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2009/01/29 14:34 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 39 (January 29, 2009)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N. Korea Says U.S. Preparing for War with New Fighters in S. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed to retain its nuclear weapons on Jan. 22 and accused the United States of preparing for a preemptive nuclear strike by deploying new fighters and spy planes to South Korea.

   Pyongyang routinely criticizes the U.S. military stationed in South Korea and says it is compelled to keep nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

   The U.S. military plans to replace half of its tank-fighting Apache helicopters in South Korea with F-16 multi-role fighters in March. The Apaches are expected be redeployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the fighter jets and other weapons set to be deployed to the Asia-Pacific region, such as the U-2 reconnaissance plane, are evidence of an increasing nuclear threat from the U.S.

   "It is an absolutely unpardonable crime for the U.S. to get frantic with arms buildup for aggression aimed at a preemptive nuclear strike at its dialogue partner behind the scene while paying lip-service to dialogue and the like," the KCNA said.

   Such criticism is not new, but the latest comments may have added significance as they come just days after the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

   Analysts say Pyongyang may be trying to draw Obama's attention with its recent rash of commentaries saying it intends to keep its nuclear weapons.

   The KCNA said Washington is "misleading the public opinion" by asserting that Pyongyang's nuclear drive is to blame for military tension on the Korean Peninsula.

   "The DPRK (North Korea) will never do such thing (denuclearization) first unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy toward the DPRK and fundamentally removes its nuclear threat to the latter," it said.


N. Korea Clue to Tackling Global Nuclear Threat: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea could prove to be the first clue to resolving global nuclear threats for the new Barack Obama administration if Washington acts swiftly, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan said on Jan. 22.

   Quoting a pledge Obama made during his inaugural speech to "lessen the nuclear threat," the daily Choson Sinbo that usually conveys Pyongyang's views said denuclearization of North Korea is not a difficult task.

   "The nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula will be removed and the goal of putting the brakes on nuclear proliferation around the world will be realized should the Obama administration actively respond to North Korea's calls," the commentary said.

   Days before the U.S. inauguration, North Korea said that it would retain its nuclear weapons as long as it felt threatened by U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea. Turning to Seoul, North Korea vowed to take "an all-out confrontational posture," threatening to provoke a naval clash along the western sea border.

   Such military threats, analysts say, reflect Pyongyang's attempt to grab Washington's attention in the hopes of improving bilateral relations and pushing a stalled aid-for-denuclearization deal forward.

   Choson Sinbo called on Obama to depart from "antiquated policy," an apparent reference to his predecessor George W. Bush, while recounting reconciliatory exchanges in the Bill Clinton era like the North Korean special envoy's visit to the White House in 2000 to arrange a summit betwween the nation's leaders which never took place.

   The daily said Obama "needs to adopt realistic and swift measures in order to avoid adding any more tough diplomatic tasks to what he is already facing... The nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula can provide a clue to actualizing Obama's foreign policy," the commentary said.


North Korea Renews Claim to Nuclear Status

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state news agency said on Jan. 23 that the U.S. military recognizes North Korea as a nuclear state, renewing Pyongyang's claim to membership in the nuclear weapons club ahead of expected negotiations with Washington.

   North Korea has insisted that it be recognized as a nuclear state following a nuclear weapons test in 2006. Regional powers, including the United States and Russia, have so far denied Pyongyang's claims.

   The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that a special U.S. Department of Defense investigations committee for nuclear weapons management "recently made public a report designating the DPRK (North Korea) as a nuclear weapons state."

   "The report said that the DPRK has not only several nuclear weapons but a missile system capable of delivering them," the KCNA added.

   It is a general view of the international media, the KCNA continued, that the Pentagon has "put the DPRK in the same category as that of India and Pakistan recognized as unofficial nuclear weapons states."

   The North's media have repeatedly echoed U.S. military officials' remarks and reported on documents on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons.

   In the latest such remarks, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a contribution to the January-February edition of the journal Foreign Affairs that "North Korea has built several bombs, and Iran seeks to join the nuclear club."

   U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged on the campaign trail that the North had up to eight nuclear weapons.

   Russia's ambassador to South Korea, Glev Ivashendsov, said in a Seoul forum this week that Moscow does not acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power.


Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Visits North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A Russian foreign ministry delegation led by its deputy foreign minister arrived in North Korea on Jan. 27, the North's state media reported.

   The delegation led by Alexei Borodavkin visited Pyongyang, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, stopping short of elaborating on detailed plans.

   The KCNA also did not report whether the delegation will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during its four-day visit.

   Borodavkin represents Russia at the six-party talks on the nuclear disarmament of North Korea. The talks also include South Korea, the United States, Japan and China.

   The six-party process hit a snag in the latest round of talks last month as Pyongyang refused to agree to a verification protocol for its nuclear facilities.