statement to rebuke North Korea's April 5 rocket launch and call for the committee to list North Korean firms and goods to be sanctioned.
Pak Tok-hun, deputy chief of North Korea's permanent mission to the U.N. in New York, reacted angrily, saying North Korea will not accept any decision from the Security Council.
"The peaceful use of space is a right that cannot be deprived of any country," he said. "The recent activity of the U.N. Security Council shows that we cannot expect anything from it unless it is democratized."
In announcing the designation of the three North Korean firms subject to sanctions, the U.N. said in a statement that the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation is a "primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons."
(North) Korea Ryonbong General Corporation is a "defense conglomerate specializing in acquisition for DPRK (North Korea) defense industries and support to that country's military-related sales," the statement said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
"Tanchon Commercial Bank is the main DPRK financial entity for sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles, and goods related to the assembly and manufacture of such weapons," said the statement.
The three are a compromise between the U.S. and Japan, which had presented more than 10 North Korean firms, and China and Russia, which wanted to minimize the number so as not to provoke North Korea further, informed sources said.
U.S. Urges N. Korea to Improve Human Rights Record
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on April 28 expressed concerns about human rights conditions inside North Korea, urging the reclusive communist state to improve its record.
"We remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. "We will continue to press North Korea to improve its human rights record."
Wood's remarks coincide with the observance of North Korea Freedom Week.
In its annual Human Rights Report released in February, the U.S. State Department described North Korea as "a dictatorship under the absolute rule of Kim Jong-il" where citizens are subjected to arbitrary detention, executions and disappearances without due process.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, stirred controversy during an Asian tour in February by saying that human rights violations should not serve as a hurdle to improvements in relations with China.
Human rights activists have accused Clinton of being naive, saying only continued pressure on North Korea and China will help improve human rights there.
The previous Bush administration had also been accused of failing to raise human rights issues in six-party nuclear disarmament talks so as not to divert attention from the North's denuclearization.
Wrapping up his four-year tenure as U.S. special envoy for human rights in North Korea, Jay Lefkowitz urged the Obama administration in January to emphasize human rights in the multilateral nuclear talks, proposing that the U.S. and its allies cooperate closely to link any aid with human rights improvements.
In a show of the U.S. government's resolve to address North Korea's human rights situation, Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea, met with a delegation of North Korean defectors and advocacy organizations on April 27 at the State Department, Wood said.
Bosworth also met with Japanese abductee advocacy organizations and family members, he added.
The spokesman said that the U.S. "wholeheartedly supports Japan's position on the abductee issue," adding, "We have not forgotten and will never forget the suffering of the abductees and their families. We strongly urge the DPRK (North Korea) to address Japan's concerns without further delay."
In a related move, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Vitit Muntabhorn, said in a forum here that Pyongyang should allow him entry into North Korea so he can "take stock of the situation and recommend needed actions."
Muntabhorn has never been to North Korea, although he has worked for years to address North Korea's human rights situation under the U.N. mandate.
The rapporteur suggested that the international community make efforts to "ensure effective provision of and access to food and other basic necessities" and that North Korea "seek to modernize its national system by instituting reforms to ensure greater participation of the people in the process and compliance with international human rights standards."
Seoul Hosts 'Consolation' Event for Separated Families
PAJU, South Korea, (Yonhap) -- Seoul's unification minister on April 29 urged North Korea to resume reunions of families separated by the Korean War, which have been suspended for more than a year due to damaged political relations.
"The clock is ticking against us," Hyun In-taek said during an event held for separated family members in the western border town of Paju, Gyeonggi Province. "Whatever situation the South and the North are in, as far as the issue of separated families is concerned, it is time for North Korea to make a decision."
Family reunions between the two Koreas, an outcome of the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, have been suspended since a final round of mail exchanges took place in February last year. North Korea cut off government-level talks and refused to arrange reunions in protest of the policies of Seoul's conservative President Lee Myung-bak, who adopted a tougher stance on Pyongyang's nuclear program and ended South Korea's free flow of aid to the North.
The Unification Ministry hosted a so-called "consolation event," inviting 300 members of separated families to a day-long tour of Paju, a tourist site with underground caves dug by North Korea and the Odusan Unification Observatory that offers a bird's eye view of the North's border town of Kaesong.
After decades of waiting, many seemed to have relinquished hopes of seeing their loved ones again. Since the reunions began, more than 127,000 people have applied, but only 2,100 have been selected to meet their North Korean relatives. There were 16 face-to-face reunions, and seven through video.