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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 247 (January 31, 2013)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Pledges to Take 'Important State Measures'

  
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his firm intention to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures" in protest of the U.N.-approved sanctions, state media reported on Jan. 27, a remark seen as referring to a nuclear test.

   Kim made the statement in a national defense meeting with top military and party cadres as tensions are running high after Pyongyang threatened to conduct its third nuclear test in response to a U.N. Security Council resolution punishing the regime for its Dec. 12 rocket launch.

   The North has also said it has abandoned any efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

   Kim "expressed the firm resolution to take substantial and high-profile important state measures in view of the prevailing situation" as the country has already said it would take powerful physical countermeasures to defend the dignity of the nation, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The KCNA did not specify the "measures," but they were believed to be referring to a nuclear test.

   North Korea has so far conducted two nuclear tests, first in 2006 and then in 2009.

   South Korean officials have warned that the socialist nation is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any time, saying all preparations are completed at the country's Punggye-ri underground test site in the North's northeastern region. The site is where the country conducted its first and second underground nuclear tests.

   North Korea is angry over the U.N. resolution because it has claimed that its rocket launch in December was part of a peaceful space program. South Korea, the United States and others condemned the launch as a banned test of its long-range missile technology.

   "This has thrown a grave obstacle to the efforts to be focused by the DPRK on economic construction so that the people may not tighten their belts any longer on the basis of the war deterrence for self-defense," the KCNA said in an English dispatch, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   "This fact proved once again that the DPRK should defend its sovereignty by itself. It also became clear that there can be no denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula before the world has been denuclearized."

   The KCNA said the measures were sparked by the new sanctions unanimously passed by the Security Council. The U.N. sanctions call for the tightening of existing sanctions, such as imposing travel bans on four individuals and freezing assets belonging to North Korea's space agency, a bank and four trading companies accused of engaging in arms shipments. It also banned technology developments and the transfer of money that supports such operations.

   The resolution passed unanimously by the 15-member council is the fifth to be slapped on the North for its rocket and nuclear programs since May 1993.

   A string of high-ranking officials attended the North's defense meeting, the KCNA said, including Choe Ryong-hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA); Hyon Yong-chol, chief of the general staff of the KPA; Kim Won-hong, the minister of state security; Pak To-chun, a party secretary in charge of the war industry; Kim Yong-il, a party secretary of international affairs; and Kim Kye-gwan, vice minister of foreign affairs.

   North Korea has issued a package of warnings almost every day since the UNSC members, including its closest ally China, backed Resolution 2087 against the North.

   On the day when the UNSC unanimously approved the new resolution, the North's foreign ministry immediately said in a statement that there would be "no more dialogue on denuclearization" and vowed to "take physical action" in response.

   A day later, North Korea upped its rhetoric, issuing a statement in the name of the powerful decision-making body National Defense Commission, saying it will carry out "a higher-level nuclear weapons test" and an "all-out war" against Washington.

   On Jan. 25, Pyongyang renewed its threat again, through a statement carried by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a propaganda mouthpiece of the North's ruling Workers' Party, that threatened Seoul with "physical countermeasures" if it takes a direct role in the new sanctions.

   A commentary by the ruling Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Jan. 26 also said "a nuclear test is the demand of the people and no other choice can be made."

   Meanwhile, the latest satellite images showed that the North's Punggye-ri site maintained its readiness for a nuclear test, according to U.S. Web site 38 North, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

   "North Korea's public pronouncements in reaction to a United Nations Security Council resolution tightening sanctions against Pyongyang have heightened speculation that a nuclear detonation at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility is imminent," it said.

   "The site appears to be at a continued state of readiness that would allow the North to move forward with a test in a few weeks or less once the leadership in Pyongyang gives the order," it said.

   In a related development, a local newspaper in Seoul said that former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordered his youngest son Kim Jong-un to continue to develop not only a nuclear arsenal, but also long-range missiles and even biochemical weapons, in his last instructions before he died.

   "Recently, the Seoul government obtained the entire contents of the final instructions of Kim Jong-il, which he issued two months before he died," a South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Jan. 29.

   Pyongyang reportedly considers the instructions from the two former leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, as the final word in their policy-making, overruling even the Constitution.

   The final instructions, reportedly delivered on Oct. 8, 2011, include 44 specific orders. When it comes to the regime's defiant nuclear test and missile capabilities, Kim Jong-il said, "Keep in mind that the way to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula is to endlessly develop nuclear, long-range missiles and biochemical weapons and possess a sufficient number of them. Don't ever be caught off guard."

   In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Jan. 29 that Washington will continue efforts to dissuade North Korea from taking additional provocations rather than talk concretely about possible punitive steps.

   "I don't want to preview what the outcome might be in terms of actions that would have to be taken, because we still hope that there is a way to convince the North Korean regime not to pursue this path," Clinton said.

   In what was billed as a "Global Townterview," a mix of a town hall meeting and a television interview, Clinton expressed regret that North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-un, has chosen the path of confrontation.

   "I think with a new, young leader we all expected something different," she said. "We expected him to focus on improving the lives of the North Korean people, not just the elite but everyone, to have more education, more openness, more opportunity. And instead, he has engaged in very provocative rhetoric and behavior."

   Clinton said the U.S. has worked closely with South Korea, China, Japan and Russia to deal with North Korea.

   The Pentagon, meanwhile, reiterated that the North's move is "needlessly provocative." "A test, if it occurred, would be a significant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions," George Little, spokesman for the Defense Department, said at a press briefing. "Further provocations would only increase Pyongyang's isolation, and its continued focus on its nuclear missile program is doing nothing to help the North Korean people."

   China will certainly join the international community in imposing sanctions against North Korea if the communist regime goes ahead with its third nuclear test, Chinese experts forecast on Jan. 29.

   "China can play a great role in having North Korea not launch the third nuclear test," Su Hao, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told a forum in Moscow.

   He stressed that Beijing needs to remind Pyongyang of how dangerous the nuclear test will be to the East Asian region.

   "Should the North push its plan nonetheless, the international community will likely respond with a fresh U.N. resolution or sanctions against the North and China will be part of it," Su said.

   Ju Feng, an international relations professor at Beijing University agreed, that China opposes the North's third nuclear test and will "act sternly to reprimand its mistake." He added that China could look into drawing up a countermeasure with other countries involved in the six-party talks.

   Meanwhile, Russian experts at the forum raised the specter that Pyongyang's next nuclear test could aim to experiment with a plutonium detonator, since it's unlikely that the country has secured enough highly-enriched uranium to make an detonator, which has a higher risk of failure than one made with plutonium.

  (END)
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