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2009/05/28 11:25 KST

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

Two Koreas' Buddhists Urge Japan to Return Historic Relics

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Buddhists leaders from South and North Korea jointly called on Japan on May 22 to return historic relics that were taken away during the Japanese colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang's media said.

   The Buddhists adopted a joint statement at a religious service in Pyongyang's Kwangbop Temple, in which they "strongly urged Japan to ... unconditionally return Korean historic relics it had looted away," the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   South Korean Buddhists from the major Jogye Order, led by the Venerable Hyemun, are visiting Pyongyang as part of their regular trips to discuss ways to locate and bring back historic relics taken away during Japan's 1910-45 occupation.

   The socialist North has Buddhist temples and Christian churches in Pyongyang, but outside watchers question its claim of religious freedom.

   Japan returned a historic stone monument it had looted a century ago to South Korea in 2005, and the South transferred it to its original home in North Korea's town of Kilju.

   The monument named "Bukgwandaecheopbi," honoring a Korean general who defeated Japanese invaders in the end of 15th century, had been left unattended at the Yasukuni Shrine, a sanctuary in Tokyo dedicated to Japan's war heroes.


Pro-Pyongyang Paper Calls for 'Audacious' Approach by Obama

SEOUL (Yonhap) - A pro-Pyongyang newspaper on May 23 called on the U.S. government to adopt "an audacious approach" toward North Korea to improve worsening ties.

   "Despite the launch of the Obama administration calling for 'change,' relations between the DPRK (North Korea) and the United States are getting worse than in the Bush administration's last years in power," Choson Sinbo said.

   "It is inevitable for the U.S. to adopt an audacious approach (toward North Korea) if things are worse enough for a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman to assert that the nation's cherished desire for denuclearization has gone forever," said the newspaper.

   North Korea has said there is no use in trying to talk with the U.S. and that it will bolster its nuclear force as long as Washington does not shift from its "hostile" policy.

   Resumption of dialogue will become possible only when Washington presents a fairly clear intention for policy change, the daily said.


N. Korean Leader Sends Condolences on Ex-President Roh's Death

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his condolences on May 25 to the family of former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Pyongyang's media said, in a move that came amid frozen political relations on the peninsula.

   "On hearing the news that former President Roh Moo-hyun died in an accident, I express profound condolences to widow Kwon Yang-sook and his bereaved family," Kim was quoted as saying by the (North) Korean Central News Agency.

   The reports did not say whether Kim sent a letter to Roh's family.

   Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said no letter had been received yet by the family. The Seoul government was cautious not to overestimate Kim's message, but Chun said that at least it "won't have a negative impact on inter-Korean relations."

   Rodong Sinmun, the country's major newspaper published by the ruling Workers' Party, also ran Kim's message on its front page.

   Roh leaped to his death from a cliff behind his home in the country's southeast on May 23. The former president had come under investigation for bribe-taking after allegations emerged that his wife, son and his brother's son-in-law had been given more than $6 million by a corrupt businessman.

   North Korea briefly reported the news the following day. On the cause of his death, state media only said that "the mental burden caused by the intensive investigation of the prosecution" had been cited as a probable cause by South Korean and foreign media reports.

   Kim's message came amid deadlocked inter-Korean relations. Pyongyang has cut off dialogue with Seoul's conservative government -- led by Roh's successor, Lee Myung-bak -- who has taken a tougher stance on the North's nuclear program and human rights condition.

   Roh had pushed for reconciliation with the North, and held the second ever inter-Korean summit with Kim in Pyongyang in 2007. Under Roh, rice and fertilizer aid was steadily given to the North even after its nuclear test in 2006.


Pro-N. Korea Newspaper Urges U.S. to Open Two-way Talks

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will continue to raise the stakes no matter how seriously it is punished by the international community unless the United States takes direct action to resolve the nuclear crisis, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on May 26.

   Choson Sinbo, which conveys North Korea's perspective to foreign readers, said in the article that the only way to stop the North's accelerating arms buildup is for the U.S. to discard its hostile policy and seek bilateral talks.

   "No matter how high (the U.S.) raises the degree of pressure, North Korea will not change its current course," the Tokyo-based paper said.

   Heavier punishments "may add momentum" to "self-defense measures," the paper said. "To cut off the escalating cycle of tension, there is no other way but to start dialogue and negotiation."

   U.S. President Barack Obama strongly condemned North Korea's nuclear test on May 25, calling it "a great threat to the peace and security of the world." International rebukes overflowed, and the U.N. Security Council immediately started working to introduce harsher sanctions against the North.

   The article said the international community's call for a "united response" was nothing but "a slogan and will have no effect," as six-party nuclear disarmament talks have already failed. Pyongyang withdrew from the multilateral negotiations -- also involving South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia -- in protest of the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch.

   "Other nations have no options, and shaping a new diplomatic framework is ultimately up to the U.S. North Korea, which prioritizes its own self-defense, would only consider dialogue if it sees a change of attitude from the U.S., with whom it is at war," the paper said.

   The Obama administration "made the mistake of insisting the rocket launch is a missile test" and "propelled" North Korea to carry out its second nuclear test, the paper said. The U.S. president should now discard the six-party framework and start nuclear disarmament talks bilaterally with North Korea, the article continued, citing his policy to pursue a similar process with Russia.

   "If President Obama intends to carry out his plan on the Korean Peninsula and the region without exceptions, it should get out of its current coercive diplomacy that has ruptured the six-party framework and broken down the denuclearization process," it said.

   "The resolution of the confrontation and tension depends on whether the new U.S. administration can take a bold approach toward North Korea."


North Korea Ready for Combat against U.S.

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea said on May 26 it had put its armed forces on full combat readiness in response to a possible U.S. attack on the socialist state, raising tension on the divided peninsula.

   "The United States' military moves against the DPRK (North Korea) have recently taken a serious turn," Rodong Sinmun, organ of the Workers' Party, said in a commentary.

   "The army and people of the DPRK are keeping themselves fully combat ready with a high degree of vigilance" against the "foolish" moves by the U.S. to mount a preemptive attack on the North, the newspaper said.

   It cited Washington's recent forward-deployment of two squadrons of F-22 fighter jets in Japan and Guam as well as the "Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 2009" joint military exercise with South Korea.

   Pyongyang routinely accuses the U.S. and South Korea of harboring aggressive intentions with the annual exercise, but the rhetoric this time has been more strident as it came one day after the North conducted a second underground nuclear test and test-fired a series of short-range missiles.

   Pyongyang began repeatedly blasting the Barack Obama administration for being "hostile" toward it earlier this month.

   "The U.S. remains unchanged in its way of thinking and wild ambition that it can dominate the world only when it puts the Asia-Pacific region under its control," the daily said.

   "The present U.S. administration is talking about what it called a 'change' and 'bilateral dialogue' but it is, in actuality, pursuing the same reckless policy as followed by the former Bush administration to stifle the DPRK by force of arms," it stressed.


Pro-Pyongyang Daily Says N. Korea's Position on Kaesong Unchanged

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea's pledge to keep developing a joint industrial complex in Kaesong is unchanged, a pro-Pyongyang daily said on May 26, amid media speculation that the socialist country is taking steps to shut down the complex.

   Pyongyang has said it will continue developing the factory complex despite growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The North on May 15 unilaterally scrapped all contracts with South Korea regarding the joint venture, criticizing Seoul's "confrontational" policy toward the socialist country.

   "It is North Korea's consistent position to smoothly develop the complex," said Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper published by Korean residents in Japan and considered a mouthpiece for Pyongyang. The fact that operations at the Kaesong complex are still under way despite Seoul's "hostile behaviors" is proof, it stressed.

   In a rare inter-governmental meeting held in the North Korean border town of Kaesong on April 21, the North demanded wage hikes for more than 40,000 North Koreans working for 106 South Koreans operating at Kaesong and earlier payment of land fees. Seoul refused to accept the demands and wanted to discuss the fate of a South Korean worker being detained in Kaesong for slandering the North's political system.

   The newspaper echoed Pyongyang's earlier statement that all "preferential treatment" granted to the South under the 2000 inter-Korean summit accord will be reconsidered since Seoul refuses to implement the accord and another agreement signed in the 2007 summit.