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2009/02/26 11:06 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 43 (February 26, 2009)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

North Korea Revs Up Threats Ahead of Clinton's Visit

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Feb. 19 an inter-Korean military clash may erupt "any moment" and South Korea and the United States will pay a "dear price," sharpening its tone ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit in Seoul.

   Pyongyang issued a barrage of acerbic statements the same day, blasting Seoul's conservative government and warning against a planned joint war drill set to be held by the two allies next month.

   "Now that the political and military confrontation between the North and the South has gone into extremes, only physical clash may break out any moment," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in its English language report just hours before Clinton was to make her first visit to Seoul as the top U.S. diplomat.

   During her visit to Japan on Feb.17, Clinton warned a possible missile launch by the North would be "very unhelpful." But she reaffirmed that Washington will normalize ties with Pyongyang, establish a peace treaty on the peninsula and offer massive economic aid if the North gives up its nuclear program.

   A day earlier, South Korea and the U.S. said they will hold their annual military exercise from March 9-20 across South Korea. Pyongyang has denounced such drills as preparations for preemptive strikes, while the allies say they are "defense-oriented."


N. Korea Warns S. Korea, U.S. Will Pay 'High Price' for War Drill

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Feb. 19 blasted a planned South Korea-U.S. war drill as "war preparation maneuver" and warned that the two countries will pay a "high price" if they go ahead with it.

   "The war preparation maneuver being made by the United States and South Korea will bring a wind of fire to the Korean Peninsula and they will be forced to pay a high price for this, as it goes against peace and against the times," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The two allies said a day earlier they will go ahead with their Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercise, set for March 9-20, amid mounting tension on the peninsula.

   Earlier of Feb. 19, North Korea renewed its warning against Seoul's Lee Myung-bak administration, saying "the (North) Korean People's Army is fully ready for an all-out confrontation." The threat was more specific than a Jan. 17 statement, in which the military said its forces have been "compelled to take an all-out confrontational posture to shatter them," referring to the South Korean government.

   Military tension along the peninsula has risen sharply as North Korea intensifies its coercive rhetoric against the conservative Lee government. On Jan. 30, an inter-Korean committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party said it will void all inter-Korean non-aggression accords and will not acknowledge their western sea border.

   The Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea was drawn unilaterally by the U.N. Command after the Korean War. Pyongyang has insisted it should be redrawn further south. Two bloody skirmishes have occurred along the volatile border in the past decade, leaving scores of soldiers dead and wounded on both sides.

   South Korea has put its naval forces on heightened alert along the sea border.

   "The evil invasion scheme of the United States and the South Korean war mongers is becoming extreme," the KCNA said. "If they don't have any intention to invade North Korea and are willing to respect the sovereignty of our republic, there would be no need for such a war scenario against us."


N.K. Renews Criticism of President Lee After Clinton Visit

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed on Feb. 21 to retaliate against the South Korean government of President Lee Myung-bak, accusing him of maliciously slandering the brand of socialism it is upholding.

   In a meeting with supporters in mid-February, the conservative South Korean president was quoted as saying that North Korea "would be better off without socialism if it means they have to worry about three meals a day for their people."

   The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a powerful party organization handling inter-Korean relations, issued a statement on Sunday arguing that Lee maliciously defamed the dignity of socialism.

   The committee's statement was carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   North Korea "will certainly settle accounts with the group of traitors through the most merciless and resolute measures," the committee said, calling Lee head of the "traitors."

   The KCNA quoted the committee as saying North Korea would never recognize the Lee government as its dialogue partner.

   No further details of the South Korean president's remarks were known, though he apparently was referring to the North's chronic food shortages. Pyongyang has been relying on outside aid since the mid-1990s to help feed its 23 million people.

   The North's anti-South Korean criticism came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited South Korea and berated the North for stepping up its harsh rhetoric against the South.

   Inter-Korean relations have significantly chilled since Lee took office a year ago with a tougher stance on North Korea. He has halted free food aid to North Korea, linking it to the North's denuclearization.


Clinton Put N. Korea in Nuclear Club, Made 'Harmless' Gesture: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demonstrated Washington's view of Pyongyang as a nuclear state and emphasized a fresh approach to North Korea during her Asia trip, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper claimed on Feb. 23.

   But Clinton displayed only "harmless diplomatic language" and no realistic action and it remains to be seen whether Pyongyang will respond to the U.S. "indirect message," said Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper that conveys North Korea's stance.

   "It is clear that the first Democratic administration in eight years is basing its foreign policy on the premise that North Korea has nuclear weapons," it said.

   The report was referring to critical remarks Clinton made about the George W. Bush administration during her four-nation Asia trip last week, particularly her disapproval of U.S. accusations that Pyongyang ran a highly enriched uranium program, which led to the collapse of the 1994 framework.

   After Bush officials raised debatable allegations in late 2002, the denuclearization framework broke down, and the North resumed its plutonium program that enabled it to conduct a nuclear test in 2006, she said in media interviews.

   "She displayed her idea that 'North Korea came to possess nuclear weapons because everything had broken down,'" Choson Sinbo said.

   The Framework Accord signed between North Korea and the Bill Clinton administration was to freeze the North's nuclear power plant program and build light water reactor power plants, which would make producing nuclear weapons more difficult for the North.

   "It wouldn't be just a personal thought of Secretary of State Clinton, who was the president's wife when the Geneva agreement was reached," it said.