Is North Korea Ready for a U-Turn? by Chung Min Lee

[Prof. Chung Min Lee is dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. In this article written for the Wall Street Journal, 12 March 2012, he examines a proposal made by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho during a closed-door “Track 2” seminar held in New York last Saturday, 10 March 2012. According to Mr. Lee, the biggest obstacles to any reform intended by fledgling DPRK leader Kim Jong Un are not Washington and Seoul, but his own party apparatchiks. –CanKor]

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is helped through a crush of reporters, Thursday, 8 March 2012 in New York. Kissinger attended a conference with a DPRK delegation on Peace and Cooperation in Northeast Asia, hosted by Syracuse University. (Photo by Mary Altaffer, Associated Press)

At the first track-two dialogue between U.S. and North Korean officials since Kim Jong Eun’s rise to power, Pyongyang hinted that a breakthrough in relations might be possible. Meeting in New York City last week, both sides discussed building trust in order to rethink geopolitics on the Korean Peninsula in the post-Kim Jong Il era.

A senior North Korean official stated that “unlike the previous generation, the new leadership [of North Korea] wants peace and will not fight with the United States.” Another North Korean official stated that “the recent agreement in Beijing with regard to plutonium cessation is irreversible” and that “we will take consistent steps to ensure its success. He added that the North’s plutonium program “97% has been disabled and if we reverse this, it would be a game changer. As long as both parties abide by the agreement, one can be assured that [plutonium] production is irreversible.” Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor editor interviewed on Russia Today

“N Korea poses no threat” – political consultant

North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister is in New York for talks with US officials on the possible resumption of long-stalled international negotiations on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.

The news comes after more than a year of deep disagreement and tension between the two Koreas.

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan’s visit follows a crucial meeting on Friday between nuclear negotiators from North and South Korea on the sidelines of a regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bali – the first such meeting in months.

The dialogue between Pyongyang, Seoul and Western mediators is hampered by the perception in the West that North Korea poses a nuclear threat. However, Erich Weingartner, consultant on international humanitarian affairs, believes this is simple prejudice, and that the country’s atomic program is purely defensive.

“Personally, I don’t think it [nuclear program] is a threat in the sense that North Korea will use it to attack South Korea, or Japan, or any other country. For North Koreans this is very much a defensive measure. They don’t want to be attacked, and they believe, rightly or wrongly – I think wrongly – but in any case, they believe that having nuclear weapons or even a threat of nuclear weapons will safeguard them from attack,” said Weingartner.

The expert believes though that the situation on the Korean peninsula is far from quiet.

“We’ve heard this week that North Korea is planning the major military exercise on the western seashore, which is exactly the place where all of these incidents have happened before. So the situation is becoming rather serious in terms of military confrontation, and it would help obviously, if there were some talks in process,” he said, adding:

“When North Korea is involved in positive talks either with the USA, or with South Korea, or in the six-party talks the provocations have not happened.”

The Associated Press announces agreements to expand access in North Korea

[The following is an AP press release dated 29 June 2011. Memos of understanding were signed by Kim Pyong Ho, president of Korean Central News Agency, and AP President and CEO Tom Curley on Tuesday, 28 June 2011 in New York. A series of agreements between the Associated Press and the North Korean state news agency herald the opening of an AP bureau in Pyongyang and deeper photo/video cooperation.  The AP bills itself as “the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the largest and most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from AP.” –CanKor.]

AP President and CEO Tom Curley with Kim Pyong Ho, President of Korean Central News Agency (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Associated Press today announced agreements with the Korea Central News Agency, including one to open an AP news bureau in Pyongyang.

Leaders of the two news organizations held discussions during a New York visit by KCNA executives and this week signed two memos of understanding and a contract.

Under one memo of understanding work begins immediately on discussions aimed at opening an AP bureau in Pyongyang. It would be the first permanent text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the North Korean capital. Five years ago, AP Television News, headquartered in London, became the first Western news organization to establish an office in North Korea.

The second memo of understanding outlines cooperation on journalistic and photo/video technology issues, including a joint photo exhibition by the two agencies in New York next year. Read the rest of this entry »

Conversation #9

In which CanKor editor Erich Weingartner elicits information from Pak Kim Li about the “re-education camps” that DPRK diplomats are required to attend after extended absences from the home country on overseas assignments. (First published in CanKor Report 311, 7 November 2008.)

Erich Heinz Weingartner: I was afraid I had lost you, Mr. Pak. It’s been four or five months since we last spoke.

Pak Kim Li: Yes, well you know my ambassador was recalled from his New York posting.

EHW: Yes, I read that.

PKL: I was actually quite pleased when he asked me to return as well.

EHW: You didn’t enjoy living in the freedom of New York?

PKL: You must be joking. You think it is fun to be restricted in your movements and under 24-hour surveillance in the land of your worst enemy? Read the rest of this entry »

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