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Posts tagged ‘Korean War’

LIGNET: Kim Jong Un’s Charm Offensive Makes US, South Korea Nervous.


Image: LIGNET: Kim Jong Un's Charm Offensive Makes US, South Korea Nervous

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to the crowd during a military parade above Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang on July 27, 2013. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korean rhetoric in the run-up to this year’s joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States has been more restrained than usual. Last week the North Korean government, headed by leader Kim Jong Un,  issued an open letter to the South urging improved relations and complaining that the military exercises are an obstacle to better ties.

The North also agreed to a South Korean proposal to resume family reunions, which have been suspended since 2010. But South Korean and U.S. officials reacted skeptically to the North’s charm offensive, worrying that it is a deception and a prelude to a resumption of provocations.

Click HERE to read an exclusive analysis from LIGNET’s top intelligence experts. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

SKorea Calls for Reunions of Separated Families.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s president called on Monday for resuming reunions of families separated by war, expressing hopes that the humanitarian program would improve strained ties between the rival Koreas.

The call comes amid lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang’s fiery rhetoric and threats of nuclear wars last spring. The two Koreas had planned to hold family reunions in September for the first time in three years but Pyongyang cancelled them at the last minute.

President Park Geun-hye told a televised news conference that she wants the reunions to take place on the occasion of the Lunar New Year’s Day later this month to “heal wounded hearts.”

She said she hopes the two Koreas would find a new momentum for better ties with the reunions. She said her government plans to expand civilian exchanges with North Korea and approve the shipments of more humanitarian assistance to North Korea.

Millions of people have been separated since an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War has never been changed to a peace treaty. The reunions are highly emotional as most applicants are in their 70s or older and are eager to see their loved ones before they die. The two Koreas bar ordinary citizens from exchanging letters, phone calls or email.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week called for improved ties in his New Year’s Day speech that included a warning of a nuclear war. South Korean officials responded by saying North Korea must first take nuclear disarmament steps and questioned the sincerity of Kim’s overture.

North Korea issued similar conciliatory gestures in its New Year’s Day message last year before it conducted its third nuclear test in February and made a torrent of threats to launch nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington in the spring.

Park said that North Korea should act with sincerity. “Last year, North Korea talked about improvement in South-North Korean ties in its New Year’s Day message but you know very well how it acted in reality,” she said.

Yoo Ho-Yeol, a professor of North Korea studies at Korea University in South Korea, said the family reunions are a “litmus test” for improved ties between the two Koreas. He said the reunions, if realized, can lead to the resumption of other stalled inter-Korean cooperation projects.

Worries about North Korea have deepened after the execution of leader Kim’s once-powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek on treason charges last month, with Seoul officials saying Pyongyang may launch provocation to create tension to bolster internal unity.

Park said North Korea has become “more unpredictable” following Jang’s execution and that South Korea will study and brace for any possible scenarios.

She reiterated her position that she can meet Kim anytime if it’s necessary for promoting peace on the peninsula but talks must not be held for talks’ sake.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

NKorea’s Kim Claims Strength After Removal of ‘Factionalist Filth’.


SEOUL, South KoreaKim Jong Un boasted Wednesday that North Korea enters the new year on a surge of strength because of the elimination of “factionalist filth” — a reference to the young leader’s once powerful uncle, whose execution last month has raised questions about Kim’s grip on power.

Kim’s comments in an annual New Year’s Day message, which included a call for improved ties with Seoul, will be scrutinized by outside analysts and governments for clues about the opaque country’s intentions and policy goals.

There’s widespread worry about the country’s future since Kim publicly humiliated and then executed his uncle and mentor, one of the biggest political developments in Pyongyang in years, and certainly since Kim took power two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

North Korea’s “resolute” action to “eliminate factionalist filth” within the ruling Workers’ Party has bolstered the country’s unity “by 100 times,” Kim said in a speech broadcast by state TV. He didn’t mention by name his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, long considered the country’s No. 2 power.

Kim called for an improvement in strained ties with South Korea, saying it’s time for each side to stop slandering the other. He urged Seoul to listen to voices calling for unification between the countries.

The language on unification, which is similar to that of past New Year’s messages, is an obvious improvement on last year’s threats of nuclear war, though there is still deep skepticism in Washington and Seoul about Pyongyang’s intentions.

North Korea’s authoritarian and secretive government is extremely difficult for outsiders to interpret, and analysts are divided about the meaning of Jang’s execution on treason charges.

Many, however, believe that the purge shows Kim Jong Un struggling to establish the same absolute power that his father and grandfather enjoyed. The public announcement of Jang’s fall opened up a rare and unfavorable window on the country’s inner workings, showing an alleged power struggle between Kim and his uncle after the 2011 death of Kim Jong Il.

Jang’s public downfall was seen as an acknowledgment of dissension and loss of control by the ruling Kim dynasty. That has caused outside alarm as Kim Jong Un simultaneously tries to revive a moribund economy and pushes development of nuclear-armed missiles.

Seoul worries that instability caused by Jang’s execution could lead to Pyongyang launching provocations to help consolidate internal unity. Attacks blamed on North Korea killed 50 South Koreans in 2010, and tension on the Korean Peninsula still lingers, although Pyongyang has backed away from war rhetoric from early last year that included threats of nuclear attacks against Washington and Seoul.

Recent indications that North Korea is restarting a mothballed reactor that can produce plutonium for bombs has caused deep skepticism in Washington and Seoul about Pyongyang’s recent calls for a resumption of long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

The country conducted its third nuclear test in February. It’s estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices and to be working toward building a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, although most experts say that goal may take years to achieve.

In comments that mirror past North Korean propaganda, Kim also said South Korean and U.S. “war mongers” were working “frantically” to bring nuclear attack devices to the peninsula and surrounding areas, part of training for northward nuclear attacks. An accidental conflict, he said, could trigger “an enormous nuclear catastrophe,” which would threaten U.S. safety.

North Korea was shaken by nuclear-capable U.S. bombers that flew over the peninsula last year after Pyongyang made war threats. Pyongyang’s state-controlled media regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of plotting to attack the North and overthrow its government, something the allies deny.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula technically in a state of war. About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea to help deter North Korean aggression.

There had been some early hope in Washington that Pyongyang could see change under Kim Jong Un’s rule. Kim’s government reached an agreement in early 2012 with Washington for a nuclear freeze in exchange for U.S. food aid.

It was meant to pave the way for full-fledged negotiations on the North’s nuclear program, but the North wrecked the deal within weeks when it launched a rocket in defiance of a U.N. ban.

Kim has since overseen a nuclear and missile test, other high-profile purges and a barrage of threats. Kim Jong Il took a much more low-profile approach when he rose to power after the 1994 death of his father, the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Freed US Veteran Says NKorea ‘Confession’ Made Under Duress.


A U.S. Korean war veteran held for over a month in North Korea said Monday that a videoconfession” released during his detention was made under duress.

Eighty-five year-old Merrill Newman, who was released last week and is now back home in California, said he was warned that he could be jailed for 15 years for spying if he did not cooperate.

Newman, who was on a guided tourist trip to the reclusive state, added that he believes North Korean authorities misunderstood his “curiosity as something more sinister” when he asked about North Korean war veterans.

The U.S. retiree was plucked off a plane on October 26 as he was leaving Pyongyang following a tourist visit. He was eventually freed and arrived back in California on Saturday.

He said a video “confession” was written for him by a non-native English speaker, adding that he emphasized the mistakes when he read it out, so that his family and others would know they were not his own words.

“Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily,” he said in a statement.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me ‘confess’ to.”

And he said: “To demonstrate that I was reading the document under some duress, I did my best to read the ‘confession’ in a way that emphasized the bad grammar and strange language that the North Koreans had crafted for me to say.

“I hope that came across to all who saw the video,” he added.

Regarding why he was detained, he said he had concluded that, “for the North Korean regime, the Korean War isn’t over and that even innocent remarks about the war can cause big problems if you are a foreigner.”

His mistake, he believes, was to ask to visit the area of Mount Kuwol where he had served during the Korean War, and then asked North Korean authorities if any veterans from that area were still alive.

“I innocently asked my North Korean guides whether some of those who fought in the war in the Mt. Kuwol area might still be alive, and expressed an interest in possibly meeting them if they were,” he said.

“The North Koreans seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister.

“It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized. With the benefit of hindsight I should have been more sensitive to that,” he added.

© AFP 2013
Source: Newsmax.com

Freed Veteran Arrives Home After NKorea Captivity.


Image: Freed Veteran Arrives Home After NKorea Captivity

Merrill Newman smiles upon arrival at Beijing airport on Dec. 7.

Merrill Newman, 85, the U.S. tourist and war veteran who was detained in North Korea for more than a month, arrived in San Francisco on Saturday to be reunited with his family after his deportation.

His United Airlines flight landed shortly after 9 a.m., a witness told Reuters.
witness said

“I feel good,” Newman told reporters at the Beijing airport,  adding with a laugh that the first thing he planned to do was “go home and see my wife.”

“I am very glad to be on my way home,” said Newman, who was held after he returned to the North six decades after his stint advising South Korean guerrillas still loathed by Pyongyang.

North Korea made the decision because the 85-year-old Newman had apologized for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and because of his age and medical condition, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is traveling in Seoul, welcomed the release and said he played no direct role in Newman’s release.

Biden offered the elderly American a ride home on Air Force Two. But Newman declined, saying he preferred a commercial flight that would take him straight home to California within a few hours.

The Palo Alto, Calif., man’s flight to freedom was expected to arrive at San Francisco International Airport at 9:05 a.m.

Aside from an awkwardly worded alleged confession last month, Newman has yet to speak publicly since being taken off a plane Oct. 26 by North Korean authorities while preparing to leave the country after a 10-day tour.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf urged Pyongyang to pardon “as a humanitarian gesture” another American, Kenneth Bae, who has been held in the North for more than a year.

Members of a group of former South Korean guerrillas who fought behind enemy lines during the 1950-53 Korean War said in an interview last week with The Associated Press that Newman was their adviser. Some have expressed surprise that Newman would take the risk of visiting North Korea given his association with their group, which is still remembered with keen hatred in the North.

The televised statement read by Newman said he was apologizing for killing North Koreans during the war, attempting to meet surviving guerrilla fighters he had training during the conflict and reconnect them with their wartime colleagues living in South Korea, and criticizing the North during his recent trip.

Newman’s comments haven’t been independently confirmed. North Korea has a history of allegedly coercing statements from detainees.

Newman’s political value had “expired” for North Korea, said Chang Yong Seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. Newman’s written apology and the TV broadcast were enough for Pyongyang to show outsiders that it has maintained its dignity — something the proud country views as paramount, said Chang.

Chang said that detaining Newman also hurt impoverished Pyongyang’s efforts to encourage tourism. “Keeping a tourist who entered the country after state approval doesn’t look good for a country that is trying to boost its tourism industry,” Chang said.

Some of those former guerrillas of the Kuwol unit in Seoul remember Newman as a handsome, thin American lieutenant who got them rice, clothes and weapons during the later stages of the war but largely left the fighting to them.

Newman oversaw guerrilla actions and gave the fighters advice, but he wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations, according to the former rank-and-file members and analysts. Newman was scheduled to visit South Korea to meet former Kuwol fighters following his North Korea trip.

After he was detained, Newman was visited at a Pyongyang hotel by the Swedish ambassador, his family said in a statement, and he appeared to be in good health, receiving his heart medicine and being checked by medical personnel. Sweden handles American citizens’ interests in Pyongyang as the North and the United States have no formal diplomatic ties.

Jeffrey Newman has previously said that his father, an avid traveler and retired finance executive from California, had always wanted to return to the country where he fought during the Korean War.

Tension remains on the Korean Peninsula, though Pyongyang’s rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea has toned down in recent weeks compared with its torrent of springtime threats to launch nuclear wars.

Before Newman, North Korea detained at least six Americans since 2009; five of them have been either released or deported after prominent Americans like former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter travelled to Pyongyang.

The country has held for more than a year Bae, the sixth detainee. He is a Korean-American missionary and tour operator who the North accuses of subversion.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Detained US Vet in NKorea Oversaw Guerrilla Group.


Image: Detained US Vet in NKorea Oversaw Guerrilla Group

Park Young, center, a former member of the Kuwol partisan unit and his comrades look at a website reporting on Merrill Newman.

SEOUL, South Korea — Six decades before he went to North Korea as a curious tourist, Merrill Newman supervised a group of South Korean guerrillas during the Korean War who were perhaps the most hated and feared fighters in the North, former members of the group say.

Some of those guerrillas, interviewed this week by The Associated Press, remember Newman as a handsome, thin American lieutenant who got them rice, clothes and weapons during the later stages of the 1950-53 war, but largely left the fighting to them.

Editor’s NoteDomestic Pressure Drove Rouhani to Make Deal With WestNorth Korea apparently remembered him, too.

The 85-year-old war veteran has been detained in Pyongyang since being forced off a plane set to leave the country Oct. 26 after a 10-day trip.

He appeared last weekend on North Korean state TV apologizing for alleged wartime crimes in what was widely seen as a coerced statement.

“Why did he go to North Korea?” asked Park Boo Seo, a former member of the Kuwol partisan unit, which is still loathed in Pyongyang and glorified in Seoul for the damage it inflicted on the North during the war. “The North Koreans still gnash their teeth at the Kuwol unit.”

Park and several other former guerrillas said they recognized Newman from his past visits to Seoul in 2003 and 2010 — when they ate raw fish and drank soju, Korean liquor — and from the TV footage, which was also broadcast in South Korea.

Newman has yet to tell his side of the story, aside from the televised statement, and his family hasn’t responded to requests for comment on his wartime activities.

Jeffrey Newman has previously said that his father, an avid traveler and retired finance executive from California, had always wanted to return to the country where he fought during the Korean War.

Newman’s detention is just the most recent point of tension on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has detained another American for more than a year, and there’s still wariness in Seoul and Washington after North Korea’s springtime threats of nuclear war and vows to restart its nuclear fuel production.

According to his televised statement, Newman’s alleged crimes include training guerrillas whose attacks continued even after the war ended, and ordering operations that led to the death of dozens of North Korean soldiers and civilians. He also said in the statement he attempted to meet surviving Kuwol members.

Former guerrillas in Seoul said Newman served as an adviser for Kuwol, one of dozens of such partisan groups established by the U.S.-military during the Korean War.

They have a book about the unit that Newman signed, praising Kuwol and writing that he was “proud to have served with you.” The book includes a photo of Newman that appears to be taken within the last 10-15 years.

But the guerrillas say most of the North’s charges were fabricated or exaggerated.

Newman oversaw guerrilla actions and gave the fighters advice, but he wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations, according to the former rank-and-file members and analysts.

He also gave them rice, clothes, and weapons from the U.S. military when they obtained key intelligence and captured North Korean and Chinese troops. All Kuwol guerrillas came to South Korea shortly after the war’s end and haven’t infiltrated the North since then, they say, so there are no surviving members in North Korea.

“The charges don’t make sense,” said Park, 80.

In the final months of the war, Newman largely stayed on a frontline island, living in a small wooden house, said Park Young, an 81-year-old former guerrilla.

“He ate alone and slept alone and lived alone,” said Park, one of 200 guerrillas stationed on the Island.

When the U.S. Eighth Army retreated from the Yalu River separating North Korea and China in late 1950, some 6,000 to 10,000 Koreans initially declared their willingness to fight for the United States, according to a U.S. Army research study on wartime partisan actions that was declassified in 1990.

The report says the U.S. Army provided training and direction to the partisans, who had some “measurable results.” But ultimately the campaigns “did not represent a significant contribution,” in part because of a lack of training and experience of Korean and U.S. personnel in guerrilla warfare.

The guerrillas aren’t alone in questioning Newman’s trip to North Korea.

“Newman was very naive to discuss his partisan background with the North Koreans,” Bruce Cumings, a history professor specializing in Korea at the University of Chicago, said in an email. “The South Korean partisans were possibly the most hated group of people in the North, except for out-and-out spies and traitors from their own side.”

Some analysts see Newman’s alleged confession as a prelude to his release, possibly allowing the North Koreans to send him home and save face without going through a lengthy legal proceeding.

North Korea has detained at least seven Americans since 2009 and five of them have been either released or deported. Korean-American missionary and tour operator Kenneth Bae has been held for more than year.

Editor’s Note: How China’s Air ID Zone Changes the Geopolitical Map of AsiaThe Korean War is still an extremely sensitive topic in North Korea. It ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically at war.

“It seems absurd from a public relations standpoint to arrest an 85-year-old man who came with goodwill,” Cumings said. “But the North Koreans are still fighting the Korean War and grasp every chance they get to remind Americans that the war has never ended.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

85-year-old Veteran Remains ‘POW’ in North Korea.


Image: 85-year-old Veteran Remains 'POW' in North Korea

A Nov. 9 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed Nov. 30 by the Korea News Service shows Merrill Newman as he applies his thumbprint to a document which North Korean authorities say was an apology which Newman wrote.

As autumn descended on a Korean countryside devastated by three years of intense war, a group of anti-communist guerrillas presented U.S. serviceman Merrill Edward Newman with a gold ring. It was September, 1953.For Newman, the ring became a proud symbol of the role he played as an adviser to a group of battle-hardened partisans who fought deep behind enemy lines in a war that pitted the China– and Soviet-backed North against the U.S.-backed South.

Now, six decades on, the 85-year-old pensioner who lives in a retirement community in California, has become one of the last prisoners of that war. He returned to North Korea last month as an American tourist and was snatched by authorities from his plane moments before it was due to depart for Beijing.

When he returned to the isolated state, he was taking a risk, former guerrillas who knew Newman said. The North Korean regime has nourished memories of the 1950-53 Korean War as the inspiration for the country’s identity and acts as if the conflict is still happening.

Technically, the war did not end. No peace treaty was signed between the United States, South Korea and North Korea.

On Saturday, North Korea released a video showing the pensioner reading a handwritten confession of his role in the war. The North’s KCNA news agency said he was a mastermind of clandestine operations and accused him of killing civilians during the war.

“Those bastards already knew Newman before the war was over,” said Kim Chang-sun, one of the men who presented Newman with the ring in 1953. Kim was still at school when he joined the ‘Kuwol’ Partisan Regiment, a force that Newman trained, he said in an interview in Seoul.

“They obtained the roster of our entire regiment,” Kim said.

The ‘Kuwol Regiment’, or ‘Kuwolsan’ in Korean, meaning ‘September Mountain,’ was named after a mountain in western North Korea where the guerrillas sought refuge as soldiers of the North’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) swept down the Korean peninsula when war broke out.

From there, the partisans fought their way to North Korea’s west coast and sailed to offshore islands where they launched last-ditch battles against the North Korean army.

The Kuwol Regiment was just one of many groups of anti-communist partisans that were under the command of the U.S. Army 8240th Unit, nicknamed the ‘White Tigers’.

The White Tigers co-ordinated some of the most daring missions of the Korean War, embedding undercover agents deep in enemy territory – sometimes for months at a time – spying on and disrupting North Korean wartime operations, according to documented histories of the regiment.

The unit, whose existence was classified until the early 1990s, was the predecessor to U.S. special forces. Members of the White Tigers were handpicked from the U.S. Army, and not told about their mission until they arrived in Seoul.

“The advisers mostly stayed behind after sending Korean partisans into the North – mainly because Americans would be so easily recognised – but some of them did accompany partisan units and engage in combat,” Bruce Cumings, an expert on the Korean War at the University of Chicago, told Reuters.

Ben S. Malcom, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, was one such adviser – a fellow White Tiger who served alongside Newman and led several raids along the North Korean coast.

He was awarded a Silver Star in March 1953 for bravery, but never received a badge marking his combat in the Korean War – the U.S. Army did not officially recognise special operations as combat.

“As soon as I lifted the receiver to my ear I stepped across that line separating the regular army from the clandestine army,” Malcom wrote in his 1996 memoirs, describing a call he received from a commanding officer during the war.

“I went from being another faceless name on an army roster to a handpicked player in a unique operation about which few Americans knew anything,” he wrote.

Soldiers who fought alongside Newman said he wore his commemorative ring when he visited South Korea after the war. He went there twice in the 2000s.

On one of these trips, he paid tribute at the National Cemetery to fallen friends. He was reunited with his old comrades over drinks and food and travelled with them to the border island that was headquarters of his unit when fighting ended.

Kim Hyeon, a member of the Kuwol Regiment who kept in contact with Newman and visited his family in California in 2004, was on a boat deep in North Korean-held territory on a summer afternoon in 1953, just weeks before a cease fire was agreed.

“At 1 o’clock on July 15, partisans used an operational boat to get within 50 metres of the North Korean coast under Lt. Newman’s instruction,” reads a book about the unit edited by Kim.

They picked up an agent and returned to an island outpost used by the partisans from the early months of the war, the book said. When the armistice was signed 12 days later, the men left the island behind and sailed south to freedom.

Kim has exchanged letters and emails with Newman, and they became close friends. But if he were Newman, he said, he would not have gone back to North Korea.

“In the eyes of the North Koreans, he would have literally been a spy engaging in some kind of espionage activity … I wouldn’t go there (if I were him),” Kim, now 86, told Reuters.

“Our members were working, fighting and engaging in espionage alongside Newman because he was an adviser,” he said.

The Kuwolsan soldiers are well known in South Korea, and are depicted in popular culture as heroes in the fight against communism. The regiment and its guerrillas were the subject of a 1965 film called ‘Blood-soaked Mt. Kuwol‘.

Kim Chang-sun, the former rank-and-file partisan member, recalled Newman as a big American military officer with a warm heart who supervised their training and landing operations.

“He had this U.S. army food box and shared that with us. He stayed with us at a bunker,” said Kim, now 81.

“They detained him because he served in the Kuwol regiment. He is just a very bad guy for them,” Kim said, referring to the North Korean authorities.

It is not entirely clear why Newman took the risk of visiting North Korea. But evidently the war and his former comrades had left a deep impression on him.

“Kuwolsan was among the most effective guerrilla warfare units,” he wrote in a congratulatory message attached to a book published by the Kuwolsan Guerrilla Unit Comrade Association in Seoul.

“I am proud to have served with you.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

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