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N. Korea Denounces South-U.S. Security Agreement as War Provocation

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea denounced on Nov. 1 Seoul's recent military agreement with Washington as a war provocation, slamming the allies for stepping up joint military exercises near the maritime sea border separating the two Koreas.

   South Korea held its 44th round of Security Consultative Meeting with the U.S. on Oct. 24 and agreed to increase combined surveillance activities against the North and to continue promoting combined military exercises and trading events in the maritime border in the Yellow Sea, known as the northern limit line, or NLL.

   Calling the agreement an "evil plot," the North said through its news media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that the South's decision to strengthen joint military activities with a foreign country near the tense sea border area virtually constitutes "an explicit declaration of war" aimed at an invasion of the North.

   "Severe repercussion the military collusion would result in should be kept in mind," the KCNA said in a Korean-language dispatch.

   Referring to the NLL, the de facto demarcation line drawn by the United Nations Command following the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War, the North said the line is "a ghost line unilaterally drawn by U.S. invader forces in a way that runs counter to the truce agreement."

   The NLL recently became the hottest point of political strife between the ruling and opposition parties after a ruling party lawmaker revealed an allegation that late liberal-side president Roh Moo-hyun attempted to compromise the de facto border line during the landmark South-North summit in 2007 as part of his reconciliation efforts toward the North.

   In October, several North Korean fishing boats crossed the sea line into the South in a series of border violations, apparently designed to display the country's defiance of the demarcation line.

   The sea border areas, rich in fishery resources, have often been a point of skirmishes, including the North's deadly shelling of the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong in 2010.


North Korea Signs Air Service Deal with UAE

DUBAI (Yonhap) -- North Korea has signed an air service deal with the United Arab Emirates in an apparent attempt to provide cheaper transportation means for its overseas workers, an informed source said on Nov. 2, though the prospect of launching regular flights between the two nations remains unclear.

   The UAE's national aviation authority and its North Korean counterpart signed a provisional air service agreement on Oct. 15, an airline company official based in Dubai told Yonhap News, asking for anonymity.

   The deal must be ratified to enter into force.

   Saif Al Suwaidi, the director general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed the signing over the phone, but declined to comment further.

   Although the agreement does not limit the number of flights, it is unlikely that major airlines of the two countries will operate regular flights as soon as the deal goes into effect, considering that few North Koreans are allowed to travel outside their communist homeland, the airline company official said.
North Korea has concluded aviation agreements with 30 nations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa since the 1970s.

   The North's state-owned airline, Air Koryo, has 13 offices in seven nations, including China, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Canada, Germany and Malaysia, according to Wikipedia. Access to Air Koryo's Web site was not available for an unspecified reason.

   The official said the North may have signed the deal aiming for providing cheaper transportation means for its overseas workers in Middle East by signing the deal with the UAE, the transportation and business hub in the Middle East.

   Tens of thousands of North Korean are believed to be working overseas under tight monitoring by North Korean officials, in a bid to earn much needed hard currency for the state that has been heavily sanctioned for its nuclear program.


N. Korea Attempts to Intervene in S. Korean Election

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Nov. 3 openly called for an opposition victory in South Korea's upcoming presidential election, accusing President Lee Myung-bak's conservative government of ruining inter-Korean relations.

   The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a powerful party organization, denounced South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party as a "disaster" that brews "all sources of misfortune" for Koreans.

   "If Saenuri Party, a group of obsolete conservatives, takes the office, it would make the South Korean society and inter-Korean relations the same as that under the Lee Myung-bak administration," the committee said in a statement. "It is apparent that (its election win) would bring fascist suppression and war."

   The statement was carried by the North's official KCNA in a report, monitored in Seoul.

   With the South's presidential election nearing, North Korea's propaganda outlets have recently stepped up their rhetoric against South Korea's ruling camp and its presidential contender, Park Geun-hye.

   The 60-year-old Park, who aspires to become South Korea's first female president, has been in a tight race with Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party and software mogul-turned-independent politician Ahn Cheol-soo.

   There are speculations that the two male contenders may form an alliance before the election to boost their chances against Park.

   Park's late father and former President Park Chung-hee is a rallying point for South Korean conservatives ahead of the Dec. 19 election.

   "Saenuri Party has pushed for deceptive 'national unity', 'reform', and 'differentiation' from the Lee Myung-bak government," the North's committee said, calling it "ugly."

   Inter-Korean relations have soured as Lee's government has tightened its policy toward the North, linking aid to progress in the communist country's denuclearization pledge.


N. Korea, Syria Strike Economic Cooperation Agreement

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has forged an agreement with Syria to increase cooperation on trading and the exchange of technologies, the North's state media said on Nov. 5.

   The Joint Economic Committee between the North and Syria held its eighth meeting since Oct. 30 till Nov. 5 in Pyongyang, the KCNA monitored in Seoul said.

   In the meeting, both countries assessed the state of implementation of the protocol forged in the previous meeting while signing another protocol on economic trading and cooperation over technologies and science, the KCNA said without elaborating further.

   The North's Foreign Trade Minister Ri Ryong-nam headed the North side while Syria's Minister of Culture Loubana Mouchaweh led its delegation to Pyongyang, the state media said.


N. Korea Threatens War on Korean Peninsula at the U.N. Session

NEW YORK (Yonhap) -- A North Korean diplomat, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, warned on Nov. 5 that a war can break out any time on the Korean Peninsula due to mounting military tensions.

   "The situation on the peninsula is on the brink of explosion and nobody knows when the war will break out," North Korea's deputy ambassador to the U.N. Ri Tong-il said.

   He accused the U.S. of continuing to exacerbate the situation with "increased hostilities" against Pyongyang.

   Ri said his socialist nation is a nuclear state and the six-way talks on its nuclear program have become "almost a dead body." The negotiations have not been held since December 2008.

   Ri dismissed a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

   IAEA chief Yukio Amano told the U.N. that the North's move is "deeply troubling." He cited North Korea's revelation in 2010 of a uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon.

   Ri stressed North Korea has withdrawn from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and it is not subject to rules set by the IAEA, which he claimed "blindly" sides with the U.S.

   North Korean officials have often used the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly for efforts to justify its nuclear program and assail Washington.


N. Korean Leader Shown Getting Closer to Foreign Delegates in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Foreign ambassadors and other delegates in Pyongyang were seen seated close behind North Korean leader Kim Jong-un when they were invited to watch a musical performance in October, a rare scene unthinkable under the previous rule of reclusive leader Kim Jong-il.

   Photographs taken and released by the North's official KCNA show about 30 foreign guests, presumed mostly to be ambassadors and delegates from foreign countries, seated right next to or behind the leader and his wife Ri Sol-ju in the Oct. 29 performance marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the prestigious Kim Il-sung Military University.

   The KCNA said, "Ambassadors to the North, delegates from international organizations, embassy staff and foreign guests were invited to the performance." The photos show the foreign guests standing and applauding behind the couple following the performance.

   Experts said the scene was deemed unimaginable during the reign of Kim Jong-un's father, late leader Kim Jong-il, who was said to have usually stayed away from events attended by many foreign guests.

   Former British ambassador to the North Peter Hughes previously said in Seoul that during the Kim Jong-il era, only Russian and Chinese ambassadors were given the rare opportunity to meet and talk in person with the North Korean leader.

   The current leader's friendly actions toward foreign figures in Pyongyang can be understood as in line with a series of recent moves regarded as unconventional in the isolated country.

   The country staged a concert featuring Disney characters and unexpectedly made public the identity and images of the leader's young wife, who is often seen accompanying her husband to field guidance trips and other public appearances.

   The recent moves are believed to have been taken as part of the new regime's efforts to feature its images as more open-minded and friendly to the world community.

   "They seem to try to highlight Kim Jong-un's image as an open and international leader and indicate the country is not completely isolated from the world," said Yang Moon-soo, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

   Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un recently highlighted the military's allegiance, issuing a warning to potential traitors.

   "(We) do not need those who are not loyal to the party and the leadership, however militarily talented and well-versed in war strategies they are," Kim said in an Oct. 29 speech partially broadcast by a North Korean TV station.

   "History shows that soldiers disloyal to the party and the leadership ... later become traitors," Kim said, adding loyalty should be the core symbol of armed revolutionaries.

   The remarks are interpreted by South Korean experts to refer to the case of former Army chief Ri Yong-ho, who was dismissed from his position in July, allegedly for being disloyal to the leadership.