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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 251 (February 28, 2013)

N. Korea Says Giving up Nukes Will Lead to 'Tragic Consequences'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will counter what it calls nuclear threats from the United States with its own nuclear deterrent to avoid the "tragic consequences" faced by other nations that caved to outside pressure to denuclearize, the North's state-run media said on Feb. 21.

   "The tragic consequences in those countries which abandoned halfway their nuclear programs, yielding to the high-handed practices and pressure of the U.S. in recent years, clearly prove that the DPRK was very far-sighted and just," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a commentary in English interpreted as indicating the country's intention not to abandon its nuclear program.

   Amid tightening sanctions and U.S. pressure, Libya agreed in 2003 to give up the country's weapons of mass destruction and nuclear programs and implemented the agreement the next year. The government of leader Moammar Gadhafi fell in 2011.

   The North's possible allusion to Libya is believed to be reflecting its heightened efforts to justify its ownership of nuclear weapons.

   In defiance of United Nations resolutions, North Korea detonated what it called a miniaturized nuclear device on Feb. 12, spurring international condemnations and debates over further tightening sanctions on the socialist country.

   The U.S. portrayed the test as a "challenge" to the international community and stepped up hostile actions and threatened a "preemptive nuclear attack," the KCNA said. "This can neither frighten the DPRK (North Korea) nor make it retract its countermeasures," it said.

   The "ceaseless nuclear blackmail and sanctions" by the U.S. are threatening the North's right to self-determination, the KCNA said, adding, "Therefore, what the DPRK finally opted was the strategic resolution to react to nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons."

   Following the Feb. 12 test, the North has ratcheted up claims that the country will take further steps, leading the international community to believe the country is preparing more nuclear tests.

   The commentary also said any efforts to open dialogue may be futile unless the U.S. first gives up its "hostile" policy, vowing to continue its nuclear activities.


N. Korea Honors Nuke Test Contributors to Bolster Patriotism

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- As the international community moves to penalize North Korea for its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program, the isolated country honored contributors of its latest nuclear test in a large ceremony, observers said on Feb. 22.

   Scientists, technicians and officials involved in the Feb. 12 nuclear detonation were invited to the capital city of Pyongyang on Feb. 20 in what analysts say is a repeated move to hail those who played a leading role in the successful launch of the Unha-3 rocket in December.

   The North's official KCNA said contributors took part in a large welcoming ceremony and were received as honored guests at banquets and performances. The agency said that they were staying at the prestigious Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang and were "enjoying the greatest privileges and preferential treatment."

   The agency said during the banquet given at the Mokran House in Pyongyang on Feb. 21, most of the senior officials of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WKP) were present with Kim Ki-nam, a member of the Political Bureau, who made the welcoming address.

   The media outlet did not elaborate on how long they will be staying in Pyongyang, but workers and officials involved in the December long-range rocket launch stayed in the city for 20 days.

   North Korean observers said the attention lavished on the contributors of the nuclear test is a way for the socialist country, and the WPK in particular, to use the scientists and technicians to build up national cohesion and public loyalty for the country's young leader Kim Jong-un.

   "The North is using the nuclear test to raise national pride and unite the people," said Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

   Kim, known to be in his late 20s or early 30s, took over power after the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011. Before he took control, he was relatively unknown to the general public, but the North's press has been doing its best to portray him as a leader who carried out both the long range rocket launch last year and the latest nuclear test.

   Other analysts, such as Yang Moo-jin, a political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said because the Kim regime has emphasized the importance of science and technology, it will probably make those related with the nuclear tests into new heroes. Workers of the rocket launch were all given medals and other honors.

   National unity is important for the North since the global community is in the process of debating what measures must be taken to penalize the country for its latest WMD provocation. When the North detonated nuclear weapons in 2006 and 2009, the U.N. Security Council passed resolutions condemning the acts and moved to impose sanctions.

   Besides measures being deliberated at the U.N., individual countries are moving to impose separate sanctions. The European Union already announced sanctions, with Seoul and Washington likely to follow suit.


N. Korea Accuses Seoul TV of False Reporting to Weaken Ties with China

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean committee in charge of handling inter-Korean relations accused a Seoul TV station on Feb. 22 of making false reports about anti-North protests in China in an attempt to weaken ties with Beijing.

   The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said a South Korean morning news program claimed large anti-North Korean protests were breaking out in several Chinese cities in response to the country's latest nuclear test, but stressed the images were all fabricated.

   The organization, which did not specify the program it was referring to, made clear that the TV images of people protesting in Shenyang and Guangzhou showed them wearing short-sleeved clothing, as well green leaves on trees.

   It said since the images cannot be from China during the winter months, it can only be assumed that the station and the South Korean government are working with the United States to fuel discontent and come between Pyongyang and Beijing.

   The organization further claimed that weakening of ties can be exploited to push for sanctions at the U.N. Security Council and to try and crush the DPRK (North Korea).

   Despite the latest attacks made by the committee, diplomatic sources in Seoul claimed there has been a steady rise in protests against the North in China, with some Chinese citizens attacking Pyongyang openly on community web sites.

   "The North is trying to discredit the entire story based on wrong file footages used by the broadcaster," a local North Korean analyst said.

   China warned several times before the nuclear detonation not to go through with the test, which followed the launch of a long-range rocket in December. Before the latest nuclear test, Pyongyang detonated nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

   Experts, moreover, said the latest response by the North is noteworthy because it showed that the communist country is concerned about what kind of fallout the Feb. 12 test will have on relations with Beijing.

   China joined the resolution, condemning the launch of the long-range Unha-3 rocket and is currently holding talks to see what kind of sanctions should be slapped on the country for pushing forward with its program for weapons of mass destruction.


N.K. Denounces Upcoming Exercises in S. Korea in Message to U.S. Commander

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea sent a message to the top American military commander in South Korea on Feb. 23, claiming that upcoming joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. would amount to "putting a fire to the fuse of war."

   Pak Rim-su, the North Korean military's representative at the truce village of Panmunjom, sent the fax message to Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, according to the North's official news agency KCNA.

   South Korea and the U.S. plan to hold their annual Key Resolve exercises next month.

   North Korea has long denounced such annual exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion of the socialist nation, though Seoul and Washington have repeatedly said the drills are purely defensive in nature.


11,000 N. Koreans Awarded for Playing Roles in Nuclear Test: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- More than 11,000 North Koreans have been cited for their contribution to the country's nuclear test earlier this month, the country's media said on Feb. 23.

   North Korea carried out its third nuclear test on Feb. 12, drawing strong international condemnation. The U.N. Security Council is currently working out countermeasures to penalize the socialist country.

   The North's official KCNA said in a report that a total of 11,592 scientists, technicians, workers and officials have received state decorations for their roles in the test.

   The report, monitored in Seoul, gave no further details, including the identify of any awardees.

   The English-language report also said that "100 were awarded the title of Hero of the DPRK (North Korea) with a gold star medal and Order of National Flag First Class."

   Following its December long-range rocket launch, North Korea had earlier honored a total of 101 scientists and engineers with the Hero of the DPRK titles, according to the KCNA.

   An additional 5,700 were cited for their contribution to the launch, it said.


N. Korea Blasts President Lee on Last Day in Office: Media Reports

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea blasted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Feb. 24, calling him a "traitor" on his last day in office as South Korea's chief executive.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, denounced Lee for "crimes" and "lies" he made in the last five years, expressing satisfaction that his rule has come to an end.

   The paper cited the free trade agreement reached with the United States, South Korea-U.S. military maneuvers and Seoul's reaction to the launching of the North's Unha-3 rocket and recent nuclear test as evidence of Lee's transgressions.

   The last time the Rodong Sinmun referred to the South Korean leader using such harsh words was in early 2008, shortly after he took office.

   Uriminzokkiri, Pyongyang's main Internet-based media or propaganda Web site, also claimed that the five years of Lee rule represented an ebb in inter-Korean relations.

   The North has been stepping up its media coverage of its leader Kim Jong-un visiting military units in recent days as the international community moves to penalize the communist country for its Feb. 12 underground nuclear test. The visits are seen as showing the North's defiance against overseas pressure and to highlight its military readiness.

   Before the latest nuclear test, Pyongyang detonated nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009 that all led to sanctions being imposed on the North.


N. Koreans Asked to Emulate Rocket, Nuclear Scientists' Patriotism

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea called on its people to emulate the patriotism, fighting spirit and creativity of the scientists and workers who contributed to the launching of the country's long-range rocket and successful nuclear test.

   In an editorial published by the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), the North said the country has made strides in high-tech areas as space and nuclear technology.

   It said based on the achievements made so far, the country must take steps to elevate its technical prowess in such areas as light industry, metallurgy, agriculture and applied sciences so as to transform the country into a first-rate economic power.

   The paper also said that there is a need to produce world-class, highly sought after goods, and called on society to work tirelessly in order to bolster economic power with the advances made in the scientific and technological fields.

   The Rodong Sinmun then said that the WPK must take the lead in formulating policies and pushing forward efforts to ensure progress.

   The latest call comes as the North has been drumming up national pride following the launch of its Unha-3 rocket on Dec. 12 and its third underground nuclear test carried out on Feb. 12 in defiance of the international community's calls to refrain from such provocations. The latest nuclear detonation is the third of its kind after the tests conducted in 2006 and 2009.


NBA Basketball Star Dennis Rodman Visits North Korea

SEOU7 (Yonhap) -- American Hall of Fame basketball player Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Feb. 26, the North's media reported, a trip described by his U.S. sponsors as aimed at promoting "basketball diplomacy."

   North Korea's state-run Korean Central TV briefly reported the American's arrival in Pyongyang, saying only that Son Kwang-ho, a vice chairman of the North's Olympics committee, met him at the airport in Pyongyang.

   The Associated Press also reported the retired National Basketball Association (NBA) player's arrival in Pyongyang as part of the Harlem Globetrotters team along with a VICE media group correspondent, three other athletes and a TV production crew.

   The Harlem Globetrotters is a U.S.-based exhibition basketball team that delights audiences with its combination of athleticism and comedy.

   A VICE official said earlier the day before the entourage left for North Korea that despite mounting tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, there is a need to maintain cultural exchanges.

   He said the visit by Rodman is a form of "basketball diplomacy" since the sport is popular and can show North Koreans that the U.S. is not their enemy. He expressed hope that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is known as an avid NBA fan, would make an appearance at the event.

   During the one-week trip, Rodman plans to host a youth basketball camp and play in a friendly match against North Korean players, according to the AP.

   The trip comes as the U.S. is in the process of pushing for tougher sanctions against North Korea after the isolated country launched a long-range rocket in December and detonated its third nuclear device on Feb. 12, despite warnings by the international community.

   Rodman's visit, meanwhile, marks the second time that a high profile U.S. citizen has visited the country this year, following a trip by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt in January.

   Washington does not prohibit its citizens from making private visits to North Korea, with Seoul also saying that it has no reason to comment on the visit by the former NBA star. No details of the visit have been made public, and there was no mention of when Rodman would return home.

   The visit and the performance by Rodman and the other basketball players will be aired on HBO in April.


North Korea Registers Satellite Launched in December with U.N.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has registered its Kwangmyongsong 3-2 satellite launched into space late last year with the United Nations, state media and a U.N. Web site said on Feb. 26.

   The KCNA monitored in Seoul said Pyongyang "submitted documents for satellite registration to the U.N. as a member of the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space," referring to the satellite the country launched into orbit on Dec. 12. The launch drew flak from the international community with the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) passing a resolution condemning the move on Jan. 22.

   The report said, "(North) Korea's satellite registration project, which was legally proceeded in conformity with related international laws, has been completed with the registration."

   The U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs also confirmed the submission, posting North Korea's registration document on its Web site.

   The small satellite was carried by the Unha-3 long-range rocket as part of what the North said were peaceful space development efforts.

   The country said the rocket launch aimed to put a "working satellite" into orbit, but the international community suspected the launch was just a cover for the North's test of long-range missile technology. International experts said all contact with the satellite has been lost.

   Related to the rocket launch and the subsequent underground nuclear test carried out on Feb. 12, the UNSC is moving to impose stronger sanctions to get the socialist country to give up its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

   The North detonated nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, and has launched five long-range rockets since 1998 as part of its WMD program.