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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 259 (April 25, 2013)

N. Korea Alarmed by Spread of Fatal Bird Flu in China

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on April 18 sounded the alarm over the spread of a fatal strain of the bird flu virus in neighboring China where more than a dozen people have died from the disease.

   In China, the new strain of bird flu, known as the H7N9 virus, has killed at least 17 people since March, prompting the government to investigate the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

   North Korea's main newspaper Rodong Sinmun, published by the governing Workers' Party and monitored in Seoul, reported the spread of avian influenza in China in its April 18 issue, saying "the spread of the new H7N9 bird flu in China is causing great international concerns."

   "DNA analysis showed that the H7N9 influenza virus is very toxic and an infection could lead to serious health conditions," it said.

   The article also covered in detail symptoms of the new bird flu and how a human can become infected with the disease as well as the damages it has already inflicted in China.

   "The problem lies in the fact that the death toll is increasing while the source and route of infections are yet to be known," the news outlet said.

   Further spread of avian influenza in China is expected to increase contagion concerns in North Korea which neighbors China.

   An outbreak of the avian flu led to a mass cull of 210,000 chickens in North Korea in February 2005.


North Korea Says Nuclear Weapons Critical for Survival

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on April 18 that owning nuclear weapons is critical for the survival of the socialist regime in the face of threats posed by the United States.

   Citing the downfall of Muammar Qaddafi's Libya, the daily Rodong Sinmun said in an article countries that gave up efforts to strengthen their military capabilities under pressure and appeasement tactics by Washington invariably met a tragic end.

   The daily, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and used to explain the country's policy goals to the general public, said Libya had pursued clandestine nuclear and long-range missile development plans, but after the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and coalition forces, it changed its mind. Libya had declared it will give up its nuclear program in late 2003.

   "They feared that if they opposed the U.S., they may end up like Iraq," the article monitored in Seoul said. "The leadership in Tripoli, instead of building up arms opted to give up its nuclear program to ward off possible threats to its security."

   Despite Libya's acceptance of inspections and dismantling of nuclear facilities, the U.S. did not keep its pledge to help the North African country's economy, it said.

   "Internally (the U.S.) was planning to overthrow the country that had opposed them for years," the media outlet argued. It said by the time Libya realized they had been tricked, it was too late.

   "In 2011, the U.S. with the help of its supporters conducted massive air attacks that turned the country into rubble. This action was followed by an uprising that caused the destruction of the Qaddafi regime," the paper said.

   Based on the tragic end of Libya, people should not have illusions about the imperialists and that only by having independent nuclear deterrence can a country protect itself from the U.S. nuclear threat.

   The article, meanwhile, comes after Rodong Sinmun carried a report about NATO's 1998 air raids on Kosovo on April 17. That article claimed air strikes were made possible because the former Yugoslavia, which broke up into many smaller states, including Kosovo, did not have credible self-defensive capabilities.

   North Korean watchers in Seoul said that the daily's article reflected comments made by leader Kim Jong-un on March 31 to the central committee of the WPK, which emphasized the need for Pyongyang not to follow in the footsteps of some countries that were invaded because they did not secure viable deterrence.


North Korea Slams Seoul's Response to Its Ultimatum

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on April 19 blasted Seoul's recent anti-North Korean protests in response to its "retaliation ultimatum," calling the rallies an effort to justify unpardonable criminal acts against its leadership.

   The criticism came three days after the North's supreme command of the Korean People's Army (KPA) issued an ultimatum saying it would launch retaliation against South Korea without warning if anti-North Korean activities continued in the South.

   "Actions taken by the South's Ministry of Unification related to the burning of portraits of North Korea's past and present leaders on April 15 are tantamount to a curse," said the North's secretariat for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK).

   The unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said there is no reason for the North to threaten the South with retaliation just because people expressed their views freely in public. Members of the right-wing Korea Parent Federation and other groups organized the portrait burning event on April 15, which in the North was a national holiday to celebrate the 101st birthday of the country's late founder.

   "Pyongyang should refrain from using words in statements that are demeaning to the listener and show disrespect," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said during a press briefing. The official said he could not understand the reasoning behind the threats made, adding the North's position on this matter is highly inappropriate.

   The day after the anti-North Korean protests were carried out by civic groups in downtown Seoul, the KPA said it would launch retaliation against the South without warning as retribution for insulting the country's supreme dignity.

   Pyongyang often refers to Kim Il-sung, the country's founder, former leader Kim Jong-il and incumbent head Kim Jong-un, as representing the country's highest dignity. Defacing their portraits is a criminal offense in North Korea.

   Kim Jong-un inherited the country after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011, who took over the country following Kim Il-sung's death in July 1994.

   "Justifying and covering up the actions of civic groups is a serious crime," the CPRK said. It said such actions raised doubts about the sincerity of dialogue proposed by Seoul.

   "If the South thinks it can get away unscathed without making an apology over this matter, it is gravely mistaken," it added, warning the North can mete out merciless punishment for actions that are deemed unpardonable offenses.

   The CPRK, in addition, lashed out at South Korea's Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, who repeatedly said the country's armed forces will hit back hard if provoked by Pyongyang.

   It said those who have tarnished the North's dignity must realize that the time for meeting their tragic fate is at hand.


N. Korea Denies Links to Boston Marathon Bombing

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on April 20 denied that it has any links to the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded dozens earlier this week, saying it opposes all forms of terrorism.

   On April 17, the conservative U.S. news Website WND reported that North Korea may be behind the bombing, citing the communist country's recent threats to attack the U.S. and its "history of committing terrorist attacks without taking credit for them."

   The report also noted that the April 15 bombing coincided with the 101st birth anniversary of North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. The anniversary is one of the North's biggest national holidays, which the communist nation has marked with large events, such as missile and nuclear tests, in the past.

   On April 20, North Korea dismissed the report as an attempt by "hostile forces" to damage its reputation.

   "We stress again that we have no links to al-Qaida, and by signing on to international anti-terrorism agreements, continue to maintain a stance against any form of terrorism," the North's official KCNA said in a commentary, monitored in Seoul, referring to the article's allegations that North Korea has a "history of relationship" with al-Qaida.

   The KCNA said it will not hide behind terrorism if it ever feels the need to strike the U.S.

   It is the first time North Korea has commented on the Boston bombing.


N. Korea Claims Biggest Victim of Tensions Is Its Own People

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on April 20 that the biggest victims of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula are its own people, rejecting claims that the socialist regime is using the situation to strengthen loyalty for its regime.

   "The U.S. and other hostile forces loudly assert that the escalating tensions help the DPRK (North Korea) get such political 'gains' as 'rallying of ranks.' This is totally illogical," the North's official KCNA said in a commentary, monitored in Seoul.

   "It is the Korean nation which suffers most from the tension running high on the peninsula," the KCNA said.

   It also blamed the U.S. for the "trials and hardships" of the North Korean people, saying the "U.S. hostile policy" is making it difficult for the socialist regime to reach its "ultimate goal" of improving the lives of its people and building a "thriving nation."

   Inter-Korean tensions have heightened in recent weeks amid North Korea's repeated threats of war in anger over new U.N. sanctions for its Feb. 12 nuclear test and U.S.-involved military drills in the South.

   The U.S. is the biggest beneficiary of this situation as the country has used it as a pretext to beef up its military presence in the region and pursue its strategy of Asian-Pacific dominance, the KCNA said.


N.K. Accuses S. Korea of Having Hands behind Cyber Attacks by Hackers

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea accused South Korea on April 20 of having hands behind cyber attacks on its propaganda Web sites by an international hacking group, denouncing the attacks as part of an organized smear campaign against the socialist nation.

   The Anonymous hacktivist group has conducted a series of attacks on several North Korean-run Web sites, including Uriminzokkiri, and stole lists of tens of thousands of their subscribers and made them public. The latest attacks came last week on the 101st birthday of the communist regime's founder Kim Il-sung.

   "This is intolerable as it is a wanton violation of the DPRK's legitimate internet activities recognized by international law," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by the KCNA.

   "Matter is that the Intelligence Service and other forces of South Korea have their tentacles stretched deep into such provocative acts against the DPRK (North Korea)," it said.

   South Korean authorities have launched an investigation to see if those who registered with the North's propaganda sites violated related domestic laws. No South Koreans can contact North korea or its people without prior government approval.

   The South's "puppet regime is kicking up the whirlwind of wholesale suppression of progressive organizations and figures on the list, branding them as 'North's spies' and "those following the North.'" This proves that the puppet regime is the very one behind the cyber attacks," it said.


N. Korea Blames S. Korea for Kaesong Complex Shutdown

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea again blamed South Korea on April 22 for causing the suspension of a joint industrial complex in its border town of Kaesong.

   The buck-passing comes two weeks after Pyongyang pulled out all of its 53,000 laborers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is located just north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, sending it to a grinding halt.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), said in an article that no matter what excuses and commotions are raised by Seoul, it cannot deflect blame for the deterioration of conditions at the industrial complex.

   The daily newspaper monitored in Seoul said efforts to disrupt normal operations at Kaesong actually became more blatant under the new administration, and that the impasse is the result of criminal acts committed by the South.

   "By intentionally fueling tensions, (the South) destroyed the peaceful atmosphere needed to sustain the complex," the paper said.

   It lashed out at past South Korean media reports that claimed Pyongyang will never give up the complex because it is a cash cow for the impoverished, saying such views can only be seen as serious provocations that insult the dignity of the country.

   Comments made by the military about a contingency plan to rescue South Korean workers from the complex in the event they are held hostage is an affront and a means to draw in U.S. special forces into the operations that could trigger a wider conflict on the Korean Peninsula, the paper said.

   The latest attack by the WPK media outlet comes after Kim Yang-gon, a member of the WPK Central Committee, issued a formal statement on April 8 saying that laborers were not permit to report to work. The announcement came less than a week after the North banned South Korea personnel and cargo from entering Kaesong.

   Since then, the North barred two separate visits by South Korean businessmen from the complex who wanted to deliver food and speak with workers at Kaesong. Pyongyang has never barred South Koreans from leaving Kaesong.


N. Korean Cabinet Discuss Int'l Sanctions, Economic Developments

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on April 22 its Cabinet has held an extended meeting to discuss the effect of international sanctions imposed on it and ways to develop its economy through stepped-up exchanges with the outside world.

   North Korean policymakers deliberated on goals set by leader Kim Jong-un in March that called for simultaneous development of the country's nuclear capabilities as well as its economy as a whole with focus on the light industry, said the KCNA in a report, monitored in Seoul.

   They also evaluated growth in the first three months of this year and reviewed policies for the second quarter, it said.

   "The cabinet outlined policies that can be followed to improve the country's economic exchanges with the rest of the world and break up plots by the United States and its supporters to carry out underhanded sanctions," the KCNA report said, adding that officials called for creating conditions favorable for the building of an economically strong nation.

   The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju, the report said. Pak, an economic technocrat, was appointed to the post in earlier April.


N. Korea Denounces U.S. Report on Its Human Rights Conditions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on April 23 condemned a recent U.S. government report on its human rights conditions, calling it "a plot to topple our socialist system."

   In an annual report submitted to Congress on April 19, the U.S. State Department said the human rights conditions in North Korea are still "deplorable."

   "Defectors continued to report extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, and torture," said the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012.

   On April 22, a spokesman for the North's foreign ministry rejected the U.S. report, denouncing it as "a reactionary and dangerous tool to intrude and intervene in countries that are against the U.S.," the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station monitored in Seoul said.

   The broadcasting station accused the U.S. of using the report to foster rebellion in the North and said the socialist country is determined to bolster its nuclear deterrence capacities.


North Korean Premier Makes First On-site Inspection at Farms

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean Premier Pak Pong-ju has made his first on-site inspection to cooperative farms and agricultural facilities in the port city of Haeju since taking office in early April, the state media said on April 23.

   Pak visited fertilizer plants, greenhouses and cooperative farms located across the western coastal city of Haeju, South Hwanghae Province, to examine local economic conditions, the North's official KCNA monitored in Seoul said.

   The new premier, while praising workers for their labor, urged them to implement advanced farming methods and promote the "superiority" of a group management scheme that the socialist country operates at cooperative farms, the KCNA added.

   Pak's choice of cooperative farms as the destination of his first on-site trip highlights Pyongyang's latest drive to boost its sluggish agricultural sector, some experts in Seoul said.

   The 74-year-old economic technocrat was reappointed as the premier in the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea's legislative body, on April 1. He previously served the post from 2003-2007.

   Pak's inspection came just one day after the Cabinet convened an extended meeting on April 22 to outline national economic policies. The plenary gathering highlighted the agriculture and light industry as the two areas of focus to bring improvement and stability to the country's dire economic situation.

   During the inspection, Pak stressed that laborers and employees, as the farms' collective owners, need to ramp up their roles and sense of responsibility, and raised issues regarding the production of organic fertilizers, the KCNA said.

   Prior to his Haeju trip, the premier conducted a separate inspection at the Pyongyang Kim Jong-suk Textile Mill to check on the progress of the plant's modernization project, the report added.


N. Korea Denounces World War II Shrine Visits by Japanese Politicians.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea blasted Japanese politicians on April 24 for visiting a controversial war shrine, saying such moves show the island nation's undisguised plot to re-invade the Korean Peninsula.

   In a KCNA report, monitored in Seoul, Pyongyang said a series of recent visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by three cabinet ministers and 168 lawmakers are an insult to Asian countries and an unpardonable provocation.

   The visits showed how fascism has firmly taken root in Japanese culture, and is fueling militarism among its people, it said.

   The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japan's war dead, is considered by neighboring Asian countries, including Korea and China, as a symbol of Japan's militarism. Those honored there include 14 executed World War II criminals.

   "Actions by the Japanese officials can be seen as praising past war crimes and inspiring militarism," the KCNA report said, adding that the visits showed that Japan has not changed it distorted view of history.

   Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 until 1945 when it was defeated at the end of World War II. Japan normalized relations with South Korea in 1965 but has no diplomatic ties with North Korea.

   The KCNA report also heaped criticism on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, accusing him of trying to whitewash Japan's historical wrongdoing.

   If Japan pursues such a course of action, its future will be bleak and cut itself off from the rest of the world, it said.