North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

ARF Defers to UNSC on Cheonan While the Battle of the Beancounters Begins

Top diplomats including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun (bottom right) attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi on Friday. (Yonhap)

The ASEAN Regional Forum has drafted a statement that conveys “deep concerns” over the sinking of the Cheonan, and calls for the resumption of the Six Party Talks.  The statement essentially defers to the UNSC Presidential Statement that deplored the sinking, but did not blame the DPRK for any involvement.

Yonhap reports:

It also voiced support for the U.N. Security Council’s presidential statement adopted earlier this month on the deadly sinking of the warship Cheonan in March, which left 46 sailors dead.

If the draft is adopted in its current form, it would be in line with earlier statements issued by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other multilateral frameworks earlier this week.

The U.N. statement did not name North Korea as the culprit, nor did it directly blame North Korea. The draft only condemned the attack that led to the sinking of the ship.

In the draft, the ministers also “stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and called on all concerned parties to resolve all disputes by peaceful means.”

The ministers also “reaffirmed their support for the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and encouraged the parties to return to the six-party talks in due course,” and spoke of the need to fully implement relevant U.N. resolutions, according to the draft.

The DPRK’s media presence was established by Ri Tong Il.  In one appearance Ri said that US-ROK joint exercises were “another act of hostility against the North.”  JoongAng Ilbo reports:

Addressing the journalists at the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) yesterday, Ri continued to insist that the North had nothing to do with the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March, adding that Pyongyang’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun has made an appeal to the forum’s participants to stress the North’s innocence.

He also said Pak spoke about the need to replace the Korean War armistice with a peace treaty. “The worsened tensions on the peninsula proved the danger posed by an armistice that continued for 60 years,” Ri said. “It proves that a peace treaty is desperately needed.”

A North Korean representative looks intently at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she passes him in the National Convention Center in Hanoi, where the Asean Regional Forum is being held from July 19 to 23. (Yonhap)

Ri’s remarks came while sanctions against DPRK bank accounts were publicly announced.  One source said in Korea Herald of this latest incarnation of the battle of the beancounters, “this time it’s going to be a surgical strike.”  Hong Kong also announced that it will be enforce US sanctions.  Korea Times reports:

Regarding this, Hong Kong’s financial authorities are considering an audit of North Korea’s state-run firms operating in Southeast Asia, including Taepung International Investment Group, whose main mission is to attract foreign investment for the North’s economic projects, another source said.

The probe will focus on revealing whether the firms engaged in illegal deals and stashed slush funds are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, which were adopted after the North’s missile and nuclear tests in 2005 and 2009 to ban its arms exports, transactions linked to its nuclear and atomic activities.

“The U.S. sanctions against North Korea will address its illegal and suspicious overseas activities on a wide range of areas,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a press release.

“We expect the measures to include stopping the supply of cash earned from arms sales and illegal deals to Pyongyang, banning suspicious figures from traveling overseas and looking into involvement of diplomats in illicit activities.”

In Hanoi, Ri Tong Il had this to say of the sanctions, according to Xinhua:

The new sanctions the United States will impose on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) violated a UN statement issued after the sinking of a South Korean warship, a DPRK spokesman said Thursday.

Ri Tong Il, a spokesman for the DPRK delegation at the ASEAN Regional Forum, said the measures announced by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were in violation of the July 9 UN statement.

Meanwhile, on the Peninsula, working-level, field-grade (Colonel) talks between the UN Command the DPRK proposed another meeting to discuss whether the Cheonan sinking constitutes a violation of the armistice agreement.  ROK President Lee Myung-bak is considering humanitarian aid to the DPRK “in a big frame“:

“President Lee said such a humanitarian aid should continue and stressed more active assistance is necessary to help North Korea,” she said.

The spokeswoman did not elaborate further, but participants in the meeting quoted the president as saying, “I felt ashamed when I was told by a top Vietnamese official that North Korea asked for food aid from Vietnam.”

Lee was also quoted as saying that he believes North Korea has the potential to become more prosperous than China.

And in the DPRK Korean Central TV reported that Kim Jong Il ordered the KPA Air Force Command to rescue North Korean citizens stranded by a flood:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dispatched his country’s air force to save dozens of people stranded by flash floods, official media reported Friday, as heavy rains continued to pound the communist state prone to natural disasters.

According to the North’s Korean Central Television station, at least 283 millimeters of rain — the heaviest in the country — hit the northwestern area of Unsan between Wednesday and Thursday. Forty people, including 10 women, were stranded on a hill sieged by swelling water when the “Dear Leader” ordered air force troops to fly there to rescue the residents, the station reported.

“Four airplanes carrying out his great love flew without hesitation” to Unsan and two other areas also troubled by floods, saving a total of 68 people, including children, it said.

The report did not elaborate how air force equipment, including helicopters, was used in the operations. It did, however, say that those trapped in Unsan were “pulled up one by one” while air force pilots flew back and forth to save a woman and two children that had failed to board the planes.

Those rescued “looked up toward the skies over Pyongyang and shouted ‘hail to Dear General’ at the top of their voices to salute him with gratitude,” the station said.

An affiliate of 38 North