ROK-U.S. News

Yonhap – Military tensions with N. Korea continue over killing of S. Korean citizen: defense minister

Yonhap | By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) — Military tensions are continuing between the two Koreas over North Korea’s killing of a South Korean fisheries official, as Pyongyang issued threats over Seoul’s search operations without responding to calls for a joint probe, Seoul’s Defense Minister Suh Wook said Wednesday.

On Sept. 22, the 47-year-old fisheries official was fatally shot by the North Korean military while being adrift in North Korean waters, according to the South Korean military. He went missing the previous day while on duty near the Yellow Sea border island of Yeonpyeong.

“Regarding the incident, North Korea expressed an apology and vowed to take steps to prevent recurrences, but it has not responded to our call for a joint investigation and made threats against our normal search operations under way in our waters,” Suh said during a parliamentary audit of the ministry.

The communist country warned the South on Sept. 27 not to intrude into its waters in the search for the body of the official. Pyongyang has long disputed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime boundary, turning the front-line waters into a major flashpoint of the peninsula.

The military and the Coast Guard continue to search for the body of a South Korean fisheries official, who was shot to death by North Korean troops last month, in waters off the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Oct. 3, 2020, in this photo provided by the Coast Guard. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The military and the Coast Guard continue to search for the body of a South Korean fisheries official, who was shot to death by North Korean troops last month, in waters off the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Oct. 3, 2020, in this photo provided by the Coast Guard. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Suh made it clear that all responsibilities regarding the incident lie with North Korea, stressing the need for a joint probe, as the North’s explanations differ from Seoul’s assessment in key parts. The South Korean military said the North is presumed to have incinerated the official’s body, but the North claimed that what it set on fire was not his body but a floating material he used.

“We are analyzing those differences,” Suh said. “As of now, however, we stick with our analysis.”

North Korea’s apology over the incident was an indication that the regime attempted to “manage the situation” to avoid turning public opinion in the South against it, the ministry noted. The rare apology by leader Kim Jong-un in a message from the North’s United Front Department was unusually quick, coming only a day after South Korea demanded it.

“Since the incident, no unusual movements by the North Korean military have been detected,” the ministry said. “It has made all-out efforts for recovery work from damage by recent heavy rains and typhoons to wrap it up before the founding anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party that falls on Oct. 10.”

As for concerns raised by a lawmaker over the disclosure of classified military information acquired by South Korean and U.S. assets regarding the incident, Minister Suh said that U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Robert Abrams “voiced some concerns” about the excessive exposure.

The communist country remains mum on the South’s call for a joint investigation into the case and the restoration of the inter-Korean military hotlines that the North severed in June in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border by activists here.

As for criticism that the military failed to swiftly seek North Korea’s cooperation in searching for the official on the day he went missing, the defense minister said that he was briefed that the chances were slim of him drifting into North Korean waters.

“We did not expect him to cross into the North Korean side on the first day and did not check communication lines with North Korea,” Suh said, adding that he learned later through the analysis of intelligence that the official ended up in North Korean waters.

The military and the Coast Guard said that the official was presumed to have jumped into the sea in a suspected attempt to defect to the North, while the bereaved family has strongly protested the announcement and called for an additional probe and the disclosure of related information.

North Korea simply said in its message that “the illegal intruder was trying to flee” while disobeying its verbal security checks.

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Yonhap – Military chiefs of S. Korea, U.S. vow to strengthen combined defense posture

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) — New Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) chairman Gen. Won In-choul held phone talks with his U.S. counterpart Mark Milley on Tuesday and vowed to strengthen the combined defense posture based on the ironclad alliance, the military said.

The phone call marked the first talks between the two since Won took office about two weeks ago.

“The JCS chairmen of the two countries evaluated that a close cooperative relationship is maintained between the military authorities of South Korea and the U.S., and agreed to actively support the diplomatic efforts of the two governments for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a lasting peace,” the JCS said in a release.

Won is also scheduled to hold phone talks with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command leader Adm. Phil Davidson on Friday.

Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) chairman Gen. Won In-choul holds phone talks with his U.S. counterpart Gen. Mark Milley on Oct. 6, 2020, in this photo provided by Won's office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) chairman Gen. Won In-choul holds phone talks with his U.S. counterpart Gen. Mark Milley on Oct. 6, 2020, in this photo provided by Won’s office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Defense minister, U.S. ambassador vow to strengthen alliance

SEOUL, Oct. 5 (Yonhap) — Defense Minister Suh Wook and U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris agreed Monday to work together to strengthen the alliance between the two countries, calling it a “linchpin” of regional security, the defense ministry said.

Their meeting marked the first time since Suh took office as defense minister about two weeks ago.

“Minister Suh and Ambassador Harris agreed that the ironclad South Korea-U.S. alliance is the linchpin of Northeast Asia’s security, peace and prosperity and vowed to closely communicate for the development of the alliance” between the two countries, the ministry said in a release.

The defense minister is planning to visit Washington this month for his first talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, officials earlier said. The visit, if realized, will be Suh’s first overseas trip since his inauguration.

New Defense Minister Suh Wook delivers an address during his inauguration ceremony at the defense ministry in Seoul on Sept. 18, 2020. (Yonhap)

New Defense Minister Suh Wook delivers an address during his inauguration ceremony at the defense ministry in Seoul on Sept. 18, 2020. (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Post-election U.S. likely to see changes in N. Korea policy: experts

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (Yonhap) — The next U.S. administration would be inclined, if not forced, to employ a different approach toward North Korea regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential election, given the changes in the environment and apparent failure of the incumbent administration to rein in the communist state’s nuclear ambitions, experts here said Thursday.

They also noted the North Korean issue would likely be put aside in the early stages of the new administration, which they said will be too caught up in dealing with its own domestic issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think (the) second highest priority is going to be, or maybe the highest priority, will be pandemic recovery,” Susan Thornton, former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in a virtual seminar hosted by New York-based think tank, the Korea Society.

“This will sort of consume any administration that comes in in January, I think, not only dealing with the health crisis but certainly dealing with the economic recovery and the fallout from the pandemic,” she added.

The captured image shows U.S. experts speaking in a virtual seminar hosted by the New York-based Korea Society on Oct. 1, 2020. They are (from top right, clockwise) Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Susan Thornton, former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Stephen Noerper, senior director at the Korea Society. (Yonhap)

The captured image shows U.S. experts speaking in a virtual seminar hosted by the New York-based Korea Society on Oct. 1, 2020. They are (from top right, clockwise) Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Susan Thornton, former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Stephen Noerper, senior director at the Korea Society. (Yonhap)

Thornton insisted a Joe Biden administration would likely get more progress on the North Korean issue than President Donald Trump, but that Biden would first seek to realign the country’s foreign policy in general.

“I think that on North Korea, it’s my view that a Biden administration would be much more likely to get progress on this issue than a second Trump administration would be, and that the Biden ministration would work with the ROK and other partners to set up a process to try to get there. That said, this is not going to be the top of the list of priorities for a new administration,” she said, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

She predicted a change in the U.S. administration to lead to a North Korean provocation shortly after the election.

“I think that we can expect probably a provocation from the North after the election to bring the issue back into the focus of attention for the new administration,” said Thornton.

Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, agreed.

“I think that it is prudent to anticipate, particularly in the event of a Biden administration, that we should expect some provocations from North Korea. That’s certainly the playbook that is familiar to us from the past,” he told the webinar.

A North Korean provocation, however, may not work to its advantage by limiting policy options that may be available to a new U.S. administration, noted Russel.

“Of course there are number of options, and one concern I think will be that the new Biden administration could get locked into such a hard and adversarial response that it precludes the possibility of a more creative outreach early on,” he said.

But even in the event of Trump’s reelection, the U.S. would likely have to change its approach toward North Korea, he argued.

“I think first and foremost, the winner of the election is going to face a situation in which the United States just has so much less credibility and respect in Northeast Asia than at any other time in our modern history,” said Russel.

“America’s image in the region and Asian countries’ confidence in the United States have really taken a beating or (been) given a series of shocks throughout the last four years,” he said of the reason.

He also discredited Trump’s historic meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for giving too much and not getting anything in return.

“The idea of dealing directly with the leader in an authoritarian dictatorship was not a new idea, and I struggled to try to find a way to credit the Trump administration for doing this,” said Russel.

“But the fact is, number one, the way they went about it, utterly without laying the groundwork, without preparation, squandered one of the few points of real leverage that the United States has with North Korea — the desire dating back to Kim Il-sung to be shown as a peer to the president of the United States, a legitimate international leader,” he added, referring to the late North Korean founder and Kim Jong-un’s grandfather.

Trump has held three meetings with Kim since June 2018, but their talks have stalled since their second bilateral summit in Hanoi in February 2019 ended without a deal.

The U.S. president strongly denies having given anything but a “meeting” to the North Korean leader.

Russel insisted the U.S. was now “far worse off” because of the Trump-Kim meetings.

“When you look at the outcome, frankly we are far worse off in the aftermath of the three encounters than we were before,” he said. “North Korea’s arsenal has grown many times over. Sanctions enforcement has been dealt a real setback by the legitimacy that was conferred on Kim Jong-un.”

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Yonhap – S. Korean troops on missions overseas celebrate Chuseok

SEOUL, Oct. 1 (Yonhap) — South Korean soldiers deployed overseas celebrated the Chuseok holiday with various activities but without events inviting guests due to new coronavirus concerns, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Thursday.

This year’s Chuseok, the Korean autumn harvest celebration and one of the biggest holidays in South Korea, falls on Thursday, resulting in a five-day weekend that started Wednesday.

South Korean soldiers overseas usually invite locals to the base and hold various events to mark the national holiday. But this year, they celebrated the holiday themselves to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, officials said.

From the Dongmyeong unit in Lebanon to the Hanbit unit in South Sudan and the Akh unit in the United Arab Emirates, troops held a joint memorial ceremony for ancestors and enjoyed traditional games together at their respective bases, the JCS said.

Soldiers of the Cheonghae unit, which is currently in Oman for logistics, also held various events to mark the holiday while preparing for the upcoming departure. The unit usually operates in waters off Somalia to tackle piracy.

“Though we cannot be with our families, we will do our best to elevate our military’s stature overseas,” Akh unit chief Lt. Col. Park Yong-kyu said.

Currently, some 1,000 South Korean troops are operating on missions across the globe for international peace and defense cooperation.

In this file photo, provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sept. 24, 2018, soldiers of the anti-piracy Cheonghae unit play a traditional game on the Chuseok holiday aboard the 4,000-ton destroyer Munmu the Great in waters off Libya. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In this file photo, provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sept. 24, 2018, soldiers of the anti-piracy Cheonghae unit play a traditional game on the Chuseok holiday aboard the 4,000-ton destroyer Munmu the Great in waters off Libya. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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General Brooks’ Inaugural Message

Download Inaugural Letter: General Brooks_Inaugural Letter


Korean translation by Mr. Hong, Sukgi “KG”, KDVA Research Associate/Linguist, 번역: 홍석기 (주한미군전우회 연구원/통번역사) 

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Did You Know … that the Republic of Korea and the United States signed their Mutual Defense Treaty on October 1, 1953?

1953년 10월 1일, 67년 전 오늘. 대한민국과 미합중국이 방위조약을 체결한 사실, “알고 계셨나요?”

This treaty codified the special commitment that the United States and South Korea made to each other 67 years ago, and continues to be the backbone of this Alliance which has become irreplaceable. We are very fortunate that the relationship between these two great allies and friends has developed into all facets of our shared economic, diplomatic, cultural, and military lives.

한미상호방위조약은 67년전 한미 양국이 평화, 안전 및 상호 방위를 성문화하여 체결한 조약으로 조인 시점부터 오늘에 이르기까지 강력한 한미동맹의 초석을 이루고있습니다. 주한미군전우회는 한미동맹이 군사 동맹을 넘어 경제, 외교, 문화 등 사회 전반의 모든 측면으로 발전한 것을 감사하게 생각합니다.

As we recognize the signing of the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty, KDVA is thankful for the strong relationship between two of the world’s great militaries.  And on October 1 – the ROK Armed Forces Day – KDVA recognizes how vigilant the ROK military is in the face of the North Korean threat which is one of the most difficult and complex threats in the world.  Their efforts every day keep the South Korean people safe and secure, and the ROK-U.S. Alliance stands firmly with them.

주한미군전우회는 한미상호방위조약 체결 67주년을 기념하고, 세계에서 가장 강력한 군사력을 가진 국가 중 하나인 한국과 미국이 강력한 동맹 관계를 유지하고 있음을 감사하게 생각합니다. 오늘 10월 1일은 한미상호방위조약의 체결일이자 대한민국 ‘국군의 날’이기도 합니다. 북한 위협 억제라는 어려운 도전과제에 대응하기 위하여한국군이 철통같은 방어태세를 항시 유지하고 있음을 주한미군전우회는 잘 알고 있습니다. 대한민국과 국민들의 안전을 수호하기 위해 국군장병들은 매일 피와 땀으로헌신하고 있으며, 한미동맹은 이 헌신과 사역에 함께 할 것입니다.

But the true security of the ROK-U.S. Alliance lies in the trust that Koreans and Americans have for each other.  This trust was developed and earned on the battlefields of the Korean War, along the frontlines of the de-militarized zone (DMZ), in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in the daily interactions of our two peoples.

한미동맹의 진정한 힘은 한미 양국의 강력한 상호 신뢰에 기반합니다. 이러한 신뢰는 양국이 동맹으로 한국전쟁에서 함께 싸우며 그 싹을 틔웠고, 한반도 비무장지대(DMZ)의 최전방, 베트남 전쟁, 아프가니스탄 전쟁, 이라크 전쟁 등을 비롯하여 양국 국민들의 일상적 교류에 이르기까지 한미 양국이 함께 협력하고 교류하며 지속적으로 신뢰 관계를 발전시켜왔습니다.

So during the Chuseok Holiday (also this week!) when Koreans celebrate harvesting the fruits of their hard work and enjoy their bonds as a great people, KDVA celebrates our ROK-U.S. Alliance which has truly become an “Alliance for the Ages.”

한해의 결실을 기념하고 사랑하는 이들의 소중함을 되새기는 한가위를 맞이하여, 주한미군전우회는 유구한 전통처럼 유지되는 위대한 동맹으로 발전한 한미동맹을 기념하며 한가위 소망을 전합니다. 몸도 마음도 풍요로운 행복한 한가위 보내시기를 진심으로 소망합니다.

 

Colonel (Ret.) Seung Joon ”Steve” Lee

KDVA Senior Vice President

대령(예) Steve Lee (이승준)  

주한미군전우회 부회장

 


Korean translation by Mr. Hong, Sukgi “KG”, KDVA Research Associate/Linguist, 번역: 홍석기 (주한미군전우회 연구원/통번역사) 

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Yonhap – Discussions on U.S. intermediate missile deployment in S. Korea premature: U.S. envoy

By Oh Seok-min and Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) — The United States is not ready yet to talk with allies about deployment of its specific military capabilities, a senior U.S. official said Monday, as Washington is considering deploying intermediate-range missiles in East Asia to counterbalance China’s growing capabilities.

Marshall Billingslea, special U.S. presidential envoy for arms control, also said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency and other local media outlets in Seoul that North Korea’s recent apology for the killing of a South Korean fisheries official is a good first step toward resolving the issue.

Billingslea arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a two-day visit.

The trip came as the U.S. has been considering deploying intermediate-range missiles in Asia to counter China after withdrawing from the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) last year amid speculation that South Korea could be one of the candidate sites.

Claiming that China test-fired missiles 225 times last year alone, which is more than the number of launches by all the other countries in the world combined, Billingslea called on China to come forward and discuss the matter with the U.S., which is not a request but its legal obligation.

South Korea is already home to a U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which was installed in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in 2017 despite strong protests from China.

“We have had no discussions with the U.S. on the possible hosting of U.S. intermediate-range missiles,” a defense ministry official said. “No official request from the U.S. side for discussions regarding the issue has been made.”

In a pre-trip interview with Yonhap, Billingslea said the purpose of his visit is to discuss “the rapid Chinese buildup of nuclear weapons and ballistic and conventional missiles.” The envoy also said he has “additional intelligence to share with our ally regarding the Chinese programs.”

Military vehicles transport equipment to the site of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) base in the town of Seongju, about 220 km south of Seoul, on May 29, 2020, as part of an upgrade, in this photo released by a group of residents and activists opposing the installation of the missile defense system. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Earlier in the day, the U.S. envoy held talks with Ham Sang-wook, deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, and the two sides agreed to hold high-level talks on arms control in Washington at an early date, according to the foreign ministry.

During the talks, they also exchanged views on key international regimes on arms reduction and nonproliferation, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and discussed ways for further cooperation in that field, it added.

“The two sides agreed to hold a South Korea-U.S. senior-level meeting on arms control and nonproliferation and also agreed to continue to strengthen communication on key related issues at each level,” the ministry said in a press release.

During the talks, they also exchanged views on key international regimes on arms reduction and nonproliferation, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and discussed ways for further cooperation in that field, it added.

He also paid a courtesy call on First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun.

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Yonhap – S. Korea, U.S. agree to hold high-level arms control talks in Washington

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States agreed Monday to hold high-level talks on arms control in Washington at an early date, the foreign ministry said.

The two sides reached the agreement during talks between Marshall Billingslea, special U.S. presidential envoy for arms control, and Ham Sang-wook, deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, in Seoul, the ministry said.

“The two sides agreed to hold a South Korea-U.S. senior-level meeting on arms control and nonproliferation and also agreed to continue to strengthen communication on key related issues at each level,” the ministry said in a press release.

During the talks, they also exchanged views on key international regimes on arms reduction and nonproliferation, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and discussed ways for further cooperation in that field, it added.

The U.S. diplomat arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a two-day visit. On Monday, he paid a courtesy call on First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun and discussed bilateral relations.

Billingslea’s visit comes as Washington has ramped up its call on its allies and friends in Asia to join its various initiatives to counter Chinese threats, including developing defense capabilities.

In a pre-trip interview with Yonhap News Agency, Billingslea said the purpose of his visit is to discuss “the rapid Chinese buildup of nuclear weapons and ballistic and conventional missiles.” The envoy also said he will share “additional intelligence to share with our ally regarding the Chinese programs.”

Observers expect that Billingslea could use this trip to step up the U.S. call for Seoul to cooperate in its push for the deployment of medium- and intermediate-range missiles in Asia.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said last year that the U.S. wants to deploy conventional ground-based missiles in Asia, a day after the U.S. withdrew from the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed with the former Soviet Union.

China has strongly objected to the idea and warned South Korea and Japan against such deployments.

In the recent interview, Billingslea said the U.S. is willing to help South Korea prepare against missile threats from its neighbors, but it will be up to Seoul to decide what defense capabilities it wants to build.

Marshall Billingslea, special U.S. presidential envoy for arms control (L), and Ham Sang-wook, deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, pose for photo with an elbow bump ahead of their bilateral meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul in this photo provided by the ministry Sept. 28, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Marshall Billingslea, special U.S. presidential envoy for arms control (L), and Ham Sang-wook, deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, pose for photo with an elbow bump ahead of their bilateral meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul in this photo provided by the ministry Sept. 28, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – New defense minister holds first meeting with USFK commander

SEOUL, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) — New Defense Minister Suh Wook held his first meeting with U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Robert Abrams on Friday and vowed to beef up cooperation, officials said.

Abrams’ visit to the defense ministry headquarters in Seoul came one week after Suh took office and just days after North Korea’s brutal killing of a South Korean civil servant who drifted in waters near the Yellow Sea border.

The defense ministry earlier said it has worked closely with the U.S. side regarding the matter.

Defense Minister Suh Wook (L) bumps fists with U.S. Forces Korea Commander Robert Abrams at the inauguration ceremony of new Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Won In-choul at the JCS headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 23, 2020. (Yonhap)

Defense Minister Suh Wook (L) bumps fists with U.S. Forces Korea Commander Robert Abrams at the inauguration ceremony of new Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Won In-choul at the JCS headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 23, 2020. (Yonhap)

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