South Korea said Friday it recognizes the need to cooperate with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) regarding potential volcanic activities at Mount Baekdu, according to the Ministry of Unification in Seoul.
The DPRK on Thursday proposed talks with South Korea about conducting joint research, on-site inspections and academic seminars on Mount Baekdu, which sits on the border between the DPRK and China, the unification ministry said.
The mountain last erupted in 1903, but experts have warned that it may erupt in the near future, citing topographical signs and satellite images.
Unification ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a briefing that the South Korean government understands the need to cooperate with the DPRK against natural disasters.
"Japan was recently hit by a massive earthquake, and the South Korean government recognizes the need to prepare against large- scale natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. From that perspective, we see the need for cooperation," Chun said.
The two sides agreed in 2007 to conduct joint research on the mountain's volcanic activities, but concrete progress has not been made.
SKorea rejects NKorea's offer to rejoin talks
South Korea has rebuffed North Korea's offer to rejoin stalled nuclear disarmament talks and discuss its uranium-enrichment program.
North Korea said earlier this week that it told a Russian envoy it is willing to return to the six-party disarmament talks and discuss a uranium-enrichment program.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters Thursday that the offer is not sufficient enough to resume the nuclear talks.
Kim says the North must show its disarmament commitment through action not words.
Pyongyang pulled out of the six-party talks about two years ago. In November, North Korea revealed a uranium enrichment facility that could give it another way to make atomic bombs.
Kim Is ‘Fearful’ of Losing Control, South Korean Lawmaker Says
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il appears increasingly concerned about internal threats to his regime as he prepares to hand over power to his son, a South Korean lawmaker said.
Kim has boosted security around his residences throughout the country, deploying more weapons in the areas, since pro- democracy uprisings erupted in the Middle East, said Kwon Young Se, chairman of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee. The South Korean military and civic groups have used balloons to drop leaflets into North Korea carrying news of Middle East unrest.
“Kim must be fearful of insurrection, especially at a time when his heir remains so young,” Kwon of the ruling Grand National Party, said yesterday in an interview in Seoul, citing a report by the National Intelligence Service. “It is questionable if his son, who is so young and inexperienced, can retain the same kind of control he exerted.”
Kim Jong Un, believed to be 27 or 28, was appointed in September to the second-highest military post in the Workers’ Party, paving the way for him to become North Korea’s next leader. While Kim Jong Il, 69, appears to have recovered from a 2008 stroke, his age, drinking and smoking, and history of illness suggest he “may not survive for that long,” said Kwon.
“Any conflict within the leadership group could be a dangerous sign of a regime collapse,” said Kwon, a third-term lawmaker. “The regime could become unstable during the power transition, with the new forces behind Kim Jong Un clashing with the old forces of Kim Jong Il.”
Little is known about Kim Jong Un, who was publicly mentioned by the state media for the first time in September. North Korea has been under dynastic rule by the Kim family for nearly 63 years since it was founded.
North Korea threatened on Feb. 27 to fire at locations in South Korea where balloons carrying leaflets have been released. Kim’s regime shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23 in an attack that killed four people.
The regime’s grip on the military and the difficulties the North Korean people would face in organizing a revolt make popular uprisings like those that toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents unlikely, said Kwon. North Koreans don’t have access to the Internet, mobile phones and social networks that helped uprisings in the Middle East, he said.
The government in Pyongyang is “increasing control over its society to block the influx of outside information,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan told foreign diplomats in Seoul on March 3, without elaborating.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency hasn’t reported on the Middle East protests. In North Korea, radios are pre-tuned to government programs and owning computers without permission is forbidden, according to a 2010 report by the United Nations.