August 28, 2010
China is lobbying neighbors to sign up to a road map for renewed nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong-il is visiting China amid conciliatory words and threats of "holy war."
The details of Beijing's plan for restarting stalled six-party nuclear talks came from a South Korean diplomatic source, who spoke on Saturday after discussion in Seoul with Wu Dawei, China's top envoy in the talks.
But the source, as well as a Japanese official speaking in Beijing, stressed that big obstacles remained, even if the secretive Kim's trip to China yields another vow of North Korea's willingness to sit down and discuss a dormant deal to scrap its nuclear weapons in return for aid.
"We don't want to restart six-party talks for the sake of talks," the South Korean diplomatic source said. "North Korea should change its attitude and show seriousness in denuclearizing."China's regional lobbying, and courting of the reclusive Kim, highlight the pressures that North Korea -- isolated, poor and with a brace of primitive nuclear bombs -- has brought to bear on northeast Asia, home to the world's second and third biggest economies and a big U.S. military presence.
Kim, 68, and his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, were in China to visit the school of senior Kim's father and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, a source with knowledge of the secretive trip told Reuters.
"Trust me, it's 100 percent both are here," the source said, declining to give details when asked.Kim Il-sung attended the Yu Wen High School in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin in the 1920s. The school houses a memorial hall to Kim which is not open to the public.
The museum was renovated recently ahead of a visit by a group of North Korean dignitaries, a second source said.
Classes were suspended on Thursday amid tight security and a school choir performed for the dignitaries, the second source added, but did not know if the Kims were among the guests.
"They sang 'The song of General Kim Il-sung' in Chinese and Korean. It's the school song," the second source said.There had been no conclusive sightings in China of Kim, who has appeared frail and gaunt since reportedly suffering a stroke in 2008.
Neither source wanted to be identified because of the political sensitivity of the trip. The two neighbors do not disclose much information about Kim's travels, and then only after he has left for home.
On Friday, a North Korean diplomat brandished the possibility of nuclear war with South Korea and the United States.
"If Washington and Seoul try to create conflict on the Korean peninsula we respond with a holy war on the basis of our nuclear deterrent forces," North Korea's ambassador to Cuba, Kwon Sung-chol, said in Havana, according to a report from there by China's official Xinhua news agency.North Korea staged nuclear test blasts in 2006 and 2009, drawing international condemnations and U.N. sanctions backed by China, the biggest economic and diplomatic backer of Pyongyang.
China's envoy, Wu, proposed a three-stage process to restart the multilateral talks aimed at coaxing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for aid and other assurances, the South Korean diplomatic source told Reuters.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter returned home from Pyongyang on Friday with an American who had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korea. The North's state media said number two leader, Kim Yong-nam, had told Carter that Pyongyang wanted the nuclear talks resumed.
China has sought to defuse confrontation by hosting six-party nuclear disarmament talks since August 2003. But last April, North Korea quit the talks and reversed "disablement" steps intended to cripple its chief reactor complex, unhappy with implementation of an initial disarmament agreement reached in 2007.
North Korea has been retreating from its earlier public renunciation of the talks. South Korea and Washington say resuming the talks will be impossible until Pyongyang also faces up to their conclusion that it was behind the sinking of a South Korean navy ship, the Cheonan, in March.
South Korea lost 46 sailors when the Cheonan sank. Seoul said an inquiry found there was no doubt North Korea torpedoed the ship, but Pyongyang denied it was responsible.
August 28, 2010
North Korea would answer any attack on it with a nuclear "holy war," the country’s ambassador to Cuba said, according to official Chinese media, while the North’s leader Kim Jong-il appeared to be visiting China.
The ambassador Kwon Sung-chol made the remarks on Friday at a ceremony marking 50 years of diplomatic ties between North Korea and Cuba, the same day that Pyongyang said it was open to returning to nuclear disarmament negotiations.
"If Washington and Seoul try to create a conflict on the Korean peninsula, we will respond with a holy war on the basis of our nuclear deterrent forces," Kwon said, according to China’s Xinhua news agency on Saturday, in a story datelined Havana.
"Our government will strive for the denuclearisation of the peninsula and the establishment of a lasting peace as the beginning of the reunification process of the two Koreas," said Kwon.Washington and Seoul have said Pyongyang must abandon its nuclear weapons development, but have not threatened to attack the poor and isolated North.
North Korea’s number two leader, Kim Yong-nam, told visiting former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that the reclusive state wanted to resume six-way nuclear disarmament talks, the North’s state news agency said on Friday.
The North’s leader, Kim Jong-il, appears to be visiting China in a secrecy-shrouded trip that analysts say appears intended to line up Beijing behind his succession plans.
August 24, 2010
South Korean troops have been practising a war plan during joint military drills with the United States that envisions occupying and stabilising North Korea, news reports said Tuesday.
Communist North Korea has threatened fiery retaliation against the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises involving tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops.
"Distinctive features of this year's exercises are the stabilisation operation, which is being led by the unification ministry," an unidentified military official was quoted as saying by the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.Past UFG exercises practised restoring administration in occupied North Korean areas, but this one goes a step further, with re-education and stabilisation carried out by Seoul's unification ministry.
"The unification ministry is practising a programme aimed to turn North Koreans into Republic of Korea (South Korea) citizens, which is the culmination of such a stabilisation operation," he said.
The South's Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified government official, also reported the stabilisation exercise, which is likely to further infuriate the North at a time when inter-Korean relations are at a new low.
"Various drills designed for different circumstances are being conducted," unification ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo told AFP, without elaborating.The UFG exercises envision powerful counter-offensives into the North up to the Chongchon River, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Pyongyang, in case of aggression from the North, the Dong-A Ilbo said.
The August 16-26 joint exercise is the latest in a series being staged by the South -- either alone or with the United States -- after the sinking of one of its warships in March, which sharply raised tensions on the peninsula.
The South blamed the North for torpedoing the corvette, killing 46 sailors, an accusation the North angrily denies.
The current drill involves 56,000 South Korean and 30,000 US troops, as well as an unspecified number of American soldiers based in the United States who link up by computer, a South Korean Joint Chief of Staff spokesman said.
General Walter Sharp, who heads some 28,500 US troops based in the South, described the drill as "one of the largest joint staff directed theatre exercises in the world".
South Korea's Unification Minister Hyun In-Taek said Tuesday that the country was pursuing a "peaceful and gradual" reunification with North Korea, dismissing speculation that the South might be seeking to absorb its impoverished neighbour.
"We want to open the future of the Korean Peninsula through cooperation" between the two Koreas, Hyun said at an academic forum.On Sunday, he said the possibility of the communist state imploding in the near future was slim, saying leader Kim Jong-Il remains healthy enough to keep his grip on the North.
"We aim at a peaceful and gradual unification based on agreement between the North and South."
"The possibility of the North collapsing in the imminent future is not high," he told KBS TV.
Seoul's defence ministry on Tuesday said it had detected a "massive" deployment of North Korean troops and arms near the capital Pyongyang.
The large number of soldiers, armoured vehicles and artillery have been stationed near the communist state's capital since July 12, the ministry said in a report to parliament.
The deployment appears to be related to political events such as a meeting of key communist party delegates next month and the party's 65th anniversary on October 10, a ministry spokesman told AFP.
"The massive deployment of troops could be designed to show their military power at home and abroad, or for security," he said.