Barring further manoeuvres by the US, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appears cleared to be announced the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (DG-WTO).
This is in view of the fact that her only rival, the South Korean Candidate, Yoo Myung Hee has withdrawn from the race.
The information was gathered from the Washington Trade Daily of the 23rd of November.
Okonjo-Iweala’s only opponent, South Korea’s Trade Minister joined the race with 7 others including Nigeria’s Former Finance Minister and Fromer World Bank Vive President.
The position of DG was thrown open one year ahead of schedule after Roberto Azevedo resigned suddenly.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean Myung-Hee were the last two standing until October 28 Okonjo-Iweala beat Yoo Myung-Hee by a wide margin and was set to be officially named as successor to Azevedo when the US announced its opposition.
It is expected that with Trump’s loss at the the Presidential elections, the US will officially back Nigeria’s Candidate.
The WTO General Council Chair, David Walker of New Zealand and his two co-facilitators were alarmed at the preference of the US considering that Nigeria’s candidate enjoyed the consensus of all member states of the world body.
According to Walker, “she clearly carried the largest support by Members in the final round and she clearly enjoyed broad support from Members from all levels of development and all geographic regions and has done so throughout the process.”
Sadly, the Office of the US Trade Representative said that the WTO is badly in need of reforms and “must be led by someone with real hands-on experience in the field.”
On its choice of the South Korean Candidate, the US added that “Minister Yoo is a bonafide trade expert who distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policy maker. She has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organisation.”
People familiar with the development say that Trump’s position is premised on Okonjo-Iweala’s apparent support for the US democratic party.
Gladly, according to the Washington Trade Daily of yesterday, “Seoul is expected to announce its decision to withdraw its Trade Minister, Ms Yoo in the coming days to enable the WTO’s council General to appoint Ms Okonjo-Iweala…
“Korea has already conveyed its decision to the United State, which has been insisting on the selection of Ms Yoo.”
Related: Trump: North Korea summit would be great for the world (FOX News)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had reaffirmed his commitment to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula and looked forward to meeting President Donald Trump on June 12, in the latest attempt by the two Korean leaders to keep recent engagement efforts on track.
The remarks by Mr Moon came a day after the two Korean leaders met for an unannounced summit at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom on Saturday, in the second meeting between the two men in as many months.
Mr Moon said the North Korean leader reached out to him on Friday for talks, and that the two sides agreed to meet at Panmunjom in a surprise summit that Mr. Moon said on Sunday was “like an ordinary meeting between friends.”
The meeting, together with optimistic remarks from Mr Trump on Saturday, marked a swift reversal from Thursday when Mr Trump wrote an open letter to Mr Kim calling off plans for a meeting and instead reminded him of the power of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
On Sunday, Mr Moon said that he and Mr Kim expected plans for a June 12 summit in Singapore between Messrs. Trump and Kim to be a success, and added that he hoped to later hold a trilateral meeting with the U.S. president and North Korean leader.
Mr Moon said Mr Kim had expressed concerns at their Saturday meeting about whether the U.S. “could be fully trusted to guarantee his regime’s survival” if North Korea were to give up its nuclear weapons.
“I conveyed President Trump’s message that the U.S. would guarantee his regime’s survival, and provide economic aid if North Korea pursues complete denuclearization,” Mr Moon said.
Asked by a reporter if Mr Kim had agreed to the U.S.’s call for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, Mr Moon said that the U.S. and North Korea needed to work together to come to an agreement on the nuclear issue.
Saturday’s meeting—the fourth in history between leaders of the two Koreas—was the latest turn in a series of diplomatic manoeuvres as the U.S. and South Korea seek to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
It followed an April 27 summit between Messrs. Moon and Kim on the south side of the line dividing the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, at which the two men signed a Panmunjom Declaration vowing an end to war and hostilities between the two sides.
It also came days after Mr. Trump abruptly scrapped a planned summit with Mr Kim in Singapore on June 12—only to say a day later that it might still take place.
Mr. Trump said Saturday that plans for a U.S.-North Korea summit were now “moving along pretty well.”
Speaking in the Oval Office late Saturday, Mr. Trump said “we’re looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn’t changed.”
“I think there’s a lot of goodwill,” Mr. Trump said. “We can be successful in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Earlier Saturday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said an advance team from the White House would travel to Singapore on Sunday, as scheduled, to prepare for a summit should it take place.
Mr. Trump had scrapped plans for the summit, citing “open hostility” from the North Korean regime, as the White House considered dozens of sanctions on Pyongyang.
However, he has since expressed his interest in seeing the summit through, following an immediate change in tone from North Korea’s leader following the cancellation.
North Korea confirmed the meeting with Mr. Moon and the discussion of the planned Singapore summit through its state media early Sunday, saying that the meeting between Messrs. Moon and Kim happened “all of a sudden.”
The two Koreas agreed to “meet frequently in the future,” North Korea’s report said, portraying the relationship of Messrs. Moon and Kim in warm terms.
“Kim Jong Un thanked Moon Jae In for much effort made by him for the DPRK-U.S. summit scheduled for June 12, and expressed his fixed will on the historic DPRK-U.S. summit talks,” the North Korean report said, referring to North Korea by the abbreviation for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The two Koreas also agreed to meet again for working-level talks on June 1, in a resumption of dialogue that Pyongyang had scuttled earlier this month, when it criticized South Korea for participating in an air force drill with the U.S., and for failing to muzzle a North Korean defector who has been critical of Pyongyang’s recent pursuit of dialogue.
Just days before the surprise summit at the DMZ, North Korea’s state media had lashed out at the U.S., saying that it wouldn’t participate in any summit with the U.S. focused on Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons while criticizing Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy.” The remarks were cited by Mr. Trump as the reason for the scrapping of the planned Singapore summit.
The tone from Pyongyang was markedly different on Sunday, in line with a conciliatory response from North Korea to Mr. Trump’s summit cancellation. On Saturday, Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon that they should work together to improve U.S.-North Korea relations, and thanked the South Korean leader for his efforts.
“The top leaders of the north and the south open-heartedly listened to each other’s opinions on the crucial pending matters without formality, and had a candid dialogue,” the North’s report said.
Photos and video released by the presidential Blue House on Saturday showed Mr. Moon in a bear hug with Mr. Kim, and of the two men wearing broad grins as they shook hands. They met at Unification Pavilion, a building on the north side of the military demarcation line, the South said.
Other photos showed Mr. Moon being greeted by Mr. Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, and of the South Korean leader sitting across a table with Mr. Kim and Kim Yong Chol, a four-star North Korean general who has been a constant presence at his leader’s side in recent weeks. Mr. Moon was accompanied by Suh Hoon, the South’s spy chief.
Mr. Moon will share the details of the inter-Korean meeting Sunday at 10 a.m. Seoul time, said Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office, in a statement Saturday evening.
The meeting was the second between Messrs. Moon and Kim in as many months, and the fourth in history between the leaders of the two Koreas. Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, met with South Korea’s presidents in 2000 and 2007, both times in Pyongyang.
Saturday’s summit showed that Messrs. Kim and Moon are both eager to keep the diplomatic momentum going despite recent setbacks, said Markus Bell, a lecturer in Korean and Japanese studies at the University of Sheffield in the U.K.
“Donald Trump has been flip-flopping on whether he’s going to get involved and move forward on a summit, and he’s given the window for North Korea to look like the levelheaded, rational actor,” Mr. Bell said.
Jenny Town, a research analyst at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington and managing editor of 38 North, a North Korea-focused blog, said Mr. Moon’s ability to hold a snap meeting with Mr. Kim highlights the willingness of both leaders to engage in back-channel diplomacy.
“They feel comfortable enough to have direct communication and to be able to meet on short notice,” Ms. Town said, adding that the body language between them underscored that.
Mr. Kim greeted Mr. Moon, she said, “like an old friend, instead of an awkward handshake.”
Mr. Moon had been a chief proponent of direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang, and said he was “perplexed” by Mr. Trump’s cancellation of the meeting.
Go Myong-hyun of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a private think tank in Seoul, said the two Korean leaders may also have been motivated by an attempt to stave off a return to U.S.-led pressure and sanctions against Pyongyang, as Mr. Trump said this week.
“The ultimate goal of this summit was to ensure that ‘maximum pressure’ doesn’t surface again in Washington after the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit,” Mr. Go said.
Mr. Moon, eager to keep talks on track, was able to draw on his historically high domestic approval ratings to continue to push things forward with the North, even in the face of Mr. Trump’s calls for a return to “maximum pressure,” Mr. Bell said.
“Moon has positioned himself as the peacemaker, and he’s riding the wave of 80% approval to basically push forward his agenda to reach out to North Korea,” he said.
The message from Messrs. Moon and Kim, he added, was: “Why do we need the U.S. doing anything if Trump is going to oscillate between ‘fire and fury’ and sharing a hamburger with Kim? Maybe we should move things forward by ourselves.” (Wall Street Journal)
A cleaner at South Korea’s Incheon International Airport made a discovery that could change his life.
The man, whose full name was not revealed in the South Korean press, found seven gold bars worth 350 million won (approximately $325,000) in a trash can last week and, within six months, he could become the lawful owner of the treasure.
The cleaner immediately alerted the airport’s customs authorities upon finding the gold bars, each of which weighed 1 kilogram, wrapped in newspapers near in a tax-free area of the departure terminal. The police have identified a Korean man as being the owner of the gold and two other men as those who discarded the gold bars in the trash fearing custom control, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
Police believe that the men travelled from Hong Kong—where there is no tax imposed on purchases of gold—to Japan through South Korea thinking it would be easier to bypass custom checks. A police source told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper that it is common for criminals to smuggle gold into Japan through South Korea—a crime that has been on the rise since Japan increased the tax on goods purchased abroad from 5 to 8 percent in April 2014.
In January, seven South Korean women were caught smuggling gold to Japan after an x-ray scan detected a number of metal blocks each weighing 200 grams in their abdomen, Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported at the time.
The investigation will now have to ascertain that the gold isn’t connected to criminal activity. If that’s the case and if the owner of the ingots does not come forward to claim them, the cleaner will be able to claim the discovery as his legitimate property thanks to the country’s “finders keepers” law on lost and found items, according to The Korea Times.
Even if the gold bars owners claim his treasure, under the South Korean law the cleaner could still be awarded between 5 and 20 percent of its market value, ranging from $16,000 to $65,000 (Newsweek)
GOYANG, South Korea — With a single step over a weathered, cracked slab of concrete, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made history Friday by crossing over the world’s most heavily armed border to greet South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Kim then invited Moon to cross briefly back into the north with him before they returned to the southern side.
Those small steps must be seen in the context of the last year — when the United States, its ally South Korea and the North seemed at times to be on the verge of nuclear war as the North unleashed a torrent of weapons tests — but also in light of the long, destructive history of the rival Koreas, who fought one of the 20th century’s bloodiest conflicts and even today occupy a divided peninsula that’s still technically in a state of war.
“I feel like I’m firing a flare at the starting line in the moment of (the two Koreas) writing a new history in North-South relations, peace and prosperity,” Kim told Moon as they sat at a table, which had been built so that exactly 2018 millimeters separated them, to begin their closed-door talks. Moon responded that there were high expectations that they produce an agreement that will be a “big gift to the entire Korean nation and every peace-loving person in the world.”
Beyond the carefully choreographed greeting, however, it’s still not clear whether the leaders can make any progress in talks on the nuclear issue, which has bedevilled U.S. and South Korean officials for decades. North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests last year likely put it on the threshold of becoming a legitimate nuclear power. North Korea claims it has already risen to that level.
Kim and Moon in their talks vowed to have more meetings, according to Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, with Kim joking that he would make sure not to interrupt Moon’s sleep anymore, a reference to the North’s drumbeat of early morning missile tests last year. Kim also referred to a South Korean island that North Korea attacked with artillery in 2010, killing four, saying the residents of Yeonpyeong Island who have been living in fear of North Korean artillery have high hopes the summit will help heal past scars. Kim said he’d visit Seoul’s presidential Blue House if invited.Earlier, both leaders smiled broadly as Moon grasped Kim’s hand and led him along a blindingly red carpet into South Korean territory, where schoolchildren gave Kim flowers and an honor guard stood at attention for inspection, a military band playing traditional Korean folk songs beloved by both Koreas and the South Korean equivalent of “Hail to the Chief.” It’s the first time a North Korean leader has crossed over to the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone since the Korean War ended in 1953.
Kim’s news agency said that the leader would “open-heartedly” discuss with Moon “all the issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula” in a “historic” summit.
The greeting of the two leaders was planned to the last detail. Thousands of journalists were kept in a huge conference centre well away from the summit, except for a small group of tightly controlled pool reporters at the border. Moon stood near the Koreas’ dividing line, moving forward the moment he glimpsed Kim, dressed in dark, Mao-style suit, appearing in front of a building on the northern side. They shook hands with the borderline between them. Moon then invited Kim to cross into the South, and, after he did so, Kim grasped Moon’s hand and led him to the North and then back into the South. They took a ceremonial photo facing the North and then another photo facing the South.
Two fifth-grade students from the Daesongdong Elementary School, the only South Korean school within the DMZ, greeted the leaders and gave Kim flowers. Kim and Moon then saluted an honour guard and military band, and Moon introduced Kim to South Korean government officials. Kim returned the favour, introducing Moon to the North Korean officials accompanying him. They then took a photo inside the Peace House, where the summit was to take place, in front of a painting of South Korea’s Bukhan Mountain, which towers over the South Korean Blue House presidential mansion. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was by his side throughout the ceremony, handing him a pen to sign a guestbook, taking the schoolchildren’s flowers from his hand and scribbling notes at the start of the talks with Moon.
Nuclear weapons will top the agenda, and Friday’s summit will be the clearest sign yet of whether it’s possible to peacefully negotiate those weapons away from a country that has spent decades doggedly building its bombs despite crippling sanctions and near-constant international opprobrium.
Expectations are generally low, given that past so-called breakthroughs on North Korea’s weapons have collapsed amid acrimonious charges of cheating and bad faith. Sceptics of engagement have long said that the North often turns to interminable rounds of diplomacy meant to ease the pain of sanctions — giving it time to perfect its weapons and win aid for unfulfilled nuclear promises.
Advocates of engagement, however, say the only way to get a deal is to do what the Koreas tried Friday: Sit down and see what’s possible.
The White House said in a statement that it is “hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. … (and) looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks.”
Moon, a liberal whose election last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, will be looking to make some headway on the North’s nuclear program in advance of a planned summit in several weeks between Kim and Trump.
Kim, the third member of his family to rule his nation with absolute power, is eager, both in this meeting and in the Trump talks, to talk about the nearly 30,000 heavily armed U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and the lack of a formal peace treaty ending the Korea War — two factors, the North says, that make nuclear weapons necessary.
North Korea may also be looking to use the talks with Moon to set up the Trump summit, which it may see as a way to legitimize its declared status as a nuclear power.
One possible outcome Friday, aside from a rise in general goodwill between the countries, could be a proposal for a North Korean freeze of its weapons ahead of later denuclearization.
Seoul and Washington will be pushing for any freeze to be accompanied by rigorous and unfettered outside inspections of the North’s nuclear facilities since past deals have crumbled because of North Korea’s unwillingness to open up to snooping foreigners.
South Korea has acknowledged that the most difficult sticking point between the Koreas has been North Korea’s level of denuclearization commitment. Kim has reportedly said that he wouldn’t need nuclear weapons if his government’s security could be guaranteed external threats were removed.
Whatever the Koreas announce Friday, the spectacle of Kim being feted on South Korean soil was striking.
Kim and Moon enjoyed each other’s company in the jointly controlled village of Panmunjom near the spot where a defecting North Korean soldier fled south last year in a hail of bullets fired by his former comrades, and not too far where North Korean soldiers axe-murdered two U.S. soldiers in 1976. (Associated Press)
“It’s time to act with urgency and great determination,” he said.
While the US was trying to talk Kim Jong-un down from his nuclear ambitions using “all available tools short of military action”, Mr Trump said that “the US stands prepared to defend itself and its allies using the full range of our unmatched military capabilities, if need be”.
He made similar comments earlier in his tour of the Asia-Pacific region, when he told troops at Yokota air base near Tokyo: “Together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities.”
Mr Moon said he and Mr Trump had finalised an earlier agreement to allow South Korea to possess more powerful missiles in the face of growing North Korean threats.
He said the two had agreed to lift the warhead payload limits on South Korean ballistic missiles and that the allies are also cooperating on strengthening South Korea’s defence capabilities through the acquisition or development of advanced weapons systems. (The Independent)
SEOUL, May 21 (Reuters) – North Korea fired a ballistic missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, South Korea and Japan said, a week after it tested an intermediate-range missile which experts saw as an advancement in the reclusive state’s weapons programme.
The missile was launched at 0759 GMT from a location near Pukchang, 60 km (36 miles) northeast of the capital Pyongyang, an area where North Korea attempted to test-launch another missile last month but failed, South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The missile flew about 500 km (310 miles), it said. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and no damage to ships or airplanes was reported.
An official travelling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware of the launch and noted that the missile had a shorter range than the three previous tested by North Korea.
China had no immediate comment while both South Korea and Japan called emergency meetings of top officials.
“The flight range was 500 km and South Korea and the United States are closely analysing additional information,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
It was the second missile test by North Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office 11 days ago. The two sides remain technically at war despite a truce ending their 1950-1953 conflict.
Last Sunday, the North tested-fired an intermediate range missile that flew further and higher than those previously tested.
Moon won this month’s election on a platform of a moderate approach to North Korea and has said he would be willing to go to Pyongyang under the right circumstances, arguing dialogue must be used in parallel with sanctions.
North Korea has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programmes, even from China, its lone major ally, calling them legitimate self-defence.
It has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
On Saturday, it said it had developed the capability to strike the U.S. mainland, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.
“The U.S. mainland and the Pacific operational theatre are within the strike range of the DPRK and the DPRK has all kinds of powerful means for annihilating retaliatory strike,” North Korea’s state KCNA news agency said in a commentary on Saturday.
North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Jeff Mason in Riyadh; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Stephen Coates) (REUTERS)
North Korea’s missile programme is progressing faster than expected, South Korea’s defence minister said on Tuesday, after the UN Security Council demanded the North halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and condemned Sunday’s test-launch.
Han Min-koo told South Korea’s parliament the test-launch had been detected by the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system, whose deployment in the South has infuriated China.
The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programmes, even from its lone major ally, China, said the missile test was a legitimate defence against U.S. hostility.
The North has been working on a missile, mounted with a nuclear warhead, capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has called for an immediate halt to Pyongyang’s provocations and has warned that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over. U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday China’s leverage was key and it could do more.
Han said Sunday’s test-launch was “successful in flight”.
“It is considered an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) of enhanced calibre compared to Musudan missiles that have continually failed,” he said, referring to a class of missile designed to travel up to 3,000 to 4,000 km (1,860 to 2,485 miles).
Asked if North Korea’s missile programme was developing faster than the South had expected, he said: “Yes.”
Han said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile unit deployed by the U.S. military in the South detected the North Korean missile, marking the first time the controversial system has been put to use since its deployment last month.
China has strongly opposed THAAD, whose radar it fears could be used to spy into its territory, despite assurances from Washington that THAAD is purely defensive. South Korean companies, from automakers to retailers and cosmetics firms, have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over Seoul’s decision to deploy the system.
The North’s KCNA news agency said Sunday’s launch tested its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”. Its ambassador to China said in Beijing on Monday it would continue such test launches “any time, any place”.
The test-launch was a legitimate act of self-defence and U.S. criticism was a “wanton violation of the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK”, a North Korean diplomat told the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday.
DPRK are the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The DPRK will bolster its self-defence capabilities as long as the United States continues its hostile policies towards the DPRK and imposes nuclear threats and makes blackmail,” diplomat Ju Yong Choi said.
The missile flew 787 km (489 miles) on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 km (1,312 miles), KCNA said.
Pyongyang has regularly threatened to destroy the United States, which it accuses of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war by conducting recent military drills with South Korea and Japan.
Trump and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in Washington next month, with North Korea expected to be high on the agenda, the South’s presidential Blue House said.
Moon met Matt Pottinger, overseeing Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, on Tuesday and said he hoped to continue to have “sufficient, close discussions” between Seoul and Washington, the Blue House press secretary told a briefing.
“FURTHER SANCTIONS POSSIBLE”
In a unanimous statement, the 15-member UN Security Council on Monday said it was of vital importance that North Korea show “sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action and stressed the importance of working to reduce tensions”.
“To that end, the Security Council demanded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missile tests,” the council said, adding that it was ready to impose further sanctions on the country.
The North’s foreign ministry rejected the statement, saying it infringed on its right to self-defence, particularly as the missile was test-launched at a sharp angle to ensure safety of neighbouring countries.
The UN statement also condemned an April 28 ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang.
Following that launch, Washington began talks with China on possible new U.N. sanctions. Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated new measures before involving remaining council members.
The United States sees China as key, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Wood told reporters on a conference call.
“I’m not going to talk about various policy options that we may or may not consider, but I will say this: we are certainly engaged right now in looking at a number of measures – political, economic, security – to deal with these provocative acts by the DPRK, and dangerous acts in many cases,” he said.
“So we are going to be raising the level of engagement with China on this issue. China really is the key in dealing with the North Korea issue. Ninety percent of the DPRK’s trade is with China, so clearly there is a lot more leverage that China has, and we would like China to use.”
The Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 and has stiffened them in response to its five nuclear tests and two long-range rocket launches. Pyongyang is threatening a sixth nuclear test.
Trump warned in an interview with Reuters this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible. In a show of force, the United States sent an aircraft carrier strike group, led by the Carl Vinson, to waters off the Korean peninsula to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.
Admiral Harry Harris, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific, said continued missile launches by North Korea showed the importance of the alliance between Japan and the United States and called the North’s actions unacceptable.
Harris met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also said China could apply more pressure to rein in North Korea.
“Now is the time to put pressure on North Korea,” Abe said. “Japan and the United States must coordinate and put pressure.”
The U.S. Seventh Fleet carrier, the Ronald Reagan, left Yokosuka in Japan on Tuesday on its regular spring patrol and will be out for around three to four months, a Seventh Fleet spokesman said.
Besides worries about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes, cyber security researchers have found technical evidence they said could link the North with the global WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday. (REUTERS)
The missile was fired from the region of Kusong, northwest of Pyongyang, where the North in February successfully test-launched an intermediate-range missile that it is believed to be developing.
Japan said the latest missile reached an altitude of more than 2,000 km (1,245 miles) and flew for 30 minutes before dropping into the sea between North Korea’s east coast and Japan. The North has consistently test-fired missiles in that direction.
Sunday’s launch, at 5:27 a.m. Seoul time (2027 GMT Saturday), came two weeks after North Korea fired a missile that disintegrated minutes into flight, marking its fourth consecutive failure since March.
The U.S. Pacific Command said it was assessing the type of missile but it was “not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
“U.S. Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security,” a spokesperson said, referring to South Korea by its official name.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office on Wednesday, held his first National Security Council meeting as president in response to North Korea’s latest missile launch, which he called a “clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the presidential office said.
“The president said while South Korea remains open to the possibility of dialog with North Korea, it is only possible when the North shows a change in attitude,” Yoon Young-chan, Moon’s press secretary, said at a briefing.
Moon won Tuesday’s election on a platform of a moderate approach to North Korea and has said he would be willing to go to Pyongyang under the right circumstances, arguing dialog must be used in parallel with sanctions to resolve its neighbor’s defiance of the international community.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Sunday that North Korea’s repeated missile launches are a “grave threat to our country and a clear violation of UN resolutions.”
Abe said Japan will stay in close touch with the United States and South Korea.
Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment when he was asked whether the latest missile launch was a success, and whether it represented a new level of threat.
MISSILE TESTS AT UNPRECEDENTED PACE
North Korea launched the Pukguksong-2 missile, an upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), from the same Kusong site on Feb 12.
South Korean and U.S. military officials said the February launch was a significant development as it successfully tested a solid-fuel engine from a mobile launcher. The missile flew about 500 km with an altitude of 550 km.
It represented a more significant threat because of the difficulty of tracking a mobile launcher and because of the ability to keep the missile fueled in advance, unlike liquid fuel rockets.
The North attempted but failed to test-launch ballistic missiles four consecutive times in the past two months but has conducted a variety of missile tests since the beginning of last year at an unprecedented pace.
Weapons experts and government officials believe the North has accomplished some technical progress with those tests.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned in an interview with Reuters in late April that a “major, major conflict” with the North was possible, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute over its nuclear and missile programs.
On Saturday, a senior North Korean diplomat who is a veteran member of its nuclear negotiating team, said the country was open to dialog with the Trump administration under the right conditions, without elaborating.
Choe Son Hui, the North’s Foreign Ministry director general for U.S. affairs, spoke to reporters while in transit in Beijing after attending a conference with former U.S. officials in Norway.
South Korea, the United States and other regional powers have been stepping up efforts to diffuse tensions over the North’s weapons program after a sharp rise in tensions in April over concerns that it may conduct a sixth nuclear test.
North Korea has briefly reported on Moon’s election win and said conservatives in South Korea should be thrown out for good for inciting confrontation between the rival states.
There was no immediate reaction from China. Delegations from Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang are gathering in Beijing on Sunday to attend China’s new Silk Road forum, its biggest diplomatic event of the year. (Additional reporting by Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Neil Fullick) (REUTERS)
SEOUL, April 25 (Reuters) – North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military and a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.
The port call by the USS Michigan, which is designed to carry ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, came as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group steamed towards Korean waters in an effort to deter North Korea from a sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of U.N. sanctions.
Instead of a nuclear blast or a big missile test, North Korea marked Tuesday’s 85th anniversary of the founding of its military by deploying a large number of long-range artillery units on its east coast for a live-fire drill, South Korea’s military said.
South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said it was monitoring the situation and “firmly maintaining readiness.”
South Korea’s navy said it was conducting its own live-fire exercise with U.S. destroyers in waters west of the Korean peninsula and would soon join the approaching U.S. carrier group.
North Korea was defiant, saying its military was prepared “to bring to closure the history of U.S. scheming and nuclear blackmail.”
“There is no limit to the strike power of the People’s Army armed with our style of cutting-edge military equipment, including various precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting U.S. President Donald Trump. He has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.
Trump sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group for exercises off the Korean peninsula as a warning to Pyongyang, but U.S. officials say sanctions, not military strikes, are the preferred option.
On Monday, Trump called North Korea a global threat and “a problem that we have to finally solve” and said the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to impose new sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a ministerial meeting of the Security Council on Friday to discuss tougher sanctions, which U.S. officials say could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea’s airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese and other foreign banks doing business with Pyongyang.
On Wednesday, Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford, are to hold a rare briefing on North Korea at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate.
The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear powered submarine, arrives at a naval base in Busan
SENATOR IMPRESSED BY TRUMP RESOLVE
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said he and fellow Republican John McCain had dinner with Trump on Monday and discussed North Korea. Graham told Fox News he was impressed by Trump’s resolve.
“He’s not going to let this nut-job in North Korea develop a missile with a nuclear weapon on top to hit America,” Graham said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“He (Trump) doesn’t want a war any more than I do. But he’s not going to let them get a missile. That’s where they’re headed and China needs to up their game to stop this before it’s too late.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said North Korea had become a “front and center front-burner issue” and Tillerson would be “very vocal” on Friday about his concerns that countries were not doing enough to implement sanctions.
“We need to move more quickly and with greater determination to convince North Korea either to pursue denuclearisation or to apply enough pressure that it stops those activities,” Toner told a telephone news briefing.
Japan’s envoy on North Korea, Kenji Kanasugi, said he and his U.S. and South Korean counterparts agreed in talks in Tokyo on Tuesday that China should take a concrete role to resolve the crisis and could use an oil embargo as a tool.
The U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, said China had “a very, very important role to play” and South Korea’s envoy, Kim Hong-kyun, said they had also discussed how to get Russia’s help.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 27, the Kremlin said. It did not elaborate.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally which nevertheless objects to its weapons development, has repeatedly called for calm, and its envoy for Korean affairs, Wu Dawei, was in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“We hope that all parties, including Japan, can work with China to promote an early peaceful resolution of the issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said the meetings called by U.S. officials reflected U.S. pressure that could “ignite a full-out war” and showed that Pyongyang’s decision to become a nuclear power was correct.
The official China Daily newspaper said it was time to step back from harsh rhetoric.
“Judging from their recent words and deeds, policymakers in Pyongyang have seriously misread the U.N. sanctions, which are aimed at its nuclear/missile provocations, not its system or leadership,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
“They are at once perilously overestimating their own strength and underestimating the hazards they are brewing for themselves.” (REUTERS)
SEOUL, April 23 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a U.S. carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific.
U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to rising tension over the North’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.
The United States has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive “within days” but gave no other details.
North Korea remained defiant.
“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary.
The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a “gross animal” and said a strike on it would be “an actual example to show our military’s force.”
The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a pig farm.
North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday.
It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.
It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump.
He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.
WORRY IN JAPAN
North Korea says its nuclear program is for self-defense and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea’s recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted.
“We’ve all come to hear their words repeatedly, their word has not proven honest,” Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier.
Japan’s show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads.
Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile forces before any imminent attack.
Japan’s navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China’s.
The two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan on Friday to join the Carl Vinson and will “practice a variety of tactics” with the U.S. strike group, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement.
The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place but by Sunday the destroyers could have reached an area 2,500 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, which would be waters east of the Philippines.
From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the Korean peninsula. Japan’s ships would accompany the Carl Vinson north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge of the plan said.
U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the United States, China and others have warned against.
South Korea has put is forces on heightened alert.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally which nevertheless opposes Pyongyang’s weapons programs and belligerence, has appealed for calm. The United States has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension.
Last Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea,” after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.” (REUTERS)