*** NEWS IN BRIEF
Kwak Pom-gi Named New Chief of South Hamgyong Party Chapter
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's former Vice Premier Kwak Pom-gi was recently appointed as new chief secretary of the South Hamgyong Provincial Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK).
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 30 referred to Kwak Pom-gi as "chief secretary of the party chapter" in reporting that he delivered a speech in a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War held in South Hamgyong Province a day earlier.
Other than the KCNA's use of Kwak's assumed new title in the report, no further information was available regarding his new post, nor did the North Korean government make any official announcement.
It is, however, assumed the appointment might have taken place sometime in June, during the rare parliamentary session the country held earlier that month, and conducted a major reshuffle of senior officials.
At the parliamentary session, Kwak was dismissed from his previous post of vice premier in which he worked for 11 years and nine months since 1993.
The KCNA on June 20 tagged "the head of Central Committee of the WPK" to Thae Jong-su, former chief secretary of the South Hamgyong party chapter, in a news report, hinting Thae, who was appointed last September, has also been positioned to a new seat.
Meanwhile, O Su-yong, another former vice premier, has been appointed as new chief secretary of the North Hamgyong Provincial Committee of the WPK.
The North's official Korean Central Broadcasting Station on July 1 called him "chief secretary of the party chapter" while reporting about a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, held in North Hamgyong Province.
N. Korea Rebukes S. Korea's Delay of Wartime Command Transfer
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea criticized the U.S. and South Korea for delaying the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul, calling it a provocative act of driving the two Koreas to an all-out war.
In response to the agreement made by President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama on June 26 at the Toronto G-20 summit to delay the transfer of OPCON by three years and seven months to December 2015, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of (North) Korea (CPRK) issued a statement on July 1.
The committee, which deals with the North's affairs with the South, maintained claims that the U.S. blaming of North Korea for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship was all part of its greater scheme of delaying the OPCON transfer, which was carried out in a bid to deter any future North Korean provocations.
The statement went on to stress that the delay of the transfer has further heightened the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula, even putting the surrounding countries in danger.
The CPRK on July 2 also threatened to respond with stern retaliatory measures in connection with a resolution adopted by the South's National Assembly on June 29 calling for a strong government measure to punish North Korea for its torpedo attack on the Cheonan.
In the resolution proposed by the South's ruling Grand National Party (GNP), the parliament condemned North Korea for sinking the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26 and killing 46 sailors, calling the attack a "grave military provocation against South Korea."
North Korea Infuriated Over U.S. Mentioning of Human Rights Issue
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea accused the U.S. for its attempt to use the human rights issue as a "bargaining chip" to mend the frayed relationship between the two countries, claiming it is only a scheme by the U.S. to bring down the North's socialist regime.
"The DPRK (North Korea) will never allow even the slightest attempt of the U.S. to bring down the inviolable socialist system in the DPRK under the pretext of human rights issues," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on July 5.
The North's angry remarks came in response to U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley's comments on June 21 on the human rights problem in Pyongyang, after welcoming the appointment of Marzuki Darusman as the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea.
"The U.S. remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea and the plight of North Korean refugees," Crowley said. "Human rights are a top U.S. priority, and addressing human rights issues will have a significant impact on the prospect for closer U.S.-North Koreans ties."
The socialist country lambasted that the U.S was clearly interfering with North Korea's internal affairs by imposing pressure on its human rights situation in the country, adding it was "a challenge and mockery of the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK," according to the KCNA.
North Korea also maintained the so-called "human rights issue" that the U.S. and the rest of the world talk about does not even exist in the country, while also claiming that the U.S. would stop its aggressive hard-line policy toward the North "if it was truly interested in human rights."
North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The communist nation is also infamous for political prison camps across the nation in which hundreds of thousands of people are known to be held.
North Korea's Premier Choe Yong-rim Meets Chinese Ambassador
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's Premier Choe Yong-rim met with the Chinese ambassador to Pyongyang in a bid to discuss economic trade between the two countries, while also reaffirming to forge stronger and closer ties, according to media from North Korea and China.
Choe Yong-rim, newly appointed as Premier at the latest parliamentary session in June, held talks with Liu Hongcai, Chinese ambassador to North Korea, who visited Choe to pay tribute at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on July 6.
The KCNA failed to mention some details on the meeting, but more information was reported by a Chinese radio station on the same day.
During the meeting, Premier Choe pledged North Korea will work in full cooperation with China to pursue bilateral economic development and trade expansion, the China Radio International (CRI) said.
Choe went further to underscore the significance of a brotherly alliance between Pyongyang and Beijing, claiming the North is more than willing to solidify and further develop the relations with its neighbor, the CRI added.
Trade between North Korea and China increased by 18 percent in the January-May period, a sure sign that the two countries have continued to engage in economic deals despite souring relations between the two Koreas.
Since South Korea, which accounts for more than 30 percent of the North's trade and serves as one of its key business partners along with China, cut off nearly all trade with North Korea, experts say it will look to China more actively to make up for trade losses with Seoul.
N. Korea Rejects Talks on Warship Sinking Through Truce Commission
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea refused on July 6 to discuss the deadly March sinking of a South Korean warship at a U.N. military commission overseeing the truce on the Korean Peninsula, calling for a new investigation into the tragedy blamed on the socialist state.
North Korea has already demanded that South Korea accept an "inspection team" from Pyongyang to verify the results of its multinational investigation into the sinking that claimed 46 lives.
An unnamed spokesman for the North's foreign ministry said his country will not agree to discuss the sinking at the U.N. Military Truce Commission because it would help the United States and South Korea deflect its demand that an inspection team be invited.
"The U.S. and South Korean puppet authorities are playing cheap tricks ... in an attempt to block the involvement of our inspection team and blur the truth behind their fabricated plot," he said in an interview with the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul.
The spokesman also rejected the veracity of the South Korea-led probe that ended in May and led Seoul and Washington to conclude that the sinking was a violation of the 1953 armistice agreement.
"The truth behind the 'Cheonan incident' has not been unveiled yet; hence, as of this moment, we cannot even talk about the violation of the Armistice Agreement," he was quoted as saying.
The United Nations Security Council is debating to what extent North Korea should be held responsible for the sinking, the worst peacetime naval disaster in South Korea's history.
South Korea and the U.S. say an elusive North Korean submarine torpedoed the 1,200-ton Cheonan. China and Russia, two permanent veto-wielding members of the Council, have deferred drawing conclusions for weeks.
South and North Korea remain technically at war after the three-year Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
North Korea Threatens War If UNSC Blames It for Ship Sinking
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened on July 7 to wage a "death-defying war" if the United Nations Security Council adopts any statement that blames the socialist state for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March.
The warning comes as the 15-member Council is debating a South Korean request for a statement that condemns the North for the Yellow Sea sinking that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
After a weeks-long multinational investigation that ended in May, South Korea announced that the North was responsible for the sinking, while Pyongyang has strenuously denied its role in it.
Should a Council statement blame Pyongyang in any way for the sinking, the North's "military and people will view it as a grave act of infringement on our national dignity and will not hesitate to wage a death-defying war to defend sovereignty," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland said.
The committee that handles inter-Korean affairs apparently targeted South Korea and the United States in its statement released through the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea has already threatened an "all-out war" if it is sanctioned or punished for the sinking. The socialist country has disputed the veracity of the South Korea-led probe and demands that Seoul accept an inspection group from Pyongyang for verification.
The March sinking marked the worst peacetime naval disaster in South Korea's history and prompted Seoul to implement a series of measures to hurt the North politically and economically.
Despite ongoing efforts by South Korea and the U.S. to draw a strongly worded statement from the Council, China and Russia, two permanent veto-wielding members, have been reluctant to pinpoint North Korea as the culprit, reducing the chances of condemnation.
China is North Korea's foremost economic and political ally, and recently urged the U.S. and South Korea to scrap their plans to hold drills in the Yellow Sea in a show of force against the North.
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