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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 221 (August 2, 2012)

Military-first Politics Upheld in N.K.'s Holiday Events for 'War Victory'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea marked the 1953 truce that ended the Korean War with pledges to uphold its Songun (military-first) politics that calls for putting top priority on strengthening its military power.

   State media outlets observed the anniversary, known as "war victory day" in the North, with commentaries highlighting the Songun politics that late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il upheld during his 17-year rule.

   The late leader's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, has since taken control of the North.

   "In their everyday struggle, the North and the South as well as all our people abroad should actively support and uphold the Songun politics whose legitimacy and ability have been clearly proven," an editorial run by the North's anti-South Korean propaganda Web site Uriminzokkiri said.

   "Songun is our country's banner for victory and prosperity and the sword of omnipotence," it said.

   The North's official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station also aired a series of films featuring the country's army and the war victory day starting early in the morning ahead its usual broadcast beginning time of 5 p.m.

   Top military officials also held a gathering and pledged their allegiance to the Songun politics, according to state media.

   The national holiday has been celebrated every year with gatherings of the country's governing party, the cabinet and the military to celebrate the July 27 truce in 1953 that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.


88 North Koreans Killed in Recent Downpours: KCNA

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- As many as 88 people were killed and 134 others injured in heavy downpours spawned by typhoon Khanun that swept through North Korea, the country's media said on July 28.

   The typhoon dumped torrential rains as it traveled across the northern part of the Korean Peninsula last week. North Korea said that its western region south of its capital, Pyongyang, was hardest hit.

   "The flood left 88 people dead and 134 injured throughout the country as of July 28," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an English-language dispatch, monitored in Seoul.

   The typhoon also damaged or flooded 17,000 houses and large plots of farmland and rendered 62,900 people homeless, the agency said. A large number of public buildings and factories were also destroyed, it said.

   "The biggest human losses were reported in Sinyang and Songchon counties of South Phyongan Province, which were hit by torrential rains on July 23 and 24," the report said.

   And also, the KCNA on Aug. 1 reported 31 people were killed while 16 others went missing in heavy downpours that swept through the North's west and part of its east coasts earlier this week.

   Seasonal torrential rains dumped from July 29 to 30 resulted in landslides and lightning, which led to the deaths, the KCNA said.

   About 8,530 houses were submerged due to the downpour, while 4,900 others were partly or completely destroyed, the KCNA said. It added 21,370 citizens were rendered homeless.

   Following last week's flood death toll report, the United Nations staff visited flood-stricken areas of the North on July 31 to assess the potential provision of relief goods.

   Meanwhile, North Korea has deployed dozens of combat helicopters to flood-stricken areas, a senior South Korean official said on Aug. 1, as severe water damage hits the reclusive socialist state that relies heavily on international aid.


Top Chinese Official Visits N.K. as Kim Jong-un's Possible Trip to Beijing Looms

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A Chinese delegation led by a top ruling party official arrived in Pyongyang on July 30 and met with North Korean officials, the North's media reported, sparking speculations that the North Korean leader may make a trip to Beijing soon.

   Led by Wang Jiarui, head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese delegation had a meeting with North Korean officials including Kim Yong-il, party secretary, according to the KCNA.

   The two deputations exchanged views on matters of interest that could strengthen their friendly ties, the KCNA said, without elaborating on further details.

   Wang expressed his wishes for the North to "achieve great success in building a socialist state under the leadership of Kim Jong-un," emphasizing that it is China's unwavering policy to develop the Pyongyang-Beijing relationship, according to the KCNA.

   The visit, Wang's first since Kim Jong-un seized power following the death of his father in December last year, has also drawn attention to whether Kim will meet with Wang and discuss a possible visit to Beijing in the near future.

   The North Korean leader's trip to China, if made, would grab international attention, possibly offering more hints to Pyongyang's policy direction.

   Wang, who has long served as Beijing's point man on Pyongyang, had made several visits to the North previously and also met with the late ruler Kim Jong-il.


N. Korea Warns of Floods Following Heavy Death Toll Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned on July 30 that major rivers across the country are expected to experience flooding following heavy downpours in late July that left 88 people dead, thousands of homes damaged and farmlands inundated.

   "While rainfall from July 22-25 has raised water levels at all reservoirs, the reservoirs in the North and South Phyongan provinces, the North and South Hwanghae provinces and South Hamgyong Province have exceeded full water levels and are at risk of overflowing," said the radio channel Korean Central Broadcasting Station.

   Major rivers including the Imjin River and Taedong River as well as the downstream of the Amrok River, are expected to experience flooding, the radio station said.

   "Irrigation reservoirs and other smaller ones in both North and South Hwanghae provinces are at risk of flooding," it added.

   Unusually heavy torrential rains of 244 millimeters were dumped in regions near the Chongchon River in a 21-hour span through early morning of July 30, and the river's water level near the city of Anju exceeded dangerous levels, it noted.

   The forecast came two days after the North's announcement that 88 people were killed, about 5,000 homes partially or totally destroyed, and tens of thousands of people rendered homeless due to downpours spawned by Typhoon Khanun.

   The impoverished country also reported heavy farmland and infrastructure damage due to the typhoon-triggered floods, a move widely believed by local experts to reflect the country's expectations of external aid.

   North Korea has relied on outside handouts to feed its hunger-stricken population after mismanagement and natural disasters devastated its economy in the mid-1990s.

   The U.S. suspended the food aid it had promised to the socialist country after the North's suspected missile test in April.


Top North Korean Official to Visit Laos, Vietnam: KCNA

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, will visit Laos and Vietnam, the North's state media said on July 30, a trip seen as aimed at boosting economic cooperation with the fellow socialist countries.

   Kim, the president of the presidium at the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), the North's rubber-stamp parliament, "will soon pay official goodwill visits" to the two countries, the KCNA said in a brief English-language dispatch.

   The visits follow the invitation of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Laotian President Choummaly Sayasone, the North Korean news outlet said without elaborating on the purpose of the visits.

   Local analysts said the trip might be intended to discuss ways to cement the North's diplomatic ties with the two Southeast Asian countries as well as find ways to expand economic cooperation with them.

   According to the KCNA, the North signed the minutes of the second meeting with the Lao Inter-governmental Joint Committee for Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technological Cooperation in Pyongyang on Friday.

   A foreign affairs delegation from Vietnam also visited Pyongyang earlier this month.


N. Korea Demands Seoul's Apology over Sponsored Terrorism

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on July 31 demanded an official apology from the Seoul government over what it called state-sponsored terrorism against its leadership, a strong accusation that has been repeatedly dismissed by Seoul.

   "The U.S. and the South Korean puppet regime should stop at once the act of luring and abducting DPRK (North Korea) citizens, make an official apology for the hideous politically-motivated, state-sponsored terrorism against the dignity of its supreme leadership and sternly punish the prime movers," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in an English-language statement.

   The statement comes after a former North Korean defector to the South said in a press conference in Pyongyang that he had infiltrated into the North after he was tasked by U.S. and South Korean authorities to destroy statues of the North's former leaders and other symbolic monuments.

   The statement, carried by the KCNA, also warned of "corresponding measures including punishment of criminals involved in monstrous terrorism and other subversive and sabotage acts" in case its demands are not met.

   It also named the so-called "prime movers" in what it called terrorism against the North.

   They are Kim Song-min, representative of the Radio Free North Korea, Park Sang-hak, an official of the Federation of the Movement for Free North Korea, Jo Myong-chol, former director of the Unification Education Institute, and Kim Yong-hwan, a North Korean defector, according to the statement.

   "We will in the future, too, never allow those abductors, terrorists and saboteurs who dare hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK, encroach upon its sovereignty and threaten the safety of its citizens and their organizers and those involved in them to go scot-free even by scouring all parts of the earth," it said.

   "The U.S. and the South Korean conservative group will be wholly accountable for all this."


North Korea Says It Will Build up Nuclear Arsenal against U.S.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed on July 31 to further build up its nuclear capabilities, accusing the United States of attempting to topple its communist regime.

   In a statement carried by the KCNA, a spokesperson of the North Korean foreign ministry said the country will counter any U.S. hostility with the utmost resoluteness.

   "While talking about the livelihood of people in other countries, the U.S. is blocking our economic development and improvement of our people's livelihood with its most vicious and persistent anti-republic sanctions," the statement said.

   "And for such a country to say we will be better off once we give up our nuclear weapons only reminds us of a coyote who tells a ram that it will not be eaten if it gives up its horns."

   The statement said the North did not need the U.S.'s support to develop its economy now that it has nuclear capabilities and the means to further build up its stockpile.

   "With a rifle in one hand and a banner of industrial revolution in the other, we will surely build a powerful socialist nation while facing the U.S.'s anti-DPRK (North Korea) policies with the utmost resoluteness,"

   The statement comes shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama last week said North Korea, along with Iran, "cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons."

   "It is our firm decision to counter U.S. hostility with stronger nuclear deterrence," the statement said.