In the News – N. Korea says will build up nuclear arsenal against U.S.

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In the News – N. Korea says will build up nuclear arsenal against U.S.

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) — North Korea vowed on Tuesday to further build up its nuclear capabilities, accusing the United States of attempting to topple its communist regime.

In a statement carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency, a spokesperson of the North Korean foreign ministry said the country will counter any U.S. hostility with the utmost resoluteness.

“While talking about the livelihood of people in other countries, the U.S. is blocking our economic development and improvement of our people’s livelihood with its most vicious and persistent anti-republic sanctions,” the statement said.

“And for such a country to say we will be better off once we give up our nuclear weapons only reminds us of a coyote who tells a ram that it will not be eaten if it gives up its horns.”

The statement said the North did not need the U.S.’s support to develop its economy now that it has nuclear capabilities and the means to further build up its stockpile.

“With a rifle in one hand and a banner of industrial revolution in the other, we will surely build a powerful socialist nation while facing the U.S.’s anti-DPRK policies with the utmost resoluteness,” it said. DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The statement comes shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama last week said North Korea, along with Iran, “cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.”

“It is our firm decision to counter U.S. hostility with stronger nuclear deterrence,” the statement said.

Original Article 

In the News – N.Korea Needs Bold Reforms to Feed Its People

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In the News – N.Korea Needs Bold Reforms to Feed Its People

North Korea has embarked on agricultural reforms, reducing basic farming units in some areas from the present 10 to 25 people to family units of just four to six, and increasing cash crops the farmers can sell in the market. These and other agricultural measures announced late last month appear aimed at boosting crop output through incentives.

There are unconfirmed reports that the agricultural reforms are being carried out on a trial basis in three provinces, with 30 percent of grain output being allotted to individuals.

North Korea has no choice but to bring about fundamental changes to farming if it wants to stop turning cap-in-hand to other countries to feed its people. In 1978, China scrapped its collective farming system, which North Korea emulates, and allowed family units to profit from their crop yields depending on output. Seven years later, incomes in farming communities had risen 2.5-fold. North Korea must waste no time in walking down that path.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged in a speech in April this year that he would make sure his people will never starve again. “It is our party’s resolute determination to let our people… not tighten their belts again and enjoy the wealth and prosperity of socialism as much as they like,” he said. The state media quoted Kim as vowing to build “an economically powerful state” and strive for the “improvement of the people’s livelihood.” The latest measures appear to reflect these pledges.

But North Korea announced similar reforms in 1997 that were also to have cut the size of each communal farming unit to seven to eight people and lowered the quota of crops that had to be submitted to state coffers. In 2002, the North announced measures to increase the amount of land farmers could use to produce crops they could sell in the market. But the regime each time scrapped the reforms shortly afterward because they had unwelcome side effects and purged the officials in charge of them.

The regime feared that the changes would cause the communal farming units to collapse entirely and undermine the state’s far-reaching network of informants and minders that had been keeping a close watch over the populace.

North Korea’s foreign policy in the coming months and years will be a good gauge of whether the latest reforms are temporary measures aimed at appeasing an increasingly disaffected population or whether they signal the start of major changes. The North will face severe limits to improving its economy as long as the international community upholds sanctions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un must realize that he will never be able to feed his hungry people through window dressing.

Original Article

In the News – North Korea Tests the Patience of Its Closest Ally

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In the News – North Korea Tests the Patience of Its Closest Ally

BEIJING — As Kim Jong-un, the young leader of North Korea, consolidates his grip on power, China is showing signs of increasing frustration at the bellicose behavior of its longtime ally.

Since succeeding his father, Kim Jong-il, six months ago, Mr. Kim has quickly alienated the Obama administration and put North Korea on track to develop a nuclear warhead that could hit the United States within a few years, Chinese and Western analysts say.

Most surprising, though, is how Mr. Kim has thumbed his nose at China, whose economic largess keeps the government afloat. For example, shortly after Mr. Kim took over, a Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs, Fu Ying, visited Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, and sternly warned him not to proceed with a ballistic missile test. The new leader went ahead anyway.

Now, the Obama administration and the Chinese government, who warily consult each other on North Korea, are waiting to see if Mr. Kim will follow in his father’s footsteps and carry out a nuclear test, which would be North Korea’s third. The previous tests were in 2006 and 2009.

This month, the North Korean news agency said there were no plans for a third test “at present,” a statement analysts said suggested Mr. Kim was just waiting for a moment that better suited him.

“We have made this absolutely clear to them; we are against any provocation,” Cui Tiankai, another Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs, said in a recent interview when asked about a possible third nuclear test by North Korea. “We have told them in a very direct way, time and again, we are against it.”

Asked why China did not punish North Korea for its actions, Mr. Cui replied: “It’s not a question of punishment. They are a sovereign state.”

China backed sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations Security Council after the first two nuclear tests, he said. “If they refuse to listen to us,” he added, “we can’t force them.”

Mr. Kim’s erratic behavior unfolded early on. In late February, his government signed an agreement with the United States to freeze its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, giving hope that he would turn out to be more open to change than his father. But six weeks later, Mr. Kim ripped up the accord and, without informing China, ordered the missile test that Washington viewed as a test run for launching a nuclear weapon.

The missile test, in April, was a failure, but that did little to alleviate concerns within the Obama administration that Mr. Kim was intent on pushing ahead with its nuclear weapons program. “The North is on track to build a warhead that could in a few years hit any regional target and eventually the United States,” said Evans J. R. Revere, a former United States principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Since the failed missile test, Mr. Kim has formalized North Korea as a “nuclear armed state” in the Constitution, another signal that the government has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, Mr. Revere said. With virtually no contact between the United States and North Korea, Mr. Revere argued, it is time for Washington to toughen its approach.

In a series of quick maneuvers, Mr. Kim, whose exact age is not known (he is believed to be 28 or 29), assumed the mantle of power immediately after his father’s death and cast aside early assumptions that his tenure would be a regency largely run by his elderly relatives.

The China News Service, a state-run agency, headlined an article last week: “Smooth transfer of power six months after Kim Jong-il’s death. North Korea enters era of Kim Jong-un.” The top North Korean Army generals, some of them in their 80s, have joined ranks around Mr. Kim, presenting a unified command, said Daniel A. Pinkston of the International Crisis Group in Seoul, who has written a forthcoming report by the group on North Korea.

At a congress of the ruling Communist Party in April, members of the Kim family were appointed to senior positions in the Politburo. The new appointees included Kim Kyong-hui, a younger sister of Mr. Kim’s father. Her husband, Chang Song-taek, also won a spot on the Politburo.

“There are no indications of any opposition to the transfer of power in the party, state or military,” Mr. Pinkston said. “Although many North Koreans are dissatisfied with the government, the barriers to collective action make it very risky and nearly impossible to organize any resistance.”

To recover from the embarrassment of the failed missile test, Mr. Kim unleashed a bellicose warning to South Korea in late April, threatening that a “special operations action” team would “reduce to ashes the rat-like” leadership of President Lee Myung-bak.

In contrast to his taciturn father, Mr. Kim has been seen more in public, particularly with students and children, a propaganda campaign intended to present a more benign image to an impoverished and embittered population.

On the basis of his years at a Swiss boarding school, Mr. Kim was thought by some analysts to be a potential economic reformer. These assumptions have turned out to be misplaced, and the new leader has shown no interest in following the advice of China to open up the economy, even in a modest way.

Despite Mr. Kim’s obstinacy, China keeps the economy from collapsing. Right after Mr. Kim assumed power, for example, China gave North Korea 500,000 tons of food and 250,000 tons of crude oil, according to the International Crisis Group report. That helped overcome what a German aid official, Wolfgang Jamann, said in Beijing on Friday was the worst drought in 60 years. His organization, Global Food Aid, has run a food program in North Korea since 1997.

“If it continues not to rain, it would be a problem,” said Mr. Jamann, who just returned from a trip to North Korea.

So far, though, the aid seems to have prevented disaster. According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, food shortages, while still grim in many rural areas, do not seem as serious as might be expected, given the drought.

China’s generosity has not bought it immunity against North Korean rancor. More than two dozen Chinese fishermen were held captive for two weeks by North Korea in May. After their release, one of the fishermen described how his boat was boarded by North Korean Navy men brandishing guns.

After “13 days in hell,” the fishermen were released, according to interviews in the Chinese news media. But not before the boats and men were stripped, the men to their underpants, the fisherman said.

Such behavior ignited protests on Chinese Web sites, and normally calm Chinese analysts who follow North Korea said they were infuriated by the indignities. “I was disappointed in our government’s soft line during the incident with the seized boats,” said a Chinese analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering his superiors.

Nonetheless, senior Chinese officials “dare not use China’s economic leverage” against North Korea, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. That is because a collapse of the North Korean government could result in a united Korea allied with the United States, which would be a nightmare scenario for China, Mr. Shi said.

Indeed, as China becomes more concerned about what it sees as the United States’ stepped-up containment efforts against China — including the positioning of more warships in the Pacific — the less inclined it is to help the United States on North Korea, said Yun Sun, a China analyst in Washington.

“China will not help the U.S. and South Korea solve the North Korea problem or speed up a China-unfriendly resolution, since China sees itself as ‘next-on-the-list,’ ” she wrote in an article last week for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Hawaii, where Pacific Command, the arm of the American military overseeing the increased United States naval presence in the Pacific, is located.

And over all, there are unyielding historical reasons for China’s protectiveness toward North Korea, said an experienced American diplomat and expert on China.

“Beijing disapproves of every aspect of North Korean policy,” J. Stapleton Roy, a former United States ambassador to China and now vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, wrote in an article this month, also for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But with long memories of both the Korean War and how Japan used the peninsula to launch its invasion and occupation of much of China from 1937 to 1945, “Beijing has an overriding security interest,” Mr. Roy wrote, “in maintaining influence in Pyongyang and in not permitting other powers to gain the upper hand there.”

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Kaesong Firms Still Suffer from N.Korea Sanctions

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In the News – Kaesong Firms Still Suffer from N.Korea Sanctions

South Korean firms in the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea lost about W2 billion each due to sanctions on the North implemented in 2010 (US$1=W1,173).

Some 61.8 percent of 200 firms said it has been hard to recover from losses, according to a survey published by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday. Some 24.8 percent said they have recovered slightly and 13.4 percent they have fully recovered.

The firms suffered average losses of W1.94 billion, about double the W970 million estimated in a survey right after Seoul imposed sanctions on the North on May 24, 2010.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea Denies Imminent Nuclear Test

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In the News – N.Korea Denies Imminent Nuclear Test

North Korea on Tuesday claimed it never planned to conduct a nuclear test and its missile tests were purely for scientific research. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the regime “from the beginning” never envisaged “such a military measure as a nuclear test,” and the aim of a failed rocket launch last month was to put a satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes.

The North was responding to a statement on Saturday from the G8 nations condemning the April 13 rocket launch and pledging tougher UN sanctions against the Stalinist country in response to any further provocations or a nuclear test.

North Korea then accused the U.S. of condemning it without good reason by taking issue with the peaceful satellite launch and of ratcheting up tensions by spreading what it called “rumors” of an impending nuclear test.

But an intelligence official here insisted the North has nearly finished preparations for a third nuclear test at a facility in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province and that the only thing left is for Pyongyang to officially announce the move. “We have learned from U.S. and South Korean intelligence data that a few more specialized vehicles entered the shaft at the Punggye-ri site, proving that the North is preparing for a nuclear test as we speak,” a South Korean military source said.

Citing military think tank IHS Jane’s Defense and Security Intelligence and Analysis, CNN reported Tuesday that afresh activity has been detected at Punggye-ri related to an impending nuclear test. IHS Jane’s analyzed recent photos taken by private satellite operators Digital Globe and GeoEye showing mining cars and other digging equipment near the shaft, and soil and rocks being moved out.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that the regime has no choice but to bolster its nuclear arsenal while the U.S. keeps up “hostile” acts. “If the US persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure on us despite our peace-loving efforts, we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense,” the spokesman said.

But the denial itself was unusual. Experts speculate the statement was an excuse for the delay of the nuclear test, which was believed to be imminent. “This is related to speculation that North Korea postponed the nuclear test due to pressure from China,” said Yoo Ho-yeol at Korea University. “North Korea is trying to save face by pretending it has not caved into pressure from China but never planned a nuclear test in the first place.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Lee calls for greater attention to N. Korea’s human rights record

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In the News – Lee calls for greater attention to N. Korea’s human rights record

SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday North Korea’s human rights record is an issue as important as its nuclear or missile programs, and should be dealt with more urgently than other matters.

Lee made the remark during a meeting with a group of U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the chairwoman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, presidential spokeswoman Lee Mi-yon said.

“The issue of North Korea’s nuclear test or a missile launch is of the same weight of significance as the issue of North Korea’s human rights,” Lee was quoted as saying. “The issue of human rights for the North Korean people should rather be dealt with more urgently.”

The lawmakers promised to pay more attention to the human rights issue, the spokeswoman said.

Ros-Lehtinen and five other Congressmen arrived in Seoul Tuesday for a four-day visit that includes talks with Lee, meetings with the unification minister handling relations with Pyongyang and the first vice foreign minister, as well as a visit to the border with the North. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

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In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

(Reuters) – Ten thousand rolls of tobacco, 12 bottles of Sake, and a handful of second-hand Mercedes-Benz cars are among the latest reported breaches byNorth Korea of a U.N. ban on luxury goods sales to the reclusive state, according to a confidential draft U.N. report.

Japan told a U.N. panel of experts that Pyongyang also imported thousands of computers and thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics and that almost all the goods were shipped through China, it was reported in the draft seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The five North Korean violations reported to the panel by Japan during the past year took place between 2008 and 2010. The panel was also informed of another two potential violations, but they have not yet been officially reported by Japan.

Two rounds of U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests ban the sale of luxury items to the state’s government. It was also hit with an arms embargo and is forbidden from trading in nuclear and missile technology.

The panel also said it was investigating reports of possible North Korean weapons-related sales to Syria and Myanmar, as well as other reports of arms-related violations.

The report, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee this week, said implementation of the luxury goods ban was “deeply problematic” because it was up to each country to create a blacklist and not all had done so.

“Also the DPRK (North Korea) is able to exploit differences between such lists, where they exist, to avoid bans in one member state by shopping in another – and the panel sees little evidence of information sharing between member states on what might be included on these lists,” the report said.

WHAT’S A LUXURY?

“Definitions of luxury goods by member states are not consistent. Chinese customs officials told the panel that most of the above mentioned goods were not considered as luxury goods by China,” it said.

The panel of experts wrote that Pyongyang residents and visitors said luxury cars were seen in the city and that luxury goods – both authentic and forgeries and including expensive liquors and cosmetics – were widely and openly available.

“All this indicates that the ban on luxury goods has not yet disrupted effectively the supply of such goods either to the DPRK elite or to the rising Pyongyang middle class,” it noted.

The U.N. panel also said it was collecting more information about media reports that the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization may have violated the sanctions by shipping computers and computer servers to North Korea.

The panel visited Italy to obtain documents on several cases of previously reported violations, including a foiled attempt by North Korea to import high quality U.S.-made tap dancing shoes valued at almost $200 a pair.

The experts also traveled to Switzerland to investigate sales of Swiss luxury watches to Pyongyang.

“The panel learned that hardly any watch sales to DPRK are in the luxury category,” the report said.

“The panel concluded that any luxury watches sold in the DPRK most likely are sourced elsewhere. Industry officials pointed out that manufacturers had little control over who purchased their watches once globally distributed,” it wrote.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

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In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

(Reuters) – The United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan have submitted a list of about 40 North Korean companies to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee for possible blacklisting due to Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch, envoys said on Tuesday.

The committee, which includes all 15 Security Council members, received an initial response from China that it would only consent to adding two entities to the U.N. list of banned North Korean firms, which the United States and its allies see as too few, envoys told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

“The U.S., Europeans, Japan and ROK (South Korea) have together produced a list of around 40 entities to be designated by the 1718 Committee,” a senior diplomat told Reuters. “The challenge remains as usual squarely on PRC (China).”

The United States was continuing to press China to allow more North Korean firms to be sanctioned, envoys said. Continue reading

In the News – More N.Korean Workers to Earn Valuta for Kim Jong-un

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In the News – More N.Korean Workers to Earn Valuta for Kim Jong-un

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently issued an order to send as many workers as possible abroad to earn hard currency, never mind the risk of defections, according to a South Korean government source.

This is a relatively unconventional position given that the North Korean regime has tried to limit the number of workers abroad to prevent “contamination” by foreign influences.

The source said North Korea has dispatched over 30,000 workers to some 40 countries around the world and plans to send out another 10,000 this year. “The reason is that sanctions by the international community have dried up North Korea’s sources of cash,” the source added. Continue reading

In the News – UN Security Council Expands N.Korea Sanctions

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In the News – UN Security Council Expands N.Korea Sanctions

The UN Security Council has “strongly condemned” North Korea’s failed rocket launch and unanimously agreed to expand sanctions against the increasingly isolated nation.

On Friday, the council issued a brief condemnation of the rocket launch that lasted a few minutes and ended in embarrassment for Pyongyang when the missile burst into pieces and rained down over the West Sea. But the Security Council warned that it was not done addressing the matter.

Early Monday, the most powerful UN body convened and adopted what is known as a presidential statement, which has the backing of all 15 members, including North Korea’s ally, China.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who heads the council this month, told reporters that if North Korea chooses to again defy the international community, the Security Council will act accordingly. Continue reading

In the News – Japan extends N.K. sanctions for one more year

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In the News – Japan extends N.K. sanctions for one more year

TOKYO, April 3 (Yonhap) — Japan said Tuesday it will extend sanctions on North Korea for one more year, in a move that comes just days ahead of Pyongyang’s planned rocket launch.

The Japanese cabinet made the decision ahead of the April 13 expiration of current sanctions banning exports to and imports from North Korea. The sanctions also prohibit all North Korean ships from making port calls in Japan.

Japan imposed sanctions on the communist country following the North’s nuclear and missile tests in 2006, and has since extended the punitive measures. Continue reading

In the News – Clinton urges China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

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In the News – Clinton urges China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 9 (Yonhap) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear Friday that her government is opposed to the forceful repatriation of North Korean refugees, a breach of international agreements.

“We urge every country to act according to international obligations,” such as the 1951 U.N. refugee convention and the 1967 protocol, Clinton said in a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan after their talks at the State Department building in Washington.

She was responding to a question on China’s policy of sending back North Korean defectors to their authoritarian and impoverished nation. Recently, China has repatriated around 30 North Koreans, according to human rights activists, although there is no government-level confirmation. Continue reading

In the News – U.S., North Korea Extend Discussions

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In the News – U.S., North Korea Extend Discussions

By BRIAN SPEGELE in Beijing and ALASTAIR GALE in Seoul

A senior U.S. envoy said Thursday that negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea had been extended to a second day, a potentially positive sign that talks were progressing between Washington and Pyongyang’s new regime.

Glyn T. Davies, Washington’s special representative for North Korean policy, offered few details of the first day of negotiations in Beijing. He said U.S. and North Korean officials would dine together on Thursday evening. Continue reading