North Korea Fires Projectiles, Rejects Dialogue With South

Replicas of a North Korean Scud-B missile (R) and South Korea’s Nike missile (L) are displayed at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on August 16, 2019. Jung Yeon-je / AFP 

 

North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into the sea on Friday and launched a scathing attack on “foolish” calls for dialogue from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, rejecting further peace talks with the South.

It was the sixth round of launches in recent weeks in protest at ongoing joint military drills between Seoul and the US. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has described the tests as a “solemn warning” to the South.

Pyongyang has routinely expressed anger at the war games, which it considers rehearsals for invasion, but in the past has avoided carrying out tests while the manoeuvres are taking place.

The South Korean military said the projectiles were fired from near the city of Tongchon, and flew some 230 kilometres (143 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan, which is also known as the East Sea.

The latest test came as the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country said it rejected comments by Moon on Thursday outlining his desire for unification, and said it had nothing more to discuss with the South.

It called Moon — who has long favoured dialogue with the North — an “impudent guy rare to be found”, for hoping for a resumption of inter-Korean talks while continuing military drills with Washington.

In a speech on Thursday marking the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s 1910-45 rule, Moon outlined a goal of “achieving peace and unification by 2045”, although his single five-year term presidency ends in 2022.

“His speech deserves the comments ‘foolish commemorative speech’,” the North said in its statement.

“We have nothing to talk any more with the south Korean authorities nor have any idea to sit with them again,” it added.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said the North’s comments are not “consistent” with the spirit of inter-Korean agreements, including the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Moon and Kim in April last year.

“We want to clearly point out that (the comments) won’t help the improvement of inter-Korean relations at all,” a ministry official added.

The joint US-South Korea drills have been held for years but were scaled down to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

But the North threatened last week to carry out more weapons tests following the start of the latest joint drills between Seoul and Washington, which began on Aug.5.

Moon has played down the North’s recent tests, even suggesting potential inter-Korean economic projects as a way to tackle the South’s ongoing trade row with Japan, prompting critics to accuse him of having a “peace fantasy”.

The exact type of projectiles fired Friday was still not clear but Seoul has described most of the previous launches as short-range ballistic missiles, while Pyongyang has said some were a “large-calibre multiple-launch guided rocket system”.

The North is banned from ballistic missile launches under UN Security Council resolutions.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the South was “monitoring the situation in case of additional launches while maintaining a readiness posture”.

The tests come as plans to resume working-level talks between the North and Washington appear to have stalled.

After a year of mutual threats and mounting tension, US President Donald Trump and Kim held a historic summit in Singapore last year, where both leaders signed a vague pledge to work towards “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

A second summit in Hanoi in February broke up amid disagreements over sanctions relief and concessions from the North.

The two leaders then agreed to resume nuclear talks during an impromptu June meeting in the Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula.

Pyongyang recently said nuclear talks will be “strictly” between the North and the US, refusing to hold separate dialogue with the South, having accused Seoul of posing as a “meddlesome mediator” following the collapse of the Hanoi summit.

South Korean authorities are “snooping about to fish in troubled waters in the future DPRK-US dialogue”, the North’s statement said Friday, “dreaming that the phase of dialogue would naturally arrive” once the joint Seoul-Washington military drills are over.

But Moon Jae-in “had better drop that senseless lingering attachment,” it said.

AFP

North Korea’s Latest Missile Test Undermines International Peace Efforts – EU

(FILES) This early August 6, 2019 picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 7, 2019, shows the launch of an alleged new-type of tactical guided missiles from an undisclosed western part location of the country. KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

The European Union on Saturday condemned North Korea for the latest in a series of missile launches, saying the tests undermined international efforts to achieve peace on the peninsula.

Defence officials in Seoul said what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles were fired at daybreak from near the northeastern city of Hamhung, flying 400 kilometres (250 miles) before splashing down in the sea.

It was the fifth round of launches in two weeks, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un labelling them a “solemn warning” over the joint US-South Korean military drills.

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“With the launching of two short range ballistic missiles today, a fifth such test in recent weeks, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to undermine international work for building trust and establishing lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, free of nuclear weapons,” a spokesperson for the EU said in a statement.

“We expect the DPRK to refrain from any further provocations, abide by its stated commitments, and fully implement its international obligations as determined by multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions.”

The statement urged Pyongyang to take “concrete and credible” steps towards abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and called for more talks.

AFP

North Korea Fires Short-Range Missiles In Latest Provocation

This picture taken on July 25, 2019, and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 26 shows a new-type of tactical guided short-range missile being launched at an undisclosed location in North Korea. PHOTO: KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea on Thursday, complicating efforts to resume stalled nuclear talks with Washington and signalling its anger over planned US-South Korea joint military exercises.

It was Pyongyang’s first missile test since an impromptu meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month that produced an agreement to resume a working-level denuclearisation dialogue.

But those talks have yet to begin and North Korea warned recently they could be derailed by Washington and Seoul’s refusal to scrap military exercises scheduled for next month.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the two missiles were launched just after dawn from Wonsan on the east coast.

Earlier in the day, a JCS official in Seoul said one of the two weapons flew more than 430 kilometres (270 miles), while the other travelled 690 kilometres and appeared to be a “new type of missile”.

But in the evening Seoul’s National Security Office (NSC) of the presidential Blue House said both of the two missiles are “analysed” to be “new type of short-range ballistic missiles”.

“We urge the North to stop actions that do not help ease military tensions,” said Choi Hyun-soo, a defence ministry spokeswoman for South Korea, while the NSC said it expressed “strong concern”.

Washington called for an end to unspecified “provocations.”

“We want to have diplomatic engagement with NorthKorea, and we continue to urge the North Koreans to resolve all the things that the president and Chairman Kim have talked about through diplomacy,” said US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

“We urge no more provocations, and that all parties should abide by their obligations under (United Nations Security Council) resolutions,” Ortagus said.

Ortagus, however, refused to say if she considered the missile tests “provocations.”

Japan’s defence minister called the launches “extremely regrettable” but stressed that the missiles had fallen short of his country’s exclusive economic zone.

Pyongyang carried out similar short-range launches in May, which Trump dismissed at the time as “very standard stuff” that would have no impact on his relationship with Kim.

The two leaders went on to hold an unscheduled meeting June 30 in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas, where they agreed to pick up a nuclear dialogue that stalled after the collapse of the second Trump-Kim summit in February.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the working-level disarmament talks would probably start in mid-July, but last week Pyongyang said they had been jeopardised by the scheduled joint military drills.

Condemning the exercises as “blatant pressure”, Pyongyang even hinted it could reconsider its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing.

 ‘Strong message’

Thursday’s launches came a day after Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton — an arch-hawk regularly vilified by North Korean state media — held talks with senior South Korean officials in Seoul.

The latest missile tests were a “strong message” that should be seen as “part of Pyongyang’s protest” against the military drills, said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute.

There are close to 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, and their annual manoeuvres with South Korean soldiers have always infuriated Pyongyang.

Other analysts said opposition to the drills was merely a pretext for Pyongyang to pursue its weapons ambitions.

“I think today’s launches are part of a larger plan for North Korea’s advanced missile programme, rather than its protest against the upcoming military drill,” said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the South’s state-run Korea Institute for National Unification.

North Korean state media published pictures this week of Kim inspecting a new submarine, fuelling concerns that Pyongyang was pushing ahead with a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) programme.

“The current bargain is: don’t test nuclear warheads or long range missiles and the United States won’t object or seriously try to stop it,” tweeted Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists.

 Vague words

At their first summit in Singapore in June 2018, Trump and Kim adopted a vaguely worded statement on “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

But the failure to reach an agreement over relief from US sanctions, and what the North was willing to give in return, led to the collapse of their next summit in Hanoi.

Trump insists that his personal relationship with Kim is strong enough to keep a dialogue with North Korea on track despite provocations like short-range missile launches.

Asked on Tuesday whether any meetings were scheduled, Trump said: “No, we just have a very good relationship. And probably they would like to meet and we’ll see what happens.”

“There was a little correspondence recently, very positive correspondence with North Korea.”

He said there had been “no nuclear testing, there’s no missile testing, there’s no nothing.”

AFP

Four Chinese Indicted In US For Aiding North Korea’s Weapons Programme

 

Four Chinese nationals have been indicted for financial dealings with sanctioned North Korean companies involved in producing weapons of mass destruction, the US Justice Department said Tuesday.

Ma Xiaohong, the head of Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co. Ltd (DHID) and three top executives of the Chinese company were indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey, the department said in a statement.

The other three DHID executives indicted were identified as general manager Zhou Jianshu, deputy general manager Hong Jinhua and financial manager Luo Chuanxu.

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“Through the use of more than 20 front companies, the defendants are alleged to have sought to obscure illicit financial dealings on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities that were involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” assistant attorney general John Demers said.

“Ma, her company, and her employees tried to defraud the United States by evading sanctions restrictions and doing business with proliferators of weapons of mass destruction,” said US Attorney Craig Carpenito.

A Justice Department spokesman said the four DHID executives are not in US custody and are believed to reside in China.

DHID, according to the indictment, was based in the Chinese city of Dandong in Liaoning Province along the border with North Korea and its primary business was import and export trade with North Korea.

DHID allegedly set up front companies to work with North Korea-based Korea Kwangson Banking Corp. (KKBC), which has ties to two other sanctioned North Korean entities — Tanchon Commercial Bank (Tanchon) and Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation (Hyoksin).

Tanchon and Hyoksin are subject to US sanctions because of their links with the Korea Mining Development Trading Co. (KOMID), which the United States considers North Korea’s premier arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.

Ma, Zhou, Hong and Luo face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

They face a maximum of five years in prison for conspiracy to violate IEEPA and a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to a resumption of their dialogue at an impromptu meeting in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas on June 30.

AFP

PHOTOS: Trump Makes Historic Visit To South Korea

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (3rd L), South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (3rd R) and US President Donald Trump (C) walk in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Donald Trump stepped onto North Korean soil in a historic first Sunday as he met Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un in a moment of high diplomatic drama on the world’s last Cold War frontier.

Moments after becoming the only sitting US president to set foot inside North Korea, Trump brought Kim back over the dividing line for a meeting where they agreed to start working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Trump, 73, also said he had invited 35-year-old Kim to the White House “anytime he wants to do it”.

READ ALSO: Trump Departs South Korea After Historic Meeting With Kim Jong Un

“It was an honour that you asked me to step over that line, and I was proud to step over the line,” he told Kim.

As they sat down for discussions, Kim said their “handshake of peace” in a location that was “the symbol of the division of north and south” showed that “we are willing to put the past behind us”.

The impromptu meeting in the DMZ — after Trump issued an invitation on Twitter the day before — came with negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at a deadlock.

See photos below:

Trump Departs South Korea After Historic Meeting With Kim Jong Un

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to depart South Korea in Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, following his meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un at the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump left South Korea on Sunday after a trip to Asia that took in a G20 summit in Japan and a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula.

Trump departed on Air Force One just before 1000 GMT (7 pm local time) en route to Washington, a few hours after he became the first sitting US president to step onto North Korean soil.

Moments after becoming the only sitting US president to set foot inside North Korea on Sunday, Trump brought Kim back over the dividing line for a meeting where they agreed to start working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Trump also said he had invited the young leader to the White House “anytime he wants to do it”.

“It’s a great day for the world and it’s an honour for me to be here,” Trump said. “A lot of great things are happening.”

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As they sat down for discussions, Kim said their “handshake of peace” in a location that was “the symbol of the division of north and south” showed that “we are willing to put the past behind us.”

The impromptu meeting in the DMZ — after Trump issued an invitation on Twitter on Saturday — came with negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at a deadlock.

Their first summit took place in a blaze of publicity in Singapore last year but produced a vaguely-worded pledge about denuclearisation. A second meeting in Vietnam in February intended to put flesh on those bones broke up without agreement.

Contact between the two sides has since been minimal — with Pyongyang issuing frequent criticisms of the US position — but the two leaders exchanged a series of letters before Trump turned to Twitter to issue his offer to meet at the DMZ.

Trump’s entry onto North Korean soil — which he said was uncertain until the last moment — is an extraordinary sequel to the scene at Kim’s first summit with Moon last year when the young leader invited the South Korean to walk over the Military Demarcation Line, as the border is officially known.

Moon seized on last year’s Winter Olympics to broker the process between Pyongyang and Washington after tensions soared in 2017 as the North carried out multiple missile launches and its biggest nuclear test to date, while Trump and Kim traded mutual insults and threats of war.

The significance of the meeting in the no-mans-land often referred to as the world’s last Cold War frontier was “obvious”, said Stimson Centre Asia analyst David Kim.

“It’s historic for Trump to be the first US President enter North Korea soil, historic for Moon to meet, albeit briefly, with both leaders.”

The meeting had the “potential to kick-start stalled negotiations”, he told AFP but added that working-level discussions would be crucial.

“What we need is substance, not theatrics.”

The Hanoi summit foundered amid disagreements on what the North — which has carried out six nuclear tests and developed missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland — would be willing to give up in exchange for relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst now with RAND Corporation, said the North’s “gravitational force has pulled Trump across the DMZ”, calling it an “alluring elixir of wile, threatening rhetoric, stalling, and dangling of the remote possibility of resuming dialogue”.

Such a meeting has long been sought by the North, but “Kim didn’t have to lift a finger to get Trump to cross the DMZ”, she added. “It was, in all appearances, by Trump’s volition.”

The DMZ has been a regular stop for US presidents visiting the South, a security ally — although Trump’s helicopter was forced to turn back by fog in 2017 — while Panmunjom saw the first two summits between Moon and Kim last year.

AFP

North Korea Demands UN’s Action Over Ship Seizure By US

File Photo by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un 
STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea has demanded the United Nations take “urgent measures” to help return a cargo ship taken by the United States, calling the seizure a “heinous” act.

Washington announced last week it had taken possession of the North Korean-registered bulk carrier M/V Wise Honest — a year after it was detained in Indonesia — citing sanctions-violating activities.

The seizure came amid heightened tensions after Pyongyang conducted weapons drills involving short-range missiles in recent weeks, and with nuclear talks deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year.

In a letter sent Friday to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Kim Song — Pyongyang’s permanent representative at the UN — said the incident was “an unlawful and outrageous act”, according to North Korea’s state news agency KCNA.

“This act of dispossession has clearly indicated that the United States is indeed a gangster country that does not care at all about international laws,” the letter said.

The North Korean representative asked Guterres to “take urgent measures as a way of contributing to the stability of the Korean peninsula and proving the impartiality of the UN”.

Earlier this week, Pyongyang had slammed the seizure as an “outright denial” of the spirit of a statement signed by Kim and Trump at their first summit in Singapore last year.

North Korea is sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions for its nuclear and missile programmes, and lifting of some of the measures was a key demand from Pyongyang at the second Trump-Kim summit in February that ultimately broke down without a deal.

70 Countries Urge North Korea To Scrap Nuclear, Ballistic Weapons

People watch a television news programme showing file footage of North Korea’s projectile weapons, at a railway station in Seoul on May 9, 2019. PHOTO: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

Seventy countries urged North Korea on Friday to scrap its nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and related programs, decrying the “undiminished threat” posed to world peace.

Signatories included the United States and South Korea, as well as nations in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe.

Russia and China, supporters of Pyongyang, did not sign the document drafted by France.

With two missile launches in a week, Pyongyang is walking a fine line between increasing pressure on the US and not derailing nuclear negotiations — all while giving itself room to escalate, analysts say.

According to a diplomatic source, about 15 countries asked to sign on to the request for North Korean disarmament after the new missile firings.

The signatories “strongly deplore the grave and undiminished threat to regional and international peace and security posed by the ongoing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programmes that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has developed,” the text said.

“We encourage the DPRK to avoid any provocation,” it added. “We also call for the DPRK to continue discussions with the United States on denuclearization.”

Pyongyang fired two short-range missiles Thursday following an earlier drill on Saturday. The North had not launched any since November 2017, shortly before leader Kim Jong Un embarked on diplomatic overtures.

Kim declared an end to the testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles during rapid rapprochement last year.

AFP

North Korea Fires Unidentified Projectiles

People watch a television news programme showing file footage of North Korea’s projectile weapons, at a railway station in Seoul on May 9, 2019.  PHOTO: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

North Korea fired a number of unidentified projectiles on Thursday, the South’s military said, as a US envoy visited Seoul for discussions on how to break the nuclear deadlock.

“North Korea fired unidentified projectiles eastward” from Sino-ri in North Pyongan province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The launch came just days after North Korea carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles, with at least one believed to be a short-range missile.

It was also hours after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul late Wednesday for talks with South Korean officials on the allies’ approach towards Pyongyang.

It is Biegun’s first visit to Seoul since the Hanoi summit between US President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un collapsed without agreement.

“We are still analysing whether it is a single or multiple projectiles,” JCS spokesman Kim Joon-rak told AFP.

Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington have refrained from calling Saturday’s launch a missile, which could jeopardise the ongoing diplomacy by violating UN Security Council resolutions as well as Kim’s promise of a freeze on long-range missile tests.

The North has said Saturday’s drill involved multiple Pyongyang “long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons”.

But experts say the North launched at least one short-range missile during the exercise, with a report on the respected 38 North website suggesting that it was a “direct import” of a Russian-produced Iskander.

“The debris generated by the launch in North Korea is a virtual match of a launch of Iskander conducted by Russia,” it said.

If North Korea imported Iskanders from Russia, the report added, “it has an existing capacity to deliver warheads to targets in South Korea with great precision”.

A summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North’s Kim Jong Un a year ago triggered a rapid diplomatic thaw on the peninsula, paving the way for a historic first meeting between Kim and Trump.

But their second summit in Hanoi in February broke up without agreement on sanctions relief and what Pyongyang might offer in exchange, and the North has since blamed Seoul for siding with Washington, leaving inter-Korean relations in limbo.

A spokesman for the North’s delegation for military talks with the South said earlier Thursday that Saturday’s “routine drill” was conducted within its own waters and added the “flying objects” did not pose any threat to the US, South Korea and Japan.

“The firing of the intermediate- and long-range missile and the ICBM was not involved in it,” he said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea’s Kim Arrives Russia To Attend Summit

North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un arrives Russia, meets with officials / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok on Wednesday for the first summit with Vladimir Putin, as Pyongyang seeks support in its nuclear deadlock with the United States.

The talks, organised in secret and announced at the last minute, will be Kim’s first face-to-face meeting with another head of state since negotiations with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi collapsed in February.

Kim’s armoured train arrived in the afternoon at the Tsarist-era train station in Vladivostok and he stepped out onto a red carpet before making his way outside to be received by an honour guard.

“I hope that this visit will be successful and useful,” Kim told Russian television in the Russian town of Khasan where his train crossed the border.

“I hope that during the talks… I will be able to have concrete discussions on resolving situations on the Korean Peninsula and on the development of our bilateral relationship,” Kim said.

Putin was due to arrive in Vladivostok on Thursday, then fly on after the talks for another summit in Beijing.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) earlier reported Kim’s departure by train, naming among his entourage foreign minister Ri Yong Ho.

The train crossed the Tumen river Wednesday and arrived in Khasan, where women in folk costumes welcomed Kim with bread and salt in a traditional greeting.

Kim’s predecessors as a leader, his father and grandfather, also stopped there on their trips to neighbouring Russia.

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At Khasan station a small wooden building known as the House of Kim Il Sung commemorates Russian-Korean friendship.

– North Korean flags flying –
Russian and North Korean flags were already flying on lamp posts Tuesday on Vladivostok’s Russky Island, where the summit is expected to take place at a university campus.

Kim plans to stay on in Vladivostok on Friday for a series of cultural events, including ballet and a visit to the city’s aquarium, Russian media reported.

The talks follow repeated invitations from Putin since Kim embarked on his diplomatic overtures last year.

Since March 2018, the formerly reclusive North Korean leader has held four meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with the South’s Moon Jae-in, two with Trump and one with Vietnam’s president.

Analysts say he is now looking for wider international support in his standoff with Washington, while Moscow is keen to inject itself into another global flashpoint.

In Hanoi, the cash-strapped North demanded immediate relief from the sanctions imposed on it over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, but the talks broke down in disagreement over what Pyongyang was prepared to give up in return.

North Korea last week launched a blistering attack on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, insisting he be removed from the negotiations just hours after announcing it had carried out a new weapons test.

Moscow has already called for the sanctions to be eased, while the US has accused it of trying to help Pyongyang evade some of the measures — accusations Russia denies.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told a briefing on Tuesday: “The focus will be on a political and diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula.”

“Russia intends to help consolidate positive trends in every way,” he said but added that no joint statement or signing of agreements was planned.

KCNA did not mention whether Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju or his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong were accompanying him.

– Cold War ties –
Moscow was a crucial backer of Pyongyang for decades and their ties go back to the founding of North Korea when the Soviet Union installed Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung as leader.

The Soviet Union reduced funding to the North as it began to seek reconciliation with Seoul in the 1980s, but Pyongyang was hit hard by its demise in 1991.

Soon after his first election as Russian president, Putin sought to normalise relations and met Kim Jong Il — the current leader’s father and predecessor — three times.

The first of those meetings was in Pyongyang in 2000, when Putin became the first Russian leader to visit the North.

China has since cemented its role as the isolated North’s most important ally, its largest trading partner and crucial fuel supplier, and analysts say Kim could be looking to balance Beijing’s influence.

While ties between Russia and the North have remained cordial, the last meeting between their leaders came in 2011, when Kim Jong Il told then-president Dmitry Medvedev that he was prepared to renounce nuclear testing.

His son has since overseen by far the country’s most powerful blast to date, and the launch of missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland.

North Korea Slams Bolton For Remarks On Stalled Denuclearisation Talks

National Security Advisor John R. Bolton/ AFP

 

A senior North Korean official slammed US National Security Advisor John Bolton on Saturday, accusing him of making “stupid” comments on stalled denuclearisation talks and warning “nothing good” would come of them.

Bolton is the second, top-ranking US politician to be criticised by Pyongyang in recent days, after it labelled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “reckless” Thursday, demanding his removal from talks over the North’s banned nuclear programme.

Those comments came hours after the isolated state claimed to have tested a new kind of weapon.

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Pyongyang and Washington have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump earlier this year.

In an interview with Bloomberg published Wednesday, Bolton urged Pyongyang to give a “real indication” it is willing give up nuclear weapons.

In comments cited by North Korea’s official KCNA news service, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said Bolton’s remarks may have showed a “lack of understanding about the intentions of the two leaders”.

But, “they all sound uncharming and stupid to me”, she said.

“Nothing good would come to you if such insensitive remarks persist.”

In the Bloomberg interview, Bolton said that for a third Trump-Kim summit to take place, “a real indication from North Korea that they’ve made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons”, would be needed.

He said US Trump was “fully prepared” for his next summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, adding the Trump administration was ready for “the big deal”.

North Korea Wants Pompeo Removed From Nuclear Talks

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

 

North Korea on Thursday demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from stalled nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington, accusing him of derailing discussions.

“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the Department of American Affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said, according to the official KCNA news agency.

READ ALSO: Americans Await Bombshell Mueller Report

“Therefore, even in the case of a possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but… (another) person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”

The comments were released hours after Pyongyang announced the test-firing of a new tactical weapon with a “powerful warhead” — the first such test since nuclear negotiations with Washington stalled.

The test-fire marked a ratcheting up of tensions weeks after a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed without agreement.

And Kwon Jong Gun warned that if the US did not “get rid of the root cause” that led the North to acquire nuclear weapons, “no one can predict the situation on the Korean peninsula”.

But, he added, it was “fortunate” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump remained on “good terms as usual” despite the gridlock in nuclear talks.

AFP