Cablegate: Rok Reactions to Dprk Missile Launches-Day Two


DE RUEHUL #2238/01 1870941
O 060941Z JUL 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 002238




E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2015


Classified By: A/DCM Joseph Y. Yun. Reasons 1.4 (b), (d).

Rokg reaction

1. (C) xxxxx that despite its
decision to suspend humanitarian aid to the DPRK, it would
ship another 24,700 metric tons of fertilizer 6-7 July. This
final shipment will complete the delivery to the North of the
pledge of 350,000 metric tons South Korea made earlier this
year. MOU officials have explained that the ROKG is
proceeding with this shipment because it is a small, final
portion of a pledged commitment.

2. (U) Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok on July 6 told the
National Assembly Unification, Foreign Affairs, and Trade
Committee that Seoul would hold inter-Korean ministerial
talks set for July 11-14 in Busan as scheduled, adding that
it was not consistent to urge the North to return to talks
over its nuclear weapons programs but refuse to talk with the
North itself. Lee said it was still important to limit
Seoul's measures against the North to avoid further
escalation on the Peninsula.

3. (C) The A/DCM xxxxx to verify the items above. In a
frank exchange, A/DCM expressed disappointment that things
appeared to be "business-as-usual," with the shipment of
fertilizer this week and the holding of inter-Korean
ministerials next week. This was sending the wrong signals
to Pyongyang for its inexcusable behavior, A/DCM said.
xxxxx replied that a lot of internal
discussions had taken place, but that political-levels
concluded that breaking off the dialogue was not wise because
restarting it would be too costly and difficult. Moreover,
the dialogue must be used to send a stern message to North
Korea. Next week the ROK delegation would definitely make
the point that Pyongyang's demand for an additional 100,000
tons of fertilizer and 500,000 tons of rice was threatened.
Also, in response to the missile launches, xxxxx, Seoul
had decided to cancel North-South military liaison officers'
talks that were planned for July 7, which essentially meant
that General Officers' talks would not be held as hoped. In
addition, Seoul was holding back on approving new investment
permits for the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). A/DCM
encouraged xxxxx develop further measures and to publicize
them (septel).

4. (U) Senior Secretary for National Security Suh Choo-suk
said on the radio on July 6 that the ROKG has initially
concluded that the DPRK's failed missile launch was due to a
technical failure. He also defended the ROKG's reaction to
the missile launches as quick and appropriate.

5. (U) ROK Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-woong on July 6 told
the National Assembly Defense Committee that the North might
launch more missiles, citing an assessment of the equipment
and groups going to and from the launch sites during DPRK
preparations over the past two months. He also rejected the
argument of an opposition lawmaker that there was a delay in
the ROKG reaction to the launches. Separately, an unnamed
senior official at the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff publicly
denied media reports that the DPRK was preparing to launch a
second Taepodong II missile.
Political reaction

6. (C) During a July 6 opposition Grand National Party (GNP)
leaders' meeting, the GNP criticized the ROKG for its "idle"
approach to the DPRK missile launches and called for the
resignation of all the security-related ministers. The GNP
proposed a national investigation on the ROKG's reaction,
proposed an "emergency National Assembly committee," and
urged the ROKG to review its inter-Korean policies, including
the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the Geumgang Tourism Project,
and humanitarian assistance. xxxxx told
xxxxx that all cash support to the DPRK should be stopped
and that sending fertilizer north as missiles were being
fired was "nonsensical." xxxxx predicted that the missile
test could have a deciding effect on the July 11 GNP party
chair selection, to replace xxxxx who stepped down
last month. xxxxx said the lawmaker who could make people
feel the most secure would be selected and hinted that Kang
Jae-sup, with his more conservative prosecutor's background,
might be the more attractive choice in light of the current

7. (C) The spokesman for smaller opposition Democratic Party
(DP)xxxxx stated that the ROKG should recognize the
importance of closely coordinating with Washington and Tokyo
and improve its crisis management system that the DP said
failed to operate effectively. One Democratic Party staffer
noted to poloff that the missile tests should be viewed as "a
test" and nothing more.

8. (U) The progressive Democratic Labor Party (DLP)
spokesman said xxxxx that the ROKG should maintain
dialogue with the DPRK and prevent further DPRK provocations.
At the same time, the ROKG should encourage Washington to
negotiate directly with Pyongyang.

9. (C) Several Uri Party staffers told poloff that further
assistance would be difficult due to the lack of popular
support, but that aid already agreed upon should continue.
One staffer noted that the tests put the Uri Party in a
"difficult position" because they showed the ineffectiveness
of the current engagement policy. The Uri Party echoed much
of the GNP's frustration with the related ministers, but
stopped short of calling for them to step down. A common
theme also heard was that the ROK reaction to the tests was
"by the manual" developed by the Uri Party and not late at
Press coverage

10. (U) ROK media reports on July 6 highlighted UNSC
discussions, criticisms that Seoul was caught flat-footed,
and speculations about DPRK motivations and prospects for
inter-Korean relations. The Dong-A Ilbo, a moderate daily,
criticized the ROKG government for responding too slowly,
delivering a weaker announcement than Washington or Tokyo,
and for poorly coordinating with the USG, which, the paper
said, created the information lag.

11. (U) As to why the North launched the missiles, opinions
ranged from (1) to get attention and negotiation leverage;
(2) to use for internal purpose to demonstrate DPRK strength;
and/or (3) for technical reasons to demonstrate DPRK missile
achievement. The progressive Hankyoreh opined that the
timing of the launch, on July 4, was special because it was
the 34th anniversary of the North-South Joint Statement from
1972, and it was the U.S. Independence Day, suggesting that
the DPRK was exhibiting brinkmanship and wanted to generate
more attention.

12. (U) Press stories quoted some analysts who opined that
North Korea might stand to gain from the launches. Kim
Tae-hyo, a political scientist at Sungkyunkwan University,
was quoted as saying that Kim Jong-il probably gambled that
Beijing and Seoul would not change their stances and that
this gamble was likely to pay off. Paik Hak-soon, a senior
researcher at Sejong Institute, suggested that the DPRK
launch was probably an effort to strengthen its position in
the Six Party Talks because it was unsatisfied with proposed
compensation for scrapping its nuclear programs. Peter Beck,
Director of the International Crisis Group's Seoul office
said that at most Seoul would probably only delay aid
shipments, versus a real change in its current policies.
Dprk watchers caution against sanctions at symposium
--------------------------------------------- -------

13. (SBU) The prevailing sentiment among North Korea experts
gathered at a July 6 symposium in Seoul on North Korean
Development and International Cooperation was for all parties
to exercise restraint in responding to the North Korean
missile launches.

14. (SBU) Amb. Sun Jun-young, Professor at Kyungnam
University and Former ROK Ambassador to the UN, said that the
missile launches were the DPRK's "last card" and showed not
its strength, but its weakness.xxxxx
that the DPRK felt so pressured by U.S. banking sanctions
that it felt compelled to show its might in some manner. xxxxx
believed that it would be a mistake to punish DPRK with
sanctions and that it would be a mistake for the ROKG to
suspend ministerial discussions scheduled for July 11. The
best decision, he said, would be to perhaps delay the
meetings, but to keep lines of communication open.

15. (SBU) xxxxx that the
Bush Administration's "neglect and containment policy" caused
North Korea to break its moratorium on missile testing. xxxxx
expressed concern that the launches would result in
sanctions. According xxxxx, every time sanctions were
applied to North Korea, the nuclear and missile situation
became aggravated. He said that the missile launches were a
signal from North Korea to the United States that it wanted
direct negotiations. Kyungnam University Prof. Lim Eul-chul
also said that the missile launches appeared to be a way of
bringing the United States back to the negotiating table. It
was North Korea's way of getting American attention, he

16. (SBU)xxxxx
that it would not be helpful to cut off assistance and
contacts, particularly in a time of crisis. It would be
important to keep channels of communication open in order to
facilitate an exchange of positions.

17. (SBU) Visiting xxxxx that
the best reaction to the launches would be to continue with
business as usual. He said that to overreact would be to
play into North Korea's expectations and fulfill its goal of
seeking attention. By minimizing public reaction and
continuing to seek opportunities for exchange and assistance,
there would be greater possibility of making a long-term,
positive impact. Also, imposing sanctions would only harm
ordinary North Koreans, who had nothing to do with the
missile launches. xxxxx advised at most a delay in
engagement activity with the DPRK.

18. (SBU) xxxxx, likened the missile crisis to a cold winter
before a warm spring. He criticized the USG for taking a
harsh line toward North Korea and precipitating the current
situation. But, he said, the situation could be salvaged if
the USG provided a security guarantee and food to North
Korea. This, he said, would initiate the process of
separating the regime from its leaders.xxxxx said
that imposing sanctions would be as effective as a dog
barking outside a city's walls. It would be much better to
use humanitarian aid like a Trojan Horse to start change from
Dprk tourism and kic unaffected by missile launches
--------------------------------------------- ------

19. (SBU) Hyundai Asan President Yoon Man-joon said during
his keynote address at xxxxx that the
launches have had no impact on Hyundai Asan's operations in
North Korea. He said that of the 315 persons scheduled to
tour North Korea's Mt. Geumgang xxxxx, there was only one
cancellation. Noting that far more people usually canceled
at the last minute because of personal reasons, Yoon said
that people seemed determined to continue with their plans.
Yoon added that there has been no abnormal investor activity
with regard to the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and
predicted that investors who were planning to invest in KIC
would probably delay their investments for a short time, but
then push ahead with their original plans. xxxxx
"political, not military, missiles" and predicted that travel
and investment in the DPRK would remain stable.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


OECD: COVID-19 Crisis Puts Migration And Progress On Integration At Risk, Says

Watch the live webcast of the press conference Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic ... More>>

Pacific Media Watch: How Pacific Environmental Defenders Are Coping With The Covid Pandemic

SPECIAL REPORT: By Sri Krishnamurthi of Pacific Media Watch Pacific Climate Warriors - creative action to trigger better responses to climate crisis. Image: ... More>>

Reporters Without Borders: Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Marred By Barriers To Open Justice

After monitoring four weeks of evidence in the US extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates concern regarding the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism, and calls ... More>>

OHCHR: Stranded Migrants Need Safe And Dignified Return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to ... More>>