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All Headlines 10:48 June 26, 2008


Russia Provides Food Aid to N. Korea Through WFP: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Russia has started to provide food aid to North Korea through the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported on June 18.

"In compliance with the Russian government's decision, the Russian Emergencies Ministry is taking measures to provide extraordinary humanitarian food aid to the population of North Korea on account of Russia's contribution to the WFP for 2008," the news agency quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying.

"Wheat flour of 2,860 tons started to be delivered to North Korea from June 11 and it will be distributed among the population through the WFP structures," it added.

Aid groups have said North Korea faces this year food shortages comparable to those in the mid- 1990s when famine is believed to have killed 1-3 million people in the country.

North Korea has heavily depended on outside aid to help feed its 23 million population since the mid-1990s.


Rice Invited to Visit North Korea: Japanese Media

TOKYO (Yonhap) -- North Korea has invited U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit Pyongyang, a Japanese newspaper reported on June 19.

North Korea's top nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan delivered the invitation at a meeting with his American counterpart Christopher Hill in Beijing last month, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

Hill did not give an immediate answer, the newspaper added.

Quoting unnamed diplomatic sources, the newspaper interpreted the North's move as aimed at using a visit by Rice to improve ties with Washington.


KIm Jong-il Chosen among Three Worst Leaders: Report

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is one of the world's three worst leaders, a U.S. magazine said on June 23.

Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine cited Kim's efforts to buttress his destitute regime with funds raised from drug trafficking, along with his country's floating of counterfeit banknotes and sales of missile technology as reasons for the ranking.

The special report titled the "Failed States Index 2008" said the other two worst leaders were Myanmar's Than Shwe and Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The magazine denounced Than for using proceeds from trade of natural gas and opium to suppress pro-democracy movements and the Sudanese leader for using oil money to conduct ethnic cleansing in the impoverished African state.

The report analyzed more than 30,000 publicly available sources in 177 countries, collected from May to December 2007, and claimed Somalia has the "unenviable distinction of being the state most at risk of failure ... as the unpopular transitional government lacks control of the streets of Mogadishu."

On North Korea's Kim, the magazine said, "Illicit activities form the cornerstone of North Korea's destitute economy, with drug trafficking, the ivory trade, and counterfeit cigarettes supplanting the millions the regime once earned from selling missile technology."

"But it's Kim Jong-il’s secretive Office 39 that some U.S. officials believe truly keeps his regime afloat," it said, alleging Office 39 is behind the counterfeiting of millions of supernotes, the world's most sophisticated forgeries of U.S. dollars.

"The world's worst leaders do not simply cling to power through brute force and the denial of basic rights," it said. "They are buoyed by cash from a variety of legal and illegal trades."


Seoul Skeptical on Possible Encounter between President Lee, N.K. Leader

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The presidential office on June 24 reacted skeptically to media speculation that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak may encounter North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing this August.

President Lee has said he will travel to Beijing to attend the ceremony, slated for Aug. 8, and China recently invited Kim to attend on the same date. U.S. President George W. Bush is also expected to be visiting China at that time.

Such developments have triggered media speculation about a possible meeting between Lee and Kim, or even one including the U.S. president.

But a top-ranking official at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae gave a skeptical response, saying, "It is not clear whether the North Korean leader will come to Beijing or not. Furthermore, a meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas is not such a simple matter."

"An inter-Korean summit is certain to be an event that draws multilateral attention. Such a meeting won't be easy to come by," the official said, requesting anonymity.

Diplomats in Seoul say that the possibility of the reclusive North Korean leader personally attending the opening ceremony for the Olympics appears slim. Instead, the North's leader is expected to send one of his deputies, such as titular head of state Kim Yong-nam, to Beijing.

Lee, who has linked inter-Korean reconciliation to the communist North's denuclearization, said recently that he recognizes the need for a summit with the North Korean leader, but won't push for such a meeting for the sake of domestic political gains.

Meanwhile, former Unification Minister Chung Se-hyun said in a radio interview that North Korean leader Kim could make a surprise appearance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in order to accelerate the improvement of his country's diplomatic relations with the U.S.

"As long as North Korea-U.S. relations are improving rapidly, the possibility of a surprise meeting between Kim and Bush in Beijing cannot be ruled out," said Chung.

"North Korea is about to blow up a reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. Kim's appearance at the Olympics, a global peace festival, and his subsequent meeting with the U.S. president would greatly help enhance the North's international image," he said.

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