Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; October 15, 2009
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SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; October 15, 2009
Chosun Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, All TVs
N. Korea Expresses Regret over Flood Deaths
Supreme Court, Constitutional Court in Turf War over Constitutional
Court Law Revision
Nationwide "Zero Food Waste Campaign" Launched
The Title, "Administrative City," Disappears
from Sejong City Construction Site
Banks Still "Stingy" with Loans to Low-income Households
North Korea expressed "regrets" over the death of six ROK citizens
in a flash flood caused by its sudden discharge of dam water and
offered condolences to their bereaved families during yesterday's
working-level, inter-Korean talks. The ROKG accepted this as an
On Oct. 13, the U.S. reserved its judgment on whether North Korea's
recent short-range-missile tests violated UN Security Council
resolutions. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip
Crowley was quoted as reiterating Washington's position during a
regular briefing that, "We're interested in seeing North Korea
recommit to its obligations that it's made in the past few years."
Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and
Pacific Affairs, meanwhile, said in Beijing yesterday: "The U.S.
will not entertain direct negotiations between the U.S. and North
Korea, absent a Six-Party commitment." (Chosun, Segye, KBS)
Conservative Chosun Ilbo ran an inside-page report saying that the
U.S. has reserved its judgment on whether North Korea's recent
short-range-missile tests violated UN Security Council resolutions.
Chosun quoted a senior State Department official as telling
reporters on Oct. 12 that the USG is still "thinking about the
matter," adding: "Whether the North violated UNSC resolutions will
be determined based on an analysis of aspects including how far the
The Chosun report also noted press remarks by Assistant Secretary of
State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley, in which he reiterated
Washington's position: "We're interested in seeing North Korea
recommit to its obligations that it's made in the past few years."
Conservative Chosun and Segye Ilbo and state-run KBS quoted Kurt
Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific
Affairs, as saying in Beijing yesterday: "The U.S. will not
entertain direct negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea,
absent a Six-Party commitment."
All ROK media gave front-page play to North Korea's expression
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yesterday of "regrets" over the death of six ROK citizens in a flash
flood caused by its sudden discharge of dam water and the North's
offer of condolences to their bereaved families. The ROKG was
reported as having accepted this as an apology.
Newspapers carried the following headlines: "Thawing Inter-Korean
Relations... Will the Rest of Issues, Including Kaesong Industrial
Complex and Mt. Kumgang Tours, be Plain Sailing?" (conservative
Chosun Ilbo); "Is It Sincere Apology or Pretense?" (right-of-center
JoongAng Ilbo); "Minimum Sincerity from N. Korea ... Generous
Interpretation by ROK" (conservative Dong-a Ilbo); and "N. Korea's
About-Face Aimed at Removing 'Obstacle' to Talks with U.S."
(moderate Hankook Ilbo)
READY TO RETAKE WARTIME CONTROL?
(Dong-a Ilbo, October 15, 2009, page 39)
On April 17, 2012, the ROK will take over wartime operational
control for the first time in 62 years and the Combined Forces
Command will disappear. President Rhee Syng-man gave such control
to the Commander in Chief of the UN Forces in Korea, Gen. Douglas
MacArthur, immediately after North Korea invaded the ROK on June 25,
1950. Without the blood of soldiers from 16 countries under the
U.N. flag, including those from the U.S., the Republic of Korea
would not be free today.
The problem is the date of the control's handover: April 17, 2012.
It is doubtful whether ROK forces are sufficiently prepared to take
the lead in times of war after the Combined Forces Command is
dissolved. North Korea cares nothing for its people and is only
interested in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Even
with Seoul's modern weapons, they cannot counter Pyongyang's
"asymmetric arms" such as nuclear weapons or missiles. Without the
intelligence and nuclear umbrella of the U.S., the ROK cannot feel
safe. North Korea has sets a goal of becoming a militant country by
2012 and has never given up its desire to communize the Korean
The ROK will hold a presidential election at the end of 2012, and
confusion in the election campaign, conflict and divided opinion is
likely. The relocation of the U.S. base in Seoul's Yongsan district
to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which will occur at the same time
as the disbanding of the Combined Forces Command, will be delayed
for more than two years. The defense budget was supposed to be
raised 9.9 percent per year in the plan "Defense Reform 2020" set by
the previous Roh Moo-hyun Administration, but has been cut 3.8
percent in next year's budget. Since securing the budget will be
more difficult, a series of plans to beef up national defense in
preparation for the return of wartime operational command are
expected to be interrupted. The ROK has just half of the needed
missiles for the Aegis warship Sejong. The SM-6, which will occupy
a third of a vertical launch pad, is still under development.
Cutting-edge F-15K fighter jets that cost 100 billion won (85.9
million dollars) each are also not fully operational.
It was inappropriate for the Roh Administration, in its bilateral
defense talks in February 2007, to set the date for change of
wartime command to April 17 as if the ROK had been liberated from
U.S. colonial rule. The ROK handed over operational command to the
U.S. July 14, 1950, after the Korean War broke out.*
The Roh Administration understood that wartime operational command
was a matter of survival and even more critical than sovereignty and
independence. This is why Seoul must retake the command only after
it is prepared enough to counter Pyongyang's provocation alone.
Endangering national security to save face and pride is foolish.
Just 30 months remain before Seoul takes over wartime command.
(Ed. Note: This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it
is similar to the Korean version.
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*The journalist is saying that the Roh Administration specifically
chose the date April 17 (4/17) for the proposed return of
operational control as a symbolic date because it is the numeric
reverse of the date July 14, 1950 (7/14), when the ROK turned over
operational command to the U.S. after the Korean War broke out.)
NASA PREDICTS LINKS WITH KOREA SPACE PROGRAM
(JoongAng Daily, October 14, 2009, page 2)
DAEJEON - Korea has the potential to become an important partner in
efforts aimed at advancing exploration and technology for the
peaceful use of space, the head of the U.S. aerospace administration
National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) chief Charles
Bolden, Jr. said at the International Astronautical Congress in
Daejeon, located 164 kilometers (102 miles) south of Seoul, that the
country has made noticeable strides with its robust space program by
building satellites and launching a rocket into orbit.
He said that future cooperative endeavors could take place in such
areas as lunar exploration, satellites and the field of aeronautics.
The remarks come after President Lee Myung-bak said on Monday that
Seoul is seeking to forge cooperative relations with top space
exploration leaders like the United States and is considering a move
to take part in a U.S.-led lunar exploration project.
"NASA is hopeful of enhancing bilateral cooperation that can make
South Korea a vital partner along with other countries," Bolden told
He did not go into details, but said that new cooperative endeavors
can be explored in a wide range of promising areas along with
traditional fields where two-way exchanges have taken place in the
At present, NASA exchanges data and information on Earth observation
that is used to monitor climate change and weather conditions.
The former Marine Corps major general said Washington is waiting for
the release of the so-called Augustine Report, which will highlight
the need for international cooperation in future space endeavors as
a way to defray skyrocketing costs and spread out risks.
Bolden said that the United States has held talks on future
cooperation with "non-traditional space partners" such as Vietnam,
Malaysia and Thailand to discern the positions of these countries.
He also stressed that while policy makers in Seoul believe they are
far behind technologically, there are not many countries that can
build satellites and launch space vehicles from their own soil.
Bolden was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama as NASA
administrator earlier this year.
NASA ADMINISTRATOR: "COOPERATION WITH THE ROK COULD TAKE PLACE IN
LUNAR EXPLORATION, SPACE VEHICLES"
(Chosun Ilbo, October 14, 2009, Page 8)
By Reporter Lee Young-wan from Daejeon
"The ROK will cooperate with the U.S. in many areas, such as manned
lunar exploration projects and climate observation. Cooperation
could also take place in the field of space vehicles."
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National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) chief Charles
Bolden made the statement to reporters at the International
Astronautical Congress in Daejeon on October 13. He added, "The
ROK's satellite technologies, which I saw during a visit to the
Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), were very impressive.
Once the U.S. Administration decides its policy direction on space
development, we plan to actively push for cooperation (with the
Q. How will NASA cooperate with the ROK on the ROK's lunar
"It is natural to cooperate with the ROK because it is a
scientifically advanced nation. (Officials at) NASA and KARI are
already seeking specific ways to cooperate by visiting each other."
Q. In what field is it possible to cooperate?
"During this visit, I checked what KARI has done so far. An
agreement of mutual cooperation in such areas as observation of
global climate change will be signed at the working level tonight."
Mr. Bolden reportedly agreed with KARI President Lee Joo-jin on the
afternoon of October 12 to push for 24 cooperative projects in five
fields - earth science, space science, space exploration, space
communications, and aeronautics - starting next year.
Q. Japan developed its space vehicle with the help of NASA. Can
NASA cooperate with the ROK in the field of space vehicles?
"We will first actively push for cooperation in science fields, such
as earth observation. However, when the U.S. administration's
policy on space development is decided upon, we could seek
cooperation in the space vehicle field."
Q. What is necessary for the ROK to develop in the field of space
"The role of a leader is very important in space exploration. The
ROK is fortunate in that President Lee Myung-bak expressed interest
in space exploration yesterday. When meeting with President Obama,
President Lee mentioned space development many times and said that
the ROK is at an elementary level, but (I believe that) that is too
modest. The ROK has already made noticeable strides."
Mr. Bolden has a deep relationship with the ROK. He said, "When it
comes to peace and space development, this is my first visit to the
ROK, but I came to the ROK before for military reasons." The former
Marine Corps major general noted that he participated in the
ROK-U.S. joint military drills in Pohang about a decade ago.
(Editor's Note: The same story was also carried by Hankyoreh
Shinmun under the headline of "NASA Hopeful of Cooperating with ROK
on Lunar Exploration." The article reports: "National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) chief Charles Bolden, Jr. made a
rare appearance at the International Astronautical Congress,
garnering attention from the international space industry,
businesses and scholars. This event recorded the largest attendance
in its sixty-year history apparently due to the involvement of the
head of the U.S. aerospace administration. Bolden said that NASA
puts importance on environment and climate change, adding that the
Administration will enhance cooperation with the ROK. He noted that
NASA has a particular interest in education. Bolden went on to say
that NASA will assist the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)
in developing aeronautics and space educational programs so that
students can develop their dreams and passions. The Augustine
Commission is an advisory committee under U.S. President Obama led
by Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. The
Commission is exploring new possibilities for U.S