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North Korea nuclear ambitions will test Obama: official

US food aid due in NKorea this week
A shipment of US food aid is due to arrive in North Korea later this week after rough seas caused a delay, the State Department said Tuesday. "The next shipment of food aid totaling 21,000 metric tons is now expected to arrive in the DPRK by the end of this week, with its delayed arrival due to recent rough seas," it said in a statement, referring to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "That shipment will also be distributed by the US NGOs (non-government organizations)," the State Department said. "The United States has not stopped food aid to North Korea," it added. But it said there was still a problem with North Korea issuing visas for Korean speakers for the UN World Food Program (WFP) portion of the food aid program, among other technical problems. "Under the terms of our agreement with the DPRK, there is to be no limit imposed on the Korean language capabilities of the WFP and US NGO staff implementing the food aid program," it said. "We remain in dialogue with North Korea on these issues and will continue working with the DPRK to implement the agreed terms of our bilateral food aid agreement," the statement said. "We continue to support the US-DPRK food aid program and are committed to the well-being of the North Korean people," it added. In May 2008, US officials announced that over the year some 400,000 tonnes of food aid would be distributed via the WFP and about 100,000 tonnes via US NGOs. The State Department said more than 143,000 metric tonnes of US wheat, corn, and soybeans was delivered to North Korea in 2008. The food aid, funded by the US Agency for International Development's office of Food for Peace, is the first US food assistance program for North Korea since 2000. UN agencies warned last month that nearly nine million North Koreans, 40 percent of the population, urgently need food aid to make up for an expected shortfall in the cereal harvest.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 7, 2009
North Korea will be an "early challenge" for Barack Obama, as the United States remains locked in a tense standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, US President George W. Bush's top foreign policy advisor said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.

North Korea will test Obama, who takes office on January 20, by trying to split with international negotiations aimed at verifying whether Pyongyang is stepping down its nuclear program, US national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.

"Without this verification agreement, there can be no progress," he said.

The disarmament talks -- involving the United States, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan -- collapsed in Beijing in December after failing to reach agreement on how to determine if the secretive nation is telling the truth about its atomic programs.

Some people in the intelligence community "have increasing concerns that North Korea has an ongoing covert uranium enrichment program," said Hadley, who was to address the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Pyongyang "will test the new administration by once again trying to split the six parties.

"When its efforts to do so fail, North Korea will need to accept a verification agreement -- so we can verify the disablement and then dismantlement of that country's nuclear capabilities."

Hadley, a foreign policy operative with close ideological ties to Bush allies Vice President Dick Cheney and former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, is expected to argue that the Asia-Pacific region is of "increasing importance to America's security and economic well being."

Pyongyang, meanwhile, has stepped up its combative tone with Washington.

The ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, accused the United States of planning a preemptive nuclear strike against North Korea.

"The US war-thirsty forces' moves to mount a preemptive nuclear attack are assuming an increasing danger," it said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visited military units Monday in his first public appearance of 2009.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying North Korea is "invulnerable" and that strengthening the country "is sure to be accomplished as it has this matchless great army that has become steel-strong."

US, Japan hopeful on Obama approach to NKorea
US and Japanese officials voiced confidence Wednesday that US president-elect Barack Obama would press North Korea in an abduction row that has strained relations between Tokyo and Washington.

Japan has taken a hard line against North Korea -- often putting Tokyo at odds with Washington -- demanding the communist state give a fuller account of Japanese civilians it kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies.

Outgoing US ambassador Thomas Schieffer, who has often voiced sympathy for Japan's position, said he would advise the Obama administration to take the issue "very seriously".

"I am confident that when he thinks about it, President Obama will understand the issue," Schieffer told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

North Korea in 2002 admitted to the kidnappings and let five victims return to Japan. But it said others were dead including the best-known victim, Megumi Yokota, who was 13 when agents snatched her on a seashore in 1977.

"You are looking at a new president who has young daughters and you cannot hear (Megumi's) story without thinking about your own children and what you would feel if someone took away your child from your home," Schieffer said.

His remarks were echoed by Kyoko Nakayama, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso's special assistant on the abduction issue, during a visit to Washington.

"I was briefed that the next administration will be fully aware of the importance of the abduction issue and continue making efforts toward its resolution," Nakayama told reporters after talks with Christopher Hill, the US chief negotiator with North Korea.

Hill "told me there is no doubt about it", she said.

Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, brokered the 2007 deal under which North Korea agreed to end its nuclear drive in exchange for security guarantees and badly needed fuel aid.

Japan refused to provide any aid to North Korea due to the abductions, locking horns with the other nations in the six-way deal that also includes China, Russia, the two Koreas and the United States.

But the United States announced last month that all countries were suspending fuel shipments after talks broke down on how to verify disarmament by North Korea, which tested an atom bomb in 2006.

Japan's Kyodo News agency, quoting an unnamed source in Washington, said Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton had asked former Harvard professor Kurt Campbell to succeed Hill as assistant secretary for Asia.

Campbell is well liked by many policymakers in Japan, with which he negotiated on military cooperation during Bill Clinton's presidency.

But Kyodo said the Obama administration was also looking to create a new post as special envoy on North Korea and that Hill could stay on.

Campbell, writing on a New York Times blog in 2007, faulted George W. Bush's administration for not engaging enough with Asia.

"The Bush administration may indeed have decided to take the risk of focusing almost exclusively on Iraq, but there are growing anxieties not only of failure there but of mounting problems elsewhere where the United States has chosen to scale back its engagement, notably in Asia," Campbell wrote.

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NKorea resumes anti-US rhetoric
Seoul (AFP) Jan 2, 2009
North Korea Friday resumed its criticism of the United States, a day after dropping its customary harsh words from a policy-setting New Year message.

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