[Watch Report 13] To Prevent Deterioration of the Korean Situation Caused by Military Incidents, International Support to Utilize the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee Is Recommended
- 2019.08.02 (11:29:09)
Watch Report No.13
To Prevent Deterioration of the Korean Situation Caused by Military Incidents, International Support to Utilize the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee Is Recommended
Aug. 2, 2019
The Watch Project has been concerned about the risk that particular military actions or incidents would trigger deterioration of the denuclearization and peace process of the Korean Peninsula, which would have a significant impact on Japan as well. Recent moves related to the US-ROK joint military exercise “Dong Maeng (Alliance) 19-2” and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s launches of a new-type tactical guided weapon have demonstrated that such a risk still exists.
Missile launches in May
Let us briefly look back on the missile launches conducted by the DPRK last May. On May 4, the DPRK conducted a “strike drill” with the purpose of testing the operational capability of large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons. Additionally, on May 9, the DPRK fired short-range missiles towards the Japan Sea (the East Sea of Korea). The DPRK insisted that all the launches were part of the “regular and self-defensive military drill” and criticized those who discussed these launches and exaggerated their significance.
Media of various countries reacted strongly to DPRK’s missile launches. Leading media uniformly covered the launches in headline articles containing comments of experts that the missile firings would be a violation of UN Security Council sanctions resolutions (UNSCR) or were the first step towards the DPRK’s reverting to its past brinkmanship, as launches of short-range missiles would eventually escalate into those of long-range missiles, etc. Responding to the tone of some media coverage, with the exception of foreign policy hard-liners such as US National Security Advisor John Bolton, both US and South Korean authorities made efforts to calm the situation. For instance, on May 22, in his speech at the Land Forces Pacific (LANPAC) Symposium in Hawaii, General Robert Abrams, commander of US Forces Korea, said that recent drills by North Korea including missile launches are part of its regular military operations and “have not changed the palpable reduction of tensions on the peninsula”. Additionally, on May 25, US President Trump said in a Twitter post that, “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me”. The South Korean government, while recognizing that the DPRK fired short-range missiles, nevertheless suspended its judgment to the end whether those missiles were ballistic missiles subjected to UNSCRs.
As described above, DPRK’s missile launches in May provoked a large international reaction, much of which inflamed public opinion to conclude that the DPRK was trying to break its commitments again. This circumstance risked having a negative impact on negotiations for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, the leading figures of the US government and the South Koran government made efforts to calm down the situation.
The power demonstration fire of missiles to destroy F-35 of South Korean Air Force
Regarding the two short-range missiles launched by the DPRK in the early morning of July 25, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the launch was “the power demonstration fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon” and “part of the power demonstration to send a solemn warning to south Korean military warmongers,” conducted under the guidance of Kim Jong Un . The distinguishing feature of the missile launch was that it was conducted targeting South Korea.
There were two direct motivations for the missile launch of July 25. Both of them are derived from South Korea’s security policy which has long been maintained under the Mutual Defense Treaty Between the US and the Republic of Korea. One of the motivations is the arrival of two more ultramodern F35A stealth fighter jets on July 15 which the Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Force bought from the US. The other is the US-ROK joint military exercise, “Dong Maeng 19-2”, which is about to be conducted in August. Regarding these two motivations, the DPRK said that both violate the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain,” Annex of the September 2018 Pyongyang Joint Declaration.
In coverage of the missile launch of July 25, a large number of Japanese media referred only to the latter issue of the US-ROK joint military exercise. DPRK’s strong protest against the resumption of the US-ROK joint military exercise in the situation where the delay of US-DPRK working-level negotiations was drawing close attention was probably the reason why the latter issue was highlighted. However, in reality, the former issue bears more difficult implications on both the DPRK’s security and future peace and denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula. In fact, attention should be paid to the fact that right before the new-type missiles were launched, the DPRK had warned that they would develop and test the armaments to destroy the F-35As on land.
On July 11, four days before two more F-35A stealth fighter jets arrived at Cheongju Air Force Base in South Korea, the Policy Research Director, Institute for American Studies of the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the stealth fighter an “invisible lethal weapon” and insisted that its additional deployment “is aimed at securing military supremacy over the neighboring countries in the region and especially opening a ‘gate’ to invading the north in time of emergency on the Korean peninsula.” The Director warned that “We, on our part, have no other choice but to develop and test the special armaments to completely destroy the lethal weapons reinforced in South Korea” . The test-firing of July 25 is considered to be conducted in order to test those very special armaments mentioned above. The KCNA article of July 26 said that a new type of tactical guided weapon which was test-fired has “the specific features of the low-attitude gliding and leaping flight orbit, which would be hard to intercept” . It is safe to say that the DPRK conducted “the power demonstration fire” of missiles which are able to avoid interception by ballistic missile defense systems deployed in South Korea and can attack targets on land (namely, F35As on the airbase).
Therefore, while the US adopted a wait-and-see attitude, taking the position that the new-type tactical guided weapon isn’t a new threat, the ROK Defense Force made no secret that they recognized DPRK’s new military capability as a threat to them . However, both the US and the South Korean governments maintained their similarly restrained stance as they had in May when they tried not to let the DPRK’s firing to have a negative impact on ongoing US-DPRK talks.
DPRK’s strong criticism against the US-ROK joint military exercise
DPRK’s missile launch in July can be interpreted as DPRK’s reaction to the ROK Armed Forces’ introduction of new weapons and modernization from two perspectives: faithful implementation of inter-Korean Summit Declarations and DPRK’s military countermeasures.
Regarding the issue of holding the US-ROK joint military exercise, “Dong Maeng 19-2”, the name of which was later changed to ease the DPRK’s opposition, the DPRK targeted the US and sent a message of strong criticism while linking it to the plan of US-DPRK working-level talks. This reflects the situation where in backroom diplomatic negotiations to resume working-level talks, no unconventional proposal based on “a new method of calculation”  from the US side which the DPRK has called for has been made. To obtain such a proposal based on “a new method of calculation,” the DPRK has been trying to remind the US of the significance of the US commitments in Singapore to suspend the US-ROK joint military exercises.
On July 16, a spokesperson for the DPRK Foreign Ministry made the following counterargument against the explanation by the US and South Korea that the “Dong Maeng 19-2” is different from past US-ROK military exercises, both in its scale and intention . “It is an actual drill and a rehearsal of war aimed at militarily occupying our Republic by surprise attack and rapid dispatch of large-scale reinforcements under the cloak of ‘containment’ and ‘counter-offensive’ in time of emergency.” Additionally, after mentioning DPRK’s discontinuation of the nuclear and ICBM tests and US suspension of joint military exercises, the spokesperson stated that although they are not an agreement inscribed on paper, they are “commitments made to improve bilateral relations.” He described the current situation where, in spite of that, only the DPRK has kept its commitment while the US has been breaking its commitments, and warned as follows: “With the US unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the US as well.” Based on that statement by the DPRK, a large number of media reported that the DPRK implied that “if the US-ROK joint military exercise is conducted, it will resume the nuclear and ICBM tests.”
Although the spokesperson for the DPRK Foreign Ministry didn’t refer to the phrase “working-level negotiations” in the statement, the spokesperson mentioned the Joint Statement of the US-DPRK summit in Singapore which is the basis of the working-level negotiations and warned that continuation of the US-DPRK negotiations to realize the Joint Statement is at risk.
The DPRK has strongly opposed the US-ROK joint military exercises before “Dong Maeng19-2.” From March 4 to 12, when the joint military exercise “Dong Maeng 19-1” (called just Dong Maeng at that time) which replaced the conventional exercise “Key Resolve” was conducted, the DPRK stated that the exercise “aims at examining wartime operation plan through computer-aided simulation of ‘the north’s all-out invasion of the south’ and increasing the capabilities to fight a war,” and criticized that circumstance by saying, “The ill-boding moves of the (S)outh Korean military authorities and the US are a wanton violation of the DPRK-US joint statement and the north-south declarations in which the removal of hostility and tensions were committed to, and an open challenge to the aspiration and desire of all Koreans and the international community for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula” .
The DPRK’s critical tone against the US-ROK joint military exercises has almost remained unchanged since March. Even if both the US and South Korea repeat their verbal explanations regarding the scale-back or changes in the aims of the joint exercises, the situation in which the conducting of military exercises will cause DPRK’s opposition will not change unless some kind of measures for risk management is devised. This issue will remain a time bomb that would put the US-DPRK negotiations on peace and denuclearization at risk.
Expectation for the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee
With the missile launch, the DPRK sent a strong message, criticizing of what it believes is the double-dealing behavior of the South Korean chief executives. The DPRK points out that while extending “a handshake of peace” with the DPRK as a standard-bearer of the peace on the Korean Peninsula, behind the scenes South Korea is deploying the F35A and holding the US-ROK joint military exercise “Dong Maeng 19-2”. What is in question here is how to resolve the negative legacy from the past, such as existing plans for an arms buildup symbolized by contracts to buy 40 stealth fighter jets and 4 unmanned surveillance aircraft, Global Hawk, or that the US-ROK joint military exercises will continue, in the changing situation where inter-Korean dialogue has been making progress. The denuclearization transition process could take an extended period of time. The international community, hoping for success of the peace and denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula, needs to work together and overcome the risk of mishandling challenges related to military issues that could occur during that transition period.
To consider this issue, the establishment of “the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee” agreed upon in the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain” which was adopted as an Annex of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration on September 19, 2018, will serve as a starting point .
In the Agreement, South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea that are the source of military tension and conflict. In order realize this, the two sides agreed to have consultations through the ‘Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee’ on matters including large-scale military exercises and military buildup aimed at each other, various forms of blockade, interdiction and obstruction of navigation as well as reconnaissance activities against conducted each other.
On June 26, 2019, South Korean President Moon Jae-in replied to questions in a joint written interview by Yonhap and six global news agencies. He stated his expectations of the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee, as follows: “If inter-Korean agreement in the military domain is properly implemented, it will allow us to proceed to the stage of further enhancing transparency concerning military postures by exchanging pertinent information through the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee and observing military drills and training. Furthermore, in line with progress in denuclearization, we will be able to advance to the point of disarming threatening weapons such as the long-range North Korean artillery targeting our capital Seoul and the short-range missiles that both Koreas possess.” 
Unfortunately, the DPRK hasn’t demonstrated a positive attitude towards use of the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee. Possible reasons for this may include, that given the slow progress of US-DPRK negotiations, the DPRK has had no option but to focus on the development of US-DPRK talks and invest human resources in this domain. As well, the DPRK has doubts about the independence of South Korea in the US-ROK military alliance for years. To overcome this circumstance, utilization of the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee, based on international initiative, should be explored as a matter of urgency. For instance, a possible initiative, with US prior agreement, would be an international monitoring team consisting of countries that the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee can agree upon with a mission to observe US-ROK joint military exercises. In such an initiative, ASEAN member states which have friendly diplomatic ties with the DPRK will play a valuable role. (Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI)
PS: Although this Watch Report was written before DPRK’s missile launch on July 31, 2019, the main point of this Report remains unchanged.
 For example, Watch Report No. 4, “Unnecessary Tension Should Not Be Created About Military Exercises. Military Confidence-Building Requires Gradual Progress,” January 21, 2019
 ”Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Guides Strike Drill of Defence Units in Frontline Area and on Eastern Front,” KCNA, May 5, 2019
http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Search for the article from date.
 ”DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Criticizes Some Forces for Making Issue of Its Routine and Self-Defensive Military Drill,” KCNA, May 8, 2019
http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Search for the article from date.
 Speech by Robert Abrams USFK commander at Land Forces Pacific Symposium in Honolulu
 Trump’s tweet on May 25, 2019
 ”(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan vow cooperation for N.K. denuclearization,” Yonhap News Agency, June 2, 2019
 ”Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Guides Power Demonstration Fire of New-Type Tactical Guided Weapon,” KCNA, July 26, 2019
 ”Two more F-35A stealth fighters arrive in S. Korea,” Yonhap News Agency, July 16, 2019
 ”S. Korean Authorities Slammed,” KCNA, July 11, 2019
http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Search for the article by date.
 see note 
 ”Ballistic missile, gap in assessment between the U.S. and ROK (Tentative),” The Asahi Shimbun, July 27, 2019
 On April 12, 2019, Kim Jong Un called on the U.S. to approach DPRK with “a new way of calculation” in a policy speech. KCNA, April 14, 2019
http://kcna.kp/kcna.user.home.retrieveHomeInfoList.kcmsf Search for the article in the page ‘Supreme Leader’s Activities’ from date
 ”U.S. Hit for Seeking to Wage Joint Military Drill against DPRK,” KCNA, July 16, 2019
http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Search for the article by date.
 ”S. Korea-U.S. Starts New Joint Military Drill,” KCNA, March 7, 2019
http://www.kcna.kp/kcna.user.home.retrieveHomeInfoList.kcmsf Search for the article by date.
 “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain” The National Committee on North Korea
 ”Joint Written Interview with President Moon Jae-in by Yonhap and Six Global News Agencies,” June 26, 2019
Citizens’ Watch on the Implementation of Korean Denuclearization Agreements
In the Panmunjom Declaration at the 2018 April 27 Inter-Korean summit, the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) agreed to cooperate to alleviate military tension, eliminate the danger of war and establish a permanent peace regime including a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. In the joint statement at the 2018 June 12 Singapore Summit between the United States and the DPRK, the two states set forth their common goal to establish a new US-DPRK relationship for peace and prosperity and to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. In this regard, the US has committed to providing security guarantees to the DPRK, and the DPRK has committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
These two summit agreements have dramatically changed the international landscape of Northeast Asia, which was on the brink of a possible nuclear war in 2017. Now we witness the ongoing dialogue between North and South Korea and between the US and the DPRK. This is a historic change. Even after two significant turning points in modern history - the end of World War II and the end of the Cold War - challenging relationships among regional states persist to this day in Northeast Asia. Disputes over damages in the DPRK caused by Japanese colonization have remained officially unsettled for more than 70 years. The Korean War has not officially ended more than 65 years after the 1953 ceasefire agreement.
Now is a golden opportunity to overcome these historical legacies and we want to make the best use of this favorable moment. To that end, we believe patient diplomatic efforts by concerned states to faithfully implement the two summit agreements are vitally important to reverse the long-standing mutual distrust among states.
In this process of diplomatic efforts, we believe the roles of civil society, especially in Japan, South Korea, and the US, are vitally important. They need to appeal to their democratically elected governments about the importance of this opportunity and the necessity to gain an accurate understanding of previous negotiations concerning the Korean Peninsula denuclearization and to draw lessons from them. Also, all civil society constituents, including legislators, municipal leaders, and journalists, have to work diligently to eradicate distrust and biases deeply rooted in civil society.
Based upon such considerations, the Peace Depot Inc. has launched this project to keep close watch on the diplomatic process to realize the implementation of the summit agreements. While it seems possible to organize a joint project among NGOs in Japan, South Korea, and the US, we have decided to adopt a project plan in which citizens in each country appeal to their own governments and civil society and closely communicate with each other. This approach would be more focused and effective in consideration of the differences in the political and historical backgrounds of each civil society. Most especially, in Japan as an atomic-bombed state, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is closely linked to Japan’s inherited mission to make Japan genuinely nuclear-weapon-free and to establish a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. We will closely cooperate with NGO colleagues working for the same cause in South Korea and the US.
1. Publication of “Watch Report”
- first in Japanese, then shortly after, in Korean and English
- irregular publication, roughly once every three weeks with several pages on A4 size paper
- published in a free-access blog website, as well as through a mail-magazine sent to subscribed names
2. Visits and Representations to related Governmental Offices, including the Foreign Ministry of Japan
3. Organizing occasional public seminars
4. Organizing international workshops and symposiums in cooperation with US and ROK NGOs
Team and Staffing
1. Project Team:
Takuya MORIYAMA, Kana HIRAI, Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI*, Ichiro YUASA, Hajime MAEKAWA, Miho ASANO, Maria KIM (ROK), Patti WILLIS (Canada) *inaugural team leader
2. In Cooperation With:
Korea: People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), Peace Network
USA: Peace Action
Western States Legal Foundation
Advisor: Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA) (Co-Chairs: Michael HAMMEL-GREEN (Australia), Peter HAYES (USA), MOON Jong-In (ROK) and TOMONAGA Masao (Japan)