- The last US official in North Korea involved in the management of the disablement operation of the Yongbyon nuclear facility left the country on Saturday, 18 Apr (KST). The official returned to Washington via Beijing.
- The departure of the US State Department official came a day after four US nuclear experts who were at the Yongbyon nuclear complex left the country due to North Korea’s expulsion order.
- Note: The four IAEA inspectors left North Korea on Thursday, 16 Apr (KST).
Director General of the IAEA says North Korea is a nuclear-armed state
- Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, was quoted as saying it is “a matter of fact” that North Korea possesses nuclear weapons, “I don’t like to accept any country as a nuclear weapon state. [But] we have to face reality.”
- According to the press reports, ElBaradei counted North Korea among nine nuclear powers in the world.
- ElBaradei’s reported view on North Korea stands in contrast to those of South Korea and the United States.
- South Korea downplayed ElBaradei’s statement and vowed launch an international campaign aimed at frustrating North Korea's ambition to become a nuclear state.
Secretary Clinton calls on North Korea to return to Six-Party Talks
- “We have made it clear that we are prepared to resume the Six-Party Talks,” Secretary Clinton told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
- “The Chinese and Russians, the Japanese and South Koreans have equally made that clear. As you know very well, the North Koreans have not demonstrated any willingness to resume the Six-Party process,” she said.
- Pyongyang has claimed to be a nuclear state since it detonated a nuclear device in its first-ever nuclear test in 2006.
South Korean foreign minister urges North Korea not to worsen situation and rejoin the Six-Party Talks
- South Korea's foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan urged North Korea on 23 Apr to stop raising tension and rejoin the Six-Party Talks on its nuclear program.
- "I can't help expressing serious concern that North Korea is rejecting the international community's agreement and further damaging all the accomplishments in the Six-Party Talks," Yu said during his monthly press briefing.
- The UNSC’s 15 member states, meanwhile, are working on a list of North Korean goods and entities to face sanctions as a follow-up to its earlier presidential statement - a sanctions committee is supposed to finalize the list by 24 Apr.
- About a dozen North Korean companies engaged in the trade of weapons of mass destruction and related materials are expected to be subject to the measure.
China disavows nuclear energy cooperation with North Korea
- China on 20 Apr disavowed any kind of cooperation with North Korea in nuclear energy development, and urged a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear disputes.
- "China has never had any cooperation with North Korea in nuclear energy development," Wang Yiren, head of China's Atomic Energy Authority, told reporters at a nuclear energy conference in Beijing.
- Wang said China had always endorsed peaceful solutions, such as dialogue and negotiation, to resolve nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea says nuclear war only a matter of time
- North Korea said on 17 Apr the outbreak of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is only a matter of time due to what it claims are efforts by South Korea and the United States to bring it to its knees by force.
- The bulletin was issued by the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a state organization that handles inter-Korean relations.
- The accusation was aimed at a recent inspection of the South Korean and US Air Forces by the American commander of Combined Forces Command, Gen. Walter Sharp, and his South Korean deputy, Gen. Lee Sung-chool
- An official at the CFC dismissed the accusation as groundless, saying the recent flight by CFC commanders was only part of a routine inspection.
Rodong Shinmun says Kim Jong-il “confesses fatigue due to economic drive”
- North Korea’s party mouthpiece said on 17 Apr Kim Jong-il has confessed he's struggling with the grinding pace of his activities but keeps pushing himself onwards out of responsibility for the fate of his homeland.
- The 67-year-old leader, now back in control after a reported stroke last summer, has significantly increased his economy-related visits this year, making 49 such trips as of Friday, 17 Apr, compared to 19 last year and 17 in 2007.
North’s military strengthens its grip
- South Korean intelligence source said, North Korea’s military has bolstered its authority over several key policy-making issues after a major restructuring of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party.
- The moves, experts say, create a bit of a power shift by eroding the influence of the North’s ruling party in several areas, including matters involving the South.
- The restructuring also diminishes the roles of some party members who have taken a more conciliatory stance on affairs with the South - a source said the changes could explain a recent increase in bellicose statements coming from the North.
- According to sources, the Workers’ Party has moved its operations department to the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, which handles management and operational control of the North Korean military.
- “Though it has been in the party’s organizational tree, the operations department had been essentially carrying out military tasks,” a source said - the operations department is responsible for managing espionage agents.
- “When the department head, O Kuk-ryol, was named a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission in February, the department itself was shifted to the armed forces ministry in what seemed to be a logical step,” the source said.
- In another change, the party’s research department and external liaison department will now be under the control of the National Defense Commission.
- The research department collects intelligence on South Korea and other nations, while the external liaison department is responsible for training and dispatching agents.
- Only the Unification Front Department remains within the Workers’ Party to handle inter-Korean dialogue and the North’s policy on the South, and experts say it has lost much of its influence.
Russian foreign minister Lavrov has arrived on 23 Apr for a two-day visit to North Korea to discuss bilateral relations and the North Korean nuclear program
- Russia has repeatedly called on North Korea to get back to the negotiation table.
- There are no signs of a breakthrough in the crisis over the Six-Party Talks on North Korea's denuclearization; a Russian news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying after his talks with his North Korean counterpart Thursday, 23 Apr.
- ''We don't expect any breakthroughs yet. It's a difficult process,'' Lavrov was quoted as saying - Lavrov arrived in Pyongyang earlier Thursday, 23 Apr.
- Russian media also quoted Lavrov as saying the countries involved in the process should not yield to emotions.
- ''All the parties involved in the process must focus on the necessity to seek the solutions that would allow for resuming this process,'' he was quoted as saying.
- According to the news agency, Lavrov will also meet with Kim Yong-nam, the country's number two and president of North Korea's parliament, and may also meet with Kim Jong-il during his stay in the country.
- North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported that Russia and North Korea signed a plan for cultural and scientific exchange Thursday - Lavrov is to visit South Korea after his stay in North Korea.
Seoul caught in ‘PSI trap’ and foreign minister says “leave the decision to the government”
- On 22 Apr, South Korea reaffirmed its intention to fully join the US-led counter-proliferation regime, but remained undecided about the timing and conditions.
- Seoul had deferred its declaration of full membership in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) until after talks with North Korea over their joint industrial complex in the city of Kaesong.
- On 23 Apr, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan reiterated that the government would "handle" the issue of formally announcing full membership in the PSI, "Please leave that matter to us," Yu said.
- South Korean officials had reportedly said the government would issue the announcement sometime over the weekend.
- Regarding the latest confusion over the announcement date, the minister said it was a misunderstanding caused by excessive media exposure.
- Yu added that the decision was revealed much too prematurely, before last-minute policy adjustments could be made.
North Korea’s ‘missile factory’ used Japanese parts
- A former senior Indian official said on 18 Apr that Japanese precision tools and steel were founf in missile-making equipment taken from a North Korean freighter detained at an Indian port in June 1999 while en route to Pakistan.
- While North Korea is known to have provided missile knowhow to Pakistan in return for nuclear weapons technology, this is the first concrete example of how Japanese equipment has played a part in North Korea's proliferation of missile technology.
- Indian authorities believe North Korea acquired the Japanese products through China or other countries.
- At India's request, the US, Russia, South Korea and other members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal association of countries seeking to curb missile proliferation, sent experts to examine the ship's cargo.
- By analyzing Korean-language documents and sensitive equipment confiscated, the MTCR experts concluded the ship was carrying missile-assembly equipment and missile parts - engineering diagrams of missiles were also found.
- The ship's 44 crew members were detained by Indian authorities and later repatriated to North Korea.
North Korea says it will try detained US journalists
- North Korea said on 24 Apr that it will put on trial two US female journalists detained near its border with China on 17 Mar, announcing that its investigation into their “crimes” has been concluded.
- The journalists – Euna Lee and Laura Ling – were filming a documentary about the plight of North Koreans fleeing the country into China when they were arrested by North Korean border guards.
- On 31 Mar, Pyongyang said that an investigation was under way and that it was preparing to indict them on charges of illegally entering the country and engaging in unspecified “hostile acts.”
- “A competent organ of the DPRK concluded the investigation into the journalists of the United States,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a two-sentence report.
- “The organ formally decided to refer them to a trial on the basis of the confirmed crimes committed by them,” it said, without specifying charges.
South, North Korea quickly ends first talks; North Korea says it will reconsider the terms of Kaesong Industrial Complex
- South and North Korean officials met at Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) on Tuesday, 21 Apr, for their first talks in more than a year, but the meeting ended quickly, the South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said.
- After a delay of more than 12 hours due to procedural disputes, the talks lasted only 22 minutes.
- North Korea told the South that it will consider ending benefits for South Korean firms at the KIC, including low wages for North Korean employees, a South Korean government source said.
- South Korea said it will carefully review North Korea’s demand to raise land use fees and revise contracts at the KIC.
- The proposed measure, if actualized, is expected to deal a serious blow to more than 100 South Korean firms operating in Kaesong.
- Under a contract signed between Hyundai and the North Korean government in 2000, South Korean firms pay their North Korean employees between 70 – 80 USD on average a month, by the wages are wired directly to North Korean government.
- The annual wages last year amounted to 26 million USD, according to the South Korean Ministry of Unification data.
- North Korea also said it will begin charging land fees starting next year – North Korea initially set a 10-year grace period on rent when the complex opened, allowing the South Korean firms to use it land in Kaesong for free until 2014.
- On 22 Apr, South Korean government said it would consider holding further talks with North Korea on the KIC but was still reviewing demands the North made during a short meeting the day before.
- According to a Blue House source, the North said on 21 Apr that it wanted to meet with the South again within a week; the source said the North urged the South to set the next date “as soon as possible.”
- On 24 Apr, North Korea warned it may take “stronger measures” against South Korean firms operating in the KIC unless Seoul responds favorably to its latest demands to revise key operational contracts of the complex.
- North Korea also said that all preferential treatment offered to South Koreans in Kaesong could possibly be reconsidered as long as the South Korean government’s pro-US “confrontational” policies continue to endanger the inter-Korean cooperation project.
- Note: There has not been any open source reporting on the date of next meeting between the North and the South.
Diplomats from both Koreas to sit at Havana Forum
- The Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (NAM) will be held in Havana from 27 – 30 Apr.
- North Korea is a member of the organization of 118 states.
- South Korea said it will dispatch a director general-level official at its foreign ministry as an observer to attend the opening and closing ceremonies only – South Korea has taken part in the meeting since 1997 as a guest.
- "There is a possibility that North Korea will use the upcoming meeting to protest the international community's punitive step, reiterating its stance that the launch was aimed at sending a satellite into orbit," a South Korean foreign ministry official said.
- South Korea will try to counter the North's move to include its claim into a formal statement to be issued at the end of the meeting, the ministry's spokesman, Moon Tae-young, said in a press briefing.
Chinese fishing boats return near tense Korean sea border
- Chinese fishing boats have returned to waters near the Koreas' western sea border, where North Korea has repeatedly warned of an armed conflict with the South.
- Chinese boats disappeared from the area earlier this year when North Korea said it would no longer respect the Northern Limit Line (NLL) that had served as a de facto West Sea (Yellow Sea) border with S. Korea for decades.
South Korea and Japan sign defense pact
- The South Korean Ministry of National Defense said that South Korea and Japan signed a letter of intent on bilateral defense cooperation on 23 Apr, the first formal military pact between the two neighboring countries.
- Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee signed the letter with his Japanese counterpart Yasukazu Hamada.
- According to the ministry, the letter covers goodwill exchanges of top defense officials and military units from the two nations, exchanges between defense institutes, institutionalization of joint search-and-rescue operations, reciprocal visits by aircraft and naval ships, and joint international peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
Commander of US Forces Korea raises concerns over North Korean artillery threat
- Commander of US Forces Korea (USFK) said on 22 Apr that North Korea possesses "the world's largest artillery force" that could wreak havoc on Seoul should the communist state decide to provoke a full-fledged conflict.
- The comments by GEN Sharp come as tension rises on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea reminded South Korea last week that its densely populated capital is "only 50 km away" from the border, suggesting its vulnerability.
- Speaking to a group of business leaders, GEN. Sharp disclosed in a presentation in Seoul that North Korea is believed to have 13,000 frontline artillery guns that could "rain on Seoul" and maintain 80,000 special forces.
- GEN Sharp said, "North Korea has an old but very large military that is positioned in a very dangerous place, very close to the Republic of Korea."
- "They have a very large special operating force. It has the world's largest artillery force that is positioned as far south as possible and that can rain on Seoul today."
- GEN Sharp said his forces and South Korea are prepared to "fight and win" at any moment, stressing they "have operational plans prepared in order to be able to meet any contingencies.
GEN Sharp signals 'allies prepared for North Korean instability’
- GEN Sharp signaled on 22 Apr that the American and South Korean militaries are becoming better prepared to face instabilities in North Korea.
- "We are working with the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman GEN Kim Tae-young ... in case there is great instability in North Korea and are we prepared for that," GEN Sharp said during a speech at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
- Further stressing that the US will continue to provide security after the 2012 transfer of wartime operational control, GEN Sharp said the Mutual Defense Treaty will remain effective so that Seoul will remain under Washington's nuclear umbrella.
- The commander stressed that the United States and South Korean militaries, although separated after the April 2012 transfer, will continue to operate according to the same military operation plan.
- Once the control transfer is completed, the South Korean military will assume the leading role in national defense.
- The commander said the US – South Korea alliance has actually become stronger following North Korea's missile launch on 05 Apr.
- GEN Sharp said, "With that launch, the alliance is stronger today than before the launch. We practice on a daily basis on how to prepare for any type of crisis on the peninsula."