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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; September 10, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SEOUL 001450

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; September 10, 2009

TOP HEADLINES
-------------


Chosun Ilbo
Liberty Forward Party Lawmaker Assails Unification Ministry for
Alleged Attempt to Cover up Another "Water Attack"
by N. Korea in August

JoongAng Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun,
Segye Ilbo, All TVs
Unification Minister Hyun:
"North Korea's Water Discharge Intentional"

Dong-a Ilbo
Technology Leakage; Russia Found to Have Developed
Vehicle Modeled on GM-Daewoo Lacetti

Hankyoreh Shinmun
Government Agencies Ignore Advice to Correct
Human Rights Violations


DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
---------------------

ROK Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said at the National
Assembly's Standing Committee on Unification yesterday that North
Korea appears to have acted intentionally when it released dam water
on Sunday to cause a flash flood on the Imjin River near the border.
(All, All TVs)

A key ROKG official said yesterday that there is an understanding
among countries involved in the Six-Party Talks, such as the U.S.
and the ROK, that a U.S.-North Korea bilateral dialogue may take
place even before the Six-Party Talks restart, if the talks
facilitate a resumption of the Six-Party process. This indicates a
departure from the previous position of the U.S. that there will be
no bilateral talks with the North unless it returns to the Six-Party
Talks. (Dong-a, Chosun, Hankook, Hankyoreh, MBC, OhmyNews)


INTERNATIONAL NEWS
------------------

The U.S. Department of State moved on September 8 to freeze the
assets of two North Korean entities believed to be involved in
atomic and missile programs - the General Bureau of Atomic Energy
and Korea Tangun Trading Corp. (JoongAng, Dong-a, Hankook, Seoul,
Segye)

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in its
preview of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review that the U.S. is
bracing for a possible nuclear war with North Korea, as well as the
regime's possible sudden collapse. (Dong-a, Hankyoreh, Seoul, Segye,
KBS)


MEDIA ANALYSIS
--------------

Korea - North/South tensions over river flooding
All newspapers gave prominent attention to ROK Unification Minister
Hyun In-taek's September 9 statement. He said at the National
Assembly's Standing Committee on Unification that North Korea
appears to have acted intentionally when it released dam water on
Sunday to cause a flash flood on the Imjin River near the border.
Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo quoted President Lee Myung-bak as
saying on September 9, "The North Koreans seem to have a different
perception of life." The daily also observed in its inside-page
story that the North Korean military may have acted deliberately in
order to express discontent about Pyongyang's conciliatory gestures
toward the ROK.

SEOUL 00001450 002 OF 005

Conservative Chosun Ilbo reported in its top story that Rep. Park
Sun-young of the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party assailed the
Unification Ministry yesterday for an alleged attempt to cover up
what she called another "water attack" by North Korea that occurred
on August 27.

Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized: "The hard-line stance
(toward the North following the Imjin River incident) is not helpful
to either the North or the South. In this sense, the ROKG is right
to consider proposing inter-Korean dialogue regarding the
incident."

North Korean Nuclear Issue

Most major newspapers reported that the U.S. Department of State
moved on September 8 to freeze the assets of two North Korean
entities believed to be involved in atomic and missile programs -
the General Bureau of Atomic Energy and Korea Tangun Trading Corp.


All newspapers quoted a key ROKG official as saying yesterday that
there is an understanding among all Six-Party countries except North
Korea that a U.S.-North Korea bilateral dialogue may happen even
before the Six-Party Talks restarts, if the talks facilitate a
resumption of the Six-Party process. This indicates a departure from
the previous position of the U.S. that there will be no bilateral
talks with the North unless it returns to the Six-Party Talks.
Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun and conservative Chosun Ilbo quoted
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Bosworth as
saying before leaving Tokyo on September 8 that 1) it has not been
decided yet how (the U.S.) will respond to North Korea's invitation,
and 2) a decision regarding that response could come in the next few
weeks. The newspaper also quoted an ROKG official as saying, "Not
only the U.S. but also other nations can have bilateral talks with
the North," which indicates that bilateral talks between North Korea
and the U.S. and between North Korea and China may happen in order
to facilitate the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

Most major newspapers reported that the Center for Strategic and
International Studies said in its preview of the 2010 Quadrennial
Defense Review that the U.S. is bracing for a possible nuclear war
with North Korea, as well as the regime's possible sudden collapse.


Conservative Chosun Ilbo and Segye Ilbo and moderate Seoul Shinmun
quoted Pakistan's nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan as saying in an August
31 Pakistan local television interview that Pakistan purchased 200
missiles from North Korea in 1999. Khan denied, however, that he
transferred nuclear technology to North Korea in return for securing
North Korea's missile technology. Khan added that Pakistan took six
years to weaponize highly enriched uranium, which implies that North
Korea will also take at least several years to develop a highly
enriched uranium bomb.

Japan

Hankyoreh Shinmun reported that the Democratic Party of Japan, the
Social Democratic Party, and the People's New Party struck a
coalition deal on September 9 and agreed to review aspects of the
U.S. military presence in the country.

Afghanistan

Conservative Segye Ilbo replayed the U.K.'s Times story that
Afghanistan President Karzai's alleged election fraud could endanger
security in Afghanistan, thereby dealing a blow to the timetable for
Western countries to withdraw their troops from the nation.

Iran

Moderate Hankook Ilbo reported that the Iranian government submitted
a proposal regarding the resumption of nuclear talks to
representatives of the six nations involved in the talks, and the

SEOUL 00001450 003 OF 005


details of the proposal, although not disclosed, will determine
whether the nuclear talks will resume or not.


OPINIONS/EDITORIALS
--------------------

SEOUL MUST PREPARE FOR REGIME COLLAPSE IN N. KOREA
(Chosun Ilbo, September 10, 2009, page 35)

The U.S. Defense Department is said to be seriously considering the
inclusion of a regime collapse scenario for North Korea in the
Quadrennial Defense Report (QDR) to be delivered to Congress early
next year. The QDR preparation team, led by Defense Under Secretary
Michele Flournoy, is studying how the U.S. should deal with 11
different scenarios, including loss of control by the Pakistani
government over its nuclear weapons arsenal and a military
confrontation between Taiwan and China. The fact that the
possibility of regime collapse in North Korea is being studied under
the QDR, a blueprint for defense policy, signals that the prospect
of sudden changes in the North has become part of the U.S.
government's official agenda.

This year, the U.S. government has been putting the same amount of
focus on how to deal with sudden changes in North Korea as it does
on the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs. During her
first trip to the ROK in February, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton expressed concern about the succession to North Korean
leader Kim Jong-il. "If there is a succession, even if it's a
peaceful succession, that creates more uncertainty, and it may also
encourage behaviors that are even more provocative," she said.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg proposed talks with
Chinese officials to discuss how to deal with the succession in
North Korea. Beijing is said to have rejected Washington's offer
due to fears of agitating Pyongyang.

But China is not neglecting the issue. Quite the opposite: it has
been steadily increasing troops along the border. It could use them
either to intervene directly if North Korea undergoes a sudden
change or to take the issue to the UN and block ROK efforts to unify
with the North. Japan has also quietly been preparing for some time
to deal with a crisis in North Korea.

The U.S., China, Japan and other powers now have no choice but to
treat an emergency situation in North Korea as a major
consideration. Kim, who disappeared from public eye for almost two
months last year due to a stroke, is now attending official events
again, but nobody can say with certainty how long the 67-year-old
leader will wield absolute power.

The ROK would face a national emergency if something happened to
Kim, which could cause North Korea to spiral into chaos and cause
its nuclear weapons and missiles to fall into the hands of
opportunists. The U.S., which believes its national security
depends on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, will be
on high alert. Unexpected changes in North Korea are like buried
landmines (that could disrupt) the political situation in Northeast
Asia and could affect the lives of 75 million Koreans on both sides
of the border.

But we are unprepared. A draft operational plan prepared by the ROK
and the U.S. to handle a sudden change in North Korea was downgraded
by the Roh Moo-hyun Administration, which was afraid of incensing
North Korea. But whether we like it or not, regional superpowers
have already begun preparing for sudden changes in North Korea. If
the North Korean regime collapses, we would not be able to use that
opportunity for our benefit and would end up entrusting our fate
once again to the hands of other countries.

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


S. KOREAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD PREVENT REPEAT OF IMJIN TRAGEDY

SEOUL 00001450 004 OF 005


(Hankyoreh Shinmun, September 10, 2009, page 35)

Various debates taking place since the "Imjin Disaster" are failing
to move in a proper direction and are instead going astray. Rather
than focusing on investigating the cause of the incident and
discussing substantive measures to prevent a repeat, debates are
moving towards ideological attacks and apportioning blame.

First, these debates are having an ill effect on the thawing
atmosphere of inter-Korean relations. Of course, North Korea
provided the primary cause. Even though six South Korean citizens
ultimately lost their lives, North Korea has not yet expressed an
apology or regret. Looking beyond whether North Korea violated
international agreements or existing practice, its failure to make a
reference to the human losses is worth criticizing from a
humanitarian perspective.

North Korea's expressed reason for releasing water from their dam
without notice also lacks persuasiveness. North Korea said it
immediately released the water when the water level at its dam rose,
but there has not been a lot of rain recently in North Korea. An
additional, convincing explanation is required.

Hardliners in the ROK are seizing on this opportunity to spout
confrontational claims. Some media are issuing believe-it-or-not
reports claiming that the water release from Hwanggang Dam was
ordered by North Korean leaders or military leadership. Some
figures are agitating anti-North Korea opinion by reviving the
anti-communist logic of the military governments of the past,
claiming the ROK needs to build a second Peace Dam to stop a North
Korean water attack.

The hard-line stance (toward the North following the Imjin River
incident) is not helpful to either the North or the South. As
inter-Korean relations worsen, our political and economic losses
grow. If flood prevention measures for the Imjin River, which
repeatedly floods, is our primary focus, it would be much cheaper to
build an inter-Korean cooperative system than it would be to build a
contingency dam. In this sense, the ROKG is right to consider
proposing inter-Korean dialogue regarding the incident. The ROK and
North Korea should quickly adjourn to the negotiating room, frankly
express their opinions, and ensure that a similar incident does not
happen again.

Also deeply problematic is how the ROK government appears to be
avoiding its own responsibility by taking advantage of North Korea's
"water attack." ROK authorities' emergency system failure
compounded North Korea's failure to give sufficient notice about the
water release which resulted in this man-made disaster. Despite
this, the ROK government is choosing to condemn North Korea, and
itself is also failing to offer an apology to the people. The ROK
government must not exaggerate and stress the other side's
responsibility in order to avoid its own responsibility. Those
involved in the ROK must be held accountable and must formulate
stringent measures to prevent a repeat.

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


FEATURES
--------

5 COUNTRIES GIVE NOD TO N. KOREA-U.S. TALKS
(Chosun Ilbo, September 10, 2009, page 3)

By Reporter Lim Min-hyuk

The ROK, China, Japan, Russia and the United States are reaching
consensus to support bilateral talks between North Korea and the
U.S., if that can persuade the North to return to the Six-Party
denuclearization talks. Until recently, the five countries were in
favor of such bilateral talks only after North Korea pledges to
return to the Six-Party Talks or demonstrates political commitment

SEOUL 00001450 005 OF 005


(to denuclearization). But now the countries support U.S.-North
Korea bilateral talks if they can serve to resuscitate the Six-Party
process.

A key ROKG official said that nothing has been decided yet on how
U.S.-North Korea talks will take place in the future. The official
added that however, there is an understanding among the five
countries that a U.S.-North Korea bilateral dialogue may take place
even before the Six-Party Talks restart, if the talks facilitate a
resumption of the Six-Party process. The official said that
discussions about the matter were held during the recent Asia tour
of Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea
Policy. It has not been decided whether Bosworth will visit North
Korea and if so when, but some kind of decision is expected within
weeks. After his visit to Japan, Bosworth said, "The United States
is willing to engage with North Korea on a bilateral basis, and we
are currently considering how best to respond to a North Korean
invitation for bilateral talks."

The shift in position among the five countries reflects an
assessment that it will be easier to bring North Korea back to the
table by using some incentive as well as pressure by way of
international sanctions. By making it clear that the goal of the
bilateral talks would only be to facilitate the Six-Party Talks, the
five countries believe they can thwart North Korea's attempt to
sabotage the Six-Party Talks and salvage their position that
bilateral meetings must fit into the Six-Party framework.

But an ROKG official said, "All this can only happen when there is a
fundamental change in North Korea's attitude to denuclearization.
Because it is North Korea who more desperately needs dialogue, the
U.S. is in no hurry at all."

TOKOLA

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