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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 32 (December 4, 2008)

All Headlines 10:38 December 04, 2008

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

North Korean Leader Tours Air Force Base: News Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has toured an Air Force base, Pyongyang's official news wire said on Nov. 30, marking his seventh reported public appearance in November amid speculations that his health is failing.

The North's ruling Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim inspected Air Force unit 1016 and reviewed the overall preparedness of the troops and support facilities.

Kim, who's official title is chairman of the National Defense Commission, watched pilots undergo training and expressed satisfaction at the base's readiness to deal with enemy aggression.

"He set forth tasks to be fulfilled to boost combat capability of the unit in every way," the state-run news agency said.

Kim was met by Ri Pyong-chol, head of the (North) Korean People's Army Air Force at the base, according to the report.

The public appearance is the first to be reported by the North since Kim was shown looking over a soap factory in Sinuiju on Nov. 24, according to observers. It is the second visit to a military base this month after he reportedly toured two units on Nov. 4.

There has been widespread speculation that Kim was recently incapacitated by a stroke. The reclusive leader had been absent from public view for nearly two months, from Aug. 14 to early October.

Since early October, North Korean media have moved to quell such suspicions by releasing photos of Kim attending an artistic performance and a soccer game between soldiers and inspecting military units.

Meanwhile, the KCNA says on Dec. 1 Kim Jong-il gave on-the-spot guidance to the Central Zoo in Pyongyang on its reconstruction and expansion.


N. Korea Says "Promising" Reserves of Natural Resources Found

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Nov. 30 said its geological survey teams recently discovered potential reserves of natural resources such as coal and iron.

"An exploration team in South Pyongan Province has secured a number of fields for natural resources, including coal, while the teams in South Hwanghae and Kangwon provinces made progress in locating iron ore," the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported.

The report did not provide any other details, such as the exact location of the new mine fields or the estimated amounts of minerals buried there.

Natural resources are a valuable source of hard currency for the impoverished North.

The socialist nation is believed to have the world's largest deposit of magnesite and the second-largest deposit of tungsten in the world.


Defense Industry is Foremost in National Economy: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A statement on North Korea's official Web site said the nation's defense industry is foremost in building an economic power, reflecting Pyognyang's military-first, or "Songun," doctrine.

Uriminzokkiri said on Dec. 1 that prioritizing development of the defense industry should be the guideline to building a "great, prosperous and powerful country" by 2012, adding the defense industry determines the power of the national economy.

The Web site reiterated the North's standard economic logic that giving priority to the defense industry will lead to the development of heavy industry, ultimately creating a ripple effect for light industry and agriculture as well.

"The fact that today our national defense industry is comparable to the world's so-called military power, the United States, is enough to prove the potential of our economy," it said, a subtle reference to the North's 'nuclear deterrent.'

It also said that the nation should set aside resources first to the development of science and technology in the defense industry, adding that science and technology is the basic key to speeding up the country's prosperity.


North Korea Pledges to Strengthen AIDS Prevention

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A high official of North Korea in charge of public health pledged to strengthen AIDS prevention programs in coordination with international bodies on international World AIDS Day.

Ri Pong-hun, vice minister of Public Health, was quoted by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying, "Work is making successful progress in the DPRK (North Korea) to prevent AIDS." He added the DPRK would further strengthen the work.

Ri's remarks came in an address in a event held on Dec. 1 at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang to commemorate the World AIDS Day.

The North officially denies there is an AIDS patient in the socialist country, but the UN agency dealing with the deadly disease estimates that the AIDS patients in the reclusive nation amounts to less than 0.2 percent of the adult population.

The event was attended by officials of ministries, national institutions and working people's organizations, health workers in the city, staff members of international organizations and staff members of foreign embassies in Pyongyang, according to the KCNA.

In another moves to commemorate the day, the festivities were comprised of a lecture, a photo exhibition and a performance by a hygienic information team.


N. Korea Defeat Japan to Reach Women's World Cup Semis

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Defending champions North Korea clinched a spot in the semifinals of the women's World Cup in Chile by slipping past Japan 2-1 on Dec. 2 (Korean time), FIFA said on its Web site.

Captain Ra Un-sim and Cha Hu-nam scored one goal each to edge out Japan in the capital city of Santiago, lifting their team to the Dec. 2 semifinal against France, the world football governing body said.

Earlier, the North Korea women's team trounced Mexico 5-1 to secure a spot in the quarterfinals of the 2008 women's World Cup in Chile on Nov. 28 (Korean time), according to the organizers.

The victory at the Nelson Oyarzun stadium in Chilean allowed North Korea to clinch second place in Group B and advance to the quarterfinal match against Japan on Dec. 2.

Sixteen nations are competing in the biennial event, in which North Korea stormed to the 2006 title as debutants.

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