Global Policy Forum

US Escalating Spy Flights over North Korea

Daily Times
May 1, 2006

North Korea accused the United States of stepping up aerial espionage activities over its territory during high-level inter-Korean talks in Pyongyang this month, the official media reported. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Saturday that US spy planes, including U-2s, had flown an average of more than five missions a day over North Korean airspace during April, totalling 160 sorties for the month.

"Tens of reconnaissance planes carried out their aerial espionage activities during the North-South Korean high-level talks from April 21-24," KCNA said in a report monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency. North Korea, which claims the United States is preparing an invasion, reports US espionage activities each month and said March missions totalled 180.

The United States denies planning to go to war against North Korea, though the two sides have been at loggerheads over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons drive. During six-way talks in September, North Korea agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits and security guarantees.

Meanwhile, South Korean unification ministry in an unusual move denounced the US human rights envoy to North Korea after he criticised aid going to the Stalinist regime. The criticism came after envoy Jay Lefkowitz expressed concern about possible labour abuses at an industrial site in Kaesong, North Korea, that Seoul is developing.

In a contribution to edition of Wall Street Journal, Lefkowitz also warned against "large amounts of unmonitored aid to North Korea" without human rights conditions improving there. The unification ministry in Seoul denied Lefkowitz's claims and slammed the US human rights envoy as having an "anti-humanitarian" way of thinking.

"It is very regrettable to make comments which can damage the images of our businesses operating in the Kaesong industrial site... by misleading and linking the issues of wages, labor conditions and human rights," the ministry said in a statement. In a new project between the two Koreas, the Kaesong industrial site is under construction just north of the inter-Korean border and will be used by South Korean businesses seeking cheap labor.

The two Koreas, which fought the 1950-1953 war, have warmed up ties through economic and cultural exchanges since a historic 2000 peace summit between their leaders. The two Koreas are also expanding a tourist resort on the North's Mount Kumgang since 1998.

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