NAPSNet Daily Report
tuesday, march 18, 2000

I. United States

II. Republic of Korea III. Discussion

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I. United States

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1. US Troops in ROK

Agence France Presse ("SUMMIT AGENDA TO EXCLUDE ISSUE OF US TROOPS IN S.KOREA," Seoul, 4/18/00) reported that ROK Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn said on Tuesday that the issue of US troops in the ROK will be kept off the agenda at the June 12-14 inter-Korean summit. Lee said that the stationing of US troops in the ROK was "a matter between Seoul and Washington," and does not involve the DPRK. He continued, "the US military presence here is stipulated in the US-South Korean mutual defense treaty, and (US troops) will stay as far as we remain under security threat." Regarding the summit, Lee said, "in light of the developments leading up to the agreement, as well as North Korea's positive attitude of late, we have high hopes that the June summit in Pyongyang will be a success. [The summit] should prove to be a turning point towards freeing the Korean people from wasteful confrontation. It should be a historic event, with far reaching implications for peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the world."

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2. ROK-DPRK Summit Meeting

Agence France Presse ("SOUTH KOREA PROPOSES INTER-KOREAN BORDER CONTACT FOR SUMMIT," Seoul, 4/18/00), Reuters ("S.KOREA PROPOSES PRE-SUMMIT TALKS TO NORTH," Seoul, 4/18/00), and the Associated Press (Christopher Torchia, "S. KOREA PROPOSES MEETING TO NORTH," Seoul, 4/18/00) reported that the ROK government on Tuesday sent a message via ROK Red Cross intermediaries proposing preparatory talks with the DPRK at the border truce village of Panmunjom this weekend where officials would discuss formalities for the summit and set agenda items. ROK Red Cross chief Chung Won-shik said in a message to his DPRK counterpart, "on behalf of our government, I propose both sides hold a preparatory contact on Saturday in Panmunjom to discuss issues related to the agreed summit." Chung called for a positive and early response from the DPRK, saying that the border contact should be led by vice ministers from both sides. There was no immediate response from the DPRK. However, ROK officials said that the DPRK could opt for the PRC as the venue for inter-Korean contact. Kim Yong-kyu, a spokesman for the ROK government task force, said, "the truce village is symbolic of our division. We hope to restore a regular channel of dialogue in Panmunjom, not in a third country."

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3. DPRK Economy

The Associated Press ("SOUTH KOREA: ECONOMIC FAILURE FORCED NORTH KOREA TO NEGOTIATING TABLE," Seoul, 4/18/00) reported that ROK Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn said on Tuesday that the DPRK's economic problems were the reason behind its decision to join the inter-Korean summit. Lee said, " North Korea has a very desperate need to do something about its economic situation. The direct motive was presumably North Korea's own dire needs, specifically the chronic food and energy shortages. Unable to restore the economy on its own, North Korea is in need of massive assistance from the outside [which] will not be forthcoming without South Korea's cooperation." Lee said that the dispatch of aid from the ROK to help rebuild the DPRK's economy, as well as the reunion of separated families, are therefore likely to dominate summit talks. Lee added, "the direct objective of the summit is not unification. Unification cannot happen in a day or two."

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4. US Weapons Sales to Taiwan

The Washington Post (Thomas E. Ricks and Steven Mufson, "TAIWAN ARMS DEAL EXCLUDES WARSHIPS," 4/18/00), The Los Angeles Times (Nick Anderson, "TAIWAN WON'T GET U.S. WARSHIPS," Washington, 4/18/00) and The New York Times (Jane Perlez, "U.S., WITH AN EYE ON CHINA, SETTLES ON WEAPONS FOR TAIWAN," Washington, 4/18/00) reported that officials said that US President Clinton decided on April 17 to sell a package of high-tech weapons to Taiwan, but followed a US Department of Defense recommendation to put off the sale of four Aegis destroyers. The package approved by the Clinton administration includes sophisticated air-to-air and anti-ship missiles as well as a "Pave Paws" long-range radar system able to penetrate thousands of miles into the PRC. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (Republican-North Carolina) said, "I am extremely disappointed to learn that the Pentagon has apparently succumbed to pressure from the State Department and the White House to sacrifice Taiwan's security in order to appease the dictators in Beijing. If the Pentagon will not stand up for Taiwan, then it is clear Congress will have to take action." Undersecretary of Defense Walter B. Slocombe defended the decision, saying, "the package on the whole is quite robust, with first-class air-to-air missiles and anti-ship missiles. We have nothing to apologize for in this package." Zhang Yuanyuan, spokesman for the PRC Embassy, stated, "we are opposed to an arms sale because that would boost the morale of Taiwan authorities in refusing peaceful reunification with China. Especially at this time of great sensitivity, we're concerned that this might be viewed as a wrong signal. So we appeal for great caution and prudence on the part of the American government." Taiwan will receive formal notification of the administration's decision Tuesday and had no official response on April 17. US officials plan to tell Taiwanese officials on Tuesday that the package is designed to address their greatest military vulnerability - air defense. A US Defense Department official said the part of the arms sale most likely to anger the PRC is the Pave Paws radar, which is designed to monitor ballistic missiles. As used by the US, the Pave Paws has a range of about 3,000 miles, but the version sold to Taiwan may not be as powerful. John Pike, director of space policy at the Federation of American Scientists, said, "if I were the Chinese, I'd have to assume that the Taiwan radar was connected to the American missile defense network." However, a Defense Department official said that the US does not have the kind of political or military links to Taiwan that would permit such cooperation in erecting missile defenses. [Ed. note: The Washington Post article was included in the US Department of Defense's Early Bird news service for April 18, 2000.]

The Associated Press (William Foreman, "TAIWAN DECISION COULD EASE TENSIONS," Taipei, 4/18/00) reported that analysts said on Tuesday that the US decision not to sell Taiwan high-tech destroyers this year could help ease tensions between the island and the PRC and spur urgent improvements in the Taiwanese military. Andrew Yang, a Taipei-based senior military analyst at the Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a think tank with close ties with Taiwan's Defense Ministry, said that the US reluctance to sell the warships this year could help improve relations between the PRC and Taiwan because the PRC would have been furious about the deal.

II. Republic of Korea

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1. ROK Preparation on Inter-Korean Summit

Joongang Ilbo (Lee Young-jong, "PREPARATORY TEAM FOR SOUTH-NORTH SUMMIT HOLDS FIRST MEETING," Seoul, 04/17/00) reported that the preparatory team for the ROK-DPRK summit held its first official meeting at the Office for ROK-DPRK Dialogue in Samchong-dong. They discussed the details of all needed preparatory work as well as how to finish the work needed for the summit. On April 18, the participants decided to send the documents for the preliminary talks through the liaison officer of the ROK-DPRK Red Cross at Panmunjom. A high-ranking unification official stated that as several preliminary talks are inevitable, Panmunjom is a more suitable location than a third nation. The official added that the DPRK, at the Beijing meeting on April 8, had proposed that the issue of location be discussed later. It was reported that the ROK government plans to propose to the DPRK that a meeting be held within this week to finalize the decisions on procedure and topics as soon as possible.

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2. ROK Foreign Minister to Visit PRC

The Korea Times (Son Key-young, "FOREIGN MINISTER TO VISIT BEIJING FOR TALKS ON INTER-KOREAN SUMMIT," Seoul, 04/17/00) reported that ROK Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Lee Joung-binn will make a three-day visit to the PRC from April 27 to begin discussions with PRC leaders mainly concerning an inter-Korean summit. During his stay in Beijing, Lee is scheduled to meet his PRC counterpart Tang Jiaxuan, but it is not yet fixed whether he would pay a courtesy call on PRC President Jiang Zemin or Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. Lee is also expected to ask the PRC leaders to help create a favorable environment for the successful realization of an unprecedented summit between the two Koreas. Meanwhile, Lee and Tang are expected to reaffirm the position that negotiations to sign a bilateral fisheries agreement should be concluded as soon as possible.

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3. DPRK-ROK Economic Cooperation

Joongang Ilbo (Ko Yun-hee, "NORTH KOREAN TAEDONG RIVER COMPLEX INCREASING PRODUCTION," Seoul, 04/17/00) reported that Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics will sell televisions manufactured in plants located in the DPRK's Taedong River Complex beginning at the end of this month. The Taedong River Complex was constructed in the early 1980s by the DPRK government and its residents in Japan. The complex consists of five modern buildings. At one time, the plants operated at 80 percent of capacity, manufacturing components for companies in Eastern Europe, Taiwan and Japan. However, following the death of DPRK leader Kim Il-sung in 1994, the number of contracts declined and jobs were eliminated. Six small and medium-sized companies, including Sungnam Electronics, a cassette tape manufacturer, were the first ROK firms to begin operating in the plants in 1997. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics joined the group last year to begin assembling televisions. Currently, there are 1000 DPRK employees working in the Taedong River plants, and the DPRK government officially designated the plants as those that "specialize in the assembly of electronic products."

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4. Inter-Korean Motor Rally

The Korea Herald (Kim, Ji-ho, "FIRST INTER-KOREAN MOTOR RALLY IN MT. KUMGANG SET FOR LATE MAY," Seoul, 04/18/00), Joongang Ilbo (Min Byung-kwan, "MT. KUMGANG RALLY BURNS RUBBER FROM MAY 26-30," Seoul, 04/17/00), Chosun Ilbo (Kim In-ku, "SEOUL- MT. KUMGANG RALLY SLATED FOR MAY 28," Seoul, 04/17/00) and The Korea Times ("INTER-KOREAN MOTOR RALLY TO TAKE PLACE NEXT MONTH," Seoul, 04/17/00) reported that ROK organizers said on April 17 that an unprecedented inter-Korean motor rally will be held along a course linking Seoul and the DPRK's Mount Kumgang area May 26-30. Woo Chang-bong, president of event promoter Wooinbang Communications, said, "the 'Mt. Kumgang Rally' is aimed at facilitating national reconciliation and solidarity." Woo said that Wooinbang and the DPRK's Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee reached an agreement early this month on the rally after three years of negotiations. Twenty ROK and three foreign teams will compete in the race, which begins with a section between Seoul and Tonghae Port May 26-28. They will then travel to Mount Kumgang by sea and continue racing along the DPRK's scenic mountain May 29-30. The DPRK section includes seven subsections spanning a combined distance of 37.7 kilometers in addition to the 55.6-km transfer route. 250 ROK citizens, including 33 members of the press corps and spectators, will visit the DPRK for the first inter-Korean car race ever to be held on the Korean Peninsula, bringing 53 cars with them. The DPRK plans to dispatch 150 staff members to ensure the smooth operation of the rally, he said. DPRK organizers will receive US$1 million for the race, and have already been paid US$300,000, the promoter said. ROK organizers will pay an additional US$400,000 in cash and provide US$300,000 in tires.

III. Discussion

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1. DPRK Energy

[Ed. note: The following comments were submitted by Charles K. Armstrong, Assistant Professor of History, Columbia University.]

Your discussion of North Korea's energy crisis, and the issue of integrating its energy grid with South Korea, in your article on "Dealing with North Korea's Energy Problems" (NAPSNET Special Report, April 13, 2000), is full of extraordinary historical irony. It might be useful to put the current crisis in greater historical perspective. 50 years ago, North and South Korea were in exactly the reverse position that they are now in terms of energy production and need. When Japanese colonial rule ended in 1945, energy production was overwhelmingly located north of the 38th parallel. 90 percent of the hydroelectric power plants on the Korean peninsula were located in the more mountainous northern region, with the largest dams located on the Yalu River bordering China. The US Military Government that ruled South Korea at the time estimated that South Korea was dependent on the North for 80 percent of its energy needs (in the midst of the Korean War, the US bombed the dams on the Yalu, flooding thousands of acres of rice farms in the process, and crippling both the North's energy supply and its agriculture).

As the two sides moved toward separate governments and tensions grew between North and South in the late 1940s, energy became a political issue. The North Koreans repeatedly claimed that the US had not paid the North sufficiently for South Korea's use of Northern electricity, which the US repeatedly denied. Finally in May 1948 North Korea cut off its electric supply to the South, throwing the South Korean economy into turmoil from which it did not fully recover until well after the Korean War.

Thus, North Korea's fear of reliance on South Korea for energy is not merely based on some abstract anxiety about energy dependency. It also comes from the memory of how the North itself used electricity as a political weapon in the past.


Charles K. Armstrong Assistant Professor of History Columbia University New York, NY USA

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