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North Korea Aims to Develop Resource-rich Tanchon

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is scurrying to develop the resources-rich city of Tanchon on the east coast as part of the country's efforts to make it a source of foreign currency income, recent news reports from the North showed.

   Tanchon will become a key transit point in shipping goods to and from Russia's Siberia, the northeastern part of China and Mongolia, on April 25 said Choson Sinbo, a Korean language newspaper published by North Korean nationals in Japan.

   The newspaper, a mouthpiece of North Korea, said the port city of Tanchon should become the source of finance for the country's broader policy line of pursuing both economic development and nuclear capacities.

   In a bid to boost exports, the country completed the construction of a port in May last year in the city with rich reserves of magnesite, zinc and other mineral resources, which sits about in the middle of the country's east coast line. Choson Sinbo said the city has about 5.4 billion tons of magnesite deposit, possibly the third biggest reserve in the world.

   The news outlet also highlighted the country's planned ways to increase earnings in the resources-rich city from which the country used to export mineral resources to China for meager profits.

   "North Korea will move to manufacture processed magnesite goods in order to make high-value added goods," the Choson Sinbo noted. "To that end, many plants will be built in the Tanchon region and the areas will become a new industrial zone."

   North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also underlined the country's plan to boost profits from the Tanchon development, saying in a national meeting of light industrial workers last month that profits from Tanchon development should be exclusively used to prop up the livelihood of North Korean people.

   "North Korea seems to express its intention to secure foreign investment by highlighting the rich resource reserves in Tanchon and its ambition to develop the city as one of the key international ports in the Northeast Asian region," said Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute.


N. Korea Says It Will Try Detained Korean-American for 'Crimes'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on April 27 it will try a Korean-American detained in Pyongyang for unspecified "crimes" he has admitted to committing.

   In a short dispatch, Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul, said Pae Jun-ho will soon be taken to the North's Supreme Court to face trial.

   The report said the preliminary inquiry into Pae's crimes has been closed. It said Pae entered Rason City in the North on Nov. 3 of last year and was arrested "for committing crimes" against the communist country. The crimes were not specified.

   "In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK (North Korea) with hostility toward it," the report said. "His crimes were proved by evidence."

   In South Korean media, the man has been identified as Kenneth Bae. Reports here said he entered North Korea with five other tourists.

   Several U.S. citizens have been detained in recent years in North Korea, but all were released after negotiations.

   The United States has no diplomatic ties with North Korea, and its interest in the isolated country has often been represented by the Swedish Embassy there.

   Last year, Eddie Yong Su Jun, a Korean-American missionary, was released after facing indictment on charges of committing an unspecified crime against the North.

   In 2010, North Korea set free Robert Park, a Korean-American Christian activist who entered the country on Christmas Day 2009 to draw international attention to the North's human rights abuse.

   In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to win the release of two American journalists arrested during a reporting tour covering North Korean defectors.


Nearly 2 Million N. Koreans Subscribe to 3G Mobile Service

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Nearly 2 million North Koreans have signed up for third-generation (3G) mobile service, a U.S.-based North Korean news Web site reported Saturday.

   North Korea Tech said Koryolink, the country's only 3G service provider, has almost reached 2 million subscribers. Ezz Heikal, the CEO of the company, disclosed the figure in Pyongyang earlier this week and the company's head office in Cairo, Egypt, later confirmed the number, according to the Web site.

   Koryolink, a joint venture between Orascom Telecom of Egypt and the North Korean ministry of posts and telecommunications, launched the service in December 2008. The number of cellular subscribers has skyrocketed from 100,000 in September 2009 to 1 million in February 2012, and then to 1.5 million in November 2012, North Korea Tech said.

   North Korea has a population of roughly 24 million.

   The service is said to be available in Pyongyang and 15 other major cities, along with some 100 smaller cities.

   Since Jan. 7 of this year, North Korea has allowed foreign tourists to enter the country with cell phones. Koryolink originally offered these short-term visitors 3G mobile voice and data services but the service was then scaled back to only offer voice.

   Koryolink is reportedly offering mobile Internet service to foreign diplomats and other long-term visitors.


N. Korean Leader's Wife Makes First Public Appearance in 2 Months

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's wife made her first public appearance in two months to mark the opening of a health complex in Pyongyang, the country's official news wire service said on April 28.

   The KCNA monitored in Seoul said Ri Sol-ju accompanied Kim Jong-un to the opening of the Haedanghwa Health Complex. Ri last made an appearance on Feb. 28, when she watched Dennis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters play a basketball game in the North Korean capital.

   In addition, North Korean watchers in Seoul said that media coverage of Kim's appearance at the health center is noteworthy.

   Since the socialist country ratcheted up tension by launching a long range rocket in December and detonating its third nuclear device on Feb. 12, North Korean media has generally covered Kim visiting the military, conducting drills or attending large events aimed at bolstering the economy.

   "The only exception was the visit to a fish farm on March 11, and that was 40 days ago," an observer said.

   The KCNA said Haedanghwa located on the bank of the Taedong River is a multi-function service complex with modern welfare and service facilities. It is six stories tall and covers 10,000 square meters.

   The media outlet said Kim and his wife were accompanied by Prime Minister Park Pong-ju, and senior military officials such as Choe Ryong-hae and his uncle Jang Song-thaek.

   Meanwhile, Pyongyang experts said that the North Korean leader's younger sister Kim Yo-jong may have attended a banquet to mark the 81st anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army earlier in the week.

   Analysis of photos carried by Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, showed a young woman sitting next to Kim's aunt Kim Kyong-hui. The aunt, who is said to exercise influence behind the scenes, sat at a table right next to her nephew.

   "Judging by the facial profile and hair style, the photo seems to be that of the younger sister Kim Yo-jong," an expert here said.

   The sister is known to have been born in 1987 to late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his third wife. She is not known to hold any particular rank or office but studied with the incumbent leader in Switzerland in the late 1990s.


N. Korea Urges U.S. Action to End Nuclear Standoff

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on April 30 urged the United States to take steps to fundamentally end the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said in a commentary that Washington is to blame for the current crisis and as such it must make the first move to resolve the impasse.

   Speculations that Pyongyang wants to use its nuclear capability as a bargaining chip in negotiations are based on ignorance of the true intent of the country, it added.

   "Our strong stance (on the nuclear issue) is to end the nuclear intimidation tactics employed by the United States and its followers and use it as a tool to win the war of national unification," the daily said. It pointed out that the country's nuclear capability is the "final choice" of the people and the military.

   North Korean watchers in Seoul said the remarks are another sign that the North has no plan to give up its nuclear weapons program, and it may be using it to get the United States to sign a peace treaty to replace the cease fire Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War (1950-53).

   The newspaper also said that Pyongyang will hold onto its nuclear weapons for the safety of the Korean Peninsula and to preserve peace in Asia. It cited the recent show of force by the United States, such as the use of B-52H strategic bombers, B-2 stealth bombers and nuclear submarines for the Foal Eagle joint military exercise as justification for the North's stance.

   "Unless the United States gives up its nuclear weapons, we will not give up our nuclear capability," Rodong Sinmun said.


N. Korea Promotes Nuke Armament, Economic Development to Workers

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea encouraged its workers on May 1 to launch a campaign to achieve its new strategic line of pushing for two goals of nuclear armament and economic development.

   In a commentary to mark May Day carried by Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling party newspaper, the socialist country said the laborers should "manifest the spirit to fight against the United States and to build a strong nation by fighting for the party's new strategic line."

   During a plenary meeting in March, the North's ruling Workers' Party adopted the strategic course for achieving the two objectives of economic construction and nuclear development at the same time on the basis of self-reliance, and has been promoting it.

   Praising the laborers as "fervent fighters" for "our-style socialism," the article, in particular, called on those working for the country's ammunition industry to work harder "to proactively develop more powerful and advance nuclear weapons by creating more miniaturized nuclear weapons and launchers."

   After conducting its third nuclear test in December last year, Pyongyang has been boasting that it has put miniaturized nuclear warheads onto its long-range missiles. Seoul's Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, however, said last week that the socialist country "does not appear to be able to produce miniaturized nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them."