Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 1 News List

North Korea fetes nuclear `miracle' as US mulls aid

AGENCIES , SEOUL

North Korea marked the first anniversary yesterday of the nuclear test that made it globally ostracized and the target of sanctions by calling it a "great miracle" for all Koreans.

The chest-thumping tone of the article in the Rodong Sinmun was unlikely to give much cheer to regional powers who last week announced an agreement with the hermit state to disable the nuclear plant it has used to make material for atomic bombs.

`SKIES OF PEACE'

"We cannot forget it. The benevolent leader, with his great sword, made Chosun [Korea] into a strong independent state and handed our 70 million people skies of peace, skies of prosperity, skies of hopes to last forever," it said in a reference to leader Kim Jong-il.

The "70 million" is the combined population of the two Koreas, divided since the early days of the Cold War and technically at war for half a century.

South Korea is the main target of the North's more than 1-million-strong army and barrage of missiles.

TRIGGER

The test on Oct. 9 last year triggered tough international sanctions, which analysts said have hit an already staggering North Korean economy.

"The shouts of joy from October [last year] ... when we continuously hurrahed General Kim Jong-il, the most benevolent leader of the century, will be remembered forever in the 5,000 year history [of Korea]. It is truly a great miracle," the article said.

It went on to say that the world had been surprised by how North Korea had managed to survive in the face of adversity to become "the most powerful and dignified nation and the strongest and greatest country in the world's history."

Analysts, however, say the decline of the North Korean economy -- which has completely missed the economic boom in eastern Asia -- has encouraged its paranoid government more recently to start cooperating more with the outside world.

ECONOMIC AID

Meanwhile, the US was considering providing significant food aid to North Korea in another sign of warming ties between the two Cold War foes, a South Korean official said yesterday.

Relations improved after the North agreed to disable its nuclear facilities -- with the help of US specialists -- and to declare all its programs by the end of this year.

"The US State Department announced in late August a significant food aid package for flood victims in North Korea. The aid will now be more than a flood relief package," a Seoul presidential spokesman said.

The spokesman did not specify how much the US would give or when it would be delivered, saying both sides would meet soon to discuss the aid.

The US embassy could not immediately confirm the report.

North Korea was hit by a famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands and the country still suffers acute food shortages.

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