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North Korea Vows to Bolster Nuclear Deterrent at Any Cost

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on May 10 that it will further strengthen its nuclear deterrent and other defense capabilities, the latest snub to international calls to give up nuclear and missile programs.

   "Our military and people will thoroughly safeguard our dignity and sovereignty by further boosting defense capabilities, including nuclear deterrent, at any cost," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a comment carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   North Korea has long used the term, "nuclear deterrent," to refer to its nuclear arsenal.

   The committee said the North won't be fooled by "temptations" of hostile forces that the North could receive benefits in return for abandoning nuclear programs and suspending missile launches.

   The North also rejected suggestion that other countries could launch North Korea's rocket on the North's behalf.

   The committee lashed out at South Korea over its recent accusations that the North wasted about $850 million in the failed rocket launch in April. South Korea said the impoverished country should have used the money to buy much-needed food for its 24 million people.

   The North claimed the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit, but South Korea and the United States said it was a cover for testing the North's ballistic missile technology.

   The long-range rocket exploded soon after lift-off on April 13 and the U.N. Security Council swiftly condemned the launch.

   On May 6, the North also vowed to continue to push strongly forward with its nuclear and rocket programs.


N. Korea Lambastes S. Korean Presidential Contender for Alleged Insult

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on May 10 lashed out at a South Korean presidential contender for an alleged insult to its dignity, sparing no flak for the son of a prominent businessman who pioneered lucrative projects with the North.

   In a comment posted on the North's propaganda Web site Uriminzokkiri, the socialist regime heaped criticism on Rep. Chung Mong-joon of the South's ruling Saenuri Party for challenging North Korea's hereditary transfer of power and raising the possibility of further military provocations by the North.

   Chung, who recently declared his presidential bid, told a news conference in Seoul Sunday that he believes there are high chances of fresh North Korean provocations and that the country could carry out its third nuclear test "at any time."

   Chung "uttered ludicrous statements that viciously slandered our dignity and regime," said the comment on Uriminzokkiri.

   It also accused the lawmaker of "blocking the path to national economic cooperation" promoted by his late father and founder of Hyundai Group, Chung Ju-yung. Hyundai has been in the vanguard of inter-Korean business projects since the late Chung crossed the heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone into the North in 1998 with truckloads of cows.

   North Korea has made it an exception until now to regard the Chung family in high esteem. The online comment, however, called the presidential contender a "political crook" and a "profligate" for allegedly being bent on attaining power.

   Hyundai operates a joint industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, where more than 50,000 North Koreans work for 123 South Korean firms to produce clothes, utensils, watches and other goods. The project serves as a key legitimate cash cow for the impoverished communist country.

   The late Chung also initiated a sightseeing tour to scenic Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast. Seoul halted the joint tour program in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist near the mountain resort.

   Chung Ju-yung died on March 21, 2001.


North Korea's No. 2 Leader Tours Food Factory in Singapore

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam visited a foodstuff factory in Singapore on May 13 after talks with the city-state's parliamentary leader, the North's official news agency reported.

   Kim, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and his party were briefed on the constant development of the typical foodstuff factory, the KCNA said in a brief dispatch from Singapore.

   Kim and his party also watched a video on the management of the factory before looking around the production processes, it said, adding they also toured Hi-P International Pte Ltd., a manufacturer of electronic products, and a tourist islet.

   On May 11, the No. 2 leader of the socialist state held talks with Michael Palmer, speaker of the parliament of Singapore, according to the KCNA.


Foreign Ministers from N. Korea and Iran Hold Talks in Cairo

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of non-aligned countries that kicked off in Egypt on May 9, the KCNA reported on May 13.

   At the talks, the Iranian foreign minister congratulated North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on becoming supreme leader of the North's Workers' Party, the state and the army and pledged that Iran would firmly support Pyongyang in the future, the KCNA said without elaborating.

   Pak also held separate talks with his counterpart of Cuba, the minister of state for foreign affairs of Angola and vice foreign ministers of Vietnam, Laos and Belarus, the agency said.

   Addressing the non-aligned meeting on Wednesday, the North Korean foreign minister denounced the United Nations for imposing double standards on Pyongyang's rocket launch and repeated Pyongyang's stance that the North exercised its "sovereign and legitimate right" to launch the rocket last month.

   The North claimed the April 13 launch was designed to put a satellite into orbit, but South Korea and the United States said it was a cover for testing the North's ballistic missile technology.


North Korea's No. 2 Leader Invites Indonesian President for Visit

JAKARTA (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to visit his country in a letter delivered by the socialist nation's number two leader, the Jakarta government said on May 15.

   Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's ceremonial head of state, extended the invitation to Yudhoyono during a bilateral meeting at the presidential palace in Jakarta earlier in the day, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

   Though they share the same surname, Kim Yong-nam is unrelated to the leader's family and serves as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's rubber-stamp parliament.

   He is considered second in line to Kim Jong-un who took over the socialist state after his father Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack in December.

   Yudhoyono replied he will consider visiting North Korea, according to Natalegawa.

   The sides also reaffirmed their countries' longstanding friendly relations and discussed issues of mutual interest, including regional and global issues, he said.

   Kim Yong-nam explained recent developments on the Korean Peninsula and his country's April 13 launch of a satellite, to which Yudhoyono responded by stressing the importance of dialogue and mutual respect in inter-Korean relations, the minister said.

   The rocket carrying the satellite exploded soon after lift-off, but the launch prompted the United Nations Security Council to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang for defying a ban on tests of ballistic missile technology.