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2008/11/13 11:04 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 29 (November 13, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N. Korea Dialogue with US to Widen Inter-Korean Schism

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea will become less of a diplomatic priority for North Korea should U.S. President-elect Barack Obama aggressively pursue dialogue with the communist state, a pro-Pyongyang daily said on Nov. 7.

   Inter-Korean relations have been frosty since the pro-U.S. and conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in late February.

   President Lee has taken a firmer stance on North Korea than his two liberal predecessors, whom he has accused of making too many concessions to the nuclear-armed neighbor.

   "If the soon-to-be-inaugurated Obama administration takes a more aggressive stance toward dialogue with the DPRK (North Korea), having learned lessons from its predecessor, the situation whereby (North Korea) communicates with the U.S. and sidelines South Korea will be intensified," said the Choson Sinbo, the organ of a pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

   The daily, which is seen to represent Pyongyang's position on sensitive political issues, also slammed President Lee for causing current tensions in inter-Korean relations.

   President-elect Obama's campaign slogan of "change," meanwhile, was also interpreted by the pro-Pyongyang paper as a sign that the current situation on the Korean Peninsula will enter into a new phase.

   The article, titled "Confrontational stance crossing the red line," warned that North Korea's patience with Lee's tough policies has run out.

   "The DPRK, however it may value relations with South Korea, can hardly show any tolerance to those frantically attempting to move in step with U.S. warmongers today," it said, after noting that Pyongyang has been waiting for a change in Seoul's position for nearly eight months.

   North Korea has demanded that Seoul fully carry out an agreement signed at the end of an historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Lee's liberal predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, in October last year.

   Seoul, however, has taken a lukewarm position on the demand and said it would discuss ways to carry out the accord only when Pyongyang returns to dialogue.

  
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North Korea Slams U.S. Asia-Pacific Policy

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's mouthpiece on Nov. 7 slammed U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific region, saying the U.S. is stepping up the forward deployment of its forces in the region to put the region under its control.

   Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said the U.S. attaches importance to Northeast Asia, especially Japan, in executing its strategy for preemptive attacks against targets such as the DPRK (North Korea), China and Russia, while moving to build a missile shield in Asia in its ambition to dominate the region.

   The organ, which has consistently called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces stationed in the South, cited the end of the Cold War as the reason that the U.S., as an extra-regional power, should withdraw its forces from the region.

   "During the Cold War, the U.S. kept its huge armed forces in the region under the pretext of fending off the 'southward advance' of the Soviet Union," it said.

   Today, with the Cold War at an end and no military rival, the U.S. is left with neither pretext nor justification to keep its nuclear and military bases in the region any longer, it added.

  
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New WFP Representative Presents Credentials to N.K.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea received credentials from the new head of the World Food Program's (WFP) Representative to Pyongyang on Oct. 10, North Korean news media reported.

   "DPRK (North Korea) Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun received credentials from Torben Due, representative of WFP in Pyongyang," the (North) Korean Central News Agency, monitored in Seoul, said.

   Pak and Due held talks later, the agency said in a brief report.

   Due replaced Jean-Pierre de Margerie, who had served in the North since September 2006.

   During a two-day visit to Seoul with his successor late last month, de Margerie said that while his agency has not seen any evidence of starvation or famine in the fragile northeast or any other region in the North, certain areas have slipped into potential "crisis" situations.

   The WFP, in an appeal made in early September, asked the South to contribute up to US$60 million for its campaign in the North, warning the communist country will fall back into famine unless given aid worth about $500 million over the next 15 months.

   South Korea has yet to respond to the appeal, as its relations with Pyongyang have been strained since the launch of its conservative Lee Myung-bak government in February and the death of a female South Korean tourist, who was shot by North Korean soldiers at an eastern resort area in the North in July.

   In addition, North Korea has yet to request annual humanitarian aid shipments this year from the South, consisting of 400,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer, amid the strained ties. Lee's two liberal predecessors had provided the humanitarian aid for a decade.

  
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N.K. Warns of Ultra-hardline Response to Japanese Sanctions Move

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Nov. 10 it will react in a ultra-hardline manner to Japan's move to increase sanctions on the socialist state.

   Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso suggested late last month that Tokyo may consider imposing more sanctions on North Korea due to its delay in starting a reinvestigation into the kidnapping of Japanese nationals by its agents in the 1970s and 80s to train its spies, Japanese media reports said.

   North Korea agreed with Japan in August to complete the reinvestigation by this fall. Japan, in return, promised to partially lift sanctions that it imposed on North Korea after it conducted an underground nuclear test in 2006.

   "Japan's attempt to handle our republic by putting more pressure or imposing additional sanctions itself is nonsense," Rodong Sinmun, the North's most influential newspaper said in a commentary.

   "Our country has stayed alive under Japanese sanctions and built up stable grounds for a self-reliant national economy despite the persistent sanctions," it said.

   Such a move can hardly pose any threat to North Korea, the organ of the country's Workers' Party stressed.

  
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North Korea Refuses Nuclear Sampling

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea denied on Nov. 12 an earlier announcement by Washington that Pyongyang had agreed to allow partners in the six-party denuclearization talks to take samples to verify its nuclear declaration.

   The North has never agreed to sampling but only to allowing inspectors to access nuclear facilities, discuss documents on its atomic program and interview people involved in nuclear planning, the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.

   The statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), is the first disclosure of details of an oral agreement reached between Pyongyang and Washington in early October. Top U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill visited the North Korean capital last month in an effort to revive the stalled denuclearization process.

   The U.S. State Department later announced that the North agreed during Hill's visit to allow its five negotiating partners -- the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan and Russia -- to take samples from the North's nuclear facilities.

   There has been media speculation that China, the host of the six-party talks, is reluctant to open a new round of discussion because the agreement is insufficient.

   "It is an act of infringing upon sovereignty, little short of seeking a house-search for the above-said forces," the KCNA quoted the statement as saying in reference to the sampling.

   "This infringement upon the sovereignty would inevitably lead to a war," it warned.

   The North also said it has slowed the disabling its Yongbyon nuclear plant due to the delayed arrival of energy compensation.

   North Korea was promised 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or the equivalent by its five negotiating partners as part of a package of rewards for disabling its key nuclear facilities and providing a list of its nuclear programs.

  (END)