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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 255 (March 28, 2013)

N. Korea to Convene People's Assembly to Outline New Policy Goals

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will convene its Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) on April 1, the country's official news wire service said on March 21, with observers predicting the country may announce new economic and foreign policy goals at the gathering.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul, said the seventh session of the 12th people's assembly will be held in the capital city and that delegates will be required to register on March 30-31.

   The assembly is the socialist country's legislative body and nominally its highest decision-making organization able to change its Constitution and ratify treaties. Since the time of Kim Il-sung, the country's founder, the SPA has been held in April to pass and review the budget, approve appointments and changes to state organizations. The founder is the grandfather of incumbent leader Kim Jong-un.

   North Korean watchers in Seoul said that this year's gathering may lead to Pyongyang announcing new economic reform measures or a foreign policy message as tensions have risen sharply on the Korean Peninsula in the wake of the North conducting its third nuclear test last month.

   They said that with inter-Korean tensions remaining high, the North may use the SPA to send a message to South Korea and the United States. In 2003, the assembly passed a plan by the foreign ministry to build up the country's nuclear deterrence to protect the country from foreign aggressors. The move came as the North collided with the U.S. on its nuclear development program. Three years later the country detonated its first nuclear device.

   Others said the North could take steps to pass reform bills to revamp the country's economy. Kim Jong-un has been calling for measures to transform the country into an economic power and outlined his intentions during the New Year's address.

   More recently, the leader expressed the need for economic growth and the importance on improving people's livelihoods at the national meeting of light industrial workers held in Pyongyang earlier in the week.


N. Korea Preparing to Celebrate Founder's Birthday Amid Heightened Tensions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is preparing to celebrate the birthday of the country's founder Kim Il-sung, state run media said on March 22, despite heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

   The birthday of Kim, who died in 1994, falls on April 15 and is called the "Day of the Sun" in the isolated country. It is considered the country's most important holiday.

   This year's birthday celebration takes place as the North's relations with the outside world have been strained by the detonation of a nuclear device last month and its unilateral announcement to nullify the Korean War (1950-53) Armistice Agreement and all non-aggression pacts with its southern neighbor. The North has ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric toward the U.S. and South Korea in recent weeks.
The KCNA claimed an international preparation committee was set up earlier in the week in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It said the committee is tasked with arranging photo exhibitions, screenings of movies and hosting various cultural events.

   It added that efforts will be made to win support from foreign groups for Pyongyang's anti-U.S. activities.

   The official news wire service added birthday preparation committees have been created in countries such as Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Romania and Kuwait.

   North Korean analysts in Seoul said that with Kim's birthday only 20 days away, Pyongyang is drumming up support for the leader's legacy that could help incumbent leader Kim Jong-un secure his grip on power. They speculated that the North may hold a lavish event because this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korea War cease fire. The North has claimed the three year conflict ended in a victory for the communist country.

   Kim Jong-un is the founder's grandson and inherited power when his father Kim Jong-il died suddenly in late 2011. The North has emphasized the importance of the "Mt. Paektu bloodline". Paektu is the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula and in the North it is used describe the ruling Kim family.

   Meanwhile, Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said in an article that the people and military should unite and "destroy all moves by the United States and its followers to invade the North."

   It said that the country should stand behind Kim Jong-un and pointed out that the country has powerful nuclear deterrent capabilities.


N. Korea Blasts UNSC Resolution, Claims It Will Not Succumb to Pressure

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 22 blasted the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution that condemns its nuclear test and made clear sanctions will have no effect on the country.

   The KCNA, the socialist country's official news outlet, said the sanction motion passed on March 7 aims to disarm the country and stifle the economy. The sanctions were imposed after the country detonated its third nuclear device on Feb. 12, despite stern warnings from the international community.

   However, it said that despite persistent anti-North Korean actions taken by the United States, experience has shown all such measures will fail.

   Pyongyang claimed that the UNSC resolution that calls for the tightening of sanctions is the result of Washington's unlawful pressuring of other members at the council. It said outside sanctions represent an unacceptable challenge to the country's sovereignty and will never be tolerated.

   The KCNA also said that the United States has been engaged in a comprehensive embargo that not only targets the state and companies but people as well.

   Citing a report compiled by a U.S. committee which reviewed the impact of decades-old sanctions, the media outlet said from 1945 through 2005, measures take by Washington resulted in US$13.73 trillion worth of damages to the North. The total includes the $1.16 trillion in losses caused when the United States failed to keep its 1994 pledge to build two light water reactors for the North.

   The article then touched on the collapse of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and claimed there is no guarantee that United States will not follow in the same footsteps as the two countries.

   It then said by standing up to threats, the North has played a historic role in opening the door that can lead to the eventual decline of the United States.


N. Korea Blasts U.N. Human Rights Resolution Against It As 'Political'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 22 rejected a recent U.N. decision to open a formal investigation into its alleged human rights violations, calling it "a political chicanery."

   In Geneva on Thursday, the U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a three-member Commission of Inquiry on North Korean Human Rights for a one-year mission.

   In a statement released through the state-run KCNA, monitored in Seoul, Pyongyang's foreign ministry said the resolution "does not deserve even a passing note."

   "We will as always totally reject and disregard the recent 'human rights resolution' against the DPRK, a product of political confrontation and conspiracy," the English-language statement said, referring to the country by its official name. "The U.S., driven into a tight corner by a series of setbacks sustained by it in the political and military confrontation with the DPRK, is kicking up an anti-DPRK human rights campaign involving its allies in a ridiculous bid to hurt the DPRK."

   The North also accused the U.S. and its allies of harboring "inveterate repugnancy and hostility" toward Pyongyang and of trying to remove the ideology and system that the North Korean people have chosen. It said such acts will only intensify its action against the U.S.

   The top North Korean envoy in Geneva, So Se-pyong, also told the U.N. meeting that his country can't accept the resolution, since it is politically motivated.

   Passing the resolution was seen as a mostly symbolic and yet significant step in sending a message to North Korea, considered one of the worst violators of human rights.


North Korea Blasts Foal Eagle Exercises as Flagrant Provocation

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 23 blasted the ongoing joint South Korea-U.S. Foal Eagle military drills, denouncing them as a direct threat to its security.

   The Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said the annual South Korea-U.S. field training exercise that kicked off in March and run through the end of April, involve hundreds of thousands of troops and nuclear weapons.

   "The U.S. and warmongers (in the South) are engaged in a war drill on our doorstep," the committee stressed. It pointed out that there is no precedence for such a long-drawn maneuver taking place anywhere else in the world in the face of opposition.

   The organization, charged with holding dialogue and exchanges between the two countries, said that Pyongyang has already made clear that if a new war breaks out it will respond with its nuclear assets and will not shy away from preemptive strikes.

   "It is now past time that we engaged in talk," it argued, saying the North will respond to force with force, and use nuclear weapons if it is attacked by nuclear weapons.

   Related to the North's hardline stance, Minju Joson, the North Korean Cabinet's official newspaper, said relations with Washington have deteriorated to the point that there is no longer any need to hold talks.

   "No logical discussion is possible and there is really no need to hold bilateral meetings," the media outlet said. It pointed out that recently many high ranking U.S. officials have said they will never accept a North Korea armed with nuclear weapons and added there will be no compensation if the nuclear standoff is not resolved.

   The paper claimed that it was the United States that pushed the North to arm itself with nuclear weapons in the first place, so its arguments are self-contradictory and make no sense. It warned that the will of the people is to end the confrontation with the U.S. once and for all, which has been going on for several decades.

   "This is the view and will of the people," it said, making clear that the country is not interested in any form of political bartering and will maintain its nuclear deterrence.

   The remarks, meanwhile, come as the communist country has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula by detonating its third nuclear device on Feb. 12. It has unilaterally nullified the Armistice Agreement that halted the Korean War (1950-53) and made clear it will no longer respect non-aggression pacts signed in the past between the two Koreas.

   Meanwhile, the chairman of South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) urged higher vigilance against possible attacks by the North.

   "Despite economic difficulties, North Korea has increased air force activities this month. This should be seen as a sign of provocation," JCS Chairman Gen. Jung Seung-jo said during an inspection trip to a front-line unit.


N. Korea Accuses Japanese Prime Minister of Inciting Confrontation

SEOUL3 (Yonhap) North Korea accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of inciting confrontation and taking a leading role in anti-Pyongyang activities, the state media said on March 23.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) said Abe's recent statement that the North is fated for collapse is a sign that the country is blindly following the United States.

   The Japanese politician made the remark last week on a TV program after harshly attacking the North for detonating its third nuclear device on Feb. 12 and moving forward with the development of long-range rockets.

   The newspaper monitored in Seoul warned that Tokyo must not forget that it can be targeted by the might of the North.

   "If there is war Japan will not remain unscathed," the media outlet threatened.

   Moreover, it said that Japan must remember that the North Korean people have not forgotten the countless sins committed by Tokyo in the past. Japan ruled Korea as a colony in the first half of the 20th century, which has affected its relations with both South and North Korea.

   The latest attacks against Tokyo come as Pyongyang has threatened on several occasions to turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire" for playing leading roles in pushing through sanctions at the UN Security Council earlier in the month.

   The country also increased its saber rattling as South Korea and the United States engaged in annual joint military exercises starting this month. The Key Resolve exercise ended Thursday, but the Foal Eagle drills will run through the end of April.


N.K. Threatens to 'Sweep away' Seoul's Ruling Party over U.N. Resolution

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 23 condemned the ruling party of South Korea for taking a leading role in the U.N. Human Rights Council's efforts to launch a probe into human rights abuses in the totalitarian state, threatening to "sweep away" the Saenuri Party.

   The U.N. council adopted a resolution on March 21 that paves the way for members to set up a commission of inquiry for the first time to look into human rights violations in North Korea.

   The resolution is a "smear campaign against the human rights in the DPRK (North Korea), a desperate effort to evade a shameful defeat in the nuclear standoff with the DPRK and invent a pretext for invasion and pressure," said a spokesman for the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

   The North's committee accused the U.S. and South Korea of "hurting the DPRK over its human rights," describing the U.N. resolution as "a challenge to its social system and dignity, and its army."

   "We will mercilessly sweep away the group of the worst hooligans, including those of the 'Saenuri Party,' which took the lead in fabricating the U.N. resolution on human rights," the North's committee said.

   Human rights advocacy groups have long called for international efforts to stop genocide and crimes against humanity, which they claim are being systematically carried out by North Korean authorities.

   Activists said North Korea was holding thousands of political prisoners in at least six facilities where they face extrajudicial executions, torture and forced labor.

   The socialist country has been accused of human rights abuses for decades, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners to torture and public executions. Pyongyang has flatly denied the accusations, calling them a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.


N. Korea Trains Vietnamese Police, Strengthening Ties with Socialist Ally

HANOI (Yonhap) - North Korean officials have recently concluded a training program for Vietnamese police and task force units, local media said on March 24, suggesting that the socialist country that is commonly believed to be isolated is actively engaging with a socialist ally.

   According to Vietnamese daily newspaper Tuoi Tre, instructors from the North's Ministry of People's Security held military drills and martial arts training for 98 participants in southern Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese capital. The training lasted from November 2012 to March 2013, the report said.

   Police from 63 different cities and provinces, and task forces affiliated with the High Command Mobile Police of Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security, took part in the program, the report said.

   Roughly 80 percent of the participants are reported to have received "good" or "fairly good" evaluations.

   After the closing ceremony, the trainees showed their skills with K50 revolvers and AK assault rifles using live ammunition, and demonstrated the various self-defense techniques learned during the training program.

   The drill was part of a cooperation program signed between the two countries in 2008. It was the second training program conducted by North Korean police in Vietnam since 2012.


N. Korean Leader Conducts Military Inspection for Fourth day in a Row

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected the Fourth military unit in as many days over the weekend, the North's state media reported on March 26, as the country ratcheted up military threats against South Korea and the United States.

   The KCNA reported on March 26 Kim made a visit to military units for the fourth day in a row.

   According to previous KCNA reports, Kim inspected military equipment during his visit on March 24 to the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 1501 and inspected a special forces unit and two battalions belonging to the special forces unit on March 23 and 24.

   On March 25, Kim "guided the landing and anti-landing drills of KPA Large Combined Units 324 and 287, and KPA Navy Combined Unit 597," the KCNA said.

   Kim has been making more frequent visits to military units, including overseeing military drills, since the country started to ramp up threats to launch nuclear counter-attacks on the South and the United States in February.

   In March, the two allies conducted a major military drill, which the North denounced as a rehearsal for war, and led international efforts to introduce a United Nations resolution designed to punish the North for its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

   During the March 24 military inspection, Kim "watched latest combat and technical equipment contrived and manufactured by the unit" and "was greatly pleased" by the development of the equipment "badly needed for combat preparations," according to the KCNA English dispatch.

   "He indicated superb and preeminent operational and tactical plans to wipe out the enemies at a lightning speed by use of those equipment in actual battles," the news agency quoted Kim as saying.

   Kim previously visited the same unit in May last year when he also inspected the unit's combat equipment development and ordered further research and development of high-tech war equipment.

   Also on March 24, Kim visited the construction site for the restaurant boat, Taedonggang, according to a separate KCNA report. The 820-ton vessel, being built by the military, is nearly 69 meters in length and 25 meters in width and is capable of accommodating 300 diners, it said.

   "It was the lifetime desire of (late) leader Kim Jong-il to let people visit a modern restaurant boat on the Taedong River," the report quoted Kim as saying, adding "He set forth an important task to complete the building of the boat by April 15, the birth anniversary of (founding father) President Kim Il-sung, without fail."


N. Korea to Hold Top Party Meeting in March for 'Important Issue'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Following weeks of hostile rhetoric against Seoul and Washington, North Korea announced a plan to hold a plenary meeting of its party's top decision-making body "to discuss an important issue," its official media said on March 27.

   According to the report by the KCNA, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) announced a day earlier its decision to convene a plenary meeting of the committee, the highest decision making body, later March.

   The meeting aims "to discuss and decide an important issue for victoriously advancing the Korean revolution and make a drastic turn in accomplishing the Juche revolutionary cause," it said, without further elaboration.

   According to the party's regulations revised in 2010, the party's plenary meeting shall be convened at least once a year to "discuss and decide key issues of the time the party is facing."

   The decision came a day after the military of the socialist country ordered all of its artillery units to adopt a "No. 1 combat readiness posture" to target the U.S. and South Korea, flaring up tensions further on the Korean Peninsula. The unruly North also warned on March 26 of "an imminent nuclear war" on the Korean Peninsula.

   The threat is the latest in the North's war-mongering rhetoric over the past weeks in response to last week's annual joint military drill between the U.S. and South Korea, and in retaliation for fresh sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for its third nuclear test conducted in February.

   The plenary meeting usually decides on high-level state policies and personnel matters over the Political Bureau. This meeting is the first of its kind since Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011.

   The meeting "is expected to decide on key party organization and personnel matters as well as major policies," said Yang Moo-jin, political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies. The party is also likely to disclose its stance to the South and the U.S. after the meeting in relation with the escalated tensions, the professor said.


North Korea Blasts President Park's Cheonan Memorial Speech

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 27 blasted the memorial speech given by South Korean President Park Geun-hye to mark the third anniversary of the sinking of a warship that left 46 sailors dead.

   The spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a question and answer session with the KCNA that Park's remarks made at Daejeon National Cemetery, 164 kilometers south of Seoul, on March 26 represented "an unpardonable provocation against the DPRK (North Korea) and a blatant challenge to it."

   The official said Park slandered the social system in the North by talking about "hunger" and "isolation" and "let loose a string of confrontational rhetoric."

   Park urged the socialist country to change for the better to take care of its people and said that it must immediately abandon any thought that nuclear weapons will protect its regime.

   "The only way North Korea will survive is if it voluntarily lays down its nuclear weapons, missiles, provocations and threats and transform into a responsible member of the international community," she said.

   The North's committee in charge of holding talks and engaging in inter-Korean cooperation also said the claims that the North is responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan are a fabrication of the truth.

   A probe conducted by international experts concluded that a North Korean torpedo probably fired from a submarine sank the corvette on March 26, 2010, although Pyongyang has persistently argued it had nothing to do with the incident.

   "The sinking case is a hideous farce orchestrated by the group of (former President) Lee Myung-bak as part of its moves for confrontation and war against the DPRK." the official told KCNA, adding that the truth of the case has already been brought to light.

   He claimed that the new administration occupying South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae is repeating the same confrontation racket of the proceeding regime.

   "(Such remarks) clearly show that the present regime is a confrontation-minded regime little different from the Lee Myung-bak regime," the official said, and pointed out that Pyongyang warned against Park's "venomous remarks" made in the past.

   He said that South Korea is now warned again that heightened confrontational frenzy is pushing the DPRK's patience and self-restraint to the limit.

   The official said Park should act with discretion and that inter-Korean relations are at an all time low, increasing the danger of an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.


N. Korea Warns Pre-emptive Nuclear Attack Part of Its Military Options

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 27 said launching a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the U.S. and South Korea is part of its military options as the country ratcheted up its warlike rhetoric amid escalating tensions over the North's recent nuclear test and joint military drills carried out by the two allies.

   North Korea's military said on March 26 that it will put its missile and artillery units into the highest-level combat readiness posture, fueling further the already-tense inter-Korean relations. The country also reiterated its threat to take actual military actions.

   The military actions stated in The March 26's decision "include our powerful sovereignty-protecting pre-emptive nuclear attack," the North's mainstream newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an English dispatch in its March 27 issue.

   The newspaper, which is an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces' remarks of targeting the source of all military attacks from the North, and the South Korean military's reported plan to blow up the statues of late North Korean leaders amount to a "declaration of war" against Pyongyang.

   "The U.S. mainland, South Korea and U.S. military bases in the vicinity of the peninsula are all in our military's target range," the newspaper said. It added that nuclear munitions are designed to be fired with the push of a button.

   The newspaper also called on its military to muster its power to fight an all-out war.

   The latest threat added to the recent weeks of warlike rhetoric from the socialist country.

   Tensions are running high on the Korean Peninsula as the North continued its nuclear threats, denouncing the joint South Korea-U.S. Key Resolve military drills held earlier this month. It had moreover raised issue with the roles Seoul and Washington played at the United Nations in helping adopt punitive resolutions for the country's December long-range rocket launch and the third nuclear test carried out on Feb. 12.