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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; February 3, 2010

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SEOUL 000149

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; FEBRUARY 3, 2010

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


Chosun Ilbo
N. Korea Dismisses the Workers' Party's Finance Director
Pak Nam-gi for Botched Currency Reform

JoongAng Ilbo, KBS, MBC
U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review: "USFK to be Deployed Overseas in
Three to Four Years"

Dong-a Ilbo
Candidate Registration Begins for June 2 Local Elections,
Which May Serve as "Midterm Evaluation of
Lee Myung-bak Administration"

Hankook Ilbo
Education Ministry's Involvement in Election of Superintendents of
Education Creating Stir

Hankyoreh Shinmun
ROKG Allegedly Downplayed Expected Flood Damage
from Four Rivers Project

Segye Ilbo
Pentagon: "N. Korea to Mount Nuclear Warhead
on ICBM within Decade"
Seoul Shinmun
Twitter Emerges as New Medium for Local Election Campaigns


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

President Lee Myung-bak, during a Feb. 2 Cabinet meeting, stressed
that the leaders of the two Koreas should meet under a premise that
there can be no reward for a summit. (All)

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, in a Feb. 2 meeting with the
foreign press here, said that a desirable summit meeting between the
two Koreas is one that contributes to resolving the nuclear issue
and humanitarian problems, such as the issue of ROK prisoners of war
and abductees held in North Korea. (All)

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt
Campbell arrived in Seoul yesterday to discuss pending bilateral
issues, including the North's nuclear issue, with ROKG officials. He
was quoted as telling reporters upon arrival: "It is still too early
to be talking about (North Korea) sanctions relief, given that we
have not had a resumption of (the Six-Party) Talks." (Hankook,
Segye, Seoul, MBC, YTN)


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

According to the "Ballistic Missile Defense Review" released on Feb.
1 by the Pentagon, North Korea will achieve the necessary technology
to mount a nuclear warhead onto an intercontinental ballistic
missile within a decade. (All)

The report also said that although the test launches of the North's
Taepodong-2 missiles in 2006 and 2009 were deemed unsuccessful, it
is assumed that sooner or later North Korea will have a successful
test of its Taepodong-2. (All)

The Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), on the other hand,
made it clear that the so-called "strategic flexibility" for rapid
deployment of USFK abroad to conflict regions will be strengthened
after the introduction of three-year, family accompanied tours by
USFK in the coming years. (All)


SEOUL 00000149 002 OF 004


According to "Good Friends," a North Korean human rights group in
the ROK, North Korea appears to be suffering from severe economic
conditions after its market mechanism was paralyzed in the wake of
last November's sweeping currency reform; many North Koreans are
dying of hunger. (Dong-a, Hankook)


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

-N. Korea
---------
Most ROK media covered Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian
and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell's arrival in Seoul yesterday to
discuss pending bilateral issues, including North Korea's nuclear
issue, with ROKG officials.

He was quoted as telling reporters upon arrival: "It is still too
early to be talking about (North Korea) sanctions relief, given that
we have not had a resumption of (the Six-Party) Talks."

With regard to growing talks of a possible inter-Korean summit,
sparked by President Lee Myung-bak's remark that he may meet with
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il this year, all media gave attention
to President Lee's remarks during a Feb. 2 Cabinet meeting, in which
he said that the leaders of the two Koreas should meet under a
premise that there can be no reward for a summit. He was further
quoted: "The summit between the two Koreas may only be pursued under
firm principles. It won't be realized unless these principles are
satisfied."

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo's sub-heading read: "Lee's Remarks are
a Clear Message to N. Korea that He is Different from His
Predecessors."

The Pentagon's "Ballistic Missile Defense Review" report released on
Feb. 1 received wide press attention. According to media reports,
the Ballistic Missile Defense Review said that North Korea will
achieve the necessary technology to mount a nuclear warhead onto an
intercontinental ballistic missile within a decade. The report was
also cited as saying: "Although the test launches of the North's
Taepodong-2 missiles in 2006 and 2009 were deemed unsuccessful, it
is assumed that sooner or later North Korea will have a successful
test of its Taepodong-2."

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo editorialized: "The Pentagon made it clear
that the planned transfer of wartime operational control to the ROK
will be carried out in two years as scheduled. This move is not
appropriate for the ROK's security situation given the possibility
that the North will possess an ICBM with a nuclear warhead. If
things go as planned, the threats from North Korea will increase and
USFK's deterrence, on the contrary, will decline."

Citing a diplomatic source in Beijing, conservative Chosun Ilbo
front-paged a report saying that the North Korean regime apparently
sacked the Workers' Party's Finance Director Pak Nam-gi, letting him
take the fall for the failed currency reform late last year. The
report went on to quote some North Korea watchers in China as
predicting that the North Korean regime may perform a U-turn back to
timid market reforms, now that Pak, who led the crusade against
capitalism, has been fired."


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

U.S. MAY MOVE USFK TO OTHER LOCATIONS AFTER OPCON TRANSFER
(Chosun Ilbo, February 3, Page 35)

The U.S. Department of Defense unveiled its Quadrennial Defense
Review (QDR) on Monday and in it revealed that, "The status of U.S.
forces in Korea is changing from being forward-deployed to
forward-stationed with family members," meaning USFK personnel will
be required to stay longer when they are accompanied by their

SEOUL 00000149 003 OF 004


families. "When fully implemented, this change will enable forces
to deploy from the ROK, helping to expand the pool of available
forces for global contingencies."

At present, the U.S. government is in the process of changing the
current one-year (family-unaccompanied) tours to three-year family
accompanied tours for the 28,500 USFK troops, and says an entirely
new method of deployment will be implemented over the next three to
four years. The report says this will enable the USFK to be
re-deployed to other conflict areas in the world at any time.

The QDR, issued every four years, serves as the guide for U.S.
defense spending and troop deployment. Since 2000, Washington has
been seeking to free overseas troops from being tied to a particular
geographic region through a cost-saving program dubbed "strategic
flexibility." Washington has assured Seoul that no special changes
would happen to the USFK, but as the latest report says, the USFK
will not only protect the ROK from a possible invasion by the North
but also allow for deployment elsewhere, if USFK's status is changed
from "forward-deployed" to "forward-stationed." That could signify
that the USFK could become less of a deterrent to North Korea.

"We are in close cooperation with the (South) Korean government to
implement the plans that have already been agreed upon," adding that
the transfer of full operational control of Korean troops to Seoul
will take place as scheduled on April 17, 2012. It appears that the
U.S. is determined to hand over the primary burden of defense to the
ROK government.

In its Ballistic Missile Defense Review, the U.S. Department of
Defense on Tuesday acknowledged the progress North Korea has made in
missile technology and predicted that the North will be able to
mount a nuclear warhead onto a long-range missile within 10 years.
Nonetheless, the U.S. intends to hand over wartime operational
control of ROK troops to Seoul in 2012 and free American troops on
the peninsula to serve in other areas one or two years later.

The Defense Ministry responded the matter "needs to be discussed
over the mid- to long term" and added that it would seek "remedial
measures." But an issue as important as this cannot be resolved
through patch-up solutions. The U.S. and the ROK must approach the
issue at the highest level of government and begin negotiations as
soon as possible to look for alternative measures.

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


U.S. BRACES FOR N. KOREA'S ICBM WITH A NUCLEAR WARHEAD, BUT WE...
(Dong-a Ilbo, February 3, Page 35)

The Ballistic Missile Defense Review released on February 1 by the
U.S. Department of Defense said that North Korea will be able to
achieve the necessary technology to mount a nuclear warhead onto a
ballistic missile within a decade. The Quadrennial Defense Review
(QDR), another report issued by the Pentagon the same day stated
that it is urgent (that we) counter threats from Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WMD) and prevent nuclear proliferation. This clearly
shows that the USG's key strategy is to come up with measures
against North Korean threats which are expected to escalate further.


A change in the U.S.'s defense strategy is closely related to a
change in international developments. Many countries joined the
Iraq war and Afghan war, which the U.S. started. A change in the
U.S.'s strategy for regional conflicts considerably affects the
foreign policy of other countries. This is why the ROK is watching
with a keen interest any policy change in the U.S., which is its
ally.

What draws our special attention in the Pentagon's reports is North
Korea's military build-up and a change in the U.S. Forces in Korea
(USFK). The U.S. assumed that sooner or later North Korea will have
a successful test of its Taepodong-2. This is a worst-case

SEOUL 00000149 004 OF 004


scenario, in which the North is capable of deploying nuclear
weapons. The Pentagon laid out specific measures to thwart WMD
proliferation, including border control of related countries. The
U.S. reaffirmed its determination to curb nuclear weapons and WMD
even by blocking North Korea.

The Pentagon said that the so-called "strategic flexibility" for
rapid deployment of USFK abroad to conflict regions will be
strengthened after the introduction of three-year, family
accompanied tours by the U.S. Forces in Korea in the coming years.
The Pentagon made it clear that the planned transfer of wartime
operational control to the ROK will be carried out in two years as
scheduled. This move is not appropriate for the ROK's security
situation given the possibility that the North will possess an ICBM
with a nuclear warhead. If things go as planned, the threats from
North Korea will increase and USFK's deterrence, on the contrary,
will decline.

We should not allow a security vacuum to occur due to a gap between
the U.S.'s global strategy and the ROK's defense strategy. The
ROK-U.S. alliance is designed to prevent such a dangerous situation.
The U.S. prioritizes its global strategy even though it stresses
cooperation with its allies including the ROK. We need to devise
measures in order to counter North Korean threats while engaging in
discussions with the U.S. The core of the ROK's foreign and
security policy should be to remove "asymmetrical" threats including
the North's nuclear weapons and missiles.


FEATURES
--------

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: "IT IS TOO EARLY TO BE TALKING ABOUT
SANCTIONS RELIEF"
(Hankook Ilbo, February 3, 2010, Page 3)

By Reporter Yoo In-ho

Attention drawn to the coordination of stances on an inter-Korean
summit

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Kurt Campbell visited the ROK on February 2.

After arriving at Gimpo Airport in Seoul, Assistant Secretary
Campbell told reporters, "It is still too early to be talking about
(North Korea) sanctions relief, given that we have not had a
resumption of (the Six-Party) Talks," adding, "In fact, in recent
days we have seen provocative actions, with artillery firing and the
like. So, I think that is one of the things that we want to do
while we are here in Seoul, is to communicate closely and coordinate
with our partners here." He also stated, "It is going to be very
important for North Korea to come back to the Six Party Talks, to
abide by its commitments made in 2005 and 2007, and that within that
context, the United States is prepared to work with our partners in
South Korea, China, Japan, (and others.)"

Assistant Secretary Campbell plans to meet with the ROK's Deputy
Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon on February 3 to talk about pending
issues related to the ROK-U.S. alliance, such as the transfer of
wartime operational control and the relocation of U.S. bases, and
the North Korean nuclear issue.

Of particular note is that in a series of meetings with Senior
Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security
Kim Sung-hwan, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and Unification
Minister Hyun In-taek, Assistant Secretary Campbell is expected to
coordinate stances with the ROK on an inter-Korean summit, which is
being prepared behind the scenes.


STEPHENS

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