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2009/07/30 14:16 KST


U.S. Weighs Putting North Korea Back on Blacklist

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Senate on July 22 demanded the Barack Obama administration consider relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism amid fresh allegations that it is proliferating nuclear and missile technology.

   The Senate approved a resolution to that effect by a vote of 66-31. It was sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

   The resolution calls for Obama to submit a report within 30 days on Pyongyang's record of weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism since it was removed from the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism in October. The report will allow officials to "assess the effectiveness" of relisting the North, the resolution said.

   It "expressed the sense of the Senate that the United States should fully enforce existing sanctions, and should explore additional sanctions, with respect to North Korea and to require a review to determine whether North Korea should be re-listed as a state sponsor of terrorism."

   The resolution, which also described North Korea as "a threat to the northeast Asian region and to international peace and security," came as U.S. officials raised fresh concerns over North Korea's alleged nuclear and missile technology transfer to Myanmar, formerly Burma.

   U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 21 expressed "growing concerns" over "military cooperation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously."

   At a daily news briefing on July 22, State Department spokesman Robert Wood reinforced Clinton's remarks.

   "What the secretary said was that we and our other partners in the region are very concerned about military cooperation, the extent of military cooperation between Burma and North Korea," Wood said. "And what we want to see happen is that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 be fully implemented. We intend to do that, and we encourage other countries to do that as well."

   North Korea was first put on the terrorism list soon after it downed a South Korean airplane over Myanmar in 1987, killing all 115 passengers. It was delisted in October 2008, paving the way for a new round of multilateral nuclear talks that had been deadlocked for nearly a year.

   In December, the talks again fell into a stalemate.


U.S. Prepared for Kim Jong-il's Death: U.S. Military Commander

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States has prepared for all contingencies in North Korea in the event of leader Kim Jong-il's death, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command said on July 22.

   "We are prepared to execute a wide range of options in concert with allies in South Korea and in discussions through (the Department of) State, which would have the lead, with countries in the region, and internationally if necessary," Adm. Timothy Keating said at a news conference at the Pentagon. "I don't think it is axiomatic that the departure of Kim Jong-il means a national security crisis. We'd hope it wouldn't. But we are going to be prepared if it does mean that."

   Keating's remarks come amid allegations that Kim Jong-il has been pushing ahead with nuclear and missile tests to pave the way for a smooth power transition to his third and youngest son Jong-un, 26, after he apparently suffered a stroke last summer.

   "What would happen if and when he cedes control or is no longer capable of exercising control? Don't know," the commander said. "But I can tell you that we have plans with the United States Forces-Korea and others in place if the president tells us to execute those plans in the event of some uncertain succession in the North."

   The commander made his remarks as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her counterparts from South Korea, China, Japan and Russia -- members of the six-party talks on ending North Korea's ambitions -- in Phuket, Thailand, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

   Clinton expressed her country's intent to normalize ties with Pyongyang "if they will agree to irreversible denuclearization." Otherwise, the top U.S. diplomat warned, it "will face international isolation and the unrelenting pressure of global sanctions."

   Pyongyang withdrew from the multilateral nuclear talks in anger over U.N. sanctions imposed for its recent nuclear and missile tests.

   Keating said he was not sure about the North Korean leader's health or possible successor.

   "The facts as I know them are fairly limited. He has clearly suffered some change of health. Is it the result of a stroke? ... Is there some larger issue at stake? I don't know," he said. "He's a different man today than he was a year ago, physically, in appearance. As to his mental acuity, I don't know. As to the plan for succession, I don't know."


N. Korea Began Success Campaign in 2001: U.S. Think Tank

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea started preparing for a hereditary succession eight years ago with leader Kim Jong-il's youngest son in mind and accelerated the process after the leader's alleged stroke last year, a U.S. spy agency report said.

   The report by the Director of National Intelligence Open Source Center, dated May 6, suggests the recent emergence of Kim's youngest son, Jong-un, as the heir was not sudden or impulsive but a result of thought-out, long-term preparation.

   It said North Korea's succession campaign began in 2001 with media propaganda but was put on hold after the death of the mother of Kim's two younger sons, Ko Yong-hui, in 2004.

   The succession campaign resurfaced following Kim Jong-il's suspected illness with a more explicit reference to the youngest child, it said. Jong-un's elevation was timed with the nation's campaign to become prosperous by 2012, the birth centennial of Kim Il-sung, the North's founder and his grandfather.

   "While Kim's stroke last year may have accelerated the process, it appears that Kim has been planning and preparing for the move since at least 2001," the report said.

   Around that time, the North's state media began rationalizing Kim Kong-il's succession to his father, citing historical and ideological reasoning, and emphasized the need to emulate it. Kim Jong-il was internally designated as successor in a Workers' Party meeting at age 32 in 1974, and publicly declared as the heir in the party convention in 1980.

   The report cited a political essay carried by a party newspaper on July 21, 2001, as the first sign of the succession campaign. The article, titled "A Brilliant Succession," underscored Kim Jong-il's leadership credentials and called father-to-son succession a North Korean "tradition."

   The report says the propaganda from the outset honed in on Kim's sons with Ko rather than his first son, Kim Jong-nam, born out of wedlock to Song Hae-rim, who became Kim's second wife. Starting in 2002, state media began running reverent commentaries on Ko, who died of breast cancer.

   The succession propaganda nearly disappeared until Kim Jong-il reemerged after supposedly suffering a stroke in August last year. It then generally employed indirect references, using words like "bloodline" or "Mt. Paektu," a mountain sanctified by North Korea as Kim Jong-il's birthplace.

   "Recent signals have been extremely subtle, suggesting they are designed to inform internal audiences without alerting outsiders," the report said.


South Korea to Resume Humanitarian Aid to North Korea

Seoul (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government plans to resume humanitarian aid to North Korea through non-governmental organizations, months after it froze such state funding over the North's rocket and nuclear tests, officials said on July 25.

   Seoul's Unification Ministry will present the plan in a meeting next week with about 10 humanitarian aid organizations that have requested the funding, the officials said, requesting anonymity because the policy has yet to be publicly announced. The extent of the aid was not disclosed.

   The ministry had aid groups apply for funding from February to March, promising to match the funds raised by each of the aid groups.

   But the ministry halted its budget execution after North Korea launched a long-range rocket in early April, drawing international condemnation. South Korea, the U.S. and Japan believe the launch was a disguised missile test. Cross-border exchanges were further strained after the North's nuclear test in May.

   Adding to the tension, a South Korean worker at a joint industrial complex in North Korea has been detained incommunicado since late March on accusations of criticizing the North's political system and trying to persuade a North Korean worker to defect to the South.

   The reasons given for the latest decision to resume aid were vague. Officials said it was made due to North Korea's desperate need for aid, as well as Seoul's official policy of separating humanitarian issues from the political situation.

   But the move raised speculation that Seoul may be willing to show flexibility in reaching out to North Korea to break a prolonged diplomatic stalemate. Inter-Korean relations have frayed since South Korea's conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office last year, adopting a tougher stance on Pyongyang's nuclear program and pledging more to more closely scrutinize aid to the North.

   South Korea executed only 1.8 percent of its yearly budget for economic aid to North Korea during the first four months of this year. Unification Ministry data show it spent only 26.91 billion won (US$21.5 million) during the January-April period out of its 1.5 trillion won inter-Korean cooperation fund.


S. Korea to Enforce U.N. Financial Sanctions on N.K. Officials, Bodies

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea said on July 27 it will enforce financial sanctions initiated by the United Nations on North Korean officials and organizations this week for their involvement in Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

   The move came after the U.N. Security Council notified Seoul of its recent adoption of a resolution under which it imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on five North Korean officials and five organizations of the socialist country in connection with the North's nuclear test in May.

   "We will place restrictions on the financial activities of those officials and organizations based on our foreign exchange transaction laws," the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said in an e-mailed statement.

   "We notified related banks that they should restrict our people, companies and organizations from doing foreign currency transactions with them … The move is part of efforts to fulfill our obligations as a member of the United Nations," it said.

   The sanctions will go into effect on July 29, according to the ministry.

   The five officials are Ri Je-son, director of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy, Yun Ho-ji, director of Namchongang Trading Corp., Ri Hong-sop, former head of the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, Hwang Sok-hwa, a senior official of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy, and Han Yu-ro, director of Korea Ryongakan General Trading Corp.

   The companies and organizations under the restriction are the General Bureau of Atomic Energy, Hong Kong Electronics, Namchongang Trading Corp., Korea Kyoksin Trading Corp. and Korean Tangun Trading Corp.

   The ministry said that any transactions with the North Korean officials and organizations will require a permit from the head of the nation's central bank.

   The sanctions came less than two months after the Seoul government froze the assets of three North Korean companies and banned financial transactions with them, all of whom are suspected of having ties with the North's missile and nuclear programs.

   It was the first time that South Korea has imposed financial sanctions on a North Korean company in relation to Pyongyang's ballistic activity, the ministry said.


Aid Group's Pyongyang Visit Canceled

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A South Korean lawmaker and officials from his aid group canceled their planned Pyongyang visit on July 29, as they had not received the required invitation from North Korea, officials in Seoul said.

   The trip, had it been made, would have marked Seoul's first approval of a North Korea visit by a non-governmental group since Pyongyang's second nuclear test on May 25.

   Rep. Chung Eui-hwa of the ruling Grand National Party, co-chair of the Korea Sharing Movement (KSM) which arranges assistance for North Korea, had requested government permission to make a four-day visit to Pyongyang starting July 29.

   He and other KSM officials were to meet with the North's Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC) and discuss medical and humanitarian support projects.

   The scheduled trip, which the government was largely expected to approve, was canceled as the KCRC had not sent an official invitation, though the two groups have initially agreed to hold the meetings, according to officials.

   "The KSM voluntarily withdrew their request to enter North Korea, as they had not received an invitation as of Wednesday morning," an official at South Korea's Unification Ministry said.

   Invitations for such talks are customarily delivered from the North a day or two before the set date, according to KSM officials, who added that they haven't received any explanation from their North Korean counterpart.

   The government had tentatively decided to authorize the visit by Chung and seven KSM officials if the delegation was officially invited.

   Earlier requests by the KSM were rejected due to the state of inter-Korean relations, which have frayed in recent months following the North's nuclear and missile tests.