Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tsutomu Nishioka

【#227】Japan Failing to Catch up with Korean Tensions

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2013.12.26 (Thu)

December 24, 2013

      "A major North Korean defector is harbored at the South Korean embassy in Beijing. The defector had been involved in North Korea's nuclear missile development," according to information circulating since early December. Recent media reports, such as those by South Korea’s Munhwa Ilbo newspaper on December 18 and by Japan Broadcasting Corp. known as NHK on December 19, specified the defector as Paek Se-bong, chairman of North Korea's Second Economic Committee and a member of the National Defense Commission, making relevant people nervous. If his defection is true, it represents a very serious development. I myself have been informed of major defectors staying in the South Korean embassy in Beijing. From an intelligence source in a third country, I have recently heard that two fled from North Korea, including one who entered South Korea in early December. The source was uncertain whether the two include Paek.

Rumors of a heavyweight North Korean defector
      The Second Economic Committee was established in the 1970s, when the military industrial sector was separated from the government controlling North Korea's planned economy, in order to supervise the development, production and export of all weapons from nuclear to conventional arms. Paek became the committee chairman in 2003.
      Paek, known for his close relationship with Jang Song-thaek executed earlier this month, dropped from the lists of funeral committee members for a Korean Workers Party executive and of participants in the ceremony for the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death. If Paek actually defects to South Korea, secret information about the present state of North Korea's nuclear missile development, conventional forces and arms exports may come into light. Paek should also be aware of North Korean plans of provocative military operations.
      On December 23, South Korean National Intelligence Service Director Nam Jae-joon denied any Jang aide's defection. But we remember that major North Korean figures' defection has been kept in secret.

A localized war could occur in the Yellow Sea
      A U.S. television network has reported U.S. and South Korean military forces have grown alert as a major North Korean figure who had been involved in nuclear missile development fled into the South Korean embassy in Beijing and disclosed Pyongyang is preparing for some military provocation between January and March next year. In fact, U.S. and South Korean military officials have suddenly begun to touch on the possible North Korean provocation in the first quarter of 2014 and have enhanced their alert level. South Korea has suddenly revived the National Security Council that had been abolished under the government of former president Lee Myung-bak.
      Citing a report that North Korea enhanced military forces and their exercises in the areas along the Yellow Sea, National Intelligence Service chief Nam said North Korea was likely to conduct a military provocation on South Korea between January and March. U.S. and South Korean forces have warned they would implement a large-scale retaliatory operation if North Korea launches localized attack on Yellow Sea islands or anywhere else. A rumor says the U.S.-South Korean forces even have a plan to bomb the statue of Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder, in Pyongyang. U.S. forces in Japan are likely to participate in such operations.
      How much secret information has the Japanese government been provided by the U.S. and South Korea? The revision of Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, which has been pending since under the previous government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, has been postponed until the end of next year. This apparently is because the current Japanese government has put off the revision of its interpretation of the Constitution regarding Japan’s collective self-defense rights. Japan’s legislative development is failing to catch up with growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Tsutomu Nishioka is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Tokyo Christian University.