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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 216 (June 28, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

N. Korea Vows to Uphold Military-First Politics, Boost Nuclear Deterrent

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Marking the 62nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, North Korea has pledged to bolster its songun or "military-first" politics to defend the country from the "invasion from the United States and South Korea."

   The North also spouted virulent rhetoric against the United States and South Korea, claiming the 1950-53 Korean War was plotted by "the U.S. imperialists together with the South Korean puppet regime."

   Branding the U.S. as the provoker of the Korean War, the North Korean media said the U.S. imperialists, which turned South Korea to a bridgehead of aggression on Asia and a strategic base for checking the movement for national liberation and socialism and holding world hegemony, ignited the war on June 25, 1950.

   In contrast to the harsh verbal attack, the North Korean government held a modest ceremony to mark the war anniversary. According to the North's official Korean Central Broadcasting Station on June 26, the North held a rally at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium with high-ranking officials of the Party and the government in attendance.

   They included secretaries of the North's ruling Workers' Party Kim Ki-nam, Choe Thae-bok, and Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), among others.

   In 2010, on the 60th anniversary, about 120,000 Pyongyang citizens convened in Kimilsung Plaza for a massive rally, while in 2009 about 100,000 citizens were mobilized for the war anniversary.

   North Korea's media reiterated in a variety of news stories that the Korean War was clearly "an aggressive war" by the U.S. to gain control of North Korea. The war ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, on July 27, 1953.

   North Korea's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, on June 25 called on all North Koreans to "foil the moves of warlike forces at home and abroad to ignite a new war and make a dynamic drive for bringing earlier the rosy future of national reunification with confidence under the leadership of the dear respected Kim Jong-un."

   North Korea also praised the nation's founder Kim Il-sung who led the "Fatherland Liberation War" in the fight against the United States.

   "The army and people of the DPRK (North Korea) bravely fought, rallied as one around President Kim Il-sung, thus defeating the U.S. imperialists who boasted of being the "strongest" in the world and honorably defending the freedom and independence of the country," the newspaper of the Workers' Party said.

   "Far from drawing a due lesson from its defeat in the Korean War, the U.S. has stepped up arms buildup and staged large-scale joint military exercises. It is even instigating the South Korean warlike forces to escalate confrontation with compatriots and launch a war against the DPRK in a bid to realize its strategy to dominate Korea."

   The North then pledged to continue the military-first policy, which has been maintained since it began under late leader Kim Jong-il, who died in December last year.

   "Koreans of different circles at home and abroad should actively support the great Songun politics from patriotic mind. All the Koreans should get united close as one with the awareness of being responsible for defending peace on the peninsula and decisively check and frustrate the dangerous moves of the U.S. imperialists, South Korean puppet forces and the Japanese reactionaries for military nexus, arms buildup and a war against the DPRK."

   Moreover, North Korea has denounced the use of its national flag as a target during U.S.-South Korean war games as a "grave provocative act" and vowed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent.

   South Korea said the flag was used for the first time in such an exercise to demonstrate determination to hit back at any cross-border aggression.

   Some 2,000 South Korean and U.S. troops along with jet fighters, tanks and attack helicopters took part in June 22 exercise to test responses to any assault, amid high tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

   The allies' largest single-day joint live-fire exercise was timed to mark the 62nd anniversary of the start of the Korean War. The two sides also staged a major three-day naval drill in the Yellow Sea involving a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group.

   Photographs taken during the Pocheon drills show a North Korean flag draped on a hillside with smoke pluming around it. "It is an extremely grave military action and politically-motivated provocation to fire live bullets and shells at the flag of a sovereign state without a declaration of war," a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by state media KCNA.

   The South's defense ministry said the flag symbolized the North's command post and was used for the first time in such live-fire drills. The live-fire drills, comprising 2,000 troops, were the largest ever by the allies.

   The naval exercises included 10 South Korean warships and the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier as well as hundreds of aircraft.

   Tensions spiked in 2010 after the South accused the North of sinking one of its warships, resulting in the loss of 46 lives. The North denied that attack, but shelled a South Korean border island in November 2010, killing four people.

   Recently, Pyongyang has also threatened attacks on the South's government and conservative media for perceived insults to its regime, and military officials in Seoul said it has sometimes deployed fighter jets close to the border.

   While the North often makes threatening remarks to Seoul and Washington, these are often seen as propaganda aimed at building solidarity among its military and population.

   The North has been touting its nuclear capabilities as a legacy of its late ruler Kim Jong-il, casting doubt over the prospects of the stalled denuclearization negotiations.

   Ratcheting up its rhetoric, Pyongyang has threatened to target Cheong Wa Dae and conservative news outlets in recent months, in what analysts say is a bid to divide public opinion here ahead of presidential elections later this year.

   Some Seoul analysts believe Pyongyang may engineer another border clash as new leader Kim Jong-un tries to bolster his status with the military.

   There is also speculation the North will conduct another nuclear test following United Nations censure of its rocket launch in April, although Pyongyang has said it has no plans at present to do so.

   In Seoul, a modest ceremony on the Korean War anniversary was held with Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik in attendance.

   Prime Minister Kim called on North Korea to change its attitude and move toward mutual prosperity with the South.

   "North Korea is still threatening peace on the Korean Peninsula," Kim said in a speech delivered at a ceremony marking the 62nd anniversary held at the War Memorial of Korea.

   He urged North Korea to discard "illusory thinking" and work for "peace and mutual prosperity" with South Korea.