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Moon says Korean peninsula can learn from Europe on how to build security and peace

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Europe has recently brought its relationship with the Indo-Pacific to the fore presenting an EU Indo-Pacific strategy, at the same time tensions between Europe and the United States developed over the AUKUS pact, when Australia snubbed France in favour of a US, UK and Australia deal to provide nuclear-powered submarines, has put the region in the spotlight and raised fears of an arms race and a Cold War like situation developing vis-a-vis China. 

EU Reporter spoke to Chung-in Moon about the risks in the region. Dr Moon is the Chair of the prestigious Sejong Institute and vice chair of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. Moon has raised concern about a nuclear domino effect in the region, following a rocky recent years: “It’s like a roller coaster, sometimes relations are good, then they turn bad. In 2017 we saw crisis and escalation, then we had a sudden breakthrough, and two summits between the leaders of North and South Korea, and South Korea was able to mediate between Pyongyang and Washington. Therefore, I would say that the year 2018 was the year of hope and peace. Then 2019, President Trump, who had the summit meeting with his counterpart Chairman Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February 2018, where the meeting went badly, leading to a situation of stalemate. I would say that the current state on the Korean peninsula is a period of stalemate and quasi crisis.”

There has been great concern at the DPRK’s nuclear testing and the firing of 15 ballistic missiles, including Hwasung-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile. 

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While South Korea (ROK) has been prudent preferring to settle disputes through diplomacy, there is growing public support in favour of independent nuclear weapons. This is also the case in Japan where nuclear for non-civil purposes has long been a taboo, politicians and opinion leaders are increasingly considering this as a possible option. 

Asked what the EU could do to be of help, Dr Moon said that the EU could play a very important role in resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. The EU could improve its diplomatic relations with North Korea and persuade North Korea to engage in dialogue and negotiation at the same time. Moon says that the EU could also play a very important role in mitigating the rising tension between Beijing and Washington: “If there is a new Cold War between the United States and China, it will have catastrophic outcomes. Instead of taking sides, it is very important for the EU to play the role of preventing any major confrontation between the two big powers. 

“Finally, I've been emphasizing that we have a lot to learn from Europe, European experience. Europe has been very, very successful in promoting multilateral security cooperation efforts. countries in our part of the world want to learn from Europe, on how to build security, how to build peace and how to strengthen confidence building measures.”

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Dr Moon was speaking at a Brussels Press Club event co-hosted with the Korean Cultural Center: ‘Between Alliance and Strategic Partner: US-China rivalry and South Korea’s strategic choice’.

North Korea

North Korea threatens to upstage South Korea defence expo with duelling military show

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South Korea will hold its biennial defence fair in Seoul next week, just days after North Korea opened a highly unusual military exhibition that analysts said may be partly aimed at stealing some thunder from Seoul amid a growing arms race, writes Josh Smith.

The events highlight the latest developments both Koreas have made as they press forward with major expansions of already substantial military capabilities - including sometimes mirror-image moves.

"North Korea must have purposefully timed their defence exhibition this week to gain traction from the international community ahead of South Korea's scheduled show to sell their weapons systems abroad," said Cho Jin-soo, former president of the Korean Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences. "They are piggybacking on the South to sell the weapons and delivering a message of 'forget me not.'”

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Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (ADEX) has been held every two years since 2009, in contrast to North Korea's, which was not announced in advance.

"There's likely to have been a number of considerations that resulted in this event, however, not least of which the fact that they appear to be gearing up for another period of increased tensions and confrontation," said Joost Oliemans, a specialist focused on North Korean military capabilities.

In a speech opening the exhibition on Monday, leader Kim Jong Un pointed to a military buildup by South Korea as one justification for the North's military, and reiterated complaints that North Korea's defence developments are treated differently than those in other countries.

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Although superficially similar and conspicuously timed, the two events are quite different, and the two Koreas do not compete for the same customers.

Sanctioned over its nuclear programme and with borders closed to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak, North Korea's event has been visited by officials from around the country, according to state media, but no major international delegations.

In recent years a United Nations panel of experts monitoring international sanctions has accused North Korea of continuing to export arms, and conduct military cooperation with countries such as Syria and Myanmar.

Festooned with paintings and other images of Kim, the North Korean show is also as much about idolizing the country's leader as displaying new weapons, said Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst with the 38 North project, which tracks North Korea.

South Korea, meanwhile, says ADEX will feature 440 companies from 28 countries. About 300 military and defence officials from 45 countries, including defence ministers, are expected to attend, organisers have said.

Displays are expected to include South Korea's latest defence technology, including hydrogen-fueled drones, virtual reality-based training systems, laser weapons, and multi-purpose unmanned vehicles.

The centrepiece will be South Korea's prototype KF-21 next-generation fighter jet, as well as guided weapons such as missiles, said an aviation expert with the knowledge of the plans. South Korea will likely be eyeing potential international vendors to provide it with tanker aircraft technology.

Other, more civilian-focused displays will feature "urban air mobility" technology for air taxis, and satellite launch rockets, the expert said.

Kang Eun-ho, South Korea's minister for the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), declined to comment on any potential deals in the works during ADEX, but told reporters on Thursday that he hoped the show provides an opportunity to "read the arc and trend" of global defence developments.

GROWING WEAPONS PROGRAMMES

Kallman Worldwide, a company that organises the U.S. presence at aerospace and defence shows around the world, said "nuclear sabre-rattling" by North Korea as well as efforts to defuse those tensions through diplomacy have made ADEX "uniquely framed with extra urgency and intrigue."

"Driving the discussion, defence budget increases largely aimed at countering Kim Jong Un’s nuclear programs are spiking supplier interest in the show," the company said in a pitch for ADEX on its website.

South Korea has approved major increases in its defence budget in recent years, aiming to counter the North and wean itself off American support while expanding its military export industry.

The Ministry of National Defense has proposed a defence budget of 55.23 trillion won ($47.6 billion) for 2022, a year-on-year increase of 4.5%.

North Korea's decision to stage its exhibition - complete with data cards for each weapon - was "very rare" for a country that more typically shows off its arsenal in parades, said Joseph Dempsey, a defence researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Among the potential new weapons were a ballistic missile with an apparent manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle, which would allow the warhead to steer itself toward its target; and a previously unseen missile displayed next to the North's submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).

The mystery missile is smaller than existing SLBMs, potentially presenting an easier pathway to an operational ballistic missile submarine, which South Korea has recently demonstrated with an SLBM launch, Dempsey said.

When asked about North Korea's show, the South's defence ministry said it was assessing the displayed weapons in coordination with the United States.

A large number of conventional weapons were also displayed, including anti-ship, anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, drones, and new small arms such as sniper rifles, Oliemans said.

"What we're seeing is a mixture of recently developed systems and prototypical designs," he said.Reporting by Josh Smith

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North Korea

North Korea fires missile, accuses US of 'double standards'

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North Korea fired a missile towards the sea off its east coast on Tuesday (28 September), South Korea's military said, as Pyongyang called on the United States and South Korea to scrap their "double standards" on weapons programmes to restart talks, write Hyonhee Shin, David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Kim Chang-Ran in Tokyo.

The missile was launched from the central north province of Jagang at around 6:40 a.m. (2140 GMT), the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Japan's defence ministry said it appeared to be a ballistic missile, without elaborating.

The latest test underscored the steady development of North Korea's weapons systems, raising the stakes for stalled talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief.

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The launch came just before North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations urged the United States to give up its hostile policy towards Pyongyang and said no one could deny his country's right to self defence and to test weapons.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in ordered aides to conduct a detailed analysis of the North's recent moves.

"We regret that the missile was fired at a time when it was very important to stabilise the situation of the Korean peninsula," defence ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan told a briefing.

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The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the launch highlighted "the destabilising impact" of the North's illicit weapons programmes, while the U.S. State Department also condemned the test.

At the UN General Assembly, North Korea's U.N. envoy, Kim Song, said the country was shoring up its self-defence and if the United States dropped its hostile policy and "double standards," it would respond "willingly at any time" to offers to talks. Read more.

A South Korean soldier walks along a military fence near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Korean Unification flags defaced by strong wind hang on a military fence near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

"But it is our judgment that there is no prospect at the present stage for the U.S. to really withdraw its hostile policy," Kim said.

Referring to a call by Moon last week for a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, Kim said Washington needed to permanently stop joint military exercises with South Korea and remove "all kinds of strategic weapons" on and around the peninsula.

The United States stations various cutting edge military assets including nuclear bombers and fighter jets in South Korea, Guam and Japan as part of efforts to keep not only North Korea but also an increasingly assertive China in check.

Kim's speech was in line with Pyongyang's recent criticism that Seoul and Washington denounce its weapons development while continuing their own military activities. Read more.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has said the North is willing to improve inter-Korean ties and consider another summit if Seoul abandons its double standards and hostile policy toward Pyongyang. Read more.

"The conditions she suggested were essentially to demand that the North be accepted as a nuclear weapons state," said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul.

"Their goal is to achieve that prestige and drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, taking advantage of Moon's craving for diplomatic legacy as his term is running out."

Moon, a liberal who has prioritised inter-Korean ties, sees declaring an end to the Korean War, even without a peace treaty to replace an armistice, as a way to revive denuclearisation negotiations between the North and the United States.

However, Moon, who has been in office for a single term, faces sagging popularity ahead of a presidential election in March.

Hopes for ending the war were raised after a historic summit between Kim Jong Un and then U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in 2018. But that possibility, and the momentum for talks came to nothing, with talks stalled since 2019.

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Japan

Commissioner Breton in Asia to discuss digital and tech matters

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This week, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton (pictured) will travel to Japan and South Korea to engage with officials and industry leaders on digital and tech matters. This will be an opportunity to discuss with Asian partners the upcoming European Chips Act and develop contacts on the broader digital partnership agreements with Japan and Korea, which were announced in the EU Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Today (28 September), Commissioner Breton will meet the Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda; Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama; Digital Transformation Minister Takuya Hirai; the Chairman of the Board of NEC Nobuhiro Endo and the CEO of Fujitsu Takahito Tokita. The following day, on 29 September, Commissioner Breton will meet with Mr Toshiki Kawai, the CEO of Tokyo Electron (TEL), one of the major Japanese semiconductor companies, and attend a round table discussion with business representatives. On 30 September and 1 October, Commissioner Breton will be in South Korea to meet with officials and industry leaders.

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