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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 223 (August 16, 2012)

North Korea, Laos Sign 4 Exchange Accords in Vientiane: KCNA

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has signed four agreements with Laos to boost exchanges in fields that include economy, tourism and technology, the North's state news media reported on Aug. 9.

   "Agreements between the governments of the DPRK (North Korea) and Laos were signed with due ceremonies at the Presidency on Aug. 8," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in an English-language dispatch datelined Vientiane.

   The article said Kim Yong-nam, president of the North's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), met Laos President Choummaly Sayasone in Vientiane, the capital of the southeast Asian country.

   The four exchange-enhancing agreements signed between the socialist countries encompass fields of information, technology, tourism, culture, education, sports and commerce, according to the KCNA.

   "Developing the traditional friendship with Laos is our government's unmovable stance," the KCNA quoted Kim as having said in the meeting. Kim and the Laos president pledged to further cement their cooperation on the international stage, the news outlet said.

   A North Korean delegation led by Kim arrived at Laos on Aug. 7 following their three-day visit to Vietnam.  


North Korea's First-half Trade with China Jumps 25 Percent

HONG KONG (Yonhap) -- North Korea's trade with China jumped nearly 25 percent in the first six months of this year, China's customs office said on Aug. 9, indicating that the North's reliance on its neighboring ally on the economic front is growing.

   According to the data released by the Chinese General Administration of Customs, the two allies' trade came to US$3.14 billion during the January-June period, up 24.7 percent from the same period a year earlier.

   The two countries signed the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty in 1961, whereby China pledged to immediately render military and other assistance to its secretive ally.

   The North's exports to China totaled $1.3 billion during the first half of this year, up 22.2 percent from a year earlier.

   Its imports from China grew 26.5 percent on-year to $1.84 billion over the cited period.

   This resulted in a trade deficit of about $540 million for the North, the data showed.

   Iron ore was North Korea's leading export item, while China exported to North Korea crude oil and construction machinery, the customs office said.

   With international sanctions in place amid the North's nuclear ambitions, China has emerged as the communist state's key supplier of economic goods.

   China is estimated to account for more than 80 percent of the North's total trade volume, North Korea watchers say.

   South Korea cut most trade routes toward the North in 2010, in retaliation for the neighboring country's two deadly attacks that year.


N. Korea, China Agree to Develop Three Mines in the North

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently signed a deal with China to jointly develop three mines in the North, a North Korean investment firm said on Aug. 9, as the cash-strapped country steps up attempts to earn hard currency from overseas.

   A Beijing unit of North Korea's Committee of Investment and Joint Venture struck the joint development deal with a Chinese international trading company in Beijing on June 9, according to the unit's Chinese-language Web site.

   "The China firm's president and his parties conducted field inspections into one (North Korean) gold mine and two iron ore mines and confirmed the investment and development scheme," the Web site said. "Facility building is now well underway for the project," it said.

   Details on the terms of the deal were not provided.

   Experts said the deal is the first foreign investment deal announced by the Beijing unit, which is run by the Committee of Investment and Joint Venture in charge of luring overseas capital and investment into the North.

   The joint North-China mining venture also illustrates growing exports of underground resources from the North to China, its closest ally and a major source of foreign currency.

   Exports of mineral resources to China reached 8,420,000 tons during the first nine months of 2011, growing sharply from the annual volume of 4,799,000 tons in 2010 and 2,480,000 tons for the whole of 2008.

   Through a previous deal in which China invested US$860 million, it now holds a 51 percent stake in North Korea's biggest copper mine in Hyesan, a northern city bordering China. The country also holds 50-year mining rights over another major mine in Musan, North Hamgyong Province.


N. Korea Seeks Int'l Condemnation for S. Korea's Alleged Terror Bid

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Aug. 11 it has asked the United Nations to condemn an alleged terrorist attempt by South Korea and the United States to undermine its regime by demolishing the statues of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung.

   North Korea said it has mailed the United Nations details of open testimony made by one of its nationals allegedly hired by South Korean and U.S. intelligence on a secret mission to destroy the Kim Il-sung statutes near the border with China.

   The man, identified by the North as Jon Yong-chol, returned to Pyongyang after defecting to South Korea in 2010. He told a news conference in the North's capital in July that he had been sent back home on a mission to destroy the Kim statues.

   Seoul confirmed that Jon had defected to Seoul in 2010 but flatly denied the North's claim as a propaganda scheme.

   In an English-language KCNA report, North Korea said details of Jon's news conference "was sent on August 7 to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Anti-Terror Committee of Security Council of the United Nations and other UN organizations and relevant personages of the UN Office including the UN secretary general and the president of the UN General Assembly."

   The KCNA report was titled "Condemnation of U.S. and S. Korean regime's attempted hideous terrorism against DPRK called for."

   Several North Korean groups such as the National Peace Committee of (North) Korea and the (North) Korean Committee for Solidarity with the World People also sent copies of the press release on Aug. 2 to 93 international bodies, organizations and individuals of 34 countries, including the World Peace Council and the International Anti-Imperialism Coordinating Committee, the report said.

   "The press release brought to light the organized and premeditated crimes committed by the U.S. and the puppet regime and requested the international organizations to take appropriate measures for checking them," the KCNA added, referring to South Korea as a "puppet regime" under U.S. control.

   Thousands of statues and monuments idolizing the late North Korean leader and his family dot the country. North Koreans are advised to visit and pay homage to them. Kim Il-sung is the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un who took over after his father, Kim Jong-il, died in December.

   South Korean news reports said Jon was a drug addict and a criminal in the North and may have returned home after failing to adjust to life in the South. They also said he may have decided to cooperate in the North's anti-South campaign to avoid punishment for his defection.


N.K. Accuses Lee, Japan of Refueling Territorial Tension over Dokdo

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has censured South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Japan for rekindling territorial disputes over Dokdo, the South's easternmost islets.

   Issuing its first response since Lee's landmark visit to Dokdo on Aug. 10, the KCNA accused Lee of heightening Japan's territorial claims over the islets by displaying "low-profile diplomacy" toward Japan.

   The visit is seen as "intended to cover up his true colors as a pro-Japanese lackey, calm down the angry public and weather his ruling crisis," the KCNA said in an English-language dispatch carried on Aug. 13.

   The North has repeatedly criticized Lee, who has taken a hard-line stance toward the communist North since taking office in 2008.

   On Aug. 10, President Lee visited Dokdo, islets lying about halfway between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, becoming the first South Korean president to step foot on the rocky islets.

   Previous presidents shunned a Dokdo visit for fears about extreme reactions from Japan.

   The Dokdo islets, controlled by the South but also claimed by Japan, have long been a source of diplomatic tensions between Seoul and Tokyo as a legacy of Japan's colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

   Calling Japan's territorial claim "impudent," the KCNA report said it is attributable to the Seoul government's "low-profile diplomacy and sycophancy toward Japan."

   Pyongyang's propaganda Web site Uriminzokkiri also lamented Japan's territorial claims, which the Web site said was caused by southern conservatives' submissive policies.

   Japan's government is attempting to take steps to bring the territorial issue to the international level, an article carried on Aug. 13 by the Web site said, referring to Japan's threatened moves to bring the issue to the International Court of Justice.

   "Regarding the territorial issue directly related to national dignity, no concession nor compromise can be made," it said.


North Korea Boasts of Olympic Success as 'Pride of the People'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea congratulated its athletes on Aug. 13 for their success at the London Olympics, saying their achievements are the "pride of the people."

   In an article titled "The Motherland Ardently Congratulates the Athletes Who Spread the Songun Spirit Globally," the Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the North's ruling Worker's Party, detailed the accomplishments made at the quadrennial competition.

   At this year's summer games, North Korea won four gold and two bronze medals, the best gold tally since it reaped four titles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

   Highlighting the four gold medalists -- Kim Un-guk, Om Yun-chol, An Kum-ae and Rim Jong-sim -- the article also carried four photographs of the matches and award ceremonies.

   The newspaper also reported on articles by foreign media such as the AP, Washington Post and South Korean media outlets including KBS and MBC, who enthusiastically reported on the North's success.

   Moreover, the article praised the North Korean leader's family in reference to an interview by Om, one of the gold medalists in weightlifting, who said his victory was thanks to "the great (late) leader Kim Jong-il and marshal Kim Jong-un's love."

   Emboldened by better-than-expected results, the North, which mostly shut out outside news to its citizens, dramatically increased television coverage of the Olympic Games.

   At the beginning of the 17-day run, the North started off with daily coverage of about 15 minutes, but it was significantly increased following the first gold medal.

   On Aug. 12, China's state-run broadcaster CCTV reported that North Koreans were seen watching the highlights of the Olympics through large electronic display boards in Pyongyang.

   According to the CCTV, the North's state television also broadcasted, in addition to matches featuring the gold medalists, other sporting events such as diving and canoe.

   The North sent a total of 56 players to compete in 11 Olympic events, including weightlifting, judo, wrestling, archery and table tennis.