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North Korea Celebrates Kim Leadership Amid Nuclear Jitters

File photo: North Korean Leader salutes the Korean Peoples army. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Oct 08, 2006
North Korea heaped praise on leader Kim Jong-Il on Sunday's ninth anniversary of his rise to communist party chief, but stayed silent over the regime's threat to test a nuclear bomb. Official media in Pyongyang ran editorials or commentaries praising Kim's Songun (military-first) policy, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency.

"We should display the might of Songun Korea and bring about a great surge in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful nation under the leadership of Kim Jong Il," it said.

But the agency and other media made no reference to the threatened nuclear test, according to Seoul's Yonhap news agency which monitors them.

"Our dear leader has exerted his extraordinary foreknowledge and superior political talent to bring the all-out development of our-style socialism," said the party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

"Our people's army, the core of our wholehearted unity, is the top death-defying corps that upholds and implements the ideas and routes of our leader." North Korea, a self-declared nuclear power, announced Tuesday that it would conduct a test but did not say when -- triggering a guessing game about the possible date.

Sunday, the anniversary of when Kim assumed leadership of the Workers Party in 1997, was one of several touted dates.

The South's Dong-a newspaper had suggested Sunday or Tuesday, the anniversary of the party's foundation, or another date before the November 7 mid-term elections in the United States -- the North's arch-foe.

However Britain's Sunday Telegraph, citing Russian officials in Pyongyang, said the North would likely delay a test until at least the year-end to see if the United States would lift sanctions and begin bilateral talks.

Former South Korean lawmaker Jang Sung-Min, quoting an unnamed Chinese source, told Yonhap that North Korea had denied that a test was imminent.

North Korea has instead told China that it would stop preparing for a nuclear test if Washington offered bilateral talks, according to Jang, who leads a private think tank in Seoul.

Pyongyang has boycotted six-way talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program since last November, protesting at US sanctions against a Macau bank accused of laundering money for the regime.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a statement Friday calling on Pyongyang to abandon its test plan.

A suumit in Seoul Monday between President Roh Moo-Hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to focus largely on the North's announcement. Both countries have said they could not tolerate a nuclear-armed North.

The main opposition Grand National Party criticised the president's response to the issue.

"President Roh is handling the current crisis in an ambiguous and indifferent way," its chairman Kang Jae-Sup told a party meeting. "He must apologize to the people and present a clear stance."

The opposition leader proposed a meeting with Roh to discuss ways to defuse the threat, Yonhap reported. The presidential office said it would consider the proposal.

War veterans, religious leaders and conservatives said they would launch a candlelight vigil Monday protesting against the threatened test.

An alliance of some 220 civic groups said evening rallies in downtown Seoul would last for two weeks from Monday.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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British Finance Minister Heckled Over Nuclear Policy
London (AFP) Oct 08, 2006
British finance minister Gordon Brown was heckled Sunday by a protestor over his stance on the renewal of the country's independent nuclear deterrent. Brown, who is likely to succeed Prime Minister Tony Blair who is to step down within a year, was taking questions from the audience at a book promotion session as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival.

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