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North Korea Hails Nuclear Test In Year Of Victory

File image of the North Korean leadership appearing together for their annual group photo.

Nuclear Disarmament To Bring Simultaneous Rewards To North Korea
Seoul (AFP) Jan 1 - North Korea can expect to improve ties with the United States and get economic assistance simultaneously with its moves to dismantle its nuclear programs, South Korea said Monday. "When the process of dismantling the nuclear programs begins, the process of normalization of US-North Korea relations will be launched at the same time," Song Min-Soon told Yonhap news agency.

"The issue of economic and energy assistance will also go together." Six-nation talks resumed in Beijing last month after a 13-month hiatus but failed to reach any agreement on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons drive which in early October produced a nuclear test. North Korea refused to engage in substantive discussions at the talks, citing no progress in the lifting of US sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over allegations of money laundering and counterfeiting.

Song said he believes that the new US proposals were attractive enough for North Korea to review. "The North Korean delegates went back to Pyongyang with the US proposals and I think they have been reviewing them in a sincere, careful manner," he said. "We hope the North come out with practical measures to discuss again." Song left for Washongton Monday to discuss follow-up measures on the latest six-party meeting with his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice.

by Simon Martin
Seoul (AFP) Jan 1, 2007
North Korea on Monday hailed 2006 as a "year of great victory" thanks to its first ever nuclear weapons test and vowed to keep putting its military first in the coming year. A joint New Year editorial in the hardline communist state's major newspapers also vowed to restructure the creaking economy and called for unbending loyalty to leader Kim Jong-Il.

"Our access to a nuclear deterrent was an auspicious event in the national history as it meant the realization of the Korean people's centuries-old desire to have national strength no one could dare challenge," said the editorial carried jointly by the party, military and youth newspapers.

"Our nuclear deterrent serves as a powerful force for defending peace and security in Northeast Asia and guaranteeing the victorious advance of the cause of independence," it added, referring to the nuclear test on October 9.

The editorial termed 2006 a "year of great victory" and made no mention of the international condemnation or UN sanctions which were sparked by the nuclear test and by earlier missile tests in July.

It also made no mention of six-nation nuclear talks which resumed last month in Beijing but broke off after a week without setting a date to meet again.

"The year 2007 will be a year of great changes, a year which will usher in a new era of prosperity of Songun Korea," the editorial said, referring to the "Songun" army-first policy which directs most resources to the country's 1.1 million-strong military.

It described economic revival as "the main task in the present general march" and said emphasis should be put on farming to alleviate chronic food shortages.

"We should, as in the past, keep up farming as the great foundation of the country and make an epoch-making advance in solving the problem of food for the people," it said.

North Korea suffered famine in the mid- to late 1990s in which hundreds of thousands of people died and severe food shortages persist.

The editorial also called for more production of better consumer goods and development of power, coal-mining, metal and rail transport industries, among other areas.

Analysts said the editorial stressed the importance of economic development, reflecting the seriousness of the impoverished nation's moribund economy.

"The editorial placed particular emphasis on the economy. It shows North Korea will focus on economic affairs as it achieved its goal in defense through its nuclear test," said Dongkuk University professor Koh Yu-Hwan said.

The editorial has replaced the North's New Year message since founding president Kim Il-Sung died in 1994. It called on the nation's 23 million people to show loyalty to Kim's son and successor Kim Jong-Il.

"The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should loyally uphold the idea and guidance of the leadership, cherishing the unshakeable spirit of defending their leader at all costs," it said.

Kim made a midnight visit to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, where the embalmed body of his father lies, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

He was accompanied by several top military leaders, including Vice Marshal Kim Yong-Chun who is chief of the army's general staff, and Vice Marshal Kim Il-Chol, a member of the National Defense Commission and minister of the People's Armed Forces, the agency said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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South Korean Leadership In Deepening Crisis Of State
Seoul (UPI) Dec 29, 2006
South Korea is facing a leadership crisis as the popularity of its reformist leader and his party has plunged to record lows this year following a spate of scandals, policy failures and political wrangling. In a move to prepare for next year's presidential election, top leaders of the ruling Uri Party decided this week to "divorce" from maverick President Roh Moo-hyun and his loyalists and create a new political party, which can change the country's reform-dominated political landscape.

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