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Posts tagged ‘Panmunjom’

Hagel at DMZ: NKorea Watching Syria Developments.


Image: Hagel at DMZ: NKorea Watching Syria Developments

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens to U.S. Army Col. James Minnich as a North Korean soldier takes a photograph through a window at a UN truce village building that sits on the border of the DMZ in Panmunjom on Sept. 30.

Standing just steps from the heavily armed border with North Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that Pyongyang is closely watching the international response to Syria‘s use of chemical weapons against its own people.

And, with North Korean soldiers eyeing his every move, Hagel told reporters traveling with him that the U.S. has no plans to reduce its military presence in South Korea, despite the ongoing budget crisis.

Hagel’s visit is timed to the 60th anniversary of the signing of the mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and South Korea, and to reinforce America’s commitment to the security of the peninsula and the Asia-Pacific region.

“There is no margin for error up here,” Hagel said after a stop in one of the three small blue conference houses that sit on the border of North and South Korea. “This is probably the only place in the world that we have always a risk of confrontation. Where the two sides are looking clearly and directly at each other all the time.”

Inside the house, Hagel stepped briefly onto the North Korean side. And when he moved back outside to speak to a crowd of reporters, North Korean soldiers stepped up to the border just alongside the building and watched from about 40 feet away.

Hagel said it’s been pretty clear that North Korea, which also has a large stockpile of chemical weapons, has been monitoring the unfolding international effort to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal. And while he’s not sure what message the North may take from the latest Syrian developments, U.S. officials suggest that the unanimous U.N. resolution could send a warning shot to Pyongyang.

China, which has been North Korea’s only major ally, and Russia both backed the U.N. resolution on Syria. And China has struck a more critical tone regarding North Korea in the past year, cooperating with the U.S. on tightening U.N. sanctions following Pyongyang’s underground nuclear test in February.

Other experts, however, caution that America’s failure to follow through on its threats earlier this year to launch airstrikes into Syria to stop further use of chemical weapons there, could be interpreted by the North as a sign of weakness.

“If we had used force, I would guess that from North Korea’s point of view that would be seen as potentially more threatening, because it would demonstrate a real willingness for the US to use force,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. There is the potential, she said, for other nations to conclude that, at the end of the day, “the United States is just not as strong as it used to be.”

Just 10 miles south of the North and South Korean border, however, U.S. and Korean troops went through a training exercise Monday as Hagel watched, all aimed at showing that the military is ready to respond if needed.

At the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division demonstrated an offensive maneuver with Apache helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles, filling the training ground with a haze of smoke and blasts from mortar fire. The exercise was part of the military certification for one of the U.S. platoons serving in South Korea.

From there, Hagel went to Observation Post Ouellette, one of 77 guard posts that line the South Korean side of the border. He then stopped further down the road at Freedom House, where the blue conference buildings stand largely unused these days as a chill has once again settled over North and South Korean communications.

Since March, the North Koreas have refused to answer the routine phone calls from the South’s side of the border. On Monday, however, Hagel and his staff attracted a bit of attention from the North as the group toured the South’s border facilities.

In addition to the ever-present North Korean guards standing both at the border and a bit further up the hill at their larger outpost, a small group of tourists also stopped to stare down at the group of Americans. According to officials, the tours come through as many as seven to 10 times a day.

Hagel is expected to meet with South Korean officials over the next several days, including events and a parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the alliance as well as Armed Forces Day.

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

Source: NEWSmax.com

2 Koreas Start Talks at Border.


SEOUL, South Korea — Delegates from North and South Korea began talks Saturday on restarting a stalled joint factory park that had been a symbol of cooperation between the bitter rivals.

The Kaesong industrial zone, just north of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, was the centerpiece of inter-Korean projects hatched during a previous era of warming ties. But it was closed in April as tensions rose between the rivals when South Korea held military exercises with the U.S. troops not far from the border.

In the rising tensions, North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers out of the industrial park in protest. South Korea then ordered its managers to leave as well, against their wishes.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which is in charge of relations with North Korea, said the two sides began the working-level talks at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ

The two agreed to discuss retrieving products that the South Korean managers left behind at the industrial complex in North Korea and inspecting the facilities. They will also discuss restarting work at the park.

The park, which brought together North Korean labor and South Korean capital, resulted in nearly $2 billion a year in cross-border trade. It was the last remaining joint project between two Koreas as relations soured over the past five years.

The closure meant a loss of salary for tens of thousands of North Korean workers employed in factories run by 123 South Korean companies, and a loss of goods and orders for business managers who relied on Kaesong to churn out everything from shoes and watches to cables and electrical components.

The Saturday talks come after a protocol disagreement last month resulted in the Koreas calling off what would have been the first senior-level meeting in years.

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

Two Koreas Strike Cautious Accord on High-Level Talks.


SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea reached Monday a cautious agreement to hold a high-level meeting in Seoul, following marathon talks aimed at rebuilding trust after months of soaring tension and threats of nuclear war.

Sunday’s preparatory talks, held in the border truce village of Panmunjom where the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed, were the first between the two rivals for more than two years.

In a sign of the trust deficit that remains six decades after the armistice agreement, the talks dragged on deep into Monday morning as the two sides struggled to agree a framework for a more substantive dialogue.

They concluded by settling for a two-day meeting in the South Korean capital beginning Wednesday, but with some confusion over precisely who would attend and what topics would be discussed.

“Both sides issued separate statements on the outcome of discussions after failing to narrow differences over the level of chief delegate and agenda,” the South’s Unification Ministry said.

Agreed topics for discussion in Seoul included the future of the Kaesong joint industrial complex that the North effectively shut down as the recent military tensions between the historic rivals peaked.

The resumption of South Korean civilian tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort and reunions between families divided since the Korean War will also be considered, the separate statements said.

Sunday’s talks came about after an unexpected reversal from North Korea, which suddenly dropped its default tone of high-decibel belligerence and proposed opening a dialogue.

South Korea responded swiftly and positively by offering a meeting in Seoul between its Unification Minister and his North Korean counterpart, which Sunday’s talks in Panmunjom were meant to set up.

The two Koreas have not held ministerial talks since 2007.

In the end, it was unclear who exactly would attend, with the North and South statements vaguely alluding to “authorities” with ministerial-level responsibilities.

“Inter-Korean talks have always been like this — pretty opaque with lots of ups and downs, and ins and outs,” said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“The Seoul meeting will probably go ahead, but in the past North Korea has often delayed or canceled talks at the last minute over some procedural matter,” Yang said.

The move towards dialogue has been broadly welcomed — given the threats of nuclear war that were being flung around in April and May — but there is some general skepticism about Pyongyang’s intentions.

Some analysts have suggested the North is paying lip-service to the idea of talks to coincide with the weekend summit between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China, the North’s sole major ally and economic benefactor, has been under US pressure to restrain its neighbor and has pushed Pyongyang to engage in dialogue rather than seek confrontation.

The commercial nature of the Kaesong and Mount Kumgang projects, which both sides have agreed to address in Seoul, offers some scope for relatively pragmatic discussion.

Kaesong and Mount Kumgang were both significant sources of scarce foreign currency for North Korea, which is squeezed by U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program.

Operations at Kaesong were suspended after the North withdrew its 53,000 workers from the South Korean plants there in early April.

Seoul suspended tours to Mount Kumgang after a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist there in July 2008.

“They might discuss other issues as well, but this conservative administration in Seoul clearly wants to keep the official agenda tightly focused,” said professor Yang.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye took office in February with a promise of greater engagement with Pyongyang.

But she remains adamant that substantive dialogue on wider issues can only take place if the North shows some tangible commitment to abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has been equally emphatic in declaring its nuclear deterrent is not up for negotiation.

It was the North’s nuclear test in February — and subsequent U.N. sanctions — that triggered the recent crisis, which saw Pyongyang threaten both the South and the United States with pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

Source: NEWSmax.com

North Korea threatens South with ‘final destruction’.


GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea threatened South Korea with “final destruction” during a debate at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday, saying it could take further steps after a nuclear test last week.

“As the saying goes, a new-born puppy knows no fear of a tiger. South Korea’s erratic behaviour would only herald its final destruction,” North Korean diplomat Jon Yong Ryong told the meeting.

Jon’s comments drew quick criticism from other nations, including South Korea, France, Germany and Britain, whose ambassador Joanne Adamson said such language was “completely inappropriate” and the discussion with North Korea was heading in the wrong direction.

“It cannot be allowed that we have expressions which refer to the possible destruction of U.N. member states,” she said.

Spanish Ambassador Javier Gil Catalina said the comment left him stupefied and appeared to be a breach of international law.

“In the 30 years of my career I’ve never heard anything like it and it seems to me that we are not speaking about something that is even admissible, we are speaking about a threat of the use of force that is prohibited by Article 2.4 of the United Nations charter,” Catalina said.

Since the North tested a nuclear bomb last week in defiance of U.N. resolutions, its southern neighbour has warned it could strike the isolated state if it believed an attack was imminent.

Pyongyang said the aim of the test was to bolster its defences given the hostility of the United States, which has led a push to impose sanctions on North Korea.

“Our current nuclear test is the primary countermeasure taken by the DPRK in which it exercised its maximum self-restraint,” said the North Korean diplomat Jon.

“If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward the DPRK to the last, rendering the situation complicated, it (North Korea) will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession,” he said, without indicating what that might entail.

North Korea has already told key ally China that it is prepared to stage one or two more tests this year to force the United States into diplomatic talks, a source with direct knowledge of the message told Reuters last week.

“OFFENSIVE”

U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy said she found North Korea’s threat on Tuesday profoundly disturbing and later tweeted that it was “offensive”.

Poland’s representative suggested North Korea’s participation in the U.N. forum should be limited.

Impoverished and malnourished North Korea is one of the most heavily sanctioned states in the world.

It is still technically at war with South Korea after a 1950-53 civil war ended in a mere truce.

Washington and its allies are believed to be pushing to tighten the noose around North Korea’s financial transactions in a bid to starve its leadership of funding.

Jon said last week’s test was an act of self-defence against nuclear blackmail by the United States, which wanted to block North Korea’s economic development and its fundamental rights.

“It is the disposition and firm will of the army and people of the DPRK to counter high-handed policy with tough-fist policy and to react to pressure and sanctions with an all-out counter-action,” he said.

Jon said the United States had conducted most of the nuclear tests and satellite launches in history, and he described its pursuit of U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea as “a breach of international law and the height of double standards”.

Neither Russia nor China, which are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting in Geneva.

Before its nuclear test, North Korea was already facing growing diplomatic pressure at the United Nations.

The U.N. Human Rights Council is widely expected to order an inquiry next month into its leaders’ responsibilities for crimes against humanity.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

Source. YAHOO NEWS.

By Tom Miles | Reuters

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