Viewing cable 09SEOUL1171, A/S CAMPBELL’S MEETING WITH ROK UNIFICATION
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|09SEOUL1171||2009-07-24 07:07||2010-11-29 21:09||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Seoul|
VZCZCXYZ0001 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHUL #1171/01 2050738 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 240738Z JUL 09 FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5111 INFO RUCNKOR/KOREA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR PRIORITY RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY RHMFISS/COMUSFK SEOUL KOR PRIORITY RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
Friday, 24 July 2009, 07:38 C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 001171 SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 07/24/2019 TAGS PGOV, PREL, PINR, ECON, KN, KS SUBJECT: A/S CAMPBELL’S MEETING WITH ROK UNIFICATION MINISTER HYUN IN-TAEK Classified By: Ambassador Stephens. Reasons 1.4(b/d) ¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a July 20 meeting, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek outlined Kim Jong-il’s health and succession concerns, key figures and the current state of the DPRK for A/S Campbell. Although Kim Jong-il (KJI) remained firmly in control of the regime for now, he was unlikely to live beyond 2015. On succession, Hyun observed the current succession preparations for Kim Jung-un were “rushed,” and anticipated additional “fireworks” (either a third nuclear test or missile launches) at the end of the current 150-day campaign, scheduled to end in mid-October. North Korea would return to dialogue afterwards. North Korea is suffering from severe food shortage and devastating economic crisis caused by lack of foreign aid, economic foundation and decent harvest. The situation is worse than the 1996/ 1997 crisis, because the economic uncertainty is taking place during, not after, a power transition period. Desperate for cash, Hyun believed North Korea would sell nuclear technology to potential buyers. North Korea desired to be a “strong state,” ideologically, militarily and economically. Nuclear power would allow two of the three: ideological and military strength. The role of the DPRK Foreign Ministry diminished after Kim Gae-kwan failed to “deal with the United States.” The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) remained a source for cash for the DPRK; it was also a potential window of opportunity for inter-Korean cooperation, and at the same time a potential political liability for both Koreas. Hyun believed North Korea after KJI’s death would look very different than the current state and require economic assistance from South Korea and the United States. Hyun also underscored the importance the U.S.-ROK cooperation and believed a unified Korea should be nuclear free. END SUMMARY. -------------------------- KJI’s Heath and Succession -------------------------- ¶2. (C) While KJI’s overall political power remained “firm and strong,” his health was weakening, Hyun said. South Korean analysts believed that KJI was unlikely to live more than 3 to 5 years, although he seemed to be doing better lately. MOU had not discovered any firm basis for rumored pancreatic cancer, reports of which stemmed from a Japanese press article with a Beijing source. Wang Jiarui, Director for PRC Communist Party International Liaison Department, told Hyun that when he had met with KJI in January, Wang could not detect any scars on KJI’s head from his widely reported surgery after suffering a stroke. Also, KJI did not look as though he would die soon when he attended the 15-year commemoration of the death of his father, Kim Il-sung, on July 8. KJI remained for the entire duration of the celebration -- over three hours -- and met with his staff for about 20 minutes after the event. ¶3. (C) Hyun observed that the current, “rushed,” pace of succession preparation in the North was noteworthy. “Semi-officially,” Hyun said, the transition had started, with some power and authority already transferred to the youngest son, Kim Jong-un, who had already been recognized publicly as a “young commander” and a “brilliant star.” The current 150-day campaign, scheduled to end in mid-October, was to provide a boost to a smoother transition. Hyun said he expected further nuclear and/or missile tests in October; perhaps, after that, North Korea would return to the nuclear talks. -------------------------------- Return to Dialogue After October -------------------------------- ¶4. (C) Hyun said it was only a matter of time before North Korea returned to the nuclear talks; the only question was when. North Korea faced a severely degraded economy, serious food shortages, and a shortage of foreign currency. It could resist for a while, but not for a long time. The Five Parties, therefore, should focus on how to manage the return of North Korea to the negotiations. If the return was not well managed, there would be poor results. The United States and South Korea must apply patience and pressure. -------------------------------- The Current State of North Korea -------------------------------- ¶5. (C) According to Hyun, North Korea now faced a very difficult economic situation, similar to the conditions in 1996 and 1997. Hyun pointed out that North Korea “produces nothing” and had “no meaningful trade” with the outside world. On food, Hyun said that North Korea was now asking private ROK entities for food assistance. Hyun confirmed that the ROKG did not send food aid or fertilizer to the DPRK from 2008 to present. Having also refused U.S. food aid, the DPRK was severely suffering, and the food situation would not improve soon, Hyun said. Since early July, North Korea had suffered from unusually heavy rainfall, which would have a devastating effect on the harvest this year. ¶6. (C) On inter-Korean trade, Hyun cited data from the Korea Development Institute (KDI), which showed a sharp decrease in inter-Korean trade over the past six months. Moreover, inter-Korean projects such as Mt. Kumkang and Kaesong city tours, major sources of cash, had dried up completely because they were closed in July and December 2008. The remaining, legitimate, cash flow for the North is now the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), from which the North receives about USD 35 million for its 40,000 workers. Hyun believed that North Korea could, and would, sell nuclear technology, and even plutonium. ¶7. (C) Hyun assessed that Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests were to earn “one big deal” with the United States. North Korea wanted to be recognized as a nuclear state. North Korea’s goals were to become ideologically, militarily, and economically a strong state. Aiming to achieve “strength” in all areas by 2012, the year when North Korea will “enter the gateway to become a strong and prosperous nation,” according North Korean schedule. Hyun said the ideological goal was already achieved through Kim Il-sung’s Juche, or self-reliance, ideology. The DPRK’s aim to become a military power was “nearly achieved,” through the North’s nuclear and missile capabilities. In North Korea’s view, ideological and military strength would come from becoming a nuclear power. When North Korea would “gain strength” on all three fronts, it would also obtain the recognition and respect from the rest of the world. ----------- Key players ----------- ¶8. (C) Hyun identified Jang Sung-taek as the central figure in North Korea at the moment, probably the second-in-command. However, Jang did not oversee serious military issues, including nuclear and missile programs. On military issues, key authority was held by the National Defense Committee. Among the committee members, Hyun said Joo koo-chan was responsible for the rocket launch, and Oh Kuk-ryul and Kim Young-choon were key decision makers within the military. Other National Defense Committee members, such as Cho Myung-rok, who had met President Clinton, were not doing well because of old age. Oh Kuk-ryul and Kim Young-choon were also old, but remained active. According to Hyun’s sources, Kim Young-choon suffers from bad hearing, but remained one of KJI’s close confidants. Apparently, KJI called for Kim Young-choon twice on July 8, at the celebration of the 15th anniversary of KIS’s death -- a clear sign of influence. Hyun also identified Kim Jeong-gak as “very powerful,” but underscored that KJI still controls “everything, including the military.” ----------------------------------- Diminishing Foreign Ministry’s Role ----------------------------------- ¶9. (C) In the past, the DPRK Foreign Ministry enjoyed some of influence and power, as a check-and-balance element of the DPRK regime. Currently, that balance system has broken down and the foreign ministry’s role has diminished considerably. One reason for this downfall, according to Hyun, was the perceived failure of the Six-Party Talks (6PT) where Kim Gye-kwan did “not deal with the United States successfully.” Hyun said that the North Korean authorities expected a lot from Kim Gye-kwan, but he had “failed to deliver.” ------------------------------- Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) ------------------------------- ¶10. (C) Hyun saw the KIC as a window of opportunity for inter-Korean development, especially in introducing South Korean capitalism to the North. Run by South Korean managers and machines, the KIC provides glimpse of the South Korean way of life to over 40,000 North Korean workers and their external families. The workers’ change in appearance and way of thinking was visible, Hyun said. The 40,000 KIC workers could spread the South Korea’s way of life to their families, thus directly affecting some 150,000 people around Kaesong city. Hyun also noted that, the KIC was a divisive issue in South Korea too. The North could use KIC to “divide” the South, Hyun assessed, but still, Hyun said, most of South Korea, including the ROKG, did not want the project to fail. ----------- Way forward ----------- ¶11. (C) Hyun believed North Korea after KJI’s death would look very different, requiring considerable economic assistance from South Korea, the United States and international community. Hyun advised that in case of a sudden collapse in North Korea, the ROKG and USG should move quickly toward unification of the Korean peninsula. There was “no disagreement” among ROK agencies on this point, Hyun said. The USG could expect “full cooperation” from the ROKG; unification was the goal of South Korea. Hyun underscored the importance the U.S.-ROK cooperation and stated that a unified Korea should be nuclear free. ¶12. (U) A/S Campbell has cleared this message. STEPHENS