Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Officials from Beijing and Washington meet for North Korea talks

American and Chinese officials held meetings about North Korea on Tuesday amid signs Pyongyang may be willing to restart talks on its nuclear programs.

The Obama administration and its top Asian allies agreed Monday that direct U.S.-North Korean talks may be the best way to bring North Korea back to the nuclear negotiating table. But they also suggested that more groundwork needed to be laid by China, North Korea's main friend and benefactor, before President Barack Obama would decide to send his special North Korea envoy, Stephen Bosworth, to Pyongyang for such discussions.

China, which wields the most outside influence of any country with North Korea, is widely believed to hold the key for the resumption in the stalled disarmament talks.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Human Rights mentioned in North Korea’s new constitution

North Korea's new constitution calls for respecting human rights for the first time, a possible attempt by Pyongyang to fend off international criticism about its harsh treatment of citizens, South Korean officials and an analyst said Monday.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said the North's constitution, revised in April, says the state "respects and protects" human rights. The old version only said the state "defends and protects the interests" of people.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, says it is the first time the North's constitution has mentioned human rights.

"I think they created this clause, mindful of international criticism of their human rights record," Yang said. "It lacks details, such as how they will respect and protect human rights. I think it's just a formality."

North Korea has long been criticized for being one of the world's worst human rights abusers. It has been accused, among other things, of running a network of prison camps believed to hold hundreds of thousands of political detainees.

Pyongyang has rejected such criticism, denouncing it as part of a U.S. attempt to overthrow the regime.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

2800 North Korean defectors settle in S. Korea in 2009

More than 2,800 North Koreans defectors settled in South Korea last year, Yonhap News Agency reported Sunday.

This brings the cumulative number of North Korean defectors in South Korea to nearly 17,000.

The annual rate of increase was 26 percent and 46 percent in 2007 and 2006, respectively, according to the report submitted by Seoul's Unification Ministry to the National Assembly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Charter to boost authority of Kim Jong Il

South Korea is analysing changes to North Korea's constitution which apparently strengthen the authority of leader Kim Jong Il.

"The government has obtained the full text of the North's constitution and is currently studying it," unification ministry spokesman Lee Jong Ju told a briefing.

Radio Free Asia said the new constitution for the first time drops the use of the term "communism." It refers instead to the "songun" policy of Mr Kim Jong Il and the "juche" philosophy promoted by his father and founding president Kim Il Sung.

Songun, a military-first policy, prioritises the welfare of soldiers over civilians. Juche calls for self-reliance in national affairs.

North Korea decided to revise its constitution at a parliamentary meeting in April.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

North Korean refugees seek refuge in Danish Embassy Hanoi

A group of North Koreans have applied for political asylum at the Danish embassy in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Ole Brix Andersen, a Foreign Ministry official, said the group appeared to be North Korean but would give no further information on their identity.

Andersen told TV2 News that the embassy was currently cooperating with the individuals and relevant authorities in the affected countries. The official also confirmed the asylum seekers would be allowed to stay at the embassy until the cases had been clarified.

A South Korean activist who helped the group seek asylum, told Reuters news agency that a total of nine North Koreans had applied for asylum - a couple, a mother and daughter and five individuals.

The asylum seekers had reportedly fled North Korea at different times, with some previously being caught by Chinese authorities and returned to their homeland.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lee's "bargain" on North Korean Nuke issue

Xinhuanet refers to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's proposed "grand bargain" between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and other five partners engaged in six-party talks.

The proposal calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and complete irreversible denuclearization in exchange for a security guarantee and economic aid granted by the international community.

Lee made the proposal while addressing a meeting hosted by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, the Korea Society and the Asia Society in New York.

Lee urged the DPRK to immediately return to the international nuclear disarmament negotiations, saying that to North Korea, "this is not a crisis but an opportunity," it "must not miss this precious opportunity that may well be its last."

Monday, September 21, 2009

CIA says U.S. on 'honeymoon' with North Korea

"We're in a honeymoon situation right now," said CIA Director Leon Panetta in an interview, describing the opportunity to negotiate with North Korea to scale back its nuclear and missile programs.

He credited former President Bill Clinton's visit to the Stalinist state last month with opening up dialogue.

The United States is ready to engage directly with North Korea in an effort to bring the nuclear-armed regime back to multinational talks on disarmament, Philip J. Crowley, the top State Department spokesman, said in an interview Sept. 11.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is North Korea bribeable?

After nine months of nuclear and long-range missile tests, the detention of two American journalists, and a barrage of hostile rhetoric, Kim Jong Il now has the U.S. right where he has wanted it all along — ready to sit across the bargaining table, one on one.

Now comes the hard part. What, exactly, does the U.S. talk to North Korea about, and in what order?

Pyongyang has said it has no interest in ever returning to the six-party negotiations in which the U.S. enlisted South Korea, Japan, China and Russia as its negotiating partners. Pyongyang has always wanted to deal directly with Washington, as it did in 1994 when it negotiated the so-called "Agreed Framework" with the Clinton administration — the first instance in which Pyongyang agreed to stop work on its nuclear program. Kim has always wanted to deal with the biggest dog on the block, both for reasons of international prestige, as well as to marginalize its neighbors South Korea and Japan. From North Korea's perspective, Obama's willingness to sit down directly is already a diplomatic victory of sorts.

Since the U.S. started negotiating with North Korea over 15 years ago, hawks and doves within succeeding administrations have always wrangled over a central dilemma: Are the North Koreans bribeable? That is, are there sufficient economic as well as diplomatic incentives available to get the North to give up its nuclear program for good? Hawks view the notion that the U.S. can "induce" the North Koreans to abandon its nuclear program as na├»ve — "a tired siren song." Doves say the 1994 Agreed Framework is evidence that the `carrot' option can work.

The Obama administration is studded with people inclined to believe carrots like energy and food aid can work, in return for verifiable steps toward an eventual nuclear stand-down. But assuming the North is bribeable — and that's a huge assumption — its price for doing a deal now, as the east Asia diplomat acknowledges glumly, "will have gone way, way up."