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N. Korean Firm Begins Fertilizer Production Using Anthracite

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean chemicals company on April 29 started producing fertilizer using anthracite, a type of coal, the North's official media reported.

   In a report monitored in Seoul, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the fertilizer production process based on anthracite gasification at the Namhung Youth Chemical Complex in South Pyongan Province has become operational.

   Present at the dedication ceremony were Premier Kim Yong-il, secretaries of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea, Kim Ki-nam and Choe Thae-bok, as well as workers and technicians, according to the report.

   In an address at the ceremony, Ri Mu-yong, minister of chemical industry, called for a great surge in the production of fertilizer and chemical goods and thus put spurs to the development of light industry and agriculture and contributed to improving the people's standard of living, it said.

   Anthracite has the highest carbon count and contains the fewest impurities of all types of coals, despite its lower calorie content. Anthracite gasification refers to a way of producing fertilizer by combining nitrogen in the air with hydrogen produced when anthracite is gasified at a high temperature.

   Fertilizer is usually made from naphtha, a product distilled from petroleum, but North Korea has had difficulty importing crude oil due to a dollar shortage. The start of the new production process is thus expected to help the North solve its fertilizer shortage.

   The KCNA said the completion of the project will help the farm sector make great strides and bring about a landmark turn in improving the people's standard of living.

   In a report in August 2009, Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan, said North Korea aims to turn out 1 million tons of fertilizer by 2012.


North Korean Premier Stresses Solidarity with South Korean Workers

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il on May 1 called on the country's workers to forge strong solidarity with their South Korean counterparts in their fight against the United States, state media reported.

   Speaking to a national meeting marking May Day, Kim "expressed positive support and firm solidarity with the South Korean working people in their just struggle for independence against the U.S. and for the democratization of society and national reunification," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   "The working people in the DPRK (North Korea) will discharge their historic mission in defending world peace and security and promoting the human cause of independence and boost international solidarity with the working people the world over," Kim was quoted as saying.

   He also called upon all the working people to advance like the wind to perform world-startling miracles and heroic feats in the ongoing drive for a significant improvement in the people's standard of living, the KCNA said.

   According to the KCNA, the meeting was held at the Rakwon Machine Complex, which produces construction and mining equipment. In January this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il gave field guidance to this factory.

   Also present at the rally were Vice Premier Ro Tu-chol, Kim Pyong-phal, chairman of the Central Committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions of (North) Korea, and Minister of Machine-Building Industry Jo Pyong-ju, it said.

   Meanwhile, senior party and state officials visited other major plants and farms, including the Chollima Steel Complex, to congratulate the workers, agricultural workers and intellectuals on the holiday, the KCNA reported.


N. Korea Warns of More Punitive Actions against S. Korea over Joint Tours

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned on May 4 of more "punitive measures" if South Korea carries out retaliatory action against Pyongyang for seizing and freezing its assets at their joint mountain resort.

   In April, North Korea confiscated Seoul government-run facilities and froze most of the privately owned South Korean tourism assets at its Mt. Kumgang resort on the east coast.

   The actions, followed by the expulsion of dozens of South Korean-hired personnel from the estate, prompted Seoul to mull its own punitive actions, to be disclosed later this month.

   Minju Joson, a paper run by Pyongyang's Cabinet, said South Korea is to blame for the recent North Korean actions at the resort because it did not heed warnings.

   "If South Korean authorities had shown only a little bit of interest in the resumption of the Mt. Kumgang tours, things would have not come this far," it said in a commentary carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   "We will continue to take firm punitive measures as we announced already if the South Korean authorities continue to worsen the situation with confrontational maneuvers," the KCNA said, apparently referring to planned South Korean countermeasures.

   The tours, which drew nearly 2 million South Korean tourists, operated for a decade and were hailed as a symbol of reconciliation between the divided countries.

   North Korea, whose economic troubles have deepened in recent months, has insisted the tours resume as quickly as possible, arguing their suspension caused it hefty economic losses.

   South Korea says a new probe into the death of the tourist must be launched under its supervision while Pyongyang implements concrete steps to guarantee safety for future visitors from the South.


Pro-N.K. Paper Warns S. Korea against Retaliation over Ship Sinking

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will respond with its own counteraction, an apparent reference to arms, if South Korea holds the communist country responsible for the deadly sinking of a warship near their sea border and retaliates, a pro-North Korea newspaper said on May 3.

   The warning by Choson Sinbo, published by an association of pro-North Korea residents in Tokyo, comes as senior South Korean officials pledge to take tough measures against anyone responsible for the March 26 sinking of a corvette. Forty crew members died and six remain missing after one of the worst naval disasters in South Korea's history.

   Seoul has yet to publicly name a suspect, but an initial investigation showed that a "bubble jet," a wave created by a powerful underwater explosion, most likely splintered the warship in half.

   "Such ideas run completely counter to the intentions of the leadership" in Pyongyang that has put out peace treaty talks on offer, Choson Sinbo said. "Befitting counteraction will be taken if (retaliation is) carried out."

   The paper, considered in line with North Korea's diplomatic agenda, cited the North's April 17 denial of involvement in the sinking, saying that South Korea risks being left out of multilateral diplomacy if it continues to suspect Pyongyang.

   "It has become likelier that South Korea will be left out of the flow of multilateral diplomacy if it wraps up the situation to the effect that the escalation of tension is not avoided," it said.


North Korea Denies It Tried to Kill High-profile Defector

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea denied on May 5 that it had sent spies to kill a high-profile defector and vocal critic of its leader Kim Jong-il, accusing South Korea of fabricating the case to stoke hostilities against Pyongyang.

   The denial, carried by Uriminzokkiri, North Korea's official Web site, came after prosecutors here said last month they arrested two North Korean officers who had entered South Korea on a mission to kill Hwang Jang-yop while posing as defectors.

   Hwang, the highest-ranking North Korean official ever to defect to South Korea, is the architect of the communist state's "self-reliance" mantra, having served in top party and academic posts and mentored the young Kim Jong-il.

   Since defecting in 1997, he has urged ideological warfare against his former communist homeland, calling Kim a tyrant bent on maintaining his lavish lifestyle while starving his own people.

   Uriminzokkiri said the alleged plot to kill the 88-year-old defector amounts to "a groundless act of manipulation" by South Korea, warning of "stern punishments" against Seoul.

   "We are watching closely the confrontational rows that are turning more and more grave each day," Uriminzokkiri, monitored in Seoul, said. The Web site argued the conservative South Korean government is trying to justify its hard-line position on North Korea by raising anti-Pyongyang sentiment among people.

   Tension between the divided sides is high after a South Korean warship sank in March, killing dozens of seamen in a tragedy initially believed to be an attack by an elusive North Korean submarine.

   South Korea has refrained from blaming North Korea, even though its president said this week the sinking could not have been "a simple accident." North Korea denies any involvement.

   The sides remain in a technical state of war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty.