January 25, 2013 – NORTH KOREA – “Troubling and counterproductive” rhetoric from North Korea is inflaming tensions on the Korean peninsula, but ultimately, “we will judge North Korea by its actions, not its words,” the U.S. envoy to North Korea said Friday. In its latest bout of saber-rattling, North Korea on Friday warned of the possibility of “strong physical counter-measures” against South Korea after the United Nations imposed tougher sanctions against the North earlier this week. The threat against South Korea came a day after the North said it would carry out a new nuclear test and more long-range rocket launches as part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States. The statement Friday from North Korea’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said it would take action against South Korea if it “takes a direct part” in the U.N. sanctions. The South Korean Unification Ministry declined to comment specifically on the new threats from Pyongyang. It reiterated its stance that North Korea should refrain from further provocations. “Now is a moment when I think all parties in the six-party process, in particular here, North Korea, should turn their attention to how to peacefully and diplomatically address challenges that concern them,” U.S. envoy Glyn Davies said from Beijing. The two Koreas have technically still been at war since the all-out conflict between them in the 1950s. Smaller scale clashes have occurred since then, most recently in November 2010 when North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing several people. South Korea and the United States are often the focus of menacing language from Pyongyang, but the latest U.N. sanctions, a response to a long-range rocket launched last month by the North, appear to be agitating to North Korea. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday there are no “outward indications” that North Korea is about to conduct a nuclear test, but he admitted it would be hard to determine that in advance. “They have the capability, frankly, to conduct these tests in a way that makes it very difficult to determine whether or not they are doing it,” he said in a Pentagon press conference. “We are very concerned with North Korea’s continuing provocative behavior,” Panetta said, but he added that the United States is “fully prepared” to deal with any provocations.
“We do not hide that the various satellites and long-range rockets we will continue to launch, as well as the high-level nuclear test we will proceed with, are aimed at our arch-enemy the United States,” said North Korea’s National Defense Commission on Thursday.
The defense commission statement offered no timeframe of when the country intended to perform the test.
On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a US-backed resolution to sanction North Korea for launching a long-range rocket in December 2012.
The North Korean National Defense Commission said the resolution “masterminded by the US has brought its hostile policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) to its most dangerous stage.”
However, the rocket launch drew widespread criticism from the European Union and the UN.
On December 14, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the country would go ahead with its space program and would launch more rockets and send more satellites into orbit.
However, Washington and its allies said the North Korean rocket launch had been a cover for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, January 21, 2013 2:38 EST
The teenage daughter of Google chairman Eric Schmidt has shed some light on her father’s secretive trip to North Korea, writing a first-hand account of the visit to a “very, very strange” country.
In a blog posting at the weekend entitled “It might not get weirder than this”, Sophie Schmidt provided a candid take on the controversial three-day trip earlier this month that was criticised by the US government.
Schmidt, 19, had accompanied her father on the visit as part of a delegation led by Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations.
On their return, the two men answered a few questions about the nature of the visit, but Sophie Schmidt’s informal account was in many ways far more revealing.
“Our trip was a mixture of highly-staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments,” she wrote.
“We had zero interactions with non-state-approved North Koreans and were never far from our two minders.”
While much of the blog posting is taken up with the sort of observational musings common to any first-time visitor to Pyongyang, it had some interesting insights into the official side of the delegation’s trip.
In particular, it fleshed out the main photo-opportunity of the entire trip when they visited an e-library at Kim Il-Sung University, and chatted with some of the 90 students working on computer consoles.
“One problem: No one was actually doing anything,” Sophie Schmidt wrote.
“A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in… not one of them looked up from their desks. Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli.
“They might as well have been figurines,” she added.
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