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2008/05/15 11:04 KST

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

New North Korean Envoy Starts Work at U.N.

NEW YORK (Yonhap) -- North Korea's new envoy to the United Nations, Sin Son-ho, presented his credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on May 7, along with envoys from several other nations, to officially begin his service, Ban's office said.

   New ambassador Sin Son-ho replaced Pak Gil-yon, who had been at his country's U.N. mission since 2001.

   The North's news outlets reported on April 7 that Sin Son-ho was appointed as the DPRK (North Korea) permanent representative at the United Nations according to a decree of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly.

   Sin Son-ho served as deputy chief of the mission from 2000 to 2003.


North Korea Reports on Food Aid Negotiations with U.S.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea and the United States had good talks on the proposed provision of U.S. humanitarian food aid to the North, the North's official news agency reported on May 8.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said a U.S. delegation visited the North this week and the two sides had "in-depth and good negotiations on humanitarian food aid." The agency did not reveal further details on the talks.

   The U.S. State Department said a group of five U.S. officials was in Pyongyang to discuss how to guarantee that U.S. food can be distributed to the most needy North Koreans.

   Washington is reportedly preparing to send 500,000 tons of rice to North Korea this year amid growing worries that the impoverished nation is slipping into a tragic situation similar to one in the late 1990s, when millions of people are believed to have died of starvation.

   North Korea is dependent on handouts from overseas to feed its 23 million people.


North Korea Accuses Seoul of Heightening Tensions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on May 8 accused Seoul of heightening military tensions, and warned that such steps could lead to a second Korean War.

   The warning came in news commentary by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that claimed the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration is intentionally straining bilateral relations.

   It said while Pyongyang wants peace and prosperity in cross-border relations, it is not afraid of military clashes or even war, as its military is ready and able deal with any threats.

   The two Koreas fought a civil war from 1950-53, and in 1999 and 2002 their navies clashed in the Yellow Sea, resulting in casualties and sunken ships.

   "If military tensions escalate it can lead to a third Yellow Sea clash or a second Korean War," the commentary warned.

   It alleged that President Lee and conservatives are jeopardizing inter-Korean relations and adversely affecting the ongoing six-party talks that have made some progress in denuclearizing North Korea.

   The news agency then argued that South Korean naval vessels have repeatedly violated the North's territorial waters.

   "South Korean naval ships have moved beyond sailing in waters southwest of Yeonpyeong Island to north of Daecheong Island and northwest of Baegnyeong Island," the news outlet said.

   The islands and surrounding waters in the Yellow Sea are controlled by South Korea and fall south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime border between the two countries that are still technically at war. The islands are all closer to North Korea than to mainland South Korea.

   The North does not recognize the NLL, which was drawn unilaterally by U.S.-led U.N. forces at the end of the Korean War.

   In addition, the commentary said measures such as Seoul's military build-up and its plan to buy more F-15K fighters from Washington are clear signs that Seoul is aiming to raise tensions.


North Korea, Vietnam Agree to Promote Trade, Investment

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea and Vietnam have signed an agreement to boost trade and investment as well as exchanges in culture and sports, according to the North's official news outlets on May 8.

   The agreement was made during talks that day between Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il and his Vietnamese counterpart Vu Dung, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The two officials also inked an agreement on cooperation between the foreign ministries of the two countries, the news agency said.

   The Vietnamese foreign ministry delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Vu Dung, made a three-day visit to Pyongyang this week.

   During the visit, Vu had talks with Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly, and Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun, the KCNA added.

   North Korea has recently stepped up efforts to restore its soured relations with the traditional communist ally.

   Rumors are circulating that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il may visit Vietnam this year to discuss economic cooperation with the Southeast Asian country following Vietnamese leader Nong Duc Manh's visit to Pyongyang last year.

   The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1950. But relations turned sour when South Korea forged formal relations with Vietnam in 1992.


North Korea, Singapore Sign Cooperation Pact

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has agreed to forge closer cooperation with Singapore, the North's news outlets reported on May 12.

   The agreement was reached in Pyongyang after a meeting between North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-cun and his Singaporean counterpart, George Yong-Boon Yeo, the (North) Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report, without elaborating on details.

   The two sides exchanged "mutual interests on how to develop bilateral relations," the news agency added.

   The Singaporean foreign minister visited North Korea for five days from May 10. During his stay, the minister met with Kim Yong-nam, president of the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium on May 12.


Kim Jong-il Sends Message of Sympathy to Hu Jintao over Earthquake

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on May 13 sent a message of sympathy to Hu Jintao, president of China, upon hearing that a strong earthquake hit Wenchuan county in China's Sichuan Province, claiming huge human and material losses, according to the North's state-run news outlet.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim Jong-il expressed deep sympathy and consolation to Hu and, through Hu, to the Communist Party and the government of China and the people in the quake-hit area.

   Kim sent similar messages to Hu upon hearing of damage from heavy snow in China in February and a train collision in the country in April.

   "I hope that your people will eradicate the aftermath of the disaster as early as possible under the leadership of the Communist Party of China," Kim said.

   North Korean broadcasters also gave detailed and speedy reports about the earthquake in the neighboring country, which is the North's closest ally, saying China suffered more than 10,000 deaths along with a similar number of wounded as of May 13.