*** NEWS IN BRIEF
North Korean Leader Visits Remote Northern Province
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il recently traveled to the country's northernmost province to give "field guidance" to workers at a sanatorium and industrial facilities there, state media reported.
Kim's visit to North Hamgyong Province was his 100th public tour this year. After allegedly suffering a stroke in August last year, the 67-year-old leader has restored his health through "mental power," one of his closest aides said during a recent visit to Seoul.
In a dispatch dated Sept. 2, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim toured the Kimjongsuk Sanatorium, named after his mother; a museum; an insulator factory and several more industrial sites in the province.
"The world-startling miracles and signal achievements are now being reported from every place of the country," Kim was quoted as saying in the report. Those signs are "the precious fruition of the inexhaustible mental power and noble patriotism which inspired the Korean people to display the 'do-or-die' spirit to build a great, prosperous and powerful nation," he said.
Kim has considerably increased economy-related visits this year, while reducing military inspections, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.
Of his 100 destinations so far, 36 were to industrial sites, compared to 19 during the same period last year. Military inspections declined to 32 from 42. Overall, he made 74 public visits last year and 53 visits in 2007.
N.K. Wants to Simultaneously Improve Relations with U.S., S. Korea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea wants to facilitate relations with the United States in parallel with inter-Korean ties rather than isolating Seoul, a pro-Pyongyang daily indicated on Sept. 4.
"The confrontational structure on the Korean Peninsula can be removed only when relations between the U.S. and North Korea improve at the same time as relations between the North and the South," Choson Sinbo said in an article datelined Pyongyang.
Choson Sinbo is the newspaper of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan but is considered Pyongyang's official mouthpiece.
"If we pursue the easing of tensions, we should solve the tangled interests of the North, South and the U.S.," said the newspaper. "There will be no discussion of peace if the North's confrontational relations with the U.S. and the South continue," it stressed.
North Korea has been making a series of conciliatory gestures toward Washington and Seoul since former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of South Korea's Hyundai Group, visited Pyongyang to secure the release of two U.S. journalists and a South Korean employee detained in North Korea.
During Hyun's visit, Pyongyang agreed to resume almost all cross-border cooperation programs, including tours to the North Korean mountain resort of Kumgang, as well as reunions of families separated after the 1950-53 Korean War. It also sent a high-level government delegation to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and lifted limitations on border crossings that it imposed last December in protest over Seoul's hardline stance toward it.
Some analysts have said the North's radical turn of attitude toward Seoul may be a tactic to win Washington's favor as it pushes for one-on-one dialogue with the U.S. South Korea's Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said he saw no fundamental change in the North's attitude toward Seoul.
The editorial criticized Hyun's comments, saying they suggested the South Korean government will continue to link inter-Korean relations to North Korea's nuclear disarmament.
It called for a change in Seoul's policy, saying inter-Korean relations will become an important factor in future discussions over security on the peninsula at a time when the structure of the six-party denuclearization talks has "collapsed." "South Korea's choice of a future path is drawing attention," the newspaper said.
The six-party talks also involve the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. They have been stalled since the last round in December last year over how to verify North Korea's present and past nuclear activity. Pyongyang declared it would no longer attend the talks in defiance of U.N. condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch, which regional powers claim was a ballistic missile test.
North Korean, Cuban Foreign Ministers Meet to Enhance Ties
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Foreign ministers of North Korea and Cuba met in Pyongyang on Sept. 4 to discuss ways to enhance bilateral ties, state media said.
The North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, during the talks, reconfirmed their governments' desire to keep developing friendly ties between the two countries, the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) said.
The ministers also exchanged opinions on a series of issues of mutual interest, it added.
Before the talks, North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), and Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the SPA and secretary of the Workers' Party, met with Rodriguez at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, KCBS said.
Jose Manuel Galego Montano, Cuban ambassador to North Korea, hosted a welcoming reception for the Cuban government delegation led by Rodriguez. Pak and Education Minister Kim Yong-jin attended the reception.
The Cuban delegation arrived in Pyongyang on Sept. 3.
North Korea Names Pak Myong-son as New Deputy Premier
North Korea has newly named Pak Myong-son as one of the country's deputy premiers, its state media said on Sept. 4.
The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly issued a decree to appoint Pak as deputy premier, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The appointment came after former Deputy Premier Thae Jong-su was named chief secretary of the South Hamgyong party chapter in early August.
North Korea now has four deputy premiers including Kwak Pom-gi, Ro Tu-chol and O Su-yong.
The report did not elaborate on Pak Myong-son's profile. He is believed to be the same individual that heads an institute for volunteer services abroad.
N. Korea Says Japanese Ruling Party's Election Defeat Natural
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's top newspaper said on Sept. 6 that the defeat of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in recent parliamentary elections was a natural consequence of its "anachronistic reactionary politics."
In Aug. 30 parliamentary elections, Japan's major opposition Democratic Party (DP), led by Yukio Hatoyama, achieved a landslide victory over the LDP, led by Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. Hatoyama is set to be voted in as prime minister by parliament on Sept. 16, ending more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the LDP.
"The election result was tantamount to declaring the bankruptcy of the LDP which lost support from the people," Rodong Sinmun, daily organ of the Workers' Party, declared.
"This clearly showed that a regime that is politically impotent and pursues anti-social policies ends up losing public support and sinks into the depth of ruin, without fail," the newspaper said.
I made no comment on the new ruling Democratic Party.
North Korea's state media was relatively quick to report the result of the Japanese elections. In a short dispatch sent on Aug. 31, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said the LDP suffered a crushing defeat in the elections, though it did not elaborate.
North Korea celebrates 61st Founding Anniversary
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea criticized the United States and rejected international sanctions over its nuclear program as the socialist state marked its 61st founding anniversary on Sept. 9.
But the criticism was relatively mild in tone and was followed with a friendly gesture as the North seeks bilateral dialogue with the U.S. over the nuclear stalemate.
"Our enemies such as the U.S. are growing mad for a new war scheme to stifle our republic with military force, but we are strong and powerful and thus have nothing to fear," Rodong Sinmun, published by the ruling Workers' Party, said in an editorial.
"The DPRK (North Korea) will as always firmly adhere to the principle of independence in foreign relations and make every possible effort to boost the solidarity with the peace-loving progressive people of the world," it said.
The Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name, was founded on Sept. 9, 1948, with the help of the Soviet Union. The Republic of Korea was established in the South with U.S. support in August.
Ordinary North Koreans celebrated their nation's birthday with commemorative visits and dance parties, said the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Public plazas across the country were "alive" with young students dancing to the tunes of patriotic songs. Party and military officials and school children placed floral baskets before statues of the country's late founder, Kim Il-sung, and graves of patriots, the KCNA said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent congratulatory messages to leader Kim Jong-il. Kim watched a joint orchestral performance by Russian and local musicians in Pyongyang and "expressed deep thanks," the KCNA said on Sept. 9 in a morning dispatch that suggests the event was likely held the day before.
The anniversary came as the impoverished North faced tightening sanctions from the U.S. and other countries. The U.S. froze assets of two more North Korean entities for their alleged involvement in the North's weapons programs under the authority of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which was adopted after the North's nuclear test in May. Washington has already put several North Korean firms and individuals on its blacklist.
A North Korean ship carrying weapons to Iran was seized in the United Arab Emirates last month.
Protesting the U.N. sanctions, North Korea said in early September its experimental uranium enrichment program was entering completion phase and that plutonium it has extracted from spent fuel rods was "being weaponized."
The editorial said North Korea will "blow away the vicious sanctions and the blockade schemes with the stormy leap" of the country's economy.
The country will continue to uphold leader Kim Jong-il's Songun (military-first) politics as a centerpiece to its ongoing economic campaign, the editorial added. The North seeks to achieve a "great, prosperous and powerful nation" by 2012, the birth centennial of Kim Il-sung.
Toward South Korea, the editorial refrained from any bitter remarks. Inter-Korean relations came under renewed tensions as anger brewed in the South after a sudden discharge of North Korean dam water killed six South Koreans who were camping further downstream on Sept. 6.
In a customary note, the editorial called for the implementation of the two inter-Korean summit accords.
Seoul's Unification Ministry said it expects no major events, such as a military parade, during this year's anniversary. North Korea held a large-scale parade on the 60th anniversary last year, when the absence of leader Kim Jong-il fueled rumors about his failing health.
After reportedly suffering a stroke in August last year, Kim is believed to now be back in full command of the country.
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