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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 94 (February 18, 2010)

Kim Jong-il Stresses Military Power to Guarantee Economic Success

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea needs "mighty" armed forces to back efforts to rebuild its economy and raise living standards for its people, its leader Kim Jong-il was quoted on Feb. 12 as saying in official media.

   The comments carried in Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper published by the ruling Workers' Party, indicate Pyongyang continues to put the greatest emphasis on its military even though it has professed economic revival as its top national goal this year.

   "Mighty military power is essential in guaranteeing efforts to build a strong economy and improve people's living standards when enemies are watching for an opportunity" to attack North Korea, Kim was quoted as saying while inspecting a tank drill in January.

   The drill, during which Kim added that he seeks to strengthen his country "through the might of Songun (military-first)," according to the paper, raised tension on the Korean peninsula as the North reportedly erected traffic signs on the range that simulated those found in the South.

   The two countries remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. Plagued with a deepening food crisis and a moribund economy, North Korea has lured aid through international talks on its nuclear arms development while maintaining that its heavy investment in armed power is a self-defensive measure against what it calls U.S. attempts to topple its regime.

   "I visited the tank division so early this year because the goals of building the economy and improving people's living standards will turn out empty if our military power weakens amid rampaging invasion forces," Kim was quoted as saying.

   North Korea, which drew tougher U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test in May last year, operates a 1.2-million-strong military, a figure analysts say may obscure the reality of forces troubled by outdated equipment and fuel shortages.


N. Korea Names New Chief of WPK's Kangwon Provincial Committee

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has appointed a new head of the Kangwon Provincial Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), a post which has been vacant since late December, it was confirmed on Feb. 12.

   The (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station, a state radio channel, said that Paek Kye-ryong, chief secretary of the WPK's Kangwon Provincial Committee attended a rally commemorating North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's visit to a glass bottle plant in Wonsan on the country's east coast.

   Paek, who had worked as a secretary of the provincial committee till the late 1990s, has served as Secretary of the Committee of the Ministry of Forestry of the WPK since early 2000.

   Leading a delegation of officials of the North's ruling party, he visited China, the impoverished nation's staunchest ally and big benefactor, in April 2008.

   The top post of the Kangwon Provincial Committee has been vacant since Paek's predecessor, Ri Chol-bong, was killed in a traffic accident on Dec. 25, 2009.

   Kangwon Province on the North's southeast coast borders on South Korea. The two Koreas remain technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.


Mass Rally Held in Pyongyang to Vow to Implement Joint Calls

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Koreans held a mass rally in Pyongyang on Feb. 13 to vow to thoroughly carry out "joint calls" issued by the socialist country's ruling party, the North's state radio channel reported.

   The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) on Feb. 3 announced a series of slogans calling for all-out efforts to build a strong and powerful nation to mark its 65th anniversary this year.

   The (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station said the rally was attended by Choe Yong-rim, chief secretary of the Pyongyang City Committee of the WPK, other leading officials and more than 100,000 citizens in Pyongyang.

   "The joint calls, comprehensively indicating the tasks for winning a victory in the great drive to build a thriving nation, serve as a militant banner arousing all the servicepersons and people once again to a gigantic campaign for a final victory," Choe was quoted as saying.

   He called on all the citizens to firmly defend and eternally glorify the undisputed authority of Kim Jong-il and his undying Songun (military-first) leadership feats, the television station reported.

   The joint calls, which total approximately 240, deal with 12 main categories, including solidarity for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Of the total slogans, some 120 are related with the economy, which analysts say reconfirms North Korea's all-out efforts to revive its economy hit by internal problems as well as international sanctions.

   The joint calls offer the WPK's policy direction at critical times and serve as an internal propaganda tool used to mobilize its residents. This year marks the 13th time the WPK has announced joint calls since its inaugural issuance in 1954.


North Korea Makes Public Kim Kye-gwan's China Visit

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's Foreign Ministry said on Feb. 13 that Kim Kye-gwan, a vice foreign minister and the North's chief nuclear envoy, visited China to discuss ways of facilitating the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

   "The delegation led by Kim visited China from Feb. 9 to 13 at the invitation of Wu Dawei, special envoy of the Chinese government for the affairs of the Korean Peninsula," a ministry spokesman said in a statement.

   During the visit, both sides had an in-depth discussion on ways of speeding up the denuclearization of the peninsula and the resumption of the six-party talks, said the statement carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency. But the statement failed to give specifics.

   In Beijing, Kim reportedly held a series of talks with Wu Dawei who was newly appointed as China's chief nuclear envoy, on the resumption of the six-party talks and a peace treaty with the United States.

   After looking closely into the results of the talks, Kim is expected to visit the U.S. in March, following a trip to Pyongyang in December by U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth
North Korea demands talks aimed at replacing the 1950-53 Korean War truce with a peace treaty should be launched if it is to rejoin the stalled six-party dialogue.

   It also insists U.N. sanctions imposed on it for its nuclear and missile testing be lifted before it returns to the talks that also group the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. North Korea walked out of the six-nation forum in protest against the sanctions.


North Korea State Television Airs Documentary on Kim Jong-il

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state TV station on Feb. 16 broadcast a documentary on public activities by its leader Kim Jong-il, which elaborated on an artillery drill by the country's armed forces.

   In the latter part of the one-hour program, aired by the (North) Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, long-range artillery and rocket launchers were shown firing a barrage of shells for about 30 seconds.

   It is believed that the footage was of an artillery exercise conducted by a unit of the North's artillery command in February 2009.

   North Korea watchers in Seoul said it is rare for Pyongyang's media to play up a military exercise, though it is common for them to produce a documentary on public activities by Kim, chief of the National Defense Commission, the country's top political body.
In early January, the TV Broadcasting Station reported Kim inspected a military drill by a North Korean tank division. On Jan. 17, the station reported Kim also inspected a joint ground, naval and air force training drill.

   Along with the report, the state TV station broadcast four photographs, one of which showed a line of rocket launchers, erected about 30 degrees from the ground. The 240 millimeter multiple rocket launcher shown in the picture, produced in the 1980s, has a range of 60 kilometers and poses a direct threat to the South Korean capital and its adjacent regions, according to South Korean officials.

   The documentary comes amid a recent spate of North Korean saber-rattling. In late January North Korea fired artillery shells into waters just north of the disputed maritime border on the Yellow Sea.

   The documentary is also seen as an attempt to show its position that the socialist country is willing to hold dialogue with Seoul, while it is prepared to counter any South Korean military provocation.