Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

"I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back."
- Leo Tolstoy

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."
-Soren Kierkegaard

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
- Marie Curie



1. Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: November - KOREA
2. North Korea is a Nuclear Power with Increasingly Advanced Conventional Capabilities
3. Kim Jong-un's Sister Disappears from Public Eye
4. Tough tests for South Korea’s next president 
5. What Would an End-of-War Declaration for the Korean Peninsula Actually Mean?
6. North Korea calls streetside commerce a “crime against the people”
7. With North Korea's Kim snubbing talks, Seoul kindles ‘long shot’ bid for Pope Francis to help
8. Prices of food, daily necessities estimated to be rapidly soaring in N. Korea: gov't
9. Seoul to step up monitoring fake news on N. Korea
10. North Korean government begins nationwide purchases of rice from farmers
11. Pandemic-hit North Korea faces chronic food shortage amid COVID-induced border closures
12. Ball in Kim Jong-un's court for 'end of war' declaration
13. Moon's 'declaration' is downplayed by U.S. as a 'statement'
14. Japan's PM says Tokyo to keep demanding Seoul's 'appropriate' measures over history-related row
15. Reflections on inter-Korean peace
 


1. Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: November - KOREA


Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: November

Korea
By David Maxwell

Previous Trend: Neutral
South Korean and U.S. diplomats have continued discussing a formal declaration to end the Korean War, which President Moon Jae-in has consistently advocated; however, there has been no public announcement of a coordinated alliance approach. Leading experts have argued that simply declaring peace will not ensure the security of South Korea and will be exploited by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to support political warfare initiatives. However, Moon is expected to continue pressing for a declaration to cement his legacy as the “peace president.”
The United States continued high-level diplomatic engagement in the region, holding bilateral meetings at the deputy minister level with both South Korea and Japan. However, a trilateral meeting ended without a public press statement, due to the long-running dispute between Seoul and Tokyo over the islands of Dokdo (a.k.a. Takeshima). Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held a solo press availability, as her South Korean and Japanese counterparts declined to participate.
North Korea remains isolated due to COVID-19 and is bracing for the Omicron variant. Rather than prioritizing practical economic development, the regime remains focused on ideology, a trend visible at the recent 5th Conference of the Frontrunners in the Three Revolutions, which called for glorifying the Kim era.
On November 17, the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the dire human rights conditions in North Korea. Although the European Union facilitated the resolution, Pyongyang responded with typical hostile rhetoric toward the United States.
There are now less than 100 days until the South Korean presidential election in March.


2. North Korea is a Nuclear Power with Increasingly Advanced Conventional Capabilities
We overlook the improving capabilities of the 4th largest army in the world at our peril. We must assess the entire threat from nuclear and missiles, to conventional and special operations, and cyber.

The actions taken to try to improve conventional war fighting capabilities may be an indicator that Kim does in fact intend to be able to try to conduct unification by force.

Conclusion:

Due to the ever-improving ICBM arsenal that Pyongyang possesses, Washington and its allies cannot overlook Pyongyang's strategic capabilities. However, the presence of North Korean multi-layered air defense systems and long-range rocket artillery is just as concerning. As the 2010 Yeonpyeong Island artillery battle and the ROKS Cheonan Incident have shown, the initial stages of an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula would likely be fought with conventional weapons. As a result, equal attention should be given to North Korea’s conventional military modernization, especially Pyongyang’s ability to flexibly coerce its neighbors. Subsequently, Washington and Seoul need to update their range of possible options to proportionally respond to provocations. For example, both Washington and Seoul could deploy systems similar to (but more capable than) the Israeli Iron Dome in large numbers adjacent to the Seoul Metropolitan Area and U.S. bases in South Korea to mitigate the threats of North Korean MRLS. And South Korea could invest more in long-range standoff precision weapons capable of hitting artillery and missile batteries deep inside North Korean territory, so fighter planes would not have to risk being shot down by North Korea’s long-range SAMs. With a much more developed economy, Seoul can afford a limited arms race to keep Pyongyang in check.


North Korea is a Nuclear Power with Increasingly Advanced Conventional Capabilities — THE INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS REVIEW
iar-gwu.org · December 2, 2021
Introduction
On October 12, 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed a rare exhibition of nuclear and conventional weapons, an armament exhibition meant to celebrate the 76th birthday of the ruling Workers’ Party. While most of the attention has been drawn to nuclear-tipped missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), recent North Korean military modernization has not been limited to nuclear and strategic weapons alone. From surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to long-range artillery and tactical ballistic missiles, the hermit kingdom has also made remarkable progress in conventional armaments. Additionally, Pyongyang has been working hard to join the hypersonic weapon club currently dominated by Russia, China, and the United States. Thus, instead of seeing North Korea as purely a nuclear threat, the United States government and its allies need to adopt a more holistic approach to flexibly respond to both nuclear and conventional challenges presented by Pyongyang.
Nuclear Weapons: The Old Story Getting an Update
Since 2017, Pyongyang has made remarkable progress in strategic weapons ranging from traditional ICBMs to hypersonic weapons. By November 2017, North Korea had tested more than one ICBM capable of hitting the Continental United States (CONUS). The most notable ICBM is the Hwasong-15, which has a range of up to 13,000 kilometers, as long as the payload could be miniaturized to 150 kilograms or lower. Meanwhile, Pyongyang detonated a nuclear device with a yield of at least 140 kilotons. In essence, by the time President Trump met with Kim in early 2018, North Korea was well on its way to achieve a credible minimum nuclear deterrence against the U.S. and other adversaries.
In addition to ICBMs, North Korea developed a variety of medium and intermediate-range delivery systems meant to deter regional adversaries. For example, the solid-fuel MRBM Pukguksong-2 – which was successfully tested in 2017 and has a 1,300 kilometer range – puts most U.S. bases in Japan and Japanese cities within range. While all of Pyongyang’s ICBMs use liquid-fuel, which would require hours of fueling before launch, solid fuel missiles could be launched within minutes of receiving a launch order, giving adversaries much less time to react.
Recently, North Korea has fielded a solid-fuel short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) similar to the Russian Iskandar, which has a range of roughly 300-500 km. Should it carry a nuclear payload, it would become a tactical nuclear weapon. Additionally, Pyongyang has recently tested what appeared to be a hypersonic glide vehicle similar to the one mounted on China’s Dongfeng-17 MRBM. In this sense, Pyongyang is working to break the U.S.-Russia-China oligopoly in hypersonic weapons. Finally, North Korea has tested a long-range cruise missile similar to the U.S.’ Tomahawk, and could theoretically carry both nuclear and conventional payloads.
Overall, North Korea has made remarkable progress in not only possessing a credible nuclear deterrence against its adversaries, but also developing an increasingly diverse set of delivery methods to carry out tactical and strategic nuclear strikes. These systems give Pyongyang a range of escalatory options, making it more costly for Washington and Seoul to deter, and if necessary, defeat North Korean aggression. As long as Pyongyang does not provoke an armed conflict that could lead to its own demise, the world will likely have to live with North Korea armed with an increasingly sophisticated set of strategic weapons.
Conventional Armament Modernization: More Attention Needed
Although much-needed attention has been focused on Pyongyang’s strategic capabilities, the hermit kingdom’s conventional forces have also undergone significant modernization. In fact, some of the ballistic and cruise missiles mentioned earlier could perform conventional precision strikes if given access to state-of-the-art satellite navigation systems (GNSS) like China’s Beidou (BDS) or Russia’s GLONASS. Additionally, North Korea has long deployed large numbers of long-range rocket artillery as leverage against South Korea since the latter’s capital Seoul is located only 40 kilometers away from the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Thus, by simply resorting to artillery bombardments, Pyongyang could turn most of South Korea’s economic achievements in the past several decades into ashes in less than an hour. For example, two of the recently deployed conventional long-range artillery systems are the 200-km range KN-09 300mm multiple rocket launcher (MRLS) and 380-km range KN-25 large caliber MRLS. Both systems could strike U.S. and South Korea military facilities, as well as metropolitan areas and manufacturing centers vital to Seoul’s long-term economic prosperity, deep inside South Korean territory. As a result, the threat of advanced North Korean artillery cannot be overlooked.
Finally, beyond offensive hardware, North Korea now possesses a modern multi-layered air defense system that could complicate adversaries’ air operations over the Korean Peninsula. Chief among this system is Pyongyang’s new long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAM). One of these long-range solid-fuel SAM is the KN-06 SAM, which entered service in 2017 and is similar to the Chinese HQ-9 and Russian S-300 systems. Additionally, Pyongyang is working on another long-range SAM similar in appearance to the Israeli David’s Sling interceptor. When working in tandem with older short-range SAMs, Pyongyang could now complicate U.S. and South Korean retaliatory air strikes meant to support U.S. and South Korean ground forces during a crisis. Thus, during the initial stage of a crisis, Pyongyang’s air defense network could delay Washington and Seoul’s much-needed air superiority, an advantage that the U.S. military has enjoyed in every war since World War II.
Conclusion
Due to the ever-improving ICBM arsenal that Pyongyang possesses, Washington and its allies cannot overlook Pyongyang's strategic capabilities. However, the presence of North Korean multi-layered air defense systems and long-range rocket artillery is just as concerning. As the 2010 Yeonpyeong Island artillery battle and the ROKS Cheonan Incident have shown, the initial stages of an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula would likely be fought with conventional weapons. As a result, equal attention should be given to North Korea’s conventional military modernization, especially Pyongyang’s ability to flexibly coerce its neighbors. Subsequently, Washington and Seoul need to update their range of possible options to proportionally respond to provocations. For example, both Washington and Seoul could deploy systems similar to (but more capable than) the Israeli Iron Dome in large numbers adjacent to the Seoul Metropolitan Area and U.S. bases in South Korea to mitigate the threats of North Korean MRLS. And South Korea could invest more in long-range standoff precision weapons capable of hitting artillery and missile batteries deep inside North Korean territory, so fighter planes would not have to risk being shot down by North Korea’s long-range SAMs. With a much more developed economy, Seoul can afford a limited arms race to keep Pyongyang in check.
iar-gwu.org · December 2, 2021


3. Kim Jong-un's Sister Disappears from Public Eye

Yes,"speculation is swirling." Why do we get worked up over these reports or lack of reports of sighting of leaders? Deja vu happens in all over again in north Korean more than anywhere else.

I have to think the concluding paragraph is probably accurate.
Or perhaps she is merely busy. Experts believe Kim Yo-jong is spearheading efforts to build a personality cult around Kim Jong-un, who marked 10 years in office this year.
Kim In-tae at the Institute for National Security Strategy said, "The propaganda department in charge of creating a cult of personality around Kim Jong-un is in high gear. There are key political events scheduled in 2022 that happen once every decade and her role is particularly in focus."

Kim Jong-un's Sister Disappears from Public Eye
December 06, 2021 11:04
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong, who acts as his diplomatic attack dog-in-chief, has not been spotted in public for 54 days.
Intelligence officials here have no idea where she is and speculation is swirling, ranging from health problems to a strategic demotion as North Korea prepares tentative overtures to the international community.
Kim Yo-jong's last public appearance was on Oct. 11, when she showed up at a weapons expo in Pyongyang marking the 73rd anniversary of Workers Party.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong (rear) applauds at an arms expo marking the 73rd anniversary of the Workers Party in Pyongyang on Oct. 11, in this grab from [North] Korean Central Television.
One intelligence source said, "In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, Kim Yo-jong not only took part in public activities but was also spotted frequently behind the scenes until the first half of this year, but now we can't locate her."
But another source said, "Kim Yo-jong disappeared for 66 days last year and appeared again." The next big public event in the North is the 10th anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-il's death on Dec. 17.
Or perhaps she is merely busy. Experts believe Kim Yo-jong is spearheading efforts to build a personality cult around Kim Jong-un, who marked 10 years in office this year.
Kim In-tae at the Institute for National Security Strategy said, "The propaganda department in charge of creating a cult of personality around Kim Jong-un is in high gear. There are key political events scheduled in 2022 that happen once every decade and her role is particularly in focus."
  • Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com


4. Tough tests for South Korea’s next president
I do not think north Korea will play a significant role in the election. Note that neither the north nor the ROK/US alliance is mentioned in this article. And neither is China.

Tough tests for South Korea’s next president | East Asia Forum
eastasiaforum.org · by Hyung-A Kim · December 5, 2021
Author: Hyung-A Kim, ANU
With less than four months to South Korea’s presidential election on 9 March 2022, the contest is turning into a quasi-life-or-death round of Squid Game amid scandals involving the ruling Democratic Party’s (DP) frontrunner Lee Jae-myung, former governor of Gyunggi province, and the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) frontrunner Yoon Seok-youl, former prosecutor-general. Both Lee and Yoon are campaigning on fairness and justice, prompting political cynicism especially among young people.

A recent Gallup survey (over 2–4 November 2021) suggests that 57 per cent of respondents reckoned that ‘it is better to elect an opposition candidate to replace the government’. At the same time 33 per cent thought that ‘it’s better for the ruling party candidate to be elected to maintain the current administration’, a 24 per cent gap — the largest in Gallup surveys since the inauguration of the Moon Jae-in administration. But in the very same survey, in answer to a free question about the preferred political leader, the ruling DP candidate Lee Jae-myung was ahead with 26 per cent, above the conservative PPP candidate Yoon Seok-youl with 24 per cent.
This contradiction has dramatically resolved itself in the latest Gallup survey (over 16–18 November). In this survey, 42 per cent preferred Yoon over Lee (with 31 per cent) and two other presidential candidates from minor opposition parties, Ahn Cheol-soo (7 per cent) and Shim Sang-jung (5 per cent). The two surveys reflect the South Korean voters’ ambivalence about Moon Jae-in’s liberal administration and their doubts about the scandals surrounding both Lee and Yoon.
Three key issues are likely to have a major influence on how the election turns out.
The biggest is voter demand for fairness in South Korean politics and society. President Moon Jae-in’s widely perceived ‘one-way’ national management, combined with his hypocritical ‘rules for thee, not me’ are exemplified by his tight control over real estate investment for South Korean citizens while members of his own government have engaged in wild land speculation. The revolt of young South Korean voters at the April 2021 mayoral by-elections, in which there were sweeping victories by the opposition PPP, laid down a clear warning for the 2022 presidential race.
The Cho Kuk scandal, which forced the then justice minister to resign after his wife was found to have rigged the university admission process in favour of their daughter, incensed young voters who struggle for upward mobility in South Korea’s rapidly ageing and competitive society. They demand fairness in the processes that determine advancement.
There are vast generational differences, not only in political preference and narrative, but in what constitutes fairness within South Korean society. Voters in their 40s and 50s, beneficiaries of South Korea’s rapid industrialisation focus on fair outcomes. Fierce generational clashes are expected in the election over the ability to restore fairness and justice in South Korean democracy. South Korea’s two living ex-presidents are both in jail.
The second major question is about the competence of both Lee and Yoon to assume the presidency. Both are trying to project a strong image of fairness, but neither has parliamentary experience. Lee pledges to introduce a universal basic income and Yoon promises to restore justice and the rule of law through regime change. Neither Lee nor Yoon have track records that are unblemished.
Lee narrowly secured a party primary victory over former prime minister Lee Nak-yon in October amid a snowballing land development scandal in Seongnam, Gyeonggi province, while he served as Seongnam mayor. Lee’s defiant response to his alleged involvement in this scandal led many supporters of the ruling DP to turn their backs on both the DP and Lee and reduced his stock of voter ‘goodwill’. Since his nomination, the DP’s approval rating in South Korea’s southwest — a historic leftist stronghold — has plunged by 13.9 percentage points from 63.3 per cent a week earlier to 49.4 per cent. Lee’s ‘approval’ rating is stuck at 32 per cent, while his ‘disapproval’ rating rose to 63 per cent from 60 per cent a month earlier, according to Gallup.
Yoon is no less entangled in scandal. Allegations of abuse of power have emerged about his time as the country’s top public prosecutor. As a newcomer to politics, he doesn’t appear to appeal to young voters either, with many of the under 30s preferring Yoon’s opponent, a veteran politician, in the presidential primaries.
The third and arguably most sensitive issue is COVID-19 management. Despite the Moon administration’s early success at containing the virus, daily cases have recently skyrocketed, with 2618 deaths and 337,679 new cases recorded as of October. In November, with almost 79 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, the Moon administration rolled out a series of measures under its Living with COVID-19 plan to nudge the country back to normalcy. In less than three weeks, however, the country’s number of daily COVID-19 cases reached almost 4000 while the number of severely ill patients reached an all-time high of 549 on 23 November. The administration is now reported to be ‘considering an emergency plan’ to deal with the crisis.
Unless Moon’s living-with-COVID-19 plan succeeds, the public backlash against the government and the ruling Democratic Party will be costly given the host of other problems that South Koreans have faced over the past five years.
Which factors ultimately dominate the outcome in the election is still difficult to predict but, if the recent past is any indication, South Korea’s middle class, especially young swinging voters in their 20s and 30s, will be decisive in the final judgment. The outcome is likely to lean towards the candidate who persuades voters that he captures the voters’ demand for fairness and justice.
Hyung-A Kim is Associate Professor of Korean Politics and History at the School of Culture, History and Language, The Australian National University.
A version of this article appear in the most recent edition of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘The Korean Way’, Vol 13, No 4.
eastasiaforum.org · by Hyung-A Kim · December 5, 2021


5. What Would an End-of-War Declaration for the Korean Peninsula Actually Mean?
I think the regime will do more than reject it. It will exploit it to support its objectives.

Conclusion:

The fact is that several countries will be impacted by an end-of-war declaration, and the extent of the impact is poorly understood but likely to be quite limited. The declaration is essentially a personal indulgence by Moon in advance of his retirement next May, and whoever becomes the next president will face the same challenges, with or without such a declaration. North Korea will reject it; the U.S. will attempt to take advantage of it, at South Korea’s expense; China will respond in moderate terms, to encourage South Korean voters to be pro-China. Both the U.S. and China would prefer South Korea’s next president to be untrammeled by any hangovers from Moon’s term, and we may expect the end-of-war declaration to be quietly marginalized.


What Would an End-of-War Declaration for the Korean Peninsula Actually Mean?
Several countries will be impacted by an end-of-war declaration, and the extent of the impact is poorly understood – but likely to be quite limited.
thediplomat.com · by Sukjoon Yoon · December 3, 2021
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in is coming close to making an end-of-war declaration, bringing a formal end to the Korean War of 1950-53. Such a statement seems unlikely to achieve anything substantive, however, and the United States has been reluctant to go along with Moon’s plan. The issue will be discussed at the 2021 United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial, to be held December 7-8 in Seoul, with foreign and defense ministers from more than 100 countries participating.
The Armistice Agreement between North Korea, China, and the United States was signed on July 17, 1953, after three years of terrible sacrifice and huge civilian causalities. The U.S. represented 22 nations who had contributed military or medical personnel to the United Nations forces, which supported South Korea in resisting a preemptive attack by North Korea on June 26, 1950.
Since 1953, the Korean Peninsula has remained technically in a state of war, although both North and South Korea simultaneously became United Nations members in 1992. There have been frequent provocations from North Korea, on land, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and at sea, near the Northern Limit Line (NLL). There is also a vigorous ongoing arms race between the two Koreas, encompassing submarines, various ballistic missiles, and even a discussion of nuclear escalation.
On September 22, 2021, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Moon reiterated his view that an end-of-war declaration was necessary, laying out his hopes that it would bring North Korea back to the negotiating table to discuss denuclearization and the normalization of its relations with the United States. Moon’s 2018 National Security Strategy referred to the establishment of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, and he believes strongly that an end-of-war declaration has a useful role to play in achieving this.
In recent weeks there have been several occasions when South Korea and the U.S., and sometimes also Japan, have met to discuss the context of the announcement, the details of the wording, and the expected ramifications of the declaration.
South Korea has endured significant harms and troubles from North Korea, with the sinking of the Cheonan and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 still fresh in many memories, and the 2020 demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong a more recent offense. Some portion of the South Korean public will surely criticize Moon for appeasing North Korea through an end-of-war declaration, but he is due to retire next May and sees the declaration as an important part of his presidential legacy.
There are many questions outstanding, however, if we are to make the best of Moon’s determination to make his end-of-war declaration. For example, who else will be directly involved in affirming it? Which areas of the Korean Peninsula should it cover – just the DMZ and the NLL? Then what about the airspace? And would such a declaration also include cyberspace, disinformation warfare, and/or psychological warfare? Moreover, if the war is truly finished, then what is the status of the United Nations Command? Should it be disbanded? North Korea will surely argue that with the end of the war, United States Forces Korea (USFK) should be withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula.
Clearly an end-of-war declaration can mean different things to different parties, so let us consider the perspectives of South Korea and its U.S. ally, then of China and its ally North Korea.
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South Korea
For South Korea, the declaration is the last opportunity for Moon to etch his name into the history books. He knows that in the present circumstances it would be essentially a matter of political theater, with North Korea clearly setting the terms for relations between the two Koreas, since its nuclear weapons cannot be ignored. But Moon still sees some value in such a declaration, even if it must be unilateral. He is hoping to at least restrain to some extent the arms race on the Korean Peninsula, before it undermines the future prospects for South Korean prosperity, or worse, results in desperate all-out war.
In the context of the escalating China-U.S. strategic competition, the situation on the Korean Peninsula may soon come to resemble that of Taiwan. U.S. power in the region is in relative decline, and China threatens to replace the United States as the local hegemon. South Korea’s balancing act is becoming ever more precarious, and the country may ultimately be forced to choose a side, and could then be involved in a proxy war.
The United States
For the United States an end-of-war declaration is seen mostly as a way to persuade North Korea to discuss Korean Peninsula issues directly with the U.S. Washington has stated its willingness to meet any delegation from North Korea at any time, in any place, without any preconditions (though this last is disingenuous, since the U.S. in practice would require North Korea to express its continuing commitment to denuclearization as agreed at the 2019 summit between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore).
If an end-of-war declaration leads to an easing of military tension on the Korean Peninsula, then it is not inconceivable that South Korea might participate more fully in U.S.-led multilateral efforts to contain China, such as the Quad and AUKUS. In time, these security structures may become something like an Asian NATO, targeting authoritarian China, much as NATO stands against authoritarian Russia. Given South Korea’s growing international influence, and since the country has modeled its political and economical structures upon the U.S., Washington now sees South Korea as a natural ally whose importance is increasing. The United States is therefore doing what it can to reduce South Korea’s (and its own) economic dependence on China, for example by integrating supply chains more closely, most notably for semiconductor production.
Washington has previously expressed doubts about the usefulness of an end-of-war declaration, referring to disagreements with Seoul over the appropriate “sequence, timing, and conditions” of such a move. This was followed by a period of silence on the issue. It was therefore striking when Lee Hyuk-soo, the South Korean ambassador to the U.S., recently commented that South Korea and the United States are actively discussing the possibility. Indeed, the Korean press has reported that the contents of the declaration have been agreed, with the intention of minimizing the impact upon the United Nations Command (UNC) and USFK.
It seems that the United States is willing to accede to Moon’s insistence upon an end-of-war declaration, seeing an opportunity to devolve more responsibility onto South Korea to deal with the North Korean problem, whether this be military provocations, nuclear and ballistic missile tests, or the so-called “super-large” artillery gun. At the same time, the U.S. hopes to align South Korean foreign policy more closer with its own in its struggle to contain China.
China
For China, doing nothing is the best option. Beijing welcomes the friendly noises that Moon has been making recently to attract Chinese support for his end-of-war declaration. China Daily, a state-run newspaper, gave an unprecedentedly positive assessment of Moon’s address to the U.N. General Assembly, even while North Korea criticized the U.S. for what it saw as double standards on sanctions relief.
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It has been suggested that South Korea might use the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in February 2022 to announce the end-of-war declaration, since the North Korean leader is expected to attend. This would cause difficulties for China, however, which is already concerned about the politicization of the games. An ongoing controversy about the suppression of a female Chinese tennis star who has accused a very senior government official of rape reinvigorated calls for the U.S. and allied countries to consider a diplomatic boycott over human rights concerns. Of course, from the Chinese perspective, the games are entirely political, but it has to be the “right” politics.
In any case, there are other issues that may impinge upon the games, especially the widespread criticism of China’s repression of the Hong Kong democracy movement, its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and President Xi Jinping’s rampant personality cult. Xi is still stinging from the blatantly unreasonable accusations that China deliberately created, or at least was negligently responsible for, the COVID-19 pandemic, and he wants to use the Beijing Winter Olympic Games to turn the page, by substituting a more benign international image for China. All in all, Xi does not need controversial inter-Korean issues disrupting the smooth running of the Games.
Moreover, China has its own agenda regarding a formal end to the Korean War. It wants to repatriate the remains of Chinese soldiers who died in the war, and would like to search the DMZ for this purpose. Since China prevented South Korea from signing the Armistice Agreement, Moon’s end-of-war declaration could be easily portrayed as unilateral, even as irrelevant, but it would also be a good opportunity for China to raise many related issues. They will argue for the withdrawal of USFK, the dissolution of the UNC, and the redeployment of THAAD outside of Korea, and against a closer trilateral security cooperation between Japan, South Korea, and the U.S., since North Korea will supposedly be less of a threat. Some Chinese commentators are talking about killing four ducks with one stone.
North Korea
Lastly, for North Korea, Moon’s end-of-war declaration is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it would welcome the prospect of sanctions relief, and the possible withdrawal of USFK and the dissolution of the UNC; indeed, North Korean media have said that the declaration is an admirable idea. On the other hand, the Kim regime is utterly dependent upon the struggle against external enemies, so that their disappearance would require a complete overhaul of the way in which the Kim family has maintained absolute power for seven decades. For North Korea to truly accept that the Korean War is ended would require establishing new security arrangements with South Korea, and also with the U.S. and Japan, in which context North Korea’s current emphasis on nuclear weapons and missiles would be unhelpful, even to North Korea’s own interests.
North Korean acceptance would entail many policy changes. Absent a credible threat of U.S.-led hostilities, Pyongyang could afford to de-escalate the ongoing arms race and could even get real about a gradual pathway toward denuclearization. The efforts that have so far been devoted to the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction could be redirected into providing sufficient food and energy for the North Korean people.
Alas, these happy outcomes seem unlikely while Kim Jong Un is in charge, though some commentators believe that Kim’s power is now in decline due to internal crises triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and food supply challenges. Certainly Kim will be hoping for humanitarian assistance from South Korea, and support from international NGOs, whenever he reopens his borders.
North Korea continues to refuse to participate in bilateral talks with the United States, even as the U.S., with the assistance of several other countries, steps up the tracking of illegal ship-to-ship transfers between North Korea and China in the East China Sea. What North Korea wants is an easing of sanctions without having to give ground on denuclearization. Although the Kim family regime has a long history of extracting concessions for worthless promises, the domestic situation in North Korea is dire, and the attention of China, its only friend, is elsewhere at present: on the disruption of its supply-chain, the collapse of its energy supply system, and problems in its labor market.
North Korea will therefore very likely reject Moon’s end-of-war declaration as a half-baked initiative, coming at an inappropriate time, when the necessary conditions for North Korea to accept an end to the Korean War have not been established.
Choi Jong-kun, South Korea’s vice foreign minister, visited Washington on November 17 to discuss the contents of the end-of-war declaration, attending a trilateral meeting with the United States and Japan. Unfortunately Mori Takeo, the Japanese vice foreign minister, declined to take part in the joint press conference because a Korean official had recently visited the disputed Liancourt Islets (known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan). Speculation in the South Korean press saw the episode as a deliberate attempt by the Moon administration to exclude Japan from the end-of-war declaration process.
The fact is that several countries will be impacted by an end-of-war declaration, and the extent of the impact is poorly understood but likely to be quite limited. The declaration is essentially a personal indulgence by Moon in advance of his retirement next May, and whoever becomes the next president will face the same challenges, with or without such a declaration. North Korea will reject it; the U.S. will attempt to take advantage of it, at South Korea’s expense; China will respond in moderate terms, to encourage South Korean voters to be pro-China. Both the U.S. and China would prefer South Korea’s next president to be untrammeled by any hangovers from Moon’s term, and we may expect the end-of-war declaration to be quietly marginalized.
thediplomat.com · by Sukjoon Yoon · December 3, 2021

6. North Korea calls streetside commerce a “crime against the people”

There will be no economic reform in north Korea except for greater attempts to centrally control the economy. The most successful economic activity in north Korea in 70 years has been the development and growth of markets over the past 2 decades. That may be coming to an end.



North Korea calls streetside commerce a “crime against the people”
Street sellers have expressed considerable bitterness over being prevented from doing business as they like
By Kim Chae Hwan - 2021.12.06 3:25pm
A screenshot of materials recently obtained by Daily NK written by the Central Committee’s Propaganda and Agitation Department / Image: Daily NK
North Korean authorities recently designated streetside commerce as a “crime against the people” and have begun ideological education efforts to tamper down discontent surrounding government crackdowns on street merchants. 
Daily NK recently obtained “political activity materials” written by the Central Committee’s Propaganda and Agitation Department entitled “Let’s Completely Eliminate the Phenomenon of Commerce near Markets and in the Streets.” The materials were used during lectures at factories, enterprises and inminban (people’s units) throughout the country from early to mid-November.
The materials start by saying, “COVID-19 is causing great anxiety and concern in the international community as it spreads throughout the entire world, while the appearance of variants is causing a major global disaster.”
The materials then say that with the authorities declaring a national quarantine emergency and closing the border to stop infections, some “unawake” people were in a flap over “temporary difficulties” and obstructing quarantine efforts by carrying out “chaotic” commerce near markets and on the streets. Essentially, the authorities are stressing the justification for the controls on streetside commerce.
Daily NK previously reported that North Korean authorities — led by the Ministry of Social Security — have strengthened their controls on streetside commerce since March, forcefully confiscating the wares of so-called “grasshopper merchants,” as streetside merchants are called in North Korea. They have gradually strengthened their crackdown since then, dragging off people involved in the trade to forced labor camps.
Despite the “mop-up operation,” however, locals reportedly continue to engage in streetside commerce to overcome economic difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, evading surveillance by regulators. People have also expressed considerable bitterness over being prevented from doing business as they like. Aware that people are very unhappy, the authorities have begun ideological education efforts in response.
The materials condemned “many people” for “creating disorder near markets and on the street, failing even to wear masks” and “threatening quarantine efforts by serving food of questionable sanitation and safety,” all out of an obsession with “earning just a few coins more.”
The materials accused the merchants of placing “individual interests over those of society and the collective.”
In particular, the documents declared that conducting commerce near markets and in the streets – using those spaces to earn money during the emergency quarantine period – is a “conscious crime against the people” that sparks discontent and causes commotion. They called it an “enemy act” that threatens the North Korean system.
Even though North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a direct special order in mid-June calling for a resolution to food issues, the situation has yet to improve. Regular provisions of food have not taken place, outside of those for certain privileged classes in Pyongyang. 
Despite this, the authorities are essentially using the lectures to pressure locals who engage in streetside commerce by labeling them “reactionary elements,” rather than focus on resolving the country’s existing food issues.
A Daily NK source said that with the authorities failing to provide food, the prohibition against streetside commerce amounts to “telling people to starve to death.” He said the lectures appear aimed at raising tension and forcefully suppressing public discontent with food shortages.
The materials even agitated against people who “engage in commerce in the streets, obsessed with their personal interests and a few coins,” asking lecture attendees, “What should we make of such people?” This amounts to a call for all citizens to unite to defeat street merchants, the source claimed. 
However, the source noted that many people are saying that things must be pretty tough if street sellers are still trying to make money despite enduring subhuman treatment from young people patrolling the streets.


7. With North Korea's Kim snubbing talks, Seoul kindles ‘long shot’ bid for Pope Francis to help
More than a long shot- perhaps a fantasy?

But will the Pope actually come? Will Kim provide him a formal invitation?

With North Korea's Kim snubbing talks, Seoul kindles ‘long shot’ bid for Pope Francis to help
The Washington Post · by Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Chico Harlan Today at 5:00 a.m. EST · December 4, 2021
SEOUL — With attempts to restart nuclear negotiations with North Korea going nowhere, the president of South Korea is looking anywhere for help as his term heads into its final stretch. His long-shot hope: that Pope Francis can step in.
Allies of Moon Jae-in acknowledge that direct papal intervention is unlikely. Francis has said nothing about the notion of going to Pyongyang, but he was quoted by the Blue House — the South Korean presidential palace — as being willing to go, in the name of peace, “if he received an invitation” from Kim Jong Un’s government.
During a Vatican visit last month, Moon urged the pontiff to visit North Korea to create a “momentum for peace.” It was the second such overture by Moon, a Roman Catholic, who first proposed the visit in 2018.
Time is running out for Moon to make headway before his presidential term ends in May. The collapse of U.S.-North Korean nuclear talks and intensifying fears of the coronavirus have driven North Korea further into isolation.
Moon’s allies note that Kim has shown an affinity for global exposure and say that Francis could visit as a head of state promoting peace rather than as a religious leader. And the Blue House said it is eager to help in any way it can to facilitate a future visit.
“It’s not golden timing, but I don’t want to give up that idea,” said Youngjun Kim, a professor at the Korea National Defense University and member of the presidential national security advisory board. “The idea is pretty good, because the Pope … can make a breakthrough on the [North Korea] issue as a peacemaker.”
Meanwhile, the pope on Monday wrapped up his third international trip since the start of the pandemic, celebrating Masses and meeting with migrants in Greece and Cyprus.
Many North Korea watchers roll their eyes at the suggestion of papal outreach to Kim. After all, North Korea relentlessly persecutes religious believers, and the supreme leader is a godlike figure.
“Put it in the basket of ‘Hail Mary’ passes that South Korean governments have hoped would be the key that unlocks North Korean cooperation,” said Victor Cha, a former top adviser on North Korea in the George W. Bush administration. “The one possibility would be if North Korea accepts the pope as an opportunity to make an international appeal for humanitarian assistance, but I would say that is a long shot.”
Human rights advocates also are skeptical of the idea.
Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the nongovernmental organization Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said: “There’s no need for the pope to give President Moon Jae-in of South Korea an unconditional political gift while turning a blind eye to the suffering of the North Korean people.”
Moon’s renewed appeal to Francis underscores the lack of progress on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea and the United States are negotiating a symbolic statement calling for a formal end to the Korean War, but it is unclear whether it would be convincing enough for Pyongyang to bite.
A meeting on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics is unlikely, given the Biden administration’s potential diplomatic boycott and the International Olympic Committee’s ban on North Korea’s official participation in the Games. And, so far, there have been no public indications that North Korea might agree to Seoul’s request for an inter-Korean summit via video.
No pope has ever visited North Korea, but the idea of a papal visit is not a recent one.
In 2000, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, a Catholic like Moon with a similar goal of rapprochement, suggested a trip in a meeting with Pope John Paul II. Kim Dae-jung pressed the issue in a subsequent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. But the proposal never gained momentum.
A trip to North Korea undoubtedly would qualify as the riskiest diplomatic gambit of Francis’s pontificate — presenting enough obstacles that some Vatican watchers think it is a bad idea.
Francis would have to operate in a country that yields no control on messaging. He would risk being used for Kim’s domestic propaganda gain. And he would face the same perils as other leaders who have tried, and failed, to soften the North’s totalitarianism.
But Francis also has shown that he can be tempted by a challenge. He played a behind-the-scenes role in mending ties between the United States and Cuba. He tried to mediate a conflict between South Sudan’s factions, inviting rival leaders to the Vatican and kissing their feet. He has also taken papal trips to places that others might see as too perilous. In March, he traveled by helicopter to Mosul, Iraq, celebrating Mass in the ruins of a church destroyed by the Islamic State.
“Everything’s currently in the hands of God and Kim Jong Un,” said the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, a former editor of AsiaNews, a news service affiliated with the Vatican. “And while we trust very much in God, we don’t quite know how Kim Jong Un makes his decisions.”
A full state visit — where Francis glad-hands with leaders and delivers homilies — is the most far-fetched scenario. But the pope has set a precedent for truncated visits, operating more as a head of state than as a pastor, as when he traveled to Strasbourg solely to address the European Parliament and upbraided the Europe Union for its treatment of migrants.
A South Korean Catholic priest, the Rev. Kim Yeon-su, said he hopes for such a papal diplomatic visit: “The pope’s visit would bring enormous benefits to North Korea, because he would facilitate active engagement with the Western world.”
The North Korean constitution grants nominal freedom of religious belief. But in practice, those who express freedom of belief are severely persecuted and even executed, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
There is one cathedral in the capital city, Pyongyang, the Jangchung Cathedral. But it is not recognized by the Vatican and is under tight state control. In 2015, Kim Yeon-su celebrated Mass there for about 70 people. There was a choir whose members had memorized hymns, he said. A photo of Francis hangs in the chapel, the priest said.
For Francis, another issue stands in the way of a trip: China. The Vatican has expended extraordinary diplomatic energy trying to improve ties with Beijing and gain a final say over the appointment of Catholic bishops within the Chinese system. The Vatican renewed its arrangement with Chinese authorities last year.
One senior diplomat familiar with Asia, speaking on the condition of anonymity to comment frankly on diplomatic issues, said he thought the Vatican would prioritize relations with China and avoid any outreach to a neighbor of China’s.
The diplomat said the idea of a papal trip to North Korea sounded like “political sci-fi.”


Harlan reported from Rome. Stefano Pitrelli in Rome contributed to this report.
The Washington Post · by Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Chico Harlan Today at 5:00 a.m. EST · December 4, 2021

8. Prices of food, daily necessities estimated to be rapidly soaring in N. Korea: gov't

Supply and demand still has an impact even in north Korea.

Prices of food, daily necessities estimated to be rapidly soaring in N. Korea: gov't | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 최수향 · December 6, 2021
SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- The cost of groceries and daily necessities in North Korea is estimated to be rapidly increasing in the face of a prolonged border lockdown to stave off the COVID-19 pandemic, Seoul's unification ministry said Monday.
The North has imposed a strict border control since last year, which is believed to have taken a toll on its economy already hit by crippling sanctions.
"North Korea is experiencing chronic food shortages with around 1 million tons of foods falling short every year," ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo told a regular press briefing. "As the coronavirus-driven border lockdown has prolonged, it is likely to be having difficulties in securing necessary foods from abroad."
The North was seen preparing to reopen its land border with China, with South Korea's spy agency estimating its cross-border rail services could resume as early as in November. But the spread of the omicron variant is apparently delaying the reclusive regime's planned border reopening.
"Though we do have limits in having access to accurate information, the government's estimation ... is that the volatility of foods and necessities prices is growing (in North Korea) and some items are witnessing a rapid price hike," Lee said.
Yet, referring to experts' assessments the North's crop output could improve this year due to better weather conditions, she said the government will continue monitoring its situation in line with a review on the need for a humanitarian cooperation.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 최수향 · December 6, 2021

9. Seoul to step up monitoring fake news on N. Korea

Is fake news anything that does not comply with the Moon administration narrative about north Korea?

Excerpts;

The move is the latest in a series of efforts by the ministry to prevent the spread of groundless rumors on the reclusive North, following last year's launch of a "fake news response" section on its website.

Seoul to step up monitoring fake news on N. Korea | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 최수향 · December 6, 2021
SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government will beef up efforts to monitor fake news on North Korea that "distort the policy environment" for inter-Korean relations, officials said Monday.
On Friday, the National Assembly approved a 1.5 trillion won (US$1.27 billion) budget for the unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs next year, including 200 million won to launch the new monitoring program.
The program was suggested following "needs for a more systematic monitoring due to the frequent spread of false, fabricated information on North Korea on new media platforms which led to various negative consequences, including the distortion of policy environment," ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo told a regular press briefing.
The ministry will consult with experts to come up with a detailed plan on the new initiative, including who will be entrusted to carry out the business, as well as the scope and method of the monitoring activities, she said.
The move is the latest in a series of efforts by the ministry to prevent the spread of groundless rumors on the reclusive North, following last year's launch of a "fake news response" section on its website.
Meanwhile, Lee referred to a "speculative article," when asked about a recent media report claiming that South Korea was considering sending a letter from President Moon Jae-in to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to discuss Seoul's push to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
"I don't think it's appropriate to comment on a speculative article," she said.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 최수향 · December 6, 2021

10. North Korean government begins nationwide purchases of rice from farmers

Excerpts;
There are now more merchants dealing in corn and “long-stored” rice, too, also driving down prices.
However, there is concern that rice prices could skyrocket when supplies fall early next year if the authorities semi-force farmers to sell even their surplus harvest.
North Korean authorities can prevent rice prices from suddenly spiking by purchasing a sufficient amount of rice and selling it at appropriate prices through state food shops. The question is, however, whether state food shops will be able to secure enough rice.
The source said the state’s biggest concern is that rice prices will rise when times are already tough for the people due to the closure of the border. He further claimed that the authorities are squeezing farmers for rice to stop rice prices from suddenly climbing.

North Korean government begins nationwide purchases of rice from farmers
The state's poor compensation for rice has led many farms to rush to sell their crops in markets
By Seulkee Jang - 2021.12.06 3:38pm
North Korean authorities recently began purchasing rice from farms and are even pressuring farmers to turn over their surplus production in the name of “patriotic rice contributions.”
According to a Daily NK source in North Korea last Thursday, grain processing facilities across the country are going around to local collective farms and individual farmhouses to purchase grain.
Each farm may offer just its allotted amount, but the processing facilities are demanding to purchase surplus production, too.
In some regions, staff from the processing facilities are even fostering an atmosphere of political agitation, telling farmers that they should voluntarily offer “patriotic rice” to become “patriotic farmers,” or that they should offer their rice at giveaway prices to win praise from the state.
Staff from the processing centers are even entering farmers’ homes to look around for hidden grain.
With the state actively engaged in semi-forced purchases of grain, farmers are rushing to sell their rice in markets.
This is because the state pays only one-third the market price for rice. Farmers naturally find it much more in their financial interest to sell to sellers in local markets.
Rice planting in North Korea. / Image: Rodong Sinmun
Another problem is that the state pays not in cash but in kind, providing an equivalent price amount in fertilizer, pesticide, and plastic coverings. This is why farmers try to sell only a bare minimum to the state.
The phenomenon is having a partial impact on market rice prices, too. 
As of Dec. 29, the price of rice was KPW 4,500 in Pyongyang, KPW 4,550 in Sinuiju, and KPW 4,200 in Hyesan.
This basically suggests that rice prices are settling in the mid-KPW 4,000 range, having fallen since September.
Market grain prices typically fall after the harvest thanks to the abundance of potatoes, corn, and rice.
There are now more merchants dealing in corn and “long-stored” rice, too, also driving down prices.
However, there is concern that rice prices could skyrocket when supplies fall early next year if the authorities semi-force farmers to sell even their surplus harvest.
North Korean authorities can prevent rice prices from suddenly spiking by purchasing a sufficient amount of rice and selling it at appropriate prices through state food shops. The question is, however, whether state food shops will be able to secure enough rice.
The source said the state’s biggest concern is that rice prices will rise when times are already tough for the people due to the closure of the border. He further claimed that the authorities are squeezing farmers for rice to stop rice prices from suddenly climbing.
Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK’s full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.



11. Pandemic-hit North Korea faces chronic food shortage amid COVID-induced border closures
We should not be misled. The suffering in the north is because of Kim's decision to close the border. He is using COVID as an excuse to further oppress the people to prevent any kind of resistance or unrest.


Pandemic-hit North Korea faces chronic food shortage amid COVID-induced border closures


Last Updated: 6th December, 2021 13:40 IST
The protracted border closure to combat COVID-19, has caused inflation in North Korea. The price of groceries and everyday essentials is significantly rising.
Written By

Image: AP


The protracted border closure to combat the COVID-19 pandemic has caused inflation in North Korea. The price of groceries and everyday essentials in the country is believed to be significantly rising, according to Seoul's Ministry of Unification. The ministry's spokeswoman, Lee Jong-Joo told the reporters about deteriorating economic conditions and food shortages, local news agency Yonhap reported.
Yonhap quoted Lee Jong-joo, as saying, "North Korea is experiencing chronic food shortages with around 1 million tons of foods falling short every year. As the coronavirus-driven border lockdown has prolonged, it is likely to be having difficulties in securing necessary foods from abroad."
She further added, "Though we do have limits in having access to accurate information, the government's estimation ... is that the volatility of foods and necessities prices is growing (in North Korea) and some items are witnessing a rapid price hike."
Country must prepare for a "very giant struggle"
Nonetheless, she said that the administration will continue to monitor the situation in line with a review on the need for humanitarian cooperation, citing to experts' projections that the North's crop output should improve this year due to better weather conditions. Earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un stated on December 1, that the country must prepare for a "very giant struggle" next year in order to continue making gains in fields such as defence, agriculture, and building, according to the official KCNA news agency.
While the country is currently experiencing economic challenges, Kim claims that his party has been successful in pushing for policy targets and implementing the five-year economic plan he released earlier this year, reportedly. With his strategy, Kim aims to boost the economy and power supplies, according to local media reports. However, UN agencies report that food and power shortages persist, aggravated by sanctions imposed over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and natural calamities.
Since last year, the country has implemented strict border controls, which are said to have taken a toll on its economy, that is already suffering from punitive sanctions. The North is reportedly planning to reopen its land border with China, with South Korea's spy agency estimating that cross-border rail services could restart as soon as November. However, the spread of the omicron variant appears to be delaying the reclusive regime's planned reopening of its borders.
(With inputs from agencies)
Image: AP






12. Ball in Kim Jong-un's court for 'end of war' declaration

Yes it is. Kim is being given another opportunity to act as a responsible member of the international community..

But no, no, no to these excerpts. These actions play right into the hands of the regime - to weaken and split the alliance so the north has the correlation of forces to either blackmail and extort the South or use force to achieve its objectives.

"For example, if North Korea freezes its nuclear program and accepts inspections of its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, South Korea and the U.S. may respond by halting their joint military exercises," said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute.

"If the North accepts a phased shutdown of its nuclear facilities, South Korea can respond by controlling its military expansion and the U.S. can join by promising a non-aggression pact. Both South Korea and the U.S. should seriously consider these options, and the involved countries (the two Koreas, the U.S. and China) should come up with plans to have four-way, high-level talks to discuss the options."

Ball in Kim Jong-un's court for 'end of war' declaration
The Korea Times · December 6, 2021
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un gestures during a speech at the third plenary meeting of the Eighth Politburo of the Workers' Party of Korea, which closed June 18, in this June 19 photo carried by the Korean Central News Agency. Yonhap. 

Moon may send letter to persuade North Korea to join end-of-war declaration
By Nam Hyun-woo 

President Moon Jae-in's proposal of declaring an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War now appears to hinge on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as the U.S. and China seem to have indicated their support for such a quadrilateral declaration, which could entice Pyongyang to return to talks on its denuclearization.

During a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Thursday, Moon said, "Our administration has proposed the end-of-war declaration in order to pass on a situation, in which the U.S., South Korea and North Korea are in talks, to the next administration. Close cooperation between Seoul and Washington is more important than anything else."

In a separate meeting between Austin and his South Korean counterpart Suh Wook, also on Thursday, the two sides shared the two countries' ideas on the declaration, sources said, though it was not mentioned in a joint statement released after their meeting.

The meetings over declaring an end to the war come amid signs that consultations between South Korea and the U.S. over a draft version of the declaration are picking up speed.

A senior official at the Ministry of Unification said Nov. 24 that the Seoul-Washington negotiations over the clauses of an end-of-war declaration "had entered their final stage," adding, "it will be a major step forward if the declaration helps build trust without incurring a radical change in the current situation."

The comment was interpreted as South Korea and the U.S. seeking to include a clause that the declaration will not affect the armistice status of the two Koreas, thus allowing the United Nations Command in South Korea and U.S. Forces Korea to remain as they are today.

U.S. news outlet Politico also reported that the two sides were in the final stages of parsing the language of the declaration, and were narrowing their differences over a clause related to denuclearization.

South Korea's National Security Advisor Suh Hoon, left, poses with Chinese Communist Party head of foreign affairs Yang Jiechi during their meeting at a hotel in Tianjin, China, Thursday. Joint Press CorpsChina has also expressed its interest in Moon's proposal. According to Cheong Wa Dae, Moon's national security advisor Suh Hoon had a meeting with Chinese Communist Party head of foreign affairs Yang Jiechi, Thursday, and the latter expressed China's "support on the end-of-war declaration, which will contribute to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula."

Given Beijing's relations with North Korea, China's support could be leverage in persuading North Korean leader Kim to join in the discussions for the declaration. Since China is seeking to have the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as a vehicle showcasing messages of peace, the situation is becoming favorable regarding Moon's proposal.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un shake hands as South Korean President Moon Jae-in watches on during their meeting at Panmunjeom, June 30, 2019. YonhapWith three out of the four parties involved in the Korean War showing their interest in the end-of-war declaration, Seoul is now escalating its efforts to bring North Korea forward for talks.

The vernacular Kookmin Ilbo newspaper reported Monday that Cheong Wa Dae plans to deliver a New Year celebration letter from Moon to Kim that will share the current status of the end-of-war discussions with the U.S. and China.

The presidential office neither confirmed nor denied the report, reiterating a previous stance of: "The presidential office is making various efforts with the U.S. and other partners for the end-of-war declaration."

Against this backdrop, experts said mutual threat reduction measures should be considered in order to attract the North for talks on the declaration and further moves toward a peace treaty.

"For example, if North Korea freezes its nuclear program and accepts inspections of its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, South Korea and the U.S. may respond by halting their joint military exercises," said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute.

"If the North accepts a phased shutdown of its nuclear facilities, South Korea can respond by controlling its military expansion and the U.S. can join by promising a non-aggression pact. Both South Korea and the U.S. should seriously consider these options, and the involved countries (the two Koreas, the U.S. and China) should come up with plans to have four-way, high-level talks to discuss the options."


The Korea Times · December 6, 2021


13. Moon's 'declaration' is downplayed by U.S. as a 'statement'

Semantics? Declaration versus statement? perhaps.

I think we are not going to unilaterally declare an end to the war but we may make an alliance statement that we wish to have an end of war declaration after a sufficient reduction of the threat in the north through negotiations.

Monday
December 6, 2021

Moon's 'declaration' is downplayed by U.S. as a 'statement'

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in this file photo taken at the State Department in Washington DC on Aug. 18. [AP PHOTO/ANDREW HARNIK]
American officials have started calling the end-of-war declaration, a signature diplomatic goal of the Moon Jae-in administration, an end-of-war statement, which may not be good news for Seoul.
 
“'Declaration' or 'statement,' what really matters is what is stated inside,” a former diplomat told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday. "But still, calling it a statement instead of a declaration does appear to lower its official standing."
 
Semantics are always important in diplomacy, and this choice of words seems to signify a reluctance by the U.S. to sign on to the idea, or its intention to downplay it. 
 
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was one of the first to refer to the declaration as a statement on Nov. 17. 
 
“On the issue around [the] end-of-war statement, I’m very satisfied, the United States is very satisfied with the consultations we are having both with the Republic of Korea and with Japan, and with other allies and partners, on the best way forward to ensure the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Sherman told the press in Washington D.C.
 
When asked about Sherman's use of the word, an official from the State Department told the JoongAng Ilbo, “I don’t have anything to add to the Deputy’s comments.”
 
“Our policy has not changed,” said the official. “The United States remains committed to achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK.”
 
Sherman was not the only American official to use the term recently, according to a source. 
 
“The American officials I have met recently have all used the term statement when speaking about the end-of-war declaration,” the source told the JoongAng Ilbo.
 
The word used by officials previously in Washington was "declaration." When Department of Defense spokesperson John Kirby spoke with the press on Sept. 22, he said, “[…] we're open to discussing the possibility of an end of war declaration.” When U.S. nuclear envoy Sung Kim spoke with the press on Sept. 30, he said, “Ambassador Noh briefed me in detail on the, the broad government's initiative to declare an end to the Korean War.”
 
The switching of terms may be intentional, according to James Kim, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
 
“By calling it a statement, it may be trying to make sure that the end-of-war statement does not affect the armistice agreement system such as the UN Command,” said Kim.
 
The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. 
 
The armistice agreement signed by the U.S.-led UN Command, North Korea and China on July 27, 1953, brought a complete ceasefire to hostilities until a final peaceful settlement was achieved. Thus, the two Koreas remain in a technical state of war.
 
The 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty signed between Washington and Seoul two months after the signing of the armistice provided the legal grounds for the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) and the United Nations Command to be stationed in the country since the war. 
 
The Moon government has been pushing for an official declaration to end the war in recent meetings with the Joe Biden administration, and in recent weeks the two sides have been working on the wording of such a declaration. 
 
Neither have commented officially on what a formal end to the war would do to the status of U.S. troops in Korea and Seoul-Washington joint military exercises.  

BY PARK HYUN-JU, PARK HYUN-YOUNG, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]



14. Japan's PM says Tokyo to keep demanding Seoul's 'appropriate' measures over history-related row

We are not headed in a positive direction in ROK-Japan relations.

Japan's PM says Tokyo to keep demanding Seoul's 'appropriate' measures over history-related row | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 이치동 · December 6, 2021
TOKYO, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reiterated Monday that his government will continue to "strongly" demand South Korea take "appropriate" measures to address diplomatic standoffs between the two sides over shared history.
In his second parliamentary speech as prime minister, he again described South Korea as an important neighbor but made clear that Tokyo will maintain its existing position on bilateral disputes over such issues as compensating the victims of Japan's wartime forced labor and sexual enslavement of Koreans.
"With regard to South Korea, which is an important neighboring country, (we) will continue to strongly demand appropriate responses based on our consistent position," he stated.
He made public such a stance during his first policy address delivered at an Oct. 8 parliamentary session, four days after taking office.
His remarks have heralded no immediate breakthrough in the drawn-out spat between Washington's two key Asian allies despite the Joe Biden administration's push for stronger trilateral security cooperation against North Korea's advanced weapons program and China's growing assertiveness.
The South Korean government said it "respects" the local court ruling ordering Japanese firms to pay compensation to the victims of forced labor during World War II. Japan, however, argues that all reparation-related matters were settled under a 1965 treaty to normalize their diplomatic ties.
On North Korea, meanwhile, Kishida emphasized a top priority on resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the communist regime decades ago.
He said once again that he is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with no pre-conditions attached, for a resolution to the problem.


(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 이치동 · December 6, 2021


15. Reflections on inter-Korean peace

The last sentence is the key but I am not optimistic that Kim Jong-un will heed Yang Moo-jin's advice:

Although inter-Korean relations and North Korean nuclear issues are still in a stalemate, there are signs of positive change on the other side. The efforts of managing the situation in a stable manner and setting the stage for peace over the past year will have to be assessed as it comes.

The continuance of the current stalemate does nobody any good. It is time to lead the conversation with the North by arranging concrete incentives for the North to discard its nuclear ambitions, rather than waiting for the North to return to talks. Since the North Korean nuclear issue is an agenda item that the United States and China can cooperate on, even during a conflict, I hope that the United States uses the initiative to push forward the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang needs to show flexibility, instead of playing hardball. For the United States, there may be political constraints that make it hard to offer substantial concessions to the North before starting talks. I think it is more reasonable and practical that the North gets back to the negotiating table and listens to the Biden administration's policy in the first place, and then proceeds with negotiations so as to achieve what it wants to get out of them.

Reflections on inter-Korean peace
The Korea Times · December 6, 2021
By Yang Moo-jin
Recently, conservatives and some opposition parties have been criticizing the results of the Moon Jae-in administration's foreign and security policy as well as its policy on North Korea for being insufficient.

To some extent, the government's efforts are being devalued as a "peace show" or a "chant for peace." I would like to look back on the past year and suggest what kind of efforts should be made to move forward toward peace for the Koreas.
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A year ago, the Korean Peninsula was at a critical tipping point. After the Hanoi summit between the United States and North Korea, inter-Korean relations were cut off, and tension persisted. After blowing up a liaison office, North Korea became more adversarial toward South Korea and raised the level of tensions by mentioning military provocations.

Inter-Korean relations seemed to be entering a calming phase, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un withheld military action against South Korea. However, tensions rose again when a South Korean fisheries official was shot and killed in the West Sea.

Relations between the United States and North Korea were also adding to the uncertainty of the situation on the peninsula. After Joe Biden was elected as the president of the United States, some predicted that North Korea would conduct additional nuclear tests or long-range ballistic missile tests to influence U.S. policy priorities. What kind of changes have occurred in the situation on the peninsula under these circumstances, in which there have been no breakthroughs in relations between South and North Korea, or in relations between the United States and North Korea?

First, after inter-Korean communication lines were restored Oct. 4, the South has consistently sent the message that military tensions should not be raised again, and that it is open to dialogue with the North. Although Pyongyang has fired short-range missiles, it has still maintained its nuclear and ICBM moratorium. North Korea recently evaluated the South's proposal for an end-of-war declaration as interesting in its own way, suggesting the possibility of an improvement in relations, albeit conditionally.

Second, at the end of April, the Biden administration announced its North Korea policy would be a "calibrated and practical approach." The Biden administration emphasized that this was a new solution, neither biased toward the Trump administration's approach of seeking a grand bargain, nor the Obama administration's "strategic patience." At the ROK-U.S. May 21 summit, the United States expressed its position that it respected the Panmunjeom Declaration and the Singapore Joint Statement, and supported inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation.

The summit outcome was made possible because of closer communication between South Korea and the United States. Since then, the United States has consistently emphasized that it has no hostile intent toward Pyongyang and is open to meeting anytime and anyplace without preconditions.

Third, the end-of-war declaration for restarting the peace process on the Korean Peninsula is under discussion. In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 22, President Moon urged the international community to join forces in supporting the end-of-war declaration.

The declaration is a very meaningful measure, as a gateway to peace and as a catalyst for negotiations on denuclearization, and could become an important starting point for making a new order for the two Koreas. The two leaders of South and North Korea confirmed in the 2018 Panmunjeom Declaration as well as in the North-South Korea Summit Declaration on Oct. 4, 2007 that ending the abnormal conflict halted with an armistice for the last 68 years is a historical task that cannot be continuously deferred.

Although inter-Korean relations and North Korean nuclear issues are still in a stalemate, there are signs of positive change on the other side. The efforts of managing the situation in a stable manner and setting the stage for peace over the past year will have to be assessed as it comes.

The continuance of the current stalemate does nobody any good. It is time to lead the conversation with the North by arranging concrete incentives for the North to discard its nuclear ambitions, rather than waiting for the North to return to talks. Since the North Korean nuclear issue is an agenda item that the United States and China can cooperate on, even during a conflict, I hope that the United States uses the initiative to push forward the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang needs to show flexibility, instead of playing hardball. For the United States, there may be political constraints that make it hard to offer substantial concessions to the North before starting talks. I think it is more reasonable and practical that the North gets back to the negotiating table and listens to the Biden administration's policy in the first place, and then proceeds with negotiations so as to achieve what it wants to get out of them.

Yang Moo-jin (yangmj@kyungnam.ac.kr) is a professor at the University of North Korean Studies and the vice chairman of the Korean Association of North Korean Studies. He is also a standing committee member of the National Unification Advisory Council and a policy consultant at the Ministry of Unification.


The Korea Times · December 6, 2021

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V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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