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North Korea Blasts Seoul Over US-Led Sea Drills

PSI is a US initiative involving multinational exercises on the interdiction of vessels and airliners suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction or related materials.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Nov 5, 2006
North Korea denounced South Korea Sunday for sending a government delegation to US-led sea drills aimed at stopping cargo carrying weapons of mass destruction in the Gulf. "This is an outright perfidy to the North," Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling Communist Party paper, said in protest to the South's sending of three observers to the drills off Bahrain late last month.

"Their behavior of blindly toeing US policy to ignite a war on this land at any cost would only bring catastrophic consequences."

Pyongyang, accusing the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) drills of targeting North Korean cargo, has urged Seoul not to join them.

But South Korea, a US ally, has been under growing pressure to play a greater role in PSI exercises, following North Korea's October 9 nuclear test.

In a diplomatic move designed to placate both sides, the South has just sent observers to the sea drills, instead of actually sending ships or troops to join the maneuvers.

But Rodong said the drills "constitute part of the sanctions, blockade and military pressure" upon North Korea.

Seoul is considering ways to expand its roles in PSI without joining any sea blockades against North Korea.

Officials in Seoul said South Korea's active participation in the PSI exercises could lead to armed clashes with North Korea. The two Koreas have been technically at war since a bloody 1950-1953 conflict.

The two Koreas had several sailors killed and ships sunk in clashes in disputed waters in 1999 and 2002.

The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution to broaden sanctions, including cargo inspections, against North Korea for its nuclear test.

North Korea has since told South Korea not to enforce the sanctions, which Pyongyang said were tantamount to a declaration of war.

PSI is a US initiative involving multinational exercises on the interdiction of vessels and airliners suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction or related materials.

Previous drills involved high-speed maritime chases and commandos rappelling onto vessels from helicopters or clambering aboard from fast boats, with inspectors in chemical suits searching suspect cargo.

North Korea Gave US A Face-Saving Proposal To Restart Talks
Seoul (AFP) Nov 3 - North Korea gave the United States a face-saving proposal to secure the resumption of six-party nuclear disarmament talks, its number two leader was quoted as saying in Pyongyang Friday. Kim Yong-Nam, chairman of the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly or parliament, also said the ball is now in Washington's court to make the negotiations a success.

Park Yong-Jin, a spokesman for South Korea's leftist Democratic Labour Party (DLP), quoted Kim as making the remarks to a visiting DLP delegation.

North Korea on Wednesday confirmed it will end a year-long boycott and return to the six-nation talks on condition the issue of lifting financial sanctions against the reclusive regime is discussed and settled.

Washington agreed to set up a group to discuss the financial curbs.

"We proposed the two sides hold the six-party talks first and discuss ways to lift the financial sanctions, if the United States was unable to lift the sanctions before the talks for fear of losing face," Kim was quoted as saying.

"The United States accepted this proposal and that's how the six-party talks are going to be resumed."

The North had previously demanded the sanctions be lifted before talks resume while the US had said they were a law enforcement matter unconnected to the forum.

The US effectively froze North Korean accounts in a Macau bank in September 2005, prompting the North's boycott of the talks. Many other Asian banks have since been pressured to refuse North Korean business.

The US says the Macau funds are suspected to have come from counterfeiting and other illicit activities.

"The United States has been abusing the six-party talks for domestic political purposes instead of seeking to resolve the basic issue between North Korea and the United States," Kim was also quoted as saying.

He said North Korea's nuclear weapons were not aimed at South Korean "brothers" but as a deterrent to US "sanctions and policy of strangulation" against the North.

The DLP, which has 10 parliamentary seats, supports engagement with the communist state and blames the United States more than the North itself for the October 9 nuclear test. North Korean state media reported Kim's meeting with the delegation but gave no details of what was discussed.

earlier related report
Pentagon Steps Up Contingency Planning For Strikes On North Korea
Washington (AFP) Nov 3 - The Pentagon has stepped up planning for attacks on North Korean nuclear facilities and is bolstering US nuclear forces in the region, The Washington Times reported Friday, citing officials familiar with the process. The officials said the planning includes detailed programs for using special operations commando raids or Tomahawk cruise missile strikes to disable North Korea's plutonium-processing facility at Yongbyon.

"Other than nuclear strikes, which are considered excessive, there are several options now in place. Planning has been accelerated," a Pentagon official was quoted as saying.

A Pentagon spokesman said that while the military always plans for a variety of contingencies, the story "mischaracterized the approach (to North Korea) within the department."

"The president has made it clear we are pursuing a diplomatic approach through the six party talks and with the international community to reach a peaceful and diplomatic solution," said Major David Smith.

The Times said the military planning was given new impetus by North Korea's October 9 nuclear test, and by growing opposition to its nuclear program by China and South Korea.

A second senior US defense official quoted in the article said the United States had recently assured Japan and South Korea that it would use nuclear weapons to deter North Korea.

"We will resort to whatever force levels we need to have, to defend the Republic of Korea. That nuclear deterrence is in place," the senior official said.

The official declined to say what nuclear forces the United States has in the region, but the report said other officials said they include bombs and air-launched missiles stored in Guam that could be delivered by B-52 and B-2 bombers.

Nine nuclear-missile submarines regularly deploy to Asian waters from Washington state, the report said.

earlier related report
Nuclear freeze pushed to check North Korean weapon advances
by P. Parameswaran
Washington (AFP) Nov 2 - North Korea may not be capable yet of arming a missile with a nuclear warhead even though it would aim for such competence following its atomic weapons test, US experts say.

They propose that new talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program give top priority to imposing a freeze on activities at the country's central nuclear complex and a moratorium on further tests.

This would prevent the hardline communist state from making the leap into the next stage of miniaturizing warheads to fit them on missiles, they said.

Following years of failed negotiations, both neighbour Japan and faraway Washington are worried Pyongyang will attain the skill of being able to fire a nuclear missile at them.

"But I don't see any evidence to suggest that North Korea has successfully designed a basic nuclear warhead, let alone one small enough and sturdy enough, to fit on a missle," said Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president for National Security at the Center for American Progress.

"This could take several more tests and flight testing of a rentry vehicle which they haven't done," said Cirincione, who once worked in the US House of Representatives on the professional staff of the committee on armed services.

It would be "huge leap" to move from detonating a basic nuclear device -- like what Pyongyang did on October 9 in defiance of the global community -- to weaponizing it to the point where it is small and sturdy enough to both fit on a missile and survive the extreme stresses of launch and re-entry, he said.

The estimate for any first generation nuclear state is they can make a bomb weighing 500 kilograms, said Jon Wolfsthal, a former senior US Department of Energy official, who once visited North Korea's nuclear complex at Yongbyon, where the reclusive country's atomic program is centered.

"Beyond that, nothing is certain and there is no way to have confidence such a thing (putting a nuclear warhead onto a missile) would work without extensive testing," he said.

Based on some of the US government intelligence estimates, "the assessment now is North Korea is not capable of arming a ballistic missile with a working nuclear warhead," said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, a US non-profit group.

"What is important for everyone to recognize is that if their program advances and there is more nuclear testing, more missile testing, it would become more likely that they will," he said.

Which is why, Kimball said, it was esential to make the six-party negotiations among the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China designed to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program actually work.

"We should not waste further time," he said.

North Korea agreed this week to return to the talks -- to be reconvened before the end of the year -- after boycotting it for nearly a year in protest over US financial sanctions against it for alleged money laundering and US dollar counterfeiting activities.

Michael Green, former Asian security advisor to President George W. Bush, said the United States should push at the upcoming nuclear talks for a North Korean declaration freezing activities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and a moratorium on further testing.

"Those kind of concrete steps I think are what to look for," he said.

"Just going back into the talks will be worse than nothing and provides cover for North Korea to refine its technology and wait for the next opportunity to test," Green said.

Getting from North Korea a "downpayment" on freezing the five megawatt Yongbyon reactor would hold it "hostage" to future negotiations, said Daniel Poneman, former senior director for non-proliferation at the US National Security Council.

"Our situation is getting worse every day because they (North Korea) are getting more leverage with each new grain of plutonium and they are getting military advantage out of it," he said.

Pyongyang is believed to have secured up to 50 kilograms of plutonium from Yongbyon, enough to make up to seven nuclear weapons.

"The critical aspect of the (negotiation) process for us is to regain the initiative and to retake control of the escalation ladder ... so that the North Koreans are no longer calling the shots in the pace of the negotiations," Poneman said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

related report
North Koreans See Nuke As Source Of Pride
Mt. Kumgang (UPI) North Korea, Nov 03 - Outside the country, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is viewed as a ruthless dictator who starves his people, devoting many of the country's scarce resources to nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. His decision to conduct a nuclear test was considered a "strategic failure" which would backfire by enhancing the positions of the U.S. hawks seeking regime change in Pyongyang as the road to disarming the defiant communist country.

At home, however, Kim is praised as the "Great Leader" who bolstered the country's global stature and defended it from decades of U.S. threats by developing nuclear weapons "with indigenous wisdom and technology."

North Koreans working at the scenic mountain resort of Kumgang said they are proud of their leader who developed atomic bombs despite outside pressure.

"Nuclear is the pride of our republic," said Pak Chun Guk, a North Korean guide at Mount Kumgang.

"Nuclear weapons ensure peace on the Korean peninsula. Now, the United States could not attack us. No nuclear-armed country has been attacked," he said. "South Koreans should appreciate our nuclear deterrent," he told a group of journalists from the South.

He said the North's nuclear weapons are not aimed at the South, but the United States. "We don't want war, but never scare it," Pak said, claiming the United States was preparing for a war of aggression on the North.

"We are thoroughly united behind the General (Kim Jong Il)," said another guide, Pak Song Ok, standing in front the slogan: "Defend Great General Kim Jong Il, Lodestar of the 21st Century, with Our Lives." "We are ready to do everything only if the General places an order," she said.

Beside her, another female guide hummed a song, "Precious Fatherland," swearing public loyalty to the communist regime.

Pak is among a dozen North Korean minders, called "environmental rangers," and tour guides, who are believed to be propagandists in the mountain opened to visitors from the South.

They approach South Korean visitors and say their country is strong under Kim Jong Il's "brilliant leadership" in a bid to extend the cult worship to South Koreans.

The environmental rangers also monitor the behavior of South Korean tourists. Heavy fines are handed out if visitors point at the portraits of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.

The intense personality cult is evident in every corner of the mountain -- from slogans cut into the rock face to the lips of North Korean tour guides.

Huge granite cliffs were engraved with honorific expressions for Kim Jong Il and his father and national founder Kim Il Sung, phrases written by them, and slogans calling for people's loyalty to the regime.

"Long live Suryong (chieftain) Kim Il Sung, who has sacrificed his lifetime to bring happiness to us," reads a red-and-white slogan carved into a 16-foot-high rock in the entrance of Nine Dragons Valley.

Asked about the negative economic impact of the nuclear test, North Koreans said they are ready to endure economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

"We have already endured economic sanctions for a decade. We are ready to overcome another 'painful march under trials,'" said a North Korean official who oversees the tour program on Mount Kumgang.

The campaign of "painful march under trials" took place after the abrupt 1994 death of Kim Il Sung and a subsequent economic crisis followed by a mass exodus of refugees.

In an effort to ride out the sociopolitical unrest, North Korea launched the "painful march" campaign, entrusting the people with the "heavy but honorable task" -- of defending "our own style of socialism" and coping with growing economic woes and acute food shortages.

North Korea announced an end to the painful march in late 1997. Instead, it kicked off a new public campaign in early 1998 named the "Desperate March for Socialism," saying the new campaign was necessary for a "new take-off" and an "ultimate victory."

Many analysts in Seoul expect North Korea to face another "painful" period after international sanctions are implemented. The U.N. sanctions could topple the country's already tattered economy, they say.

"Our republic is a powerful country that possesses nuclear. We (North) Koreans are proud of that. We could get through any difficulties," the North Korean official said.

In a show of support for the country's nuclear test, North Korea has staged a series of public rallies joined by hundreds of thousands of people in which it called for unconditional loyalty toward Kim.

"The North's nuclear test is largely aimed at boasting Kim's leadership and tightening his grip on the people suffering from economic difficulties," said Joo Song-ha, a North Korean defector who sought asylum in the South in 2001.

Source: United Press International

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US Intelligence On Iran Needs Insulation From Political Interference
Washington (UPI) Nov 03, 2006
The man who ran the CIA's covert activities in Europe during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq says U.S. intelligence needs to be better insulated from political influence if the nation is to avoid another disaster in Iran. "I can see the same thing happening with (intelligence on) Iran," Tyler Drumheller told United Press International in an interview about his just-published book, "On the Brink."

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