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Kim Jong-il Inspects Hamgyong Provinces Amid Tense Military Situation

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has inspected the country's northern areas, the North's official news media said on May 20, the same day South Korea announced that a North Korean torpedo sank the Cheonan warship in late March.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim Jong-il provided field guidance to the Orangchon Power Station under construction in Orang County and a rabbit farm in the northeastern port city of Chongjin in North Hamgyong Province.

   The KCNA said the next day that as the next leg of his itinerary, Kim had visited the Ryongsong Machine Complex in the city of Hamhung, located in South Hamgyong Province. He last visited there in February 2009.

   The exact dates of Kim Jong-il's visits to the province were unavailable, as is customary. The North's media usually release reports on Kim's activities belatedly, apparently due to security concerns.

   Kim's inspection tour to the Hamgyong Provinces was followed by visits to counties of Samjiyon and Paekam, and Hyesan City near Mt. Paektu in the northern Ryanggang Province, where he inspected large potato and hog farms.

   The North's official news agency reported on Kim Jong-il's inspection tour of the country's northern regions beginning May 16.

   "Kim Jong-il is deliberately portraying his nonchalance to the current situation, as he did before, through field guidance. It is a way of propagating his leadership and adroit handling of the situation in difficult times," said Jung Chang-hyun, a North Korea expert and Kookmin University professor.


North Korea Denounces U.S. for Blaming It for Ship Sinking

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on May 21 denounced the United States for trying to derail international efforts to revive the six-party nuclear talks by blaming Pyongyang for the sinking of a South Korean warship that left 46 sailors dead.

   "As the DPRK (North Korea) had already clarified, it has nothing to do with the case," a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

   "The fabrication of the case and the 'results of the investigation into it' are, in the final analysis, nothing but a farce orchestrated by the group of traitors with the approval of the U.S. and under its patronage," the spokesman said. "This indicates that the U.S. is invariably pursuing a hostile policy towards the DPRK to isolate and stifle it."

   A team of investigators from the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and Sweden concluded on May 20 that a North Korean torpedo destroyed the 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan on the disputed sea border with North Korea on March 26, citing torpedo parts collected at the scene that match North Korean blueprints and show a North Korean font in a serial number.

   White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and other U.S. officials promptly supported the conclusion, and warned North Korea of consequences, including a possible referral of the case to the U.N. Security Council. The impoverished North Korea is already under sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

   The North Korean spokesman said Pyongyang will never succumb to sanctions. "Prompted by its miscalculation that the DPRK would yield to its sanctions, the U.S. chose to shun dialogue and negotiations under the signboard of strategic patience," the spokesman said.

   "The DPRK and the U.S. were in negotiations over the issue of holding another round of talks in New York in the wake of the Pyongyang bilateral talks held in December of 2009. This was part of the efforts to finally revive the framework of the six-party talks according to the third phase proposal made by China, the host country of the talks," he added.


North Korea Names Jo In-chol as Ambassador to Iran

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on May 22 it named a senior 61-year-old diplomat to head its embassy in Iran, a Middle Eastern country long accused of joint nuclear and missile development with Pyongyang.

   Jo In-chol, who previously served as ambassador to the Philippines and Thailand, was appointed in a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report.

   Information on Jo was scarce. He headed a department in charge of protocol at the North's foreign ministry for over two years until his latest appointment.

   A graduate of a top North Korean language institute, he accompanied the socialist state's nominal state head, Kim Yong-nam, when he visited Bangkok in 2002 to forge a trade agreement.

   Iran and North Korea set up diplomatic relations in 1973. Western countries have accused the two of trading missile and nuclear parts and technology for decades, threatening non-proliferation efforts headed by the United States.


N. Koreans Vow to Defy Unfavorable Odds at World Cup Finals

ALTACH, Austria (Yonhap) -- North Korea, making a comeback to the World Cup finals for the first time in 44 years, seeks to overcome overwhelming odds at this year's tournament and advance to the second round through sheer determination, the team's coach said on May 24.

   The last time the North made it this far was during its quarterfinal blitzkrieg at the 1966 England World Cup. This year, the nation made an equally improbable run to the South African World Cup finals set to begin next month.

   "I believe we will at least pass the first round. I'm aware of the evaluations of our team.... We have the strong spirit of challenge to upset expectations," Coach Kim Jong-hun told reporters after the team's training session in Altach ahead of a friendly with Greece on May 25.

   North Korea is drawn into Group G, the so-called group of death, with five-time World Cup champion Brazil, Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

   "Speaking on behalf of the players, (the team) will seek to do well and make the world see Chosun football in a new perspective and a new eye," Kim said.

   Jong Tae-se, forward for the Kawasaki Frontale in the Japanese pro league, said he saw Brazil and North Korea advancing to the second round.

   "Brazil will become first and we will win second place (at the preliminary stage)," Jong said without hesitation, adding he wants to show the potential of North Koreans.

   The 26-year-old said he was aware his nation is perceived as the weakest in this year's tournament, but lauded his teammates' resolve and mutual trust on the field.

   "We are a good team with traits that no other country has.... No one knows what will happen and we have the possibility," he said.

   The North Koreans will train in Austria before flying to South Africa. They will hold another friendly with Nigeria in Johannesburg on June 6.

   Meanwhile, North Korea on May 25 held Greece to a 2-2 draw in a warmup match ahead of the South African World Cup finals.


N. Korea Says It Will Reinforce Nuclear Deterrence to Protect Its Interests

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on May 24 it has the legitimate right to reinforce its nuclear deterrent to protect the supreme interests of the country, claiming it is not bound to any duty under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

   A foreign ministry spokesman for the North made the remarks in reference to the NPT conference now underway in the United Nations, saying, "The DPRK (North Korea) is not bound to any duty not to have access to nukes but has legitimate right to steadily bolster up its nuclear deterrent as much as it deems necessary for protecting its supreme state interests."

   In a question and answer session with the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the spokesman claimed that some "unsavory forces" are busy asserting at the NPT conference that "the DPRK should not be recognized as a nuclear weapons state and it should dismantle nuclear weapons and return to the NPT."

   Pointing out there is a paragraph in the NPT stipulating that a country may withdraw from the treaty in the event its supreme state interests are put in peril, the unnamed spokesman said, "The DPRK began to go through the procedures for the withdrawal from the NPT according to its Paragraph 10 in 1993 to cope with the emergency situation in which the U.S. became evermore undisguised in posing a nuclear threat to the DPRK."

   The spokesman also claimed North Korea went through all the formalities for the withdrawal stipulated in the treaty, thus finally putting into force its withdrawal in 2003.

   "In the subsequent period, the DPRK manufactured nuclear weapons legitimately by opening to the public all facts in a transparent manner in order to protect the sovereignty of the country and the security of the nation from the increasing U.S. nuclear threat," the spokesman was quoted by the KCNA as saying.

   "This treaty should not have been extended for an indefinite period from the outset as it recognizes the existence of nuclear weapons states. It should have been replaced by a worldwide treaty for eliminating nuclear weapons," the spokesman said.