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2009/04/23 11:13 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 51 (April 23, 2009)

   *** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

N. Korea Repeatedly Warns against S. Korea's Joining of PSI

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Military tensions on the Korean Peninsula increased sharply as North Korea's army threatened to take stern action against moves by South Korea to join in an anti-mass destruction weapons campaign. In its renewed warning on April 18, North Korea said that it would view Seoul's full participation in the U.S.-led anti-proliferation drive as a declaration of a war against Pyongyang and claimed that its army is ready to take action at "any moment."

   North Korea will consider "any pressure to be put upon it through 'total participation' in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) as a declaration of undisguised confrontation and a declaration of a war against the DPRK (North Korea)," a spokesman for the General Staff of the North's Korean People's Army (KPA) said. His remarks were carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

   North Korea's armed forces are always "keeping themselves fully ready to go into action any moment" to punish anyone encroaching on the country's sovereignty, the spokesman said. South Korea "should never forget that Seoul is just 50 km away from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL)," he said, referring to the inter-Korean border. The spokesman also dismissed six-nation denuclearization talks, saying the country's army "has never pinned any hope on the six-party talks from their outset."

   His remarks followed Seoul's decision earlier in the day to postpone announcing its plan to join the PSI until after the proposed talks with North Korea scheduled for April 21. Seoul had planned to announce its full participation in the PSI last week, but the announcement was delayed after North Korea proposed the Kaesong talks. Originally, Seoul was planning to announce its participation in the PSI on April 15 after the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a presidential statement.

   South Korea's foreign ministry said Seoul needs to take into consideration factors such as inter-Korean relations in announcing the full joining of the PSI. But the ministry emphasized that Seoul's position on participating in the U.S.-led campaign has not changed.

   Defying repeated warnings from South Korea, the United States, Japan and other countries, North Korea launched a long-range rocket on April 5, prompting the U.N. Security Council to issue a condemnation saying the launch violated a U.N. resolution banning the North from ballistic activity. Seoul and its allies suspect the rocket launch was a cover for a missile test.

   Challenging the Security Council's denouncement, Pyongyang said April 14 it was withdrawing from the six-party nuclear disarmament talks and would restore its nearly disabled nuclear facilities. The North followed up on its declaration by expelling inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as U.S. personnel who were monitoring the disablement process.

   On April 19, South Korea expressed regret over the North's warning against Seoul's joining the PSI and reasserted that its planned participation is not specifically targeting Pyongyang.

   "Our government regrets the intimidating words and actions being repeated by North Korea and points out that such behavior is not helpful to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and development of inter-Korean relations," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said in a commentary.

   The PSI was launched by the George W. Bush administration in 2003 to interdict and seize transports carrying weapons of mass destruction, with North Korea seen as one of its primary targets. Seoul, mindful of North Korean reactions, has so far remained as an observer.

   The Lee government has said it will fully join in the anti-proliferation drive, but after several delays, it again postponed joining the PSI on April 18. Officials said the government's position remains unchanged but it will announce its participation after the rare inter-Korean talks are held on April 21.

   On April 21, South Korea said that inter-Korean relations should not be affected by Seoul's plan to join the U.S.-led security campaign, rejecting concerns that North Korea may try to link the two issues in their first talks in over a year.

   Seoul's such remarks came as concerns have mounted that Pyongyang may force Seoul to choose between joining the Proliferation Security Initiative campaign and continuing the joint industrial complex on North Korea's soil. During the Kaesong talks, North Korea brought up the issue of South Korea's joining the PSI. At the meeting, the North Korean delegation said South Korea's joining will lead to "confrontation" between the divided Koreas.

   The Kaesong meeting came after North Korea proposed talks last week, saying it has an "important notice" for Seoul regarding the joint industrial project in Kaesong. "The North Korean side made its usual claims against our side at the beginning of the talks. But they were a repeat of their previous accusations," a government source said.

   An official at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said April 22 that Seoul's decision to join the anti-proliferation regime remained unchanged, but that the government was still mulling over when would be the most appropriate time to make the announcement. "The PSI has nothing to do with North Korea, therefore the meeting in Kaesong will not affect our decision," the official said.

   North Korea also renewed its accusation against Seoul's Lee Myung-bak administration, insisting it has destroyed the spirit of the so-called "By Our Nation Itself" stance and escalated tension since its inauguration 14 months ago, the source said. "They said because of this, the Kaesong industrial park project now faces a serious crisis," the source said.

   According to Seoul's statement, North Korea demanded South Korean firms in Kaesong start paying land use fees from next year instead of 2014 as previously agreed. The North also called for renegotiation of terms of the joint economic venture, including wages for North Korean workers at Kaesong.