N. Korea Lukewarm to Children's Forest in DMZ: U.S. Teenage Boy
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A teenage American boy who traveled on a peace mission to North Korea over the past week says he "felt very safe and was treated well," but his proposal for a children's forest along the inter-Korean border faced political barriers.
Jonathan Lee, a 13-year-old Korean-American from Mississippi, returned to Beijing on Aug. 19 after an eight-day trip to the reclusive nation with positive impressions of the country and its people, although his request for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il fell through.
"At first, I thought everybody was going to be kind of unfriendly, kind of cold," he told reporters after arriving in Seoul on Aug. 20. "But once I got there, I saw that people were actually really friendly. They would wave and smile, and I would wave back."
As a youth environmental activist and founder of a Mississippi-based group called International Cooperation of Environmental Youth - Helping Our Polluted Earth, Jonathan started his adventure with hopes of convincing Kim Jong-il to plant chestnut and fruit trees within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a four-kilometer-wide strip of land separating the North from the South. The forest would provide a place for children of both sides to meet and play, while also helping the environment and supplying food for North Koreans.
"(I thought) that there wouldn't be as many trees in some areas, (that) it was all barren - no trees at all," Jonathan said, recounting his expectations before the trip. "Of course, there are some places that don't have many trees at all, but some places have lots of trees."
Deforestation is widely known to be a problem in the North, where people have resorted to cutting down trees to plant crops for their survival.
Jonathan said the letter for Kim Jong-il in which he proposed the idea of the children's peace forest was delivered by a government official. He also said the North showed great interest in the project, but expressed regret over the difficulty in taking it further at this point in time.
"I was told that unfortunately they wouldn't be able to create a children's peace forest until a peace treaty was signed between North Korea and America," he said.
U.S. Urges N. Korea to Create Environment to Restart Stalled Nuclear Talks
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on Aug. 19 urged North Korea to stop provocations and show its commitment to denuclearization before the resumption of the six-party nuclear talks.
The talks have been deadlocked for more than a year as a result of international sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile tests and, more recently, the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.
"There are specific things that North Korea can do to demonstrate a serious-enough purpose and to create an environment where future talks could be productive," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. "Obviously, we remain concerned about provocations that North Korea has made, both recently and over many months. We want to see a change in North Korea's behavior. Should we see that change, then that would give us indications that North Korea is serious about moving ahead."
Crowley was responding to the report by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency that the North has reached consensus with China on issues related to the resumption of the six-party talks.
The KCNA confirmed earlier in the day the visit to the North Korean capital by a Chinese delegation, led by chief nuclear envoy Wu Dawei, for three days from Monday.
Crowley, meanwhile, called on Pyongyang to abide by its pledge for nuclear dismantlement under a six-party deal signed in 2005 by the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
"There are specific obligations that North Korea has undertaken," Crowley said. "As we come up towards the U.N. General Assembly, we'll have the opportunity to consult directly with many of our partners in this effort. We will continue in the meantime to make clear to North Korea that there are steps that North Korea has to take to create the right environment for progress."
The deal calls for the North's denuclearization in exchange for a massive economic aid, diplomatic recognition by Washington and Tokyo and establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pyongyang demands sanctions be lifted and separate dialogue be launched for the peace regime before the resumption of the nuclear talks.
N. Korea Willing to Hold Preliminary Nuke Talks Before Formal Round
TOKYO (Yonhap) -- North Korea agreed to hold an informal meeting with its five dialogue partners at the long-stalled nuclear talks before the resumption of a formal round, a Japanese newspaper reported on Aug. 21.
Pyongyang made the commitment during a trip by China's top nuclear envoy Wu Dawei there last week, Wu was quoted as telling a group of Japanese opposition lawmakers traveling to Beijing.
Wu, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, made a three-day trip to the North through Aug. 18 during which he met Kim Yong-il, department director of the Central Committee of the North's powerful Workers' Party, and Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun.
Briefing the Japanese delegation on the results of his trip, Wu said North Korea expressed willingness to hold preliminary talks with the U.S. and join an informal meeting of top representatives to the six-way talks also involving South Korea, Japan and Russia, according to the Mainich Shimbun newspaper.
The six-way talks, launched in 2003, have not been convened since December 2008 amid a series of North Korea's provocative acts and sanctions on it that have been imposed by the international community.
23 Firms, 4 Individuals on Current U.S. Sanctions Blacklist against N. Korea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Twenty-three companies and four individuals are currently on the U.S. sanctions blacklist against North Korea, including the alleged caretaker of leader Kim Jong-il's secret funds and a Swiss-based firm, government data showed on Aug. 23.
Some of them are expected to go onto a new sanctions blacklist that Washington has been putting together to punish Pyongyang for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship and to prod the socialist regime to give up its nuclear programs.
Officials in Seoul have said that the U.S. is expected to unveil the new list later this month.
The four individuals include Kim Tong-myong, head of North Korea's Tanchon Commercial Bank, who is believed to be taking care of leader Kim's secret funds overseas, and Jakob Steiger, head of Kohas AG, a Swiss-based firm in which a North Korean entity is a major stakeholder.
Alex Tsai of Taiwan and his wife are also on the current U.S. blacklist for their alleged supply to North Korea of items that could be used to support the country's advanced weapons program.
Robert Einhorn, a senior State Department official overseeing sanctions on North Korea and Iran, said in Seoul early this month that the new sanctions will be carried out in the next several weeks and target North Korean companies and individuals involved in illicit activities.
After the new list is announced, Einhorn is expected to travel to China to seek Beijing's cooperation in carrying out the new sanctions.
Stealth Camouflage Tactics Widespread in North Korea: Manual
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The North Korean military was ordered in 2005 to cover its fighter jets and other key equipment in radar-absorbing paint and to mobilize fake warships and fighters to elude radar detection, a North Korean field manual obtained by a South Korean missionary body showed on Aug. 23.
According to the manual released by Caleb Mission, a Christian organization based in Cheonan, about 92 kilometers south of Seoul, North Korea's reference on its 'electronic warfare' detailed how the North's armed forces should prepare against reconnaissance operations by South Korea and the United States.
"I obtained the field manual which describes in specifics North Korean camouflage tactics," said an official for the organization.
He said he has other manuals but declined to elaborate on when or how he secured them.
According to the field manual on electronic warfare, published in 2005 by the (North) Korean People's Army in Pyongyang, the stealth paint used on warships, tanks or fighter jets could absorb up to 95 percent of radar frequencies depending on its application and the material's composition. The manual also stated that such material could remain in use from three to five years.
The manual also described concealing long-range artillery tubes by applying radar-reflective materials. Last week, a South Korean military source said years of deforestation helped the South military detect new locations of these tubes, most of which are deployed along the military demarcation line.
In the book, the North Korean military was also ordered to pave fake runways and build fake pits. These pits were to be located about 150 meters away from real ones with radar-reflective equipment installed at the entrance.
South Korea's military has also developed radar-absorbing paint, and the Agency for Defense Development concluded in 2007 that such material was fit for use on aircrafts.
N.K's Presumed Facebook Page Disappears After Apparently Breaking Rules
The account at http://facebook.com/uriminzok had attracted hundreds of "friends," or subscribers, to its postings before it disappeared, a development confirmed on Aug. 24 morning.
The terms stipulate that operators based in countries embargoed by the United States cannot "operate a Platform application or website" on Facebook. North Korea is under U.S. sanctions for its development of weapons of mass destruction.
A person representing Facebook's interests in South Korea said she could not confirm whether the new account, also inundated with propaganda text and videos, was deleted by the social networking site or voluntarily by the operator. Bloomberg reported earlier in the day that Facebook in an email announced an arbitrary deletion.
North Korea has been posting material praising its leader Kim Jong-il and denouncing South Korea and the United States on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, starting last month.
An online note to Yonhap News Agency, received on Monday, said a media company under the North's organ on inter-Korean relations was operating the Facebook page from the capital, Pyongyang.
Citing a law that restricts contact with North Koreans and North Korean propaganda material, South Korea has blocked access to the Twitter page apparently run by Pyongyang. The Twitter page had more than 8,000 "followers," or subscribers, before it was blocked. A message warning of illegal content is displayed if the site is accessed from Seoul.
North Korea is one of the world's most secretive nations, restricting its people's access to the Internet by its people and any other flow of information in and out of its territory.