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Write Offs & SAR Exercises

15 Sep

Kim Jong Il and Jang Song Taek at a dinner with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev near Ulan Ude (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Kim Jong Il’s “fun trip” to Siberia and Russia’s Far East and his meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has started to yield fruit.  An anonymous official in Russia’s Ministry of Finance told Izvestiya that it had finalized plans to cancel 90% of the DPRK’s $11 billion debt to the former Soviet Union.  The remaining 10% will be invested in joint projects to be developed within the DPRK.  In Moscow, DPRK Minister of Oil Industry, Kim Hui Yong (Kim Hu’i-yo’ng) met with Gazprom officials to discuss “practical organization” in pipeline construction, as well as establishing a “working group.”  Kim’s meeting occurred about a week after Gazprom ceremoniously opened the Sakhalin-Vladivostok pipeline.  It also took place while the head of ROK’s KOGAS arrived in Moscow to meet with Gazprom officials. Kim So-hyun of  Korea Herald writes:

On Wednesday, the South’s Korea Gas Corp. said that its president, Choo Kang-soo, left for Russia for meetings with officials of Russia’s largest gas firm Gazprom. His departure came a day after North Korea’s Oil Industry Minister Kim Hui-yong headed to Russia, according to Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency.

Choo, as then vice president of Hyundai Corp., had assisted Lee as Hyundai E&C sought to ink the MOU with Moscow two decades ago.

KOGAS and Gazprom had signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2008 in which the two agreed to push for the pipeline natural gas project. Lee then named Choo as head of KOGAS.

“Talks on the PNG project began to speed up recently,” KOGAS spokesman Song Jae-ho said.

Choo met with Alexander Ananenkov, deputy chairman of Gazprom’s management committee, early last month in Russia. North Korea’s Kim also met with Ananenkov early July in Pyongyang.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said he supports Moscow’s long-sought project to push for gas exports to Korea during summit talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The discussions between KOGAS and Gazprom are expected to be followed up by Korea-Russia joint economic committee meetings on Oct. 24-25 in Seoul, in which Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan and Russian Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin will take part as head of delegations.

Basargin held similar meetings with North Korea late last month in which the two sides negotiated the PNG project.

Trans-Siberian railway (Photo:

In October, Russia has planned to run a “demonstration” railway trip from Khasan, the city where KJI first arrived in August, to Rajin-So’nbong (Naso’n). reports:

The project aims to reconstruct an existing section of the railway, the Port of Rajin cargo terminal, and the subsequent use of this infrastructure for transit, with access to the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The project aims not only to restore this section of railway, but also to make full use of the container port of Rajin.

“Now we shall consider the question of the transportation of coal”, noted Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin.

The shortest path between the European Union and Southeast Asia (a region which produces up to 70% of the world’s GDP) is through Russia.

Traditionally, the choice has boiled down to either shipping things by sea or via the Trans-Siberian, but the increased demand for transcontinental transportation is now generating corresponding proposals, and there are about two dozen different versions of new corridors that could potentially win up to 40% of the traffic from the traditional routes.

In this regard, the implementation of international projects that could be acquired for the Far Eastern Railway are of ‘particular importance’.

In the course of the reconstruction project in 2011, Russian Railways will install 56 track switches and more than 64 km of main and secondary rail routes. To date, 36 track switches have been installed by contractors, who have repaired 14.6 km of secondary tracks and 6 km of the main line.

Asahi Shimbun, citing a source in the DPRK, and other media report that the Russian and DPRK navies will conduct joint search and rescue (SAR) exercises in 2012.  The agreement to conduct the exercises was reached when the Russian Federation Armed Forces Eastern Military District Commander visited the DPRK.  He met with KPA Chief of the General Staff, Ri Yong Ho (Ri Yo’ng-ho) on 25 August.  The DPRK has not conducted any official or reported military or security exercises with another country for some time.  During the 1980s the KPA Navy (Korean People’s Navy) used to send a flotilla on alternate years to visit Vladivostok.

There may be an additional military exchange between the DPRK and Russia.  Russian military officials would like to increase its number of sniper units, in the event that Jasmine winds should blow in its direction.  RIA Novosti reports:

An RBC Daily source in the Defense Ministry said that each brigade will most likely have a sniper platoon. The source admitted that initially sniper rifles will be bought abroad. Contract sergeants, who will be hired starting in mid-2012, will form the core of the sniper corps.

“This is an absolutely correct decision, since the experience of the first and second Chechen wars has proven the importance and effectiveness of sniper groups in military units,” Igor Korotchenko, a member of the Defense Ministry’s public council, told RBC Daily. “It is important that the snipers attached to brigades will be armed with good foreign-made rifles, which promises higher effectiveness and greater shooting power.”

“Currently, the North Korean military has the largest number of snipers with ten sniper brigades,” Anatoly Tsyganok, director of the Military Forecasting Center at the Political and Military Analysis Institute, told RBC Daily. “Moreover, the North Korean military is the only in the world to have not only snipers but also 300 professionally trained suicide servicemen. Of course, Russia need not draw on that kamikaze experience, but it should analyze North Korea’s experience of sniper training because our next task will be to train a large number of snipers. We must decide where to recruit them, how to train them and who will train them.”

The Soviet school of sniper training was very good, but it gradually went into decline, analysts say. “Each sniper is unique. It takes years to train one, which means they must definitely be contract servicemen,” Korotchenko said. “We cannot hope for conscripted servicemen to fill the gap like they did in the past, when naturally gifted people were recruited from among conscripts and trained to shoot faultlessly from a Dragunov sniper rifle.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Blank penned a fascinating analysis of KJI’s trip to Russia for Eurasia Daily Monitor:

Moscow’s motives are also discernible. Medvedev has added a major new impetus to Russia’s desire to be seen as a key player in Northeast Asia, mainly through energy, and as a corollary of this standing, through its position in the six-party talks that had been less than prominent. Therefore, many Russian writers talked of possible breakthroughs stemming from this meeting and its agreements (The Voice of Russia, August 25; Moskovskiy Novosti Online, August 22). Likewise, these talks help foster a much less threatening atmosphere than was the case in 2010, when Moscow literally feared that the Korean peninsula was on the brink of war. Stability in Korea is a sine qua non of Russia’s East Siberian development strategy upon which its entire “Ostpolitik” stands. So, to the degree it can seemingly upgrade its standing and facilitate that stability, Moscow will seize any such opportunity.
Third, as noted above, Russia is able to resume rivalry with China, albeit under the guise of a strategic partnership with China for influence in and over North Korea, and gain leverage over Beijing by actually building a gas pipeline to Asia. Chinese-Russian talks on a gas pipeline to China are deadlocked, while the idea of such a trans-Korean pipeline is almost a decade old (the idea of the railroad dates back further to Sergei Witte). These manifestations of an energy silk road or iron silk road, as they are called, are integral to Russian policy in Asia, but have been blocked due to the conflict over Korea. By receiving assent to a Korean pipeline, Moscow not only advances toward achieving multiple long-held goals, it also raises pressure on China (or at least thinks it does) with the fact that Moscow now has alternatives in Asia. And at the same time, it gains more access to North Korea – apparently, a Russian intelligence officer will mentor Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s son and successor, on world affairs.

WPRG Parade Commemorates 63rd Anniversary of Foundation

13 Sep

Kim Jong Il inviting Ri Yong Ho to take his place at the beginning of the Worker Peasant Red Guards' Parade held on the 63rd anniversary of the foundation of the DPRK

On the morning of 9 September (Friday), Kim Jong Il, members of the central leadership and Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n), attended a Worker-Peasant Red Guards’ [WPRG] parade in central Pyongyang.  According to KCNA and other DPRK media, “columns of commanders [and] Workers’-Peasants’ Red Guards of different provinces and complexes, Young Red Guards and mechanized columns lined up on Kim Il Sung Square, the venue of the military parade.” The parade also displayed howizters, anti-aircraft artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as models of the WPRG’s Ural-type motorcycles with sidecars.

Central Military Commission Member and director of the CC KWP Military Department, Gen. Ol Il Jong, reports to VMar Kim Yong Chun prior to the start of the parade

NDC Vice-Chairman and Minister of the People's Armed Forces, VMar Kim Yong Chun delivers a speech prior to the start of the WPRG parade on 9 September

To Pyongyang watchers of all ages, this may have seemed an unusual event.  In certain contexts, 63 is a lucky number, but it carries neither any significance nor symbolism as an anniversary year.  The last military parade held on Foundation Day, which also consisted of the WPRG, occurred three (3) years ago.  The 2008 parade was particularly significant because of KJI’s medical-related absence from it.  He did not make any reported public appearances until October 2008.  The 2008 parade featured representatives of the Young Red Guards’ units of Kim Il Sung and Kim Chaek Universities; the 2011 parade included an unspecified group of the YRG without any explicit references to what educational institutions they represented.

Kim Jong Il talks with Kim Jong Un prior the start of the parade

The broadcast and video of the parade included several missed camera cues.

The 2011 parade was broadcast live on DPRK television.   In contrast to other #1 Events (such as the KWP’s 65th anniversary parade in October 2010) the production quality was inconsistent.  There were a number of unintended jump cuts.  Camera shots were cued before the photographers had an opportunity to set them up.  The audio of the music and speeches cut out several times.  The audience applauded prematurely over Kim Yong Chun (Kim Yo’ng-ch’un)’s congratulatory address.  There was also the sound (either prerecorded or from the audience) of cheering prior to KJI’s entrance music.  The production aesthetics revealed a few interesting images of KJI and the leadership.  During the parade KJI gestured to an aide in order to summon Gen. Kim Myong Kuk (Kim Myo’ng-kuk), chief of the General Staff Operations Bureau.  At another point, chief of the KPA General Staff, VMar Ri Yong Ho (Ri Yo’ng-ho) was talking to Kim Jong Un. Ri looked to his left and found KJI scratching his face.  Ri mistook this for a salute, put his arm up then quickly put it down.  Miscues among the mobilized audience and in the television production indicate that this event may have been hastily arranged (i.e. last minute).

Despite the technical trouble, the event likely attained its two primary objectives.   First, standing on a balcony for 45 minutes to an hour without any obvious assistance conveyed that Kim Jong Il remains at the country’s core power center, and that his trip to Russia and China during late August did not compromise his health.  Second, this represented another superficial accomplishment for his hereditary successor.  Smelling apple-based body washes, meeting Chinese officials and touring DVD factories are nice photo opportunities for Kim Jong Un.  But he does not have sufficient imagery at a national meeting or parade, lined up with members of the central leadership who are not in KJI’s immediate coterie.  When Kim Jong Il stepped out to the crowd, he was joined by KJU.  As KJI processed down the line, one could see behind him a camera crew scuttling over to capture KJU.  It is also possible that the parade had a built-in loyalty oath factor for members of the WPRG.

KJI talking to an aide during the event

Kim Jong Il confers with Gen. Kim Myong Kuk, chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau, during the WPRG parade on 9 September

One interesting aspect of this parade were the subtle dynamic among the KPA’s two senior working officials.  Formal command channels may call for Kim Yong Chun, in his dual positions, to manage the parade.  KYC also delivered the address during the September 2008 parade.  His function at this year’s parade and presence with KJI during the Russia trip indicates that his influence remains intact, contrary to earlier speculation.  He may prove more effective ensuring support for KJU in the KPA.  When KJI appeared on the “tribune of honor,” Ri Yong Ho stood back while the other members of the central leadership took their places.  KJI stretched out his arm to invite Ri to his position.

KJI scratching his eye, which Ri Yong Ho mistakes for a salute

Kim Jong Il applauds at the conclusion of the WPRK parade on 9 September. Behind him to the left is commander of the KPA Navy, Jong Myong Do (Cho'ng Myo'ng-to)

KJI Returns Home

29 Aug

Kim Jong Il returned from his week-long sojourn to Russia and northeast China on 27 August (Saturday).  Kim Kyong Hui (Kim Kyo’ng-hu’i) and Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) led a group of the central leadership which greeted him at the train station.  On his return to the DPRK, KJI visited Tonghua City, before his train crossed the DPRK-China border around 17:00 on Saturday.  Unlike his return from China in May, KJI and his welcome-back party did not visit Hu’ich’o’n Power Station or any other infrastructure projects.  Instead, he attended a banquet jointly given by the National Defense Commission and the Party Central Military Commission.  He also attended a concert of the State Merited Choir.   Yonhap reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a banquet held to congratulate him on his “successful” recent visits to Russia and China, the North’s state media said Monday.

The banquet was hosted by the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission, according to a brief dispatch by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul. It did not mention where or when the event took place.

Kim returned home on Saturday after an eight-day trip aboard his special armored train across Russia’s Far East and northeastern China. The trip included summit talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev near the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude on Wednesday and tours of various industrial sites in both countries.

A view of Kim Jong Il's rail route through Russia to northeast China during 20-27 August 2011 (Photo: Google image)

Among those who attended KJI’s post-return events was CMC Member and commander of the KPA Air Force (Korean People’s Air Force), Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (Ri P’yo’ng-ch’o’l).  Gen. Ri was spotted in attendance at one of KJI’s interactions with Dmitry Medvedev, as part of DPRK efforts to acquire military aircraft from Russia, although Ri was not reported by DPRK media to have accompanied KJI on the trip. Chosun Ilbo reports:

“Photos taken by foreign news agencies during the North Korea-Russia summit show Gen. Ri Pyong-chol, the commander of the North Korean Air Force, standing in formal suits [not in military uniform] between Kim and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,” a South Korean security official said Sunday.

It is rare that an Air Force chief accompanies Kim on an overseas trip. “This is decisive proof that one of the goals of Kim Jong-il’s visit was to buy new fighter jets from Russia,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs said.

A list of Kim’s official entourage released last Sunday by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency included Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kim Yong-chun, Ju Kyu-chang, the first vice-director of the Ministry of Defense Industry, and Pak To-chun, Workers Party secretary for munitions, but not Ri.

A South Korean government official said, “As a four-star Air Force general, Ri would deserve a place on the list, but it seems his name was omitted deliberately.”

Neither Pyongyang nor Moscow made it clear whether the two leaders discussed supply of munitions to the North.

Kim Jong Il meets with Russian pilots at the Chkalov Aeronautic Complex in Novosibirsk in August 2001 (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong Il Visits NE China on Homeward Trip

26 Aug

Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (R) shakes hands with top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Il in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Aug. 26, 2011. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)

Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) arrived in northeastern China on 25 August (Thursday) and visited Heilongjiang Province on 26 August (Friday), during his return trip from Russia.  On Thursday KJI visited Hulun Buir (Hailar) in autonomous Inner Mongolia.    He was greeted at the railway station by Wang Jiarui and various local officials.  He took in the city’s skyline, then attended a banquet and art performance, according to KCNA:

Commanding a bird’s-eye view of the night scenery, he got familiar with the history and culture of the region and the achievements made by its people in construction.

The Inner Mongolian Autonomous Regional Committee of the CPC gave a grand banquet at the Tianjiao State Guest House in honor of Kim Jong Il visiting the region.

He was present on invitation.

Speeches were made.

Hu Chunhua said that today we welcomed Kim Jong Il to this vast steppe where President Kim Il Sung was accorded warm welcome several times long ago, thereby seeing the desire of the party, the government and the people of the autonomous region come true at last.

Hu Chunhua noted that the traditional Sino-DPRK friendship will remain ever-green like the vast steppe along with history, expressing firm belief that the friendly Korean people would make fresh success in the efforts to improve the standard of people’s living and build a prosperous and powerful nation.

A specially prepared art performance was given in honor of Kim Jong Il.

Artistes of the autonomous region including Hulun Buir National Song and Dance Troupe put on the stage such colorful numbers strong in national flavor as national song and dance “Song of Wedding”, national instrumental solo “Vast Steppe”, dance “Dance of Bowl”, chorus “Calling You” and Korean song “Arirang”.

The performers clearly reflected the boundless respect and reverence of the government and the people of the region for Kim Jong Il visiting China again for the development of the Sino-DPRK friendship.

Kim Jong Il conveyed a floral basket to the performers in congratulation of their successful performance and had a photo taken with them.

He was presented with a gift by Hu Chunhua on behalf of the party committee of the autonomous region.

He expressed thanks for the warm reception and cordial hospitality accorded him by the party, government and people of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. He hoped the people of the region would achieve a fresh victory in their struggle for the prosperity and development of the country under the leadership of the CPC.

Kim Jong Il departed for the next destination that day amid the warm send-off from the leading officials of the region.

Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (R) shakes hands with top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Il in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Aug. 26, 2011. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)

A North Korean special train carrying Kim Jong-il arrives at China's Manzhouli Station, near the Russian border, on Aug. 25. (Yonhap)

Upon entry into China, KJI’s travel party changed with the addition of two officials: DPRK Ambassador to the PRC Ji Jae Ryong (Chi Chae Ryo’ng) and Ri Ki Pom, diplomatic counsel in Shenyang.  KJI then moved along into Heilongjiang Province where he visited Qiqihar and Daqing.  In Qiqihar he visited a machine tool factory and dairy farm, and in Daqing he visited an apartment building construction site.  He also met with Dai Bingguo.  Xinhua reports on his visit to Heilongjiang Province:

In a meeting with Kim, Dai, entrusted by Hu Jintao, Chinese president and general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), conveyed sincere greetings from Hu to Kim and welcomed Kim on behalf of the CPC, the Chinese government and people.

Kim, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission, thanked China’s warm hospitality and conveyed his sincere greetings to Hu.

Kim made an unofficial visit to China in May. Dai said that after an interval of three months, Kim visited China again. It fully demonstrated the high attention attached by Kim, the WPK, the DPRK government and people to the consolidation and growth of China-DPRK ties.

During his previous visit, Hu and Kim had an in-depth exchange of views of bilateral ties and issues of mutual interests. “Along with DPRK comrades, we are willing to earnestly implement important consensus reached by the top leaders of our two countries and promote the continuous growth of our ties,” Dai said.

Kim said China and DPRK are close neighbors and should have frequent contacts. “Every time I visited China, I can feel the friendly affections from the Chinese people to the Korean people,” he said.

He spoke highly of the development momentum of current China-DPRK ties. Bilateral exchanges and cooperation should be enhanced between different departments and localities of the two countries in various areas, he said.

During his stay in Heilongjiang, Kim visited the cities of Qiqihar and Daqing. In Qiqihar, Kim toured Qier Machine Tool Group Co., a large state-owned enterprise, and Mengniu Dairy, a leading Chinese dairy producer. In Daqing, he toured an urban planning exhibition hall and a residential district.

“I’ve seen new changes every time I came here,” he said. He wished that China would smoothly realize the goals set in its 12th Five-year Plan under the leadership of the CPC.

Kim came on Thursday to China’s Manzhouli, a border city in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, after his Russian tour.

Qiqihar and Daqing, two cities in northeastern China Kim Jong Il visited on 26 August 2011 on his return trip to the DPRK (Photo: Google image)

Whilst meeting with Dai, KJI repeated his “no preconditions” declaration on the DPRK’s return to the Six Party Talks.  His meeting with Dai occurred one day after ROK representative to the Six Party Talks, Wi Sung-lac, visited Beijing for one day where he met with Wu Dawei.

Kim, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission, made the remarks while meeting with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo during his visit to northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.

The DPRK adheres to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and is ready to fully implement the Sept. 19 joint statement along with all sides for maintaining and promoting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, he said.

Launched in 2003, the six-party talks on the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula involved China, the DPRK, the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Russia.

The 9.19 Joint Statement was signed on Sept. 19, 2005, in which the DPRK promised to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (C front) and Chinese officers pose for a group photo with a Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s delegation headed by Jon Chang Bok (5th L front), chief of the General Logistics Bureau of the DPRK's Armed Forces Department, in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 26, 2011. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)

Kim Jong Il is not the only DPRK official who traveled to China this week. Col. Gen.  Jon Chang Bok (Cho’n Chang-pok), chief of the KPA General Logistics Department met with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on 26 August.   Xinhua reports:

Liang said China and the DPRK enjoy a traditional friendship due to shared treasures inherited from the two countries’ former leaders. The two countries and the two militaries have continued to strengthen a friendly partnership over the years, promoting the development of both countries and militaries and safeguarding common interests.

“Under new historical phases, China is willing to enhance its communication and coordination with the DPRK to further promote military ties between the two sides, and make joint contributions in safeguarding regional stability as well as world peace, stability and prosperity. ” Liang said.

Jon Chang Bok said the mutual support and assistance between the two militaries has broadened the content of DPRK-China friendship. He said the DPRK will always work with China to promote ties between the two countries and the two militaries during turbulent international situations.

He also hopes to learn about military logistics construction from China.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (R) meets with Jon Chang Bok, chief of the General Logistics Bureau of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Armed Forces Department, in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 26, 2011. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)

Jon Chang Bok’s visit to Beijing occurred as a report emerged in ROK media that the DPRK purchased several thousand trucks and jeeps.  Chosun Ilbo reports:

There were eight video clips of varying lengths ranging from two minutes to 16 minutes. The footage shows Chinese-produced military vehicles standing in the 10,000 sq.m parking lot of the Dandong customs office waiting to be cleared along with other civilian cars, and two-story trailers loaded with military vehicles waiting on the side road to enter the customs office. A local source in Dandong said, “Normally, all Chinese-made vehicles going into North Korea were civilian, but in July, a massive number of military cars went to North Korea.”

A senior source in North Korea said that these cars were gifts to military officers by North Korea’s heir apparent Kim Jong-un in celebration of “Victory Day,” or the day the armistice in the Korean War was signed on July 27. “North Korean military vehicles produced in the 1970s and the 80s are too old to carry out drills, and many soldiers were dissatisfied. In order to buy the loyalty of the military and show what he can do, Kim Jong-un replaced the old vehicles thanks to the assistance of China,” the source added.

Jeeps were given to officers to be used to conduct operations, and the trucks were given to soldiers.

Analysis of the footage suggests the trucks were 6-ton trucks made by FAW Car Limited Company. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited the headquarters of this firm in Changchun, Jilin, during his visit to China in May. The military jeeps were manufactured by Beijing Automobile Works with engine capacity of 2,200 cc and 100 horsepower. BAW, which specializes in SUVs, trucks and military vehicles, is a subsidiary of Beijing Automotive Group, a partner of Hyundai Motor.

Dump trucks, large buses, sedans, oil trucks, agricultural machines and heavy machinery were also spotted in the video going into North Korea. In the windscreen, the name of the recipients is written. One is Korea Taesong Trading Company, a trading company under the Workers Party that manages Kim Jong-il’s slush funds. It was blacklisted by the U.S. as part of its economic sanctions against the North.

Meanwhile, the DPRK is moving quickly to formalize military and economic agreements resulting from KJI’s meeting with Dmitry Medvedev. On 25 August chief of the KPA General Staff met with Konstantin Sidenko, commander of Russia’s Eastern Military District.  KCNA reports:

Ri Yong Ho, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, Thursday met and had a talk with the delegation of the Eastern Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation led by Commander of the District Konstantin Sidenko.

DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim (R) shakes hands with Russian Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin (L) after a meeting Friday, 26 August in Pyongyang (Photo: KCNA)

On 26 August, DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam (Ri Ryo’ng-nam) signed an agreement on economic cooperation and technical exchanges:

A protocol of the 5th Meeting of the DPRK-Russia Intergovernmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology was signed at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Friday.

Present there were Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade and chairman of the DPRK side to the Committee, and officials concerned and the members of the Russian governmental economic delegation led by Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin, chairman of the Russian side to the Committee, and Arkady Lavrov, charge d’affaires a.i. of the Russian embassy here.

Ri Ryong Nam and Viktor Basargin inked the protocol.

DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam shakes hands with Russian Ministerr of Regional Development Viktor Basargin on 26 August 2011 at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong Il Makes His Return (Revised)

25 Aug

A view of Manzhouli Railway Station at the Russia-China border (Photo: Google image)

Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) is returning to the DPRK.  The locomotive of his personal  train was spotted in northeastern China at the Russia-China border in Manzhouli, according to Yonhap.  KCNA reported that KJI “will pay a visit to the Northeast area of the People’s Republic of China on August 25 on his way home.”

Back in the DPRK, KCNA reported on Kim Jong Il’s (Kim Cho’ng-il) meeting and the other events that he attended with Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev.  While mentioning KJI’s pronouncement on the country’s return to the Six Party Talks, KCNA did not mention anything about his declaration to suspend nuclear weapons tests or production.

Kim Jong Il departs the summit talks with Dmitry Medvedev, seen at the right is his current wife Kim Ok (Photo: RIA Novosti)

First, KCNA reported about KJI’s initial interaction with Medvedev, at the Sosnovy Bor hotel where the Russian President was staying during his visit to the area:

Kim Jong Il exchanged warm greetings with Medvedev and had a talk with him.

The president warmly welcomed leader Kim Jong Il visiting Russia by sparing precious time despite his tight schedule leading the building of a prosperous and powerful country in the DPRK on behalf of the Russian government and the people. He said that the visit would mark a particularly important occasion in further developing the Russia-DPRK friendly relations as required by the new century.

The third visit to Russia paid by Kim Jong Il in the new century clearly proves what importance he is attaching to the Russia-DPRK friendship, he noted, paying high tribute to Kim Jong Il who has made an immortal contribution to the development of the Russia-DPRK friendship.

Kim Jong Il expressed his pleasure of meeting with Medvedev and thanked him for coming all the way to Ulan-Ude to kindly meet with him. He gave his impressions of his visit to the Far East and Siberian regions under the great concern of the Russian government and people and amid their cordial hospitality.

Kim Jong Il and Dmitry Medvedev sit for a media availability on 24 August 2011in Ulan Ude (Photo: Kremlin)

KJI and Medvedev then made their way to the military base for their meeting.  Only five (5) of the dozen or so reported members of KJI’s travel party were reported as attending.  Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek) was not reported to have attended the interaction.  Interestingly in this and other KCNA reporting on the trip, VMar Kim Yong Chun (Kim Yo’ng-ch’un) was identified as a member of the Political Bureau and minister of the People’s Armed Forces, but not Vice-Chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC).

Kim Jong Il thanked the Russian president and other central leading officials and the governments and people of different regions for kindly receiving him wherever he went and according him cordial hospitality and extended his regards to the Russian people.

He said he witnessed the successes achieved by the Russian government and people in the work to modernize the economy, bolster the defense capability and achieve social stability under the leadership of Medvedev and got better knowledge of the history and culture of Russia while touring several cities and units of the vast Far East and Siberian regions. He hoped the Russian people would enjoy prosperity in the future, too.

At the talks the top leaders of the two countries informed each other of the situation in their countries and appreciated with satisfaction the favorably developing bilateral relations. They exchanged their views on developing the bilateral relations and reached a consensus of views on all the issues discussed.

The two top leaders were unanimous in saying that boosting the bilateral friendly and cooperative relations with a long historical tradition is not only in line with the desire of the two peoples and their fundamental interests but is of important significance in developing Northeast Asia and defending world peace and security.

The Russian president reiterated that the Russian side would join the DPRK side in boosting the Russia-DPRK good-neighborly, friendly and cooperative relations and thus making a positive contribution to bringing greater well-being to the two peoples.

Kim Jong Il reiterated the determination of the government and people of the DPRK to make every possible effort to further develop the traditional bilateral friendly and cooperative relations in the future, too.

At the talks the top leaders underlined the need for the two countries to boost the friendship, equality and mutually beneficial cooperative relations in the spirit of the DPRK-Russia Joint Declaration inked in Pyongyang in 2000, the 2001 DPRK-Russia Moscow Declaration and the Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighborliness and Cooperation between the DPRK and Russia.

They expressed firm belief that the cause of building a prosperous and powerful nation in the DPRK and that of building a powerful state in Russia would surely be accomplished thanks to the two peoples’ vigorous struggle for social progress and development. They expressed mutual support and solidarity with the cause.

The two top leaders had an in-depth exchange of views on regional and international issues at the talks.

The Russians arranged a performance for KJI:

The performance was given by well-known national art troupes, people’s and merited artistes and international concourse winners of Russia.

Their repertoire included chorus “Song of General Kim Jong Il,” an immortal revolutionary hymn, chorus and dance “Katyusa,” song and dance suite “Land of friendship,” chorus “Russia and Korea, eternal friends.”

The performers expressed boundless reverence and thanks of the Russian people for Kim Jong Il for making an undying contribution to the development of traditional DPRK-Russia friendship.

Pleasant and optimistic dances and songs showcased part of a long history and culture of the Russian people and culture of the Buryat.

The performance was acclaimed by the audience for its high artistic value.

Kim Jong Il conveyed a floral basket to the artistes for their successful performance.

Medvedev also hosted “a grand banquet” for the DPRK officials:

Kim Jong Il was present at the banquet on invitation.

Also present there on invitation were Kim Yong Chun, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Kang Sok Ju, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and vice-premier of the Cabinet, Jang Song Thaek, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and vice-chairman of the NDC, Kim Yang Gon, Pak To Chun and Thae Jong Su, alternate members of the Political Bureau and secretaries of the WPK Central Committee, Ju Kyu Chang, alternate member of the Political Bureau and department director of the WPK Central Committee, Pak Pong Ju, first vice department director of the WPK Central Committee, O Su Yong, chief secretary of the North Hamgyong Provincial Committee of the WPK, Kim Kye Gwan, first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Kim Yong Jae, DPRK ambassador to Russia, Sim Kuk Ryong, consul general of the DPRK Consulate General in Nakhodka of Russia, and other suite members.

Present there together with Medvedev were Alexandr Avramov, assistant to the president for regional policy, Sergei Prikhodiko, assistant to the president for external policy, Viktor Ishayev, presidential envoy to the Far East Region of the Russian Federation, Viktor Tolokonski, presidential envoy to the Siberian Region of the Russian Federation, Anatoly Serzhukov, minister of Defense, Igor Levitin, minister of Transport, Viktor Basargin, minister of Regional Development who is chairman of the Russian side to the Governmental Committee between Russia-DPRK for the Cooperation of Trade and Economy, Science and Technology, Valery Sukhinin, Russian ambassador to the DPRK, Aleksei Borodavkin, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Byacheslav Nagovitsin, president of the Republic of Buryatia, Matbei Gershevich, chairman of the People’s Khural, Gennadi Aidayev, mayor of Ulan-Ude, Anatoly Sidorov, first vice commander of the Eastern Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Tsilko, commander of the 36th Combined Forces of the Eastern Military District, and other central and local leading officials and commanding officers of the armed forces.

Dmitri Anatoliyevich Medvedev made a speech at the banquet.

Kim Jong Il spoke next.

The banquet proceeded in an amicable atmosphere overflowing with friendship.

According to KCNA Medvedev, in part, said:

The good neighborly relations between our two countries have a solid foundation. This is not merely because of geographical proximity and long-standing bilateral relations.

The cooperation between Russia and the DPRK has great potential.

To realize cooperation between the two countries will bring a lot of benefits including not a few economic fruits to our two peoples.

Today I and Your Excellency Kim Jong Il agreed to further political dialogue and comprehensively develop working cooperation.

There is great possibility of cooperation for us in the educational and cultural fields, too.

The Russian center has already operated in Pyongyang for the last three years and students of the DPRK are studying and having training programs at universities of Russia.

Art groups of Russia made ceaseless performance tours of the DPRK and it has become a tradition for them to participate in the April Spring Friendship Art Festival.

The contacts between the regions of the two countries have become more brisk recently.

Documents on establishing sister relations between various cities of Russia and the DPRK are in the making.

Cooperation among Russia, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea in carrying out the grand plans in the fields of infrastructure and power has a great prospect.

I am convinced that to realize this cooperation would be beneficial to all our three countries and have a positive impact on providing favorable environment for dialogue and confidence-building between the DPRK and the ROK.

It is our common task to put an end to the confrontation between the north and the south that has lasted for more than half a century, I think.

We will in the future, too, contribute to seeking political and economic solutions to turn the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia into regions in which durable peace and security are settled.

Respected friends,

Hoping you will have good impressions during your stay in Russia, let me propose to toast to the good health of respected Your Excellency Kim Jong Il, chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, and to the good health of all those present here and to the well-being and prosperity of the peoples of the DPRK and Russia.

According to KCNA, Kim Jong Il’s after-dinner speech said, in part:

It gives me great pleasure to revisit Siberia and the Far East Region of Russia, a friendly neighbor, after the lapse of a decade and meet with you.

Allow me to express, first of all, my heartfelt thanks to you for traveling thousands of kilometers to come to Ulan-Ude from Moscow, the capital city, warmly greeting us and providing us with such meaningful place today.

It gives us particular pleasure to visit your country for the third time in the new century and see for ourselves the achievements made by your people in building powerful and modern Russia.

The Russian government and people are registering many successes in the work to bolster the defence capability of the country and achieve the modernization of economy and social and political stability and working hard to establish a fair international order against high-handed and arbitrary practices under your leadership.

It is our sincere hope that the efforts of the friendly Russian government and people to defend world peace and security and build rich and powerful Russia will bear good fruits.

The peoples of our two countries have given steady continuity to the history and tradition of friendship along with the placid flow of the River Tuman.

We are glad to see that the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries have favorably developed in various fields recently.

To steadily develop in depth the history and tradition of the DPRK-Russia friendship entirely conforms with the interests of the two peoples and is of weighty significance in defending the peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

We are convinced that the summit meeting today will undoubtedly mark an important landmark in boosting the DPRK-Russia relations in line with the aspiration and desire of the two peoples and turning Northeast Asia into the region for peace and cooperation.

We will in the future, too, make every effort to boost the traditional DPRK-Russia friendly and cooperative relations.

In closing, I, availing myself of this opportunity overflowing with the friendship, would like to propose a toast to the strengthening and development of the traditional friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries, to the good health of Respected Your Excellency President Dmitri Anatoliyevich Medvedev and to the good health of the dear friends of Russia and all those present here.

Medvedev later saw KJI depart from Ulan Ude.  In a separate piece, KCNA reported that “the Korean people are now making great achievements in their work to delight leader Kim Jong Il when he returns home from his unofficial visit to Siberian and Far East regions of the Russian Federation.”

The president hoped that he would meet with leader Kim Jong Il again and sincerely wished him greater success in his important work for building a prosperous and powerful country.

Kim Jong Il once again extended thanks to the president, the government and the people of Russia for having accorded him cordial hospitality with all sincerity during his visit and wished them new success in the efforts for the economic development of the country and the well-being of the people.

Kim Jong Il and Dmitri Anatoliyevich Medvedev shook hands with each other before bidding farewell.

The revisit paid by Kim Jong Il to Russia for steadily strengthening and developing the DPRK-Russia friendship proved successful thanks to the particular concern and hospitality of the Russian president including leading officials of the Russian government and various regions and their people.

He expressed his satisfaction over the results of the visit and sincere thanks to the Russian people for their warmest hospitality.

Kim Jong Il’s historical visit to Russia will go a long way towards boosting the traditional DPRK-Russia friendship and record another brilliant chapter in its history.

One projected rail route for Kim Jong Il's return to the DPRK (Photo: Google image)

Kim Jong Il Meets with Medvedev

24 Aug

Kim Jong Il steps out of his car prior to meeting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on 24 August 2011 outside of Ulan Ude in Siberia (Photo: RIA Novosti)

Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) met with Russian Federation President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev on Wednesday (24 August) at a military compound outside of Ulan Ude in Siberia.  During the meeting, KJI said that he would consider suspending any additional nuclear weapons development, testing and production as part of an oft-repeated pledge for the DPRK to return to the Six Party Talks.  RT reports:

North Korea is ready to return to the Six-Party negotiation table unconditionally and to do so, Kim Jong-il promised his country will impose moratorium on nuclear testing and nuclear weapons production.

Presidential Press Secretary Natalia Timakova announced these results of the meeting on Wednesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his North Korean counterpart have met in the secluded military compound Sosnovy Bor (Pine Wood) on the outskirts of the capital of Republic of Buryatia, Ulan-Ude. The talks lasted for two hours and ten minutes.The leaders shook hands for protocol photos in the presence of press, then proceeded to negotiate behind closed doors. Few results were announced once the negotiations were over, including little information about the topics of discussion.

Surely, tense topics have been discussed during the meeting. Most likely the talks were focused on Six-Party Talks: North Korea withdrew from the Six-Party Talks (which include North and South Koreas, Russia, China, US and Japan) and continued with its nuclear experiments, defiant in its continuation of its nuclear program, predictably causing outrage not only within the Six Parties, but the whole of the international community.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) meets with Kim Jong Il, the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), near Russia's eastern Siberian city of Ulan Ude, Aug. 24, 2011. (Xinhua/RIA NOVOSTI)

KJI and Medvedev also discussed the formation of a three-country commission to oversee the development and construction of a gas pipeline running from Russia through the DPRK to ROK.  ITAR-TASS reports:

Medvedev said, “We achieved certain results on gas cooperation. In particular, a decision has been taken to create a special commission for gas transit to the Republic of Korea via the territory of the DPRK.”

“The DPRK seeks to realise this project,” the Russian president stressed. At the same time, he pointed out that the gas pipeline of 1,100 km long was planning to be built.

“This year it will be possible to transport up to 10 billion cubic metres of gas by this pipeline. If there is demand, we are ready to increase our supplies,” Medvedev said.

“We instructed our agencies to create a special commission in order to determine concrete parameters of gas cooperation via the territory of the DPRK and involve South Korea in this project due to the fact that main consumers are deployed on its territory,” the Russian president said.

He noted, “The DPRK seeks to realise such tripartite project with the participation of Russia and South Korea. Now we are starting a technical work.” “Some time ago the Gazprom delegation led by the deputy head of the board visited the DPRK. Yesterday I instructed [the company’s head Alexei] Miller to deal with this problem. We’ll hope that there will be a good project,” Medvedev said.

A delegation from Russia’s Gazprom gas giant visited North Korea last week, for the latest in a sudden flurry of mysterious contacts between Moscow and the isolated state, the company said.

The Gazprom team was headed by deputy managing chairman Alexander Ananenkov, who met with North Korea’s oil minister to discuss “outstanding issues of cooperation in the energy sphere,” the Russian company said.

The construction of a gas pipeline between Russia and South Korea via the DPRK will guarantee the restoration and strengthening of trust between Seoul and Pyongyang, said Georgy Toloraya, director of research programmes at the Centre for Modern Korean Studies, Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

Commenting on a visit to Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Toloraya said, “The upcoming talks between the Russian and North Korean leaders are important. The six-party consultations may resume. North Koreans said they were ready to resume negotiations and discus the nuclear programme. It will be more difficult to ignore a signal that Kim Jong-il will give to the international community with the aid of Dmitry Medvedev.”

“If Russia supports the initiative [on resuming the six-party talks] and guarantees that North Koreans seek to discuss this problem, it will be more difficult for Seoul and Washington to scuttle the dialogue,” the Russian expert said.

Economic projects, such as the construction of a gas pipeline between Russia and South Korea via the DPRK, the linking up of the Trans-Korean railway with the Trans-Siberian mainline and the construction of a power transmission line from the Far East to the Republic of Korea, can be very significant in relations between the two countries. “This issue is being actively finalised. Gazprom’ s project has been approved by North Korea. Pyongyang is also ready to take part in the project jointly with South Koreans despite difficult relations. Now Gazprom intends to inform Seoul about this. South Koreans agree in word although they voice concerns over North Korea’s possible dependence, including illegal gas extraction and blackmail,” he said.

At the same time, he said, “The pipeline will guarantee the restoration and strengthening of trust between the North and the South. The economic development of North Korea will become one more argument for stopping the nuclear programme.”

Kim Jong Il meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on 24 August 2011 outside of Ulan Ude in Siberia (Photo: Kremlin)

Kim Jong Il and Dmitry Medvedev sit for a media availability on 24 August 2011 (Photo: Kremlin)

The meeting’s agenda also included a bit of old business, including the DPRK’s formal recognition of the Russian Federation succeeding the Soviet Union and the DPRK’s repayment of foreign debts to the former USSR.  RIA Novosti reports:

Medvedev and Kim met in Ulan-Ude, in East Siberia’s Buryatia Region earlier in the day.

“The leaders agreed on an approach toward solving this issue,” the source said.

Renewed talks on the issue had been going on for around six weeks, the source added.

“The Russian delegation thinks that the fact that these talks have been renewed is a significant breakthrough toward solving this issue.”

The talks involve North Korea’s $11 billion debt to Russia from the Soviet era, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said on Wednesday.

He also said that North Korea should first recognize Russia as a successor state of the Soviet Union. Then the two states need to recalculate the sum of the loan, which was issued in Soviet rubles at the exchange rate of 0.6 rubles per $1.

Only then the two countries may launch negotiations “on how to repay the resulting sum.”

Moscow sees the loan as one of the factors that hinder trade and economic cooperation between the two states.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev talks with Kim Jong Il during a photo op on 24 August (Photo: Xinhua)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Kim Jong Il (R) on 24 August 2011 in Ulan Ude in Siberia (Photo: Xinhua)

KJI Arrives in Ulan Ude

23 Aug

North Korean and Russian flags are hung at Ulan-Ude Station in Ulan-Ude in eastern Siberia on the occassion of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's visit on Aug. 23. (Yonhap)

Kim Jong Il arrived in Ulan Ude on 23 August (Tuesday), greeted at the railway station by various local officials.  KJI is expected to meet with Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday (24 August).  On Tuesday, KJI indulged in one of his favorite past times, swimming, on this occasion in a pool of water pumped from Lake Baikal.  KJI took a dip with a local elected official, then cruised the lake and enjoyed a dinner of regional dishes.  Later in the day he toured Ulan Ude’s aircraft factory.  Radio Netherlands reports:

Kim’s armoured train earlier pulled into the traditionally Buddhist city of Ulan-Ude where he is expected to hold talks with Medvedev on Wednesday in an apparent bid to win Russian aid for his isolated state amid food shortages.

Russian officials have pulled out all the stops for the high-profile visit which has seen Kim ease his way across Siberia along the famed Trans-Siberian railway from the Pacific since crossing the border into Russia at the weekend.

Amid unprecedented security involving dozens of guards and North Korean snipers, the reclusive Kim was taken to the small village of Turka on the picturesque shores of Lake Baikal, a regional official told AFP.

There he took a swim in the pool filled with Lake Baikal water which locals believe has medicinal powers and gives bathers vital energy and health, he told AFP. “It is considered sacred,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Kim was also given a boat ride across the lake and was offered local delicacies like the endemic omul fish and traditional Buryat dish of meat dumplings known as buuza.

World famous for its dramatic beauty, Lake Baikal contains around a fifth of the world’s fresh water and is home to a variety of endemic species.

Kim also visited the Soviet-era Ulan-Ude aviation plant making assault jets and helicopters. “It was a good day,” said another local official involved with the visit, noting the straight-faced Kim sported his trademark sunglasses.

In an apparent nod to Kim’s concerns about personal safety, the Kremlin imposed a virtual blanket ban on information about Kim’s plans and itinerary.

Kim is set to meet Medvedev for a rare summit in the eastern Siberian city 5,550 kilometres (3,450 miles) east of Moscow on Wednesday, with the talks expected to focus on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, energy and food shortages in the isolated state.

Back in the DPRK, the country welcomed a Russian military delegation, among other visitors. KCNA reported on on 22 August of the arrival (among others) of “a delegation of the Eastern Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation headed by Commander of the district Konstantin Sidenko.”  Kyodo News, citing ITAR-TASS, reports:

Itar-Tass said a Russian military delegation headed Adm. Konstantin Sidenko, commander of troops of the Eastern Military District, arrived in North Korea earlier in the day for a five-day visit.

Citing the Russian Defense Ministry, the report said, ”The agenda of the visit envisages meetings with the top officers of the Korean People’s Army in order to have consultations seeking to resume and develop military and naval cooperation.” It said the visit is also intended ”to negotiate probable dates and the scenario of Russian-North Korean humanitarian exercises and to exchange courtesy visits of Russian and North Korean warships.”

The two sides ”will discuss prospects for cooperation between the ground troops of the countries, probable joint exercises and trainings for the search and rescue of ships in distress and the aid to people in natural disasters.”

For a glimpse of Kim Jong Il, spots and all, one might wish to rely on images taken and released by non-DPRK media sources.  Chosun Ilbo reports that DPRK media has edited KJI’s liver spots and other blemishes from photos it releases.  It seems that the DPRK has imported the practice of the airbrushed celebrity.

The most conspicuous picture was shown on CCTV and features Kim in Yangzhou in the Chinese province of Jiangsu on May 23. But in a photo released on May 28 by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, which it claimed shows Kim inspecting Huichon Power Station, he has no liver spots on his face. Another image shows him inspecting a fish farm on June 2, again without liver spots.

But in a photo taken by a Xinhua news agency cameraman, which shows Kim meeting with Chinese official Li Yuanchao in Pyongyang on June 13, he has liver spots again.

On his July 6 visit to Sinam Cooperative Farm in North Pyongan Province, the KCNA seems to have photoshopped his skin clean again.

But in a picture released by Chinese media on July 12, he has dark spots on his face again.


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