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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 122 (September 2, 2010)
*** FOREIGN TIPS

Nuclear Envoys Meet to Discuss Resumption of the Six-party Talks

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and China met in Seoul on Aug. 26 for talks on resuming the long-stalled multilateral nuclear discussions aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

   Wu Dawei, the Chinese envoy, visited Wi Sung-lac, South Korea's top nuclear representative, as Beijing gears up to restart the six-party nuclear talks. Wu was also expected to debrief Seoul on his trip to North Korea in mid August.

   "During my visit here, I will exchange opinions with my South Korean counterparts on the current affairs on the Korean Peninsula and the six-party talks," Wu told Wi at the beginning of their session.

   Wi said the Chinese envoy came to Seoul "at an appropriate time" with "important" issues surrounding the peninsula.

   Wu's travel to Pyongyang was viewed as a clear indication that China was pushing for resumption of the six-party talks, which were first held in 2003 but have been suspended since December 2008 on a North Korean boycott. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China.

   Following his Pyongyang trip, Wu told Japanese media based in Beijing that North Korea expressed a willingness to have preliminary talks with the United States and an informal meeting with other dialogue partners.

   Prospects for the reopening of the talks, however, have been overshadowed by the deadly March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan that left 46 sailors dead. South Korea blames North Korea for attacking the ship, pointing to the results of the investigation by the Seoul-led multinational team. But the North has denied responsibility and has accused Seoul of fabricating the probe results.

   South Korea has reservations about restarting nuclear negotiations before North Korea takes "responsible action" on the Cheonan sinking and it shows a clear willingness to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Seoul also believes North Korea's overtures for the talks are merely a ploy to dodge its responsibility for the Cheonan sinking.

  
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IFRC to Provide Relief Goods to Flood-hit North Korea: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The world's largest humanitarian organization has decided to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to flood-hit North Korea, the Voice of America reported on Aug. 28.

   According to the report, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) earmarked US$368,750 for assistance to Pyongyang. The North's Red Cross had earlier asked for emergency assistance.

   The North, which remains technically at war with the South, conducted evacuations of a large number of people as heavy rains recently raised the level of rivers on its border with China, flooding its towns.

   Since mid-August, floods caused by "unprecedented downpours' have damaged thousands of hectares of farmland and destroyed many houses in northern cities such as Sinuiju.

   China has also agreed to provide emergency relief goods for flood victims in Sinuiju and other border cities. South Korea's Red Cross also proposed providing aid.

   The aid, if accepted, could improve inter-Korean relations, which have soured since South Korea blamed North Korea in May for the sinking of its warship. Pyongyang denies involvement in the sinking that killed 46 sailors.

  
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WFP Feeding Fewer N. Korean Children As Donation Shrinks: Director

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The World Food Program is struggling to keep its project of feeding malnourished children in North Korea from shrinking, its director for the communist state said in an interview on Aug. 31.

   Torben Due, who represents the WFP office in Pyongyang, said his organization expects to raise US$48 million each year for the next two years to provide basic nutrition for North Korean children.

   The figure is half of what the operation received for the year ending in June, Due said, citing difficulties in raising money to produce food in local factories.

   "The most difficult obstacle is that we don't get the resources we need. We don't get the money we need," said Due, who was in Seoul this week to meet with government officials to discuss food needs in North Korea.

   "We had to reduce (our program) because we could see we would not get the money. We had to design a program small and realistic in terms of what we would be able to do," he said.

   The WFP is a U.N. organization heavily dependent on donation. In North Korea, it supplies cereal-type food mixed with soybeans, milk powder, sugar and others rich in protein and minerals, specifically aimed to fight nutritional deficiencies in growing children.

   "The child who is chronically malnourished will be damaged in a way that lasts a whole life. He will be physically stunted, and mental and intellectual development will also be harmed," Due said, adding North Korean children particularly like "biscuits."

   Due said political tensions appear to be one reason why the WFP operation is not receiving enough donations for North Korea, which has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006, defying warnings.

   "This is a pure humanitarian issue. Children suffer more than anybody else if there is no food," he said, adding that the WFP office in Pyongyang had to cut the number of counties it was supporting from 130 to 65 this year.

   "You are talking about roughly a third of the population that has problems with insufficient food intake, both in terms of quantity and quality. What we're providing is supplement for a small part of the population. The problem is much bigger than what the WFP program is about," he said.

   North Korea has a population of about 24 million. Due said quantity matters as much as quality when it comes to helping North Korean children.

   "If you have a country with 5 million children, if you want to contribute and solve the problem, you must think in terms of what is needed," he said.

   Due declined to disclose his discussions with the South Korean government officials he met here. South Korea has suspended sending large-scale food aid to North Korea unless Pyongyang moves to denuclearize under a multinational agreement.

   North Korea has relied on international handouts since it suffered massive famine in the 1990s, when as many as 2 million people reportedly died. North Korea's per-capita gross domestic output came to $1,900 last year, according to CIA figures. The South's stood at $28,000.

  
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U.S. Official Says N. Korean Nuclear Trade Threatens Global Security

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's illicit trading of nuclear material and technology with other countries presents a major concern for global nuclear security and it warrants strengthening of nuclear detection and forensics, a visiting senior U.S. official said on Aug. 30.

   Laura Holgate, senior director for weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction at the National Security Council in Washington, said there are "established patterns of (nuclear) trade" involving North Korea and other states.

   "In regards to the nuclear security issue, in particular nuclear material security, obviously, one of the big concerns is that North Korea sells a lot of nuclear technology illegally to people who shouldn't have it," Holgate said at a security forum in Seoul. "There's a very strong concern that there might be some kind of illicit sale of nuclear material that we know North Korea has, to people who might do bad things with it."

   Holgate named Burma, Syria and al-Qaida as potential recipients of North Korean nuclear material and said, "It'd be very dangerous if plutonium or highly enriched uranium found its ways into those channels.

   "That's one of the important things about beefing up ... nuclear detection and nuclear forensics. Problems have come from that," she said. "I think there are pieces of the global puzzle that apply there, given that they do have material. It's very concerning."

   Holgate is visiting Seoul for a forum titled "Nuclear Security Workshop," co-hosted by the Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control and the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia. Holgate and other presenters discussed the outcome of the inaugural Nuclear Security Summit held in April in Washington and looked forward to the 2012 meeting to be held in Seoul.

   At the Washington meeting, leaders agreed to work together to secure loose nuclear materials around the world over the next four years, out of concern that such materials could fall into hands of terrorists.

   Holgate has previously said this is "a lofty but a worthy" goal. She insisted Monday that securing these materials is a four-year "effort and process."

   "Four-year effort means a very concerted push in the next four years to improve things. That doesn't mean you finish it and you walk away," Holgate said. "I want to be clear it's a four-year effort and not everything is secure at the end of four years."

  
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President Lee Views North Korean Leader's China Trip Positively

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak gave a positive assessment on Aug. 31 of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's trip to China, saying it must have allowed the leader to witness for himself the rapid economic growth of the socialist ally.

   "I positively evaluate that Chairman Kim frequents China," Lee said during a Cabinet meeting, according to presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung. Lee was referring to the North Korean leader's official job title as chairman of the National Defense Commission.

   Lee was quoted as saying that Kim's repeated trip to China would have a positive influence on North Korea's economy as it would provide him with more opportunities to see China's economic development firsthand.

   "I see China's role positively as well," the president added. Many experts advise the impoverished and secretive North to adopt a Chinese-style economic reform and market opening.

   Lee's office, Cheong Wa Dae, usually does not make public his comments at closed-door meetings on the North Korean leader's specific activities.

   The rare revelation of Lee's remarks on Kim's China trip apparently aims to counter an impression that Seoul is blindly opposed to a gesture by Pyongyang and Beijing to cement their ties.

   North Korean and Chinese media confirmed on Aug. 30 that Kim made an unofficial trip to China's northeastern region from Aug. 26-30, during which he had a summit with President Hu Jintao.

   It was Kim's sixth known journey to China since he seized power in 1994 after the sudden death of his father, Kim Il-sung, who founded the North.

   His latest trip, however, came only three months after the previous one.

  (END)