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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 266 (June 13, 2013)

2013/06/13 10:46

*** FOREIGN TIPS

U.S. Hails Inter-Korean Talks, Still Early for U.S.-N. Korea Meeting

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The Barack Obama administration on June 6 welcomed upcoming talks between the two Koreas on their joint economic projects, but it emphasized that Pyongyang should lay the groundwork for any resumption of negotiations with Washington.

"We welcome news that South Korea and North Korea have agreed to talks on Kaesong Industrial Complex and other issues," State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said at a press briefing. "We support and have always supported improved inter-Korean relationship."

   She was responding to reports that the North has accepted the South's proposal for government-level talks on the future of the joint industrial park. Operations there have been suspended as a result of recent military tensions.

The two sides will hold rare ministerial dialogue in Seoul on June 12 if the North accepts the South's offer of the format, time and venue.

Psaki, however, said the U.S. remains cautious about the prospects for Washington-Pyongyang talks.

"I would caution you against combining all of the issues here," she said, asked if she believes such a fresh mood on Korea will help Washington bring Pyongyang back to the nuclear negotiations.

The U.S. has long stressed that denuclearization should be at the top of the agenda in any talks with North Korea.

"There remain a number of steps that the North Koreans need to take, including abiding by their international obligations, by the 2005 joint statement, in order to have further discussion. And we of course, as always, encourage them to do just that," she said.

She was referring to the Sept. 19, 2005, agreement between North Korea and its five dialogue partners -- the South, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. The North agreed to abandon all of its nuclear programs in return for political and economic incentives from the five regional powers.

Psaki said the U.S. remains committed to the six-party talks, which have not been held for nearly five years.

She expressed caution about whether the inter-Korean talks will produce a breakthrough.

"They're still working towards these talks, and I don't want to get ahead of the outcome," she said.

Earlier, the North said it would talk with the South on the issues of Kaesong Industrial Complex, the halted joint tour business at Mount Kumgang, and separated families.

The announcement came as a surprise as Pyongyang had spurned Seoul's offers of talks first made on May 14.

The timing was seen as significant, with the leaders of the U.S. and China scheduled to meet in California later this week.

North Korea is high on the agenda in the two-day meeting between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping, the first get-together between them since Xi became China's leader in March.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent his top aide, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, to Beijing last month in an apparent effort to mend bilateral ties impaired by Pyongyang's nuclear test in February.

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Large Number of N. Korean Children Suffering from Stunted Growth

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Roughly one in three North Korean children are suffering from stunted growth caused by malnutrition, a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed on June 6.

The organization under the United Nations said in its 2013 food and agriculture report that the North's figures for slower-than-normal-growth stood at 32.4 percent, which was higher than the average for other Asian countries, excluding Japan. Numbers for the whole of Asia stood at 26.8 percent.

The latest findings showed stunted growth numbers for North Korean children being roughly on par with the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia, although much higher than China, with reported figures of just 9.4 percent.

The FAO added that the percentage of North Korean kids suffering from anemia stood at 31.7 percent, twice as high as 16.5 percent tallied for South Korea. It said 27.5 percent of kids in the communist country were affected by vitamin A deficiency.

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North Korean Set up Paper Company in Tax Haven

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean ran a shell company in a tax haven region, an independent South Korean online news outlet said on June 6 in its latest revelation of a list that included three paper companies believed to be linked with Pyongyang.

It is the first time that the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism (KCIJ) in Seoul has released the name of a North Korean.

Mun Kwang-nam was registered as one of two directors of Larivader Solutions Inc. set up in the British Virgin Islands on Nov. 19, 2004, the KCIJ said on its website.

Mun's address was registered as "2 Kin Mal Dong, Mao Lang Bong District Pyong Yang Republic of Korea," the non-profit news organization said, citing its analysis of documents obtained from Commonwealth Trust Ltd., which helps people establish paper companies in safe havens.

The online news outlet said Valentine Kharitonova was registered as another director and a shareholder of Larivader Solutions, which it said existed at least until October 2009.

The non-profit organization set up by former journalists did not give any further details on Mun and Kharitonova.

The findings are based on a joint investigative journalism project by the KCIJ and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in which the KCIJ has taken part since April.

It was not immediately clear whether Mun and his paper company worked for the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who was believed to have slush funds overseas. Kim died in 2011 and was succeeded by his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

KCIJ also said it has found three shell companies in the British Virgin Islands that are presumed to be linked with North Korea, citing its analysis of documents obtained from Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet, another company that helps people establish shell companies in safe havens.

KCIJ identified the three paper companies as Chollima Ltd., Chosun Ltd. and Koryo Telecom Ltd.

Lim Jong-ju and Wong Yuk Kwan were both registered as directors of all three paper companies set up between 2000 and 2001, KCIJ said.

It said the two are presumed to be investors involved in the telecommunication business in North Korea, noting the names of the three companies are related to North Korea.

It was not clear whether they are linked to Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian firm that provides third-generation wireless service covering 15 major North Korean cities, including Pyongyang.

The non-profit news organization said Lim does not appear to be a North Korean, though it did not give any further details.

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U.N. Agency Approves Food Aid to North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The United Nations' aid group has approved emergency food aid to North Korea to help feed 2.4 million undernourished people in the impoverished communist country, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on June 8.

The plan calls for the World Food Program (WFP) to send 206,800 tons of food to North Korea during one year starting from July, the Washington-based radio station said.

The shipment will include nutrition biscuits for some 1.9 million children and nutrition-balanced meals for some 500,000 pregnant women, it said.

The WFP's board meeting, convened in Rome, Italy, approved the plan with a budget of some US$137 million, it added.

The decision comes after the aid group conducted a comprehensive assessment of the food situation and prospects for food production in North Korea, the report said.

According to a WFP report released last month, eight out of every 10 North Korean families are suffering malnutrition with little access to protein foods.

In its survey of 87 North Korean families from January to March, the WFP found that 80 percent of them were undernourished mainly due to a lack of protein intake, the report said.

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Government Urged to Allow Joint Event with North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A South Korean pro-unification group called on the government on June 11 to allow it to hold a joint event with North Korea to mark the anniversary of the 2000 inter-Korean summit.

The civilian group -- the South Korean Committee for the Joint Implementation of the June 15 Summit Declaration -- had urged the government to accept North Korea's proposal for the joint event, but Seoul rejected the request, saying government-level talks should come first.

On June 10, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to hold their first high-level talks in six years. The talks were scheduled to be held in Seoul during two days starting June 12.

"Inter-Korean relations have entered into a new state with the planned government-level talks between the South and the North," the committee said in a statement at a news conference held at the National Assembly. "However, the government is still opposed to the joint June 15 event between civilians. This is disappointing."

   The committee argued that the event will help resolve inter-Korean issues such as the suspension of a joint industrial park in North Korea's border city of Kaesong.

It also promised to work closely with the government in preparing for the event.

The 2000 summit opened an era of inter-Korean reconciliation marked by active economic cooperation, including the construction of the Kaesong industrial complex.

However, those ties deteriorated rapidly under the previous Lee Myung-bak administration, which took a hard-line stance on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

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U.S. Lawmakers Renew Call for Putting N. Korea on Terror List

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A dozen conservative U.S. lawmakers said on June 12 they have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the re-designation of North Korea as a state that sponsors terrorism.

They cited what they say is the cooperation by Pyongyang with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, a widespread allegation that has not yet been formally confirmed.

"North Korea is directly responsible for several international acts of terror, and it continues to maintain close ties with other State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) listed regimes such as Iran and Syria," read the letter delivered to Kerry last week.

It was signed by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ted Poe (R-TX), Steve Chabot (R-OH), and nine other Republican members of the House.

North Korea "continues to share equipment, technology, expertise, and knowledge with Iran and Syria in their pursuit of WMDs, ballistic missiles, and nuclear capabilities," they said. WMDs stands for weapons of mass destruction.

Among several reasons for their request, the lawmakers pointed out that Pyongyang carried out an artillery attack against a South Korean border island in 2010, killing two civilians and two marines.

The U.S. designated North Korea as a terrorism-sponsoring state after a mid-air bombing in 1987 by the communist nation's agents of a Korean Air passenger jet.

Washington removed Pyongyang from the list in 2008 after some progress in nuclear talks.

"Administration after administration, our approach to the North Korean regime has failed," the lawmakers said in the letter. "This regime has actively opposed U.S. interests and undermined our national security, and it was a mistake to remove North Korea from the SST list."

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