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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 19 (September 4, 2008)

All Headlines 11:23 September 04, 2008


Seoul to Drop 'Enemy' Label Against N. Korea in White Paper

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea will not describe North Korea as an "enemy" in its biennially published defense white paper, but will clearly stress the "very substantial and present threats" the communist nation poses to the security of the country, the Defense Ministry said on Aug. 28.

The decision comes as a near surprise to many South Koreans who earlier believed the new conservative government of Lee Myung-bak would distance itself from its liberal predecessors by taking a hard-line stance against Pyongyang.

The former administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun often refused to describe North Korea as an enemy state as part of their reconciliatory gestures, for which they were often accused of weakening the country's defense posture.

"The issue of describing North Korea as the main enemy state is only a matter of expression, which has very little to do with our actual recognition of the North or defense posture," the ministry said in a released statement. "The ministry plans to clearly state in the defense white paper that the North Korean Army is a very substantial and present threat," it added.

Pyongyang fiercely protested when Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Tae-young, at his confirmation hearing in March, said South Korea would need to preemptively strike the North's nuclear facilities in the case of a war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea continues to refuse to hold any type of military dialogue with the South. The white paper is expected to be released in December.


S. Korea Retrieves Body of N. Korean Soldier from River

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean guards near the heavily fortified inter-Korean border on Sept. 2 retrieved the body of an unidentified North Korean soldier from a river that intersects the divided Koreas.

The body was first spotted around 10 a.m. in the North Han River near Yanggu, but was retrieved three hours later in Hwacheon, some 120 km northeast of Seoul, due to high water levels, according to military officials.

"The guards fired several warning shots as they spotted an unidentified object drifting through the border. They later tried to recover the body, but were unable to do so due to the high water level following recent heavy rains," an official said.

The deceased male was wearing a uniform of the North Korean Army, and appeared to have been dead for at least several days, according to the officials.

Officials said they did not find bullet wounds or other external injuries on the body, noting the individual might have drowned during the recent torrential rains that affected both Koreas.

Bodies of North Korean soldiers and residents often drift to the South via the rivers that run through the divided Koreas. They are usually returned to the North via the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission at the joint security area, better known as the truce village of Panmunjom.

And also, South Korea on Sept. 3 sent home two North Koreans whose small boat drifted into waters controlled by South Korea, the Unification Ministry said.

The two women, aged 19 and 23, were found by the South Korean Navy in waters 5.6 kilometers west of Yeonpyeong Island around Tuesday at noon, the ministry said in a news release.

Seoul returned them through the truce village of Panmunjom on humanitarian grounds, it said.

The North Koreans expressed the wish to return home, and investigators found no evidence that they were spies, it added.

The two stated they went for a boat ride on the North's west coast in Chongdan, South Hwanghae Province, on Sept. 1, but the boat soon began to adrift southward in bad weather, investigators said.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Sept. 1 returned a North Korean boat and its crew to the North's authorities after rescuing it as it drifted in the West Sea.

According to the Unification Ministry in Seoul, South Korean authorities rescued two North Koreans aboard a half-ton boat that was drifting 11.7 km southeast of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island around 8:30 a.m.

They returned the North Koreans and their ship to North Korean officials at a location on the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea -- the two Koreas' de facto maritime boundary -- around 1:40 p.m., the ministry said.

The ministry explained the government sent back the North Koreans, who wanted to return to their country, on humanitarian grounds.


S. Korea Expresses Concerns over N. Korea's Efforts to Restore Nuke Facility

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea officially expressed regret over North Korea's efforts to restore its main nuclear reactor Sept. 3.

The Foreign Ministry said in press release that it has confirmed that the communist country has taken steps to rebuild its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

Such a step goes against nuclear non-proliferation efforts and could disrupt six-way talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, it said.

The ministry made clear its position that Pyongyang should not take any measures that could further exacerbate the situation, adding that South Korea is engaged in dialogue with the United States and other members of the six-way talks to deal with the latest development.

A South Korean diplomatic source said Seoul received intelligence from the United States, which had gotten a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on North Korea's activities. The nuclear watchdog has taken an active role in the process to dismantle the reactor and its associated facilities.

Pyongyang's activity was first reported by U.S. television broadcaster FOX News, which quoted unnamed official sources saying the communist country has moved to restore its dismantled facilities to protest Washington's delay in removing Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

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