In the News – UN: North Korea needs immediate food aid due to flood

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In the News – UN: North Korea needs immediate food aid due to flood 

UNITED NATIONS –  North Korea needs immediate food assistance after heavy rains killed scores of people and submerged vast swaths of farmland, a U.N. office said Thursday.

That assessment was released by the U.N. resident coordinator’s office in Pyongyang following visits to flood-stricken areas in North Korea earlier this week. Floods caused by two storm systems last month killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands homeless, according to the North’s state media.

The United States said it would consider a request for assistance but has not received one, and it was not aware of Pyongyang making such requests to other states.

“If requested, it would be something that that we would carefully evaluate but we are not at that point,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told a news conference in Washington Thursday.

The flooding, which occurred on the heels of a severe drought, renewed concerns about North Korea’s ability to feed its people. In June, the U.N. said two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people are coping with chronic food shortages.

Thursday’s U.N. report said torrential rains caused severe damage to homes, public buildings, infrastructure and farms, affecting maize, soybean and rice fields. The worst-hit areas are Anju city and Songchon County in South Phyongan Province, as well as Chonnae County in Kangwon Province, where residents are in dire need of emergency food aid, it said.

Some 36,000 families in Anju do not have access to clean water; wells are contaminated due to overflow of pit latrines and open drainage, raising the risk of a diarrhea outbreak, the report said. A city official told The Associated Press earlier this week that it was the worst disaster in Anju’s history.

North Korean officials are asking for food, fuel, medicine, water and purification supplies, while farmers are requesting seeds and fertilizer for the next season, the U.N. said.

Aid groups have donated emergency supplies, including the British-based charity ShelterBox, which dispatched 270 tents to North Korea, according to Howard Chang, a spokesman for Rotary International, who provides funding to ShelterBox.

The U.S. government gave $900,000 in relief supplies for North Korea after deadly floods last year. A subsequent plan this year to send 240,000 tons in food aid in return for nuclear concessions was scuppered when North Korea tested a long-range rocket in April. Washington said that step undermined confidence that North Korea would stick to its agreement to allow proper monitoring of food distributions.

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In the News – Koreas again in diplomatic war with Japan on East Sea naming

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In the News – Koreas again in diplomatic war with Japan on East Sea naming

NEW YORK, Aug.1 (Yonhap) — The two Koreas have informally teamed up against Japan in a war of diplomacy in the United Nations on the naming of the waters near them, sources said Wednesday.

The 10th United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names open earlier this week at the U.N. headquarters here, setting the stage for experts from around the world to discuss key issues relating to the handling of place names.

International organizations formally call the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan the Sea of Japan. But South and North Korea insist its original name is the East Sea and that should be used at least concurrently.

South Korean delegates are trying to publicize a nonbinding practice of using both of the names in case of disputes between countries, according to a U.N. source.

“North Korea directly requested the dual use of the names,” the source said, requesting anonymity. “South and North Korea are taking a virtually cooperative approach.”

But Japan claims that the single name should be maintained.

The ongoing U.N. conference is not aimed at produce a conclusion on the sensitive issue but it is important in enhancing the awareness and understanding of the international community.

During a meeting of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) in April, the South Korean government made a strong pitch for the East Sea to be used in the official maps of the international community.

The IHO, however, decided not to revise its current “Sea of Japan” appellation this time. The next session will be held in 2017.

Meanwhile, the U.S. made clear its longstanding policy of using a single name for the waters between Korea and Japan.

The State Department said, “We understand that the Republic of Korea uses a different term.”

The U.S., a key ally of both South Korea and Japan, has encouraged the two sides to “work together to reach a mutually agreeable way forward with the International Hydrographic Organization on this issue,” it added.

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In the News – More heavy rain causes flooding and cuts off power in North Korea

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In the News – More heavy rain causes flooding and cuts off power in North Korea 

North Korea Flood Dam_Leff.jpg

North Korea Flood Dam_Leff(1).jpg

ANJU, North Korea –  Heavy rain pounded North Korea for a second day Monday, submerging buildings, cutting off power, flooding rice paddies and forcing people and their livestock to reach safety on dry rooftops.

The latest rain follows downpours earlier this month that killed nearly 90 people and left more than 60,000 homeless, officials said. The floods come on the heels of a severe drought, fueling renewed food worries about a country that already struggles to feed its people.

Two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people face chronic food shortages, a U.N. report said last month, while asking donors for $198 million in humanitarian aid for the country. South Korean analyst Kwon Tae-jin said the recent flooding, coming so soon after the dry spell, is expected to worsen the North’s food problems.

On Sunday and Monday, rain hit the capital Pyongyang and other regions, with western coastal areas reporting heavy damage.

In Anju city in South Phyongan Province, officials reported 1,000 houses and buildings were destroyed and 5,680 acres of farmland were completely covered.

The Chongchon River in Anju city flooded on Monday, cutting communication lines and submerging rice paddies and other fields, said Kim Kwang Dok, vice chairman of the Anju City People’s Committee, who told The Associated Press that the disaster is the worst in the city’s history.

Boats made their way through the muddy waters that covered the city’s streets Monday. Many residents sat on their homes’ roofs and walls, watching the rising water. A young man wearing only underwear stood on a building’s roof with two pigs; four women sat on another rooftop with two dogs.

Helicopters flew to various areas to rescue flood victims, state media reported. Casualties from the latest rains were not immediately reported.

If it rains again before the water drains, Kim said, the damage will be greater.

Earlier this year, North Korea mobilized soldiers and workers to pour buckets of water on parched fields, irrigate farms and repair wells as what officials described as the worst dry spell in a century gripped parts of both North and South Korea.

North Korea does not produce enough food to feed its people, and relies on limited purchases of food as well as outside donations to make up the shortfall. North Korea also suffered a famine in the mid- and late-1990s, the FAO and World Food Program said in a special report late last year.
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In the News – UN Aid Workers Assess North Korea’s Flooded Regions

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In the News – UN Aid Workers Assess North Korea’s Flooded Regions

U.N. humanitarian agency says it has sent aid workers to two North Korean regions hit by severe floods to assess the need for relief supplies.

UNICEF spokesman Christopher de Bono said U.N. personnel based in North Korea left the capital, Pyongyang, on Tuesday to visit the flood-ravaged provinces of South Pyongan and Kangwon.

Week-long deluge

North Korea flooded provinces

Heavy rains have triggered deadly floods across much of North Korea since July 25. State media last reported a death toll of 88 people on Saturday. There was no immediate word on casualties from downpours on Sunday and Monday.

North Korea said the floods also have left tens of thousands of people homeless and caused widespread damage to farmland. It has not made any formal requests for foreign assistance.

Government pledges reconstruction

In a report Tuesday, Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA said Premier Choe Yong Rim visited several hard-hit towns, consoling residents and promising government support for reconstruction. It says he also called for planting more trees to prevent soil erosion. Many parts of North Korea have become prone to flooding because of deforestation.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said that Washington continues to be concerned about the North Korean people, but has no plans to make its own assessment of the impact of the floods. She said the United States does not link the provision of humanitarian assistance to political or security issues.

A recent U.N. report said two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people face chronic food shortages. Analysts say the latest flooding could make matters worse, since it came at the end of a drought.

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In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

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In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) — South Korea is taking the claims that a rights activist from the country was severely tortured while under detention in China seriously, and will do everything it can to verify the claims and ensure the safety of its citizens, the presidential chief of staff said Monday.

The 49-year-old activist Kim Young-hwan was expelled from China and returned home on July 20 following his 114-day detention on suspicions of endangering the country’s national security, a charge believed to be related to his campaign to help North Korean defectors and other human rights activists.

Kim publicly admitted last week that he suffered from both physical abuse, including electrical shocks, and sleep deprivation during his detention.

“The government and the presidential office are taking the matter seriously,” said Ha Kum-loul, the chief of presidential staff during a plenary session at the National Assembly, responding to a ruling party lawmaker calling on the government to take more proactive actions against China over the issue.

South Korea’s foreign ministry has come under fire for failing to take proper diplomatic actions against China when it first learned of the alleged abuse of a prominent activist in Chinese custody.

“The government spares no efforts to find cold facts with the Chinese government. We will do everything possible to protect the lives and guarantee the safety of our people and human rights activists, though whether to bring the matter to the United Nations has not been discussed yet,” Ha said.

Also on Monday, the activist disclosed fresh details of the alleged torture and ill-treatment.

“Beating and electrical shocks continued for five to eight hours from the night of April 15 until dawn on the following day,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency shortly before heading to the National Human Rights Commission, a state rights watchdog in Seoul, to testify.

“For seven days starting April 10, I was forced to stay awake all day long, and physical pressure began on the sixth day,” he said.

The Chinese authorities even had him sleep while seated on a chair in handcuffs during one entire month of interrogation, he claimed.

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In the News – Alleged U.N. sanctions violations divide U.S. Congress, administration

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In the News – Alleged U.N. sanctions violations divide U.S. Congress, administration

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, July 24 (Yonhap) — The Obama administration on Tuesday downplayed allegations that a United Nations agency illegally provided technology to North Korea and Iran.

But the U.S. Congress is still pressing the agency to come clean on its role.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), based in Geneva, is accused of having run a technology-supply project with the two nations, both under U.N. sanctions.

According to media reports, the 185-member WIPO, which promotes the use and development of intellectual property, has provided North Korea with desktop computers, servers, printers and firewalls. It has also allegedly shipped information-technology equipment to Iran.

“Our own preliminary assessment — but we are still seeking more information from WIPO — is that there doesn’t appear to have been a violation of U.N. sanctions,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

She added the U.S. is still seeking more information from WIPO to conclude its work on the allegations, and the U.N. Security Council will make its own assessment.

“This has now been referred to the sanctions committee for them to make their own determinations, so we will await the views of the respective U.N. sanctions committees,” she said.

The U.S. administration’s approach is contrary to an aggressive congressional campaign against WIPO.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee strongly criticized the organization for refusing to cooperate in its probe into the case.

“Director-General (Francis) Gurry (of WIPO) is obstructing this Committee’s investigation ot WIPO’s transfer of U.S.-origin technology to rogue regimes under international sanctions — a transfer that occurred on his watch,” Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), committee chairwoman, and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), its ranking member, said in a joint statement Tuesday.

They claimed Gurry is obstructing a congressional investigation into the matter and urged WIPO to allow some of its members in charge of projects with North Korea and Iran to attend the committee’s hearing.

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In the News – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

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In the News – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) — A South Korean private committee said Wednesday that it will file a lawsuit against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with the International Criminal Court in September.

The move is designed to put pressure on the communist country to repatriate the hundreds of South Korean soldiers taken prisoner and the remains of those killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, said Park Sun-young, a former lawmaker who has championed the rights of North Korean defectors and South Korean prisoners of war (POWs).

The committee, which calls for the return of the South Korean POWs, also said it plans to present a petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the issue in the fall, said Park, one of about 50 committee members.

“The pressure will be enormous,” Park said after a news conference in the National Assembly as she vowed to make efforts to try to bring home aging former South Korean soldiers.

South Korea estimates about 500 POWs are believed to still be alive in the North. Pyongyang denies holding any POWs and claims former South Korean soldiers voluntarily defected.

Park claimed former South Korean soldiers toil in mines in the North, citing testimonies of some of the 56 former POWs who escaped to the South after spending decades in the North.

The war ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.

She also said the committee plans to upload testimonies of former South Korean POWs to YouTube to raise international awareness of the issue.

Choi Eun-suk, a North Korea legal expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said he did not think it is impossible to pressure the North to return former South Korean soldiers. He did not elaborate.

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In the News – N. Korea launches first multi-purpose vaccination project

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In the News – N. Korea launches first multi-purpose vaccination project

North Korea has launched its first multi-purpose vaccination project recently with funds provided by international organizations, including UNICEF, part of which was contributed by South Korea, according to its state media and officials in Seoul.

The North held a ceremony this past Thursday to launch the Pentavalent Vaccine project aimed at inoculating children against five diseases — diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and haemophilius influenza type b — before beginning the project at two hospitals in Pyongyang, state media reported.

During the ceremony, the North’s health minister, Choe Chang-sik, thanked international organizations for their support for the project, saying close cooperation between the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) helped realize the project.

A UNICEF official said the organization funded the vaccination project with money collected from South Korea and other donor countries, and Seoul’s contribution represents a large portion of the fund.

According to an official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry, Seoul provided UNICEF with US$5.65 million from its inter-Korean cooperation fund last year for the purposes of purchasing vaccines and other medical supplies, and $900,000 of it is earmarked for vaccination-related purchases.

 

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In the News – Seoul central bank: North Korean economy logs 1st growth in 3 years on agricultural boost

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In the News – Seoul central bank: North Korean economy logs 1st growth in 3 years on agricultural boost

SEOUL, South Korea — The central bank in Seoul says North Korea’s economy grew for the first time in three years, thanks to a boost in agricultural production.

The Bank of Korea in South Korea said Sunday that the North’s gross domestic product grew 0.8 percent in 2011.

The bank credits favorable weather and more use of fertilizer in boosting crop production in North Korea. It estimates the North’s gross national income at $28 billion – compared to $1 trillion last year for South Korea.

The bank provides annual estimates of the North’s economy by analyzing data gathered by South Korean government agencies. Pyongyang has not publicly released detailed economic data for decades.

The United Nations says North Korea continues to face chronic food shortages affecting two-thirds of the population.

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Visiting North Korea during the Era of Kim Jong Un

In recent news, North Korea has prepared to launch a satellite into space. However, this move has been met with much antagonism by the United States because it seems to defy the motions of the United Nations should the satellite be a move to test missile technology that would one day send threats of nuclear warfare. The BBC’s broadcaster, Damian Grammaticas, who is based in Beijing, China, gained permission to enter North Korea at the time of this controversy, symbolic of the transparency with which the North Korean authorities intended to launch the satellite. In his BBC article, Grammaticas relates that the North Korean authorities wanted to launch the satellite in commemoration of the hundredth birthday of Kim Il Sung, the founding father of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Throughout his article, “Exploring North Korea’s Contradictions,” Grammaticas describes his impressions of the North Korean landscape. Visiting the countryside outside of Pyongyang, Grammaticas emphasizes the emptiness of the roads and the bleakness of the empty shop windows as he exits the city. Of the city itself, Grammaticas relays, “Being here, in the world’s last Stalinist state, feels like being transported back in time. North Korea often looks like a place marooned, a survivor from an age when Soviet republics, with their strongmen rulers, were common.” He then continues the article with a explanation of the preparation Pyongyang’s people made for the celebrations that would enliven the next few days – city repairs were made, flowers were assembled, roadsides were cleaned, images of Kim Il Sung were hung throughout the city, plans for the launch of the satellite were being settled. Continue reading

In the News – S. Korea to increase diplomatic pressure on N. Korea over human rights issues: official

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In the News – S. Korea to increase diplomatic pressure on N. Korea over human rights issues: official

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) — South Korea plans to increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea over human rights issues, including the case of three people from the South believed to have been held in the communist nation for decades, a senior official said Friday.

The move could further exacerbate the already frayed relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

An immediate focus of the campaign is expected to be on the case of Shin Suk-ja and her two daughters who are believed to have been held in the North since 1987, a year after her husband, Oh Kil-nam, fled the communist nation.

Oh claims his family was lured to the North in 1985 via West Germany where he was studying.

But a senior North Korean diplomat told a U.N. group last month that Shin had died of hepatitis and the two daughters do not regard Oh as their father since “he abandoned his family and drove their mother to death.” Continue reading

In the News – Int’l Pressure Growing Over N.Korean Human Rights

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In the News – Int’l Pressure Growing Over N.Korean Human Rights

The international community has taken one step further in addressing human rights issues in North Korea, from simply raising the problem to demanding changes from the governments of China and North Korea. Recent developments clearly reflect the change of mood.

The UN Human Rights Council addressed China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees in March, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees recently concluded that the wife and two daughters of a prominent South Korean activist are being unlawfully detained in the North.

The European Parliament on May 24 adopted a resolution urging the Chinese government to stop repatriating North Korean escapees and abandon a treaty with North Korea on border control signed in 1986. It also urges Beijing to release Kim Young-hwan, a South Korean activist, and his colleagues.

The European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights invited U.S. human rights ambassador Robert King and Kim Tae-jin of activist group Free the NK Gulag to a hearing on human rights in North Korea on Tuesday.

King is also scheduled to visit in South Korea on June 7 to exchange views on human rights condition in North Korea. He may also visit China.

Original article can be found here.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – S.Koreans Unlawfully Detained in N.Korea, UN Finds

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In the News – S.Koreans Unlawfully Detained in N.Korea, UN Finds

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has concluded that the wife of a prominent South Korean activist and their daughters were forcefully detained by North Korea. The finding by the UNHCR Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will be mentioned officially in all UN reports related to North Korea in the future, a government official here said Monday.

Shin Suk-ja and her husband Oh Kil-nam were lured to North Korea from Germany in 1985 with the promise of free medical treatment for Shin’s hepatitis. Oh later escaped and last year received word that his wife was still alive despite spending decades in concentration camps.

In November last year, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea submitted a petition to the UN seeking the rescue of Shin and her daughters. Pressed by the UN for a response, North Korea sent a curt letter this month claiming Shin had died of hepatitis and her daughters disowned Oh.

Based on the working group’s findings, the UN is expected to press North Korea to send Shin’s remains to her husband and seek the release of her two daughters.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – UN Rapporteurs to Make Statement on N.Korea

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In the News – UN Rapporteurs to Make Statement on N.Korea

Special rapporteurs in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights are to issue statements next month detailing instances of torture as well as the food shortages and health problems in North Korea. The move follows the decision by a working group under the OHCRC to take up the case of a South Korean family unlawfully detained in the North.

“Human rights abuses are more serious in North Korea than in other countries, and there have been calls from within the UN that it should have done more to address the problem,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said. “As a result, five to six UN special rapporteurs will make statements about the situation soon.”

In addition to the special rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights, Marzuki Darusman, there are UN rapporteurs specializing in around 40 different fields, including torture, freedom of expression, hunger and poverty. Some of them gather next month for an annual meeting and discuss the human rights situation in North Korea.

It is rare for several special rapporteurs to issue a joint statement on a specific country. “The fact that several of them are joining hands to speak out underscores how seriously the UN takes the situation in the North,” the source added. “This will have a major impact on the international community.”

Meanwhile, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea in a press conference on Tuesday unveiled the OHCRC’s finding that the wife of a prominent South Korean activist and her daughters were unlawfully detained in North Korea. The coalition first filed a petition to the UN seeking their rescue in November last year.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Shin Suk-ja and her daughters are still being detained against their will. It also demanded the North free them immediately and take steps to compensate them.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. to ‘never’ accept N. Korea as nuclear state: State Dept.

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In the News – U.S. to ‘never’ accept N. Korea as nuclear state: State Dept.

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 30 (Yonhap) — The United States made clear Wednesday that it will never recognize North Korea as a nuclear state.

“The United States has long maintained that we will never accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” a spokesperson for the State Department told Yonhap News Agency.

The official’s comments came in response to a report that North Korea revised its constitution to describe itself as a nuclear power.

Earlier in the day, a North Korean Web site, monitored in Japan, carried the full text of the reclusive communist nation’s amended constitution.

It shows three new sentences that highlight the works of its late leader Kim Jong-il, including “the transformation into a nuclear power.”

The contents of the website, named “Naenara (my country),” have not been officially confirmed. It is also unclear when North Korea rewrote its constitution.

Pyongyang has carried out two underground nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, and has sought to be acknowledged as a nuclear state by the international community.

The department official said, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, North Korea should comply with its international obligations under a 2005 agreement and U.N. Security Council resolutions that call on it to abandon all nuclear weapons.

“The leadership of the DPRK has a very stark choice,” the official said. “They must take a hard look at their policies, stop provocative actions, put their people first — ahead of their ambitions to be a nuclear power, and rejoin the international community.”

 

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.

In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

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In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

SEOUL, May 25 (Yonhap) — The remains of South Korean soldiers killed in North Korea during the Korean War returned home on Friday via the U.S., marking the first such repatriation of South Korean war dead since the 1953 armistice.

Twelve sets of remains, two of which have been positively identified, were among 226 sets recovered in the northern part of North Korea by a U.S. excavation team between 2000 and 2004, before Washington halted the joint recovery mission with Pyongyang due to concerns over the safety and security of its workers.

After conducting DNA tests, the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii confirmed last August that some of the remains were those of Asian soldiers.

Since then, Seoul and Washington have conducted joint analyses to identify the remains and 12 sets were confirmed to be from South Korean soldiers, officials at Seoul’s defense ministry said.

The 12 sets of remains were flown Friday to a military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, where they were met with an honor guard ceremony attended by President Lee Myung-bak, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Army Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea. Continue reading

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.”

 

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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 – Group Seeks UN Help Over S.Koreans Detained in China

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In the News – Group Seeks UN Help Over S.Koreans Detained in China

A South Korean activist group is seeking UN help over China’s detention of South Korean activists involved in helping North Korean defectors there. Kim Young-hwan and three fellow activists have been detained in China for unclear reasons since March 29.

Han Ki-hong of the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights said on Sunday, “We are discussing ways to appeal to the UN or large international human rights organizations and highlights China’s illegal detention of Kim and his colleagues on the vague charge of threatening China’s national security.”

The Chinese government has denied Kim access to his lawyer in person or by phone. He was allowed just one 30-minute meeting with the South Korean consul on April 26. The network, for whom Kim has been working, says such harsh treatment violates international law and human rights.

The group has been talking to the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, which recently extracted through the UN an official response from North Korea on the fate of Shin Suk-ja, the wife of a prominent South Korean who was lured to North Korea but escaped.

Kwon Eun-kyoung at the ICNK said, “We have had legal advice that China clearly violates international law by detaining Kim and his colleagues for more than 37 days without indictment and obstructing meetings with his lawyer and consular officials. We are drafting petitions to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Special Rapporteur on Torture.”

The group has also written to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

 

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