- The next round of six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs will be held on 08 Dec in China, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. The talks have been stalled for months over how to verify North Korea's nuclear facilities as presented by the reclusive country in June as part of a nuclear deal signed by the six parties in the multilateral talks.
- On 25 Nov, Robert Wood, the US State Department spokesman, said the US is arranging a trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan to prepare for a fresh round of six-party talks early next month to discuss how to verify North Korea's nuclear facilities. Robert Wood said, "I know we are trying to arrange a trilat meeting, you know, before the six-party Heads of Delegation meeting."
- Russian deputy foreign minister Alexei Borodavkin told Interfax on 25 Nov that changing the current format of the six- party talks on North Korea's nuclear problem would be unreasonable. "We believe that the existing six-party format is optimal. Any attempts to change it may have a negative effect on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." It was reported earlier that North Korea demanded that Japan be excluded from the six-party talks for refusing to meet its obligations to supply fuel oil to Pyongyang.
- The U.S. State Department's top official on nuclear verification stressed on 26 Nov that sampling should be guaranteed in a six-party agreement on ways to assess Pyongyang's nuclear capability. Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, hinted, however, at some flexibility in the format, saying, "it is not unusual for us to have a primary document with common understandings and a secondary document." "Sampling is a very normal part of many arms control agreements, especially on nuclear programs," she said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. "And obviously, analysis happens not on site but back at laboratories specially designed to do the work." DeSutter, on a trip to the ROK to attend a U.N. disarmament seminar, said she will dispatch one of her senior staff to the upcoming six-way talks on the North Korean nuclear issue to ensure that sampling will be included in the verification protocol.
- The Rodong Sinmun reported in a signed article on 25 Nov that “the Lee Myung-bak group's moves for confrontation with the DPRK are, in essence, acts against reunification and the worst acts of treachery as they are ultimately aimed to provoke a war of aggression against the DPRK.”
- The Minju Joson reported in a signed commentary on 25 Nov “the U.S. is contemplating transferring about 8 000 marines present in Okinawa and their families to Guam and converting it into a military fortress in the Pacific in the period from 2010 to 2014. This means the U.S. declared at home and abroad its intention not to change its policy of military intervention and engagement in the Asia-Pacific region even in the years to come.”
- The Rodong Sinmun reported on 25 Nov that “war is an indispensable means of survival and one of the major links in politics for the United States. Almost all wars, large and small, fought during and after the Cold War period broke out with direct or indirect US intervention. The Korean war of the 1950s was also provoked by the United States. Today, the United States is again trying to provoke a new Korean war in collusion with its minion forces. Indications of that happening are becoming clearer with each passing day. Recently, the United States began, with Japan, the work of conducting a sweeping reexamination of the ‘joint operation plan’ in anticipation of an ‘emergency’ on the Korean peninsula.”
- Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun reported on 26 Nov, a Chinese source well versed in the situation in North Korea revealed on 25 Nov that Kim Jong-il had had another stroke in late October, and his health was so deteriorated that an emergency operation had been considered. However, it is not known whether KJI underwent another operation. Piecing together comments made by diplomatic personnel in Beijing, there seems to have been a respite in KJI's illness. It has been viewed that KJI had a stroke in August, but was recovering with some after-effects. The official stated KJI was hospitalized in mid-August for emergency treatment for a worsened chronic heart-disease condition. Results of the detailed examination showed that a blood clot in his heart went to his brain and obstructed a blood vessel [in the brain]. Neurosurgeons from China and France were said to have been sent to North Korea, and that a few days later a French neurosurgeon performed an operation.
- North Korean radio announced Kim Jong Il visited a cosmetics factory and a machinery plant in Sinuiju. He congratulated workers at the Nagwon Machine Complex on completing the year's production quota by the end of October.
- South Korean and Japanese media have noticeably highlighted the prospects of a future collective leadership and the growing role of Kim Jong Il's close confidants -- Chang So'ng-t'aek and Kim Ok – in succession dynamics since rumors of Kim Jong Il's ill health resurfaced in early September. By contrast, media have taken a more ambivalent attitude toward Kim Jong Il's three sons, discussing the possibility of hereditary succession only with the support of Kim Jong Il's inner circle. This media shift in focus underscores the growing view among North Korea watchers in the ROK and Japan that, whether North Korea adopts a collective leadership or chooses to continue the "monolithic leadership system" for a third generation, no one person is likely to exercise the absolute power wielded by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Since early September, when rumors of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's serious illness resurfaced, South Korean and Japanese media have given extensive coverage to a possible collective leadership in the future. While media remain divided over who would be at the helm of such a system, most such reports suggest leadership by the military, specifically the National Defense Commission (NDC) – the supreme military organ of the state which oversees all military and defense affairs -- is plausible in a post-Kim Jong Il era.
Small number of South Korean media reports, however, cited authoritative pundits on the party's ostensibly superior stature and hence the probability of a party-centered collective leadership.
Since many high-level civilians and military leaders hold titles in both state and party organizations, ROK and Japanese media have reported, though infrequently, on the possibility of a collective leadership led jointly by the different branches of government.
- Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported on 25 Nov a Korean People's Army Air Force delegation led by Colonel General Ri Pyong-chol, commander of the Air Force, returned home on 25 Nov after visiting Cuba. KPA general-grade officers and officers received the delegation at the airport.
- North Korea is playing a double game in inter-Korean and international relations, taking care of lucrative deals while appearing more hard-line in its policy. On Monday, North Korea announced it is stopping package tours to Kaesong and cutting inter-Korean railway service, but permitted continued operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Pundits say this is because the North cannot afford to lose the money it makes from the industrial park. The complex employs 33,688 North Korean workers earning US$70 a month. That alone means W43 billion (US$1=W1,502) a year. With other added value included, the annual economic effects the North gains from the industrial park are estimated at between W250 billion and W300 billion. Kaesong package tours made the North W16 billion last year, but if the urgent aim is to pressure the South and bolster the regime, Pyongyang seems to have decided that stopping the tours is the lesser of two evils. In the nuclear negotiations, the North is also thoroughly calculates the economic benefits. While rejecting sample collections as "banditry," the North has agreed to resume the six-party talks in December because it can get economic and energy aid only if it attends the talks. On the international stage, the North recently rejected the UN human rights resolution, calling it "a scheme to change our system by coercion." Nonetheless, the North requested emergency food aid to the World Food Programme and got a promise of 600,000 tons in aid, worth about W650 billion. Though it has never admitted the UN special rapporteur on North Korean human rights, Pyongyang has allowed WFP officials to monitor food distribution by visiting anywhere in North Korea.
- According to Sankei Shimbun Online Japanese Morning Edition of 25 Nov, Iranian and Syrian delegations visited North Korea in late Oct to promote nuclear development. The article reported that according to a source well-versed in North Korea's nuclear issue, North Korea, Iran, and Syria seem to have discussed a tripartite joint training project for technicians who work at nuclear facilities. The source points out that the joint training project started in late 2006.
- On 24 Nov, North Korea’s delegation to the North-South general-level military talks notified the South Korean side, that due to the South’s blatant acts of destruction of all North-South agreements, it will take the following important measures beginning from 01 Dec:
1. North Korea will selectively expel resident personnel and vehicles of relevant offices of the authorities and enterprises in the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mt Kumgang Tourism District, and cut off their overland passages through the MDL.
2. North Korea will completely cut off the tour of Kaesong by the South side's personnel that has been conducted through their passage of the MDL in the West Coast area under the control of the North and South.
3. North Korea will disallow the operation of the South side's train that has run between Pongdong and Munsan and close again the MDL that was opened.
4. North Korea will also strictly restrict the passage of all the South side's personnel through the MDL to enter and leave the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt Kumgang Tourist Zone under the name of visit, economic cooperation work, and the like.
5. North Korea will impose stricter order and discipline on passage and entry into the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Kumgang Tourist District, and strong sanctions will be applied to violators.
- On 26 Nov, Dong-A Ilbo reported, the ROK government has started to pull out South Koreans from the joint industrial complex in Kaesong and consider how to compensate businesses operating in the complex. The ROK government formed a task force comprised of working-level officials at the Unification Ministry on 25 Nov and began preparing for the withdrawal of South Korean staff as demanded by the North. Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun told reporters, "The safety of the people working and staying at the complex is the top priority. The Kaeso'ng Industrial District Management Committee and companies whose staff were requested to leave the complex by the North are now in talks with the North on the number of personnel to be pulled out and the schedule." As of 25 Nov, 1,592 South Koreans were in the North Korean border city, including 38 workers on the management committee; 750 staff at 88 small manufacturers; 50 volunteers at 13 community work facilities; 201 workers employed by nine construction companies; and 553 staff at Hyundai Asan Corp. and other partner companies. If the government complies with the North's demand, some 500 South Korean workers will be pulled out from the complex, leaving behind 750 staff at manufacturers. In a related move, the ministry and the Small and Medium Business Administration are seeking to assess the damage to businesses operating in Kaesong and respond to a growingly hostile North Korea. The ministry will hold an advisory committee meeting of North Korean experts 08 Dec on handling the issue. Measures under consideration are encouraging companies at the complex to join a damage compensation program; introducing a collective purchase system to cope with a cut in orders from partner companies; and providing liquidity to prevent a credit crunch, according to ministry officials. The damage compensation program will require the government to absorb 90 percent of the losses (up to 10 billion won or 6.7 million U.S. dollars) stemming from the North's breach of contracts or expropriation of investment funds if companies sign up for the program for a fee.
- Hyundai Asan is in shock after North Korea announced it is stopping package tours to the city of Kaesong from Dec. 1. That means all tourism to North Korea stops for the first time in 10 years. The fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist in July already forced the company to halt tours to Mt. Kumgang. Suspension of the Kaesong tours, however, could cost Hyundai Asan up to W2 billion per month in addition to the W80 billion lost from the Mt. Kumgang tours.
- South Korean activists said on 25 Nov they will continue sending propaganda leaflets over the border into North Korea despite the communist neighbor's threats and Seoul's pleas to stop sending them. "We at one point had decided to suspend our activities of sending leaflets for the time being but reversed the decision after the North's announcement," Park Sang-hak, head of Fighters for Free North Korea, a Seoul-based group of North Korean defectors.
- North Korean authorities have begun tightening control over government officials and citizens, taking such steps as confiscating Japanese cars from senior government officials, at a time when the deterioration of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's health has been reported, a South Korean newspaper has reported. According to the Dong-a Ilbo, the authorities began seizing Japanese cars possessed by senior government officials from Thursday, 27 Nov. The North Korean regime also announced that it will close down markets around the country used by citizens to sell commodities and clothes from next year. Some observers say the movements are initiated by Chang Sung Taek, head of the Workers' Party of Korea's administrative department, who is rumored to wield power in the country now instead of Kim, to enhance his prestige. According to the Dong-a Ilbo, North Korean authorities are seizing cars and microbuses made in Japan. About 80 percent of the cars used in North Korea are Japanese, but the authorities have been relentless in seizing cars from many people, including senior government officials. The pretext for the confiscation is unknown. The newspaper says there are several possible reasons, including the deterioration of Japan-North Korea relations and moves to boost business for the factories of Pyeonghwa Motors Corp., which is an affiliate of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of Christianity, or the Unification Church. The markets in question were established in 2002 as part of Pyongyang's economic policies. Citizens gather at the markets to sell commodities, clothes and food. However, the authorities are planning to close them down and only allow markets that sell agricultural products, which existed before 2002. The only products people will be allowed to sell from 2009 will be agricultural products cultivated on surplus farmland. Citizens will be required to sell commodities and other products through government-run shops. Kim has ordered the seizure of Japanese cars twice before, including in January 2007, but the attempts have failed because the government officials in charge of the policy were also using Japanese cars. In addition, North Korean authorities reportedly have tried many times to close the people's markets, regarding them as a hotbed for capitalism to spread. However, all such attempts have failed.
- Radio Free Asia reported that the North Korean state orchestra may hold a performance in New York City this coming March. The performance will be in response to the one given by the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang earlier this year.
- On 26 Nov, the ROK Defense Ministry stated the U.S. program to keep munitions as war reserves in South Korea will be terminated next month more than three decades after it was established as a deterrent against North Korea. Nearly half, or some 260,000 tons, of U.S. ammunitions stockpiled here under the War Reserve Stocks for Allies (WRSA) program will still be maintained and used by South Korean forces. The rest will be shipped back to the United States by 2020. Seoul and Washington signed an agreement last month for the sale of the WRSA ammunition to South Korea for a little over 270 billion won (US$184 million). "Even though the WRSA program will be terminated, the two countries will continue to maintain a system under which they will support each other's ammunition needs," the ministry said in a press release. A ministry official later said the transfer of WRSA ammunitions to South Korea will be completed before the end of the year. The U.S. program was initiated in 1974 in order to have enough munitions and supplies ready for the combined forces of South Korea and the United States in times of need. Washington decided in 2006 to terminate the program due to rising maintenance costs.