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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; December 18, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SEOUL 001971

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; December 18, 2009

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


Chosun Ilbo
"Operational Plan 5027," a Top-S-e-c-r-e-t Contingency Plan against
North Korean Attack, Leaked by Hackers; North Korea Suspected in
This Attack

JoongAng Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, All TVs
Schools to Have Fewer Subjects

Dong-a Ilbo
National Tax Service Introduces Tax Dodger Detection System

Hankook Ilbo, Hankyoreh Shinmun
Budget Confrontation; Scuffles Again Erupt inside National Assembly
after Opposition Lawmakers Occupy Budget Panel

Segye Ilbo
Troubled Ssangyong Motor Escapes Liquidation; Court Approves
Ssangyong's Self-Rescue Plan, Saying Survival is Better Option


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

According to a Blue House spokesman, President Lee Myung-bak and
visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping agreed yesterday to step
up joint efforts to denuclearize North Korea. (All)

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

Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth,
during a Dec. 16 press briefing in Washington on his trip to
Pyongyang last week, said: "We talked specifically about what kind
of conditions would be necessary to move into a peace treaty
negotiation." (Chosun)

Ambassador Bosworth was further quoted: "Obviously, only four of the
countries (in the Six-Party Talks - the two Koreas, the U.S. and
China) would be directly involved in a peace treaty negotiation, and
that's well understood by all parties." This is the first time that
the U.S. has mentioned the specific countries that would be involved
in discussions on a peace treaty. (Dong-a)

State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly, in a Dec. 16 regular briefing,
confirmed that Ambassador Bosworth delivered a letter from President
Obama to Pyongyang during his visit to North Korea. Spokesman Kelly
was quoted as saying: "I can only confirm there was such a letter,
but I cannot discuss the content or the tone." (JoongAng, Dong-a,
Hankook, Hankyoreh, Segye, Seoul)

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

-N. Korea
----------
- Ambassador Bosworth's Visit

All ROK media covered Special Representative for North Korea Policy
Stephen Bosworth's Dec. 16 press briefing in Washington on his trip
to Pyongyang last week. Most coverage focused on Ambassador
Bosworth's statements on a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula
which has been demanded by North Korea.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo, in particular, noted Ambassador Bosworth's
remark, "We talked specifically about what kind of conditions would
be necessary to move into a peace treaty negotiation," and quoted a

SEOUL 00001971 002 OF 005


diplomatic source in Washington as speculating: "His statement
suggests that the U.S. may have promised to immediately begin
discussions on a peace treaty in return for the North's acquiescence
to the resumption of the Six-Party Talks." Chosun viewed this
development as a departure from the Obama Administration's previous
position that a peace regime can be discussed only after there is
some progress in denuclearization talks.

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo, meanwhile, highlighted Ambassador
Bosworth's statement: "Obviously, only four of the countries (in the
Six-Party Talks - the two Koreas, the U.S. and China) would be
directly involved in a peace treaty negotiation, and that's well
understood by all parties." Dong-a observed that this is the first
time that the U.S. has mentioned the specific countries that would
be involved in discussions on a peace treaty.

Most media gave attention to Dec. 16 press remarks by State
Department Spokesman Ian Kelly, in which he said: "I can only
confirm there was such a letter (from President Obama intended for
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il), but I cannot discuss the content
or the tone."

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo's sub-head read: "U.S. State
Department Also Unwilling to Disclose Details of the Letter; (The
Letter) May Have Contained Various Incentives for North Korea, which
U.S. May Find it Difficult to Disclose."


- Plane Seized in Thailand with Weapons from N. Korea

Most media continues to follow Thailand's seizure of a cargo plane
allegedly carrying weapons from North Korea.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo replayed a Dec. 17 report by an influential
Russian newspaper claiming that the seized cargo plane was not
impounded in Thailand during a refueling stop, as previously
believed, but was forced to land by fighter planes after it entered
Thai airspace.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was widely quoted as saying on
Dec. 16 that English-language instructions were found in the process
of checking the (seized) weapons boxes and that this meant the
weapons could not have originated from North Korea.


FEATURES
----------

Why is U.S. Unwilling to Disclose Obama's Letter?
(JoonAng Ilbo, December 18, Page 2)

By Correspondent Kim Jeong-wook

In a December 16 regular briefing, State Department Spokesman Ian
Kelly confirmed that U.S. Special Representative for North Korea
Policy delivered a letter from President Obama to Pyongyang during
his visit to North Korea. Spokesman Kelly said, "I can only confirm
there was such a letter, but I cannot discuss the content or the
tone." During a (December 16) press conference, Ambassador Bosworth
did not give a detailed answer to this issue. He said that he
conveyed "very directly to the North Korean leadership a vision for
the future which would be a lot different than the present or the
past, and ways in which we could improve both our bilateral
relationship and improve North Korea's overall relationships within
Northeast Asia." Ambassador Bosworth said with laughter, "I can
confirm I did not bring back a letter (from Kim.)" These remarks
indicate that the letter may have contained various incentives the
U.S. can give to North Korea.

Ambassador Bosworth revealed some new facts. He said, "When we do
come back to the Six-Party Talks, one of the first challenges is
going to be to agree on an overall sequencing of the
denuclearization, the move toward a new peace regime, a peace
treaty, the provision of energy and economic assistance,

SEOUL 00001971 003 OF 005


normalization of relations, the establishment of some sort of a
structure for Northeast Asian security." He added, "We talked about
all of these issues. We talked specifically about what kind of
conditions would be necessary to move into a peace treaty
negotiation, et cetera."

Ambassador Bosworth said that China, as the chair of the Six-Party
Talks, will be taking the initiative to coordinate efforts "over the
next few weeks" for a new round of talks. He also noted that North
Korea agreed to discuss its uranium-based nuclear program in future
Six-Party Talks, saying, "It clearly will be on the agenda when the
talks resume. They put it there by making a public announcement that
they had concluded the first experimental phase of the uranium
enrichment program."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State reportedly informed the ROKG
of its plan to deliver Obama's letter shortly before Bosworth's
visit without, however, describing its content specifically. In
particular, attention is turning to why the Obama Administration did
not officially disclose the existence of the letter at first and
remains unwilling to disclose its details. After the George W. Bush
Government delivered his letter to Kim Jong-il in December 2007,
U.S. National Security Council (NSC) spokesman held a briefing on
the letter.

A U.S. diplomatic source familiar with the Korean Peninsula issue
suggested that Obama's letter may have contained proposals that the
U.S. does not want to disclose to the media. The source noted that
if the letter just contains the U.S.' calls for the North's return
to the Six-Party Talks, the U.S. wouldn't need to keep it
s-e-c-r-e-t. The source speculated that President Obama may have
expressed his willingness to meet with Kim Jong-il. Another source
said that Ambassador Bosworth's remarks on his talks with Pyongyang
as "businesslike" indicate that the talks were not mere rhetoric but
serious discussions over specific issues.


Bosworth: "Only Four Nations would be Involved in Peace Treaty
Negotiation"
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 18, 2009, Page 6)

By Washington Correspondent Ha Tae-won

Ambassador Bosworth delivered the "U.S.-style grand bargain" to
North Korea.

"I conveyed a vision for the future, which would be a lot different
from the past."

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth
said on December 16, "(During the visit to the North) I conveyed
very directly to the North Korean leadership a vision for the
future, which would be a lot different than the present or the
past." During a briefing held at the Department of State,
Ambassador Bosworth explained that the vision "could improve both
our bilateral relationship and improve North Korea's overall
relationships within Northeast Asia, always provided that they are
prepared to move toward the goal of denuclearization."

He also emphasized that during his visit to Pyongyang, there was a
discussion about the signing of a peace treaty, which the North has
been asking for. He noted, "A peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula
is a commitment that all six parties accepted in the Joint Statement
of September 2005. So when they say that they view that as an
important element, I can say with great sincerity so do we."

He said, however, "When we do come back to the Six-Party Talks, one
of the first challenges is going to be to agree on an overall
sequencing of the denuclearization, the move toward a new peace
regime, a peace treaty, the provision of energy and economic
assistance, normalization of relations, (and) the establishment of
some sort of a structure for Northeast Asian security," adding, "We
talked specifically about what kind of conditions would be necessary
to move into a peace treaty negotiation." He also pointedly said,

SEOUL 00001971 004 OF 005


"We're not going to negotiate on any of these issues until we're
back at the table in the Six-Party framework."

Ambassador Bosworth strongly suggested that discussions about a
peace regime on the Korean Peninsula will be carried out in a
four-party format involving the two Koreas, the U.S., and China. He
said, "Obviously, only four of the countries would be directly
involved in a peace treaty negotiation, and that's well understood
by all parties." The Joint Statement of September 19, 2005 says,
"The directly related parties will negotiate a permanent peace
regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate forum (separately
from the Six-Party Talks)" but it does not mention the specific
nations to be involved.

Meanwhile, in a separate briefing, Department Spokesman Ian Kelly
officially confirmed that there was a personal letter from President
Obama to Pyongyang, saying that Ambassador Bosworth handed the
letter not directly to North Korean leader Kim Jon-il but to the
North Korean government.

On December 16, both Ambassador Bosworth and Spokesman Kelly were
tight-lipped about the specific contents of the letter, but experts
speculate that, in the letter, the U.S. may have urged the North to
make a strategic decision to denuclearize, while promising to move
toward the signing of a peace treaty, the normalization of
relations, and economic assistance in return. In other words, this
is the same as President Lee Myung-bak's "grand bargain." Charles
Pritchard, President of the Korea Economic Institute (KEI), said,
"In the letter, the U.S. probably said that it is not pursuing a
hostile policy against North Korea, has no intention of toppling the
North Korea regime, and wants a stable denuclearization of the
Korean Peninsula through the resumption of the Six-Party Talks."


Bosworth Talked About Peace Treaty with N. Korea
(Chosun Ilbo, December 18, Page 6)

By Correspondent Lee Ha-won

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth
discussed prospects of a peace treaty with officials during his
recent visit to Pyongyang.

In a briefing at the State Department on Wednesday, Bosworth said,
"We talked specifically about what kind of conditions would be
necessary to move into a peace treaty negotiation."

"The commitment to move toward a new arrangement, a peace treaty on
the Korean Peninsula, is a commitment that all six parties accepted
in the joint statement of September 2005," he recalled. The Korean
War never officially ended but was merely halted by an armistice 55
years ago.

"When we do come back to the Six-Party Talks, one of the first
challenges is going to be to agree on an overall sequencing of the
denuclearization, the move toward a new peace regime, a peace
treaty, the provision of energy and economic assistance,
normalization of relations, the establishment of some sort of a
structure for Northeast Asian security," Bosworth said.

He added he "found that the talks were quite positive."

Given his remark, the U.S. may have agreed with North Korea in
principle to discuss a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula shortly
after the Six-Party Talks resume. His statement suggests that the
U.S. may have promised to immediately begin discussions on a peace
treaty in return for the North's acquiescence to the resumption of
the Six-Party Talks, a diplomatic source in Washington speculated.
This development represents a departure from the Obama
Administration's previous position that a peace regime can be
discussed only after there is some progress in denuclearization
talks.

(This is a translation prepared by the newspaper. We have compared

SEOUL 00001971 005 OF 005


the English version on the website with the Korean version and made
some changes to make them identical.)


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