NAPSNet Daily Report
friday, december 19th, 2003

I. United States


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I. United States

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1. US on Multilateral Talks

Reuters ("N. KOREA TALKS DELAYED BUT STILL ALIVE, U.S. SAYS," Washington, 12/19/03) reported that despite delays that have pushed any possibility of six-party talks with the DPRK to curtail its nuclear arms program into 2004, a senior US official said on Friday it was too early to say diplomatic efforts had failed. After months of intensive efforts, the US and its partners in negotiations over the DPRK's nuclear program acknowledged this week that they were unable to arrange a second round of talks for this month, pushing the next target date into the new year. The senior official, speaking with Reuters on condition of anonymity, was optimistic that a second round of talks would eventually be scheduled. But he did not explain how the parties would overcome their disagreements over objectives for the talks, which are being arranged by the PRC. "I believe that it's still possible (that North Korea could be persuaded to abandon its programs) but I could not assess the probability of achieving it," the senior official said. "We're determined to try and we've got a lot more steps to go before we could conclude that the multilateral process won't work," he said. He and other officials say the administration stands ready to outline its "principles" for multilateral security assurances for the DPRK if the six-party talks reconvene next year. The DPRK, apparently responding to media reports of elements of that US-led plan, pronounced it "greatly disappointing" and published a counter-proposal that repeated demands for energy aid and diplomatic concessions in exchange for freezing its nuclear program. President Bush has rejected the idea of a freeze, saying the US wanted the DPRK's nuclear arms program dismantled "in a verifiable and irreversible way."

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2. US on DPRK Nuclear Program

The Washington Post ("US OFFICIAL: US WON'T OFFER INCENTIVES AT N KOREA TALKS," New York, 12/19/03) reported that the Bush administration is prepared to outline its " principles" for multilateral security assurances for the DPRK if six-nation talks on the nuclear crisis convene next year, but the administration will not float possible economic or energy incentives at the session, a senior administration official said, The Washington Post reports in its Friday edition. A key objective for the administration at the talks is to learn how the DPRK government proposes to dismantle their nuclear programs, the official said. But he said it is unlikely the talks would dwell on the details of eliminating that nation's arsenal, particularly the scope of the inspection regime needed to verify that the DPRK has given up its weapons, according to the Post.

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3. Russian on Multilateral Talks

Kyodo News ("RUSSIA'S LOSYUKOV SEES 6-PARTY TALKS IN MID-JAN. AS REALISTIC," Tokyo, 12/19/03) reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said Friday it is "realistic" for the next round of six-nation talks on the DPRK's nuclear ambitions to be held in mid-January. Negotiations are still under way between the DPRK and the US on procedures for dismantling the DPRK's nuclear programs, after the six nations made progress toward working out a joint statement for the next round of talks, Losyukov said in an interview in Tokyo with Kyodo News. The next round of talks between Japan, the US, the DPRK, the ROK, Russia and the PRC had been expected to take place by the end of this year. As the six have yet to reach final agreement on the statement, however, the talks are now expected to take place early next year.

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4. US on DPRK Trafficking

Kyodo News ("N. KOREA LINKED TO DRUG SEIZURES IN 20 STATES: U.S. REPORT," Washington, 12/19/03) reported that at least 50 documented incidents in more than 20 countries since 1976 link the DPRK to drug trafficking, with many of them involving the arrest or detention of DPRK diplomats, according to a congressional research report Thursday. The US State Department has consistently been cautious to designate the DPRK as a "state sponsor" of drug trafficking because this would arguably require the imposition of foreign aid sanctions on the DPRK, said the report titled "Drug Trafficking and North Korea: Issues for US Policy." The challenge for US policy-makers is how to seek a sound policy to counter drug trafficking and comply with US law, which may require cutting off aid to the DPRK, while pursuing other high priority US policy objectives, including limiting DPRK production of weapons of mass destruction as well as ballistic missile production and exports, it said.

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5. US on Interdiction

The Associated Press (Matt Kelley, "U.S. TO PRACTICE WEAPONS INTERDICTION," Washington, 12/19/03) reported that the US and allies next month plan to practice seizing a ship carrying weapons of mass destruction near where a DPRK missile shipment was captured last year. The naval exercise scheduled Jan. 11-12 is part of a Bush administration effort to block shipments of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, the material and equipment needed to make them and missiles that could be used to carry them. It will be the third such exercise undertaken by the "Proliferation Security Initiative," a 16-nation group formed this year. Experts from the countries met in the US this week to discuss lessons learned from those exercises - one each in the Mediterranean and Coral seas - and start planning for five more in the next four months. A "tabletop" exercise on intercepting airplanes also has been held. The January exercise in the Arabian Sea will include forces from several other members of the initiative, though precisely which countries has not been decided, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday. They will track, board and search a US merchant vessel outfitted to mimic one carrying weapons of mass destruction. Other nations in the initiative are: Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and five new members - Canada, Denmark, Norway, Singapore and Turkey. Upcoming exercises include a "tabletop" air interdiction exercise hosted by Italy Feb. 18-19; a customs seizure simulation in Germany in late March; a maritime exercise hosted by Italy in the Mediterranean April 13-22; and a simulated ground interdiction in Poland in late April.

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6. DPRK - Iranian Relations

Yonhap News ("IRANIAN PRESIDENT STRESSES DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH N. KOREA," 12/18/03) reported that Iranian President Mohamad Hatami has said that his country is willing to further build up diplomatic ties with the DPRK, a DPRK radio station said Thursday. In a meeting with Kim Jong-nam, former DPRK ambassador to Iran, Hatami said the country will further expand relations with the communist state in such areas as politics, economy and culture, the DPRK Korean Central Broadcasting Station, monitored here, said.

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7. ROK Cabinet Restructuring

Korea Times (Shim Jae-yun, "ROH TO RESHUFFLE CABINET, PRESIDENTIAL STAFF NEXT WEEK," 12/19/03) reported that President Roh Moo-hyun will conduct a reshuffle and reorganize his Chong Wa Dae staff early next week, with the reshuffle affecting three to six Cabinet ministers, a presidential aides said on Friday. "The reshuffles are intended to allow them to run for the general elections slated for April next year as well as to inject vigor into the administration," said a senior presidential aide. The Chong Wa Dae reorganization will also see some presidential secretaries leave the presidential office for the April Assembly elections. The Cabinet reshuffle was originally slated to take place after the next year's budget bill is passed through the National Assembly. "But we will press forward with the shakeup now as the prospects for the budget bill's passage at the Assembly has become uncertain," the official said. At least three top presidential aides Chung Chan-yong (in charge of personnel affairs), political advisor Yoo In-tae and Park Joo-hyun, are said to be on their way out. Chong Wa Dae officials said top policy planning officers Lee Jeong-woo and Kwon O-kyu may be allowed to leave the presidential secretariat to run for the April elections. During an interview with a group of journalists on Wednesday, Roh said that he would not prevent Cabinet members and Chong Wa Dae officials from running in the elections if they want. Roh is, however, likely to retain Prime Minister Goh Kun, Deputy Premier-Finance and Economy Minister Kim Jin-pyo and Justice Minister Kang Kum-sil. Deputy Premier and Education and Human Resources Development Minister Yoon Deok-hong has already tendered his resignations. Health and Welfare Minister Kim Hwa-joong, Labor Minister Choi Jong-chan and Construction and Transportation Minister Choi Jong-chan will likely follow suit.

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8. Bird Flu Outbreak in the ROK

The Associated Press ("BIRD FLU APPEARS TO SPREAD IN SOUTH KOREA," Seoul, 12/19/03) reported that an outbreak of highly contagious bird flu, a strain of which is deadly to humans, appeared to spread in the ROK on Friday with two more duck farms showing signs of infection. The latest cases have not yet been positively confirmed, said Baek Hyon, an official at livestock epidemic prevention bureau at the ROK's Agriculture and Forestry Ministry. The two new farms raise about 16,000 ducks, which may be culled if the virus is confirmed, Baek said. Authorities have been racing to contain the disease since 21,000 chickens died earlier this month at a farm in the town of Umsung, some 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Seoul. So far, authorities have ordered the culling of more than 137,000 ducks and chickens in the region, as well as the destruction of all duck and chicken eggs within a three-kilometer (two-mile) radius of the farm where the outbreak started. Earlier this week, tests found the bird flu was caused by the H5N1 virus. But authorities are still investigating whether it is the deadly H5N1-97 strain that crossed from chickens to humans in Hong Kong in 1997, killing six people. ROK officials say there is only a small chance of the virus crossing from birds to humans because most strains of H5N1 are not transmittable. Less fatal bird flu have hit the ROK periodically since 1996. Virus samples were to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, for definitive testing, and results were expected to take a month. Early this month in Hong Kong, a 5-year-old boy came down with bird flu, but not the same H5N1 strain that caused a deadly outbreak in 1997. The boy has since recovered. The 1997 outbreak, which originated in poultry and spread through human-to-human contact, forced the government to slaughter 1.4 million chickens in Hong Kong.

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9. US - PRC Trade Relations

The Associated Press (Martin Crutsinger, "U.S. RIPS CHINA FOR LAGGING TRADE REFORMS," Washington, 12/19/303) reported that the PRC is falling well short in lowering trade barriers and putting in place reforms promised when it joined the World Trade Organization, the Bush administration said Thursday. The PRC generally got low marks for compliance with its WTO commitments, according to an annual assessment required under the law that cleared the way for the PRC's membership in the trade group. The administration said the PRC's effort "lost a significant amount of momentum in the past year," noting major problems in agriculture, services, enforcement of intellectual property rights and transparency of government regulations. "In a number of different sectors, including some key sectors of economic importance to the United States, China fell far sort of implementing its WTO commitments," according to the report prepared by the Office of US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. The administration cited the PRC's "questionable use" of tax policy to favor domestic production. The PRC also was accused of using government industrial policies to encourage domestic industries at the expense of imports from abroad or foreign businesses operating in the PRC. The Bush administration is under growing pressure to deal with America's huge trade deficit with the PRC - a record $103 billion last year and heading to more than $120 billion this year. That is by far the largest deficit the US has ever recorded with any country. One issue pursued by the administration is the PRC's practice of tightly linking the value of its currency, the yuan, to the US dollar. US manufacturers contend this has left the PRC's currency undervalued by as much as 40 percent against the dollar, giving Chinese products a huge competitive advantage against American goods. Both Bush and Snow have urged the PRC to end the link and allow its currency to float freely. Chinese officials contend they cannot do so now, fearing that a freely floating yuan could undermine the country's fragile banking system. The report said that the PRC had not done enough to guard against the piracy of American movies and computer software and had failed to live up to commitments it had made to open its service industries such as insurance to foreign competition.

Reuters ("US SAYS: CHINA WTO IMPLEMENTATION LOST STEAM IN '03," 12/19/03) reported that the Bush administration accused the PRC on Thursday of dragging its feet on implementing its international trade commitments, saying the PRC "lost a significant amount of momentum" in 2003. In an annual report to Congress, the US Trade Representative's office said it was holding the PRC to a higher standard as it looked back on the country's second year of membership in the World Trade Organization. "Unlike last year, China's uneven and incomplete WTO compliance record can no longer be attributed to start-up problems," the report said. The PRC's implementation of its trade pledges "fell far short" in areas ranging from agriculture to intellectual property rights to services, the USTR report said. Chinese government officials also intervene frequently in the marketplace to manage trade flows, the trade office said. The report stopped short of assigning The PRC a formal letter grade, as Assistant Commerce Secretary William Lash did last month when he said the PRC deserved a gentlemen's "C" to a "D+" for its performance over the past year. The PRC's former WTO negotiator Long Yongtu recently said the country deserved an "A" for its efforts in 2003.

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10. Cross Straight Travel

Agence-France Presse ("FOUR CHINESE TOURISTS DENIED ASYLUM IN TAIWAN," Taipei, 12/19/03) reported that Taiwan has denied political asylum requested by four PRC tourists who claimed to be mainland government officials, it was reported here. The three men and one woman split from a 13-member PRC tour group Monday while visiting Taipei and went to a local police station asking for asylum in exchange for "important information," the United Daily News reported. They claimed to be civil servants working in the PRC's justice and police system who had been suspended from their jobs for political reasons, the report said. Taiwan authorities rejected their request after deciding the information they could offer was of limited value, it said. The four had been confined to their hotel under police guard before being escorted to a Macau-bound plane with the rest of the tour members later this week. Mainland Affairs Council vice chairman Chen Min-tung declined to confirm the report. "We do not confirm it but neither will we say it is a wrong report," he told reporters. Under current regulations, Taiwan accepts political asylum applications on a case-by-case basis by mainlanders who "have contributed greatly" to the island's security. The island had offered asylum to pro-democracy activists and those who had been threatened by political oppression in the PRC, Chen said. Taiwan and the PRC, separated in 1949 at the end of a civil war, are still technically at war despite booming trade and tourist exchanges.

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11. Cross-Straight Relations

Reuters ("TAIWAN MPS REJECT MOVE TO MAKE REFERENDUM EASIER," Taipei, 12/19/03) reported that Taiwan's parliament rejected a government attempt to change a referendum bill on Friday, preventing President Chen Shui-bian from putting teeth into the legislation that would have increased tension with the PRC. Parliament passed the bill last month, but opposition lawmakers watered it down to prevent an immediate showdown with the rival PRC, which sees any referendum by Taiwan as a move toward independence. The PRC has threatened to attack if the self-ruled democratic island formally declares statehood. The lawmaking Legislative Yuan voted 118 to 95, rejecting a government attempt to remove clauses in the bill that make holding a referendum difficult. "Today in the legislature, 118 opposition legislators, united in their anger, rejected the government's veto and restored the public's right to initiate referendums," opposition lawmaker Chou Hsi-wei told a news conference after the vote. The government can only try to veto a bill once and Chen will now have to sign it into law if he wishes to press ahead with a plan to hold a "defensive referendum" at the same time as a March 20 presidential election. The proposed referendum will call on the PRC to remove missiles aimed at Taiwan, a move that the PRC's state media has called a "provocative stunt." Taiwan critics call the referendum an election gambit to focus public anger against the PRC and boost Chen's backing. A political analysts said the mainland would be pleased with the vote on Friday, even though Chen still can call a referendum "Mainland China will likely breathe a sigh of relief because President Chen does not get what he wants," said Dachi Liao, political scientist at the National Sun Yat-sen University. "But China is not going to be pleased because the referendum law is there and Chen can still call a defensive referendum."

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12. SARS Outbreak in Taiwan

The Associated Press (Stephan Grauwels, "TAIWAN SARS PATIENT SAID TO BE RECOVERING," Taipei, 12/19/03) reported that a Taiwanese man who became infected with SARS at a laboratory is recovering, and five foreigners who sat near him on a flight have been located and told to monitor their health, health officials said Friday. The 44-year-old scientist was recovering in a Taipei hospital and developing an appetite again, doctors said. Investigators reported he likely caught the virus when he handled a torn plastic trash bag leaking contaminated liquid in his lab. Five foreigners - three Americans, one Japanese and a Singaporean - who sat near the infected man during a flight from Singapore to Taiwan had been found. The Japanese traveler was in Taiwan, where he lives, while two of the Americans went to Hong Kong and the other is in the US, said Shih Wen-yi, a spokesman for Taiwan's Center for Disease Control. They were told to be on alert for SARS symptoms, like a fever, Shih said. Singapore's Ministry of Health said it found the Singaporean traveler in Shanghai and that he was in good health. So far, 109 people have been quarantined in Taiwan and Singapore, where the infected man, a US-educated military scientist identified only by his rank and surname, Lt. Col. Chan, attended a congress. No SARS case has been reported in any known contacts of the scientist, World Health Organization spokeswoman Maria Cheng said. "It doesn't look like the start of a new outbreak," Cheng said Thursday. "We're very much hoping that it's an isolated event."

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13. PRC on SARS Preparedness

Agence-France Presse ("WHO URGES CHINA TO STEP UP SARS-PREPAREDNESS," Beijing, 12/19/03) reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) urged the PRC to step up efforts to identify the source of SARS and coordinate a response to the respiratory disease should it reappear in the coming months. A team of WHO experts also stressed the need for tough laboratory safety measures in light of the infection of a Taiwanese military health official by the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome earlier this month. "There is an unfinished SARS agenda which must still be met if the disease is to be eliminated as a public health threat," Dr. Asamoa-Baah, head of the delegation, said in a statement Friday. Remaining challenges include locating the origin of the SARS virus, identifying which animals are capable of supporting it, while also determining the conditions which enable the virus to jump from animals to humans. A deeper understanding of super-spreading events, or why certain infected SARS patients have the capacity to spread the disease to many others, while other SARS patients appear not to be infectious at all, was also needed. For the PRC, coordinating preparedness and response work between its vast numbers of ministries could become the most challenging undertaking should another epidemic resurface, it said. "China is essential to finishing this agenda," said WHOs PRC representative, Henk Bekedam. "Most of these questions can best be answered in China."

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14. Taxi Accident in the PRC

The Associated Press ("TAXI EXPLODES IN CHINA, KILLING TWO," Shanghai, 12/19/03) reported that a taxi exploded on a street in central PRC, killing its driver and passenger, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday. The cause of the explosion in the city of Leiyang in Hunan province was under investigation, the report said. Similar blasts elsewhere have been linked to mechanical problems or exploding gas tanks, although bombs have sometimes been used aboard public transportation in extortion or revenge attacks. Two pedestrians were wounded by flying debris, Xinhua said. The female driver was identified as Yang Yehong but Xinhua said the male passenger was still unidentified. Phone calls to the Leiyang police headquarters were not answered.

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15. Japan on Missile Defense

The Associated Press (Audrey McAvoy, "JAPAN TO BUILD MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM," Tokyo, 12/19/03) reported that Japan announced Friday that it will begin building a missile defense system - the first step of long-discussed plans to protect the country amid concerns over the threat from neighboring DPRK. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet and his top security advisers approved the project, citing "a spread of missiles and a rise in weapons of mass destruction," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said in a statement. "Ballistic missile defense is a purely defensive - and the sole - means of protecting the lives of our country's people and their property against a ballistic missile attack," the statement said. Japan has studied the technology for missile defense with the US, but until now it has only mulled plans to build such a system. Fukuda did not explain details of the program. Media reports said the plan calls for refitting four Aegis-equipped destroyers with sea-based anti-missile rockets and purchasing advanced Patriot anti-missile rocket batteries starting next year. The new system will be deployed from 2007 through 2011, Kyodo News reported. The government will allocate $935 million for the program in the next fiscal year beginning April. The entire program was estimated at $4.67 billion, the agency said.

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16. Earthquake in Northwestern Japan

The Associated Press ("MODERATE QUAKE HITS NORTHWESTERN JAPAN," Tokyo, 12/19/03) reported that a moderate earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.7 rattled northwestern Japan Friday, the Meteorological Agency said. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The 12:49 p.m. temblor was centered 12 miles beneath the seabed off the coast of Niigata prefecture, about 160 miles northwest of Tokyo. In nearby Aikawa, police official Hiroshi Yamagishi said no damage or injuries had been reported. He described the tremor as a "sudden jolt" that lasted for a few seconds. There was no danger of tsunami, powerful ocean waves caused by seismic activity, the agency said. An earthquake of magnitude 4 or higher can shake buildings and swing hanging items in populated areas. A magnitude-8 temblor struck Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido on Sept. 27, injuring 756 people. Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. It sits atop four tectonic plates, slabs that move across the earth's surface.

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17. Japan Troop Dispatch

Kyodo News ("DEFENSE AGENCY CHIEF ORDERS ASDF DISPATCH TO IRAQ," Tokyo, 12/19/03) reported that Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba ordered on Friday the dispatch of an advance Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) team to Iraq, marking the first time since World War II that Japan will send troops to a country where fighting is taking place. Ishiba also ordered the ASDF, the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) and the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) to prepare for the dispatch of their core units to Iraq where they will assist in reconstruction efforts. "I issued orders (for preparation) to the ground, maritime and air" divisions of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), Ishiba told a press conference. "To the ASDF, I ordered it to organize units (to be dispatched) and to send an advance team...scheduled to depart on or after Dec. 26," he added. The ASDF is expected to send a 40-plus-member advance team to parts of Baghdad, Kuwait and Qatar to prepare for full-fledged activities, likely including transporting US-led coalition forces. The team will assess the local security situations before the planned dispatch of core ASDF units comprising some 150 members in January. Ishiba issued the orders a day after announcing an outline of the agency's guidelines for implementing the planned deployment of the SDF to Iraq through next December.

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18. Japan on Iraqi Gas Fields

Kyodo News ("JAPANESE-LED CONSORTIUM EYES BIDDING TO DEVELOP IRAQI GAS FIELDS," 12/19/03) reported that a consortium led by Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp. is considering bidding for a gas development project in Iraq, a member of the group says. "We are raising our hands, expecting that there will be such an opportunity" to develop gas fields in the post-war Iraq, said a spokesman for Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp., a member of the consortium. "We are at the very initial stage of discussions," he said, without elaborating further. A news report Friday said the consortium will group nine Japanese firms and KBR, subsidiary of Halliburton, the American energy services group formerly led by US Vice President Dick Cheney. A Mitsubishi Corp. spokesman said he was unable to confirm or deny the report. The consortium plans to bid for the development of gas fields in western Iraq, the Financial Times said, citing a person familiar with the issue. The newspaper said the project is believed to include the Akkra field. The consortium is believed to have signed a memorandum of understanding in late July with Thamir Ghadhban, the former chief executive of Iraq's oil ministry, indicating their shared interest in pursuing the project, the paper said. The consortium was in a strong position to win the bid because of the interest Japanese firms had shown in developing gas fields in Iraq in the 1980s while European firms had focused on oil, the newspaper said.

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