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North Korean Leader Visits Police Arm on May Day: KCNA

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected the country's police agency on May Day and called for their efforts to thwart possible ideological attacks from the outside, the North's state news agency said on May 2.

   During the visit to the (North) Korean People's Internal Security Forces (KPISF), the police body under the Ministry of People's Security, Kim had a photo session with service personnel there and paid tribute to the statues of the late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, according to the report by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   Kim called for the personnel's efforts in "defending the party, social system and people, decisively foiling the ideological and cultural poisoning and psychological warfare of the enemies," the report said.

   "He underlined the need for the ministry and the internal security forces to make full combat preparations to annihilate the U.S. imperialists and South Korean puppet group keen to stifle the DPRK (North Korea)," the report said.

   Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the military's General Political Bureau, and Jang Song-thaek, the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and Kim's uncle, accompanied the leader on the May 1 visit, it said.

   Kim also paid an inspection visit to the KPISF's Unit 2219 on the same day, the news agency said.

   The leader called for the soldiers' "do-or-die will and matchless courage ... to become iron shields and fierce tigers devotedly defending the party, social system and people in their struggle to decisively foil the enemies' moves to stifle the DPRK," according to the report.


N. Korea Sentences Korean-American to 15 Years Hard Labor

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea sentenced a Korean-American tour operator detained in the country to 15 years of hard labor on May 2 on charges of unspecified anti-state crimes, Pyongyang official media said.

   "The Highest Court handed down the 15-year labor sentence to Bae Joon-ho who committed crimes against the country," the KCNA said in a brief dispatch.

   The country held the trial on April 30. The Korean-American tour operator, also known as Kenneth Bae, was arrested after arriving in the North on Nov. 3, 2012 for tourism purposes, the report said, without specifying the crimes.

   A British media outlet has said Bae was charged with illegally filming child beggars during his trip to the impoverished country.

   Bae is the sixth American citizen to be detained by the North since 2009. All other detainees have been freed through contacts with the United States.

   A labor sentence is usually given to those who are charged with a serious crime in the socialist country including murder, robbery, and rape as well as embezzlement.

   The heavy sentence for Bae is believed to have come as the North is trying to use the case as diplomatic leverage to win U.S. attention amid tensions with the outside world following the country's third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

   The U.S. on April 30 called for the immediate release of the American citizen, with State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell saying, "You know the welfare of U.S. citizens is a critical and top priority for this department."

   The sentence came hours after news broke that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter may soon travel to North Korea as part of his efforts to win the release of the Korean-American and broker dialogue.

   Reports said Carter recently sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for talks with North Korea and expressing his intent to visit Pyongyang again. The former U.S. president may have been invited by the North, according to the reports.

   Carter last visited North Korea in April 2011 along with a few other members of The Elders, an international non-government organization. He failed to meet then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.


N. Korea Warns against Planned Launch of Anti-Pyongyang Leaflets

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened on May 2 that it "will not sit idle" if South Korean activists go ahead with a planned launch of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border.

   The warning from the North's official Web site Uriminzokkiri comes as a group of anti-North Korea activists plans to send the leaflets across the border using balloons on May 4.

   In a commentary, the North's Internet site said, "If one sheet of the leaflets disturbs our sky, those who provoke us will take all the responsibility of consequences."

   Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been high since the North's third nuclear test in February. Angered by the latest U.N. sanctions in response to the nuclear test, Pyongyang has issued a torrent of warlike rhetoric and has suspended operations at a jointly-run industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong.

   Seoul and Pyongyang met for the sixth day in a row on May 2 to try to resolve wages, taxes and other outstanding issues related to the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Seven South Korean officials and workers are currently staying there.


N. Korea to Use Nuclear Deterrence as Basis for Economic Growth

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on May 3 that it will take full advantage of the deterrence provided by its nuclear weapons to inject more resources into the building of its economy.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), said in a editorial that plans to simultaneously build up its economy and nuclear capabilities are a permanent strategy of the socialist state.

   "Only if the country becomes a nuclear power, can we pour funds and energy into the economic sector and strive for rapid growth," said the paper, which effectively represents the views of the ruling party.

   It added that nuclear arms will speed the process of unification of the fatherland that is the ultimate aspiration of all Koreans.

   This view is a repeat of the policy goal outlined at the WPK's Central Committee meeting on March 31.

   The media outlet said the country has the nuclear industrial base forged by past leaders, the manpower and uranium resources to expand its nuclear weapons capability and alleviate power shortages.

   On the current state of affairs, Rodong Sinmun said that depending on what actions are taken by the country's enemies, a nuclear war may erupt, or there may be a temporary easing of tensions. It, however, stressed that there should be no illusions about the ultimate intent of the United States, saying its goal is to destroy the country.

   The daily, meanwhile, emphasized that all national endeavors must be based on practicality, which forms the basis of meaningful change. It cautioned that all measures taken by the state, party, education and cultural fields should not fall into rigidity and dogma.


N. Korea Says Won't Invite U.S. Figures over Jailed Korean-American

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on May 5 that it will not invite any U.S. figures to Pyeongang to seek the release of a jailed Korean-American, as he is not a "political bargaining chip" in any talks with Washington.

   "The DPRK (North Korea) has no plan to invite anyone of the U.S. as regards the issue," a foreign ministry spokesman told the KCNA in an English dispatch monitored in Seoul.

   The North earlier announced that its highest court sentenced Kenneth Bae, whose Korean name is Bae Joon-ho, to 15 years of hard labor for committing crimes against the nation. A brief dispatch by the North's official news agency gave no further specifics.

   "Some media of the U.S. said that the DPRK tried to use the case as a political bargaining chip. This is ridiculous and wrong guess," the spokesman added.

   The U.S. government has been trying to win the release of Bae and urging Pyongyang to grant him amnesty.

   Several American citizens were detained in North Korea on similar charges in the past, but all were freed, largely unharmed.

   In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to bring home two female American journalists.

   The following year, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter won plaudits when he negotiated the release of American national Aijalon Mahli Gomes.

   Recent media reports said that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter may be seeking an active role in the release of Kenneth Bae. His spokesman, however, said Friday said the former president has no plans to visit North Korea anytime soon.


N. Korea Urges Seoul to Abandon Hostilities for Resumption of Kaesong Complex

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea urged South Korea on May 5 to first abandon hostilities and military provocations against the socialist country for the resumption of a suspended joint industrial zone in the North.

   "The South should end all of its hostilities and military provocations if it is really worried about the fate of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and inter-Korean relations on the verge of collapse," said a spokesman of the North's powerful National Defense Commission in a report by the KCNA, monitored in Seoul.

   The remarks come just two days after the last seven remaining South Korean workers pulled out from the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North's border city of the same name amid high tensions, leaving its future in limbo.

   North Korea again insisted that South Korea should be held responsible for the shutdown of the troubled inter-Korean industrial complex, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

   In the KCNA report, the spokesman also denounced a U.S. aircraft carrier that is slated to participate in this year's joint military exercise between South Korea and the United Sates.

   The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz, is expected to arrive in South Korea's southern port city of Busan on May 3.

   "This is the main culprit behind the complete shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex," the spokesman said.

   Seoul paid Pyongyang US$13 million in worker wages, corporate taxes and utility charges on Friday, when the last seven South Koreans who had negotiated the settlement of accounts returned home Friday, completing a pullout from the zone amid high tensions on the peninsula.

   The Ministry of Unification said Seoul had asked the North to reopen both military and Red Cross hotlines that were cut off earlier in the year, and allow South Korean companies to take finished goods and materials out of the industrial park that has remained idle since early April.

   "The communications lines can be used anytime should North Korea have the will to reopen them," a ministry official said, asking not to be named. "The ball is now in North Korea's court."

   South and North Korea remain technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.


N. Korean Leader Instructs Use of Int'l Measurement System: Reports

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for the use of the international measurement system, the latest edition of a state-controlled magazine showed on May 5, a move that appears to be in line with Pyongyang's open-door policy on science and technology.

   Ever since taking power, Kim has been stressing the importance of "universal trends" in science and technology. Outlining the country's policy plan for 2013, Kim highlighted the country's ambitions in the science and technology sectors in his televised New Year's speech earlier this year.

   According to the quarterly "Cultural Language Study," the young leader directed his people to use the international measurement units and symbols in accordance with international customs.

   Pyongyang's media outlets, including the KCNA, have so far used international measurement units and symbols such as kilogram, ton, hectare, and centimeter.

   However, the method of measurement is presumed to have not spread to use in factories and stores.

   The magazine said Kim's instruction to use the international measurement system can help the country to "strengthen international exchange and cooperation with many other countries in the world in the field of industry, science and technology, and even in the area of general social life."


N. Korea Says It's Poised to Strike Back against S. Korea-U.S. Joint Drills

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's military warned on May 7 that it would mercilessly avenge any breach of its territorial sovereignty by South Korea or the United States during the ongoing anti-submarine drills in the Yellow Sea.

   The Southwestern Front Command of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) said it has directed its troops to immediately strike back in case even a single shell falls in its territorial waters, the KCNA said.

   The anti-submarine drill that began on May 6 and runs through May 10 comes in the wake of the two-month-long joint Foal Eagle military exercise carried out by South Korea and U.S. forces.

   Pyongyang's official news agency warned that if South Korea or the U.S. responds "recklessly" to the North's counter strikes, prompt actions by rocket forces deployed in the southwestern sector will turn the five islands in the Yellow Sea into a "sea of flames." The five islands under South Korean control are Baengnyeong, Daecheong, Socheong, Yeonpyeong and Udo.

   It said all units and sub-units of the military in the region will simultaneously start military actions in accordance with operation plans ratified by the supreme command.

   The North had set up the Southwestern Front Command last September that is charged with all shore batteries and multiple rocket launcher units in South Hwanghae Province and islands along the northern limit line that acts as the de facto sea border between the two Koreas.

   The naval maneuver aims to sharpen anti-submarine warfare capabilities and includes live-fire exercises. The U.S. has sent a Los Angeles-class attack submarine to take part in the exercise. Advanced Aegis destroyers and P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft are involved in the drills.

   Pyongyang in addition said that the United States has sent a carrier battle group to carry out naval exercises in the East Sea starting later in the week.

   "They are intensifying the anti-North war drills with a reinforced nuclear force in a bid to ignite nuclear war at any cost," the KCNA said. The media report claimed that allied forces entered the stage of carrying out artillery drills around Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands from Sunday onwards.

   Related to the latest warning, the political bureau at the North's National Defense Committee said in a statement released over the weekend that if Seoul wants normal operations to resume at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, it has to first stop all provocations. The industrial complex in North Korea, which first began churning out products in late 2004, halted all operations in early April after the North withdrew all of its workers from the joint venture.

   South Korea's Ministry of Defense brushed off the statement and made clear it had no intention of calling off the combined naval exercise.

   It said despite allusion to artillery exercises taking place along the sea demarcation line of the two countries, no such actions have been taken.

   North Korea watchers, meanwhile, said Pyongyang's strong reaction to the naval drills could once against prod the country to ratchet up tensions and affect developments on the Korean Peninsula.

   After making nuclear threats against South Korea and the United States in recent months, the isolationist country seems to have toned down its rhetoric. Earlier in the day, South Korea's defense ministry said the North's military probably lifted its highest combat alert issued in March and withdrew two medium-range missiles from its east coast.


North Korea Censures Japan's Nuclear Fuel Purchase

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea denounced on May 8 Japan's recent purchase of nuclear fuel from France, saying it is motivated by the country's ambitions to produce nuclear bombs.

   In April, Japan's state-run Kansai Electric Power Co. brought in a shipment of mixed oxide fuel (MOX) from France and said it will be used to run a nuclear reactor in Takahama, west of Tokyo. MOX is nuclear fuel, usually consisting of plutonium blended with natural uranium, reprocessed uranium or depleted uranium.

   "Japan's steady purchase of a large amount of plutonium is intended for efforts to nuclearize itself," Rodong Sinmun, published by the North's governing party, said in its Wednesday issue.

   The North Korean newspaper added, "Japan's drive to purchase a large amount of nuclear fuel is not aiming at electric power production only."

   Japan has already been equipped with skills to produce nuclear arms at any time, said the news outlet, adding, "The plutonium reserve currently owned by Japan is enough for making 5,000 units of the nuclear bomb, which (the U.S.) dropped on Nagasaki" during World War II.

   The recent shipment of MOX marks Japan's first purchase of nuclear fuel since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011.

   Only two reactors, operated by Kansai Electric near Takahama, are still running after the country shut down the rest following the nuclear accident. Japan has said it will rethink its previous decision to abandon atomic power following the 2011 disaster.