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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 252 (March 7, 2013)

N. Korea Ratchets up Warning ahead of Joint S. Korea-U.S. Military Drills

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea ratcheted up warnings on Feb. 28 as South Korea is set to hold annual joint military drills with the United States in March.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) dispatch which is monitored in Seoul said that "the black cloud of a nuclear war is coming," and warned any provocations against the North will lead to the self-destruction of the aggressor.

   The threat comes as South Korea and the U.S. are scheduled to hold the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises. The computer-based simulation Key Resolve, slated for March 11-25, involves about 10,000 South Korean and 3,500 American troops to test various war scenarios. Foal Eagle starts on Friday and runs through April 30 and includes about 11,000 U.S. forces plus South Korean troops.

   The North regularly issues warnings ahead of the annual drills, saying that they are targeting its regime, although South Korea has consistently pointed out that the maneuvers are defensive in nature.

   "The drills are risky actions to trigger a nuclear war, which is not in line with the trend in pursuance of regional peace and stability," the KCNA report said.

   Referring to its latest underground atomic weapons detonation carried out on Feb. 12, it said "the latest nuclear test is only our initial response to the U.S.'s hostile actions," indicating that the country may take further steps.
The North's military is maintaining a high-level of war preparedness and is waiting for "the final order to strike," it noted.

   The news media outlet also said the country is ready for war with the U.S. and any misunderstanding about the country's willingness and capabilities may lead to "high costs."
Since the North's nuclear device detonation, the country has stepped up its threats in response to the international community's move to expand sanctions on the communist country.

   Earlier in February, a North Korean diplomat threatened to inflict the "final destruction" on South Korea in a United Nations conference. The warning is viewed by some as Pyongyang's willingness to use nuclear weapons against its neighbor.


N. Korea Dsignates Leader's Birthday as 'Military Holiday'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is believed to have designated leader Kim Jong-un's birthday as a kind of military holiday, along with other national anniversaries, according to state TV footage broadcast on March 3.

   Kim's birthday, Jan. 8, was marked as a "day for service members," along with such national holidays as the birthdays of his father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung, according to footage showing a planning board at a military restaurant.

   The footage was part of a film documenting the leader's visits to military units.

   A "day for service members" is a sort of military holiday when troops should be fed well, no easy task in a country that has relied on foreign aid to feed its hunger-stricken population. In addition to the leader's birthday, a dozen national holidays are designated as such days.

   However, Kim's birthday is not a national holiday.

   Kim took over North Korea after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.


N. Korea Denounces Park's Inauguration Address as Disappointing

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's mouthpiece newspaper on March 4 denounced South Korean President Park Geun-hye's inauguration address as disappointing in what is deemed as the country's first direct reaction to the South's new administration.

   "(We) cannot hide indignation over the unilateral call on North Korea to 'discard nuclear arms first' (before seeking fence-mending) as well as the pressure for change," said Choson Sinbo, North Korea's mouthpiece Korean-language newspaper published in Japan, referring to Park's inauguration speech on Feb. 25.

   Calling the speech "a one-way inauguration address," the newspaper said the Park administration is "disappointing" from the start.

   In her speech, Park warned that North Korea will become the "biggest victim" of its own nuclear programs, urging the country to "abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace and shared development."

   North Korea had shown signs of hopes for fence-mending under the new Park administration, which is expected to be more lenient than the former administration of Lee Myung-bak.

   The newspaper commentary is the North's first reported response to Park's North Korea stance declared in the inauguration address since she took office last week.

   "The new administration is not correctly assessing the nature of the acute political conditions on today's Korean Peninsula," the newspaper said, accusing the South of holding joint military exercises with the U.S. in March for offensive purposes.

   The newspaper commentary also urged the Park administration to end hostile policies toward the North, saying "a departure from (previous) failed polices, that is where the new administratio should start."

   A tight South Korea-U.S. alliance does not guarantee firm deterrence, but the unification of the two Koreas will lead to peace and stability, it also said.


Meetings for Party Cell Secretaries Continue in North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea held a meeting of low-ranking culture, media and foreign relations party officials, a North Korean newspaper said on March 4, as the country continues to increase the ruling party's role in propping up the economy.
Rodong Sinmun, a mainstream newspaper published by the governing Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), reported that "a meeting of Secretaries of WPK Cells was held among the central institutions in fields of culture-art, publication-media, foreign relations and party official training."

   During the meeting, party cell secretaries were urged to strengthen their roles in order to build a powerful nation, the newspaper said without disclosing the date of the meeting.

   The latest reported meeting came as the country held in late January a nation-wide meeting of party cell leaders, the WPK's smallest organizations composed of five to 30 party members. The January meeting was the first convening of party cell leaders since October 2007.

   During the meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stressed the increased role of the ruling party's "grass-roots organizations" in building an economically powerful country, a main policy goal Kim has stressed since he took power after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.

   Following the nation-wide session in January, the country held province-level meetings of the party cell secretaries as well as meetings of cabinet and other government agency officials.


Japanese Music Conductor Visits North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A famous Japanese music conductor visited North Korea, the country's state-run television said on March 4, in what appears to be the North's efforts to widen non-political ties with the outside world despite mounting tensions over its nuclear test in February.

   The (North) Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station reported that Michiyoshi Inoue, the music conductor of Japan's Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, and his delegation toured the People's Theater in Pyongyang on March 3.

   Inoue previously visited the communist country in October 2011 and conducted a concert by the North's biggest orchestra, the State Symphony Orchestra of the DPRK (North Korea).

   The report came just after former NBA star Dennis Rodman toured the isolated country for four days last week, promoting "basketball diplomacy."

   North Korean media outlets closely followed Rodman's itinerary and his meeting with leader Kim Jong-un during the visit, and reported Kim's remarks that he wants tighter sports relations with the U.S.


North Korea Blasts Japan over Dokdo

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea leveled heavy criticism at Japan on March 5, saying that Tokyo's latest territorial claim to the Dokdo Islets in the East Sea is part of its scheme to reinvade the Korean Peninsula.

   The islets, which lie between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, are currently controlled by South Korea but Japan periodically lays claims to them. North Korea often meddles in the dispute as part of its anti-Japanese offensive.

   The dispute came to a head again last week when Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida renewed Tokyo's territorial claims to the volcanic outcroppings. On Feb. 22, Japan's Shimane Prefecture held a large-scale event to promote its claims to the islets.

   "Japan's ambition for reinvading Korea has already gone beyond the dangerous phase," the KCNA said in a commentary, monitored in Seoul.

   North Korea said Tokyo's decision to send a government delegate to an event held by Shimane Prefecture on Feb. 22 to bolster Japan's claim to the islets is to fan hysteria for territorial expansion.

   "Japan's ambition for reinvading Korea has already gone beyond the dangerous phase," the KCNA commentary said, adding that Japan's ploy to seize the islets will never come to be, and if it opts to launch an invasion, all Koreans will force it to pay "a dear price."

   It also accused Japan of deploying a U.S. mobile early warning radar system along its western coast facing the communist nation under the pretext of a non-existent missile threat from North Korea.

   North Korea has test-fired five long-range rockets since 1998, with the last being late last year. The communist country, in addition, tested its third nuclear device on Feb. 12 in defiance of the international community.

   Japan occupied the Korean Peninsula as a colony for 36 years in the first half of the 20th century. The Korean Peninsula remains divided into North and South Korea since 1948.


N. Korea Says It Will Cooperate with U.S. If It Takes "Right Path"

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will cooperate with the United States if the superpower takes the "right path", the communist country's mouthpiece newspaper said on March 5, despite growing tensions between the two countries over Pyongyang's nuclear test conducted in February.

   Choson Sinbo, the Korean-language newspaper published in Japan, said it is not North Korea's goal to cause the situation with the U.S. to erupt, referring to the North's recent warnings of a showdown with the U.S.

   "Therefore, if the U.S. chooses a right path, North Korea will cooperate," the newspaper said.

   Led by the U.S., the United Nations adopted tougher sanctions over the North's internationally-banned long-range rocket launch in December. The international community is planning further punitive measures after the country detonated its third underground nuclear device on Feb. 12 in defiance of repeated warnings from the outside world.

   In response, the North has repeatedly threatened to stage an all-out war with the U.S. and take further steps in line with the recent nuclear test.

   Choson Sinbo report, however, suggests that North Korea can reverse its current course in the event that the U.S. first shows willingness to engage in talks with the socialist country.

   "President (Barack) Obama must read the message from North Korea correctly," the newspaper said, adding "the ball is now in the U.S.'s court."

   Also referring to the recent visit to North Korea by former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman, Choson Sinbo said the North Korea-U.S. sports exchanges achieved through the visit imply "a profound political message" and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his hopes that such exchanges would be further encouraged in order to facilitate understanding between the two countries.


North Korea Calls for Greater Use of Science in Agriculture

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea should take advantage of its recent technological advances in farming, an agriculture official said on Feb. 5, in the latest sign that the regime is stepping up its scientific efforts to boost economic growth.

   "We must encourage the use of technologies like plant hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, farm machines and soil conditioning," Ri Yong-gu, a director in the North's agriculture ministry, said in an article of Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party. "We must rigorously assess their economic benefits, and reward scientists and engineers that contribute to our nation's progress."

   North Korea has always held an interest in scientific methods, but its successful rocket launch in December and a powerful nuclear test in February seem to have heightened the attention. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also put an unusually heavy emphasis on science and technology in his New Year's address.

   Earlier on Feb. 27, Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan, reported that a collective farm in Jaeryong, a county southwest of Pyongyang, introduced a computer network that connected work teams with its technology office.

   On Jan. 14, the same newspaper reported that farm managers from across the nation took part in a science workshop held in early January.

   North Korea's grain output grew last year, according to analysts, and the recent hype over science suggests it could grow even further this year. The open support for agricultural technology also comes ahead of the May rice-planting season.

   Kwon Tae-jin, a senior researcher at the Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul, says North Korea has been showing an "unusually keen interest" in utilizing science in agriculture. "The trend is not only seen in materials they use but also in management, which recently introduced tech consulting services," Kwon said.