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Trump praises Chinese efforts on North Korea ‘menace,’ Pyongyang warns of strike

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, April 21st, 2017


A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People’s Army naval units. REUTERS/KCNA

U.S. President Donald Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea” on Thursday, after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”

Trump told a news conference “some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours,” and that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would “try very hard” to pressure Beijing’s ally and neighbor North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

While Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be, U.S. officials told Reuters that the United States was aware of a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness. The officials played down concerns and left open a range of possible reasons.

Those possibilities included defensive exercises or Chinese concerns over North Korea. None of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such Chinese activity.

U.S. officials have been saying for weeks that North Korea could soon stage another nuclear bomb test, something both the United States and China have both warned against.

Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has proceeded with nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. Trump, who took office in January, has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

Trump has focused his efforts on North Korea on trying to persuade China to put more pressure on its ally and could view any unusual Chinese military movements as supportive of this.

He told a news conference with the visiting prime minister of Italy on Thursday that the United States was “in very good shape” on North Korea and that China’s Xi, whom he met this month for a summit in Florida, was working hard to help.

“We don’t know whether or not they’re able to do that, but I have absolute confidence that he will be trying very very hard.”

Trump repeated a past comment that he had told Xi in Florida that China would make much better deal on trade with the United States “if you get rid of this menace or do something about this menace of North Korea.”

‘SUPER-MIGHTY PREEMPTIVE STRIKE’

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, struck an aggressive tone earlier on Thursday.

“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

Reclusive North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, which followed a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.

South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted an unnamed South Korean government source as saying that the U.S. Air Force had dispatched a nuclear sniffer aircraft on Thursday to the east of the Korean Peninsula in anticipation of a possible nuclear test.

he U.S. Defense Department does not comment on deployments of the WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft used to collect samples from the atmosphere to detect and analyze nuclear explosions.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea’s latest failed missile test and demanded it not conduct any more nuclear tests.

South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials on Thursday, repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.

The South Korean defense ministry said U.S. and South Korean air forces were conducting an annual training exercise, codenamed Max Thunder, until April 28. North Korea routinely labels such exercises preparations for invasion.

“We are conducting a practical and more intensive exercise than ever,” South Korean pilot Colonel Lee Bum-chul told reporters. “Through this exercise, I am sure we can deter war and remove our enemy’s intention to provoke us.”

William Perry, who served as U.S. defense secretary from 1994 to 1997 and negotiated with North Korea, said he did not believe Pyongyang was planning a surprise attack, despite the fiery rhetoric.

But he warned: “They are doing a lot of bluster and a lot of threats, and they might misplay that hand and blunder into a war.” — By Steve Holland and Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington, William James in London, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Idrees Ali in Riyadh, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Kim Do-gyun in Gunsan, South Korea; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alistair Bell)

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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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