South Korea’s response to North Korea’s missile test
North Korea’s test of two short-range missiles on May 9, 2019 caused increased concern for South Korea’s government. Previously, South Korea and the United States avoided “outright condemnation” of projectile launches in order to preserve nuclear negotiations, although these have since stalled. On May 9, 2019, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in in a special live interview with South Korean broadcaster KBS warned North Korea that its actions can make resumption of dialogue more difficult especially if they are repeated. He believes that the missile tests can possibly violate U.N. Security Council resolutions forbidding North Korea’s use of ballistic missile technology but was not definite. However, President Moon believes that North Korea’s actions post-missile launch are different from the past, when they used the occasion to make military threats and boast of its military capabilities. North Korea’s government has claimed that the missile tests were for defensive drills and not for provocation.
In the National Assembly, responses varied along party lines. While the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) condemned the missile tests, they advised the Moon Jae-in administration to take cautious measures and called on North Korea to return to dialogue with South Korea and the United States. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party also condemned North Korea’s action as a “provocation” and called on President Moon to take more active measures to prevent further provocations.
Despite the recent tests, President Moon still plans to look into providing food aid to North Korea. He plans to discuss the plan for food aid with South Korea’s political parties and received support from United States President Donald Trump after a phone conversation on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. According to South Korea’s government, U.S. President Trump expressed support for food aid through a U.N. agency and sees it well-timed with a recent World Food Program report on North Korea’s food situation that reported 40 percent of North Korea’s population being undernourished. After the recent missile tests, President Moon said that South Korea’s government needs to listen to public opinion and gain consensus from the National Assembly before moving forward with food aid. Analysts believe that North Korea’s actions signal a desire for more than food aid to return to nuclear talks with Washington and Seoul. North Korea itself was careful in not breaking its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. Professor Park Won-gon of Handong Global University believes that North Korea wants United States to shift from its hardline stance.
PM Lee Nak-yon's trip to Latin/South America and Kuwait
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon recently returned from an 11-day trip to five different countries. He made three official visits to Colombia, Ecuador and Kuwait as part of a push to enhance South Korean diplomacy in Latin America and the Middle East, while also stopping in Portugal and the U.S.Prime Minister Lee was accompanied by leaders of public and private South Korean businesses and state-run associations, who were on the trip to look for new business opportunities.
During his official visit to Kuwait, Prime Minister Lee requested that South Korean companies be allowed to participate in Kuwait’s infrastructure projects, and signed eight memorandums of understanding on further cooperation with the Kuwaiti prime minister. Prime Minister Lee also met the emir of Kuwait and expressed appreciation for Kuwait’s support for peace on the Korean Peninsula.During his stop in Portugal, Prime Minister Lee met with his counterpart, António Costa, and agreed to work on furthering bilateral cooperation.
In Colombia, Prime Minister Lee had talks with Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and announced an agreement to enhance cooperation in information and communication technology and infrastructure construction. Prime Minister Lee also met with Colombian veterans who fought in the Korean War. During the meeting, he expressed commitment to continue honoring the sacrifices by these Colombian soldiers during the Korean War. In Ecuador, Prime Minister Lee proposed that a business mission be sent to South Korea to enable the latter to better understand Ecuador’s strategy for attracting foreign investment. The two countries also agreed to increase their cooperation in several different sectors like renewable energy sources. The Prime Minister’s final stop was in the U.S., where he participated in the opening of a Lotte Chemical manufacturing facility in the state of Louisiana.
Despite Trilateral Talks, Japan-South Korea Bilateral Relations Remain Limited
Defense officials from the United States, Japan, and South Korea met in Seoul on Thursday, May 8, 2019 to hold trilateral security talks. This meeting marked the eleventh Defense Trilateral Talks and featured discussions largely focused on North Korea, especially its most recent weapons test. All three nations expressed a “cautious” outlook towards the tests, given that the exact nature of the weapons tested remains unknown, and re-emphasized a commitment to promoting the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
This meeting provided a rare recent example of cooperation between Japan and South Korea. In addition to the trilateral talks, the two nations also held a bilateral meeting in Seoul. Tensions remain high between the two countries due to a variety of ongoing issues. In December 2018, Japan accused a South Korean ship of locking its targeting radar on a Japanese plane. The next month, South Korean officials criticized a low-altitude Japanese patrol flight over a South Korean navy vessel as a “clear provocation.” In addition, historical issues such as wartime forced labor have persisted, with more South Korean lawsuitsfiled against Japanese firms in April.
Even though Japan and South Korea have been willing to participate in trilateral and multilateral forums, bilateral relations have remained mostly stagnant. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed interest in meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, but was less enthusiastic about meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul. However, there may be hope for change in the future. Prior to the abdication of Japanese Emperor Akihito on April 30, President Moon thanked him in a letter for working to strengthen Japan-South Korea bilateral relations. In Reiwa, the new Japanese era that began on May 1, there may be rapprochement between the two nations.
This Week in History: Buddha’s Birthday
On May 12, 2019, South Korea celebrates Buddha’s Birthday as a public holiday. The holiday is typically celebrated late April to early May depending on the eight day of the fourth month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. 20% of South Korea’s population are Buddhists. Buddha’s Birthday is intended to celebrate the life and teachings of Siddhartha Guatama, the founder of Buddhism that has spread all over Asia. South Koreans celebrate by visiting temples, hang lotus lanterns outside their homes, and engage in community service. There are also many folk performances and parades in South Korea.
Post-Hanoi Dynamics between the ROK and China
12:30 PM- 1:45 PM, Monday, May 20, 2019
The Stimson Center
1211 Connecticut Ave, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
Korea Policy Forum: “China's Envisioning of North Korea's Future, Inferred by the Summits between Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un”
Hosted by GW Institute for Korean Studies
3:30 PM- 5:00 PM, Monday, May 20, 2019
Elliott School of International Affairs
George Washington University
1957 E St. NW, Room 505
Washington, DC 20052
Cook Korean! Book Signing and Live Drawing at Femme Fatale DC
2:00 PM- 5:00 PM, Saturday, May 25, 2019
Femme Fatale DC
3224 11th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20010
2019 Summer Kickoff Happy Hour
Hosted by CAPAL
6:00 PM- 8:00 PM, Thursday, May 30, 2019
Ellipse Rooftop Bar
522 K St NW
Washington DC 20005
EuroAsia Shorts Film Festival
6:30 PM- 8:30PM, Friday, May 31, 2019
Korean Cultural Center
2370 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
Washington DC correspondent
NK News is seeking a hard-working, tenacious, and creative reporter to cover U.S. policy on North Korea from Washington DC.