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North Korea's parliament to hold rare meeting: KCNA
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 22, 2017

S. Korea returns Chinese soldiers' remains despite THAAD row
Seoul (AFP) March 22, 2017 - Seoul on Wednesday repatriated the remains of 28 Chinese soldiers killed in the Korean War, despite a heated row between the two countries over a US missile defence system.

A row of goosestepping Chinese honour guards received lacquered wooden boxes, each containing one set of remains, from their counterparts during a ceremony at Incheon airport.

Beijing deployed millions of soldiers in the 1950-53 conflict, saving the fledging North from defeat by US-led UN forces and South Korea.

More than 180,000 Chinese soldiers are estimated to have died in the war.

"(We) appreciate the friendship and good will that South Korean people and media have shown regarding the repatriation of Chinese soldiers' remains," Sun Shaocheng, China's vice minister of civil affairs, was quoted as saying at the ceremony by Yonhap news agency.

A total of 569 sets of Chinese remains have been repatriated since the two countries reached an agreement on the issue three years ago, he noted.

The latest transfer came even as Seoul and Beijing are at odds over the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to South Korea, which China sees as compromising its own capabilities.

Beijing has imposed a series of measures seen as economic retaliation, including closures of South Korean-owned stores and a ban on tour groups going to its neighbour.

Seoul and Washington say the system is solely aimed at defending against the North's nuclear and missile threats.

The South's defence ministry acknowledged in a statement that there was "difficulty in South Korea-China relations in the process of resolving the North Korean nuclear and missile issue" but said it went ahead with the repatriation from a "humanitarian perspective".

North Korea will hold a rare parliamentary session next month, state media reported Wednesday, as regional tensions intensify following the nuclear-armed state's recent missile tests.

The country's legislative body meets only once or twice a year, mostly for day-long sessions to rubber-stamp budgets or other decisions deemed necessary by the ruling Workers' Party.

The last meeting was held in June 2016 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was elected chairman of a new, supreme governing commission -- underlining his absolute control over every aspect of state policy.

"The fifth session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly will be convened in Pyongyang on April 11," the official KCNA news agency said.

As usual it gave no other details, including the session's agenda. Such meetings are carefully monitored by observers for any changes to economic policy or a reshuffle of high-ranking officials.

The upcoming session comes against the backdrop of rising international alarm over Pyongyang's military ambitions.

The impoverished North carried out a series of missile launches and nuclear tests last year, and earlier this month it fired four rockets in what it described as practise for an attack on US military bases in Japan.

Seoul has meanwhile blamed Pyongyang for the death of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother, who was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent VX in a brazen Cold War-style assassination on February 13 at a Kuala Lumpur airport.

The murder and subsequent row with Malaysia over the handling of the body and several North Korean suspects has sent diplomatic friction between the two soaring.

On Sunday, Kim also personally oversaw and hailed a "successful" test of a powerful new rocket engine, which can be easily repurposed for use in missiles.

The test was apparently timed to coincide with a recent Asia trip by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who warned that regional tension had reached a "dangerous level".

U.S., South Korea to conduct naval exercises
Washington (UPI) Mar 20, 2017
Naval forces from the United States and South Korea are preparing to conduct a series of training exercises, the U.S. Department of Defense announced. The exercises will aim to improve regional security and interoperability between the two forces. South Korean navy officials say the event is necessary to prepare both parties to respond to North Korean aggression. "This defensive ... read more

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