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North Korean Leader Not Mentioned on Its Portal Site

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been found to be not mentioned as the socialist state's supreme leader on the North's portal site.

   The North's government-run Web site "Naenara," seen by Yonhap News Agency on June 28, introduces Kim Il-sung, the late founder of the socialist North, and his son Kim Jong-il as "national leaders."

   In April, Kim Jong-un was named first secretary of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) and first chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC), top posts held by his late father Kim Jong-il.

   Despite changes in political titles, the portal does not mention Kim Jong-un in its section to introduce the politics of North Korea, raising speculation that the site has yet to be updated.

   The site also covers the North's revised constitution, which clarifies that the chairman of the NDC is the nation's leader.


China Launches Cruise to North Korean Scenic Resort

SHENYANG (Yonhap) -- A cruise to North Korea's scenic mountain resort from China has officially been launched, Chinese media reported on June 30.

   According to the China News, some 100 Chinese tourists from the northeastern province of Jilin sailed along the North's east coast to visit Mount Kumgang on a four-day itinerary on June 29.

   After crossing the border to North Korea by land from the city of Hunchun in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, the tourists boarded a cruise ship in the North Korean city of Rason, the media said.

   "This holds significance as it is a first marine tourism route to visit the mountain from China," said an official of the Yanbian Chunwoo International Travel Agency, which has an exclusive right to run the route.

   "The tourists were satisfied with our program. We will send a group of visitors once a month," he added.

   The cruise tour illustrates a recent boom among Chinese to visit their socialist neighbor. Currently, about 10 such programs are available, according to the report. Previously, North Korea had run only 3 to 5 courses for Chinese visitors.

   Experts say launching a series of tourism programs for the Chinese is the North's apparent bid to earn much-needed hard currency.

   For a decade, South and North Korea jointly ran a tour program for South Korean tourists to the resort in Mount Kumgang, a key symbol of reconciliation between the divided Koreas.

   But the cross-border tour program came to a halt following the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier near the resort.


North Korean Defector Arrivals Drop 43 Percent This Year

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The number of North Korean defectors to South Korea tumbled 43 percent in the first five months of 2012 from a year earlier due to increased security along the North Korea-China border, the Seoul government said on July 1.

   A total of 610 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea in the January-May period, down 42.6 percent from the same period last year, according to data from the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

   The number of arrivals in the January-May period last year reached 1,062, with the full-year total rising to 2,706.

   January recorded the largest number of arrivals this year at 160, while February recorded the smallest number at 90, the ministry said. In 2011, the number of monthly arrivals surpassed 200 in nine out of 12 months.

   "The reason appears to be stronger crackdowns in the North Korea-China border area following the death of (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-il at the end of last year," said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

   China has reportedly strengthened crackdowns on North Korean defectors in recent months, after rights groups and lawmakers in South Korea and other countries demanded the Chinese government stop the forced repatriation of North Koreans to their homeland, where they could face harsh punishment and even execution.

   North Korean defectors flee their socialist homeland in order to avoid political oppression and chronic food shortages. Many of them risk their lives while traveling through China and Southeast Asia in the hopes of resettling in the South, now home to more than 23,500 defectors.

   That process often takes several months, making it difficult to determine whether the downward trend in arrivals will continue, the official said.


China Vowed Not to Tolerate Further Provocations by N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Liang Guanglie, China's defense minister, recently told a group of retired South Korean generals that Beijing is opposed to further provocations, including nuclear tests by North Korea, an official from the group said on July 2.

   A delegation from the Korea Retired Generals and Admirals Association, led by its chairman Ko Myoung-seung, met with Liang on June 19, officials said. The delegation traveled to China from June 18 to 23 on invitation from Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, the head of the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, to discuss regional security issues.

   "During his meeting with Chairman Ko and South Korean Amb. Lee Kyu-hyung in Beijing, Minister Liang expressed strong opposition to additional provocations by North Korea," the official said. "Liang noted that Kim Jong-un (the new North Korean leader) is focused on economics while his aides work on foreign policy. He also said Kim is likelier to listen to China's advice than (his grandfather) Kim Il-sung or (his father) Kim Jong-il."

   China is Pyongyang's last-remaining major ally and main provider of economic assistance and diplomatic protection. In light of North Korean provocations, most recently its long-range rocket launch in April, China had called for restraint in the international community and said parties concerned should work together to maintain peace in the region.


Kim Jong-il Ordered Mass Production of Uranium Bombs: Papers

TOKYO (Yonhap) -- North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-il had ordered his officials to mass-produce nuclear bombs by using highly enriched uranium, Japanese news reports said on July 2, citing an internal document obtained from Pyongyang.

   Uranium, if highly enriched, can be used to make weapons, providing Pyongyang with a second way of building atomic bombs after its existing plutonium-based program. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

   Kim said a uranium enrichment plant the North disclosed to a visiting U.S. scientist in 2010 was not designed for civilian industry, the Tokyo Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun reported, citing Kim's comments contained in an internal document of the North's Workers' Party.

   Kim instructed officials "to mass-produce nuclear bombs," noting it is natural for uranium enrichment to be used in making atomic bombs, the newspapers said, citing the February document.

   It is the first time that Kim's order for the development of nuclear bombs has been revealed in a document from the North.

   Still, the newspapers did not give any further details on when Kim made the alleged comments. Kim died in December and was succeeded by his youngest son Jong-un.

   Kim's alleged comments run counter to the North's official position that Pyongyang was producing low enriched uranium to solve its acute electricity problem.

   The energy-starved communist country has vowed not to abandon its right to pursue peaceful nuclear activities to generate electricity. Nighttime satellite photos of the Korean Peninsula show a pitch-black North neighboring a brightly illuminated South Korea.

   North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un has also called on officials to maintain a hard-line stance on the issue of improving relations with the United States and Japan, the newspapers said.


N. Korean Delegation Gets Economic Training in China: Source

SHENYANG, China (Yonhap) -- A delegation of North Korean government officials and scholars is in China to receive training on ways to revive their country's special economic zones, a source familiar with North Korea issues said on July 4.

   The group arrived in the northeastern city of Tianjin at the end of May and has since taken lessons from Chinese experts in operating, managing and attracting investment to special economic zones, the source said on condition of anonymity.

   North Korea has designated two islands on its border with China and two northeastern port cities as special economic zones, but none are reported to have made much progress.

   The 20-member delegation comprising academics and officials from the North's Ministry of Foreign Trade is expected to stay for a total of two months and divide their time between learning economic theory and touring Chinese economic zones.

   All expenses are being covered by the Chinese government, the source said.

   China is known to be North Korea's largest benefactor and political ally.