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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 112 (June 24, 2010)

EU Calls on China, Russia to Join Efforts to Rebuke North Korea

BRUSSELS (Yonhap) -- The European Parliament passed an anti-North Korea resolution on June 17, urging China and Russia to join international efforts to rebuke the North at the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) for torpedoing a South Korean warship.

   In the resolution, the parliamentary institution of the European Union accused North Korea of sinking the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives, calling the attack a "provocative act against peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula."

   Tensions on the divided peninsula are high after a multinational probe concluded last month that North Korea was behind the attack.

   South Korea is seeking to hold the socialist neighbor responsible at the Security Council, while North Korea has furiously denied its responsibility and threatened to wage an "all-out war" if punished.

   Still, it remains uncertain whether China and Russia, two of five veto-wielding Council members, would support the South's move. Beijing and Moscow have so far been lukewarm about censuring North Korea.

   In a statement accompanying the resolution, the EU parliament said it is "disappointed that China and Russia have still not taken a clear position on the conclusions of the report."

   Also, the EU legislative body calls on China "to exert a positive influence on North Korea" to ensure that the conflict does not escalate further.

   Earlier this month, a European Parliament delegation called off a trip to North Korea amid concern that such a visit could send the wrong signal to Pyongyang.

   Members of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula (DKOR) had visited both Koreas annually as part of parliamentary exchanges, but they only visited the South this year.


Sorth Korea Dismisses Report of Possible North Korean Nuclear Test

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea dismissed a news report on June 21 that North Korea could have conducted an atomic weapons test in May using nuclear fusion technology that the socialist nation claimed to have mastered.

   A local newspaper cited an unidentified government official reporting a spike on May 14 in the amount of noble gas xenon in the air near the border with North Korea. Xenon along with krypton are the two radioactive noble gases that are released from a nuclear test.

   It was two days after North Korea claimed to have succeeded in producing a nuclear fusion reaction that could ultimately be used to build a hydrogen bomb. At the time, experts and officials dismissed the claim as a possible bluff, saying commercializing the nuclear fusion technology is still decades away.

   Later the day, foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said it is true that xenon was detected near the border with North Korea at the time, but that does not automatically mean there was a nuclear test.

   "Regarding whether it was related to North Korea's nuclear test, my understanding is that there is no such possibility," Kim told reporters. "In particular, we can say so because no seismic activity was detected at the time. ... We believe the detection of xenon has nothing to do with a nuclear fusion test."

   North Korea carried out nuclear test blasts twice, one in 2006 and the other in 2009, drawing strong international condemnation and sanctions from the United Nations.

   Six-nation negotiations aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs have been stalled since the last round of talks in December 2008. Prospects for the resumption of the talks is in doubt due to tensions over the North's March sinking of a South Korean naval ship.

   The China-hosted negotiations also involve the two Koreas, Japan, the United States and Russia.


Brochure of Torpedo that Sank S. Korean Ship Bears N.K.'s Country Name

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A promotional brochure showing the same type of torpedo that sank a South Korean war ship in March bears the official country name of North Korea, another piece of evidence that points to Pyongyang as the culprit in the naval attack, an official in Seoul said on June 22.

   The brochure was presented to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council on June 14 by South Korean investigators in a briefing, according to the official.

   South Korea's 1,200-ton patrol ship, Cheonan, was sunk on March 26, killing 46 sailors. A team of multinational investigators concluded last month that a North Korean submarine attacked it with a heavy torpedo, presenting various parts of the weapon retrieved from the site of the incident that were identical to design specifications shown in the brochure.

   "In the catalog advertising the North Korean torpedo, a sentence reads, 'guaranteed by the Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea (DPRK),'" the official said on the condition of anonymity. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is North Korea's official name.

   "Given that, it is certain that the catalog was produced by the North Korean government," the official said.

   North Korea is believed to have provided the guarantee for its state-run company in exporting the torpedo, the official said.

   South Korea obtained the torpedo brochure sent by a North Korean state-run trading company to a potential weapons buyer.

   Seoul is seeking to rebuke the North at the Security Council for the attack, while Pyongyang denies its responsibility and threatens to wage a war if punished.


Catholic Agency, Private Aid Groups Call for Sustained Aid to N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- An international Catholic relief agency on June 22 urged for continuation of humanitarian aid to North Korea despite the tensions from the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship by the communist regime.

   "I don't think it helps in any way to stop aid. That's not going to reduce tension," Lesley-Anne Knight, secretary-general of Caritas, said after two days of meetings in Seoul to discuss the situation.

   "In our experience, continuing aid will help dampen the tension."

   Seoul cut off nearly all trade and exchanges with Pyongyang after a multinational investigation team concluded that the country was behind the torpedo attack on its warship Cheonan. The 1,200-ton patrol ship was sunk near the Yellow Sea border with the North on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

   Knight, conceding that the North's "militant attitude" has provoked a hardline stance in the South, argued the standoff would only lead to more aggressive actions and unintended damage to relations.

   "We're calling on de-escalation of tension, non-violence, sincere negotiations and practical outcomes for improving living situations for people of North Korea," Knight said.

   Caritas, based in Italy, is represented globally by organizations in 165 countries and says it helps 24 million people each year in 200 countries and territories.

   Separately, South Korea's private groups also urged their government to keep sending aid to the North.

   "Blocking aids from reaching the starving North Koreans is an inhumane act," the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea said in a statement. "We also don't understand why we've been banned from traveling to North Korea, which is in violation of our rights to ensure transparent distribution of aid."

   A council official said the group will no longer ask for government funding and instead rely on public donations to help Pyongyang if Seoul continues to restrict aid shipments. The official, who declined to give his name, said that the council may also ship aid without government approval. Transfers of any goods to and from North Korea are subject to prior government authorization here.

   The council claims 56 private aid organizations as its members.


N.K.'s Future in Greater Doubt Than Ever from Leadership Uncertainties

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's future is in greater doubt than ever before with a broken economy and leadership uncertainties spurred by leader Kim Jong-il's health problems, a U.S. scholar said on June 23.

   Robert Scalapino, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, said that the socialist nation may survive the current challenges as it has done with past crises, but the gap between the two Koreas in all areas is expected to expand.

   "The future of the DPRK has rarely been more clouded," Scalapino told a seminar in Seoul, referring to the North by its official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "A fragile economy has descended into conditions causing serious poverty that has affected the health and life expectancy of millions of citizens, with starvation an omnipresent threat."

   That has forced Pyongyang to seek aid from its biggest benefactor Beijing as shown in a trip to China by the North's leader Kim Jong-il earlier this year, but there are signs that this trip "was not fully successful from the North's standpoint," the scholar said without elaborating.

   The health of leader Kim, who reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008, has added to uncertainties over the North, Scalapino told the seminar organized by Seoul's state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War.

   "With the Dear Leader's health problems, the quest for a successor was hastily undertaken with his third son, Kim Jong-un, reportedly chosen. Yet young Kim's youth and inexperience have cast a deep shadow over the future," he said.

   Early this month, North Korea held a rare second session of its rubber-stamp parliament, promoting Kim's brother-in-law Jang Song-thaek to the vice chairmanship of the National Defense Commission, Pyongyang's highest decision-making body headed by Kim himself.

   That, along with the appointment of Choe Yong-rim, a long-time family associate, as prime minister, indicate that the regime is trying to "strengthen family power in preparation for a transition to a yet inexperienced third generation leader," Scalapino said.

   Military influence in the North is expected to grow further, and "changes in leadership on a broader scale in the near future are inevitable" in the country because many of its top leaders are older than 70 years of age, he said.

   These economic and leadership difficulties render the possibility of the North's collapse, but it cannot be guaranteed because "one strong aspect of the DPRK's system is that regime's capacity to survive disaster," Scalapino said.

   "While collapse seems within the range of possibility, it cannot be guaranteed," he said in the text of his speech. "What can be guaranteed is that in the near future, the gap between the two Koreas. economic, political, and in terms of international relations will remain, and possibly expand."


Post-Kim Jong-il N. Korea May Receive US$38 Billion in Aid: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea may receive tens of billions of dollars in international support after its leader Kim Jong-il dies, but only if it decides to give up its nuclear weapons along with its provocative behavior, a report said on June 23.

   Cho Young-key, a professor of North Korea studies at Korea University in Seoul, claimed various countries and international organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, may provide post-Kim Jong-il North Korea with up to US$18.8 billion in aid and development funds in 10 years if the socialist nation maintains a "neutral" or positive stance toward reform and opening.

   The professor suggested the support funds go up to as high as $38.1 billion if Pyongyang takes an "active" stance toward better relations with the international community.

   "More realistically, North Korea will likely take a neutral stance for the first five years and an active position during the following five years, in which case the international support for the country will be about $32.3 billion," Cho said in his report, commissioned by the Korea International Trade Association.

   The largest amount of assistance for the impoverished North will come from its normalization of ties with Japan, Cho noted, in forms of compensation for the latter's 1910-45 colonial rule over Korea, for which South Korea was awarded $800 million in 1965.

   Cho said the Japanese compensation will likely be $10 billion to $12 billion.

   Still, the professor noted that all such aid or assistance will be available only if the North first decides to abandon its nuclear ambitions and improve its ties with the international community.

   "The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue in the post-Kim Jong-il era will signal the start of active economic support and investment for North Korea, as well as a security guarantee for the country, by the international community," he said.

   Kim, 68, suffered a stroke in 2008, but now is said to have nearly recovered, especially after he made a surprise visit to Beijing earlier this year for a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

   The North Korean leader is said to have tapped his third and youngest son, Jong-un, as his successor, though many experts believe a post-Kim Jong-il North Korea will likely be ruled by a collective leadership, given the young age of junior Kim, who turned 27 in January.