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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 250 (February 21, 2013)

N. Korea Threatens to Acquire ICBMs to Bolster Self-defense

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Feb. 14 warned it can acquire intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to counter hostile forces and bolster its self-defense capabilities.

   The political review carried by Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), said if "imperialists" have a nuclear arsenal, ICBMs and other types of space-bound weapons, North Korea should have them as well. The North often uses the word "imperialist" to describe the United States.

   It said having such strong defensive capabilities can ensure that enemies of the North will feel fear.

   The newspaper's review, which best reflects the official policy directions of the socialist state, said Pyongyang's nuclear capability is a justifiable choice and will contribute to "true peace" for all of mankind.

   The latest announcement comes two days after the North detonated its third nuclear device at its Punggye-ri test complex just before noon Tuesday, despite strong warnings from the international community. The North already launched the long-range Unha-3 rocket on Dec. 12 that effectively has the range of an ICBM. Rocket experts said the rocket's range is over 11,000 kilometers.

   The direct mention of ICBMs is noteworthy because in the past, the country has steadfastly maintained that its long-range rockets were being built for the peaceful exploration of space and to place satellites into orbit. This claim has been dismissed by most ot the world, which sees the launches as a cover to develop missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

   The newspaper also made clear that the United States must realize that it is up against the most merciless adversary if it challenges the North.

   "There can be no compromise in the last fight to herald the victory for independence for humanity and strike a blow to end imperialism," it said.

   The party daily, meanwhile, said in an editorial that Pyongyang is not afraid of international sanctions, and that the country and the people will persevere to build a powerful country.

   It said if outside anti-DPRK pressure intensifies, the country will respond by continuously escalating its own response to defend its sovereignty and national dignity.

   "We have the nuclear deterrence capability to strike at the heart of an aggressor anywhere in the world and annihilate it with one stroke," Rodong Sinmun stressed.


N. Korea Vilifies President Lee for Suggesting Regime Change

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea lashed out at South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Feb. 16, denouncing him for suggesting regime change in the socialist nation.

   Commenting on North Korea's latest nuclear test earlier this week, Lee said on Feb. 15 that the socialist country can't be persuaded to give up its nuclear weapons program through negotiations or dialogue, and cannot be expected to do so before its regime collapses.

   "Lee Myung Bak, traitor for all ages, has gone mad with confrontation fervor as he is close to breathing his last as a politician," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an English-language commentary.

   Inter-Korean relations plunged to their worst in decades during the conservative Lee administration, which took a hard-line stance toward the North's nuclear ambitions.

   Lee's five-year term will end on Feb. 25 when President-elect Park Geun-hye is sworn in.

   "He is free to let loose a spate of rigmaroles as the days go by, much upset by the DPRK's third nuclear test, its resolute step for self-defense taken to cope with the U.S. hostile action," the KCNA commentary said.

   DPRK is the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   North Korea claims that its nuclear program is aimed at defending itself from what it calls U.S. hostilities.


Pro-N. Korean Paper Attacks UNSC for 'Underhand Dealings' with U.S.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A pro-North Korean newspaper published in Japan on Feb. 18 blasted the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) for engaging in "underhand dealings" with the United States only in search of their national interests.

   Choson Sinbo, the official paper of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, said in a commentary that the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have so far been allowed to commit all sorts of unlawful activities and start wars of aggression all over the world.

   The attack did not specify a particular country, but the North has expressed disappointment that the Council passed a resolution on Jan. 23 (Korea time) condemning its December rocket launch. It claimed
that the Council's move was in violation of the world body's charter.

   The commentary said that the reason for such developments is due to the fact that UNSC members with veto powers have caved in to U.S. pressure and failed to fulfill their duties to preserve world peace and security.

   The Council's five permanent members are the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France.

   Pyongyang has persistently stressed that its Unha-3 rocket, launched on Dec. 12, was peaceful, although Washington and many other countries believed it was a test for the North's banned missile technology.

   The paper, meanwhile, said that owing to Pyongyang's technological advances and upgraded nuclear deterrence, it is no longer feasible for other countries to threaten or impose sanctions on the socialist country.


N. Korea to Open Revamped Arirang Mass Game on July 27

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will stage a revamped version of its Arirang mass game for about seven weeks starting in late July, a tourist agency specializing in North Korean trips for foreigners said on Feb. 18.

   U.S.-based firm New Korea Tours said on its Web site that "Mass Games are performed every evening except Sundays and Tuesdays from July 27th through September 9th 2013." It said the performance could be extended to late September.

   Previous news reports said North Korea is expected to unveil the revamped version of the Arirang festival in July when the country celebrates the 1953 truce that ended the Korean War, according to a travel agency in China.

   The North's governing Workers' Party decided earlier February that the country will hold extravagant events to mark the 65th anniversary of what the North claims was its victory in the Korean War on July 27.

   The Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two countries separated by a heavily fortified border.

   The Arirang festival mainly features a mass gymnastics performance, designed to extol the governing Kim family. First held in 2002, the year marking the 90th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, it has been held every year since 2005 except for when the country suffered a devastating flood in 2006.

   The new version is widely expected to place greater emphasis on the achievements of new leader Kim Jong-un, who took power after the sudden death of his father, late leader Kim Jong-il, in December 2011.


N.K. Highlights 'People First' Slogan as Kim Jong-un's Rule Enters 2nd Year

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has started highlighting a "people first" slogan as Kim Jong-un's grip on power enters its second year, observers said on Feb. 18.

   Local observers who keep tabs on the communist country's media outlets said there has been a sudden increase in placing "people" at the forefront of the ruling WPK policy goals.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the WPK, published articles and editorials last week that praised the incumbent leader for following in the lofty footsteps of his father by revering and loving the people.

   Kim Jong-un, who is also referred to as the "dear respected marshal" by the North Korean press, took power after his father and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died suddenly on Dec. 17, 2011.

   The newspaper, moreover, said that the bond created between the ruling party and the people under the late leader remains strong despite the passage of time and policies pursued by Kim Il-sung, the country's founder and grandfather to the incumbent leader, as well as Kim Jong-il were all centered on the people first stance.

   North Korean experts said the people first slogan first emerged at a speech given by Kim Jong-un on Jan. 29, although various "first" slogans have been used by the country's propaganda machine for decades.

   Kim Jong-il while he was heir apparent coined the "Korean nation first" slogan in 1986, followed by such rallying cries as "agriculture first" and "training first" as well as the "people livelihood first" policy stance announced in 2008.

   They also said that efforts to place the people on top, at least in terms of propaganda, can be found in claims that the recent detonation of the country's third nuclear device was carried out to reflect the will of the people.

   Experts generally agreed that the latest slogan can help build cohesiveness between the people and the leadership, in the face of additional sanctions that may be slapped by the international community due to the nuclear test. This kind of bond is important because Kim is in his late 20s or early 30s and did not play a prominent role in running the country until his father's death. There has been speculation in Seoul that Kim's hold may not be solid at present.

   "Overall stressing the people is a sign that the isolationist country places great importance on winning the minds of the people," said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. He said this policy can be used to get people to brace for possible hard times as external conditions turn unfavorable after Pyongyang's latest provocation.


N. Korea to Step up Economic Ties with East Timor

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The president of East Timor will strengthen economic ties with North Korea, the communist country's news outlet said on Feb. 19.

   East Timor President Taur Matan Ruak granted a letter of credence to Ri Jong-ryul, North Korea's ambassador to the Southeast Asian country, on Feb. 11, according to the KCNA.

   "President Ruak said he wants the friendly and cooperative relations of the two countries to expand and strengthen in every sector," according to the KCNA report.

   The president also noted the two countries have the potential to raise cooperation in various fields and the country will proactively encourage economic cooperation with North Korea, which he said has plenty of experience, the North Korean news agency said.

   North Korea forged ties with East Timor in December 2002 after the country secured independence from Indonesia. Ambassador Ri represents North Korea also in Indonesia as well as Australia, Fiji and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


N. Korea Threatens to Conduct 'Final Destruction' of Seoul

BRUSSELS (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened to inflict the "final destruction" of South Korea in a United Nations conference, warning of further measures following its nuclear test earlier February.

   During a U.N. Conference on Disarmament meeting held in Geneva on Feb. 19, North Korea's diplomat Jon Yong-ryong said, "South Korea's erratic behavior would only herald its final destruction," referring to the North Korean saying, "a newborn puppy knows no fear of a tiger."

   His country could take further steps in a follow-up to the Feb. 12 test of a nuclear bomb, Jon said in the gathering, without elaborating.

   The North Korean diplomat claimed the country has recently taken a stern defensive-purpose measure without referring to the nuclear test, adding the U.S.'s hostile policies toward his country, if continued, could further complicate the current situation.

   The diplomat's remarks came as major Western member countries like the U.S., Britain and Germany issued condemnations over the country's third nuclear test and called on the North to stop further nuclear activities.

   South Korean representative Kwon Hae-ryong also made remarks urging the North to abide by United Nations resolutions and discard its nuclear ambitions in order to shift the country's focus to propping up the livelihoods of starving North Koreans.

   Kwon said the North Korean diplomat reacted emotionally to condemnations from foreign countries.

   Joanne Adamson, the British ambassador, called Jon's remarks "completely inappropriate" while U.S. representative Laura Kennedy said she felt they were "offensive".

   Tension remains unabated following the country's detonation of what it called a miniaturized nuclear bomb in defiance of the U.N. resolutions and condemnations from the outside world.

   The international community is closely watching whether the country will conduct further nuclear tests after it said it will take further actions following the Feb. 12 test.