NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 12 (July 17, 2008) |
*** NEWS IN BRIEF
North Korea Accuses U.S. of Raising Tension
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on July 10 accused the United States of escalating tension through "provocative actions" while meeting with a senior U.S. member of the U.N. armistice commission at the joint truce village of Panmunjom, the North's state media reported.
At the same meeting, the U.S. notified the North of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises to be conducted next month. The report labeled the maneuver a "criminal act" and demanded that it be cancelled.
"Talks between a senior colonel of the DPRK military and a colonel of the U.S. military were held at Panmunjom," the report by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The report claimed the meeting came at the request of the North's military mission to Panmunjom to file protests against "provocative acts that obstruct the performance of duties by North Korean guards at the truce village inside the demilitarized zone."
"The DPRK side warned at the talks that even the slightest provocation against the other party in the Panmunjom conference room area, the scene of acute military confrontation, where servicemen of both sides who are technically at war are leveling their guns at each other, may lead to an armed conflict any moment," it said, adding that the Panmunjom mission had already warned of such dire consequences in a telephone message dated June 11.
An official of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) later confirmed a meeting was held between North Korean officials and members of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC), including U.S. Col. Curt Taylor.
The commander of U.S. forces stationed here concurrently serves as the chief of the United Nations Command, which oversees the Korean Armistice Agreement, signed on July 27, 1953. The report by the North said its side was represented by Col. Kwak Yong-hun, a delegate from the country's Panmunjom mission.
The North's warning was its response to a complaint first filed by the U.N. armistice commission at Panmunjom. The complaint filed with the North Korean military mission alleged that North Korean guards engaged in "intimidating acts" against South Korean and U.S. visitors at the joint security area, a South Korean official said later.
Some of the acts by North Korean guards included kicking over tables inside UNCMAC buildings while tourists from South Korea occupied the facilities, according to the official, who asked not to be identified.
The buildings, the venue of UNCMAC meetings, have become a famous tourist attraction as they are positioned on the military demarcation line dividing the two Koreas,
"The North Koreans at first acknowledged that some of their acts were inappropriate, but they have been growing increasingly offensive in recent days, claiming some of the South Korean guards are displaying hostility against North Korean guards by staring at them angrily," the official said.
The U.N. armistice commission regularly contacts North Korea at the truce village, but the contacts are rarely open or known to the public, according to the USFK official.
No official or high-level talks of the armistice commission have been held since 1991, when North Korea began boycotting commission meetings following the first-ever appointment of a South Korean general as the head of the U.N. commission.
Along with North Korean officials, representatives from Poland and the former Czechoslovakia had formed the North's armistice commission, but Pyongyang deported all foreign representatives by 1995 in an apparent attempt to disable the armistice talks.
At the meeting, the U.S. officially notified the North of an upcoming joint military exercise of U.S. and South Korean forces, Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG).
"The DPRK side strongly urged the U.S. forces side to cancel the exercise at once, denouncing such action as a criminal act, as it will escalate the tension on the Korean Peninsula," North Korea's report said.
U.S. and South Korean forces regularly notify the North of planned military drills via the armistice commission to avoid unnecessarily provoking Pyongyang.
UFG, the successor to the massive joint exercise called Ulchi Focus Lens, will be held from Aug. 18-22, the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) said.
"UFG 08, as with all other CFC exercises, is a defensive oriented exercise and designed to improve the command's ability to defend the ROK against external aggression," the CFC said in a press release.
North Korea Pushes Population Growth
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is encouraging its women to have more babies as part of its solution to the global problem of "population aging," its news outlet said on World Population Day.
The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on July 11, "The DPRK (North Korea) government has long paid primary attention to the creation of legal environments for carrying its policy of population growth into practice."
The United Nations estimates the North's population to be 22.7 million.
According to a June 2007 report by the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan, the North raised special subsidies for women who have had many babies.
"In particular, the government has enforced policies to improve the reproductive health of women which is raised as the cardinal task for the settlement of the world population issue, with the result that it is successfully solving such difficult problems as population aging and urbanization," the KCNA said.
Meanwhile, the UNFPA reportedly held a meeting to discuss prevention of AIDS in Pyongyang on the World Population Day. Though the North claims it has no case of AIDS, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities is providing condoms to the reclusive country.
North Korea, China Pledge to Deepen Exchange, Cooperation in All Fields
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea and China marked the 47th anniversary of their military alliance, pledging to deepen exchanges and cooperation in all fields.
According to the (North) Korean Central News Agency on July 11, Xing Haiming, charge d' affaires a.i. of China in Pyongyang, said that the Sino-DPRK Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed in 1961 is a valuable treasure bequeathed to both peoples, adding they will steadily deepen the exchange and cooperation in all fields guided by the spirit of the treaty. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Xing spoke in Pyongyang on July 10 at a reception to commemorate the signing of the treaty, given by the (North) Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries and the Central Committee of the DPRK-China Friendship Association.
In response, Choe Chang-sik, minister of Pubic Health and chairman of the Central Committee of the DPRK-China Friendship Association, said that the friendly and cooperative DPRK-China relations have steadily developed under the deep care of the top leaders of the two countries, adding that the (North) Korean people will join their Chinese comrades in positive efforts to boost relations in the future.
China separately held a similar reception in Beijing on July 11 marking the anniversary.
The treaty guarantees an automatic intervention of help if one of the signatories is attacked or begins a war.
North Korea Highlights Mt. Kumgang Tourism despite Shooting
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on July 13 highlighted tourism at Mount Kumgang, the North's scenic resort on its east coast, despite the killing of a South Korean female tourist, saying the program was initiated by "Dear General" Kim Jong-il in consideration of South Korean people.
North Korea's official Web site, Uriminzokkiri, said the tourism began in November 1998 with much interest from Kim Jong-il, but did not mention the shooting.
The article was part of a series introducing the North's "proud history for national reunification."
The tourist in her 50s, who allegedly penetrated into a restricted area on a beach near the resort, was shot dead by a North Korean solider in the early morning of July 11.
South Korean authorities suspended the tourism since then and called for cooperation from the North to investigate the incident, a proposal that the North rejected.
The Web site said Kim Jong-il gave a momentum to the tourism when he visited the tourism district in September 2000, adding Kim allowed the tourism on the basis of co-existence and co-prosperity between the two Koreas.
North Korea Warns of 'Triangular Military Alliance'
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on July 15 said South Korea is pushing for a "triangular military alliance" with the United States and Japan, warning that the alliance against the socialist country will bring "catastrophic consequences."
Rodong Sinmun, organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said the Lee Myung-bak administration in Seoul has formed the alliance in a "criminal move" to bring back the Cold War era of inter-Korean confrontation.
The newspaper pointed out that the South Korean Navy attended the U.S.-led RIMPAC maritime exercise, along with Japan, in June.
The Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), hosted by the U.S. Third Fleet, is the largest maritime exercise in the world. This year's participants included Australia, Britain, Peru, Chile, Singapore, the Netherlands and South Korea.
Rodong Sinmun also alluded to the trilateral steering council, which was set up by state-run defense research institutes of the three countries in February, for preparing for any transnational calamities.
The organ said such an alliance is to contain and encircle the Asian socialist countries including the North, adding that the South is trying to join the Proliferation Security Initiative and missile defense system of the U.S., while Japan has already become an active player in both schemes.
"Such moves will escalate the military tension on the Korean Peninsula to an extreme phase and bring catastrophic consequences in the end," it warned.