N. Korea Blasts U.S. Nuclear Policy, Vows to Bolster Atomic Arsenal
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea lashed out at the new U.S. nuclear policy on April 9, saying it shows Washington is "hostile" toward the socialist nation, and vowed to beef up its atomic arsenal.
It was North Korea's first reaction to the U.S. "Nuclear Posture Review" issued on April 6. The new guideline renounced the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, but left open all options, including a nuclear attack, on countries such as North Korea or Iran that defy international nuclear nonproliferation obligations.
"This proves that the present U.S. policy towards the DPRK (North Korea) is no different from the hostile policy pursued by" the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush, the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, monitored in Seoul.
"As long as the U.S. nuclear threat persists, the DPRK will increase and update various type nuclear weapons as its deterrent in such a manner as it deems necessary in the days ahead," the North said.
Pyongyang has claimed that Washington's "hostile policy" toward it forced the regime to develop atomic bombs, and that the country cannot give up nuclear weapons unless the U.S. nuclear threat is removed. The U.S. has long denied harboring any hostility toward Pyongyang.
The North also said the latest U.S. nuclear policy "chilled the hard-won atmosphere for the resumption" of stalled six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. The talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S., were last held in late 2008.
North Korea has been under mounting pressure to return to the negotiating table, but the regime is demanding the removal of U.N. sanctions, which were imposed for its atomic bomb test last year, as well as the start of separate talks with Washington for a peace treaty.
North Korea Warns South Korea over Propaganda Activities
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's military warned on April 10 that it would take "decisive measures" if South Korea does not draw up plans to prevent propaganda activities such as sending leaflets to the socialist state.
The two Koreas agreed in 2004 to stop decades of propaganda warfare across the Demilitarized Zone dividing the nations, but the South Korean government says it can not prevent activists from sending the leaflets, citing freedom of speech.
"We will take corresponding decisive measures soon unless the South side takes an understandable measure to discontinue the despicable psychological smear campaign and formally notifies the North side of it," the country's the official Korean Central News Agency cited comments by military officials.
For years, South Korean activists have been flying propaganda leaflets into North Korea by balloon in order to let ordinary people there know about the North's leader Kim Jong-il's alleged lavish lifestyle and womanizing -- and lately his ill health.
Relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have been strained since South Korea's conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008 with a pledge to take a harder line with the socialist neighbor.
North Korea has strongly denounced the propaganda offensive as "provocative" and demanded that it be stopped. South Korea said it has no pertinent law to regulate it.
"Such foolish acts are a wanton violation and blatant challenge to the agreement reached between the two sides to stop all the propaganda activities against each other," the agency reported.
In a response to the North's warning against the leaflets, the South Korean government said, "We have sincerely implemented the (2004) agreement to end propaganda campaigns against each other and we hope the issue does not make a hitch in the development of inter-Korean relations."
The North's warning came two days after North Korea scrapped a tourism deal with the South on its scenic mountain resort and froze assets owned by South Korea at the Mt. Kumgang resort.
North Korea Promotes Diplomat to Beijing to Vice Foreign Minister
BEIJING (Yonhap) -- A Beijing-based North Korean diplomat has been promoted to one of the country's vice foreign ministers in charge of Chinese affairs, according to the Web site of Pyongyang's Embassy in China on April 11.
Kim Song-gi, who served as a diplomatic minister at the North's Embassy in Beijing, attended a Chinese Embassy reception in Pyongyang early this month in his capacity as a vice foreign minister, according to the Web site.
China's new ambassador to the North, Liu Hongcai, held the reception to mark his inauguration.
It was unclear when the promotion was made, but it appears that Kim returned to Pyongyang in March to take the new post.
The secretive North usually does not announce such personnel changes, and North Korea watchers pore over dispatches from state media and other propaganda outlets for hints on changes in Pyongyang's ruling elite.
Kim succeeded Kim Yong-il, who was prompted as head of the international department of the ruling Workers' Party.
The North is also set to replace its ambassador to Beijing, Choe Jin-su, with senior Foreign Ministry official Choe Pyong-gwan, diplomatic sources said.
Chinese Delegation Visits North Korea for Tour of Key Sights
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A Chinese tourist delegation visited North Korea on April 12, state media reported, amid the North's stern action against South Korea for the suspension of a cross-border mountain tour.
In a brief report monitored in Seoul, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the friendship and tourist visiting group led by Zhu Shanzhong, vice chairman of the National Tourism Administration, arrived in Pyongyang. The KCNA failed to give details, including the delegation's purpose and itinerary.
On the same day, however, the Chinese tourism administration said on its Web site that the 395-strong delegation began an eight-day tour of major tourist attractions in North Korea.
In February, Beijing formally granted permission to its citizens to go deep into the socialist neighbor, lifting its previous policy of limiting tourism to the border area.
The visit came amid reports that the North formed a partnership with a Chinese tour organizer to run tours to Mt. Kumgang, a scenic mountain on North Korea's east coast. But Seoul's Unification Ministry said the reported partnership has not been confirmed.
It also followed North Korea's threat to freeze South Korean assets in the mountain resort in apparent retaliation for Seoul's suspension of the tour program.
South Korea suspended the program in 2008 after one of its citizens was shot dead by a North Korean guard after entering a restricted area near the resort. Seoul has demanded a state-to-state guarantee of tourist safety as well as a joint on-site probe into the death before the tours can resume.
The tour, which began in 1998, had been a prominent symbol of reconciliation between the rival states that are still technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. Nearly two million South Koreans have visited the scenic mountain so far.
North Korea Sends Condolences to Poland over Plane Crash
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea joined the mourning of the deaths of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other national leaders who were killed in a plane crash in Russia, its official media reported on April 13.
Kim Yong-nam, head of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and several high-ranking officials visited the Polish Embassy in Pyongyang and signed a condolence book commemorating the Polish leaders who were killed in the Saturday's airplane accident, the Korean Central News Agency said.
Kim had earlier sent a message to the Polish ambassador, Bronislaw Komorowski, expressing his condolences to the government and people of Poland, according to the agency.
N. Korea Holds National Rally to Mark Founder's Birth Anniversary
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea held a national rally and a range of other events on April 14 to commemorate the 98th birthday of its late founder, Kim Il-sung, Pyongyang's state media reported.
The North calls the late Kim's birthday (April 15) "the Day of the Sun," the socialist country's biggest national holiday. North Korea maintains a massive personality cult for Kim and his son, current leader Kim Jong-il, marking their birthdays as holidays with exhibitions, performances, competitions and public gatherings to pledge loyalty.
In a speech to the rally held in Pyongyang, Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, underscored the need to intensify a campaign to improve the people's standard of living this year, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul.
"The Korean people would resolutely smash the anti-reunification moves of the separatist forces at home and abroad, achieve national reconciliation and unity and accomplish the cause of national reunification," Kim was quoted as saying.
The meeting was held at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium and attended by senior party, Cabinet and military officials, together with delegations of overseas compatriots and diplomatic envoys of different countries.
Timed with Kim Il-sung's birthday, the North on April 14 unveiled the newly built E-Library at Kim Il-sung University, the KCNA said.
On the eve of the birth anniversary, Kim Jong-il, supreme commander of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) and chairman of the National Defense Commission, carried out the second biggest promotion of generals since he took power, the KCNA said. Kim issued an order promoting a group of 100 general-grade officers "on the occasion of the Day of the Sun," according to the KCNA.
The KCNA said residents in Pyongyang decorated the city with flags, placards and "Kimilsungia" flowers to celebrate the birthday of their late leader. "Pyongyang has turned out in a festive mood," the KCNA said. "The streets of the city are bedecked with national flags, red flags, placards" praising Kim Il-sung.
Foreign embassies in the capital presented Kim Jong-il with congratulatory letters, the KCNA said, and people visited the sites where the ruling family had once resided.
According to the KCNA, the North Korean leader on April 13 watched a combined exercise of Large Combined Unit 567 of the KPA, staged on the occasion of the Day of the Sun. As is customary, the KCNA did not disclose the date of his visit.
Kim expressed his expectation and belief that the servicepersons of the KPA would firmly protect the security of the country and the people's happiness with arms, the KCNA reported.