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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; December 14, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 SEOUL 001946

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; December 14, 2009

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

Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo,
Hankook Ilbo, All TVs
Arms Cargo from N. Korea Seized in Thailand

Hankyoreh Shinmun, Seoul Shinmun
N. Korean Weapons Seizure May Affect U.S.-N. Korea Dialogue


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

On Dec. 12, Thai authorities, reportedly acting on a tip from their
U.S. counterparts, seized 35 tons of weapons on a plane that flew
from North Korea and arrested five crew members on board. This Thai
action was in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1874 banning
the transportation of weapons to or from North Korea. (All)

An ROKG official commented that the seizure clearly demonstrated
Washington's "two-track" approach: applying pressure on the North
through tough international sanctions while keeping the door open
for dialogue until the North takes significant steps to
denuclearize. (JoongAng)

Referring to the Dec. 9 talks in Pyongyang between Ambassador
Bosworth and North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju,
an ROKG source said on Dec. 13 that North Korea's message to
Ambassador Bosworth is that in order for the North to return to the
Six-Party Talks, (the U.S.) should create an atmosphere in which the
North can "save face." (JoongAng)


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

-N. Korea
---------
The seizure in Thailand of a Georgian cargo plane carrying 35 tons
of North Korean weapons received wide press coverage today.
According to media reports, this Thai action was in line with UN
Security Council Resolution 1874 banning the transportation of
weapons from or to North Korea. It is also the first time an
airplane carrying North Korean weapons has been caught since the UN
Security Council adopted sanctions in June, according to media
reports.

Most media speculated that this incident may have a negative impact
on U.S.-North Korea relations, because it came shortly after the
Dec. 8 visit to Pyongyang by U.S. Special Representative for North
Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth.

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo quoted an ROKG official as commenting
that the seizure clearly demonstrated Washington's "two-track"
approach: applying pressure on the North through tough international
sanctions while keeping the door open for dialogue until the North
takes significant steps to denuclearize.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized: "Selling weapons has long
been regarded as a major cash cow for North Korea. However, arms
smuggling cannot be a means to revive the North Korean economy and
to save North Korean citizens from starvation. ... This incident
once again confirms that Pyongyang's only interest is in maintaining
its regime and that it remains preoccupied with obtaining funds
needed to maintain its power through illegal arms deals."

An editorial in right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo argued: "Although we
hope that this incident will not pour cold water on the hard-won
atmosphere for dialogue between North Korea and the U.S., there is
one thing that the North should bear in mind: It is just an illusion
to think that UN sanctions, as in the past, will not be effective.

SEOUL 00001946 002 OF 006


The only way for the North to escape the sanctions is to return to
the Six-Party Talks and to clearly express its intention to abandon
its nuclear ambitions."

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo editorialized: "Another worrisome factor is
that North Korea used an aircraft for weapons transport this time.
Pyongyang has apparently used air transport to deceive the world
after scrutiny was raised on its ships. ... The latest incident
shows that the world should never relax sanctions on North Korea and
let its guard down."

With regard to the Dec. 9 talks in Pyongyang between Ambassador
Bosworth and North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju,
JoongAng Ilbo carried a report quoting an ROKG source as saying on
Dec. 13: "North Korea's message to Ambassador Bosworth is that in
order for the North to return to the Six-Party Talks, (the U.S.)
should create an atmosphere in which the North can "save face."

Most media replayed foreign media reports that Ambassador Bosworth
said in Beijing on Dec. 12 that there is no immediate plan for more
talks with North Korea and urged "strategic patience" from the
countries seeking the North's nuclear disarmament.

An editorial in moderate Hankook Ilbo noted media reports that the
U.S. and North Korea agreed during Ambassador Bosworth's visit to
Pyongyang to discuss a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula in a
'four-nation setting' with the ROK and China, and commented: "The
'comprehensive package,' which promises normalization of diplomatic
ties, a permanent peace regime and massive economic assistance in
return for the North's complete denuclearization, is not different
from our government's 'grand bargain' proposal. ... We should be
prudent in preparing for discussions on a peace regime because the
talks involve other sensitive issues that could affect the ROK-U.S.
alliance. However, if such talks help to restart the Six-Party
Talks and other denuclearization negotiations, we view them
positively."


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

ARMS DEALS HIGHLIGHT N. KOREA'S DUPLICITY
(Chosun Ilbo, December 14, 2009, Page 35)

While searching a Georgian cargo aircraft from Pyongyang during a
refueling stop at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport on Saturday, Thai
authorities found 35 tons of North Korean weapons aboard, including
missiles and explosives, and arrested five crewmembers including the
pilot. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Sunday the
measure was based on Thai laws and on UN (Security Council)
Resolution 1874. Some reports said the final destination of the
plane was Pakistan, near whose border U.S. forces are engaged in a
fierce battle against the Taliban.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1874 following North
Korea's second nuclear test on May 25 banning all weapons-related
transactions with the North. North Korea's attempted smuggling of
weapons is a clear violation of the resolution and will inevitably
lead to stronger sanctions against North Korea. In August, the
United Arab Emirates seized a vessel laden with North Korean
weapons, while another North Korean cargo ship, the Kangnam, was
forced to return to its home port on its way to Myanmar after being
tracked by the U.S. Navy.

North Korea is believed to have loaded the Georgian aircraft with
missiles and explosives last Tuesday or Wednesday, just when U.S.
special envoy on North Korea policy Stephen Bosworth was visiting
Pyongyang. In other words, the North was busily selling weapons
even as it was holding its first dialogue with the U.S. in a year.
Pyongyang is seriously mistaken if it believes the resumption of
dialogue with the U.S. signals an easing of surveillance of its arms
dealings. Regardless of U.S.-North Korea talks, the international
community is willing to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea.
Indeed, the Georgian aircraft, which was scheduled to refuel in Sri

SEOUL 00001946 003 OF 006


Lanka, may have made an emergency landing in Thailand as a result of
surveillance and tracking efforts by the international community.

Selling weapons has long been regarded as a major cash cow for North
Korea. However, arms smuggling cannot be a means to revive the
North Korean economy and to save North Korean citizens from
starvation. The ROK, the U.S. and the international community have
made it clear that they are willing to offer economic aid and
support to North Korea if it abandons its nuclear weapons and
missile programs. But the regime is not interested in saving North
Korean lives. This incident once again confirms that Pyongyang's
only interest is in maintaining its regime and that it remains
preoccupied with obtaining funds needed to maintain power through
illegal arms deals.


NK CAUGHT AGAIN FOR EXPORTING WEAPONS
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 14, 2009, Page 35)

North Korea has been caught yet again for trying to export weapons.
The cargo aircraft seized yesterday in Thailand reportedly contained
35 tons of weapons, including missiles and rocket launchers. This
shows that the North continues to export weapons in defiance of U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1874 passed in June, which bans
Pyongyang from exporting all weapons-related material excluding
small weapons. The resolution is part of the sanctions (implemented
resulting from) the North's long-range missile program and its
second nuclear test.

Another worrisome factor is that this time North Korea used an
aircraft for weapons transport. Pyongyang has apparently used air
transport to deceive the world after scrutiny was raised on its
ships. In August, the United Arab Emirates seized North Korean
weapons in a ship from a third country headed for Iran. A month
later, North Korean cargo, including body armor, was intercepted in
the ROK port of Busan. Back in June, the North Korean ship Kangnam
1, which was suspected of carrying weapons, had to sail back to
North Korea when an American vessel began tailing it. With its
adoption of the air transport method, Pyongyang is playing
hide-and-seek with the world both at sea and in the sky.

North Korea is also taking advantage of bilateral talks with the
U.S. while exporting weapons. The cargo aircraft detained in
Thailand had left Pyongyang two days after Stephen Bosworth, U.S.
special envoy for North Korea policy, returned home from his visit
to the North Korean capital. The weapons were delivered while
Bosworth was in Pyongyang, then the plane took off immediately after
he left. North Korea might have expected U.S. surveillance to
weaken while Bosworth was in Pyongyang. It is hard to believe that
North Korea truly wants to reconcile with the U.S. since it
attempted to export weapons behind Washington's back while bilateral
talks were in progress.

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874 are emergency
measures to prevent the North from spreading weapons of mass
destruction, including nuclear weapons and missiles. The latest
incident shows that the world should never relax sanctions on North
Korea and let its guard down. For a nation that sells weapons to
whomever it wants, North Korea might be led to believing that
exporting WMDs is a profitable business. As seen with Iran, a rogue
country that has openly expanded its uranium enrichment program,
there is clearly international demand for nuclear weapons and
technology.

Fortunately, many nations have actively cooperated in implementing
the two (UNSC) resolutions. Thailand seized the Georgian aircraft
that carried the North Korean weapons based on a tip from U.S.
intelligence. Myanmar also rejected the entrance of Kangnam 1.
North Korea seeks to disrupt peace by ignoring U.N. resolutions and
continuing the export of weapons, but decisive action from the
international community can prevent this.


NORTH KOREAN WEAPONS SEIZURE SHOULD NOT AFFECT TALKS

SEOUL 00001946 004 OF 006


(Hankyoreh Shinmun, December 11, 2009, Page 31)

On Saturday, a cargo aircraft carrying North Korean-made missiles
and other weapons was detained at a Thai airport and the weapons
confiscated. Although the aircraft and its five crew members were
all from former Soviet Union countries, it appears certain that the
weapons intended for export were from North Korea since they
originated from Pyongyang. The amount of weapons came to a
considerable 35 tons. This unfavorable turn of events comes just
after the visit of Stephen Bosworth, U.S. Special Representative for
North Korea Policy.

Weapons exports by North Korea are in violation of a United Nations
(UN) resolution adopted this past spring after the country had
conducted a nuclear test. That resolution designates nearly all
North Korea weapons as subject to an embargo. While North Korea
does not recognize this resolution, UN member nations are obligated
to abide by its content. As such, there may be a fair amount of
conflict emerging between North Korea and other concerned nations in
the future over the determinations made by the UN Sanctions
Committee.

Another concern is the negative effect this may have on the
resumption of Six-Party Talks. North Korea had taken another step
closer to returning to those talks with Bosworth's visit of Dec. 8
that lasted until Dec. 10. Experts are predicting that talks will
resume after an additional senior-level meeting between North Korea
and the U.S. These developments mean that the U.S. and North Korea
are on the verge of a consensus on the broader framework of the
denuclearization process. Furthermore, if talks resume, it is
expected that negotiations will be proceeding somewhat more
effectively based on a reflection on past failures. However, some
are saying this incident may cause a delay in the resumption of
talks. If this incident has a negative effect on international
opinion, we may see a repeat of the Banco Delta Asia (BDA) incident
that took place around the time of the September 19 Joint Statement
in 2005, which prevented the Six-Party Talks from proceeding for
nearly a year and a half.

Even if the international community moves to deal with the incident
swiftly in accordance with the spirit of the UN resolution, it needs
to ensure that there is no increase in needless conflict. It goes
without saying that we must not have factions that favor a hard line
on North Korea using the incident to thwart nuclear negotiations as
happened with the BDA incident. Moreover, North Korea, for its
part, should not engage in misguided stubbornness over facts that
have already come to light. It needs to bear in mind that the
international sanctions targeting it will ultimately go away only if
headway is made in denuclearization.

If Six-Party Talks are to restart and generate results, it is
important that all parties involved work to maintain a balance and
steadily build up trust even if some unforeseen incident takes
place. North Korea in particular should view this incident as a
test case for examining its approach.

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


"FOUR-WAY DIALOGUE" IS DESIRABLE FOR PEACE REGIME ON KOREAN
PENINSULA
(Hankook Ilbo, December 14, Page 39)

The U.S. and North Korea reportedly agreed to discuss a peace regime
on the Korean Peninsula in a "four-nation setting" with the ROK and
China. Both sides agreed that the four-way talks should be held
after the Six-Party Talks resume. This mutual understanding was
reached during Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen
Bosworth's visit to Pyongyang. The U.S., which urged the North to
denuclearize first, and North Korea, which demanded a peace regime,
agreed to discuss the two issues through separate dialogue. This is
desirable progress because the ROKG has considered denuclearization
and a peace regime the two axes for a peaceful Korean Peninsula.

SEOUL 00001946 005 OF 006

The need to discuss a peace regime such as replacing the armistice
agreement with a peace treaty also was brought up in the 1991 Basic
Agreement and during the Four-Party Talks in Geneva in 1997. The
U.S. and North Korea mentioned a four-nation negotiation framework
for signing a peace treaty in 2000 when special envoy Jo Myong-rok
visited the U.S. The September 19, 2005 Joint Statement also
stipulates that "the directly related parties" will negotiate a
peace regime (on the Korean Peninsula) at an appropriate separate
forum.

However, the peace treaty issue has made little progress and was not
addressed seriously in the Six-Party Talks. In response to UN
Security Council's sanctions imposed after its long-range rocket
launch, North Korea boycotted the Six-Party Talks apparently because
it aimed to transform denuclearization negotiations into peace
treaty negotiations. North Korea called for the removal of the
U.S.'s threats against North Korea and its nuclear umbrella for the
ROK as a prerequisite for its denuclearization.

Even though the agreement this time embraced the North's demand, it
is consistent with the common positions of the U.S. and the ROK.
The four-way dialogue will take place only after the Six-Party Talks
resume and the ROK has been reaffirmed as one of the "directly
related parties." The U.S. has been pressuring the North to rejoin
the Six-Party Talks while at the same time proposing an alternate
road to take. The 'comprehensive package,' which promises
normalization of diplomatic ties, a permanent peace regime and
massive economic assistance in return for the North's complete
denuclearization, is not different from our government's 'grand
bargain' proposal. Thai authorities impounded a Georgian cargo
plane carrying North Korean weapons including missiles. This move
indicates (the U.S.'s) determination to pursue pressure and dialogue
at the same time.

We should be prudent in preparing for discussions on a peace regime
because the talks involve other sensitive issues that could affect
the ROK-U.S. alliance. However, if such talks help to restart the
Six-Party Talks and other denuclearization negotiations, we view
them positively.


N. KOREAN WEAPONS SEIZURE REAFFIRMS (THE USG'S) TWO-TRACK PRINCIPLE
OF SANCTIONS AND DIALOGUE
(JoongAng Ilbo, December 14, 2009, Page 38)

A cargo plane carrying North Korean weapons was seized in Thailand
on December 12. It was only two days after the U.S.-North Korean
high-level talks ended. This incident clearly shows the Obama
Administration's determination to implement a two-track strategy of
pressure and dialogue toward the North and not to repeat the past
pattern of the Bush Administration, when sanctions against the North
disappeared after the communist state entered into dialogue.

As far as it is known, it seems to be certain that North Korea
violated UN Security Council Resolution 1874. Thai authorities
reported that they inspected and seized a Georgian cargo plane from
Pyongyang carrying 35 tons of North Korean weaponry, including about
20 missiles and 48 rocket-propelled grenades, when the plane stopped
for refueling. The U.S. intelligence authorities reportedly asked
for cooperation in that process. Although more details are expected
to be revealed after the Thai authorities complete their
investigation, it appears obvious that the North was caught
exporting weapons through a plane of a third nation.

UNSC Resolution 1874, which was adopted in June after the North
Korea's second nuclear test, bans all trade in North Korean-made
weapons. This Resolution "calls upon all States to inspect all
cargo to and from the DPRK, in their territory, including seaports
and airports, if the State concerned has information that provides
reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains prohibited items
(Article 11)," authorizes "all Member States to, and that all Member
States shall, seize and dispose of prohibited items (article 14)"
and "requires any Member State to submit promptly reports containing

SEOUL 00001946 006 OF 006


relevant details to the Committee on the inspection, seizure and
disposal (of prohibited cargo) (Article 15)." Thailand seems to
have inspected the cargo plane on a tip-off from the U.S. and seized
the weapons. In August, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seized North
Korean-made weapons on a third nation's vessel bound for Iran, and
at the end of June, a North Korean ship suspected of carrying
weapons toward Myanmar returned home after being tracked by a U.S.
Navy vessel. It is getting clearer that it is becoming more
difficult for North Korea to export weapons in defiance of the UNSC
Resolution.

Although we hope that this incident will not pour cold water on the
hard-won atmosphere for dialogue between North Korea and the U.S.,
there is one thing that the North should bear in mind: It is just an
illusion to think that UN sanctions, as in the past, will not be
effective. The only way for the North to escape the sanctions is
to return to the Six-Party Talks and clearly express its intention
to abandon its nuclear ambitions.


STEPHENS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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