Kim Jong-un attends power plant dedication ceremony

N.K. leader attends power plant dedication ceremony

Fireworks explode in the night sky as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the North’s senior officials attend a ceremony to celebrate the dedication of a hydroelectric power plant on Mount Paektu in Paekam, the North’s Yangang Province bordering China, on Oct. 3, 2015, in this photo provided the next day by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. The station, which started being built in 2002, was named the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station. (Yonhap) (END)

 

Yonhap News

Seoul hopes top Chinese official’s visit to Pyongyang will help ease tension

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The Unification Ministry voiced hope Monday that a planned visit by a ranking Chinese official to North Korea this week could help ease tension on the Korean Peninsula as the North threatens to conduct a missile or nuclear test.

North Korea said Sunday that a Chinese delegation to be led by Liu Yunshan, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, will attend the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which falls this Saturday.

“The government hopes that this round of exchanges between China and North Korea will contribute to easing heightened tension on the peninsula and maintaining stability,” Jeong Joon-hee, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

He also expressed hope that the move could help make progress toward efforts to denuclearize North Korea, and bring peace and stability to Northeast Asia.

It will mark the first time that a Chinese member of the standing committee of the communist party will visit Pyongyang under the regime of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un.

“Exchanges of high-level officials between North Korea and China are meaningful,” Jeong said without elaborating.

Relations between China and North Korea have been sharply strained since the North’s nuclear test in early 2013.

The hard-won conciliatory mood on the peninsula recently flared up amid speculation that North Korea would launch a long-range rocket or conduct a fourth nuclear test around its anniversary.

The North said it has the right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes, but South Korea and the United States viewed it as a cover for a ballistic missile test.

China, the North’s only treaty ally, has also expressed its opposition to North Korea’s possible provocations.

President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, jointly “voiced opposition to any act that could escalate tensions” at a summit in early September. (Yonhap)

 

The Korea Herald

Pyongyang to repatriate S. Korean NYU student

North Korea will repatriate a 21-year-old South Korean student who has been detained there since April, the Unification Ministry said Monday, in what could be a conciliatory gesture by the North to South Korea.

North Korea will repatriate a 21-year-old South Korean student who has been detained there since April, the Unification Ministry said Monday, in what could be a conciliatory gesture by the North to South Korea.

Joo Won-moon from New York University. (Yonhap)

The communist  nation will repatriate Joo Won-moon, a New York University student alleged to have attempted to illegally cross the border from China, through the truce village of Panmunjom at 5:30 p.m. today, according to a ministry official. The North informed the South of the plan via fax.

“It’s a relief that North Korea has decided to repatriate our national, Joo,” the official noted, adding that the North should also send back home three other South Koreans now held in the country.

The move comes as North Korea has ratcheted up its missile and nuclear threats, raising tension on the Korean Peninsula following the hard-won conciliatory mood over long-strained inter-Korean ties.

South and North Korea reached a landmark deal on Aug. 25 to defuse military tension and resume the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

But the North has vowed to launch a long-range rocket or hinted at conducting a fourth nuclear test as it is preparing for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, which falls on this Saturday.

In an interview with U.S. news cable network CNN in May, Joo admitted that he had intentionally entered the North on the belief that his arrest could have a good effect on inter-Korean relations.

With the repatriation of Joo, the North is holding three South Koreans — missionary Kim Jung-wook, Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil.

The North has held the 52-year-old Kim Jung-wook in captivity since October 2013, calling him a spy for South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who sneaked into the country with the purpose of inciting dissent. He was sentenced to hard labor for life in May 2014.

In June, the North handed down the same sentence to the other two South Koreans for spying for the South’s intelligence agency. (Yonhap) from New York University. (Yonhap)

The communist  nation will repatriate Joo Won-moon, a New York University student alleged to have attempted to illegally cross the border from China, through the truce village of Panmunjom at 5:30 p.m. today, according to a ministry official. The North informed the South of the plan via fax.

“It’s a relief that North Korea has decided to repatriate our national, Joo,” the official noted, adding that the North should also send back home three other South Koreans now held in the country.

The move comes as North Korea has ratcheted up its missile and nuclear threats, raising tension on the Korean Peninsula following the hard-won conciliatory mood over long-strained inter-Korean ties.

South and North Korea reached a landmark deal on Aug. 25 to defuse military tension and resume the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

But the North has vowed to launch a long-range rocket or hinted at conducting a fourth nuclear test as it is preparing for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, which falls on this Saturday.

In an interview with U.S. news cable network CNN in May, Joo admitted that he had intentionally entered the North on the belief that his arrest could have a good effect on inter-Korean relations.

With the repatriation of Joo, the North is holding three South Koreans — missionary Kim Jung-wook, Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil.

The North has held the 52-year-old Kim Jung-wook in captivity since October 2013, calling him a spy for South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who sneaked into the country with the purpose of inciting dissent. He was sentenced to hard labor for life in May 2014.

In June, the North handed down the same sentence to the other two South Koreans for spying for the South’s intelligence agency. (Yonhap)

 

The Korea Herald

North Korean rocket or nuclear test around October 10 anniversary impossible: 38 North

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Recent satellite imagery shows no signs of North Korea making rocket or nuclear test preparations, rendering it impossible for such a test to happen on or before a key national holiday this week, a U.S. research institute said Monday.

Concerns have persisted that the North could conduct such tests around the 70th anniversary on Oct. 10 of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions after Pyongyang strongly hinted at such possibilities.

But commercial satellite imagery, taken as recently as Sept.

27, shows that there is no such preparation going on at the North’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station or the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, making it impossible for such tests to take place this week, said Joel Wit, editor of the website 38 North.

“I think the bottom line here is that all these reports about possible long-range rocket or nuclear tests on or before Oct. 10th are just all wrong, all speculation. No evidence to support it whatsoever,” Wit said at a press briefing.

“I would even go as far to say that the North Koreans are probably having a lot of fun with their periodic interviews, talking about how it’s their right to launch a space-launch vehicle and explore space and everyone runs off and writes a story about it as if it’s going to happen tomorrow and it isn’t,” he said.

Wit said, however, that it’s important to note that the North has been constructing new buildings at its rocket engine test site, possibly to test larger engines that could be used in larger rockets.

“It’s very clear that these buildings are for fuel and oxidizer and they are much larger than the buildings that were at this facility before. What does that mean? It means that the North Koreans are getting ready to test much larger rocket engines than they have tested in the past.

“What does that mean? It means much larger rocket engines mean larger rockets. It may be ones with longer ranges. It’s very clear,” he said.

Wit said, however, that it would take time for the North to test-fire a rocket with a larger engine. If Pyongyang conducts a new long-range rocket launch in the not-too-distant future, it would likely involve the existing Unha-3 rocket, he said.

North Korea says its rocket launches are aimed at putting satellites into orbit, claiming it has the right to peaceful use of space. But Pyongyang is banned from such launches under U.N. Security Council resolutions as it has been accused of using them as a cover for testing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Experts say long-range rockets and ICBMs are basically the same with differences only in payloads. (Yonhap)

 

The Korea Herald

North Korea seems to opt for pure celebration over rocket launch

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North Korea is likely to mark its key anniversary with a variety of celebratory events, rather than a provocative act such as a long-range rocket launch, South Korea said Tuesday.

North Korea is expected to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Saturday without announcing new lines of policies, according to the Unification Ministry.

“There has been no sign of an imminent rocket launch by the North, including the movement of a missile body,” said a ranking ministry official, asking not to be named. “It usually takes two to four weeks for a rocket to be launched after it is moved into a launching site.

His remarks indicate that the North is unlikely to go ahead with a rocket launch around the anniversary in the face of the global community’s strong warning against the North.

The North has recently ratcheted up its missile and nuclear threats, citing its sovereign right to launch “a series of satellites for peaceful purposes.” Outside experts view the North’s move as a cover for ballistic missile tests.

The government said that North Korea apparently plans to stage a massive military parade in Pyongyang by mobilizing a large number of people and displaying various types of weapons.

“There is a possibility that North Korea could display new weapons that the North has not made public,” the official said, without elaborating.

He said that the North may show off submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which the North claimed it successfully fired in May or a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.

What is drawing attention is whether North Korea will display its Taepodong-2 long-range missiles or its new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, known as the KN-08, during the upcoming parade, experts said.

The North’s Taepodong-2 missile is believed to be capable of reaching as far as Alaska if configured as an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

North Korea showed off a life-size mockup of what appears to be the KN-08 during a military parade in April 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the North’s late founder, Kim Il-sung.

The official said that North Korea appears to be preparing for various programs that can be “visually colorful” such as mass games, marches with torches and an air show.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un earlier instructed his people to thoroughly prepare for the 70th anniversary.

South Korea said that the North’s leader has focused on accomplishments in construction projects, but floods in the city of Rason on the North’s northeast tip might have hampered the related work.

The ministry also said North Korea has sent an invitation to about 20 countries, including Cuba and Southeast Asian nations, but it has not been confirmed which countries will send a delegation to the North’s event.

“Around 20 to 30 foreign media companies from about 10 countries are known to have applied for visits to North Korea to cover the anniversary celebration,” he said. (Yonhap)

The Korea Herald

Markets in North Korea have grown: report

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Marketplaces in North Korea have expanded over the span of more than 10 years despite the North’s crackdown on them in 2010, a report showed Tuesday, indicating markets’ critical role in the North’s economy.

An analysis of satellite imagery showed that most markets in North Korea have “either grown or remained virtually unchanged” in recent years despite the North Korean regime’s crackdown on them, according to the report by Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, a non-resident Kelly Fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS.

“This is yet another indication among many that the markets are a crucial part of the North Korean economy, and the fact that they have grown in many cities would seem to imply that their importance is growing,” the report said.

The report, titled “Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea,” was written based on satellite imagery to delve into how North Korea’s markets have changed in size over time.

In the western border city of Sinuiju, the total market space in the city grew by 114 percent between 2003 and 2014, the report said. The North’s border city of Kaesong saw aggregate market size grow by around 16 percent in the cited period.

Pyongsong, about 30 kilometers north of Pyongyang, was an exception as the closure of the wholesale market in 2010 decreased the city’s market size by 70 percent.

The report said that satellite imagery cannot capture whether markets are actually operating, but relevant datasets showed “policies of market repression have not translated into permanent closures and removals of markets.”

It also said aggregate market space per capital is larger in North Korea’s southern areas than in the northern parts, indicating that domestic agriculture may also be a major driver of the market economy.

The existence of large markets per capita in the western port cities, such as Nampo and Haeju, may be related to trade via sea routes, it said. (Yonhap)

 

The Korea Herald

Kim Jong-un calls for stronger nuclear deterrence in anniversary thesis

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un instructed the communist country to bolster its nuclear arsenal and war preparations in a special essay to mark an upcoming national anniversary, according to the country’s state-controlled media Tuesday.

The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece daily for the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, carried the piece in honor of the 70th anniversary of the party’s founding on Oct. 10. The headline read “The Laborious Work of Kim Jong-un: The feat of the party of great comrades Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il is victory and invincibility.”

North Korea “should produce more powerful cutting-edge arms of our kind and tirelessly strengthen self-defense nuclear deterrence while rigorously making war-fighting preparations involving the entire population,” it said.

The defense power is the dignity and the sovereignty of North Korea as well as a guarantee for victory, Kim stressed.

The thesis also highlighted the importance of firming up internal unity and socialism, calling for a “thorough consolidation of the monolithic leadership.”

The reunification of two Koreas is yet the biggest task for the party, Kim said, stressing it should be achieved without any interference from foreign countries. (Yonhap)

The Korea Herald