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2009/03/12 10:57 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 45 (March 12, 2009)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N. Korea Warns S. Korean Flights over East Sea May Not Be Safe

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned on May 5 it can no longer assure the safety of South Korean passenger planes flying over the East Sea, as an upcoming joint military drill by South Korea and the United States elicited a furious reaction from the communist state.

   "Under the situation ... no one knows what military conflicts will be touched off," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland said.

   North Korea is "compelled to declare that security cannot be guaranteed for South Korean civil airplanes flying through the territorial air of our side ... and its vicinity above the East Sea of (North) Korea, in particular, while the military exercises are under way," the committee under the control of the North's ruling Workers' Party said in a statement carried in English by the (North) Korean Central News Agency.

   The threat comes as Pyongyang is preparing to launch what is believed to be a long-range missile from a base on its east coast.

   South Korea and the U.S. are scheduled to begin their annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drill on March 9. The allies say the exercise is defense-oriented, while Pyongyang views it as preparation for a preemptive strike.

   "This saber-rattling is a large-scale war exercises, the first of their kind since the emergence of the new administration in the United States," the North said.

   It said the exercise is "so dangerous" that it may develop into "an actual war any moment."

   In its first talks with the U.S.-led United Nations Command (UNC) in over six years on March 2, Pyongyang demanded that the annual military maneuver be canceled.

   The South Korean military was closely monitoring North Korean movements in the eastern region, a military official said. "No unusual activity has yet been detected," he said, requesting anonymity.

   Another military source said the latest warning could signal that the North may launch its rocket during the South Korea-U.S. joint drill.

   "The DPRK's (North Korea's) military force for self-defence will never allow any slightest provocation or its sign in the sky, land and sea but deal decisive and devastating blows at the aggressors," the North said.


North Korea Lambasts South Korea's Defense White Paper

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea blasted South Korea on March 7 for describing it as an "immediate and grave threat" in its new defense white paper, claiming that South Korea's joint drills with the United States threaten the peace on the peninsula.

   Amid mounting military tension, the Lee Myung-bak administration toughened the definition of North Korea in Seoul's new 2008 Defense White Paper, calling the socialist neighbor a threat that is both immediate and grave.

   The previous white paper for 2006 called North Korea an "existing military threat."

   "It is the United States and the South Korean puppet government who are creating the immediate and grave threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula," Minju Joson, the newspaper of the North Korean Cabinet, said in a commentary.

   The statement lambasted a joint war drill by South Korea and the U.S. set to begin on March 9.

   "Our revolutionary forces are closely monitoring every move the bellicose forces make," the Cabinet paper said. "If the bellicose forces set the fire of a North Korea invasion, our revolutionary forces will deal a merciless and powerful blow that the invaders will have never experienced."


N. Korea Vows to Launch Self-claimed Satellite Despite Protests

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed on March 8 to go ahead with its plan to launch what it claims will be a satellite despite international protest, claiming that it has the right to do so.

   Regional tension has gone up significantly in recent weeks, with North Korea moving to fire what it claims is a satellite, although U.S. and South Korean officials believe it will likely be a long-range missile.

   "Carrying out the launching of a satellite is our duly given right that cannot be stopped by anyone," said Tongil Shinbo, a pro-North Korean weekly magazine in Japan that is widely viewed as the communist country's overseas propaganda outlet.

   "The right to launch an artificial satellite or a missile is not restricted only to particular countries," the magazine said, arguing that such matters should be decided by individual nations.

   The magazine said that North Korea will carry out the launch no matter how much the international community "makes a fuss about it."

   The magazine also accused South Korea of distorting the North's "satellite" plan as preparations for test-firing a long-range missile.


N. Korea Claims to Have Superior Weapons Capabilities

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 10 threatened its "superior" military capability would sweep out "enemies" if a second war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.

   Rodong Sinmun, newspaper of the Workers' Party, made the warning in a commentary criticizing the joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

   The allies kicked off the 12-day Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises, one of their largest annual drills, on March 9, mobilizing 26,000 U.S. troops, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers.

   North Korea routinely accuses South Korea and the U.S. of preparing for war through their joint military drills even through the allies stress the drills are purely defensive.

   "The U.S. warmongers are running amuck like a tiger moth, counting on their 'military and technical superiority,' but the events that may unfold in the future will show how the above-said 'superiority' will help protect the U.S. and South Korea," the commentary carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

   "The DPRK (North Korea) has capability and modern military and technical means strong enough to neutralize that 'superiority,'" the newspaper said.

   In case of war, the editorial also threatened the North Korean army would fight "like a phoenix" and would wipe out "the cause of war" on the peninsula.

   The joint U.S.-South Korea drills come as Pyongyang is preparing to test-fire what most observers agree is a Taepodong-2 missile, escalating tensions that have been mounting since the inauguration of the conservative government in Seoul a year ago.

   North Korea on March 9 cut off a final inter-Korean military communications channel in protest over the drills. The North's military spokesman said the channel would remain dead until the exercises are over.


N. Korea Vows to Defend Sovereignty Amid S. Korea-U.S. Drill

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed on March 11 to take "every necessary measure" to defend its sovereignty amid preparations to launch what it claims is a satellite and an ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drill.

   The statement by the North's Foreign Ministry followed a warning from the country's military on March 9 that any attempt to intercept the satellite would provoke a war on the Korean Peninsula.

   U.S. and Japanese military officials have suggested they are weighing the option of shooting down the North Korean rocket.

   "The DPRK (North Korea), exposed to the potential threat of the U.S. and its allied forces, will take every necessary measure to protect its sovereignty," the unnamed spokesman said in a statement carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

   North Korea has said it will launch the Kwangmyongsong-2 communications satellite into orbit as part of its peaceful space development program.

   But given the North's past missile activity, there is conflicting speculation about the nature of the planned launch. Neighboring countries believe the North is in fact preparing for a test-launch of a long-range missile.

   In the March 11 statement, the North also protested the "words and deeds" of the Barack Obama administration.

   "The new administration of the U.S. is now working hard to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK by force of arms... after letting loose a whole string of words and deeds little short of getting on the nerves of the DPRK and seriously interfering in its internal affairs," the North's Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

   The statement did not elaborate, but it appeared to be linked to a series of remarks made recently by senior Washington officials that have irked Pyongyang.

   During her Asia trip last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touched on the sensitive issue of succession in North Korea, saying "the whole leadership situation is somewhat unclear."

   U.S. Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of the U.S. forces in Korea, told reporters last month that South Korea and the U.S. have devised several scenarios to prepare for all contingencies in North Korea.

   On the same day, Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper that conveys Pyongyang's position, said North Korea's satellite activity is part of its economic reconstruction policy. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has mobilized all resources to build a strong nation by 2012, the paper noted.

   "Economic revival based on modern science technology is the country's unwavering policy. The satellite launch plan is inseparable from the start of a 'new revolutionary upsurge," the paper said, referring to an economic drive the North launched this year.