In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

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In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

China asked Seoul to make sure that South Koreans stop engaging in “organized activities” there to help North Koreans escape if South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan was to be released. Kim was tortured during his 114 days in Chinese detention for helping North Korean refugees.

A senior diplomatic source here on Wednesday said China attempted to make Kim’s release contingent on South Korea putting a stop to activists’ help for North Korean defectors in the three northeastern Chinese provinces.

“China threatened not to release Kim unless Seoul promises to stop organized assistance for North Korean defectors, but the South Korean government declined,” the source added.

A senior South Korean government official confirmed the story.

China is worried about the activities of South Korean NGOs helping North Koreans in the provinces adjacent to North Korea. Chinese police fear that North Koreans could escape en masse if organized assistance increases.

There is also speculation that the North Korean regime has asked Beijing for help. After Seoul declined to meet its demand, China reportedly decided to deport Kim after a visit to Seoul last month by Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu.

Seoul has been seeking a consular agreement with Beijing to increase protection of South Korean citizens for a decade, but progress has been slow. According to the Foreign Ministry, talks kicked off in May 2002 and were convened on three more occasions — in January 2007, January 2010, and December 2011 — but the gap in opinions remains wide.

Seoul made consular agreements with the U.S. in 1963 and with Russia in 1992. A ministry official said, “Even if there’s no bilateral consular agreement with China, there won’t be any big problem if we stress the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which most countries including China and Korea are signatories.”

Original Article 

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In the News – North Korean Economic Reform: It Could Work Very Well If They’ll Let It

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In the News – North Korean Economic Reform: It Could Work Very Well If They’ll Let It

It’s extremely difficult to get hard facts out of North Korea: we’re all peering through a cloudy looking glass dimly at whatever rumour we can find. The latest is that there is going to be some move towards economic reform in thecountry. My belief is that it would work very well: if only they allow it.

Impoverished North Korea is gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after young leader Kim Jong-un and his powerful uncle purged the country’s top general for opposing change, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing said.

The source added that the cabinet had created a special bureau to take control of the decaying economy from the military, one of the world’s largest, which under Kim’s father was given pride of place in running the country.

I say this for two reasons. The first being the obvious one that it’s actually terribly easy to produce economic growth when you’re starting from the low point of economic autarky and rigid communism. As China found when it first started to get rid of the stupidities of Mao’s time, just allowing the peasants a little land and the freedom to market their produce gets things moving very nicely indeed. From the low base at which they’re starting 5% or more economic growth a year isn’t the result of actively doing anything at all. It will come purely from ceasing to stop people doing what they already wish and know how to do.

The second reason comes more from personal experience. When I was living in Russia in the 90s I had some interaction with a number of North Koreans. The most absurd two meetings of my life come from this period. In one I tried to explain to three North Korean Generals why it was necessary for me to have a Letter of Credit before I shipped something to the country. The idea that I did not trust the State was just a concept that couldn’t be got over to them. That I might want a guarantee that I would get paid, over and above well, just trusting that I would, could not be squeezed into their minds. That little attempt at international capitalism by myself ceased when others were convinced about the financing need but Standard Chartered, the country’s bank in Singapore at the time, refused to raise the LoC for the needed $250,000. Imagine: a country not being considered credit worthy for a mere $1/4 million.

The other was going into the North Korean Embassy there in order to hand over a bribe commission payment over another little adventure. Walking past the mural of Kim Il Sung to hand over $10,000 in cash was just too bizarre. I should perhaps point out that all of this took place back when it was legal to trade with North Korea: also when it was legal for an Englishman to bribe pay a commission to an official of a foreign state.

What I took from that second experience was that, while perhaps a little uninformed about the details of capitalist practice (unlike the Generals, who were entirely ignorant) there were indeed North Koreans in the administration who were entirely competent at the basic idea and indeed eager to take part in it. Which leads me to the conclusion that at least some of them, if given the freedom to do so, will start doing that capitalist and market thing of buying and selling and producing. It’ll be fairly red in tooth and claw I’m sure but absolutely any other economic system would be, will be, better than the abject penury that the country is stuck in now.

Original Article

In the News – North Korea TV shows ‘Rocky’ clips, plays ‘My Way’

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In the News – North Korea TV shows ‘Rocky’ clips, plays ‘My Way’

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea is tapping into some American-style movie inspiration by showing the film icon Rocky Balboa [trailer] pounding his Soviet rival.

State TV on Wednesday ran taped footage of young leader Kim Jong Un at a concert that played a rendition of the famous “Rocky” theme song and showed clips of the pumped-up American film character boxing against his Cold War rival Ivan Drago.

Appearing to glorify a popular American entertainment icon is an unusual move for Pyongyang, which regularly unleashes invective at its former wartime enemy.

The band also played “My Way” popularized by Frank Sinatra.

The concert last week also featured Disney characters in a performance not authorized by the Walt Disney Co.

Kim was accompanied at the concert by a woman who has not been identified.

Original Article 

In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

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In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) — Senior South Korean and Russian diplomats will hold one-day talks this week in Seoul to discuss possible ways to revive the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, a Seoul official said Monday.

Russia’s deputy chief envoy to the six-party talks, Grigory Logvinov, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul later Monday for a three-day visit and hold talks with South Korea’s top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam on Tuesday, the senior official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

“During the talks, Ambassador Logvinov and Lim plan to hold in-depth discussions about North Korea’s nuclear issue and other overall matters with regard to North Korea,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

They will also discuss “the current state of the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s failed rocket launch and ways to move forward on the North’s nuclear issue,” the official said.

The visit by Logvinov to Seoul also coincides with the Russian government’s move to write off 90 percent of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt of US$11 billion.

Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, were frozen in April when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket.

The North’s failed launch ended a possible deal with the U.S. in which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid by Washington. Such conditions had been considered necessary steps to reopen the six-party talks.

The six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition have been stalled since late 2008. Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

In Seoul, the Russian envoy is also expected to discuss an ambitious plan to build a natural-gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via North Korea, the ministry official said.

The gas project, which has been discussed for about 20 years but never has materialized due in part to security tensions, gained momentum after late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his willingness to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through the nation during summit talks with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in August last year.

Kim died of a heart attack last December, and his youngest son, Jong-un, took the helm of North Korea.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

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In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) — North Korea “can’t have” the status of a nation possessing nuclear weapons, South Korea said Thursday, responding to a report that North Korea recently revised its constitution to proclaim itself as a nuclear-weapon state.

An official Web site run by North Korea and monitored by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday in Japan, carried the full text of the reclusive communist nation’s revised constitution that included the term “a nuclear-armed state.”

“At first, nuclear-weapon state status is in line with the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but North Korea itself has admitted that it is not a member of the NPT,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

North Korea backed out of the NPT in early 2003, right after the outbreak of the so-called second nuclear crisis in late 2002.

Cho called on North Korea to “implement its commitments and give up all nuclear weapons programs from the September 19 joint statement.”

Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear programs in return for security guarantees and economic assistance from five nations participating in the six-party talks. But Pyongyang boycotted follow-up negotiations by making a series of unacceptable demands.

There are concerns that North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, may soon carry out a third nuclear test to make amends for the failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions following the two nuclear tests.

“As North Korea continues to ignore promises with the international community and breach international laws, it will only deepen its isolation,” Cho said.

The text of the North’s amended constitution reads that its late leader Kim Jong-il, who died last December, “has turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation.” The revision was made during a parliamentary session in April.

The North’s previous constitution last revised on April 9, 2010 didn’t contain the term nuclear-armed state.

Some analysts in Seoul said the North Korean constitution’s proclamation of a “nuclear-armed state” is expected to cast further clouds over the prospects of resuming the long-stalled six-party talks that bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

 

Original article can be found here.

A German Story: Part 1 of 3

This story was told to me by Horst one Friday morning, November 9th, when I was the only one who showed up for class. Horst was a professor of mine when I studied abroad in Germany. He is quite tall, probably 200 pounds, dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin, has an air about him like he may have been a former military officer. He is full of conspiracies, and when I knew him he was in the process of building a bicycle-powered wood-chopper for his cottage in the event of a crisis-level power failure. He carries around first editions of 17th century books, his finger marking the page.

In this particular class, we went through some of my questions about grammar, such as “Ob…?” implicit questions and how one uses Intentionalpartikeln such as doch, bloß, mal, etc. Then he said that he thought that today we would work on hearing comprehension, he would tell me a story and I should take notes, and then I could write something up and we could see how I did. So he told me this story.

If you are a particularly acute student of history—as Horst was—you might recognize the date on which he told me this story as a significant one. November 9th is the date the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Horst was 26 at the time; he had grown up his entire life in East Germany, behind the Wall. Continue reading

In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

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In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

North Korea detains university students over a failed rocket launch.

North Korean students work on their computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, April 11, 2012.

Authorities in North Korea are hunting down college students suspected of “spreading rumors” about a recent failed rocket launch amid warnings the reclusive state may stage a nuclear test.

North Korea defied international warnings and fired a long-range rocket on April 13 saying that it would carry a satellite into space, but the rocket crashed into the sea just minutes after takeoff, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and its allies who called the act a “provocative” move.

New leader Kim Jong Un had shrugged off international concerns and pushed ahead with the launch in conjunction with the 100th birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder of the state.

Now, according to students, security personnel at some universities in North Korea are being instructed to take those who talk about the rocket failure into custody.

“The authorities are hunting down students who have spread rumors about the failed launch of the Kwangmyung-sung-3 [satellite] at the Hoeryong Teacher Training College (now renamed Kim Jong Suk Teacher Training College),” said one student from North Hamyong province, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Continue reading

In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

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In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

Eight North Korean defectors who fled a logging camp in Russia arrived in South Korea earlier this month. According to a government source, the eight defectors arrived in Seoul aboard a Russian passenger jet on April 13 with the aid of the South Korean Embassy in Moscow.

They are being interviewed at a government facility in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province about the motive for their defection. The eight are just part of 40 North Korean loggers who are waiting in Moscow to go to South Korea.

The loggers were sent to Siberia seven to 10 years ago to earn foreign currency but apparently fled because they could not endure the harsh weather, extortion and constant surveillance. With the help of religious support groups, they were granted refugee status by the UN, but Moscow refused to let them leave after former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to Russia in August last year.

Kim Hee-tae, head of one religious group, vowed to maintain contact with the remaining 32 and make sure they too can come to South Korea.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea ‘to Launch Another Rocket’

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In the News – N.Korea ‘to Launch Another Rocket’

North Korea will launch another rocket after a launch failed on April 13, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin claimed Friday. “It is hard to predict” when, Kim told reporters, but “we’ve detected signs” of another rocket launch.

After the failed launch, the North Korean Foreign Ministry in a statement on April 17 vowed to “continue to launch peaceful satellites essential to the country’s economic development.” The North’s Outer Space Technology Committee last Thursday claimed to have found a “detailed scientific reason” for the failure of the last launch.

Two rockets were taken from a missile plant in Sanum-dong, Pyongyang to the Tongchang-ri launch site on March 24, according to the South Korean government.

In the News – IAEA Unlikely to Send Delegation to N.Korea

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In the News – IAEA Unlikely to Send Delegation to N.Korea

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says the world body stands ready to take further action against North Korea if that country continues to pursue missile launches or nuclear tests.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Susan Rice said the United Nations’ recent statement condemning North Korea’s failed missile launch attempt is a “strong and united determination” that further acts will not be tolerated.

“One would hope against past precedent that the leadership in North Korea will see the wisdom of not pursuing further provocations and will recognize that the history of their pursuit of these further provocations is North Korea’s increasing isolation and increasing pressure from the international community,” Rice said.

Her comments follow an announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is unlikely to send a delegation to North Korea, after Pyongyang stated it is no longer bound by an agreement with the United States not to test missiles and nuclear devices. Continue reading

In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to N.Korea

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In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to N.Korea

China has joined other world powers in warning North Korea that they will not tolerate any more provocations after the isolated nation’s failed rocket launch last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Monday in Brasilia that the UN Security Council members, including China, are agreed there will be “further consequences” in the event of another provocative act by North Korea. Recent satellite photographs show Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear test.

China’s state-controlled media are also showing signs of frustration with Pyongyang, noting that China took “a clear attitude in condemning” its longtime ally when it backed a UN Security Council statement criticizing the rocket launch. Continue reading

In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to North Korea

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In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to North Korea

China has joined other world powers in warning North Korea that they will not tolerate any more provocations after the isolated nation’s failed rocket launch last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Monday in Brasilia that the U.N. Security Council members, including China, are agreed there will be “further consequences” in the event of another provocative act by North Korea. Recent satellite photographs show Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear test.

China’s state-controlled media are also showing signs of frustration with Pyongyang, noting that China took “a clear attitude in condemning” its longtime ally when it backed a U.N. Security Council statement criticizing the rocket launch. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea’s rocket launch highlights S. Korea’s geopolitical risk: Moody’s

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In the News – N. Korea’s rocket launch highlights S. Korea’s geopolitical risk: Moody’s

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s long-range rocket launch underscores South Korea’s exposure to geopolitical risks, a leading global credit rating agency said Monday.

Moody’s Investor Service said in its weekly credit outlook report that Friday’s launch showed that the leadership change in Pyongyang following the death of Kim Jong-il late last year has not altered the threat posed by Pyongyang to Seoul’s A1 “positive” sovereign credit rating position.

Moody’s upgraded its outlook to “positive” from “stable” early this month.

The agency said that the fact North Korea reneged so soon after agreeing not to test its missiles is a “credit negative development” for South Korea.

The communist country agreed on Feb. 29 that it will not test missiles and nuclear bombs.

Moody’s, claimed that besides the rocket launch, the North could escalate tensions further this year with a third nuclear weapons test.

The country detonated two nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009 in the face of stiff criticism from the international community.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Search for N.Korean Rocket Continues But Yields No Results

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In the News – Search for N.Korean Rocket Continues But Yields No Results

The South Korean Navy has deployed more than 10 vessels since Friday to search for the debris of a failed North Korean rocket, but so far little progress has been made, the military said. The rocket broke up within minutes of its take-off and fell into waters 100 km to 150 km west of Pyeongtaek and Gunsan on the peninsula’s west coast.

A military official said on Sunday, “We haven’t recovered anything that looks like rocket debris, despite dispatching the Cheonghaejin, a 4,300-ton submarine rescue ship, and four minesweepers.”

If the fragments are stuck in the bottom of the sea, it makes them hard to detect using sonar technology and difficult to distinguish from other sea waste. The ocean floor lies 40 to 100 m below sea level and the rocket fragments may have left the area in which they are believed to have fallen due to tidal currents.

The Navy is focusing on recovering fragments of second- and third-stage propellants that broke up. These are regarded as the core of the rocket, meaning they could shed light on the North’s technology related to missiles and rockets.

To boost their search efforts, the military is now considering mobilizing a trawler that found the torpedo propellant used by North Korea to sink the Cheonan naval corvette over a year ago. “But money is an issue as it would cost W800 million (US$1=W1,134) to search 1 sq. km [using the trawler]. However, we could restrict its use to areas where we think there is a high chance of success,” said a government official.

Chinese and Russian ships that patrolled the area on Friday, the day the rocket was launched, have reportedly pulled out.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.N. Council to Expand North Korea Sanctions

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In the News – U.N. Council to Expand North Korea Sanctions

SEOUL, South Korea — The United Nations Security Councilofficially censured North Korea on Monday over the failed rocket launching of a satellite last week, saying it “strongly condemns” the action and had ordered its sanctions committee to expand the blacklist of North Korean goods, companies and individuals connected to that country’s nuclear and missile programs.

“The Security Council underscores that this satellite launch, as well as any launch that uses ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a serious violation” of measures adopted against North Korea in 2006 and 2009, the Council said in a measure known as a presidential statement.

“The Security Council deplores that such a launch has caused grave security concerns in the region,” the statement said.

Such statements do not carry the diplomatic weight of a Security Council resolution. But the Council’s unanimous response and its quickness to act underscored the near total isolation that North Korea’s young new leader, Kim Jong-un, faces over this issue. Continue reading

In the News – US officials warn failed North Korea missile launch paves way for future tests

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In the News – US officials warn failed North Korea missile launch paves way for future tests

The very public failure of North Korea’s latest missile launch lays the groundwork for more testing and potentially more provocative acts by the budding regime of Kim Jong-un, U.S. officials told Fox News.

The rocket tested last week failed about a minute after it was deployed.

Kim Jong-un, in his first public speech, went on to declare that his “first, second and third” priorities are to strengthen the military — as the regime unveiled a huge display of weapons in a Pyongyang military parade including a purportedly new missile.

“The botched rocket launch is clearly a setback for the North Koreans,” one U.S. official told Fox News, while warning that the regime probably will not be deterred.

“The acknowledgment of failure was unprecedented, but it lays the groundwork to say more testing is needed to validate research. We probably haven’t seen the last North Korean provocation,” the official said.

The public display on Sunday was seen by regional observers as another example of the importance North Korea’s leaders place on their weapons-development program, though it’s unclear whether the missile on display was real.

Significantly, U.S. officials are not denying that preparations have begun for a third nuclear weapon test. They do not deny that activity had been picked up through satellite imagery — that shows North Korean workers digging tunnels into the existing mines that were used for tests in 2006 and 2009.
Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korean leader vows to strengthen military in first public speech

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In the News – N. Korean leader vows to strengthen military in first public speech

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed Sunday to bolster his country’s military as world powers discuss ways to punish the communist country for carrying out a banned rocket launch.

Kim said the superiority of military technology is no longer a monopoly of imperialists and the North is not threatened by its enemies’ atomic blackmail any more, in an apparent reference to the United States.

“We should strengthen the People’s Army in every way as we can,” Kim said in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang, according to a text of his speech provided by South Korea’s Unification Ministry. The ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, monitors North Korea’s state media.

It was the first public speech by the young leader since he took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il. Continue reading

In the News – S. Korea makes little progress in recovering N. Korean rocket fragments

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In the News – S. Korea makes little progress in recovering N. Korean rocket fragments

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s navy made little progress in recovering North Korean rocket debris on its third straight day of attempts Sunday, officials said.

About 10 South Korean navy vessels were searching international waters of the Yellow Sea off the country’s west coast, but did not find anything presumed to be rocket fragments, a military official said.

The official said the recovery operation could take time as there is much floating waste in the area.

“No major progress has been made in recovering” any debris, said another official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, adding that no Chinese or Russian vessels had been spotted near the site of the fallen rocket fragments.

North Korea’s long-range rocket exploded soon after lift-off on Friday with the pieces falling into the sea off South Korea’s west coast.

North Korea before the launch threatened to immediately and mercilessly retaliate against any country that intercepted its rocket booster or collected rocket debris.

Original article can be found here

In the News – North Korea rocket launch raises questions about Kim Jong Un’s leadership

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In the News – North Korea rocket launch raises questions about Kim Jong Un’s leadership

April 14 (Bloomberg) — Kim Jong Un suffered a public humiliation as North Korea’s third-generation leader unlike any his father or grandfather faced after the totalitarian state admitted a long-range rocket failed shortly after liftoff.

The launch was meant to mark the April 15 centennial of grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung and further cement the younger Kim’s assumption of the family mantle, which the government has been burnishing since he took over in December. Its failure may raise questions of his hereditary hold on power as he deals with the country’s impoverished economy and international condemnation of its nuclear program.

“It’s going to be destructive in North Korea,” said Bruce W. Bennett, a senior defense analyst at Rand Corp. who is visiting Seoul. “They’re going to look at this as the failure of a young guy who hasn’t shown his mettle yet. We really don’t know the strength of his grip yet.”

South Korea warned that chances are “very high” the regime will conduct a nuclear test to seek redemption and domestic support. The U.S. called off food assistance to North Korea that was to be provided under a February deal, and the United Nations Security Council “deplored” the launch, according to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Asian stocks climbed yesterday, with the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rising 0.9 percent. The won rose 0.5 percent. 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