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 N Korea threatens 'physical response' to US moves

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PosOnderwerp: N Korea threatens 'physical response' to US moves   Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:05 pm


ANDREW QUINN AND AMBIKA AHUJA | HANOI, VIETNAM - Jul 23 2010 13:37

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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Asia on Friday to enforce tough sanctions against North Korea, which hit back by threatening a "physical response" to Washington's plans for joint military drills with South Korea.

Clinton, speaking in Hanoi at the Asia-Pacific's biggest security dialogue, also called on Burma's neighbours to pressure the country's military rulers for democratic reforms, and said Asia must join the global community in sending a "clear signal" to Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

"One measure of the strength of a community of nations is how it responds to threats to its members, neighbours and region," Clinton told the 27-member Asean Regional Forum, which includes regional powers China, Japan and Russia along with the US, European Union and Canada.

Clinton unveiled new US sanctions this week against North Korea, blamed by both Washington and Seoul for the March sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors and sharpened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

A North Korean diplomat said Washington's new sanctions and the US-South Korean drills would be met with a "physical response", and that charges it torpedoed the South's warship had pushed the divided Korean peninsula "to the brink of explosion".

"There will be a physical response to the steps imposed by the United States militarily," Ri Tong-il, a member of Pyongyang's delegation in Hanoi, told reporters. The military exercises, he added, would violate North Korean sovereignty.

The new sanctions target the ruling elite in the impoverished and isolated communist state and build on earlier UN sanctions that curbed trade with the North in hopes of persuading it to abandon its atomic ambitions.

Clinton said it was essential Asian nations enforce the punitive measures to encourage North Korea "to take the steps it must" to stop nuclear development and seek real peace.

She later told reporters Washington hoped for the day when Pyongyang was "less concerned about making threats and more concerned about making opportunities".


CONTINUES BELOW



Japan to monitor military exercises
Japan waded into the crisis, announcing plans to send four Maritime Self Defence Forces officers to the US-South Korea exercises off the west coast of the divided Korean peninsula as observers, responding to invitations from the two countries.

This will be the first time Japan's self defence forces join a joint exercise by the US and South Korea starting this weekend, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said. The four officers will be aboard US aircraft carrier George Washington.

Clinton had hoped to rally regional support behind Seoul, but fell short of building consensus for a direct rebuke of Pyongyang. A senior US administration official said the vast majority of countries at the Hanoi talks expressed regret over the sunken ship, but less than half were willing to condemn Pyongyang and potentially anger its powerful ally, China.

In Hanoi, North Korea's foreign minister repeatedly denied any involvement in the sinking, according to diplomats present at the closed-door talks.

Clinton told reporters North Korea's belligerence prevented Washington from returning to six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear-weapons programme in return for generous aid.

The naval exercises are the first overt military response to the attack on the warship. The US has said they are a show of force meant to convince the North to curb its "aggressive behaviour" and will take place in international waters.

China has condemned the drills and launched its own exercises off its eastern coast.

Pressure on Burma
Clinton also urged Asia-Pacific ministers to put more pressure on Burma -- a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) that anchors the forum -- to enact real democratic reforms and allow elections later this year that will be both free and credible.

President Barack Obama's administration has expressed frustration that, despite US offers of greater engagement, Burma's military rulers have refused to budge on key demands. These include the release of an estimated 2 000 political prisoners, such as Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

It has also said it is concerned by reports that Burma is seeking North Korean help to develop its own nuclear programme, which, if true, could open an alarming new front in the battle against global proliferation.

Clinton's visit to Hanoi is part of the Obama administration's broader effort to boost US engagement with Asia, in part to counter the rising influence of China.

Clinton also urged regional leaders to resolve longstanding territorial disputes over the South China Sea, which pit China against Vietnam and other regional countries in squabbles over the vast, potentially-oil rich maritime region. -- Reuters
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PosOnderwerp: U.S.-S. Korean War Drills Begin   Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:43 pm


By CHOE SANG-HUN
Published: July 25, 2010
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CloseLinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink The United States and South Korea on Sunday kicked off their largest joint war game in years, with a nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier prowling off the east coast of South Korea while North Korea threatened to retaliate with its nuclear weapons and reportedly put its military on an alert for war.

Rising tensions demonstrated how tenuous peace remained on the divided peninsula after the Korean War was temporarily halted in a ceasefire between the U.S.-led United Nations forces and the communist troops from North Korea and China 57 years ago on Tuesday.

The current spate of tension was sparked when a South Korean warship was blown up in March, killing 46 sailors. A team of investigators from South Korea, the United States and other countries that joined the U.N. forces during the war determined in May that North Korea torpedoed the ship.

Sweden, which did not join combats of the war, participated in the part of the investigation that concluded that the torpedo was "manufactured by North Korea," but not in the intelligence analysis that determined that the torpedo was fired by a North Koran submarine.

North Korea has called the investigation a "fake." China, a North Korean ally in the war, also rejected it. Meanwhile, the United States and South Korea announced new sanctions against North Korea last week when their foreign and defense ministers traveled together to the inter-Korean border in a symbolic gesture of confronting the North.

On Sunday, in a show of their combined military power, a fleet of U.S. and South Korean naval ships and submarines sailed into waters off the east coast of South Korea, led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, one of the biggest ships in the U.S. Navy. Japan, a historical rival of the two Koreas but an ally of South Korea and the United States in their confrontation with North Korea, dispatched military observers in the four-day exercise.

The drills mobilized 20 ships, 8,000 troops from both allies and an unusually large number of warplanes: more than 200 aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor fighter, which joins an exercise in South Korea for the first time.

The exercises this week are the first in a series of U.S.-South Korean maneuvers to be conducted in the coming months. U.S. officials warned last week that political pressure arising from the succession of power from the ailing North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, to his youngest son, Kim Jong-il, might prompt the regime to attempt further military provocations.

On Saturday, North Korea vowed to launch a "sacred war" against the United States and South Korea at "any time necessary," and counter their “largest-ever nuclear war exercises" with its own "powerful nuclear deterrence."

Radio Free Asia reported that the North has put its military and hunger-stricken people on high alert. North Korea uses tensions with the Americans to boost solidarity at home and justify its development of nuclear weapons.

It will likely test short-range missiles and fire artillery in waters near the disputed western sea border and might even attempt a test of its long-range missile and a nuclear device, said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea analyst at Dongguk University in Seoul. North Korea is also enriching uranium to boost its nuclear capabilities.

"North Korea will try to fend off the mounting joint pressure from the United States and South Korea by retching up tensions in stages," Mr. Kim said. "For now, both Washington and Seoul seem to believe that they got nothing big to lose by continuing the pressure. What worries me is that the tension is not just between the two Koreas but also between the biggies, the United States and China." China turned unusually vocal in confronting the United States and criticizing its joint military maneuvers with South Korea, prompting the allies to relocate their drills from the sensitive Yellow Sea.
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PosOnderwerp: North Korea Nuclear Talks Must Wait to Avoid `Cold War' Divisions, Yu Says   Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:16 am


By Bomi Lim and Bill Austin - Jul 26, 2010 Email Share
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Yu Myung Hwan, South Korea's foreign minister, speaks during an interview in Hanoi. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan said resuming six-party nuclear talks with North Korea too quickly risks deepening public divisions between China and the U.S. and renewing “Cold War” behavior.

China and Russia have refrained from joining the U.S. in supporting South Korea’s accusation that North Korea torpedoed one of its warships in March. China has criticized U.S.-South Korean naval drills aimed at deterring North Korea that began yesterday.

“It’s quite an unfortunate tendency that people think China and Russia are backing North Korea while the United States and Japan support South Korea,” Yu said in a July 24 interview in Hanoi, where he attended the Asean Regional Forum last week. “It’s like a revival of a Cold War paradigm. It’s not the right time to jump on the six-party talks.”

South Korea has held “very intensive” discussions with China following the sinking, and the two countries share the same goal of maintaining peace in the region, Yu said. Relations with China are much more important than this one issue, Yu said.

South Korea is China’s fourth-biggest trading partner after the U.S., European Union and Japan, with two-way commerce of $156 billion last year, Chinese commerce ministry figures show. China-North Korea trade was $2.7 billion, the data show.

North’s Offer

North Korea, which has boycotted the nuclear forum since December 2008, offered to return to the table after the United Nations Security Council refrained from blaming it for the March sinking of the Cheonan, which a South Korean-led international panel said was caused by a torpedo attack by the North. North Korea should take steps to show its sincerity, such as rejoining the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty or disabling its Yongbyon reactor, Yu said.

“Even China and Russia agreed that it’s not the right time to jump start the six-party talks,” Yu said at the forum, which was attended by all the participants in the nuclear discussions. “We should have proof that North Korea is sincere enough to negotiate on this nuclear issue.”

China said July 13 the disarmament forum is the only way to achieve long-term peace on the Korean peninsula. While China expressed a desire to start the talks in a July 23 meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Hanoi, there was a sense of acknowledgment that the time isn’t yet ripe, an official who traveled with Clinton told reporters that day, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

North Korean Torpedo

The panel said in May that the Cheonan sank near the disputed sea border after being attacked by a North Korean mini- submarine. North Korea denies responsibility and the Security Council statement adopted on July 9 didn’t name a culprit.

“The six-party talks is a useful platform to negotiate the denuclearization of North Korea,” Yu said. “At the same time, we shouldn’t let North Korea use it to earn time to divert attention from the Cheonan incident.”

North Korea’s domestic agenda, including preparations for a leadership transfer to Kim’s youngest son, may make it difficult to engage in dialogue, Yu said. A plan to elect new leaders of the ruling Korea Workers’ Party in early September may provide some insight into the succession, he said.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun argued at the Asean Regional Forum that the U.S. and South Korea fabricated the ship sinking to undermine his nation’s economic reconstruction efforts, Yu said. Pak spoke about the “tremendous results” of a campaign driven by Kim, who is “traveling to every corner of the country, encouraging economic programs,” he said.

Economic Failure

“That is clearly, they themselves recognizing the failure of economic development, so they may wish to find some excuse,” Yu said.

North Korea’s economy has been battered by the UN sanctions imposed after it detonated atomic devices in 2006 and last year. Kim’s regime, which has been reliant on outside handouts to feed its 24 million people since the mid-1990s, faces more sanctions by the U.S., targeted at government officials and the foreign banks that help sustain illicit arms deals.

The U.S. and South Korea began naval drills off the Korean peninsula’s east coast yesterday involving a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, prompting a North Korean threat to intensify its nuclear program.

“They crossed the red line. Attacking a naval ship is beyond the limit,” Yu said. “We should let them know that kind of provocation will bear consequences.”

South Korea plans to modernize its military hardware including improvements in submarine-detection equipment, some of which dates from the 1980s, Yu said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bomi Lim in Seoul at blim30@bloomberg.net
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