Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Artillery fire on Korean border - North Korea artillery fire hits South Korea island (Update 3)

Artillery fire on Korean border
Source: BBC News online - www.bbc.co.uk
Date: Tuesday, 23 November 2010 at 06:46
North Korea has fired artillery shells across its western maritime border, prompting return fire from South Korea, reports say.

Some of the shells landed on a South Korean island, witnesses say.

A television station said some houses on the island were on fire, and Yonhap news agency said that four South Korean soldiers had been hurt.

South Korea has issued its highest non-wartime alert in response to the incident, the defence ministry said.

The incident comes days after North Korea revealed it had a modern uranium enrichment plant.

Earlier, the US ruled out more denuclearisation talks while Pyongyang continued to work on the facility.

'Illegal firing'

South Korean officials said several rounds of artillery landed on Yeonpyeong island, near the disputed inter-Korean maritime border to the west of the Korean Peninsula.

"A North Korean artillery unit staged an illegal firing provocation at 1434 PM (0534 GMT) and South Korean troops fired back immediately in self-defence," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

A resident on the island told the agency that dozens of houses were damaged, while television pictures reportedly showed plumes of smoke rising above the island.

This western maritime border has been the scene of numerous clashes between the two Koreas in the past.

In March, a South Korean warship went down near the border with the loss of 46 lives.

International investigators say a North Korean torpedo sank the ship, although Pyongyang denies any role in the incident.

Since then relations between the two neighbours - who have not signed a peace treaty since the 1950-53 Korean War - have been very tense.
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UPDATE on Tuesday, 23 November 2010:
Excerpt from Channel 4 News Snowmail received today at 17:32 pm entitled "North Korea bombards South Korea"
By the time we get to air, fortunately the appalling clash between North and South Korea will be hanging in the air as rhetoric. But this morning's bombardment of a South Korean island by North Korean artillery has provided a nasty wake-up call to the world that the North Korean dictatorship is undergoing some sort of internal upheaval.

Amazingly, fifty years after satellites first read number plates in Red Square, the world has very little idea about what's going on in the inner sanctums of Pyongyang and the great danger is that China is the ultimate protector of North Korea and the United States, with its vast battalions stationed in and around South Korea, is that country's equally great protector. Lindsey Hilsum is on the case and will be talking to a raft of North Korean watchers.

North Korea artillery fire hits South Korea island
http://www.channel4.com/news/north-korea-artillery-fire-hits-south-korea-island
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UPDATE on Wednesday, 24 November 2010:

Excerpt from BBC News online report published today at 04:26
President Barack Obama: North Korea 'a serious threat'

In an interview with ABC television news, President Obama said South Korea was an ''ally'' of the US

US President Barack Obama has strongly condemned North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong island in South Korea and said the US would defend South Korea.

Mr Obama told ABC News that North Korea was "a serious and ongoing threat that needs to be dealt with".

The attack near a disputed sea border was also denounced by Russia, Japan and the European Union.

South Korea returned fire and threatened missile strikes if there were "further provocations".

President Obama described South Korea as an important ally and "a cornerstone of US security in the Pacific region".

He said: "We strongly affirm our commitment to defend South Korea as part of that alliance.

"We want to make sure all the parties in the region recognise that this is a serious and ongoing threat that needs to be dealt with."

He called on North Korea's ally China to communicate to Pyongyang "that there are a set of international rules they need to abide by".

In a telephone conversation, Mr Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed to hold combined military exercises in the days ahead to underscore the strength of their alliance, the White House said in a statement.

The US has 28,000 troops stationed in the South.

South Korea's military had been carrying out an exercise near Yeonpyeong, but it denies opening hostilities by firing towards the North.

Two South Korean marines died when dozens of artillery shells landed on the island - most of them hitting a military base. Both soldiers and civilians were wounded.

The South fired back some 80 shells. Casualties on the northern side are unknown.
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Joint press conference: FM Liberman and Italian FM Frattini
Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website - www.mfa.gov.il
Date: Tuesday, 23 November 2010. Excerpt:
Q: I would like to address Foreign Minister Liberman. I would like to ask for your response regarding the aggression shown by North Korea earlier this morning towards the South. Do you find it -

FM Liberman: We have enough problems with the Middle East.

Q: So I'll make it related to the Middle East. Do you think that it has implications on the Middle East and Israel? Do you find it alarming? And do you think that this act comes because of the changes in the leadership of the regime?

FM Liberman: Of course we really think that North Korea is part of the axis of evil that includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. Because of the close cooperation between these three countries, the proliferation of nuclear technology, the proliferation of missile technology, I think that North Korea is really, as we see, a threat not only to their part of the world but also for the Middle East and the entire world. Also, if the international community cannot stop and cannot suppress this crazy regime and resolve the nuclear problem of North Korea, how can the international community try to deal with the Iranian threat if it cannot stop and restrict even North Korea? I think it's a bad message, and it's necessary today more than in the past to stop and topple this crazy regime and to halt their proliferation and their provocations.

FM Frattini: We all should condemn this North Korean attack. You know, perhaps there is an ongoing G8 consultation which very likely will lead to a common document and, I'm sure, a common message of condemnation against that attack.
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U.S. aircraft carrier heads for Korean waters
Source: Reuters - www.reuters.com - by Jack Kim and Lee Jae-won
INCHEON, South Korea
Date: Wednesday, 24 November 2010 9:56am EST. Excerpts:
A U.S. aircraft carrier group set off for Korean waters on Wednesday, a day after North Korea rained artillery shells on a South Korean island, in a move likely to enrage Pyongyang and unsettle its ally, China. [...]

Despite the rhetoric, regional powers made clear they were looking for a diplomatic way to calm things down.

South Korea, its armed forces technically superior though about half the size of the North's one-million-plus army, warned of "massive retaliation" if its neighbor attacked again.

But it was careful to avoid any immediate threat of retaliation which might spark an escalation of fighting across the Cold War's last frontier.

China has long propped up the Pyongyang leadership, worried that a collapse of the North could bring instability to its own borders and also wary of a unified Korea that would be dominated by the United States, the key ally of the South.

Beijing said it had agreed with the United States to try to restart talks among regional powers over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

A number of analysts suspect that Tuesday's attack may have been an attempt by North Korean leader Kim jong-il to raise his bargaining position ahead of disarmament talks which he has used in the past to win concessions and aid from the outside world, in particular the United States.

(Reporting by Seoul bureau, Michael Martina, Aileen Wang and Benjamin Kang Lim in Beijing, Kaori Kaneko and Yoko Kubota in Tokyo, Alister Bull, Paul Eckert, Phil Stewart and Arshad Mohammed in Washington and Ralph Jennings in Taipei; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Sanjeev Miglani)
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US Calls North Korean Artillery Strike Armistice Violation
Source: VOA (Voice of America News) - www.voanews.com
Author: David Gollust, US State Department
Date: Wednesday, 24 November 2010
The United States said Wednesday North Korea's lethal artillery strike on a South Korean island was premeditated and a violation of the 1953 Korean War armistice. But U.S. officials do not believe Pyongyang is preparing for an extended military campaign.

Officials here are not minimizing the seriousness of the North Korean artillery barrage, which they call a serious provocation and a deliberate violation of the Korean armistice.

But they say they are not observing preparations for a broader conflict by North Korea, and say they are looking to China to play a "pivotal" role in restraining its neighbor.

State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters the United States is engaged in wide-ranging diplomacy with China and others in the aftermath of the artillery clash, and intends to raise the matter directly with North Korea in the armistice framework.

The spokesman rejected North Korea's claim it acted in self defense after South Korean shelling in a military exercise. He said North Korea attacked the South Korean island hours after the routine exercise ended, in an obviously premeditated act, but that there has been no sign of a broader aggressive move by the North.

"This was in our view a one-off, premeditated act," said Crowley. "Without getting into intelligence matters, we don't see that North Korea is preparing for an extended military confrontation. That's what makes it not a war. It is a violation of the armistice. Among other things, we will have a conversation with North Korean general officers and make clear that this is a violation of the armistice."

Crowley said responsibility for the current crisis "rests exclusively" with North Korea, and the United States recognizes that China - despite being its main ally and aid provider - cannot dictate to Pyongyang.

Nonetheless he said Beijing has influence with North Korea, and the United States expects China to clear as to where the blame rests, and that Pyongyang should not be allowed to derive comfort from thus-far ambivalent Chinese statements on the issue.

President Obama late Tuesday announced U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the wake of the artillery attack, that will include dispatch of the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington to waters off the Korean peninsula.

China has previously opposed such exercises but Crowley said they contribute to stability for the entire region including China.

"We have a military alliance with South Korea and we will continue to do what we need to do with South Korea to cooperate," he said. "Our alliance with South Korea provides stability and protection, and many, many countries, including China, benefit from the alliance that we have with South Korea and others in the region."

The spokesman said the United States is engaged in broad diplomatic consultations on both the artillery incident and recent claimed advances in North Korea's nuclear program.

Crowley said there have been preliminary contacts in the U.N. Security Council, but there is no indication an emergency council session is being sought.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Khartoum, Sudan: Assembly's Speaker Receives Korean Ambassador

Assembly's Speaker Receives Korean Ambassador
Source: SUNA - www.sunanews.net
Date: Thursday, 28 October 2010:
(Khartoum) - The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir, has reviewed progress of the Sudanese Koran relations and means of consolidating them further when he received at his office Thursday the Korean Ambassador to Sudan

Al-Tahir appreciated firmness of the relations between the two countries

He informed the ambassador on the efforts being exerted by the government to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), especially with regard to holding of the referendum of south Sudan, besides the efforts to realize peace and stability in the country

Meanwhile, the Korean ambassador expressed his country's support to Sudan in the economic, investment, political and cultural fields
IF/MO

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

S. Koreans reunited with Northern relatives after 60 years

Hundreds of South Koreans held tearful reunions with their relatives living in the North as the heavily-guarded border was opened for the first time in over a year.

Report title: South Koreans reunited with Northern relatives after sixty years
Source: Telegraph.co.uk
Published: 12:21PM BST 30 Oct 2010



Photo: South Korean Kim Rye-jung, 96, left, hugs her North Korean daughter Woo Jung Hye during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain in North Korea Photo: AP
Some 430 South Koreans crossed into the North on Saturday in a convoy of buses.

The reunions, which give divided families their first chance to see one another in six decades, took place at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast, near the border.

"How are you, I could only see you in dreams," said Kim Rae-Jung, 96, from the South, choked in tears as she touched the face of her 71-year-old daughter, Wu Jong-Hye, from the North.

"I've been living well here, mother," said the daughter with tears rolling down her face.

She showed her mother pictures of her relatives and some 20 medals of honour that she and members of her family had received from the North Korean government.

The daughter was left behind in the North when other family members fled to the South in 1951 to avoid advancing Chinese troops during the Korean War.

The South Koreans from 97 families will spend three days with relatives in North Korea, from whom they were separated by the war.

Lee Moon-Yeong, in his 70s, said he had spent a sleepless night in anticipation of seeing one of his brothers after so many years apart with no chance of any communication.

He had previously feared the brother might have been killed in action after joining the North Korean army during the 1950-53 Korean War.

"Brothers were fighting against brothers. What a tragedy it was," he said.

Lee's second brother died in 1952 while fighting for the South.

North and South Korean troops on Friday briefly exchanged fire across the frontier, heightening tensions before next month's G20 summit of world leaders in Seoul. No casualties were reported.

Following the Saturday to Monday meetings, another batch of 96 South Koreans will be reunited with North Korean relatives next week.

The emotional meetings, the first since September last year, come despite icy inter-Korean ties in the aftermath of the North's alleged torpedoing of a South Korean warship, for which the North angrily denies responsibility.

Under President Lee Myung Bak, Seoul has rolled back the previous government's policy of reconciliation and taken a tougher stance towards the communist state, linking badly needed food and fertiliser aid to progress in talks on dismantling the North's nuclear programme.

On Friday, the North fired toward a South Korean guard post and South Korean soldiers there immediately returned three shots from a machine gun.

It marked the first time that shots have been fired from the North across the border since Lee's conservative government replaced a liberal government in February 2008.

Local newspaper reports said that a North Korean machine gun, always trained toward the South, might have accidentally fired.
Such accidental firings occurred occasionally, it said.

"Things are quiet there today," the Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said.

The shooting, in the Hwacheon area 56 miles northeast of Seoul, comes as the South prepares to host the Group of 20 summit on November 11-12.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

North and S. Korea on brink of war, Russian diplomat warns

North and South Korea are on the brink of war, a top Russian diplomat has warned, calling for both countries to exercise restraint and sit down for talks.

North and South Korea on the brink of war, Russian diplomat warns
From The Daily Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Published: 12:04AM BST 24 Sep 2010
In Moscow's bleakest assessment of the situation on the Korean peninsula yet, Russian deputy foreign minister Alexei Borodavkin said tensions between the two countries were running at their highest and most dangerous level in a decade.

"Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could not be any higher. The only next step is a conflict," he told foreign policy experts at a round table on the subject in Moscow.

His prediction came two months after North Korea vowed to wage "a sacred war" against South Korea and its biggest backer, the United States.

Tensions bubbled over in March after Washington and Seoul concluded that a North Korean submarine had sunk a South Korean naval vessel in the Yellow Sea. Mr Borodavkin called for the investigation into exactly who was responsible for the sinking of the vessel, the Cheonan, to be urgently closed in order to remove an obvious source of tension.

Describing the standoff between the two Koreas as a "hangover from the Cold War," Mr Borodavkin said Russia, which is one of the six countries involved in talks with North Korea over its nuclear programme, was doing all it could to try to prevent an outbreak of hostilities.

But he said responsibility for keeping peace in the volatile region was shared equally between North and South Korea. He condemned North Korea's nuclear testing programme but also criticised the way the United States and South Korea had increased their military manoeuvres in the wake of the sinking of the Cheonan.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kim Jong-il dictatorship could end within days

The dictatorship of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il could end within days after a leadership conference was called for the first time in nearly 45 years.

Kim Jong-il dictatorship could end within days
From The Daily Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Published: 6:30PM BST 21 Sep 2010:
The country has announced a "great revolutionary surge" as it prepares for a regime change which could see Mr Kim's son, Kim Jong-un, appointed as his successor.

North Korea will hold a party conference of its ruling Workers' Party next week, for the first time since 1966, to elect its "supreme leadership body".

Ostensibly the conference will appoint new blood into the North Korean bureaucracy, but the rarity of the event has convinced experts that Mr Kim, 68, could use the event to unveil his third son as his successor.

The elder Mr Kim travelled to China last month and may have sought China's rubber-stamp over the transfer of power. China remains North Korea's most important trading power and political ally.

If Mr Kim does hand over power, North Korea will continue to enjoy the apparent contradiction of being a centrally-planned Communist state with a hereditary dynasty in charge.

An announcement yesterday (tues) from the Korean Central News Agency, the mouthpiece of the government, said there would be a "new great revolutionary surge" and that all cadres in the country were "single-mindedly united" behind Kim Jong-il, whatever his decision may be.

The regime is "now ready to go ahead with its move to designate Kim Jong-Un as successor", said Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "The son is expected to take a key party post but that will not be made public for a while," he added.

The meeting had been delayed since the beginning of September, causing many observers to wonder whether the elder Kim was facing an internal challenge to his choice of successor.

"It is possible that the North Korean elite is far less united than usually assumed, so some factions are seriously unhappy about the likely choice of successor or the expected composition of the new leadership," said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Seoul's Kookmin University.

Other analysts noted that the delay could have been triggered by the need to plan and stage-manage the succession and instruct cadres, who have been stationed in Pyongyang for two weeks in expectation of the meeting, about their roles in the event.

However, some observers note that the younger Kim, at 28, may not be ready to assume full control over North Korea and has not been groomed in the same way as his father. The younger Kim has instead been fast-tracked to leadership ever since his father suffered a stroke in 2008, leaving a question mark over his continuing rule.

Another possible option would be for Kim Jong-il to pass power to his brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek, as a regent while his son built his own power base. A bureaucratic reshuffling in 2009 helped to promote Chang, and the forthcoming conference could see him given further roles.

He is currently vice chairman of the National Defence Commission, a position considered second only to Kim Jong-il.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

North Korea joins Facebook

North Korea appears to have joined the social networking site Facebook after its Twitter account was blocked by South Korea under the country's security laws.

Full story: Telegraph.co.uk - North Korea joins Facebook - 20 August 2010.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

US declines to put North Korea back on terrorism blacklist

Report by AFP - Thursday, 05 August 2010:
US declines to put NKorea back on terrorism blacklist

The Obama administration declined Thursday to put North Korea back on a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism despite pressure from lawmakers to do so.

In its report for 2009, the State Department kept the same countries on the list as it did in 2008 -- Iran, Sudan, Cuba and Syria -- with Iran again listed as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism."

Former US president George W. Bush de-listed North Korea in 2008 after it vowed to end its nuclear program, agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and pledged to disable its nuclear plants.

The Obama administration has kept it off the list again after citing narrow legal definition for what constitutes support for terrorism.

In June 2009, 16 US Republican Senators urged President Barack Obama's administration to place the communist regime back on the US blacklist.

The North conducted its second nuclear test the previous month and defied international criticism by firing a volley of short-range missiles and threatening to attack the capitalist South.

Though the report does not cover events this year, Republican senators renewed their call for North Korea to be listed again after South Korea and the United States blamed it for sinking a South Korean warship in March.

In keeping four countries on the blacklist, the Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 said "Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism".

"Iran?s financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf and undermined the growth of democracy," it said.

The US accuses Iran of actively supporting groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Shiite groups in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

On Sudan, the report said the government was cooperating with US counter-terrorism efforts, but said "Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist elements as well as elements of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and HAMAS, remained in Sudan in 2009."

The report said the United States disagrees with Syria's support for what it calls national liberation movements, groups Washington considers are terrorist.

"Syria continued to provide safe-haven as well as political and other support to a number of designated Palestinian terrorist groups, including HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)," the report.

The report complained that Cuba still gives safe haven and ideological support for three terrorist organizations.

"The Government of Cuba has long assisted members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN), and Spain?s Basque Homeland and Freedom Organization (ETA), some having arrived in Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Colombia and Spain," it said.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Israel says seized North Korean arms were for Hamas, Hezbollah

Israel says seized North Korean arms were for Hamas, Hezbollah
Report from Reuters - Wednesday, 12 May 2010 3:19am EDT
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Jeremy Laurence):
(TOKYO) - The Israeli foreign minister said on Wednesday that North Korean weapons seized in Thailand last year were headed for Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

More than 35 tonnes of arms including rockets and rocket-propelled grenades were seized from a cargo plane after it made an emergency landing at a Bangkok airport in December. Thai authorities said the plane came from North Korea.

In January, the Thai government sent a report to the U.N. Security Council stating the weapons were headed for Iran, which is allied to Syria.

"With huge numbers of different weapons ... (it had the) intention to smuggling these weapons to Hamas and to Hezbollah," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told a news conference in Tokyo, where he is visiting until Thursday.

"These cooperation between North Korea and Syria ... (do not) improve the economic situation in their countries," he said, speaking to reporters in English.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Monday Israel was in a proxy war with Iran due to its sponsorship of Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas and the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.

Diplomats have said the movement of North Korean arms to Iran appears to have been an effort to violate U.N. sanctions against North Korea, diplomats said. Although Iran is subject to separate U.N. sanctions because of its nuclear program, it is not forbidden to import arms.

Pyongyang was hit with fresh U.N. sanctions last year to punish it for a nuclear test in May 2009, its second atomic detonation. The expanded measures are aimed at cutting off its arms sales, a vital export estimated to earn the destitute state more than $1 billion a year.

North Korea's biggest arm sales come from ballistic missiles, with Iran and other Middle Eastern states as customers, according to U.S. government officials.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

A North Korean submarine fired a torpedo which caused the sinking of a South Korean warship in South Korean waters - with the loss of 42 lives

Excerpt from Channel 4's Snowmail - Thursday, 20 May 2010:
Dramatic tension between the two Koreas, with the official finding that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo which caused the sinking of a South Korean warship - with the loss of 42 lives. The warship was in South Korean waters. The condemnation is worldwide. The problem for South Korea is that whatever it does in response, North Korea has threatened all out war. It’s an incident which threatens to spread well beyond the region. If there's a will in the international community to ramp up pressure on North Korea, would China scupper it?

North Korea blamed for sinking navy ship: http://bit.ly/9uauHl

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

North Korean refugees plead case against Kim Jong-il

Refugees from North Korea are in The Hague in an attempt to convince the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Kim Jong-il for crimes against humanity.

From NRC Handelsblad, 10 December 2009 17:31:
North Korean refugees plead case against Kim Jong-il
By Harry Meijer
Park Hye-ri (43) cried softly as she removed her artificial limbs in a hotel conference room in The Hague on Wednesday, her black lacquered shoes dangling pointlessly from the flesh-coloured prostheses. The limbs are evidence in a case Park Hye-ri and one of her compatriots came to make on behalf of 150 refugees from North Korea.

Hye-ri reached South Korea, where she now lives with her 19-year-old son, in 2006 at the end of her second escape attempt from North Korea. The first failed when she was intercepted by Chinese police in the border area between Mongolia and China, in 40 degrees Celsius below zero temperatures, and repatriated to North Korea, where she was detained and beaten for months.

"The Chinese sent me back with frozen feet. The North Korean secret police beat me on my feet, and drove a steel pin through them. My legs started rotting away. They only wanted one thing: to hear me confess that I had wanted to escape to South Korea," Hye-Ri told the court.

If al-Bashir, why not Kim Jong-il?

Hye-ri and the other refugees want the ICC's main prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, to investigate the possibility of indicting the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for crimes against humanity. The charges include torture, deportation, sexual slavery, rape, starvation and summary executions.

The refugees are supported by a group of South Korean intellectuals and activists. They take courage from the ICC's earlier indictment of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.

If the ICC can issue an arrest warrant for Bashir, then surely it must do the same for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, said Ha Tae-keung, a South Korean activist who is the driving force behind Open Radio for North Korea, a Seoul-based radio station that broadcasts daily to listeners in North Korea. "The crimes against humanity committed by North Korea are at least as grave as those of Sudan," said Ha.

Stalinist North Korea is one of the most reclusive and repressive regimes in the world. According to human rights organisations, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people are detained in political prisoners camps. Prisoners are subjected to forced labour, torture and public executions, claims the file of the refugees before the ICC.

Slim chance

The international community is at a loss what to do with the North Korean leader. US envoy Stephen Bosworth paid a three-day visit to Pyongyang this week in an attempt to persuade North Korea to re-enter talks about nuclear disarmament.

Activist Ha sees a trial in The Hague as another way to put pressure on the regime. "Kim Jong-il will never give up his atom bomb," he said, "but with enough international pressure he might be persuaded to do something about the human rights situation."

Chances that the ICC will prosecute Kim Jong-il personally are slim as North Korea does not recognise the court. The UN Security Council could refer Kim Jong-il to the ICC, but such a move would be almost certainly vetoed by China, an ally of North Korea.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Burma claims it will release Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma claims it will release Aung San Suu Kyi

Photo: Aung San Suu Kyi is being held under house arrest in the commercial hub Yangon after her detention was extended by another 18 months in August. (AFP) Source: The Daily Telegraph, Nov. 03, 2009:
US diplomats arrive in Burma for talks with junta
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From The Daily Telegraph
Burma claims it will release Aung San Suu Kyi
Published: 7:00AM GMT 10 Nov 2009
"There is a plan to release her soon ... so she can organise her party," Min Lwin, a director-general in the foreign ministry. He gave no details and it was unclear whether Mrs Suu Kyi would be allowed to campaign or stand for election.

Despite the conciliatory remarks, the country's constitution includes provisions that bar her from holding office and ensure the primacy of the government in the military.

The Nobel peace prize winner has spent 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest. In August a court sentenced her to an additional 18 months after an American, John Yettaw, swam across a lake to her villa in Rangoon and stayed overnight.

Burma's junta in the past has raised expectations of Mrs Suu Kyi's imminent release only to dash the hopes of her supporters at home and abroad.

Pro-democracy campaigners cautioned against reading too much into the latest hints on Mrs Suu Kyi's release. "They've been saying these sorts of things for a long time but they have never delivered on them," Anna Roberts, the director of the Burma Campaign UK told the Guardian. "The regime's main concern is get economic sanctions lifted and get approval for the sham elections next year."

Tantalising hints of a possible release for the political prisoner came as Min Lwin was in Manila for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the US.
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Diplomat says jailed opposition leader will be allowed to organise her party for elections next year
Excerpt from The Guardian
Burma claims it will release Aung San Suu Kyi
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
In a break with George Bush's policy of isolating the Burmese regime, Barack Obama has decided on a policy of engagment with the junta. Last week the US assistant secretary of state for east Asia, Kurt Campbell, and his deputy, Scott Marciel, became the most senior American officials to visit Burma since 1995, when Madeleine Albright went as Bill Clinton's ambassador to the UN.

Campbell and Marciel held exploratory talks with senior figures in the junta, including the prime minister, Thein Sein, but not Than Shwe, the general who has ruled the country for the last 17 years. They also met Aung San Suu Kyi.

Obama will meet Asean leaders this weekend during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore, possibly bringing him into rare contact with Thein Sein. The last US president to meet a Burmese leader was Lyndon Johnson, who held talks with prime minister Ne Win in 1966.
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From The Irrwaddy
China Builds Fence on Part of Burma’s Kachin Border
By WAI MOE, Tuesday, December 23, 2008:
Chinese authorities are building a fence along the Burmese border near Laiza in Kachin State, reportedly to deter drug traffickers.

Awng Wa, of the Kachin Development Networking Group, based on the Sino-Burmese border, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that work began on the fence last month. He said it is expected to be at least 10 km long.

“I heard that the Chinese authorities want to complete the construction before the coming Chinese New Year Festival [in late January],” he said.

Awng Wa said that although the Chinese authorities claimed the fence was being built to prevent landslides, the real purpose appeared to be to stem rising drug trafficking across the border.

Authorities in China’s Yunnan Province report that in the three years ending April 2008 they seized 12.9 tons of heroin, 9.3 tons of crystal methamphetamines and 4.5 tons of opium originating in Burma. The heroin amounted to 75 percent of nationwide seizures, the methamphetamines accounted for 55 percent and the opium 87 percent.

The fence is the second to be built by China along its border with Burma. The first, 4 km long, was built near Ruili. A third is planned in the Pangwah pass area, according to sources.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst on the Sino-Burma border, said the fences were not expected to disrupt drug trafficking. “The Chinese need to consider the root of the problem,” he said.

China and Burma have a relatively open border of more than 2,000 km, favoring smuggling and drug trafficking, according to Poon Kim Shee, an expert on Sino-Burmese relations.

Cross-border trade was banned by the government of Burmese dictator New Win from 1962 until 1988. The two countries signed an agreement legalizing trade in August 1988.

Since 1988, bilateral trade increased steadily, soaring 60 percent in the fiscal year ending last March 31, reaching a total value of US $2.4 billion.

China is now Burma’s second largest trading partner, after Thailand, and bilateral trade accounts for 24 percent of Burma’s trade.

Burmese exports to China comprise mostly raw materials such as agricultural produce, fish, timber, gems and minerals, while Burma imports Chinese machinery, electronics, processed food and consumer goods.
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Further reading

Online Burma/Myanmar Library

From foes to friends: The changing face of Burma-North Korean relations
Did Foreign Pressure Make Ship Turn Back? 
By LALIT K JHA (WASHINGTON) — Pressure from Burma’s key neighbors including India, China and members countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) could have persuaded the military junta not to be associated with North Korean nuclear activities at this point of time. The controversial North Korean ship heading for Burma may have been turned around as a result.
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Meme: Joe Trippi's Eleven-Eleven 1111Campaign - America's and Britain's Veterans have given so much. Now, you can give back.

Joe Trippi, one of America's greatest bloggers, has launched Eleven Eleven Campaign. The objective of the Eleven Eleven Campaign is simple: to get 11 million Americans to donate $11 to support America’s Veterans. Here is a copy of Joe's latest tweet on Twitter:
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and now is our moment to encourage our friends, family members and colleagues to join us... http://bit.ly/9Iu9s
33 minutes ago from Facebook
1111Campaign
Eleven Eleven
Hey Joe! Britain's Veterans have given so much too!

Stand with 11 million Brits and Give £11 to Support Britain’s Vets!

Take Action Today
Click here to support Britain's Veterans
November 11, 2009

Britain's Veterans have given so much.  Now, you can give back.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bill Clinton meets Kim Jong Il in North Korea, 4 Aug 2009

Bill Clinton in North Korea

Photo: The former American President Bill Clinton flew into North Korea on a surprise mission to secure the release of two American journalists. He was taken from the airport into a rare face-to-face meeting with the regime's 'Dear Leader', Kim Jong Il. It has raised hopes that North Korea may soon be enticed back to multinational disarmament talks after three months of mounting atomic tensions and provocation. (KRT/Reuters)

Bill Clinton in North Korea

Photo: North Korea’s official news agency reported that Mr Clinton and Mr Kim engaged in "sincere and exhaustive discussions" on a range of issues. (KRT/Reuters)

Clinton visit signals North Korea ready to deal

Photo: A South Korean newspaper reports on his visit (Ahn Young-joon/AP/Times Online) Reports suggest that Mr Clinton will use the two-day trip to "negotiate robustly" for the release of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the two American journalists who are serving 12 years hard labour in a North Korean prison. They were both working for a television company run by Mr Clinton’s former Vice-President, Al Gore, and were arrested for a "grave" though unspecified, crime on the North Korea-China
border earlier this year. (Yonhap/AP)

Bill Clinton in North Korea

Photo: South Koreans have been demanding the release of the two women. Here they burn a defaced North Korean flag during a rally. (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

Bill Clinton in North Korea

Photo: A defaced portrait of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is placed on the street during the rally in Soeul (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

Source: Times Online, 04 August 2009 - Bill Clinton meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Il for talks

UPDATE:

Within hours of shaking the hands of his reclusive host, Kim Jong Il, North Korea dramatically announced that the journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were free to go.

“Kim Jong Il issued an order ...on granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labour in accordance with Article 103 of the Socialist Constitution and releasing them,” North Korea’s official news agency reported.

They were expected to fly back home on board Mr Clinton’s plane.

Full story at Times Online by Leo Lewis in Tokyo, and Tim Reid in Washington 4 Aug 2009:
Bill Clinton secures 'pardon' for imprisoned journalists after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Il

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Monday, July 13, 2009

EU plans to sign $100 bln S.Korea trade pact in '09

From Reuters Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:54am EDT
UPDATE 1-EU plans to sign $100 bln S.Korea trade pact in '09
* Swedish EU presidency plans to conclude S. Korea pact

* Free-trade agreement estimated to be worth $100 bln

* Diplomats see initialling of deal in September

* EU carmakers remain opposed, BusinessEurope in favour

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Friday, July 10, 2009

S. Korean president seeks Italy's support for Korea-EU FTA in summit

From Yonhap News Agency by Byun Duk-kun, Friday, 10 July 2009:
S. Korean president seeks Italy's support for Korea-EU FTA in summit
L'AQUILA, Italy, July 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sought to win Italy's support for an envisioned free trade deal between his country and the European Union in a summit with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi here Friday.

The move is part of last-minute efforts by Seoul to conclude the free trade agreement (FTA) while three EU nations -- Italy, Poland and Hungary -- were believed to be holding back their full support for the accord.

Berlusconi agreed to work with the South Korean leader to help "upgrade the Korea-EU relationship to a strategic partnership by concluding the Korea-EU FTA at an early date as agreed in the Korea-EU summit held in Seoul on May 23," Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.

The agreement could mean the sides are now only a step away from signing the deal which, once signed, is expected to generate billions of dollars in increased trade for both sides.

Poland is said to have withdrawn its early opposition to the proposed deal, with President Lech Kaczynski saying in a joint press conference with Lee after their summit Wednesday that the FTA will help improve the relationship between his country and South Korea.

Lee and the Italian prime minister agreed to improve their countries' bilateral ties, noting their relationship has steadily expanded to economic, political and cultural areas since first established in 1884, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

"The two heads of state agreed to strengthen the cooperation between their countries in dealing with global issues, such as the worldwide financial crisis and climate change," it said in the press release.

They also agreed to work together for an early resumption of six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambition, noting its possession of nuclear weapons will not be accepted.

Pyongyang declared it was abandoning the nuclear disarmament talks in protest over U.N. condemnation of its rocket launch in April. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

bdk@yna.co.kr 
(END)

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Did North Korea cyber attack Washington?

it seems the North Koreans may have carried out an act of cyber-war against half a dozen US government agencies and the hallowed Washington Post. Our Asia correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is out there in cyberspace, chasing them down.

Did North Korea attack Washington?: http://bit.ly/agDWR

Source: Channel 4 News (UK) Snowmail by Jon Snow, Wednesday, 08 July 2009.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Kaesong Industrial Park in the DPR Korea - A new city for 500,000 people

See this incredible video uploaded to YouTube November 17, 2008.



A new centre for the far East. North and South Korea will co-exist. A new city for 500,000 people.

Kaesong Industrial Region, North Korea

From Reuters Wed, 01 July 2009 10:53pm ED, by Jack Kim:
North Korea seen readying missiles
SEOUL (Reuters) - North and South Korean officials held talks on Thursday to salvage a joint factory park in the communist state that has become a key source of foreign cash for Pyongyang, hit by U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test.

The talks come as North Korea looks ready to launch medium or short range missiles from its east coast within days, a South Korean newspaper reported, which could further stoke tensions already high due to the North's May 25 nuclear test.

Washington said this week it has tightened its crackdown on firms linked to the North's lucrative proliferation of missiles, a major source of cash for the destitute state, and has sent the U.S. point man for sanctions to Asia for discussions.

The talks over the Kaesong industrial park, where about 100 South Korean companies pay $70 a month per person to employ about 40,000 North Koreans, have hit snags in previous rounds over the North's demands for sharp raises in wages and land lease fees.

Analysts said North Korea was trying to squeeze more money out of the South Korean companies in Kaesong as U.N. sanctions imposed for its missile and nuclear tests begin to grip the state that produces few goods other than arms it can export.

North Korea has ignored the South's demand for the release of a South Korean worker who has been held at the park located just inside North Korea for more than three months for supposedly insulting the North's political system.

The North said in May it was cancelling all wage, rent and tax agreements for the park, once hailed as a model of future economic cooperation between the rival states technically still at war who share one of the world most militarized borders.

MISSILES MOVES

The North was likely to fire medium or short range missiles from its east coast in early July that could include Scuds with a range of about 340 kilometers (210 miles) or Rodong missiles with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers, the daily JoongAng Ilbo quoted an intelligence source as saying.

Japan's coast guard has said it had monitored no-sail warnings by the North for 10 nautical areas around the Korean peninsula for military firing exercises.

On Tuesday, the United States said it was cracking down on companies involved in North Korea's suspected missile proliferation and in the purchase of equipment that could be used in a nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. Treasury and State Departments moved to freeze the assets of an Iranian and a North Korean firm under an executive order and also barred U.S. firms from dealing with them.

Philip Goldberg, the U.S. envoy who coordinates sanctions against the North, went to China in a bid to get tough with North Korea. China is the North's biggest benefactor whose cooperation could determine the success of any sanctions regime, analysts said.

He will be in Malaysia on Sunday before heading back to Washington on Monday. It was not immediately clear why he was visiting Malaysia.

A North Korean ship being tracked by the U.S. Navy on suspicion of carrying a banned arms cargo has turned around and is headed in the direction of the North after it was seen sailing to Myanmar.

Officials said the North's military grandstanding is likely related to moves by its leadership to begin readying leader Kim Jong-il's youngest son as a future heir by consolidating the 67-year-old leader's power base.

(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Valerie Lee)
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N Korea threatens US as world anticipates missile

Report from Associated Press (via Yahoo News) by HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:13 pm ET:
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea accused Washington of seeking to "provoke a second Korean War" as the regime prepared to hold maritime military exercises off the eastern coast. U.S. and regional authorities were watching closely for signs that North Korea might fire short- or mid-range missiles during the June 25 to July 10 
timeframe cited in a no-sail ban for military drills sent to Japan's Coast Guard.
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Source/credit:  With thanks to seeker401 (a wordpress blog):

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Monday, May 25, 2009

North Korea has carried out a nuclear test

North Korea has carried out a nuclear test. Barack Obama is threatening unspecified 'action'. The UN Security Council will meet later tonight.

Source: UK's Channel 4 News Service Snowmail, Monday, 25 May 2009.

See 25 May 2009 BBC News report Outrage over N Korea nuclear test and comments at Have Your Say

Friday, May 22, 2009

Microsoft blocks MSN access for selected countries

Microsoft blocks MSN access for selected countries. List of those affected includes Syria, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.

Source: AJ-IT by Ben, Friday, 22 May, 2009:
Microsoft blocks MSN access for selected countries
Reports are surfacing online confirming that Microsoft has removed access to its Windows Live MSN services for residents in several embargoed countries, the full list of those effected includes Syria, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.

If, say, you’ve woken up in Cuba this morning and gone to log into your MSN account you would have seen this little error message pop-up, “Error 810003c1”, which, buried in Microsoft’s terms means “Microsoft has shut off the Windows Live Messenger IM for users in the countries embargoed by the US hence Microsoft no longer offers Windows Live Service in your country”.

The reasoning or logic behind which countries get denied access and which get allowed is undisclosed but could be considered more than a little confusing as other countries with sanctions against them remain unhindered in accessing the services.

The reason behind the timing of the decision is also unclear, but one thing is for sure, a simple IP-based blocking system won’t keep MSN users in those countries off of the service for very long.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Japan to 'destroy' N Korea rocket

Report by the BBC March 27, 2009:
Japan to 'destroy' N Korea rocket (BBC)
Japan says it is deploying missile interceptors to destroy any parts of a North Korean rocket that might fall on its territory.
North Korea has said it will launch a satellite into orbit next month.

South Korea, Japan and the US say the launch is cover for a test of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.

The US said a launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions. Russia said North Korea should "abstain" from testing any missiles.

'Assure safety'

Japan's Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada issued the orders to mobilise Japan's missile defence shield after a meeting with Prime Minister Taro Aso and cabinet ministers.

"We will do our best to handle any flying object from North Korea in order to assure the Japanese people's safety and security," said Mr Hamada.

North Korea's missile programme

"A satellite or a missile - we are displeased with anything that is going to fly over our land, and such an action must be stopped."

It is the first time that constitutionally pacifist Japan has deployed the shield. The country's military is also expected to deploy warships off its coast.

North Korea says it intends to test-fire the rocket between the 4 and 8 April.

The trajectory issued by Pyongyang shows the rocket will pass over Japan, with the first booster stage landing in the sea to the west, the second in the Pacific Ocean to the east.

The interception is only likely to be activated if the launch does not go as planned and debris appears to be falling towards Japan.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin told journalists that the launch had led to increased tensions in the region, "and this is why it would be better if our partners in North Korea abstained from this".

Japan revised its Self-Defence Forces Law in 2005, legalising possible interceptions of ballistic missiles.

But the country's pacifist constitution does not allow it to intercept a missile if it is clearly heading elsewhere.

The Japanese government had previously warned it would try to shoot down any missile or debris that threatens to hit its territory.

North Korea has said it would regard any rocket intercept as an act of war.