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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 258 (April 18, 2013)

N. Korea Marks 1st Anniversary of Kim's Leadership Assumption

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The leadership of Kim Jong-un has been instrumental in North Korea's efforts to build a powerful nation, the North's major newspaper said on April 11, as the country marks the 1st anniversary of Kim's assumption of the top post at the ruling party.

   "The selection of Kim Jong-un, our comrade, as the first secretary was a great political incident that is a milestone for a turning point in our party's efforts to consolidate the party and build a powerful nation," said Rodong Sinmun newspaper, published by the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK).

   On April 11 a year earlier, the party appointed Kim as the first secretary, bringing him to the newly-established top party post in order to consolidate his power at the all-powerful governing party.

   Kim took power in December 2011 after his father and late leader Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack.

   The newspaper extolled Kim as "the No. 1 man of conviction and will" as well as "the man with plenty of courage."

   The North's successful launch of the second version of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite in December and the third nuclear test on Feb. 12 were "satisfying victories only comrade Kim Jong-un could carry out", the newspaper also noted.

   "History has never seen any socialist leader like him," Rodong Sinmun said. "He gained a grip on the international public sentiment and exerted great influence in the international community in such a short period of time."

   The North also gave Kim the title of the First Chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC) on April 13 last year, completing the process of giving him full reign over the country.

   The anniversary comes as inter-Korean relations have tumbled to the worst level in decades. Following the February nuclear test, the North has continuously ratcheted up warlike rhetoric against the South and the United States.

   Commenting on the more-than-year-long leadership of the new leader, South Korean analysts said Kim seems to be trying to use the party leadership to make up for his political inexperience, steering away from his father's one-man governing style.


N. Korea Passes Buck to S. Korea for Kaesong Shutdown

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea again blamed South Korea on April 11 for the recent shutdown of a joint-venture industrial park in the North's border city of Kaesong, claiming Seoul's "violation of its dignity" lies behind the move.

   In a commentary article published at the Web page of Uriminzokkiri, Pyongyang's main Internet-based media and propaganda site, the communist country said the current stalemate in the Kaesong Industrial Complex has been caused by the South, who "insulted our dignity after driving the inter-Korean relations to the verge of war."

   No North Korean laborers reported to work at the complex for the third day in a row on Thursday, after the socialist country warned on April 8 of pulling out all of its people in protest against what it calls Seoul's "unacceptable provocations against its national dignity."

   Lambasting the South Korean government for "letting out a stream of intolerable curse that violates the dignity," the North warned that Seoul "cannot get away with the responsibilities," and the future of the joint complex depends on "what position South Korea will take."

   The latest buck-passing is in line with the North's earlier arguments.

   Pyongyang officials in charge of managing the complex reportedly claimed that Seoul should "apologize for its deeds that hurt the North's dignity," and the North's Council for National Reconciliation, a North Korean propaganda organization, said in fax messages sent to South Korean liberal civic and religious groups that "the U.S. and South Korean warmongers triggered the current standoff."

   As of April 10, 296 South Korean nationals and one Chinese national stayed in Kaesong, with 35 of them set to return home on April 11. The daily steady outflow comes as no replacement workers, food and manufacturing parts have reached the complex since last Wednesday when Pyongyang banned all traffic from the South, although it did not stop people from leaving.

   Vehicles are coming back home from the Kaesong Industrial Complex run by South Korean companies in North Korea on a road near a checkpoint at the border on April 11, 2013. They are fully loaded with boxes as North Korea has banned entry of South Koreans since early last week while withdrawing all of its workers from the joint industrial park on Tuesday.


North Korea to Launch New Nuclear Ministry: KCNA

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on April 12 that it will establish a new nuclear industry ministry to help build up its nuclear weapons capability and pursue economic growth goals.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul, said the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) approved the creation of the new ministry, which will be tasked with providing the country with high-quality fissile materials and allow it to acquire independent capabilities in this field.

   The move calls for expanding and elevating the existing General Department of Atomic Energy into a cabinet-level organization.

   Pyongyang watchers in Seoul said that the latest move comes after the country announced in late March it will strive to simultaneously enhance its nuclear weapons potential as well as push forth economic growth. Related laws were passed by the SPA on April 1.

   The country has detonated three nuclear devices since 2006 with the most recent being tested on Feb. 12, in defiance of calls for restraint by the international community.

   The North also said that it will refurbish the 5-megawatt graphite moderated reactor in Yongbyon that had been mothballed following an agreement reached in 2007 at the six-party talks.

   If the reactor goes back on-line, it could allow the country to acquire plutonium to augment its ongoing uranium enrichment effort to make fissile materials.


North Korea Warns Japan against Hostile Stance

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned Japan on April 12 that Tokyo would be the first target in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula if it continues to maintain its hostile posture.

   In a commentary carried by the KCNA, the socialist country lashed out at Tokyo's standing orders to destroy any missile heading toward Japan, threatening such actions will result in a nuclear attack against the island nation.

   Japan has deployed its advanced Patriot anti-missile defense systems and sent Aegis destroyers armed with the latest SM-3 Standard missiles into the East Sea to deal with the threat posed by North Korea. Intelligence indicates that the North is ready to fire off a ballistic missile at any time.

   The news wire service said Japan, following in the footsteps of anti-North Korean policies established by the United States, has been building up its military to either lay the foundation for another invasion of the Korean Peninsula or position itself to benefit from the future conflict.

   Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula for 36 years in the first half of the 20th century, profited heavily from acting as a logistics base for the United States during the 1950-53 Korean War, it claimed.

   The KCNA said that Japan was used to deploy F-22 Raptor fighters over South Korea for the ongoing Foal Eagle joint military exercise carried out by Seoul and Washington.

   The media outlet said Tokyo is preparing for another war and warned it should desist from acting rashly based on the belief it will be protected by the United States.

   "Pyongyang has never forgotten Japan's past actions and those hoping to profit from another war should be prepared for a fiery nuclear end," it said.

   The warning comes as the North, angered by the latest U.N. sanctions that punishes the country for conducting its third nuclear test in February, has declared a "state of war" with South Korea and announced it would restart a mothballed plutonium-producing reactor.

   Pyongyang has also threatened to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the U.S. and South Korea and unilaterally pulled out its workers from the inter-Korean industrial park on Tuesday, effectively paralyzing the joint project's operations.


N. Korea Warns against Seoul Activists Releasing Propaganda Leaflets

SEOUL/GIMPO (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned on April 13 that South Korea will face a "catastrophic situation" if it allows anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets to be flown into its territory across the border ahead of a major holiday.

   A group of North Korean defectors and a Seoul-based civic organization have said they jointly plan to fly tens of thousands of leaflets with anti-Pyongyang messages, often mixed with U.S. dollar bills, via balloon timed to the upcoming birthday of the North's late founder Kim Il-sung, which falls on April 15.

   In a commentary posted on the Web site of its propaganda Internet outlet, Uriminzokkiri, the socialist North said a catastrophic situation will occur if the leaflets are sent cross the border on the late leader's birthday, dubbed the "Day of the Sun." The late leader, who died in 1994, is the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

   "Such confrontational madness will only snap up the extraordinary alarm and ire of our army and people," it said, adding that the North will shell South Korean sites used to send propaganda leaflets.

   Activists in the South often send anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border, condemning the autocratic North Korean regime and calling for a popular uprising against the leadership.

   Pyongyang has frequently threatened retaliation for the South's leaflet campaign but no real actions have so far been taken.

   Meanwhile, in a separate commentary published on the Web site on April 13, the socialist regime again blamed South Korea for the recent suspension of operations at the joint-venture industrial park in the North's border city of Kaesong.

   The socialist country said it will not approve of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, claiming that the current stalemate has been caused by the South as it believes Seoul has violated dignity and autonomy of North Korea.

   The North pulled out tens of thousands of its workers from the complex in the western border city of Kaesong and hundreds of South Korean workers have returned to Seoul amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.


North Korea Denies Role in Recent Hacking Case in S. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has denied its alleged involvement in a March cyber attack in South Korea, claiming related "rumors" are aimed at deepening tensions on the peninsula.

   Reports that North Korea is behind the March 20 hacking incident that crippled networks of some South Korean banks and broadcasters are a "deliberate provocation," a spokesperson for the General Staff of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) was quoted as saying by Pyongyang's propaganda media on April 12.

   The unnamed official argued the accusations are similar to those that a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in 2010. Forty six South Korean sailors were killed in the attack, which a South Korea-led international probe found attributable to the North.

   Linking the recent hacking incident to North Korea is a "deliberate provocation to push the situations on the Korean Peninsula to the extreme, riding on the U.S. move for nuclear warfare," the spokesperson said, according to a Pyongyang radio report monitored in Seoul.

   The North Korean military and people are dealing with all inter-Korean issues in a wartime manner and those who spread rumors will face execution without trial, added the spokesperson.

   After weeks of investigation, South Korea said earlier this week that North Korea's military-run espionage agency was to blame for the March cyber attack that shut down about 32,000 computers and servers at three banks -- Shinhan, NongHyup and Jeju -- and three TV stations -- KBS, MBC and YTN. Six computers in North Korea were used to access South Korean servers using more than 1,000 IP addresses overseas, investigators said.


N. Korea Sends Delegation to Energy Fair in Iran

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea sent a delegation to an energy fair in Iran, the socialist country's state-run news outlet said on April 16, indicating that Pyongyang wants to maintain close relations with the oil-rich Middle Eastern country.

   A Ministry of Crude Oil Industry delegation, led by the ministry chief Pae Hak, left Pyongyang earlier April 16 to participate in the international energy gathering in the Iranian capital of Teheran, according to the KCNA.

   Some North Korean watchers in Seoul claimed that the impetus behind sending the delegation may be to strengthen economic and political relations with Iran.

   The two countries are believed to be cooperating closely, technically and financially, in their development of nuclear arms, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They have both been sanctioned by the international community, which sees the countries as global security risks.

   Pyongyang recently detonated its third nuclear device on Feb. 12, launched a long-range rocket launch in December and has on several occasions warned it will launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korea, the United States and Japan.


In 'ultimatum,' N. Korea Vows Blitz Attack on S. Korea

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- North Korea's military on April 16 issued an "ultimatum" saying it would launch retaliation against South Korea without warning if "anti-North Korean" activities continue in the South.

   "The supreme command of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) on April 16 issued an ultimatum to the South Korean puppet group," the North's official news agency, KCNA, said in an English-version article.

   It specifically took issue with an anti-North Korean rally in downtown Seoul by conservative groups, in which they burned a portrait of the North's late leader, Kim Jong-il, father of the current ruler, Kim Jong-un.

   The performance, reported by South Korean media, coincided with the North's massive celebration of the 101st anniversary of the birthday of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung, dubbed the Day of Sun.

   The North's military command claimed the burning of the portrait, which it says is a symbol of the country's highest dignity, as an "atrocious, unforgivable act."

   If the South really wants inter-Korean dialogue, the command added, it will have to apologize for all of its anti-North Korean acts.

   Should such acts continue, the North will begin retaliatory steps without warning, it said.

   In Seoul, the defense ministry expressed regret over the North's warning of attacks on the South.

   "It is regrettable that North Korea threatens (the South), taking issue with media reports (on anti-North Korean rally)," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. "We are closely watching the North Korean military's move and stand firm against any provocations."

   The statement marked the latest threat by Pyongyang amid widespread speculation on its possible missile launch.

   Based on leaked intelligence in satellite photos, many predicted North Korea would fire at least one medium-range missile from the east coast before or on the Day of the Sun.

   But there has been no news of such a launch, and the North's military has not shown any abnormal activities in the last couple days, Kim said.


Kim Jong-un Attends Sporting Event on Founder's Birthday

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a sports competition between two elite universities and a music concert as Pyongyang celebrated the 101st birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung, the country's state news outlet said on April 16.

   "Kim Jong-un ... appeared on the grandstand as there took place a sports contest of teachers and cadets of military academies on April 15 in celebration of the birth anniversary of President Kim Il-sung," the KCNA said.

   Two military universities, Kimilsung Military University and Kimilsung University of Politics, faced off in volleyball, basketball and tug of war competitions, it said.

   Top North Korean officials also attended the event, including Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the military's General Political Bureau; Jang Song-thaek, the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and Kim's uncle; and Hyon Yong-chol, the chief of the military's general staff, the KCNA said.

   The latest outing marks a rare visit by the leader to a university-level event and was widely interpreted as indicating Kim's efforts to prop up the fighting spirit of the military amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

   The leader also watched a music concert held in Pyongyang in celebration of the birth anniversary of the founder on Monday, a separate KCNA report said.

   The concert featured songs that extolled the achievements of the founder and his son, late leader Kim Jong-il, it said.

   On April 15, the country held various sporting events, art exhibitions and other festivals to observe the most important holiday in the socialist country. The degree of festivities, however, was subdued compared with previous years as the country's relations with the South and the United States have sunk to one of the lowest levels ever.

   The North was widely expected to conduct a long-range missile launch over the past week, but no sign has yet been detected of the launch plan moving forward.

   The North has ratcheted up military threats to the outside world following its third nuclear test on Feb. 12, also taking a series of provocative actions, including severing the military hotline and nullifying the Armistice Agreement ending the 1950-53 Korean War.


N. Korea Calls for 'Decisive' Action to Avenge Insult on Leadership

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea urged its people to be prepared for decisive action to deal with the insults carried out by South Korean anti-communist groups against its leadership, Pyongyang's state media outlet said on April 17.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), said in a front-page article that a state of war has been created on the Korean Peninsula by repeated actions taken by South Korean right-wing groups who have committed sacrilege against the "supreme dignity" of the country.

   "The criminal actions to directly insult the dignity of our country in the heart of Seoul can only be seen as a deliberate declaration of war," it said.

   The comments come in response to the burning of effigies by South Korean civic groups of late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, as well as of incumbent leader Kim Jong-un by South Korean civic groups on April 15.

   The date is important to the North because it marked the 101st birthday of Kim Il-sung, the country's founder and grandfather of the present leader.

   Kim's birthday is called the "Day of the Sun" in the communist country and is considered the most important holiday.

   The newspaper, which is mostly used to inform the general population about state policies, said insults represent a dangerous move that can lead to a nuclear war erupting on the Korean Peninsula.

   It said the country holds the highest of values "that cannot be given up for anything in the world."

   The Rodong Sinmun warned Pyongyang that it will carry out decisive action against all enemies of the country.

   The WPK organ then called on Worker-Peasant Red Guards to be fully prepared to mobilize, and for the arms industry to produce more munitions. It also said there is a need for the civilian sector to switch to a total war footing.

   The daily, meanwhile, lashed out at the United States, saying that recent calls for dialogue were nothing more than empty rhetoric to mislead the world, and pointed out it was Washington that broke past promises first.

   "The strengthening of our nuclear deterrence or efforts to use atomic energy for industrial growth, does not break any international obligations," it argued.

   It said that it was Washington that broke the Sept. 19 joint declaration reached in 2005 by conducting joint Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises with South Korea and by taking the leading role in passing sanctions against the country.

   The paper said such actions directly violated clauses in the declaration that forbids the use of nuclear weapons and compromises the North's right of self-determination.

   Pyongyang sees the military exercise as a dress rehearsal for nuclear war and views its launching of the Unha-3 rocket in late 2012 as its sovereign right to develop space programs.

   The rocket launch triggered international condemnation and laid the foundation for the U.N. Security Council to slap fresh sanction against the isolationist country early last month.

   The paper then said that it had reached nuclear agreements with the U.S. but Washington reneged on its promises.

   It said that Pyongyang does not oppose talks, but it will not be intimidated by a country that wields a nuclear club.

   In response to the North's series of warnings with the use of hostile language, Seoul's unification ministry on Wednesday called on the socialist neighbor to behave itself.

   "Although each could have different positions, the most important thing is to respect your counterpart and show refined behavior using dignified language," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-seok said in a briefing. "It is a basic principle."

   The North's state media has routinely criticized the South Korean government, blaming President Park Geun-hye's "venomous swish of skirt" for the present situation on the peninsula and calling her government a "puppet regime" of the U.S.