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N. Korea nukes Washington on video, threatens South
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 26, 2016

North Korean defector criticises China in rare Beijing talk
Beijing (AFP) March 26, 2016 - A North Korean defector made a rare public appearance in China on Saturday, criticising Beijing's repatriation of asylum seekers despite alleged warnings from South Korea not to speak out.

Hyeonseo Lee, who escaped from North Korea to China in 1997, called on Beijing to let refugees from her original homeland -- who it routinely sends back -- pass "safely without being caught by the Chinese authorities".

Human rights groups have for decades condemned Beijing for deporting North Korean asylum seekers, who they say face torture and imprisonment when repatriated.

China is North Korea's sole major ally and chief trading partner. It has recently supported UN sanctions on Pyongyang after its fourth nuclear test, but restricts criticism of its neighbour in the media and in public venues. It generally says those deported are illegal economic migrants.

Lee said she was detained and interrogated by police after arriving in China in the 1990s. Though later released, she said she subsequently had to hide from authorities during her near 11-year stay in the country, fearing repatriation.

Speaking at a book festival to promote her recently published title "The Girl With Seven Names" -- which describes living in constant fear of Chinese authorities -- Lee told an audience that China "has no obligation to listen (to) the North Korean regime".

"China is a heaven compared to North Korea", she said, but also described harassment by Chinese police.

"I want to tell the very basic things about what is happening to North Koreans here," she said, speaking in English to an audience of several dozen mostly non-Chinese listeners.

"China is the place we have to cross, but here many people are caught, less than 50 percent will succeed".

Lee said intelligence officials from South Korea, where she now lives, tried to dissuade her from visiting China, warning of possible damage to diplomatic relations.

"They are telling me I had to be careful in China, saying only talk about North Korea, don't ever touch China, especially don't touch the Chinese government," she said.

- 'Many evils' -

China's attitude towards North Korea has hardened as Pyongyang continues with an internationally-condemned nuclear program, but it defends the isolated communist state against criticism of its human rights record and routinely censors media which take too critical a stance.

North Korea released a video Saturday showing a nuclear strike on Washington and threatened South Korea with a "merciless military strike" for slandering leader Kim Jong-Un.

AFP could find no record of a North Korean defector previously giving a public speech in mainland China or publishing a book there.

"No defector made a public speech in China, but I have to make a stand & tell Chinese people the truth," Lee said on Twitter.

She was encouraged by the reception of an earlier subtitled video in which she described her stay in China, viewed more than 110,000 times on Chinese video sites.

Speaking to AFP, she said: "I will not change the Chinese government," adding: "people in the mainland, to let them know what their government is doing, that's really crucial".

"There are many evils living in China, human traffickers, but at the same time there are many good people," she said.

"I'm grateful to those good people, but not the Chinese government".

North Korea released a new propaganda video Saturday showing a nuclear strike on Washington and then threatened South Korea with a "merciless military strike" for slandering leader Kim Jong-Un.

Pyongyang has been ramping up the bellicose rhetoric and propaganda for weeks, since the launch of annual South Korea-US war games that it views as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

Seoul and Washington made the already large-scale joint drills bigger than ever this year in response to the North's nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch a month later.

Menacingly titled "Last Chance", the video released on Saturday shows a submarine-launched nuclear missile laying waste to Washington and concludes with the US flag in flames.

The four-minute video romps through the history of US-Korean relations and ends with a digitally manipulated sequence showing a missile surging through clouds, swerving back to Earth and slamming down in front of Washington's Lincoln Memorial.

The US Capitol building explodes in the impact and a message flashes up on the screen in Korean: "If US imperialists budge an inch toward us, we will immediately hit them with nuclear (weapons)."

- Video wars -

The North has issued similar videos in the past, including one in 2013 showing the White House in a sniper's crosshairs and the Capitol building exploding in a fireball.

The latest offering was published on the North's propaganda website DPRK Today and shows images from the Korean War, the capture of US spy ship Pueblo in 1968 and the first crisis over North Korea's nuclear programme in the early 1990s.

North Korea has been pushing to acquire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability which would take its nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

It has conducted a number of what it says were successful tests of an SLBM, but experts have questioned the claim, suggesting Pyongyang had gone little further than a "pop-up" test from a submerged platform.

Tensions always rise on the Korean peninsula during the annual South-US military exercises, but have reached a particularly elevated level this year.

That is partly due to the nuclear test and the UN sanctions that followed, but also because of the first-time inclusion in the drills of an operation that envisages strikes to "decapitate" North Korea's top leadership.

- Getting personal -

Pyongyang has taken that as a direct threat to leader Kim Jong-Un and responded with increasingly abusive personal attacks on South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

On Thursday, Kim presided over a huge, long-range artillery drill simulating a strike on Park's office and official residence in Seoul.

And on Saturday, the artillery section of the Korean People's Army (KPA) issued an "ultimatum" demanding Park apologise and punish those who formulated the decapitation strategy.

"If matchless traitor Park Geun-Hye and her group do not respond ... the long-range artillery force of the KPA large combined unit on the front will move over to merciless military action," it said in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

The warning came hours after KCNA published a statement by the North's "reconciliation council" that referred to Park as "dog-like", "chicken-like" and a "dirty old woman" who grants sexual favours to the leaders of South Korea's allies.

The insults have multiplied as Park has hardened her stance with the North in recent months, accusing Kim of leading his country along a path of self-destruction and vowing harsh retaliation to any military provocations.

South Korean activists on Saturday launched three balloons carrying tens of thousands of anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border into North Korea.

One balloon was strung with a large banner printed with a Pyongyang-published picture of Kim Jong-Un smiling against the backdrop of a missile being assembled.

"Bring down a firestorm on nuclear maniac Kim Jong-Un", read the slogan.


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Previous Report
As Korean tensions rise, rival leaders get personal
Seoul (AFP) March 25, 2016
Escalating military tensions on the divided Korean peninsula took an increasingly personal turn Friday, with the leaders of North and South each threatening the other's destruction. For North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un that meant overseeing a long-range artillery drill, simulating a strike on the offices and official residence of his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-Hye. Park, meanwhil ... read more

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