US-S.Korea must take blame for North’s nuclear move; provocation heightens insecurity, sabotages stability

North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute on Wednesday claimed that it has reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor in a written interview with Japan’s Kyodo News. It also disclosed that its Yongbyon nuclear facilities have produced uranium needed for nuclear armaments. At a time when Beijing and Seoul are in a tug of war on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, Pyongyang has thrown a bombshell.

North Korea mothballed the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 under the Six-Party Talks accord, but began renovating it amid the confrontation with the US and South Korea in 2013. Kyodo’s report suggested that North Korea has resumed its reprocessing facilities and its nuclear reactor is in full swing.

This is a dilemma facing China, the US and South Korea. The choice of the latter two is simple. The more nuclear activities North Korea will carry out, the greater pressure they will impose on it. But their tactics are of no help in solving the problem.

Given the increasing risks of a military strike by the US and South Korea and subversion of the regime, Pyongyang seemingly has no other choice but to intensify its efforts in developing nuclear power. China seems to have the most options, but that has put the country in a predicament. Beijing has cooled down its relations with Pyongyang and imposed the toughest ever sanctions against it over the past several years.

Complaints from South Korea that China hasn’t pressured Pyongyang enough have often been heard. Seoul hopes Beijing and Pyongyang will openly turn against each other. It is even better for Seoul to see the North targets its nuclear weapons at China. Meanwhile, Pyongyang blames Beijing for taking the wrong side.

China should stay unwavering to pursue denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, it should hold firm to opposing any strategic military deployment by the US that will cause threats to China’s security under the excuse of dealing with the Peninsula situation. North Korea’s resumption of uranium production further complicates the Korean Peninsula situation. But currently, China should pay more attention to THAAD.

Pyongyang has paid the price for developing nuclear weapons, so should the US and South Korea for deploying THAAD. Any resolution by the UN Security Council to denounce North Korea and adopt new sanctions should be associated with the THAAD issue. The US and South Korea should take the blame if THAAD impairs the effectiveness of sanctions against the North. Nonetheless, Pyongyang shouldn’t feel relieved. It would rather be totally isolated from the international community before it gives up its nuclear ambition.

China objects to North Korea’s nuclear tests and war on the Peninsula. But once large-scale military conflicts break out, the North and South Korea will take the brunt. China doesn’t need to feel more anxious than them. Global Times

S. Korea-US provocation heightens DPRK’s insecurity, sabotages regional stability

Under the pressure of South Korea-US military drill and the widely disputed THAAD deployment, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) reportedly fired a ballistic missile early Wednesday, sending a strong signal that Washington and its allies are risking turning the region into a powder keg.

If confirmed, the missile launch would be a new violation of UN resolutions. However, the fact that it came two days after the South Korea-US drill simulating an all-out attack by the DPRK merits a closer look at its motivation.

Denounced as aggression and provocation by the DPRK, the two-week Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises will surely not make Seoul safer. Rather, it might compel Pyongyang to take even more reckless actions for the sake of its own security.

In fact, the United States and South Korea have been warned in advance by the north. Calling the South Korea-US exercises the “most undisguised physical measure and provocative action,” the DPRK has vowed to “foil all hostile acts and threat of aggression and provocation with the Korean-style nuclear deterrence.”

Within that context, the launch could be regarded as a tit-for-tat move of Pyongyang.

Washington and Seoul are playing a dangerous game. They are holding a wolf by the ears in the hope that their sabre-rattling would deter the DPRK. However, their plan dooms to be a wishful thinking, as muscle-flexing leads to nowhere but a more anxious, more agitating and thus more unpredictable Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the launch, already the fourth missile fired by the DPRK after the announcement of THAAD’s deployment on July 8, could be interpreted as a protest against the planned installation of the system.

It also serves a reminder to policymakers in Seoul that by allowing the THAAD deployment, South Korea is putting the cart before the horse in their pursuit of national security, as the key to security lies in good neighborly and friendly relations with its neighbors, rather than a bunch of US-made missiles.

The increasingly complicated and stinging situation in East Asia needs to be cooled down before it is too late, and at this moment, what the region needs is cool heads instead of miscalculations. The ongoing trilateral meeting among Chinese, Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers offers a golden opportunity. – Xinhua

Related:   DPRK fires submarine-launched missile as S.Korea-U.S. war games kick off

The DPRK on Wednesday test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off
its east coast into the sea at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the start of annual South Korea-U.S. war games, Seoul’s military said.

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Women driving car market growth

Women seek foreign brand cars for style, performance and confidence boost.

SEOUL: After years of driving Korean cars, Chung Ji-eun, a 33-year-old businesswoman, recently purchased a Benz C-Class sedan for herself.

“I used to enjoy shopping for European designers’ bags or shoes. But the satisfaction level with the Benz was the highest,” she said.

“I like the luxury design and performance. But, above all, I feel more confident driving alongside the tough male drivers on the road.”

The number of female drivers has surged in Korea since 2000. By the end of 2011, female drivers made up 29.5% of the nation’s drivers, up from 19% 10 years ago.

With their number growing recently, female drivers are expanding their presence in the local car market, especially the market for import car brands that are seeing soaring popularity.
For Korea’s largest car maker Hyundai Motor, 25% of customers are women. At the same time, the figure for import cars is 40% on average.

Hyundai, which claims about 40% of the domestic car market, said it is very difficult to figure out the exact number of female customers in Korea since many of them buy cars in the name of their husband or father.

Thus far, compact cars with cute styles such as Nissan’s Cube and BMW’s Mini have been favoured by female drivers here.

“For all Nissan cars, the male-female ratio is about 6:4. But for the pastel-coloured Cube, the figure is nearly 5:5,” said a Nissan Korea spokesperson.

“I feel the preference of females has become a more important factor in choosing cars (to sell) here.”

According to BMW Korea, the biggest selling foreign brand in Korea, 40% of their customers are also female.

A rising trend is the moderate growth in the number of women choosing sport utility vehicles in recent years, a BMW Korea PR official said.

“The age of our drivers is getting younger and the rate is more aggressive.

“And the number of female SUV drivers is increasing 2% to 3% every year nowadays,” he said.

Of the total BMW SUV drivers, female drivers accounted for 26% in 2011, up from 21% in 2009 and 24% in 2010.

Drivers say import cars are easier for women to drive as most of them are high-performance, luxury vehicles. Of course, the nation’s never-abating appetite for luxury goods may have also affected the growing trend.

Roh Hyun-jung, 50, drives the BMW 5-Series sedan that she bought two years ago on the recommendation of her husband, who still drives a Korean car.

Driving a BMW requires a middle-aged woman like me to spend less energy. The luxurious interior design was also another reason for choosing the car,” she said.

Kim Jeon-kyu, who teaches at a local driver’s training institute, gave an interesting perspective based on a driving culture unique to Korea.

“I sometimes recommend my female students to buy an import car,” he said.

“Female drivers, especially those who have just started driving, are highly likely to be bullied by tough male drivers here. But if you drive a luxury car, they would just avoid you because they are well aware of the high maintenance costs.”

Korea Herald By Lee Ji-Yoon, AsianNewsNetwork

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Who is this mystery woman from North Korea?

Mystery woman with North Korea‘s new leader Kim Jong-un stirs speculation

Singer or sister? Speculation is rife over who this woman is. Photo: AFP/KCNA via KNS

A mystery woman pictured accompanying North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un to recent events has prompted speculation in Seoul about whether she is his partner or his younger sister.

The North’s state television on Sunday aired footage of the woman joining Kim Jong-un as he paid tribute to his late grandfather Kim Il-sung on the anniversary of his death in 1994.

Some South Korea media reports suggested she was Kim’s younger sister Yo-Jong. Others suggested she may be Kim’s wife or lover.

Top officials including ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam and army chief Ri Yong-ho accompanied the leader to Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace, where the embalmed body of the nation’s first president lies in state.

WHo is she ... Kim Jong-un is pictured during a visit to  Kumsusan Palace with an unidentified woman.Who is she? Kim Jong-un is pictured during a visit to Kumsusan Palace with an unidentified woman. Photo: AFP/North Korean TV

The TV footage showed the woman, apparently in her twenties or thirties, walking next to the leader. She bowed with him before a portrait of Kim Il-sung.

The short-haired woman, clad in a black suit, was also pictured sitting next to Kim Jong-un at a concert by a state orchestra on Friday.Some South Korea media reports suggested she was Kim’s younger sister Yo-Jong, who is believed to have studied in Switzerland along with him in the 1990s. Others suggested she may be Kim’s wife or lover.

This screen grab shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, centre, with a mystery woman paying tribute to his late grandfather Kim Il-sung.This screen grab shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, centre, with a mystery woman paying tribute to his late grandfather Kim Il-sung. Photo: AFP/North Korean TV

Seoul’s intelligence agency and unification ministry, in charge of cross-border affairs, declined to comment.

The speculation highlighted the degree of secrecy in the North about the private lives of its rulers.

Kim Jong-un took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-il last December but the outside world does not even know his exact age.

An unidentified woman pictured standing behind Kim Jong-un during mourning for his late father last December was identified by some sources as the new leader’s younger sister.

JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said the woman pictured in recent days may be Hyon Song-wol, a famous state singer rumoured to be the leader’s lover.

It said she disappeared from public view in 2006 but was seen on TV again in March, apparently late in pregnancy.

“Hyon was a friend of Kim since they were teenagers and there is a rumour among the North’s elites that she was his lover,” it quoted an unidentified Seoul intelligence official as saying.

But Yang Moo-jin of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies said there was “little chance” the mystery woman was Kim’s partner, given that the country’s past first ladies have rarely made public appearances with leaders.

“She could be Yo-Jong or perhaps a daughter of one of the mistresses of the late Kim Jong-il … so that Jong-un can publicly showcase the solidarity in the ruling family,” Yang said.

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