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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; January 28, 2010

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SEOUL 000107

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; JANUARY 28, 2010

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

Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo
N. Korea Fires Artillery toward Northern Limit Line
in Yellow Sea;
ROKG Vows to Cut off Dialogue
If North's Shells Land in ROK Waters

Dong-a Ibo, Hankook Ilbo, Hankyoreh Shinmun,
Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, All TVs
N. Korea Fires Artillery near Sea Border on Three Separate
Occasions; North Says Firing will Continue


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

North Korea yesterday fired a barrage of coastal artillery shells
into waters near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea,
the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, on three
separate occasions, and vowed to continue firing despite warnings
from the ROK. (All)

The ROK Navy responded with warning shots, and the Defense Ministry
issued a message urging the North to stop the provocation. (All)

The North's artillery shells landed in the North's own waters, but
it is the first time that the North has fired artillery aimed at the
NLL. (All)

According to the ROK's Joint Chiefs of Staff, no casualties or
damage were reported from either side. (All)

Despite the North's provocation, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek
said yesterday that inter-Korean talks on the operation of the joint
Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North, slated for next Monday,
will go ahead as planned. (All)

According to Second Vice Foreign Minister Chun Young-woo, Seoul and
Washington agreed on Jan. 26 to conduct a feasibility study of
"pyroprocessing," a proliferation-resistant technology of
reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, before the two countries begin
earnest talks to revise their bilateral atomic energy agreement
which expires in 2014. (Chosun)


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

-N. Korea
----------
North Korea's firing yesterday of a barrage of coastal artillery
shells into waters near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow
Sea, the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, received
above-the-fold front-page treatment.

According to media reports, North Korea vowed to continue firing
despite warnings from Seoul. It was the first time that North Korea
fired artillery towards the NLL, although the rounds landed on the
North Korean side, according to mediareports.

Most media noted yesterday's remarks by Unification Minister Hyun
In-taek, in which he said that (despite the North's action,)
inter-Korean working-level talks on the operation of the joint
Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North, slated for next Monday,
will go ahead as planned.

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley was
also quoted as saying during a regular briefing: "We're looking into
it (the North's declaration of a no sail zone) just to determine
precisely what might be behind it. But obviously, in any kind of
declaration like that, we would encourage restraint on both sides."

SEOUL 00000107 002 OF 005

Conservative Chosun Ilbo commented: "The navigation ban which the
North declared on Jan. 25 includes ROK waters of the NLL, but the
firing seems to be a 'low-intensity provocation' aimed at turning
the NLL into a matter of maritime dispute and drawing attention to
the North's desire for a peace treaty to replace the ceasefire
agreement that halted the Korean War in 1953."

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo editorialized: "It is preposterous to
try to sign a peace treaty by raising tension, instead of making
practical progress towards peace. ... North Korea may also have
intended to pressure the ROK authorities to be more active toward
inter-Korean talks. However, it would be a big mistake for the
North to think that it can attain such a goal with this kind of
'provocation.' ... No matter what North Korea's intentions are,
the ROKG should respond in a resolute, prompt, and appropriate
manner."

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo wrote in the headline: "N. Korea Expresses
Discontent that its Conciliatory Offensive Is Not Working on the
U.S. and ROK."

Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized: "The ROKG is also to
blame for this situation. Key ROKG officials have made insensitive
remarks against North Korea, such as (the intent to launch) a
preemptive strike against any signs of a nuclear attack from North
Korea and the possibility of a regime collapse in the North. ... In
order to turn the situation around, it is essential for the ROKG to
change its North Korea policy. ... It is time for both Koreas to
exercise restraint, but that is not enough. Unless the two Koreas
reduce sources of conflict and forge a relationship conducive to
raising mutual trust, a similar situation could occur at any time."


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

ROK SHOULD RESPOND TO NORTH KOREA'S NLL PROVOCATION FIRMLY BUT
CAUTIOUSLY
(JoongAng Ilbo, January 28, 2010, Page 31; Excerpts)

Some observers say that North Korea's provocations are aimed at
increasing interest in a peace treaty by the international
community, including the U.S. It is preposterous to try to sign a
peace treaty by raising tension, instead of making practical
progress towards peace. Pyongyang may have intended to attract the
attention of the U.S., which appears to be intentionally showing
signs disregarding the North, or to pressure the ROK authorities to
be more active towards inter-Korean talks. However, it would be a
big mistake for the North to think that it can attain such a goal
with this kind of "provocation." This is because either the ROK or
the U.S. will not and must not yield to North Korea's provocation.

No matter what North Korea's intentions are, the ROKG should respond
in a resolute, prompt, and appropriate manner. If North Korea
schemes to raise tensions abruptly, the ROK should respond
cautiously so as not to be embroiled in such a plot. At the same
time, the ROK's immediate and resolute response is needed to defend
the NLL strictly. We are in a difficult situation in which we have
to achieve two seemingly conflicting goals at the same time. This
is the time to exercise the wisdom and courage of flexibility while
sticking to principle. The ROK people should also understand this
complicated situation facing the ROKG and cope with (the North's
artillery fire) in a calm manner. They do not need to be overly
anxious, but insensitivity toward security is even more
inappropriate.


ROK SHOULD RESPOND IN THE SAME WAY TO NORTH KOREA'S ARTILLERY FIRE
NEAR NLL
(Dong-a Ilbo, January 28, Page 31; Excerpts)

This is the first time that North Korea declared the waters near the
ROK's islands as no-sail zones and fired artillery aimed at the

SEOUL 00000107 003 OF 005


Northern Limit Line (NLL), which was drawn up in 1953. Shells from
North Korea's cannons were found about 2.7 kilometers north of the
NLL. The ROK Navy responded appropriately by firing warning shots.
The ROK's naval rules of engagement stipulate that the ROK navy can
fire back if North Korea fires first. The ROK military should
demonstrate its determination to deter the North's provocations. In
November last year, just three months ago, a North Korean patrol
boat crossed the line and refused to turn back despite warnings. We
can thwart additional provocation (from the North) and keep peace
(on the Korean Peninsula) by responding strongly to the North's
shootings.

North Korea has resorted to irrational acts to nullify the NLL. We
should not allow North Korea to escalate tensions in an attempt to
redraw the NLL, which has been in place over a half century.
Despite the North Korean regime's claim that it wants a peace
treaty, this incident shows that the North is bent on disrupting
peace through belligerent saber-rattling. If North Korea continues
to stage provocations, it will have a negative impact on the
resumption of the Mt. Kumgang tour project and negotiations on the
Kaesongg Industrial Complex.


WAITING FOR INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS TO THAW
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, January 28, 2010, Page 31)

North Korea fired coastal artillery yesterday in the waters just
north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea, and in
response, South Korea fired a warning shot with a Vulcan cannon.
This is not an incident to be taken lightly, since it marks the
first time North Korea has fired artillery in the area of the NLL
since declaring a "no-sail zone" over the line. It is a situation
that could lead to hostilities in earnest if North Korea fires to
the south of the line or if South Korea responds inappropriately.

It appears that North Korea has put its recent warning into
practice. The North Korean People's Army General Staff announced it
would be engaging in "resolute military activity" on Sunday, taking
issue with remarks by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young
about a "preemptive strike in the event of a North Korean nuclear
attack." On Jan. 15, it criticized reports about South Korean plans
to prepare for the eventuality of an upheaval in North Korea and
vowed a "holy war of retaliation." Contained within North Korea's
latest artillery fire episode is the intent of applying pressure on
the South Korean government while emboldening its own military. In
addition, there are signs of an attempt to strengthen its own recent
calls for discussions of a peace regime by highlighting the issue of
the NLL, the weak link in the existing armistice system.

Whatever the case, North Korea was clearly wrong to employ military
measures. In particular, a show of military force around the NLL
could lead to an unforeseen clash, and for this reason, what
happened yesterday must not be repeated. North Korea's brazen
attitude in labeling it "annual live artillery training" only
worsens the problem. No one in South Korea can accept the firing of
live rounds in the area around the five West Sea islands as a
reasonable action.

The ROKG is also to blame for this situation. Key ROKG officials
have made insensitive remarks against North Korea, such as (the
intent to launch) a preemptive strike against any signs of a nuclear
attack from North Korea and the possibility of a regime collapse in
the North, and the Blue House continues to do nothing to stop such
provocative remarks. Some within the government are even saying
that a serious situation would not arise even if North Korea is
provoked. Such an attitude in the government is enough to make one
wonder if it is deliberately raising tensions in inter-Korean
relations.

More important than this is the overall condition of inter-Korean
relations. The NLL issue is bound to be defined according to the
level and shape of these relations. When inter-Korean relations are
harmonious, any unexpected incident that may arise can be dealt with
easily, but the reality now is that uneasy relations are breeding

SEOUL 00000107 004 OF 005


possibilities for conflict. In order to turn the situation around,
it is essential for the ROKG to change its North Korea policy. At
this point, inter-Korean relations can be improved substantially if
the Lee Administration decides to make it happen. Instead, it is
maintaining a hard-line position, s-e-c-r-e-t-l-y waiting for a
total capitulation by North Korea.

It is time for both Koreas to exercise restraint, but that is not
enough. Unless the two Koreas reduce sources of conflict and forge
a relationship conducive to raising mutual trust, a similar
situation could occur at any time. In such an event, both North
Korea and South Korea would suffer, and international efforts to
resolve the nuclear issue would inevitably be damaged. How long
should we endure these uneasy inter-Korean relations?

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


FEATURES
---------

S. KOREA MAKES SOME PROGRESS IN NUCLEAR SPAT WITH U.S.
(Chosun Ilbo, January 28, 2010, Front Page)

By Washington Correspondent Lee Ha-won

Seoul and Washington on Tuesday agreed to conduct a feasibility
study of pyroprocessing, a new technology for reprocessing spent
nuclear fuel rods, before they begin talks to revise the Korea-U.S.
Atomic Energy Agreement.

Second Vice Foreign Minister Chun Young-woo, who is on a visit to
Washington, said he exchanged views on the revision of the agreement
with senior officials from the White House, and the Departments of
State and Energy since Monday.

In those discussions, "I agreed with U.S. officials about the need
for experts to conduct a technological and economic feasibility
study of pyroprocessing before the two countries begin full-fledged
talks on this," he told reporters.

Chun explained that unlike conventional technologies, pyroprocessing
is a safe method that does not lead to the separate extraction of
plutonium which could be used to make nuclear weapons.

But U.S. officials in charge of the revision of the agreement and
nuclear nonproliferation issues are still reportedly skeptical.

It appears that the U.S. is ready to listen to experts' views,
although it has doubts whether pyroprocessing is entirely safe.
Scott Snyder, the Director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy of
the Asia Foundation, advised South Korea to focus more on "nuclear
responsibility" and less on its rights as a sovereign state to
maintain its "international competitiveness in this newly emerging
sector."

In an article for the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, Snyder said
the two countries need a creative solution to avoid damage to their
relations. The U.S. is motivated by its overarching goal of
preventing nuclear proliferation, he added.

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


WHY DID N. KOREA FIRE ARTILLERY SHELLS NEAR THE SEA BORDER?
(Chosun Ilbo, January 28, 2010, Page 4)

By Reporter Ahn Yong-hyun

North Korea has raised the ante on the Korean Peninsula by resuming
firing Thursday after lobbing around 100 rounds of artillery shells
the previous day from coastal batteries into waters near the

SEOUL 00000107 005 OF 005


Northern Limit Line, the de-facto maritime border. The shelling
came only two days after Pyongyang declared a no-navigation zone
straddling the disputed sea border, the first of its kind since the
Korean War ended in 1953.

Experts say the North is simply trying to attract attention from the
United States with a view to expediting discussion of a peace
treaty, as well as seeking to boost the morale of the military and
punishing South Korea for perceived threats to the regime.

Attention Seeking

The North's primary aim is to secure the regime while Kim Jong-il is
still alive. The North's Foreign Ministry on Jan. 11 proposed talks
on a peace treaty, a matter it wants dealt with in Six-Party
denuclearization talks. But Washington has yet to respond. In the
past, the North found it easy to attract U.S. attention with such
antics, but since the international community intensified sanctions
in the wake of the North's second nuclear test in May last year,
that is no longer working. "Pyongyang wants to stress the need for
a peace treaty with provocations around the NLL, which is a product
of the armistice," commented Yang Mu-jin, a professor at Kyungnam
University.

In the process, North Korea may attempt to freeze out South Korea.
"The North wants to talk to us only about economic cooperation
matters like the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tours to Mt.
Kumgang, while communicating solely with the U.S. on security issues
like the nuclear problem," said Ryu Dong-ryeol, a researcher at the
Police Science Institute.

Other people have speculated that the shelling was aimed at using
the NLL as leverage when peace talks are held. The most important
agenda in a peace treaty conference will be drawing up a permanent
border including the NLL. "The North has persistently provoked the
South to keep the NLL disputed, violating it 43 times in October and
November 1973," a security official recalled.

Boosting the Military's Morale

North Korea, which has elevated "military first" to a state
doctrine, needs to boost the morale of its military, which suffered
a blow when it was defeated in a naval skirmish in the disputed
waters in November and also saw its perks drying up due to
international sanctions and dwindling aid. "With the currency
reform coupled by serious economic difficulties, the morale of the
North Korean armed forces is very low," said international security
ambassador Nam Joo-hong. And low military morale could harm the
security of the regime.

"Given information that Gen. Kim Myung-gil, the former head of
operations, has been demoted by one grade in connection with the
November naval skirmish, the artillery shelling appears to have been
some kind of revenge," a North Korean source speculated. Meanwhile,
there is a view that the North fired artillery, instead of engaging
in ship-to-ship standoffs, in a bid to minimize damage now that the
inferior capability of the North Korean Navy has become evident.

Showing Muscle to the South

When it was reported that the South is overhauling a contingency
plan in case the North Korean regime collapses, the North on Jan. 15
threatened to wage "sacred war" and reported that Kim Jong-il
observed a massive military exercise. Later it said it would regard
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young's remarks about possible
pre-emptive attack as "a declaration of war." The shelling "is a
pressure tactic against the South's continued undermining of the Kim
Jong-il regime," said a researcher at a state-run think tank.

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


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