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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 273 (August 1, 2013)

2013/08/01 10:32

*** NEWS IN BRIEF

AP's Vice Chief Visits North Korea for Armistice Day Event

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A top editor and vice president of the Associated Press has visited North Korea to attend a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea's official news agency reported on July 25.

John Daniszewski arrived in Pyongyang on July 24 to take part in the celebrations, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in the report, without providing no further details.

The North commemorates July 27, when the Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953 to end the conflict, as the day of victory in what it calls the Fatherland Liberation War.

While the North maintains that it won the three-year war, the two Koreas technically remain in a state of war as the conflict ended with a cease-fire agreement, not a peace treaty.

Daniszewski last visited the socialist country in mid-January, during which he said he mainly met with KCNA officials. The trip was arranged to mark the first anniversary of the AP's opening of its full-time bureau in Pyongyang, the first of its kind as a Western media outlet.

In a separate report on July 25, the KCNA said the North's leader Kim Jong-un met with a visiting delegation from Syria a day earlier in Pyongyang.

The Syrian delegation "offered warmest congratulations" on behalf of its President Bashar al-Assad and expressed "best wishes" for the North Koreans' "success in the efforts to build a thriving nation," the report said.

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N. Korea's No. 2 Man to Visit Iran for Inauguration Ceremony

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's head of parliament will visit Iran in early August to attend the inauguration of President-elect Hassan Rowhani, Pyongyang's official news agency reported on July 26.

Kim Yong-nam, the president of the North's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, will attend the inauguration slated for Aug. 4, 2013, at the Iranian government's invitation, the KCNA said in a report, without providing further details.

Kim, Pyongyang's ceremonial head of state, is considered second in line behind North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea and Iran are known to have developed strong ties through their staunchly anti-American policies and reported exchanges of nuclear weapons technology.

Parliamentary leader Kim last visited Teheran in August 2012 to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit and sat down for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the summit.

In June, Rowhani, a moderate cleric, won the presidential election in a landslide victory against conservative hardliners. While ruling out any halt to Iran's nuclear activities that have drawn U.N. sanctions, Rowhani vowed "interaction" with the international community to ease tensions.

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China Reaffirms Commitment to Korean Peninsula Denuclearization in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao reaffirmed his country's commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, International media reports from Pyongyang said on July 26.

The meeting in Pyongyang took place while Li visited the isolationist country as head of a Chinese delegation to mark the 60th anniversary of the truce of the Korean War (1950-53).

China had fought alongside the North against South Korea, the United States and United Nations forces, with the conflict ending in stalemate.

International media reported that Li made clear to Kim that Beijing adheres to the principle of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and supports peace and stability in the region. The meeting comes as bilateral relations have soured between the two countries after the North defied China's warnings and went ahead with a nuclear test in February, which forced Beijing to sign off on a United Nations sanctions motion.

The senior official added that China advocates for all outstanding differences concerning the communist North to be handled at the negotiating table and that the six-party talks should be resumed. The talks, which started in 2003 to temper the North's nuclear ambitions, have been on hold since late 2008.

North Korea has said it is willing to take part in the talks, though Seoul and Washington have made it clear that the communist country must first clarify its stance on its nuclear weapons program. The country detonated three nuclear devices since 2006 and has so far failed to renounced its right to posses such weapons by citing the continued military threat from the United States.

In response, Kim Jong-un said the North wants to work with all interested parties to ensure peace and security in the region.

The leader, who took power in late 2011, said Pyongyang is doing its best to push forward economic growth and improve the livelihoods of his nation's people.

Media outlets said that during the meeting, Li verbally delivered a message from Chinese leader Xi Jinping that expressed warm greetings.

Related to the talks, the North's official KCNA monitored in Seoul omitted Li's calls for denuclearization and only emphasized the traditional close ties that have existed between the idealogical partners.

The report said the North will not forget the valor and achievements of the Chinese soldiers who fought in the Korean War, and emphasized that the North Korea-China tie is sealed in blood.

The KCNA said that besides meeting Kim, the vice president met with Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.

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North Korea Opens War Museum for Anti-American Propaganda

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has opened a renovated war museum as part of efforts to exalt its late leaders and to further flare anti-American sentiment, its official news agency reported on July 28.

The opening ceremony of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum took place on July 27 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire, with its leader Kim Jong-un and Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao in attendance, the KCNA said in a report.

Pyongyang commemorates July 27, when the Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953 to end the three-year conflict, as the day of victory in what it calls the Fatherland Liberation War. It staged a major military parade and held various events.

Kim "expressed satisfaction" over the fact that the museum has been successfully built as "a center inspiring visitors in the confrontation with the U.S. and an important base for anti-U.S education," the KCNA said.

In the opening speech, Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the military's powerful General Political Bureau, called the museum a venue "to glorify" its founder Kim Il-sung, and his son and late leader Kim Jong-il, as well as "to convey its fight spirit" against "the U.S. imperialism."

   The impoverished socialist country began a massive renovation project last September for its decades-old museum in Pyongyang at Kim's instruction.

The around 52,000 square-meter museum has about 80 exhibition halls, and displays "merited weapons" and other items related to Korea's fight against Japan's colonial rule in the early 1900s and the Korean War, the KCNA said.

The North also held a banquet at its Mokran House in Pyongyang a day earlier to commemorate the armistice anniversary, according to the news agency.

The event, hosted by the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea and the National Defense Commission, attracted high-ranking officials, including leader Kim, Choe, and the commission's vice chairman and Kim's uncle Jang Song-thaek, as well as war veterans.

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North Korea Welcomes Female Football Team Back Home

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea gave a rapturous welcome to the women's national football team returning home after winning the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) Cup.

Party and government officials, including Vice Premier Kim Yong-jin and Physical Culture and Sports Minister Ri Jong-mu, as well as a crowd of North Koreans greeted the triumphant football team with bouquets and congratulatory messages at Pyongyang airport, the North's official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station (KCBS TV) monitored in Seoul reported on July 29.

The country's female football team on July 27 won its first East Asian Cup crown with a 1-0 victory against China. The 2013 EAFF Cup was held in Seoul.

KCBS TV also broadcasted winning speeches from the athletes and interviewed people from the crowd.

"The last match took place ahead of the 'Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War.' All the players and coaches ran and ran together, thinking that we must and will win the game," said player Kim Un-ju, who received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award of the tournament. North Korea celebrates the anniversary of the 1953 Korean War armistice as the day of victory in what it calls the Fatherland Liberation War.

"The athletes and the team braced up to bring more honor to the dignity and spirit of the DPRK (North Korea) by shedding more sweat in their future trainings," the report said.

Shortly after arriving at the airport, the team went to lay flowers before the statues of the country's founder Kim Il-sung and late leader Kim Jong-il at Pyongyang's Mansu Hill, KCBS TV added.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also meets the women soccer players who won the 2013 East Asian Cup held in Seoul, the KCNA said on July 31.

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N. Korean Leader Visits Cemetery for China's Korean War Dead

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the cemetery of Chinese soldiers buried in the country to highlight the "blood ties" that bind the two countries on the 60th anniversary of the truce of the Korean War (1950-53), state media reported on July 30.

The North's official KCNA said Kim, along with senior officials from the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea, the government and the military, paid homage at the cemetery of the fallen fighters of the Chinese People's Volunteers (CPV) in Hoechang county, South Phyongan Province, on July 29.

The official news wire service monitored in Seoul said Kim pointed out the Chinese fighters who helped defend the country with their lives and lauded their bravery and sacrifice. The leader also laid a wreath on the grave of Mao Anying, the son of Chinese leader Mao Zedong who died in the conflict.

The visit is seen as part of the North's ongoing effort to mend fences with its traditional ally. Bilateral relations have cooled since Pyongyang ignored calls by Beijing to exercise restraint and launched a long-range rocket in December and detonated a nuclear device in February.

China in response cooperated in the passing of fresh sanctions against the isolationist country at the United Nations.

China fought alongside the North against South Korean, U.S. and United Nations troops and was represented at the signing of the Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953.

Besides the trip to the cemetery, Kim toured the so-called Songhung Revolutionary Site where the command post of the CPV was located during the conflict.

The leader checked photos, historic data, relics and underground dwellings and tunnel systems. He said that Chinese forces fought hard to beat back imperialist aggression on the Korean Peninsula.

The KCNA, meanwhile, said that Kim was accompanied by top officials such as Premier Pak Pong-ju, Choe Ryong-hae, director of the military General Political Bureau and Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.

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N. Korea Warns Joint S. Korea-U.S. Military Drill Will Fuel Tensions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned on July 31 that a joint South Korea-U.S. military drill scheduled for mid-August will once again fuel tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise, which aims to improve the defensive posture of the two allies against potential attacks by the North, is slated to take place in South Korea in August.

The UFG is one of two major joint military drills South Korea and the United States have held annually since the 1970s. The North has routinely denounced the drill as a preparation for war.

"South Korea and the United States plan to conduct a military exercise in August with the United Nations Command getting involved," said an article carried by the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North Korean Workers' Party. "If the drill takes place, conditions in the region will become unpredictable and escalate to the brink of war."

   The warning comes after the socialist country ratcheted up tensions to an all-time high in decades as it detonated its third nuclear device in February and threatened nuclear attacks against South Korea and the United States.

The official paper blamed the United Nations Command (UNC) for spiking up tensions, claiming it must be disbanded to reduce tensions.

The UNC is the unified command structure for the U.S.-led multinational forces that supported South Korea in its fight against the invading North Korean military in the 1950-53 Korean conflict.

Rodong Sinmun said the command is an unlawful and phantom organization that needs to be disbanded. "Pyongyang has asked for the disbandment of the UNC on the 60th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement being signed."

   Citing another annual U.S.-involved South Korean military drills in March, North Korea in April pulled its workers from, and thereby suspended operations at, an inter-Korean joint complex in its border city Kaesong.

The two Koreas have tried to revive the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a major symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement, by holding six rounds of talks in July, but failed to agree on preconditions for resumption.

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