Saturday, March 28, 2009

North Korea seeks Obama administration's attention

Kim Jong Il may hope to gain the attention of U.S. President Obama, even at the cost of harsher international sanctions, says Jeung Young Tae, a senior researcher at Korea Institute for National Unification.

“North Korea is suffering from poor economic conditions and wants direct talks with Washington to speed much-needed aid,” Jeung said today by phone in Seoul. “Kim wants to make sure his country isn’t ignored as the Obama administration deals with economic problems and Iraq.”

Successful or not, a missile launch might force Washington to accept North Korea as a potential threat, leading eventually to direct talks even if it first prompts a toughening of international sanctions, Jeung said.


Friday, March 27, 2009

North Korean showdown on the high seas

Having passed through Seoul, North Korea was getting more than its share of press there. The South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo quoted a diplomatic source as saying North Korea could fire its Taepodong-2 missile by the weekend, earlier than the April 4-8 timeframe Pyongyang announced for what it says is the launch of a satellite.

North Korea has said it will launch a commercial satellite on top of a rocket but some governments fear the North Koreans will actually put a long-range missile on top of the rocket.

I am now in Japan where Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada announced he ordered the deployment of land-to-air and sea-to-air missile interceptors to the area at risk. The military will move some PAC-3 land-to-air missiles, currently deployed around Tokyo, to Japan's northern coast, and deploy a pair of destroyers carrying SM-3 sea-to-air missiles in nearby waters. Additionally a set of the PAC-3 missiles will be brought into central Tokyo to defend the nation's capital.

U.S. Navy ships capable of shooting down ballistic missiles are being moved to the Sea of Japan. The U.S. Navy just wrapped up military exercises with the South Korean military.

The planned missile launch by North Korea, seen by some countries as a disguised military exercise, is the first big test for US President Barack Obama in dealing with the prickly North Korea, whose efforts to build a nuclear arsenal have long plagued ties with Washington. North Korea warned that any action by the UN Security Council to punish it would be a “hostile act”.

Monday, March 16, 2009

To those of you who visit

To those of you who visit, I apologize that I've posted so sporadically the past 2 weeks or so.

Until a couple days ago, I have been in Africa, and am now in Asia, and with all that has been going on, including some internet challenges while traveling, you will have noticed that my posts here have been less regular than usual.

P.S. -- Should you be interested, I am posting travel logs at another blog International Aid

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Second Day of North Korea Border Crossing Ban

North Korea has barred border crossings with South Korea for a second straight day Saturday, stranding hundreds of people in the North. On Friday they prevented more than 400 people who work at a joint industrial complex at Kaesong from returning South. Five people were allowed to cross, including four foreigners and a bride-to-be.

Earlier this week, North Korea switched off military phones to the South to protest annual military exercises being conducted jointly by the United States and South Korea. The joint military drills include a U.S. aircraft carrier, 26,000 U.S. troops and more than 30,000 South Korean soldiers. The drills are expected to conclude on March 20.

Monday, March 09, 2009

North Korea put its military on full combat alert

North Korea put its military on full combat alert as US and South Korean troops began a major joint exercise on Monday. Pyongyang also warned that any attempt to block its upcoming satellite launch would spark a war.

The communist state also severed its last communications channel with South Korea for the duration of the 12-day exercise, which Pyongyang has branded a rehearsal for invasion. Last week the North threatened South Korean civilian airlines using its airspace, forcing them to re-route flights.

The North Korean military described the exercise as "unprecedented in the number of the aggressor forces involved and in duration. The KPA (Korean People's Army) Supreme Command issued an order to all service persons to be fully combat-ready," it said in a statement carried by official media. "A war will break out if the US imperialists and the warmongers of the South Korean puppet military hurl the huge troops and sophisticated strike means to mount an attack."

Meanwhile the new US envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, said "We are hopeful that we can see the resumption of the six-party process in the relatively near future."

[New Straits Times]

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sunday Elections in North Korea should shed light

North Korea’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for Sunday, and experts in South Korea said the election outcome will serve as a barometer for many political changes in the North, pointing toward the communist country’s overhaul of its power elite, the future of inter-Korean relations and the possibility of a father-to-son power succession.

The North holds elections for the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s unicameral rubber-stamp legislature, every five years. Although Assembly members are lawmakers on the surface, they actually hold additional positions - often top spots in the Workers’ Party, military and government. Every five years marks a turning point in the Dear Leader’s regime.

The North’s 1998 election ended the country’s rule under the instructions left by its late founder, Kim Il Sung. The father of current leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Il Sung died in July 1994, but the nation continued to operate under the dead leader’s teachings for four years, until the parliamentary elections brought Kim Jong-il to power.

The 2003 parliamentary elections renewed Kim Jong-il’s position as the country’s National Defense Commission chairman. Since then, Kim has ruled the North with his “Military First” philosophy.

Sunday’s elections will be the 12th since the founding of the state. Though candidates are handpicked by the Workers’ Party and then approved by Kim, the election outcome is expected to show a glimpse of how the 67-year-old Dear Leader will operate the country for the next five years.

“Kim will be 72 years old when the 13th election takes place,” said Professor Kim Yong-hyun of the North Korea Studies Department at Dongguk University. “So, it will be likely that his plan to name a successor will be reflected in the outcome of the upcoming election.”

[JoongAng Daily]