ROK-U.S. News

Yonhap – Seoul, Washington analyzing weapons showcased at N. Korean defense show

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States are analyzing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and other weapons systems showcased at a defense exhibition hosted by Pyongyang, Seoul’s defense ministry said Tuesday.

The North opened the exhibition in Pyongyang with an assortment of military hardware on Monday to mark the 76th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party, as leader Kim Jong-un has renewed calls to beef up the military.

“Intelligence authorities of South Korea and the U.S. are currently analyzing equipment displayed at the exhibition,” deputy ministry spokesperson Moon Hong-sik told a regular press briefing. “We will continue to thoroughly examine them.”

At the exhibition, the North displayed a number of weapons systems that it has developed in recent years. They include the Hwasong-16 ICBM and the hypersonic Hwasong-8 missile, according to the North’s state media.

On Tuesday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korean leader Kim redoubled calls for strengthening Pyongyang’s military capabilities to counter what he calls “hostile forces.”

The North ratcheted up tensions with a series of missile tests last month, though cautious optimism for a cross-border thaw has emerged following the recent reactivation of inter-Korean communication lines.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (7th from R, front row) poses during a visit to a defense development exhibition, Self-Defence-2021, in Pyongyang on Oct. 11, 2021, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (7th from R, front row) poses during a visit to a defense development exhibition, Self-Defence-2021, in Pyongyang on Oct. 11, 2021, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – N.K. leader urges improvement in people’s living conditions on party’s founding anniversary

By Yi Won-ju

SEOUL, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stressed the need to improve people’s living conditions, as he held a lecture to mark the 76th founding anniversary of its ruling Workers’ Party, state media said Monday.

He delivered the message during his “important” speech, titled, “Let us further improve party work in line with the demands of the period of fresh development of socialist construction,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim said the party has defined “the popular masses’ independence” as the essence of the socialist construction and urged officials to serve the people like “God,” it added.

He then emphasized that the party remains determined to efficiently push ahead with the five-year national economy plan set forth at the party congress in January and called on officials to solve people’s food and housing problems.

Kim also told party officials to “always consider whether their work infringe upon the interests of the people or cause trouble to the people.” Kim made no mention of inter-Korean ties and the United States.

This marks the first time Kim has delivered a speech on the party’s founding anniversary since he took power in late 2011.

Kim “brought to light the brilliant achievements made in our Party building for the last ten years,” the KCNA said.

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

North Korea marked the 76th founding anniversary of its ruling party Sunday without a military parade or any other provocative show of force.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a lecture to commemorate the 76th founding anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party on Oct. 10, 2021, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a lecture to commemorate the 76th founding anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party on Oct. 10, 2021, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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Joint Message for ROK Veterans Day

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Yonhap – Vice FM Choi calls for close USFK cooperation on base return

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) — First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun called Wednesday for the U.S. military’s cooperation on a plan to return part of its Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul, as South Korea pushes to turn the base into a national park.

Choi and Vice Defense Minister Park Jae-min visited the garrison to take stock of progress in the implementation of the plan to return nearly 500,000 square meters of land — about one-fourth of the garrison site — by early next year, the foreign ministry said.

Seoul and Washington announced the plan in July, amid worries any further delay in the return and decontamination of the garrison would hamper the mega project to establish the park.

“Vice Minister Choi stressed that the return of the Yongsan Garrison is a crucial matter directly linked to everyday life of our citizens and asked the U.S. Forces Korea to closely cooperate to ensure the return will proceed without a problem,” the ministry said in a press release.

First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun (2nd from L) and Vice Defense Minister Park Jae-min (3rd from R) visit the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul on Oct. 6, 2021, in this photo released by the foreign ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun (2nd from L) and Vice Defense Minister Park Jae-min (3rd from R) visit the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul on Oct. 6, 2021, in this photo released by the foreign ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The envisioned return of the garrison is part of a broad relocation scheme to consolidate U.S. bases across the Korean Peninsula into a garrison in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, and another in Daegu, 302 km southeast of the capital, with an aim to enhance defense readiness and operational efficiencies in the face of North Korean military threats.

The 500,000 square meters of land in point — about the combined size of 70 soccer fields — is expected to mostly include parts of the garrison’s southern section, called the South Post, which houses schools, sports fields and officers’ quarters.

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Yonhap – Two Koreas hold daily liaison, military calls after restoring communication lines

SEOUL, Oct. 5 (Yonhap) — South and North Korea held daily phone calls via their liaison and military hotlines Tuesday, officials said, a day after Pyongyang restored the inter-Korean communication channels.

On Monday, the two Koreas reopened the cross-border communication lines following a near two-month suspension. The move came hours after the North’s state media announced that the lines would be back in normal operation as of 9 a.m. on the day.

“South and North Korea’s daily call at 9 a.m. took place normally via the inter-Korean liaison office,” a unification ministry official said.

The two Koreas also held a phone call through the inter-Korean liaison line at 5 p.m. as scheduled, the ministry said later in the day.

The defense ministry also said both of their direct military communication lines — the eastern and western hotlines — as well as their call via ship-to-ship radio links that use the global merchant marine communication network operated normally.

The resumption of daily calls came 55 days after the North began refusing to answer South Korea’s calls in protest of an annual combined military exercise between the South and the United States.

The North has long denounced the allies’ annual military exercise as a rehearsal for invasion.

A South Korean officer makes a test call with North Korea via a hotline set up between the militaries of the two Koreas on Oct. 4, 2021, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. The Koreas restored their direct communication lines on the same day after 55 days of suspension. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

A South Korean officer makes a test call with North Korea via a hotline set up between the militaries of the two Koreas on Oct. 4, 2021, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. The Koreas restored their direct communication lines on the same day after 55 days of suspension. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap -Koreas restore cross-border hotlines 55 days after suspension

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) — South and North Korea restored their direct communication lines Monday, raising hopes for the resumption of stalled inter-Korean dialogue amid a drawn-out deadlock in denuclearization talks.

The two sides had contact through a military hotline and a separate joint liaison office channel, according to South Korean officials.

Hours earlier, North Korea’s state media announced that the lines would be back to normal operation as of 9 a.m. on the day.

Last year, North Korea blew up a liaison office in its border town of Kaesong and unilaterally cut off all inter-Korean communication lines in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent from South Korea.

The hotlines were briefly back in operation in late July before being suspended by North Korea in protest of an annual combined military exercise of South Korea and the United States. The North has long denounced the allies’ annual military exercise as a rehearsal for invasion.

On Monday, South Korea immediately expressed hope for the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue.

The reconnection of the communication lines is viewed as having “laid the ground for bringing the relations between the two Koreas back on track,” the unification ministry said in a statement.

It added, “Through that stable management of the communication lines and swift resumption of dialogue, the government hopes to begin and advance substantive discussions on improving inter-Korean relations and making peace take root on the Korean Peninsula, along with implementing agreements between the two Koreas.”

The two sides agreed to hold regular phone calls via the liaison office twice a day at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the unification ministry said.

South Korea’s defense ministry also expressed hope that the restoration of the hotlines would ease military tensions with North Korea.

The ministry said that both of the two direct military communication lines — the western and eastern hotlines — operated normally but Pyongyang has not answered the South’s calls via ship-to-ship radio links that use the global merchant marine communication.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency that Washington strongly supports inter-Korean cooperation, saying that the restored communication lines are important in creating a more stable environment on the Korean Peninsula.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said South Korea “should make positive efforts to put the North-South ties on a right track and settle the important tasks … bearing deep in mind the meaning of the restoration of communication lines.”

North Korea’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, carried a similar story on the restored hotlines, in a departure from July when the North kept news about the short-lived restoration of the hotlines out of media outlets for the domestic audience.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the second day of a session of the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's parliament, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang on Sept. 29, 2021, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. Kim said that cross-border communication lines with South Korea will be restored in early October as part of efforts to improve relations and build peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to the KCNA. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the second day of a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the North’s parliament, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang on Sept. 29, 2021, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. Kim said that cross-border communication lines with South Korea will be restored in early October as part of efforts to improve relations and build peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to the KCNA. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his willingness to restore cross-border communication lines from early October, citing a bid “to realize the expectation and desire of the entire nation who want the North-South relations to be restored as soon as possible and lasting peace to be settled on the Korean Peninsula.”

But he stressed that it is entirely up to South Korea when it comes to the future trajectory of their ties.

In a recent U.N. speech, South Korean President Moon Jae-in again proposed the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea called the offer an “admirable idea,” saying that it is willing to discuss improving inter-Korean relations only when Seoul stops double standards against its “defensive” weapons tests and “hostile” policy toward its regime.

Unification Minister Lee In-young told reporters in Berlin on Sunday (local time) that South Korea will push to arrange high-level talks with North Korea before the end of this year. He was on a trip to three European countries, including Germany, to drum up support for Seoul’s efforts to improve ties with Pyongyang.

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Joint Message for ROK Armed Forces Day

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Yonhap – N.K. missile launches show serious threat: Pentagon official

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s recent missile launches show the “seriousness of threat” posed to the United States and South Korea, a Pentagon official said Monday, amid a conciliatory gesture from Pyongyang after a series of weapons tests.

Siddharth Mohandas, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, made the remark at the start of the biannual 20th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) in Seoul to discuss regional security situations and pending alliance issues.

“North Korea’s recent missile launches remind us of the seriousness of the threat we face together,” Mohandas said, calling the alliance the “linchpin” of peace and security in the region against such challenges.

The remarks came two days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, said the North could declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, as suggested by South Korea, and even discuss an inter-Korean summit if Seoul drops what she called a “hostile policy” against Pyongyang.

Kim’s statement came amid concerns over the North’s recent cruise and ballistic missile launches, and signs of the reclusive regime reactivating a key nuclear reactor at its mainstay Yongbyon complex.

Earlier in the day, U.S. reconnaissance aircraft, including a Global Hawk, were spotted flying over the Korean Peninsula in an apparent move to track North Korea’s activities following the missile launches and Kim’s statement.

Referring to the recent talks of a formal end to the Korean War, Deputy Defense Minister Kim Man-ki said, “It is time a more close coordination between the South Korea-U.S. alliance is required.”

During the two-day meeting, the two sides plan to discuss “major pending security issues,” such as the assessment of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and the policy coordination on North Korea, according to the defense ministry.

Also on the table during this week’s meeting will be the conditions-based transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul and ways to strengthen defense cooperation between the two countries, the ministry said.

Launched in 2011, KIDD is a comprehensive defense forum between Seoul and Washington that usually meets twice a year. The last session took place in Washington in May.

This photo, captured from North Korea's official Korean Central Television on Sept. 16, 2021, shows a short-range ballistic missile being fired from a train in a central mountainous area of the North the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

This photo, captured from North Korea’s official Korean Central Television on Sept. 16, 2021, shows a short-range ballistic missile being fired from a train in a central mountainous area of the North the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Kim Yo-jong calls Moon’s war-end declaration offer ‘admirable idea,’ demands end to hostile policy

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) — The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Friday that President Moon Jae-in’s proposal to declare a formal end to the Korean War is an “admirable idea” and Pyongyang is willing to discuss improving inter-Korean relations if Seoul ceases to be hostile toward it.

Kim Yo-jong stressed, however, that the right conditions should be created first before an end-of-war declaration is adopted, such as the removal of what she called “inveterate hostile policy and unequal double standards” toward the North.

Her statement came just hours after a vice foreign minister of the North dismissed Moon’s end-of-war declaration proposal as “something premature,” saying such a declaration would end up as nothing more than a scrap of paper as long as the U.S. hostile policy remains unchanged.

While the earlier statement from Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song appeared to be geared toward the United States, the statement from the North Korean leader’s sister was seen as targeted more toward South Korea.

“The declaration of the termination of the war is an interesting and an admirable idea. … But it is necessary to look into whether it is the right time now and whether there are conditions ripe for discussing this issue,” Kim said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

“Now double-dealing standards, prejudice and hostile policies toward the DPRK and speeches and acts antagonizing us persist. Under such situation it does not make any sense to declare the end of the war with all the things, which may become a seed of a war between parties that had been at odds for more than half a century, left intact,” she added.

DPRK stands for the North’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim said that such preconditions should be met first before both Koreas will be able to sit down face-to-face to have meaningful discussions on the matter.

Kim also said that North Korea is willing to discuss improvements in inter-Korean relations but that is also contingent upon whether South Korea stops applying double standards and hostile policy toward the North.

“We have willingness to keep our close contacts with the South again and have constructive discussion with it about the restoration and development of the bilateral relations if it is careful about its future language and not hostile toward us,” she said.

Inter-Korean relations have significantly chilled since North Korea blew up a liaison office in its border town of Kaesong and cut off all cross-border communication lines in June last year.

The communication lines were back online briefly in late July, but the North did not respond to Seoul’s regular calls again in protest of summertime joint military drills by South Korea and the United States, which Pyongyang usually denounces as a rehearsal for invasion.

North Korea has recently heightened tensions by test-firing a new type of long-range cruise missile, which was followed by ballistic missile launches.

Some cautiously raised the possibility North Korea could respond to calls for dialogue as indicated by its previous pattern of turning conciliatory after such military drills ended.

“North Korea has a track record of demonstrating a very hawkish stance during joint military drills by South Korea and the U.S., and then becoming conciliatory after the drills were over,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute.

“In view of Kim Yo-jong’s statement, the possibility has risen North Korea could restore the inter-Korean communication lines at an appropriate time and come out for dialogue with the South on occasion of such events as the Beijing Winter Olympics,” he added.

The two Koreas are still technically at war, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister and currently vice department director of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee, is pictured as she visits Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Hanoi, in this file photo dated March 2, 2019. On Aug. 10, 2021, Kim slammed South Korea and the United States for going ahead with joint military exercises, accusing Washington of using dialogue offers to conceal its aggressive intentions and expressing deep regret over Seoul's "perfidious behavior." (Yonhap)

Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister and currently vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, is pictured as she visits Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Hanoi, in this file photo dated March 2, 2019. On Aug. 10, 2021, Kim slammed South Korea and the United States for going ahead with joint military exercises, accusing Washington of using dialogue offers to conceal its aggressive intentions and expressing deep regret over Seoul’s “perfidious behavior.” (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Moon to bring 68 sets of Korean War remains home from U.S.

By Lee Chi-dong

HONOLULU, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in received the remains of 68 Korean soldiers, killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, from the United States in a ceremony in Honolulu on Wednesday.

South Korea also handed over five sets of American service members’ remains to the U.S. during the joint repatriation ceremony held at Hickam Air Force Base.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) hosted the event, along with the South Korean defense ministry’s Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification, and Moon “organized” it in person, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

He became the first South Korean president to organize such a remains handover ceremony abroad, it added.

Moon was on a visit to Hawaii following a New York trip for a U.N. General Assembly session.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends a joint ceremony with the United States at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii on Sept. 22, 2021 to transfer the remains of Korean and American soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends a joint ceremony with the United States at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii on Sept. 22, 2021 to transfer the remains of Korean and American soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. (Yonhap)

The remains of two soldiers who have been identified — Pfc. Kim Seok-joo and Pfc. Jung Hwan-jo — was transported on Moon’s presidential jet after a mutual handover signing ceremony. The caskets carrying the remains were drapped in the South Korean national flag.

The caskets containing the remains will be placed on the seats of the aircraft in a show of respect for “the heroes” even while in flight, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

The two were serving at the 32nd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Seventh Division under the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) Soldier Program. They were killed in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

Their remains were discovered by North Korea and sent to Hawaii, along with those of American soldiers. The remains were identified in early September.

“What our war heroes wanted to see on the Korean Peninsula was a complete peace,” Moon said at the event and reiterated his call to bring an official end to the Korean War by forging an end of war declaration between the two Koreas and the United States, and possibly China.

The Korean War ended only with an armistice, technically leaving the divided Koreas at war to date.

Moon added, “Sustainable peace is what the world hoped to achieve through the foundation of the U.N. An end of war declaration will give new hope and courage to everyone around the world aspiring for peace beyond the Korean Peninsula.”

He also said Seoul and Washington’s “unwavering endeavor to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula” will never stop.

Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said that the Korean War “brought our two nations side by side to fight for and defend the values embodied in the ideals of freedom,” and also thanked member nations of the U.N. Command for paving the way for the strong network and alliances offering security and freedom in the Indo-Pacific region.

South Korea’s military will carry the other 66 sets of remains, still unidentified, on a KC-330 Cygnus Multi Role Tanker Transport, with Defense Minister Suh Wook aboard.

Among other attendees at the ceremony were Hwang Ki-chul, South Korea’s minister of patriot and veterans affairs; Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, commander of United Nations Command; and Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

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