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2008/09/18 10:58 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 21 (September 18, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

Kim Yong-nam Sends Condolences to Cuban President over Hurricane

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's No. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam sent a message of condolences to Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz over damage from Hurricane Ike that recently rattled the socialist ally, the North's state-run news media reported on Sept. 12.

   Kim said he "sends profound sympathy and condolences to you and the Cuban government, people and residents of the damaged areas ... regarding the enormous damage that your country received again from the strong hurricane," according to the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   "I express my confidence that the aftermath of this disaster will quickly be dissipated by the strong will and efforts of your government and people," he was quoted as saying in the message.

   The North's premier, Kim Yong-il, also sent a similar message of condolences to the Cuban leader, the KCNA said.

   The United Nations estimated that Hurricane Ike wreaked US$3-4 billion worth of property damage in Cuba.


North Korea Denounces South Korea's Military Reform Plan

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Sept. 12 lambasted the Lee Myung-bak government, saying the Lee administration is strengthening its military power for an invasion of the North along with conducting warlike exercises with the United States.

   The North's organization dealing with South Korea issued the statement on the occasion of the third anniversary of the South's "military reform plan 2020."

   The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland under the North's ruling Workers' Party said in its regular briefing that the South has introduced up-to-date war equipment and weapons of mass destruction over the past three years under the military reform plan, adding such "mad provocations" heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula. The briefing was carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency, monitored in Seoul.

   The South on Sept. 13, 2005 announced its military plan for the next 15 years, which centers on cutting the number of the current 680,000-strong troops to 500,000, mainly Army soldiers, by 2020, while streamlining the Army's combat organizations.

   However, the North's organization did not allude to the military downsizing plan. The North Korean regular army reportedly numbers some 1.1 million troops.

   "Though the Lee Myung-bak group took a peace initiative and talked about the development of inter-Korean relations, it is antagonizing the opposite side actually, denying the previous inter-Korean summit agreements like the June 15 and Oct. 4 declarations, while increasing the likelihood of nuclear war," the article said.


Pyongyang to Hold Int'l Trade Fair and Film Festival in September

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will hold its annual international trade fair later in the month, involving some 150 businesses from various nations including China, Russia and Britain, the North's news outlets reported on Sept. 13.

   The Pyongyang International Trade Fair, the fourth of its kind, will be held from Sept. 22-25, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

   Various products ranging from electronic appliances and medicine to food and petroleum products will be displayed at the fair, the report said.

   Last year's fair attracted some 150 businesses from 16 nations, according to previous reports by the North Korean media. Businesses from Denmark, Singapore, Italy, Cuba and Poland have also applied for participation at this year's event, the KCNA said.

   Meanwhile, the KCNA also reported that the 11th Pyongyang International Film Festival will be held later in the month.

   "To be screened during the festival will be films contributed by at least 70 organizations from more than 40 countries and international organizations," the report said.

   The film festival will last from Sept. 17-26, it said.


N. Korean Leader Wishes Russian President Happy Birthday

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il wished Russian President Dmitry Medvedev a happy birthday, the North's official news wire said on Sept. 14, amid recent reports that Kim had collapsed and is recovering from a stroke or cerebral hemorrhage.

   In the message, Kim reportedly expressed that he wished for President Medvedev's health and happiness.

   Russian President Medvedev turned 43 on Sept. 14.

   "I hope that you would obtain successful results in the responsible projects for the prosperity of your country," the message said, according to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

   Meanwhile, North Korea's top officials are to visit Russia later this year, a U.S. radio report said on the same day.

   Quoting a Washington expert on North Korean affairs, the Washington-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, and Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun will visit Russia as early as October.


N. Korea Vows to Increase War Deterrence against U.S. Hostility

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Sept. 16 criticized South Korea and the United States for last month's joint war drills, vowing to build up its war deterrent in the face of what it calls Washington's policy of suffocating the socialist country.

   South Korea and the U.S. held annual military drills, dubbed "Ulchi Freedom Guard" from Aug. 18-22. They called the exercises defensive but North Korea has denounced them as a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it.

   "They were operations to test launch a preemptive strike on the DPRK (North Korea)," Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling Workers' Party's organ, said in a commentary titled "Reinforcing war deterrence is one hundred times justifiable." Pyongyang's "war deterrent" usually means its nuclear programs.

   "Washington is trying to behave differently while declaring a path of dialogue," claimed the commentary carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

   "This reality shows how just the DPRK's measures to reinforce its war deterrent was to cope with the U.S. imperialists' tactics to stifle the country," the newspaper said.

   The socialist regime has always been sensitive to any military moves by Seoul and Washington. The two Korean states are still technically at war, with no peace treaty signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

   Last month's joint drills came amid a deadlock in six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea. Pyongyang is currently in conflict with the U.S. over how to verify its nuclear declaration.

   The North's declaration of its nuclear activities in June was linked to Washington's promise to take the country off its terrorism blacklist. Washington postponed the de-listing after North Korea failed to agree on detailed verification measures.

   Pyongyang, in protest, has recently taken apparent steps to reverse the disabling of its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.