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All Headlines 11:02 March 05, 2009

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N. Korea Warns U.S. Troops Against 'Military Provocation'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned on Feb. 28 that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea should stop what it called "provocative actions" along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), pledging to take stern action if its message goes unheeded.

The warning came in a statement for North Korean military officials to their counterparts in the South.

North Korean military officials sent a notice to their counterparts in the South, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, claiming that provocations by U.S. troops in the area are intensifying and could trigger "unpredictable military conflicts."

"If the U.S. forces keep behaving arrogantly in the area under the control of the North and the South, the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) will take a resolute counteraction," the statement read.

The North described photos of North Korean military installations taken by U.S. forces and the monitoring of vehicles passing through the inter-Korean border as provocative acts.

"Such acts perpetrated by the U.S. forces in the area along the MDL at the tacit connivance of the south side at a time when the North-South relations are inching close to the brink of a war may touch off unpredictable military conflicts," the statement said.

It also said Seoul should never forget that the North Korean military is keeping itself fully ready for all-out confrontation.

The statement comes after Pyongyang threatened to take an "all-out confrontational posture" against South Korea and scrap all political and military agreements with the South and declared their western sea border void.

North Korea said on Feb. 24 it is preparing to launch a communications satellite into orbit, a claim its neighbors say is meant to disguise preparations for a test-launch of a ballistic missile technically capable of striking Alaska and parts of the U.S. West Coast.

The North's claim also comes ahead of a planned joint military exercise between South Korean and U.S. forces from March 9-20 across South Korea. Pyongyang has denounced such drills as preparations for preemptive strikes, while Seoul insists they are "defense-oriented."

Inter-Korean relations have been frozen since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office a year ago, pledging to get tough on the North.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed here as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.


China's Top Official Urges More Cooperation with North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) - China's top political advisor has proposed enhancing exchange of high-level visits and cooperation in various fields to a visiting North Korean communist party delegation, the North's state media reported on Feb. 28.

Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, met the North's ruling Workers' Party delegation led by Ri Kwang-ho, a department director, in Beijing three days earlier.

The Chinese official "proposed deepening the bilateral understanding through the frequent exchange of high-level visits and strengthening the cooperation in economy and trade, exchange in various fields," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"Mutual visits by the leaders of the two countries are playing the most important role in the development of the bilateral ties which nothing can substitute," Jia was quoted as saying. He added that he would warmly welcome if North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and senior officials of the North Korean communist party and government visit China "at a convenient time."

North Korea and China designated this year, in which they celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties, as a "China-North Korea Friendship Year" and are reportedly planning to hold various events in celebration.

Jia recalled the Chinese President Hu Jintao stressed more than once that it is the "unshakable strategic policy" of the Chinese party and government to steadily develop the traditional ties, according to the KCNA.

Expressing his belief that the bilateral relations would grow stronger through the events, he hoped that new areas would be explored and fresh modes be sought for the development of bilateral relations and they would be enriched with new substance, the report said.


N.K. Says It's Ready for War in Face of S. Korea-U.S. Joint Drill

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on March 3 its military is ready for combat in the face of "war-provoking maneuvers" by South Korea and the United States, who begin a joint military exercise next week.

The annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drill takes place on March 9-20 amid mounting tensions surrounding the North's alleged missile activity and threats of border clashes.

"Our revolutionary armed forces are fully prepared with combat mobilization posture to sternly strike any provocative maneuvers by the enemies to harm the dignity and safety of our republic," said Minju Joson, the newspaper of the North's Cabinet.

The U.S. plans to mobilize 26,000 troops and a nuclear-powered carrier in this year's drill to test its ability to quickly deploy forces should North Korea invade, according to the U.S. Forces Korea.

Seoul and Washington say the exercise is defense-oriented, but Pyongyang views it as preparation for a preemptive strike.

In a rare military meeting Pyongyang requested with the U.S.-led United Nations Command on Monday, North Korean officials filed lengthy complaints against the drill, sources said. The meetings are expected to continue this week.

The Korean Peninsula is a "powder keg of Northeast Asia," the paper said, and the drill "is a serious military threat to our republic and also an extremely dangerous fire play aimed at provoking a new war."

In the latest U.N. Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations meeting last week, North Korea claimed that the U.N. Command in South Korea, which oversees the ceasefire along the inter-Korean border, was "cooked up" by the U.S. and should withdraw in order to achieve peace.

"If any peace-keeping operation is decided on in the interests of some countries and used as a lever for interference in other countries' internal affairs, such operation may, on the contrary, aggravate any dispute," Yun Yong-il, a North Korean envoy, said during the annual meeting on Feb. 24.

"The 'U.N. Command' present in South Korea is nothing but the U.S. command and the 'U.N. forces' there are no more than the GIs," Yun said, calling for international attention to disband the U.N. Command. His speech was carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea's representative, Park In-kook, rejected the North Korean claim as "false allegations" and criticized the North for "meaninglessly" wasting the committee's time.

Multinational U.N. forces fought on the side of South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. The U.N. Command is now led by Gen. Walter Sharp, chief of the U.S. forces in Korea, and still monitors the ceasefire along the heavily fortified inter-Korean border. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed here as a legacy of the war.


North Korea Renews Claim to Nuclear Status

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state television on March 3 renewed its claim that the United States is moving to recognize North Korea as a nuclear state, quoting Western media reports.

North Korea has insisted that it should be recognized as a nuclear state following a nuclear weapons test in 2006. Regional powers, including the United States and Russia, have so far denied Pyongyang's claims.

The North's state-run Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station carried recent reports by the Associated Press and the Christian Science Monitor, both U.S. media, saying there are mounting calls in the new U.S. government to recognize North Korea's nuclear status.

"In a report to Congress a few days ago, the U.S. intelligence director was quoted as saying that Pyongyang probably views its nuclear weapons as being more for deterrence, international prestige and coercive diplomacy than for war, and would consider using nuclear weapons only under certain narrow circumstances," the North Korean TV said.

It also cited a Reuters report from November saying that along with China and Russia, a U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) report described North Korea as a nuclear state, despite Washington's official policy.

The North's media have repeatedly echoed U.S. military officials' remarks, news reports and government publications on North Korea's nuclear status.

In the latest such remarks, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a contribution to the January-February edition of the journal of Foreign Affairs that "North Korea has built several bombs, and Iran seeks to join the nuclear club."

U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged on the campaign trail that the North had up to eight nuclear weapons.

North Korea's first atomic test is believed to have been relatively small, with less than a kiloton in yield, which is below the standard of what is considered to be a successful nuclear test.

South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia are seeking to resolve the dispute on North Korea's nuclear weapons program under a 2007 deal, in which Pyongyang agreed to terminate its nuclear ambition in exchange for energy and diplomatic incentives. The negotiations are on hold until Obama rolls out his policy on North Korea.


N.K. Vows to Retaliate If Enemies Intrude 'Even 0.001 mm'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea accused the United States and South Korea on March 4 of trying to attack the socialist country and warned of further retaliation in case of any territorial intrusion.

"Our military and people cherish peace and do not want war," Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary. "But should the enemies invade even 0.001 mm into our territory, we will mobilize all our potential and deal retaliatory strikes that will be a hundred times and a thousand times more powerful."

The accusation comes as the two allies plan to go ahead with their joint military exercise starting next week, despite mounting inter-Korean border tension. The U.S. plans to mobilize 26,000 troops and a nuclear-powered carrier in this year's drill to test its ability to quickly deploy forces should North Korea invade.

Pyongyang views the exercise as preparation for a preemptive strike, while Seoul and Washington say it is defense-oriented.

The United Nations Command in South Korea, which has been overseeing the cease-fire along the inter-Korean border since the Korean War, plans to hold talks this week with North Korea to ease tension. In their first meeting on Monday, North Korea complained about the joint war drill, sources said.

"The U.S. says it wants to improve relations and hold dialogue with us, but its actual intentions are aimed at stifling us with its military power," the newspaper said in the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

"We have a weapon that is mightier than a nuclear weapon, which is the unified heart of the leader, the party and the people," it said.

After a year of frozen inter-Korean relations, North Korea sharpened its verbal attacks against South Korea in recent weeks, taking an "all-out confrontational posture" against the South and declaring all inter-Korean peace accords void.

North Korea also said it is preparing to launch a satellite, which neighboring states view as a test for a long-range missile.

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