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2009/09/24 10:42 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 73 (September 24, 2009)

  
*** NEWS IN BRIEF

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il Meets with Chinese Special Envoy

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met with a Chinese presidential envoy on Sept. 18 and received a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao, the North's state media reported.

   The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim "expressed thanks" for the personal letter from Hu and asked the special envoy to convey his regards. The two held talks "in an amicable atmosphere" on relations between the two countries and "a series of issues of mutual concern," it said.

   Also present was Kang Sok-ju, North Korea's first-vice minister of foreign affairs, it added.

   The report gave no further details, but China's official news agency said that during the meeting, Kim expressed his willingness to resolve the ongoing nuclear standoff with the international community through "bilateral or multilateral dialogue."

   "North Korea will continue to maintain its goal of denuclearization and make efforts for the protection of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Kim was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as telling Dai Bingguo in the talks. "I hope to resolve this issue through bilateral or multilateral dialogue," he was quoted as saying.

   Dai, a Chinese state councilor, arrived in the North Korean capital two days earlier as a special envoy of President Hu amid stepped-up regional diplomatic efforts to bring Pyongyang back to the six-party denuclearization talks.

   Kim's meeting with the Chinese envoy comes as the United States is considering holding direct talks with North Korea on nuclear disarmament.

   Dai's visit highlighted China's role as a mediator between North Korea and the U.S., currently deadlocked in the six-party talks that also involve South Korea, Japan and Russia.

   On Sept. 16, Dai exchanged "candid and in-depth" views with North Korea's first vice foreign minister, Kang Sok-ju, about bilateral relations and international issues, the KCNA said. Kang is in charge of the North's diplomacy regarding the six-party talks aimed at ending the country's nuclear weapons program.

   Dai was accompanied by Wu Dawei, China's chief envoy to the nuclear talks.

   The visit came ahead of an expected trip to Pyongyang by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in early October to mediate envisioned one-on-one talks between North Korea and the U.S.

   North Korea previously pledged to terminate its nuclear drive in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits from other members of the talks, but quit the forum in April to protest U.N. sanctions imposed over its long-range rocket test. The country conducted its second nuclear test in May, drawing even stronger U.N. sanctions.

   Dai also met with Kim Yong-nam, the North's nominal No. 2 leader, on Sept. 19. The two watched a classic Chinese opera, "The Dream of the Red Chamber," performed by North Korean artists at the Pyongyang Grand Theater. The allies are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their relations this year.

   The Chinese official returned home Sept. 18 after his visit with the North Korean leader, the KCNA said.

  
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Pak Su-gil Named Deputy Premier and Finance Minister

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea named Pak Su-gil as one of the country's deputy premiers and its finance minister, state media said Sept. 18.

   The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) issued a decree that day to have Pak concurrently serve as deputy premier and minister of finance, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The appointment brought the number of the North's known deputy premiers to five from its original four. Analysts say the finance minister has come to have more power as the country strives to restore the socialist country's centrally planned economy as part of efforts to transform itself into Kangsong Taeguk, a strong and prosperous and powerful country.

   Pyongyang aims to achieve the goal by 2012, the centenary of late leader Kim Il-sung's birth and the 70th birth anniversary of current leader Kim Jong-il.

   During the latest parliamentary session, the North retained Kwak Pom-gi, Thae Jong-su and Ro Tu-chol and newly named O Su-yong as deputy premiers. Thae's post was left vacant after he was named chief secretary of the South Hamgyong party chapter in early August. On Sept. 18, the SPA Presidium issued a decree naming Pak Myong-son as a deputy premier.

   The North's reports did not elaborate on the two new deputy premiers' profiles. Pak Myong-son is believed to be the same individual who heads an institute for volunteer services abroad.

   Chances are high Pak Su-gil is the same person as the Pak Su-gil who chairs the North Hamgyong Province People's Committee.

  
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N. Korea Restores State Science-Technology Commission

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea has revived a Cabinet commission overseeing science and technology affairs, state media said on Sept. 19, as the country strives to build a thriving country with advanced science and technology.

   The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's rubber-stamp parliament, issued a decree the previous day to set up the State Science and Technology Commission, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

   The news agency did not provide background information on the restoration. The move followed the authorities' recent emphasis on the role of science and technology in transforming the nation into an economic power.

   Previously, the commission was built in 1962 to support the government-led efforts to grow defense industry. It was merged into the National Academy of Sciences as part of a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle following the launch of leader Kim Jong-il's first term in office in 1998. North Korea had experienced the worst economic difficulties and famine since the establishment of the country, depicted as "arduous march," in mid and late 1990s.

   With the alleged recovery of the economy in recent years, however, the North may have felt it necessary to establish a separate government office overseeing the country's technological administration. A national campaign is currently under way in North Korea to construct Kangsong Taeguk, a strong, prosperous and powerful country by 2012, the centenary of late leader, state founder Kim Il-sung's birth.

   The restoration of the state commission is seen as part of North Korea's first Cabinet reshuffle since Kim Jong-il began his third official term this year. Kim's formal re-election as chairman of the National Defense Commission, the highest decision-making body under the socialist state's constitution that gives the military the primary concern, in an April parliamentary session was seen as the start of his third term.

   In another conspicuous change, the North on Sept. 18 named Pak Su-gil to replace Kim Wan-su as finance minister and had Pak concurrently serve as a vice premier. The appointment brought from four to five the number of the North's known vice premiers. The enhanced power of finance minister is apparently aimed to increase the role of finance in rebuilding the economy.

  
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North Korea Vows to Expand Trade

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Sept. 21 it hopes to expand trade with the international community as a trade fair opened in its capital with businesses from 15 countries.

   "The DPRK (North Korea) would, as ever, develop on a wider scale the economic and commercial dealings with all countries which are friendly towards it on the principles of complete equality and reciprocity," Kim Mun-jong, director of the Korean International Exhibition Corporation, a North Korean organization hosting the trade fair, said at an opening speech.

   His remarks were carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.
The Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair is a biannual event where the country seeks to draw foreign investment and boost technology exchanges.

   The four-day fair, the fifth of its kind, continues until Sept. 24 at the Three-Revolution Exhibition, presenting machine tools, electric and electronic equipment, vehicles, petro-chemical products, medicaments, articles of daily use and foodstuffs, the report said.

   Participating businesses come from China, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Britain, Australia, Austria, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam, France, Finland, Poland and Taiwan, as well as the host, the report said.

   "The fair would serve as an important occasion in developing economic cooperation and exchange among various countries and regions," O Ryong-chol, vice-minister of foreign trade, said in a congratulatory speech at the opening ceremony that also drew foreign diplomatic envoys.

   The North began its fall trade fair in 2005 and a spring fair in 1998 with goals of promoting its homegrown goods and acquiring advanced technology from foreign countries. This year's spring fair was held in May.

   North Korean trade is heavily dependent on China -- up to 73 percent last year -- as the country faces a string of international sanctions that tightened after its nuclear test in May.

   According to data from the South's Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency in Seoul, the North's exports in 2008 were worth US$1.13 billion, and its imports were worth $2.69 billion. Of the country's exports, 41 percent came from selling mineral resources.

  
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N.K. Sends Military Delegation to China Amid Signs of Thaw in Nuclear Talks

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said it sent a military delegation led by a confidant of leader Kim Jong-il to China on Sept. 22, signaling a widening thaw in talks over its nuclear arms programs.

   "A military delegation led by Vice Minister of the People's Armed Forces Pak Jae-gyong left Pyongyang to visit China," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a Korean-language dispatch. It did not elaborate.

   The trip comes days after Kim met with China's presidential envoy, Dai Bingguo, in Pyongyang and reportedly said he was open to both bilateral and multilateral talks on his country's nuclear arms programs.

   The meeting highlighted China's role as a mediator between North Korea and the United States, currently deadlocked in six-party talks aimed at compensating Pyongyang for its nuclear dismantlement.

   Pak, 76, is one of the highest-ranking military officials in North Korea. Having visited Beijing as head of a military delegation on several occasions, Pak accompanied Kim during his rare visit to China in 2001.

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