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2009/04/02 11:05 KST


U.N. Adopts Resolution Condemning N.K's Human Rights Violations

GENEVA (Yonhap) -- The United Nations Commission on Human Rights on March 26 adopted a resolution condemning human rights abuses in North Korea and demanding that the socialist state allow entry of a U.N. special rapporteur.

   The resolution, co-sponsored by the European Union and South Korea, was approved by a vote of 26-6 with 15 abstentions at a commission meeting at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva.

   Among the opposition were China and Russia, which have often been under fire themselves for alleged human rights violations in Tibet, Chechnya and other separatist provinces.

   It is the second time in just a few months that South Korea co-sponsored a U.N. resolution against North Korea's human rights violations.

   South Korea's Foreign Ministry said, "Human rights is a common value of the human being and should be separated from other issues."

   South Korea co-sponsored another resolution, approved by the U.N. General Assembly in December, that urged North Korea to "respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms" by "immediately putting an end to the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights."

   North Korea has been at odds with the conservative Lee Myung-bak government, which has raised concerns over North Korea's human rights conditions and pledged not to seek inter-Korean reconciliation unless the North make progress in the multilateral talks on ending its nuclear ambitions.

   Unlike Lee, who took office in February last year, his liberal predecessors had been reluctant to endorse or initiate any resolution on North Korea's human rights records for fear of provoking the isolated communist neighbor, with which Seoul is seeking denuclearization and eventual reunification.

   Lee's immediate predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, zigzagged on the sensitive rights issue. Roh's government abstained on a vote for a similar resolution in 2005, voted for it in 2006 soon after North Korea's detonation of its first nuclear device, then stepped back to abstain in 2007.


N.K. Developed Collective Leadership After Kim Jong-il's Stroke

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- North Korea has developed a new collective leadership of military leaders and close aides to its leader, Kim Jong-il, since his health failure last summer, a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report has said.

   "In August 2008, he suffered a severe stroke," said the report dated March 16. "Since then, a collective decision-making apparatus has emerged, apparently headed by his brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek."

   The report contradicts the U.S. government's official position that it has no concrete evidence to believe that a leadership change is imminent in North Korea.

   "I think we've said many times that the leadership and how decisions are made in North Korea is an opaque process on how they take their decisions," the State Department's deputy spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said last month. "Who's actually taking decisions is very opaque as well. We don't have any direct contact on the ground and are not able to well judge what we hear coming out of North Korea."

   Kim is believed to be recovering from the stroke and senior U.S. officials have said that he is still in charge.

   The CRS report, however, said that the collective apparatus "contains key North Korean military commanders, and the military has been more influential in the policy-making context since Kim's stroke."

   "While U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials have stated that Kim Jong-il appears to have partially recovered from the stroke, most experts believe the new collective apparatus will continue to have an important policy-making role in the future," the report said.

   Reports said that Kim Jong-un, the third and youngest son of the North Korean leader, has been tapped as heir apparent with the backing of Jang and Kim Ok, 44, the current de facto fourth wife of Kim Jong-il, who also serves as his personal secretary.

   Jong-un was born to the leader's third known wife, Ko Yong-hee, who died of breast cancer in 2004.

   The second son, Jong-chol, 29, who was also born to Ko, seems to be sidelined in the succession due to a weak temperament stemming from a hormone-related disease.

   Jong-nam, the oldest son, who was born to the leader's late second wife, Song Hye-rim, has been adrift in China since 2001, when he was caught trying to visit Disneyland in Tokyo along with his son and wife on a forged passport.

   A collective leadership with party and military leaders consolidating power around one of the leader's three sons is the most favored scenario by experts amid growing skepticism about another dynastic power succession in the North due a lack of time to groom an heir.

   Kim Jong-il spent two decades as an heir apparent before taking over in 1994, when his father, Kim Il-sung, died of a heart attack.


N. Korean Rocket Shown fully Mounted in Commercial Satellite Image

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A U.S. research institute has disclosed the latest commercial satellite image that shows North Korea's rocket mounted onto a launch pad on the country's east coast.

   The image, photographed by DigitalGlobe on March 29 morning (Korean time) and obtained by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), shows the three-stage rocket apparently free of any covering and casting a thick shadow.

   Neighboring countries suspect the rocket may be a missile that could fly as far as Alaska. North Korea has said it will launch a satellite from the Musudan-ri site between April 4-8.

   On March 29, an intelligence source in Seoul said the tip of the rocket had just been uncovered, but it was still difficult to tell whether a space satellite or a warhead has been mounted.

   "We're in the midst of closely analyzing the object on top of the rocket. But we may not be able to complete its identification before the rocket launch," the source said, asking not to be named.

   The latest image shows the rocket clearly visible from the gantry, the ISIS said in a statement, adding it is likely that North Korea had previously shrouded the suspected ballistic missile.

   On March 30, the Financial Times quoted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak as saying he opposes military response to the North's projected rocket launch.

   The comment came a day after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in Washington that his country would not attempt an interception unless the rocket clearly threatened its territory.


Obama Urged to Engage N. Korea Bilaterally for Denuclearization

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A group of U.S. experts on Korea recommended on March 31 that the Barack Obama administration engage North Korea bilaterally to complement the six-party talks and persuade the reluctant communist regime to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

   "While six-party talks should be continued, the United States should consider bilateral talks with North Korea to explore whether a new mix of inducements and pressures might achieve U.S. and South Korean goals," said the group, "New Beginnings," in a policy report.

   Among the group's members are Jack Pritchard, head of the Korea Economic Institute, and Evans Revere, president of the Korea Society.

   The on-and-off multilateral talks, which began in 2003, stalled again in December when North Korea refused to agree to a protocol to verify its nuclear facilities.

   "This regime appears increasingly unlikely to give up its nuclear capabilities," the report said, stressing the need for closer cooperation among the U.S. and its two close Asian allies, South Korea and Japan.

   "The United States, ROK and Japan should seek a high-level understanding on how to deal with possible future instability in the North and offer to include China in such consultations," the report said. ROK stands for the Republic of Korea, South Korea's official name.

   Obama was also advised to have "a consistent, long-term strategy to encourage North Korea's transformation" while making it clear that the U.S. "will never accept a North Korea with nuclear weapons."

   North Korea detonated its first nuclear device in 2006 and is believed to have several nuclear bombs.

   The U.S. is also considering initiating separate talks with North Korea to dissuade it from developing, deploying and exporting ballistic missiles as Pyongyang prepares to launch a rocket it says will send a satellite into space. The U.S. sees the launch as a cover for a ballistic missile test.

   A successful launch, which Pyongyang has said will take place between April 4 and 8, would greatly enhance the North's negotiating power in missile talks. Negotiations on the North's missile program were suspended under the Bill Clinton administration.

   At the time, Pyongyang demanded Washington pay up to US$1 billion annually in return for scrapping its ballistic missile program.


Rocket Launch Likely to Cost N. Korea US$500 Million: Think Tank

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea may have spent nearly US$500 million to build the long-range rocket it plans to launch within days, the head of a Seoul-based think tank said on April 1, citing leader Kim Jong-il's remarks on a previous launch.

   Nam Sung-wook based his estimate on remarks made by Kim during his summit with then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 2000. Nam is a former advisor to incumbent South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and director of the Institute for National Security Strategy, an arm of the National Intelligence Service in Seoul.

   At that time, the North Korean leader said that Pyongyang had spent between $200 million and $300 million to launch what it called the Kwangmyongsong-1 satellite in 1998, according to Nam. Kim's remarks were informally conveyed by other Seoul officials.

   "He himself had told that to Seoul officials, and we have reached the assumption that it has now cost up to $500 million, considering that equipment costs must have risen," Nam said in a meeting with reporters.

   The estimate is the first straightforward calculation from a senior expert in Seoul. Nam helped Lee build his North Korea policy during his election campaign in 2007.

   North Korea has told international aviation and maritime agencies that it will send its Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite into orbit some time between April 4 and 8 as part of its peaceful space development program. Neighboring countries believe the satellite launch might be a cover for testing its long-range missile technology.

   North Korea has never successfully flown a long-range rocket. The U.S. government called the North's Kwangmyongsong-1 satellite a "failed" launch, and a Taepodong-2 long-range missile the North fired in 2006 fell into the East Sea about 40 seconds after blastoff.

   North Korea has also given an order to its diplomatic missions abroad to promote its claim that the launch will be for a satellite, not a missile, in an effort to avoid international sanctions, he said.

   "It is safe to say the launch is now imminent according to circumstantial evidence," Nam said.

   Turning to recent North Korean photographs that showed a much leaner Kim, Nam said the apparent weight loss likely resulted from a diet program rather than from the side effects of a stroke he allegedly suffered last August.

   "Weight loss is essential for recuperating from a stroke,' Nam said, citing doctors' opinion. "I assume that he was confident enough in his recuperation to go on a diet," he said.