22 August 2009

S Korean minister meets Northern envoy

By Park Chan-Kyong
August 22, 2009

(SMH) -North Korean envoys sent to attend the funeral of former South Korean leader Kim Dae-jung have called for an immediate improvement in inter-Korean ties and talks with the country's president, media pool reports say.

"The North Koreans said they were carrying a message from (North Korea's leader) Chairman Kim Jong-il," an unidentified government official was quoted as telling Yonhap news agency on Saturday.

Their wish to meet with President Lee Myung-bak was conveyed to South Korea's Unification Minister Hyun In-taek on Saturday. Hyun was talking to the president's office about the offer, the official said.

"While meeting many South Koreans here, I came to believe that inter-Korean ties must be improved at the earliest possible date," Kim Yang-gon, a North Korean official in charge of inter-Korean ties, told Hyun.

"We've had little opportunity to talk ... I hope that these first high-level official talks under the (South Korean conservative president) Lee Myung-bak administration will provide a chance to have frank talks," he said.

Kim is one of a six-member North Korean delegation making a rare visit south of the border to pay tribute to former leader Kim Dae-jung, who died on Tuesday at the age of 85.

A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Kim Dae-jung held the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, during his 1998-2003 presidency.

After the 90-minute talks, Hyun said the North Koreans might postpone their departure for home, sparking speculation that they will meet Lee.

The rare encounter raised hopes for a breakthrough amid tension on the Korean peninsula that rose after the North's second nuclear test three months ago.

Chung Dong-young, a former unification minister, urged the government to seize the opportunity to mend inter-Korean ties, which have soured since conservative President Lee took power in February 2008.

"Even after his death, President Kim Dae-jung is laying a bridge over troubled inter-Korean ties," Chung said. "I hope the South Korean government can use this opportunity to mend the South-North relationship."

Kim Dae-jung pioneered South Korea's "Sunshine" aid and engagement policy with the North, which improved relations but failed to curb the North's drive for nuclear weapons.

Cross-border and regional tensions rose sharply in recent months after the North made a series of threats, fired missiles and staged a second nuclear test, incurring tougher United Nations sanctions.

After they arrived in Seoul on Friday the North Koreans said they were open to dialogue.

"I will meet with everybody. Let's meet to talk," delegation leader Kim Ki-nam, a secretary of the ruling communist party, said after arriving at Gimpo airport.

The North's first dispatch of envoys to Seoul in nearly two years is the latest in a series of peace initiatives by Pyongyang.

Earlier this month former US president Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang to plead for the release of two US journalists who were sentenced to 12 years' hard labour for straying across the border from China.

The North's leader, Kim Jong-il, pardoned the two American journalists and Pyongyang later freed a detained South Korean.

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05 August 2009

N Korea to pardon journalists

(news.com.au) -NORTH Korea will pardon two jailed US journalists after visiting former president Bill Clinton apologised to leader Kim Jong-Il for their behaviour, state media has reported.

"The measure taken to release the American journalists is a manifestation of the DPRK's (North Korea's) humanitarian and peace-loving policy," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported today.

Mr Clinton yesterday had met Mr Kim for talks during his surprise mission to Pyongyang to win the release of the two female reporters. His was the highest-profile visit by an American to Pyongyang for nearly a decade.

TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested in March while on assignment near the North Korean border with China.

They were reporting on the plight of refugees fleeing the impoverished North into China. A court in June sentenced them to 12 years of hard labour for illegal entry and other offences.

The harsh sentences soured relations with the United States already strained by the North's atomic test in May, its multiple missile tests and its decision to quit six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

"Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong-Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it," KCNA reported.

"Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim Jong-Il an earnest request of the US government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view," it said.

After Mr Kim issued a special order pardoning the pair, Mr Clinton "courteously conveyed a verbal message of US President Barack Obama expressing profound thanks for this and reflecting views on ways of improving the relations between the two countries".

KCNA said Mr Clinton's meetings with leader Mr Kim and with his official number two Kim Yong-Nam featured "candid and in-depth discussions on the pending issues between the DPRK and the US in a sincere atmosphere and reached a consensus of views on seeking a negotiated settlement of them".

It said the former president's visit "will contribute to deepening the understanding between the DPRK and the US and building the bilateral confidence".

The agency did not indicate when the women would be freed but said Mr Clinton's visit would end today.

The White House said Mr Clinton's visit was purely private and declined to comment on it.

From correspondents in Seoul
Agence France-Presse

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03 August 2009

Bush Urges Unified Action Against North Korea

By VOA News

Former U.S. President George W. Bush has urged the five nations involved in nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea to send a clear message to Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Bush spoke at an economic forum on the South Korean island of Jeju Saturday. He said the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia must make it clear that North Korea will face consequences if it continues to defy United Nations resolutions.

The former U.S. president also stressed the importance of transparency and verification in the nuclear disarmament process.

The last round of six-party disarmament talks in China in December ended with an impasse over how the North's denuclearization would be verified. Since then, Pyongyang has conducted a nuclear test and a series of missile launches. Its provocative actions against South Korea have raised international concern about the region's stability.

The United Nations imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea in June.

The United States is taking steps to ensure the sanctions are implemented. It has frozen the assets of a number of business and financial institution dealing with North Korea. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said Friday the U.S. is also considering returning the North to its list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Washington has offered the North a comprehensive package of incentives if it takes serious and irreversible steps to end its nuclear program.

Mr. Bush is in South Korea for a series of talks on the global economy. He is expected to promote measures against trade protectionism and the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. The agreement was signed in 2007 while he was in office, but has yet to be approved by lawmakers in both countries.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.
August 1st, 2009

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N Korea Says S. Korean Boat Illegally Entered Its Waters

By VOA News

North Korea said Saturday that a South Korean fishing boat it seized Thursday had entered its territorial waters illegally.

In its first official statement, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said a "relevant institution is conducting a concrete investigation" into the incident.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said Friday the fishing boat and its four man crew drifted into the North's territorial waters after it apparently experienced problems with its satellite navigation system. The boat was intercepted by a North Korean patrol boat and towed to the eastern port of Jangjon early Thursday.

Seoul is urging Pyongyang to release the boat and its crew. A spokesman for the Unification Ministry said Thursday there is a clear precedent for the boat's return, citing South Korea's return of two North Korean boats on humanitarian grounds after they crossed into Southern waters.

A spokesman for the South Korean military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Park Sung-woo, said the fishing boat is relatively small, and made of reinforced plastic. He said that made it difficult for radar to detect the vessel before it crossed into North Korean waters.

Thursday's incident took place in waters west of the Korean peninsula - one of the tensest maritime regions in the world.

North Korea has never accepted a United Nations-mandated border there, and the two Koreas have fought two deadly naval battles in the area over the past 10 years.

North Korea is also holding two U.S. journalists and a South Korean worker at the Kaesong joint industrial plan across the border. Many in South Korea believe Pyongyang is trying to use the detainees as diplomatic leverage.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
August 1st, 2009

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30 July 2009

South Korean boat seized by North Korea

(SMH) -North Korea has seized a stray South Korean fishing boat off the country's east coast, officials say, amid tensions over the communist state's nuclear programs.

The South's government called for the swift return of the boat and its four-member crew after the seizure early on Thursday, but there was no immediate response from the North.

The 800 Yeonan was towed by a North Korean patrol boat after it strayed into the North's waters at 6.27am local time, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff office said.

The 29-tonne squid boat was presumed to have sailed off its intended course at dawn because it had a problem with its global positioning system, the office said.

"We immediately radioed to the North Korean navy, requesting the return of the stray South Korean fishing boat, but there was no response,'' a Joint Chiefs of Staff office spokesman said.

Seoul's unification ministry also demanded that the boat and its crew be returned "as soon as possible'' in a telephone message to the North, spokesman Chun Hae-Sung told reporters at a briefing.

South Korean officials said the seized boat was being taken towards the North's eastern port of Jangjon.

The two countries, which still remain technically at war after the 1950-1953 Korean War, have a record of returning stray fishing vessels.

Two South Korean fishing boats - one in April 2005, and the other in December 2006 - returned home soon after accidentally straying into North Korean waters, according to Yonhap news agency.

Ties between the two Koreas warmed up after their first peace summit in 2000.

But cross-border ties have sharply worsened in the past year, and the North's prolonged stand-off with the rest of the world over its nuclear and missile programs has intensified in recent months.

Pyongyang has blamed the deterioration in relations on South Korea's conservative President Lee Myung-Bak, who took office in 2008 signalling a tougher stance towards North Korea.

The North has since held a South Korean worker at a Seoul-funded joint industrial site March 30, accusing him of slandering its political system and trying to incite a local woman worker to defect.

The North quit six-nation nuclear disarmament talks after the UN Security Council censured it for a long-range rocket launch in April. In May it also staged its second nuclear test.

The Council has since imposed a series of tougher sanctions, including an expanded arms embargo and beefed up inspections of air, sea and land shipments going to and from North Korea.

The North has recently said it is open to a new form of dialogue with the United States on the nuclear issue outside the six-party format.

But Washington has called on the international community to continue to pressure North Korea to return to the six-party talks which also group South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.


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27 July 2009

North Korea Threatens to Retaliate AGainst UN Sanctions

By VOA News

North Korea's defense minister is promising retaliation against tough new U.N. sanctions put in place following its missile and nuclear tests.

Chief of General Staff of North Korean army Kim Yong-Chun, AFP 26Jun'03(file)

North Korean state media reported Sunday that Kim Yong-Chun said Pyongyang would deal "unimaginably deadly blows" at the United States and South Korea if they attack the communist nation.

Kim was speaking at a public meeting held on the eve of the anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War on July 27, 1953.

In a separate announcement, North Korea repeated its routine denunciations of an upcoming U.S. and South Korean military exercise, saying the maneuvers "lay bare the black-hearted aim" lurking behind the "talk of dialogue."

Washington and Seoul say they are not planning to invade North Korea.

North Korea regularly issues aggressive statements and rhetoric against its neighbors and the U.S.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.

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Clinton Speaks Out on North Korea, Iran

By Paula Wolfson
White House

(VOA) -U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a strong defense of Obama administration policy on North Korea and Iran during an extended interview Sunday on American television.

Secretary of State Clinton is sending a joint message to Pyongyang and Tehran: give up your quest for nuclear weapons and return to negotiations.

Clinton - just back from talks in Asia - told NBC television's Meet the Press that North Korea is more isolated than ever before. She said the North Korean government must realize that the world is united, and there will be no reward for bad behavior.

"We still want North Korea to come back to the negotiating table, to be part of an international effort that will lead to denuclearization," said Hillary Clinton.

She pointed to strong cooperation among the countries heavily involved in the North Korean issue. She made specific mention of China - which has hosted talks in Beijing. She said the Chinese have been extremely positive and productive.

"We have been extremely gratified by their forward-leaning commitment to sanctions, and their private messages that they have conveyed to the North Koreans," she said.

The secretary of state was then asked about the outlook for a dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program.

She said she saw no conflict of interest in seeking to negotiate with Iran's leaders despite the controversy that continues to surround the recent presidential election in that country.

"You can go back in history - and not very long back - where we have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people," said Hillary Clinton. "Look at all the negotiations that went on with the Soviet Union, look at the break-through in subsequent negotiations with communist China."

Last week, Clinton talked in vague terms about the creation of a nuclear umbrella to protect Mideast allies against a possible Iranian nuclear attack.

She refused to go into specifics on Meet the Press. And she stressed that she did not mean to imply that a nuclear armed Iran is inevitable.

She said Iran's leaders must understand that the United States will never let them develop nuclear weapons.

"First, we are going to do everything we can to prevent you from ever getting a nuclear weapon," she said. "But your pursuit is futile!"

At the same time, Clinton urged Israel to give U.S. policy on Iran more time to work. Israel is seen as a primary target of Iran's nuclear-weapons program, and there are fears the Israelis might launch a pre-emptive strike.

"The United States believes that Israel has a right to security," she said. "We believe, however, that this approach we are taking holds out the promise of realizing our common objectives."

Clinton noted top U.S. officials will be meeting with Israeli leaders in the coming days, and will listen to their concerns.

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24 July 2009

No pants for North Korea

North Korea crackdown on pants wearers
Blogger's Note: this is a way to attack
Mrs Clinton's wardrobe -- (*^*

(news.com.au) -NORTH Korean women face hard labour if they are caught wearing trousers rather than skirts, under the communist regime's latest crackdown on public morals, South Korean activists say.

Offenders can be punished with hours of forced labour or fines of 700 won, almost a week's salary for the average worker, human rights group Good Friends said, citing its own sources within the isolated nation.

The Stalinist leadership's campaign is angering women who see skirts as less practical than trousers, Good Friends director Lee Seung-Yong said.

"Women are told to wear skirts in public places and in the streets, sparking complaints among them as they often have to work in tough conditions," he said.

Disciplinary officials from students' bodies and women's organisations stand at street corners during the morning rush hour and lunch breaks, to keep watch for any women violating the pants ban, according to Good Friends.

Uriminzokkiri, an official North Korean website, noted on Monday that ruler Kim Jong-Il had issued a decree in 1986 urging women to wear traditional Korean attire.

"The Dear Leader has said national character shows up not only in language, etiquette and morals but in attire as well," the site says.

It quoted Kim as saying the country's traditional skirts and jackets are a "source of our (national) pride" and that women should be "actively encouraged" to wear them.

Agence France-Presse

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N.Korean allies join test protest


China, Russia share Asean's nuke concerns

PHUKET : Russia and China have joined the US in pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, following Pyongyang's recent ballistic missile tests.

See no evil: Mrs Clinton and North Korean delegate Pak Kun-gwang ignore each other at the Phuket meeting.

Normally counting themselves as Pyongyang's allies, Russia and China expressed concern about the nuclear missile tests at the Asean Regional Forum yesterday.

The North Korean nuclear issue dominated security issues at talks held to wrap up the week-long meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The ARF urged North Korea to return to the six-party talks to end the regional nuclear threat, but North Korea immediately rejected the call.

The meeting also urged members of the United Nations to implement the UN Security Council's resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea.

The ARF would look at what it could do to promote peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said after the meeting.

Asean diplomatic sources said even Russia and China shared international concern about the issue.

But in a compromising note, China said it hoped sanctions against Pyongyang would not affect North Korean people, and that the six-nation talks could resume, the sources said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea faced strong international opposition over its missile testing programme.

"There is no place to go for North Korea as they have no friends left," Mrs Clinton said.

"There is a convergence of views that we are prepared to work with North Korea, but that North Korea has to change its behaviour," she said.

But Ri Hung-sik, who led the North Korean delegation at the meeting, said Pyongyang would not return to the negotiating table until the US changed its anti-North Korea attitude.

The six-party talks comprise China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US.

Earlier, North Korea downgraded its representative attending the ARF from ambassador-at-large Pak Kun-gwang to Mr Ri, who is director-general of the International Organisations Department. It was the third time Pyongyang had sent a low-level representative to the ARF since 2000.

North Korea's insistence its position should be reflected in the ARF statement forced participants to delay issuing it for two hours.

The ARF members also called for joint efforts to fight terrorists and said the July 17 hotel bombings in Jakarta were a reminder terrorism was still a threat to the region.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in addressing the terrorism problem, people should avoid singling out any country, race, religion or ethnicity.

"If terrorism is associated with religion, it will create animosity," Mr Anifah said.

The meeting also pledged to promote democracy and human rights in Burma, Mr Kasit said.

Burma is under pressure to release National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners to pave the way for national reconciliation before the country holds general elections next year.

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23 July 2009

N Korea has no friends - Clinton

By Martin Petty and Jack Kim in Phuket, Thailand

NORTH Korea has no friends left to shield it from the international community's demands that the country scrap its nuclear activities, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.
Mrs Clinton said many nations had told a low-level North Korean delegation at regional talks in Thailand that they were concerned by Pyongyang's recent "provocative" behaviour, which has included nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Speaking at a news conference, Mrs Clinton said North Korea's pursuit of its nuclear ambitions could provoke an arms race in North Asia, one of the world's most dynamic regions and responsible for a sixth of the global economy.

"Our partners in the region understand that a nuclear North Korea has far-reaching consequences for the security future of northeast Asia ... This would serve no nation's interests," she said on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Phuket.

"There is no place to go for North Korea, they have no friends left that will protect them from the international community's efforts to move towards denuclearisation."

Mrs Clinton said the North Korean delegation gave no sign the country was interested in ending its nuclear program, which took centre stage at the talks.

North Korea, bristling at being described by Mrs Clinton this week as behaving like an unruly child, responded in kind today, calling her vulgar and less than clever.

The North's KCNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying her comments "suggests she is by no means intelligent".

"Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping," KCNA said. Reuters


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