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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; October 23, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 SEOUL 001687

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; October 23, 2009

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


Chosun Ilbo
Policy Adrift on Foreign Language High Schools


JoongAng Ilbo, All TVs
Two Koreas S-e-c-r-e-t-l-y Met in Singapore to Discuss Possible
Summit


Dong-a Ilbo
81-Year-Old ROK POW Detained in China for Two Consecutive Months
after Fleeing N. Korea


Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
U.S. to Mobilize Full Range of Military Capabilities in Event of
Emergency on Korean Peninsula


Hankyoreh Shinmun
Three Sons of Hyosung Group Chairman Probed over Purchasing Overseas
Real Estate


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

ROK Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert
Gates adopted a 16-point joint statement following the 41st Security
Consultative Meeting (SCM) in Seoul yesterday. The statement
confirmed a continuing U.S. commitment to defend the ROK against
North Korea's military threats. (All)

Secretary Gates made no direct request for aid to Afghanistan, only
saying in a joint press conference: "We obviously welcome any
contribution that any countries around the world are prepared to
make, but that decision - what and how much to contribute - is
entirely up to the ROK." (All)

According to a key ROKG official, a high-profile, nongovernmental
ROK figure met in Singapore last week with Kim Yang-gon, Director of
the United Front Department at North Korea's Workers' Party,
apparently to discuss a possible summit between the two Koreas.
(All)

The ROKG is considering resuming imports of sand from North Korea,
which have been suspended since April, when the North test-fired a
long-range rocket. (Chosun, Hankyoreh, Segye) This move is likely to
create a stir, given that there has been suspicion that payments for
sand shipments may have been pocketed by military authorities in the
North. (Chosun)


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

- ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM)
--------------------------------------------- -
All media covered yesterday's annual ROK-U.S. Security Consultative
Meeting, in which the U.S. pledged to mobilize globally available
U.S. forces and military capabilities to augment the ROK's defense
in case of crisis. According to media reports, the U.S. also made
it clear that it will provide "extended deterrence," using the full
range of military capabilities, including the nuclear umbrella,
conventional strike and missile defense capabilities, in order to
deal with North Korea's military threats.

Most media observed that this development carries great significance

SEOUL 00001687 002 OF 007


since it has expanded U.S. reinforcements from American territory
and Japan-centered forces to U.S forces across the world in the
event of an emergency on the Korea Peninsula.

On the Afghanistan front, all media reported that Defense Secretary
Robert Gates made no direct request for aid to Afghanistan, quoting
him as only saying in a joint press conference: "We obviously
welcome any contribution that any countries around the world are
prepared to make, but that decision - what and how much to
contribute- is entirely up to the ROK."

Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized: "The greatest threat to
peace on the Korean Peninsula is North Korea's nuclear program.
There is a high possibility that the North Korean nuclear issue may
be settled in the following two ways: accepting a nuclear-armed
North Korea or making a fundamental change to the current armistice
on the Korean Peninsula in return for the North's abandonment of
nuclear weapons. Should the North's nuclear possession become an
established fact, we wonder if the U.S.'s stated 'extended
deterrence' alone could satisfy the ROK's political, military,
economic and psychological security (needs)."

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo argued in an editorial: "The defense
agreement with the U.S. is based on a solid bilateral alliance. If
the alliance weakens, the agreement cannot ensure a feeling of
safety. This is why we are worried about disbanding the ROK-U.S.
Combined Forces Command (CFC) and transferring wartime operational
control in 2012. Few multinational forces have won in war without a
unifying command. Joint operation under the leadership of the U.S.
military helped prevent North Korea from taking the ROK."

Moderate Hankook Ilbo observed: "The ROKG is reportedly considering
sending a 300-strong force to Afghanistan to protect the civilian
Provincial Reconstruction Team there. ... In order to protect the
civilian team, however, combat troops, who are stronger than the
units of military medics or engineers, are needed. Police officers
are not appropriate. Talking about sending mercenaries will also
only invite uncontrollable controversy. Rather than vaguely citing
the ROK-U.S. alliance as a reason for troop deployment, the ROKG
should first come up with alternatives which can win public
approval."

- N. Korea
----------
Citing a key ROKG official, all ROK media reported that there was a
s-e-c-r-e-t contact in Singapore last week between a high-profile,
nongovernmental ROK figure and Kim Yang-gon, Director of the United
Front Department at North Korea's Workers' Party, apparently to
discuss a possible summit between the two Koreas.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo, in particular, quoted a key ruling camp
official as saying: "North Korea has long requested a meeting with a
person who can speak on behalf of President Lee Myung-bak, and it is
true that such a meeting was recently on the verge of happening.
Since news of the meeting was made public, however, it will be
difficult to hold meetings of senior officials from both Koreas for
some time."

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


JITTERS OVER DEFENSE ACCORD WITH U.S.
(Dong-a Ilbo, October 23, 2009, page 39)

The United States yesterday reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to
extended deterrence by using the full range of its military
capabilities, including a nuclear umbrella, if North Korea attempts
a nuclear attack on the ROK. In times of emergency, Washington will
flexibly increase and relocate its forces across the world to the
Korean Peninsula. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Korean
counterpart Kim Tae-young adopted a 16-point joint communiqu on
North Korea's nuclear program at the Security Consultative Meeting
yesterday, which was based on talks of the two countries joint

SEOUL 00001687 003 OF 007


chiefs of staff Wednesday. The joint statement can pressure North
Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.

Secretary Gates reaffirmed Washington's extended deterrence to
Seoul, saying a nuclear attack on the ROK will be considered one on
U.S. soil. He clarified specific means like intercontinental
ballistic and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and strategic
bombers. Gen. Walter Sharp, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea,
said June 26 in a lecture at the Korea Military Academy that the
extended deterrence includes missile defense. The concept of
extended deterrence was specified in the "Future Vision of the
Korea-U.S. Alliance" at the June bilateral summit after being
included first in the Security Consultative Meeting's joint
communiqu in 2006. The joint agreement is also meaningful since it
includes the expansion of U.S. forces to include U.S. forces across
the world as well as forces from American territory and
Japan-centered forces in case of emergency on the Korea Peninsula.

The decision, however, failed to dispel insecurity since the plans
to disband the Combined Forces Command and transfer wartime
operational control back to Seoul in 2012 remain unchanged. The two
defense ministers will check progress on a regular basis, leaving a
silver lining of hope. Gates promised that Washington will keep
providing complementary forces until Seoul can defend itself on its
own. Fortunately, the U.S. will maintain its 28,000-strong forces
in Korea and extend their stay here to three years.

The defense agreement with the U.S. is based on a solid bilateral
alliance. If the alliance weakens, the agreement cannot ensure a
feeling of safety. This is why we are worried about disbanding the
ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) and transferring wartime
operational control in 2012. Few multinational forces have won in
war without a unifying command. Joint operation under the
leadership of the U.S. military helped prevent North Korea from
taking the ROK.

As Secretary Gates indirectly requested, cooperation in war zones
such as Afghanistan could be a good opportunity to strengthen
alliances. The ROK needs to create a good environment for U.S.
forces in Korea, such as assisting in the relocation of the main
U.S. base to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. Now is the time to show
great interest in the comprehensive strategic alliance with national
and global security in mind, something that was agreed on at the
bilateral summit in June.

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


AFGHANISTAN SUPPORT REQUIRES CAREFUL CONSIDERATION
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, October 23, 2009, page 31)

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates convened yesterday in Seoul for the 41st Republic of
Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) and issued a joint
communiqu, the core of which dealt with the U.S.'s dedication to
providing a firm security umbrella for the Korean Peninsula, and the
ROK's contribution to global security. Broadly speaking, in return
for the U.S. assistance in decreasing the ROK's security concerns
resulting from North Korea's strengthened nuclear and missile
forces, the ROK decided to agree to expand its contribution in
Afghanistan if the situation arises where the U.S. finds itself in a
difficult position.

The statement shows that the two countries are in agreement on
promoting close cooperation in handling wide-ranging global security
challenges, including peacekeeping, stabilization, reconstruction
support, humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Nowhere was the word
"Afghanistan" used. During his press conference, Gates said the
U.S. has not made any concrete requests to the ROKG for support in
Afghanistan, and that the timeline and extent of ROK support is
entirely up to the ROKG. This was merely his statement; however, it
is a widely known s-e-c-r-e-t that the U.S. is strongly hoping for
ROK cooperation in a number of areas, including troop deployment. A

SEOUL 00001687 004 OF 007


speech Gates gave to the men and women of the ROK-U.S. Combined
Forces Command provided evidence of this sentiment, when he said
that military contributions to global security are also in the ROK's
core interest.

The ball is now our government's court. Since our government has
already promised to construct a new hospital at Bagram Air Base, and
to increase personnel for Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and
provide economic support, it is a matter of great interest as to
whether our government will expand aid to include military support.
Military support including combat troops, however, is something we
can never accept, in consideration of the facts that the Afghanistan
War, as a war which began out of U.S. revenge for the 9.11 terrorist
attacks, lacks appropriate justification, that the U.S. is also
currently undecided about whether to boost its troop presence, and
that the ROKG has already pulled out medical and engineering units
amidst public shock following the mass-kidnapping of a missionary
service group in the summer of 2007.

It is worth actively considering whether contributing non-military
support is in accordance with our international prestige and
economic power. In particular, there is a need to focus support on
the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, a country
which has been impoverished due to war. However, because the
current political situation in Afghanistan is so murky and the U.S.
has also been unable to present a blueprint for resolving the
situation in Afghanistan, a careful posture is critical. A quick
response would not be a competent response.

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


ARE SEOUL AND WASHINGTON BEING COMPLETELY FRANK?
(Chosun Ilbo, October 23, 2009, page 39)

The ROK and U.S. defense chiefs held their annual Security
Consultative Meeting on Thursday in Seoul and stipulated in a joint
statement specific steps to provide the ROK with "extended
deterrence" against the North Korean nuclear threat. It was the
first time specific measures were put on paper. The U.S. will
provide the ROK with a nuclear umbrella, conventional strike and
missile capabilities. In addition, Gates said the U.S. will deploy
any American troops that can be mobilized from around the world in
the event of a crisis on the Korean peninsula.

According to a bilateral defense treaty, the mobilization of
additional American troops was to come from soldiers based in the
U.S. mainland and Japan. But Washington has now pledged to expand
that to American troops stationed around the world. At a time when
concerns are increasing over a potential shortage of U.S. troops
after the transfer of full control of Korean troops to Seoul, the
agreement demonstrates Washington's resolve to uphold its pledge to
defend the ROK. The joint communiqu avoids any mention of the
ROK's support for military operations in Afghanistan, leaving it up
to Seoul to decide.

None of the 16 clauses of the joint statement leave any room to
doubt Washington's commitment to the ROK's defense. But even with
the signing of such a powerful agreement, a feeling of unease
lingers.

The greatest threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula is North
Korea's nuclear program. There is a high possibility that the North
Korean nuclear issue may be settled in the following two ways:
accepting a nuclear-armed North Korea or making a fundamental change
to the current armistice on the Korean Peninsula in return for the
North's abandonment of nuclear weapons. Should the North's nuclear
possession become an established fact, we wonder if the U.S.'s
stated 'extended deterrence' alone could satisfy the ROK's
political, military, economic and psychological security (needs).
If the armistice is turned into a proper peace treaty, the ROK will
face the greatest upheaval in national security in its history
because it would probably mean an end to the U.S. Forces Korea.

SEOUL 00001687 005 OF 007

It is in these circumstances that the allies once again stipulated
that the transfer of full troop control will take place as planned
on April 17, 2012. Gates even referred to this as a "historic
change." If the North Korean nuclear threat did not exist, this
would be fine. The two countries said they would time their
military preparations to the period of the handover. But as the
situation stands, a strategic decision is needed requiring
political, diplomatic, economic and psychological factors to be
considered, in addition to military and technical ones.

If North Korea makes the strategic decision to scrap its nuclear
program, it will inevitably demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops
from the Korean Peninsula. It knows that this is the ROK's greatest
weakness. And at that point, Washington will have to balance
whether it has more to gain from North Korea giving up its nukes or
from revising its alliance with the ROK.

Washington's decision is difficult to predict. The most important
factor when the time comes will be whether Seoul and Washington were
able to hold frank discussions about the future of their alliance 10
or 20 years down the road. This should serve as the framework not
only for peace on the Korean peninsula, but for peace in Northeast
Asia involving the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

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

ROKG JUSTIFICATION FOR SENDING TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN TO GUARD
CIVILIANS THERE IS Unconvincing
(Hankook Ilbo, October 23, 2009, Page39)

The ROKG is reportedly considering sending a 300-strong force to
Afghanistan to protect the civilian Provincial Reconstruction Team
(PRT) there. Debate on the troop dispatch, which was heated ahead
of the ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) on October 22,
now appears to have ended in a conclusion (that ROKG will consider
sending troops.) It appears that the ROKG intends to send troops
(to Afghanistan) for whatever reason and then give the excuse that
they are not for combat purposes. However, it is doubtful whether
this kind of justification may sound persuasive enough to convince
people to agree to the troop dispatch. The government's efforts
seem to be clumsy.

We should first remember that we had started to send the Dongui
Medical Unit and the Dasan Engineering Unit to the region in 2001
but, after the kidnapping incident in 2007, rushed to pull out the
troops. The two units were composed of a small number of non-combat
troops. However, faced with the deterioration of domestic public
opinion and a call for troop withdrawal from the Taliban insurgents
who held 20 Koreans hostage, the ROKG could not afford to continue
to have troops stationed there.

Since then, the ROKG has maintained its stance against troop
redeployment. We also repeatedly pointed out that it would be
reckless to send troops other than reconstruction staff or police
instructors. Just because there were changes of governments in the
ROK and the U.S. does not mean that such a position must be changed.
With the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating further, even in
the U.S., which is leading the war, supporters of the troop pullout
outnumber those opposed to the pullout.

This is why the Obama Administration is hastening to withdraw troops
from Iraq and is focusing on stabilizing the situation in
Afghanistan. In particular, it is vital to maintain the
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led by the U.S. and
NATO. A majority of the 19 nations that contributed over 300 troops
to the ISAF are showing signs of breaking ranks. This might be the
reason why the ROKG came up with a plan to increase its PRT staff to
300 and send 300 guard troops to the region.

In the joint communiqu of the SCM, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates

SEOUL 00001687 006 OF 007


stressed the expansion of the ROK's contribution to peacekeeping
operations. However, it is far-fetched to argue that Secretary
Gates' emphasis on the role of the ROK military makes the troop
dispatch inevitable. In order to protect the civilian team,
however, combat troops, who are stronger than the units of military
medics or engineers, are needed. Police officers are not
appropriate. Talking about sending mercenaries will also only
invite uncontrollable controversy. Rather than vaguely citing the
ROK-U.S. alliance as a reason for troop deployment, the ROKG should
first come up with alternatives that can win public approval.

IT IS TOO EARLY TO REGAIN WARTIME OPERATIONAL CONTROL FROM U.S. IN
APRIL, 2012
(JoongAng Ilbo, October 23, 2009, page 46: Excerpts)

In a joint statement following the Security Consultative Meeting
(SCM) in Seoul yesterday, ROK and U.S. defense ministers reaffirmed
that the ROK will take over wartime operational control of its
military forces from the U.S. by April 17, 2012. It seems that the
two ministers made this commitment, mindful that an increasing
number of ROK people are raising concerns over the transfer of
wartime operational control or voicing opposition to the plan,
saying it is too early. Their agreement, however, is not enough to
defuse controversy. Considering the ROK military's (lack of
progress in) modernization, the ROK's economic situation and
security conditions on the Korean Peninsula, a transfer of wartime
operational control to the ROK as planned is highly likely to
undermine security on the Korean Peninsula. At the National
Assembly early this month, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said that
it would be best to maintain the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command
but the ROK has no choice but to prepare for its disbandment because
the two nations agreed to do so.

During the National Assembly audit on the Defense Ministry,
lawmakers pointed out many problems regarding the ROK's defense
position. In the joint statement, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert
Gates pledged to keep providing complementary forces until the ROK
is capable of defending itself on its own even after the transfer of
wartime operational control. The U.S. specifically said it is
committed to providing extended deterrence against the North Korean
nuclear threat using the nuclear umbrella, and conventional strike
and missile capabilities. This assurance seems to have been made
due to concerns that ROK forces will likely be weakened after the
transfer of wartime operational control.

For years until the ROK and the U.S. agreed in 2006 to disband the
ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, the two countries were at odds
over several foreign and security issues including the North Korean
nuclear issue. In particular, former President Roh Moo-hyun, who
had emphasized self-defense since taking office, was too idealistic
when he requested that the U.S. hand over wartime operational
control. This request, however, conformed to the interest of the
U.S. which embarked on restructuring its military to enhance
mobility. Therefore, the ROK and the U.S. agreed to the transfer of
wartime operational control, not based on the objective evaluation
of ROK military's mid-and long-term capabilities but because of
temporary conflicts between the two countries and the strategic
change in U.S. military alignment.

Whatever prompted the agreement, the ROK is not in a position to
halt the transfer process of wartime operational control right now.
It is evident that we should make our greatest efforts to achieve
self-defense. However, the ROK's "Defense Reform 2020," which was
initiated in 2005, is suffering a setback in several areas. In
addition, we are unlikely to find ways to resolve problems
(regarding our defense) until April 2012. Therefore, we have no
other option but to continue to strengthen the combat capabilities
of our military while at the same time seeking renegotiation with
the U.S. over the transfer of wartime operational control to delay
the timetable (for the transfer.)

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