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Archive for North Korea

Newsline: North Korea slams U.S. for protecting Spain embassy raiders

North Korea criticized the U.S. for refusing to extradite a man who was accused of staging a break-in at North Korea’s embassy in Spain in 2019, saying Washington was protecting terrorism, state media KCNA reported on Tuesday. The North Korean embassy in Madrid issued a statement marking the fourth anniversary of the raid, during which a group of men bound and gagged staff for hours before driving off with computers and other devices. Pyongyang denounced the incident as a “grave breach of sovereignty and terrorist attack” but accused the U.S. of not investigating the group thoroughly and refusing to extradite its leader, Christopher Ahn, calling it a violation of international law. Ahn, a former U.S. Marine who had worked as a human rights activist, was arrested in Los Angeles in April 2019 but freed on $1.3 million bail three months later. “Ahn must be severely punished as he inflicted severe mental, physical and material damage on the members of the diplomatic staff and their families,” the embassy said in a statement carried by KCNA. The embassy called Washington’s behaviour “daylight robbery” and “gangster,” demanding it provide a formal apology and compensation and arrest and extradite the raiders. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/north-korea-slams-us-protecting-raiders-spain-embassy-2019-case-2023-04-03/) Spanish authorities identified the intruders as members of a group called Cheollima Civil Defense, or Free Joseon, which seeks the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and sought Ahn’s extradition. U.S. court documents showed that the raiders took computers, hard drives and a mobile phone from the embassy and handed them over to the FBI after fleeing to the U.S. The FBI gave the items to Spanish authorities who eventually returned them to the embassy.

Newsline: China ambassador arrives in North Korea

China said Tuesday its new ambassador to North Korea has taken up his post, in a sign the North is reopening amid reports it has been suffering heavily from the COVID-19 pandemic and food shortages. Wang Yajun will help in the development of the traditional friendship between the “close neighbors sharing mountains and rivers,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing. (https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/politics/article/china-ambassador-arrives-in-north-korea-in-sign-17863795.php) China is North Korea’s main source of economic aid and political support, but interactions have been disrupted by travel restrictions imposed in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Newsline: North Korea said to purge ex-foreign minister

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has purged a former foreign minister who played an instrumental role in his summits with former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018-19, South Korean lawmakers said, citing intelligence officials. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers that Ri has been purged but it was unclear whether he was executed, said Yoo Sang-bum, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee. Yoo said the agency did not explain why Ri was purged, and the lawmakers could not confirm the Yomiuri report that also said a few other diplomats who had worked at the North Korean Embassy in Britain were also executed. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/north-koreas-kim-purges-ex-foreign-minister-south-korean-lawmakers-say-2023-01-05/) Ri Yong Ho has remained out of the public eye since denuclerisation talks with Washington stalled following a failed summit in early 2019 in Vietnam between Kim and Trump, but Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Wednesday that he was executed last year, citing unnamed sources. Ri was last mentioned in North Korean state media in April 2020, when he was removed from the State Affairs Commission, a top decision-making body chaired by Kim. He was sacked from the top diplomat job months earlier. A soft-spoken, career diplomat with years of experience in nuclear negotiations, Ri accompanied Kim to both Singapore and Hanoi for summits with Trump in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Newsline: Lawmaker says missing North Korean diplomat has settled in South Korea

A former senior North Korean diplomat who disappeared from his country’s embassy in Italy in 2018 has settled in South Korea, a lawmaker in Seoul said on Tuesday. Jo Song Gil, who was North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy, disappeared with his wife after leaving the embassy without notice in early November 2018, and his whereabouts have been unclear since. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-southkorea-diplomat/lawmaker-says-missing-north-korean-diplomat-has-settled-in-south-korea-idUSKBN26R2EY) In a post on Facebook, Ha Tae-keung, a South Korean opposition party lawmaker who sits on parliament’s intelligence committee, said that Jo had settled in South Korea last year under the protection of the government.

Newsline: Swedish diplomats leave North Korea, but embassy remains open

Officials say Swedish staff have left the country’s embassy in North Korea but the mission remains open and is being staffed by local employees. A Foreign Ministry spokesman says the staff were temporarily relocated. He says the situation in North Korea for diplomats and international organizations has become more difficult, partly due to the coronavirus. (https://wbng.com/2020/08/18/swedish-diplomats-leave-n-korea-but-embassy-remains-open/) North Korea has imposed a lockdown and shut its border with China, its main ally and economic lifeline, in response to the coronavirus. Sweden has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973 and is one of the few Western countries with an embassy there. It provides consular services for the U.S. in North Korea.

Newsline: New North Korean ambassador to Iran talks “common enemy” U.S.

North Korea’s new ambassador to Iran was confirmed in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani, with both officials reportedly discussing their “common enemy” in Washington. The Iranian President’s office reported that Rouhani expressed hopes to “further deepen” bilateral ties, with both Rouhani and Ambassador Han Song U sharing an anti-American stance. Rouhani reportedly stated that “U.S. officials have always been oppressive against governments and nations such as Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” and that the two leaders “must stand stronger than ever against their extravagance and bullying.” Ambassador Han also allegedly agreed on the “need to work for the development of relations between the two countries,” further stating that “confronting U.S. extravagance and hegemony is a common ground” between Iran and North Korea. (https://www.nknews.org/2020/06/new-north-korean-ambassador-to-iran-meets-rouhani-talks-common-enemy-u-s/) But North Korean state media seemed to opt out of the overtly anti-American angle, instead focusing on Iran and North Korea’s will to strengthen mutual ties during the meeting.

Newsline: After Blowing Up De Facto Embassy With South Korea, Pyongyang Continues Provocations

A day after blowing up the de facto inter-Korean embassy, North Korea continued to ratchet up military pressure on the South, announcing the re-deployment of its forces near the border and angrily rejecting Seoul’s offer to send envoys to reduce tensions. As of Wednesday, North Korea’s military will reenter the area near the Mt. Kumgang resort area and the Kaesong industrial complex, according to a spokesperson for the Korean People’s Army in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). In addition, guard posts that had previously been abandoned “will be set up again to strengthen the guard over the front line,” and North Korea will also resume “all kinds of regular military exercises” in the area near the country’s sea border with South Korea, KCNA reported. (https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/after-blowing-de-facto-embassy-north-korea-continues-provocations) Combined with its moves over the past week, North Korea has now reversed many of the achievements made during a series of historic 2018 meetings between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. On Tuesday, North Korea used controlled explosives to demolish the inter-Korean liaison center just north of the border. Last week, Pyongyang said it would cut off all official channels of dialogue with Seoul.

Newsline: Britain Closes Embassy in North Korea Citing Strict Coronavirus Restrictions

Britain’s ambassador to North Korea says the embassy has temporarily closed in the autocratic regime due to strict coronavirus restrictions. “The British Embassy in Pyongyang closed temporarily on 27 May 2020 and all diplomatic staff have left the DPRK for the time being,” Ambassador Colin Crooks tweeted Thursday, using the abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name. (https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/britain-closes-embassy-north-korea-citing-strict-coronavirus-restrictions) NK News, a South Korea-based news site that monitors the North, reported that British Embassy staff had crossed the border into China by land. The British Foreign Office issued a statement saying the decision to evacuate the Pyongyang outpost was made because “restrictions on entry to the country have made it impossible to rotate our staff and sustain the operation of the Embassy.” The statement said London intends to reestablish its presence in Pyongyang as soon as possible. North Korea closed its borders and imposed strict quarantine measures on all resident foreigners at the start of the pandemic, prompting many countries to withdraw their ambassadors and shutter their missions.

Newsline: Russia’s ambassador to North Korea says no reason to doubt Pyongyang’s claims to be coronavirus-free

Russia’s ambassador to North Korea said he has no reason to doubt Pyongyang’s repeated insistence of there being no detected cases of novel coronavirus yet. Speaking with Russian news agency Interfax, ambassador Alexander Matsegora said that while one fellow European diplomat in the DPRK capital “doubted” Pyongyang’s claims to be COVID-19 free, he believed that North Korea’s “resolute and strict” steps have prevented the spread of the virus. Citing Pyongyang’s effective closure of its borders in late January and widespread quarantine and lockdown precautions, Matsegora also argued that the DPRK would have no reason to hide a potential outbreak of the virus. “As for panic, they are not afraid of it, because the local society is monolithic and highly disciplined,” he continued. “It is, by the way, much more stress-resistant than any Western society.” “Given the circumstances, I am inclined to trust what is reported about the lack of infection in the DPRK.” (https://www.nknews.org/2020/05/no-reason-to-doubt-north-koreas-claims-to-be-coronavirus-free-ambassador-says/) North Korea this week reiterated that it has detected no cases of COVID-19 in its territory in a letter to the World Health Assembly (WHA) which cited Kim Jong Un’s leadership as the reason for the success. Multiple experts have cast doubt on those claims, however, with the country’s health officials last month saying that only 740 people had been tested for the illness. In contrast, South Korea has as of this week tested 776,433 people.

Newsline: Ambassador to Pyongyang says Russia unable to repatriate all North Koreans

Russian efforts to repatriate all North Korean workers have been hampered by the coronavirus outbreak, the Interfax news agency cited Russia’s ambassador to Pyongyang Alexander Matsegora as saying. The complete closure of North Korea’s borders meant workers in Russia have not been sent home, Matsegora said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-northkorea-workers/russia-unable-to-repatriate-all-north-korean-workers-ifax-cites-ambassador-idUSKBN22W0TZ) Russia in January said it missed a United Nations deadline to repatriate the workers due to what it called objective difficulties, but said it was complying with U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang.