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South Korea Stages Artillery Drills at Border Island

South Korea staged live-fire drills Thursday from a front-line island shelled by North Korea in 2010, the first such exercise since North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died last month.

Marines at Yeonpyeong Island and nearby Baengnyeong Island fired artillery into waters near the disputed sea border during the two-hour-long drills, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said. The drills were routine exercises and there haven't been any suspicious activities by North Korea's military, the official said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

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AP Formally Opens News Bureau in North Korea

The Associated Press opened its newest bureau in North Korea on Monday, becoming the first international news organization with a full-time presence to cover news in words, pictures and video.

In a ceremony that came less than a month after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il and capped nearly a year of discussions, AP President and CEO Tom Curley and a delegation of top AP editors inaugurated the office, situated inside the headquarters of the state-run Korean Central News Agency in downtown Pyongyang.

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South Korean Tanker Explosion Kills Five

A South Korean fuel tanker sank Sunday after an explosion on board, leaving five crew members dead and six missing, the coastguard said.

The 4,191-ton ship carrying 11 South Koreans and five Myanmar citizens sank near Jawol island, about 32 kilometers (20 miles) off the western port of Incheon where the vessel had unloaded its cargo, a coastguard spokesman told AFP.

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Report: N. Korea Test-Fires Short-Range Missiles

North Korea test-fired three short-range missiles into the sea between Japan and the Korean peninsula this week, a report said Friday.

The hermit state lobbed the missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) on Wednesday, Japan's Sankei Shimbun newspaper quoted anonymous Japanese government sources as saying.

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N. Korea Says Kim's Body to Go On Permanent Display

North Korea said Thursday the preserved body of Kim Jong-Il would go on permanent display in a Pyongyang palace also housing his father, and memorial towers would be built nationwide to honor the late leader.

"Great leader Kim Jong-Il will be preserved to look the same as when he was alive, at Kumsusan Memorial Palace," the official KCNA news agency reported.

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N. Korea Says U.S. Offered Food for Nuke Shutdown

North Korea said Wednesday that before Kim Jong Il's death the United States offered to provide food aid if it halted its uranium enrichment program, and although Pyongyang blasted Washington for "politicizing" food shipments, it appeared to leave the door open for a deal.

Comments about the proposed deal, attributed to an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman in Pyongyang, carried an indignant tone, but the North's statement also said it would wait and "see if the United States has a willingness to establish confidence" with North Korea.

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N. Korea Grants Prisoners Amnesty to Mark Kims’ Birthdays

North Korea announced Tuesday it would grant an amnesty for prisoners to mark the upcoming birth anniversaries of its late leaders.

The official news agency said a parliamentary decree had authorized the amnesty from February 1, embodying the "noble, benevolent and all-embracing politics of President Kim Il-Sung and leader Kim Jong-Il".

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On Birthday, N. Korea Leader Called Military 'Genius'

North Korea on Sunday praised its young new leader as "the genius among the geniuses" in military strategy in a film aired on his birthday, the first since he took command after his father's death.

In a documentary about Kim Jong-Un's virtues, state television showed the leader driving a tank and giving orders to troops in artillery, navy and air force units, lauding his "excellent military leadership.”

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S. Korea, U.S. to Boost Guard against Possible North Attack

South Korea and the United States will soon sign a new plan on countering any North Korean attacks, Seoul said Wednesday, amid international wariness over the abrupt leadership transition in Pyongyang.

"We believe there remains a possibility of provocations by the North during the power succession to Kim Jong-Un," deputy defense minister Lim Kwan-Bin told reporters.

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NKorea Holds Rally, Shows Young Kim Meeting Troops

Pumping their fists and chanting, tens of thousands of North Koreans packed the snowy main square of the capital Tuesday to pledge their loyalty to new leader Kim Jong Un as the campaign to consolidate his power deepened.

State television also aired footage of Kim's recent visit to an elite tank unit with family and historical ties that showed him interacting with ease with soldiers and carrying out inspections much like his father and grandfather did before him. Soldiers cheered and chanted his name as Kim made an inaugural solo trip to provide "on-the-spot guidance" in the first official documentary of the new leader shown on North Korean TV.

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