*** FOREIGN TIPS
UNDP Officials to Visit N. Korea to Discuss Suspended Projects
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Officials with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will visit North Korea later this month to discuss the reopening of its office there and the resumption of projects suspended two years ago, a government source said on May 20.
UNDP officials visited Seoul last week and discussed the matter with South Korean officials, the source said on condition of anonymity, adding that UNDP officials will visit Pyongyang to discuss the resumption of the projects at some point.
The UNDP office in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang will likely reopen at the end of June at the earliest, the source said, adding the projects will resume thereafter.
The UNDP had been engaged in development projects in the North since 1981, including agricultural development, human resource development and economic reform programs, before withdrawing in March 2007 soon after suspicions arose over North Korea's misappropriation of development funds.
The group's executive board made the decision to return in January after North Korea allegedly agreed to guarantee independent auditing and to alter the methods for payment and selection of North Korean staff. North Korea had previously selected UNDP staff members in Pyongyang on its own.
U.S. Seeking Strong Resolution on N. Korea for Nuke Test
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States said on May 26 it will seek strong international condemnation of North Korea for its recent nuclear test, but left the door open for North Korea to return to six-party talks on ending its nuclear ambitions.
"We're going to now pursue a very strong resolution in the Security Council with substantially tougher sanctions," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, told NBC's "Today" show, noting that the nuclear test is "provocative, destabilizing, and a threat to international and regional peace and security."
The 15-member council convened an emergency meeting Monday and agreed to immediately begin drafting a resolution to condemn the North's nuclear test, the second since 2006.
Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, who holds the rotating chair of the council this month, said on May 25 that council members "voiced their strong opposition and condemnation of the nuclear test," a "clear violation" of an earlier resolution.
North Korea said it conducted an underground nuclear test on May 25, inviting strong criticism not only from the U.S. and its allies, but also from North Korea's allies, China and Russia, who had greatly diluted sanctions against North Korea following its rocket launch last month.
The test comes after the North's repeated threats that it would detonate a nuclear device following the council's sanctioning of three North Korean firms for its April 5 rocket launch, which Pyongyang insists put a satellite into orbit.
North Korea also has expelled international nuclear monitors and threatened to restart its disabled nuclear reactor and boycott six-party denuclearization talks.
North Korea Exercised 'Wrong Judgment': Defense Chiefs
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The defense chiefs of South Korea and China agreed on May 26 that North Korea's judgment to go ahead with a second nuclear test earlier this week was misguided, officials said.
Tension is running high in Asia after North Korea detonated a nuclear device on May 25 in what it touted as a "successful test" for the enhancement of its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea conducted its first test in October 2006, and in April of this year it launched a long-range rocket despite warnings that the move would be seen as a provocative test of ballistic missile technology.
"The Defense Ministers of South Korea and China agreed that North Korea has made wrong judgments and choices, and that such acts will only isolate the country further," the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said in a statement.
The consensus was reached when South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee met with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Liang Guanglie, the statement said. Lee visited Beijing earlier Tuesday on a two-day trip that had been arranged before the atomic test by North Korea.
Lee and Liang examined ways to bolster security exchanges between their countries, including regular high-level meetings and joint naval exercises, the statement added.
Since Monday's nuclear detonation, North Korea has fired a set of short-range missiles on its east coast. South Korean officials said the North may conduct missile launches off its east coast as well.
Lee will fly on May 29 to Singapore, where he will hold tripartite talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a security forum and discuss the North Korean issue, his aides said.
South and North Korea remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
Washington Notified Seoul Ahead of North Korea Nuke Test
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The United States informed South Korea in advance of Pyongyang's latest nuclear test, Seoul's spy agency chief said on May 26, adding China also knew of the test but had not notified Seoul.
Pyongyang said it conducted an underground nuclear test early on May 26. The North detonated a nuclear device in October 2006 in its first-ever nuclear experiment.
"We were pre-notified by the U.S. that the North will conduct a nuclear test," Won Sei-hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service, was quoted as saying at a meeting with the National Assembly's intelligence committee.
Won said that the South Korean government did not receive any information from China, according to Rep. Park Young-sun of the opposition Democratic Party who was present at the closed-door meeting.
"Our weather agency detected seismic activity (in the North) and relayed the information to the U.S. at 10:18 a.m," said Won.
According to Won, a North Korean diplomat in New York notified the U.S. at around 9:30 a.m. Monday of his country's plan for a nuclear test unless the U.N. Security Council apologizes to Pyongyang for condemning the North's April 5 rocket launch.
Beijing was informed of the test at 9:25 a.m. through an embassy, according to Won.
North Korea had warned late last month that it will go ahead with nuclear and missile tests unless the U.N. Security Council apologizes for its punitive actions against Pyongyang.
Won also told lawmakers that North Korea fired anti-ship cruise missiles from Wonsan at around 5 p.m. Monday and that he believes Pyongyang could carry out additional missile launches.
World-renowned Economist Advises N. Korea to 'Open up Economy'
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea should take lessons from China and realize it can maintain its regime even with economic liberalization, a renowned economist said at a press conference in Seoul on May 27.
"China could tell them, 'Look what happens when a former communist country chooses economic liberalization,'" New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini, known for his astute outlook on the world economy, said in a press gathering at the Seoul Digital Forum.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be a threat. If you provide people with jobs, your regime can stay stable for a long time, and the economic liberalization can be beneficial to a country."
North Korea is among the world's poorest countries, registering per capita income of US$1,150 in 2007, the last year for which figures are available, according to South Korea's central bank.
Pyongyang faces chronic food shortages and has relied on outside aid to help feed its 24 million people since famine reportedly killed as many as 2 million in the 1990s.
Roubini, the co-founder and chairman of the Roubini Global Economics Monitor, emphasized the importance of South Korea's role in North Korea's economic recovery.
"North Korea's action in areas where South Korea could provide its people jobs (is important)," he said. "It is most unfortunate for them to shut down the current factories (in Kaesong)," he added, referring to a troubled inter-Korean industrial complex.
North Korea said May 15 that it has nullified all contracts with South Korea regarding the complex in the North's border town of Kaesong and told South Korean firms to accept the new terms or leave.
Traffic Across Inter-Korean Border Flows as Usual
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Inter-Korean traffic across sea and land borders continued to flow as usual, a Seoul spokesman said May 27 in the wake of the North's nuclear test that has sharply raised regional tension.
More than 400 South Korean workers crossed the military demarcation line in the morning to visit a joint industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong, said Chun Hae-sung of the Unification Ministry. About 400 people were expected to return in the afternoon, he said.
Ships sailed near the border in accordance with an inter-Korean maritime accord. Five North Korean commercial boats passed through South Korean waters, while dozens of South Korean ships were in North Korean territory, the official said.
The maritime accord was reached amid brisk inter-Korean relations in 2004 and ratified the following year to allow commercial vessels to save time and fuel.
Commercial traffic continued, but humanitarian and other visits were suspended. Following the North's second nuclear test on May 25, South Korea imposed a temporary ban on border trips by its citizens, mostly humanitarian aid workers and social activists.
Only those who work at the Kaesong park and the Mt. Kumgang resort, where scores of Hyundai Asan Corp. workers stay to maintain tourism facilities, can travel to the North.
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