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2008/12/18 11:23 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 34 (December 18, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

N. Korea Mounts Campaign to Prevent Bird Flu Outbreak

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has mounted an all-out campaign to prevent a possible outbreak of avian flu during the winter season, a pro-Pyongyang daily based in Japan reported on Dec. 11.

   The North's emergency state quarantine committee has been holding weekly meetings in Pyongyang with senior officials from the ministries of public health and commerce, according to Choson Sinbo, the newspaper of an association of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents in Japan.

   Pyongyang organized the committee in April to oversee the nation's bird flu prevention efforts after South Korea culled a record 8.46 million birds in its latest outbreak.

   Poultry farms hold regular blood check-ups and quarantine surveillance for their animals while the North's state media frequently broadcasts programming on the risks and symptoms of bird flu, the newspaper said.

   North Korea does not import processed poultry from foreign countries, it added.

   "There is no outbreak of bird flu as of now in the DPRK (North Korea)," Wu Song-rim, a chief quarantine official at the North Korean agricultural ministry, was quoted by the daily as saying.

   "But we remain tense because we cannot predict through what routes the disease would break out," he added.

   North Korea destroyed 210,000 chickens during its most recent bird flu outbreak in 2005. It has since actively taken part in anti-epidemic programs offered by the U.N. World Health Organization.


U.S. Arms Buildup Cause of Financial Crisis: Rodong Sinmun

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government's excessive military spending was the leading cause of the financial crisis that is currently gripping the country, a North Korean newspaper said on Dec. 14.

   "The unprecedented financial crisis that burst out to bring an economic tsunami upon the United States is the result of the Bush administration's countless increases in military spending and its war-mongering policies," Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of North Korea's Workers' Party, said in a commentary later carried by Uriminzokkiri, the country's official Web site.

   The U.S. has taken various measures -- such as increasing taxes, issuing unwarranted bonds and reducing spending -- to cover its enormous war expenditures, the newspaper said. But the measures have only aggravated the financial situation, strangling the overall economy, it added.

   Washington had spent over US$1 trillion on the war in Iraq as of the end of last year, and some U.S. experts estimate the total cost will be $3 trillion, the North said.

   The newspaper warned that the U.S. economy would eventually face ruin unless the country drops its ambitions for world domination.


N. Korean Leader Visits Factory, Lab in Jagang Province

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited an electronics laboratory, a library and a factory in Jagang Province near the Chinese border, the socialist country's state-run media said on Dec. 16.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not specify the date the tour took place, but the report comes five days after the reclusive leader's last public appearance on Dec. 11.

   At that time, Kim visited several farms and a folk village in the city of Sariwon in Hwanghae Province.

   The KCNA reports come on the heels of South Korean and U.S. intelligence claims that the 66-year-old Kim is recovering from a stroke, but North Korea has vehemently denied those reports.

   Apparently to show that Kim is active and remains in control of the state, North Korean media have released photos and articles showing the leader inspecting military units and factories, as well as attending a sporting event.

   The report, meanwhile, said Kim was accompanied by high-ranking officials from North Korea's ruling Workers' Party and army generals Hyun Chol-hae and Ri Myong-su.

   On Dec. 17, the KCNA says Kim Jong-il visited the February General Steel Enterprise in Jagang Province.


N. Korean Official Blames South in Rare Inspection of Kaesong Complex

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean defense official said on Dec. 17 that Pyongyang's sanctions on the joint industrial complex in Kaesong are "not temporary," but did not warn of more actions as he made a rare inspection of the inter-Korean zone, Seoul officials said.

   Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-chol, head of the policy planning office of the North's National Defense Commission, met with about 150 South Korean businesspeople operating in Kaesong and inspected some two dozen of their plants, said Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun.

   The visit came amid speculation that Pyongyang may impose further sanctions after expelling hundreds of South Koreans from the industrial complex and curtailing border traffic as of Dec. 1. Pyongyang has indicated it may shut down the Kaesong complex if Seoul continues its hard-line policy toward the North.

   "He made no such remarks, as far as I've confirmed with (South Korean) officials in Kaesong," the ministry spokesman said, when asked by reporters whether the North Korean official hinted at additional sanctions.

   But the spokesman said Seoul will have to wait until the North Korean official completes his two-day inspection on Dec. 18 for further details.

   Seoul officials were trying to learn whether Kim's visit would be a prelude to further sanctions or a simple inspection. The official conducted a similar on-site survey of Kaesong on Nov. 6, about a week before Pyongyang announced the Dec. 1 measures.

   Kim called the Kaesong complex "a good example" of reconciliation and accused Seoul of being responsible for prompting the sanctions.

   "Those measures are not temporary, emotional or symbolic," Kim was quoted by the spokesman as telling the South Korean businesspeople.

   "The South says in front that it wants dialogue, but behind, it says differently," he said. "The Kaesong industrial complex is a good example set by the Korean people. And around the world, there is no such case in which one country opens its border region to another."

   He will visit more than a dozen South Korean firms in the area to gather data on how much the number of South Koreans and their cars has decreased following the implementation of the Dec. 1 measures before returning to Pyongyang, the spokesman said.

   North Korea ordered that the number South Korean officials and managers allowed at the Kaesong complex be reduced by half as part of retaliatory measures against Seoul's policy. There are currently 88 South Korean companies employing around 36,000 North Koreans at the complex.