Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sudan Wants to Expand Economic Ties With S. Korea

SOUTH KOREA: Visiting Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has called for further economic cooperation with South Korea in sectors such as electronics, textiles, cars and the oil industry.

After signing an agreement to avoid double taxation with his South Korean counterpart Friday, Ismail said this agreement and his visit to Seoul will help boost the economic relationship of the two countries,

"I have met with some chairmen of important companies here, and also invited President Roh Moo-hyun and Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon to our country. Maybe business groups will come with them,'' Ismail said in an interview with The Korea Times Sunday.

"Unfortunately, South Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC) came in second after a Malaysian national company in a competition for an oil contract in our country recently,'' he said, citing KNOC's lack of specific knowledge on the international oil market and scarce government-level exchanges between the two countries as some of the reasons for the failure.

The minister, however, stressed that his country still has a lot of opportunities to offer investors, especially those from Asian countries, unlike other African nations where European companies tend to be dominant." "Our biggest trading partner is China. France is second, Malaysia third and India is following close behind,'' he said.

"Those countries in alliance with the U.S., like Japan and South Korea, have been reluctant to invest because of political interests. China, however, pursues an independent policy, as does Malaysia, India and Iran. China approached us first, so they became our number one partner,'' he added, explaining how China came to play such a big role in their economy, especially in the oil sector, since the Sudanese government has a ``sometimes difficult'' relationship with the U.S.

South Korea, with no crude oil produced on its territory, has been stepping up energy diplomacy, including projects involving trans-Siberian pipelines as well as direct imports from resource-rich countries.

Recently Sudan has received a lot of international attention regarding the Darfur crisis. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell reported to the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the Janjaweed, or Arab militia under the government's control, is committing ``genocide'' against the people of Darfur, in the western region of Sudan. Ismail rebuffed the accusation against Sudanese government involvement in the ``genocide'' as totally groundless.

"Of course there is a humanitarian crisis in Darfur. But is it okay to use the case for immoral political agenda? The Bush administration is just trying to detract the world's attention from Iraq, where their soldiers are dying and the prisoners of Abu Graib are being immorally and sexually abused,'' the minister said, accusing the U.S. of applying double standards to Iraq and Sudan.

He also pointed to the relatively lukewarm reaction from other parts of the world, such as members of the African Union (AU) and European countries, to the Darfur crisis. "Other delegations from AU, European and Arab countries have also been welcomed into our country to assess the situation, but it is only the U.S. who uses the term "genocide'' to describe the situation in Darfur,'' he said.

N Korea rules out nuclear freeze - UN team arrive in Seoul Sunday to scrutinise nuclear disclosures

North Korea has said it can "never dismantle" its nuclear arsenal while US policy towards it remains hostile.

Pyongyang also accused the US of "double standards", saying it had aided nuclear experiments by South Korea.

North Korea suspended talks aimed at nuclear disarmament earlier this month after the disclosure that South Korea had secretly violated nuclear accords.

The US, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea have been negotiating with North Korea to reduce its nuclear capability.

Shock disclosure

South Korea has said its efforts to extract plutonium and enrich uranium were undertaken purely for civilian purposes.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's atomic agency, meanwhile praised Seoul for co-operating with an inquiry into its nuclear experiments.

A UN team is to arrive in Seoul on Sunday to scrutinise its nuclear disclosures.

South Korea shocked observers on 2 September by admitting its scientists had taken part in small experiments to yield materials that could be used in processes leading towards building nuclear weapons.

Little progress

The statement by North Korean news agency, KCNA, reiterated a refusal to continue disarmament talks and accused the US of stoking an arms race in the region.

"South Korea's clandestine nuclear experiments go to prove that the US double standards are a fundamental factor of the nuclear proliferation," it said.

Talks could not be resumed, the agency said, "unless the US drops its hostile policy based on double standards towards [North Korea]."

Disarming Pyongyang's "nuclear deterrent force" was also out of the question, KCNA said.

Long-running talks aimed at encouraging North Korea to surrender some of its nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and guarantees of security have made little progress so far.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Mushroom Cloud Reported Over North Korea

Sep 13, 2004: A massive explosion has reportedly rocked a northern province of North Korea close to the Chinese border.

South Korea's Yonhap new agency reported the incident on Sunday despite the event having taken place on Thursday.

Yonhap, quoting an unnamed diplomatic source in Seoul as saying a mushroom cloud, with a radius of 3.5-4 kms (2.2-2.5 miles), was spotted in Kimhyungjik county in Yanggang province.

Satellite images of the event have gone explained until the Yonhap report.

Seoul's top negotiator with North Korea, Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, said South Korea was seeking confirmation of the explosion, its cause and effects, according to the Yonhap report.

North Korea is a secretive nation that rarely reveals happenings within the country. The press and media generally is tightly controlled by the government.

Earlier this year North Korea admitted to an explosion at a railway station, which killed more than 150 people, three days after the event. Unconfirmed reports at the time put the death toll at much higher levels.

Meantime North Korea is reportedly attempting to delay talks that were planned for later this month on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

During the last talks in June, South and North Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia agreed to meet again before the end of September.

Pyongyang is now seeking to delay the negotiations until after the U.S. presidential race, hoping President George W. Bush is voted out of office, the Korea Times reported Saturday.
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Upddate -

South Korean media has been full of speculation about the blast

BBC report September 13 (note BBC's excellent database, further information, resource links, etc.): South Korean media has been full of speculation about the blast. Visiting UK Foreign Minister Bill Rammell, urged North Korea to allow a British diplomat to inspect the scene. Copy of report here - in full:

North Korea has given its first explanation for the huge blast last week which prompted speculation that it had carried out a nuclear test.

The country's foreign minister, Paek Nam-sun, said the blast was in fact the deliberate demolition of a mountain as part of a huge, hydro-electric project.

His remarks came in response to a call for information by the visiting UK Foreign Office minister, Bill Rammell.

North Korea had said nothing about the incident until now.

After meeting with Mr Paek, Mr Rammell urged North Korea to allow a British diplomat to inspect the scene.

Mr Rammell welcomed the fact that North Korea had provided an explanation.

"But if they are going to be open and engage with the international community, what we really need is diplomats to be able to go to the area and confirm for themselves that that is the case," Mr Rammell said.

The North Koreans have promised to consider the request, he said.

'Peculiar cloud'

The United States and South Korea had already played down suggestions that the explosion in Yanggang Province, close to the Chinese border, was caused by a nuclear device.

"There was no indication that was a nuclear event of any kind. Exactly what it was, we're not sure," US Secretary of State Colin Powell told ABC television on Sunday.

The blast in Yanggang Province, close to the Chinese border, is said to have happened on Thursday as the Stalinist state celebrated its National Day.

It created what officials in Seoul say was a peculiar-shaped cloud.

The incident and the fears it has provoked around the world are another illustration of the enormous tension between the regime and the international community, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins, in Pyongyang.

North Korea is under international pressure to end all nuclear programmes and disarm.

But so far it has offered only limited concessions during "six-party" international talks involving both Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

It has not yet committed to attend a fourth round of the talks, which the Chinese, as hosts, wanted to start before the end of this month.