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2009/11/19 11:18 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 81 (November 19, 2009)


North Korea's No. 2 Man Meets French Presidential Envoy

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's ceremonial head of state met with a visiting French presidential envoy in Pyongyang on Nov. 12, state media said.

   Jang Lang, special envoy to North Korea for French President Nicholas Sarkozy, arrived in Pyongyang three days earlier to discuss the communist country's nuclear programs and human rights issues.

   The North's state-run Korean Central Broadcasting Station said Lang held talks "in a friendly atmosphere" with Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang. No details on the talsk were provided.

   Lang also held talks with North Korea's Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun but did not meet with North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-il.

   Following the trip, Lang said on Nov. 15 that he held long talks with Pyongyang officials about sensitive issues including nuclear proliferation and human rights.

   Asked about the difficult topic of nuclear proliferation and the country's labor camps, Lang said they were "two subjects Korean leaders and I discussed at great length," according to a Paris-datelined report by the Associated Press.

   North Korean officials insisted that "today there is no transfer of fissile or ballistic materials outside of (North) Korea," Lang was quoted as telling French news media.

   He said he plans to brief Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner soon about the trip.

   Two days earlier, Lang told reporters in Beijing that Pyongyang had agreed to an "exchange" with Paris on human rights issues and that there was positive progress on other sensitive issues, including North Korea's nuclear proliferation. The envoy made a brief stop at a Beijing airport on his way back home.

   He noted that Pyongyang had previously cut off similar talks with the European Union (EU) on the same issue.

   Lang, a French Socialist Party member and former culture minister, was appointed to the post last month to seek ways of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

   France is one of two countries in the EU along with Estonia that does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea.

   Lang's visit to Pyongyang came as Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, is expected to visit Pyongyang within weeks, responding to calls by the North for bilteral talks. His schedule could be determined during U.S. President Barack Obama's tour of East Asia this week.


Dutch Firms Place Orders with N. Korean Exporters: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Trade between North Korea and the Netherlands is picking up steam, with Dutch firms reaching out to information technology and clothing areas in the North, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on Nov. 13.

   Dutch companies gave purchase orders to clothing and machinery firms in North Korea following their visit there organized by the Chamber of Commerce of the Netherlands in September, said the Japan-based Choson Sinbo in a dispatch from Pyongyang.

   "Exchange and cooperation projects that were agreed to in meetings between the Dutch business delegation and the DPRK Commercial Office are entering the stage of implementation," the report said. DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   "Production by the (North) Korean clothing and machinery trade firms is underway according to the agreements," it added.

   Dutch businesses along with firms from 14 other countries participated in the Pyongyang Autumn International Fair held Sept. 21 to 24. North Korea holds a trade fair twice a year to draw foreign investment and boost technology exchanges.

   Choson Sinbo said the Dutch firms then showed interest in the information technology area, machinery parts and clothing goods and held talks with pertinent North Korean companies, such as the Joson Computer Center and Unha Clothing Company.

   After returning home, the Dutch produced a report on North Korea's international economic relations for distribution at home and in other Western European countries, the newspaper said.

   "The DPRK Commercial Office, following the visit by the Dutch business delegation, is expecting the exchanges with the chambers of commerce in Western European countries to develop to a higher level," the report said.


N. Korea Reaffirms Opposition to Reform, Globalization

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has called for the country to approach globalization on its own terms, urging citizens to establish a self-reliant socialist power envied by the rest of the world, state media said on Nov. 14.

   "The DPRK should go global and the world should look up to the DPRK," Kim was quoted as saying in a meeting by Rodong Sinmun, newspaper of the Workers' Party. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

   The remarks came during a meeting to assess the outcome of the "150-day campaign" that ended last month, the newspaper said.

   Reflecting Pyongyang's long-held stance against such an opening, the report went on to emphasize that by "world," Kim was actually referring to the "world of tomorrow, a future that North Korea prepares and shapes for itself."

   It said that Pyongyang does not aim to become a rich country with a large territory and population but rather "a self-reliant and powerful country marching toward its true future firmly defending its self-esteem and realizing its own goals and ideals."

   It claimed the world is now looking up to North Korea because it has been pursuing its own dream in a self-reliant way and based on its own conviction and will.

   North Korea ended the intensive labor drive aimed at boosting production goals on Sept. 16 but extended it for 100 more days till the end of December.

   The campaign is part of a broader economic push to transform the North into a "Kangsong Taeguk," or strong, prosperous and powerful country by 2012, the centenary of late leader and state founder Kim Il-sung's birth.


N. Korea Different from East Germany: Pyongyang Weekly

SEOUL (Yonhap) - A North Korean weekly newspaper has downplayed the possibility of Korean reunification through North Korea's collapse and absorption, saying the socialist state is not like East Germany.

   The report in Tongil Sinbo was in response to recent remarks published in several conservative South Korean newspapers and voiced by experts on the North's possible collapse and absorption into the capitalist South.

   The daily described the remarks as "hysterics voiced by those seized by a daydream of inter-tribal confrontation and reunification through absorption," the weekly said on Nov. 14. The article was carried the following day by the government's official Web site Uriminzokkiri.

   "One should look directly at the reality," the weekly said. Unlike East Germany, which collapsed and was absorbed into West Germany 20 years ago, North Korea is a country "marching forward armed with single-minded mental power and loyalty toward its leader," it claimed.

   North Korea is the world's one country where political stability is fully guaranteed, it added.


North Korea Demands U.N. Command's Dissolution

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea renewed its demand on Nov. 16 that the U.S.-led United Nations Command in the South, which oversees a truce on the Korean Peninsula, be dismantled, accusing the organization of providing a pretext for U.S. military aggression.

   North Korea routinely calls for the dissolution of the U.N. Command, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. But the latest criticism comes in the wake of a naval skirmish along the de facto inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea, which was unilaterally drawn by the U.N. Command after the war and has since been a source of constant tension.

   In a commentary, Rodong Sinmun, the North's major newspaper published by the Workers' Party, cited remarks by Walter Sharp, commander of the U.S. forces in South Korea, who in a Nov. 4 speech in Japan asserted the need to keep the U.N. Command in South Korea for regional peace.

   "No matter how desperately the U.S. may try to hype the importance of the existence of the ghostlike 'U.N. Command' in a bid to justify the presence of its forces in South Korea and increase its influence in Northeast Asia, it can never cover up its injustice and illegality," the paper said.

   "If the U.S. truly has a will to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace in Northeast Asia, it should disband as early as possible the 'U.N. Command,'" the paper argued. The commentary was carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

   Led by U.S. forces, the U.N. Command fought on South Korea's side during the Korean War. Its Military Armistice Commission was set up under the armistice to oversee the cease-fire on the peninsula.


N. Korea Sends Military Delegation to China During Obama Visit

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said it sent a military delegation to China on Nov. 17, as U.S. President Barack Obama agreed with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing to step up cooperation in persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

   The delegation led by Gen. Kim Jong-gak departed from the North Korean capital for China, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in a single-paragraph dispatch, monitored in Seoul.

   Kim, 63, is first-vice director of the General Political Bureau of the (North) Korean People's Army. The trip comes a day ahead of a visit by Obama to South Korea, which put its armed forces on high alert after a naval skirmish last week with North Korea.

   Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed on Nov. 17 to ramp up their joint efforts to denuclearize North Korea through six-nation talks that also include South Korea, Russia and Japan.

   North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May and said last month it had completed reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

   Slapped with sanctions tougher than those imposed after the first nuclear test in 2006, North Korea has turned to China for support and signaled willingness to return to the nuclear talks.