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2008/12/11 13:57 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 33 (December 11, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

Pyongyang Slams Seoul's Reaction to Border Crossing Ban

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Dec. 6 lashed out at South Korea's response to Pyongyang's new border restrictions, calling it a "provocative" action.

   Starting Dec. 1, North Korea limited inter-Korean border crossings and expelled more than a thousand South Koreans from the Kaesong joint industrial complex, citing the Seoul's "hostile" policy towards the North.

   Seoul expressed regret over Pyongyang's latest measures and urged North Korea to retract them shortly after they went into effect.

   "The puppet authorities are trying to hard to shift the blame for the deteriorated inter-Korean relations onto the DPRK (North Korea)," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   The North also suspended a tour program to Kaesong, which South Korea's Hyundai Asan launched in December last year.

   South Korean Unification Minister Kim Ha-Joong emphasized in a forum held in Seoul on Dec. 5 that it was not his government that suspended inter-Korean dialogue and border passages between the two countries.


North Korea Blasts Japan for Alleged Moves for Reinvasion

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's mouthpiece blasted Japan on Dec. 8 for moves it says are aimed at launching a reinvasion of neighboring countries, citing Tokyo's recent bill on combating piracy and a space development program.

   Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said the "bill on special measures for activities to combat piracy," drafted by the Japanese government, is basically aimed at expanding the scope of the nation's Self-Defense Forces' overseas activities.

   The organ also noted that the Japanese government singled out the "wider use of satellites for national security purposes" as justification for its space development program.

   Tokyo joined the U.S.-led missile defense system after North Korea conducted a long-range missile test over Japan in 1998. North Korea, meanwhile, has often linked military steps taken by Japan with its past invasion and colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

   Rodong Sinmun said the bill for combating piracy also contravenes the nation's pacifist constitution by allowing the "use of weapons against pirates." It also argued the satellites will be used to target military sites and disable them through preemptive attacks from space.


North Korea Expresses Condolences over Death of Russian Patriarch

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- High-ranking religious figures in North Korea visited the Russian embassy in Pyongyang on Dec. 8 to express their condolences for the death of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

   According to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Chairman of the Korean Council on Religion Jang Jae-on and Ho Il-jin, chairman of the nation's Korean Russian Orthodox Church Committee, observed a moment of silence at the embassy in memory of the late Patriarch Alexy II.

   North Korea's first Russian Orthodox cathedral, named Jongbaek, was opened in Pyongyang in August 2006 after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il orderd the church be built during his visit to Russia in 2002.

   Jang and Ho also sent messages of condolences to Chairman of the Office of Foreign Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kirill, the KCNA said. Kirill is the apparent successor to the deceased patriarch.


U.S. Report Listing N.K. as Nuclear Power Peaks Pyongyang's Interest

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Dec. 10 showed keen interest in an annual U.S. defense report that described the socialist country as a nuclear power.

   The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the U.S. government listed the DPRK (North Korea) among states that possess nuclear weapons in a report, adding it was the first time the U.S. has officially recognized the DPRK as a nuclear weapons state.

   The November report from the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) said, "The rim of the great Asian Continent is already home to five nuclear powers: China, India, Pakistan, the DPRK and Russia."

   North Korea, which detonated its first-ever nuclear bomb in October 2006, has insisted on being treated as a nuclear power by the other parties to the talks in an effort to shift the ehmphasis away from disablement to arms reduction.

   The U.S. and other states such as South Korea and Japan have up to now refrained from officially designating the North as a nuclear power for fear that the recognition will give Pyongyang more leverage in negotiations.

   South Korea's Foreign Minister said at a parliamentary session on the same day that he found the report's recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power a clear mistake after he contacted high officials from the White House and the Pentagon.

   The U.S. State Department also refuted the report, saying the report does not represent the U.S. government's official position. "That is not our national policy," spokesman Sean McCormack said. "And the document they referenced does not represent the official views of the United States."