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Yonhap News – UNC chief vows ‘unwavering’ commitment to alliance on armistice anniversary

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) — New United Nations Command (UNC) Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera on Tuesday vowed an “unwavering” commitment to the security of the Korean Peninsula, saying that the alliance has “what it takes to fight and win on the most dangerous piece of ground.”

LaCamera made the remarks during a ceremony held at a U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, to mark the 68th anniversary of the 1950-53 Korean War armistice agreement, saying that permanent peace remains “elusive.”

The two Koreas are still technically at war, as the conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

“Our alliance is strong and has what it takes to fight and win on the most dangerous piece of ground the last 100 meters,” the U.S. general said.

“While we are yet to achieve the elusive permanent peace agreement, the armistice agreement provides the conditions for diplomacy to pursue this objective,” he said, promising to “remain prepared to respond to opportunities that may lead to permanent peace.”

LaCamera took office earlier this month to lead the 28,500-strong U.S. forces in South Korea, as well as the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command and the U.S.-led UNC.

Established in 1950 under a U.N. mandate in response to North Korea’s military provocations, the UNC has played a role as the enforcer of the armistice agreement that halted the Korean War.

“The United Nations Command’s commitment to this alliance 68 years later is firm, is unwavering, and indeed, will remain so,” LaCamera said.

The remarks came as South and North Korea announced their leaders’ agreement to improve ties on Tuesday, restoring communication lines that had been cut off for more than a year amid stalled nuclear negotiations.

According to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong-un agreed to “recover mutual trust and again push the countries’ relationship forward” in multiple letters exchanged since April.

United Nations Command Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera speaks during an event to mark the 68th anniversary of the 1950-53 Korean War armistice agreement at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 27, 2021, in this image captured from the video of the ceremony livestreamed on American Forces Network Pacific's Twitter account. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

United Nations Command Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera speaks during an event to mark the 68th anniversary of the 1950-53 Korean War armistice agreement at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 27, 2021, in this image captured from the video of the ceremony livestreamed on American Forces Network Pacific’s Twitter account. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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The National Interest – What If Kim Jong-un Isn’t Really in Charge of North Korea?

Decisions made by North Korea’s government often baffle outsiders. The leadership is not crazy, despite popular depictions, but the system is anything but normal.

U.S. policymakers desperately want to discern why the North takes certain actions, but often are left with little more than the knowledge that the country is, after all, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But what if the conventional wisdom about who is in charge in Pyongyang is wrong?

Most twenty-seven-year-olds are not given a country to rule. When Kim Jong-il died nearly a decade ago, his son, Kim Jong-un, appeared to be the lucky winner. The Great Successor, as the latter was initially tagged, was handed the keys to the North Korean kingdom. Over time he picked up a gaggle of other prestigious titles including Supreme Leader and Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, recently changed to General Secretary.

From the start, there was skepticism that he was in control. Kim Jong-il apparently began the succession process for his son only after recovering from his stroke in 2008, which contrasted sharply with Kim Jong-il’s much longer apprenticeship under DPRK founder Kim Il-sung. On Kim Jong-il’s death, Kim Jong-un was surrounded by members of the older generation tasked to act as “mentors.” Chief among them were his aunt, Kim Kyong-hui; uncle, Jang Song-thaek; and chief of the army general staff Ri Yong-ho.

Some analysts believed that a form of collective leadership was more likely than a reprise of his father’s unilateral dictatorship. Unfortunately, one can only peer into the DPRK through a glass darkly. At the time, watching Kim Jong-un wander hither and yon “giving guidance” was susceptible to multiple interpretations: Kim could be truly supreme, the frontman for a band of equals, or merely a figurehead used to present the royal Kim lineage to the public. He often appeared decidedly unserious—and certainly less than a genuine “Supreme Leader”—as when he cavorted with Mickey Mouse and hosted Dennis Rodman.

Then came the purges, with more than a few executions. Just months after Kim’s accession Vice Marshal Ri was defenestrated at a special politburo meeting for reasons of “health,” his ultimate fate, whether retirement, house arrest, or execution, is unknown. Although Ri was not the first top official to disappear, his role had been more public, frequently appearing at Kim’s side. Jang’s fall was even more dramatic: his two top aides were executed, his arrest was staged at a party meeting, and he was executed, a fate not previously visited upon family members. His wife disappeared from public view and was rumored dead, but reappeared six years later.

The common interpretation was that Kim was consolidating power, dropping his father’s factotums in favor of his own. The notion that Kim might not be in charge died away, and he was seen as living up to his title of Supreme Leader.

He dominated the North Korean media, enjoyed a private life of luxury, and appeared to be the sole decision-maker regarding nuclear weapons. And who else in the world travels with his personal potty to prevent—we presume, anyway—foreign intelligence agencies from examining his deposits? In a recent interview with NKNews, former Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun observed that the vast majority of “experienced North Korea experts” would “scoff at” the notion “that there could be any governor on the decision-making or direction of the leader.”

Yet Biegun raised the intriguing possibility that Kim’s power might not be absolute. Certainly, high-profile leadership changes could be explained as the result of factional warfare when changing coalitions acted against adversaries. Indeed, the deaths of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong led to periods of significant political instability. In both cases, strong leaders eventually emerged. However, rather than settling in for a long reign, the Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev was ousted after only a few years. In China, the most powerful figure wielded power unofficially: “paramount” leader Deng Xiaoping lacked formal control yet picked and dismissed party leaders. Much of his authority reflected his backroom ability to persuade a cohort of elders to back his positions.

Biegun offered no direct evidence that Kim was not “the decider.” However, the former diplomat noted otherwise inexplicable decisions by the North on the nuclear issue. Biegun cited “something that was a recurring pattern, not just after the Hanoi meeting but after many of the meetings. That there was a lot of enthusiasm and energy between the two leaders coming out of the meeting but then on the North Korean side would fall flat.”

When asked if there was an internal North Korean issue, Biegun admitted that he didn’t know, “yet we saw a pattern of momentum coming out of the meeting. The same in October, when, October 2018, when Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo met with Chairman Kim. There was a lot of energy coming out of that meeting and then it just fell flat again.” He figured that the explanation might have to wait until the North’s archives are opened.

Biegun noted that he was not alone in raising this question. Thomas Schaefer spent several years as Germany’s ambassador to North Korea and last year published From Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un: How the Hardliners Prevailed. In it he pointed to otherwise unexplained conflicting statements and policy shifts which, in his view, suggested Kim was not the unilateral decision-maker and therefore must at least accommodate and probably even defer to a powerful security cabal. Schaefer also cited evidence of senior officials publicly showing a lack of respect toward Kim.

Schaefer contended that the dynamic began under Kim Jong-il, who “was politically weakened after suffering a stroke in the summer of 2008, as he had to win the approval of the elite, and especially the armed forces, if Kim Jong-un was to be accepted as his successor.” Schaefer saw the factional fighting worsening after Kim pere’s death, with China relations, nuclear policy, and the military’s role major issues of contention. He also blamed the military for sabotaging civilian agreements, such as the 2012 Leap Day Agreement.

Of Kim fil’s role, Schaefer wrote: “In fact, there is no evidence that Kim Jong-un is an absolute ruler. Nevertheless, an astonishing number of foreign observers replicate the official account without voicing any doubt or looking for proof. At best, they refer to the way propaganda stages power and to statements by North Korean minders, interviewees, or refugees—often without questioning whether they are revealing their true opinion, whether they themselves are victims of state propaganda, and whether they have any insight into the decision-making of the North Korean leadership.”

It’s an intriguing thesis that could explain Kim’s effective refusal to reengage after Hanoi. If true, little should be expected of him since he presumably lacks the authority to force through any agreement. And a hardline “leadership circle,” as Schaefer called it, probably would mean proposals for denuclearization are chimerical, with no chance of success absent a dramatic power shift in Pyongyang. Neither famine nor sanctions would be likely to change the North’s policy.

The United States still might try to influence the North’s internal political dynamics. However, that would be an extraordinary long-shot. Maybe adjusting sanctions to allow the ROK to pursue projects with the North would strengthen civilian efforts to promote economic development. Yet any positive impact likely would be marginal at best. Moreover, Pyongyang’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic currently precludes most outside contact.

The best approach might be to simply propose increased bilateral contact without much hope for serious negotiation. Washington should end the ban on travel to the DPRK, to expand personal, non-political contacts; propose liaison offices, since talking to armed adversaries is more important than talking to friends; offer vaccines and medical assistance; and seek to revive the search for the remains of American military personnel.

Winston Churchill once described the Soviet Union as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” So is North Korea, though even a bit more mysterious. The Trump administration made an extraordinary if flawed effort to negotiate a nuclear deal with the North. Blame for the failed negotiation has been widely assigned, but perhaps the biggest problem simply was that the North’s leadership was not as assumed.

Still, there is no obvious alternative to continued diplomacy. Military action would risk triggering a regional and nuclear conflict. Sanctions provide an incentive to negotiate but aren’t likely to force the North to surrender its arsenal, especially if Beijing continues to help keep the DPRK afloat. Washington needs to talk to whoever is in charge in Pyongyang.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.  A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of several books, including Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World and co-author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.

Image: Reuters.


Article: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/what-if-kim-jong-un-isn%E2%80%99t-really-charge-north-korea-190268?utm_source=pocket_mylist

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Yonhap – N. Korea to hold national conference of war veterans to celebrate end of Korean War

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) — North Korea plans to hold a national conference of war veterans to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, state media said Monday, despite the global coronavirus pandemic.

“The 7th National Conference of War Veterans is to be held in Pyongyang with splendor on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the victory in the great Fatherland Liberation War,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The Korean War ended in an armistice signed on July 27, 1953, which leaves South and North Korea technically in a state of war. The North called the war the Fatherland Liberation War and designated the armistice signing date as Victory Day.

War veterans participating in the conference arrived in Pyongyang on Sunday, while party officials visited the lodging quarters to award the participation certificates and congratulate the war veterans, according to the KCNA.

The KCNA did not say when the conference will take place, but it is likely to be held ahead of the anniversary date.

Observers say the event appears to be aimed at tightening internal unity in the face of deepening economic fallout caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The North held the first conference of war veterans in 1993, when it marked the 40th anniversary of the end of the war. It also has taken place in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2020 since leader Kim Jong-un took office in late 2011.

North Korea's war veterans arrive in Pyongyang on July 25, 2021, to attend a national conference to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. The North calls the 1950-53 war the Fatherland Liberation War and designated the armistice signing date as Victory Day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korea’s war veterans arrive in Pyongyang on July 25, 2021, to attend a national conference to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. The North calls the 1950-53 war the Fatherland Liberation War and designated the armistice signing date as Victory Day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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The Korean Times (Opinion) – Why South Korea cannot achieve denuclearization of Korean Peninsula

By Mitch Shin

The Moon Jae-in administration’s “peace process” for leading the North to give up its nuclear weapons proved the limits of negotiations without the United States. Since President Moon took office in May 2017, Seoul has reversed its hostile policies against Pyongyang, set by the previous conservative administrations, to restart dialogue. The PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 created significant momentum for the two Koreas to re-engage in restoring communication channels to mollify the animosity between the countries.

As President Moon started acting as a peacemaker on the Korean Peninsula by persuading then-U.S. President Donald Trump to sit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to tackle the denuclearization of North Korea, neighboring countries supported the stance and moves of Seoul.

However, after the Hanoi summit in 2019 ended without reaching an agreement, Pyongyang stepped back from the negotiating table and made clear that it would not return to talks with the U.S. nor with South Korea unless Washington halted its unspecified hostile policies and acts.

The new U.S. administration did not react to Pyongyang’s remarks directly but showed how it was going to deal with the North by announcing a new policy ― a practical and calibrated approach ― with regards to North Korea on April 30. Now, both parties are playing hardball, asking each other to fulfill unachievable goals first, meaning that President Moon’s hands are tied as he has only months left before leaving the office.

Conservative hawks in Seoul and Washington have consistently said that the only way to denuclearize the North and topple Kim’s regime is to pressure the North with devastating U.S.-led economic sanctions.

However, as the two different major parties have different ways to confront the North’s advanced nuclear weapons and missile programs, South Korea cannot achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula it wishes via these hard checks by Washington, Beijing and Moscow.

Pyongyang blew up the joint liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea, last year, which was a symbol of communications between the two Koreas. Since then, it is clear that Pyongyang no longer considers Seoul as its direct counterpart for handling common issues.

In addition, after U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January, North Korea tested multiple short-range missiles, which the U.S. considers as a “direct threat” to its territory. Kim had not acted like Moammar Gadhafi from Libya but he nonetheless wanted to show that he had lost his patience and willingness to talk with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts. He wanted to send clear messages that time is ticking and he has bombs.

The Moon administration’s “peace process” for the Korean Peninsula was ambiguous and unrealistic, as it couldn’t get full support from the Trump administration. It failed to persuade Washington hawks not only in the Trump administration but also in Congress and the Senate, to support its moves to attract Kim to be the first sitting North Korean leader to transform his nation into a “normal” country.

In his latest interview with Time magazine, President Moon Jae-in’s description of Kim’s characteristics as “honest” and “enthusiastic” brought attention from within and outside of the country, including criticism that he has a so-called “delusional” perspective on North Korea issues.

Another reason that South Korea cannot tackle the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is its unconditional support toward Washington’s moves. During the Trump administration, Seoul and Washington agreed to launch a joint working group to bolster and coordinate the sanctions against the North.

The purpose of launching that working group was based on the U.S.-ROK blood alliance tackling the denuclearization of the North together, although South Korean progressives criticized the group as a gratuitous organization that harmed the relationship between the South and the North. In effect, they believed that the working group actually obstructed the efforts of Seoul’s unification ministry to cooperate with Pyongyang.

With criticism over the alliance group growing, the Biden administration is now considering dismantling the working group, which in effect was proof that Seoul could not work independently to engage in inter-Korean projects without Washington. This reality is the main reason why the North has always wanted to talk directly with Washington, not with Seoul.

For its national interests, South Korea sometimes should be able to say “no” to the U.S. when necessary. However, in a reality where South Korea’s major security functions, including wartime operational control, do not work without the U.S., South Korea always has to say “yes” to their demands and requests.

The deployment of tactical weapons is the main example that proves that the South has not yet gained authority over its military and national security from the U.S. Over 70 years after the ceasefire of the Korean War, the destiny of South Korea still depends on 28,500-strong U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and Washington policymakers.

The U.S. saved hundreds of thousands of South Koreans in World War II from Japan and during the Korean War from North Korea. Now, South Korea’s strong military and diplomatic ties with the U.S. are what the North grabs as its bargaining chip to sustain Kim’s autocratic power.


Mitch Shin (mitch@thediplomat.com) is chief Korea correspondent at The Diplomat, a current affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific, with news and analysis on politics, diplomacy, security, economy, business, environment and technology.


Article: https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/opinion/2021/07/197_312452.html

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Yonhap – Dozens of USFK service members donate blood amid low supplies over COVID-19

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, July 21 (Yonhap) — Dozens of American service members stationed in South Korea donated blood Wednesday to help ensure stable and diverse supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said.

The U.S. military hosted a blood drive at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, some 70 kilometers south of Seoul, in partnership with the Korean National Red Cross, and more than 60 individuals donated blood, according to USFK.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, an unprecedented number of blood drives were canceled, resulting in an opportunity for Korean and U.S. Forces to work together and negate this shortage of available blood and blood products in South Korea,” USFK said in a statement.

The donation is expected to help diverse blood supplies in South Korea, given that around 20 percent of the U.S. population has an Rh-negative blood type, with the comparable figure for South Korea 0.3 percent, USFK said, adding that the donated blood will be used at civilian and military hospitals throughout the country.

“USFK demonstrates deep support of our alliance in blood donation support to Korean troops and families. USFK is planning regularly scheduled blood drives to help stabilize the country’s blood supply,” the U.S. military said.

This photo provided by the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) shows an American service member donating blood during at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on July 21, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This photo provided by the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) shows an American service member donating blood during at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on July 21, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210721007900325?section=news

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Yonhap – U.S. possesses capabilities to counter cyber attacks: Pentagon

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Yonhap) — The United States maintains and continues to advance its capabilities to counter any cyber attacks from countries such as China and North Korea, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

John Kirby made the remarks as the U.S., along with a long list of its allies including the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, called out China as a state sponsor of malicious cyber activities. accusing China’s Ministry of State Security of hiring contract criminal hackers to carry out both “state-sponsored activities and cyber crime for their own financial gain.”

“We are very confident that we have significant cyber capability, and those capabilities continue to advance every year,” the Defense Department spokesman said when asked about U.S. cyber capabilities.

“I believe the (defense) secretary is very comfortable … and he remains very impressed by the capability that we have in the cyber realm,” added Kirby.

John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, is seen answering questions at a press briefing at the Defense Department in Washington on July 19, 2021, in this image captured from the department's website. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, is seen answering questions at a press briefing at the Defense Department in Washington on July 19, 2021, in this image captured from the department’s website. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Kirby refused to discuss specific details when asked about possible collaboration between Chinese and North Korean actors in China, only reiterating that his country has enough capabilities to counter cyber attacks.

“With respect to cyber security, we have a range of capabilities that are at our disposal to do that (counter attacks),” he said.

He also noted the Department of Defense is “part of the interagency discussion about how to respond to cyber attacks and how to become more resilient as a government, as a society.”

North Korea is said to have up to 6,000 trained hackers who are based in other countries, mostly in China, to avoid being tracked back to their homeland.

The U.S. has said North Korea stands out as an “unique” country among countries that pose a threat to cyber security in that the impoverished country has largely sought to steal money through its cyber activities.

A group of three North Korean actors was brought to the United States this year to face trial on charges of attempting to steal some US$1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from foreign banks and businesses between 2014 and 2018.

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210720000200325?section=nk/nk

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Yonhap – N.K. propaganda website slams S. Korea for pushing ahead with upcoming joint military drill with U.S.

SEOUL, July 20 (Yonhap) — A North Korean propaganda outlet on Tuesday slammed South Korea for pushing ahead with a joint military drill with the United States set for next month, calling it a scheme to invade the North.

Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean propaganda website, made the point in an editorial as South Korea and the U.S. are expected to hold the annual summertime military exercise that Pyongyang has long branded as a rehearsal for invasion.

“It clearly shows the nefarious scheme of the fanatics that are pushing ahead with their war to invade the North and fight their own people,” the website said.

The website also accused Seoul of violating the Sept. 19 military agreement and an inter-Korean declaration adopted during the first-ever summit in 2000, calling it the drill “a scheme to strengthen its armed forces.”

Meari, another propaganda website, also slammed South Korea for planning the exercise despite the global coronavirus pandemic and accused it of threatening peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the world.

North Korea has long denounced Seoul and Washington’s military drills, calling on the U.S. to end its hostile policy. The South and the U.S. reject such claims, saying that the exercises are purely defensive in nature.

This file photo provided by the defense ministry on Feb. 9, 2021, shows the South Korean and the U.S. marine corps' joint landing exercise held in April 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This file photo provided by the defense ministry on Feb. 9, 2021, shows the South Korean and the U.S. marine corps’ joint landing exercise held in April 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – U.S. Strategic Commander reaffirms extended deterrence for S. Korea: defense ministry

SEOUL, July 14 (Yohap) — The U.S. Strategic Command is fully mission capable of providing extended deterrence to South Korea using its full range of capabilities, its commander Adm. Charles Richard was quoted as saying Wednesday.

Richard made the remark when he paid a courtesy call on Defense Minister Suh Wook and discussed the regional security situation and their combined deterrence, the defense ministry said.

During the meeting, Suh stressed the importance of close coordination between the two countries to deter nuclear and missile threats by North Korea and asked the Strategic Command to play an active role, the ministry said.

Richard was in Seoul as part of his first overseas trip since taking office in November 2019. He visited Japan before flying to South Korea.

It is the first visit by a head of the U.S. Strategic Command to South Korea since August 2017, when then commander Gen. John Hyten came here to observe a Korea-U.S. combined exercise to demonstrate a strong bilateral alliance against North Korea.

Ahead of the meeting with Suh, the commander held talks with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Won In-choul on a combined defense posture and other pending military issues, according to officials.

“The commander also plans to meet South Korea’s Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force to discuss how to further develop their deterrence posture and ways to boost cooperation between their organizations,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Strategic Command is in charge of the U.S.’ “nuclear triad,” which refers to intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and strategic bombers, as a key deterrence against any nuclear attacks by adversaries.

Defense Minister Suh Wook (L) greets Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, in Seoul on July 14, 2021, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Defense Minister Suh Wook (L) greets Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, in Seoul on July 14, 2021, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210714006100325?section=national/defense

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Yonhap – N. Korea’s malicious cyber activities pose threat to U.S., allies: State Dept.

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, July 8 (Yonhap) — North Korea poses a significant cyber threat to the United States and other countries, particularly to financial institutions, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.

Ned Price also highlighted the need for joint efforts to counter such threats posed by the North.

“North Korea’s malicious cyber activities threaten the United States. They threaten our allies and partners, countries around the world,” the spokesman said at a press briefing, also elaborating that the North “poses a significant cyber threat to financial institutions.”

Ned Price, spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, is seen answering questions at a press briefing at the department in Washington on July 8, 2021, in this image captured from the website of the State Department. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Ned Price, spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, is seen answering questions at a press briefing at the department in Washington on July 8, 2021, in this image captured from the website of the State Department. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The U.S. has been chasing a number of North Korean entities suspected of stealing money from the international financial system.

Three North Korean nationals were brought to the United States earlier this year to face trial on suspicion of trying to steal up to US$1.3 billion in cash or cryptocurrency from banks and businesses.

“It remains a cyber espionage threat. It retains the ability to conduct disruptive cyber activities as we’ve seen it do in recent years,” the department spokesman said of North Korea.

His remarks come after South Korea announced on Thursday (Seoul time) that its state-run Atomic Energy Research Institute may had been exposed to North Korean cyber attacks for an extended period of time, although there had been no major data leak as a result of such attacks.

Price refused to comment directly on the South Korean report, but emphasized the need for countries to work together.

“It’s vital for the international community, for network defenders and the public to stay vigilant and to work together to mitigate the cyber threat posed by North Korea,” he said.

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210709000400325?section=national/diplomacy

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Yonhap – N. Korea in ‘tug of war’ with U.S. over policy direction: defense ministry

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) — North Korea appears to have begun a “tug of war” with the United States over its policy on Pyongyang while focusing on strengthening internal unity and economic development, the defense ministry said Wednesday.

The assessment was made during a meeting of top military commanders, including Defense Minister Suh Wook and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Gen. Won In-choul, which was meant to check the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and discuss the policy direction for the second half of the year.

“North Korea is focusing on its internal affairs prioritizing internal unity and economic development, and began ‘a tug of war’ with the U.S. in earnest over the Joe Biden administration’s policy toward it,” the ministry said in a release.

In April, the Biden administration completed its monthslong review of policy on the North and said it would pursue a “calibrated, practical” approach toward the goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Washington then expressed its willingness to meet with the North “anywhere, anytime without preconditions,” but Pyongyang flatly rejected such a dialogue offer last month.

Watchers say the communist country has been grappling with economic difficulties hit by global sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new type of a tactical guided missile is launched from the North Korean town of Hamju, South Hamgyong Province, on March 25, 2021, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. South Korea's military said the previous day that the North fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

A new type of a tactical guided missile is launched from the North Korean town of Hamju, South Hamgyong Province, on March 25, 2021, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. South Korea’s military said the previous day that the North fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The defense ministry also said that North Korea has continued work to advance and develop strategic and tactical weapons, while maintaining a posture “to provoke at any time.”

The North has showcased new types of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple rocket launchers over the past several years amid stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S. and chilled inter-Korean relations.

This year, North Korea conducted a major weapons test once in March, when it test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles, believed to be an upgraded version of its KN-23 missile modeled after Russia’s Iskander. The North’s state media said they were new tactical guided missiles.

The JCS said no unusual military movements have been detected in North Korea recently, though it is closely watching them, particularly as the North is supposed to begin summertime military drills in July.

In order to deter such threats, the Seoul military vowed to further beef up defense capabilities by deploying such weapons as early warning radars against ballistic missiles and medium-range surface-to-air missiles as planned, and beef up security along the inter-Korean border.

“We will further strengthen the Korea-U.S. combined posture and will carry out joint exercises and drills through diverse methods,” it said.

The commanders also decided to seek diverse discussion channels with neighboring countries to prevent accidental clashes and to ease tensions, as there has been a marked growth in military activities by countries in the region amid an intensifying Sino-U.S. rivalry, according to the ministry.

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210707006000325?section=national/defense

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