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‘Keep up the pressure on North Korea’; Here is what North Korean Defectors want Trump to know

The defectors want Trump to persuade China, Pyongyang’s only remaining ally, to stop repatriating North Koreans who take refuge there.

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Ji Seong-ho, North Korean refugee and president of Now Action and Unity for Human Rights. VOA

Washington, November 4, 2017 : Four North Korean defectors have told VOA in video messages intended for U.S. President Donald Trump what they want him to do and say during his visit to South Korea.

The messages were delivered ahead of Trump’s departure Friday morning for a 12-day, five-nation tour which is expected to focus on tensions over North Korea’s its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. He is scheduled to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul on Nov. 7.

North Korea is expected to dominate their conversation at a time when recent polls show Americans consider North Korea to be the most immediate threat to the United States.

“If [Trump’s] coming to strengthen Korea-U.S. relations, he’s welcome, but if he’s coming to foment a war between the two Koreas, I cannot welcome him,” said Kim Young Soo, a defector and former soldier who arrived in South Korea in 2006. “As a head of state, I think he could be more discreet when talking about a war.”

The defectors want Trump to persuade China, Pyongyang’s only remaining ally, to stop repatriating North Koreans who take refuge there.

“While seeking freedom, they are put at risk of being captured by Chinese authorities and being forcibly returned to North Korea,” said Ji Seong-ho, a defector. “They may even face death. So I sincerely would like to ask President Trump to urge China’s Xi Jinping to stop repatriation of North Koreans so that they can attain their dreams of freedom.”

And they want him to keep up the pressure on North Korea with sanctions.

“It’ll take an insurgency against the regime to bring about a revolution,” said Ri Sun Kyong, who arrived to South Korea in 2002. “Every single country in the world should not help (North Korea) in any way. Instead, they should increase pressure so an insurgency takes place.”

Trump, who has signed a sweeping executive order increasing U.S. authority to sanction companies that finance trade with North Korea, has said all options are on the table in dealing with Kim.

Amid the leaders’ war of words — Trump has said if Pyongyang launches an attack on the U.S. or its allies, there is “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” and Kim has said, “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire” — the Trump administration has also been pushing other countries to end or curtail their diplomatic ties to North Korea. (VOA)

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U.S. And S.Korea Struggle Over Maintenance Cost of U.S. Troops

The U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment, citing “confidential diplomatic discussions.”

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North Korean army soldiers watch the south side while South Korean, left, and U.S. Army soldiers stand guard at the truce villages of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, July 27, 2014. VOA

The United States and South Korea are struggling to narrow differences over sharing the cost of maintaining U.S. troops after a U.S. demand for a 50 percent increase in the South’s contribution, a South Korean lawmaker said Tuesday.

Despite 10 rounds of talks since March, the allies have failed to strike an accord to replace a 2014 deal that expired last year, which requires South Korea to pay about 960 billion won ($848 million) a year for keeping some 28,500 U.S. troops there.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that South Korea, where the United States has stationed soldiers since the 1950-53 Korean War, should bear more of the cost. The U.S. military has warned Korean workers on its bases they might be put on leave from mid-April if no deal is reached.

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U.S. and South Korean soldiers salute during a change of command and responsibility ceremony at Yongsan Garrison, a U.S. military base, in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 11, 2017. VOA

Sudden, higher US demand

At their last meeting, in December, the United States made a “sudden, unacceptable” demand that South Korea pay more than 1.4 trillion won per year, about 1.5 times its current contribution, according to Hong Young-pyo, a senior ruling party legislator.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha briefed a group of lawmakers on the talks Monday. Any deal is subject to parliamentary approval.

“The negotiations were deadlocked,” Hong told a meeting with lawmakers. “The U.S. side suddenly made a proposal at the last stage which was difficult for us to accept.”

A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Seoul declined to comment.

No further meetings scheduled

When asked about the U.S. demand Monday, Kang declined to specify numbers but said there was a “very big difference” in the positions between the two countries.

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A U.S. Army captain learns a few Korean terms from two Korean Army soldiers during the 2016 Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises in Yongin, South Korea, Aug. 25, 2016. VOA

“We’ll work to reach an agreement that’s reasonable, affordable and explainable to the National Assembly and the people,” Kang told reporters.
Kang Seok-ho, another lawmaker who attended the foreign minister’s briefing, said the government’s stance was not to pay more than 1 trillion won a year and an agreement should be valid for five years, not one year as reportedly sought by the United States.

With another meeting not scheduled, the stalemate raises concerns about the funding gap and the posture of the 70-year alliance amid signs of a rift over North Korea policy.

About 70 percent of South Korea’s contribution covers the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean employees who provide administrative, technical and other services for the U.S. military.

Exercises suspended

Trump announced a halt to joint exercises with South Korea in June, after a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying they were very expensive and paid for mostly by the U.S.

Major joint exercises have since been suspended, which Washington said would expedite talks aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear program, though some small-scale exercises have continued.

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North Korean army soldiers are greeted by South Korean army soldiers, wearing helmets, as they cross the Military Demarcation Line inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to inspect the dismantled South Korean guard post in Cheorwon. VOA

U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris met South Korea’s national security advisor Chung Eui-yong late last month to urge a swift agreement, warning that the United States may consider implementing the defense treaty “in a different way,” South Korea’s Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified diplomatic source.

South Korea’s foreign ministry confirmed Harris had visited Chung but declined to give details.

Also Read: The United States Of America Starts Pulling Out Troops From Syria

The U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment, citing “confidential diplomatic discussions.”

North Korean state media has recently increased complaints about South Korea’s military ties to the United States, but South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, has said reducing U.S. military commitments would be an unlikely option for Washington. (VOA)