South Korea

South Korea’s president credits Trump for talks with North Korea

South Korea’s president said Wednesday that President Trump “deserves big credit” for renewed talks between South and North Korea, and that Mr. Trump has offered to negotiate personally with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “It could be a resulting work of the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure,” President Moon Jae-in told reporters. “I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks.” Mr. Trump told Mr. Moon in a phone call that he is open to talking with North Korea, the South’s presidential office said. Mr. Trump also said there would be no military action while talks are ongoing, the statement said. The White House said that Mr. Moon thanked the president “for his influential leadership in making the talks possible.” The North-South talks, held on Tuesday, were the first in two years, and North Korea announced that it would send a delegation to the Olympics in Pyeongchang next month. Mr. Trump said Vice President Mike Pence will lead the U.S. delegation to the games. In their phone call, the White House said the two leaders “underscored the importance of continuing the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea.” “President Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances,” the White House said. Mr. Moon said he wanted to show Mr. Trump his gratitude. Mr. Trump tweeted last week that he believes his pressure on Pyongyang has produced results. “Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” the president tweeted, adding that “talks are a good thing!” Mr. Trump has raised the pressure on North Korea for the past year, pressing China to isolate Pyongyang economically and diplomatically. He also has imposed new U.S. sanctions and gained new U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, an ally of the administration, said on Twitter that the North-South talks “are a waste of oxygen.” “We’ll have scenes of the two Koreas parading on TV at the Olympic opening ceremony, but as far as the North Korea nuclear threat is concerned, it won’t change a thing,” Mr. Bolton said.

North Korean Soldier Shot by Own Troops as He Defects to the South

North Korean troops fired on a fellow soldier who was defecting to South Korea on Monday across the heavily armed border dividing the countries, South Korean officials said, amid heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons program. The soldier was shot but succeeded in reaching the South, its military said in a statement. The North Korean soldier defected through Panmunjom, a village that straddles the border between the two Koreas. Alerted by gunshots, South Korean guards found the North Korean soldier about 55 yards south of the border line that bisects Panmunjom. He was taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds to an elbow and shoulder, South Korean officials said. His defection took place while a joint naval exercise involving three American aircraft carriers was being conducted in waters off South Korea’s east coast. It was the first time in a decade that the United States Navy had mobilized three carrier groups in the same drill in the western Pacific, and it represented the show of force that President Trump has said Americans “hope to God we never have to use” against North Korea. North Korea has remained defiant, calling Mr. Trump a “dotard” again on Saturday and insisting that it will never give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The defector drove a vehicle toward the border line inside Panmunjom, and then left the vehicle, running south while he was fired upon by other North Korean soldiers, according to the American-led United Nations Command, which oversees the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War. He took cover near a building on the southern side of the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom before South Korean and American troops came to his aid and took him to a hospital, the command said in a statement. The Joint Security Area, which is 35 miles north of Seoul, the capital, was established after North Korea and its Communist ally China signed the armistice with the United Nations Command, which fought on South Korea’s behalf. The area is the only place along the border where troops from North and South Korea face off, separated from each other by only a few feet. A North Korean soldier last defected at the heavily guarded location in 2007. More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since a widespread famine hit the impoverished North in the late 1990s. Nearly all of them have traveled through China. But a few North Korean soldiers and civilians have defected by crossing the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone, which is guarded by minefields, sentry posts and tall fences topped with barbed wire, some electrified. In 2012, a North Korean soldier scaled three barbed-wire fences to defect to the South. That same year, another North Korean soldier fled across the border after killing his platoon and squadron leaders. In 2015, after walking across the border, a North Korean soldier told South Korean investigators that he was fleeing widespread beatings and other abuse within his military barracks. The demilitarized zone is one of the world’s most heavily armed borders. Guards on both sides stay alert against possible intruders or defectors.

United States to Sell More Military Equipment to Japan and South Korea

President Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that he is allowing Japan and South Korea to buy “a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.” “I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Trump wrote on Twitter. The tweet comes after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test over the weekend. Trump did not specify what kind of military equipment the U.S. will sell to Japan and South Korea. A White House readout of a call between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday said Trump provided his “conceptual approval for the purchase of many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment” from the U.S. by South Korea. It also said Trump gave his “in-principle” approval to South Korea’s initiative to lift restrictions on their missile payload capabilities. According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, the decision came after weeks of discussions, and is a means to deter North Korean provocations. South Korea is among the “top customers” for Foreign Military Sales from the U.S. and is an attractive market because of its rising defense spending, according to a recent study by the Congressional Research Service. Between 2008 and 2016, South Korea spent 75 percent of its total foreign defense purchases on U.S. companies, but also buys from European and Israeli defense companies. During that time, South Korea FMS contracts with the U.S. totaled $15.7 billion, and commercial buys totaled $6.9 billion, for a total of $22.5 billion. South Korea is to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from the U.S. for a total of $7.83 billion, with the first delivery scheduled for 2018. South Korea is also to purchase four RQ-4 “Global Hawk” drones at a price of $657 million. U.S. military sales to Japan dwarfs South Korea by comparison. Japan spends $11 billion per year on Foreign Military Sales, with more than 90 percent of their purchases from U.S. companies, according to another study by CRS. Recent major purchases include the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing KC-46 Tankers, Northrup Grumman E2D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, General Dynamics Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles, and Boeing/Bell MV-22 Ospreys.

South Korea’s liberal new president could strain US’ relationship with Seoul

Nearly a decade of conservative governance in South Korea is ending as voters there selected Moon Jae-in as their next president. “I will become everyone’s president,” said Moon in his victory speech. “I will become a president who unifies people and serves even those people who did not support me.” Moon’s opponents criticized him as too soft toward North Korea. As the Trump administration tries to isolate North Korea diplomatically, Moon, a human rights lawyer and liberal, is pushing to open a dialogue with North Korea. “A President Moon wants to have dialogue with North Korea,” said Scott Snyder, the director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “He may want to add dialogue as a component along with the U.S. pressure strategy on North Korea, but there could be some tensions that need to be worked out.” The Trump administration cited Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, in congratulating Moon and that: “We look forward to working with President-elect Moon to continue to strengthen the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea and to deepen the enduring friendship and partnership between our two countries,” according to the statement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has described a “pressure campaign” against North Korea involving stronger international enforcement of economic sanctions. He has also threatened to push additional sanctions. “Pressure and engagement are not mutually exclusive,” said James Person, the director of the Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Wilson Center. “You can have some form of pressure to get the North Koreans to acquiesce while maintaining dialogue. And I think the critical thing is for South Korea and the U.S. to sit down and try to find a happy medium and jointly develop a policy that is going to be effective perhaps for the first time with North Korea.” Moon has also opposed a missile defense system the United States installed in South Korea. Known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, the U.S. said the system is already operational. Analysts said, as a result, it would be more difficult to remove Thaad from South Korea. China also opposes Thaad. The U.S. said it is a defensive system. In March, South Korea impeached, removed and arrested its previously elected president, Park Geun-hye. With a new elected leader, and as the U.S. and region develop their policy to confront North Korea, South Korea can become more influential. “In many cases, South Korea has really taken a backseat in the formulation of Korea policy,” said Person. “It’s important for South Korea to get back into that driver’s seat, or at least be a co-pilot in the formulation of an effective North Korea policy.” Because Moon replaces an ousted president, he will be sworn in Wednesday.

Definitely something to keep an eye on..

South Korean official says country has plan to assassinate Kim Jong Un

A top South Korean defense official admitted this week that Seoul has a plan in place to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. The Asia Times reported that Defense Minister Han Min-koo made the remarks Wednesday during a parliamentary meeting in the country’s capital. He was asked about rumors circulating about such a plan. “If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missiles, in order to suppress its aims, the concept is to destroy key figures and areas that include the North Korean leadership,” Han said. He said Seoul is “considering launching a Special Forces unit to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.” Meantime, North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho railed against the United States in his United Nations General Assembly address, warning the U.S. of “tremendous consequences” for its aggression and justifying Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear tests to defend North Korea from American hostility. He said North Korea “had no other choice but to go nuclear inevitably after it has done everything possible to defend the national security from the constant nuclear threats from the United States which had continued over the century from the 1950s. Our decision to strengthen nuclear armament is a righteous self-defensive measure.” U.S. military experts raised concerns that Pyongyang is moving closer toward obtaining the ability to put nuclear warheads on a variety of its ballistic missiles, a growing arsenal that one day may include a reliable weapon that could reach the U.S. mainland. North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date on Sept. 9, claiming it as a successful nuclear warhead detonation that proved its ability to mass produce “standardized” nuclear weapons that could be used on missiles. Pyongyang, in response to South Korea’s reported plan, issued a statement a day later, calling the country “puppet warmongers” and saying that its “military provocations have pushed the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the uncontrollable and irreversible phase of the outbreak of nuclear war.”

Oh, blah blah blah…  More typical DPRK hollow threats which the liberal Associated Press (AP) thinks is newsworthy.  And, of course South Korea has a plan to get rid of Kim Jong-un.  The only thing newsworthy about that, is that it’s being publicly admitted..which begs the question…why?  Why would they admit such a thing openly like that?

N. Korea threatens to fire at truce village holding US, S. Korea troops

North Korea on Saturday threatened to aim fire at the lighting equipment used by “provocative” American and South Korean troops at a truce village inside the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas. The North’s Korean People’s Army accused U.S. and South Korean soldiers of “deliberate provocations” by aiming their lights at North Korean guard posts at Panmunjom since Friday evening. The KPA said in a statement that the soldiers’ actions have seriously threatened the safety of North Korean troops and disrupted their normal monitoring activities. It said the activities have further raised the anger of North Korean soldiers at a time when the Korean Peninsula has reached the “brink of war” due to last Monday’s start of annual joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea that Pyongyang says are an invasion rehearsal. “Floodlight directed at the KPA side at random is taken as an intolerable means of provocation and it will be the target of merciless pinpoint shots,” the KPA’s chief security officers at Panmunjom said in the statement, carried by the North’s state media. “The true aim sought by the provocateurs through their recent act is to seriously get on the nerves of the KPA soldiers, lead them to take due countermeasures and label them as provocation,” it said. South Korea’s Defense Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The statement by North Korea’s military came hours after the United Nations Security Council issued a statement strongly condemning four North Korean ballistic missile launches in July and August. On Tuesday, the American-led U.N. Command in South Korea accused North Korea of planting land mines near the truce village. Panmunjom, jointly overseen by North Korea and the U.N. Command, is where an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War was signed and is now a popular tourist spot for visitors from both sides. Under the Korean War armistice, the two sides are barred from carrying out any hostile acts within or across the 2.5-mile-wide DMZ. Still, they have accused each other of deploying machine guns and other heavy weapons and combat troops inside the zone. More than a million mines are also believed to be buried inside the DMZ. In August 2015, land mine blasts that Seoul blamed on Pyongyang maimed two South Korean soldiers and caused tensions between the two Koreas to flare.

More workers flee North Korea-run restaurant, South Korea says

An unspecified number of North Koreans working at a Pyongyang-run restaurant overseas have escaped their workplace and will come to South Korea, South Korean officials said Tuesday. The announcement by Seoul’s Unification Ministry came after South Korean media reported that two or three female employees at a North Korean-run restaurant in China fled and went to an unidentified Southeast Asian country earlier this month. It’s the second known group escape by North Korean restaurant workers dispatched abroad in recent weeks. In April, a group of 13 North Koreans who had worked at a North Korean-run restaurant in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo defected to South Korea. The latest escapes will likely enrage Pyongyang, which typically accuses Seoul of trying to abduct or entice North Korean citizens to defect. South Korea has denied the accusation. After the 13 workers — a male manager and 12 waitresses — arrived in Seoul in April, Pyongyang claimed they were kidnapped by South Korean spies and repeatedly demanded their return. South Korea said the workers chose to resettle in the South on their own. It was the largest group defection by North Koreans to the South since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power in 2011. A brief Unification Ministry statement Tuesday confirmed that some other North Korean restaurant workers abroad fled, but didn’t elaborate. Officials at the unification and foreign ministries refused to provide further details about the North Koreans and their escapes, citing worries about their safety and potential diplomatic problems with concerned countries. It was unclear when they would arrive in Seoul.

More defections from the North..  Definitely something to keep an eye on..