Lawmakers from liberal parties hold a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Thursday, calling for the suspension of a South Korea-U.S. combined military exercise, scheduled for August. Korea Times photo by Lee Han-ho
Seoul wants low-key exercise to incentivize Pyongyang to return to talks
By Kang Seung-woo
South Korea and the United States are likely to scale down their annual summertime military exercise in what seems to be a move not to provoke North Korea.
Citing multiple government sources, the local daily Donga Ilbo reported, Monday, that Seoul and Washington had reached a broad consensus on carrying out the drill in the second week of August on a scale similar to one in March, which proceeded as a computer-simulated command post exercise (CPX) with no outdoor drills.
It also said the U.S. government seems to have accepted the South Korean administrations opinion that a large-scale military exercise could adversely affect possible future denuclearization negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.
Should it be staged as reported, the allies will then not have held a large-scale field training exercise since 2018.
Whether and how to hold the summertime combined training has been seen as a yardstick on North Korea charting its course between staging a provocation and returning to dialogue.
In that respect, the Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) have floated the idea of downsizing or even suspending the upcoming annual exercise as a “carrot” for the resumption of the stalled North Korea denuclearization talks. Pyongyang regularly responds to the drill with harsh rhetoric, calling it a rehearsal for invasion.
In May, Moon mentioned the impossibility of a full-scale drill, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, although many believe that this was a last-ditch effort to improve inter-Korean ties before his presidency ends in May next year.
In addition, 76 lawmakers from three liberal political parties ― the Open Minjoo Party, the Justice Party and the DPK ― called for the suspension of the exercise, last week, to incentivize North Korea to return to talks.
In response to the report, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Monday that nothing had been decided yet on the combined exercise.
“The timing, scale and exact method for the upcoming exercise have not been finalized,” ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan said during a press briefing.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Defense told Radio Free Asia that there had been no change in the schedule for the military drill.
In addition, Gen. Paul LaCamera, the new commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, said during his confirmation hearing in May that joint field exercises between South Korean and U.S. troops were extremely important in maintaining their readiness.
Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha Woman University, said the upcoming military exercise would be low-key, considering the current situation.
“Although South Korea and the U.S. will conduct a joint drill in August, it is anticipated to proceed as computer-simulated tabletop exercises without field maneuvers,” Park said.
Initially, South Korea planned to use the exercise as a verification process for regaining wartime operational control of the South Korean military from the U.S. before the end of Moon’s term, but the transition by the deadline is regarded as being virtually impossible.
“Given the impossibility, the Moon administration is expected to curtail the exercise,” Park added.
SEOUL, July 5 (Yonhap) — Defense Minister Suh Wook called for speeding up South Korea’s envisioned takeover of wartime operational control (OPCON) of its forces from the United States after new U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera took office last week, his office said Monday.
During a meeting to check on progress in efforts to retake OPCON, Suh “called for various consultations between top USFK officials, including its new commander, and the defense and military authorities to expedite the OPCON transfer based on the firm South Korea-U.S. alliance,” according to the ministry.
The two countries have been working for the conditions-based OPCON transfer of South Korean forces from Washington to Seoul, though no specific deadline has been set.
Amid delays in the procedure in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Moon Jae-in has also asked the new U.S. commander to pay close attention to the transfer as a key bilateral issue.
During Monday’s meeting, South Korea’s top military officers reaffirmed their commitment to retaking OPCON and agreed to join efforts for its transfer “at the right time” on the basis of a strong combined defense posture, the ministry said.
South Korea handed over the operational control of its troops to the U.S.-led U.N. command during the 1950-53 Korean War. It retook peacetime OPCON in 1994, but wartime OPCON remains in the hands of the U.S.
South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) hands over the commandership of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) to Gen. Paul LaCamera (L), the new commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), during the latter’s inaugural ceremony at U.S. Army base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 km south of Seoul, on July 2, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – North Korean state television has acknowledged Kim Jong Un’s apparent weight loss, even admitting that the leader’s health is a subject of concern in Pyongyang.
The admission was broadcast during an interview with a North Korea resident on state-run Korean Central Television, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
“The people were most heartbroken to see the respected general secretary looking thinner,” the resident said in the interview broadcast Friday. “Everyone is saying that they are moved to tears.”
The comments were included in an unrelated KCTV report featuring street interviews with residents expressing opinions on a variety of topics, including a recent cultural performance.
The report did not mention what, if any, health issues Kim was experiencing. Analysts said, though, that it still appears important that Pyongyang is acknowledging his changed appearance.
“Minimally, someone decided that Kim’s visible weight loss would be the elephant in the room — the now palpably much slimmer elephant in the room — if they DIDN’T mention it, as everyone is talking about it. You can’t not notice it,” Aidan Foster-Carter, a veteran, Britain-based Korea specialist, told VOA in an online message.
The 37-year-old’s health has often been the subject of intense speculation, most recently after he appeared on state TV looking much trimmer than he had several weeks before.
Though Kim’s new physique was apparent in his thinner face and baggier clothes, one news outlet found a way to possibly confirm the weight loss by comparing state media images of the leader’s $12,000 IWC Portofino Automatic watch.
NK News, a Seoul-based news outlet, concluded that the length of the watch’s strap past the buckle was longer in recent state media images than those published in November.
Rumors about Kim’s health intensified last year after he skipped a major public birthday celebration for his late grandfather, North Korea’s founding leader.
Since then, Kim has been absent from state media for several extended periods of time without explanation.
Kim, a frequent cigarette smoker, appears much heavier than when he took power in 2011. Last year, South Korea’s spy agency reported Kim weighed over 136 kilograms.
Rumors about Kim’s health also circulated in 2014, when he was absent from public view for several weeks. He eventually resurfaced using a cane; state media cryptically said he had experienced “discomfort,” but did not elaborate.
Kim is the third generation of his family to rule North Korea. His father, Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack in 2011 at the age of 69. Although his death was unexpected, he had appeared sickly at the end of his life.
“There is a big difference between how his dad looked in his final years — clearly shrunken in a not good, ill sort of way — and the new svelte Kim Jong Un. From what I’ve seen he looks better than before,” Foster-Carter said.
Although media discussion about Kim’s weight often takes a light-hearted or mocking tone, his health situation is important, since he exercises authoritarian rule over a nuclear-armed country that may not have a succession plan in place.
Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, appears to have gained influence in recent years, but it is not clear whether she would be a part of any succession plan.
Earlier this month, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported that the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party recently created a de facto second-in-command position. It reported that Jo Yong Won, a close aide to Kim, appears to have been elected to the position.
The developments come amid tough times in North Korea. Earlier this month, Kim acknowledged his country faces a “tense” food situation.
North Korea went into a severe coronavirus lockdown in January 2020, cutting off almost all contact with the outside world and even restraining trade with its economic lifeline, China.
The KCTV comments about Kim’s health could be part of a domestic propaganda campaign designed to show that Kim is “tightening his belt” during hardship, says Peter Ward, a Seoul-based Korea specialist and PhD candidate at the University of Vienna.
“But I doubt he lost weight because of that,” Ward added.
“The fact that the media is talking about it means the authorities understand it’s a major story inside the country,” he says. “And they want the people to speak in specific ways about it. Call it the North Korean version of message discipline, if you will.”
WASHINGTON, June 23 (Yonhap) — The United States will continue to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula by reducing threats from North Korea through diplomacy, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday, amid a U.S. overture to the North for dialogue.
The defense secretary also said his country will continue to remain focused on North Korea despite more pacing threats from others such as China.
“Leading with diplomacy, the United States will continue to work to mitigate North Korea’s destabilizing and provocative behavior and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” Austin said in a written statement to the House Armed Services Committee for a hearing on the administration’s fiscal year 2022 defense budget request.
The captured image shows U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin delivering opening remarks in a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget in Washington on June 23, 2021. (Yonhap)
Austin noted China and Russia pose the most pacing and immediate threat to the United States, but that North Korea too poses a serious threat to his country and its allies while also trying to further develop its ballistic missile capabilities.
“We also face challenges from North Korea, a country with the ambition to be capable of striking the U.S. homeland,” said the defense secretary.
He argued the proposed US$715 billion defense spending will help counter threats posed by the North and others.
“With its emphasis on space, missile defense, and more sophisticated sensors, our budget will also help us counter the increasing ballistic-missile capabilities of nations like North Korea and Iran,” Austin said in his opening remarks at the hearing.
His remarks come after North Korea ruled out the possibility of its return to the dialogue table with the U.S. in the near future despite repeated U.S. overtures.
Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, said this week that Washington is ready to meet with Pyongyang “anywhere, anytime without preconditions.”
Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, earlier said the U.S.’ hope for dialogue will lead to a greater disappointment. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son-gwon said Wednesday (Seoul time) that his country is not “considering even the possibility of any contact with the U.S.”
There are three important anniversaries with North Korea all taking place within a few months, which provide a fitting moment for reflection on the status and potential future for US-DPRK relations. Indeed, an obvious first step would be to get Beijing to convince Kim Jong Un that it is in North Korea’s interest to return to negotiations with the US and that the US is prepared to be fair and flexible in its negotiations for complete and verifiable denuclearization, in return for the eventual lifting of sanctions and a path for normal relations.
Three Key Anniversaries
The first anniversary recently passed. The Singapore Summit, held on June 12, 2018, resulted in a joint statement and was a step forward in US-DPRK relations. It spoke of establishing a new US-North Korea bilateral relationship and building a robust and sustainable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula while also working toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This set a solid agenda for negotiations that addressed both sides’ political and security needs to achieve mutual benefits. Unfortunately, the follow-on summit in Hanoi in February 2019 was unsuccessful in moving that agenda forward and bilateral dialogue thereafter literally ceased. When and whether it will pick back up under the Biden administration is yet unclear.
The second anniversary will take place next month. The Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, signed July 11, 1961, renewable every twenty years, confirms the military commitment of China to North Korea. The 60th anniversary will reconfirm this close allied relationship which, pursuant to Article 2, commits each to oppose any country or coalition of countries that might attack either nation. Despite strained relations at the beginning of Kim Jong Un’s rule, Sino-DPRK ties have been strengthened in recent years, with five summits between Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping held in 2018 and 2019, and Xi visiting Pyongyang for the first time in 2019.
The third anniversary is the signing of the Six Party Talks Joint Statement on September 19, 2005, which reaffirmed the goal of verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, with North Korea committing to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and reaccepting IAEA safeguards. In this joint statement, the US affirmed it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea and committed to taking steps to normalize their relations, subject to their respective bilateral policies. Furthermore, the six countries committed to economic cooperation and joint efforts for peace and stability in Northeast Asia and a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. After some progress towards dismantling the 5 MWe Reactor and North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, cooperation ceased in late 2008 when North Korea refused to sign an agreement to permit nuclear monitors to visit non-declared suspected nuclear sites.
The lessons learned from these past events is that: leadership meetings, especially with adversaries, are a critical part of negotiations. As the DPRK appears to be reluctant to meet the new Biden administration to see what can be accomplished, China and the US have shared interests in convincing North Korea to work toward the dismantlement of its nuclear weapons and related facilities. It is therefore in Beijing’s best interest to do more to get North Korea to resume negotiations with the US for complete and verifiable denuclearization.
Room for US-China Cooperation?
US-DPRK communication essentially dropped off in late 2019, and between US presidential elections and the pandemic of 2020, there were few openings for restarting talks in the last year of the Trump administration. While the new Biden administration has announced the completion of its North Korea policy review and the rollout of a new policy, the question remains how to bring the North Koreans back to the table. Recent statements from Pyongyang have provided mixed signals about whether that might occur, but if not, there may be other options.
In the past, Chinese cooperation helped facilitate dialogue when US-DPRK relations were at a standstill. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell worked closely with China’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Li Zhaoxing, in 2003 to get North Korea to join the Six Party Talks process—a negotiation forum including the US, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, with Beijing hosting and chairing the talks from 2003-2009. Without China’s cooperation at that time, it is unlikely that this forum would have ever gotten off the ground.
Despite the tense bilateral relationship that currently exists between the US and China, there is some cooperation taking place. A nascent dialogue on climate change, for instance, is ongoing, focused on what is necessary to better address carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Trade talks are also underway to reduce the significant US trade deficit with China and gain greater reciprocal market access for US companies in China. Indeed, another logical issue area ripe for cooperation, where the US and China have common interests and stand to gain mutual benefits, is dealing with North Korea.
Given China’s close allied relationship with North Korea, often referred to as a “lips and teeth” relationship, and North Korea’s economic dependence on China for over 90 percent of its trade and over 90 percent of its import of crude oil and petroleum products, Beijing has unique leverage over Pyongyang. It succeeded in convincing North Korea to join the Six Party Talks in 2003 and may be able to encourage North Korea to sit down again with the US and resume denuclearization talks in return for security assurances and an eventual path to normal relations. This should be a priority for Beijing, to help prevent the potential for conflict on the Korean Peninsula and as an overture to the US and others who may doubt Beijing’s commitment to the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Although North Korea withdrew from the Six Party Talks in 2009, there may also be value in determining if North Korea would be willing to re-enter multilateral talks with the US and others if bilateral US-DPRK talks remain at a stalemate.
What North Korea Wants
There is legitimate skepticism that North Korea will ever dismantle its nuclear weapons and facilities. Nuclear weapons ensure the survival of the regime, so why would the North commit to denuclearization? What we also know from multiple attempts at negotiations, in multiple formats, is that North Korea wants a normal relationship with the US and the resultant international legitimacy, as well as acceptance as a legitimate and responsible nuclear weapons state. They often cite Pakistan, saying the US did it with Pakistan and they can do it with North Korea.
However, North Korea continues to be told that while normal relations are possible, retaining nuclear weapons is non-starter. Accepting the North as a nuclear-armed state could encourage other countries in the region to seek their own nuclear weapons, despite extended deterrence commitments from the US. Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear program poses a serious proliferation challenge, increasing the chances that a nuclear weapon or fissile material for a dirty bomb would be sold or transferred to a rogue state or terrorist organization. For those obvious reasons, most would agree that accepting North Korea as a nuclear weapons state would not be wise or prudent.
Another important lesson learned is that when negotiations ceased, as they did from 2009-2016, North Korea intensified efforts to produce more nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. And when the rhetoric from the US became heated, as was the case in 2017 with “fire and fury,” North Korea doubled down and produced even more nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, with a thermonuclear test and the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could target the whole of the US. Therefore, once negotiations resume, it will be important to keep North Korea at the table for tough and professional negotiations, no matter how difficult or frustrating they may get.
Hopefully, North Korea returns to negotiations with the US on denuclearization and resumes dialogue with South Korea on the inter-Korean agenda laid out in the Panmunjom Declaration. If China can do more to convince Pyongyang to respond to these overtures, it’s possible we could eventually see progress toward a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue, assuming we learned from past failures. We should expect and be fully prepared for negotiating in an action-for-action process, tangible deliverables such as sanctions relief, security assurances, and a path to normalization of relations, as North Korea dismantles its nuclear weapons and facilities, similar to the process established in the Six Party Talks Joint Statement of September 2005.
If direct bilateral US-DPRK relations remain at a stalemate, we should keep open the option for a multilateral process if that better suits the security situation we face today. As in past efforts, Beijing could once again assist in convincing North Korea that it’s in Pyongyang’s interest to return to dialogue and negotiations to build on the Singapore Joint Statement and in the spirit of the September 2005 Six Party Agreement.
Regardless of how skeptical one may be about North Korea’s willingness to denuclearize, the options for dealing with North Korea are finite: negotiations with the goal of complete and verifiable denuclearization, in return for a path to normal relations; acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state with the myriad of national security risks this would entail; or containing and further sanctioning North Korea while enhancing our deterrence posture in the region, with greater missile defense deployments and a likely discussion of the re-introduction of tactical nuclear weapons in the region. Stumbling into accidental conflict on the Korean Peninsula is a real possibility once we stop negotiating, assuming we do not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state and do not engage the North in arms control negotiations.
Unilaterally or multilaterally re-engaging with North Korea to establish a road map for verifiable denuclearization of a North Korea that wants normal relations with the US would continue to be the best approach for dealing with a nuclear North Korea.
VIRGIE, Ky. (AP) — A funeral will be held this week for a Kentucky soldier killed during the Korean War, Fort Knox said.
The remains of Army Cpl. Burl Mullins will be interred Saturday at Osborne Cemetery in the Dorton community in Pike County after a funeral service in Virgie.
Mullins was a Dorton native and was a member of Heavy Mortar Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, when he was reported missing in action Nov. 30, 1950. His unit had been attacked by enemy forces near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea.
His remains could not be recovered after the battle, and it was later learned he had been taken prisoner of war. He was 23 years old.
On July 27, 2018, following the summit between then- President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes, purported to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018, and were subsequently accessioned into the DPAA laboratory for identification. To identify Mullins’ remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis. Mullins’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
WASHINGTON, June 21 (Yonhap) — The United States constantly reviews its joint military exercises with South Korea to make sure their forces are properly trained and prepared to meet threats, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
“We always say that we know we have to, our forces have got to be ready to fight tonight and we are constantly looking at the training events to make sure that they are appropriate and they are properly scaled to the threats and the challenges,” the spokesman, John Kirby, said at a press briefing.
The remarks come after Ely Ratner, nominee for assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said he, if confirmed, would review the United States’ joint military exercises to maintain readiness of U.S. forces in and around the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. has some 28,500 troops station in South Korea.
North Korea periodically denounces joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises as war rehearsals that it says will continue to hinder inter-Korean relations and dialogue.
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)
Many in South Korea have voiced a need for the U.S. and South Korea to scale down or even cancel their joint military drills to foster dialogue with Pyongyang amid a U.S. outreach to the reclusive country.
Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, on Monday (Seoul time) said his country is willing to meet with North Korea ” anywhere, anytime without preconditions.”
The Defense Department spokesman said he had no changes in military training to announce, only noting the U.S. “constantly” reviews and assesses its military training programs “given the strategic environment” of the Korean Peninsula.
In Seoul, South Korea’s defense ministry said that close consultations are under way to fix the timing, scale and other details of an annual summertime combined exercise that the two countries have held usually in August.
“South Korea and the U.S. will make a decision on the exercise after taking into consideration all related factors, such as the COVID-19 situation, the maintenance of a combat readiness posture, the transfer of the wartime operational control, and supporting diplomacy for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan told a regular briefing on Tuesday.
The two sides usually stage major combined exercises twice a year — in around March and in August, along with smaller-scale drills throughout the year.
This year’s springtime program took place in March in a scaled-back manner amid the pandemic.
President Moon Jae-in offers a seat to U.S. special envoy for North Korea Sung Kim before their meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Tuesday. Kim also had talks with National Security Adviser Suh Hoon and Unification Minister Lee In-young earlier in the day over the two nations’ coordination on North Korea issues. Korea Times photo by Wang Tae-seok
S. Korea, US likely to abolish ‘working group’ forum By Nam Hyun-woo North Korea shot down the hopes of the United States and South Korea for dialogue on inter-Korean cooperation and denuclearization, with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying Washington had the “wrong” expectations for talks. “It seems that the U.S. may interpret the situation in such a way as to seek comfort for itself,” Kim said in a statement carried by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, Tuesday. “The expectations, which they chose to harbor the wrong way, will plunge them into greater disappointment.” The statement came after U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview that the North was sending an “interesting signal,” referring to Kim Jong-un’s earlier comment during a Workers’ Party meeting June 17 that Pyongyang should be prepared for both “dialogue” and “confrontation” with the U.S. Kim Yo-jong’s statement came on the heels of efforts by Seoul and Washington to create a new conciliatory mood between the two Koreas, and Pyongyang and Washington, during the U.S. special envoy’s visit here. After meeting with his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk on Monday, special envoy Sung Kim said Washington would engage with Pyongyang “anywhere, anytime without preconditions.” Kim Yo-jong’s negative stance toward these efforts can be interpreted as the North stating it only wants a dialogue that serves its interests, experts said. “In some respects, there have been excessively optimistic interpretations of Kim Jong-un’s recent statements regarding dialogue,” said Go Myong-hyun, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “The U.S. is offering talks with North Korea while maintaining a firm stance on sanctions and denuclearization, but Pyongyang just wants to talk about sanctions. Kim Yo-jong’s message shows that the two sides’ goals for any talks are polar opposites, and Pyongyang only wants a dialogue that is in its best interests.” Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, also said the North had “yet to be prepared for immediate talks with the U.S.” “During the June 17 Workers’ Party meeting, Kim Jong-un said the North should be prepared both for confrontation and dialogue, and the regime will begin its preparations from now on,” Cheong said. “However, it is difficult to expect the U.S. and North Korea will easily find common ground given their deep rooted distrust. Thus, the U.S. should consider seeking to establish four-way talks involving China.” In another reconciliatory attempt, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that Seoul and Washington had agreed to consider ending their “working group” on North Korea policy, which Pyongyang has condemned as a major hurdle to improving inter-Korean relations. The group was set up in November 2018 to facilitate a coordinated North Korea approach between Seoul and Washington, as inter-Korean relations seemed to be improving following three summits between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim that year. The group, however, faced questions as it created setbacks at key conciliatory moments between the two Koreas. In 2019, the two agreed to Seoul providing Tamiflu influenza vaccine to Pyongyang as humanitarian aid, but this foundered after the group’s protracted review on whether trucks transporting the vaccine would violate sanctions on the North. When North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in Gaeseong in June last year, the regime named the working group as one of the reasons for poor relations between the South and North, with Kim Yo-jong condemning it as “a U.S.-obedience trap that South Korea set up by itself.” While signaling an end to the group, the U.S. promised greater support for any possible inter-Korean dialogue.
South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young, right, shakes hands with U.S. special envoy for North Korea Sung Kim during their meeting at the ministry’s headquarters in the Government Complex Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
During his meeting with Unification Minister Lee In-young, Tuesday, U.S. envoy Kim said Seoul and Washington “are very closely aligned on all important aspects of our North Korea policy,” and the U.S. supported “meaningful inter-Korean dialogue, cooperation and engagement.” The comment is in line with the outcome of the summit between Moon and U.S. President Joe Biden in May, which included Washington’s reaffirmation of the 2018 Panmunjeom Declaration. The declaration states that the two Koreas would make efforts to establish a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. Lee said that “now is a critical watershed moment at which we can move into dialogue mode,” and Seoul and Washington should move in “an active and agile manner through a consensus.” After the meeting with the unification minister, Sung Kim met President Moon to discuss cooperation and coordination between the two nations on North Korea issues. “The Biden administration’s gradual approach toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through talks and diplomacy is appropriate,” Moon was quoted as telling Kim by presidential spokesman Park Kyung-mee. He also stressed that South Korea and the U.S. should cooperate to enable improvements in inter-Korean relations and talks between Washington and Pyongyang to progress in a “virtuous cycle.” Kim reaffirmed U.S. President Biden’s support for meaningful conversation, engagement and cooperation between the two Koreas, and pledged he would do his utmost to get talks between Washington and Pyongyang restarted, Park said. After meeting with Moon, Kim had talks with National Security Advisor Suh Hoon.
SEOUL, June 19 (Yonhap) — Soldiers and equipment of a U.S. armored brigade combat team have started to arrive in South Korea for a rotational deployment, the U.S. military said Saturday.
Tracked vehicles and other equipment of the Bulldog Brigade, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division, began arriving in the southern port city of Busan from Fort Bliss, Texas, earlier this month, according to the Eighth Army.
The arriving brigade is replacing the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia, which has been on a nine-month rotational deployment in support of 2nd Infantry Division, South Korea-U.S. Combined Division and Eighth Army, it said.
The Bulldog Brigade is the 10th rotational armored brigade to serve in Korea.
“The introduction of off-peninsula units to Korea exposes U.S. soldiers to the operating environment in the ROK, expands and enhances the partnership between the two armies, and supports the ironclad ROK-U.S Alliance,” it said in a release. ROK is short for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
All soldiers upon arrival will be tested for the new coronavirus and put into 14-day mandatory quarantine.
About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea to deter North Korean aggression, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the divided peninsula still technically at war.
A combat vehicle of the U.S. 3rd Armored Bulldog Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division, arrives in South Korea’s southern port city of Busan, in this undated photo provided by the U.S. Forces Korea on June 19, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)