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Cablegate: Special Envoy King's 1/11 Meeting with Fm Yu

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #0062/01 0140940
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 140940Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6708
INFO RUCNKOR/KOREA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSFK SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 000062
SIPDIS
EO 12958 DECL: 01/14/2030
TAGS PHUM, PREL, PGOV, PINR, SOCI, ECON, KN, KS, CH
SUBJECT: SPECIAL ENVOY KING’S 1/11 MEETING WITH FM YU
Classified By: Ambassador D. Kathleen Stephens. Reasons 1.4 (b/d).

Summary
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1. (C) During a January 11 meeting with Special Envoy Robert King, FM Yu downplayed press speculation that a North-South summit is imminent. Yu asserted that Kim Jong-il (KJI) would visit China in late January or early February; the North Korean leader needed both Chinese economic aid and political support to stabilize an “increasingly chaotic” situation at home. An unspecified number of high-ranking North Korean officials had recently defected to the ROK, according to Yu. The foreign minister thanked King for his willingness to press the PRC on the treatment of North Korean refugees. Yu said the ROK would provide “significant” food aid to the DPRK if Pyongyang asked for it and agreed to monitoring. The ROK also planned to help fund work by NGOs to combat TB and multi-drug-resistant TB in the North, which has spread widely within the DPRK’s chronically malnourished population. At a lunch following the meeting, Seoul’s point man on DPRK issues, Ambassador Wi Sung-lac, reiterated the FM’s call for U.S. help in persuading China to go easier on North Korean refugees. Wi also thanked Ambassador King for his willingness to keep the ROK updated on discussions between the American Red Cross and its DPRK counterpart regarding potential reunions between Korean-Americans and their North Korean kin. End summary.

FM Yu on: Prospects for North-South Summit...
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2. (C) During a January 11 meeting with Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan downplayed press speculation that a North-South summit is imminent. The ROK was discussing the issue with the DPRK, Yu said, noting that there were two major Blue House preconditions: the nuclear issue had to be on the agenda and the ROK would not pay the North to hold a summit. Yu speculated that it would “take some time” for the North Koreans to “digest” the preconditions.

...Rumors of a KJI Visit to China...
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3. (C) Yu asserted that Kim Jong-il (KJI) would visit China in late January or early February. The North Korean leader had visited the PRC twice before in that timeframe, Yu related, adding that KJI needed both Chinese economic aid and political support to stabilize an “increasingly chaotic” situation at home. In particular, FM Yu claimed that the North’s botched currency reform had caused “big problems” for the regime and that the power succession from KJI to Kim Jong-eun was “not going smoothly.” Moreover, Yu confided, an unspecified number of high-ranking North Korean officials working overseas had recently defected to the ROK. (Note: Yu emphasized that the defections have not been made public. End note.)

...Pressuring Beijing on Refugees...
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4. (C) Yu thanked Ambassador King for stating that he intended to work closely with the ROK on the issue of improving human rights conditions in North Korea. Yu also expressed appreciation for Ambassador King’s willingness to engage the Chinese on the issue of North Korean refugees. Yu said he has repeatedly raised the matter with PRC FM Yang, only to get a boilerplate response emphasizing that North Koreans in China are economic migrants. Yu claimed that the number of North Koreans fleeing into China XXXXXXXXXXXX continues to increase; 2,952 North Koreans made it to the ROK in 2009 and more than that are expected in 2010. Yu noted that at least 80 percent of the refugees who come to the South are women, adding that they are often abused by human traffickers. XXXXXXXXXXXX Yu added that he was skeptical that the DPRK would engage in dialogue with the EU about human rights.

...and Humanitarian Assistance to the North
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5. (C) Responding to a question from Ambassador King, Yu said the North Korean grain harvest was approximately 4 million metric tons (MMT), which was better than expected but still short of the 4.5 MMT the regime needs to ensure stability. (Note: The official ROKG estimate is that the DPRK harvest was approximately 5 MMT. End note.) Given the North’s chronic transportation and storage problems, there would be starvation “here and there” during the spring, Yu lamented. The foreign minister said the ROK would be willing to provide “significant” food aid to the DPRK if Pyongyang asked for it and agreed to monitoring. The ROK would not, Yu said, simply give the North a huge amount of grain. Any aid would be given in small amounts, he stressed. The foreign minister also said the ROK would help fund work by NGOs to combat multi-drug-resistant TB in the North, which has spread widely within the DPRK’s chronically malnourished population.

Follow-On Lunch with XXXXXXXXXXXX
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6. (C) At a lunch following the meeting with XXXXXXXXXX reiterated the FM’s call for the United States to XXXXXXXXXXXX

7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX thanked Ambassador King for his willingness to keep the ROK updated on discussions between the American Red Cross and its DPRK counterpart regarding potential reunions between Korean-Americans and their relatives in North Korea. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that North Korea has made only token efforts to support North-South family reunions and has “reacted badly” to Seoul’s repeated calls for the release of the approximately 1,000 abductees and POWs believed to be still held by the DPRK. XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed that Seoul appreciated Ambassador King’s effort to keep the family reunion, abductee, and POW issues on the proverbial agenda. STEPHENS

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