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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 241 (Dec. 20, 2012)

Unification Church to Transfer Automaking Unit to N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The Unification Church in South Korea will transfer control of its ailing automaking business in Pyongyang to North Korea, and may tap into the country's special economic zone, according to a media report on Dec. 14.

   Pyeonghwa Motors' President Park Sang-kwon said the joint auto venture between the religious group and the North will be taken over by the North, according to the report by Voice of America (VOA).

   "We transfer the right to them to practically run (the firm)," Park was quoted as saying in the report. He may take up an advisory role to the auto venture following the transfer, according to the report.

   The Unification Church, founded by late leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is also running a hotel in Pyongyang as well as some other projects in the North. Pyeonghwa Motors started operations in 2002, producing about 2,000 vehicles every year.

   The religious group is considering tapping into the distribution sector in the North and also interested in starting a business in a special economic zone in Hwanggumphyong located in the western tip of the country, Park said in the report.

   He said Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and the powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, had once proposed a business opportunity in the economic zone, being jointly promoted by the North and the country's closest ally China. He also expressed the group's willingness to invest in the area.

   The housing sector as well as garment and food segments are also among those in which the group is considering investment, he was also quoted as saying.


North Korea 'Unwise' to Launch Rocket, Dempsey Says

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Dec. 15 North Korea's latest rocket launch was a "very unwise, very unfortunate" move.

   "My thoughts are that the North Koreans continue to be a force of instability in a region while we're working diligently to increase stability,"Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told American Forces Press Service, according to the Pentagon.

   The world is increasingly viewing Pyongyang as a force of instability, he pointed out, although the communist nation has a chance to explore ways to contribute to regional stability.

   "So their decision to do that was very unwise, very unfortunate," Dempsey added.
On Washington's rebalancing of diplomatic efforts and military presence toward the Asia-Pacific region, the chairman said it wasn't just a "light switch."

   "Last year, we talked about our strategic interests, globally, and how they would change over time,”he said, "And so, as we thought about that rebalancing of our interests, kind of horizontally, this year we're looking at the impact of that vertically."

   He said the vertical aspect of the so-called pivot toward Asia is "how much of our force structure is forward, how much is rotational and how much is retained in the homeland to provide surge capability for security issues that we may not anticipate."

   With the rebalancing, the U.S. military has gained a "pretty coherent vision of how our security will be shaped between now and 2020," he added.


U.S. Congress Seeks New Resolution against North Korea

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Both chambers of the U.S. Congress are pushing for a joint resolution against North Korea in response to its long-range rocket launch last week, a congressional source said on Dec. 17.

   "What Congress is seeking is a concurrent resolution which requires approval from the Senate and the House alike," the source said, requesting anonymity.

   The purpose of such a concurrent resolution, although non-binding, is to send a stronger political message, added the source.

   Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), outgoing chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has taken the initiative for the resolution and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who will succeed her next month, is an "original co-sponsor," the source said.

   According to a draft of the resolution, Congress strongly condemns North Korea's latest rocket launch, which was successful.

   The lawmakers seek to pass it in both chambers this week but they are "neither optimistic nor pessimistic" of the timeline, the source said.

   The Republican-controlled House is preoccupied with drawn-out negotiations with the White House on ways to avert a federal debt crisis. Many members are expected to leave Washington for the Christmas holiday next week.

   The last resolution the U.S. Congress adopted against North Korea was in response to the communist nation's torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea in 2010, which killed 46 sailors.


U.S. Searching Best Ways to Handle North Korea: State Dept.

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States has no other choice at this time but to ratchet up pressure on North Korea, which has repeatedly defied international obligations, the State Department said on Dec. 17.

   The department, however, strongly indicated its intention to continue engaging Pyongyang either bilaterally or multilaterally, looking for signs that the nation will change its attitude.

   "What's left to us is to continue to increase the pressure on the North Korean regime," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

   She was answering questions on whether the Obama administration will consider shifting its approach toward Pyongyang, which is armed with nuclear weapons and apparently emboldened by the success of its long-range rocket launch last week.

   "We're looking at how best to do that both bilaterally and with our partners going forward," Nuland said. "Until they get the message, we're going to have to continue to further isolate this regime."

   She said the U.S. is still in consultations with the other members of the dormant six-way talks. The other members are South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

   "Nobody, not we, not anybody in the six- party talks, wants to reward the DPRK (North Korea) for violating its international obligations," she said, adding the U.S. wants a "willing partner" for dialogue.


Minister Sees 'High Probability' of a North Korea Nuclear Test

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Following the successful launch of a long-range rocket this week, North Korea will likely conduct a nuclear test, South Korea's point man on the North warned on Dec. 14.

   "There is a high probability for a nuclear test following the launch of the long-range missile and, from the analysis of intelligence, significant progress has been made to carry out a nuclear test," Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told lawmakers.

   Even before the Wednesday rocket launch, South Korean officials said North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test. Its two previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 followed long-range rocket launches.

   "North Korea has a track record of conducting nuclear tests after launching long-range missiles and the aim of the launch was to develop a delivery system that could carry nuclear warheads," Yu said at a parliamentary session.

   The North's successful rocket launch surprised the world with the country's apparent progress toward building intercontinental nuclear missile capability. The move also dashed hopes that young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is open to engagement with the outside world. However, the communist country claims that the launch was for peaceful purposes and to put a scientific satellite into space.

   At the parliamentary session, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told lawmakers that South Korea is trying to persuade China to support a tougher U.N. response against North Korea for its defiant launch, despite Beijing's resistance.
Shortly after the North's largely successful launch that violated U.N. resolutions banning the regime from testing ballistic missile technology, South Korea and the U.S. started diplomatic efforts at the U.N. Security Council to impose additional sanctions on Pyongyang.

   Whether China, a key ally of Pyongyang and a veto-wielding council member, will agree to new sanctions remains unclear. China's foreign ministry said on Dec. 13 that any U.N. response to North Korea's rocket launch should be "prudent."

   Asked by a lawmaker whether China will apply pressure on North Korea as a consequence of the launch, Kim replied, "China's stance is not so proactive, but other nations, except for China, have the same stance and we continue to persuade China."

   "I expect that it would be difficult for China to ignore the thinking of the international community," Kim said.

   Regardless of the North Korean satellite's success or failure, Kim said the Wednesday launch demonstrated a new level of technical advance in the North's ballistic missile technology.

   "It is a fact that North Korea improved its missile capability, but it has not completed yet and more tests are needed. So, relevant measures should be taken to curb it," Kim said.

   Kim also said that South Korea, the U.S. and other nations will focus on implementing tougher measures to add more influential North Korean citizens and entities to the list of sanctions to prevent further advancement of the North's nuclear and missile technologies.


Mystery Man Seen Next to N.K. Leader likely to Be Arms Development Official

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A mystery man seen standing next to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in recent commemoration ceremonies is likely to be the head of the country's arms development center, a Seoul official said on Dec. 18.

   Wild media speculation emerged over the identity of the middle-aged man after he was seen standing next to Kim during the country's commemoration ceremonies for late leader Kim Jong-il on Dec. 16 and 17.

   North Korean figures' positions at official events are key signs indicating their ranks and levels of importance in the regime.

   The Seoul government official said the man is likely to be Choe Chun-sik, the head of the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, which is in charge of developing military weapons.

   "We presume Choe Chun-sik is related to the North's recent launch of a long-range rocket," the official said on condition of anonymity.

   The socialist country successfully fired off what it calls a long-range rocket carrying a "working satellite" on Dec. 12, with the outside world condemning it as a cover for testing rocket technology used for launching missiles.

   The Second Academy of Natural Sciences is known to be the Workers' Party of (North) Korea's sub-unit for researching and developing military arms and is on the U.S.'s sanction list.

   Another Seoul government official also raised the possibility that the mystery man could be the chief secretary of either late leader Kim Jong-il or the current leader.