Weekly News Brief – 30 Nov 2010
Food Aid and Food Security
- SK has retrieved aid shipments from Dandong, China, that were on route to NK flood victims. It has also banned civic groups — including the Red Cross — from sending relief supplies to NK.
- Samaritan’s Purse – one of the few aid agencies in NK may have to suspend operations because of increased donor fatigue following the attacks. The charity’s activities have included airlifting relief supplies, equipping TB treatment centres and providing mobile clinics.
- UN Special Rapporteur Darusman urged SK and the international community to send aid to the NK people and engage in dialogue with the govt (full text).
- Daily NK reports that KJU has been associated with the ‘self defence retaliatory attack’ on Yeonpyeong Island.
- Undercover journalists have released film of a woman berating a policeman for soliciting a bribe and a young emaciated woman scavenging for food.
- NK has seemingly recalled labourers from the far east of Russia since the Yeonpyeong island attacks.
- General piece on NK including the state of public health.
- Hanawon has signed a MOU with Sajoewi (civic group) and Seoul Medical Center, aimed at reducing medical bills and providing an improved medical service.
- Wikileaks reveals that in April 2009 US embassy in Beijing’s chargé d’affaires Dan Picutta asked Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister He Yaifei for help in expediting the exit from China of two NK refugees taking refuge in the US embassy compound.
- A foundation was set up two months ago to boost the private sector’s employment of NK refugees. The SK govt reports it has made changes to help refugees get jobs by: assisting defectors to start up social and private enterprises; Hiring more North Korean refugees in the public sector; Enhancing employment support such as tax credits and financial benefits.
International Politics and Security
- NK and China signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation and discussed boosting trade relations on the day of the Yeonpyeong Island attack. The very next day a second Chinese delegation including the Chinese Minister for Public Health was in Pyongyang to sign an agreement on cooperation on public health and medical science. Meanwhile China’s Foreign Minister Yang suddenly postponed a visit to SK that had been announced before the attack “due to his schedule”. China also voiced opposition to current US-ROK military drills that include the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, but in less harsh tones to their opposition to the drills that followed the Cheonan sinking. Hopes that China will reign in NK are in vain.
- SK’s Defence Minister resigned in the fall-out of the attack, and SK changed its military’s rules of engagement to make it easier to retaliate with greater force and will also beef up island defences to better protect against artillery attacks.
- SK has extended its ban on travel into NK. There are now just 246 SKs at Kaesong, down from around 780 at the time of the attack.
- UNSC diplomats are reportedly in consultations and could make a statement on the Yeonpyeong Island attacks in the next few days.
- Japan is considering ‘other approaches’ after deciding the chances of resuming the SPT are slim and sanctions against NK have not made progress – unclear what this means yet but eventually the possibility of the ‘remilitarisation’ of Japan and closer US-Japan security cooperation has the potential to become a major cost to China of NK threat. (NB: Japan is already 7th biggest military spender in world despite not having ‘normal’ military).
- China has called for an emergency SPT session (without calling it SPT) in early December. This is a thinly vieled attempt to jumpstart the SPT process over the top of US and SK’s publicly stated reluctance to rejoin it. SK, US and Japan did not immediately reject the proposal but the US has now dismissed it as ‘PR activities’.
Wikileaks / Cablegate
- The closed box of diplomacy has been ripped open, and the ramifications will be bigger than just the current news bonanza.
- Among the revelations (NYT, Guardian), all sorts of speculation about the succession, NK’s missile technology proliferation to Iran, younger Chinese officials’ doubts about NK as an ally, Chinese officials estimate they could absorb 300,000 NK refugees without outside help in case of instability, Chinese official claiming Nov 2009 currency revaluation was favoured by KJU and designed to secure his succession, and the inside view is that KJI is a ‘flabby old chap’. A lot to digest and more to come.
- NB: information contained in the leaked cables is often second-hand (for instance SK officials telling US officials about a conversation with Chinese officials) and sometimes represent the view of a particular govt official rather than the whole govt or any kind of ‘secret govt policy’. Sensationalist headlines should be treated with care, but nonetheless the info in the cables is valuable and the publicisation of this information will have as yet unclear but real effects on diplomacy.
- Boston.com picture set of the aftermath of the Yeongpyeong Island attack.