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Archive for North Korea

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.

Newsline: Embassies close in North Korea as diplomats evacuated over virus

Several embassies in North Korea closed as many diplomats were flown out following weeks of tight quarantine restrictions imposed by Pyongyang over the spread of the novel coronavirus. North Korea has not confirmed a single infection but has imposed strict rules, including closing its borders and putting thousands of its own people into isolation. It has also subjected hundreds of foreigners — including diplomats — to a virtual lockdown in their own premises. Russian ambassador Alexander Matsegora described the conditions as “morally crushing”. Those restrictions were finally eased last week after more than a month, when more than 200 foreigners were allowed to leave their compounds. Swedish ambassador Joachim Bergstrom tweeted a selfie from the city centre with the caption: “I have never been happier standing on Kim Il Sung Square.” Monday’s evacuation came after reports that a special flight was being arranged to fly diplomats and other foreigners from Pyongyang to the Russian city of Vladivostok. (https://news.yahoo.com/embassies-close-north-korea-diplomats-evacuated-over-virus-015600100.html) “Sad to say farewell this morning to colleagues from German Embassy and French Office #NorthKorea which are closing temporarily,” tweeted Colin Crooks, the British ambassador to Pyongyang, adding that his embassy would remain open. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned last month of “serious consequences” if the virus reaches his country, which has banned tourists and suspended international trains and flights.

Newsline: Germany, France, Switzerland close North Korea missions amid coronavirus concern

Germany, France and Switzerland closed their missions in North Korea and withdrew their staff on Monday amid growing concern in the isolated country about the spread of the coronavirus, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang said. The Russian embassy said a plane belonging to North Korea’s Air Koryo airline carrying 80 foreign diplomats, businessmen and relief workers left Pyongyang for the southeastern Russian city of Vladivostok. Among them were the “full composition” of officials from Germany, France and Switzerland, all of which temporarily suspended work in Pyongyang, the embassy said. Thirteen of its own employees and their family members, 35 relief workers and an unspecified number of businessmen also left. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-northkorea/germany-france-switzerland-close-north-korea-missions-amid-coronavirus-concern-idUSKBN20W0HL) The group includes “Polish, Romanian, Mongolian, Egyptian diplomats and their families who decided to wait out the quarantine in their homeland”, the embassy said on Facebook. Britain’s ambassador to North Korea, Colin Crooks, said earlier in the day that his German and French colleagues were leaving, though he did not specify why. “Sad to say farewell this morning to colleagues from German Embassy and French Office in North Korea which are closing temporarily,” Crooks said on Twitter. “British Embassy remains open.” Germany has an embassy in North Korea. France does not have formal diplomatic relations with North Korea but runs an office there to foster exchanges. Spokesmen for the French and German embassies in South Korea were not immediately available for comment.

Newsline: Former North Korean diplomat to run in South’s elections

The highest-profile North Korean defector in the South declared himself a candidate for parliament Tuesday, in a move he said would demonstrate democratic freedoms in his new home. Thae Yong Ho, who fled his post as the North’s deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016, has since become a prominent and outspoken critic of Pyongyang and the engagement approach pursued by the South’s President Moon Jae-in. (https://news.yahoo.com/former-n-korea-diplomat-run-souths-elections-053712508.html) He had joined the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), he said, adding his victory would encourage Northerners. South Korean media reports cited LKP officials saying he would be recommended for a constituency in Seoul’s wealthy Gangnam district, a party stronghold, giving him a strong chance of success in the April 15 legislative election. “Once the North Korean people and elites see that Thae Yong Ho, who served as a North Korean diplomat, can be elected by South Koreans,” Thae said, “we will be a step closer to the real reunification that we hope for”.