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North Korea Vows To Bolster Military Power

South Korean activists hold up placards reading "stop the war games" during a rally denouncing a joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States outside a US military base in Seoul, 25 March 2007. South Korea and the United States launched 25 March the massive joint exercise, called RSOI/FE 07, that North Korea said could jeopardise nuclear disarmament talks. Photo courtest AFP.

Japan approves new emergency missile guidelines
Tokyo (AFP) March 23 - Japan on Friday approved emergency response guidelines that will allow the armed forces to fire interceptor missiles without the prime minister's prior approval, officials said. The new guideline will allow the defence minister to order the interception of incoming ballistic missiles, and comes ahead of the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles in northern Tokyo next week. "This is a guideline that allows the Defence Ministry to order its Self-Defense Forces, without the prime minister's consent, to intercept missiles," a defence ministry official said. Defence officials said the emergency measures could also be used to respond to foreign satellites crashing into Japan. Japan and the United States started working in earnest on a missile shield after North Korea in 1998 fired a missile over Japan's main island. They vowed to accelerate the programme after North Korea in July test-fired seven missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 25, 2007
North Korea vowed Sunday to bolster its "self-defensive deterrence" saying a military exercise launched by South Korea and the United States could jepardise nuclear disarmament talks. "If the aggressors ignite a war on this land, the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea) will resolutely retaliate against them with merciless deadly blows," the Korean National Peace Committee said in a statement.

North Korea will bolster its "self-defensive deterrence for defending the dignity and sovereignty of the Korean nation to cope with the provocative moves of the US and south Korean warmongers," it said.

The North has used the word "self-defensive deterrence" in referring to atomic bombs since its nuclear test last October.

The warning came as the week-long RSOI (Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration) and Foal Eagle exercise began across South Korea Sunday.

The allies say the exercise is purely defensive.

But North Korea has accused Washington of carrying out the exercise while negotiations have been under way with Pyongyang as part of six-nation talks over the North's nuclear programmes.

"This saber-rattling just launched behind the curtain of 'dialogue' and 'peace' is a very rude act proving their utter lack of good faith," the committee said.

The exercise is "harmful to the settlement of the nuclear issue and peace of the Korean Peninsula and driving the situation to a phase of confrontation and war," it said.

The committee also warned the exercise would drive inter-Korean relations to collapse.

The exercise focuses on a mock battle aimed at preparing for the sudden arrival of US reinforcements, US officials said earlier. It also features anti-commando operations and computer war games.

As part of the exercise, the USS Ronald Reagan plus a cruiser and two destroyers have joined tens of thousands of US and South Korean soldiers.

Outside a sprawling US military compound in Seoul, riot police blocked a march by about 1,000 South Korean anti-war activists who chanted slogans such as "Stop war games!"

"The exercise threatens peace on the Korean peninsula as it comes amid international efforts to denuclearise the peninsula following the February 13 six-party agreement," the protesters said in a statement.

The United States has stationed tens of thousands of troops in the South since the Korean war began in June 1950 with an invasion by the North.

Currently some 29,500 US troops are stationed here to help 680,000 South Korean forces face up to North Korea's 1.1-million-strong military.

earlier related report
US says North Korea still willing to disarm
Beijing (AFP) March 23 - The chief US envoy to North Korean nuclear talks insisted Friday the Stalinist regime was committed to ending its atomic programme, despite a dramatic breakdown in negotiations on disarmament.

North Korea walked out of the six-nation talks on Thursday after four days of deadlock because 25 million dollars in frozen funds had not been returned, despite pledges from the other parties that it would soon get the money.

With three weeks to go before North Korea is due to close its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and allow United Nations inspectors back into the country, US envoy Christopher Hill insisted the deadline could be met.

"I don't think there is a broader point here about whether they are committed to the nuclear deal. I think they are. Throughout the week, they reiterated that," Hill told reporters before flying back to Washington.

Immediately following the breakdown Hill had said the process remained "on track", while the US State Department also officially remained upbeat.

Envoys from China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia came together on Monday for their first meeting since a February 13 accord that set a timetable for the North to begin disarming.

Under the deal, Pyongyang had 60 days to close Yongbyon and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who were kicked out in 2002, back into the country.

In exchange, it would immediately receive 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel for energy use, eventually rising to one million tonnes or equivalent energy aid if it completely dismantles all its nuclear programmes.

As part of the agreement, the United States said Monday it would allow for the release of 25 million dollars of North Korean money frozen in a Macau bank since 2005 due to accusations of money laundering and counterfeiting.

The North had long insisted it would not begin disarming until it got the money back, and the US announcement raised expectations that the envoys would this week be able to discuss how to implement the accord.

But the money, meant to be transferred into a North Korean account at the Bank of China in Beijing, was never delivered.

While officials talked of "technical problems" for the delay, the Bank of China said late Thursday it had still not been asked to accept the transfer of the money.

The US State Department said Daniel Glaser, the US Treasury's point man on this issue, would travel to Beijing "relatively soon" in an effort to resolve the issue.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon said Friday the issue could be resolved finally by next week, but his nation's chief envoy to the talks was not so sure.

"Maybe it could take two or three weeks. I don't know," Chun Yung-Woo said in Beijing before heading home.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted Chuna as saying the Bank of China had refused to accept the money for fear the transaction may hurt its credit rating.

One concern raised by other officials was how money the United States has claimed for so long was contaminated by money laundering and counterfeiting could suddenly be cleared.

With that credit issue in mind, Chun said officials were now trying to find a bank outside China to receive the funds.

"It seemed possible that the money will go to a bank in a third country... that way, a solution is being worked out," Yonhap quoted Chun as saying.

The six-nation talks were launched in 2003 aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons ambitions, but have been plagued by disputes that eventually led Pyongyang to conduct its first atomic test in October last year.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Envoys Seek New Bank To Settle North Korea Cash Dispute
Seoul (AFP) March 23, 2007
Negotiators are trying to find a bank outside China to receive North Korea's frozen funds in an attempt to settle a banking dispute that has stalled nuclear disarmament talks, South Korea's envoy said Friday. The United States on Monday said it had cleared the way for the release of the 25 million dollars from a Macau bank, in an attempt to move the nuclear talks forward.

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