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N. Korea Envoy Kim Yong-Nam Visits China
Mr. Kim Yong-Nam, chairman of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly, waves to his greeters upon arrival at Beijing International Airport Oct. 18, 2004. Kim has arrived in Beijing on a special plane for a four-day official visit. Courtesy AP

North Korea's second most senior leader, Kim Yong-nam, is in China for a rare visit expected to focus on the North's nuclear programme.

His visit comes amid a flurry of efforts to restart stalled six-party talks aimed at addressing the crisis.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is to visit Japan, China and South Korea for talks on the issue later this week.

But analysts believe there is unlikely to be much progress before the US presidential election in November.

The six-party talks were launched last August with great fanfare, but more than a year on this process has stalled.

The fourth round of talks had been scheduled for September but North Korea boycotted the meeting, citing as reasons South Korea's controversial nuclear experiments and what Pyongyang called Washington's "hostile policy" towards it.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim, says China's leaders will be pushing Mr. Kim to return to the negotiating table.

North Korean senior leader Kim Yong Nam

China is the North's main ally and its biggest aid donor, although it says it has limited influence over the North Korean leadership.

There is speculation that Pyongyang also wants to wait and see who will win the US presidential election.

President George's Bush challenger, John Kerry, has a very different approach to the North Korean nuclear crisis — advocating bilateral talks rather than just the six-party approach.

During his three-day visit, Mr. Kim is also scheduled to visit a science park in Beijing. Western diplomats say economic reform will also be high on the agenda, amid concerns that Pyongyang is not wholly committed to pushing forward its reform process.


Country Profile: North Korea

For decades North Korea has been one of the world's most secretive societies. It is one of the few remaining countries still under communist rule.
Hopes that its rigid isolation might have been coming to an end have been scotched by an ongoing nuclear crisis.

North Korea emerged in 1948 amid the chaos following the end of World War II. Its history is dominated by its Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, who shaped political affairs for almost half a century.

OVERVIEW

Map of North Korean missile sites
After the Korean War, Kim Il-sung introduced the personal philosophy of Juche, or self-reliance, which became a guiding light for North Korea's development. But decades of this rigid state-controlled system have led to stagnation and a leadership dependent on the cult of personality.

Aid agencies have estimated that up to two million people have died since the mid-1990s as a result of acute food shortages caused by natural disasters and economic mismanagement.

Kim Il-sung's son, Kim Jong-il, is now head of state, but the post of president has been assigned "eternally" to his late father. Pyongyang has accused successive South Korean governments of being US "puppets," but South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's visit in 2000 signalled a thaw in relations. Seoul's "sunshine policy" towards the north aimed to encourage change through dialogue and aid.

In 2002 US President George W Bush named North Korea as part of an "axis of evil"; the country is said to have a handful of nuclear weapons and a uranium-enrichment programme.

A thaw in relations with Seoul and a tentative reaching-out to the world were dealt a blow in late 2002 by Pyongyang's decision to reactivate a nuclear reactor and to expel international inspectors.

HISTORY

Tangun, national founder
The ancient history of the Korean peninsula can be traced to the Neolithic Age, when Turkic-Manchurian-Mongol peoples migrated into the region from China. The first agriculturally based settlements appeared around 6000 B.C. Some of the larger communities of this era were established along the Han-gang River near modern-day Seoul, others near Pyongyang and Pusan. According to ancient lore, Korea's earliest civilization, known as Choson, was founded in 2333 B.C. by Tan-gun.

In the 17th century, Korea became a vassal state of China and was cut off from outside contact until the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. Following Japan's victory, Korea was granted independence. By 1910, Korea had been annexed by Japan, which developed the country but never won over the Korean nationalists, who continued to agitate for independence.

After Japan's surrender at the conclusion of World War II, the Korean peninsula was partitioned into two occupation zones, divided at the 38th parallel. The USSR controlled the north, with the U.S. taking charge of the south. In 1948, the division was made permanent with the establishment of the separate regimes of North and South Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) was established on May 1, 1948, with Kim Il Sung as president.

Hoping to unify the Koreas under a single Communist government, the North launched a surprise invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950. In the following days, the UN Security Council condemned the attack and demanded an immediate withdrawal.

Korean War (1050-53)
President Harry S. Truman ordered U.S. air and naval units into action to enforce the UN order. The British government followed suit, and soon a UN multinational command was set up to aid the South Koreans.

The North Korean invaders swiftly seized Seoul and surrounded the allied forces in the peninsula's southeast corner near Pusan. In a desperate bid to reverse the military situation, UN Commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered an amphibious landing at Inchon on Sept. 15 and routed the North Korean army. MacArthur's forces pushed north across the 38th parallel, approaching the Yalu River.

Prompted by this successful counteroffensive, Communist China entered the war, forcing the UN troops into a headlong retreat. Seoul was lost again, then regained. Ultimately, the war stabilized near the 38th parallel, but dragged on for two years while negotiations took place. An armistice was agreed to on July 27, 1953.

General MacArthur and staff viewing the Inchon landings, September 1950
By early 1994, tensions had mounted over international inspection of North Korea's nuclear sites. Kim Il Sung's death on July 8, 1994, introduced a period of uncertainty, as his son, Kim Jong Il, assumed the leadership mantle. Negotiations over the country's suspected atomic weapons dragged on, but an agreement was reached in June 1995 that included a provision for providing the North with a South Korean nuclear reactor.

The nuclear crises that characterized the mid-1990s were overshadowed when famine struck the nation's 24 million inhabitants in 1998 and 1999. Two years of floods were followed by severe droughts in 1997 and 1998, causing devastating crop failures. Because of lack of fuel and machinery parts, and weather conditions that have encouraged parasites, only 10% of North Korea's rice fields could be worked. Despite the staggering food crisis that necessitated foreign aid, North Korea remains one of the world's few remaining hermetic hard-line Communist regimes.

In Sept. 1998, North Korea launched a test missile over Japan, claiming it was simply a scientific satellite. This launch alarmed Japan, and much of the rest of the world, about North Korea's intentions regarding reentry into the nuclear arms race.

In 1999, North Korea agreed to allow the United States to conduct ongoing inspections of a suspected nuclear development site, Kumchangri, which North Korea admitted had been devised for "a sensitive military purpose." In exchange, the U.S. would increase food aid and initiate a program for bringing potato production to the country.

Antagonism between North and South Korea erupted into open aggression twice within six months in late 1998 and 1999, with South Korea hitting one North Korean vessel and sinking two others that were discovered trespassing in South Korean waters.

In the fall of 1999, North Korea's four years of severe famine, which claimed an estimated 2 million to 3 million lives between 1995 and 1998, had begun to wane.

Kim Jong-Il (left) greets Kim Dae-Jung, who visited Pyongyang for the historic South-North Summit.
Tension with South Korea eased dramatically in June 2000, when South Korea's president, Kim Dae Jung, met with North Korea's President Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang. The summit marked the first ever meeting of the two countries' leaders. But efforts toward reconciliation fizzled thereafter, and various minor military skirmishes followed over the next years.

In Jan. 2002, President Bush described North Korea as part of an "axis of evil." Such open hostility marked a dramatic shift in U.S. policy toward North Korea from the Clinton administration's policy of engagement.

In July 2002, North Korea began a series of radical economic initiatives aimed at reforming the devastated economy and introducing free-market policies. The country devalued its currency, raised food prices by as much as 50%, and increased wages.

The reclusive and secretive North Korea stunned the world in late 2002 with two shocking admissions. In September, the government unexpectedly acknowledged that it had kidnapped about a dozen Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s for the purposes of training North Korean spies. In October, confronted with U.S. intelligence, North Korea admitted that it had violated a 1994 agreement freezing its nuclear-weapons program and had in fact been developing nuclear bombs.

In late December, North Korea expelled UN weapons inspectors from the country and announced it could no longer agree to the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), officially withdrawing from it in January 2003. Kim continued to provoke the international community into the spring, reactivating a plant at Yongbyon that converts nuclear waste into weapons-grade plutonium, test-launching missiles, and taunting the U.S. by intercepting an air force spy plane.

During talks with China and the U.S. in April, North Korea announced that it had already produced nuclear weapons and threatened to test or export them. In July North Korean officials reported that the country had reprocessed enough plutonium to build six nuclear bombs. Kim's motives for this bellicose stance have mystified much of the world, but in the past Kim has regularly confused diplomacy with extortion, using threats and hostile acts to wring aid and food from the international community for his starving, impoverished country. It was difficult to decipher how Kim expected to accomplish his aims — economic aid and a safeguard against U.S. attack — through such reckless brinkmanship.

Satellite photos of Yongbyon nuclear site
Refusing to bow to North Korea's mercurial demands, the United States informed the nation's diplomats that it would not begin to negotiate until North Korea first dismantled its nuclear program. China took on the role of mediator between North Korea and the U.S., urging less inflexibility on both sides. A modest breakthrough occurred when officials from the U.S., North Korea, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan met in August in Beijing, although nothing substantive resulted. Another round of six-nation negotiations in Feb. 2004 were also inconclusive.

The International Atomic Energy Agency announced in May 2004 that is has strong evidence that North Korea supplied Libya with about two tons of uranium. If the allegation is true, it would indicate that North Korea has moved beyond selling missiles and missile technology.

A massive explosion rocked Ryongchon, a city northwest of the capital, Pyongyang, in April 2004. Initial reports indicated the explosion was caused by the collision of two trains carrying fuel, but officials later said the blast was set off when a train car carrying explosives touched a live power cable. Hundreds were feared dead. The normally insular North Korean government asked the United Nations for help in dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy.

At the third round of negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program in June 2004, the U.S. offered North Korea the delivery of heavy fuel oil and a "provisional security guarantee" if it agrees to disclose details of its weapons program, allow inspections, and begin to dismantle its nuclear program within three months. North Korea did not respond to the offer. Instead, the country's negotiator threatened to test one of its nuclear weapons.

FACTS

  • Population: 22.6 million (UN, 2003)
  • Capital: Pyongyang
  • Major language: Korean
  • Major religions: Mainly atheist or nonreligious,
        traditional beliefs
  • Life expectancy: 60 years (men), 66 years     (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 won = 100 chon
  • Main exports: Minerals and metals, cement,     agricultural products
  • GNI per capita: n/a
  • Internet domain: .kp
  • International dialling code: +850

    LEADERS

    Eternal president: Kim Il-sung (deceased)

    Chairman, National Defence Commission:
    Kim Jong-il

    After the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994, his son Kim Jong-il did not immediately assume his father's titles. He eventually took over the leadership of the Korean Workers' Party in 1997, but the delay was seen by analysts as a sign of weakness.

    Kim Jong-il was born in Siberia in 1941 during Kim Il-sung's period of exile in the former Soviet Union. But official accounts say he was born in a log cabin at his father's guerilla base on North Korea's highest mountain — an event marked by a double rainbow and a bright star in the sky.

    He is credited with writing six operas in two years, and personally designing the huge Juche tower in Pyongyang.

    He has been portrayed by South Korea as a reclusive playboy with permed hair and platform shoes.

    But Kim amazed everyone when he turned up at the airport to personally greet his South Korean counterpart at a lavish welcoming ceremony in June 2000.

  • Premier: Pak Pong-ju
  • Foreign affairs minister: Paek Nam-sun
  • People's Armed Forces minister: Kim Il-chol
  • Finance minister: Mun Il-bong

    MEDIA

    Radio and TV sets in North Korea are pre-tuned to government stations that pump out a steady stream of propaganda. The state has been dubbed the world's worst violator of press freedom by the media rights body Reporters Without Frontiers.

    Press outlets and broadcasters — all of them under direct state control — serve up a menu of flattering reports about Kim Jong-il and his daily agenda. North Korea's economic hardships or famines are not reported. However, after the historic Korean summit in Pyongyang, media outlets toned down their fierce denunciations of the Seoul government.

    Ordinary North Koreans caught listening to foreign broadcasts risk harsh punishments, such as forced labour.

    North Korea has a minimal presence on the internet. The web pages of North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, are hosted by the agency's bureau in Japan.

    The press

  • Rodong Sinmun (Labour Daily) — organ of Korean
        Workers' Party
  • The People's Korea
  • Joson Inmingun (Korean People's Army Daily)
  • Minju Choson (Democratic Korea) — government
        organ
  • Rodongja Sinmum (Workers' Newspaper) — organ     of trade union federation

    Television and radio

  • Korean Central Broadcasting Station — radio     station of Korean Workers' Party
  • Korean Central TV — TV station of Korean     Workers' Party
  • Mansudae TV — cultural station
  • Voice of Korea — state-run external service, via     shortwave

    News agency

  • Korean Central News Agency

    The above article is from BBC.




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