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Cablegate: Press Bulletin - December 31, 2008

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL MARR ECON KS US
SUBJECT: PRESS BULLETIN - December 31, 2008

Opinions/Editorials

1. The Israel-Palestine Issue Will Be Resolved Only When the U.S. Is
Fair
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 31, 2008, Page 27)

Features

2. N. Korea to Prepare for Post-Kim Jong-il Era Next Year
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 31, 2008, Front Page) 2
3. ROK Looking at Ways to Support U.S. in Afghanistan
(Chosun Ilbo, December 31, 2008, Front Page)


Top Headlines

Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo,
Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, All TVs
Rival Parties Fail to Reach Compromise on Contentious Bills;
National Assembly Speaker Exercises His Right to Restore Order in
the Legislature to Disperse Opposition Parties
Occupying Main Assembly Chamber

Dong-a Ilbo
National Assembly Headed for Clash

Hankyoreh Shinmun
Ruling Party Poised to "Railroad Contentious Bills"


Domestic Developments

1. According to a diplomatic source, outgoing Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice will visit Seoul around Jan. 8 as part of her
farewell trip to the region. (Chosun, Dong-a) Secretary of
State-designate Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is said to be
considering visiting the ROK, Japan and China in early April.
(Dong-a)

2. According to an ROKG source, the ROKG will send a fact-finding
team to Afghanistan next month to examine the Afghan situation, in
preparation for Washington's possible request for Seoul to expand
its contribution to the war-torn country. (Chosun)


International News

1. According to a Dec. 26 report by the Institute for National
Security Strategy, a subsidiary of the (ROK) National Intelligence
Service, North Korea is expected to hold general elections for its
legislature in July and August to replace senior politicians with
up-and-coming young politicians, in preparation for an era without
its Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il. (Dong-a)
Media Analysis

Israeli Assault on Gaza
The ROK media continued to give prominent attention to the massive
Israeli air strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The ROK media
reported that a ground war seems imminent as thousands of Israeli
ground troops have massed along the border with Gaza. Commentators
cited Israel's "shameful" withdrawal two years ago from the fight
against Hezbollah guerillas in southern Lebanon and predicted that
Israel will not easily march into the Gaza region. Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert was widely quoted as saying: "The air strikes
so far are the first of several." A Hamas spokesman was also cited
as urging Palestinian groups to respond using "all available means"
against Israel, including "martyrdom operations," referring to
suicide bombings. Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun noted Dec. 29
press remarks by White House National Security Council Spokesman
Gordon Johndroe: "The U.S. understands that Israel must defend
itself. In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing
rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable
ceasefire." Hankyoreh headlined its story: "U.S. Sides with Israel
Only"

Hanyang University Prof. Lee Hee-soo opined in conservative Dong-a
Ilbo: "Although the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling
for Israel to withdraw from its occupied territories, and the
International Court of Justice issued a final ruling that Israel
should remove the Separation Barrier (erected to prevent the entry
of Palestinians into Israel), Israel refuses to budge an inch,
citing national security. Furthermore, as long as Hamas continues
to resist recognizing the existence of Israel, this parallel may
continue for another six decades. The biggest dilemma in the Middle
East conflict lies in the fact that there is no impartial mediator.
The U.S., the world's police, has no alternative but to side with
Israel unconditionally, and it is currently difficult to find any
influential mediator who can persuade Hamas. This Middle East issue
is a task that requires the fair role of the U.S. and hard work and
cooperation among the entire human race."

Afghanistan
Conservative Chosun Ilbo gave front-page play to a report saying
that the ROKG will send a fact-finding team to Afghanistan next
month to study the Afghan situation, in preparation for Washington's
possible request for Seoul to expand its contribution to the
war-torn country. An ROKG source was quoted as saying: "A senior
Foreign Ministry official and a working-level team will arrive in
Afghanistan in mid-January. They will visit Bagram, where an ROK
reconstruction team is currently deployed." Another ROKG official
was also quoted as stating: "We've concluded that it's necessary to
conduct a fact finding mission to see how we can contribute there in
consideration of our relations with the new U.S. administration."


Opinions/Editorials

The Israel-Palestine Issue Will Be Resolved Only When the U.S. Is
Fair
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 31, 2008, Page 27)

By Lee Hee-soo, Hanyang University Professor and President of the
Korean Association of Middle East Studies
The Middle East has seen war for the last 60 years. Now, Israel and
Hamas Islamists once again mount attacks against each other.

Hamas occupied the Gaza Strip after Israel withdrew from the region
in. Hamas became the leading party and formed a de facto autonomous
government in the Gaza Strip with the ardent support of residents in
the general election in February 2006. Hamas has pursued armed
conflict with Israel, unlike Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas of
Al-Fatah party who resorted to negotiation with Israel for resolving
the conflict.

Israel, for its part, set up the separation barrier and began to
pursue its policy to isolate the Gaza Strip in June, 2007. It
intended to incite an uprising by keeping water, electricity and
daily necessities under strict control, and ultimately leaving them
withering to death. The two parties barely agreed on the truce this
June, faced with the immediate resistance from Hamas and brutal
punishment by Israel.

Despite these efforts, the region has been plagued with isolation
and blockade. Hamas Islamists could no longer lead a life with
commodities delivered through an underground tunnel, and residential
complaints and sufferings went to extremes. Given that, the last
attack by Hamas was just an expected step.

Israel must have made a political calculation that it should not
miss this opportunity. Above all, it would no longer be able to
ignore the powerful enemy, which is posing a threat to Israeli
security right under their nose. Israeli leaders must also have
ruminated on the shameful withdrawal from Lebanon two years ago.
Observers point out, sadly, that Israel's move is designed for its
ruling party to win votes in the February 10 general elections.
Israel may also seek to use a power vacuum caused by the termination
of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's mandate on January
10 and the upcoming Obama inauguration in the U.S. How long must
this tedious and abominable war be used as a political tool by
extremists at the expense of innocent lives?

Although the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for
Israel's withdrawal from its occupied territories, and the
International Court of Justice issued a final ruling that Israel
should tear down its separation barrier, Israel is not budging an
inch, citing national security. And as long as Hamas continues to
resist recognizing the existence of Israel, this parallel may run
for another six decades.

The biggest dilemma in the Middle East conflict is the fact that
there is no impartial mediator. The global cop U.S. has no
alternative but to side with Israel unconditionally. It is currently
difficult to find any influential mediator who can persuade Hamas to
stop. This Middle East issue is a task that requires the fair
involvement of the U.S. and hard work and cooperation among the
entire human race.


Features

N. Korea to Prepare for Post-Kim Jong-il Era Next Year
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 31, 2008, Front Page)

By Reporter Shin Seok-ho

North Korea is expected to hold general legislative elections in
July and August to replace senior politicians with up-and-coming
ones, preparing for an era without supreme leader, Kim Jong-il.
The Institute for National Security Strategy, a subsidiary of the
National Intelligence Service, made this forecast yesterday.
"Certain elderly politicians will be replaced and middle-aged ones
will emerge (via these elections)," the report said. "Increasingly,
more people who have given economic benefits to the nation will be
chosen as lawmakers."
The report also predicted that the North's "military-first" ideology
will gradually lose support as it develops another ideology to
prepare itself for a post-Kim era.
According to the think tank, pragmatism and the "juche" ideology, or
one stressing independence, will gain more support.

* This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.


ROK Looking at Ways to Support U.S. in Afghanistan
(Chosun Ilbo, December 31, 2008, Front Page)

By Reporter Lim Min-hyeok

The government will dispatch a senior official to Afghanistan in
January on a fact-finding mission to assess what the ROK can do to
help the U.S. war effort there. The ROKG expects the Barack Obama
Administration, which will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, to ask Seoul
for a renewed commitment in the war-torn country.

A ROKG source said a senior Foreign Ministry official and a
working-level team will arrive in Afghanistan in mid-January. They
will visit Bagram, where what is billed as an ROK "reconstruction"
team is currently deployed, he added.

Another Government official said, "We've concluded that it's
necessary to conduct on-site fact finding to see how we can
contribute there in consideration of our relations with the new U.S.
Administration."

* This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.


Stephens
6

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