North Korea's Kim Yong-nam Meets with Senegalese President
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Kim Yong-nam, president of North Korea's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, has held talks with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade at the Senegalese presidential palace, Pyongyang official media reported on April 5.
At their meeting on April 4, the two exchanged views on consolidating their friendly ties according to the good tradition between the two countries and boosting bilateral relations and matters of mutual concern, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Kim, North Korea's titular head of state, arrived on April 3 in Dakar, the last leg of his swing of three African nations. He toured Gabon and Gambia before visiting Senegal.
The KCNA reported Kim participated in the ceremony for unveiling the "Monument to Revival of Africa" after arriving in Dakar, which represents the strong stamina and will of the African people to bring about their bright future and has been successfully built in a short span of time with the help of Korean technicians.
A day later, Kim also attended events celebrating the 50th anniversary of Senegal's independence, according to the KCNA.
Earlier on April 2, Kim held a meeting with Yaya A. J. J. Jammeh, president of Gambia at the African country's presidential palace, the KCNA said. Both sides exchanged views on the matter of boosting the bilateral relations in various fields and on issues of mutual concern, it added.
Kim Yong-nam on April 7 returned home via chartered flight after wrapping up an official goodwill visit to Gabon, Gambia and Senegal, the news agency said.
North Korea Accuses South Korea of Armed Provocation in DMZ
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea claimed on April 4 that the South Korean military "committed grave armed provocation" in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two sides.
The North's official news agency, the KCNA, reported that a group of South Korean soldiers intruded into the eastern section of the DMZ at around 2:07 p.m. and fired 90mm recoilless guns toward a civil police post in the North, "thus seriously threatening the safety of civil policemen of the north side on routine duty."
"This was a premeditated provocation of the South Korean puppet forces designed to deliberately aggravate the situation in the DMZ of the Military Demarcation Line," it said.
The North has at times made similar accusations, which the South's military usually denies. But the latest comes as South Korea investigates the possibility of the North's involvement in the sinking of a South Korean navy ship on March 26 near their disputed western sea border.
The North has remained silent about the sinking.
N. Korean Web Site Threatens Highest-ranking Defector from Pyongyang
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean Web site threatened the life of a high-ranking defector on April 5 for criticizing his former country during his trips abroad.
Hwang Jang-yop, who had served as secretary of the ruling Workers' Party and chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly before defecting to South Korea in 1997, has been traveling in the U.S. and Japan since late last month, calling for "ideological warfare" against the communist North.
Uriminzokkiri, the official Web site of a North Korean reunification organ, said the 88-year-old is "an ugly traitor" and warned he "will never be safe."
Hwang, the highest-ranking defector from Pyongyang, rarely discloses his whereabouts for fear of his security and lives under the protection of South Korean police.
He arrived in Japan on April 4 to possibly attend public forums on the abduction of Japanese nationals and others by the North decades ago.
N. Korea Threatens to Stop Preserving Remains of U.S. Soldiers
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened on April 5 to stop preserving the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, pressing Washington to resume its search regardless of the nuclear standoff between the two countries.
A joint excavation, which had been a source of hard currency for the impoverished North, came to a halt in 2005 due to tension over Pyongyang's nuclear arms ambitions. The U.S. estimates about 8,000 of its soldiers are buried in the North.
The two sides held talks in January about resuming the excavation project, but little progress was made.
"Though lots of U.S. remains are being dug out and scattered here and there in our country, our side will no longer be concerned about it," a North Korean army spokesperson said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The statement warned the U.S. will be "wholly responsible" if the remains of U.S. soldiers in North Korea are "washed off and lost."
North Korea has been expanding efforts this year to diversify its sources of income, pressing South Korea to resume lucrative cross-border tours to its scenic mountain on the east coast and launching a state development bank aimed at luring foreign capital.
The U.S. conducted 33 recovery missions in North Korea from 1996-2005, finding about 230 sets of remains believed to belong to U.S. soldiers.
"We are very surprised at the U.S. which is turning away from the fact that its servicemen's remains are being spoiled and scattered here and there," the North said, arguing the U.S. has turned a "humanitarian issue into a political problem."
North Korea has yet to respond to a South Korean proposal to begin a joint excavation of the remains of Korean soldiers killed in their fratricidal conflict, which ended in a truce.
Meanwhile, the U.S. on April 5 hinted it will restart the exhumation of the remains of American soldiers in North Korea after Pyongyang returns to the six-party talks on its nuclear dismantlement.
"We have an abiding interest in the return of the remains of Americans in North Korea," said Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs. "We think that cooperation should continue on its own merits as a humanitarian issue."
Crowley, however, added, "In terms of a broader bilateral relationship, clearly we've told them that a strong and more diverse bilateral relationship is related to the six-party talks."
N. Korea Sentences U.S. Man to 8 Years Hard Labor for Illegal Entry
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea sentenced a detained U.S. man to eight years of hard labor and a hefty fine for illegal entry into the communist state and hostility toward it, its official media reported on April 7.
The move contrasts with Pyongyang's release in February of an American activist also detained for illegal entry, suggesting that the regime is trying to use the latest case as a negotiating card amid the nuclear standoff with Washington.
The trial took place April 6 and was attended by unidentified officials of the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, the (North) Korean Central News Agency said in a four-paragraph dispatch monitored in Seoul.
North Korea last month identified the American as Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who crossed into North Korea through the border with China on Jan. 25. He was formerly an English teacher in South Korea with reportedly deep religious convictions.
"His guilt was confirmed according to the relevant articles of the criminal code of the DPRK (North Korea) at the trial. On this basis, the court sentenced him to eight years of hard labor and a fine of 70 million won," the KCNA said. "The accused admitted all the facts which had been put under accusation."
Under the North Korean trade bank's official exchange rate, the fine amounts to about US$700,000.
"North Korea is announcing the legal process concerning Gomes has ended," Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul said. "It is likely to hold out the release of Gomes as a icebreaker when and if it negotiates with the U.S. over its possible return to nuclear talks."
The announcement came days after North Korea threatened to stop preserving the remains of U.S. soldiers missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, a move likely aimed at opening direct talks with the U.S.
The U.S. has yet to set up diplomatic relations with North Korea, looking into the state of its nationals through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
In December, a Korean-American missionary named Robert Park entered the North to publicize human rights abuses in the country, but was released in early February.
Separately, two American journalists were released in August last year, months after they accidentally entered the North while reporting on North Korean defectors along the border with China.
Their release came after former U.S. President Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, offering a chance for a thaw in relations between the sides amid the nuclear deadlock.