In the News – N.Korea Spends Billions on Lavish Fireworks

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In the News – N.Korea Spends Billions on Lavish Fireworks

Fireworks explode over the Juche Tower on the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang to celebrate North Koreas nation founder Kim Il-sungs centenary in Pyongyang on Sunday. /Reuters-Yonhap

North Korea reportedly spent W19 billion on massive fireworks in celebration of Kim Il-sung’s centenary on Sunday, or over three times the amount it spent on the same annual ritual in 2010.

Sunday’s visual pyrotechnics display lasted for one hour from 8 p.m. and was staged on the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang with its new leader Kim Jong-un present.

“Fireworks brightly lit up the sky in an area near the Juche Tower in Pyongyang while the ‘Song of General Kim Il-sung’ played in the background. Fireworks of various colors decorated the sky spectacularly,” reported the state-run [North] Korean Central News Agency.

A South Korean government official who is familiar with North Korean affairs said, “The fireworks this time were less ostentatious than those staged in 2010, but firework shows took place nationwide this year, not only in Pyongyang. Two hundred tons of firecrackers were imported from China, and if transportation and performance costs are counted, the expense must have added up to around US$16.7 million.”

However, this is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg out of its whole spending for the preparatory projects for the centenary events. Continue reading

In the News – Embarrassed by rocket crash, North Korea may try nuclear test

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In the News – Embarrassed by rocket crash, North Korea may try nuclear test

(Reuters) – North Korea said its much hyped long-range rocket launch failed on Friday, in a very rare and embarrassing public admission of failure by the hermit state and a blow for its new young leader who faces international outrage over the attempt.

The isolated North, using the launch to celebrate the 100th birthday of the dead founding president Kim Il-sung and to mark the rise to power of his grandson Kim Jong-un, is now widely expected to press ahead with its third nuclear test to show its military strength.

“The possibility of an additional long-range rocket launch or a nuclear test, as well as a military provocation to strengthen internal solidarity is very high,” a senior South Korean defence ministry official told a parliamentary hearing.

The two Koreas are divided by the world’s most militarised border and remain technically at war after an armistice ended the Korean War in 1953. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea threatens ‘merciless punishment’ as it readies rocket launch

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In the News – North Korea threatens ‘merciless punishment’ as it readies rocket launch

Japan and South Korea have put their armed forces on standby in response to North Korea’s plans, prepared to shoot down the missile if it passes over their territory.

North Korea was this weekend believed to be at the first stage of launching the rocket, expected between April 12 and 16, claiming that it is part of the centenary celebrations for the birth of the state’s founder Kim Il Sung.

However, the United States, Japan and South Korea believe that in reality it will be a ballistic missile test in violation of UN resolutions.

It is against such a backdrop of rising regional tensions surrounding the Korean peninsula that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, will arrive in Japan on a two-day visit this week. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea opens nation’s biggest power station

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In the News – North Korea opens nation’s biggest power station

nkoreapowerstation2

HUICHON CITY, North Korea –  North Korea on Thursday unveiled one of its biggest construction projects in recent years: a massive hydroelectric power station that is expected to provide the nation with much-needed electricity.

The opening of the Huichon Power Station in Jagang Province, north of Pyongyang, was the first big ceremony in a month of celebrations timed for the April centenary of the birth of late President Kim Il Sung.

The power station on the Chongchon River, which had been under construction for more than three years, was a favored project of late leader Kim Jong Il. Kim had visited the project at least five times before his December death. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea completes electing new leader Kim as party delegate

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In the News – N. Korea completes electing new leader Kim as party delegate

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) — After a series of party meetings countrywide, North Korea has elected new leader Kim Jong-un as a delegate to this month’s ruling party conference, the North’s state media said Sunday, in a move seen by outside analysts as another effort to consolidate Kim’s grip on power.

The North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) plans to hold a special session on April 13 and is expected to appoint the young Kim, believed to be in his late 20s, to the post of general secretary of the party. The same post was held by his late father Kim Jong-il.

The young leader became supreme commander of the North’s 1.1 million-strong military shortly after his father’s death in December, as he progressively takes more control of the communist country.

Announcing Kim as a WPK delegate, representatives “praised him as the great statesman who is wisely leading the revolution and construction as a whole with his tested leadership,” according to an English-language report by the Korean Central News Agency. Continue reading

In the News – N.Korea to Spend Billions on Centenary Celebrations

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In the News – N.Korea to Spend Billions on Centenary Celebrations

North Korea is about to spend an estimated US$2 billion, or one third of its annual budget, to mark the centenary of nation founder Kim Il-sung on April 15, plus an additional $850 million to build a three-stage rocket and launch pad for the event. The total would be enough to buy 4.75 million tons of rice based on current grain prices at $600 per ton as the regime holds out its hands for international food aid.

North Korea’s state budget last year was $5.7 billion, and the price tag of the centenary celebration has been estimated to be around $2 billion, according to a South Korean government source. The North invited representatives from 48 countries to Pyongyang for the centenary.  Continue reading

In the News – Defiant North Korea says rocket launch to go ahead

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In the News – Defiant North Korea says rocket launch to go ahead

(Reuters) – North Korea on Sunday rejected criticism of its planned long-range missile launch which threatens to upset its only major benefactor, China, and put relations with the United States back in the freezer just as they seemed to be starting to thaw.

Political analysts say the launch, which would violate U.N. resolutions on the heavily sanctioned state, is aimed at boosting the legitimacy of its young new ruler Kim Jong-un who inherited power after his father’s death in December.

“The peaceful development and use of space is a universally recognized legitimate right of a sovereign state,” the North’s state KCNA news agency said.

North Korea says it is using the rocket to launch a satellite to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding ruler and grandfather of the current ruler.

The United States, and others, say it is much the same as a ballistic missile test and therefore off-limits for the isolated state which has for years been trying to build a nuclear arsenal.

Washington, which last month agreed to supply North Korea with food in exchange for a suspension of nuclear tests, missile launches and uranium enrichment and to allow nuclear inspectors into the country, called the planned launch “highly provocative”.

More troubling perhaps for Pyongyang, which is long accustomed to trading invective with Washington, Beijing called the planned launch a “worry” in a rare attempt to put public pressure on its impoverished ally.

The North has invited foreign observers and journalists to attend the launch.

It announced the planned launch on Friday just weeks after the deal with Washington. It will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung.

In April 2009, North Korea conducted a ballistic rocket launch that resulted in a new round of U.N. sanctions, squeezing the secretive state’s already troubled economy and deepening its isolation.

That launch was dismissed as a failure after the first stage fell into the Sea of Japan without placing a satellite in orbit. Another test failed in similar circumstances in 1998.

The new launch is due to take place between April 12-16, to coincide with Kim Il-sung’s centenary celebrations and will coincide with parliamentary elections in South Korea.

Japan has said it would consider deploying PAC3 missile interceptors as it did in a 2009 launch by North Korea.

(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by David Chance and Jonathan Thatcher)

Original article can be found here.

In the News – New North Korean Leader Faces Uphill Struggle

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In the News – New N.Korean Leader Faces Uphill Struggle

New North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will have a tough road ahead now that his father Kim Jong-il is buried and the real job begins. So far he has only had to follow protocol and look sad by his father’s coffin, but the impoverished country faces a host of problems, especially in its dealings with the international community.

Kim Jong-il elicited some grudging respect for the expert way he played the international community. His brinkmanship tactics involved threats and nuclear development, alternating with negotiations and concessions to extract aid. But Jong-un has no foreign-policy experience. “Only those who know where the brink is can play the brinkmanship game,” one diplomat said. “But Kim Jong-un probably has no idea where the brink is.”

North Koreans react during late leader Kim Jong-ils funeral procession in Pyongyang on Wednesday. /AP-Newsis

North Koreans react during late leader Kim Jong-ils funeral procession in Pyongyang on Wednesday. /AP-Newsis

The void left by Kim Jong-il’s death is even bigger in relations with China, which is North Korea’s sole lifeline. “The Chinese leadership has had difficulty with Kim Jong-il’s brinkmanship tactics,” a source in China said, but he was always able to extract more aid and investment because Beijing preferred the status quo and he tended to highlight the “blood ties” between the two countries, which count for a great deal in Confucian societies. Kim Jong-un, by contrast, will now have to deal with Chinese leaders who are three to four decades his seniors.

And North Korea urgently needs money to pay for celebrations of regime founder Kim Il-sung’s centenary if it is to keep an increasingly restive and starving population in line. “People have high hopes for what the party will give to them” on Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday on April 15 next year, a source in North Korea said. “If the special rations are way below people’s expectations, there could be an outburst of pent-up discontent.”

The North Korean regime has been living on borrowed time with constant promises of a big party in 2012, when it had vowed to become a “powerful and prosperous nation.” Kim Jong-il tried to trade a halt in uranium enrichment for 240,000 tons of food assistance from the U.S. before his death.

“People’s dissatisfaction didn’t mean much under absolute rule,” a North Korean source said, “but things may change in the future. Kim Jong-un’s immediate priority will be begging for rice for next year’s promised feast.”

Original article can be found here.