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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 102 (April 15, 2010)

Obama Warns N. Korea of Consequences Without Complete Denuclearization

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama warned North Korea on April 8 of consequences and isolation unless the socialist state returns to the six-party talks and takes steps for its complete nuclear dismantlement.

   "I believe that our ability to move forward already on sanctions with respect to North Korea, the intense discussions that we're having with respect to Iran, will increasingly send a signal to countries that are not abiding by their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, that they will be isolated," Obama said in a joint news conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague after signing a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, according to a transcript released by the White House.

   North Korea has boycotted the six-party talks on its denuclearization for a year due to U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests early last year, and recently called for lifting of the sanctions and talks for a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War before reopening the nuclear talks.

   Washington insists that Pyongyang come back to the nuclear talks first.

   Obama noted the Nuclear Posture Review report the Pentagon released on April 6 to announce the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in the defense of the U.S. and its allies in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.

   "Earlier this week, the United States formally changed our policy to make it clear that those non-nuclear weapons states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and their non-proliferation obligations will not be threatened by America's nuclear arsenal," he said.

   The report, however, left open all options, including a nuclear attack, on North Korea or Iran for their failure to abide by international nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

   North Korea bolted from the NPT in 2002 and conducted a total of two atomic tests, one each in 2006 and 2009. Iran, though a signatory to the NPT, is suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

   "The spread of nuclear weapons to more states is also an unacceptable risk to global security, raising the specter of arms races from the Middle East to East Asia," Obama said. "We are working together at the U.N. Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran. And we will not tolerate actions that flout the NPT, risk an arms race in a vital region, and threaten the credibility of the international community and our collective security."

   In a daily news briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley urged North Korea to return to the NPT and the six-party talks.

   "We want to see North Korea take further steps towards denuclearization," Crowley said. "We would like to see North Korea re-enter the NPT. We will start our efforts on I think May 3rd towards strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And obviously the best route to do that is through the six-party process."

   He was discussing the five-yearly NPT Review Conference slated to be held at the United Nations in early May.

   The most recent NPT review conference, in 2005, failed to produce an agreement as non-nuclear countries would not rule out nuclear development without a concrete timetable for disarmament by the U.S. and other nuclear powers.


Remains of U.S. Soldier Retrieved from N. Korea Identified: Pentagon

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The remains of an American soldier missing in action during the Korean War were recently returned to his family, years after they were retrieved in North Korea in 2004, the Pentagon said on April 8.

   The remains of Army Cpl. Stanley Arendt "have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors," and were buried on March 29 in Palatine, Ill., the Pentagon said in a statement.

   In May 2004, a joint U.S.-North Korean team excavated a mass grave near the "Camel's Head" in Unsan, Hwanghae Province, and "recovered human remains and other personal artifacts, ultimately leading to the identification of seven soldiers from that site," the statement said. "Among the forensic techniques used in the identifications by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command was that of mitochondrial DNA, five samples of which matched the DNA of Arendt's brother."

   Arendt was assigned to the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, in November 1950, just months after the communist North invaded the South in the summer of that year, the statement said.

   "Arendt's unit was involved in heavy fighting which devolved into hand-to-hand combat around their command post," it said. "Almost 400 men of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were reported missing in action or killed in action from the battle at Unsan."

   Some 36,000 U.S. troops were killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, and about 8,100 remain missing. A large number of those missing are believed to be buried in North Korea, but U.S. operations in the communist North have been suspended since 2005 because of escalating tension over the North's nuclear ambitions.

   The U.S. retrieved the remains believed to be those of 229 U.S. soldiers in 33 joint operations in North Korea between 1996 and 2005. Of those, 61 have so far been identified.

   In 2006, the U.S. signed an agreement with China for access to archives that could provide information on American POWs and MIAs. China is said to have run some of the POW camps in North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, when the Chinese fought for its communist ally North Korea. U.S. forces fought alongside South Korea.

   North Korea recently threatened to stop returning the remains of American soldiers unless Washington agrees to an early resumption of excavation operations.

   Those operations mean money for North Korea, which is under U.N. economic sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests. Washington reportedly paid Pyongyang tens of millions of dollars to allow the entry of U.S. teams before the searches were suspended.

   Washington, however, says it will restart excavation after Pyongyang returns to the six-party talks on its nuclear dismantlement.


North Korea Has up to Six Nuclear Weapons: Clinton

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- North Korea has up to six nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

   In a speech at the University of Louisville in Kentucky on April 9, Clinton said "we know" that North Korea "has somewhere between one and six nuclear weapons," the second time in as many weeks that she has recognized that North Korea has nuclear weapons.

   While explaining the Obama administration's nuclear policy late March, the top U.S. diplomat depicted North Korea as a country "that already has nuclear weapons," and Iran as one that is "clearly seeking nuclear weapons," although the U.S. government's official position is not to recognize the North as a nuclear weapons state.

   North Korea, which conducted its second nuclear test in May last year, is widely believed to possess several nuclear warheads, with some analysts saying it has already developed the technology to mount the warheads on long-range missiles.

   The North's second nuclear test is widely seen as having demonstrated its nuclear capability, unlike the previous one, considered a partial failure.

   North Korea said late last year that it has "entered the final stage" of enriching uranium as an alternative way to produce nuclear weapons. It had been producing weapons-grade plutonium at its sole operating reactor in Yongbyon, north of its capital, Pyongyang.

   North Korea is also suspected of having secured enough plutonium for many more nuclear weapons from former Soviet republics after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

   A Nov. 25 report of the Federation of American Scientists listed North Korea among nine nuclear weapons states, along with the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, Pakistan and India.

   Meanwhile, the World Nuclear Stockpile Report, written by Hans Kristensen of the FAS and Robert Norris of the Natural Resources Defense Council in September, said North Korea appears to have 10 nuclear weapons, although it added, "There is no publicly available evidence that North Korea has operationalized its nuclear weapons capability."

   Clinton, meanwhile, told students at the University of Louisville that she hopes the Obama administration's new nuclear policy will help quell the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

   "I'm not suggesting that a move by the United States and Russia to reduce our nuclear stockpiles will convince Iran or North Korea to change their behavior," she said. However, she added that China, which wields veto power in the U.N. Security Council and has a great leverage on North Korea and Iran, will "become more willing to engage with us" on North Korea and Iran.

   The NPR report, released on April 6 under a Congressional mandate, announced for the first time that the U.S. will renounce its use of nuclear weapons on non-nuclear weapons states in compliance with international nonproliferation obligations, but left open all options, including nuclear attacks, on North Korea and Iran.


N. Korea Willing to Return to Nuclear Talks After Meeting with U.S.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has expressed its willingness to return to international talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs, but insists on having additional direct talks with the United States first, a Seoul official said on April 9.

   A skeptical Washington wants a firmer guarantee that Pyongyang will return to the six-nation nuclear negotiations before it agrees to hold any further one-on-one talks with the socialist nation, the official told reporters.

   Last year, the U.S. granted a bilateral meeting with the North after the regime said it would rejoin the nuclear negotiating table depending on the outcome of direct talks with Washington. But Pyongyang has since put forward new demands, such as the removal of U.N. sanctions, while staying away from the nuclear talks.

   "The U.S. apparently sees no difference in the North's stance and that is why there has not been any progress," the South Korean official said, asking not to be identified.

   The North's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan has been seeking to visit the United States for bilateral consultations since earlier this year, but Washington refuses to give him a travel visa, saying there will be no bilateral talks unless the North first promises to return to the six-way nuclear talks.

   North Korea is demanding the removal of U.N. sanctions slapped for its nuclear test last year and the start of separate talks with Washington on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War with a peace treaty.

   The U.S. and its allies say such concessions will only be available after Pyongyang returns to the nuclear negotiations and recommits itself to six-way denuclearization deals signed in 2005 and 2007. The nuclear talks involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

   Wi Sung-lac, South Korea's chief negotiator in the six-party talks, will visit Washington next week to discuss the resumption of the stalled negotiations and other issues, he said.

   Wi will be accompanying South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to a nuclear security summit to be held in Washington, but he will also use the opportunity to meet his U.S. counterparts for talks on the resumption of the nuclear dialogue, the last round of which was held in December 2008.

   "The issues to be discussed will of course include ways to resume the six-party talks, but I also expect to be able to discuss other current issues facing the countries," Wi told reporters.

   He said that the recent sinking of a navy warship off South Korea's west coast will also be on the table during consultations with his U.S. counterparts, which include Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy.


N.K's Inflation, Exchange Rate Stabilizing After Currency Reform Shock: Seoul

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's market prices and currency exchange rate appear to be stabilizing after severe fluctuations from an abrupt government-led currency reform last year, the Seoul government said on April 13.

   North Korea carried out a currency revaluation last November, a measure it said was to curb inflation. Analysts here linked it to a power transition from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to his third and youngest son, Jong-un. The currency redenomination is said to have fueled inflation and severe food shortages, causing social unrest in the tightly controlled nation.

   In its latest North Korea report submitted to parliament's foreign affairs committee, the Unification Ministry said that market prices in the country were on a "downward path" following recent measures by the North Korean authorities.

   A kilogram of rice, which cost around 20 North Korean won immediately after the revaluation, soared to 1,000 won in mid-March but dropped to the 500-600 won range in early April, the ministry said.

   The value of the North Korean won against the U.S. dollar, which nosedived to the 2,000-won range in mid-March from the 30-won range, also rose to the 600-700 won level in early April, according the ministry.

   On Kim Jong-il, the ministry said the reclusive leader has made 43 public appearances this year as of Monday, about the same as last year during the same period, and added he is "actively continuing public outings." Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, which spawned speculation of an imminent power transfer.