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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; December 15, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SEOUL 001953

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; December 15, 2009

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


Chosun Ilbo
Presidential Economic Aide Kang Man-soo: "ROKG will Work Out Rescue
Plans for Companies Suffering Cash Flow Problems"

JoongAng Ilbo
National Assembly under Criticism for "Dereliction of Duty"

Dong-a Ilbo
Ruling and Opposition Parties Agree to Revise
Political Reform-Related Laws

Hankook Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
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Hankyoreh Shinmun
Ruling Party, Conservative Media Suspected of Plotting to Give
Special Treatment to Comprehensive Program Channels

Segye Ilbo
ROKG Seeks to Extend Retirement Age of
Rapidly Aging Baby Boomers


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

According to Thailand's newspaper, The Nation, the pilot of a cargo
plane recently detained in Thailand for allegedly carrying weapons
from North Korea told interrogators that he transported similar
consignments three or four times before. (Chosun, Dong-a, KBS)

According to Thai and foreign media outlets, some of the cargo on
the seized aircraft was slated to be offloaded in Sri Lanka and the
Middle East. (Chosun, Dong-a, Hankook, Hankyoreh, Seoul, KBS)


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

-N. Korea
---------
The Dec. 12 seizure in Thailand of a Georgian cargo plane carrying
some 35 tons of North Korean weapons continued to capture the
attention of the ROK media.

Most media noted Dec. 14 reports by Thai and foreign media outlets
quoting the pilot on the seized aircraft as telling interrogators
that he transported similar consignments three or four times before.
The other crew members in police detention were also quoted as
saying that the plane "was to stop for refueling in Bangkok and drop
off some of the cargo in Sri Lanka and the Middle East before
returning to Ukraine," (the alleged final destination of the
plane).

The media interpreted these statements as indicating the possibility
that North Korean weapons might have flowed out of the country
several times via cargo planes.

An inside-page report in conservative Dong-a Ilbo claimed: "The
"military economy," or efforts by North Korean military agencies to
raise income, has been separate from North Korea's regular economy
since the 1970s. ... The large amount of dollars earned by the
military economy has been (used to maintain the regime) of leader
Kim Jong-il."

Moderate Hankook Ilbo editorialized: "If North Korea, which has made
no response yet, protests by calling (the seizure) another sanction
or provocation, it will inevitably dampen U.S.-North Korea dialogue.

SEOUL 00001953 002 OF 002


Should the ongoing investigation prove that North Korea has engaged
in arms deals with terrorist organizations, it will further
complicate the situation. ... Once North Korea clearly understands
the difficulty in earning foreign currency by exporting weapons in
violation of UN Security Council sanctions, this may have a positive
effect on resuming the Six-Party Talks. The North should realize
that it will no longer be able to survive amid international
sanctions and come to the negotiating table."


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

N. KOREA SHOULD STOP ILLEGAL WEAPONS EXPORTS
(Hankook Ilbo, December 15, 2009, Page 39)

The detention of a Georgian-flagged plane carrying North Korean-made
weapons at a Thai airport is causing serious repercussions. Thai
authorities seized about 35 tons of weaponry, including
ground-to-air missiles, aboard the cargo plane, and arrested the
five crew members of the plane, including the pilot, on a charge of
illegal arms possession. This step was taken under the Thai
domestic law and UN Security Council Resolution 1874. It is
regrettable that this incident took place when U.S. Special
Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth's recent
visit to Pyongyang is raising expectations for progress on
discussions about the resumption of the Six-Party Talks and a peace
treaty on the Korean Peninsula.

The cargo plane was reportedly detained at the request of the U.S.
intelligence authorities. The U.S. clearly showed its intention not
to ease pressure against the North while pursuing dialogue with the
communist state at the same time. In early August, North
Korean-made weapons on board a Bahamian vessel were seized, and in
June, a North Korean ship suspected of carrying weapons toward
Myanmar returned home after being tracked by a U.S. Navy vessel.
This is the first time that North Korea was caught exporting weapons
by airplane. It will be hard for North Korea to export weapons
either by ship or air because the U.S. keeps close watch (on the
North's move) and international cooperation intensifies.

If North Korea, which has made no response yet, protests by calling
(the seizure) another sanction or provocation, it will inevitably
dampen U.S.-North Korea dialogue. Should the ongoing investigation
prove that North Korea has engaged in arms deals with terrorist
organizations, it will further complicate the situation. However,
if North Korea has sold conventional weapons, it will have little
impact on U.S.-North Korea talks. Once North Korea clearly
understands the difficulty in earning foreign currency by exporting
weapons in violation of UN Security Council sanctions, this may have
a positive effect on resuming the Six-Party Talks. The North should
realize that it will no longer be able to survive amid international
sanctions and come to the negotiating table.

The U.S. and the international community need to take a two-track
strategy wisely in order to make the North abandon its weapons of
mass destruction and join the international community. If (the U.S.
and the international community) push too hard on North Korea as
they did in the Banco Delta Asia (BDA) incident, it will again lead
to a delay in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.


STEPHENS

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