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Top US officer urges China to help on North Korea
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 10, 2011

N. Korea, China hail 'epoch-making event'
Seoul (AFP) July 10, 2011 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il Sunday vowed to strengthen ties with Beijing in a letter to the Chinese leadership to mark the signing of a treaty between the communist neighbours, state media said.

The two sides exchanged messages to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the North Korea-China treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"The conclusion of the treaty marked an epoch-making event which provided a legal foundation for boosting on a permanent basis the DPRK (North Korea)-China friendly and cooperative relations sealed on the road of bloody struggle for independence against imperialism and for socialism," the North's letter said.

A delegation of Chinese officials was also in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, KCNA said, adding Chinese President Hu Jintao had sent a message in return to Kim and the North Korean leadership.

"We wholeheartedly wish the DPRK prosperity and its people happiness," Hu's message said, adding ties between the two sides had withstood "tests of history and is deeply rooted in the minds of the two peoples".

In Beijing Sunday, visiting Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged China to use its close ties with North Korea to ensure regional stability.

China is North Korea's sole major ally and it biggest trade partner.

America's top military officer urged Beijing on Sunday to use its relationship with Pyongyang to ensure regional stability, while warning North Korea against further dangerous provocations.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also touched on maritime disputes in Asia, amid fears in Washington that they could spiral dangerously out of control and US concern over China's military build-up.

With ties sometimes fraught between the two militaries, Mullen stressed the US was in no way seeking to contain China's dramatic rise, but that the United States would remain active in the Asia Pacific region for a long time.

"North Korea and the leadership of North Korea is only predictable in one sense and that is -- if you base it historically -- they will continue to provocate," Mullen told reporters after arriving in Beijing, the first visit by a US chairman of the joint chiefs since 2007.

"The provocations I think now are potentially more dangerous than they have been in the past."

Tensions in Northeast Asia have risen sharply since South Korea accused the North of torpedoing a warship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors.

Pyongyang angrily denies the charge but went on to shell a border island in November, killing four South Koreans including two civilians.

Six-party nuclear disarmament talks, grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, have been stalled since the North abandoned them in April 2009. It staged its second nuclear test a month later.

"All of us are focused on a stable outcome here of what is increasingly a difficult challenge with respect to the leadership in North Korea and what it might do," Mullen said.

"The Chinese leadership, they have a strong relationship with the leadership in Pyongyang and they exercise that routinely... continuing to do that as they have done in the past is really important."

On a four-day trip to China, Mullen said he would discuss that and other issues in talks with his counterpart General Chen Bingde, also visiting military bases as the two nations seek to bolster their security cooperation.

"The United States is deepening its commitment to this region and the alliances and partnerships that define our presence there," Mullen said in a speech at Beijing's Renmin University.

"We are, and will remain, a Pacific power, just as China is a Pacific power."

To help build trust with China, the two countries will conduct anti-piracy drills in the Gulf of Aden this year, host medical aid exercises and participate in joint disaster relief exercises next year, he said.

"This region and the global challenges that we face together are just too vital and too vast for us to continue to find obstacles to a better understanding of each other," Mullen told reporters.

The trip coincided with a joint naval exercise that began Saturday with the US, Japanese and Australian navies in the South China Sea, where recent Chinese assertiveness over territorial claims has raised tensions.

Mullen said Washington was concerned about freedom of navigation but expressed hope that myriad disputes in the South China Sea involving several nations and territories would be "resolved peacefully".

During his trip, the first to China by a US chairman of the joint chiefs since 2007, Mullen said he would also discuss the Taiwan issue, stability in the South China Sea and confidence-building measures between the two nations.

"Containing China is not the case... we would like to see China in the long run to be a strong partner with the United States to resolve some of the issues that we have got both regionally and globally," Mullen said.

As tensions in the South China Sea mount, China-US military exchanges have also picked up, with the former US defence secretary Robert Gates meeting Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie in Singapore in June.

Gates also visited Beijing in January.

Mullen dismissed suggestions that wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya had left the US military unable to play a strong role in the Pacific, describing the idea of America in decline as "just dead wrong".

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S. Korea military to punish commanders for shooting
Seoul (AFP) July 10, 2011 - South Korea's military said Sunday it will punish two commanders for failing to prevent a shooting spree by a marine soldier last week that left four troops dead.

A 19-year-old corporal last Monday opened fire at an elite Marine Corps. unit near the tense sea border with North Korea, killing four soldiers and wounding another.

The corporal, only identified as Kim, was also injured after detonating a grenade in an apparent suicide attempt. His condition is not life-threatening.

A colonel and a lieutenant colonel from the unit at Ganwha island west of Seoul will be removed this week from their positions as commanders, the Marine Corps. said in a statement.

"The two will be waiting for further actions by the disciplinary committee," a Marine Corps. spokesman told AFP, adding there was no plan to discharge them.

The military last week arrested a private for allegedly helping Kim steal ammunition from a weapons storage room before the corporal went on the rampage at a barracks.

Kim and the private, surnamed Jung, told military investigators they had hatched a plan after being constantly bullied and beaten by superiors, but Jung denied involvement in actual shooting.

Military psychological tests conducted about a year ago found Kim was mentally unstable and struggling to cope with service life, investigators have said. He had also been drinking before the shooting.

The military plans to punish any soldiers found to have harassed Kim and Jung, MBN TV station and Yonhap news agency reported, citing navy investigators.

"All who turn out to have been involved in bullying will face punishment, and serious offenders may be arrested," MBN quoted an official as saying.

Jung earlier told investigators several superiors had burned his bible and set his uniform on fire, media reports said.

The elite Marine Corps is responsible for guarding frontline islands in the Yellow Sea near the disputed border with the North.

But last week's incident -- the third to afflict the military in six years -- raised questions about standards of discipline in the South's largely conscript 650,000-strong military.

Able-bodied South Korean men must undergo at least two years' military service. But some complain of abuse and harassment within the armed forces.

South Korea's defence minister Kim Kwan-Jin on Saturday sent an emergency order for all military commanders to investigate and report unfair practices at barracks by September, Yonhap said.

Eight soldiers were killed and two seriously injured in 2005 when a soldier threw a grenade and sprayed bullets over sleeping colleagues at a frontline guard post north of Seoul.

The attacker alleged senior colleagues had bullied him.

In 2008 an army private struggling to adapt to military life threw a grenade at colleagues who were asleep, injuring five.

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S. Korea military seeks cash to raise readiness
Seoul (AFP) July 8, 2011
South Korea's defence ministry said Friday it has asked for a larger budget for next year to improve troops' readiness for combat and fortify frontline islands against North Korea. The ministry said in a statement it is seeking a budget of 33.5 trillion won ($29.1 billion) for 2012, a 6.6 percent increase from this year. "Our request was focused largely on building a military that is rea ... read more

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