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All Headlines 10:56 June 18, 2009


N. Korea to Face Huge Losses from U.N. Sanctions: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's moribund economy will face major losses if the United Nations Security Council approves and enforces tougher sanctions against the country for its nuclear defiance, a private report said on June 11.

Hyundai Economic Research Institute, a Seoul-based research center, predicted that North Korea will lose US$1.5-3.7 billion if the U.N. enforces the sanctions.

Hyundai said it calculated the loss estimates based on the losses North Korea reportedly incurred between 2005 and 2007, when financial sanctions against Pyongyang were imposed.

North Korea detonated a nuclear device on May 25, prompting the Security Council to start work on stronger punitive sanctions against the recalcitrant communist regime.

In New York, global powers, including North Korea's traditional ally China, agreed on a draft U.N. resolution that would curb loans and money transfers to the North. The proposal still needs to be approved by the Security Council.

The research center warned, however, that tensions on the Korean Peninsula would be heightened if the United States and Japan strictly enforces the new sanctions.


Biden Reaffirms Pledge to Push Ahead with Sanctions

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States is determined to keep pressure on North Korea with tougher sanctions to prevent the North from proliferating nuclear weapons and missiles, Vice President Joe Biden said on June 14.

Appearing on NBC's Meet The Press, Biden said, "It is important that we make sure those sanctions stick and those sanctions prohibit them from exporting or importing weapons. This is a matter of us now keeping the pressure on."

Biden was discussing the resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council on June 12 punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear test on May 25, the second after its October 2006 test. The new measures impose financial sanctions and an overall arms embargo that includes search and seizure of North Korean ships suspected of carrying illicit weapons banned under the resolution.

Some doubt the viability of such seizures as China and Russia have insisted that force should not be used in the process of inspecting vessels in international waters, where ships cannot be interdicted under international law unless consent is given by the vessel's flag state.

North Korea has responded strongly to the resolution, saying it will start enriching uranium for production of more nuclear weapons. It was the first acknowledgement by the reclusive communist state that it does in fact run a uranium program aside from its plutonium-based nuclear reactor, which was being disabled under a six-party denuclearization deal.

North Korea vehemently denied the existence of the uranium-based nuclear program since late 2002, when the Bush administration scrapped a 1994 nuclear deal with Pyongyang citing the existence of such a program.

Biden's remarks follow similar ones by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said on June 13 that Washington will "do all we can to prevent continued proliferation."

Clinton also hailed the U.N. resolution as "a tremendous statement on behalf of the world community that North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver those weapons through missiles is not going to be accepted by neighbors as well as the greater international community."

North Korea's recent provocations are widely seen as an attempt by its leader Kim Jong-il to allow his third and youngest son, Jong-un, to consolidate power following reports that the senior Kim is in failing health due to a stroke he suffered last summer.


N. Korea Started Uranium Enrichment Before 2002: Seoul Minister

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is believed to have started a uranium enrichment program before the U.S. government raised the accusation in 2002 and has no intent to terminate it, even after years of multilateral negotiations, Seoul's unification minister said on June 14.

In a parliamentary hearing called after Pyongyang's announcement on starting uranium enrichment, Hyun In-taek acknowledged conservative Grand National Party (GNP) lawmakers' argument that North Korea's nuclear programs are not just a negotiating tactic with the United States, as claimed by liberal opponents, but an end goal in itself.

"As the U.S. raised the accusation in 2002, I believe (the uranium enrichment program) had started before that. I believe it has been there for at least seven to eight years," Hyun said, asked by Rep. Chung Ok-im of the GNP about how long the North has been running the uranium enrichment program.

Lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party did not attend the hearing due to procedural disputes.

Hours after the U.N. Security Council issued a resolution condemning its May nuclear test, the North said over the weekend that it will "weaponize" all the plutonium it has and start enriching uranium to provide fuel for a light-water reactor it plans to build. The official announcement of the uranium enrichment plan answered years of U.S. speculation that North Korea may have an alternative highly enriched uranium nuclear program, widely viewed as more dangerous than its existing plutonium-based one.

The ruling GNP lawmakers with the parliament's unification, foreign affairs and trade committees unanimously denounced previous liberal governments for downplaying the accusation raised by the George W. Bush government.

According to Washington, North Korea acknowledged running the clandestine program when James Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state, visited Pyongyang in October 2002. North Korea later denied saying that. The nuclear crisis gave birth to the six-party negotiations also involving the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.

Seoul officials under the then Roh Moo-hyun government later said the U.S. accusation may have been exaggerated by U.S. "neo-cons."

The minister nodded when asked by Rep. Chung Jin-seok of the GNP whether North Korea intended to retain nuclear weapons while agreeing to summit talks and joint economic ventures with the previous liberal governments.

"Judging from the recent developments, I think such intent has now been revealed," Hyun said.


Congress Calls on N. Korea to Return to Six-party Talks

WASHINGTON, June 15 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Congress on June 15 adopted a resolution calling on North Korea to return to the six-party talks on ending its nuclear ambitions and engage in dialogue with South Korea to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

"North Korea should immediately stop any hostile rhetoric and activity towards the Republic of Korea and engage in mutual dialogue to enhance inter-Korean relations," said the resolution drafted by Rep. Peter King (R-New York) and several other lawmakers.

The resolution was adopted to coincide with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit here for a summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday to discuss ways to tackle North Korea's recent nuclear test and other provocations.

North Korea has threatened to begin enriching uranium for more nuclear bombs and stage a nuclear war in anger over the U.N. Security Council's imposition Friday of financial sanctions and a ban on arms exports and imports in response to the nuclear test, the second in nearly three years.

The congressional resolution also calls on the North to "fully implement the six-party joint statement of September 19, 2005, verifiably abandon all of its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, and return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at an early date."

Pyongyang has said it will boycott the multilateral nuclear talks unless the U.N. apologizes for the sanctions.

The resolution also said that "the United States remains committed to the promotion of inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation."

It said "the strategic importance of the strong alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, in promoting peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, should be recognized."


U.S. Expert Dismisses N. Korea's Uranium Bomb Threat as Exaggeration

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A U.S. expert on nuclear technology on June 15 dismissed as exaggeration the threat by North Korea to begin enriching uranium to make further nuclear bombs.

"I tend to think that is an exaggeration in terms of how quickly they can do it with the centrifuge plant," David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. "There is some kind of research and experimental program, some kind of development project."

Albright, a physicist and founder of the Washington-based independent research institute specializing in nuclear technology, was discussing the first acknowledgment by the socialist state that it has a uranium program aside from its plutonium-based nuclear reactor, which had been in the process of being disabled under a six-party deal for the North's denuclearization.

The source of North Korea's nuclear technology was thought to be Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, who confessed to secret dealings with North Korea and several other countries. But he recently disavowed his remarks and was released from house arrest earlier this year.

North Korea had vehemently denied the existence of the uranium-based nuclear program since late 2002, when the Bush administration scrapped a 1994 nuclear deal with Pyongyang, citing a secret uranium program.

"They are saying they expect some kind of enrichment efforts," Albright said. "The statement says they didn't work on enrichment. They are pretty careful. So they may deny something just like they did in the past."

Citing the clandestine uranium program, the Bush administration terminated the Agreed Framework signed with North Korea in Geneva in 1994 to freeze North Korea's plutonium-producing reactor in return for light-water reactors, energy and other economic and political benefits.

"Just at a small scale, it was a problem, but was enough to stop the Agreed Framework," the scholar said.

The uranium program was considered a loophole in the six-party talks, which Bush defended as having stopped the North from producing more plutonium for nuclear warheads.

"In March 2009, a State Department official said that it doesn't look like the uranium enrichment program is continuing now," Albright said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in February that she did not have concrete evidence to prove there is a clandestine uranium-based nuclear program in North Korea.


N. Korea Remains Among 17 Worst Human Trafficking Countries

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- North Korea remains one of the worst countries in terms of human trafficking, along with 16 other nations, the U.S. State Department said on June 16.

The number of countries being sanctioned by the U.S. was expanded to 17 from last year's 14, according to the "Trafficking in Persons Report 2009," the ninth annual report presented to Congress. It attributed the increase to worsening economic conditions globally.

Financial sanctions and a ban on humanitarian aid are imposed on countries that are listed for two straight years.

The countries include Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Eritrea, Mauritania, Niger, and Swaziland.

The report also put 35 countries, mostly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, on the watch list, though they are not subject to sanctions.

The report said the "impacts of human trafficking are devastating."

"Victims may suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family, and even death," it said. "But the devastation extends beyond individual victims; human trafficking undermines the health, safety, and security of all nations it touches."

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