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.

Continue read S Korean minister meets Northern envoy...

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

Continue read N Korea to pardon journalists...

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

Continue read Bush Urges Unified Action Against North Korea...

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

Continue read N Korea Says S. Korean Boat Illegally Entered Its Waters...

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.

AFP

Continue read South Korean boat seized by North Korea...

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.

Continue read North Korea Threatens to Retaliate AGainst UN Sanctions...

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.

Continue read Clinton Speaks Out on North Korea, Iran...

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

Continue read No pants for North Korea...

N.Korean allies join test protest

By ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT AND THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL

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.

Continue read N.Korean allies join test protest...

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

news.com.au
newscomau

Continue read N Korea has no friends - Clinton...

Sick Kim's suspected two new yachts blocked

(SMH) -Italy has blocked the sale of two luxury yachts to impoverished North Korea because it suspects they were destined for reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il, the Financial Times reported today.

A contract for the sale of the yachts, worth €12.5 million ($22 million) was terminated this month after a probe by the Italian Government and anti-fraud police, the newspaper said.

The two boats were confiscated by the Ministry of Economic Development amid concerns that allowing the sale would breach international sanctions against Pyongyang, the newspaper said.

"Seeing the type of goods that were involved and the condition that the country [North Korea] is in, we were very suspicious that the yachts were for the leader [Kim], though we have no evidence of this," the ministry said.

A deposit was paid for work on the boats, although it was unclear by whom. The boats have since been returned to Azimut-Benetti, one of Italy's leading luxury yacht makers.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea for a long-range rocket launch in April. Tensions with the international community rose further after it restarted its weapons program and carried out an underground nuclear test in May.

Kim has been portrayed by visitors and North Korean defectors as a leader who enjoys fine dining, cognac and other luxuries.

The communist state, however, suffers food shortages, and relies on overseas aid to feed millions of its people.

Kim reportedly has life-threatening pancreatic cancer.

AFP

Continue read Sick Kim's suspected two new yachts blocked...

North Korea launches bizarre attack on Hillary Clinton

macho macho midgets ...
very gentlemen like deflowering a rose...
if Mrs Clinton hasn't got intelligence
FM spoke person got something else...
(news.com.au) -NORTH Korea hit back at comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, describing her in an unusually personal attack as not intelligent and a "funny lady".

A foreign ministry spokesman quoted by the communist state's official news agency accused Clinton of making "a spate of vulgar remarks unbecoming for her position everywhere she went since she was sworn in".

"We cannot but regard Mrs Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community," the spokesman added in a statement.

"Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping."

The North took particular umbrage at recent comments by Mrs Clinton likening Pyongyang's recent missile launches to the behaviour of an unruly attention-seeking teenager.

"Her words suggest that she is by no means intelligent," the statement said, adding that Pyongyang is protecting itself against "the US hostile policy and nuclear threat, not to attract anyone's attention".
Moon Landing - 40 years on

Mrs Clinton could make a contribution to US foreign policy "only when she has understanding of the world". it said.

At a regional security forum in the Thai resort of Phuket, Mrs Clinton urged members to enforce the UN sanctions imposed against the North for its nuclear and missile tests.

Agence France-Presse

Continue read North Korea launches bizarre attack on Hillary Clinton...

North Korea would not return to six party talk

North Korea said Thursday that it would neither return to the six party talk nor stop its nuclear ambition unless other parties ended their bias against Pyongyang.

The communist ruled country would not accept the comprehensive package proposed by the US Sectary of State Hillary Clinton since it has nothing new from the previous administration, said North Korea's Director of International Affairs Department Ri Hung Sik.

North Korea's diplomats were in Thailand this week for a meeting with 26 countries in the Asean Regional Forum, which Clinton was also in.

Pyongyang would not take any suggestions from the Asean meeting back home and would never give up its nuclear development program, he said.

The Nation

Continue read North Korea would not return to six party talk...

22 July 2009

North Korea fears forum criticism over missile tests

By THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL and ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

PHUKET (Bangkok Post): North Korea has called on Thailand to protect its delegates from criticism during the Asean Regional Forum.

Pyongyang's ambassador at large Pak Kun-gwang yesterday raised the issue in talks with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ahead of tomorrow's security meeting.

Mr Pak requested an urgent meeting with the minister shortly after the five North Korean delegates arrived on the resort island yesterday.

North Korea is worried its recent missile tests would be condemned by countries participating in the forum, said Mr Kasit's secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut. (LOL)

As the Asean chair, Thailand will head the Asean-initiated security talks.

Mr Chavanond quoted the minister as saying "we need to make sure the meeting's peace-building objectives are met and that he would not let any ARF members use the forum to attack other members".

"I would also like North Korea to listen to what the United States has to say," he said. "The Barack Obama administration should be given a chance to speak out."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the forum, as will representatives from the European Union.

It is the first forum at which North Korea will engage with 25 other countries in such talks.

Asean foreign ministers will hold talks today with their dialogue partners from China, Japan and South Korea.

Thailand will push for closer cooperation with the three nations on finance, agriculture and health matters.

It will also urge the acceleration of the Chiang Mai Initiative during the Asean summit in Phuket in October, diplomatic sources said.

Last month, the so-called Asean+3 agreed in Bangkok to strengthen the regional financial mechanism. A regional pooling reserve would be established under the Chiang Mai Initiative with a US$20 billion (700 billion baht) start-up fund by the end of the year.

Director-general of the Asean Affairs Department Vitavas Srivihok said Asean ministers would also discuss measures to fight the A (H1N1) flu outbreak.

Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan has been assigned to liaise with Southeast Asian health ministers on the issue, the official said.

Continue read North Korea fears forum criticism over missile tests...

17 July 2009

UN Issues New Sanctions against North Korea

By JOHN HEILPRIN / AP WRITER
The Irrawaddy News


UNITED NATIONS — The UN imposed new sanctions Thursday against five North Korean officials, four companies and a state agency, and banned imports of two weapons-making materials, in a rare unified push by the world's powers to thwart Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

The sanctions, which take immediate effect and are to be carried out by all of the UN's 192 member nations, include travel bans and a freeze on the financial assets against the officials, companies and state agency. Nations also were instructed to refrain from supplying North Korea with certain types of graphite and para-aramid fiber—two of the materials used in ballistic missile parts.

"It is of course significant that we have also put individuals on the list, as this is the first time. This shows that the sanctions are going on a higher level at this moment," said Fazli Corman, Turkey's deputy UN ambassador, who chairs the panel.

The newest sanctions were approved against:

—The General Bureau of Atomic Energy in Pyongyang, the chief agency directing the North's nuclear program. That includes the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center and its plutonium production research reactor, as well as its fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities.

—Three Pyongyang-based companies—Namchongang Trading Corp., Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., and Korean Tangun Trading Corp—and one Iranian-based company, Hong Kong Electronics.

—Yun Ho-Jin, director of Namchongang Trading Corp; Ri Je-Son, director of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy; Hwang Sok-Hwa, chief of the bureau's scientific guidance; Ri Hong-Sop, former director of Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center; and Han Yu-Ro, director of Korea Ryongaksan General Trading Corp.

—Two types of goods used in ballistic missile parts by North Korea—a graphite designed or specified for use in electrical discharge machining; and a para-aramid fiber, filament and tape, which is a Kevlar-like material.

US Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States was pleased with the list, which required unanimous approval among the 15 nations that make up a sanctions panel of the UN's powerhouse Security Council. China, North Korea's biggest ally and trading partner, went along with most of the US recommendations.

The US has launched what it calls a major effort to ensure that UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which along with a previous resolution in 2006 serves to authorize the latest sanctions, is implemented effectively.

"These new designations—five individuals, five entities and two goods—strengthen the sanctions regime against North Korea and will serve to constrain North Korea from engaging in transactions or activities that could fund its WMD or proliferation activities," Rice said.

The sanctions panel, which said it plans to add still more names and entities, has been focused on three areas: sensitive dual-use goods, ballistic missile-related items and nuclear-related items.

Pak Tok-hun, deputy chief of North Korea's UN mission in New York, told South Korea's Yonhap news agency that the sanctions were "unfair" but said they will not harm his country.

Pak said North Korea "will not accept Security Council resolutions against the North and any sanctions under the resolutions," adding, "Sanctions will not resolve any problems."

A US expert on North Korean sanctions said the latest measures—putting the UN seal of approval on measures the US already has prepared to undertake—are "a modest first step" that might scare off some of North Korea's weapons-buying customers.

"We're now into a game of Whack-A-Mole," said Marcus Noland, an economist at Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, referring to the game in which moles keeping popping up from their holes randomly.

"What's going to happen is that the North Koreans are going to try to reconstitute their entities and form new shell companies, new front companies, to continue these activities," he said. "If there's really going to be comprehensive efforts on this, they're going to have to go after the financial intermediaries, some of which are in China, and after the customers."

North Korea has not indicated how it might react to the sanctions panel's latest decisions.

But on June 13, North Korea's Foreign Ministry threatened to take "countermeasures" including accelerating plutonium reprocessing and starting up uranium enrichment, which would give the regime a second way to make atomic bombs.

North Korea warned that any attempted blockade of its ships would be considered "an act of war" that would draw "a decisive military response." It also has threatened a "thousand-fold" military retaliation against the US and its allies if provoked.

Security Council Resolution 1874, approved on June 12, responded to the North's underground nuclear test blast on May 25.

Continue read UN Issues New Sanctions against North Korea...

13 July 2009

Seoul suspects North Korea behind cyber attacks

(SMH) -Seoul's spy agency has yet to be sure that North Koreans were behind recent cyber attacks on South Korea and the United States but it still sees Pyongyang as a prime suspect, officials said.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said in a statement on Sunday it was still looking into "various pieces of evidence" indicating that North Koreans might have orchestrated the attacks against South Korean and US government websites, as well as private websites.

"The NIS ... has yet to reach a final conclusion that the acts have been committed by North Korea," the statement said.

It denied a report by Chosun Ilbo newspaper on Saturday that the NIS had found an internet protocol (IP) address used by a North Korean hacker surnamed Yun, who could be behind the cyber attacks.

It said the Chosun Ilbo report went "too far" and urged local media outlets to be prudent in reporting on the case.

Hackers have planted viruses in thousands of personal computers in South Korea, one of the world's most wired societies, as well as overseas.

These mounted "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attacks designed to seek simultaneous access to selected sites and swamp them with traffic.

The Korea Communications Commission in Seoul said on Sunday more than 690 personal computers in total had been damaged in the wake of the cyber raid.

The attacks that had crippled some South Korean government websites have now come under control after virus-infected "botnet" hosting servers were isolated and "vaccine" programs were widely distributed to PC users.

The North has staged a nuclear test and numerous missile launches in recent weeks, raising regional tensions.

But a cyber attack, if confirmed, would be a new tactic.

AFP

Continue read Seoul suspects North Korea behind cyber attacks...

Kim's cancer 'life-threatening'

A frame grab taken from footage released by KRT on July 8, 2009 this year shows Kim Jong-il during the 15th anniversary of the death of his father and country's founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang. Photo: Reuters TV (SMH)

(News.com.au) - Kim Jong-il 'has pancreatic cancer'

* Health report based on foreign spy agencies
* Kim had looked unwell at memorial last week
* Cancer is life-threatening, sources say

NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-il has pancreatic cancer and the illness is life-threatening, South Korean broadcaster YTN said.

YTN's claim was based on information gathered by Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources.

Mr Kim's health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the reclusive communist state.

At 67, he was widely thought to have suffered a stroke last year, but there has never been official confirmation.

Mr Kim looked gaunt during a public appearance last Wednesday at a memorial for his father and state founder Kim Il-sung.

Mr Kim's health raises questions about succession in Asia's only communist dynasty and who will control its nuclear weapons programmes.

The North conducted its second nuclear test on May 25, which was met by UN sanctions aimed at cutting off the impoverished state's lucrative arms trade and one of its few sources of hard cash.

South Korean officials have said the North's recent military grandstanding, that also included missiles launches and threats to attack the South, was linked to efforts to pave the way for Mr Kim's youngest son to take over.

Mr Kim took power in 1994 when his father died at the age of 82.

He assumed the title of general secretary of the Workers' Party and chairman of the National Defence Commission, but has never taken the title of president.

From correspondents in Seoul, South Korea
Reuters

Continue read Kim's cancer 'life-threatening'...

06 July 2009

NKorean Launches Maybe Included New Scud

By HYUNG-JIN KIM / AP WRITER
The Irrawaddy News


SEOUL — A barrage of ballistic missiles that North Korea test-fired over the weekend may have included a new type of Scud missile with an extended range and improved accuracy that poses a threat to Japan, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday.

Pyongyang launched seven missiles into waters off its east coast Saturday in a show of force that defied UN resolutions and drew international condemnation.

On Monday, South Korea's mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported the launches were believed to have included three Scud-ER missiles with a range of up to 620 miles (1,000 kilometers).

The paper said the Scud-ER has a longer range and better accuracy compared with previous Scud series so is "particularly a threat to Japan."

Tokyo is about 720 miles (1,160 kilometers) from the base on North Korea's east coast from where the missiles were fired. Some other parts of Japan are closer, well within the range of a Scud-ER.

Scuds are single stage, liquid-fueled missiles, originally developed in the former Soviet Union, and generally known for poor accuracy. Ballistic missile programs in Pakistan and Iran were built on Scud technology.

The Chosun Ilbo, citing a government source it did not name, said the other four missiles were two Scud-C missiles with a range of 310 miles (500 kilometers) and two medium-range Rodong missiles that can travel up to 810 miles (1,300 kilometers).

Five of the seven missiles flew about 260 miles (420 kilometers) from an eastern coastal launch site and landed in one area, meaning their accuracy has improved, the paper said.

South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said Monday that the North demonstrated improved missile accuracy in the latest tests because they all landed in the same area.

He declined to confirm details of the Chosun Ilbo report.

Another ministry official told The Associated Press on Sunday that the missiles appeared to have traveled about 250 miles (400 kilometers), meaning that key government and military facilities in South Korea were within range. The official spoke on condition of anonymity citing department policy.

North Korea has long-range missiles as well. The Taepodong-2 has a potential range of more than 4,100 miles (6,700 kilometers), putting Alaska within striking distance.

The country is believed to be developing a missile with an even longer range that could potentially put the US west coast, Hawaii, Australia and eastern Europe within striking distance.

The launches on July 4—the US Independence Day holiday—also appeared to be a poke at Washington as it moves to enforce UN as well as its own sanctions against the isolated regime for its May 25 nuclear test.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned they were "very destabilizing, potentially."

North Korean state media have not specifically mentioned the launches but boasted Sunday that the country's military could impose "merciless punishment" on those who provoke it.

"Our revolutionary forces have grown up today as the strong army that can impose merciless punishment against those who offend us," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The North has engaged in a series of acts this year widely seen as provocative. It fired a long-range rocket it said was a satellite in early April, and in late May it carried out its second underground nuclear test following the first in late 2006.

The UN Security Council punished Pyongyang with tough sanctions centered on clamping down on North Korea's alleged trading of banned arms and weapons-related material.

The US has been monitoring a North Korean freighter because of suspicions it may be carrying illegal weapons, possibly to Burma. The ship, however, turned around a week ago without stopping at any port and headed toward home.

Won, the Defense Ministry spokesman, said the Kang Nam 1 was expected to arrived in the North later Monday.

Separately, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman pledged to work with the US to block North Korea from using the Southeast Asian nation's banks for any weapons deals.

"If America has any information that is available to them, then I think they should give it to us so that we can act upon it," Anifah told reporters. "If they have evidence, we'll be most willing to work together to solve this problem."

The assurance came as US envoy Philip Goldberg, in charge of coordinating the implementation of sanctions against Pyongyang, met with Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur.

South Korean media have reported that North Korea sought payment through a bank in Malaysia for a suspected shipment of weapons to Burma.

Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang in Seoul and Julia Zappei in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

Continue read NKorean Launches Maybe Included New Scud...

N Korea spent $880m on nuclear tests

From correspondents in Seoul
(News.com.au) - Agence France-Presse

IMPOVERISHED North Korea has spent an estimated $US700 million ($880 million) this year on nuclear and missile tests, enough to solve its food shortage for at least two years, South Korean news reports say.

The figure includes the estimated $US43 million ($54 million) cost of test-firing five Scud and two Rodong missiles on Saturday, according to unidentified government officials quoted by Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

The latest tests, staged on the US Independence Day holiday, were seen as a show of defiance to Washington as it seeks tough enforcement of UN sanctions aimed at shutting down the communist state's nuclear and missile programs.

Officials quoted by Chosun estimated it cost $US300 million ($378 million) to launch a long-range Taepodong-2 missile on April 5, and another $US10 million ($12.6 million) to launch 10 short-range missiles in recent weeks.

In addition, they estimated the May 25 underground nuclear test - the country's second since 2006 - cost between $US300 million to $US400 million ($378 million to $504 million).

JoongAng Ilbo gave similar figures. Neither paper gave the methodology for the cost calculation.

Chosun quoted an unidentified official as saying the North could have bought one million tonnes of rice on the international market for $US300 million ($378 million).

"This amount of rice could have solved the North's food shortage for about a year," the official was quoted as saying.

The UN World Food Program has said that according to a study last year, nearly nine million North Koreans - more than a third of the country's 24 million people - are estimated to need food aid.

Saturday's launches were the biggest salvo of ballistic weaponry since the North fired a Taepodong-2 and six smaller missiles in 2006, also on July 4 US time.

US Vice-President Joseph Biden on Sunday dismissed the launches as "like almost attention-seeking behaviour" and said the focus was on further isolating Pyongyang.

"We have succeeded in uniting the most important and critical countries to North Korea on a common path of further isolating North Korea," he told ABC Television in the US, referring to Russia and China.

These have been traditionally resistant to tough sanctions on Pyongyang but backed the latest measures approved on June 12.

US and South Korean officials believe ailing leader Kim Jong-Il, 67, is staging a show of strength to bolster his authority as he tries to put in place a succession plan involving his youngest son Jong-Un.

Continue read N Korea spent $880m on nuclear tests...

North Korean weapons ship heads home

By Jack Kim

(News.com.au) -A NORTH Korean ship tracked by the US Navy on suspicion of carrying a banned arms cargo is expected to return home after a voyage that tested UN sanctions aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its May nuclear test.

The ship's return may decrease tensions that were raised after North Korea fired seven ballistic missiles on Saturday in an act of defiance towards the US on its Independence Day.

The ageing cargo ship Kang Nam, which set sail in mid June, was headed back to North Korea and is expected to arrive on Monday, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said.

Local dailies said it was headed for the North's port of Nampo after a journey that took it close to Singapore and Myanmar.

A US envoy coordinating the enforcement of UN sanctions on the North is in Malaysia for talks with officials on possibly shutting down bank accounts used by the North for its illicit trade deals, reports in South Korean dailies said.

"The Obama administration has uncovered suspicious North Korean bank accounts in Malaysia," the Joongang Ilbo newspaper quoted a diplomatic source in Washington as saying.

A Malaysian official described the visit by US Ambassador Philip Goldberg as "routine".

Mr Goldberg last week discussed enforcing sanctions with China, the North's biggest benefactor whose participation is essential for the punishment to take effect.

The UN sanctions imposed after the North's nuclear test were aimed at halting its arms trade, which is a vital source of foreign currency for the cash-short state. They also called on states to clamp down on the North's suspected arms shipments.

Missle tests and sanctions

US Vice President Joseph Biden dismissed North Korea's recent missile launches as predictable and said in a TV interview aired on Sunday it was part of "attention-seeking" behaviour by the reclusive state.

Analysts said the missile test may be related to the UN sanctions because the North wants to show its customers, who face greater risks in purchasing missiles, that its products are reliable and accurate.

"North Korea has been making profits through arms trading and this could also have been a test to measure their force," Dongguk University professor Koh Yu-hwan said.

"They want to test their performance on how much they have developed in the past months."

North Korea appears to have launched five Scud missiles, which could hit anywhere in South Korea, and two mid-range Rodong missiles, that could strike most of Japan, in the salvo fired on Saturday, South Korean officials told reporters.

The missiles flew as far as 420 km and displayed greater precision than previously shown, one official said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Won said the North had "greatly improved" the accuracy of its missiles.

A senior South Korean official quoted by the Dong-A Ilbo daily said: "They showed the North is capable of dealing a serious blow to military command centres, airfields and major government installations throughout the South."

"The level of threat is of an entirely different scale when compared to previous launches of surface-to-ship and surface-to-air missiles."

The Scud and Rodong are ballistic missiles. Their launch would mark an escalation by the North, which has fired several non-ballistic, short-range missile since the May 25 nuclear test.

North Korea is barred by UN resolutions from firing ballistic missiles.

It has more than 600 Scud type missiles and 300 Rodong missiles which have been deployed and target US allies South Korea and Japan, defence officials have said.

Reuters

Continue read North Korean weapons ship heads home...

04 July 2009

'Slow starvation on a massive scale' but beer is available

IN KOREA NOW



Sister and Brother in 1 July'09




Also Read Millions Starving

Continue read 'Slow starvation on a massive scale' but beer is available...

N Korea test-fires two missiles

From correspondents in Seoul
(news.com.au) Agence France-Presse

NORTH Korea has test-fired two more missiles, South Korea's defence ministry says, further stoking tensions sparked by its nuclear standoff with the international community.
"North Korea launched two missiles this morning," the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. It follows a series of missile launches earlier this week.

The missiles were launched between 8am and 8.30am local time, 9.30am (AEST) from Kitdaeryong Base near the eastern port of Wonsan into the East Sea (Sea of Japan), it said.

"The military, on the basis of a strong joint defence alliance with the United States, is fully prepared to fend off any threats or provocations by the North," it said.

An unidentified government official quoted by Yonhap news agency said both of the missiles were believed to be Scuds with a range of 500km, which would allow the North to strike most of South Korea.

North Korea fired four short-range missiles on Thursday into the Sea of Japan but the range of those missiles was estimated to be only around 120km.

"The Scuds fired today impose greater security threat to us because of their longer ranges," the official was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

"Thursday's missile tests were apparently made as part of a military drill but today's launches, which came on the eve of the US Independence Day, are believed to be aimed at political purposes," the official said.

This week's missile launches were the first military action the hardline communist state had taken since the United Nations on June 12 imposed tougher sanctions for its May 25 nuclear test.

In the days after its atomic test - the second since 2006 - the North also fired a volley of short-range missiles.

In response to the UN resolution tightening curbs on its missile and atomic activities, it vowed to build more nuclear bombs. It also renounced the truce brokered on the Korean peninsula after a civil war in 1950 to 1953.

Continue read N Korea test-fires two missiles...

03 July 2009

North Korea fires four short-range missiles

By Lim Chang-Won
News.com.au - Agence France-Presse

* North Korea reportedly fires missiles
* US says they're not worried about attack
* Efforts to reign in rogue state continue

NORTH Korea has reportedly test-fired four short-range missiles, further fuelling tension sparked by its nuclear standoff with the international community, in a move the White House has called the latest in a string of "provocative" acts.

South Korean military officials said the missiles - apparently surface-to-ship ones - were fired into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) between 5.20pm (6.20pm AEST) and 9.20pm (8.20pm AEST) local time. All were launched on Thursday from a base at Sinsang-ri, near the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, a spokesman told the Yonhap news agency.

Other officials told the agency on condition of anonymity they landed about 100km off the coast, where the North has imposed a maritime ban until July 11 for what it calls a military drill.

Spokesmen from the defence ministry confirmed the first three firings but could not be reached for comment on the fourth.

It was the first military action the hardline communist state had taken since the United Nations on June 12 imposed tougher sanctions for its May 25 nuclear test.

South Korea's Joong Ang Ilbo newspaper, quoting an intelligence source, said the North was likely to fire a series of short-range missiles - including Scud-B missiles with a range of 340km - in the coming days. The North may also fire Rodongs, whose 1300km range would likely be shortened to about 400km for the current round of testing.

In the days after its atomic test - the second since 2006 - Pyongyang fired six short-range missiles and renounced the truce brokered on the Korean peninsula after a civil war in 1950 to 1953. In response to the UN resolution tightening curbs on its missile and atomic activities, it vowed to build more nuclear bombs.

World condemnation

US and South Korean officials believe ailing leader Kim Jong-Il, 67, is staging a show of strength to bolster his authority as he tries to put in place a succession plan involving his youngest son.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that broadly-backed international sanctions imposed on North Korea were starting to take effect and raised hopes that Pyongyang will yield to the pressure.

"The North Koreans said they were going to launch these missiles. I don't think that's surprising that they've launched these missiles. I take the North Koreans at their word that they're going to continue their provocative actions."

Washington has said it is not ruling out the possibility of a long-range missile launch toward Hawaii on or around July 4, the US Independence Day, although the Pentagon has expressed doubts about such a scenario.

A spokesman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Government is "very concerned" about the missile launches and called on North Korea to immediately desist.

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso also condemned yesterday's launches, saying: "We have repeatedly warned that such a provocative act is not beneficial for North Korea's national interest."

The commander of US Northern Command, General Victor Renuart, told The Washington Times he did not think Pyongyang's missiles posed any real threat to the US.

"The nation has a very, very credible ballistic-missile defence capability. Our ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California ... give me a capability that if we really are threatened by a long-range ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) that I've got high confidence that I could interdict that flight before it caused huge damage to any US territory," he said.

In Beijing, a US delegation met officials yesterday for talks on giving the UN sanctions more teeth.

The support of China, the North's sole major ally and largest trade partner, is seen as crucial in making the sanctions stick.

Warships tracking suspected weapons

US warships have since mid-June been tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying weapons. The Kang Nam 1 was reportedly headed for Burma but US officials said on Tuesday it has now turned back.

China said its top envoy on the North Korean nuclear issue, Wu Dawei, had begun a visit to Russia, the United States, Japan and South Korea.

They are members of a forum which has tried since 2003 to persuade the North to scrap its nuclear programmes in return for energy aid and diplomatic and security benefits.

The North announced it was quitting the talks after the UN censured its long-range rocket launch on April 5.

North and South Korea meanwhile held more talks about the fate of their last major joint business project, the Seoul-funded Kaesong industrial estate just north of the border.

But they failed to narrow differences or set the date for their next meeting, Seoul officials said.

Continue read North Korea fires four short-range missiles...

01 July 2009

Millions starving in North Korea - UN

Starving ... an emaciated brother and sister lie prone at a kindergarten
in South Pyongyang. Picture: World Food Program

* Children facing "critical" food shortage
* Nuclear standoff slowing donations
* Nine million require food aid


From correspondents in Beijing, China (News.com)

NORTH Koreans, especially children, are facing a "critical" food situation as donations have dried up amid the country's nuclear standoff with the world, the UN's food aid agency said today.

Torben Due, the World Food Programme's country representative in North Korea, said Pyongyang had told the agency to scale back its operations in the impoverished country, without giving clear reasons.

"It is a very serious problem for the population in (North Korea) as they do not have enough to eat,'' Mr Due said.

He said the WFP, which launched an emergency operation in North Korea late last year amid a deteriorating food outlook, has had to pare back its goal of reaching 6.2m of the hungry, and is now targeting just 2.27m.

"For adults, it doesn't mean a lot if you live for a few months on a diet of cereals and vegetables, but for children, it is critical,'' he said.

"We see an increase in the number of children being admitted to hospitals with severe malnutrition,'' he added, while stressing that observation was based on anecdotal evidence and could not yet be quantified or verified.

Due said a study by the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation last year estimated nearly nine million North Koreans - more than a third of the country's 24 million people - require food aid.

A long-running international standoff over North Korea's nuclear programmes escalated on May 25 when Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test, followed by further missile launches, which resulted in new UN sanctions.

Continue read Millions starving in North Korea - UN...

25 June 2009

Obama extends sanctions on North Korea

(SMH) -US President Barack Obama has extended a set of economic sanctions on North Korea for another year as tension soars with the communist state over its nuclear and missile programs.

Obama, using emergency powers, prolonged by one year restrictions on property dealings with North Korea that had been due to expire on Friday.

In a statement, Obama said he acted "because the existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean peninsula continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

Former president George W. Bush a year ago rescinded the Trading with the Enemy Act for North Korea, which had banned all commerce with Pyongyang on the grounds it was a hostile state. Only Cuba remains on the list.

But Bush, using the same emergency powers as Obama, had at the same time slapped restrictions for one year on property dealings with North Korea, which would have otherwise been lifted.

Bush at the time was racing to clinch a denuclearisation deal with North Korea late in his term. He also took Pyongyang off a list of state sponsors of terrorism, to the dismay of Japan and some US conservatives.

Diplomacy with North Korea has since quickly deteriorated, with the hardline state in recent months testing a nuclear bomb, firing missiles and bolting from a six-nation agreement that set a framework for denuclearisation.

The Obama administration has said it would welcome new talks with North Korea but also has negotiated at the United Nations to tighten international sanctions on the impoverished state.

Continue read Obama extends sanctions on North Korea...

N Korea warns of nuclear 'fire shower'

(SMH) -North Korea condemned a recent US pledge to provide nuclear defence of South Korea, saying on Thursday that the move boosts its justification to hold onto atomic bombs and invites a potential "fire shower of nuclear retaliation".

The salvo in Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper was the North's latest reaction to last week's summit between President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

The allies issued a joint statement committing the US to defend the South with nuclear weapons.

It also came as an American destroyer trailed a North Korean ship suspected of shipping weapons in violation of a UN resolution punishing Pyongyang's May 25 nuclear test, and as anticipation mounted that the North might test-fire short- or mid-range missiles.

The North's newspaper claimed in a lengthy commentary that the US "nuclear umbrella" commitment made it more likely for the US to mount a nuclear attack on the communist North, and only "provides us with a stronger justification to have nuclear deterrent."

It also amounts to "asking for the calamitous situation of having a fire shower of nuclear retaliation all over South Korea" in case of a conflict, the paper said.

"It is as clear as daylight that South Korea cannot survive under that nuclear umbrella."

North Korea has long claimed that the US is plotting to invade it and has used the claim to justify its development of nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang accused Washington of seeking to "provoke a second Korean War," saying it will "wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all".

The US has repeatedly said it has no intention of attacking the North.

The UN resolution seeks to clamp down on North Korea's trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring UN member states to request inspections of ships carrying suspected cargo.

The US has been seeking to get key nations to enforce the sanctions aggressively.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the foreign ministers of Russia and China to discuss efforts to enforce UN punishments of North Korea for its nuclear test, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

Continue read N Korea warns of nuclear 'fire shower'...

24 June 2009

Kim Jong Il makes son head of spy agency: report

(SMH) -North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has put his youngest son in charge of the country's spy agency in a move aimed at handing the communist regime over to him, a news report said.

Kim visited the headquarters of the State Security Department in March, along with his 26-year-old third son, Kim Jong Un, and told agency leaders to "uphold" the son as head of the department, the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed source.

Kim also told department leaders to "safeguard comrade Kim Jong Un with (your) lives as you did for me in the past," and gave them five foreign-made cars, each worth some $US80,000 ($A100,743), as gifts, the mass-market daily said.

It said Kim visited a college that educates spy agents last month and made similar remarks there.

Pyongyang's State Security Department is the backbone of Kim's harsh rule over the totalitarian nation. It keeps a close watch over government agencies, the military and ordinary people for any signs of dissent. It also engages in spy missions abroad.

The move to put Jong Un in charge of the agency illustrates Kim's concern about any possible backlash that the father-to-son succession could prompt, the Dong-a said.

The paper also said Jong Un oversaw the handling of two American journalists detained in March while on a reporting trip to the China-North Korea border. The reporters were sentenced to 12 years of hard labour earlier this month for illegal border crossing and hostile acts.

South Korea's main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said it could not confirm the Dong-a report.

Continue read Kim Jong Il makes son head of spy agency: report...

22 June 2009

North Koreans Won't Give Up the Ship Without a Fight

Anyone who thinks the North Koreans will sit back passively and allow their ships at sea to be stopped and searched for nuclear weapons or missile components should reflect on a little-known sea battle that took place off the southern coast of Kyushu.

The December 22, 2001, running firefight pitted the Japanese Coast Guard and the North Korean "spy ship" (Japan's phrase) Changyu 3705. Eventually the Korean vessel scuttled itself, taking its 10-man crew to the bottom. Three Japanese Coast Guardsmen were wounded.

President Barack Obama and Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso have both pledged to carry out the latest United Nations resolution allowing member nations to stop and search North Korean vessels suspected of carrying illicit weapons material or missile components. (On Monday it was reported that a US Navy destroyer was already trailing one North Korean cargo ship in international waters.)

The resolution came in the wake of the North's provocative multistage missile tests in April and its setting off of its second nuclear device in May. It calls on UN members to inspect all cargo to and from the North in their territorial waters if they have "information that provides reasonable grounds" that the cargo includes nuclear and missile related items.

The 2001 shootout began in the late afternoon when a coast guard cutter and several patrol aircraft were dispatched to investigate a suspicious vessel operating inside Japan's economic exclusion zone. Ignoring orders to halt, the suspicious vessel attempted to escape. The cutter fired warning shots across the bow, into the sea and eventually directly into the bow of the ship.

The Northern vessel fired back, spraying the coast guard cutter with bullets from automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. It was later determined that the vessel was armed with a Russian-made 14.5 mm ZPU-2 anti-aircraft gun, concealed in a cabin behind the wheelhouse although it was not fired at the coast guard vessel.

At around 10 p.m. the Changyu scuttled itself and sank about 390 km west of the Japanese island of Amani Oshima. None of its 10-member crew survived, although the coast guard did recover several bodies floating in the water.

The Japanese government was curious enough about this ship and what it was up to that it took the trouble, and the considerable expense (about US$50 million), to raise it and associated debris from 90 meters of water to examine it more carefully.

The ship is now on public display in a barn-like building that makes up the Japan Coast Guard Museum on the Yokohama waterfront, a trophy vaguely reminiscent of another spy ship, the USS Pueblo, which was captured by North Korea in 1968 and put on display in Wonson harbor.

The 33-meter ship is rusted and brown from its burial at sea, the bullet holes from the coast guard's 20 mm machine gun are clearly visible at the bow. Aside from associated debris, there are no other displays in the room. The museum is open to anyone free of charge.

The Changyu was clearly designed to look like a fishing boat of undetermined nationality (it has fake name plates in Chinese characters), but a close look reveals anomalies. Where the hold forward of the wheelhouse would normally store the catch was a Russian-made high speed engine capable of pushing the ship to 33 knots, considerably more powerful than a common fishing boat.

At the stern, two doors open to permit a smaller ship to exit from the mother ship. The smaller boat was designed to look like a squid fishing boat but one with an unusually powerful power assembly. Near the stern doors were explosives designed to scuttle the ship if necessary.

On display are other intriguing items that were scattered on the sea bottom. Among them were assorted AK-47 automatic rifles, hand grenades, rocket launchers, the ZPU anti-aircraft machine gun and a curious underwater scooter shaped like a torpedo, plus uniforms and a button with the face of Kim Il-sung.

It is clear that the museum serves a political purpose. As its brochure states, it was opened "to allow citizens to understand the current situation of the waters around Japan and the importance of marine patrols." The "situation' could mean anything but most likely points to Japan's obsession with North Korea's abduction of some of its citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

One can easily imagine the smaller ship sneaking into a Japanese harbor (maps of Kagoshima were recovered from the sunken vessel) or along the coast to land secret agents or pick up kidnap victims, such as then 13-year-old Megumi Yokota, who was abducted along the Sea of Japan coast in 1977 and taken to the North

In this instance, it seems more likely that the ship was engaged in routine drug smuggling. The incident was videotaped, and one segment shows somebody on board throwing some items over the side. Recovered from the floor was a water-logged Japanese mobile phone, but investigators were able to use phone company records to trace calls to gangsters on Kyushu. Several prosecutions resulted.

Since the sea battle, the coast guard has boosted the size and range of armaments aboard its newer patrol ships, allowing them to fire effectively at a more distant range, presumably out of range of handheld automatic weapons and RPGs.

Indeed, Tokyo has been expanding the coast guard, which currently boasts 89 armed vessels, and enlarging its mission in recent years. The Coast Guard Annual Report for 2009 includes for the first time a section devoted to protecting Japanese territorial waters from intrusions by neighboring states.

This includes the waters off the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan. The coast guard has taken the lead in policing these waters, and in December caused an international incident when a cutter collided with a Taiwanese sports fishing boat.

The Japanese government has submitted a bill to the Diet that would allow Japan's maritime services to inspect North Korean cargo on the high seas in accordance with the new UN mandate. Interestingly, Aso designated the coast guard as the agency to do the searches, not the Maritime Self-Defense force (navy).

Apparently the government felt that using the coast guard rather than the navy would prevent these close encounters on the high seas from turning violent, although the "spy ship" incident would suggest that the North Koreans don't necessarily differentiate much between the two sea services and they won't give up the ship without a fight.

Continue read North Koreans Won't Give Up the Ship Without a Fight...

20 June 2009

Koreas negotiate as nuclear tensions grow

By Peter Foster in Beijing

(SMH) - NORTH and South Korea have resumed talks on the fate of their last remaining reconciliation project as the US moved to defend itself in the event of a North Korean missile strike on Hawaii.

The future of the Kaesong joint industrial estate just north of the border has become increasingly uncertain as North-South relations have worsened and the nuclear stand-off has intensified.

Pyongyang is demanding extra payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Seoul's use of the estate and refuses to grant access to a South Korean employee it detained at Kaesong.

Seoul officials were outwardly optimistic before the resumption of talks yesterday.

"The weather is good today, so wouldn't the talks go well?" a Unification Ministry official, Kim Young-tak, said to the Yonhap news agency before crossing the heavily fortified border at the head of a 14-member delegation.

Meanwhile, Washington is considering using five-way talks with China, Russia, Japan and South Korea to press North Korea to change tack on its nuclear and missile programs, a US official said. The five had been involved in negotiations with North Korea on the nuclear issue.

The idea was raised when the US President, Barack Obama, hosted talks at the White House on Tuesday with the South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak, a senior State Department official told reporters on Thursday.

The US military has moved additional defences to Hawaii in case North Korea fires a missile towards the Pacific island chain.

The decision to deploy missile defence weaponry to Hawaii came as the US military tracked a North Korean ship that it said might be carrying cargo banned under tougher United Nations sanctions imposed on Pyongyang last week.

The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said Washington was watching North Korea for missile activity.

"We do have some concerns if they were to launch a missile to the west in the direction of Hawaii," Mr Gates said. "Without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say … we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect Americans and American territory."

He said he had approved the deployment of missile defence weaponry to Hawaii and a radar system nearby "to provide support" in case of an attack.

Reports of Pyongyang's missile preparations came as Russia and China took the rare step of jointly urging North Korea to stop its provocative actions of recent months and return to the stalled six-party talks on nuclear disarmament.

Following talks in Moscow, China's President, Hu Jintao, joined his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in calling for the "swiftest renewal" of talks.

"Russia and China are ready to foster the lowering of tension in North-East Asia and call for the continuation of efforts by all sides to resolve disagreements through peaceful means, through dialogue and consultations," they said.

The possibility has been raised that North Korea might use chemical weapons.

Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group said: "If there is an escalation of conflict and if military hostilities break out, there is a risk that [chemical weapons] could be used. In conventional terms, North Korea is weak and they feel they might have to resort to using those."

Agence France-Presse;Telegraph, London

Continue read Koreas negotiate as nuclear tensions grow...

16 June 2009

Kim Jong-Un meets China President Hu Jintao

THE youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il secretly visited China last week and his hosts were told he had been appointed heir to the ruling family dynasty.

Japan's Asahi newspaper cited unidentified sources close to North Korea, said Kim Jong-Un met Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders of the ruling Communist Party when he flew to Beijing around June 10.

Analysts have said North Korea's nuclear test on May 25 and other belligerent acts may be aimed at a domestic audience, with the elder Kim trying to bolster his position at home to secure the succession of his youngest son.

The 67-year-old leader is believed to have suffered a stroke last year.

An aide to Jong-Un told Chinese officials the younger Kim had been appointed heir and that he held an important post in the ruling Korean Workers' Party, the mass circulation Asahi said.

China's Foreign Ministry declined immediate comment on the report of the visit.

Jong-Un is the Swiss-educated third son of Kim Jong-Il and was born in 1983 or 1984.

Earlier this month South Korean media, quoting informed sources, said Pyongyang had asked the country's main bodies and overseas missions to pledge loyalty to Jong-un.

China is the closest thing North Korea has to an ally and in theory Beijing wields more influence over Pyongyang than any other power, but experts say the relationship is brittle and China actually has limited room for manoeuvre.

Hu apparently asked North Korea not to go ahead with another nuclear test or test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Asahi reported.

Jong-Un was believed to have asked China for emergency energy and food aid, the newspaper said, underscoring the grim economic situation in the impoverished state.

Jong-Un also visited factories in China's export hub of Guangdong province, it added.

The succession has been one of the most closely guarded secrets in North Korea and very little is known about Jong-Un, whose youth could be problem in a society that attaches importance to seniority.

(News.com.au) From correspondents in Tokyo - Reuters

Continue read Kim Jong-Un meets China President Hu Jintao...

14 June 2009

We'll keep making weapons

Park Chan-Kyong
Seoul (
SMH)

NORTH Korea vowed yesterday to build more nuclear bombs and start enriching uranium for atomic weapons after the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions for its nuclear test last month.

The Foreign Ministry, describing the sanctions resolution as a "vile product" of a US-inspired campaign, said North Korea would never abandon nuclear weapons and would treat any attempt to blockade it as an act of war.

The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously on Friday to toughen sanctions to cripple North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. The US hailed Friday's measure but warned that Pyongyang might respond with "further provocation".

The hardline communist state's Foreign Ministry said that "all plutonium to be extracted will be weaponised". A third of used fuel rods from the Yongbyon reactor had been reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium, it said.

"Secondly, we will start uranium enrichment," the Foreign Ministry said. It said the country had developed the necessary technology.

In 2002 North Korea denied US claims that it was operating a secret uranium enrichment program in addition to its plutonium-based operation it had admitted to having.

The plutonium-producing plants were shut under a six-nation disarmament deal in 2007. But North Korea vowed to restart them after the Security Council in April condemned its long-range rocket launch.

"It has become an absolutely impossible option for the DPRK [North Korea] to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons," the Foreign Ministry said.

It said North Korea would consider any blockade as an act of war and would retaliate militarily.

It said the sanctions aimed to "disarm us and suffocate us economically" to dismantle the ideology and system chosen by the people.

The Foreign Ministry said North Korea never wanted nuclear weapons "but it was an inevitable course of action forced upon us by the US hostile policy and nuclear threats".

"No matter how hard the US-led hostile forces may try all sorts of isolation and blockade, the DPRK, a proud nuclear power, will not flinch from them."

Resolution 1874, passed on Friday, does not authorise the use of force. It calls on UN member states to expand sanctions imposed on the North after its first nuclear test in October 2006.

It calls for tougher inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned missile- and nuclear-related items, a tighter arms embargo (with the exception of light weapons), and new targeted financial restrictions to choke off revenue for Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the resolution sent a "clear and strong message" to Pyongyang.

Continue read We'll keep making weapons...

13 June 2009

Cost-benefit analysis of nuclear ambition puts N Korea in front

A North Korean counterfeit, top, of the $US100 bill, below. Photo: AP

By Blaine Harden in Tokyo

(SMH) -AS THE United Nations moves to enact a sanction on North Korea for its second nuclear test, strong evidence of the failure of a previous international squeeze has emerged.

In recent decades North Korea has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from peddling fake drugs, circulating counterfeit currency and moving missiles and missile parts to countries in East Asia and the Middle East, the Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in California has found.

Because of booming business with China, overseas trade has grown substantially since the sanctions were imposed in 2006 after the government of Kim Jong-il exploded its first nuclear device.

Trade volume rose last year to its highest level since 1990, when a less isolated North Korea was heavily subsidised by the former Soviet Union, an analysis by the Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency in Seoul found.

North Korean exports surged 23 per cent last year, on the previous year, and imports rose 33 per cent, the agency said. It found that China's share of overseas trade had risen from 33 per cent in 2003 to 73 per cent last year.

UN Security Council sanctions have had "no perceptible effect" on North Korea's trade with its largest partners, another study, by Marcus Noland, a North Korea expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, found.

"In retrospect, North Korea may have calculated quite correctly that direct penalties for establishing itself as a nuclear power would be modest," he wrote in a paper published at the end of last year. "If sanctions are to deter behaviour in the future, they will have to be much more enthusiastically implemented."

A draft resolution agreed on Wednesday by the United States, China and other major powers would tighten the military, financial and trade sanctions approved in 2006. It could be adopted by Friday.

Noland said the plan was clever. "The North Koreans will be down to whatever China gives them and whatever they can get from their subterranean customers in the Middle East."

The Washington Post

Continue read Cost-benefit analysis of nuclear ambition puts N Korea in front...

UN widens sanctions on North Korea, China joins in

By Louis Charbonneau and Claudia Parsons

(News.com) -The UN Security Council unanimously approved wider sanctions against North Korea overnight over its May 25 nuclear test, a move close ally China said showed firm opposition to Pyongyang's atomic ambitions.

The sanctions resolution banned all weapons exports from North Korea and most arms imports into the reclusive communist state. It authorized UN member states to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, requiring them to seize and destroy any goods transported in violation of the sanctions.

Both China and Russia, which had been reluctant to approve punitive measures against North Korea in the past, backed the US-drafted resolution, which is binding under international law.

China's UN ambassador, Zhang Yesui, said the resolution showed the "firm opposition" of the international community to North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but he urged countries to exercise caution when inspecting North Korean cargo.

"Under no circumstances should there be use or threat of the use of force," Mr Zhang said.

US Ambassador Susan Rice said Washington would press for full implementation of the sanctions and would not get into a "tit-for-tat reaction" to every provocation from Pyongyang.

"It would not be a surprise if North Korea reacted to this very tough sanctions regime in a fashion that would be further provocation and further destabilizing," she said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office issued a statement welcoming the 15-nation council's move.

"Acting unanimously and agreeing on credible measures, the members of the Security Council have sent today a clear and strong message to (North Korea)," the statement said, adding the South Korean UN chief would "spare no effort in facilitating the implementation of the resolution."

Two senior diplomats involved in the negotiations on the resolution said on condition of anonymity the Chinese had never really clarified whether they intended to implement the new sanctions resolution in contrast to earlier sanctions against North Korea that they ignored.

"The effectiveness of this resolution will depend on its enforcement," one of the diplomats said.

Reuters

Continue read UN widens sanctions on North Korea, China joins in...

Japan vows total ban on N Korea exports

(News.com) -JAPAN plans to impose a total ban on exports to North Korea as part of its new economic sanctions against Pyongyang following last month's nuclear test, news reports said.

The move comes after the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Friday to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea to cripple its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Japan has already imposed a ban on its shipments of luxury goods and weapons-related equipment to North Korea following the communist state's missile launches and its first nuclear test.

Prime Minister Taro Aso's cabinet is expected to announce the additional sanctions as early as Tuesday, the Nikkei reported.

In a statement released today, Mr Aso urged North Korea to "take seriously" the latest UN resolution to punish Pyongyang for last month's nuclear test.

"The international community must work together in executing measures based on the resolution," Mr Aso said. "Our country will quickly move into action in order to secure the effectiveness of the resolution."

All 15 members of the UN Security Council endorsed the compromise resolution sponsored by Britain, France, Japan, South Korea and the US.

The text, which does not authorise the use of force, calls on UN member states to impose expanded sanctions on North Korea in response to its May 25 underground nuclear test and subsequent missile firings.

Agence France-Presse

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