NAPSNet Daily Report
thursday april 15, 2004

I. United States

II. Japan

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I. United States

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1. DPRK Working Groups

Kyodo News ("N. KOREAN URANIUM PROGRAM TO TOP WORKING-GROUP AGENDA: US OFFICIAL," Washington, 04/15/04) reported that the US will raise the issue of North Korea's alleged uranium enrichment for nuclear arms as a priority at a proposed six-party working group meeting, a senior US official said in a recent interview. The official told Kyodo news, on condition of anonymity, that there is no point talking about the dismantlement of DPRK nuclear programs 'unless you talk about all aspects' of them. The US official said it may be difficult to hold a proposed working group meeting in April.

Kyodo News ("CHINA REPORTS DISAGREEMENTS ON N. KOREA NUKES WORKING GROUP," Beijing, 4/15/04) reported that countries involved in the six-party talks on the DPRK's nuclear ambitions disagree on the procedures and topics for a working group aimed at smoothing the diplomatic negotiations, a PRC official said Thursday. Although the six nations agree in principle on the establishment of a working group, they do not agree on all the details, said PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan. "Now, every side should concede that there still are different views on the discussion topics and operating method of the working group," Kong said at a press briefing. "Because every side is actually still discussing, preparing, negotiating and exchanging ideas, the work done by the PRC is to try our best to be able to put everyone's consensus together and be able to persuade or urge that all sides could express more practical or flexible attitudes," he said. Kong said it would be 'inconvenient' for him to divulge details of the differences.

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2. US on DPRK Nuclear Weapons

The Associated Press (Tom Raum, "CHENEY SAYS FAILURE TO DISARM NORTH KOREA COULD TRIGGER ASIAN ARMS RACE," Seoul, 04/15/04) reported that US Vice President Dick Cheney warned in the PRC Thursday that failure to contain the DPRK's nuclear weapons program could trigger a new arms race that could sweep across Asia. He was bringing the same message to the ROK, arriving here in the middle of a national election on his final stop on a weeklong tour of the region. "We have no alternative but to act with diligence," Cheney told students at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. He suggested that the DPRK, as an impoverished communist country, posed a double threat - either directly or if it decides to raise cash by selling nuclear weapons to terrorist groups. The vice president planned to meet Prime Minister Goh Kun, the acting president and visit US troops at Yongsan Garrison in downtown Seoul on Friday before returning to Washington.

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3. Japan on Iraq Hostage Situation

Agence France-Presse ("JAPAN DELIGHTED WITH RELEASE OF THREE HOSTAGES IN IRAQ," 04/16/04) reported that Japan reacted with delight and relief as three of its nationals were released by an armed group in Iraq after more than a week in captivity, although two others were unaccounted for. "Great! Yes!" relatives of the hostages yelled, jumping for joy, as they watched television footage of the three relaxing in a room at a Muslim association facility in Baghdad. Volunteer workers Noriaki Imai, 18, Nahoko Takato, 34, and photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama, 32, were abducted by a previously unknown group calling itself the "Mujahedeen Brigades." "My thanks to everybody for their support. I appreciate it," said Yosuke Imai, 23, elder brother of Noriaki who went to Iraq to learn about the after-effects of depleted uranium bombs. "I want to beg him not to cause any more trouble," said Imai, who kept a vigil with many of the relatives at a provincial government's office in Tokyo. Major Japanese newspapers rushed out special extra editions late Thursday. "Japanese hostages released. Shown in good condition on television," read the banner headline in the influential Asahi Shimbun. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was not expected to comment Thursday. It was not immediately known on what terms the captors had released the hostages.

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4. ROK on Iraq Reconstruction

New York Times (Morimitsu Onishi, "SOUTH KOREA IS WARY BUT FIRM ON IRAQ," Seoul, 04/15/04) reported that at the entrance of a mock military base not far from here, the barricades are painted with slogans like "Perfect Check Search" and "Deadly Force 100% ID Check." Barbed wire surrounds the camp, as well as a handful of artificial palm trees dangling green plastic coconuts. An Iraqi flag is flanked by the words, written in Korean, "Peace and Reconstruction." "Salaam alaikum," a Korean guard says to greets a visitor to the base, and asks several other questions in rapid-fire Arabic. The amicable exchange is followed quickly by a staged terrorist attack. The soldiers training at the camp, in Kwangju outside the capital, will be part of the 3,000 troops Seoul is expected to send to Iraq by June. Those soldiers, on top of about 600 already in Iraq, will make the ROK's the third-largest national force in Iraq, after the US and Britain, and will amount to this country's biggest military expedition since the Vietnam War.

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5. ROK Parliamentary Election

Agence France-Presse (" S.KOREANS REJECT IMPEACHMENT, BACK PRO-GOVERNMENT PARTY IN POLL," 04/16/04) reported that ROK voters handed control of parliament to a pro-government party in a shift to the left heralded as a stunning victory for impeached President Roh Moo-Hyun. The president, suspended from office following his March 12 impeachment, was not up for re-election in the parliamentary poll but said he would step down if the pro-government Uri Party fared poorly. The outcome was a dramatic victory for the reformist party, which was formed only five months ago by Roh loyalists who held just 49 seats in the outgoing chamber. The party won 152 seats in the new 299-seat chamber, according official returns released by state-run KBS TV network. The result was a setback for the conservative Grand National Party (GNP), the majority party with 137 seats in the outgoing National Assembly, which won 121 with 99.2 percent of the votes counted early Friday. The Uri Party victory marked the first time in over four decades that the country's parliament has been controlled by reformist legislators.

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6. Hong Kong Democratization

Agence France-Presse ("CHANGE NEEDED TO HK POLITICAL SYSTEM, BUT NOT YET, SAYS TUNG," 04/16/04) reported that Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has told PRC leaders that the former British colony should have universal suffrage, but not yet, he said. Tung, embroiled in a heated debate on when to introduce full democracy, said change is needed to the political system, but not radical change. "The methods for selecting Hong Kong's chief executive in 2007 and for forming the (legislature) in 2008 should be amended," Tung, who was chosen by an election committee of 800 backed by Beijing, said in a report handed to PRC leaders Thursday. But while he said the city should proceed towards "the ultimate aim of universal suffrage" he also cautioned that change must come in a "gradual and orderly manner." The report is the latest development in a political review begun in January that was mapped out in the city's Basic Law mini constitution, which came into force at the 1997 handover of sovereignty to the PRC.

Agence France-Presse ("US ASKS HONGKONG GOVERNMENT TO RESPOND TO DEMANDS FOR REFORMS," 04/15/05) reported that the US urged the Hong Kong government to respond to demands for democratic reforms by the people in the former British territory. It was reacting to a 15,000-strong weekend protest in Hong Kong against a ruling by the PRC that effectively killed the city's hopes for introducing full democracy. Democrats in Hong Kong want full democracy by 2007. "We encourage the Hong Kong government to do everything possible to respond to the expressed aspirations of the Hong Kong people for electoral reform and universal suffrage," said Kurtis Cooper, a US State Department spokesman. He said Sunday's demonstrations, along with popular marches July 1 and again January 1, illustrated the Hong Kong people's desire to determine their own future and to build a democratic society. "We encourage continuing dialogue between the Hong Kong people and the Hong Kong government to ensure that the people's views are taken into account as Hong Kong's political process evolves towards democracy," Cooper said.

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7. DPRK Economic Development

Joongang Ilbo ("FIRST 24-HOUR STORE OPENS IN PYONGYANG," Moscow, 4/14/04) reported that the DPRK's first 24-hour convenience store has opened in Pyongyang, the DPRK correspondent of Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said yesterday. According to the reporter, the store sells bread, milk, beer, cigarettes and flowers as well as small furniture items at prices higher than ordinary stores in Pyongyang. The shop opened recently in Munsu-dong, a neighborhood densely populated with Pyongyang's foreign residents. Diplomats of foreign missions and staffers of international organizations will be the main customers. Shops in the DPRK capital close around 6 p.m. Following the adoption of economic reform measures, a large market opened in downtown Pyongyang in September last year, selling food and home appliances. It also shuts at 6 p.m.

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8. DPRK Kim Il-Sung Celebration

Reuters ("N. KOREA FETES LATE 'ETERNAL PRESIDENT' KIM IL SUNG," Seoul, 04/15/04) reported that the DPRK celebrated the 92nd birth anniversary Thursday of late leader Kim Il-sung, who almost 10 years after his death is still president of the state he founded. While the ROK held a parliamentary election focused on the fate of impeached President Roh Moo-hyun, North Koreans by the thousands danced in colorful costumes to the memory of the world's only deceased head of state, state television showed. The DPRK "Day of the Sun" was being celebrated and his exploits discussed at gatherings from Mongolia to Guinea and from Rwanda to Peru, the official KCNA news agency said. "Speakers at the meetings were unanimous in stressing that Kim Il-sung is the paragon of the world revolutionaries and a veteran statesman recognized by the world and that his undying exploits would shine forever," KCNA said.

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9. UN on DPRK Human Rights

Agence France-Presse ("UN RIGHTS FORUM ASKS NORTH KOREA TO ADMIT EXPERT, PYONGYANG OUTRAGED," Geneva, 04/15/04) reported that the UN's top human rights forum called on the DPRK to open its doors to a UN expert for the first time to investigate claims of torture and other human rights abuses, prompting a threat from the DPRK to quit the commission. The request was made in a second resolution on the DPRK drawn up by the European Union, which was adopted by the 53-member UN Human Rights Commission following a vote. But the DPRK rejected the document and threatened to leave the assembly, which it said supported double standards because a country like the US was able to violate human rights in Iraq without question. "The EU has already jeopardized the credibility of the commission by submitting a resolution and is now driving us to the door of no return," said DPRK delegate Jong Song Il. Twenty-nine member states voted for the resolution and eight, including the PRC, opposed it with the ROK and 15 other countries choosing to abstain. Ireland's ambassador Mary Whelan, speaking on behalf of the European Union expressed, "The European Union and other co-sponsors of this resolution consider that the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea warrants continued attention by the international community." The resolution, co-sponsored by the US and others, voiced concern over allegations of torture, public executions, forced abortions and prison camps in the DPRK. Pyongyang strongly rejected the claims and accused Europe of pursuing a political agenda in line with a hostile policy adopted by the US.

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10. ROK Domestic Politics

The Associated Press ("FACTS, POLICIES OF SOUTH KOREA'S PARTIES," 04/15/04) reported that the conservative party held the most seats - 137 - in the outgoing 273-member National Assembly, but its popularity plunged after it orchestrated the March 12 impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun. The party elected Park Geun-hye, daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, as chairwoman in a bid to woo younger voters. She pledged that the once staunchly anti-communist party would abandon its tough stance toward North Korea. The party stands by the government's plan to send 3,600 troops to Iraq. _ MILLENNIUM DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Founded by former President Kim Dae-jung, the party held 61 seats in the outgoing assembly. Roh won the 2002 presidential election as the party's candidate but later defected amid party infighting. The party initiated the move to impeach Roh. It is demanding that the government reconsider sending troops to Iraq. _ URI PARTY: The party held 49 seats in the outgoing assembly and was formed by Roh loyalists who bolted the other two major parties. The party's popularity surged after the presidential impeachment, but faded after its chairman told older voters to "stay home and rest" and let younger voters decide the election. The party supports the government's plan to send troops to Iraq.

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11. PRC UN Human Rights Censure

Agence France-Presse ("CHINA EVADES HUMAN RIGHTS CENSURE," 04/15/04) reported that the PRC's wariness of the internet has led to abuses, the US says the PRC has evaded censure on its human rights record after the UN's Commission on Human Rights blocked a vote on a resolution criticizing Beijing. The US, which sponsored the resolution, wanted the UN to condemn the PRC for restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression. But 28 member states sided with the PRC against the motion, with 16 voting with the US and nine abstentions. The action angered Beijing, which had accused the US of interference. The PRC's envoy accused the US of using the resolution to bolster President George W Bush ahead of November's presidential elections. "Wake up and stop dreaming. You cannot turn China into the US," Sha Zukang expressed. "We are concerned about backsliding on key human rights issues that has occurred in a variety of areas since that time," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in March. Areas of concern included extrajudicial killings, torture, repression of religious and political groups, and arrests of internet dissidents and HIV/Aids activists.

II. Japan

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1. Iraq Japan Abductions

Kyodo ("HOSTAGE CRISIS TO TEST JAPAN IMAGE, TIES TO U.S. POLICY," Washington, 04/10/04) reported that the kidnapping of three Japanese civilians by Iraqi militants will challenge Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's policy of supporting the United States, US experts said. William Odom, director of National Securities Studies at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said Japan's international status will be hurt if it bows to the militants' threat to kill the hostages if Self-Defense Forces (SDF) troops are not withdrawn from Iraq. "When you get into a combat zone, you have to occasionally accept casualties and that may be what happens in this case," Odom said. He also said that if Japan decides to withdraw the SDF troops from Iraq, it could cause other countries "to be inclined to pull out at the first sign of danger." "This issue doesn't just affect the Japanese, it affects US decision-makers," he said. Meanwhile, Sheila Smith, a research fellow at the Honolulu-based East-West Center, said Japanese public reaction to further violence connected to the hostages could go two ways -- outrage at the kidnappers, or anger at the Koizumi administration for causing Japan to be targeted because of its support of the US war in Iraq. "The Koizumi support of the war in Iraq has been a very risky diplomatic strategy, but it has also been a fundamental departure from Japan's past policy on the use of its military," she said. "Today, Japanese troops are in a theater of conflict, the most dangerous situation they have faced since the end of World War II."

The Japan Times ("ABDUCTEES' KIN WANT SDF OUT IMMEDIATELY," 04/10/04) reported that relatives of the three Japanese civilians held captive in Iraq by apparent terrorists asked the government Friday to withdraw the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) troops from Iraq in line with the kidnappers' demand. Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi promised the family members that Tokyo would do its utmost to rescue the abductees, but did not respond to the request that Japan withdraw its troops. Shuichi Takato, the 33-year-old brother of the one of the abductees Nahoko Takato, expressed irritation with the government. Kawaguchi "would not reply to our question why the SDF pullout will not be among the options to be taken and still say they are doing their utmost."

The Japan Times ("SDP CHIEF SAYS KOIZUMI SHOULD RESIGN OVER CRISIS," 04/11/04) reported that Social Democratic Party (SDF) leader Mizuho Fukushima demanded Saturday that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi resign over the kidnapping of three Japanese citizens in Iraq. Fukushima made the demand in an opening address to a special party convention at SDP headquarters in Tokyo. Fukushima said Koizumi should take responsibility for the hostage incident and resign. She also demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Self-Defense Forces from Iraq, as demanded by the kidnappers.

The Japan Times (Reiji Yoshida, "FAMILIES OPPOSED TO U.S. RESCUE OPERATION," 04/11/04) reported that the families of the three Japanese held captive in Iraq urged the government Saturday not to seek any help from US military special units in freeing the hostages. At a news conference in Tokyo, the families said such a step would only fuel anti-US feelings among the kidnappers, who have not been identified, and endanger the hostages' lives. Seven relatives who attended the news conference renewed their call on the government to withdraw the Self-Defense Forces. Government officials refused to see the families until Saturday night, when Foreign Ministry officials finally arranged a meeting. The government reaction only fanned the anger of the family members. The situation is "so delicate" that Koizumi right now has no intention to see the family members, and his intention will not change, a Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying by Shuichi Takato, younger brother of the one of the abductees Nahoko Takato. In addition, Koizumi's denial Friday of his personal responsibility for the crisis also drew strong anger from the family members. Asked about his responsibility for dispatching the SDF and the subsequent kidnapping, Koizumi told reporters: "This is not a problem concerning myself. This is a problem concerning how the whole country should cope with stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq."

Kyodo ("JAPAN HOSTAGES MAY BECOME BARGAINING CHIPS IN U.S.-SUNNI DEAL," Baghdad, 04/14/04) reported that the militant group that took three Japanese captive last week in Iraq is apparently considering using them as a bargaining tool in the ceasefire talks between US troops and Sunni Muslim insurgents in Fallujah, west of the Iraqi capital. Members of a major Iraqi tribe who are involved in negotiations with the kidnappers over the release of the hostages said Tuesday that their release might be linked to the progress of discussions on how to settle the conflict in central Iraq. The tribesmen said the hostage-takers and dominant forces in the Fallujah area are apparently no longer insisting that the SDF withdraw from Iraq. A member of the Islamic Clerics Association said in Tuesday's edition of an Iraqi newspaper that he believes the hostages will be "released soon." He said the release was likely delayed due to the US military operation in Fallujah, which involves road blockades. In Amman, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa said he has not been able to ascertain the conditions under which the hostages are being held.

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2. Japan Yasukuni Shrine Controversy

The Asahi Shimbun ("SHRINE VISIT UNCONSTITUTIONAL," Fukuoka, 04/08/04) reported that the Fukuoka District Court ruled on April 7 that Junichiro Koizumi violated the Constitution by his first visit in August 2001 to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister. At the same time, the court rejected a claim for compensation by 211 plaintiffs who were each seeking 100,000 yen on grounds the Yasukuni visit could be interpreted as an invasion of freedom of religion. "Considering the fact that he made four visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which is not necessarily the most appropriate place to pray for those who died fighting in the war, he made the visits while fully cognizant of the constitutional issues involved and based on his political intentions," the court said. "I don't understand (the constitutional judgment)," Koizumi told reporters after the verdict. Although some members of his own Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had criticized Koizumi for visiting Yasukuni, the initial reaction after the verdict was one of questioning the legal reasoning. LDP Secretary-General Shinzo Abe said: "Such verdicts occasionally come out of a district court. I don't agree with (the ruling). There are standards for determining the separation of state and religion and his visits were within the range that did not violate the Constitution." New Komeito's Akihiro Ota said: "It has become more important to establish a secular memorial for the war dead." Opposition parties were virulent in their criticism of Koizumi. Katsuya Okada, secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Japan, said Koizumi should reflect deeply on his past visits. "His visits have been too indifferent and it (the ruling) underscored his lack of realization of his role as prime minister," Okada said. Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii issued a statement that said: "Koizumi should immediately cancel all future plans to visit the shrine." Foreign nations also applauded the ruling. A spokesman for the PRC's Foreign Ministry said: "We hope that Japan's leaders will listen to the calls from various sectors and stand by the promise to reflect on the history of aggression." An official of the ROK's foreign ministry said: "A correct understanding of history is at the root of a future-oriented relationship between South Korea and Japan. We oppose any visit to Yasukuni Shrine by a Japanese prime minister." There have been six lawsuits against Koizumi's shrine visits. The verdict this time was the third and the first to determine he violated the Constitution. Claiming an important legal victory, the plaintiffs were not planning to appeal the verdict. Since Koizumi cannot, because the plaintiffs' claims were struck down, the verdict likely will stand.

The Japan Times (Nao Shimoyachi, "DIET PONDERS RAMIFICATIONS OF RULING ON YASUKUNI VISIT," 04/09/04) reported that a district court ruling on April 7 that a visit to Yasukuni Shrine by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was unconstitutional has ignited debate on the need for an independent court that specializes in constitutionality. The topic has been a focus of Diet debate on constitutional reform, which went into full swing in 2000 following the establishment of the Constitutional Research Committee in both houses of the Diet. The Constitution stipulates that the Supreme Court is "the court of last resort" and has the power to determine the constitutionality of any law, order, regulation or official act. But constitutional judgments by the top court are rare, partly because it is busy dealing with a flood of appeal cases and partly due to its restraint in passing judgment on sensitive political matters, lawmakers said. "The ruling brings up a number of questions," Yoshito Sengoku, a lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, told the Lower House constitutional committee on Thursday. He said there is a contradiction in that the district court is powerless to stop Koizumi from visiting the shrine while issuing a "grave decision" that his act violates the Constitution. He said, "Japan needs to set up a constitutional court to make a responsible judgment." Many lawmakers, however, have voiced caution against the establishment of a new court specializing in judging constitutionality.

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