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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 253 (March 14, 2013)
*** NEWS IN BRIEF

North Korean Media's Blackout on China Coverage Enters 4th Month

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Reports on political events taking place in China have been absent from North Korea's media for the last four months, raising speculation that Pyongyang could be angry with Beijing for condemning its long-range rocket launch and its latest nuclear test, an analysis of the country's major wire service, daily paper and broadcasters showed on March 7.

   The screening of the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Rodong Sinmun, (North) Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station and Radio Pyongyang by Yonhap News Agency showed a virtual blackout on reporting about China, the North's key ally.

   Pyongyang-based state media monitored in Seoul by Yonhap have not reported on the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), currently under way in the neighboring country.

   The NPC and CPPCC, commonly referred to as the "lianghui," are the two most important organizations in China charged with making national-level political decisions. This year's lianghui are high-profile events because they will officially herald the start of Xi Jinping's tenure as China's president and confirm Li Keqiang as premier. In the past, North Korean media always gave priority to the two events.

   Screening of past media reports showed that the last Chinese political event covered by the North Korean media took place on Nov. 8. At that time, the KCNA, the country's official news wire service, reported on the 18th Chinese Communist Party conference.

   Related to the lack of coverage, North Korean watchers in Seoul speculated that the start of the blackout roughly coincided with Beijing pressuring the North not to move forward with the launch of its long-range rocket. They added that with Beijing likely to have agreed to tougher sanctions in the wake of the Feb. 12 underground nuclear test, Pyongyang may be intentionally dropping reports coming from its neighbor.

   Diplomatic sources have said China reached an understanding with the United States at the United Nations to penalize the North for detonating a nuclear device in defiance of calls by the international community to scrap the plan.

  
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N. Korea Threatens Preemptive Nuclear Strike against Aggressors

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned on March 7 of "preemptive nuclear strikes" against hostile forces, citing upcoming joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises, as the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) prepared to vote on a new sanctions resolution against the socialist country.

   North Korea has recently escalated its vitriolic rhetoric against a push by the U.S. and South Korea to punish it for its Feb. 12 nuclear test. The North's foreign ministry was the latest to join in the campaign.

   "To safeguard the highest interest of the country and deal with efforts to trigger a nuclear war by the United States, we will exercise our right to launch preemptive nuclear strikes against the strongholds of aggressors," the North's foreign ministry said in a statement.

   It said the move by the UNSC to pass a resolution against the North is nothing more than a ploy by Washington to manipulate the world body to hide its invasion plot.

   "It is the U.S. that is playing with fire in the Northeast Asian powder keg and it is Washington that is the main culprit threatening global peace," the statement said.

   Earlier, the North's military threatened to turn the capitals of South Korea and the U.S. into a "sea of fire" if they tried to penalize the country for the nuclear detonation.

   The North in particular directed its anger at a large-scale annual joint military exercise South Korea and the U.S. plan to launch on Monday. The allies call it a defensive drill, but Pyongyang claims it to be a prelude to a nuclear war against it.

   Earlier this week, North Korea's top military command said that it will scrap the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War, if South Korea and the U.S. go ahead with their planned joint military drills, called Foal Eagle.

   If the U.N. resolution is passed, Pyongyang will hasten further actions to strengthen its nuclear deterrence, it said.

   Outside observers said such a step could include more nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches. The North tested two other nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, while launching five long-range rockets since 1998.

  
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North Korea Completes New Military Hospital in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently completed a first-class hospital dedicated to military use, which started construction under the rule of former leader Kim Jong-il, the North's state-run media said on March 7.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency said the opening ceremony of the Mt. Taesong General Hospital, located in the northeast of Pyongyang, was held with Hyon Chol-hae, first-vice minister of the People's Armed Forces, and other officials in attendance.

   Suggesting that the hospital has been built for the military, Jon Chang-bok, General of the (North) Korean People's Army, said that Kim Jong-il had paid "deep attention to the health of his soldiers ever since his early years as a Songun (military-first) revolutionary leader."

   Spanning over 100,000 square-meters, the Mt. Taeseong hospital has three sick wards, an operating room, an intensive care unit, and a functional diagnostic room, the KCNA said. It also provides ultrasound imaging and has specialized facilities for ophthalmology, dental care, and surgery for wounded extremities.

   North Korea has several other general hospitals, including the Kim Il-sung University hospital, the Joson Red Cross General Hospital, and the Kim Man-yu Hospital. But is still known to have a shortage of hospitals and advanced treatment facilities.

   North Korea is home to the world's fourth-largest standing army with nearly 1.2 million armed personnel.

  
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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Threatens All-out War

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited military units that launched the 2010 artillery attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island and called on troops to be ready for a confrontation with the enemy, a media report said on March 8.

   The KCNA monitored in Seoul said Kim visited the front-line units on Mu and Jangjae islets in the early hours of March 7 and told soldiers to be ready to destroy enemy targets at a moment's notice if the order is given.

   He also said that the Nov. 23 artillery attack annihilated efforts by the warmongers in the South to provoke the North, and claimed the event was the most satisfying engagement since the Armistice Agreement that halted the Korean War was signed.

   The islets are south of North Korea's Kaemori shoreline and just a few kilometers north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) that acts as the sea demarcation line between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea. Kim had visited the garrison on Mu Islet last August.

   Artillery from Mu kicked off the sudden attack against Yeonpyeong on Nov. 23, 2010 that resulted in four deaths and 16 people being wounded.

   The KCNA said that Kim told soldiers to be ready to deal with reinforced South Korean military positions and be ready to strike them precisely if the need arises.

   The North Korean leader, who holds the rank of marshal and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, then claimed that the country's army, navy, air force and anti-aircraft units are ready to carry out an all-out war.

   He added that if the South engages in any form of provocation in "sensitive waters" along the NLL, the North will not lose the opportunity to start a struggle to secure national unification.

   The inspection of the two islets, meanwhile, is seen as a show of Pyongyang's defiance toward the latest U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution that imposed tougher sanctions on the communist country.

   The resolution that was passed Thursday in New York reflects the international community's resolve to penalize Pyongyang for conducting its third underground nuclear test on Feb. 12.

   The North has been making daily threats in recent days and even threatened that it can launch preemptive nuclear strikes against the strongholds of aggressors just hours before the UNSC resolution was passed. It did not specify what would be the target of its attacks, but it has been warning it can turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire" if the two countries continue to provoke Pyongyang.

  
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N. Korean General Says Pyongyang Has Nuke-tipped ICBMs on Standby

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean general said Thursday that the country has placed long-range missiles armed with nuclear warheads on standby, as Pyongyang said it will not bow to the United Nations resolution condemning its latest atomic weapons test.

   According to Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), Colonel General Kang Pyo-yong said soldiers are already positioned to launch a war of reunification if the order is given by its leaders. The paper said the general made clear at a speech given at a rally in Pyongyang that intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other rockets capable of attacking pre-set targets have been armed with various types of atomic warheads.

   He claimed that missile warheads have been made lighter and smaller, and can turn Washington and other lairs of forces that collaborate with the U.S. imperialists into a "sea of fire".

   The North claimed right after the Feb. 12 nuclear test that it had succeeded in making a lighter and smaller atomic device, that experts say is critical if Pyongyang wants to place such weapons on missiles. Pyongyang successfully launched the Unha-3 long-range rocket in December, which has a range of more than 11,000 kilometers.

   Kang also said that with the Korean War Armistice Agreement having become null and void, the North Korean military can now launch preemptive strikes against the country's enemies without warning or restraint.

   He stressed that any attack launched will be merciless and destructive.

   The comments by the three-star general come hours after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning the latest nuclear test and slapped fresh sanctions on the isolationist country for defying the wishes of the international community.

   Pyongyang earlier in the day said it will cut off the emergency hotline linking the two Koreas and declared that it will no longer abide by the non-aggression packs signed with South Korea in the past.

  
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N. Korea Blasts U.N. Move to Set up Pyongyang-specific Human Rights Watchdog

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea strongly denounced Japan and the European Union on March 9 for trying to set up a U.N. organization specifically charged with investigating human rights in the socialist state, calling the move an "unpardonable encroachment" on its sovereignty.

   "The DPRK (North Korea) is a genuine people's country in which the rights of all citizens are guaranteed in a responsible manner," the KCNA said in a commentary.

   "We dismiss this as an unpardonable encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK," the KCNA said.

   The commentary came as Japan and EU are moving to submit a joint proposal for the establishment of a North Korea-specific human rights body at the United Nations.

   The North said it was "illogical" and even a "crime" for Japan to raise an issue about human rights conditions in the country, noting Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

   "Japan is the biggest human rights abuser which waged wars of aggression and murder against other countries century after century," the commentary said. "After occupying Korea in the last century, it forcibly walked away more than 8.4 million Koreans and mercilessly killed more than one million and forced 200 000 Korean women into sexual slavery."

   It also claimed Japan was seeking to use the issue as an excuse to topple Pyongyang's socialist regime.

   "By setting up an international body under the pretext of investigating the human rights situation in the DPRK, Japan seeks to distort the human rights situation in the DPRK and attribute it to the social system. This is an unpardonable violation of the sovereignty of an independent state," the commentary said.

   "Japan is gravely mistaken if it thinks it can cover up its inglorious past crimes and human rights abuses at present. The army and people of the DPRK will never pardon Japan for taking the lead in the U.S.-backed human rights racket in a bid to infringe upon the dignity and interests of the DPRK and cover up the past crimes," it added.

  
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N. Korea Threatens All-out War ahead of S. Korea-U.S. Military Drill

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea drummed up threats of an all-out nuclear war with South Korea and the U.S. on March 10, one day ahead of the two allies' planned joint military drill which the communist country denounces as targeting the North.

   "Our front-line military groups, the army, the navy and the air force, the anti-aircraft units and the strategic rocket units, who have entered the final all-out war stage, are awaiting the final order to strike," North Korea's Rodong Sinmun, the most widely circulated daily published by the governing Workers' Party of Korea, said. The country's nuclear arms are also prepared for combat, it said.

   "Puppet regimes in the U.S. and South Korea will be turned into a sea of fire in the blink of an eye" if a war breaks out, the newspaper said, repeating the threats of a nuclear war the country has issued in recent weeks over the joint war exercise.

   The newspaper also carried propaganda poems in the same issue, rallying support for the country's threats to fight with the two enemy states.

   The 11-day computer-simulated drill Key Resolve kicks off on March 11 while another two-month field training exercise known as Foal Eagle started earlier in the month.

   Key Resolve involves 10,000 South Korean forces and 3,500 U.S. soldiers along with high-profile combat planes and an aircraft carrier. South Korea says the drill is only for defensive purposes, but the North contends it targets the North and reflects the allies' plans to invade the country.

   Denouncing the military drills, the North has threatened to wage nuclear war and cancel the Armistice Agreement, which ended the 1950-53 Korean War, starting on Monday. The two Koreas are technically still at war since no peace treaty has been signed.

   Experts feared heightened military tensions with North Korea during the joint war drills.

   North Korea is also expected to launch nationwide military exercises near the inter-Korea border on Monday or Tuesday in response to the joint South-U.S. drills.

   The socialist country is likely to fire short-range missiles or launch other military provocations during their military drills, a South Korean military source said.

   "In the event of (the North's) provocations, (South Korea) will respond with forces 10 times stronger than the provocations," the military source said.

   Amid the repeated war threats, Hyon Yong-chol, chief of the North Korean military's general staff, inspected the border village of Panmunjom on Saturday, according to a South Korean government source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

   "We are focusing on the reason for Hyun's visit to Panmunjom," the source said, adding that it appears he was inspecting two large surveillance towers the North had recently erected near the inter-Korean border inside its portion of the Joint Security Area (JSA).

  
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N. Korean Leader Visits Front-line Units near Western Sea Border

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un paid visits to front-line military units near the western sea border on March 11, calling for troops to throw all enemies into a "cauldron," break their "waists" and cut their "windpipes."

   The visit to the Wolnae Islet Defense Detachment and a long-range artillery sub-unit of KPA Unit 641 near the South's western border island of Baengnyeong came as South Korean and U.S. forces kicked off annual military drills that Pyongyang denounces as a rehearsal for invasion.

   "A guy who is fond of playing with fire is bound to perish in flames, all the enemies quite often playing with fire in the sensitive hot spot should be thrown into a cauldron once I issue an order," Kim said during the visit to the Wolnae unit, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

   "Once an order is issued, you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like."

   During the visit to the artillery unit, Kim told the troops to "blow up the headquarters" of South Korean Marines stationed on the island of Baengnyeong "through merciless firepower strikes if the enemies... make a provocation," KCNA said.

  
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N.K. Says S. Korea, U.S. Will Be Held Accountable for 'Catastrophic Consequences'

  
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Continuing weeks of threats to strike back against its enemies, North Korea said on March 12 that South Korea and the United States will be held accountable for the "catastrophic consequences" of their ongoing joint military drills.

   "The U.S. and south Korean puppet forces are wholly to blame for all the ensuing catastrophic consequences from this moment," the North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement.

   The threats made by the organization charged with dealing with Seoul are the latest in a series of bellicose rhetoric raised by the communist country over the two allies' joint military exercises, which the North denounces as a rehearsal for invasion.

   "The U.S. and south Korean puppet warmongers finally kicked off Key Resolve joint war maneuvers, the provocative saber-rattling for invading the DPRK (North Korea)," the statement said.

   They are "the most dangerous drills for a nuclear war and most undisguised provocations unprecedented in their nature, scale and the program of their drills," the committee said. "The Key Resolve joint military exercises for aggression are a clear declaration of war against the DPRK."

   The communist country also repeated its threats to wage an all-out war, noting "second and third strong practical countermeasures (will) be taken in succession from March 11 when the nuclear war maneuvers of the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces to invade the DPRK enters a full dress rehearsal stage."

   North Korea's military and "its offensive means including sophisticated nuclear strike capabilities are in place for a final offensive," the committee said, referring to its war readiness. "All strike means of the DPRK have already been put on alert and when they open fire, everything will turn into a sea in flames," it said.

   The computer-simulated Key Resolve drill kicked off its 11-day run on Monday while another two-month field training exercise known as Foal Eagle started earlier in the month.

   Key Resolve involves 10,000 South Korean forces and 3,500 U.S. soldiers along with high-profile combat planes and an aircraft carrier. South Korea says the drill is only for defensive purposes, but the North contends it targets the North and reflects the allies' plans to invade the country.

   As part of heightened warlike rhetoric over the drills, the North declared last week it will nullify the cease-fire agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and other nonaggression pacts with the South. On Monday, the country followed through with its threat to sever the emergency hotline with Seoul installed at the truce village of Panmunjom.

  
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N. Korea's Military Again Threatens Merciless Retaliation for S. Korea, U.S.

  
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 13 threatened to unleash merciless retaliation over the ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises and the United Nations sanctions for its nuclear test.

   In a statement released by the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, the North said that the armistice agreement that halted the Korean War (1950-53) and past South-North Korea nonaggression pacts are no longer valid, and all that remains is for Pyongyang to retaliate against aggressors.

   "Warmongers would be well advised to keep in mind that the DPRK (North Korea) is no longer restrained," the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. The state news wire service added that "what is left to be done is (to push forth) an action of justice and merciless retaliation of the army and people of the DPRK."

   The ministry also said the North has chosen the United States and South Korean military warmongers as targets for its all- out actions to defend its sovereignty and they will be the primary targets of merciless strikes. In the past, Pyongyang has threatened to turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire," hinting it can use nuclear weapons.

   It pointed out that Pyongyang will never abandon its nuclear weapons that it says are critical to preserving peace and deterring aggression from foreign forces.

   It claimed that with its nuclear capability, the North can now effectively keep the U.S. and other big powers from resorting to high-handed tactics to force their will on others. The ministry said that whatever resolutions the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) adopts lack legitimacy since it has become a "voting machine bereft of impartiality and equity."

   The harsh statement comes as the North in recent weeks has stepped up its war of words against the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve military drills, and the UNSC's condemnation of its third nuclear test carried out on Feb. 12. Before the latest nuclear detonation, Pyongyang tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

   Meanwhile, the ministry's statement attacked South Korean President Park Geun-hye by saying that the frenzied warmongering statements made by South Korean military officials are directly related to the stance taken by new chief executive. Park, who took office as the country's first female president on Feb. 25, has stressed national security is key to her North Korean policy and called on the armed forces to maintain a high level of readiness to deter any aggression.

   "The frenzy kicked up by the south Korean warmongers is no way irrelevant with the swish of skirt made by the owner of the Cheong Wa Dae," the KCNA report said. Cheong Wa Dae is the South Korea's presidential office.

   The statement then said ill-boding voices are being heard from the presidential office, and warned that any attempt to beef up its military muscle through military exercises with the U.S. will bring about the country's destruction.

   The North has consistently said that the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills are dress rehearsals to attack the North with nuclear weapons.

  
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N. Korea Takes Swipe at S. Korean President Park's 'Swish of Skirt'

  
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea took its first official verbal swipe at South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye on March 13, saying that her "swish of skirt" is making South Korean officials engage in "warmongering."

   Although the North's Ministry of the People's Armed Forces didn't mention Park by name and referred to her only as the "owner" of the South Korean presidential office, it was the first time that Pyongyang has issued official criticism against her since she took office on Feb. 25.

   The term "swish of skirt," or "chima baram" in Korean, is a derogatory Korean-language term often used to describe mothers who get overly involved in activities to prepare their children to be academically successful in school.

   "The frenzy kicked up by the South Korean warmongers is no way irrelevant with the swish of skirt made by the owner of the Cheong Wa Dae," the North's ministry said, referring to the South Korean presidential office.

   The criticism apparently targeted Park's recent remarks that she put her top priority on national security.

   "Ill-boding voices are being heard from the inner room of Cheong Wa Dae. They call for maintaining a high alert posture for 'security,'" said the North's ministry.

   The North's ministry also threatened to unleash merciless retaliation over the ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises and the United Nations sanctions for its nuclear test.

   It said the Armistice Agreement that halted the Korean War (1950-53) and past South-North Korea nonaggression pacts is no longer valid, and all that remains is for Pyongyang to retaliate against aggressors.

   "Warmongers would be well advised to keep in mind that the DPRK is no longer restrained," the statement carried by the KCNA said. The state news wire service added that "what is left to be done is (to push forth) an action of justice and merciless retaliation of the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea)."

   The ministry also said the North has chosen the U.S. and South Korean military warmongers as targets for its all-out actions to defend its sovereignty and they will be the primary targets of merciless strikes. In the past, Pyongyang has threatened to turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire," hinting it can use nuclear weapons.

  (END)
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