Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for South Korea

Newsline: US embassy says CIA chief was in South Korea for “internal meeting”

CIA director Mike Pompeo was in South Korea Monday for an “internal meeting”, the US embassy in Seoul confirmed, following reports of an unannounced visit as tensions mount over growing nuclear threats from the North. South Korea’s largest daily Chosun Ilbo reported Monday that Pompeo arrived in Seoul at the weekend and held back-to-back closed-door meetings with the head of the South’s spy agency and senior presidential officials. Citing multiple intelligence sources, it said the CIA chief provided a detailed briefing on the Trump administration’s policy on Pyongyang and assessed the internal situation of the North Korean leadership. An official at the US embassy confirmed that the CIA chief was in South Korea, but said he had a limited itinerary. “The CIA director and his wife are in Seoul for an internal meeting with the United States Forces Korea and embassy officials,” he said. “He is not meeting with any Blue House officials, nor is he meeting with any political candidates,” he added, declining to elaborate further about any other possible meetings. Pompeo’s trip comes amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula following a series of missile tests by the North and speculation that Pyongyang could be preparing to conduct another nuclear test. Pyonyang’s latest attempted show of force was a failed missile test on Saturday that came just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pressed the UN Security Council for more pressure to push the North into abandoning its weapons programme.


Newsline: South Korea Envoy Accuses Uganda’s Official Over Alleged $5,000 Bribe

The hard times dogging suspended junior Labour minister Herbert Kabafunzaki seem far from over with the embassy of South Korea now accusing him of detaining their national after he allegedly refused to pay a $5,000 (Shs18m) bribe. In an April 24 letter to Kampala Central Police Station (CPS) CID chief, and signed by Korean Consul Lee Chunghee, Mr Kabafunzaki is alleged to have asked Mr Woo Junghoon, a Korean investor, to first pay $5000 in order to secure a letter of intent to invest in Uganda. But Mr Kabafunzaki dismissed the bribery allegation on phone although he acknowledges the accusers visited his office and looked suspicious, a reason he handed them over to the ministry’s security personnel.


Newsline: Recalled Japan ambassador returns to South Korea

Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine returns to Seoul after being recalled almost three months ago in response to Korean civic groups erecting a statue of a girl symbolizing the sexual slavery victims in front of its consulate in the southern Korean port city of Busan. Yasumasa Nagamine was called back in January, in protest of a statue honoring the victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery set up by a civic group in Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan. Tokyo took the action because it felt the statue went against the spirit of the December 2015 bilateral agreement to provide support to Korean women forced to provide sex to Japanese military personnel before and during World War II. In returning the envoy, Japan has cited the need to engage with South Korea, which is in a transitional period ahead of the May 9 presidential election, and to coordinate with its neighbor in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat. Japan has repeatedly called on South Korea to “resolve” the issue of the statues following the 2015 agreement. With the recall of the envoy, Japan also postponed bilateral economic dialogue and talks on a new currency swap with South Korea.


Newsline: South Korean ministers snub meeting with Japanese ambassador

Two South Korean cabinet members have declined to meet with Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine, who recently returned to Seoul after a three-month recall, their ministries said Thursday. Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo and Defense Minister Han Min-koo turned down Nagamine’s request, citing such reasons as scheduling conflicts. The Japanese envoy has also asked to meet with acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn. The government will make a thorough decision, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters Thursday. But the odds seem slim, with the spokesperson also criticizing Nagamine for speaking publicly about his request to meet with a foreign leader before both sides had agreed to it. After arriving in Seoul on Tuesday, Nagamine said he wanted to meet with Hwang as soon as possible and urge him to affirm a commitment to a 2015 bilateral deal aimed at resolving the issue of wartime “comfort women.” South Korean media reported this comment as a breach of diplomatic protocol. Japan has called for the removal of a statue symbolizing comfort women near its embassy in Seoul, as well as another in front of its consulate in Busan. The latter had led Tokyo to temporarily recall Nagamine back in January. This has incensed the South Korean public. Most candidates in the presidential election scheduled for May 9 want to scrap or renegotiate the comfort women deal. The government is likely taking heed of such sentiment.


Newsline: China summons South Korea’s ambassador following death of Chinese fisherman

A senior Chinese diplomat has held an “emergency meeting” with South Korea’s ambassador to China and lodged a protest after the captain of a Chinese fishing boat died during a violent clash with the South Korean Coast Guard during a crackdown on illegal fishing. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao met with the South Korean ambassador to China, Kwon Young-se, and made “solemn representations” over the incident, which happened 144 kilometers off South Korea’s western coast earlier Friday, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement. Liu told Kwon that South Korea must “conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the case, punish those responsible and take measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Liu was quoted as saying in the statement. Kwon expressed “profound regrets” and “deep condolences” to the family of the captain, according to the statement. The 45-year-old Chinese skipper, only identified by his surname Song, was shot by a South Korean Coast Guard officer on the ship in waters near Wangdeung Island in Buan County, North Jeolla Province, and transferred to a hospital in the southwestern port city, where he later died, Coast Guard officials said. The scuffle erupted as South Korean Coast Guard officers confronted the Chinese boat over illegal fishing. According to the South Korean Coast Guard, the Chinese fishermen resisted violently with knives and beer bottles during the raid. A South Korean officer fired shots from a K-5 pistol as warnings, but the shots were not specifically aimed at the captain, according to the Coast Guard. In 2011, a South Korean Coast Guard officer was killed by Chinese fishermen during a raid against illegal fishing in South Korean waters.


Newsline: Senate approves new US ambassador to South Korea

The Senate has confirmed Pentagon chief of staff Mark Lippert as the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea. Lippert, 41, was a foreign policy adviser on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He also served as assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and chief of staff for the National Security Council. He served in the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was an intelligence officer. Lippert will replace Sung Kim, who was the first Korean-American to hold the post. Kim is tipped to replace Glyn Davies as chief envoy to North Korea and also serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korean affairs.


Newsline: South Korea Sends Diplomat to Palestine Separate from Israel

A diplomat representing the Korean government has been officially dispatched to Palestine. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 28, Park Woong-cheol, the newly appointed representative to the State of Palestine, began working around the clock at the office in Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital, from the 25th with one local employee. Although the Korean government opened a representative office in Palestine in 2005, there was no full-time diplomat and instead a counselor at the Korean Embassy in Israel crossed the border twice a week to perform the necessary work. The main reason the government assigned a full-time diplomat in Palestine separate from Israel has to do with the fact that it is aware of the increasing importance of the Arab World to Korea in terms of trade opportunities other than energy. The government recently offered to donate US$1 million to the Palestine government to help rebuild the Gaza Strip that was severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes.