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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 23 (October 2, 2008)

All Headlines 11:04 October 02, 2008


Two N. Korean Footballers Sign Contracts with Swiss club

GENEVA (Yonhap) -- Two North Korean football players have signed contracts with Concordia Basel of Switzerland, marking the first-ever transfer from the socialist country into a European club, a local newspaper said on Sept. 26.

Pak Chol-ryong and Kim Kuk-jin, both aged 19 and members of the North's under-21 national team, arrived in Basel on Sept. 24 after signing three-year contracts, according to the Basler Zeitung newspaper. Details of the deal were not released, it said, adding that it took two years to broker.

The report said Concordia considers defender Pak and midfielder Kim to be disciplined and tactically shrewd. The team plays in the Swiss Challenge League, the second-highest tier of Swiss football.

The players were accompanied by a North Korean government official, who was formerly an international referee and who will serve as their interpreter, the report said.

The report said more transfers could be possible. A third player was initially set to transfer to Switzerland but could not come because of an injury, it said.


N. Korea Must Comply with Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty: South Korean Official

VIENNA (Yonhap) -- North Korea must take steps to comply with the 2005 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, a senior South Korean official said on Sept. 30.

In a keynote speech made at the 52nd General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) here, Vice Science Minister Park Jong-koo said keeping a check on North Korea's nuclear ambition is vital for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

He said that Seoul is waiting for Pyongyang to comply with the September 19 declaration that calls on North Korea to give up all of its nuclear weapons and development programs in exchange for economic assistance and other incentives.

Seoul wants the IAEA to play a greater role in convincing the North to give up its nuclear ambitions, Park said.

The official also urged the North to comply with safety regimes set by the IAEA and return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

North Korea had taken positive steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs, but has started backtracking in recent weeks after colliding with Washington on the issue of verification.

The United States has insisted that verification of past nuclear activities must take place before the communist regime can be taken off the U.S. list of terrorist-supporting countries.

Park also held talks with representatives from Kazakhstan to outline the advantages of Seoul's next-generation system integrated modular advanced reactor (SMART).

The reactor is designed to provide power to small urban areas and has been under development for 10 years, with the first model to be completed by 2018.

South Korea is capable of designing and building its own nuclear power plants, but has not been able to export a unit abroad.


Hill Visits Pyongyang for Showdown in Nuclear Talks

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Top U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill left for North Korea on Oct. 1, reportedly bringing with him a new proposal on ways of verifying Pyongyang's nuclear programs declaration.

Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, crossed the heavily-fortified inter-Korean border by car for his third visit to the North, officials in Seoul said, apparently in a bid to salvage a 2007 disarmament deal battered by a flurry of reports that the secretive nation is moving to resume nuclear activity.

North Korea informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was about to reload nuclear material into a plutonium reprocessing plant at its Yongbyon complex. It has already removed seals and surveillance cameras at the plant, and has barred access to IAEA inspectors.

A South Korean government source also said signs of renewed activity were detected at an underground nuclear test site in the secretive country's northeastern area, where it detonated an atomic bomb in 2006.

Before heading to Pyongyang, Hill struck an unusual downbeat note over the often-troubled nuclear talks with North Korea.

"We are in a very difficult, very tough phase of negotiations," he told reporters after arriving in Seoul on Sept. 30.

Hill outlined roughly the purpose of his trip. "We are going to try to get through the phase two, namely the need to have an agreement on what verification will look like," he said.

A diplomatic source close to the issue said later that Hill's primary mission is to persuade North Korea to stop the restoration of its nuclear facilities and agree on a plan for international inspectors to verify claims about its nuclear programs.

"The U.S. has come up with a revised draft verification protocol," the source said. "Hill will try to reach a compromise on it."

Hill was cautious about the prospects for his trip's outcome. "I can't really tell you what is going to happen in Pyongyang," Hill said. "We had some discussions through the New York channel (the North Korean mission to the U.N.). We thought it would be useful to try to have the discussions in Pyongyang and that's why I'm going. So let's see if we can make some progress on this."

"He's coming with some ideas and he's going to have discussions of course with North Korean officials. We have to let him do his diplomacy," Robert Wood, the U.S State Department's deputy spokesman said without providing further details.

The U.S. maintains a deal on the verification mechanism is a precondition for taking North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the U.S. is considering a face-saving proposal under which North Korea would give China, the host of the talks, a plan that includes sampling, access to key sites and other terms. The Bush administration would then provisionally remove North Korea from the terrorism list, after which China would announce North Korea's acceptance of the verification plan.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, has said that Hill's trip came at Pyongyang's invitation. The North Koreans "invited Chris Hill to come, so we hope that there is some effort to address the verification protocol, because that's what we need," she said.

Officials in Seoul said North Korea only issues a formal invitation for a foreigner if their application for a trip there is approved.

Later in the day, North Korean news media briefly reported Hill's arrival in Pyongyang. "Christopher Hill and his company arrived in Pyongyang on Oct. 1," the (North) Korean Central News Agency, monitored in Seoul, reported.


Activity Spotted Near N. Korean Nuclear Test Site

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Increased activity has been spotted near the site where North Korea set off a nuclear device two years ago, prompting suspicions Pyongyang could be repairing the facility for a second test blast, an informed source in Seoul said on Oct. 1.

"We recently witnessed smoke near the nuclear test site in Poongkye-ri, North Hamgyong Province," the source said, asking not to be identified.

The North is believed to have been incinerating clothes or equipment, but it is still not clear whether the communist nation has begun repairing the nuclear test site, the source said.

"The government is still working to analyze recent intelligence to determine whether the activities near the nuclear test site are linked to the repairing of the facility," he said.

Others said Pyongyang is believed to have finished repairing the facility soon after it set off the device in October 2006 in its first-ever nuclear test, and noted the North could be trying to create a crisis to win concessions in the stalled multilateral talks over its nuclear program.

North Korea has halted work to disable its key nuclear facility at Yongbyon and threatened last Wednesday to reactivate the Yongbyon reactor within a week, accusing the United States of failing to live up to its end of a denuclearization deal.

The U.S. had said it would remove the North from its list of state sponsors of terrorism following Pyongyang's issuance of a nuclear declaration, but the process stalled after the communist state rejected a verification proposal by the U.S.

The North had been disabling its nuclear facilities under a six-nation accord, also signed by South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. The deal entitled Pyongyang to receive 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent assistance in addition to other political benefits such as the normalization of ties with Washington and Tokyo.

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