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Links 1 through 10 of 2207 CSIS Korea Chair's Bookmarks

North Korea on Wednesday denounced Seoul's refusal of its demand for a joint investigation into three drones found in South Korea, saying a preliminary result that pointed at Pyongyang's involvement is a "malicious slander." South Korea's defense ministry last week said the drones recently discovered in inter-Korean border areas were produced and sent by North Korea for spying purposes, though the conclusive evidence has yet to be found. On Tuesday, the North's powerful National Defense Commission accused South Korea of fabricating the latest case to shift the responsibility for the current heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, calling for a joint probe to clarify suspicions surrounding the small unmanned aerial vehicles.

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Despite renewed inter-Korean tension, South Korea has started preparatory work for building a peace park inside the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), officials said Wednesday. As part of efforts to boost inter-Korean ties, President Park Geun-hye proposed that the two Koreas build an international park inside the last-remaining Cold War frontier. For the outreach project to Pyongyang, Seoul set aside 40.2 billion won (US$38.4 million) in this year's budget. Members of the task force team at Seoul's Ministry of Unification visited three candidate cities -- Paju in Gyeonggi Province, and Cheorwon and Goseong in Gangwon Province -- several times in February and March for field investigations.

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China's chief nuclear envoy had "productive" consultations Monday with U.S. officials on ways to revive the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, the U.S. government said. Wu Dawei, the Chinese special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, met with Daniel Russel, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, according to the department. They had a "productive set of discussions on North Korea," it said in a news release.

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South Korea's parliament ratified a defense-cost sharing pact with the United States Wednesday after months of wrangling between rival parties over the transparency of its execution. The Special Measure Agreement (SMA) calls for Seoul to share the cost of stationing 28,500 American troops in South Korea. In January, Seoul and Washington renewed the agreement, with the South agreeing to pay 920 billion won (US$886 million) this year for the upkeep of the U.S. troops, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier. The ratification bill passed 131-26, with 35 abstentions.

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South Korea and Japan agreed Wednesday to hold regular director general-level talks on the Japanese imperial army's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II in their first meeting on the contentious diplomatic issue, a foreign ministry official here said Wednesday. The Wednesday meeting between the director generals for Northeast Asian affairs from Seoul and Tokyo -- Lee Sang-deok and Junichi Ihara -- was the neighbors' first official negotiations to tackle the sexual enslavement issue, which has long been a vexing source of diplomatic tension between Seoul and Tokyo. Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea and China, were coerced into working at front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during the war. The grievances of the 55 known South Korean survivors remain unresolved.

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South Korea on Tuesday rejected North Korea's demand that the rival Koreas conduct a joint investigation into drones that Seoul claimed Pyongyang had sent to the South for spying purposes. South Korea said last week that it believes North Korea was the origin of three unmanned aerial vehicles that crashed near the heavily guarded border area in the South, though conclusive evidence has yet to be found. "In no case would a suspect be allowed to investigate evidence of his own crime," a presidential official told reporters. He asked not to be identified, citing policy.

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One Navy petty officer dispatched to a South Korean contingency in Somalia went missing during an escort mission in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday, prompting a search operation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. The 22-year-old officer, identified only by his surname Ha, disappeared early Tuesday while a South Korean destroyer was escorting three ships to Port of Mukalla, Yemen, the JCS said. Helicopters and ships have been dispatched to nearby waters, while sailors are searching compartments of the 4,500-ton ship to find him, it said.

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South Korea's parliamentary committee for foreign affairs on Tuesday passed a bill ratifying a defense-cost sharing pact with the United States following months of wrangling between rival parties over its terms. In January, Seoul and Washington renewed the Special Measure Agreement (SMA) on sharing the cost of stationing 28,500 American troops in South Korea, with the South agreeing to pay 920 billion won (US$867 million) this year for the upkeep of the U.S. troops, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier. Parliamentary ratification of the pact has been delayed due to opposition protests that it requires Seoul to pay more than is necessary.

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South Korea and Japan will hold high-level talks in Seoul this week on the latter's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, with attention focused on Tokyo's stance on the emotive issue, officials said Tuesday. The director general-level meeting, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, will be the first venue reserved for addressing the wartime atrocity, which remains a cause of frayed bilateral ties. Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea and China, were coerced into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers during World War II. They are euphemistically called comfort women.

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The U.S. government may return a set of Korean national treasures, shipped out of the country by an American soldier during the Korean War, when President Barack Obama visits Seoul next week, diplomatic sources here said Monday. "The two sides are in the final stage of consultations to complete relevant procedures," a source said. There is a possibility that the process will finish ahead of Obama's departure for Asia next Tuesday, added the source. Obama is expected to arrive in Seoul on April 25, following a three-day stay in Tokyo.

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