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Friday, July 31, 2009

American Naval Power

I found this picture today just surfing around and thought it was a cool picture. George Modelskiand William Thompson theorized in their book, Seapower in Global Power, 1494 - 1993, that long cycles begin and end with "global wars" and as a result a new (and improved) dominant global power emerges. They argue that one of the critical elements of these "global wars" (and the dominant global powers) has been the naval power because naval power provide global reach, which has been one of the defining attributes of the dominant powers. Of course, wars cannot be won only with a large and strong navy, but it does play a very large role in winning wars.

Anyway, as I looked at this picture, I just thought it was a great snapshot of the modern American naval power.

Where did all the posts go?

Dear Readers,

Forgive the inconvenience, but all Northeast Asia Matters postings dated prior to 01 August 2009 has been moved to a secondary site for archiving purposes.

This was done to ensure our site is kept lean and clean....and the feeds are burned correctly in the future.

If you need to reference the postings that were posted on this site prior to 01 August 2009, please go to Northeast Asia Matters Archives.

Thank you.

Korean Peninsula Today, 31 July 2009


Today’s highlights:
1) A South Korean activist stated that Kim Jong-il is undergoing kidney dialysis twice a week as a result of his diabetes
2) A Chinese investment company’s cancelled a contract with Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, a North Korean company currently under U.N. sanctions
3) The US Treasury Department’s announced that it has put the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation (Hyoksin) for being owned or controlled by a North Korean entity that is already sanctioned under the US executive order that freezes the assets of WMD proliferators
and 4) North Korea seized a South Korean fishing boat on the East Sea (Sea of Japan) on Thursday after the boat apparently entered North Korean territorial waters due to a malfunction in its navigational system.
On Friday, North Korea has told the South that the appropriate agency is investigating the incident and it does not have anything special to tell the South Korean government at this time. North Korean media has not covered the incident.

Kim undergoes dialysis (AFP)

SEOUL – North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il is undergoing kidney dialysis twice a week as a result of his diabetes, a South Korean activist said on Thursday, quoting unidentified sources in Pyongyang.

The health of Mr Kim, 67, is the subject of intense interest as he has not formally named someone to succeed him at the helm of the secretive communist state.

'His illness suddenly became worse last May, forcing him to receive dialysis,' Ha Tae-Keung, president of the Open Radio for North Korea, said on a radio talk show.

'The nuclear test was carried out in order to prevent Mr Kim's health problems from sparking rifts among power elites,' added Mr Ha, whose Seoul-based organisation broadcasts programmes to the North.

Mr Kim, who has a history of diabetes and heart disease, is widely believed to have suffered a stroke in August last year.

In video footage recorded in March and shown on North Korean state television last week, Mr Kim barely used his left hand. Most still photos released since his reported stroke have not shown him using his left hand.

North Korea launched a long-range rocket on April 5 and conducted a nuclear test on May 25, its second following the first in 2006. It also has fired several short-range missiles and renounced the truce on the Korean peninsula.

US and South Korean officials believe the ailing Mr Kim was staging a show of strength to bolster his authority as he tries to put in place a succession plan involving his youngest son, 26-year-old Jong-Un.

According to reports, North Koreans are being taught new songs aimed at bolstering loyalty to the next leader, addressing Jong-Un as 'General Kim.'

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N. Korea Mining Project Buckles Under UN Sanctions (Chosun Ilbo)

A Chinese investment company developing a bronze mine in North Korea with a North Korean company sanctioned by the UN Security Council has reportedly called an abrupt halt to the project.

An industry source in China said the investment firm sent a letter to NHI Shenyang Mining Machinery, the company it had commissioned to build facilities for the mine in Hyesan, North Korea, telling it to stop construction. An estimated 400,000 tons of bronze are deposited there.

The Chinese firm had signed an agreement with (North) Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation to develop the mine in November 2006. But the North Korean partner was blacklisted by the UN Security Council after North Korea carried out its latest nuclear test.

The industry source said, "When Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Pyongyang in June last year, he pledged full support for the development of the Hyesan bronze mine so that it could become a model for investment by Chinese business in North Korea. This prompted NHI to hurry construction so that production could start in September this year."

But he added the Chinese government apparently persuaded the investment firm to stop the project as Beijing takes part in the UN sanctions. "Otherwise, it's unusual for a project to be stopped at this late stage," he said. The investment firm reportedly gave NHI no reason for the cancellation.

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US slaps sanctions on North Korean firm (AFP)

WASHINGTON – The United States on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on a North Korean firm that according to US officials was involved in Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction development.

The Treasury Department said that Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation (Hyoksin) was sanctioned for being owned or controlled by a North Korean entity, the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation (Ryonbong).

Ryonbong already was sanctioned under the US executive order that freezes the assets of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators and their supporters, and prohibits US persons from all transactions with them.

"The world community is taking forceful action against the arms and agencies of North Korea’s WMD and missile programs, prohibiting dealings with them and banning them from participation in the global financial system," said Adam Szubin, head of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The United Nations Security Council designated Hyoksin for sanctions on July 16, saying it was "subordinate" to Ryonbong and for its involvement in the development of WMD.

According to the Treasury, Ryonbong, which also was sanctioned, specializes in acquisition for North Korean defense industries and support to Pyongyang's military-related sales.

Last week President Barack Obama, using emergency powers, extended a set of economic sanctions on North Korea for another year as tension soars with the communist state over its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea has vowed to build more bombs and to start a new weapons program based on uranium enrichment in response to the sanctions.

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Northeast Asia Matters comment: As of this posting, North Korea has told the South that an appropriate agency is conducting an investigation into the incident and that it does not have anything special to say about the incident. The North Korean media sources have not been observed to report on the incident.

S. Korean fishing boat seized by N. Korea: officials (Yonhap)

SEOUL – North Korea seized a stray South Korean fishing boat carrying four crewmembers and hauled it to a port on its east coast on Thursday despite repeated South Korean warnings, officials in Seoul said.

The 29-ton South Korean boat, 800 Yeonanho, "was tugged to the port of Jangjon at 9:30 a.m.," Lee Bung-woo, a defense ministry spokesperson in Seoul, said in a briefing.

South Korea sent a message calling for the immediate release of the boat, which had been floating in North Korean waters as early as 5:05 a.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a release.

Lee said a crewmember on the boat reported a malfunction with the satellite navigation system via commercial link shortly before it was seized 7 miles (11km) into North Korean waters at 6:27 a.m.

The seizure comes as a South Korean worker remains detained in North Korea since March over allegations that he defamed its ruling system and encouraged defection at a joint factory complex just north of the inter-Korean border.

Ties between the Koreas unraveled after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office early last year with a pledge to bolster pressure on Pyongyang to drop its nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea retaliated by suspending reconciliation talks and threatening armed conflict along their border. Tensions heightened further after the communist state conducted its second nuclear test in May and test-fired ballistic missiles off the east coast.

The seized South Korean boat did not respond to initial requests by South Korean naval vessels trying to identify it, JCS spokesman Park Sung-woo said.

"The ship was out of the reach of our radars when it crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL)," the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, he said. "The boat was also tiny and built with reinforced plastics, which made it hard to identify the vessel with radars."

South Korean patrol boats moved closer to the NLL and warned North Korea twice to "reciprocate by releasing the fishing boat" after the seizure, he said.

The South Korean Navy says it sent back two stray North Korean fishing boats on June 30 and July 5, respectively.

The incident on Thursday marks the third time since 2005 that a South Korean fishing boat has been seized by North Korean authorities.

The two previous boats, which also strayed across the boundary, were released after five and 19 days, respectively, according to officials.

The 800 Yeonanho departed from the port of Geojin on the eastern coast at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday and sailed past the NLL as far as 20 miles (32km) off the port of Jejin, officials said.

Geojin is about 150km northeast of Seoul and 15km south of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Koreas.

Skippered by a man only identified by his last name, Park, the boat, which was operating in the East Sea and mainly fishes for squid, was scheduled to return home Friday morning, Lee said.

The NLL was drawn in 1953 by an American commander of U.N. forces that fought on the South Korean side in the Korean War, which ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

In the meantime, the JCS said a North Korean fishing boat briefly crossed into the South's waters on its west coast at 5:13 p.m. on the same day.

The North Korean boat, likely experiencing engine failure, was towed by a North Korean patrol boat at 6:04 p.m., it said.

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North Korean TV aims to show dark side of South (Associated Press)

SEOUL – North Korean state TV has aired South Korean footage edited to highlight social and economic problems in the far richer South in a rare move apparently aimed at quashing rumors among the North's impoverished people that the rival country is better off.

Shabby houses in slum areas, the homeless and jobless, and citizens expressing grievances toward the government were shown in 10 minutes of footage broadcast Wednesday night and monitored by The Associated Press in Seoul. The clip was culled from South Korean TV programs and logos of southern networks like KBS and MBC were visible on screen.

"The South Korean economy is now miserably crumbling," said a North Korean narrator with gloomy music playing in the background. She accused the South's conservative, pro-U.S. President Lee Myung-bak of seeking "anti-people economic policies" and called him a "traitor."

"An absolute majority of South Korean people are living miserable lives," she said.

Lee is a routine target of North Korean condemnations. His hard-line policies on Pyongyang since taking office early last year — such as cutting off unconditional aid to the impoverished country — has angered the North, prompting it to suspend all reconciliation talks and key joint projects.

South Korea, which a half-century ago was one of the world's poorest countries, has steadily grown to become one of its most economically developed. It is home to international powerhouses such as Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor and is known for its advanced technology.

Still, development has bypassed some. Homeless people and beggars can be seen in the capital Seoul.

North Korea has relied on outside handouts to feed its hunger-stricken 24 million people since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the 1990s. The totalitarian regime in Pyongyang strictly controls information on the outside world, while trying to strengthen the personality cult of authoritarian leader Kim Jong Il.

Still, word appears have spread among North Koreans that the South is much richer. Thousands of North Koreans defect to the South Korea each year, usually via China, to escape harsh conditions in their communist country.

A state-run South Korean think tank reported last week that South Korean movies and soap operas, smuggled from China, are increasingly popular among North Koreans despite threats of harsh punishment for viewing them.

Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at another think thank, the Sejong Institute, said the footage aired Wednesday illustrates the North Korean regime's unease.

"I think the North aired the edited footage after struggling over how to control word that the South is richer than the North," he said. "By showing a reality, which is of course a distorted reality, I think the North's government is trying to tell its people that it's not hiding anything and they shouldn't believe rumors."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Korean Peninsula Today, 30 July 2009

Today’s highlights:
1) The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister stated North Korea is willing to consider a new disarmament agreement if the US takes into account its security concerns
2) The US State Department spokesman stated a special envoy on human rights to North Korea will be appointed as Secretary Clinton had mentioned during her visit to Thailand last week
3)
North Korea rejected the visit to Pyongyang by the Korea Sharing Movement
and 4) a South Korean Pro-unification activist group protested at the ROK Unification Ministry building citing the disapproval of meeting with its North Korean counterparts in China

N.Korea willing for deal: China (AFP)

WASHINGTONNorth Korea is willing to consider a new disarmament agreement if the United States takes into account its security concerns, a senior Chinese official said on Tuesday.

Chinese and US officials, holding two days of wide-ranging talks in Washington, said they spoke at length about North Korea which in recent months has tested an atom bomb, fired missiles and bolted from a disarmament deal.

Wang Guangya, China's vice foreign minister said that Beijing welcomed an active role by the United States in reaching a solution on the Korean peninsula.

'China believes that if the package solution that the United States is thinking about accommodates reasonable security concerns, it will be attractive to the North Korean side,' Mr Wang told reporters.

North Korea signed a 2007 deal with five countries - the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia - giving it pledges of non-aggression and badly needed aid in return for dropping its nuclear programme.

North Korea has cited US 'hostility' for its rejection of the deal. But many analysts speculate that Pyongyang's actions are mostly a function of a brewing power struggle as leader Kim Jong Il's health falters.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she and China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo, a veteran negotiator with Pyongyang, spoke at length on 'the Chinese perception both of North Korea but also of our interactions with them.' 'And I found that very useful indeed,' Mrs Clinton told reporters.

China is the closest ally of North Korea and served as the host of marathon six-way talks that reached the now-collapsed denuclearisation deal.

China has also faced strong criticism in Washington, particularly among conservatives who say that Beijing could do more to rein in North Korea.

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Excerpt from the US Department of State Daily Press Briefing (US Department of State)

QUESTION: Yeah. North Korean human rights issues not currently from North today at all. How does the United States concern about North Korean human right issue change in current?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you probably saw last week in Thailand the Secretary announced that we’re going to have a special envoy on human rights in North Korea. We do have – we have a lot of concerns, of course, about North Korean behavior. But, yes, she announced that we’re going to have a special envoy for human rights.

QUESTION: She didn’t announce who it was going to be?

MR. KELLY: No, she did not.

Yes, I mean, we do have concerns and we raise our concerns about human rights in a number of different fora. We, of course, are very concerned about the arrest and detention of the two American journalists. We’re concerned about the lack of – I mean, you could go right down the line in terms of political – lack of political freedoms in North Korea. And we’re always very forthright about pointing out where we think that there needs to be improvement.

QUESTION: Is this – this special envoy is basically going to be filling the job that Jay Lefkowitz used to have?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure what job Jay Lefkowitz had.

QUESTION: He was the special envoy for human rights in North Korea --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I’m not sure – I’m not sure that it --

QUESTION: -- created by the Bush Administration. This is the same position? It’s not something new?

MR. KELLY: Not knowing what Mr. Lefkowitz did before, it’s hard for me to say that it’ll be the same job.

QUESTION: Even if North Korea nuclear issue is resolved at the Six-Party Talks – but doesn’t the United States still concerned about human rights issue – same time?

MR. KELLY: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we’ve said all along that we can – we have, obviously, real concerns about the nuclear program. And we are working very hard to get North Korea back to the Six-Party Talks. But at the same time, we have concerns about North Korea’s human rights record and their lack of fundamental political freedoms for their people.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just on the special envoy for human rights, what would he be doing exactly? I mean, would he be raising human rights with North Korean --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- leaders or --

MR. KELLY: He or she – let’s see if we can get you more information. The Secretary announced it last week, and let’s see if we can get you more information on it.

QUESTION: Is the Republic of North Korea going to come up in the strategic dialogue?

MR. KELLY: The topic has already come up, in fact. I mean, you saw that President Obama, in his opening speech, highlighted the need to advance our mutual interests in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. And this, of course, includes our collaboration on – in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. The issue was covered. The issue of the denuclearization and our common interests in attaining that state was covered in the discussions, and also in Secretary Clinton’s meeting with State Councilor Dai. The U.S. and China reiterated their agreement on the need for implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874 and the need for North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks.

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N.Korea rejects aid group trip (AFP)

SEOULNorth Korea has rejected a planned visit by South Korean activists to discuss humanitarian aid, officials said on Wednesday, nixing the first such cross-border trip since Pyongyang's nuclear test in May.

Members of the Korea Sharing Movement were to fly into Pyongyang on Wednesday for talks on humanitarian support projects, after a verbal agreement with the group's North Korean counterpart.

It would have marked Seoul's first approval of such trips since the communist North's nuclear test on May 25.

But the South's unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said the journey had to be called off at the last minute.

'The trip was cancelled because the group did not receive an official invitation from North Korea,' ministry spokesman Chung Hae Sung told reporters.

South Korea has promised to extend massive economic aid and business cooperation if impoverished North Korea scraps its nuclear weapons.

But relations worsened sharply this year over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, which prompted the United Nations to impose tougher sanctions.

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Pro-unification Activists Blast S. Korea's 'arbitrary' Policy on Inter-korean Exchange (Yonhap)

SEOUL – Activists rallied on Wednesday to protest the South Korean government's policy on civic exchanges with North Korea, saying its "arbitrary" approach discriminates against the pro-unification movement.

The Unification Ministry recently barred the South Korean Committee for the June 15 Joint Declaration from meeting its North Korean counterpart this week in Shenyang, China, citing frozen political relations. The committee is an umbrella organization of various civic groups aimed at implementing the first inter-Korean summit accord reached on June 15, 2000.

"We are enraged by the fact that these arbitrary control measures are concentrated on the June 15 joint declaration committee, which is the largest gathering of the civic unification movement," Park Deok-shin, co-chairman of the committee, said at the rally staged in front of the ministry building.

The participants, about a dozen members representing the committee, said the ministry has been inconsistent in its decisions, noting it approved another aid organization to meet North Koreans in the Chinese city this weekend.

Kim Dong-han, a professor at Dongguk University and a member of the committee, accused the Unification Ministry of violating the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Law.

"The first reason the ministry cited was the current state of inter-Korean relations. But the current stalemate has nothing to do with academic exchange. The ministry itself is a bad influence on inter-Korean relations as it bars exchanges, going against the spirit of the law," Kim said.

The government banned non-governmental trips to North Korea and other exchanges after Pyongyang's nuclear test in May. The blanket restrictions have been eased recently, allowing some aid organizations to visit the impoverished country with food and medical assistance.

But others, such as exchange programs by the Joint 15 summit declaration committee, are still generally banned.

A ministry spokesman, Chun Hae-sung, rejected the criticisms, saying the government intends to continue humanitarian aid regardless of political tension but maintain restrictions in other areas.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Korean Peninsula Today, 29 July 2009

Today’s highlights:
1) A US State Department official stated that North Korean call for dialogue fails to meet the international demand for resumption of Six-Party Talks
2) A South Korea-based North Korean defector-run media outlet reported 34 people are either dead or missing in Yangkang Province in North Korea due to the recent monsoon
3) The World Food Program documents showed that the food aid in North Korea is providing limited rations only to 1.3 million people instead of the originally targeted 6.2 million
4) China seized of 154 lbs of strategic metal shipment at the border bound for North Korea, which could be used for missile enhancement
and 5) The Korean Sharing Movement stated that it is expecting a delay for the planned visit to Pyongyang due to lack of formal invitation by the North


NKorean call for dialogue 'fails to meet' demands: US (AFP)

Washington – North Korea's call for dialogue "fails to meet" demands it return to nuclear disarmament negotiations with the United States and four other countries, a senior US official said Monday, AFP reports.

North Korea's foreign ministry said there was a "specific and reserved form of dialogue" that Pyongyang would entertain over the nuclear impasse, in what observers said was a direct overture to the United States.

But a senior State Department official told AFP the statement "fails to meet"
US and international demands for North Korea to resume disarmament talks with the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

"We have a (six-party) framework and the North Koreans need to recommit to denuclearization through that framework and implement their obligations," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The
United States has repeatedly refused to sidestep the multilateral negotiations and insisted there is no chance of direct talks.

North Korea's foreign ministry Monday again dismissed the forum.

"Any attempt to side with those who claim the resumption of the six-party talks without grasping the essence of the matter will not help ease tension," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by state media.

"There is a specific and reserved form of dialogue that can address the current situation."

The spokesman did not elaborate on what form such a dialogue could take.

"What
Pyongyang calls for is a direct US-North Korean dialogue," said Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea expert and professor at Seoul's Dongguk University.

The North quit the six-party talks after the United Nations Security Council censured it for a long-range rocket launch in April. In May, it also staged its second nuclear test, further ratcheting up tension.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, referring to longstanding policy, told reporters the
United States is "open to a bilateral dialogue, but only in the context of the six-party talks, only in a multilateral context."

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34 Dead in Yangkang Province Flooding (Daily NK)

Changchun, China – Torrential rains which recently hit Haesan, Yangang Province in North Korea apparently resulted in 34 dead or missing persons and 41 homes being swept away in the waves.

An inside source in
Yangang Province told The DailyNK by phone on the 24th, "Many residential homes gave way and many casualties resulted from the downpour. The employees of factories and enterprises have been mobilized to work on recovery projects, but this will most likely take a long time."

The source said, "Due to the rainfall, Yeonbongdong, Tapsungdong and Haehwadong were flooded, and 41 single-story homes collapsed. The number of deceased or missing people has reached 34. Usually, two or three households, four or five in some cases, occupy each residence, so at least 100 families have experienced some kind of damage."

He explained the weather that caused the tragedy, "Rain started falling, but it stopped early on the morning of the 11th. But then it really began to pour between two and three in the afternoon. Thumbnail-sized hailstones started coming down, then falling in buckets."

"The victims of the downpour were mostly elderly people staying at home, children and some who were lost in the current while trying to salvage their belongings. If the rain had fallen at night instead of during the day, I do not know what kind of a tragedy might have resulted."

The flooding was mostly in Yeonbongdong, as well as Haehwadong and Haeheungdong. By comparison,
Masan and its surrounding region were less seriously affected, and the areas around Hwajeonri and Kumsandong experienced hardly any damage at all.

The reason for Yeonbongdong and Haehwadong being so seriously affected seems to have been the construction of a road on top of a stream which flows in front of the Kim Jong Suk College of Education.

"The citizens in Yeongbongdong have actually been concerned about possible rainfall damage since the building of the road over the water," the source reported, claiming that the calamity was not simply a flood disaster, but a man-made one.

Currently, the roads in the Yeonbongdong area have completely been destroyed, forcing all vehicles to take a detour. Even middle school students have been mobilized to dig and carry the clay and sand to fill the roads.

The source relayed news that the North Korean authorities are allowing those households whose homes collapsed in the downpour to temporarily stay in surrounding factory buildings, and have begun recovery projects including repairs to damaged roads. Those citizens who have been mobilized for these projects have apparently been facing substantial hardships such as having to carry mud on their backs.

The source relayed the local atmosphere, commenting, "No national policy has been implemented to deal with the flood damage. Without bearing any of the responsibility as a state,
North Korea has just put pressure on the citizens."

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Questions Are Raised About Who Profits from UN Aid to North Korea (Fox News)

Is North Korea's dictatorial regime quietly profiting from U.N. emergency food supplies delivered to its starving people, even as the regime squeezes those deliveries down to a trickle?

Documents produced by the World Food Program, the U.N.'s flagship relief agency, outlining its current emergency operations in the insular communist state, raise a number of touchy questions about the financing and logistics of the effort, which was originally intended to feed some 6.2 million of North Korea's most vulnerable people, but which is currently providing limited rations only to 1.33 million.

The $500 million program was meant to run from September, 1, 2008 to November 31, 2009, to deliver nearly 630,000 tons of food aid to
North Korea at a time when it is suffering from severe flood damage and fertilizer shortages that have led to local food price increases.

Currently, WFP says that only $75.4 million worth of food aid has been delivered under the emergency program, as international donors have recoiled at the Kim Jong Il regime's recent nuclear detonation and provocative missile launchings toward Japan and Hawaii.

WFP emergency relief program documents obtained by FOX News show that from the outset the food agency planned to pay extraordinarily high transportation costs for sending relief supplies to North Korea from around the world--about a dollar for every two dollar's worth of food aid shipped into the country under the program.

Moreover, enormous sums were involved: $130,334,172 for “external transport” of 629,938 tons of grain and other food relief supplies for the overall program. (The food supplies themselves are projected to cost $297,396,729.)

For comparative purposes, the “external” shipping costs planned by WFP for the aid program average about $206.90 per metric ton of food aid.

Click here to view the PDF version of WFP's planned cost for food aid and transportation to North Korea: http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/WFP_NK_cost_breakdown.pdf

Those rates were described as “absolutely ridiculous” by an expert on bulk shipping consulted by FOX News, even for sending goods by international shipping carriers to the remote region that includes North Korea. Another international grain expert consulted by FOX News described them as “way out of line” with past and present international shipping rates for bulk grain and other basic food commodities.

What WFP has not revealed in its documentation until questioned by FOX News, however, is that a substantial, but unspecified, amount of that money is intended to move the emergency aid from China to its final North Korean destination via shipping firms owned by the Kim Jong Il government.

Nowhere in the WFP program documents, which appeared on WFP's public website only after Fox News began raising questions about them, is there any mention of the North Korean hipping involvement.

Click here to view the WFP’s entire North Korean Emergency Assistance program document: http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/WFP_NK_plan.pdf

Even though WFP has not revealed how much of the $130-plus million in planned “external transport” money Kim Jong Il's shipping firms are in line to receive, an analysis of the current costs involved in getting such supplies to their second-last destination reveal that the amount slated to pay for the last leg of the journey to North Korea could be huge.

A WFP spokesman blamed the overall high cost on “ the remote geographical location of [
North Korea] from place of procurement (normally Black Seas, South Africa and South America).”

All WFP food aid, he added, was first shipped to the northern Chinese
port of Dalian, before moving on to the North Korean port of Nampo.

But the spokesman then added that high costs were also due to “the lack of competition of transporters for transshipment” between
Dalian and Nampo.

In fact, shipments to and from
Dalian, China, one of the major centers of China's huge export sector, are commonplace and hardly expensive by international standards. Data kept by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, shows that grain shipments from Brazil to China between April and June of this year have varied from $32.50 to $42 per metric ton.

Moreover, those international shipping rates have been on a precipitous downward slide since June, 2008-three months before the WFP aid program began. Even allowing for higher rates from the Black Sea and
South Africa, international shipping experts told FOX News that the rates would come nowhere near $206 per ton-especially as there is currently a surplus of international shipping capacity.

The same, however, apparently can't be said of transport between
Dalian and Nampo-a distance of 210 nautical miles.

There, the WFP spokesman said, WFP relies entirely on “feeder vessels belonging to the [North Korean] government.”

Asked late last week by FOX News to provide specifics of the rates charged by North Korean vessels for carrying international food aid home, the WFP spokesman did not provide an answer before this article was published.

However much the Kim Jong Il regime charges for bringing food to its people, it is not the only money that WFP provides to Kim for humanitarian assistance.

The WFP documents show that the government was to receive an additional projected $5,039,504 as a transport fuel subsidy if the relief program gets back into full swing. The “fuel reimbursement levy” amounts to $8 per ton of aid delivered, and according to the WFP spokesman, is normally not provided to countries that receive food aid-they are expected to chip in for this cost on their own--except under a waiver that
North Korea has been granted.

So far, the Kim regime's National Coordinating Committee, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has received $1.16 million under this waiver since September 2008, with the promise of an additional $361,400 to come. The WFP spokesman emphasized that the money was not paid in hard currency.

The same apparently applies to $4,409,566 intended by WFP to enhance a “capacity building strategy of government counterparts” envisaged in the relief plan. According to the WFP spokesman, this means management training and information systems upgrades for the Kim government to handle the new food aid. WFP is also paying for warehouses and equipment to handle the aid. So far, the regime has only $103,200 of the projected total, with another $155,000 committed.

Amid all the fuzzy math of the WFP relief program, there is a final quirk: the inexplicably high transportation costs work to the benefit not only of the Kim regime, but also to the benefit of WFP.

As a matter of standard practice, WFP charges a standard 7% management fee against “direct operational costs” of such relief efforts to support its worldwide operations, over and above the costs it incurs in the specific relief exercise. These, in WFP-speak, are known as the organization's “indirect support costs.”

Based on direct operational costs in
North Korea of $445,033,971-including the $133.3 million in “external transport” costs-- WFP expected to reap $32,948,811 as its 7% share of “indirect support costs.”

Its 7% “indirect support” levy on the extraordinary $130.3 million transport bill would amount to about $9.1 million.

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China seizes smuggled metal bound for North Korea (Reuters)

BEIJING – Chinese border police have seized 70 kg (154 lb) of the strategic metal vanadium bound for North Korea, a local newspaper said on Tuesday, foiling an attempt to smuggle a material used to make missile parts.

The U.N. Security Council has tightened restrictions on
North Korea in response to its May 25 nuclear test. The sanctions are meant to cut off the North's arms trade.

Although the seizure is in line with
China's own export controls, Chinese analysts had predicted Beijing would step up inspections on road and rail traffic into North Korea to help enforce the tightened sanctions.

Altogether 68 bottles totaling 70 kg of vanadium worth 200,000 yuan ($29,280) were seized at the
Dandong border with North Korea, the Dandong News said.

"Customs agents at the
Dandong border crossing inspect six boxes of the rare metal vanadium found hidden under boxes of fruit in a truck stopped during border checks," the newspaper said in a front-page caption of a photo dated July 24.

Vanadium is a metal that strengthens steel and protects against rust. It is alloyed with steel to make missile casings, as well as high speed tools, superconducting magnets and jet engines.

China restricts the export of vanadium and other minor metals as part of a domestic policy meant to preserve strategic metals, encourage investment in processing industries and control international price fluctuations.

On Monday the chief executive of a Japan-based trading company pleaded guilty in a Japanese court to illegally exporting to
North Korea two tanker trucks that could be used as missile launch pads, the Kyodo news agency said.

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Aid group's Pyongyang visit likely to be postponed (Yonhap)

SEOUL – A South Korean lawmaker and a group of civic aid officials' planned visit to Pyongyang for talks on humanitarian aid will likely be postponed due to an apparent breakdown of communications over protocol regarding cross-border entry, officials said Tuesday [28 July]

Rep. Chung Eui-hwa of the ruling Grand National Party, who also serves as joint head of the Korea Sharing Movement (KSM), a civic aid group, has requested government permission to make a four-day visit to Pyongyang starting Wednesday to meet with officials of the North's Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC) to discuss medical and other humanitarian support projects.

The scheduled trip, which the government was largely expected to approve, however, will likely be canceled or postponed as the KCRC has not sent an official invitation to Chung and the civic group officials. The two sides have initially agreed to conduct the meetings, according to officials.

"We're not exactly sure why the North hasn't sent us the invitation. Normally invitations for these kind of talks are delivered a day or two before the set date," one of Chung's aides said.

Kang Young-sik, secretary general of the KSM, also expected a postponement of the visit.

"We've requested the invitation for the visit, which was discussed beforehand. We've received no reply and are not sure of the reason," Kang told
Yonhap News Agency.

The government has tentatively decided to authorize the visit by Chung and seven officials at the organization if the delegation is given an official invitation. It would likely mark
Seoul's first approval of a visit by a non-government group to North Korea since Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test on May 25.

Earlier requests by the KSM were rejected due to the state of inter-Korean relations, which have frayed in recent months following the North's nuclear and missile tests.