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2008/09/04 11:22 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 19 (September 4, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N. Korea Calls Seoul's Events to Console Separated Families 'Gimmick'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Aug. 29 ridiculed Seoul for events to console families separated by the Korean border, claiming the move was "a clumsy trick" to avoid the blame for worsening inter-Korean relations.

   Seoul arranged luncheons this month for thousands of elderly citizens across the country whose chance of meeting their loved ones in the North during their lifetime is fading, owing to their age and chilly political ties with Pyongyang.

   "This is, in fact, nothing but a clumsy trick and a burlesque to evade the blame for bedeviling the inter-Korean relations and suspending the reunion of separated families and their relatives," a spokesman for the North Korean Red Cross Society said in a statement.

   The statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), claimed Seoul is utilizing the events to incite hostility toward the North under the pretext of consoling the families.

   The Koreas agreed in November to arrange the temporary reunion of 500 separated families this year, but the agreement has yet to be fulfilled.

   Relations have soured since the conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office and pledged to take a firmer stance toward Pyongyang than his two liberal predecessors. Relations were further strained when a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who was vacationing in the communist state's Mt. Kumgang resort in July.

   The North claimed Seoul's implementation of the two landmark summit accords signed in 2000 and 2007 is key to resuming the family reunions.

   "If the South Korean authorities are truly interested in the issue of separated families and their relatives, they should roll back their treacherous policy of confrontation with the North and opt to implement the historic June 15 joint declaration and October 4 declaration," the statement said.

   Mail and telephone services are blocked by the heavily armed border between the Koreas, which remain technically at war since the three-year Korean War ended with truce, not a peace agreement, in 1953.

   The Koreas have held 16 rounds of face-to-face family reunions since the first summit between their leaders in June 2000. Only 16,212 separated families have been allowed to meet their loved ones face-to-face and about 3,748 others, mostly too old and weak to travel, have been reunited through real-time video links under a program launched in August 2005. More than 90,000 South Koreans are on a waiting list for their turn to be reunited with their northern relatives.


North Korea, Laos Agree to Expand Ties

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea and Laos agreed on Aug. 30 to expand cooperation in economy, trade, science and other fields, a North Korean news report said.

   The agreement was signed at a meeting between North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il and visiting Laotian Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   "Both sides exchanged views on boosting their friendly and cooperative bilateral relations and matters of mutual concern," the report said.

   Laotian Prime Minister left Pyongyang on Sept. 2 after wrapping-up his four-day visit to North Korea, according to the North's news outlets.
The Laotian prime minister visited South Korea in June at the invitation of South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo.

   The North Korean prime minister visited Laos in November and signed a memorandum of understanding to expand ties in the cultural field. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1974.


North Korea Lambasts U.S. over "Aerial Espionage"

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea condemned on Aug. 31 what it claimed was "aerial espionage" conducted by the United States, and accused Seoul and Washington of remaining committed to attempting to stifle the communist nation by force.

   The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) claimed the U.S. and South Korea conducted over 180 aerial surveillance missions in August alone, citing an unidentified military source.

   "An overseas-based RC-135 of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces flew in the sky over South Korea on Aug. 28 to conduct aerial observation and photographing of all areas of the DPRK including its depth," the KCNA report said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

   "The number of cases of espionage committed by the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces against the DPRK in August reached more than 110 and the number of those perpetrated by the South Korean puppet forces in the same period over 70," it added.

   Pyongyang regularly accuses Seoul and Washington of conducting reconnaissance missions in preparation for a supposed preemptive strike against the communist nation.


North Korea Urges Cooperation of Developing Countries for Solving Food Problem

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- As many developing countries such as India and China controlled grain exports amid global food price hikes, North Korea on Aug. 31 urged cooperation between developing countries for solving the food problem.

   The move came in a commentary by Rodong Sinmun, organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, to celebrate the anniversary of the Non-aligned Movement on Sept. 1.

   "Developing countries should further strengthen South-South cooperation on the principle of collective self-reliance," the newspaper said. "This is an important condition for successfully tiding them over through economic difficulties and attaining self-sufficiency in food."

   The North is suffering from the worst food crisis this year since the late 1990s due to last year's flooding and chronic economic mismanagement, according to international aid organizations.
Its problem of food procurement from overseas became worse this year due to export control by the developing countries, which are largely Non-aligned countries.

   The next day, Rodong Sinmun said, "The non-aligned countries should develop South-South cooperation so as to achieve socio-economic development and common prosperity as required by the new century," again calling for materializing their "noble idea."