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2009/02/12 11:07 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 41 (February 12, 2009)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

North Korea Says China Will Provide Aid

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The Chinese government has decided to provide free aid to North Korea, the North's media said on Feb. 4, in an announcement that followed a rare meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and a Chinese official.

   "The government of the People's Republic of China recently decided to offer free aid to the DPRK (North Korea)," the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   "The aid will be an encouragement to the Korean people in their struggle to accelerate the building of a great prosperous powerful nation," it said.

   The two-sentence report did not specify the kind or the extent of the free aid.

   Rumors circulated that China had offered food assistance to its traditional ally during a trip by a senior Chinese party official from Jan. 21-24.

   Wang Jiarui, head of the Chinese Communist Party's international department, was the first foreign guest to meet with Kim Jong-il since his reported stroke last summer.

   A source in China said earlier Wednesday that North Korea had asked for food aid through Wang, but China had not yet decided.

   Visits to Pyongyang by Chinese senior officials have usually been followed by free aid from China.

   Meanwhile, a spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry on the next day confirmed officially the North's announcement.


N. Korean Parliamentary Speaker Meets British Lawmakers

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's parliamentary chief met with visiting British lawmakers on Feb. 5, Pyongyang's news agency said.

   A British parliamentary delegation, led by the House of Lords' David Alton, arrived in Pyongyang on Feb. 3, following a visit by North Korean party officials to Britain in late January.

   "Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, held talks in a friendly atmosphere" with Alton and other British lawmakers, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report.

   The news agency did not announce the purpose of their visit or how long they will stay.

   Alton is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, which is made up of British lawmakers working to enhance relations with Pyongyang.

   In late January, North Korea sent a delegation of the ruling Workers' Party to London, which reportedly met with European Union officials and Glyn Ford, a British lawmaker well versed on North Korean issues.

   The North Korean party delegation expressed hope of resuscitating exchanges with the EU and acquiring technology to build tidal power plants, according to Radio Free Asia, a U.S.-based station.

   European countries drastically slashed trade with and economic aid to North Korea after Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests in 2006. The EU's trade with North Korea reached its highest point of 1.65 billion euro (US$2.11 billion) in 2005, but then shrank to 126 million euro in 2007, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.


N. Korea Watching U.S. Military in Weighing Missile Test

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A pro-North Korean newspaper suggested on Feb. 5 that Pyongyang's decision on whether to test-launch a long-range missile could depend on a South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise scheduled for next month.

   The North Korean military will likely adopt a "tougher measure" should the U.S. military stationed in South Korea go ahead with its annual joint war drill, said the Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper that usually conveys North Korea's position, apparently in reference to reports that Pyongyang is preparing a missile test.

   Regional tension rose sharply following intelligence assessments recently that North Korea may be preparing to test-launch a Taepodong-2 missile that technically is capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast.

   Intelligence officials said they spotted an object that appeared to be a missile on North Korea's east coast, just days after North Korea declared it was scrapping a non-aggression accord with the South.

   "It is certain North Korea's military will deal with provocative activity by its enemy state," Choson Sinbo said in an article titled "Diplomatic Offensive in Face of U.S. Military Threats."

   "The North would now be drawing up military measures, closely watching movements of the U.S. military," it said.

   The article noted an annual South Korea-U.S. joint war exercise set to be held in South Korea in March. Seoul and Washington say the drill, called Key Resolve, and other joint war trainings are defensive, but Pyongyang charges they are a prelude to war against it.

   "It hasn't been long since the Obama administration was inaugurated, but there doesn't seem to be a grace period of diplomacy with North Korea," it said.

   "Every March, large-scale military exercises by the U.S. and South Korean troops are held, and considering the recent situation, should the provocative movements against North Korea continue, it is highly possible a tougher measure could be drawn up by North Korea," it said.

   The article claimed U.S. military equipment is currently streaming into the Korean Peninsula by air and sea.

   Choson Sinbo accused the U.S. of trying to sway public opinion, referring to a comment by U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood who said any ballistic missile launches by North Korea would be "provocative."


N. Korea Preparing to Participate in 2010 World Expo

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Preparations are smoothly under way in North Korea for its first-ever participation in a world exposition, a newspaper of pro-Pyongyang Koreans in Japan said on Feb. 6.

   The DPRK (North Korea) Chamber of Commerce signed a contract last November with the Shanghai Expo Organizing Committee to take part in the expo slated for next year, Choson Sinbo said.

   Under the contract, the North will lease a 1,000-square-meter hall to showcase its capital Pyongyang's features as one of the world's most ancient and cultural cities, the newspaper said.

   The organization has begun work to design the exhibit hall and prepare for a National Day event in cooperation with related government offices early this year, according to the report.

   Participating countries select a day as their National Day to showcase the will of the state and national culture, while promoting friendship and cultural and artistic exchanges with other countries.

   North Korea became a member of BIE, the world governing body of the expo, in November 2007. Next year's event is expected to draw some 70 million people from 183 nations and officials from 45 international organizations, according to its organizers.