NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER (December 17, 2009) |
*** FOREIGN TIPS
U.S. to Consider Restarting Food Aid to N.K. If Monitoring Permitted
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States will consider resuming food aid to North Korea if the North allows monitoring of food distribution, a U.S. envoy said on Dec. 11.
At a news conference on Dec. 9 in Geneva, Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, said, "If we are able to reach agreement on being able to monitor humanitarian assistance, and if the need is there, and if the resources are on our side and the competing demands are met, we would be willing to look at providing assistance again," according to a transcript released by the State Department on the same day.
"The U.S. does not link humanitarian assistance to any political considerations," said King, who attended a U.N. Human Rights Council forum in Geneva.
He took office last month under the North Korean Human Rights Act, which calls for providing financial aid to help improve democracy and human rights conditions in the North and accommodation of North Korean defectors in the U.S. The act went into effect in 2004 and was extended by Congress for another four years in September last year.
The U.S., which had provided more than 2 million tons of food aid to the North in the past decade or so, suspended food aid in March when North Korea refused to issue visas to Korean-speaking monitors, whose mission was to assure that the food aid was not funneled to the military and government elite.
Humanitarian food aid to North Korea by international relief organizations was also suspended early this year when the North Korean government expelled international monitors amid escalating tensions over the North's rocket launch.
The U.S. had delivered 169,000 tons of food to North Korea from May 2008 to March after Washington pledged to provide 500,000 tons of food to help alleviate the North's chronic food shortage.
The World Food Program has said that North Korea will need more than 800,000 tons of food from abroad to feed its 24 million people this year.
N. Korea Steps up Air Force Training Near Sea Border with S. Korea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has stepped up Air Force training near its volatile sea border with South Korea as the country's armed forces undergo months-long winter exercises, a defense source in Seoul said on Dec. 12.
North Korea conducts massive exercises for its 1.2 million troops from November through March each year, according to South Korean military officials.
A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea's Air Force is ramping up its drills north of the western Northern Limit Line (NLL) that serves as a de facto sea border with South Korea.
Three naval skirmishes took place near the line in the past decade, as North Korea refuses to honor the boundary drawn by a U.S. general in 1953, when the three-year Korean War ended in a truce.
"North Korean fighter jets have been increasing the number of landings, take-offs and long-range flight drills there since the winter exercises kicked off," the source said.
On Dec. 9, a North Korean fighter jet breached a South Korean-set Tactical Action Line (TAL), prompting the South Korean Air Force to scramble to send six KF-16 fighters near the NLL, the source said.
The TAL, drawn dozens of kilometers north of the NLL, is only a several-minute flight from the South Korean capital, Seoul.
"This type of situation occurs routinely," the source said, adding the North Korean Air Force has breached the TAL over 1,000 times since mid-January.
U.S. 'Pleased' by N. Korean Weapons Seizure in Thailand: Clinton
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Dec. 14 that her government welcomes Thailand's seizure of North Korean weapons while en route to a third country in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.
"We were very pleased to see the strong action taken by the Thais," Clinton said in a joint press availability with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. "I think the actions by the Thai government to detain the plane that is apparently carrying significant amounts of weapons demonstrates the importance of international solidarity behind the sanctions that were adopted at the United Nations earlier this year."
Thai authorities seized 35 tons of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and missile parts on a Georgia-registered flight Saturday when the plane landed in Bangkok for refueling.
Thai authorities reportedly said that they were tipped off by the U.S.
They said they confiscated the North Korean arms under U.N. resolutions adopted after North Korea's nuclear and missile tests earlier this year.
The resolutions call for an overall arms embargo and financial sanctions and interdiction of cargo on the high seas to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, missiles, other weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms.
Arms sales are one of the major sources of revenue for North Korea, which has long been under international financial sanctions led by the U.S.
"I don't think anyone should be surprised that North Korea is continuing to attempt to evade the sanctions and export around the world, because that is their principal source of foreign currency," Clinton said. "They have a need to continue to sell the one thing that they can export."
North Korea is suspected of being behind nuclear and missile proliferation in Syria, Iran, Pakistan and several other countries in the Middle East.
The United Arab Emirates in July seized a Bahamian-flagged ship carrying North Korean rocket-propelled grenades and other conventional weapons labeled as machine parts, the first seizure of its kind since the Security Council adopted Resolution 1874 in June after North Korea's nuclear test in May.
The seizure comes as the United States has broken diplomatic ice with North Korea.
Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, made his first visit to Pyongyang last week to persuade North Korea to come back to six-party talks on ending the North's denuclearization.
Bosworth said that he failed to obtain the North's commitment to return to the six-party talks, but added the sides have "identified some common understandings" on the need to restart the six-party talks. The talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan have been deadlocked since the U.N. sanctions.
Asked on the possible impact on the North Korean weapons seizure on the international efforts to revive the six-party talks, a State Department official, asking anonymity, said, "We are going to robustly implement 1874. At the same time, we want North Korea to return to six-party talks to discuss this real priority of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula."
On the reports that the U.S. has agreed to have four-party talks, which also includes South Korea and China, to forge a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, the anonymous official said, "We can look at a number of different ways of engaging with them on non-nuclear issues within the context of the six-party talks."
"Once we get the six-party talks going again, there is a mechanism to have bilateral talks," he said. "However, we are not going to go to step two before we get to step one."
China Committed to Enforcing U.N. Sanctions on North Korea: Envoy
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- China has a heavy responsibility in implementing U.N. sanctions on North Korea while simultaneously staying committed to economic cooperation with its reclusive neighbor, Beijing's ambassador to Seoul said on Dec. 15.
"China maintains normal economic cooperation with North Korea as the neighboring countries have traditional had friendly relations. But this should not be seen as mixed with the contents of the U.N. resolution (on Pyongyang)," Amb. Cheng Yonghua told Yonhap News Agency. "China, as a standing member of the U.N. Security Council, has a heavy responsibility for the implementation of the U.N. resolution,"
China plays a central role in the effective implementation of the resolution adopted after the North's nuclear test in May last year, as Beijing is reportedly providing a virtual lifeline to its impoverished communist ally.
The envoy insisted that Pyongyang could not be recognized as a nuclear power, saying it runs counter to world opinion. "The international community's common perception is not to recognize North Korea as a nuclear state," he said.
He also said that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's trip to Seoul later this week will give a boost to Seoul-Beijing relations that have already been progressing rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic ties 17 years ago. Xi will arrive here on Wednesday for a four-day trip as part of a regional tour that will also take him to Japan, Myanmar, and Cambodia. He will be accompanied by 58 officials, including China's top nuclear envoy Wu Dawei, as well as journalists.
"In conclusion, I am optimistic about the future of relations between South Korea and China as they have many common interests," Cheng said.