South and North Korea Paradox

Discussion in 'China' started by ajay_ijn, Aug 21, 2009.

  1. ajay_ijn

    ajay_ijn Regular Member

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    Just like India, Korea was divided many decades ago into North & South Korea.
    There has been conflicts, battles fought ever since, tense border, involvement of international forces etc.

    but on one hand South Korea became very successful be it foreign relations, developed economy, excellent human development, technology wise. one of the four asian tigers, one of asias largest economies despite being such a small country, having global MNCs like Samsung, Hyundai, Strong military force, US military alliance. what else a country wants.

    North Korea is exact opposite- always into tensions with worlds sole superpower and her allies, spending too much on military, operating obsolete soviet and chinese arms, millions of people hunger, underdeveloped economy.

    Is political leadership, ideology (Capitalist Vs Communist) the only the reason for this?

    otherwise people are of same ethnic origin, similar social thinking, traditions, attitudes etc
     
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  3. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    Satellites uncover North Korea

    North Korea is one of the most secretive states in the world. Its citizens cannot travel abroad and have little, if any, contact with those who visit their country. The few tourists who do make it are carefully herded to a handful of destinations and rarely get off the beaten track.

    Yet, thanks to satellite imagery and the internet, North Korea's secretive world is gradually being unveiled. Here is a series of remarkable photographs showing aspects of North Korea's hidden world that are rarely seen by outsiders, as well as some unusual views of more familiar sight.

    check out this images....
    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/46185000/jpg/_46185930_kimhouse786x475.jpg
    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/46185000/jpg/_46185931_brewery_786x600.jpg

    This image shows an elite residential compound to the north of the capital Pyongyang. North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, lived there and it is believed that his son, Kim Jong-il - the country's current leader - has a residence there. As well as the large houses and well-tended gardens, there is a swimming pool in the upper left hand corner, complete with water slide.

    Out of shot, it is also possible to see that the compound has its own dedicated train line that seems to run into a tunnel underneath the area. A long time North Korea watcher, Dr Hazel Smith, says it's difficult to know where Kim Jong-il lives as, public appearances aside, his activities are shrouded in secrecy. "These look similar to some of the diplomatic compounds I've seen which also have swimming pools. The party people live in the city proper, whereas this is clearly outside the city as there are so many trees," she said.

    Curtis Melvin, an American economist who has compiled a catalogue of detailed satellite images of North Korea, says sources within the country confirmed this location as being used by Kim Jong-il. "There are houses like this everywhere. At one point, there was a residence in every province. There are lots on the coast. Most of the nice roads in the country are built up to the gates of these compounds," he says.

    Life for most of North Korean's 23 million people is harsh. North Korea's economy went into steep decline during the 1990s after the collapse of communism elsewhere. Though the economy has recovered to an extent, thanks to greater co-operation with South Korea and some small scale market reforms, living standards and output remain far below the levels of the 1990s. Another factor that holds back the economy is the significant share of GDP that is spent on the military.

    This unprepossessing building houses the Taedongang brewery on the outskirts of the North Korean capital. It was once the Ushers Brewery in Trowbridge in the UK. It was bought from the owners in 2000 and dismantled on site in a matter of weeks by a team of North Koreans and British engineers. It was shipped over to North Korea and was up and running 18 months later. But rather than traditional ale, it now brews a variety of lagers.

    "The North Koreans, like the Japanese, like their beer," says Dr Smith who is Professor of Resilience and Security at Cranfield University. But as sanctions have taken their toll, the key ingredients for brewing are not always available. "The chaff from the harvest is used in brewing. Nothing is wasted," says Dr Smith.

    Curtis Melvin says he located the brewery "after a tourist sent in a picture of the entry gate which is a very unusual shape. From the air it looks like a large M which I matched to a photograph from an official publication."

    He says the lager he tried when he was last in Pyongyang "had a full flavour" but others are less palatable. "Ryesong beer is pretty awful, leaving a distinct metallic taste," he says, adding: "In the capital, they drink a lot of beer but outside in the countryside, they prefer their traditional spirit drinks."

    North Korean television recently broadcast an advert for Taedong River Beer. Dubbed the "Pride of Pyongyang", the advert showed young women in traditional Korean dress serving trays of beer to men in western suits. Kim Jong-il visited the brewery in 2002 where he "(watched) good quality beer (come) out in an uninterrupted flow for a long while," according to North Korea's state news agency.

    This is an aerial view of an ostrich farm near Pyongyang. It's on the official tourist trail but it's not clear if this is a one-off or part of a network of such farms.

    "Everybody knows about the ostrich farm," says Hazel Smith. "North Korea bought into propaganda that you could make money out of ostriches. I never saw anything in the way of ostrich meat when I was there," she says, adding: "The government never boasted about it and so I suspect it hasn't done that well."

    Curtis Melvin says he tracked down the location after seeing a picture of the farm in an official North Korean publication. He says North Korea got into ostrich farming during the famine in the 1990s when between 500,000 and two million North Koreans are thought to have died from starvation.

    North Korea continues to suffer widespread food shortages due to economic problems, limited arable land and lack of agricultural machinery and energy shortages. The UN World Food Programme estimates that almost nine million people are in need of food aid.

    the Juche Tower, in central Pyongyang. It's 170 metres high and is one of the key landmarks in the capital. Just in front of the tower is a 30-metre-high classic communist statue featuring a peasant carrying a sickle, a worker with a hammer in his hand, and a third character, a "working intellectual" who is carrying a writing brush.

    "It's a very nice area," says Dr Smith. "There's a light at the top of the tower which goes out at 10pm, when everyone goes to bed because they get up early and of course they need to save electricity. Lots of people go there on Saturday and Sunday. It's close to the river where people fish and people will go there to spend the afternoon."

    Kim Jong-il is officially credited with designing the tower though the exact extent of his involvement is disputed. It is named after his father's own particular brand of political philosophy whose key tenets are self-reliance, isolationism, Korean traditionalism and Marxism-Leninism.

    The tower is lined up directly with the statue of Kim Il-sung on Mansu Hill on the opposite side of the river. "The view is incredible," says Curtis Melvin who was also able to watch preparations for the traditional October parade during a 2005 visit. On that visit he describes how he had his picture taken in front of a couple of huge images of Kim Jong-il and his father, but was eventually chased away "by one of the men in charge of the training".

    This is a monument to North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, a massive 20-metre-high bronze statue. It stands on Mansu Hill in the capital and is a major tourist destination. When North Koreans visit the statue they bow before it and leave flowers as a mark of respect.

    Flanking the statue, which is visible atop its white square plinth, are two giant stone replica flags. One is the North Korean flag, the other is that of the Workers Party of Korea. Arranged around the base of these structures - which in this picture are casting huge shadows - are some 200 almost life-size bronze statues of various military and civilian figures striking heroic poses. Behind the statue is the Korean Revolution Museum.

    Erected in April 1972 to celebrate Kim Il-sung's 60th birthday, it was originally coated in gold but this was later removed apparently at the insistence of China, North Korea's chief benefactor. Similar, less grandiose, structures are located in over 70 major cities elsewhere in North Korea.

    There is apparently just one statue of his son, Kim Jong-il. Lamps are supposed to shine on the statue from 10pm until 4am each day. It's also reported that dedicated bunkers have been built to house the statues in the event of war.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8110093.stm
     
  4. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

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    North and South Koreas aren't paradoxical. They, like India-Pakistan, China-India, etc., are pawns in America's global power-balancing game. America cleverly disguises the anti-competitive power-balancing strategy with "regional peace and stability", applying that to pretty much every context.
     
  5. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    may be sir....but at the end of the day its the people of the respective countries to decide weather they want to be friends or not[not USA...}.
    and people of North/south Korea have decided to be enemy
     
  6. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

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    They don't have a choice. Often both belligerents do have engagements with the US. As is the case with India, China and Pakistan.
     
  7. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    we only want land not the people
     
  8. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

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    There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. Religion aside, the societies are identical. China Taiwan "unification" is the one that's mythical. No society in its right mind would want to surrender freedom and democracy for a communist dictatorship. That's like going backwards. Taiwan does not need any further social upliftment, and hence it does not need a communist state overseeing it. On the other hand, India is a secular democracy. Political reunification of the Indian subcontinent is more probable than reunification of China.

    As for reunification of Korea, yes, it's most probable, as long as it's the DPRK which ceases to exist, and democracy takes over (similar to German reunification).
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2010
  9. tony4562

    tony4562 Tihar Jail Banned

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    That's the problem and the reason why it is an impossibility.
     
  10. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    I will not allow this thread to be hijacked by China Taiwan issue.
     
  11. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    North Korea anger at US-South Korea war games

    The US and South Korea's plans to hold joint military exercises pose a major danger to the region, North Korea says.

    Some 20 ships and submarines and 100 aircraft are to take part in four days of manoeuvres in the Sea of Japan from Sunday.

    North Korea has also said new US sanctions against it will violate a UN statement issued after the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

    The North Korean comments came at a regional security conference.

    The Asean summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, brings together foreign ministers from the US and South East Asian nations, including China and North and South Korea.

    It is set to issue a statement on Friday about the sinking of the Cheonan - with the loss of 46 lives - in March.

    A multinational investigation team found the ship had been torpedoed by North Korea - a conclusion that Pyongyang rejects.

    Chinese concerns
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in the Vietnamese capital for the meeting, announced the sanctions during a visit to South Korea on Wednesday.

    The US-South Korean joint military exercises, which will involve about 8,000 personnel and the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, drew criticism from a member of Pyongyang's delegation in Hanoi.

    "The decision to hold military drills is a major danger for the security of the region," said the official, Ri Tong-il.

    He said that if Washington and Seoul were really interested in the de-nuclearisation of the peninsula, they would take the lead in creating the conditions under which the six-party talks on the North's nuclear programme could resume.

    China has objected to any foreign military operations in the Yellow Sea, which is on the western side of the Korean Peninsula.

    On Wednesday, China expressed "deep concern" over the plans, which the US says are purely defensive in nature.

    Later exercises are set to take place in the Yellow Sea.

    Ri Tong-il added that the US decision to impose new sanctions violated a statement from the UN about the sinking that was issued earlier this month.

    The UN statement held back from directly blaming North Korea, but condemned the sinking as a threat to regional security.

    It called for "appropriate and peaceful measures" against those responsible.

    Separately, the US-led United Nations Command said there would be a second round of talks with North Korea about the incident on Friday.

    New sanctions
    Speaking in South Korea on Wednesday, Mrs Clinton said the new US sanctions would target Pyongyang's sale and purchase of arms and import of luxury goods, and would help prevent nuclear proliferation.

    She said the measures would increase Washington's ability to "prevent North Korea's proliferation, to halt their illicit activities that help fund their weapons programmes, and to discourage further provocative actions".

    The sanctions were not directed at the North Korean people but at the "misguided and malign priorities of their government", she said.

    Mrs Clinton said she expected North Korea to "take certain steps that would acknowledge [its] responsibility" for the incident and to move towards denuclearisation.

    "They know very well that they made commitments over the last years to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula which they have reneged on and which we expect them to once again adhere to," she told reporters.

    "We are looking for irreversible denuclearisation."

    Mrs Clinton and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates visited the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, in a show of support for Seoul following the sinking of the Cheonan.

    North and South Korea technically remain at war because their three-year conflict ended in an armistice in 1953 and no peace treaty was signed. The US has since stationed thousands of troops in South Korea.
     
  12. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    The Korean War armistice

    The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, with neither side able to claim outright victory.

    More than 50 years on, the truce is still all that technically prevents North Korea and the US - along with its ally South Korea - resuming the war, as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

    Both sides regularly accuse the other of violating the agreement, but the accusations have become more frequent as tensions rise over North Korea's nuclear programme.

    When the armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, talks had already dragged on for two years, ensnared in testy issues such as the exchange of prisoners of war and the location of a demarcation line.

    Military commanders from China and North Korea signed the agreement on one side, with the US-led United Nations Command signing on behalf of the international community. South Korea was not a signatory.

    The armistice was only ever intended as a temporary measure.

    The document, signed by US Lieutenant General William K Harrison and his counterpart from the North's army, General Nam Il, said it was aimed at a ceasefire "until a final peaceful settlement is achieved".

    However, that settlement never came, and a conference in Geneva in 1954 which was designed to thrash out a formal peace accord ended without agreement.

    The armistice is still the only safeguard for peace on the Korean peninsula.

    The agreement provided for:

    * A suspension of open hostilities

    * A fixed demarcation line with a four kilometre (2.4 mile) buffer zone - the so-called demilitarisation zone

    * A mechanism for the transfer of prisoners of war

    Both sides pledged not to "execute any hostile act within, from, or against the demilitarised zone", or enter areas under control of the other.

    The agreement also called for the establishment of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) and other agencies to ensure the truce held.

    The MAC, which comprises members from both sides, still meets regularly in the truce village of Panmunjom.

    Despite the relative peace since the war ended, tensions remain high between the two Koreas, and their border remains the most heavily militarised frontier in the world.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10165796
     
  13. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    dude...thats why we call sare jaha se acha Hindustan hamara....!!_=..i2-=

    give one country which has two religious population based in one country[170 million muslims , rest hindus-both highest in the world]....??


    SORRY...for going out of context....cant take when somebody questions the secularity of our motherland....!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2010
  14. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    Korea war games sign of growing tensions

    These are tense times on the Korean peninsula, reason enough for two high-profile US visitors - the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Secretary of Defence Robert Gates - to be in South Korea at the same time.

    The sinking last March of the Cheonan, a South Korean naval corvette, precipitated a new round of tensions between North and South. Forty-six sailors died in the incident.

    A detailed investigation sponsored by the Seoul government, with the involvement of foreign experts, indicated that the vessel had been sunk by a deliberate attack, almost certainly from the North. But the North Koreans still insist that they were not involved.

    International response to the incident has been mixed. South Korea was determined to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council. This body released a statement on 9 July which condemned the attack but fell short of directly blaming the North Koreans.

    There was a huge measure of politics here; none of the key players - Russia, China or the US - wanted to exacerbate tensions further, and it was clear that Moscow and Beijing would not back tougher action.

    The joint US-South Korean naval exercises, scheduled to begin on 25 July, following on from the high-level diplomacy, are one way for Washington to reassure its uneasy ally.

    Large fleet
    The growing unease in the region is compounded by what many analysts see as the start of a succession struggle in North Korea, as the ailing leader Kim Jong-il seeks to prepare the way for his successor.

    he fear is that the North Korean government, which is unpredictable at the best of times, might use the joint US-South Korean naval exercises as a pretext for some further military action.

    That is one reason why China is so concerned about the naval exercises. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman has urged the "relevant parties to remain calm and exercise restraint" and "not to do anything to exacerbate regional tensions".

    It is a message directed as much at Pyongyang as it is at Seoul and Washington. But Beijing is also unhappy about the naval exercises for its own reasons too.

    A later stage of the US-South Korean manoeuvres will take place in the Yellow Sea, between the Korean peninsula and China.

    And this is no small war game: the initial phase of the exercise in the Sea of Japan includes the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS George Washington, 20 other ships and submarines, and some 100 aircraft.

    For Beijing, these waters constitute the vital approaches to its own territory. China is worried by any major foreign naval presence in this area at a time when it is expanding its own maritime operations and reach.

    It will take a long time for China to be able to rival US sea power in any serious way. But China's naval ambitions are clear.

    Long-term hopes
    All this adds to the complexity of the US-Korea-China triangle.

    It is in some ways the diplomatic equivalent of the Bermuda triangle: an area of diplomatic uncertainty where catastrophe beckons if any country makes the wrong move.

    Purists might argue that this is not a triangle as such since there are four players involved and a number of complex sets of relationships: between North and South Korea; between Washington and Seoul; and between Beijing and Pyongyang.

    Hanging over all of this, of course, is the much broader relationship between China and the US.

    The future trajectory of this relationship is hard to chart. The two countries are bound together economically in so many ways but clearly have their own specific strategic interests.

    They are not inevitably set on a collision course, once a frequent theme in futuristic war novels. But what happens on the Korean peninsula is going to have an important bearing on their long-term relationship.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10712664
     
  15. SATISH

    SATISH DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    Add India-China and India-Pakistan to it.
     
  16. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Can we just talk about NK and SK only please over here?
     
  17. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    US south korea displays its military might

    There are probably not many more effective statements of military might than a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

    The USS George Washington is one of the biggest warships in the world, made from 60,000 tons of steel and capable of carrying more than 6,000 crew members.

    Just a few minutes spent on the flight deck is a demonstration of formidable, awesome power.

    The double ear protection provided does not stop the feeling of the noise rumbling and resonating in the pit of your stomach, as the F-18 fighter planes are catapulted into flight.

    That said, the participation of this ship in a joint naval exercise with South Korea off the coast of the peninsular is, in fact, not at all remarkable.

    The two navies regularly train together and aircraft carriers, including the George Washington, have taken part in these kinds of drill before.

    We have caught glimpses of some of the 20 or so other ships involved, sometimes up close, at other times far away on the horizon.

    It is certainly a large exercise but the scale is not unprecedented.

    There must then be other reasons why it seems to have taken on a special significance and attracted the attention of the world's media, a number of whom, like the BBC, have sent reporters for an up-close look at what is going on.

    The first reason, of course, is timing.

    Sacred war
    Exercise Invincible Spirit, as it is being called, was in the planning before a multi-national investigation team blamed North Korea for the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan.

    Since then, Seoul and Washington's attempts to get the international community to agree to punish Pyongyang have been somewhat frustrated, in particular by Beijing.

    So there is, perhaps, an advantage in presenting the exercise itself as a form of physical response and to claim that it is sending a strong "message of deterrence".

    Not that it does not have real strategic value for the allied fleet, allowing it, for example, to conduct anti-submarine drills, one area where North Korea's threat is now thought to be all too real.

    The second reason for the heightened sense of drama is North Korea's reaction to these exercises.

    It has been the familiar, colourful language, warning of "a sacred retaliatory war" and the danger of "waking a sleeping tiger".

    Many observers will dismiss such words as empty rhetoric, although China, for one, appears concerned about the risks that large-scale military drills may pose to regional stability.

    It has been reluctant to punish North Korea, now and in the past, out of a fear of unpredictable consequences if the isolated, authoritarian state is pushed too hard.

    But here is another bit of logic brought into sharp focus by the American and South Korean navies' show of strength.

    North Korea is unlikely to risk a conflict it knows it would lose.

    Security threat?
    So perhaps both sides are in danger of overstating their cases.

    In fact, they might both have an interest in doing so.

    The exercises are certainly of strategic importance to Washington and Seoul, and they will unsettle Pyongyang.

    But the George Washington's senior officers have been keen to stress that the drills are largely routine.

    They seem unlikely to terrify Pyongyang's hardliners into a less belligerent position, in fact it may galvanise them.

    And what of North Korea's claim that this is "gun boat diplomacy", and a threat to its security?

    Of course the gathering of such a significant naval force from countries deemed hostile may unsettle its military elite.

    But the ships are in international waters well south of the maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas.

    It is hardly something that North Korea would want to go to war over, unless it is one of words.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10759710
     
  18. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    Submarine focus for US-South Korea military drill

    The US and South Korea practised anti-submarine drills on the second day of joint exercises aimed as a show of strength to North Korea.

    Officials said the drills in the Sea of Japan focused on detecting and destroying enemy submarines.

    They follow the 26 March sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, near the inter-Korean maritime border.

    International investigators say a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine sank the ship.

    North Korea denies any involvement and has demanded its own investigation into the incident, which left 46 South Korean sailors dead.

    The joint US-South Korea exercises, which began on Sunday, involve 20 ships including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, 200 aircraft and some 8,000 personnel.

    They are being held in international waters to the east of the Korean peninsula.

    An official said as well as the submarine drills, aircraft would conduct live fire exercises on Monday.

    North Korea has protested strongly against the exercises.

    On Saturday, the communist country threatened to use its nuclear deterrent in a retaliatory "sacred war" in response to the exercise.

    However the South Korean military were monitoring the North and had detected no unusual activities, Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unidentified military official.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10758582
     
  19. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    North Korea 'detains fishing boat from South'

    A South Korean fishing boat missing in the Sea of Japan has been detained by the North, coastguard officials say.


    The officials said the crew of the Daeseung was being investigated by North Korean authorities.

    Tension remains high between the Koreas amid a naval exercise carried out by the South in the Yellow Sea.

    The exercises were a show of force after the North was blamed for sinking a Southern warship in March.

    Physical retaliation
    Authorities in the boat's home South Korean port of Pohang said the Daeseung had stopped sending signals after a fishing trip in the Sea of Japan, known in Korea as the East Sea, on Saturday.

    The South Korean coastguard said in a statement: "We have found out that our fishing vessel is being investigated by North Korean officials in the presumed North Korea exclusive economic waters in the northern East Sea.

    "The South Korean government, according to international law, wants the swift resolution to the matter and the safe return of its vessel and its fisherman."

    The vessel has four South Koreans and three Chinese on board.

    Media reports in the South say the Daeseung is being towed to the Northern port of Songjin.

    North Korean media has so far made no comment on the latest reports.

    There have been frequent incidents in recent years involving fishing boats of both sides in the disputed waters.

    The North, which denied any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March with the loss of 46 sailors, had pledged "strong physical retaliation" for the five-day naval exercises.

    The South also recently carried out massive naval exercises with US forces in the Sea of Japan.

    The latest exercises, in the Yellow Sea, are the South's biggest-ever anti-submarine drills, with some 4,500 personnel taking part near the disputed maritime border.

    The South said that although its ships would stay clear of the disputed boundary, marines stationed on islands close to the border would conduct live-fire exercises.

    In North Korea's official media, a statement attributed to military leaders called the exercises a "direct military invasion aimed at infringing upon the DPRK's [North Korea's] right to self-defence".

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10907074
     
  20. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    North Korea 'hopes for early nuclear talks restart'

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has told Beijing he hopes for an early resumption of six party nuclear talks, China's state media reports.

    The comments came as confirmation that Mr Kim was in China at the weekend, his second visit to the country this year.

    North Korean and Chinese officials traditionally do not confirm Mr Kim's visits until his return to Pyongyang.

    There has been no confirmation on speculation that Mr Kim's son and presumed heir accompanied him.

    Mr Kim met Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday in the Jilin provincial capital, Changchun, Xinhua reported.

    He told Mr Hu that North Korea was "not willing to see tensions on the [Korean] peninsula" and hoped for an "early resumption" of international talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme, but gave no further details.

    China has been making moves to resume the six-nation talks on disarming the North, after the sinking of a South Korean warship in March inflamed tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul.

    An international investigation blamed North Korea for the sinking, but Pyongyang has denied involvement.

    Mr Kim, who is believed to be ailing after suffering a stroke two years ago, rarely travels abroad, but last visited China in May.

    His son Kim Jong-un, who observers believe is being prepared to take over the leadership, is widely speculated to have accompanied him on his latest visit, but this has not been confirmed.

    Correspondents say the trip could have been aimed at securing Beijing's backing for the eventual handover of power.

    BBC News - North Korea 'hopes for early nuclear talks restart'
     
  21. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    Is North Korea's Kim poised to name his successor?

    At some point in the next few days the North Korean Workers Party will hold its first delegates conference in more than 44 years.

    News reports suggest that traffic into and out of Pyongyang is already being restricted, a customary precaution ahead of important events.

    And large numbers of soldiers, armoured vehicles and artillery have been spotted massing close to the capital, perhaps in readiness for a parade fit for such an occasion.

    Clearly something is going on.

    But could it, as some people suggest, be the "big one" - the moment when power in this rigid, totalitarian state begins to change hands for only the second time in its history?

    Like twitchers on the trail of a rare bird, the pundits and commentators who spend their lives trying to decipher North Korea's murky politics are engaged in frenzied speculation that something extraordinary might be in the air.

    Smooth transition
    That Kim Jong-il is sick is no secret, at least outside of North Korea.

    He is widely accepted to have suffered a stroke in August 2008, the effects of which have been clearly visible in his public appearances since.

    Frail and grey-faced, the pot-belly is gone, he now walks with a limp, and his hair is noticeably thinner.

    Confronted with his own mortality, it seems plausible that this son of the god-king and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, is thinking about keeping it in the family once again.

    Over the past year or so a consensus has been emerging amongst North Korean watchers that the chosen third-generation heir and successor is Kim Jong-il's youngest son, and complete political novice, Kim Jong-un.

    The trouble is there has been little hard evidence for this view, only a few cryptic references in North Korean newspapers that could arguably refer to Kim junior, but certainly no official mention of him by name.

    Which is why all eyes have now turned to the Workers Party and its upcoming conference which might be about to end the guessing game once and for all.

    After all, it has done so once before.

    Kim Jong-il was seen to have been officially anointed as successor to his father when he was elevated to a senior party position at a congress held in 1980.

    "If Kim Jong-un is elected to a party position at this conference then it means he is the successor," said Choi Jin-wook, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

    "The aim is the smooth transition of power and the party is needed to legitimise the process."

    But there would be dangers with such a plan.

    Kim Jong-il may soon be too ill to rule effectively but his son may be viewed by many as too young.

    In such a scenario other members of the elite will almost certainly be jockeying for position.

    So the party conference will be watched closely to see the rising and falling fortunes of certain high-ranking North Korean officials.

    Key figures
    At the best of times North Korean politics can look a little bit like a game of retirement home musical chairs with a dangerous twist.

    The ageing officials compete for positions, fall in and out of favour, and occasionally get shuffled off never to be seen again.

    But recently there has been a flurry of changes, connected some observers believe, with the succession.

    In particular, Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, appears to be very much back in vogue after a few years in the wilderness, having now been given one of the vice-chairmen positions on the country's powerful National Defence Commission.

    Many observers suggest he will play a trusted role as regent, guiding the young Kim Jong-un as he consolidates his power base, and may be given another powerful party position at the upcoming meeting.

    Two other NDC vice chairmen, O Kuk-ryol and Kim Yong-chun, a key Workers Party official and defence minister respectively, are also tipped as men to watch.

    Mr O, once said to be in charge of North Korea's highly sophisticated efforts to forge fake $100 bills, is now reported to be advising Kim Jong-un on operations against South Korea.

    Ri Je-gang, a first deputy director of the Workers Party Organisation and Guidance Department, was another official said to be tasked with ensuring that the succession goes smoothly.

    But, thought to be a long-time rival of Jang Song-thaek, Mr Ri died in a car accident late at night while driving home from a concert in June.

    Many observers have raised the possibility of foul play and suggest that the case highlights the potential for power struggles and bloodletting during the uncertainties of the succession period.

    The party conference will be a chance for Kim Jong-il to balance the interests of these various individuals and keep them in check.

    There are even some reports that the handover of power is already fairly advanced with all communications with the leader now passing through the hands of Kim Jong-un.

    But Brian Myers, a North Korea propaganda expert based at South Korea's Dongseo University, urges caution, given that much of the speculation about the goings on inside North Korea is based on sources outside the country, often North Korean defectors.

    "The chances of your average North Korean defector knowing that are the same odds as an English teacher in a bar in Itaewon [in central Seoul] knowing what Obama said to his cabinet last week," he said.

    Not until Kim Jong-un is officially appointed to a senior party position, and his name appears in black and white in a North Korean newspaper, will we be able to say with any certainty that the succession has begun.

    BBC News - Is North Korea's Kim poised to name his successor?
     

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