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All Headlines 10:51 July 03, 2008


North Korea Vows Continued Efforts to Combat Narcotics

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on June 26 it has taken measures to combat drug use and will continue to do so in cooperation with various countries and U.N. organizations.

The Minju Joson, newspaper of the socialist state's cabinet, said North Korea "has implemented," in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, anti-drug international conventions that it reportedly joined in March 2007.

"Our country acceded to the international conventions stipulating the supervising and controlling procedures to limit production, manufacture, dealing, use and possession of drugs and has implemented them in cooperation with the relevant international organization," Han Su-chol, a department director of the North Korean Public Health Ministry, said in his contribution to the newspaper.

The North, at the same time, "took various state measures to prevent social dangers caused by drugs and set up a well-regulated work system in the field of narcotic control whereby the management and handling of drugs, mental stimulants and precursor are put under a strict regime and order," said the article published to mark the International Day of Combating Narcotic Misuse and Trafficking.

"Our country will as ever keep in close touch with various countries and UN organizations and continue to take a series of measures to control drug and scrupulously manage it," he said.


Pyongyang Citizens Welcome U.S.'s Lifting of Sanctions: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Citizens of Pyongyang welcomed the U.S.'s lifting of economic sanctions against North Korea amid progress in the North's denuclearization, and said such a rapprochement may end the confrontation between the two states, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan said at the end of June.

Choson Sinbo, organ of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, said on June 30 that Pyongyang citizens are noting that the U.S., whose words and actions in dealing with the North were often different, finally took practical action.

The newspaper also said the U.S. set a good precedent in realizing the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.

Such a response came three days after the U.S. took steps to remove the North from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in return for the North's submission of its nuclear declaration, while eliminating trade sanctions on Pyongyang.

Earlier on June 27, the spokesman of the North's Foreign Ministry welcomed the lifting of sanctions.

"Pyongyang citizens are saying the U.S.'s bullying behaviour could not be allowed in the framework of the September 19 joint statement in 2005 in the six-way talks, which sets action for action as a principle," the newspaper said, adding if the DPRK (North Korea) makes a move, the U.S. should do the same.

"They do not doubt their country will carry out an international agreement for the implementation of the Sept. 19 statement," it also said in its dispatch from the North's capital.


North Korea, Laos Sign Legal Assistance Treaty

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea signed a treaty with Laos in an apparent move to block the North's citizens from defecting via the Southeast Asian communist state.

The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 30 said a treaty on providing mutual legal assistance in civil and criminal cases between the DPRK and Laos was signed in Vientiane, the latter's capital. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The news outlet, however, did not give any details about the treaty or specify when it was signed.

However, North Korea watchers in Seoul say many North Koreans have defected to the South via Laos recently, indicating that the treaty was signed with the aim of blocking defections.

"Present there from the DPRK side were a delegation of the Central Court led by Yun Myong-guk, its first-vice chief justice, and the DPRK ambassador to Laos and from the Lao side the minister of Justice, the president of the People's Supreme Court, the president of the People's Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office and officials concerned," the KCNA said.

Yun left Pyongyang for Laos on June 12. In another development, Lao President Choummaly Saynasone met with a visiting delegation of the DPRK Ministry of People's Security led by its minister Ju Sang-song on June 28.


North Korea Accuses U.S. of Religious Intrusion

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea, which the U.S. has listed as one of the countries allowing little religious freedom, claimed the U.S. is trying to influence the communist state through religion.

Chollima, a North Korean monthly magazine, said in its May edition, "If we allow even a little bit the religion intrusion by the U.S. imperialists, our independence spirit will be obscured and we can not defend our country in the end." The magazine was acquired belatedly in Seoul.

The claim came despite growing rapprochement between Pyongyang and Washington amid the North's denuclearization process.

The North has tended to strengthen internal control whenever its relations with the West improve, apparently for the purpose of keeping its regime intact amid a changing international situation.

"The U.S. imperialists are trying to substitute belief in God for the independent belief of the people," it said, adding the former socialist bloc including the USSR collapsed after allowing freedom of religion.

"In fact the sovereign air, sea and land of those countries were dominated by God, not guns (after the religious intrusion)," it said, "How could such people have kept socialism, which were their destiny and life ?"

The North's constitution says freedom of religion is permitted, but that "the use of religion as a means of inducing foreign forces or harming state social order" is prohibited.


Pyongyang Expects Change in Tokyo's Policy toward N. Korea, Report Says

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan that reflects the North's views said it expects Japan to engage North Korea by changing its policy centering on Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese citizens.

Choson Sinbo, organ of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, on July 1 praised Yasuo Fukuda, prime minister of Japan, who reportedly said he welcomes the proposed removal of the North from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring states if it helps to solve the North Korean nuclear problem.

Fukuda's reaction was in contrast with that of other Cabinet members, who said they were shocked upon hearing about the U.S.'s action for the delisting, the newspaper said.

The abduction issue has been a stumbling block between the North and Japan for the past two decades.

The North sent back five of 13 Japanese abductees saying the others are dead, while Japan is claiming they may be still alive along with four more abductees.

"It is notable that a taboo to talk to the DPRK (North Korea) is disappearing in Japan, while there is rising a voice calling for negotiating with the North before the actual delisting," the organ said, adding Tokyo and Pyongyang have now set the stage for further talks.

North Korea agreed to reinvestigate the abduction issue, while Japan promised to ease some sanctions at a bilateral meeting in Beijing on June 10-11.

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