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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 230 (October 4, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

S. Korea Urges N. Korea to Stop Attempts to Intervene in Presidential Election

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government has urged North Korea to immediately stop its schemes to meddle in the forthcoming presidential election in South Korea slated for December. The Seoul government believes recent developments involving North Korea, including the intrusion into South Korean waters by several North Korean fishing boats in the Yellow Sea, are related to be premeditated attempts to influence the presidential election.

   In an emergency meeting of foreign affairs and security-related ministers presided over by President Lee Myung-bak at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Sept. 26, the government decided to urge North Korea to immediately stop its attempts to intervene in the 18th presidential election.

   President Lee instructed the participants at the meeting to maintain strong security preparedness ahead of the presidential election. National Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik; Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin; Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young; Ha Geum-yeol, presidential secretary-general; and Chun Yung-woo, senior presidential aide for diplomacy and security, attended the meeting.

   The government reaffirmed the principles to thoroughly prepare for North Korea's premeditated provocations and to take strong counter measures to any such provocations.

   A senior official at Cheong Wa Dae said series of violations of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) by North Korean fishing vessels cannot be regarded as accidental but can be understood as an attempt to influence the presidential election.

   The incursions of North Korean fishing vessels may be intentional to give the North an excuse for provocations, another official at the Foreign Ministry said. "It is a known act that North Korea violated the NLL eight times over the past 10 days," he added.

   On Sept. 21, South Korean patrol boats spotted six North Korean fishing vessels in southern waters in the Yellow Sea and fired warning shots to force them back.

   North Korea threatened unspecified military action the next day. Calling the warning shots an "adventurous military provocation," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, "The Southwestern Frontline Command stands ready for an operation order to turn the Yellow Sea into a trap for the enemy."

   The KCNA report said North Korea has few options but to carry out "powerful attacks," insisting that the country's front-line troops know no limits for retaliation.

   The maritime border in the Yellow Sea has been the scene of several bloody naval skirmishes between the two Koreas. Most recently in March, 2010, North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship in the area, killing 46 sailors.

   It was the first time in two years South Korea has used military power to repel intruding North Korean fishing boats. The area is rich in crabs and other expensive seafood.

   When its navy boats took action against the North Korean fishing boats, South Korea's military also deployed a fighter jet, a military source said.
On Sept. 29, North Korea accused South Korea of creating a "touch-and-go" situation along the tense Yellow Sea border, warning that it would retaliate if the South continues to try to keep its "illegal" borderline there.

   The North Korean fishing boats retreated after the warning shots on Sept. 21. It was the first such incident in the area since November 2010, shortly before the North shelled the nearby front-line island of Yeonpyeong.

   In a report carried by the KCNA, an unnamed spokesman for the North's powerful National Defense Commission accused the South Korean Navy that "reckless military provocations have created a touch-and-go situation in the West Sea of Korea."

   Calling the Yellow Sea border an "illegal, ghostlike line," the spokesman warned South Korea's "efforts to preserve the illegal 'northern limit line' will bring only death to them."

   North Korea has never recognized the NLL, which was drawn unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command when the 1950-53 Korean War ended and demands the line be drawn further south.

   The two sides fought naval gun-battles in the area in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In 2010, the North torpedoed the South Korean warship and shelled Yeonpyeong Island.

   This week, South Korea's top general called for heightened alert against possible North Korean provocations in the border area, warning that the recent series of border violations by North Korean fishing boats might be a presage to major military provocations.

   "Our military has drastically bolstered its capabilities and readiness to sternly punish enemy provocations with teeth-gritting determination" since the North's two military attacks in 2010, Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

   "We have to be thoroughly prepared to get our system to work perfectly in the case of enemy provocations," he said, during a ceremony to mark the 49th anniversary of the establishment of the JCS.

   In a related development, North Korea's air force has sharply increased its training flights of fighter jets since July, with the number of sorties reaching as many as 100 a day, a government source said on Sept. 27. The move is uncommon because North Korean pilots usually focus on ground training in summer.

   The socialist nation is also showing signs of large-scaled artillery exercises along its west coast, and movements of small submarines has also increased, the source said.

   On Oct. 1, South Korean Defense Minister Kim called on South Korean soldiers to prepare for North Korea provoking in other areas than the disputed sea border in the Yellow Sea. "North Korea may provoke in a way which we do not expect, although they are currently focusing on waters (in the Yellow Sea)," Kim told soldiers at a naval command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

   Kim was referring to the recent violations of South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea by North Korean patrol boats and fishing vessels.

   North Korea in recent years has challenged the NLL, the de facto maritime sea border between the two Koreas drawn at the end of the three-year Korean War by the U.N. command, which dominated the sea and air border at the time.

   "I understand that North Korea is trying to put our attention to the NLL with an aim to make the NLL an object of negotiation," Kim said. "We actually did not imagine North Korea would provoke with (the torpedoing of) the Cheonan. I mean they can provoke by looking one way and going another."

   Kim expressed concern that North Korea may create domestic instability in South Korea, apparently noting political instability in North Korea after the ascendance to power by Kim Jong-un, a son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

   The young North Korean leader is believed to have consolidated power since taking over in December, but some analysts say that remains to be seen.

   Meanwhile, a ruling party lawmaker revealed North Korea is desperate in attempting to intervene in the South Korean presidential election.

   Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the Saenuri Party said on Oct. 1 that North Korea has stepped up efforts to intervene in the presidential election and the frequencies of the attempts increased by threefold this year from the period ahead of the last presidential election five years ago.

   Citing data from the Unification Ministry, Yoon said the number of incidents in that North Korea made meddling remarks on the presidential election increased from 40 times in April, to 140 times in May, 171 times in July and 133 times during the first 23 days of September.

   Yoon said North Korea is strengthening its malignant propaganda to denounce South Korea by mobilizing its anti-South propaganda organizations including the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. It is also exploiting on-line media networks such as YouTube, Twitter and Flickr to appeal to the young generation in the South.

   Yoon further said North Korea recently increased its condemnation of internal affairs in South Korea, including the move to conclude an information sharing agreement with Japan, a slush fund scandal and government state projects.

   He said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un instructed to intervene in the South Korean elections on Jan. 1 this year through the Workers' Party of (North) Korea. North Korea is expected to concentrate on intervention in the election through social network service and try to instigate social confusion by mobilizing pro-North Korean forces in South Korea and abroad.