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North Korea fires missile over Japan that lands far out in the Pacific

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, September 15th, 2017

A passerby walks past a TV screen reporting news about North Korea’s missle launch in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2017. REUTERS / Issei Kato

SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) – North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean on Friday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, further ratcheting up tensions after Pyongyang’s recent test of its most powerful nuclear bomb.

The missile flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) east of Hokkaido, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in a hastily organized media conference.

“These repeated provocations on the part of North Korea are impermissible and we protest in the strongest words,” Suga said.

Warning announcements about the missile blared around 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Thursday) in the town of Kamaishi, northern Japan, footage from national broadcaster NHK showed.

The missile reached an altitude of about 770 km (480 miles) and flew for about 19 minutes over a distance of about 3,700 km (2,300 miles), according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

(For graphic on North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, click tmsnrt.rs/2vXbj0S)

The U.S. military said soon after that it had detected a single intermediate range ballistic missile.

North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under young leader Kim Jong Un as it accelerates a weapons program designed to give it the ability to target the United States with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile.

“This rocket has meaning in that North Korea is pushing towards technological completion of its missiles and that North Korea may be feeling some pressure that they need to show the international community something,” said Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.

Last month, North Korea fired a missile from similar area near the capital Pyongyang that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean. Two tests in July were for long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching at least parts of the U.S. mainland.

“ASHES AND DARKNESS”

South Korea said it had fired a missile test into the sea to coincide with North Korea’s launch and the presidential Blue House has called an urgent National Security Council meeting. Japan also convened a National Security Council meeting.

The North’s launch came a day after Pyongyang threatened to sink Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions against it for its Sept. 3 nuclear test, its sixth and most powerful by far.

The U.S. general who oversees America’s nuclear forces said on Thursday he was making the assumption that the test was in fact a hydrogen bomb, as Pyongyang had claimed, based on the size of the blast.

“I‘m assuming it was a hydrogen bomb,” said Air Force General John Hyten, head of the U.S. military’s Strategic Command. “I have to make that assumption as a military officer,” Hyten told a small group of reporters who were accompanying Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on a trip to Hyten’s headquarters in Nebraska.

The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.

Australia, a strong and vocal ally of the United States, quickly condemned the launch.

“This is another dangerous, reckless, criminal act by the North Korean regime, threatening the stability of the region and the world and we condemn it, utterly,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an interview with Sky News on Friday.

“This is a sign, I believe, of their frustration at the increased sanctions on North Korea, recently imposed by the Security Council. It’s a sign that the sanctions are working,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on a U.S.-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday, banning North Korea’s textile exports and capping fuel supplies.

The U.S. dollar fell sharply against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc in early Asian hours in response to the launch, although losses were quickly pared in very jittery trade.

U.S. President Donald Trump had been briefed on the latest launch, the White House said.

Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its neighbor. China in turn favors an international response to the problem.The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.

Reporting by Jack Kim and Christine Kim in SEOUL and Hideyuki Sano in TOKYO; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham in WASHINGTON; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Paul Tait

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North Korea warms to South Korea after visit, volume down on border propaganda

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a newly established Pyongyang trackless trolley factory in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 1, 2018. KCNA/via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s leader said he wants to boost the “warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue” with South Korea after his high-level delegation returned from a visit to the South, as his foes reiterated the need to keep up maximum pressure and sanctions.

Kim Jong Un gave instructions for measures aimed at more inter-Korean engagement after his younger sister Kim Yo Jong led a three-day visit to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea’s state media reported on Tuesday.

It did not specify what those instructions were.

The United States has appeared to endorse deeper post-Olympics engagement between the two Koreas that could lead to talks between Pyongyang and Washington. South’s President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday the United States is open to talking with North Korea, Moon’s spokesman told a briefing.

“The United States sees inter-Korean dialogue in a positive light and has expressed its openness for talks with the North,” Moon told Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis, according to the spokesman.

U.S. officials also want tough international sanctions to be ramped up to push North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

That sentiment was repeated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, who said Moon had agreed it was necessary to keep up maximum pressure on North Korea.

Last year, North Korea conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of U.N. resolutions as it pursues its goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the United States.

Japanese officials took pains to stress there was no daylight between Japan, the United States and South Korea on their approach to dealing with North Korea.

The United States’ “fundamental policy” aimed at denuclearization of the Korean peninsula has not changed, said a senior Japanese diplomat in a briefing to lawmakers.

“The goal is denuclearization and the process is dialogue for dialogue, action for action, so if North Korea does not show actions, the United States and Japan will not change their policies,” he said.

A senior military official stationed at the border between North and South Korea told Reuters North Korea has lowered the volume of its border propaganda broadcasts since the Olympics’ opening ceremony on Feb. 9.

“I still hear it, but it is much less than before,” said the official who is stationed on the southern side of the border and spoke on condition of anonymity.

DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION

Moon, who was offered a meeting with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang via his sister, has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Seoul is planning to push ahead with its plans for reunions of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in order to sustain the dialogue prompted by the North Korean delegation’s visit.

Meanwhile, Trump urged Russia to do more in urging North Korea to scrap its nuclear program, the White House said on Monday, aimed at intensifying the pressure campaign on Pyongyang.

Talk of an inter-Korean summit, which would be the first since 2007 if it happened, come after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington.

As with North Korean media over the weekend, the KCNA report again made no mention of the summit offer made to Moon.

Rather, Kim Jong Un gave his gratitude to Seoul for their “sincere efforts” to prioritize the delegation’s visit, which were “very impressive”, KCNA said.

Moon and his administration hosted several meetings and meals for the delegation during their stay at the presidential Blue House and luxury five-star hotels while Moon personally accompanied Kim Yo Jong for events at the Olympics as well as an orchestra concert.

In addition to the high-level delegation, hundreds of North Koreans including an orchestra and cheer squad have visited South Korea for the Winter Olympics.

The cheerleading team will be attendance at the united women’s ice hockey team’s final game in the Olympics on Wednesday, facing old rival Japan to conclude preliminary round play.

Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Linda Sieg and Tim Kelly in TOKYO and James Pearson in PYEONGCHANG, South Korea; Editing by Lincoln Feast

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Kim Jong Un invites South Korean president for summit: South Korea

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Sunday, February 11th, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

SEOUL/PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.

Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power last year on a policy of engaging more with the reclusive North and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North’s weapons programs last year and pressure from Seoul’s allies in Washington.

The personal invitation from Kim was delivered verbally by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “in the near future” and would like for him to visit North Korea “at his earliest convenience”, his sister told Moon, who had said “let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

A Blue House official said Moon “practically accepted” the invitation.

“We would like to see you at an early date in Pyongyang”, Kim Yo Jong told Moon during the lunch, and also delivered her brother’s personal letter that expressed his “desire to improve inter-Korean relations,” the Blue House said.

The prospect of two-way talks between the Koreas, however, may not be welcomed by the United States.

Washington has pursued a strategy of exerting maximum pressure on Pyongyang through tough sanctions and harsh rhetoric, demanding it give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons first for any dialogue to occur.

“This is the strongest action yet by North Korea to drive a wedge between the South and the United States,” said Kim Sung-han, a former South Korean vice foreign minister and now a professor at Korea University in Seoul.Moon asked the North Korean delegation during Saturday’s meeting to more actively seek dialogue with the United States, saying that “early resumption of dialogue (between the two) is absolutely necessary for developments in the inter-Korean relations as well,” the South said.

It said the two sides held “a comprehensive discussion … on the inter-Korean relations and various issues on the Korean peninsula in an amicable atmosphere,” but did not say whether the North’s weapons program was mentioned.

A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007, and would mark only the third inter-Korean summit to take place.

EXTREME PRESSURE

Pyongyang conducted its largest nuclear test last year and in November tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile that experts said has the range to reach anywhere in the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership traded insults and threats of nuclear war as tensions rose, with Trump repeatedly dismissing the prospect or value of talks with North Korea.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who had attended the opening ceremony seeking to counter North Korea’s attempt to use the Olympics for propaganda, said the United States, South Korea and Japan were in complete agreement on isolating Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program.

“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program,” Pence told reporters on his flight back to the United States.

A senior U.S. official said Pence and Moon, while watching speed skating together on Saturday night, discussed intensifying sanctions. Moon shared details with Pence of his meeting with North Korean leaders, but did not talk about the invitation to talks in Pyongyang.

As part of his push against North Korean propaganda, Pence attended the short track speed skating with Fred Warmbier, the father of an American student who died last year after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.

Moon joined Pence in the arena and sat next to him, turned around to greet Warmbier, according to a White House pool report.

Later, Moon watched the joint Korean women’s ice hockey team – the first ever combined team at the Olympics – take on Switzerland, joining Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, the North’s nominal head of state, who is also visiting the South for the Games. [L4N1Q007Q]

North and South Korea are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. The United States fought with South Korea and maintains tens of thousands of troops and an “ironclad” agreement to protect its ally.

North Korea has spent years developing its military, saying it needs to protect itself from U.S. aggression.

SACRED BLOODLINE

Moon hoped to use the Olympics to ease tensions and North Korea agreed to send high-profile officials as well as athletes.

Pence and the North Korean delegation, who both attended the Games opening ceremony, had no contact with each other. The senior U.S. official said Pence was not trying to avoid the North Korean officials but rather ignore them.

Kim Yo Jong, 28, is the first member of the ruling Kim family bearing the bloodline of the sacred Mount Paektu, a centerpiece of the North’s idolization and propaganda campaign, to cross the border into the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.

At the Blue House meeting, the delegations shared a lunch of dried pollack dumpling soup, a regional specialty of the only divided province on the Korean peninsula, and soju, a spirit popular on both sides of the heavily militarized border.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL and Soyoung Kim in PYEONGCHANG; Additional reporting by Haejin Choi in SEOUL and James Pearson, Hyunjoo Jin in PYEONGCHANG, Mary Milliken in WASHINGTON; Writing by Lincoln Feast, Editing by Paul Tait, Richard Balmforth and Daniel Wallis

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North Korean orchestra serenades South Koreans amid protest

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, February 8th, 2018

The North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra performs in Gangneung, South Korea, February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – A 137-strong North Korean orchestra kicked off its first performance in South Korea on Thursday, serenading hundreds of South Koreans with familiar tunes while dozens of protesters blasted their own music outside, to the beat of drums.

The Samjiyon Band’s performance comes a day before South Korea opens its first Winter Olympics, amid a thaw in ties with North Korea highlighted by the first visit by its leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, who is set to arrive on Friday.

Performing in the coastal city of Gangneung, the art troupe played songs from both North and South Korea, as well as a medley of Western tunes, including one from Broadway musical ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

“We came because it’s a historic moment and perhaps the only opportunity for exchanges between North and South Korea,” said South Korean Choi Kyung-in, 54, standing beside her daughter.

The band is Pyongyang’s main art troupe and has previously been seen performing pieces from American animation movies such as “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Lion King.”

The performance is the first by North Koreans in the South since 2000, when another orchestra crossed the border for a joint concert to mark Korea’s Liberation Day on Aug. 15.

Confusion and arguments over some designated seats in the audience caused a 10-minute delay in the Gangneung Arts Center.

More than 150,000 South Koreans entered a lottery for tickets to the two performances the North Korean troupe will hold in South Korea. A random selection saw 780 winners receive two tickets each, the government said in a statement.

A total of 812 people attended Thursday’s show, among them 252 special invitees picked separately by the government.

About five minutes away from the concert hall, 80 protesters staged a demonstration in sub-zero temperatures, blasting out songs opposing the Pyeongchang Olympics and beating on drums.

A barricade of about 100 police kept the protesters away from the performance site.

“They are here to make fools of South Koreans, and I cannot accept that,” said 71-year-old Kwon Oh-seok, adding that he had traveled from Seoul, the capital, to protest against the performance.

South Korea temporarily lifted a ban on North Korean ships to allow the Mangyongbong 92 ferry, carrying the troupe to enter the eastern port of Mukho on Monday.

The North’s orchestra will stage its second and last performance in Seoul on Sunday.

Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Christine Kim and Clarence Fernandez

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