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North Korea threatens to attack South ‘without notice’

Posted by Rattana_S On December - 20 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Pyongyang sends fax threatening to attack South Korea without warning after leader’s photo is set on fire during anti-Pyongyang rallies in Seoul

North Korea has threatened to attack South Korea “without notice” in response to anti-Pyongyang rallies on the anniversary of the death of its former leader.

The threat to launch an unannounced strike was conveyed in a fax sent from the North’s National Defence Commission to South Korea’s National Security Council, according to Yonhap news agency.

It came shortly after several conservative groups held protests in Seoul on the second anniversary of the death of the military regime’s former leader Kim Jong-il.

Some protestors reportedly burnt photographs of the current leader Kim Jong-un, an action condemned in North Korea as an insult of the “highest indignity”.

The South Korean government reportedly responded immediately to Pyonghang’s threats of attack, with a vow to “sternly react” to any provocations.

Tensions have once again flared in the region after the young leader last week publicly purged and executed his uncle Jang Song-thaek in a bid to consolidate his grip on power.

North Korea has a long history of issuing bellicose threats to South Korea, with military officials reporting on this occasion that there currently were no signs of unusual activity.

Seoul, a city with a ten million-strong population, is known to be within range of the conventional artillery operated by North Korean soldiers along the heavily-fortified border.

The threats came as Dennis Rodman, the former NBA star, controversially arrived in in North Korea on his third trip since he first visited the renegade state in February this year.

The sportsman, accompanied by a documentary crew, is scheduled to spend four days training a national team of North Korean basketball players for a January exhibition in Pyongyang.

Despite requests from defectors and organisations to highlight the human rights abuses in the hardline regime during his visit, he has refused to be drawn on political issues, insisting his visit is for “fun” not politics.

North Korea marks Kim Jong-il death amid purge tensions

Posted by Nuttapon_S On December - 17 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

North Korea is marking the second anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong-il, days after the dramatic purge of a top-level official.

Images from Pyongyang showed ranks of thousands of officials at a ceremony to commemorate Mr Kim.

His son, Kim Jong-un, inherited the leadership after his death in 2011.

Last week, he presided over the execution of Chang Song-thaek, his uncle and a powerful figure seen by outside observers as his mentor.

Mr Chang was accused of multiple crimes, state media said, including forming a power base and attempting to overthrow the state.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Kim-moon described his execution as “very dramatic and surprising”.

He urged regional nations “while they must be vigilantly and carefully watching the development of situation, not to take any premature actions”.

Residents laid flowers at monuments to both Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first leader.

This picture taken by North Korea's KCNA on 16 December 2013 shows people offering flower bouquets before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il to mark the second anniversary of Kim Jong-il's death
Images from Pyongyang showed people paying tribute to the late Kim Jong-il and his father and founding leader of North Korea Kim Il-sung
North Koreans walk near the statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il
The father (left) and son ruled North Korea for more than six decades
North Koreans marking two years since the death of Kim Jong-il, 17 December 2013
Pyongyang residents are seen here in front of a mosaic monument of Kim Jong-il
In this image taken from video, North Korean military officials attend an event to mark the second anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on 17 December 2013
Thousands of high-level officials attended a ceremony in Pyongyang
Kim Jong-un at a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the death of his father
Kim Jong-un clapped but listened to the eulogies for his father with downcast eyes

Kim Jong-il, who ruled North Korea for almost two decades, died on 17 December 2011.

On Tuesday, his third son and chosen successor Kim Jong-un attended a ceremony to remember his father.

The young leader wore a sombre expression, the BBC’s Lucy Williamson reports from Seoul.

She says the ceremony, in a large hall, was as much about the current leader as the old one.

Kim Jong-un sat on the podium flanked by North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, and the head of the army.

“All our people and soldiers have struggled and achieved victory for the past two years by holding our great leader [Kim Jong-il] in high esteem,” Kim Yong-nam said in his speech.

On Monday, thousands of North Korean soldiers lined up in front of the state mausoleum to pledge their allegiance to Kim Jong-un.

The South Korean president, meanwhile, held a meeting of top security officials, warning of possible “provocations” from North Korea in the wake of the purge of Mr Chang and his aides.

His sudden fall from grace and rapid execution have sparked fears of instability inside North Korea.

Mr Chang, who was married to the elder Mr Kim’s sister, was thought to have facilitated the transfer of power from father to son two years ago.

It was also widely believed that he was highly influential behind the scenes.

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Is North Korea now erasing history?

Posted by Rattana_S On December - 17 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

North Korea’s state news archive has deleted almost all its historic articles, sparing only a handful about the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un

In a move that George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth would have applauded, North Korea has erased 99 per cent of its state news archive.

Around 35,000 articles have vanished from the official website of the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), and approximately 20,000 articles from the website of the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party.

As a result, KCNA’s digital archive now only reaches back to October, with the exception of a small number of articles about Kim Jong-un, such as “Kim Jong-un Sends Congratulatory Message to Youth”, from August 2012.

Articles about major events in the country’s history, including the announcement of the death in December 2011 of Kim Jong-il, the father and predecessor of the current president, have been removed.

“There were 35,000 articles dated September 2013 or earlier on KCNA in Korean. If they are leaving the odd one in, it is still a kill ratio of 98 per cent to 99 per cent,” said Frank Feinstein, an analyst who tracks North Korea’s online media for NK News.

He added that translations of the articles in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese had also disappeared. KCNA has also delisted itself from Google and no longer appears in its searches.

“This is calculated,” said Mr Feinstein, referring to the deletions from the two sites. “It means the order most likely came from above the individual agencies. That is why it is so interesting, it is a not just an internal KCNA purge.”

The full archive of a mirror website (KCNA.co.jp), run by North Koreans in Japan, has not been affected and is still listed on Google. The Japanese mirror site is run independently and it is not clear if it is financed by Pyongyang.

One analyst who follows North Korea’s media, but asked not to be named, said she was “in shock” at the move, which comes after the recent purge and execution of Jang Song Thaek, thought to be second-in-command after Mr Kim.

“This only adds extra noise to the cacophony of confusion around North Korea at the moment,” she said. “I am shocked at the extremity of the action, but it is clear it was a carefully made decision,” she added.

The analyst suggest several reasons why the archive may have vanished. It may have been to “rewrite North Korean history and secure Kim Jong-un as the new leader”, or simply because the server hosting the site was struggling to delete simply the articles about Mr Jang.

Last Friday it emerged that ten to 15 articles about Mr Jang had been deleted from KCNA with around 500 others edited to remove his name.

“Likely, it is a combination of reasons that led to this, but as with many North Korean actions, this only leaves me with more questions,” she said.

It is also not clear whether the move was temporary or permanent. A North Korean web portal called Naenara has deleted its archives of its Foreign Language Publishing House content regularly in the past.

However, Mr Feinstein said that North Korea’s move to remove some of its websites from Google’s search listings was an omen that the changes could be long-lasting.

South Korea’s president has highlighted a deep rift with Japan, as the region struggles to rein in North Korea’s growing nuclear capability.

President Park Geun-hye told the BBC she saw no point in a summit with the Japanese leader unless the country apologised for war-time “wrongdoings”.

Concern over regional security has grown in the past year, following North Korea’s third nuclear test in February.

Ms Park said nations had to break the “vicious cycle” of Pyongyang’s actions.

She said her country would take “firm and unremitting action” in response to any military provocation from North Korea.

The South Korean president was speaking to the BBC ahead of a visit to the UK, which begins this week.

‘Coddling’

Park Geun-hye took office in February with a promise to revamp the Korean economy and enact a “trust-building” process with the North.

Her government reached an early agreement with Pyongyang to reopen a jointly-run industrial park at Kaesong, but further agreements – including a plan to reunite families separated by the Korean War – have not been honoured by the North.

And as signs of Pyongyang’s commitment to its nuclear and missile programmes continue, there are calls from some countries to reopen talks.

In an interview before leaving for Europe, Ms Park said the familiar pattern of dealing with the leadership there must be broken:

“We cannot repeat the vicious cycle of the past where North Korea’s nuclear threats and provocations were met with rewards and coddling, and then followed by renewed provocations and threats,” she said.

“We must sever that vicious cycle… otherwise North Korea will continue to advance its nuclear capability and we will come to a point where this situation will be even harder to crack; where we won’t be talking about whether North Korea should or should not possess nuclear weapons, but where… they will be calling for arms reductions, or arms talks.”

Over the past three years, North Korea has carried out a nuclear test; launched a long-range rocket; restarted a nuclear reactor at Yongybyon; and shelled a South Korean island, killing four people, including civilians. It is also blamed by Seoul for sinking a South Korean warship with 46 sailors on board.

North Korea’s actions have gradually brought its friends and enemies closer together. UN sanctions on Pyongyang were agreed this year by both China and the US, and Ms Park was greeted warmly and with fanfare when she visited Beijing in June.

“China is a very close neighbour” she said, “and we are currently carrying out various programmes to give greater substance to that partnership.”

All of which makes South Korea’s current relationship with Japan all the more striking. Eight months after taking office, Ms Park has still not met her neighbour and fellow US ally, and talk of a summit, she said, was still premature.

Members of South Korean security forces take part in a drill at a set of remote islands called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese on 25 October 2013
A territorial row has reignited historical differences with Japan

“The fact is there are certain issues that complicate [that relationship]” she said. “One example is the issue of the comfort women. These are women who have spent their blossoming years in hardship and suffering, and spent the rest of their life in ruins.”

“And none of these cases have been resolved or addressed; the Japanese have not changed any of their positions with regard to this. If Japan continues to stick to the same historical perceptions and repeat its past comments, then what purpose would a summit serve? Perhaps it would be better not to have one.”

Japan’s war-time use of military sex slaves, or “comfort women”, draws great public anger here, as does its claim over the rocky islet of Dokdo (known as Takeshima in Japan), which lies in the waters between the two nations.

Tokyo’s new assertiveness on these kinds of issues is causing ripples with others in the region too, and with North Korea edging ever-closer to a deliverable nuclear weapons, regional co-operation – or lack of it – could carry real consequences.

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