In the News – North Korea Denies Reform Effort

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In the News – North Korea Denies Reform Effort

SEOUL — North Korea is rejecting speculation any economic reform is getting underway in the reclusive and impoverished country.

Pyongyang is making it clear it considers unacceptable any assertions from officials in Seoul and foreign media that policy change, reform or opening of the country has begun.

Quoting an unnamed spokesman for a North Korean group, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a television announcer declared that what he termed “ridiculous rhetoric” by South Korean officials reveal their “ignorance and sinister intention” against the North.

The announcer said the United States and South Korea, after decades of advocating reform and opening to impose their “corrupt” system, now seem “preoccupied by hallucinations that such a move is taking place” in North Korea.

A prominent defector from the North, Lee Yun-keol, says the late leader Kim Jong Il, expressed in his will that the words “reform” and “opening” will not be used.

Lee, chairman of the North Korea Strategic Information Service Center in Seoul, says the authorized phrase from Pyongyang is “economic reform management system.” But Lee says this change is not meant to make life better for the masses, but rather to benefit the privileged class. He says, for its survival, the North’s leadership knows it must maintain the military-first policy because any true reform or opening would cause chaos for the government.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission is issuing a separate warning to Washington. This comes after repeated accusations in recent weeks that the United States is behind an alleged plot by agents in the North to sabotage national monuments and statues.

The defense authority in Pyongyang said it would launch a physical counter-offensive to render ineffective America’s strategic bombers and carrier strike forces.

Lee, who was a researcher at a North Korean state organization charged with extending the lives of the country’s leaders, is not worried by this rhetoric.

Lee believes the threats are just a ploy to get more food aid and other desperately needed support from the outside world. Although North Korea is well-armed, Lee says its leaders are actually afraid to start a military conflict and do not have the economic resources to support a war.

North Korea has the world’s fourth-largest standing army. It has never signed a peace treaty with the South following the three-year Korean war, which ended
in 1953 with an armistice that both sides have, over the years, repeatedly accused the other of violating.

Original Article 

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In the News – Export-Import Bank Urges N.Korea to Repay Debt

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In the News – Export-Import Bank Urges N.Korea to Repay Debt

The Export-Import Bank of Korea has once again urged North Korea to repay overdue loans.

“It is regrettable that no steps are being taken despite the fact that the principal on food loans continues to be in arrears,” the bank said on Monday. “We urged the speedy repayment of the overdue loans.”

South Korea loaned US$720 million to North Korea in the form of 2.4 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of corn as part of food aid starting in 2000. June 7 was the repayment deadline for $5.83 million since the North agreed to start paying back the principal in 2012.

The bank notified North Korea of the repayment date in early May, one month before the deadline, but there was no response.

 

Original Article 

In the News – Congress needs tough monitoring for NK food aid: Rep. Royce

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In the News – Congress needs tough monitoring for NK food aid: Rep. Royce

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, June 25 (Yonhap) — The U.S. Senate’s move to ban food assistance for North Korea without a presidential waiver overlooks a more important issue — securing measures for fair and transparent distributions of food donations in the communist nation, a U.S. congressman said Monday.

“My concern is that the compromise reached in the Senate would not lead to effective monitoring of food aid, should U.S. food aid ever be resumed,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) told Yonhap News Agency.

The Senate passed a farm bill last week that includes strict restrictions on giving North Korea food aid.

The five-year farm bill cuts agriculture subsidies and includes an amendment that the U.S. will provide Pyongyang with food aid under the Food for Peace Act only when the president issues a waiver in consideration of national interest.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) initially proposed an amendment to cut off U.S. food aid to North Korea, but Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass) and ranking Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana countered it with their own amendment to leave the door open for the shipment of food to the North.

It still makes it more difficult for the U.S. government to provide food to Pyongyang.

The House of Representatives has yet to reach an agreement on its own version of the farm bill.

“Congress recognizes that food aid to North Korea has often not helped those in greatest need. Instead, it has been diverted to support the North Korean military, and the human rights-abusing government,” said Royce.

In 2011, Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, played a key role in revising agriculture appropriations to prohibits “international food aid to countries that do not provide adequate monitoring and which divert food for inappropriate purposes.”

The U.S. has provided about $800 million in food aid to North Korea since 1996, he noted.

“As the legislative process moves forward, Congress should ensure that any possible future food aid to North Korea be monitored as effectively as possible,”he said.

The U.S. came close to resuming food aid for North Korea earlier this year. But it shelved the plan when Pyongyang fired a long-range rocket in April.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

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In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 23 (Yonhap) — A White House official said Wednesday that the U.S. will again consider food aid for North Korea if it stays away from provocations and averts a confrontational course.

“I think the precondition is that North Koreans have to demonstrate that they are going to refrain from those types of provocative actions and they are serious about moving in a different direction,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said at a press conference for foreign reporters.

He pointed out that Washington has lost trust in the communist regime as it reneged on a bilateral deal by launching a long-range rocket in April.

The two sides reached an agreement on Feb. 29, nicknamed the “Leap Day Deal,” after high-level talks. It called for the North to suspend some of its nuclear activity and put a moratorium on missile launches.

In exchange, the U.S. promised to deliver 240,000 tons of food. Washington halted a related process after the North’s rocket launch.

Rhodes said the U.S. is not convinced that food, if shipped, will reach ordinary people in need such as mothers, children and pregnant women.

He stressed that the U.S. remains open to bilateral and multilateral talks with the North.

But he expressed skepticism that Pyongyang will change its mode.

“We haven’t seen that indication yet,” he said. “Right now we not optimistic that there will be any imminent breakthrough that could lead to the provision of additional assistance.”

On a trip to Northeast Asia, meanwhile, Washington’s point man on Pyongyang also said food assistance is still a viable option depending on the North’s attitude.

“I think as you all know the United States has been historically very generous when it comes to the provision of nutritional assistance,” Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters after meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.

The U.S. has provided more than 2.2 million metric tons of food, valued at over $850 million, to North Korea since the mid-1990s, he noted.

“And should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans’ ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance,” he said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – South Korea tells North it must start repaying its debts

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In the News – South Korea tells North it must start repaying its debts

The South Korean government notified North Korea on Friday that it is time to start paying back a low-interest loan to cover food aid shipped from 2000 through 2007.

The first payment, a combination of principal and interest worth $5.83 million needs to be paid back by early next month, the state-run Export Import Bank said.

The loan, worth $720 million, covers 2.6 million tons of rice and corn sent in six tranches as part of a deal forged under the “sunshine” policy of previous South Korean administrations. The loan was given at an interest rate of one percent, and the North promised to redeem it over 20 years following a 10-year grace period, The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time blog reported.

It is a reasonable bet a country that uses all of its scarce hard currency for spending on the military and the ruling elite will not be rushing to meet its repayment obligations, particularly given its obvious hatred of the current South Korean regime.

The North’s state media ratcheted up its hate-fueled rants against the Lee Myung-bak administration in the South in recent weeks for perceived disrespect of the ruling Kim dynasty.

But should Pyongyang decide to make good on its debts, it has options. An official with the South’s Unification Ministry said that while the North is being asked to pay in cash, payment could potentially be made in commodities if an agreement can be reached.

Earlier this week, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan reported that North Korea has bountiful deposits of coal, magnesite and uranium.

 
Original article can be found here.

North Korea’s Embarrassing Rocket Launch

If you’ve kept up with the news at all, you may know about North Korea’s recent failed rocket launch. I know it’s been in the news quite a lot but I thought I’d provide a simplified version of what happened.

This past March, North Korea and the United States entered negotiations once again. The United States offered to provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance if North Korea would “freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors.” This was big step both for North Korea and the U.S. because it meant that the North would possibly be giving up its biggest weapon and it also meant that the United States would be sending food aid to the impoverished country for the first time since 2009. It was also the first time North Korea and the U.S. had official talks since Kim Jong Un came to power. Thus, these negotiations had a lot of meaning because it would have determined DPRK’s future relationship with the United States. Continue reading

After Kim Jong-Il: America and the Two Koreas

Recently while listening to the National Public Radio (NPR) in the car I came across this program, made by “America Abroad,” about predictions on the future of North Korea and its relations with America. I found the nearly hour-long program at the “America Abroad” website and thought it would be helpful to show others this fairly comprehensive study of the past of Korean relations and to highlight its main points for those who don’t have a free hour to listen to the entire program. The program ended with a quote on the current state of relations; “The 65 million dollar question is… are we going to be ready if this succession doesn’t work.” This question colored the discussion on predictions for the future and unification through the hour. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. warns N. Korea not to conduct hostile acts

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In the News – U.S. warns N. Korea not to conduct hostile acts

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, April 24 (Yonhap) — Amid growing worries that North Korea may soon carry out a nuclear test or launch attacks on South Korea, the U.S. urged Pyongyang Tuesday to use its energy and resources instead to improve the livelihood of its people.

“We strongly suggest that the North Koreans refrain from engaging in any other — any more hostile or provocative actions,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

He reiterated Washington’s concern for the North’s people in need.

The North Korean leadership does “nothing to help the North Korean people, many of whom are starving because of the predilection of the North Korean regime to spend the money it has on weapons systems rather than food and economic development,” added Carney.

Media reports based on unidentified intelligence sources suggest that the North may have almost completed preparations for another underground nuclear experiment.

It has also threatened to carry out “special military actions” against the South.

“No launching, no testing, no nothing if you want to have a better relationship with the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing. “All of these are provocations. All of them take the DPRK in the wrong direction.”

The DPRK is the acronym for the communist nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

She emphasized that Washington has lost trust in Pyongyang’s commitment to dialogue, especially since its rocket launch in April.

“Unfortunately, now we’re going backwards,” she said. “So it’s really up to the DPRK to demonstrate that it wants a better relationship with all of us and that it wants to put its energy into peace and stability and taking care of its people, rather than expensive weapons.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea threatens retaliation for scrapping of food aid

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In the News – North Korea threatens retaliation for scrapping of food aid

North Korea on Tuesday answered world condemnation of its recent rocket test with defiance, threatening “retaliatory measures” if the United States fails to deliver food aid it canceled after the failed launch.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday condemned the rocket launch, widely suspected to be a test of its capability to deliver a nuclear warhead, and ordered the world body’s sanctions committee to impose new punitive measures on the Communist-ruled country.

The Obama administration announced shortly after the launch Friday that it was scrapping a Feb. 29 agreement to send 240,000 metric tons of food to North Korea, a promise made as inducement for Pyongyang to abide by previous U.N. resolutions and suspend its nuclear programs.

The Associated Press reported from Pyongyang that the Korean Central News Agency said the nation would press on with its space ambitions because it no longer feels bound by the food aid agreement, now that Washington has abandoned it. Continue reading

In the News – Worth it? Failed launch costs North Korea food aid

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In the News – Worth it? Failed launch costs North Korea food aid

The U.S. will not go forward with planned food aid for North Korea after the nation’s unsuccessful attempt to launch a long-range missile rocket, the White House said.

“Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea’s provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments,” the White House said in a statement condemning the launch.

President Obama has been prepared to engage with North Korea in a constructive manner, the statement said, but he also insists that the country live up to its earlier commitments and international obligations.

North Korea’s much-anticipated rocket launch ended quickly in failure early Friday, splintering into pieces over the Yellow Sea soon after takeoff. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea high on agenda at G-8 meeting

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In the News – N. Korea high on agenda at G-8 meeting

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, April 11 (Yonhap) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she and her G-8 counterparts will discuss ways to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea set to launch a long-range ballistic rocket.

“I think we all share a strong interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula and we will be discussing how best to achieve that,” the secretary said at the start of a meeting with foreign ministers of the Group of Eight major economies.

The two-day session, under way at the Blair House, a state guest house near the White House, comes ahead of the G-8 Summit to be held at Camp David May 18-19. The group also involves Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Japan, Canada and Italy,
Clinton accused Pyongyang of pushing for such a provocative move at the cost of a Feb. 29 deal under which it pledged to suspend missile and nuclear activities. In return, the U.S. had planned to provide massive food aid. Continue reading

In the News – Along with security threat, North Korea rocket launch presents potential intelligence bonanza

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In the News – Along with security threat, North Korea rocket launch presents potential intelligence bonanza

TOKYO — As the U.S. and its allies decry North Korea’s planned rocket launch, they’re also rushing to capitalize on the rare opportunity it presents to assess the secretive nation’s ability to strike beyond its shores.

If North Korea goes ahead with the launch, expected between April 12-16, the United States, Japan and South Korea will have more military assets on hand than ever to track the rocket and — if necessary — shoot it out of the sky.

Behind the scenes, they will be analyzing everything from where the rocket’s booster stages fall to the shape of its nose cone. The information they gather could deeply impact regional defense planning and future arms talks.

Military planners want to know how much progress North Korea has made since its last attempt to launch a satellite three years ago. Arms negotiators will be looking for signs of how much the rocket, a modified ballistic missile launcher, uses foreign technology. Continue reading

In the News – Former US Diplomat Says If Ignored, North Korea Could be ‘Dangerous’

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In the News – Former US Diplomat Says If Ignored, North Korea Could be ‘Dangerous’

U.S. envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth

The former U.S. envoy to North Korea said the Obama administration must continue to engage with Pyongyang, even if goes through with a rocket launch scheduled for this month.

Stephen Bosworth told VOA’s Korean Service this week that the United States has always made clear to the North Koreans that it is opposed to the regime launching a long-range missile, regardless of its reasons. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. discussing next steps on N. Korea: State Dept.

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In the News – U.S. discussing next steps on N. Korea: State Dept.

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 30 (Yonhap) — The United States is talking with its allies and others about what to do if North Korea launches a long-range rocket in mid-April in defiance of repeated warnings, an official said Friday.

Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the State Department, said it is a matter of mutual trust, especially after a Feb. 29 deal between Washington and Pyongyang on nascent confidence-building measures.

“This launch, if it goes forward, would call into question the credibility of all North Korea’s commitments,” he said at a press briefing. Continue reading

S. Korea vows to deal sternly with N. Korea’s planned rocket launch

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S. Korea vows to deal sternly with N. Korea’s planned rocket launch

SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea will deal sternly with North Korea’s planned rocket launch but will keep its door open to talks with the communist country, Seoul’s point man on Pyongyang said Wednesday.

The North announced last week it would launch a rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit, in what it said was part of its peaceful space program. The launch is timed to mark the centennial of the birth of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korea “will deal sternly with” North Korea’s planned rocket launch through close coordination with the international community, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said in a forum, according to his office. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Invites IAEA Inspectors to Return

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In the News – North Korea Invites IAEA Inspectors to Return

North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho (file photo)

North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho ( 2011 file photo) Reuter

North Korea considers its February 29 agreement with the United States still in effect, despite Washington’s insistence that, if Pyongyang goes ahead with a so-called space launch next month, that will break the deal. The North says it is inviting United Nations inspectors to return to the country to monitor the recent agreement with the United States.

North Korea is continuing efforts to keep its announced “satellite launch” from jeopardizing its recent agreement to partly freeze its nuclear programs in exchange for American food aid.
Chief nuclear negotiator, Ri Yong Ho, says Pyongyang intends to carry out the deal with the United States. 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 – U.S. and North Korean officials meet to seal food aid deal

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In the News – U.S. and North Korean officials meet to seal food aid deal

(CNN) — U.S. and North Korean officials are meeting Wednesday in Beijing to settle the details of a plan to allow the resumption of food aid to the North.

The talks take place against a backdrop of bellicose images and rhetoric from Pyongyang. North Korean television this week aired footage of a military unit carrying out live-fire drills in sight of a South Korean island.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is holding talks with representatives from Pyongyang on Wednesday to “finalize all of the technical arrangements so that the nutritional assistance can begin to move,” according to the U.S. State Department. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. urged to link N. Korean defectors’ fate with food aid

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In the News – U.S. urged to link N. Korean defectors’ fate with food aid

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Yonhap) — The Barack Obama administration should tie any food aid to North Korea with its handling of defectors fleeing their totalitarian and hunger-stricken homeland, a U.S. congressman said Monday.

“It’s unclear whether or not the Obama Administration’s food aid to North Korea – some 240,000 metric tons per year – contains any conditions or links to the refugees. It should,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who chairs the Congressional Executive Commission on China, said at a hearing on China’s forced repatriation of North Korean defectors. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea, U.S. to meet in Beijing next week for food aid

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In the News – N. Korea, U.S. to meet in Beijing next week for food aid

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Yonhap) — Diplomats from North Korea and the United States plan to meet in Beijing next week to discuss “technical” issues to implement Washington’s promise to provide 240,000 tons of “nutritional assistance,” the U.S. announced Friday.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, will meet a North Korean counterpart on Wednesday, according to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland. Continue reading