Kuwait to Expel North Korea Ambassador

Korea

Kuwait will expel the North Korean ambassador as the US and Asian nations stepped up pressure on their allies to sever ties with the isolated state in wake of its recent nuclear test and missile launch over Japan.

A Gulf-based official confirmed on Sunday that Kuwait would be expelling the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports. A letter Kuwait sent in August to the United Nations also made that pledge.

Kuwait’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Kuwait’s move will potentially limit Pyongyang’s ability to earn money for its nuclear program from laborers it sends to the Gulf.

Four diplomats will also be asked to leave the oil-rich state along with Ambassador So Chang Sik. That will leave four diplomats at the embassy. The embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

North Korea’s Embassy in Kuwait City serves as its only diplomatic outpost in the Gulf. Pyongyang has thousands of laborers working in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, traveled to Washington and met with US President Donald Trump this month. In a statement, the US Embassy in Kuwait City called Kuwait “a key regional partner on (North Korea) and many other issues.”

“Kuwait has taken positive steps in regards to implementing UN resolutions related to” Pyongyang, it said.

While a small market compared to China and Russia, the amount of money North Korean laborers in the Gulf kick back to the government helps Pyongyang evade international sanctions, authorities say.

A 2015 UN report suggested that the more than 50,000 North Koreans working overseas earned Pyongyang between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion a year. Other estimates put earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Earlier, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Trump agreed to exert stronger pressure through sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests, South Korea’s presidential office said following a telephone call between the two leaders on Sunday.

“The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation, and exert stronger and practical sanctions on North Korea so that it realizes provocative actions leads to further diplomatic isolation and economic pressure,” Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a televised briefing.

The Blue House said Moon and Trump had strongly condemned the latest missile launch by North Korea, and agreed that the two nations would work with the international community to implement the latest UN Security Council’s resolution 2375, Park said.

Japan, South Korea Urge Putin to Impose Sanctions on Pyongyang

putin

Vladivostok, Russia– Japan and South Korea urged Russia on Thursday to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang to face its nuclear ambitions, but this was rejected by Russian President Vladimir Putin who warned that pressure won’t resolve the crisis and called for dialogue.

Since the first nuclear experiment by North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea President Moon Jae-in supported the US suggestion to impose an oil-ban.

Russia insists on holding a dialogue with North Korea. After three-hour talk with Shinzo Abe, Putin said that Pyongyang is posing a threat on peace and security in the region with its acts. But he reiterated the Russian stance that settling the condition is improbable unless with diplomatic ways.

North Korea announced on Sunday carrying out a successful hydrogen experiment, the thing that caused worldwide denouncement. According to Japan, this experiment was 160 kilogram tons stronger – ten times stronger than the US bomb thrown at Hiroshima in 1945.

Pyongyang wasn’t affected by the international denouncement and held an awarding ceremony on Wednesday to scholars who performed this experience, where fireworks were launched and huge crowds came.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for exerting the highest possible pressure on North Korea to oblige the regime to let go its nuclear and ballistic program. South Korea President Moon Jae-in reiterated calls for taking tougher procedures against Pyongyang, noting that it might be time to impose more strict sanctions.

It seems that the US President Donald Trump has totally disregarded the strict stances taken recently, affirming that military action is not his first option.

Japan Calls for Pressure on Pyongyang as US, S. Korea Drills Get underway

Korea

International pressure must be exerted on North Korea until it proves it is willing to give up its nuclear program, new Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono demanded on Tuesday.

“It’s not the time to discuss (the resumption of) six-party talks,” Kono said, referring to international negotiations involving both Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

“It’s time to exert pressure,” he said in an interview with a group of reporters.

He made his remarks a day after the United States and South Korea kicked off long-planned annual joint military drills that have heightened tensions with Pyongyang.

The North deemed the drills as “reckless”, warning that they are a step forward towards nuclear conflict.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, were purely defensive and did not aim to increase tension on the peninsula, but North Korea denounced them as a rehearsal for war.

“There is no intent at all to heighten military tension on the Korean peninsula as these drills are held annually and are of a defensive nature,” Moon told cabinet ministers.

“North Korea should not exaggerate our efforts to keep peace nor should they engage in provocations that would worsen the situation, using (the exercise) as an excuse,” he said.

The joint US-South Korean drills last until August 31 and involve tens of thousands of troops as well as computer simulations designed to prepare for war with a nuclear-capable North Korea.

The United States also describes them as “defensive in nature”, a term North Korean state media has dismissed as a “deceptive mask”.

“It’s to prepare if something big were to occur and we needed to protect ROK,” said Michelle Thomas, a US military spokeswoman, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

North Korea views such exercises as preparations for invasion and has fired missiles and taken other actions to show its anger over military drills in the past.

“This is aimed to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula at any cost,” the North’s KCNA news agency said.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula has plunged into a critical phase due to the reckless north-targeted war racket of the war maniacs.”

North and South Korea are technically still at war after the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

North Korea’s rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the US mainland has fueled a surge in regional tension and UN-led sanctions appear to have failed to bite deeply enough to change its behavior.

China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has urged the United States and South Korea to scrap the exercises. Russia has also asked for the drills to stop but the United States has not backed down.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said North and South Korea and the United States all needed to make more effort to ease tension.

“We think that South Korea and the United States holding joint drills is not beneficial to easing current tensions or efforts by all sides to promote talks,” she told a daily news briefing.

There will be no field training during the current exercise, according to US Forces Korea.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea. About 17,500 US service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 last year, according to the Pentagon.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday the reduction in the number of US troops taking part reflected a need for fewer personnel and was not because of tension with North Korea.

Other South Korean allies are also joining this year, with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand taking part.

Meanwhile, a report seen by Reuters on Monday revealed that Pyongyang has earned millions of dollars in exports. This will likely raise doubts about the impact of sanctions to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The confidential United Nations report found North Korea evaded UN sanctions by “deliberately using indirect channels” to export banned commodities and had generated $270 million between October 2016 and May 2017.

The “lax enforcement” of existing sanctions and Pyongyang’s “evolving evasion techniques” were undermining the UN goal of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to the report by independent UN experts who monitor sanctions violations for the UN Security Council.

The Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on August 5 that could slash its $3 billion annual export revenue by a third. The latest sanctions were imposed after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

US General in Japan as Military Drills in South Korea Stoke Tensions with North

Korea

Washington’s most senior military officer warned Pyongyang on Friday that an attack against Japan would be the same as an attack as the United States.

“I think we made it clear to North Korea and anyone else in the region that an attack on one is an attack on both of us,” Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Tokyo.

Dunford and his Japanese counterpart Katsutoshi Kawano agreed to work together to strengthen missile defense systems. The US general is on the last stop of an Asia tour that took him to China and South Korea and has been dominated by talk of the North Korean threat.

During a separate meeting Friday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Dunford called the Japan-US military relationship “rock solid”.

Abe told Dunford: “We firmly demonstrated the strength of the Japan-US alliance at a time when the North Korea situation has intensified.”

North Korea has threatened to test-fire missiles that would fly over Japan and land in waters off the US territory of Guam. The US is treaty-bound to defend Japan from outside attacks.

Tokyo remains on alert against potential military provocations by Pyongyang after North Korea threatened to fire missiles towards Guam, which would have flown over Japan.

Japan frequently demands — and receives — US reassurances over its commitment to defend its ally.

The US and Japan, adversaries in World War II, have forged a decades-long defense alliance and the US stations tens of thousands of troops in the country.

During his visit to China, Dunford said peace with North Korea is a “possibility”, but warned the US has “credible, viable military options” for dealing with the errant regime.

The US and North Korea have been engaged in heated verbal sparring since President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang that it faced “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US and other countries with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea responded by threatening to aim a missile at the American territory Guam, though later said the operation was suspended.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on an annual war game in South Korea next week that could send tensions spiraling back upwards, analysts say.

The North’s reaction to the “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” (UFG) joint US-South Korean military exercise that starts Monday will be key to determining what happens next.

The annual drills — described as defensive and named after a general who protected an ancient Korean kingdom from Chinese invaders — will involve about 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 US troops, Seoul’s defense ministry said Friday.

But Pyongyang views them as a highly provocative rehearsal for an invasion of its own territory, and threatens strong military counteraction each year.

North Korea has repeatedly called for an end to large-scale joint military exercises between the allies in exchange for a freeze on its nuclear and missile programs.

On Friday, North Korea’s top state newspaper gave the South’s President Moon Jae-In a “fail” grade for his first 100 days in office, dismissing his proffered olive branches as “hypocrisy”.

Moon, elected to replace impeached president Park Geun-Hye, came into office in May and has since had to deal with tensions over the North’s missile and nuclear programs.

At a briefing Thursday to mark his 100th day in office, Moon insisted there will be no second Korean war but urged the North to stop further nuclear and missile tests, warning Pyongyang to end its “dangerous gamble”.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party, responded Friday with a withering commentary, saying that the performance sheet for Moon’s 100 days was “poor and very disappointing”.

Relations between the two were “an absolute fail”, it added, saying that while Moon spoke of dialogue and implementing North-South agreements, his actions moved in the opposite direction.

“The south’s power holder says he is pushing for sanctions and pressure while seeking to open dialogue at the same time. This is an unpardonable plot toeing the US line to suffocate the DPRK,” it said, using the abbreviation of the North’s official name.

“Dialogue and sanctions simply cannot go together,” it asserted.

Moon is enjoying strong ratings in the South, with opinion polls putting his approval figures in the 70s.

Trump, Japan PM Discuss N.Korea’s ‘Growing Direct’ Threat after Latest Missile Test

US

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed on Monday the latest North Korean missile test, urging the international community to deter Pyongyang against its “escalation.”

“President Donald J. Trump spoke today with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to address North Korea’s launch of another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The two leaders agreed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and other countries near and far,” a White House statement said.

“President Trump and Prime Minister Abe committed to increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, and to convincing other countries to follow suit,” the statement continued.

“President Trump reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to defend Japan and the Republic of Korea from any attack, using the full range of United States capabilities.”

Abe told reporters after his conversation with Trump that repeated efforts by the international community to find a peaceful solution to the North Korean issue had yet to bear fruit in the face of Pyongyang’s unilateral “escalation”.

“International society, including Russia and China, need to take this seriously and increase pressure,” Abe said. He said Japan and the United States would take steps toward concrete action but did not give details.

Abe and Trump did not discuss military action against North Korea, nor what would constitute the crossing of a “red line” by Pyongyang, Deputy Chief Cabinet spokesman Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

North Korea said on Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an ICBM that proved its ability to strike the US mainland, drawing a sharp warning from Trump and a rebuke from China.

Trump later wrote on Twitter that he was “very disappointed” in China and that Beijing profits from US trade but had done “nothing” for the United States with regards to North Korea, something he would not allow to continue.

Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming, asked at a news conference in Beijing about Trump’s tweets, said there was no link between the North Korea issue and China-US trade.

“We think the North Korea nuclear issue and China-US trade are issues that are in two completely different domains. They aren’t related. They should not be discussed together,” Qian said.

State-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Monday Trump’s “wrong tweet” was of no help, and that Trump did not understand the issues.

“Pyongyang is determined to develop its nuclear and missile program and does not care about military threats from the US and South Korea. How could Chinese sanctions change the situation?” said the paper, which is published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is on vacation, planned to have a phone call with Trump soon, a senior official at the Presidential Blue House said.

“If the two heads of state talk, they will likely discuss their respective stances on North Korea, the US-(South Korea) alliance’s standpoint on North Korea and other things including how to impose heavy sanctions,” the official said.

US Ambassador to the United Nations said Washington is “done talking about North Korea”.

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, said in a statement China must decide if it is willing to back imposing stronger UN sanctions on North Korea over Friday night’s long-range missile test, the North’s second this month.

Any new UN Security Council resolution “that does not significantly increase the international pressure on North Korea is of no value”, Haley said, adding that Japan and South Korea also needed to do more.

The US flew two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force against North Korea following the country’s latest missile test. That exercise was followed Sunday by a successful test by American forces of a missile interception system the US hopes will be installed on the Korean peninsula.

The B-1 bombers were escorted by South Korean fighter jets as they performed a low-pass over an air base near the South Korean capital of Seoul before returning to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the US Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.

Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, called North Korea “the most urgent threat to regional stability.”

“Diplomacy remains the lead. However, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.”

South Korea Offers Rare Talks with Pyongyang Hoping to Ease Tensions

Hoping to ease growing tensions, South Korea offered on Monday to hold rare military talks with North Korea after Pyongyang test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

The South’s defense ministry proposed a meeting to be held on Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom, while the Red Cross offered to hold talks on August 1 at the same venue.

If the government meeting goes ahead, it will mark the first official inter-Korea talks since December 2015. President Moon Jae-In’s conservative predecessor Park Geun-Hye had refused to engage in substantive dialogue with Pyongyang unless it made a firm commitment to denuclearization.

“We make the proposal for a meeting… aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

Moon, who took power in May, has advocated dialogue with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table and vowed to play a more active role in global efforts to tame the South’s unpredictable neighbor.

But Pyongyang has staged a series of missile launches in violation of UN resolutions — most recently on July 4 when it test-fired its first ICBM, a move which triggered global alarm and a push by US President Donald Trump to impose harsher UN sanctions.

Washington has also called on China, the North’s sole ally, to put more pressure on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear ambitions, which have advanced rapidly under leader Kim Jong-Un.

The Red Cross said it hoped for “a positive response” from its counterpart in the North in hopes of holding family reunions in early October. If realized, they would be the first for two years.

Millions of family members were separated by the conflict that sealed the division of the two countries. Many died without getting a chance to see or hear from their families on the other side of the heavily-fortified border, across which all civilian communication is banned.

With the passage of time, the number of survivors has diminished, with only around 60,000 members of divided families still left in the South.

“North Korea should respond to our sincere proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula”, Cho Myoung-Gyon, Seoul’s unification minister in charge of North Korea affairs, told reporters.

Cho stressed that Seoul “would not seek collapse of the North or unification through absorbing the North”, and urged Pyongyang to restore cross-border communication channels including a shuttered military hotline.

North Korea Fuels Regional Tensions with Fourth Missile Test since May

Days ahead of the G20 summit hosted by Germany later this week, North Korea carried out is fourth ballistic missile test launch, raising regional fears over its developing weapons arsenal.

South Korea’s military announced that the ballistic missile was launched from North Korea’s western region into the sea off its east coast on Tuesday.

The missile flew for about 40 minutes and landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Japanese government said, adding it had strongly protested what it called a clear violation of UN resolutions.

The missile flew about 930 kilometers (580 miles), the South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, adding the altitude reached by the projectile was still being analyzed.

While some details are still unclear, the launch seems designed to send a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, even as it allows North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program.

North Korea is ignoring repeated warnings from the international community, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday. Abe said he will ask the presidents of China and Russia to play more constructive roles in efforts to stop the North’s arms program.

“Leaders of the world will gather at the G20 meeting. I would like to strongly call for solidarity of the international community on the North Korean issue,” Abe told reporters.

“The latest launch clearly showed that the threat is growing,” he added.

Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based military commentator, said the missile traveled for a far longer period of time than if it would have been fired at a normal angle. A North Korean scud-type missile, with a range of 800-900 kilometers, would land in its target site within 10 minutes if fired at a standard angle of 45 degrees. Lee said it’s likely that North Korea fired either Hwasong-12 missile or a solid-fuel Pukguksong-2, both of which were tested in May.

It was the fourth ballistic missile launched by the North since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May, vowing to use dialogue as well as pressure to bring Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs under control.

Following the news of the latest launch, US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” in a reference to the North’s leader Kim Jong Un.

“Hard to believe South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

The White House offered no immediate comment on the missile launch on Tuesday.

In his meeting with Moon last week in Washington, Trump called for a determined response to North Korea, stressing the importance of the alliance between the two countries.

The North has in the past launched ballistic missiles timed to key diplomatic events and meetings of leaders.

The last North Korean missile launches were in early June and the one on Tuesday came ahead of the G20 summit on July 7-8 in Hamburg, Germany, where the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are expected to discuss efforts to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile tests.

Pyongyang has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States and has conducted missile-related activities at an unprecedented pace since the start of last year.

Earlier this week, North Korea was a key topic in phone calls between Trump and the leaders of China and Japan. Leaders of both Asian countries reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Tuesday’s missile launch also comes ahead of July 4 Independence Day celebrations in the United States. North Korea has previously fired missiles around this US holiday.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House said Moon called a national security council meeting for 0230 GMT after being informed of the North’s missile launch.

Moon said on Monday in a meeting with former US President Barack Obama that North Korea now faces its “last opportunity” to engage in talks with the outside world

In his meeting in Washington on Friday with Moon, Trump called on regional powers to implement sanctions and demanded the North “choose a better path and do it quickly.”

The UN Security Council adopted its latest sanctions resolution in early June after North Korea conducted three ballistic missile test launches in May. Pyongyang routinely rejects such moves, saying they infringe on its sovereign right to self defense and space exploration.

North Korea has a reliable arsenal of shorter-range missiles, but is still trying to perfect its longer-range missiles. Some analysts believe North Korea has the technology to arm its short-range missiles with nuclear warheads, but it’s unclear if it has mastered the technology needed to build an atomic bomb that can fit on a long-range missile.

It has yet to test an ICBM, though it has previously conducted long-range satellite launches that critics say are covers meant to test missile technology.

On May 14, North Korea launched the Hwasong-12 missile, which its state media later said flew as high as 2,111 kilometers (1,310 miles) and landed in a targeted area in the ocean about 787 kilometers (490 miles) from the launch site. On May 21, North Korea also tested the Pukguksong-2, which traveled about 500 kilometers (310 miles).

China’s UN ambassador, Liu Jieyi, warned Monday that further escalation of already high tensions with North Korea risks getting out of control, “and the consequences would be disastrous.”

Seoul Conducts Missile Test as Pyongyang Tests Rocket Engine

Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday observed a test-firing of a new mid-range missile a day after a US official announced that Pyongyang carried out another test of a rocket engine that the Washington believes could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile

Seoul is developing its mid-range missile to cope with growing threats from the North.

After the launch at a military test site on the southwest coast, Moon said it was important for South Korea to maintain military capability that could “dominate” North Korea in order to maintain peace on the peninsula and for future engagement policies with the North to be effective, his spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

Park didn’t say how far the Hyunmoo-2 missile flew or where it landed, but said it accurately hit its target space.

“Our people will feel proud and safe after seeing that our missile capability doesn’t trail North Korea’s,” Park quoted Moon as saying.

He quoted Moon as saying he supported dialogue, however, “dialogue is only possible when we have a strong military and engagement policies are only possible when we have the security capability to dominate North Korea.”

North Korea this year has tested several new missile systems, including a powerful mid-range missile experts say could one day reach targets as far as Hawaii or Alaska. The North also conducted two nuclear tests last year alone as it openly pursues a long-range nuclear missile that could reach the US mainland.

South Korea’s military plans to deploy the Hyunmoo-2, which is designed to hit targets as far as 800 kilometers (497 miles), after conducting two more test firings.

The missile is considered as a key component to the so-called “kill chain” preemptive strike capability the South is pursuing to cope with the North’s growing nuclear and missile threat. Aside of expanding its missile arsenal, South Korea is also strengthening its missile defense systems, which include Patriot-based systems and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery currently under deployment in the southeast county of Seongju.

The United States has tried for years to discourage South Korea from developing longer-range ballistic missiles in keeping with the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary international arms-control pact.

North Korea’s test on Thursday could be for the smallest stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) rocket engine, said the US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A second US official also confirmed the test but did not provide additional details on the type of rocket component that was being tested or whether it fit into the ICBM program.

North Korea’s state media, which is normally quick to publicize successful missile-related developments, did not carry any reports on the engine test.

South Korean officials did not have details about the reported test and declined to comment on the possible nature of the engine.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China opposed any action that violated UN Security Council resolutions and called for restraint from all parties.

The disclosure of the North’s engine test came a day after the United States pressed China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to help rein in its nuclear and missile programs during a round of high-level talks in Washington.

Moon told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Thursday that strong new sanctions would be needed if the North conducted a new nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile test and that he planned to call on Chinese President Xi Jinping to play a greater role in reining in Pyongyang’s arms program.

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman questioned such calls.

“When the world says that it hopes China can do even more, I don’t know what ‘do even more’ refers to,” Geng told a daily news briefing in Beijing on Friday.

“We’ve said many times that China is making unremitting efforts to resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, and plays an active and constructive role,” he said.

US Student Dies Days after Release from North Korea Prison

Warmbier

An American student who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months where fell into a coma has died only days after being returned to his home.

Otto Warmbier, 22, died at a Cincinnati hospital on Monday and had been described by doctors caring for him last week as having extensive brain damage that left him in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.”

“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” the family said in a statement after Warmbier’s death at 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT).

His family has said that Warmbier lapsed into a coma in March 2016, shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea.

He was arrested in North Korea while visiting as a tourist.

Physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he died, said last Thursday that Warmbier showed no sign of understanding language or awareness of his surroundings, and had made no “purposeful movements or behaviors,” though he was breathing on his own.

There was no immediate word from Warmbier’s family on the cause of his death.

The circumstances of his detention in North Korea and what medical treatment he may have received there remained a mystery, but relatives have said his condition suggested that he had been physically abused by his captors.

The University of Virginia student and Ohio native was arrested, according to North Korean media, for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan.

North Korea released Warmbier last week and said he was being freed “on humanitarian grounds.”

The North Korean mission to the United Nations was not available for comment on Monday.

US President Donald Trump issued a statement offering condolences to the Warmbier family and denouncing “the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

The president drew criticism in May when he said he would be “honored” to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The student’s father, Fred Warmbier, said last week that his son had been “brutalized and terrorized by the Pyongyang government and that the family disbelieved North Korea’s story that his son had fallen into a coma after contracting botulism and being given a sleeping pill.

Doctors who examined Otto Warmbier after his release said there was no sign of botulism in his system.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said North Korea should swiftly return South
Koreans and Americans detained in the reclusive nation and that it had “a heavy responsibility” in the death of a US university student.

Three other US citizens, who are ethnic Koreans, and six South Koreans remain in custody in North Korea.

In an interview with CBS News, Moon said that while “we cannot know for sure that North Korea killed Mr. Warmbier … I believe it is quite clear that they have a heavy responsibility in the process that led to Mr. Warmbier’s death.”

“I believe we must now have the perception that North Korea is an irrational regime,” Moon told the CBS television network.

South Korea’s Blue House on Tuesday cited Moon separately as saying: “It is very deplorable that North Korea does not respect human rights.”

The South Korean government will make every effort for the return of those held in North Korea, presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun told a briefing.

Korean-Americans Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song, who worked at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, were recently detained for hostile acts against the government, according to North Korea’s state media.

In March 2016, Kim Dong Chul, a 62-year-old Korean-American missionary, was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for subversion.

North Korea is also holding Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim. He was charged with subversion and given a hard-labor life sentence in 2015.

Three South Korean nationals were detained in North Korea during their missionary work since 2013, and the remaining three South Koreans are North Korean defectors who returned and are in custody, a lawmaker briefed by the South Korean spy agency told reporters last week.

Dozens of North Korean missile launches and two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of last year have heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang has vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

Pyongyang continued to test-fire missiles since South Korean leader Moon took office pledging to engage in dialogue with North Korea.

South Korea: Possible N. Korea Drone Spied on US Anti-Missile System

Korea

A drone, likely from North Korea, is suspected of having taken photographs of the advanced US anti-missile system deployed in South Korea, the South Korean military said on Tuesday.

It said that the drone took about ten photos and crashed on its way home.

The finding came four days after North Korea tested new anti-ship missiles in a continuation of its weapons launches that have complicated new South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s push to improve ties frayed over the North’s nuclear ambitions.

Mounted with a camera, the drone was found last week in a forest near the border with North Korea. It was similar in size and shape to a North Korean drone found in 2014 on an island near the border.

South Korean investigators have since discovered hundreds of photos from its Sony-made in-built camera, a Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules.

Ten of the photos were of the US missile launchers and a radar system installed in the southeastern town of Seongju, while the rest show mostly residential areas, farming fields and other less-sensitive areas in the South, the official said.

South Korea is hosting the anti-missile system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), about 250 km (155 miles) from the border with North Korea, to counter a growing missile threat from the North.

“We will come up with measures to deal with North Korean drones,” said an official at South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

North Korean drones are known to have flown over South Korea several times.

North Korea has about 300 unmanned aerial vehicles of different types including one designed for reconnaissance as well as combat drones, the United Nations said in a report last year.

The North Korean drones recovered in South Korea were probably procured through front companies in China, with parts manufactured in China, the Czech Republic, Japan and the United States, it added.

The neighbors are technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.

South Korea and the United States agreed last year to deploy the THAAD unit in response to North Korea’s relentless development of its ballistic missiles, and nuclear weapons, in defiance of UN sanctions.

China strongly objects to the THAAD system saying its powerful radar can probe deep into its territory, undermining its security and upsetting a regional balance. China also says the system does nothing to deter North Korea.

South Korea and the United States say the system is aimed solely at defending against North Korean missiles.

Earlier, Moon nominated a veteran government official with long experience in handling ties with North Korea as his new minister in charge of handling tricky relations with the unpredictable neighbor.

The nominee to lead the Unification Ministry, Cho Myoung-gyon, has deep understanding of the new administration’s North Korea policy and the issues facing the two Koreas, the presidential office said.

Moon wants to engage North Korea in dialogue and revive stalled exchanges with the reclusive country including economic cooperation projects, saying sanctions alone have failed to rein in North Korea’s accelerating development of weapons.

Cho spent much of his career at the Unification Ministry, which handles North Korea ties, and was involved in preparing a 2007 summit between leaders of the two Koreas.

Cho also oversaw South Korea’s economic cooperation projects with the North, including a jointly run industrial complex in Kaesong, just north of the border.