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North and South Korean leaders shake hands at the border

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018

Kim holding Moon’s hand as both step across to the North Korea side of the border (REUTERS)

Smiling and shaking hands, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone between the countries on Friday (April 27,) in the first summit for the two Koreas in over a decade.

Moon greeted Kim at the military demarcation line at 9:30 a.m. (0030 GMT), making Kim the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim invited Moon to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, before the two leaders crossed back into South Korea holding hands.

The two were handed flowers by a South Korean boy and girl, residents of a village situated in the demilitarized zone. – Reuters

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Bodies of South Korean climbers killed in Himalayas are returned home

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Coffins with bodies of climbers who died during expedition | Reuters

The bodies of five South Korean mountaineers who lost their lives climbing the Himalayas were returned to their home country on Wednesday (October 17), with officials attributing the disaster to a “sudden gust of wind.”

The team of nine, including four Nepalese, led by climber Kim Chang-ho, died in Nepal’s worst climbing disaster in two years when the Himalayan peak they were scaling was hit by a storm last week.

Kim had set the record in 2013 for being the fastest to reach the summits of the world’s 14 highest mountains over 8,000 meters (26,250 feet) without using supplemental oxygen.

The team was trying to blaze a new route on the south face of Mount Gurja, Yonhap news agency said, before being found near their base camp about 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) above sea level on the 7,193 meter-high (23,600-foot) peak on Saturday (October 13). — Reuters

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North Korea leader sincere, must be rewarded for move to abandon nuclear weapons: South Korean president

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, October 15th, 2018

FILE PHOTO – South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk during a luncheon, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 21, 2018. KCNA via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is sincere and really means to abandon nuclear weapons, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told a French newspaper, adding that the international community needed to reward him for that.

Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged at a landmark summit in Singapore in June to work toward denuclearization. But the agreement was short on specifics and talks have made little headway since, with the North refusing to declare its nuclear weapons and facilities or agree to a concrete timeline.

“This year I have discussed in depth with Kim for hours. These meetings have convinced me that he has taken the strategic decision to abandon his nuclear weapon,” Moon told Le Figaro in an interview before a state visit to Paris.

Moon is to meet President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

While Pyongyang has stopped nuclear and missile tests this year, it failed to keep its promise to allow international inspections of its dismantling of the Punggye-ri site in May, stirring criticism that the move could be reversed.

But Moon said Kim was “sincere, calm and polite” and “felt frustrated by the international community’s continuing mistrust”.

“It is now time to respond to these efforts that were hard to agree to,” Moon said. “We need to assure Kim Jong Un that he took the right decision in deciding to denuclearize and we need to accompany him in his wish for a durable and solid peace.”

Washington wants concrete action, such as a full disclosure of North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, before meeting Pyongyang’s demands, including an official end to the Korean war and the easing of international sanctions.

Moon said he hoped another Trump-Kim summit would allow the two leaders to go further than the statements they made at their first meeting in Singapore.

“Declaring an end to the Korea war would be a start to establishing a regime of peace,” he said, also calling for the United States to take “reliable corresponding measures to guarantee the security of the regime”.

“We could also in the future discuss the easing of sanctions, in accordance with progress on denuclearization,” he added.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander; editing by David Stamp

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Explainer: Why nuclear disclosure is key first step in North Korea’s denuclearization

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledges the audience after watching the performance titled “The Glorious Country” at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC155595F230

 

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New pledges made last week by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to curb his nuclear weapons program may have opened the door to further talks with Washington, but just how much impact would they have on the North’s nuclear arsenal?

At last week’s summit with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, Kim promised to allow outside inspections on key missile facilities, and expressed a willingness, for the first time, to “permanently” scrap North Korea’s main nuclear complex.

Graphic: Nuclear North Korea – tmsnrt.rs/2lE5yjF

While these are positive first steps, experts say they would do little to damage the country’s larger nuclear and missile capabilities, nor demonstrate whether Kim is serious about giving up his nuclear arsenal.

The agreement by Kim and Moon also does not stipulate any plans by North Korea to declare a list of its nuclear weapons, facilities and materials, or a concrete timeline for denuclearization.

With U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expected to meet his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho to restart nuclear talks as soon as this week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, here is a summary of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities at stake.

YONGBYON

In the joint statement, the North expressed its willingness to “permanently dismantle” the Yongbyon nuclear complex if the United States takes corresponding action. Moon said this would include a declaration of an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War.

A sprawling complex located about 100 km (60 miles) north of the capital, Yongbyon is the country’s main nuclear facility and the birthplace of its nuclear programs.

Built in the late 1950s with Soviet aid, it houses at least three reactors, fissile materials, fuel re-processing plants and a multitude of research labs, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a Washington-based think tank.

An operational five-megawatt reactor there produces weapons-grade plutonium, while there is also a facility to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU), also used to make atomic bombs, experts say.

Dismantling Yongbyon would slow the production of fissile material, but not reduce the current stockpile of plutonium and HEU, nor clear suspicions of other secret production sites, says Joshua Pollack, a North Korea missile expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.

“Yongbyon is where all of North Korea’s plutonium production has taken place, so this step would effectively cap their stockpile of plutonium,” Pollack said.

“Unfortunately, it would neither reduce their current plutonium stockpile nor address the production of highly enriched uranium, which most experts believe happens both at Yongbyon and at one or more other sites.”

North Korea has denied the existence of other secret sites, but U.S. media reports, citing intelligence sources, said in recent months the North has been running at least one covert uranium enrichment facility just outside of Pyongyang, known as the Kangson enrichment site.

“But there is still value in being able to verifiably shut down the known facilities with a negotiated mechanism for inspecting suspected sites,” said Jenny Town, managing editor of the Washington-based Stimson Centre’s 38 North project, which provides satellite imagery analyses of the North’s weapons facilities.

TONGCHANG-RI

North Korea also said it will “permanently dismantle” its missile engine testing site and launch platform in the northwestern town of Tongchang-ri in the presence of experts from “concerned countries”.

Also known as the Sohae satellite launching station, this site has been the country’s primary site for rocket launches since 2012. It is where the North last year test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) designed to reach the U.S. mainland.

The facility consists of a missile assembly building, a launch pad with a gantry and mobile launch platform, fuel and oxidizer storage, a rocket engine test stand and an instrumentation stand, according to NTI.

In July, after the Singapore summit between Kim and Trump, satellite imagery indicated the North has begun dismantling the engine test site in Tongchang-ri, but without allowing outsiders access for verification.

While it has served as a key test center for liquid fuel engines designed for long-range missiles and played an important role in the country’s ICBM development, Sohae’s importance may be diminishing, experts say. Pyongyang, having declared its newest ICBM complete in November, has called for mass production to begin.

The North has also been moving toward solid-fuel missiles that can be fired from harder-to-detect mobile launchers, making a fixed stand increasingly unnecessary. There is also at least one other operational missile launch station, Tonghae or Musudan-ri in the northeast, though it has not been used since 2009.

“Neither that engine test site nor launch platform would be U.S. priorities,” said Lee Ho-ryung, head of North Korea military studies at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses in Seoul. “Maybe a political message to the United States, but that would hardly make meaningful steps toward denuclearization.”

EXISTING NUCLEAR STOCKPILE
Estimates on how many nuclear weapons North Korea vary. U.S. intelligence officials have put it at between 30 and 60 warheads, while South Korea’s intelligence agency said last month the North may have as many as 100 warheads.

38 North, which estimates North Korea has 50-60 nuclear warheads, said last year the operational Yongbyon reactor is capable of producing around 6 kg of plutonium every year, enough to make about two bombs.

The suspected continuation of production makes it an urgent task to get Pyongyang to first freeze nuclear and missile production, as well as convince it to declare all related facilities for verification, experts say.

“How far the North would go to disclose its facilities would be key,” said Kim Dae-young, a military analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul.

“Though it may be implausible to rid them completely of nuclear capabilities, it’s crucial to make it impossible for them to build the bombs again, including through regular inspections.”

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL and David Brunnstrom and Matt Spletanick in WASHINGTON; Additional reporting by Haejin Choi and Jeongmin Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Lincoln Feast.

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