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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; January 7, 2010

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RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC//DDI/OEA//
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RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 7180
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1660
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 5491
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 4415
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1897
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RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2273
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2880

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SEOUL 000018

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; JANUARY 7, 2010

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

Chosun Ilbo
Samsung Highly Likely to Move Next-Generation Battery Business to
Sejong City

JoongAng Ilbo
France's "Betrayal" of Promise; French Court Rejects ROK's Bid to
Retrieve Royal Books (from the ancient Joseon Dynasty)

Dong-a Ilbo
Notebook Computers Can Be Used to Eavesdrop

Hankook Ilbo
Samsung Hints at Investing Some 3 Trillion Won in Sejong City

Hankyoreh Shinmun, Seoul Shinmun
Lee Myung-bak Administration's Pursuit of Growth Drags ROK into
"Mire of Unemployment;" Number of "Practically" Unemployed Reaches
3.3 Million

Segye Ilbo
President Lee: "Sejong City Should Not Attract Businesses and
Industries that Other Regions are Trying to Attract"


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

Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, in a Jan. 6 interview with Yonhap
News, said that North Korea likely began its uranium enrichment
program for nuclear weapons development in 1996, soon after it had
agreed to halt its (plutonium-based) nuclear program under the 1994
Geneva Accord. (Chosun, JoongAng, Dong-a, Segye)

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

A senior State Department official told reporters on Jan. 5 that the
U.S. will welcome any trip to China by North Korean leader Kim
Jong-il to help reopen the stalled Six-Party Talks. (Chosun,
Dong-a)


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

-N. Korea
---------
Most ROK media covered Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan's remarks
during a Jan. 6 interview with Yonhap News, in which he said that
North Korea likely began its uranium enrichment program for nuclear
weapons development in 1996, soon after it had agreed to halt its
(plutonium-based) nuclear program under the 1994 Geneva Accord.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo, in a related development, quoted a Foreign
Ministry official as saying: "Unlike in early days, when we took the
issue of plutonium somewhat lightly, we should deal seriously with
the uranium enrichment problem, once the Six-Party Talks resume."

With regard to reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's visit
to China is imminent, conservative Chosun and Dong-a Ilbo carried
reports quoting a senior State Department official as telling
reporters on Jan. 5 that the U.S. will welcome any trip to China by
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to help reopen the stalled Six-Party
Talks. He was quoted: "Chinese officials have made multiple trips
to Pyongyang to make clear to Kim Jong-il what needs to be done now.
If Kim Jong-il comes to Beijing and tells Chinese leaders that he
is ready to return to the Six-Party process and move forward, we
will welcome that news. Close attention should be paid to what Kim
says and how he acts (in China)."


SEOUL 00000018 002 OF 004


Chosun Ilbo, in particular, observed: "Given that diplomats usually
do not make comments based on assumptions, this U.S. remark is
unprecedented. It is also noteworthy because the remark indicates
that Washington thinks it is highly likely that Kim Jong-il will
indeed visit China, as has been widely speculated, for a summit with
Chinese President Hu Jintao."

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

President Obama Should Come Forward to Promptly Ratify KORUS FTA
(JoongAng Ilbo, January 7, Page 34)

We (JoongAng Ilbo) have consistently called for an early
ratification of the Korea- U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA)
because it is a win-win strategy for both countries. We also
reaffirmed this position in November 2009 when, during President
Obama's visit to the ROK, (President Lee Myung-bak) hinted that he
may consider renegotiating the trade accord over the automotive
sector. If the deal is renegotiated over the automotive area, the
ROK will also raise its concerns over U.S. beef. We are worried
that this (situation) may completely derail the FTA.

At this time, Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a
leading U.S. think tank, made the same argument. During a January 4
interview with an ROK media, he said that the KORUS FTA should be
swiftly ratified and President Obama should take active action.
Feulner said that he hopes that in his January State of the Union
Address, President Obama will demonstrate his determination to move
the deal forward in a prompt and active manner. He also added that
the KORUS FTA is a good and balanced pact and the automobile issue
should not be revisited for renegotiation.

We hope that President Obama listens carefully to his argument.
The ROK-U.S. FTA is beneficial not only to the U.S. economy but also
its entire national interest. Mr. Feulner explained, "With the
ROK-U.S. FTA yet to be ratified, if there is further progress on the
ROK-China FTA, it will aggravate the situation for the U.S." This
means that the U.S., which is wary of China's growing clout over
Asia, does not want the ROK to become closer to China. If the
ROK-U.S. FTA is not ratified promptly, such concern by the U.S.
could likely turn into a reality.

Still, the ROK-U.S. FTA, which was signed three years ago, has yet
to come into force due to opposition from the U.S. auto industry and
its labor unions and some politicians representing their interests.
In addition, there is a problem with the leadership of President
Obama, who is not coping with this opposition properly. Now is the
time for President Obama to come forward. We expect that he will
exercise at least part of the leadership he showed when he became
the first U.S. president to achieve health care reform.


Features
--------

FM Says N. Korea's Uranium Program Likely Began in Mid-1990s
(Yonhap News, January 7, 2010)

By Reporter Byun Duk-kun

North Korea likely began its uranium-based nuclear weapons program
soon after it agreed to give up its nuclear ambitions in a 1994 deal
with the United States, South Korea's foreign minister said
Wednesday, accusing Pyongyang of using negotiations to buy time for
its clandestine nuclear programs.

In an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency, Minister Yu
Myung-hwan said little is still known about the communist country's
s-e-c-r-e-t nuclear program, including how much uranium they have
produced or in what stage of development the program is.

"Still, what is certain is that North Korea began its (uranium)
enrichment program for nuclear weapons very early on. It appears

SEOUL 00000018 003 OF 004


that North Korea began the enrichment program shortly after signing
the Geneva agreement, or at least in 1996," Yu said, referring to
the 1994 agreement, better known as the Agreed Framework, signed
between Pyongyang and Washington.

Under the landmark deal, Pyongyang promised to freeze its nuclear
activities in return for a set of two light-water reactors to be
built and financed by an international consortium.

Suspicions over a clandestine uranium program in the reclusive North
first flared in late 2002 when then U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, James Kelly, following his
trip to Pyongyang, quoted North Korean officials as saying that
their country was s-e-c-r-e-t-l-y continuing a nuclear weapons
development program.

The North later denied having a uranium-based program, though it
entered Six-Party negotiations on ending its plutonium-based weapons
program in 2003.

Pyongyang admitted to having a uranium program in September 2009,
saying the enrichment program was in its final stage.

Yu's remarks could indicate that the North's uranium program may be
closer to completion than earlier suspected.

The minister noted the North may have also used, and is continuing
to use, the Six-Party Talks in a similar way to win international
concessions while securing enough time and resources to further its
nuclear programs.

"There, of course, may have been times when North Korea used its
nuclear program as leverage for short-term economic gains, but there
is a need to look at it as a more serious issue because, more
fundamentally, the North Korea nuclear issue is related to (the
survival) of the North's regime," he said.

The multilateral nuclear talks have stalled since late 2008 while
the North said in April that it will permanently quit the
negotiations, which also involve the U.S., South Korea, China, Japan
and Russia.

Minister Yu said the North may soon return to the negotiating table
for economic assistance, but made clear the other countries will not
reward the communist nation for simply returning to dialogue.

"I believe there is always a possibility (North Korea) may return to
negotiations to evade its economic crisis. And that is why not only
South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, but also China and Russia share a
firm understanding that we cannot reward the North for its return to
the negotiations alone," the minister said.

In fact, the countries will continue to enforce U.N. Security
Council sanctions on North Korea until Pyongyang takes "tangible"
denuclearization measures, he added.

Pyongyang agreed in a Six-Party accord signed in 2007 to disable its
key nuclear facilities in exchange for 1 million tons of heavy fuel
oil or equivalent economic assistance. Vast amounts of the agreed
assistance flowed into the impoverished North from 2007, but
Pyongyang reversed the disablement process the following year, and
has since restored most of its facilities, including a reprocessing
plant that produces weapons grade plutonium.

Seeking to avoid the mistake of granting incentives without the
North taking any substantive steps to denuclearize, Seoul has
proposed a grand bargain that will completely dismantle the key
elements of North Korea's nuclear programs in a single step, instead
of in phases, in exchange for massive benefits.

Yu said this means the countries will first deal with the most
fundamental and serious issue of permanently and completely ridding
North Korea of its nuclear capabilities.


SEOUL 00000018 004 OF 004


"The proposal for a grand bargain comes from a belief that it is not
logical to have negotiations that only deal with easy issues while
leaving difficult ones in a far side corner, negotiations that no
one can say how long it will take," he said.

The minister also said his country will reject the North's recent
proposal for separate talks to discuss replacing the Korean
armistice with a permanent peace treaty if the proposal is only an
attempt to stall its denuclearization process.

"If North Korea is sincere about a peace treaty, it will have to
first show it with a decision to denuclearize," Yu said.

(This text was provided in English by the news service.)


U.S. "Would Welcome China Visit by Kim Jong-il"
(Chosun Ilbo, January 7, 2010, Front Page)

By Beijing Correspondent Choi Yu-sik and Washington Correspondent
Lee Ha-won

The U.S. would welcome a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to
China, a senior State Department official said Tuesday. Speaking to
reporters, he said that last year, Chinese officials made multiple
trips to Pyongyang to make clear to Kim Jong-il what needs to be
done, and the U.S. would welcome any visit by Kim to Beijing in
return. He added that close attention should be paid to what Kim
says and how he acts (in China.)

Given that diplomats usually do not make comments based on
assumptions, this U.S. remark is unprecedented. It is also
noteworthy because the remark indicates that Washington thinks it is
highly likely that Kim Jong-il will indeed visit China, as has been
widely speculated, for a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Security has been tightened, including large reinforcements of
police guards at railway stations and other strategic locations, in
the Chinese border city of Dandong since late last year, a local
source said. The number of North Korean cargo trucks which pass
through the Dandong customs office has dropped drastically from
30-50 per day to about 10.

Dandong is a gateway to China for Kim, who prefers train travel.
Watertight security was provided at that location for Kim's previous
trips to China starting in 2000. Still, others say it may simply be
a routine measure taken at the turn of a new year.

(This is a translation provided by the newspaper. We have compared
the English version on the website with the Korean version and added
some sentences in English to make them identical.)

STEPHENS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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