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U.S. downplays N.K. claim of nuclear fuel rod removal
WASHINGTON, May 11 (Yonhap News)
The United States downplayed North Korea's announcement on Wednesday that it has completed unloading spent nuclear fuel rods from a reactor.
Pyongyang said it had "successfully finished" removing 8,000 fuel rods from the reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, which was shut down last month.
The White House and the U.S. Department of State called the claim part of the North's "provocative statements and actions" and urged it to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said he would not comment on reports that North Korea had completed unloading the fuel rods.
"The provocative statements and actions by North Korea only further isolate it from the international community," McClellan told reporters.
"All parties that are participants in the six-party talks are concerned about North Korea's behavior and that's why we want to get them back to the six-party talks. That's where our focus is, that's where our focus remains," he added.
Asked if he could confirm whether the North has taken "the first steps towards a nuclear test," Richard Boucher, spokesman of the State Department, said, "I can't go any further than we have before."
"But we have made very clear that we have seen the North Koreans escalate their rhetoric, make continued claims. We've seen a pattern develop from North Korea in recent months that indicates they're headed in the wrong direction," he said.
Boucher added Pyongyang should come back to the talks and try to work constructively with the situation rather than further antagonizing other nations and isolating itself or taking further action in that direction.
The spokesman refused to give a clear answer when questioned whether Beijing has communicated to the United States that it doesn't support sanctions against North Korea.
"We work very closely with the Chinese, we have worked closely with the Chinese and we'll continue to work with them," Boucher said.
He also said referring the North Korea nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council is not necessarily the best solution to the problem.
N Korea pressed to resume talks
By Charles Scanlon
BBC News, Seoul
The leaders of China and South Korea have expressed deep concern about the deadlock over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
They called on the North to return immediately to six party talks which have been stalled since last June.
North Korea said it wanted to clarify the United States position before making a final decision on talks.
An escalation in the war of words between North Korea and the United States has alarmed the region.
Indications that the North may be preparing to test an atomic bomb or increase its nuclear arsenal have added to the sense of crisis.
At a meeting in Moscow, presidents Hu Jintao and Roh Moo-hyun urged North Korea to return immediately to talks which have been stalled since last summer.
In a glimmer of hope, North Korea's foreign ministry said it still wanted a negotiated solution, and had requested a meeting to confirm recent statements from Washington.
These include an offer of bilateral contacts within the framework of six party talks, a long-standing North Korean demand.
That may have been intended as an olive branch, but US officials have also hinted at more coercive action, with references in recent days to Washington's military power in the region.
Pyongyang radio replied that the North was also capable of a pre-emptive strike.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, said on Sunday that North Korea may already have six nuclear weapons.
The North declared itself a nuclear state last February and says it wants to be treated as an equal partner by the United States.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/09 08:31:08 GMT
World 'must stop N Korea testing'
The world must show zero tolerance to North Korea and put pressure on it not to launch a nuclear test, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog has said. Mohamed ElBaradei said a test would have "disastrous political and environmental consequences".
The warning came amid fresh reports of intelligence suggesting North Korea may be preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first time.
Earlier Japan urged North Korea to return to six-party nuclear talks. Pyongyang has shunned multilateral discussion of its nuclear programme for almost a year.
Enough rituals... Now the time has come... to bite the bullet
Mohamed ElBaradei. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said: "If there is no progress, we have to think of other options, such as taking this matter to the United Nations Security Council." The Security Council could impose international sanctions on North Korea.
The New York Times reported on Friday that US officials were assessing satellite photographs that appeared to show extensive preparations for a test. But the officials warned it could simply be a ruse by North Korea to strengthen its bargaining power with Washington.
Mr ElBaradei called Pyongyang's apparent escalation "nuclear blackmail". He said North Korea needed "to understand that the international community has zero tolerance for any new country to go for a nuclear weapon". "I hope they will not test. I hope every leader who has contact with North Korea is on the phone today with North Korean authorities to dissuade them from testing," he said.
"There could be a major environmental fallout which again could lead to dissemination of radioactivity in the region." "So enough rituals. Now the time has come after 12 years since we reported North Korea in non-compliance to the Security Council... [for all concerned parties] urgently to bite the bullet and find a comprehensive solution and avoid this escalating nuclear danger."
Mr ElBaradei was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the five-yearly review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
Two years ago, North Korea became the first country to pull out of the treaty, under which it had pledged not attempt to procure nuclear arms.
There has been an on-going debate about whether the country has managed to turn its stockpile of nuclear fuel into warheads.
Earlier this year, Pyongyang said it had manufactured a bomb, but this has not been independently verified.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/06 21:34:41 GMT
© BBC MMV
Korea, China concerned over Washington-N.K. word war
By Lee Joo-hee (Korea Herald 07/05/05)
Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon and his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing yesterday shared deep concern over the spate of invective exchanged recently between the United States and North Korea.
They also agreed that Pyongyang's repeated comments about its nuclear weapons production process would aggravate the confrontation and the North's isolation.
South Korea and China will continue to cooperate to try to get the stalled six-party talks going again as soon as possible, said Park Joon-woo, director-general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's Asia-Pacific Affairs Bureau.
"The (two ministers) agreed the exchange of antagonistic words between the United States and North Korea only worsens the current situations and that such a move will not help solve the nuclear quagmire," he said in a news briefing on the Korea-China ministerial talks in Kyoto.
Ban was scheduled to meet Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura separately later in the day.
Ban, Li and Machimura are in Kyoto to attend the ministerial conference of the Asia-Europe Meeting of representatives of 39 countries from the two continents.
Sources in Seoul said the views of Ban and Li reflect the two countries' strong intention to solve the nuclear standoff, and at the same time put rsponsibility for the recent aggravation of tensions in the atmosphere on both Pyongyang and Washington.
U.S. President George W. Bush stepped up his denunciation of Pyongyang and called North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a "tyrant," while saying the six-party talks were the best way to solve the nuclear problem.
In apparent retaliation against the name-calling, North Korea's Foreign Ministry shot back that President Bush was a "rowdy man."
Director-general Park said although Korea and China see eye-to-eye on the present situation, the two ministers did not discuss whether to relay the opinion to either the United States or North Korea.
Ban reportedly urged Li China to play a more aggressive role in prompting North Korea to return to the talks that have been on hold since its last session in June 2004.
Ban and Li also discussed the details of the slated Korea-China summit meeting in Moscow on the occasion of gathering for the ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
He was to discuss with Japanese Foreign Minister Machimura ideas on solving the nuclear standoff, as well as Korea's deep regret over Japan's failure to improve textbooks that other Asian neighbors claim distort history.
Ban also held separate meetings with representatives of Greece, European Union, Sweden and Spain, and participated in the ministerial-level conferences.
Before returning to Seoul today, Ban will have a tripartite meeting with the ministers of China and Japan.
Japan to Unveil New School Textbooks
SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- Japan was set to unveil new school textbooks containing distorted accounts of history Tuesday in a move that is expected to further galvanize anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea.
Japans Education Ministry has over the past year reviewed new middle-school textbooks that will be used from 2006. The outcome of its review is due Tuesday afternoon.
The books include new history and citizenship textbooks from Fuso Publishing Co., which is linked with an association of right-wing nationalist scholars.
The current edition of the controversial -Fusosha- history textbook, named after its publisher, was a target of harsh criticism in South Korea for whitewashing Japans wartime past, including its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.
Its unauthorized new version has been accused of beautifying Japans wartime atrocities more brazenly.
Japans Education Ministry is believed to have filtered out some of the problematic points from the book in the course of its review, but it is still thought to be falling short of South Koreas expectations.
What concerns South Korea more than the history textbook is a new Fusosha citizenship textbook as it was found to have newly included Japan's claim to Dokdo, a group of South Korean islets in the East Sea.
South Koreas Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon expressed discontent last week, saying that the citizenship textbook was -changed for the worse-.
Seoul is expected to make an announcement later Tuesday to denounce Japan for authorizing these controversial textbooks and its relations with Tokyo are expected to be further strained.
Ties between the two countries have been at a record low after Japan renewed its claim to Dokdo, which is called Takeshima in Japan.
Japan has made similar claims to the islets before, but this year it went a stage further by adding concrete, legislative action.
Earlier this month, the assembly in Japans Shimane Prefecture designated Feb. 22 as -Takeshima Day- to commemorate its issuance of a notice that it claims made Dokdo part of its territory 100 years ago. Japans central government is widely believed to be behind the move.
South Korea believes the notice is invalid since it was made when Korea was effectively a colony of Japan. Formal colonial rule began in 1910.
Korea regained independence in 1945, reclaiming its sovereignty over land including Dokdo and numerous other islands around the Korean Peninsula.
Since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, South Korea has stationed a small police detachment on Dokdo.
During Japans colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, Koreans were banned from using their own language at schools and forced to adopt Japanese names. Millions of Koreans were believed to have been mobilized as forced laborers and sex slaves.
-Venice of North- Offers Range of Cultural Experience
By Lee Yong-sung
New Netherlands was a colony founded by the Dutch on the east coast of North America in the seventeenth century, which vanished when the English wrested control of it in 1664, turning its capital, New Amsterdam, into New York City.
Though it can hardly be as exciting and popular a city as New York, the original Amsterdam also boasts diverse cultures, as well as thriving entertainment scenes.
For some tourists, the capital city could be the most progressive and sexually liberal city in the entire globe. For others, the city looks more like a typical, old European city _ the Venice of the North, as people often call it.
Although the two views look contradictory, both of them do exist, reflecting the cultural richness and diversity of the largest city of the country. After all, what tourists get from the city all depends on what kind of persons they are, and what they expect to see there.
Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North because of the canals which divide the city into ninety small islands, linked together by more than a thousands bridges. The tree-lined canals that are crossed by beautiful bridges with impressive mansions lined up alongside help make Amsterdam an attractive and charming place to visit.
The best ways to look around the city is, no wonder, from the glass-topped barges that offer canal tours around the city. Actually, visiting Amsterdam is not complete without a canal boat tour.
One can choose between the standard tours, where a guide tells the group about everything he knows about the town, of a canal ``bus,¡¯¡¯ for which two firms operating a hop-on/hop-off service. On both there are too guides telling several things about the passed highlights.
The city is also famous for its bicycles. It may be puzzling to foreign visitors, but for the locals it¡¯s the most logical means of transport, as the city was not built for cars. Cycling is the ideal way to get between the many museums housed in Amsterdam. There are museums for just about everything from the famous sex museum to those for the appreciation of fine art in spots such as the Van Gogh Museum. Here are detailed tips about the two very different but almost equally popular museums.
Van Gogh Museum
A visit to the Van Gogh Museum is a unique experience. Containing the largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh in the world, it provides an opportunity to ``brush up¡¯¡¯ on the artist's phases of development, or make comparisons with paintings to works by other artists from the 19th century in the collection.
The museum also holds an extensive offer of exhibitions on various subjects from 19th century art history. The collection is organized into three parts, featuring the work of Vincent van Gogh, the work of other artists and the history of the museum collection. Just like in the museum, Van Gogh¡¯s work is organized chronologically into five periods, each representing a different phase of his life and work: The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise.
To the disappointment of arts lovers visiting the city, the painter¡¯s ``Self-Portrait as an Artist¡¯¡¯ and ``The Yellow House¡¯¡¯ are among a group of works from the collections of the Van Gogh Museum that have been lent to the exhibition, ``Van Gogh in Context¡¯¡¯ presently traveling in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. From 14 February to 10 October 2005, so will not be on display until then. The museum opens around the year except on January 1. For further information about the museum, go www.vangoghmuseum.nl
Right on Damrak, Amsterdam's main street, you¡¯ll find one of the city¡¯s most popular tourist attractions: the Sex Museum. Filled with curious couples, the museum has floor after floor of displays that range from the exotic to the erotic, the historic to the hysterical.
Probably the cheapest attraction in Amsterdam, the museum is packed with early erotic art and the history of porn through the ages. Some of the pictures in the last section are particularly graphic and will shock a good number of people. If you are easily offended, take another round of the boat tour leaving right across from the museum.
Cycling is also the best way to explore the Albert Cuyp Market, the biggest street market in the city, which promises something really Dutch, all very funky and multicultural. It¡¯s a great spot to pick up cheap clothes and genuinely Dutch food products.
One of the most famous Dutch exports is Heineken Lager. Heineken Brewery is one of the most popular attractions in town. Among them is a beer bottle simulator, which is designed to show visitors what it feels like to be a beer bottle. The entry fee provides a few complimentary beers.
Last but not least, Amsterdam is known for its famous cafes. Of some 11,000 cafes in the Netherlands, 1,047 are in Amsterdam. One of the most popular places is a restaurant/bar called Supperclub. It¡¯s very futuristic and different from many cafes, selling more than just coffee. It is not cheap at all though, as a four-course meal here costs over $150 per person.
Experiencing the two extreme ends of the life in Amsterdam will provide tourists with a whole new perspective on the energy and culture that make the city unlike any other _ this will be a sure thing if only they remember one thing: don¡¯t leave your belongings unattended. As in every big city, in the city of freedom, there are some who feel free to steal other¡¯s belongings in public places. Except this, the city is pretty safe in general to walk around.
Tokyo: Seoul getting 'emotional' on isles
By KANAKO TAKAHARA
One day after South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun made what officials here described as an "emotional" statement on relations with Japan, Tokyo reiterated its call for an incensed Seoul to remain calm.
"We gravely accept the people of South Korea's sentiment over past history and make our utmost to build a trusting relationship with our neighbor," Senior Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa said.
Aisawa said that despite differences over a group of South Korea-controlled islets claimed by both countries, the two sides should calmly deal with the issue to maintain friendly ties.
The islets are called Takeshima in Japan and Tok-do in South Korea.
Members of a Liberal Democratic Party panel on diplomacy called on the government to take the Takeshima case to the International Court of Justice to settle the territorial claim.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said he doubted whether the issue could be brought before the ICJ because the consent of both countries is necessary. South Korea has refused in the past to take the issue to the ICJ.
South Korea "can no longer overlook (Japan's) move to justify its history of invasion and occupation and its intention to realize hegemonism again," Roh said in the message, posted Wednesday on his Web site. "The (South Korean) government will do everything it can" to reverse what it alleges are Japan's attempts to justify its past colonial rule, he said.
Japan declared Takeshima as its territory in January 1905 and Shimane Prefecture incorporated the island into its prefecture the following month. Shimane recently declared Feb. 22 to be "Takeshima Day," inflaming South Koreans.
Japan claims the 1905 declaration had nothing to do with its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, which officially began in 1910. Past documents show that Takeshima has been Japan's territory for centuries, it argues.
South Korea considers the 1905 move as part of Japan's colonial rule, which ended with Japan's World War II defeat in 1945.
Seoul says ancient documents prove the islets historically belong to Korea.
After Japan's defeat, the U.S-led Occupation authorities issued a memorandum in 1946, tentatively suspending Japan's administrative authority over the islets. Tokyo claims this memorandum did not settle the question of territorial claim.
Japan claims Takeshima was not among the territories that it gave up in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, and therefore the islets still belong to Japan.
In 1952, South Korea declared the islets part of its territory, and two years later deployed coast guard elements to the islets, taking them under its control.
Japan and South Korea tried to resolve the dispute during normalization talks. But they decided to shelve the issue after the two sides failed to reach an agreement. Japan and South Korea normalized relations in 1965.
The Japan Times: March 25, 2005