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

North Korea Must Pay the Price for Defiant Rocket Launch: Seoul

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea should "pay the price" for its defiant launch of a long-range rocket, Seoul's foreign ministry said on Dec. 13 as the U.N. Security Council is weighing options to punish Pyongyang for violating U.N. resolutions banning it from testing ballistic missile technology.

   The North's successful rocket launch surprised the world because of the country's apparent progress toward building an intercontinental nuclear missile capability, but also dashed hopes that young leader Kim Jong-un is open to engagement with the outside world.

   Also on Dec. 13, Seoul's defense ministry said the satellite launched by the North's long-range rocket is orbiting the Earth, but it will take more time to confirm whether the satellite is functioning.

   "In spite of warnings from the international community, North Korea launched the long-range missile and it was a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a serious challenge to international peace," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters.

   "So, I believe that North Korea must pay the price for ignoring the U.N. resolutions and warnings from the international community," Cho said.

   South Korean diplomats are calling for the Security Council to take tougher actions against North Korea, but whether China, a key ally of Pyongyang and a veto-wielding council member, will agree to new sanctions remains unclear.

   In April, the Security Council adopted a non-binding presidential statement condemning the North's failed launch earlier that month.

   Cho said South Korea wants a "more advanced measure" than that adopted in April, but declined to elaborate on what such measure is, apparently mindful of a possible disagreement at the Security Council over efforts to adopt a new resolution for tougher sanctions against North Korea.

   "There are many media reports about possible financial sanctions or restrictive measures on sea routes, but as I have said previously, such measures could be adopted as an outcome only if Security Council members reach a consensus," Cho said.

   Asked about the possibility of another nuclear test by North Korea, Cho replied, "All I can tell you is that the government is closely watching the situation."

   China is considered a key to any U.N. Security Council action as Beijing is a veto-holding permanent member and has a track record of preventing the council from taking tougher action against the North.

   After the Dec. 12 rocket launch, Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed "regrets," saying Pyongyang's peaceful space program was "subject to restrictions by relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions."

   But it remains to be seen whether Beijing would join other nations in punishing the North.

   South Korea is focusing diplomatic efforts on convincing China to get tough on Pyongyang.

   On Dec. 12 night, South Korean Ambassador to Beijing Lee Kyu-hyung held a meeting with China's chief nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei. In Seoul on Thursday, the top South Korean nuclear envoy, Lim Sung-nam, met with China's Ambassador to Seoul, Zhang Xinsen.

   On Dec. 13 night, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi. They shared concerns about the North's rocket launch and agreed to consult closely how to handle the issue, the foreign ministry said.


Three North Koreans Return Home Following Rescue by South Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Three North Korean fishermen found drifting aboard a small boat in South Korean waters earlier this week were sent back to their socialist homeland on Dec. 15, the Coast Guard said.

   "The North Korean boat and its three crew members found in South Korean waters were sent back today through a procedure earlier arranged with North Korea," the official said.

   Three North Korean fishermen were rescued on Dec. 13 while drifting aboard a small boat off South Korea's east coast but they had no apparent intention to defect, a government source said on Dec. 14.

   "The coast guard was called after a South Korean boat found the North Korean fishing boat near Ulleng Island on Dec. 13," the source said, asking that he not be identified.

   The source later confirmed that three North Koreans were aboard the boat when they were rescued at 1:33 a.m. Dec. 14, adding that they all expressed a wish to go home.

   "The coast guard is taking necessary steps to send them back to North Korea, which will likely take place early tomorrow," the source said.

   The North Koreans were said to have drifted over 20 days after their boat's engine failed due to a malfunction.

   North Koreans sometimes use the maritime boarder to defect to South Korea but the three Northern fishermen wanted to go back home, a government official said earlier.