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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 100 (April 1, 2010)

Clinton Calls for Enhanced Efforts against Nuke Proliferation by N. Korea

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on March 26 that a landmark nuclear deal between the U.S. and Russia will help buttress ongoing global efforts against nuclear proliferation by states like North Korea and Iran.

   "The treaty also shows the world, particularly states like Iran and North Korea, that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands," Clinton told reporters at the White House soon after President Obama announced the conclusion of the deal with Russia for significant reduction of nuclear arsenal.

   North Korea and Iran have been defying international efforts for their nuclear dismantlement, citing nuclear threats from the U.S., which has the world's biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons with over 10,000 warheads.

   Other non-nuclear powers have also complained that the U.S. and other nuclear states use the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to keep the club exclusive and pressure non-nuclear states without presenting a road map for their eventual nuclear disarmament.

   North Korea has boycotted the six-party talks on ending its nuclear ambitions since early last year due to U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests, calling for the lifting of sanctions and a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, as preconditions for coming back to the nuclear talks.

   In announcing the deal "which I just concluded (through) a productive phone call with (Russian) President Medvedev," Obama echoed Clinton's theme of leading global nuclear nonproliferation.

   "With this agreement, the United States and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers in the world, also send a clear signal that we intend to lead," he said. "By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities."


Congressman Introduces Bill for Int'l Adoption of Stateless N. Korean Orphans

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A U.S. congressman on March 26 introduced a bill calling on his government to help American citizens adopt stateless and orphaned North Korean children adrift in other countries.

   Rep. Edward Royce (R-California) filed the bill, urging the U.S. government to "establish pilot programs that identify and provide for the immediate care of, and assist in the international adoption of, orphaned North Korean children living within South Korea" and surrounding countries, according to Young Kim, an aide to Royce.

   Most North Korean refugees, fleeing poverty in the reclusive communist state, head to South Korea via neighboring China.

   South Korea has received about 18,000 North Korean defectors since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War. The U.S. has taken in nearly 100 North Korean refugees since the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.

   China, however, has faced criticism for repatriating North Korean refugees under a secret agreement with North Korea, categorizing the defectors as economic immigrants rather than refugees, despite dangers of them being persecuted or even executed.

   Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, said recently that the U.S. is "very concerned about humanitarian issues" in North Korea and will "continue to press human right issues as we've done in the past."

   Royce's bill, titled the "North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2010," said, "It is the sense of Congress that thousands of North Korean children do not have families and are threatened with starvation and disease if they remain in North Korea or as stateless refugees in surrounding countries."

   "Thousands of United States citizens would welcome the opportunity to adopt North Korean orphans," it said. "The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security should make every effort to facilitate the adoption of any eligible North Korean children."

   The bill requires the secretary of state to submit within 90 days of its enactment a report containing details on the issue.


N. Korea Tightens Surveillance of S. Korean Rescue Operations

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has put its coastal military units on heightened alert and increased surveillance near its maritime border with South Korea, as southern warships and helicopters searched waters in the area for dozens of missing sailors, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on March 29.

   Coastal artillery units in the North also remained in a "fire-ready" position, the JCS said in a report to parliament.

   "The North Korean military is keeping Yellow Sea coastal units on heightened alert while strengthening surveillance of our helicopters and vessels involved in the search-and-rescue operations," the JCS report said.

   But the communist nation has made no unusual moves or signs of provocation so far, the JCS said, though a North Korean air force jet came as close as 30 kilometers to the military demarcation line with South Korea on a simple patrol mission on Saturday.

   South Korean naval ships and helicopters have been searching the waters near the sea border with the North for 46 sailors who went missing when their 1,200-ton warship sank after a mysterious explosion broke it in two on March 26.


Steinberg Calls for North Korea's Return to 6-way Talks

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States Monday called on North Korea on March 29 to return to the six-party talks on its denuclearization, saying a peace treaty, normalization of ties and other issues can be discussed within the framework of the talks.

   "We made clear, and the other countries who are our partners -- Russia, China, Japan and South Korea -- have made clear that the way forward on those issues, both multilateral and bilateral, is to return to the talks and recommit to the 2005 declaration," James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, told reporters at the Foreign Press Center.

   "I think that, while the North has expressed the desire to address some of those issues, we've said we are prepared to, as we were in the past prepared to, address those issues in the context of the six-party talks," he said.

   He was discussing North Korea's demand for the removal of U.N. sanctions and the start of talks toward a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. The war ended in an armistice to leave the two Koreas technically at war.

   The 2005 deal calls for North Korea's denuclearization in return for a hefty economic aid, normalization of ties and a peace treaty possibly involving the parties to the nuclear talks.

   Despite international efforts to woo the North back to the nuclear talks, Steinberg said he is uncertain if and when Pyongyang will return. Pyongyang has boycotted the forum since early last year, when the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests.

   "When and whether that might bear fruition is something that remains to be seen," he said.

   Reports said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will visit Beijing soon, his fifth trip since 2000, to discuss reopening of the multilateral nuclear talks, economic aid and Chinese support for his effort to install his youngest son, Jong-un, as heir apparent. Kim apparently suffered a stroke in 2008.


Hwang Jang-yop in U.S. to Discuss Nuke, Rights, Other N. Korea Issues

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The highest ranking North Korean official ever to defect to South Korea arrived here Tuesday to discuss nuclear weapons, human rights and other issues related to the reclusive communist state, sources said on March 30.

   This is the second visit for Hwang Jang-yop, former secretary of North Korea's ruling Workers Party, who will meet with scholars, congressional leaders and human rights activists, according to the sources. He is also expected to visit Tokyo on his way home later this week.

   Mark Toner, State Department spokesman, would not confirm Hwang's visit, saying, "I'm not aware of that."

   The 87-year-old ideologue, author of North Korea's juche or self-reliance ideology, has been under police protection since he defected to South Korea in a high-profile drama in 1997.

   The liberal governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun had banned him from overseas trips out of fear of provoking North Korea, with which they sought improved ties despite Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

   The exception was in 2003, when he visited Washington to appear at a congressional hearing to denounce North Korea's nuclear ambitions and poor human rights conditions. That prompted the North to dismiss him as "human scum."

   The conservative Lee Myung-bak government has said it will allow Hwang to travel abroad freely despite concerns over his safety.

   Unlike his liberal predecessors, Lee cut off food and fertilizer aid to and minimized economic ties with North Korea, citing a lack of progress in the six-party talks on Pyongyang's denuclearization.

   Hwang has called for a tougher policy on North Korea, which he said already developed nuclear weapons in the 1990s.


EU Relaxes Ban on North Korean Carrier Air Koryo

BRUSSELS (Yonhap) -- The European Union on March 30 relaxed its four-year blanket ban on North Korea's state carrier, Air Koyro, allowing the airline to operate in the region with two designated aircraft deemed to meet international safety standards.

   Air Koryo has been on the EU's blacklist of airlines banned from operations in all member states for failing to meet international safety standards since the list was first put together in 2006.

   On Tuesday, the European Commission partially lifted the ban in its latest update of the list.

   "The Air Koyro ... is allowed to resume operations into the EU with two aircraft which are fitted with the necessary equipment to comply with mandatory international standards and following appropriate oversight by its authority," the commission said in a statement. "The rest of its fleet remains barred from operating into the EU."

   The move has been expected as the EU's Air Safety Commission made such a recommendation when it met earlier this month. Air Koryo officials attended the meeting and briefed the commission on the safety measures they have taken so far, according to a source.

   "Safety comes first. We are ready to support countries that need to build up technical and administrative capacity to guarantee the necessary standards in civil aviation," Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas said in the statement. "But we cannot accept that airlines fly into the EU if they do not fully comply with international safety standards."

   The EU's aviation blacklist is revised three times a year.


U.S. hopes Kim Jong-il's China Trip will Help Revive 6-way Talks

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States expressed hope on March 31 that a visit to China by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, if any, will help revive the six-party talks on the North's nuclear dismantlement, stalled over international sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

   "We hope it's an occasion, if he does in fact go there, that the Chinese can talk to him about the six-party talks, the concerns that we have about the nuclear program, and to urge that they return to the talks," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

   Toner was discussing the reports that Kim will visit Beijing soon, his fifth trip since 2000, to discuss reopening of the multilateral nuclear talks, economic aid and Chinese support for his effort to install his youngest son, Jong-un, as heir apparent. Kim apparently suffered a stroke in 2008.

   The spokesman reiterated that the North can return to the six-party talks to discuss any peripheral issues.

   "I would just say that we remain steadfastly committed to getting the six-party talks going again," he said. "Our goal remains the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That's what we're trying to achieve through the six-party process. So we just urge North Korea to get back to the negotiating table."

   North Korea demands the removal of U.N. sanctions and the start of talks toward a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War as preconditions for reopening of the talks. The war ended in an armistice to leave the two Koreas technically at war.

   Washington says Pyongyang needs to come back to the talks first.

   The 2005 deal signed by the six-parties, including the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, calls for North Korea's denuclearization in return for a hefty economic aid, normalization of ties and a peace treaty possibly involving the parties to the nuclear talks.