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UNCLASSIFIED Wednesday, 11 February 2009 Two Birds with One Stone: Attention from the US; Conciliation from

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Two Birds with One Stone: Attention from the US; Conciliation from the ROK

MAJ Steve Sin, USA; and Ms. Su Goodwin, CIV

Summary: On 30 Jan, the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland (CPRF) issued a statement that is will “nullify” 1) “all the agreed points concerning the issue of putting an end to the political and military confrontation between the north and the south”; and 2) the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Cooperation and Exchange between the North and the South and the points on the military boundary line – the Northern Limit Line (NLL) – in the West Sea (Yellow Sea) stipulated in its appendix.” In the statement, North Korea blasted the Republic of Korea (ROK) government and said the hard-line policies of Lee Myung-bak forced it to nullify the accords. The 30 Jan statement is the second threatening statement North Korea has made this year that mentioned the NLL. On 17 Jan, a spokesman of the North Korean People's Army (KPA) General Staff issued a statement announcing that because the Lee Myung-bak government of South Korea has continued to insist on a hostile policy toward North Korea and it will conduct "all-out confrontation" against the South. Recent series of rhetoric and threats surrounding the NLL seems to be a set of political maneuvering on the part of North Korea. A continuing leitmotif of North Korean regional foreign policy is its aim to establish diplomatic relations with the US while isolating the ROK from the regional diplomatic and security forums. The statements from 17 and 30 Jan served as a vehicle to maintain the US’ focus in the region and engagement with the North to bring to fruition Kim Jong-il’s deep seated desire to normalize diplomatic relations with the US. Through the same two statements, the North has conveyed the ROK administration its mounting displeasure about the current ROK policy on North Korea.

Please direct your questions and comments to MAJ Steve Sin, Chief, USFK J2 OSINT:

DSN – (315) 725-5045, Commercial – +82-2-7915-5045, or Email – CIOCCAOSINT@us.army.mil

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Introduction: On 30 Jan, the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland (CPRF) issued a statement that is will “nullify” 1) “all the agreed points concerning the issue of putting an end to the political and military confrontation between the north and the south”; and 2) the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Cooperation and Exchange between the North and the South and the points on the military boundary line – the Northern Limit Line (NLL) – in the West Sea (Yellow Sea) stipulated in its appendix.” In the statement, North Korea blasted the Republic of Korea (ROK) government and said the hard-line policies of Lee Myung-bak forced it to nullify the accords. The CPRF, a body handling inter-Korean affairs in North Korea, said in the statement that "the group of traitors has already reduced all the agreements reached between the north and the south in the past to dead documents. … Under such situation it is self-evident that there is no need for the DPRK to remain bound to those north-south agreements.” This statement shapely raised tensions between the two Koreas and raised the possibility of a naval clash in the West Sea. The ROK government expressed “deep regret” about the statement and encouraged North Korea to agree to a dialogue with the South, which the North has rejected.

The 30 Jan statement is the second threatening statement North Korea has made this year that mentioned the NLL.

On 17 Jan, a spokesman of the North Korean People's Army (KPA) General Staff issued a statement announcing that because the Lee Myung-bak government of South Korea has continued to insist on a hostile policy toward North Korea and it will conduct "all-out confrontation" against the South.

Though the North Korean Naval Command routinely protests movements by the ROK vessels close to the NLL in the West Sea (Yellow Sea), it does not complain as frequently about the ROK vessels’ movement across the North’s claimed demarcation line – which is well south of the NLL.

UNCLASSIFIED Introduction: On 30 Jan, the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland (CPRF)

Indeed, a North Korean military provocation against the South near the NLL (or other actions that could be perceived as provocative) in the future cannot be ruled out; however, it is more

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likely that these pronouncements are intended to pressure the South to adapt more conciliatory policies toward the North while garnering attention from the new US administration.

Recent

Developments

Surrounding

North

Korea Leading up to the 30 Jan CPRF

Statement:

 

Weeks prior to the US inauguration, North Korea offered to send a top diplomat to the inauguration, which the US rejected on 12 Jan.

On 13 Jan, a spokesman for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that the US should first normalize relations with North Korea as a precondition for its denuclearization and that it will hold onto its nuclear weapons as long as the US backs the ROK with its own atomic arsenal. The statement also demanded that if “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the issue to be settled only when the DPRK shows nuclear weapons,” then North Korea must be able to also verify the presence of nuclear weapons in the ROK as well and that the same rule should be applied to US troops stationed in the ROK.

On 15 Jan, the ROK government rejected the North’s demand as “distorted.”

On 16 Jan, North Korea issued another strong statement directed at the US about retaining nuclear weapons. The North stated that it will boost its nuclear deterrent and maintain its nuclear weapons as longs as it remains under a nuclear threat from the US.

On 17 Jan, North Korea escalated its saber rattling against the ROK with a threatening statement from the KPA General Staff.

On 19 Jan, the ROK’s unification minister-designate, Hyun In-taek, said he will work more closely with the US in dealing with North Korea, as he prepared to take over the post amid the worst inter-Korean relations in a decade. Hyun, a university professor named as the ROK’s top policymaker on North Korea, sounded tough in line with the ROK President Lee Myung-bak's hard-line stance toward the North, a departure from his moderate predecessor who focused on persuading North Korea to engage in talks. Unlike other major North Korea experts, Hyun prioritizes the ROK's alliance with the US over reconciliation with North Korea and advocates international consensus as the starting point in dealing with the North.

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On 21 Jan, the White House stated that the new Barack Obama administration will get rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs "through tough and direct diplomacy." According to a foreign policy agenda posted on the White House Web site, the administration plans to "use tough diplomacy – backed by real incentives and real pressures – to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate fully and verifiably North Korea's nuclear weapons program." The Web posting came one day after President Obama said in his inauguration ceremony on 20 Jan that "with old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat."

On 23 Jan, Xinhua News Agency reported that Kim Jong-il said he wanted a nuclear free Korean peninsula, declaring his willingness to work with China to push forward the six-party process. Kim stated, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and hopes to live in peace with all other sides. … We don’t want to see tension emerge in the situation on the peninsula, and we are willing to strengthen coordination and cooperation with China and push forward the six-party process without interruption.” The US and the ROK welcomed Kim Jong-il’s reported commitment.

On 26 Jan, former US President Jimmy Carter said he believes North Korea would be willing to give up its nuclear weapons for US diplomatic recognition, a peace deal with the ROK and the US, and if it got new atomic power reactors and free fuel oil. Former President Carter said in an interview with the Associated Press that "It could be worked out, in my opinion, in half a day."

On 27 Jan, the US Secretary of State Clinton said that six-party talks are "essential" to ending North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions and that North Korea's nuclear proliferation should be resolved quickly through direct diplomacy of the US if necessary.

On 30 Jan, North Korea’s CPRF stated that the North is scrapping all political and military agreements with the ROK and declared the NLL void. The ROK responded to the North’s threat with a warning of its own, stating that any attempt by North Korea to violate the NLL will face firm counteraction.

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North Korean Rhetoric about the NLL from Jan 99 – Jan 09:

For

the

past

10

years, North

Korea has issued over 200

statements

 

(rhetoric

and

threats)

regarding

the

NLL

through

diplomatic

channels,

KPA delegation stationed at the

Joint Security

Area

(JSA), as

well

as

its state

and

affiliated

media outlets. (See

Graph 1)

All

of

the

statements

issued

from 1999 – 2008 (202

statements) have been

in

response

to

specific

past

or

upcoming

events

rather

than

precursors

 

of

North

Korean

contrived events.

Almost all of

the statements were in

response to major ROK-US

combined

military

exercises;

naval

clashes

between

the

North and South Korean navies;

and disputes between the North and South Korean fishing boats

during

the

blue

crab

fishing

seasons.

Only North Korean

statements related to NLL that were not in response to specific events were issued in 2009 (five

reports – the 17 Jan KPA

General

Staff

pronouncement

and four reports that referred to

UNCLASSIFIED North Korean Rhetoric about the NLL from Jan 99 – Jan 09: For the past

Graph 1 (Source: Derived from Open Source Center Document Archive)

UNCLASSIFIED North Korean Rhetoric about the NLL from Jan 99 – Jan 09: For the past

Graph 2 (Source: Derived from Open Source Center Document Archive)

the pronouncement).

The 30 Jan CPRF statement seems to be a response to the ROK’s and

the US’ lack of appropriate action to the 17 Jan statement. (See Graph 2)

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Significance of 17 Jan Pronouncement: The KPA General Staff pronouncements have been used to announce increased states of military readiness in the past, and only two have been observed in the past 10 years. Both of the KPA pronouncements were issued in response to a specific event. In Dec 98, a KPA General Staff spokesman’s statement responded to “third country” media reports about Operation Plan 5027 – what Pyongyang describes as US-ROK preparations for “northward aggression” – saying although we do not want a war, we also will not avoid a war.” In Sep 99, KPA General Staff special communiqué delineated the North’s West Sea military demarcation line (MDL) in response to a deadly Jun 99 North-South naval clash.

The North has often adopted “postures” to raise tension, but it is unusual to place the KPA on an “all-out confrontation posture”. The reference to this heightened “posture” presumably correlates with a higher-state of readiness and it should be noted that this higher-state of readiness coincides with North Korea’s annual Winter Training Cycle (WTC) for its armed forces.

The announcement’s warning that “strong military countermeasures … will follow” is

UNCLASSIFIED Significance of 17 Jan Pronouncement: The KPA General Staff pronouncements have been used to announce

KPA General Staff spokesman (KCTV, 17 Jan)

more categorical than typical North Korean military warnings. Of significance is that there is no language indicating the North intends to start a war. The statement did not threaten the ROK islands immediately south of the NLL, nor did it have the usual blood and guts tone of the bellicose statements designed to increase

tension across the Peninsula – it focused primarily on the disputed area off the west coast. This is not a new threat although it is more pointed and explicit.

Overall, the North made no commitment to do anything within any time frame throughout the statement. It also did not lay out any specific requirements on the part of the ROK to take action, or a set of actions, in order to defuse the threat.

It seems North Korea issued the 17 Jan pronouncement fully anticipating

that

the ROK

government will continue its hard-line North Korean policies and largely ignore the North’s

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bluster while putting its military on a higher alert status, which will then allow the North to claim that “the ROK government has failed to respond to Pyongyang’s warnings.”

Another significant aspect of the 17 Jan statement is that it explicitly said it was aimed at both

the internal and external audiences.

This year’s New Year’s Joint Editorial hinted that North

Korea is concerned about discipline issues in the KPA. I may be that the North Korean leadership sees tension with the ROK as a way to help focus its armed forces and instill discipline.

30 Jan CPRF Statement –

For the US: Weeks prior to the US inauguration, North Korea offered to send a top diplomat to the inauguration, which the US rejected on 12 Jan. Four days after the rejection (16 Jan), North Korea issued a strong statement directed at the US about retaining nuclear weapons. The next day (17 Jan), it escalated its saber rattling with a threatening statement against the Republic of Korea (ROK). The sequence of these statements suggests they may be reactions to the diplomatic snub. The quick publications of the statements against the US and the ROK – which the North sees as the proxy of the US – may also signify North Korea had these in preparation in the event of rejection (which implies it had a separate set of statements ready had the US accepted what the North considered a gesture of conciliation).

Between 21 and 27 Jan, the US stated, via multiple channels, that it is willing to work within the Six-Party framework, as well as through direct diplomacy with North Korea, to verify and eliminate fully North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

On 23 Jan, Kim Jong-il stated, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and hopes to live in peace with all other sides. … We don’t want to see tension emerge in the situation on the peninsula, and we are willing to strengthen coordination and cooperation with China and push forward the six-party process without interruption.”

Given that North Korea has been attempting to maintain itself at the top of the new US administration’s international agenda for some time, the 30 Jan CPRF statement appears to be in part political positioning designed to convey to the new US administration, in strongest terms, that while North Korea will conduct negotiations with the US, it still is a force to be reckoned with.

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For the ROK: Since the election and inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak administration in the South, North Korea’s rhetoric and threat against the ROK have increased significantly when compared to the previous two ROK administrations. The inter-Korean relation is at its coolest in over ten years. The North claims the Lee government is the root cause of this chilled relationship.

For the past two ROK administrations, North Korea has enjoyed a conciliatory relationship with the ROK under the Sunshine Policy of Kim Dae-jung, and later the Peace and Prosperity Policy of Roh Moo-hyun, The ROK government under the Kim and Roh administrations was sensitive to the North’s threats and demands, and reacted appropriately – in North’s view – to much of its demands.

With the launching of the Lee administration, the relationship between the two Koreas became frosty quickly. Unlike the previous two ROK administrations, the Lee administration has chosen to take a tough stance against the North, insisting the relationship between the two Koreas must be based on “reciprocity and North Korea’s willingness to disarm its nuclear arsenal.”

In response, North Korea has been consistently releasing rhetoric and threats against the ROK government through diplomatic channels, KPA delegation stationed at the Joint Security Area (JSA), as well as its state and affiliated media outlets. The frequency and belligerent tone of the North Korean rhetoric and threats have increased throughout 2008, culminating with the 24 Nov 08 announcement of five “punitive” measures (which was implemented on 01 Dec 08) as a retaliation to the ROK’s “anti-republic” and “anti-unification” policies.

In the face of the North’s increasingly belligerent and frequent rhetoric and threats, the ROK government has not wavered and adheres to its hard-line policy. As expected, the ROK government largely ignored the 17 Jan KPA pronouncement as just another series of provocative sound-bites.

The 30 Jan CPRF statement appears to be, among other purposes, a response to the lack of ROK reaction to the 17 Jan KPA statement, designed to elevate the pressure on the ROK to induce a change in the South’s North Korea policy.

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Conclusion and Assessment:

The use of a highly authoritative statement on 17 Jan and the

issuance of the highly provocative statement on 30 Jan certainly are intended to underscore the

gravity with which North Korea views the current inter-Korean and international political situation.

Recent series of rhetoric and threats surrounding the NLL seems to be a set of political maneuvering on the part of North Korea. A continuing leitmotif of North Korean regional foreign policy is its aim to establish diplomatic relations with the US while isolating the ROK from the regional diplomatic and security forums. The statements from 17 and 30 Jan served as a vehicle to maintain the US’ focus in the region and engagement with the North to bring to fruition Kim Jong-il’s deep seated desire to normalize diplomatic relations with the US. Through the same two statements, the North has conveyed the ROK administration its mounting displeasure about the current ROK policy on North Korea.

Politically, North Korea has more to lose than gain if there is a military clash between the North and the South (along the NLL or anywhere else on the Korean Peninsula); however, the possibility of provocation (real or perceived) and/or miscalculation induced clash certainly does exist if the current trend of elevated tensions between the two Koreas continues.