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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; December 16, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SEOUL 001964

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; December 16, 2009

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


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Paralyzes National Assembly

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Doubled in Eight Years

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

USFK Commander Gen. Walter Sharp, in a Dec. 14 forum organized by
the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in
Washington, said that even after the ROK's takeover of wartime
operational control from the U.S. in 2012, the ROK and the U.S.
militaries will conduct joint military operations under a "single
operational plan" in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula.
(Chosun)

He was also quoted as saying: "Sometime in the future we could have
forces (in Korea) that could, with consultations between both
nations, be able to be deployed in different places around the
world." (All)

The ROK and the U.S. are reportedly seeking to establish a Defense
Guideline in order to cooperate in the event of an emergency on the
Korean Peninsula. (JoongAng, Hankook, Segye, Seoul)


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

The U.S. said on Dec. 14 that it regards Thailand's recent seizure
of a cargo plane carrying North Korean weapons as (North Korea's)
violation of UN Resolution 1874 and will report the incident to the
UN's North Korea Sanctions Committee. (Chosun, JoongAng, Hankook,
Hankyoreh, Segye, Seoul)

It was learned yesterday that North Korea has decided to ban
foreigners from the country from Dec. 20 until early February.
Experts viewed this move as designed to prepare for North Korean
leader Kim Jong-il's visit to China or to ease unrest caused by its
recent currency reform. (Chosun)


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

-N. Korea
---------

The media continues to follow the story of Thailand's recent seizure
of a cargo plane carrying North Korean weapons. Most media noted
Dec. 14 press remarks by State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly, in
which he said: "The next step here will be to report this incident
to the UN's North Korea Sanctions Committee, the so-called 1718

SEOUL 00001964 002 OF 004


Committee, which has a mandate to investigate and take appropriate
action in response to incidents like this."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also widely quoted as saying
on Dec. 14: "We were very pleased to see the strong action taken by
the Thais. It shows that sanctions can work. It shows that
sanctions can prevent the proliferation of weapons."

Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun, however, in an inside-page article,
highlighted Secretary Clinton's statement: "I don't think anyone
should be surprised that North Korea is continuing to attempt to
evade the sanctions and export around the world, because that is
their principal source of foreign currency," and interpreted this
as indicating Washington's intention not to bring the seriousness of
this incident to the spotlight.

With regard to Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen
Bosworth's recent visit to Pyongyang, a commentary in
right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo observed: "North Korea will return to
the Six-Party Talks, even if it takes some time. The U.S. will have
a dialogue with the North within the Six-Party framework in keeping
with President Obama's grand design of a nuclear-free world. A
nuclear-free world will not come without the resolution of the North
Korean nuclear issue. ... In a situation where the North is
softening its rhetoric and the U.S. is taking a positive view of
such change from the North, the ROK should also soften its North
Korea policy before the gap between the views of the ROK and the
U.S. regarding the North widens too much."


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

IT IS TIME TO SOFTEN HARD-LINE POLICY TOWARD N. KOREA
(JoongAng Ilbo, December 16, 2009, Page 39)
By Senior Reporter Kim Young-hie

According to the ROKG's high-ranking source, U.S. Special
Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth heard what he
wanted to hear from North Korean officials in Pyongyang last week.
The U.S. wanted to know North Korea's true intention about the
September 19, 2005 Joint Statement. North Korea, which considers
the Statement still valid, expressed its intention to abide by it.
The September 19, 2005 Joint Statement is the only agreement in
which the North promised to give up its nuclear weapons and
nuclear-weapons development programs. The source said that
Ambassador Bosworth was highly encouraged by North Korea's remarks
that the Statement is valid and that the North will adhere to it.

North Korea also acknowledged the need for the Six-Party Talks.
This is welcome progress heralding the resumption of the
multilateral talks, which were suspended after the sixth round of
the talks broke down in December, 2008 due to conflicts over how to
verify North Korea's nuclear declaration. North Korea declared the
Six-Party Talks "dead for good." It boasted that, as a nuclear
state not bound by the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, it
will have a nuclear arms reduction negotiation with the U.S. on an
equal footing. In order to return to the Six-Party Talks that the
North had declared "dead," however, the communist state needed a
justification and therefore asked the U.S. to provide a
"face-saving" way to rejoin the talks. The U.S.'s position is
that Ambassador Bosworth's visit to the North could serve as that
justification.

No one knows when the North will return to the Six-Party Talks.
Ambassador Bosworth says that time for strategic patience is needed.
Although the term "strategic" is often abused in international
relations, in using the term "strategic patience" Ambassador
Bosworth seems to mean that he will watch for changes in North
Korea's attitude without being fussy about minor details. If the
U.S. exercises strategic patience, even the detention of a cargo
plane in Thailand loaded with 30 tons of weaponry, including North
Korean-made rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missile
launchers and modified missiles, will not likely change the course

SEOUL 00001964 003 OF 004


of defusing tension between the North and the U.S.

The North's position that it will rejoin the Six-Party Talks
whenever it is provided with appropriate justification implies a
great deal. Pyongyang seems to have realized that their tactic of
pressuring the Obama Administration with the second nuclear test and
missile launches, even before the newly launched administration
could present its policy on North Korea, was rarely beneficial to
the communist state. One U.S. expert on North Korea said after
visiting Pyongyang before Ambassador Bosworth that it appeared that
North Korea did not feel the pain of international sanctions.
However, North Korea's series of conciliatory gestures toward the
ROK and the U.S. seems to be clear evidence showing that the
sanctions against the North by the international community and the
U.S. are hitting the North hard. It appears, therefore, that North
Korea started to launch its charm offensive on the U.S. after former
U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to Pyongyang this past August.

UN Security Council Resolution 1718, adopted in October, 2006, does
not specify the conditions for lifting the sanctions. Therefore,
when the Democratic Party members of the U.S. Congress started to
criticize the Bush Administration by saying that the sanctions,
especially the financial sanctions, against the North was a failure,
the administration resumed its bilateral talks with the North within
the Six-Party framework, lifted the sanctions, and even took North
Korea off the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries. However,
UNSC Resolution 1874, issued this June, clearly states that the
lifting of sanctions is conditioned on North Korea's irreversible
steps toward denuclearization. Even if the U.S. wants to lift
sanctions, it would be impossible without the consent of the
international community, including other Six-Party nations. North
Korea must have been well aware of this. This means that if the
North implements its obligations under the September 19 Joint
Statement and returns to the Six-Party Talks, the prospects for the
resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue will be brighter than
ever before.

Judging from these results, it was effective in the short term for
the ROK to have reacted coolly to the string of conciliatory
gestures that the North has taken since this summer. The ROK's
strategy was to wait until the effect of the sanctions is maximized.
Now is the time for the ROK to also soften its hard-line stance in
line with signs of change in the U.S. attitude toward North Korea.
If the ROK continues in taking a hard-line stance against the North,
it will be less effective. President Obama won the Nobel Peace
Prize "on credit." He should pay for the prize by doing something
for world peace.

North Korea will return to the Six-Party Talks, even if it takes
some time. The U.S. will have a dialogue with the North within the
Six-Party framework in keeping with President Obama's grand design
of a nuclear-free world. A nuclear-free world will not come without
the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. For President
Obama, success at the U.S.-organized Nuclear Security Summit
scheduled for next spring and the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation
Treaty Review Conference is desperately needed. In a situation
where the North is softening its rhetoric and the U.S. is taking a
positive view of such change from the North, the ROK should also
soften its North Korea policy before the gap between the views of
the ROK and the U.S. regarding the North widens too much.


MEASURES NEEDED TO BRACE FOR USFK'S TRANSFORMATION INTO RAPID
DEPLOYMENT TROOPS
(JoonAng Ilbo, December 16, Page 38)

The U.S. is preparing to transform U.S. forces in the ROK into rapid
deployment troops that could be dispatched to other parts of the
world (where the U.S. faces conflict.) On December 14, USFK
Commander Gen. Walter Sharp stressed the need for the USFK to be
more regionally engaged and globally deployed. Previously, in an
address to US troops at Osan Air Base last month, President Barack
Obama also hinted at the possibility of sending U.S. forces in the
ROK to Afghanistan. In October, Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of

SEOUL 00001964 004 OF 004


the Joint Chiefs of Staff made similar remarks. An agreement on
"strategic flexibility" was reached between the ROK and the U.S. in
2006, paving the way for the USFK to be dispatched overseas. So
far, the USG has been cautious in adopting that policy. But recent
remarks by U.S. high-ranking officials show a change in the USG's
position. The USFK, which has been devoted to defending the Korean
Peninsula since the Korean War, will soon serve as rapid deployment
troops like U.S. soldiers stationed in Okinawa.

Former President Roh Moo-hyun championed self-defense and demanded
that the ROK take over wartime operational control from the U.S.
Following his remarks, former U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who
was considering ways to effectively utilize U.S. forces stationed in
foreign countries, strongly argued that the U.S. and the ROK should
leave open the possibility for the US Forces Korea (USFK) to be
dispatched overseas. This led both countries to strike an agreement
on "strategic flexibility." Before strategic flexibility was
introduced, the U.S. bore the responsibility to defend the ROK.
Under the ROK-US Combined Forces Command, the USFK Commander would
exercise wartime operation control and fully utilize combat
resources of the ROK and the U.S. in case of an emergency.
(However,) strategic flexibility and transfer of wartime operational
control to the ROK will allow the U.S. to alleviate its burden to
defend the ROK and to transform the USFK into rapid deployment
troops.

This change means that the ROK should take a broader responsibility
to defend itself. Some observers say that this should be taken for
granted due to an expansion of our national power. However, the ROK
still faces security concerns. Such an argument will become
realistic only after North Korea denuclearizes, the ROK and North
Korea disarm and security takes hold on the Korean Peninsula and in
East Asia. If the USFK turns into rapid deployment troops under the
concept of strategic flexibility, this will affect the ROK's
relations with neighboring countries such as China, Japan, and
Russia. We may have to accept changes that accompany the
implementation of this new approach. We also should brace ourselves
to minimize any ill effects (from the USFK becoming rapid deployment
troops).

We have argued that the ROK and the U.S. should review the ROK's
takeover of wartime operational control from the U.S. in 2012. This
position is in keeping with the argument that it is too early to
apply strategic flexibility to the USFK given the Korean Peninsula's
security conditions.


STEPHENS

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