Japanese Pro Wrestler Turned Politician Pays Visit to North Korea
Antonio InokiWhat is it with retired pro athletes visiting North Korea? Just a week after Dennis Rodman's trip to Pyongyang, a Japanese former professional wrestler turned politician is paying Kim Jong-un a visit. Here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.

Reporter:
Antonio Inoki of the Japan Restoration Party is on his second visit to North Korea in as many months. He is expected to meet with senior North Korean officials. Among them is the secretary in charge of international relations in the Worker's Party. Inoki is a former star of Japanese pro wrestling. Before his departure for Pyongyang, he spoke of the purpose of his visit.

Antonio Inoki:
I want to see for myself where North Korea is heading. I hope discussions with leaders in Pyongyang will benefit both countries.

Reporter:
During his previous visit in November, Inoki met with Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of the country's leader Kim Jong-Un and Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission. Jang was executed for treason in December.
 
 

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Pyongyang: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
North KoreaBefore it closed, Kaesong was bringing the North Korean government about a hundred million dollars a year. Re-opening it seems to indicate the regime is anxious to concentrate on economic renewal. And, there are signs the North's economy is getting better. At least in the capital, Pyongyang. Japan's public broadcaster NHK was able to send a crew to North Korea in August and early September. It found some changes -- and some things that haven't changed at all.

Reporter:
This is becoming an increasingly popular way to get around Pyongyang. Just a few years ago the number of taxis were few and far between. But this driver tells me they are now on the rise.

Taxi driver:
Our supreme leader Kim Jong-un says he wants to increase the number of taxis in Pyongyang to 1,000. There are already more than 500 on the streets.

Reporter:
A six kilometer ride costs just three dollars. It may not sound too expensive, but for the average citizen here it's about one-tenth the monthly wage. Taxis are still very much reserved for the rich. But the government says more and more people are becoming members of the upper class. This residential area of Pyongyang is covered with high-rise buildings where only the most privileged classes can afford to live and many more towers are currently under construction. The city plans to build enough condominiums to house 100,000 newly wealthy citizens, people who have made fortunes as the central government started allowing small-scale private businesses a decade ago. Most have capitalized on foreign investment, mainly from China. They can be seen buying imported goods by the bag full. And even buying North Korean made tablet computers. Even though one unit costs five times the average monthly salary.

North Korean citizen:
Pyongyang has changed a great deal. Our comrade Kim Jong-un's initiatives are producing fruitful results.

Reporter:
But then there's the North Korea the government doesn't want you to see. Driving out of the capital is like going back in time. The road turns from paved to bumpy. A steady stream of cars replaced with ox-pulled carts and vehicles that run on charcoal. Most people still rely on bicycles to travel around. But North Korean officials don't talk about these issues. They'd rather focus on what they say is the country's rising rich, and government policies that have stimulated economic growth like this ski resort about three hours from Pyongyang. Currently being built by some ten thousand soldiers and students, officials say it's expected to be completed this year. It will boast 11 ski slopes, a high class hotel and a heliport.

Won Kil-u, Physical Culture and Sports Vice Minister:
This resort aims to be profitable. But it's also a place where the North Koreans, including the young can enjoy skiing.

Reporter:
And there's this project, already complete. A suite with an ocean view at this beach resort costs USD$262 for a night.

Resort Guest #1:
We came from Pyongyang.

Resort Guest #2:
I feel very good. People can enjoy themselves at resorts like this thanks to the profound love of our leader Kim Jong-un.

Reporter:
A luxury getaway for North Koreans lucky enough to benefit from the government's economic reforms. Officials want to give the impression the entire country is booming. But the contrast between the capital and the countryside are just a different story.
 
 

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Panama Busts Ship Smuggling Weapons from Cuba to North Korea
Panamanian authorities are crowing about seizing a North Korean freighter on its way from Cuba. They found missile and rocket parts among sacks of Cuban sugar in the hold. The freighter was trying to enter the Panama Canal, presumably on its way back to North Korea when it was stopped and searched. So what's with the missiles? Japanese public broadcaster NHK is all over the story.

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Reporter:
Cuban officials have met a stash of weapons on the North Korean cargo ship came from their country, but they say the Soviet era arms were being sent to the North for repair. Authorities policing the Panama Canal discovered the weapons hidden in a shipment of sugar. Panama's president Ricardo Martinelli announced a seizure in a radio interview. He said authorities have found what he called sophisticated missile equipment. The thirty-five members resisted the efforts to redirect the ship into port. Investigators have detained them. They said the ship's captain tried to commit suicide. Defense consultants with IHS Jane's Intelligence analyzed military hardware. They identified the equipment as high-performance radar for surface to air missiles. US State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said the ship has a history of involvement in drug smuggling. He said US officials strongly support Panama's decision to inspect the vessel.
 
Officials at the Cuban Foreign Ministry released a statement on state-run TV. They said that the ship was carrying the obsolete weapons for repair in North Korea. Those weapons included Soviet-era missile systems, fighter planes, and spare parts. The official insisted they are committed to nuclear disarmament and they that have respect for international law.

The war leaders have long been trying to control North Korea's military ambitions. The UN imposed sanctions including strict regulations on arm shipments, following the country's first nuclear test in 2006. The sanctions were strengthened after the third test this February. But in spite of the international pressure, the reclusive nation has been found to be illicitly exporting military equipment to other countries.

A security council expert panel reported on the North's attempt to transport missile propellant in 2007 and gas masks and chemical protection suits in 2009. Joining us now is Choi Jong-kun, professor at Yongsei University in Seoul. He's an expert on international relations. Professor, thank you for coming in. North Korean leaders appear more conciliatory in the past few months trying to renew dialogue with the international community, but still they continue to transport military equipment. What do you think Kim Jong-un's strategy is here?

Professor Choi Jong-kun:
I don't think that Kim Jong-un has a grand strategy at this juncture. If we all know, North Korea has been severe in the United Nations sanctions. I think that North Korea will engage in any economy activities that will make them money. So I think what they've been trying to do is to engage in commercial activities that makes them money. So I don't see any grand rational overall strategy. Just North Korea is trying to survive.

Reporter:
Professor, the international community is increasing pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Even its longtime ally China has stepped up economic sanctions.  Does the location of the seizure tell us anything about the position that North Korea finds itself in?

Choi Jong-kun:
Obviously, it's a bad time for North Korea. North Korea is trying to engage in dialogue. It confirms their rogue image, transporting and spreading weapons. However, if you look at what they have found now is that it's really old obsolote defense weapons owned by the Cuban government. The Cuban government argued that they tried to send these weapons for repair. And from the perspective of North Korea this is a nice cash cow activity.
 
 

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Is South Korea to Blame for the North's Nukes?

 
 

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The Social Media Nuke: Northeast Asia Reacts

 
 

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North Korea Remains Defiant After New Sanctions Imposed
(LinkAsia: January 25, 2012)
Thuy Vu:
North Korea has reacted bitterly to a UN resolution that condemned the North's rocket launch last month and imposes new sanctions. Pyongyang said the launch was to send up a communications satellite. The US and most other countries said it was designed to test a long-range missile and was part of North Korea's goal of acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

--

NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: January 23, 2013

Reporter:
Security Council members passed their resolution unanimously. It expands existing sanctions, adding four individuals and six organizations, including the space agency. Assets will be frozen, and individuals will also face a travel ban.

Officials in Pyongyang are showing defiance. Foreign Ministry representatives issued a statement, condemning the resolution as an attempt to deprive North Korea of its right to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes. The document says it is now clear the US has a policy of hostility toward North Korea. As a result, it says that the North will no longer recognize the joint statement from the Six Party Talks in 2005. That includes plans for the country to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs.

The statement goes on to say North Korean authorities will take practical steps to strengthen their defensive military power to counter pressure from US sanctions. It says that includes nuclear deterrence. The wording suggests North Korean officials could conduct a third nuclear test. They carried out one in 2006, and one in 2009.
 
 

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DPRK Rocket Launch Hangs Heavy over South Korean Election
(LinkAsia: December 14, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
So, perhaps the North Korean missile is more of a long-term threat than an imminent one. But, will it have a political effect? South Koreans go to the polls on December 19th to elect a new president. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK has this report on how the rocket might affect voters.

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NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: December 12, 2012

Reporter:
I'm standing at the unification observatory only two kilometers from the North Korean border. From here we have not detected any unusual activity on the other side that might be related to the missile launch. However, on this side, the presidential race is entering its final phase. The launch has definitely raised concerns about security. People in Seoul are expressing dismay and anger.

Seoul Resident:
A missile launch is totally unacceptable. We belong to the same race, but I never understand what they are trying to achieve through such an act.

Seoul Resident:
I was shocked they did this just before South Korea's presidential election. We need to beef up our national security.

Reporter:
South Korea's foreign minister Kim Song-hun condemned the North's decision to push forward with what it called a provocative act. He said the launch is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. President Lee Myung-bak has maintained a hard-line policy against the North. During his five year term, Pyongyang has carried out three long-range missile launches and one nuclear experiment. There have been other military provocations. The North shelled Yongpyang Island and is said to have sunk a South Korean naval patrol ship in the Yellow Sea. And the presidential election next week, the two main contenders stressing the need to improve North-South relations, but people are taking a realistic view. Recent polls show many citizens feel that they don't support hard-line policies against the North. Nor do they believe in appeasement. The North missile launch is expected to influence voters' decisions.
 
 

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If at First You Don't Succeed: North Korea Attempts Another Rocket Launch
(LinkAsia: December 7, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
Moving now to North Korea. Back in April, the country defied sanctions and attempted to launch a rocket. It failed, but the country seems to be upholding the old saying "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." But will this launch prove to be successful? Here's NHK.

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NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: December 4, 2012

Reporter:
The ballistic missile launch will be the second since Kim Jong-un took power a year ago. It will use the same launch pad at Tongchang-ri, a site in the northwestern part of the country. Before the first test in April, officials in Pyongyang said the 30-meter, three-stage rocket was meant to carry a satellite, but Japan the United States and South Korea said the launch was in fact a ballistic missile test. The test ended in failure with a rocket exploding in mid-air two minutes after liftoff. It broke into more than 10 pieces and fell into the ocean. Analysts say North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un wants to correct this failure before the first anniversary of his father's death on December 17th. Kim may also be trying to consolidate his power base by showing his dedication to a military first policy. Kim has also vowed to develop North Korea's economy.

Kim Jong Un:
We must start on a path of industrial revolution for the new century to make North Korea a great economic power.

Reporter:
But there are no tangible signs of improvement. The UN World Food Program says that 60 million North Koreans, or nearly 70 percent of the population, suffer from malnutrition. North Korea's relations with the outside world are at a standstill. Last February, the United States agreed to provide food aid in exchange for a freeze on ballistic missile tests. But the deal was broken after the North tested a missile in April. North Korea's leadership has been trying to hold direct talks with the United States, but officials in Washington say they are not ready to accept. China is also applying pressure on its neighbor arguing that the missile launch would violate the UN resolutions.
 
 

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North Korea Declares Itself a Nuclear Power
(LinkAsia: June 1, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
North Korea is joining one of the world's most exclusive clubs. Except that the club doesn't want North Korea. The Communist country recently revised its constitution to declare itself a nuclear power, something that wasn't exactly welcomed by its neighbors. Here's Japanese broadcaster NHK with the details.

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NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: May 30, 2012

Reporter:
Authorities posted the full revised texts of the constitution Wednesday on a North Korean website. The document praises Kim Jong-il for transforming the country into what it calls an undefeated political and ideological power, a nuclear power, and an invincible military power.

Last month, the Supreme People's Assembly also appointed new leader Kim Jong-un as First Chairman of the National Defense Commission. North Korean officials carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. The country's state-run media have repeatedly claimed the North is now a nuclear power.
 
 

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Three Party Talks Promise Action if DPRK Tests Nukes
(LinkAsia: May 25, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
Senior diplomats from South Korea, the United States, and Japan met in Seoul to discuss North Korea. They agreed to take concerted action against the Communist regime if it tests another nuclear weapon. Here’s NHK with the report.

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NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: May 21, 2012

Reporter:
The diplomats are chief delegates to the six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program. It’s the first time the group’s met since North Korean authorities failed last month to launch what they called a rocket.

Shinsuke Sugiyama, Japanese Foreign Ministry:
If DPRK goes for further escalation, we ought to take unified and coordinated actions and responses.

Glyn Davies, US Special Representative for North Korea Policy:
We’re united in our resolve to respond. Not just the three allies, but Russia and China as well.

Reporter:
US delegate Glyn Davies again pushed China to play a greater role in preventing North Korean officials from carrying out provocative acts. The UN Security Council adopted a statement condemning last month’s launch. That sparked concerns the North’s leaders could respond with a new nuclear test.
 
 

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