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friday, march 14, 2003

I. United States


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1. PRC Role in DPRK-US Talks

The Associated Press (Edith M. Lederer, "CHINA TRIES TO START US-NORTH KOREA TALKS," United Nations, 03/14/03) reported that the PRC is trying to bring the US and the DPRK together for talks and doesn't want the Security Council involved at this stage, the PRC's U.N. ambassador said. The US has been trying to get the five permanent council members to agree on a statement that would condemn the DPRK for withdrawing from a global nuclear arms control treaty and would call on the DPRK to comply with its international obligations, diplomats said. But the PRC has refused to attend the meetings. Russia, another ally of the DPRK, also hasn't been enthusiastic about bringing the DPRK nuclear dispute before the Security Council. "We are trying to ask (the council) to understand that diplomatic efforts (are) going on and we do see the possibility that we could bring the parties together for a dialogue," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Yingfan said Thursday. "So we do not wish at this stage that there should be the involvement of the Security Council," he said. Wang said the efforts were aimed at "settlement of the problem," but he gave no details.

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2. ROK-US on DPRK Development

Reuters (Paul Eckert and Patricia Wilson, "US, SOUTH KOREA EYE DIPLOMACY ON NORTH, RUN WAR GAMES," Seoul/Washington, 03/14/03) reported that the US and ROK vowed to seek a diplomatic solution to the DPRK nuclear crisis as US Stealth fighters and an aircraft carrier assembled in the South for annual exercises. In a telephone call to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, President Bush repeated his call for multilateral talks to end the standoff over the North's suspected nuclear weapons program. The DPRK wants direct talks with the US. At the United Nations, the PRC seems to be backing its East Asian communist neighbor's stance while diplomats say Russia, also influential in Pyongyang, is sitting on the fence. Roh's spokeswoman said on Friday Seoul hoped the conversation between the two leaders would help calm financial markets. Investors have been shaken by Pyongyang's continuous moves to ratchet up pressure on Washington for crisis talks. ROK Finance Minister Kim Jin-pyo said Roh's government would work harder to close a "perception gap" with outsiders who worry more about the crisis than the ROK does. "We know the situation better than others," he told foreign correspondents.

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3. Japan on UN Iraq Resolution

BBC News (Charles Scanlon, "JAPAN BACKS US STANCE ON IRAQ," Tokyo, 03/14/03) reported that Japan has come out strongly in favor of the US and UK position on Iraq in recent days. The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has been calling Security Council members to try to persuade them to support a new resolution. But with public opinion overwhelmingly opposed to war without UN backing, the government finds itself in an increasingly difficult position. Nonetheless, Japan is actively trying to win over swing votes on the Security Council. Vulnerable Koizumi is eager to show the US that Japan is doing all it can to help - within the limits of the constitution. Most analysts believe Koizumi has little choice. Japan depends on US forces for its own security and the growing nuclear threat from the DPRK has reminded the Japanese of their own acute vulnerability. Still there is a political price to pay. Opinion polls show 80% of the public oppose war in Iraq without UN backing. Despite his diplomatic initiative, Koizumi has been deliberately vague at home - and has failed to articulate a coherent policy. Pressed to explain whether he would support a war, the prime minister told opposition politicians it would depend on the mood.

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4. Japan Missile Defense Plans

The Associated Press (Audrey McAvoy, "AMID HEIGHTENED CONCERNS, JAPAN CONSIDERING STRONGER MISSILE DEFENSE," Tokyo, 03/14/03) and CNN News ("JAPAN MULLS MISSILE DEFENSE PLANS," Tokyo, 03/14/03) reported that as concerns mount over the threat the DPRK poses to East Asia, Japan says it is considering upping its missile defense systems. "The government is investigating and considering both legal and budgetary issues regarding missile defense," Defense Agency spokesman Ichiro Imaizumi said on Friday. While Imaizumi declined to comment further, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported that Japan plans to buy advanced US-made Patriot anti-missile rockets to deploy from July. Under the new missile defense plan being considered, if the DPRK fired a mid-range Rodong missile at Japan, Japan would be able to intercept it with an enhanced version of the Patriot PAC2, the Yomiuri report said. Those Patriots would be able to intercept ballistic missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). At the moment Japan has less advanced Patriot anti-missile rockets in place at 27 locations around the country, but they have a shorter range. To be able to respond to any missile, Japan is also considering revising the law to enable the military to launch a Patriot rocket before being given orders to do so by the prime minister, the Yomiuri added.

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5. US on Russia Veto Threat

The LA Times (Robyn Dixon, "US BACKS AWAY FROM WARNINGS OVER RUSSIA'S POSSIBLE VETO," Moscow, 03/14/03) reported that US officials Thursday softened their warning about the possibility of long-term damage to relations with Russia if Russia vetoes a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq. One senior US official said the US still hoped to persuade Russia not to use its veto but conceded that, "if anything, the indications are more in the other direction." Russia is eager to avoid a war in Iraq that it regards as being against its interests. President Vladimir V. Putin sent a top envoy, former Prime Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov, to Baghdad last month to urge Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to step down and go into exile. Hussein rejected the idea. "It's my understanding that the Russians have been floating that idea," the official said, confirming rumors that have circulated for some time. The official added that Moscow regarded the possibility of Hussein's going into exile as a chance to end the crisis peacefully. US officials were confident weeks ago that Russia would not block military action against Iraq. But with the threat of a veto now in the air, US officials are pondering how they misread Russia's mood, and weighing how serious the fallout would be. "We will certainly try to minimize any damage," said the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official added that a Russian veto would not lead to any strategic shift in the relationship, which has been improving. The official said President Bush's phone call to Putin on Wednesday was "a friendly conversation" that reflected the leaders' determination to keep the relationship on track. "I think at the end of the day, the US relationship will remain paramount in Russia's calculation, and certainly in Putin's calculations," the official said.

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6. PRC Domestic Power Change

Reuters (Benjamin Kang Lim, "CHINA TO ELECT NEW PRESIDENT, PREMIER THIS WEEKEND," Beijing, 03/14/03) reported that the PRC completes a sweeping change of leadership this weekend, handing power to a new generation in votes that will see Communist Party chief Hu Jintao inherit Jiang Zemin's robes of state but not his military cudgel. In the culmination of a reshuffle that began last November, the National People's Congress, or parliament, is due to elect Hu, 60, as president on Saturday, replacing Jiang, 76, who must step down after the maximum two five-year terms. Vice Premier Wen Jiabao, 60, is set to take over 74-year-old Premier Zhu Rongji's post on Sunday, along with the headaches of swelling unemployment, rural discontent and a widening gap between rich and poor. But Jiang is widely expected to retain chairmanship of the Central Military Commission, the PRC's's top military job, and rule from "behind the curtain" after retirement. Jiang handed the Communist Party leadership to Hu in a generational change of guard last November -- the first orderly succession since the Communists swept to power in 1949. In theory, Hu reigns supreme as general secretary of the omnipotent Communist Party, but in reality Jiang outranks him, sending conflicting signals to the People's Liberation Army. "One center is called loyalty. Two centers strung together is trouble," two military delegates to the Congress told Jiang and Hu, according to the Web site of the Liberation Army Daily. "Multi-center means no center. And no center means nothing is accomplished," the mouthpiece of the military quoted them as adding. "There will be people within the military who will be disconcerted at this lack of clarity," said one Western diplomat who requested anonymity.

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7. PRC-US Relations

The Associated Press (William Foreman, "CHINA ACCUSES WASHINGTON OF SENDING MILITARY DELEGATION TO TAIWAN, WARNS MOVE COULD HURT TIES," Beijing, 03/14/03) reported that the PRC accused the US on Friday of sending a military delegation to Taiwan to discuss weapons sales and warned that such trips could damage US-PRC relations. The US is the only major nation that risks angering the PRC by selling advanced arms to Taiwan. PRC leaders argue that the US weapons sales embolden Taiwanese independence supporters and delay the PRC's goal of eventual unification. The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan as saying a Pentagon official, whom he did not identify, has gone to Taiwan to discuss anti-missile cooperation and weapons sales. "Warning that this move would send the wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, Kong urged the US to clearly recognize the damage it could cause on such a sensitive issue," the report said. In Taiwan, officials at the island's Ministry of Defense and the US representative office - the American Institute in Taiwan - would neither deny nor confirm the delegation's reported visit. The United Daily News, one of Taiwan's biggest newspapers, said the Pentagon official was Mary Tighe, director of its Asian and Pacific Affairs Office. The newspaper, which did not identify its sources, said Tighe is leading a delegation that is urging Taiwan to bolster its anti-missile defense system to counter a PRC missile buildup. Also on Friday, the PRC criticized the US House of Representatives for recently passing a bill supporting Taiwan's bid for observer status at a May meeting of the World Health Organization.

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8. ROK DPRK "Secret Payment" Investigation

The New York Times (Don Kirk, "SOUTH KOREAN LEADER ALLOWS INQUIRY INTO PAYMENTS TO NORTH," Seoul, 03/14/03) reported that ROK President Roh Moo Hyun assented today to a law authorizing a special prosecutor to investigate whether several hundred million dollars in payments were made to the DPRK to induce its leader, Kim Jong Il, to hold a summit meeting in June 2000 with the ROK president at the time, Kim Dae Jung. Roh, yielding to pressure from the opposition Grand National Party, which holds a majority in the National Assembly, said he would not veto the bill, as demanded by members of his own Millennium Democratic Party. The DPRK's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, which is responsible for dealings with the ROK, has also denounced the bill as an effort to sabotage efforts at ROK-DPRK reconciliation. Roh said leaders of both major parties had agreed that a special prosecutor should conduct the investigation "so as not to damage the national interest or inter-Korean relations." At the same time, he said, there was "wide agreement among the Korean people that the investigation should uncover the facts surrounding the cash transfer." The bill's becoming law means that an independent prosecutor will be able to question members of the previous administration about the secret transfer of funds through Hyundai Merchant Marine and other Hyundai companies. Government and Hyundai officials have acknowledged that $500 million went into DPRK coffers, but they have asserted that it was for projects that Hyundai was setting up in the DPRK, including tour group excursions to the Mount Kumkang region.

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9. US on ROK-US Military Alliance

The Washington File (Jane Morse, "US-SOUTH KOREA ALLIANCE WILL ENDURE, US COMMANDER SAYS," Washington, 03/14/03) reported that the alliance between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the US will endure, despite recent tensions, says the top US commander of military forces on the Korean Peninsula. "The Republic of Korea-US alliance has weathered challenges for over 50 years, and this partnership will continue to endure," General Leon J. LaPorte told the Senate Armed Services Committee in prepared remarks March 13, 2003. LaPorte is the commander of the United Nations Command, Republic of Korea-US Combined Forces Command, and the US Forces Korea. Some 37,000 US soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and 5,700 civilian employees work under his authority. The General noted that while anti-Americanism was highly evident during the ROK presidential elections, anti-US forces demonstrations have "virtually disappeared" since December 2002, when President Roh Moo-Hyun was elected. "We have an opportunity to revitalize the alliance in constructive ways that enhance this mutually beneficial partnership while ensuring peninsula and regional security," he said.

The entire text of LaPorte's 29-page prepared testimony can be found on the Senate Armed Services Committee's website at:

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10. ROK Anti-Americanism

The Washington Post (Doug Struck, "ANTI-US SENTIMENT ABATES IN SOUTH KOREA," Seoul, 03/14/03) reported that the anti-American demonstrations here have suddenly gone poof. US soldiers are walking the streets of Seoul again without looking over their shoulders. The official line from the ROK government is: Yankees stay here. Opposition to US troops in the ROK that seemed to be boiling over has quieted dramatically in recent weeks, because of new threats from the DPRK and a suggestion from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that US troops may be cut and repositioned. Resentment toward the US government, however, has hardly disappeared. Outside the heavily guarded gate of the main US military compound in Seoul, protesters sit daily with a loudspeaker blasting the English words "[Expletive] America!" over the camp. In a fourth-floor walkup office crammed with grim photos of Iraqi and Afghani civilians and other casualties of American wars, Park Jun Hyoung, a 34-year-old activist, explains, "We don't think of Americans as protectors. We think of them as occupiers." But the mainstream ROK public seemed sobered by Rumsfeld's remarks last week that the Pentagon might reduce its force of 37,000 troops and move some of them away from the front lines at the Demilitarized Zone. The ROK critics "went up to the cliff, peered over, and then pulled back," said Scott Snyder, the head in Seoul of the Asia Foundation, a private, nongovernmental, grant-making organization.

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11. US Stealth Fighters ROK Visit

The Associated Press (Hans Greimel, "US STEALTH FIGHTERS AGAIN VISIT KOREA," Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, 03/14/03) reported that six of the planes arrived Thursday in the ROK, ostensibly to participate in annual exercises dubbed Eagle, Foal Eagle and RSOI. Kunsan Air Base commander Col. Guy Dahlbeck insists their return is not meant to send a message to Pyongyang or up the stakes in the standoff. "We are just here for exercises," said stealth pilot Lt. Col. Jay Lake, standing in front of one of the matte black, bat-winged planes in a hangar on the southwestern coast of South Korea. "Our job is not to weigh the political issues." But with their 2,000 pound, laser-guided bombs, a sortie of F-117A Nighthawks could take out the DPRK's Yongbyon nuclear plant in one day or less - an attack the DPRK has accused Washington of plotting. "Whether it's intended as a message or not, it will be received as that," said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum, a Hawaii-based foreign policy think tank. "It also increases the options open to the US if a military option needs to be taken." The planes joined in the same exercises during their last visit to the ROK, in March 1993. At the time, the US was embroiled in a similar dispute with DPRK about its nuclear program, which the US has said can be used to build atomic bombs. That crisis ended peacefully, but not before then-President Clinton considered a surgical strike on Yongbyon.

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12. US Carrier ROK Deployment

The Associated Press (Sang-Huh Choe, "US CARRIER DEPLOYS OFF SOUTH KOREAN COAST," Seoul, 03/14/03) reported that a US aircraft carrier deployed off the ROK's coast Friday ahead of a major bilateral military exercise being planned despite objections by the DPRK. The Japanese government, meanwhile, said it was considering strengthening its missile defenses amid reports that the DPRK is preparing to test a medium-range missile capable of reaching Japan. "The government is investigating and considering both legal and budgetary issues regarding missile defense," Defense Agency spokesman Ichiro Imaizumi said in Tokyo. He declined to be more specific. The announcement came a day after Japan's Defense Agency said it had deployed an Aegis-equipped destroyer - which includes top-of-the-line surveillance systems and ship-to-air missiles - in the waters between Japan and the DPRK. A major newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, reported Friday that Japan plans to acquire advanced US-made Patriot anti-missile rockets to deploy from July.

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13. DPRK Response to US Carrier Deployment

The Korean Central News Agency of DPRK ("KCNA BLASTS US DECISION TO SEND CARRIER TO SOUTH KOREA," Pyongyang, 03/14/03) reported that the US reportedly announced that it would soon dispatch its carrier Carl Vinson, now operating in the West Pacific, to an ROK port. The US plan to send this super-class carrier dubbed "golden eagle" to the ROK to let it play a major role in the Foal Eagle joint military exercise betrays its operational intention to carry out the biggest-ever joint military exercise targeted against the DPRK. The US and ROK warhawks have ceaselessly staged north-targeted sabre-rattling. But it is the first time for them to mobilize troops and operational means huge enough to wage a war and use all parts of ROK as theatres for month-long war exercises to be staged in the sky and seas and on land. There is the growing danger of the US-led exercises as the "Foal Eagle" joint military exercise, an annual event since 1961, is combined with Rsoi which has been staged since 1994. The US claims that the exercises are annual events which have nothing to do with the "nuclear issue" of the DPRK. But this is nothing but a broad hoax to mislead the public opinion and cover up its sinister military purpose. As the US campaign to internationalize the DPRK's "nuclear issue" and force it to scrap its "nuclear weapons program before dialogue" proved futile, the US launched the large-scale war exercises in a bid to attain its strategic goal of militarily pressurizing and threatening it, while watching for a chance to mount a preemptive attack on the nuclear facilities in the DPRK.

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14. PRC Environmental Spending

The Associated Press (Alexa Olesen, "OFFICIAL: CHINA NEEDS TO BOOST SPENDING ON ENVIRONMENT," Beijing, 03/14/03) reported that the PRC has to boost spending on its environment by billions of dollars a year if it hopes to stop further deterioration of its badly polluted air and water, a senior official said Friday. The PRC now spends about 115 billion yuan (US$14 billion) a year on environmental protection, or about 1.2 percent of its economic output, said Xie Zhenhua, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration. But he said that figure must rise by at least 25 percent to cope with the problems of a densely populated, rapidly developing country. Emissions of major pollutants have dropped over the past five years, but the PRC's total output of waste is still 50 percent more than its environment can bear, Xie said, without giving details. "We are still faced with a rather severe environmental situation," Xie said at a news conference held during the annual meeting of the PRC's national legislature. The booming Chinese auto industry is just one of many problems, he said. The PRC now has 18 million cars and the industry is growing at an annual rate of 17 percent, Xie said. He said the government will be imposing progressively stricter standards on cars and trucks to cut vehicle exhaust.

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15. Japan DPRK Economic Sanctions

BBC News ("JAPAN THREATENS NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS," 03/14/03) reported that Japan has threatened to impose economic sanctions on the DPRK if it tests a ballistic missile, according to government officials quoted by Japanese media. The DPRK has tested two short range missiles in recent weeks, prompting speculation it is preparing to launch a longer-range version similar to one it fired over Japan in 1998. Japanese government sources said possible sanctions would include a halt to cash transfers and exports to the DPRK, according to the Kyodo news agency and leading newspapers. Japan's exports to the DPRK totaled about $135m in 1999, while cash transfers from Japan's sizeable Korean community are also thought to be significant.

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16. Hong Kong Super-Flu

BBC News ("HONG KONG 'SUPER-FLU' TRAVEL ALERT," 03/14/03) reported that Singapore and Taiwan have warned citizens against traveling to Hong Kong amid fears over the spread of a deadly flu. Singapore has also urged its population not to travel to Hanoi in Vietnam or the PRC's Guangdong province "unless absolutely necessary." In Hong Kong, officials have urged the public not to panic saying they are doing everything possible to contain the virus. They have said the virus can only be contracted through close contact with someone already infected. They have also dismissed claims the virus could have been unleashed by terrorists. Critically ill So far, dozens of suspected cases of atypical community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) have been reported in Hong Kong and Vietnam. Some of these people are now critically ill. The cases appear to be confined to medical staff or people who had been in close contact with others who were infected. The source of the outbreak is not known. However, it is being linked to the death of a US businessman in Hong Kong on Thursday. The 48-year-old man had arrived in Hanoi from Shanghai in the PRC on a business trip already suffering from severe respiratory problems. Doctors are now trying to see if the virus may have passed into local community. "We are looking into it," a spokeswoman told AFP. World Health Organisation experts are concerned that he may have passed the infection on to many others on the way. It has issued a "global alert" warning public health surveillance teams throughout the world to be vigilant for outbreaks. "Atypical CAP is not air-borne disease, but is spread by droplets from infected patients," said Dr William Ho, its chief executive. The signs and symptoms of the disease in Hanoi include initial flu-like illness, with rapid onset of high fever followed by muscle aches, headache and sore throat. In some, but not all cases, this is followed by double pneumonia - with some patients needing help from a ventilator to stay alive.

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