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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 267 (June 20, 2013)

North Korea to Begin Arirang Mass Game Performances in July

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will start the famous Arirang mass game festival on July 22, celebrating its late leaders and the 60th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which it sees as a victory, the country's media reported on June 14.

   North Korea mobilizes tens of thousands of people for the highly choreographed performances that are open to foreign visitors. The annual festival continues for weeks.

   "The performance will give impressive depiction of the undying feats President Kim Il-sung performed in winning the victory in the war and the Songun (military-first) revolutionary leadership feats of leader Kim Jong-il," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a report.

   The country's ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) declared in February that it will host a wide range of political events, including the Arirang festival, to celebrate its war victory.

   The starting date of Arirang is five days from the anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement on July 27, 1953.


North Korean Leader Calls for Stronger Relations with China

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for building stronger relations with China as he sent a happy birthday message to Chinese President Xi Jinping, state media said on June 15.

   "It is the unshakable will of our party and people to further consolidate and develop generation after generation the traditional DPRK (North Korea)-China friendship, which stood all tests of history, from a long-term and strategic viewpoint despite the complicated international situation," Kim said in the message.

   "I am convinced that the invincible vitality of the DPRK-China friendship, a common treasure of the peoples of the two countries, will be more strikingly demonstrated in the future thanks to the common efforts of both sides," the message said, according to the North's official KCNA.

   China is Pyongyang's No. 1 ally and a key provider of economic aid and diplomatic protection.

   In recent months, however, China has apparently been taking a tougher approach to Pyongyang, especially after the North's long-range rocket launch in December and its third nuclear test in February. Beijing has since backed a U.N. sanctions resolution against the North and has been carrying out the restrictions more vigorously than before.


N. Korea Calls for S. Korea to Change 'Policy of Confrontation'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on June 15 marked the anniversary of a historic 2000 summit with South Korea, with state media urging Seoul to fundamentally change what it called a "policy of confrontation" against the communist nation.

   The fist-ever inter-Korean summit touched off a flurry of economic and other cooperation projects, and the two sides held a second summit in 2007. But the reconciliation process came to a halt after a conservative government of former President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul with a hard-line policy on Pyongyang.

   In a statement issued later June 15, North Korea blamed South Korea for aborting joint inter-Korean events to celebrate the anniversary.

   A spokesman for the North Side Committee for Implementing the June 15 Joint Declaration accused Seoul officials of foiling preparations for such events.

   "From the beginning, (South Korea) opposed the opening of the joint events of the nation, claiming that such events are designed to 'stir up conflict among South Koreans,'" a spokesman for the North's committee said.

   "Such obstructive moves are an open negation of the North-South joint declaration supported and approved by all Koreans and an unpardonable challenge to them calling for its implementation," he said in a statement.

   The statement was carried by the North's official KCNA in a report, monitored in Seoul.

   Earlier in the day, the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper claimed that the policy of current South Korean President Park Geun-hye toward Pyongyang is no different from her predecessor.

   "Unless there is a fundamental switchover in the policy of confrontation of the South's ruling forces, dialogue and improvement in relations between the North and the South cannot be realized forever," the newspaper said.

   The paper also blamed the South for the recent breakdown of an agreement to hold high-level talks.

   Last week, North Korea surprised the South with a proposal to hold government-level talks, an about-face by a regime that had made near-daily war threats against Seoul and Washington while spurning repeated demands for talks to defuse tensions.

   South Korea accepted the offer and the two sides agreed to hold two days of meetings in Seoul earlier this week. But the agreement unraveled at the last minute as the sides failed to find a compromise over the level of chief delegates.

   The North's spokesman denounced South Korea for refusing to make the issue of the 2000 summit agreement part of the agenda for the high-level talks.

   "All facts go to clearly prove that the 'confidence-building process' touted by (South Korea) is not a policy aimed to sincerely settle the inter-Korean relations but is nothing but rhetoric to mislead public opinion," the spokesman said. "And they remain unchanged in their sinister intention to fan up confrontation and hostility."


N. Korean Red Cross Accuses S. Korea of 'Kidnapping' Defectors

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The North Korean Red Cross Society accused South Korea on June 17 of "alluring and abducting" 18 North Koreans following reports that the South's officials aided their defection.

   "The recent abduction case involving the South Korean presidential office and embassy is an unpardonable provocation against the DPRK (North Korea)," a spokesman for the North's Red Cross Society said in an interview with the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

   "This shows that South Korea has no intent to mend the North-South ties but to escalate confrontation," said the unidentified spokesman.

   The remarks come after South Korean media reported that President Park Geun-hye ordered a covert operation to bring the escapees to the South Korean embassy in Laos on June 4.

   The reports, citing anonymous diplomatic sources in South Korea, said Park had expressed regret over failing to protect the previous nine young defectors from being repatriated to North Korea, where they are feared to face persecution.

   The nine North Korean youths were caught in Laos on May 10 and were sent back to North Korea following an 18-day detention.


N. Korean Leader Calls for Drive to Produce Modern Machines

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for "a dynamic drive" to produce modern machines during his visit to a machinery manufacturing plant, the North's state-run news agency said on June 17.

   "(Kim) gave field guidance to the machine plant managed by Ho Chol-yong. Going round the processing and assembling shops, he learned in detail about the production and modernization of the plant," the KCNA said.

   The leader also visited the plant, believed to be in North Phyongan Province, in January and on May Day last year.

   Kim "called on the relevant units to wage a dynamic drive to provide updated machine parts of the Korean style," the KCNA said, adding that the leader stressed the importance of producing more effective and user-friendly machines and parts.

   "He said the plant is of weighty importance in the nation's machine-building industry and the (governing) Workers' Party of Korea attaches great importance to it," the report also quoted Kim as saying.

   Kim, accompanied by several top-rank military and party officials, also toured a kindergarten and a health complex belonging to the plant during the visit, according to the report.

   The visit is seen as reflecting one of the top priorities the leader has put on the development of the national economy.


North Korea Slams U.S. for Stirring Nuclear Arms Race

SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) -- Just one day after North Korea proposed high-level talks with the United States, the socialist country on June 17 criticized U.S. efforts to develop its own nuclear arsenal, saying it is triggering an international arms race.

   U.S. President Barack Obama has declared international efforts to reduce arms, but the country is still seeking to modernize its own nuclear weapons, the North's main newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an article.

   In response to U.S. nuclear development, other member countries of the United Nations Security Council are seeking to modernize their own nuclear warheads and vehicles, the newspaper said, arguing that the U.S. is stirring the international arms race.

   The newspaper also denounced the U.S. for heavily meddling in Iran's nuclear activities while turning a blind eye to Israel's possession of nuclear weapons. "(The world) should end the U.S. policy to dominate the world through nuclear weapons possession," it said.

   Analysts said the article's reference to Obama's Nobel Peace Prize-winning efforts to make the world nuclear free may have been to help induce the U.S. to accept the North's offer to talks.

   On June 16, the socialist country proposed holding high-level talks with the U.S. over security issues, including denuclearization. There is little prospect of the talks taking place, with the U.S. saying that the North should first show sincere actions before sitting at the negotiating table.

   Meanwhile, a pro-North Korea Web site reported a claim made by the female North Korean official who headed the three-people delegation to a working-level dialogue earlier this month that South Korea should recognize the North as a nuclear-armed country.

   "(North Korea) became a nuclear possessor and (the South) should accept that nothing will change its status as a nuclear-possessing country," Minjok Tongshin, an pro-North Korea Internet outlet based in the U.S., quoted Kim Song-hye as having said in a round-table discussion with the news outlet in April.

   Kim drew wide media attention as she came over to the South on June 9 as the female chief negotiator to the inter-Korean working-level talks ahead of high-level government dialogue scheduled three days later. The two countries, however, called off the high-level talks as they failed to agree upon the rank of top negotiators to be sent to the talks.

   The female official at the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which is in charge of forming unification policy, also called on the South's Park Geun-hye administration to show sincerity in its pursuit of its "trust-building" policy toward the North.

   President Park's so-called "trustpolitik" promises economic assistance and fence-mending in return for trustworthy actions and denuclearization efforts from the North. Park "should not be only repeating the Korean Peninsula trust (building) process but should show actual actions and sincerity," Kim was quoted as saying.

   The official also noted that her country's possession of nuclear arms cannot be subject to any transactions.


N. Korean Media Blames S. Korea for Canceled High-level Talks

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean media blamed South Korea on June 19 for the canceled high-level talks that could have restored cross-border dialogue and contributed to the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

   The attacks come after government-to-government talks scheduled to have taken place in Seoul last week fell through at the last minute over disagreements on the rank of the chief negotiators to attend the meeting.

   Both South and North Korea blamed the other for the failure to hold the talks that would have touched on outstanding issues such as the normalization of operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang and family reunions for people separated by the Korean War (1950-53).

   Uriminzokkiri, North Korea's main Internet-based media and propaganda website, featured four separate stories attacking the South for its attitude at the marathon working-level talks held at the truce village of Panmunjom on June 9-10.

   In one article, a member of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said South Korean officials intentionally snubbed Pyongyang's representatives and were disrespectful.

   Another report claimed that Seoul insisted on deleting the phrase "resolve" from the press release related to the Kaesong and Mount Kumgang issues, which was to be announced at the end of the working-level meeting. It said the South only agreed to "discuss" the matters, indicating Seoul's lack of commitment to solving those situations.

   The criticism by Uriminzokkiri follows similar articles carried by other North Korean media outlets, such as Rodong Sinmun, which consistently accused the South of hindering the inter-Korean talks.

   Related to the criticism, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk told reporters earlier in the day that the North's media coverage on the failed talks is regrettable and untrue.

   "The Internet-based media is only repeating what the CPRK said and there is nothing new to the contents," the official said. He added that releasing details about closed-door talks is not the proper way to engage in negotiations, especially since the North is distorting the truth.

   Meanwhile, North Korean watchers in Seoul said Pyongyang may be stepping up its efforts to blame the South for the cancellation of the talks because it wants to show countries like China that it tried to engage Seoul in dialogue.

   Yang Moo-jin, a political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said by deflecting blame, the North may be trying to put pressure on Seoul ahead of the critical South Korea-China summit meeting slated for late June.


N. Korea Threatens to Punish Defectors Who Slander Leader, Regime

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's security agency on June 19 threatened to punish defectors for slander after a defector-run news site claimed the North has been spreading Nazi ideology to its people.

   In a special statement, the Ministry of the People's Security warned it will take "substantial measures to physically remove" those committing treasonous acts at the instigation of the South Korea and the United States.

   The threat carried by the Korean Central News Agency monitored in Seoul said that South Korea's Park Geun-hye administration is openly supporting organizations made up of defectors who attack the North.

   The ministry cited an article published by New Focus, an Internet-based news source in Seoul that is published by defectors, which claimed Kim Jong-un presented senior ruling Workers' Party officials with copies of Adolf Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kampf" early this year. The article that received coverage by South Korean and U.S. media also said Pyongyang and its leadership is trying to learn from the experiences gained in the building of Hitler's Third Reich following the First World War.

   It said the New Focus article constituted a heinous crime because it belittled the "great personality of the leader of the DPRK (North Korea)."

   The ministry, which is equivalent to a national police agency, said such reporting by defectors has inflamed and outraged the North Korean army and the people.

   Meanwhile, it said U.S. and South Korean authorities and the conservative press in Seoul that have resorted to using lies as part of their ongoing smear campaigns against the DPRK will be confronted "with merciless punishment of justice."

   Related to the North's latest outburst and the threat made to defectors who are now South Korean citizens, a government official in Seoul expressed grave concerns and called on Pyongyang to desist from making provocative statements.

   "Threatening physical harm against defectors will not be tolerated and Seoul makes clear that resolute action will be taken (in the event the North follows through on its threat)," the official said.