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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

North Korean Media Characterization of the ROK-US Wartime OPCON Transfer Postponement

Background: In August 2006, the late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun affirmed his strong position to pursue a policy toward regaining South Korea’s wartime operational control (OPCON), and in September 2006 South Korea and the US both agreed on the transfer of wartime OPCON during the South Korea-US Summit Meeting. Although the two sides initially agreed to expeditiously complete the transition of OPCON to South Korea after October 15, 2009, but not later than March 15, 2012, the agreed date was moved to April 17, 2012 after the South Korea-US Defense Ministerial Meeting held on February 27, 2007. Additionally, the two sides agreed to dissolve the ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) by April 17, 2012, at the same meeting.

During a South Korea-US summit meeting held on June 26, 2010, however, the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the US President Barack Obama agreed to adjust the timeline for the handover of wartime OPCON from April 17, 2012 to December 1, 2015 given the increasingly uncertain and volatile security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean Reaction to the Delay of OPCON Transfer: On July 1, 2010, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) spokesman issued a statement decrying the postponement of the OPCON transfer – which appears to be the first of the North Korean reaction to the announcement of the OPCON transfer postponement. As of the date of this posting, there have been seven other North Korean media reports criticizing the postponement since the CPRF statement.

The CPRF statement and the subsequent North Korean media reports uniformly condemned the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for “begging” the US to postpone the transfer of wartime OPCON.
  • “The traitor Lee Myung-bak, who went on a junket to Canada not long ago, met with Obama and played the game of begging and agreeing on the postponement of the wartime operational control [OPCON] transfer until 2015, while talking about the so-called changes in the security environment.” (The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland Statement, 01 July 2010)

  • “The South Korean conservative group persistently begged for the extension of OPCON of their own accord and, accordingly, the U.S. has got justification to strengthen its policy for military occupation and colonial rule over South Korea. Needless to say, the U.S., which pretended to reluctantly accept such request, will demand the high price for it. This resulted in putting the people of South Korea under heavier yoke of domination and subjugation by the U.S.” (Rodong Sinmun, 07 July 2010)

  • “Traitor Lee Myung-bak of South Korea recently begged its American master to postpone "the transfer of wartime operation control (OPCON)" till 2015. This is a sordid act of sycophancy and treachery which can be committed only by a poor pro-U.S. stooge who stakes his life on the U.S. and a revelation of an unpardonable traitorous scenario to ignite a war of aggression against the DPRK at any cost with the backing of outside forces.” (KCNA, 13 July 2010)
North Korean Media Characterization of OPCON Transfer Postponement consistent with past characterizations of OPCON Transfer: The North Korean media characterization of the OPCON transfer postponement is consistent with the past North Korean media portrayals of the pending ROK-US OPCON transfer. The North Korean media has in the past portrayed the OPCON transfer as a “smoke screen” for a future attack on North Korea, claiming that the US will use the ROK forces as a “shock brigade” to facilitate its strategy to build up forces and equipment on the Korean Peninsula in preparations for war. Consistent with the past portrayals, the North Korean media claims the postponement of the OPCON transfer will provide the US an opportunity to strengthen its military presence on the Korean Peninsula so that it may “unhesitatingly wage an all-out war” against North Korea.

  • “The CPRF brands the game of postponing the wartime OPCON transfer, which has been realized as a result of the conspiracy and collusion between the United States and the puppet gang, as an extremely grave provocation to drive the currently very dangerous situation to more serious extremes and to unhesitatingly wage an all-out war against us, and sternly denounces and condemns it in the name of the entire nation.” (The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland Statement, 01 July 2010)

  • “The U.S. extension of the OPCON under the pretext of the warship case made it possible for it to strengthen its military domination over South Korea and put its conservative ruling forces under a tighter control in a bid to effectively use them as a shock brigade for implementing its policy for invading the DPRK.” (Rodong Sinmun, 13 July 2010)

North Korean media’s Previous Portrayals of ROK-US OPCON transfer as a “smoke screen” for a future attack on North Korea:

  • “The commander of the U.S. forces in south Korea made reckless remarks only to give the lie to the U.S. move for "transfer of the right to command wartime operations" to South Korea and disclose the sinister ambition for the aggression on the DPRK.” (KCNA, 09 February 2010)

  • “It is the unchanging strategic design of the United States to cling more tightly to South Korea militarily, provoke another Korean war using it as a steppingstone, and going one step further, realize its wild ambition for achieving military domination over Asia.” (Roodong Sinmun, 09 February 2010)

  • “In recent years alone, the US military forces have been turning the US imperialist forces of aggression forcibly occupying South Korea into the armed forces for mounting a preemptive attack centered on the navy and the air force equipped with far greater mobility and striking power, while blabbering about some kind of "strategic flexibility" and "return of wartime operational control," and they are cooking up new scenarios for a war of northward aggression reflecting a strategy for launching a preemptive nuclear attack and using this as a basis to more adventurously stage joint military exercises with the South Korean puppets.” (Rodong Sinmun, 07 March 2009)

  • “The US imperialist warmongers currently regard the transfer of ‘wartime operational control’ to the puppet forces, which is to take place in 2012, as an occasion to perfect the operational system of preemptive attack, and attempt to reduce ground troops and equipment and shift the focus on the naval and forces, a system of preemptive attack.” (Rodong Sinmun, 27 November 2008)

  • “The United States is attempting to pull the trigger of a new war on the Korean peninsula at any cost by turning the South Korean puppet forces into an autonomous force of war on the pretext of the ‘transfer of wartime operational control.’” (Rodong Sinmun, 16 September 2008)

North Korean Media’s Past Claims that the US will use the ROK as a ‘shock brigade’:

  • “The U.S. seeks to turn its forces in South Korea into a task force capable of conducting military actions for aggression in vaster areas, not just the regional forces tasked with carrying out limited military duty in limited areas, and use the South Korean army as a shock brigade.” (KCNA, 09 February 2010)

  • “The United States has been preparing US forces occupying South Korea as rapid mobile forces to make them carry out aggressive military actions in broader areas, not as a regional force that discharges its limited military duty in restricted areas, and use the South Korean forces as a shock brigade. The game of playing with the "transfer of wartime operational control" is a dangerous military move that seeks this very goal.” (Rodong Sinmun, 09 February 2010)

  • “The US imperialists' maneuvers for pressing forward the "handover of wartime operational control" also serve the purpose of subordinating the puppet armed forces to the US imperialists more thoroughly and using them as a shock brigade in a war of northward aggression.” (Minju Joson, 24 June 2009)

  • “If another Korean war breaks out, they will push forward the South Korean puppet forces as a shock brigade and [the US Forces] will use the method verified through Iraq and Afghanistan wars; [they] will attempt to easily achieve the purpose of northward aggression while reducing a force loss to the maximum by mobilizing the naval and air forces' state-of-the-art attack weapons.” (Rodong Sinmun, 27 November 2008)

  • “The United States is attempting to pull the trigger of a new war on the Korean peninsula at any cost by turning the South Korean puppet forces into an autonomous force of war on the pretext of the ‘transfer of wartime operational control’ and by using them as a shock brigade, while enhancing the mobility and attack capability of the US imperialist forces of aggression occupying South Korea.” (Rodong Sinmun, 16 September 2008)
Overall Assessment of the North Korean Media on the Postponement of OPCON Transfer: Since the announcement of the postponement of the ROK-US OPCON transfer, the North Korean media has released eight reports condemning the postponement. All of the reports uniformly criticized the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for “begging” the US to retain wartime OPCON and postpone the transfer. The reports also consistently claim the postponement of the OPCON transfer provides the US an opportunity to “strengthen its policy for military occupation and colonial rule over South Korea,” and thereby “escalating the tension on the Korean Peninsula” and “increasing the danger of war of aggression against North Korea.”

The North Korean media characterization of the OPCON transfer postponement is consistent with the past North Korean media portrayals of the pending ROK-US OPCON transfer. The North Korean media has in the past portrayed the OPCON transfer as a “smoke screen” for a future attack on North Korea, claiming that the US will use the ROK forces as a “shock brigade” to facilitate its strategy to build up forces and equipment on the Korean Peninsula in preparations for war. Consistent this logic, the North Korean media claims the postponement of the OPCON transfer will provide the US an opportunity to strengthen its military presence on the Korean Peninsula so that it may “unhesitatingly wage an all-out war” against North Korea.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

KCNA: North Korean Permanent Representative to the UN Holds News Conference on Cheonan

Korean Central Broadcasting Station carried the following in Korean during its 11:00 PM KST newscast on July 10. Additionally, The Korean Central News Agency carried the following in English under the headline "Permanent Representative of DPRK at UN Holds Press Conference" on July 10.
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Sin Son Ho, permanent representative of the DPRK at the UN, held a press conference in New York on Friday as regards the issue of the presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council on the "Ch'o'nan" case.

The press conference was attended by correspondents of various countries at the UN.

Sin Son Ho said that the UNSC could not make any proper judgment or conclusion as it hastily tabled and handled the case before the truth of the case has been probed.

The "Ch'o'nan" case should have been settled between the North and the South without referring it to the UN, he said, adding: The DPRK will probe the truth behind the case to the last.

The recent development in which the situation on the Korean Peninsula reached a point of explosion in a moment due to a conspiratorial farce once again reminds us of the danger of the present cease-fire and the urgency to establish a peace-keeping regime.

The DPRK will make consistent efforts for the conclusion of a peace treaty and the denuclearization on the peninsula through the Six-Party Talks conducted on equal footing.

Answering the questions raised by reporters, Sin said that the presidential statement of the UNSC which said it took note of the DPRK's stand that it had nothing to do with the "Ch'o'nan" case meant a diplomatic victory of the DPRK.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

South Korean Government Summons Russian Envoy to Protest Russia's Cheonan Findings

The Russian government apparently provided the findings of its investigation into the Cheonan incident to China and the US last week, leaving South Korea out of the loop. Understandably, the South Korean government summoned the Russian Ambassador to South Korea to lodge its objections on being left out of the loop on the matter.

The Russian investigation reportedly concluded that "it was unable to view the 'No. 1 torpedo' as being the cause of the sinking" of the ROKS Cheonan. Frankly, Russia's "findings" are not surprising given its past and present relations with North Korea as well as its interests in Northeast Asia - which do not necessarily coincide with the US or even China.

Below is a report from Hankyoreh by Lee Yeong-in that was filed on July 10 on this topic uner the headline, "Government Protests Russia's Conflicting Cheonan Findings":

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It came to light Friday that the South Korean government summoned the Russian Ambassador to South Korea and expressed strenuous objections over the Russian government’s failure to provide notification of the findings of its independent team that investigated the Cheonan sinking. The team was dispatched to South Korea around one month ago and concluded that it was unable to view the “No. 1 torpedo” as being the cause of the sinking.

According to military and foreign affairs supports connected to Russia, the Russian government provided notification of its independent investigation results only to the Chinese and U.S. governments last week, and South Korea only found out about the content indirectly through those two countries.

Following this, 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Shin Kak-soo summoned Russian Ambassador to South Korea Konstantin Vnukov to the Foreign Ministry on July 4 to express “astonishment” at Russia’s investigation findings because the findings were a complete contradiction to the South Korean government’s announcement. They also expressed severe dismay about the fact that Russian notified only the U.S. and China about the findings, while leaving South Korea out of the communication loop.

Foreign affairs sources reported that Shin used forceful and diplomatically irregular language to denounce Russia’s behavior, calling it “unfriendly conduct that violates trust,” “bewildering,” and “disappointing.” It was also reported to Shin proposed additional discussions with Russia during the meeting, and that the South Korean government subsequently provided additional information to the Russian government.


“Was it not the South Korean government that provided assistance to the Russian investigation, saying that they would be objective?” asked a former senior official in foreign affairs and national security, adding that the Russian investigation results “raise fundamental doubts about the [South Korean] government’s announcement of its Cheonan investigation findings.”

It was reported that while the Russian investigation team did conclude that the Cheonan was not sunk by a North Korean bubble jet torpedo, it did not present any definitive conclusions about the direct cause, suggesting several possible scenarios such as a secondary mine explosion following a problem with the Cheonan during its maneuvers. Analysts are interpreting this as being due to the fact that the Russian team, made up of submersible and torpedo experts, focused its examination on the question of whether the sinking resulted from a strike by the “No. 1 torpedo.”

“The Russian investigation team’s primary interest was in whether North Korea, which had been unable to produce its own torpedoes until 1995, suddenly was able to attack the Cheonan with a state-of-the-art bubble jet torpedo,” said a South Korean diplomatic source.

Indeed, the technology for bubble jet torpedoes, which are capable of splitting a vessel in two through the expansion and contraction of a bubble resulting from a powerful explosion, is possessed only by the U.S. and a small number of other countries, and has only been successful to date in experiments on stationary ships rather than actual fighting. The joint civilian-military investigation team also acknowledged in its June 29 briefing to media groups that North Korea was the first to have succeeded in using a bubble jet torpedo in the field.

North Korea shifts to peace offensive

Analysts seem to think North Korea is shifting to 'Peace Offensive' after sinking the ROKS Cheonan.

Here's an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report By Park Chan-Kyong from AFP-Hong Kong:

After months of tensions, North Korea is now looking for a way out of the confrontation sparked by the sinking of a South Korean warship, analysts said Saturday.

After securing what its U.N. envoy termed “a great diplomatic victory” when the U.N. condemned the sinking without identifying the culprit, the North expressed willingness in principle to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

“The DPRK (North Korea) will make consistent efforts for the conclusion of a peace treaty and the denuclearization through the six-party talks conducted on equal footing,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

The North noted the U.N. Security Council's statement encouraged the settlement of outstanding issues on the Korean peninsula through peaceful dialogue.

South Korea, the United States and other countries have accused the North of torpedoing the warship with the loss of 46 lives, a charge it vehemently denies.

“Pyongyang believes it put up a good defense at the United Nations as the statement stopped short of blaming the sinking on the North,” Professor Kim Yong-Hyun of Seoul's Dongguk University told AFP.

“North Korea is now taking a peace offensive, calling for dialogue.”

The North's statement also aims to “take the steam” out of an upcoming U.S.-South Korea joint naval exercise and the South's own reprisals including a planned resumption of psychological warfare against the North, he said.

The North warned “hostile forces” against carrying out “such provocations as demonstration of forces and sanctions” in contravention of the U.N. statement.

“They will neither be able to escape the DPRK's strong physical retaliation nor will be able to evade the responsibility for the resultant escalation of the conflict,” it said.

But a defense ministry spokesman said Saturday that South Korea would go ahead with the naval exercise with the United States in the Yellow Sea, which has also sparked protests from China.

The South in May announced its own non-military reprisals against the North, including a partial trade ban and the possible resumption of propaganda broadcasts through loudspeakers along the border.

Professor Yang Moo-Jin of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies said that despite the rhetoric, the North's statement is laying emphasis on dialogue.

“Pyongyang is now taking an exit strategy to extricate itself from the row over the sinking,” Yang said.

“The North is struggling to send a message that it is in favor of dialogue. This move is aimed at making the planned U.S.-South Korea joint naval exercise and the South's resumption of psychological warfare appear unwarranted.”

In an apparent policy shift, the North on Friday offered to hold military generals' talks with the United States to discuss the Cheonan sinking.

It announced on the same day that a U.S. citizen serving a prison term in the North for illegal entry had attempted suicide, driven by “despair at the U.S. government that has not taken any measure for his freedom.”

“This is all part of the North's efforts to attract Washington to dialogue,” Yang said.

Professor Jang Yong-Suk of Sung Kong Hoe University told Yonhap news agency that China might have urged the North to come back to dialogue in return for its support at the U.N. Security Council.

The six-party talks — which involve China, the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan — have been stalled since North Korea quit them last year in protest over U.N. censure of its missile test.

The North has previously expressed willingness in principle to return. But first it wants the U.S. to agree to hold talks on a formal peace treaty and an end to sanctions.