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Thursday, April 15, 2010

O Kuk-ryol accompanies Kim Jong-il to view KPA livefire exercises

General O Kuk-ryol accompanied Kim Jong-il when Kim visited the Large Combined 567 Unit's live fire exercise (believed to be held on 14 April) that was conducted in commemoration of "the Day of the Sun." Gen. O, a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission. O has almost never accompanied Kim on these visits or "on the spot guidances" in the past despite the fact that he has been handling operations against the South for nearly three decades and enjoyed the trust of both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

According to a report by the Korea Institute for National Unification, a South Korean government-funded think-tank, last November, O never accompanied Kim on such tours between 1994 and 2008. Last year, he only accompanied Kim to two cultural performances, and once laid a wreath at the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery in Mt. Taesong on April 25, on the 77th anniversary of the Army.

O worked as the director of the North Korean Workers' Party's Operations Department, an agency in charge of espionage operations against the South, from 1989 to 2009.

Last year, the North reportedly integrated party and military espionage agencies such as the party's Operations Department, an office known as "Office 35," and the military Reconnaissance Bureau, into a single department led by Kim Yong-chol and placed under O's supervision.

There is a theory purported by South Korean media and by some government circles that O may be behind the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, and his appearance with Kim Jon-il was meant as a reward for successful mission accomplishment; however, we believe this is a highly unlikely and the South Korean speculations are just that - speculations - with no evidence to support them.

We believe that O accompanying Kim Jong-il was more for internal North Korean consumption as Kim Jong-il attempts to bolster his control and power over the military and the party. This tendency also showed in Kim's latest promotion of 100 generals, where the North Korean National Security Agency won out in the number of generals being promoted.

Other party and military leaders accompanying Kim Jong-il to watch the exercise included Kim Yong-chun, the minister of the People's Armed Forces; Ri Yong-mu, another vice chairman of the Defense Commission; and Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the Army's General Staff.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Japan decides to extend Sanctions on North Korea by another Year

The current Japanese sanctions on North Korea that was implemented in October 2006, which includes a ban on North Korean vessels from making port calls in Japan, is set to expire next Tuesday. Today, the Japanese government decided to extend the sanctions against North Korea for another year. This makes it the sixth extension of the October 2006 sanctions.

North Korea's failure to fulfill its promise to reinvestigate abduction cases of Japanese nationals, and the North's failure to return to the Six-Party Talks were noted as the reasons for the extension of sanctions.