In the News – China allows N. Koreans to leave for Seoul: reports

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In the News – China allows N. Koreans to leave for Seoul: reports

Seoul, May 18, 2012 (AFP) – China has allowed six North Korean refugees to leave for South Korea after they spent months holed up in Seoul’s consular offices in China, news reports said Friday.

Following their departure last week there are no more North Koreans left at South Korean diplomatic missions in China, the Korea JoongAng Daily and the Seoul Shinmun Daily said.

A South Korean foreign ministry spokeswoman declined to comment.

Beijing allowed the six defectors, who had been holed up at the South Korean missions in Shenyang and Shanghai for many months, to travel to the South through a third country, the dailies said, quoting sources.

China’s decision to let the defectors leave was apparently made as a goodwill gesture before a meeting between South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Korea JoongAng Daily said.

Lee met Hu on Monday in Beijing following an annual trilateral summit with China and Japan.

The six included two relatives of a South Korean prisoner of war, captured by the North during the 1950-53 Korean War. Of the remaining four, two were identified as men and two as women, the reports said.

China last month reportedly allowed another five North Korean defectors to leave for South Korea after they were confined to Seoul’s Beijing embassy to avoid arrest. Some spent months there but others spent years.

China arrests and repatriates fugitives from North Korea, considering them to be economic migrants rather than potential refugees.

South Korea and international rights groups have urged it to change the policy, saying returnees can face harsh punishment.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled poverty or repression in their homeland, almost all of them across the border to China.

Some hide out among — or marry into — the ethnic Korean community in China’s northeast. Others try to travel on to Southeast Asian nations before flying to Seoul.

 

Original article can be found here.

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In the News – South Korea ‘On Alert’ for Possible North Attack

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In the News – South Korea ‘On Alert’ for Possible North Attack

South Korea appears to be taking seriously the latest attack threat from North Korea.

Police say they have increased patrols around headquarters of nine conservative media outlets in Seoul after North Korea vowed to soon carry out a “special military action” on them by “unprecedented means and methods.”

South Korea’s government says it is concerned about Pyongyang’s threat to reduce to ashes, in several minutes, the support base for the country’s president, including several broadcasters and a leading daily newspaper, the Dong-a Ilbo.

Foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-je characterizes the latest threat from Pyongyang as “very dangerous and harsh.” 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 – In North Korea, third Kim’s bloodline all that matters

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In the News – In North Korea, third Kim’s bloodline all that matters

(Reuters) – Smarting from a failed rocket launch, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has little choice but to stick to his father’s playbook of milking an impoverished country to develop weapons and blackmail the international community for aid and recognition.

Far from fearing a coup or instability after Friday’s public fiasco, the third of his line to rule North Korea will lead celebrations on Sunday to mark the centenary of the birth of his grandfather, the founder of the world’s only Stalinist monarchy, “Eternal President” Kim Il-sung.

The state that Kim inherited in December after the death of his father Kim Jong-il boasts a 1.2 million-strong military, wants to possess a nuclear weapon and to develop the ability to hit the United States with it – the aim, critics say, of the failed rocket launch.

Behind those ambitions are 23 million people, many malnourished, in an economy whose output is worth just $40 billion annually in purchasing power parity terms, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, compared with South Korea’s $1.5 trillion economy.

The puny size of the economy means development is not the answer, tying Kim into the “military first” policies of his late father Kim Jong-il who oversaw the development of the state’s nuclear and missile ambitions.

“For Kim Jong-un, opening North Korea means the end of a system that his grandfather and father fostered,” said Virginie Grzelczyk, a North Korea expert at Nottingham Trent University in Britain.

“Kim Jong-un is unlikely to be losing power over the launch, as the elite and the military need his legitimizing and mythical presence in order to pacify the North Korean population.” Continue reading

In the News – N.Korea Admits Rocket Failed Shortly After Launch

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In the News – N.Korea Admits Rocket Failed Shortly After Launch

North Korea has acknowledged a multi-stage rocket it launched early Friday failed to reach orbit. An announcer on North Korean television — interrupting programming four hours after the launch, which was not broadcast — says the Kwangmyongsong-3 earth observation satellite did not succeed in reaching orbit and scientific experts are investigating the cause of the failure.

Officials in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington say North Korea’s rocket indeed blasted off from the launch pad but failed to get very far.

U.S. military officials called it a Taepodong-2 missile. They say it was tracked by satellite on a southern trajectory where the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The North American Aerospace Defense Command says the other two stages failed to continue in flight and never posed a threat.

South Korean army major general Shin Won-sik, speaking to reporters at the defense ministry, says the missile began tumbling back to Earth at an altitude of 151 kilometers, separating into about 20 pieces and harmlessly falling into the Yellow Sea 100 to 150 kilometers offshore. Continue reading

In the News – Full text of S. Korean government’s statement on N. Korea’s rocket launch

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In the News – Full text of S. Korean government’s statement on N. Korea’s rocket launch

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) — The following is the full text of the South Korean government’s statement released Friday on North Korea’s rocket launch.

—–

North Korea launched a de facto long-range missile, which the North calls an ‘application satellite,’ at 07:39 on April 13, 2012 at a launching site located in Cholsan-gun, North Pyongan province, and it has been confirmed that the launch has failed.

The launch by North Korea is a clear violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1874, which prohibits any launch using ballistic missile technology, and a provocative act that threatens the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

The Government of the Republic of Korea strongly condemns that the new North Korean leadership pushed forward with the launch, disregarding the international community’s unified call for withdrawal of the launch. North Korea must be held duly accountable for its actions.

It is very regrettable that North Korea is spending enormous resources on developing nuclear and missile capabilities while ignoring the urgent welfare issue of the North Korean people such as chronic food shortages.

The Republic of Korea government is considering comprehensive measures to respond effectively against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, and will take countermeasures against the launch in close coordination with related countries and the international community.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korean leader gets new political titles in key conference

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In the News – N. Korean leader gets new political titles in key conference

SEOUL, April 12 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has gained new political titles, Pyongyang’s state news agency reported Thursday, ahead of an imminent rocket launch that could tighten sanctions on the already isolated country.

Kim was named first secretary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party and also elected as a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the party’s Central Committee, according to the (North) Korean Central News Agency.

Continue reading

In the News – N.Korea Completes Assembling Rocket

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In the News – N.Korea Completes Assembling Rocket

North Koreas rocket, slated for liftoff between April 12-16, stands in Tongchang-ri, North Korea on Sunday. /AP-Yonhap

North Korea has apparently finished assembling a three-stage rocket at its launch pad in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongyang Province and there are signs that it is preparing for another nuclear test.

A government source here said, “North Korea appears to have completed assembling the second and third stages of the rocket at the launch pad on Saturday after setting up the first stage on Friday.” The source added, “A payload believed to be a small satellite has also been mounted. The launch is expected around Saturday after liquid fuel is injected this week.”

The government source added analysis of satellite images show an increasingly large pile of soil forming along the southern entrance of the North’s nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province, which appears to have come from another site, “so it looks like they buried a nuclear weapon for testing and are covering it up.”

Prior to an underground nuclear test, a shaft is dug, the nuclear weapon is placed inside and the shaft filled up. The fact that soil has piled up in front of the shaft that was dug in the second half of last year could mean a nuclear device has been placed there and is now being covered.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – S.Korea, China, Japan Want Firm Response to N.Korean Rocket Launch

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In the News – S.Korea, China, Japan Want Firm Response to N.Korean Rocket Launch

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan on Sunday called for a “firm response” from the international community if North Korea goes ahead with the launch of what it claims is a space rocket.

“North Korea’s missile launch will be a clear violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We made it clear to China and Japan that the international community needs to respond firmly to North Korea’s breach of its responsibility as a member of the international community.”

Kim’s remark came during a joint press conference after a three-way foreign ministerial meeting in Ningbo, China on Saturday and Sunday. Continue reading

In the News – Clues about North Korea’s space plans come to light at last

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In the News – Clues about North Korea’s space plans come to light at last

TONGCHANG-RI, North Korea — A central part of our preparation to visit North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Station involved studying satellite imagery of the facilities there — and guessing exactly what they were showing. Establishing “ground truth” for analysis performed using photographs taken hundreds of miles overhead is always important, especially in assessing how much to trust similar analyses of other sites that have never actually been seen up close.

So imagine my delight on Sunday as our special train slowly pulled up to the northern boundary of the site, to see that the main gate and guard house were exactly where the photographs indicated they would be. Even the prediction about road surface was confirmed — a hard dirt surface outside the base became a paved road once the gate had been passed.

Even more satisfying was an eyeball examination of an odd building on the east side of the road. It had been seen in satellite images to have had its roof rushed to completion in the last few weeks. And there it was, its roof finally complete. But as we rode past, we could see in the front windows and right out the back ones, showing that its interior remained to be completed. Continue reading

In the News – China to patronize N. Korea in post-launch tensions: expert

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In the News – China to patronize N. Korea in post-launch tensions: expert

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, April 6 (Yonhap) — Should North Korea go ahead with a long-range rocket launch as early as next week, China will likely repeat its typically tepid and equivocal approach — requesting the international community to act in a calm manner, an expert said Friday.

Pyongyang will apparently try to ride on its renewed “blood alliance” with Beijing in defending itself from pressure from other regional powers, according to Masako Ikegami, professor of political science at Stockholm University.

“Beijing will turn a blind eye towards North Korea’s latest provocation, while simultaneously calling for restraint by all parties,” she said in a report released by the Hawaii-based East-West Center. 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 – Foreign journalists arrive in N. Korea to cover rocket launch

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In the News – Foreign journalists arrive in N. Korea to cover rocket launch

SEOUL, April 8 (Yonhap) — Foreign media reporters have arrived in Pyongyang to cover North Korea’s planned rocket launch, the country’s official news agency reported.

The North has said it will invite foreign reporters and experts to observe the rocket launch, set for sometime between April 12-16, in an effort to bolster its case that the launch is part of a peaceful space program aimed at putting a satellite into orbit.

South Korea, the United States, and other regional powers have urged Pyongyang to scrap the launch plan, accusing the communist nation of trying to test its ballistic missile technology, which is banned under a U.N. Security Council resolution.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch Saturday that reporters from more than 20 media firms, including the Associated Press, CNN, Reuters, AFP, BBC, Kyodo News and NHK, arrived in Pyongyang on Friday and Saturday.

The North says its Unha-3 rocket will blast off from a launch site in the country’s northwest.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea prepping for nuclear test: intelligence official

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In the News – N. Korea prepping for nuclear test: intelligence official

SEOUL, April 8 (Yonhap) — North Korea is believed to be gearing up for a nuclear test, an intelligence official said Sunday, a move certain to fuel the already high tensions over its planned long-range rocket launch.

Satellite images show the communist nation digging a new tunnel underground in the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country’s northeast, where it conducted two previous nuclear tests, first in 2006 and then in 2009.

The construction is believed to be in its final stage, the official said.

“North Korea is making clandestine preparations for a third nuclear test at Punggye-ri in North Hamkyong Province, where it conducted two nuclear tests in the past,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Commercial satellite imagery showed piles of earth and sand at the entrance of a tunnel in the Punggye-ri site. The soil is believed to have been brought to the site to plug the tunnel, one of final steps before carrying out a nuclear test blast.

A nuclear test following a long-range missile test fits the pattern of North Korean behavior.

In 2006, the provocative regime carried out its first-ever nuclear test, three months after the test-firing of its long-range Taepodong-2 rocket. The second nuclear test in 2009 came just one month after a long-range rocket launch.

The North says it will fire off its Unha-3 long-range rocket between April 12-16 to put what it claims is a satellite into orbit. But regional powers believe the launch is a pretext to disguise a ballistic missile test banned under a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Sources said the North is believed to have put the rocket on a launch pad in the country’s northwest on Friday.

The North’s nuclear and missile programs have long been a regional security concern. The country is believed to have advanced ballistic missile technology, though it is still not clear whether it has mastered the technology to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.

Original article can be found here

In the News – North Korea planning third nuclear test – Yonhap

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In the News – North Korea planning third nuclear test – Yonhap

(Reuters) – North Korea, pressing ahead with a rocket launch in defiance of a UN resolution, is also preparing a third nuclear weapons test, South Korean news reports said on Sunday, a move bound to scare neighbours and infuriate the West.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified intelligence source as saying North Korea was “clandestinely preparing a nuclear test” at the same location as the first two.

The source added that workers in the destitute North had been seen in commercial satellite images digging a tunnel in the northeastern town of Punggye-ri, Kilju County, in addition to existing mines believed to have been used for tests in 2006 and 2009.

“We have confirmed the (mining) work is coming to its final stage,” the source was quoted as saying. Continue reading

In the News – Inside North Korea: Closely watched launch poses risks

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In the News – Inside North Korea: Closely watched launch poses risks

PYONGYANG, North Korea — When my family first learned of my invitation to travel to North Korea to observe a controversial satellite launch, now set for no earlier than Thursday, their first worry was for my own safety. And as I shared the plans with a small circle of close friends and colleagues, they too expressed concern over the potential risk, especially if I stuck my nose too far into forbidden zones.

I have to admit some level of apprehension. But it’s mixed with the anticipation of getting unprecedented access to the most secret corners of the world’s most secretive nation, to pursue my lifelong passion to “find out and tell about” space mysteries.

I have quickly come to believe that our personal risk is slight. We are official guests, our charter is to see more than anyone has ever been shown before, and our good will is the central intent of our escorts.

The risk for the North Koreans is much, much higher, and we are not the source of it. In a welcome — if long overdue — response to the anxieties of their neighbors, Pyongyang announced from the start that “foreign experts and journalists” would be allowed into the country. 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 – Rocket plan shows new N.K. regime’s ‘structural intransigence’: Lee advisor

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In the News – Rocket plan shows new N.K. regime’s ‘structural intransigence’: Lee advisor

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s determination to go ahead with a planned long-range rocket launch is indicative of the new regime’s “structural intransigence” under young leader Kim Jong-un and a “self-defeating” choice, a South Korean unification policy advisor said Wednesday.

Hyun In-taek, a unification policy advisor to President Lee Myung-bak who served as Seoul’s point man on North Korea for almost three years until last October, forecast a repeat of the North’s provocations in 2009, when it last launched a long-range rocket in April then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

Despite international condemnation, North Korea has vowed to go ahead with the launch of a long-range rocket between April 12 and 16, ostensibly to put a satellite into space orbit. South Korea, the United States and other countries have condemned the proposed launch as a disguised test of the North’s improved ballistic missile technology. Continue reading

In the News – Contingency Plans Made for N.Korean Rocket Launch

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In the News – Contingency Plans Made for N.Korean Rocket Launch

The South Korean military is making contingency plans for North Korea’s planned rocket launch this month, including evacuation of residents in areas near the projected trajectory near Baeknyeong Island, an officer said Monday.

Military authorities plan to air warning messages in the northwestern island areas when the rocket launch seems imminent and evacuate residents to air-raid shelters.

 

Original article can be found here.