*** FOREIGN TIPS
Foreign Direct Investment in North Korea Gains for 3rd Year
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Foreign direct investment (FDI) in North Korea has steadily increased over the past three years, but the investment amount still remains at one of lowest levels in the world, a news report said on July 4.
North Korea attracted US$79 million in FDI in 2012, up 41 percent from a year earlier, the Washington-based Voice of America (VOA) said, citing an annual world investment report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
In 2009, a total of only $2 million flowed in to the North, but the number jumped to $38 million the next year, according to the report.
Despite the latest three-year growth, the amount marks one of lowest levels in the world and the majority of the FDI inflow represents investment from China, by far North Korea's biggest ally, the report said.
A few countries in sub-Saharan Africa or small countries in the Oceania and the Caribbean logged FDI smaller than North Korea, the report noted.
As of the end of 2012, the total inflow of FDI to the North stood at $1.61 billion, it also said.
Hurdle Cleared for Koreas to Field Joint Teams at 2015 Universiade
KAZAN, Russia (Yonhap) -- A major administrative hurdle has been cleared for the two Koreas to form a joint delegation at a multi-sport international competition for university students to be held south of the border in 2015, a South Korean official said on July 4.
Kim Yoon-suk, the secretary general of the organizing committee for the 2015 Gwangju Summer Universiade, said the ball is now in the North Korean court to complete the unprecedented move, after the International University Sports Federation (FISU) approved the South's proposal for a joint Korean squad at its general assembly on July 3.
"Now that we have the approval from the FISU, we just need to reach an agreement with North Korea," Kim said. "The U.N. has also been trying to help, and I am confident it will work out well in the end."
The two Koreas have competed as a single nation at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships and also at the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship. But they have never competed as one or have formed unified teams for individual events at the Olympics, Asian Games or Universiades.
Kim attended the FISU general assembly to inform members of the progress made by Gwangju, a metropolitan city about 330 kilometers south of Seoul, in preparations for the 2015 Summer Universiade.
Kazan is the host of this year's Summer Universiade, which will kick off on July 6.
Gwangju organizers have been trying to form a unified Korean delegation since last summer. The Gwangju organizing committee and the U.N. Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) signed a cooperation agreement on July 10 last year.
Under this deal, Wilfried Lemke, the special U.N. adviser on sport for development and peace, was to act as a mediator in the Koreas' efforts to organize joint teams for at least some events at the Universiade. Gwangju officials have said their goal is to send joint Korean teams to at least two events at the 2015 Universiade.
Last year, Gwangju organizers said the UNOSDP and the local organizers would jointly promote sports exchanges between the Koreas. Lemke is known to have been an instrumental figure in forming a unified Korean team for the Peace and Sport Cup table tennis tournament held in Doha, Qatar in November 2011.
Kim said on July 4 he will count on continued support from the U.N.
"Through Mr. Lemke, the U.N. has been in touch with North Korea," he said. "The U.N. is also trying to invite North Korea to the Youth Leadership Camp (by UNOSDP) in Gwangju in August."
The South Korean official said he had been concerned that some countries would oppose the proposal for joint Korean teams because then Koreans could have a competitive edge over others.
"If we hadn't received the green light this time, our last opportunity would have been the FISU general assembly in Gwangju right before our Universiade," Kim said. "Fortunately, things went our way here."
Kim also expressed hopes that the inter-Korean relations would improve through sports.
"If the two Koreans engage in sports exchange on a level playing field under fair rules, then it would foster mutual respect," he said. "I think that will help smooth tension on the Korean Peninsula."
The Koreas have marched together under one flag at opening ceremonies for several multi-sport competitions but not since the 2007 Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China.
The Koreas remain technically at war, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
S. Korea Trying to Bridge Gap with China over Nuclear Talks with N. Korea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States are trying to bridge the gap with China over possible nuclear talks with North Korea, but Seoul, Washington and Beijing have stayed in line with their goal of convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, a senior Seoul official said on July 5.
After months of high tensions triggered by North Korea's third nuclear test in February, North Korea has appeared to shift to dialogue in recent weeks. With the North's war-like threats subsiding, China has called for an early resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks.
South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, however, have stressed that North Korea must comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions and abide by international obligations before any resumption of meaningful talks can take place.
"While the four nations have been on an equal footing over the goal of denuclearizing North Korea, some differences remain on how to resume the six-party talks with North Korea," the official at Seoul's foreign ministry said on the condition of anonymity.
"China has shown a strong willingness of bringing the current situation back to the track of dialogues," the official said. "So, China wants to resume the six-party talks at an earlier date, but South Korea, the U.S. and Japan insist that North Korea must demonstrate its willingness for denuclearization through actions before any such talks could take place."
The six-party talks, which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been dormant since late 2008.
At a regional security forum in Brunei early this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that Seoul, Washington, Beijing and Tokyo have been "absolutely united" in their efforts to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Kerry made the remarks after holding bilateral talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum. He also held three-way talks with the top diplomats of South Korea and Japan before meeting with Wang.
"All four of us are absolutely united and absolutely firm in our insistence that the future with respect to North Korea must include denuclearization," Kerry said. "China made it clear to me that they have made very firm statements and very firm steps they have taken with respect to the implementation of that policy."
U.S. Concerned about Health of Korean-American Man Jailed in N. Korea
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government expressed "grave concern" on July 10 over the apparently worsening health of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American man imprisoned in North Korea.
Responding to a prison interview of Bae aired by CNN, the State Department also urged Pyongyang to grant him amnesty and immediate release.
"We have seen the interview footage of Mr. Bae. It is clear that his health is deteriorating, which is of grave concern to us," a department official told reporters on background. "There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad."
In late April, the 44-year-old whose Korean name is Bae Jun-ho was sentenced to 15 years of forced labor for unspecified "hostile acts to bring down" the North Korean regime.
He was arrested in North Korea in November after entering the nation with a group of tourists. Some reports say he was serving as a tour operator, while others say he worked as a Christian missionary.
In the interview, the weary-looking man said, "Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well. And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon."
The interview was conducted by Choson Shinbo, a pro-North Korean group base in Tokyo, and made available to CNN.
The U.S. said it is in regular communication with the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang over the Bae issue. The embassy serves as protecting power for U.S. nationals in North Korea as the U.S. has no diplomatic office in the country.
North Korea has denied access to Bae since May, however.
The Swedish Embassy has requested consular access on numerous occasions since the last visit on May 21, according to the official.
U.S. Noncommittal about 'New York Channel' with North Korea
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Amid a continuing diplomatic impasse between North Korea and the U.S., Washington's commitment to the so-called "New York channel" with the isolated socialist nation appears to have evaporated.
U.S. officials keep saying they have a method to communicate with North Korea. These days, however, they would not elaborate on whether the New York channel remains alive.
It refers to North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York, which has served as a key direct communication channel between the two sides for discussing routine issues or arranging higher-level contact. The nations have no formal diplomatic ties.
"We have means of talking with North Korea, but we don't talk about those in specifics," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a press briefing.
She said the Obama administration's focus right now is "more on working with our partners in the region to take steps to denuclearize."
Asked about whether the New York channel is still open, she said, "I just don't have anything for you on that."
Another department official also told Yonhap News Agency later that the U.S. "has open lines of communication" with North Korea, without elaborating.
Until recently, the State Department expressed confidence that the New York channel was working even at a time of sharp military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Days after the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December 2011, then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at the podium the U.S. had communicated with North Korea through the New York channel.
Clouding the issue further is the departure of Clifford Hart, Washington's point man on the New York channel and special envoy for the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Hart has been assigned to serve as consul general in Hong Kong and there is no appointment of a successor yet.
His North Korean counterpart, Han Song-ryol, deputy chief of the North Korea mission to the U.N., returned to Pyongyang earlier this month after more than three years in New York.
Diplomatic sources said Jang Il-hoon, director of the international organization office at North Korea's foreign ministry, will become Han's successor at the U.N.
It was not immediately confirmed whether Jang will be in charge of Pyongyang's communication with Washington through New York.
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