North Korea Leadership Watch

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ROK Wants NK to Pay the Price for Cheonan

Yonhap reported late last week that investigators found “traces of gunpowder” in the wreckage of the ROK naval corvette Cheonan.  Choe Sang-hun reports in the IHT/NYT:

Forensic experts investigating the wreckage of a South Korean warship that sank near the sea border with North Korea have found traces of an explosive component commonly used in torpedoes and mines, South Korea’s defense minister said on Monday.The 1,200-ton corvette, the Cheonan, sank on March 26 after a mysterious blast split the ship in half. The South Korean government has said a torpedo attack was the likely cause of the blast, and many South Koreans believe the North was responsible.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking.

“It is true that traces of RDX, a chemical substance used in making torpedoes, have been found,” Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said on Monday, referring to a component common to many military explosives. “There is a high possibility of a torpedo attack, but it’s still too early to announce” the definitive cause of the blast, he said.

On Monday, USFK commander General Walter Sharp met with officials from the ROK Defense Ministry to discuss the ROK’s options in formally responding to the Cheonan’s sinking.  Already, the ROK has decided it won’t broadcast the upcoming World Cup competition gratis into the DPRK, according to JoongAng:

“We told the North Koreans that it would be difficult to push our negotiations any further given the South Korean public’s sentiment on North Korea, with regard to the Cheonan sinking,” an official at SBS said. “And we don’t plan on offering a free feed to North Korea, anyway.”

Tensions between the two countries have run high since the South Korean Navy patrol corvette sank on March 26. Investigators have found traces of an explosive among the wreckage, and North Korea is suspected of having launched a torpedo attack on the warship.

Last month, North Korea seized South Korean facilities at Mount Kumgang, in response to the South’s refusal to resume tours at the resort. The tours were suspended in July 2008, after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier in a nearby military zone and the North failed to respond to the South’s demand for security guarantees.

The World Cup begins in South Africa on June 11. SBS said if North Korea wants to secure coverage, negotiations must wrap up by the end of this month at the latest.

North Korean interest in this year’s tournament may be particularly keen because the country is playing its first World Cup since 1966. This is also the first time the two Koreas are competing at the same World Cup.

The World Cup is not the only broadcast (or lack thereof) that will annoy the DPRK.  Chosun Ilbo  reports that the ROK will resume radio broadcasting along the DMZ:

The South Korean military has started preparing to resume psychological warfare against North Korea if it is found that the North had a hand in the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26. The campaign, which consisted chiefly of loudspeaker broadcasts across the demilitarized zone, was suspended in June 2004 under an agreement in inter-Korean military talks.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young has reportedly suggested a joint anti-submarine exercise in the West Sea as a way of a show of force to U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter Sharp.

“Military authorities are considering ways of resuming psychological warfare,” a high-level government source said Friday. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff is reviewing the preparation period and budget required, and deciding the intensity of psychological offensives.”

And the ROK is also considering restricting North Korean imports:

A Unification Ministry official said yesterday that if the investigation identifies North Korea as the culprit behind the Cheonan disaster, Seoul will consider reducing the volume of inter-Korean trade.

“We will in particular target goods whose export may feed the North Korean military,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

South Korea currently imports products such as clothing and watches from the Kaesong Industrial Complex, where more than 100 South Korean companies employ about 38,000 North Koreans. The South also imports agricultural goods, seafood and minerals.

Sand had previously been the largest import, bringing Pyongyang $73 million from Seoul in 2008. But after the North’s long-range rocket launch in April 2009, South Korea refused to accept North Korean sand. Last October, Seoul decided to import only the amount for which it had already paid, and to delay further imports until inter-Korean relations improved.

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This article was written on 10 May 2010, and is filled under DPRK External Relations, DPRK-US Relations, Inter-Korean Relations, Korean Workers' Party (KWP), United Front Department.

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