Search

 

Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; November 5, 2009

VZCZCXRO9553
OO RUEHGH
DE RUEHUL #1768/01 3090721
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 050721Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6140
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 9360
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC//DDI/OEA//
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC//DB-Z//
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0473
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6880
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6943
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1455
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 5257
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 4203
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 7415
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1697
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3003
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2082
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2689

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SEOUL 001768

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; November 5, 2009

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

Top Headlines

Chosun Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo,
Seoul Shinmun, All TVs
Alternative Plan for Sejong City to be Presented by January

JoongAng Ilbo
Goals to Revise Sejong City Plan Suggested

Dong-a Ilbo
Possibility of One-Year Delay in Implementing ROK-India Trade Deal
if National Assembly Fails to Ratify It Next Week

Hankyoreh Shinmun
President Lee Scraps Original Sejong City Plan to Relocate
Government Offices to Chungcheong Province


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

President Lee Myung-bak, during a Nov. 4 speech in Seoul, said that
inter-Korean economic cooperation will be expanded if North Korea
gives up its nuclear ambitions. (Chosun, JoongAng, Dong-a, Segye,
Seoul)

According to a local civic group official, North Korea is asking ROK
civic organizations to provide emergency food aid to the country.
The North, meanwhile, has yet to respond to the ROKG's offer of
10,000 tons of corn in aid. (Dong-a)


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

According to a source in Washington, the U.S. and North Korea
reached a 60-70 percent agreement on holding bilateral talks during
recent contacts between Sung Kim, Special Envoy for the Six-Party
Talks, and Ri Gun, the North's No. 2 nuclear negotiator. (JoongAng)

According to multiple diplomatic sources, representatives of the
U.S. think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), will visit
North Korea this month to explore possibilities for a breakthrough
in U.S.-North Korea relations. (JoongAng)


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

-N. Korea
---------
Right-of-center JoonAng Ilbo carried an inside-page report quoting a
source in Washington as saying on Nov. 3 that the U.S. and North
Korea reached a 60-70 percent agreement on holding bilateral talks
during recent contacts between Sung Kim, Special Envoy for the
Six-Party Talks, and Ri Gun, the North's No. 2 nuclear negotiator.

In a separate report, JoongAng also quoted multiple diplomatic
sources as saying yesterday that representatives of the U.S. think
tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), will visit North Korea
this month to explore possibilities for a breakthrough in U.S. -
North Korea relations. The report went on to quote an ROKG source
as commenting: "This visit, coming at a critical juncture in U.S. -
North Korea ties, is expected to have a significant impact on the
direction of U.S. - North Korea dialogue, including a visit to
Pyongyang by Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen
Bosworth."

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo wrote in the headline: "Reprocessing of
Spent Fuel Rods vs. Delayed Decision on Bosworth's Trip to N. Korea;

SEOUL 00001768 002 OF 004


N. Korea, U.S. Engage in War of Nerves." Moderate Hankook Ilbo
editorialized: "The problem is that if this exhaustive tug-of-war
(between the U.S. and North Korea) is prolonged, the hard-won
momentum for dialogue to resume the Six-Party Talks may disappear.
... North Korea needs to consider the position of the Obama
Administration which faces pressure from hardliners in the U.S. ...
The ROKG should seek ways to facilitate a resumption of the
Six-Party Talks through inter-Korean relations."

Most ROK media covered yesterday's remarks by President Lee
Myung-bak, in which he urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to give
up his nuclear ambitions, saying: "If Kim Jong-il drags out
negotiations, President Barack Obama will leave office, the ROK and
Chinese presidents will change. Then he has to start (the
negotiations) all over again. We can't be in negotiations
forever."


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

MOVES FOR U.S. - N. KOREA DIRECT TALKS CONFUSING
(Hankook Ilbo, November 5, 2009, page 39)

The U.S. and North Korea are making confusing moves towards
bilateral talks to restart the Six-Party Talks. North Korea's
official Korean Central News Agency said on November 3 that North
Korea successfully completed reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods in
late August and made remarkable achievements in weaponizing the
extracted plutonium. The North issued this statement apparently to
put pressure on the U.S. as soon as Ri Gun, Director General of
American Affairs at North Korea's Foreign Ministry wrapped up his
tour of the U.S. to discuss the prospect of U.S.-North Korea
bilateral talks. Just a day earlier, Pyongyang said that if the
U.S. is not ready to sit down face to face, North Korea will go its
own way.

This North Korean attitude contrasts with the U.S. State
Department's positive assessment of U.S.-North Korea contact. A
U.S. foreign affairs magazine also carried a positive report that
North Korea agreed to hold two rounds of bilateral talks with the
U.S. before rejoining the Six-Party Talks when Ri Gun and Sung Kim,
Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks met in New York. But it seems
that they could not iron out differences on some key issues, drawing
ire from North Korea.

However, this maneuver by North Korea will unlikely cast a gloom
over ongoing U.S. efforts to hold bilateral talks with the North and
resume the Six-Party Talks. (However,) North Korea's claim on the
reprocessing of spent fuel rods and weaponization of extracted
plutonium is likely to have limited repercussions because the North
already made the same statement in a letter it sent to the UN
Security Council in September. This is why the U.S. and the ROK are
responding cautiously, while criticizing the North for violating
UNSC Resolutions 1718 and 1874. It seems that North Korea's
hard-line behavior is a strategic decision aimed at gaining the
upper hand in negotiations.

The problem is that if this exhaustive tug-of-war (between the U.S.
and North Korea) is prolonged, the hard-won momentum for dialogue to
resume the Six-Party Talks may disappear. The U.S. wants to enter
into bilateral talks after receiving firm assurances from the North
that it will rejoin the Six-Party Talks and give up its nuclear
program. However, if North Korea responds by playing the "nuclear
card" such as by increasing uranium enrichment, it will make things
worse. North Korea needs to consider the position of the Obama
Administration which faces pressure from hardliners in the U.S.
Even if the ROKG has little to do amid the tug-of-war between the
U.S. and North Korea, it should not just sit on its hands. The ROKG
should seek ways to facilitate a resumption of the Six-Party Talks
through inter-Korean relations.


FEATURES

SEOUL 00001768 003 OF 004


--------

WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF CALLS FOR CAUTIOUS APPROACH TO KORUS FTA

(JoongAng Ilbo, November 5, 2009, page 14)

By Washington correspondent Kim Jeong-wook

The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) issue has been
discussed for the first time at a White House Cabinet-level meeting
since the inauguration of the Obama Administration. With senior
advisors, secretaries and deputy secretaries participating in the
meeting, which took place at the end of last month, the U.S. State
of Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)
argued that (the USG) should actively move towards ratification of
the KORUS FTA. However, a diplomatic source in Washington said on
November 4 (local time) that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
called for a cautious approach to the KORUS FTA, putting a brake on
the progress of the trade pact.

The source said that, ahead of President Obama's visit to the ROK,
the KORUS FTA was discussed as a main topic at the Cabinet-level
meeting, adding that this was the first Cabinet-level meeting that
has dealt with the issue since President Obama took office. The
source quoted the State Department and the USTR as saying that the
USG should take (positive) action towards ratification of the KORUS
FTA. According to the source, however, Emanuel, who was absent from
the meeting, conveyed a message through his aide that the USG should
be cautious (in moving forward) with the KORUS FTA and, therefore,
no conclusion was reached in the meeting. The ROK Embassy in the
U.S. reported (on the outcome of the meeting) to the Blue House and
the ROK Foreign Ministry.

The fact that the KORUS FTA was discussed for the first time at the
Cabinet-level meeting carries great significance in two respects.
First, this shows that the Obama Administration has begun to
coordinate the issue (of ratifying the KORUS FTA) at all government
levels while recognizing the importance of the trade deal. The
KORUS FTA had been put on the back burner due to health care reform
and other issues. However, it seems that the USG is attaching a new
importance to this issue. The Cabinet-level meeting is the second
highest ranking meetings among the four types of meetings inside the
White House. It ranks right below the top-level meeting attended by
the President and discusses only selected important items.
Therefore, a diplomatic source said, "The ROK-U.S. FTA, which was as
good as dead, seems to be reviving."

The (decision to actively discuss the trade agreement) appears to
have been affected by the upcoming ROK-U.S. summit on November 19,
when President Lee Myung-bak is expected to raise the prompt
approval of the KORUS FTA with President Obama. An official at the
ROK Embassy in Washington said, "The Obama Administration or the
Congress will likely lose the momentum to address the KORUS FTA
starting next summer, when campaigns for the U.S. mid-term elections
in November will be in full swing," adding, "The top priority is to
place the KORUS FTA among Washington's priority issues late this
year or early next year, when the (debate) about the healthcare
reform bill is wrapped up."

It is also noteworthy that we have learned about the stumbling block
inside the Obama Administration. Observers say that unless Emmanuel
and the (members of) Congress who are passive about the KORUS FTA
change their stances, the situation will not get better. Emmanuel
reportedly supports a multilateral cooperation regime rather than a
bilateral agreement, such as the ROK-U.S. FTA. Emanuel, who was
elected to Congress representing Chicago in 2002 and forged a
relationship with then-Senator Obama of the same state, is a
hard-line politician befitting his nickname "Rambo." There is a
famous anecdote about him. Early this year, when a Congressman made
a phone call to him, he said, "I am too busy to talk," and passed
the call to President Obama, who was with him. Emmanuel is
considered to be the most powerful White House Chief of Staff in
history.


SEOUL 00001768 004 OF 004

N. KOREA, U.S. ENGAGE IN WAR OF NERVES
(Dong-a Ilbo, November 5, 2009, Page 5)

By Reporter Kim Young-sik

Reprocessing of Spent Fuel Rods vs. Delayed Decision on Bosworth's
Trip to N. Korea

The U.S. and North Korea are engaging in a tense war of nerves over
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen
Bosworth's visit to Pyongyang. Despite the (seemingly improved)
atmosphere for dialogue between the North and the U.S., the North is
bragging about progress in its nuclear development, and the U.S. is
delaying a decision on Bosworth's visit to the North.

Most observers say that the conditions now seem to be ripe for
Bosworth's visit. An ROKG official said, "So far, the U.S. has
taken the position that U.S.-North Korea contact is only possible
when Bosworth is able to meet with North Korea's First Vice Foreign
Minister Kang Sok-ju or a higher-level official." On this matter,
Foreign Policy (magazine) reported on November 3, "The second
condition put forth by the U.S. was that Ambassador Stephen
Bosworth, who has been invited repeatedly to Pyongyang, would be
able to meet with Kang Sok-ju, North Korea's First Vice Foreign
Minister. According to the official, the North Koreans also had no
problem with that." This means that a primary hurdle has been
cleared.

The problem is, however, that the USG is concerned about the
possibility that demonstrable progress will not be made during
Bosworth's visit. A diplomatic source explained, "Some officials in
the Obama Administration are concerned that if a contact with the
North does not produce results, some conservatives may use it to
launch a counterattack." Due to the possibility that Bosworth's
meeting with North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Kang may not
lead to Pyongyang returning to the Six-Party Talks, the U.S. is not
able to make a decision on Bosworth's visit.

For the North, since North Korean leader Kim Jong-il already said
that he would consider rejoining the multilateral talks, depending
on the outcome of the U.S.-North Korea bilateral talks,
working-level negotiators find it difficult to change their position
(regarding the visit.) The November 2 statement by a North Korean
Foreign Ministry spokesman - "If the U.S. is not ready to sit down
face to face with us, we will go our own way" - also seems to be
designed to urge the U.S. to change its stance.

At present, it is not easy to foresee how the war of nerves between
the two nations will pan out. A high-ranking ROKG official noted on
November 4, "At the moment, the North is focused on a meeting and
dialogue with the U.S. while the U.S. is expecting to get some
results (the North's return to the Six-Party Talks) from a meeting
with the North." In other words, there is no common ground yet.

Meanwhile, regarding Pyongyang's claim that it has reprocessed 8,000
spent fuel rods, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly urged the
North to refrain from further provocations, saying, "I think
everybody should be careful and ratchet down the rhetoric and not
take any actions that would contribute to tension in the region."


STEPHENS

© 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>>