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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; December 4, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SEOUL 001910

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; December 4, 2009

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


Chosun Ilbo
Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook Allegedly Received Tens of
Thousands of Dollars from
Former Korea Express President

JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, Hankyoreh Shinmun,
Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
Rail Workers Call Off Strike After Eight Days, Burdened
by Strong ROKG Response and Deteriorating Public Opinion

Hankook Ilbo, All TVs
ROKG, Ruling Party and Representatives of Labor and Management Near
Agreement on Labor Union Rules


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

U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Kathleen Stephens, in a Dec. 3 forum
organized by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said that
Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth's
trip to Pyongyang is aimed at resuming the Six-Party Talks.
(JoongAng, all TVs)

According to a Defense Ministry source, on Dec. 2, shortly before
President Barack Obama's announcement on troop escalation in
Afghanistan, the USG informed the ROKG that there will be no
deployment of USFK troops to Afghanistan. (JoongAng, Dong-a,
Hankook, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, KBS, MBC)


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

-N. Korea
---------
Conservative Dong-a Ilbo carried an inside-page article on U.S.
Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth's
Dec. 8 trip to North Korea. It argued that the key (to the success
of Ambassador Bosworth's visit) is whether North Korea will return
to the Six-Party Talks and that there will be a long way to go
before the Six-Party Talks get back on track. The article also
conjectured that if North Korea presents conditions for returning to
the Six-Party Talks, the U.S. may seek bilateral talks with North
Korea and the Six-Party Talks at the same time. Dong-a wrote in the
headline: "N. Korea: 'Peace Treaty Is the Issue of Greatest Concern'
vs. U.S.: 'Denuclearization First'"

In a related development, right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo and all TV
networks quoted U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Kathleen Stephens as
saying in a Dec. 3 forum organized by the Korea Institute for
Defense Analyses that Ambassador Bosworth's trip to Pyongyang is
aimed at resuming the Six-Party Talks.

-U.S. Afghanistan Strategy
--------------------------
Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo and moderate Hankook Ilbo carried
reports noting that the day after President Obama unveiled his plan
to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, top
U.S. administration officials told Congress that any timetable for a
troop pullout is still flexible. Hankook Ilbo's headline read:
"Faced with Fire from Congress, Obama's Afghan Strategy Becomes
'Shaky' Just One Day after Its Announcement"


FEATURES
--------


SEOUL 00001910 002 OF 003


N. KOREA: 'PEACE TREATY IS THE ISSUE OF GREATEST CONCERN' VS. U.S.:
'DENUCLEARIZATION FIRST'
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 4, Page 10: Excerpts)

By Reporter Kim Young-shik

Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth will
visit North Korea on December 8 following his stop in the ROK on
December 6.

Will Bosworth's visit be a starting point for "grand bargain"
negotiations?

The moment North Korea pledges to return to the Six-Party Talks will
mark a starting point for "grand bargain" negotiations. However,
there will be a long way to go before the Six-Party Talks get back
on track. An ROKG official emphasized that a resumption of the
Six-Party Talks does not mean a resolution of the North Korean
nuclear issue.

To make the "grand bargain" negotiations successful, it is necessary
that North Korea dismantle its core nuclear programs. The ROK and
the U.S. maintain their position that they will continue to pursue a
two-track approach of dialogue and sanctions until the North takes
substantial steps toward nuclear dismantlement. However, North
Korea has not changed its attitude.

Will the U.S. negotiate with the North?

One of the greatest concerns is whether Ambassador Bosworth will
negotiate with North Korea during his three day visit to Pyongyang.
Leon Segal at the Social Science Research Council said that it is
unlikely that the U.S. will be able to persuade North Korea to
return to the Six-Party Talks without negotiating with the North.
In particular, the U.S. will be in a difficult position if North
Korea demands bilateral negotiations with the U.S. as preconditions
for rejoining the Six-Party Talks.

In fact, the U.S. has not been consistent in its position. During
the G20 summit in London in April, President Obama made sure that
the U.S. has no interest in holding direct talks with the North.
However, the U.S. said later that U.S.-North Korea bilateral talks
will take place within the (framework of the) Six-Party Talks.

North Korea is bent on signing a peace treaty (with the U.S.)

The Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan,
reported on December 2 that establishing a peace regime on the
Korean Peninsula will top the agenda at North Korea-U.S. bilateral
talks. The peace treaty issue is expected to be hotly debated
during Bosworth's trip to Pyongyang.

North Korea has been saying that its nuclear development resulted
from the U.S.'s antagonistic North Korea policy. The North claims
that a peace treaty (with the U.S.) would allow U.S. forces in the
ROK to be withdrawn, paving the way for the resolution of the North
Korean nuclear issue. Clearly, North Korea intends to trade
denuclearization for a peace treaty.

The ROK and the U.S. say that North Korea should take steps toward
denuclearization first and that the peace treaty should be discussed
between the ROK and North Korea. U.S. Ambassador to the ROK
Kathleen Stephens said on December 3, "I think we've always been
clear that when we talk about a peace regime or a peace treaty or a
peace agreement, the issue of the U.S.-ROK alliance is not on the
table. That is a lasting commitment we have."


U.S. AMBASSADOR STEPHENS: "THE PURPOSE OF AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH'S
VISIT TO PYONGYANG IS TO FACILITATE THE EARLY RESUMPTION OF THE
SIX-PARTY TALKS"
(JoongAng Ilbo, December 4, 2009, Page 12)

By Reporters Ye Young-joon and Lee Young-jong

SEOUL 00001910 003 OF 003

Ambassador Stephens: "(The Six-Party process) is the best mechanism
to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula."

U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Kathleen Stephens said on December 3,
"U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth
will visit Pyongyang .... with the purpose of facilitating the early
resumption of the Six-Party Talks and with the purpose of securing
North Korea's reaffirmation of the September 2005 Joint Statement
principles." Ambassador Stephens made the statement during a
defense forum hosted by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses
(KIDA) at Hotel Shilla. She added, "We continue to believe that the
Six-Party process is the best mechanism to achieve these goals."

Ambassador Stephens went on to say, "In the September 2005 Joint
Statement principles, the commitment made by the parties is that
with the verified dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program,
the other parties would seek to establish a lasting peace agreement
and normalize relations." This remark appears to reaffirm U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's November 19 statement that if
North Korea recommits to denuclearization, "the U.S. would explore
... normalization of relations, a peace treaty, and economic
development assistance." Ambassador Stephens also said, "I think
we've always been clear that when we talk about a peace regime or a
peace treaty or a peace agreement, the issue of the U.S.-ROK
alliance is not on the table. That is a lasting commitment we have.
That is not on the table."

Prior to this, Scott Snyder, Director of the Asia Foundation's
Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, said that North Korea puts the issue
of replacing an armistice with a peace treaty front and center, and
after Ambassador Bosworth's visit on December 8, it plans to decide
whether to rejoin the multilateral talks.

Snyder, who visited Pyongyang at the end of last month, stressed
during his interview with Voice of America on December 3, "The
feeling that I got in Pyongyang this time is that there is a wide
difference of opinion between the U.S. and the North over the
nuclear issue."

STEPHENS

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