Top diplomats from South Korea, China and Japan will hold three-way talks early next month on regional security and cooperation, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Thursday, with North Korea’s rocket plan expected to be a hot topic on the sidelines.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan will hold the two-day tripartite talks with China’s Yang Jiechi and Japan’s Koichiro Gemba in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo starting April 7, ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.
The three-way meeting, the sixth of its kind, comes as North Korea has defied international condemnation and pressed ahead with its plan to launch a satellite into orbit on the back of a long-range rocket sometime between April 12 and 16.
“It is certain that the issue (of North Korea’s planned rocket launch) will be discussed bilaterally on the sidelines of the trilateral talks,” Cho said.
Earlier on Thursday, Japan’s Tokyo Shimbun reported that Pyongyang has started fueling a rocket for the planned launch, citing a source close to North Korea. Cho said he could not confirm the report, saying it is an intelligence matter.
South Korea, the United States and Japan have condemned the North’s rocket plan as a disguised test of its improved international ballistic missile technology.
The North’s maneuver also puts in jeopardy an aid-for-denuclearization deal Pyongyang signed with Washington in late February.
South Korean and Japanese military officials have said they would shoot down the rocket if it violates their airspace.
Pyongyang’s missile program has long been a regional security concern, along with its nuclear programs. The country is believed to have advanced ballistic missile technology, though it is still not clear whether it has mastered the technology to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.
North Korea has carried out two nuclear tests, first in 2006 and then in 2009.
The Obama administration will overhaul its approach toward North Korea if it presses ahead with a multiple-stage rocket launch next month, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.
James Miller, nominated as undersecretary of defense for policy, made clear that the U.S. won’t be able to fulfill what it agreed to do in a Feb. 29 aid-for-concession deal with North Korea.
“My view is that if North Korea goes forward with this test, we will stop this aid and stop the other steps that we had intended to take and have to have a complete reconsideration of where we go in the future,” he said in a Senate confirmation hearing.
He is currently serving as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. If confirmed, he will replace Michele Flournoy, who retired in February.
After high-level talks in Beijing in February, the U.S. said it would provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid to the North. It was an apparent reward for Pyongyang, which pledged to suspend some of its nuclear and long-range missile activities. The two sides also reportedly agreed to a set of social and cultural exchanges, including a concert by a North Korean orchestra in the U.S.
But the North abruptly announced a plan to launch a rocket that it claims is intended to put an observation satellite into orbit. The launch would take place April 12-16, the North said.
Miller confirmed that 240,000 tons of food aid is worth US$200 million.
He pointed out North Korea’s missile and weapons of mass destruction programs pose a “direct and serious threat” to U.S. regional allies and parters.
The also have the “potential to become a direct threat to U.S. territory,” he said.
He stressed, however, the need for continued efforts to resolve the North Korea issue diplomatically.
“I believe the United states must work with our allies and other key partners in the region and internationally on diplomatic solutions to the range of pressing concerns we face with North Korea,” he said. “Under the appropriate conditions, direct diplomatic engagement with North Korea is important as well.”
In a separate congressional hearing, meanwhile, Adm. Samuel Locklear, who heads the U.S. Pacific Command, said the North’s rocket move is the “most pressing security situation.”
“We will have to continue to be positioned to ensure security from those type of provocative events that the North Korean regime seems to be intent on pursuing,” he told the members of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Testifying next to him, Gen. James Thurman, commander of the 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, said that the launch will unequivocally violate U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban it from using ballistic missile technology.
He added the North’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is following the “same patterns” of behavior of his late father, Kim Jong-il, and grandfather, Kim Il-sung.
“I do think he is being closely shepherded by his uncle, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek,” he said. Jang, granted four-star general rank recently, serves as vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stirred up a long-simmering dispute between his country and Korea with comments Tuesday about a Korean statue in honor of the so-called comfort women forced into sexual slavery during World War II.
The Sankei Shimbun on Tuesday reported that Noda at a session of the Diet told lawmakers that wording on the statue saying “comfort woman forced into sexual slavery” is “far from accurate.” His comment came in response to a question by lawmaker Eriko Yamatani from the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.
The statue was set up in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, and the legend reads, “This peace monument reflects people’s genuine desire to learn from history and remember the past on the occasion of the 1,000th weekly protest against Japan’s atrocities by comfort woman forced into sexual slavery.”
Noda also stressed that he asked President Lee Myung-bak during a bilateral summit in December to remove the statue.
The Korean government and civic groups here want Japan to offer a sincere apology and compensation for forcing women into sexual slavery for its troops during the occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. But the Japanese government maintains that the women were not forced into sexual slavery but volunteered to make money, and that all compensation was settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.
South Korea summoned a Japanese diplomat on Tuesday to protest Japan’s latest history textbook that reasserts Tokyo’s territorial claims to Seoul’s easternmost islets of Dokdo.
The protest came after Japan’s education ministry announced this week the results of its review of a high school history textbook that renewed Japan’s territorial claim to the islets, according to South Korean officials.
Antique Japanese maps put Dokdo under Korean control
A South Korean institute on Wednesday uncovered three more antique Japanese maps showing Dokdo as Korean territory, offering what could be critical evidence against Tokyo’s fresh claims to the South Korean islets.
The revelation came a day after Japan’s education ministry reasserted Tokyo’s territorial claim to the islets in its latest review of high school textbooks. South Korea immediately protested the move by calling in a Japanese diplomat to the foreign ministry and issuing a statement expressing “deep disappointment” at the approval of the textbook, which it said “justifies a distorted historical perspective.”
In a posting on its Web site, the Northeast Asian History Foundation said it was holding a press conference earlier in the day to reveal the three maps to the Korean public for the first time, along with several others that were published between the late 18th century and the early 20th century.
One of the maps, printed in 1892, used different colors for Japan and Dokdo, while another one from 1895 did not include the islets within the boundaries of Shimane Prefecture, the closest Japanese region to the rocky outcroppings, according to the institute.
A map from 1904 painted Dokdo in lavender, the same color as Korea’s Gangwon Province, it said.
Japan’s claims to Dokdo, which lies closer to South Korea in the body of water that divides the Korean Peninsula and Japan, have long been a thorn in relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
South Korea rejects the claims because the country regained independence from Japan’s 36-year colonial rule in 1945 and reclaimed sovereignty over its territory, including Dokdo and many other islands around the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea keeps a small police detachment on Dokdo, effectively controlling it.
Source: Yonhap News Agency
Global leaders made fresh commitments Tuesday toward building a safer world without nuclear terrorism, presenting pledged reductions of weapons-grade fissile material, either completed or under way, as evidence that the two-year-old Nuclear Security Summit process is working.
The two-day gathering in Seoul of leaders and high-level representatives from 53 countries and four major organizations around the world ended with a joint declaration, dubbed the “Seoul Communique.”
“Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security,” the communique said. “Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international cooperation, given its potential global political, economic, social and psychological consequences.”
The statement called for minimizing the use of weapons-usable, highly enriched uranium by the end of 2013 and set 2014 as a target date for putting into effect an amendment to the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM).
CPPNM is a key international pact that stipulates physical protection of nuclear materials during international transport, lays out a framework for cooperation in the protection, recovery, and return of stolen nuclear material and lists certain serious offenses involving nuclear material. A 2005 amendment, which includes protection for nuclear facilities, has yet to take effect.
The Seoul meeting is a follow-up to the inaugural summit hosted by Obama in Washington in 2010 when leaders focused on strengthening the security of fissile material worldwide and securing against nuclear terrorism.
In Seoul, world leaders, including Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao assessed accomplishments of commitments made in Washington and laid out more concrete actions to curb the threat of nuclear terrorism and illicit trafficking.
Coming to Midtown before Christmas: Kristalbelli, Manhattan’s latest entry in the global quest to make Korean barbecue upscale, not just popular. Its chef, David Shim, has worked at Gramercy Tavern, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Veritas. He promises Wagyu beef, organic vegetables, pork belly and the usual prize morsels for grilling.
But the main attraction will be the grills themselves. Each unit, set in the center of the table, is made of a single piece of crystal, with infrared heat that will produce higher temperatures than charcoal or gas grills. In Korea, both infrared and crystal cooking have been touted for their health benefits. Here, some backyard grill jockeys have experimented with infrared, but this will be a first for a restaurant. Powerful downdraft machines are promised to suck the usual smoke and cooking smells out through the floor.
This combination of sleek lounge and D.I.Y. grilling is the brainchild of the young Korean entertainment mogul J.Y. Park.
World leaders gathered for a second summit on nuclear security are poised to approve more specific plans and new pledges of action to prevent nuclear terrorism and ensure atomic safety, diplomats said Tuesday.
Top leaders from 53 nations and four international organizations, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, on Monday kicked off a two-day meeting dedicated to making the world a safer place without the threat of nuclear terrorism.
South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik pressed North Korea on Monday to call off its planned rocket launch next month that could invite further international sanctions.
Kim said a long-range rocket launch is a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution and a grave provocation to international peace and security. The North announced that it would launch a rocket between April 12 and 16 to put an earth observation satellite into orbit as part of its peaceful space program.
A night view of the Convention and Exhibition Center (Coex) in southern Seoul, the venue for the Nuclear Security Summit, on March 25, 2012. Set for March 26-27, the summit will include discussions on ways to counter nuclear terrorism, with representatives from 53 nations and four international organizations, including 44 heads of state, set to attend.
Members of police special forces patrol a district in front of the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX), the venue for the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit, in Seoul on March 24, 2012, two days ahead of the opening of the summit.
Staring at North Korea through binoculars at the heavily fortified land border with South Korea, U.S. President Barack Obama will attempt to send a message not only to Pyongyang but also to Teheran, another recalcitrant regime in the eyes of western officials, a U.S. newspaper said Saturday.
Obama’s trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which former President Bill Clinton called “the scariest place on Earth” during his own visit, is apparently aimed at boosting his image as the “sole commander-in-chief” of the U.S., beset with a host of thorny diplomatic issues, including North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, according to Politico.