06/03/2020 News & Commentary – Korea

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs

1. Negotiating With North Korea: An interview with former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun

2. What Kim Jong Un’s regime shake-up says about his leadership

3. FM Chung holds breakfast talks with new U.S. Indo-Pacific commander

4. U.S. assumes ‘ready’ position for talks with North: Sherman

5. Cyberattacks by North Korea Pose Threat to US

6. Ahn cleared of robbery charge in Madrid embassy raid case

7. N.K. propaganda outlet slams S. Korea for decision to take part in upcoming air drills with U.S., Japan

8. North evades sanctions and gets 3 new tankers: CSIS report

9. U.S. Wants Higher-Profile Summit with Korea and Japan

10. Moon’s last, best chance after Biden summit

11. South Korea Erupts in Outrage Over Tokyo Olympics Map

12. New party rules show North Korean leader breaking away from predecessors

13. North Hamgyong Province moves to replace older generation of officials at historical sites

14. Two young children in Yanggang Province abducted for ransoms in May

15. Memorializing Vietnam, Korean wars

16. SKorea’s Hanwha pitches K9 howitzer for British mobile fires program

17. South Korea to repair pedestrian bridge in Panmunjom

18. Go beyond alliance (ROK/US)

 

1. Negotiating With North Korea: An interview with former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun

Arms Control

I think this is Steve’s first interview since stepping down as the Special Representative. He provides some important insights and this is worth reading.

Key excerpt: “I actually don’t think security is the driver of the North Korean nuclear weapons program. It’s national mobilization around the ideology of the regime. Also, I think the North Koreans know well, it’s an attention getter. They used their weapons of mass destruction program to attract concessions from the outside world in the past. What we tried to do is show them is there is a better way through diplomacy.”

The idea of “testing a proposition” is important and though unstated in the public discussions of the Biden Korea policy I think it is a key component of principled and practical diplomacy. But the question is can there be working level negotiations with the north or will continue to prevent his negotiators from being empowered as described below? 

 

Excerpts: “For all the controversy and debate that his foreign policies generated, I can say as a negotiator that it was incredibly empowering to be able to test a proposition like that. For many of the president’s critics, their concern was that somehow he was going to give away the store, that he was going to accept the one-sided deal. I think what the summit in Hanoi showed was that it was going to take two to tango. 

 

We had high hopes going into the summit. I and our negotiating team were there a week before the summit. We’d been to Pyongyang a few weeks before that, and we met in Washington a few weeks before that. We had laid out to each other in detail what our views were, what our objectives were. They didn’t align entirely, but each side knew what the other side was looking for out of this. When we got to Hanoi, our North Korean counterparts had absolutely no authority to discuss denuclearization issues, which is just absurd. It was one of the core points of agreement between the two leaders in Singapore.

 

Sanctions: “ACT: North Korea has become highly adept at sidestepping U.S. and UN sanctions and has been unwilling to make concessions in response to those sanctions. No doubt, some partners, namely China, could do more to enforce international sanctions now in place. Have we effectively reached the limits of using sanctions to coerce better behavior on nuclear matters from North Korea? 

Biegun: Sanctions rarely if ever produce, in and of themselves, a policy shift. The sanctions are a necessary component of diplomacy that affects the choices or the timetable that the other party may have in terms of whatever it is you’re seeking to address. So, sanctions are a tool, not the policy itself. 

No amount of sanctions evasion is able to overcome the severe downward turn of the North Korean economy because the sanctions are draconian, but if you wanted to make them more severe, that decision really lies in Beijing. I’m not sure at this point that more could be accomplished by more sanctions. I think it’s kind of a reflexive statement that policymakers make when put on the spot. The key here is to find a way to appropriately use the pressure of sanctions to produce a better outcome in diplomacy and to get on with what needs to be done on the Korean peninsula to end this ridiculous 65 years of hostility, long after a war between two systems that no longer even exist today, at one of their first showdowns after World War II.

 

2. What Kim Jong Un’s regime shake-up says about his leadership

Vox · by Alex Ward · June 2, 2021

We are going to be analyzing this and speculating about what it means for some time to come.

While many are looking at this from the internal perspective (te.g., to better run the “state.”) I view this through the political warfare lens and how this supports Kim’s political warfare strategy. This could be a major influence operation.

Excerpts: “As of now, it’s unclear who will assume the first secretary position. Most experts think it will be a confidante of Kim’s and someone who serves on the five-member presidium, a committee made up of top members of the ruling party. Reports suggest Jo Yong Won, who is close to Kim and believed to be in his mid-60s, could get the job or may have it already.

Put together, all of this means two key things: Kim seems to have the future of his nation in mind, and

 

3.  FM Chung holds breakfast talks with new U.S. Indo-Pacific commander

en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · June 3, 2021

Tending to our alliances continues.

Diplomacy is at the heart of our foreign policy and alliances are the centerpiece of diplomacy.

 

4. U.S. assumes ‘ready’ position for talks with North: Sherman

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com · by Sarah Kim · June 3, 2021

We are providing the opportunity to Kim Jong-un to act as a responsible member of the international community and conduct diplomacy. The ball is in KJU’s court.

But the title makes me think of the movie Animal House –  Assume the (ready) position and say: “Please sir, may I have another” which may describe the last nearly 4 decades of negotiations with north Korea. (apologies for the attempt at humor).

 

5. Cyberattacks by North Korea Pose Threat to US

dailysignal.com · by Bruce Klingner · June 2, 2021

Yes. And to nations around the world. north Korea is a global threat in cyberspace.

 

6. Ahn cleared of robbery charge in Madrid embassy raid case

koreanjoongangdaily.joins.com · by Michael Lee · June 3, 2021

Some good news. Small victories. Hopefully the other charges will be dropped.

 

7. N.K. propaganda outlet slams S. Korea for decision to take part in upcoming air drills with U.S., Japan

en.yna.co.kr · by 이원주 · June 3, 2021

Surely not a surprise.

But the buried lede: We learn from north Korea that the ROK has participated in 153 joint training exercises over the last year.

Excerpts: “The reality is that the South Korean military is going through fire and water for the U.S., obsessed with following its scheme to invade Korea and realize the Indo-Pacific strategy,” Meari, a North Korean propaganda website, said.

“As the world’s largest combat training exercises, the drills are already well known for its belligerent and invasive nature,” it added.

The website also slammed South Korea for participating in a total of 153 joint exercises last year amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

 

8. North evades sanctions and gets 3 new tankers: CSIS report

koreanjoongangdaily.joins.com · by Sarah Kim · June 3, 2021

The reference CSIS article is here

 

9. U.S. Wants Higher-Profile Summit with Korea and Japan

english.chosun.com

A significant development. We are really putting our alliance first and willing to spend diplomatic capital to improve trilateral cooperation with our linchpin and cornerstone alliances in Northeast Asia:

 

“U.S. President Joe Biden hopes to hold the trilateral summit in Washington as soon as possible,” a diplomatic source said Wednesday. “The message has been delivered to Seoul and Tokyo, where diplomats are fine-tuning options.”

It appears Washington wants to make the meeting more visible than it would be on the sidelines of the G7 summit in order to impress China with a show of unity.

 

10. Moon’s last, best chance after Biden summit

lowyinstitute.org · by Soo Kim

President Moon’s presidency is on short final and there is not much time to secure his legacy regarding north Korea policy.

Excerpt: “On engagement with North Korea, the Moon government faced equally challenging currents. With prospects for a nuclear deal on the wane, Pyongyang had not only closed the door to talks, it had also expressed displeasure with the Moon government through harshly worded rhetoric – even going so far last year as to threaten to blow up the inter-Korean liaison office and promptly delivering on this promise hours later. And with less than a year remaining in Moon’s term, the pressure has intensified even more over an issue widely considered his goal for a presidential legacy.

 

11. South Korea Erupts in Outrage Over Tokyo Olympics Map

thediplomat.com · by Mitch Shin · June 2, 2021

Perhaps when President Biden meets with Moon and Suga he should have an unnamed photo on the wall in the background of Dokdo/Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks to kickstart a discussion. (Not!)

 

12. New party rules show North Korean leader breaking away from predecessors

The Korea Times · June 3, 2021

We need to take all this breathless analysis with a grain of salt. Yes words have meaning and we should thoroughly study these announcements. But actions speak louder than words. We must take the time to observe for the indicators to show us whether or not these words foreshadow a significant change in the regime’s behavior. I remain skeptical and my assessment is this is all part of a political warfare strategy with Juche characteristics.

 

13. North Hamgyong Province moves to replace older generation of officials at historical sites

dailynk.com  · by Kim Yoo Jin · June 3, 2021

This is an action that bears watching. Will there be a purge of the old guard? Is this the canary in the coal mine for a nation level change (purge?).

Excerpt: “The provincial party felt the need for a generational change while examining the state of historical activities in the province, finding that cadres and instructors at local historical sites were older and sicker than those at sites in other provinces. The committee immediately ordered the reshuffle, instructing that it be completed within a month, said the source.”

 

14. Two young children in Yanggang Province abducted for ransoms in May

dailynk.com · by Lee Chae Un · June 3, 2021

north Korea is not immune from these terrible crimes against children and families.

 

15.  Memorializing Vietnam, Korean wars

The Korea Times  · by Donald Kirk · June 3, 2021

Don Kirk shows us the forgotten Korean War is not so forgotten these days.

 

16. SKorea’s Hanwha pitches K9 howitzer for British mobile fires program

Defense News · by Brian Kim and Andrew Chuter · June 2, 2021

The South Korean defense industry is becoming a global player.

 

17. South Korea to repair pedestrian bridge in Panmunjom

donga.com · June 3, 2021

 

18. Go beyond alliance (ROK/US)

The Korea Times · June 2, 2021

An OpEd that does not bode well for the alliance. As I will note in an essay soon to be published the Moon Administrations comments about cancelling the August Dong Meang training appears to be backsliding on a key alliance commitment – maintaining military readiness to deter and defend.

Excerpts: “After the better-than-expected Moon-Biden summit, Seoul must be finding it far more difficult to play a balancing act between Washington and Beijing. South Korea will likely face greater pressure to take part in the Quad, comprised of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia. The country will also face a stronger backlash from China for its closer alliance with the U.S.

In this context, the Moon administration needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario under which Korea is forced to choose sides amid the escalating superpower confrontation. We have to make efforts to avoid any retaliation from Beijing as seen in the dispute over Seoul’s decision to allow Washington to deploy a missile defense system, known as THAAD, on our soil in 2017.

Now, policymakers and politicians should overhaul the country’s long-held policy of relying on the U.S. for security and depending on China for economic growth. Excessive dependence on a single country for whatever reason is highly dangerous.

More than anything else, Korea desperately needs “creative diplomacy” and a new survival strategy that can go beyond alliances and great power competition. It is time to hammer out comprehensive measures to prevent our country being caught in the crossfire of the ever-fiercer Sino-U.S. conflict.

 

———–

 

“Debate is never finished; it can’t be, lest democracy be no longer democratic and society be stripped of or forfeit its autonomy. Democracy means that the citizen’s task is never complete. Democracy exists through persevering and unyielding citizens’ concern. Once that concern is put to sleep, democracy expires.”

-Zygmunt Bauman

 

“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

– H.L. Mencken

 

“The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.”

-Edward Abbey

DanielRiggs
Thu, 06/03/2021 – 12:33pm

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