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2008/05/08 10:42 KST

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

North Korea Asks German Red Cross to Continue Medical Assistance

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has requested that the German Red Cross continue providing medical aid to the impoverished communist state well beyond 2009, a Washington-based radio station reported on May 1.

   The request was made when Rudolf Seiters, president of the German Red Cross, visited Pyongyang leading a five-member delegation on April 22-26, the Voice of America said, citing a spokeswoman for the group.

   Seiters met with Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly who serves as the North's ceremonial leader, in Pyongyang to discuss his group's overall programs to aid the communist state, the report said.

   "The North Korean Red Cross Society asked us to continue assistance after 2009," Svenja Koch, spokeswoman for the German Red Cross, told the radio. "The best way to help North Korea is catering to the North Korean needs."

  The German group has sent medical kits including pain-killers, antibiotics and nutritional injections, as well as medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes, to some 2,000 local hospitals and clinics across North Korea since April last year. About 8.8 million North Korean residents benefited from the aid, Koch said.

   The German government has provided 4 million euros (US$6.2 million) worth of aid to the North every year since 1997, the spokeswoman added.


North Korea Denounces Seoul's Jet Purchase Decision

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea criticized South Korea's recent decision to buy 21 F-15K fighter jets by 2012, claiming it is a "reckless arms buildup" to prepare for a preemptive strike, the communist state's official news agency said on May 2.

   The criticism came as the South Korean Defense Ministry decided to purchase the fighter jets, equipped with highly precise air-to-surface guided missiles, from Boeing for 2.3 trillion won (US$2.3 billion) within the next four years as part of an effort to modernize the country's weapons systems.

   In a news report carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency monitored in Seoul, the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland called the deal an "outright challenge to the desire and wishes ... for the peace and reunification of Korea."

   Seoul also plans to purchase some 60 fifth-generation fighter jets with stealth capabilities starting from 2012.

   "The South Korean military warhawks' decision ... is an intolerable treacherous act of pushing the situation on the Korean Peninsula to a dangerous phase of war," the secretariat said.

   The report also said North Korea "will strongly counter the U.S. and Lee Myung-bak group's provocative arms buildup and moves."


North Korea Continues to Slam South Korean President

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea lashed out again at South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on May 3, despite official statements from Seoul that such actions are counter-productive to bilateral relations.

   The Rodong Sinmun, newspaper of the North's ruling Worker's Party, said in an editorial that Lee's trip to the U.S. last month as a "tributary pilgrimage," according to the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) monitored in Seoul.

   On May 2, the South Korean government officially called on the North to refrain from unleashing rhetoric against President Lee.

   Inter-Korean relations have worsened since the North began to criticize the conservative South Korean government in late March. Lee, who took office on Feb. 25, has vowed to take a tougher approach toward the North than his two liberal predecessors and openly criticized the North's human rights record.

   As a counterattack, North Korea has since called Lee a "traitor", accusing him of disrupting inter-Korean relations.


Chinese Leader Expresses Gratitude to Kim Jong-il

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- China's President Hu Jintao has thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for sending a message of sympathy following a train accident in eastern China that resulted in heavy casualties, a North Korean radio report said on May 7.

   "Hu showed his profound gratitude" for Kim's message in a reply dated May 4, the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station said.

   Kim sent the message a week ago to express his sympathy for the April 28 train crash that killed 72 people and injured more than 400 in China's worst rail accident in over a decade, according to the radio report.

   Earlier, China thanked Kim Jong-il for the successful leg of the torch relay for the 29th Olympic Games held in Pyongyang on April 28 with a letter and gift delivered by Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the DPRK (North Korea).

   According to the North's news outlets, the letter and gift were conveyed to Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, by Liu on May 5.