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August 17, 2009

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NK makes nuclear threat over military exercises

NORTH Korea denounced impending joint military exercises by South Korea and the United States, and said it would "wipe them out" with nuclear weapons if they threatened it, the Korean Central News Agency said.

South Korean and US forces start computer simulation and communication exercises today. They come in the wake of rare conciliatory moves by Pyongyang, which this month released two jailed US journalists and a detained South Korean worker.

Yesterday, the KCNA said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had met the leader of South Korea's powerful Hyundai Group, a major investor in the North - a move that may comfort investors worried about increased tensions.

"Should the US imperialists and the Lee Myung-bak group threaten the DPRK (North Korea) with nukes, it will retaliate against them with nukes," KCNA quoted a military official as saying. Lee Myung-bak is South Korea's president.

"It is the iron will and resolute stand of the Korean People's Army to go into action anytime to mercilessly wipe out the aggressors," the military official said.

Kim and Hyun Jung-eun, Hyundai's chairwoman, had a "cordial talk," the KCNA said. It did not specify when the talks took place, though they were likely held yesterday since Hyun had extended her stay in the North for an additional day, the fifth time since arriving in Pyongyang last Monday.

Kim's meeting with Hyun, one of the few South Korean executives to have direct dealings with the North Korean leader, is his first major meeting with a prominent figure from the South in nearly two years.

Kim, 67 and thought to be recovering from illness, also hosted Bill Clinton on August 4 when the former US president won the release of two American journalists jailed in North Korea.

Hyun went to North Korea to win the release of the Hyundai worker. She also sought to reopen a mountain resort in North Korea run by a Hyundai affiliate that was closed a year ago after a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who had wandered into a military area.

The resort and a joint factory park run by Hyundai have been vital sources of legitimate foreign currency for North Korea. News of a possible meeting with Kim and Hyun had boosted shares in firms that have dealings with North Korea.


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