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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 257 (April 11, 2013)
*** NEWS IN BRIEF

Construction Work for Bridge Linking N. Korean, Chinese Cities Well Underway

SHENYANG, China (Yonhap) -- The building of a new bridge linking North Korean and Chinese border cities is well underway despite rising tensions over Pyongyang's continued military threats to strike South Korea and the United States, sources in China said on April 4.

   The construction work to build the bridge over the Amnok River, also known as the Yalu River, linking the North Korean city of Sinuiju to China's Dandong is being carried out without a hitch, while at the same time, the North is claiming that it can go to war with its enemies, according to the sources.

   The 2.22 billion Chinese yuan (US$358 million) project, financed by China, is a major symbol of close economic ties between the two neighbors.

   The sources said the bridge may be open for traffic on July 2013 if construction moves forward on schedule.

   China is reported to be adopting a series of punitive measures in line with recent United Nations' resolutions designed to penalize the North for its December long-range rocket launch and underground nuclear test in February.

   Inter-Korean tensions are also rising as the socialist country is continuing to issue military threats and warned it could pull its workers out of the Kaesong Industrial Complex that remains the only economic link with the South. Such a move will halt all operations at the border town.

  
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North Korea Says Nukes Will Further Economic Ggrowth

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on April 5 that the possession of nuclear weapons will help it better concentrate on economic growth.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), said in its latest editorial that the country's atomic weapons capability has secured a viable means to counter all military threats, creating the space needed to concentrate on economic growth.

   It said based on the creation of such favorable conditions, efforts can now be centered on improving the economy and the livelihoods of the people.

   Pyongyang has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006 with the last taking place on Feb. 12. The country is believed to have a handful of nuclear weapons and a missile delivery system, although its exact capability has never been revealed.

   The newspaper, which is the main propaganda tool for the North Korean government, added that building up its economy is the surest way to win the ongoing struggle with the United States and bring about national unification.

   The paper's stance reflects the communist country's two-pronged strategy that was announced at the general meeting of the Central Committee of Workers' Party of Korea on Sunday, calling for the strengthening of both the country's nuclear capability and its economy.

   Rodong Sinmun said the initial target of transforming the country into an economic powerhouse will be done through concentrating on the agricultural and light industry sectors. It said by greatly increasing the production of consumer goods, the country can become globally competitive in these fields. In farming, the paper called on all forces to meet grain production targets set for this year.

   It then called on WPK officials to show leadership and to fully support the government's endeavors to expand the economy.

   The editorial, meanwhile, is seen by some observers in Seoul as a sign that North Korea may be trying to tame its saber-rattling tactics that have been cited for ratcheting up tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Recently, it has threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes against both South Korea and the United States, and placed its artillery and rocket forces at the top level of readiness.

   The country further escalated tensions by barring entry of South Korean workers and cargo to the Kaesong industrial complex that may have to halt operations if the communist country does not lift its movement restrictions soon.

  
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Kim Jong-un Orders Increased Production of Artillery in N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently ordered the country's arms industry workers to increase their production of artillery, a television report out of Pyongyang showed on April 6.

   In a documentary film aired on the (North) Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, Kim was seen chairing a consultative meeting of defense industry workers on March 17.

   "Once the war breaks out, we have to destroy the enemies' key military locations and government institutions with a quick and sudden strike," Kim was quoted as saying. "We must absolutely guarantee the quality of our artillery and shells to ensure a rapid pre-emptive attack on our enemies."

   Kim also noted that the North's enemies are preparing for war, which further demands production of "trustworthy" artillery for Pyongyang.

   Kim was accompanied by Pak To-chun, the arms secretary for the Workers' Party, according to the film.

   On March 26, the North had said its military would place its missile and artillery units into the highest combat readiness posture.

  
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Hacked North Korean Internet Sites Remain out of Commission

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean Internet sites attacked by members of an international hacktivist group remained out of commission on April 8, five days after the cyber assault.

   Yonhap News Agency, which has been monitoring the affected sites, confirmed that while the Web page of Uriminzokkiri, North Korea's main Internet-based media and propaganda, was repaired over the weekend, its Twitter account remained closed with "Tango Down" messages popping up whenever a person tries to view the content.

   "Tango Down" is a commonly used term by hackers to point out that they have paralyzed and defaced a site.

   Anonymous, a loose group of hackers from all over the world, took responsibility for attacking a handful of North Korean Internet sites on April 4. They claimed the attacks were made to call on Pyongyang to stop making nuclear weapons and threaten the world with nuclear war.
Besides Uriminzokkiri, which is run by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, the Websites of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front, Our Nation School, Ryomyong and the Ryugyong Clip sites, operated by Pyongyang or pro-North Korean organizations, remained off line.

   However, Web sites of Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, the Pyongyang's official news wire service KCNA and the Web portal site Naenara were working normally.

   Meanwhile, a Korean member of Anonymous who uses the Twitter account @Anonsj said in an online discussion that the hacktivist group wants to break into the socialist country's Kwangmyong national Intranet on June 25. The date marks the start of the Korean War (1950-53).

   The hacker, who did not wished to be identified, said in the next attack, Anonymous members not only want to attack the government's homepage, but will try to steal personnel data of North Korean leaders, and even hack into the North's nuclear facilities.

   The hacker said actions are underway to create a so-called Ninja Gateway so outsiders can gain access to the closed Intranet that is not connected to the world wide Internet.

   The hacktivist group member added that the gateway will also allow people in North Korea, unrestricted access to the Internet that could allow the inflow of democracy.

  
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North Korean Newspaper Carries More Economic News

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's most widely read newspaper has increased coverage of economic news in the past week in a stark contrast to a recent series of bellicose rhetoric against South Korea and the United States.

   Since the beginning of April, Rodong Sinmun, published by the North's Workers' Party, has carried few stories regarding the confrontational conditions on the Korean Peninsula.

   In the March 31 issue, the newspaper carried on its front page a photo showing armed soldiers and tanks along with a commentary on the second page, calling on readers to muster national unity behind the country's war against the United States.

   In contrast, the newspaper has been filled with stories about economic activities in the past week, according to the recent issues monitored in Seoul.

   The April 8 issue carried a front-page column calling for efforts in maintenance work for cities, towns and parks as part of the country's economic building plans.

   "The more frantic our enemy becomes, the more our military and people accelerate (efforts) to build the economy and (prop up) livelihoods," the column said.

   In another column published on April 7, the newspaper urged efforts to improve the culture in the production and living sectors. The April 7 edition also carried many photos and news stories featuring a cement plant and park maintenance work conducted by soldiers.

   The new trend compares with the country's belligerent stance shown toward the outside world in recent weeks.

   In a series of hawkish actions and rhetoric, the country in March nullified the Armistice Agreement ending the 1950-53 Korean War, severed the inter-Korean military hotline and put its military into the top combat readiness posture.

   The country in early April suspended South Koreans' entry into the joint inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and is believed to be preparing for a middle-range missile launch on the east coast.

   Analysts said the change became visible since March 31 when the plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee adopted the new strategic line for simultaneously pursuing economic construction and nuclear development.

   But "it is difficult to say yet if the country has shifted away from its strategy" of spurring tensions with the outside world, said a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

   Other analysts said the recent bellicose actions may indicate only rhetorical maneuvers by the North, rather than threats of an actual war.

  (END)
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