Asia in Review Archive (2019)

North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic)

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5 November 2019

North Korea launches rocket ahead of possible talks with U.S.

(ls) North Korea has conducted its third test-firing of a new “super-large” multiple rocket launcher that it says expands its ability to destroy enemy targets in surprise attacks. The launches followed statements of displeasure by top North Korean officials over the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States and demands that sanctions and pressure on their country were eased. [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, South Korean member of parliament Lee Eun-jae said that North Korea and the United States could hold another round of working-level talks as soon as mid-November to expedite progress before a year-end deadline set by the North. [Reuters]

The United States and South Korea are also likely to suspend a planned air force military drill for the second straight year to avoid increasing tensions. [Straits Times]

24 September 2019

Japanese radar stations and MSDF crews failed to track recent North Korean missiles launches

(dql) In a blow to Japan’s missile defense network, Japan has failed to track the trajectory of some of North Korea’s new types of short-range missiles in a recent series of launches. Among them were missiles capable of reaching Japan which apparently escaped detection. [Defense World]

10 September 2019

North Korea: UN warns against Pyongyang’s cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges amid plans for resumption of de-nuclearizations talks 

(dql/jd) Amid stalled U.S.-North Korean denuclearization negotiations, the UN Security Council released a report which accuses Pyongyang of “us[ing] cyberspace to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income”. The report also suggests that North Korea continues to advance its nuclear and missile programs referring to Pyongyang’s recent missile tests. [United Nations]

Despite these findings, the resumption of denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang seems to be within reach. While US Secretary of State Pompeo affirmed North Korea’s right to defend itself and assured Pyongyang of Washington’s security guarantees in case the regime would scrap nuclear weapons program. In response, North Korea voiced willingness to engage in “comprehensive discussions” with the United States in late September at a time and place agreed between both sides. Pyongyang, however, insists that Washington would have to “come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us.” [Yonhap] [Aljazeera]

Shortly after this statement, North Korea fired two unknown projectiles from South Pyongan Province toward the sea off North Korea’s east coast, as confirmed by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Voice of America]

3 September 2019

North Korea-USA denuclearization talks: Hope dwindling

(jd) On Saturday, a senior North Korean diplomat officially warned the US that hopes are fading for the continuation of the stalled denuclearization talks. The statement came after Pompeo criticized Pyongyang’s behavior in the light of the recent missile tests as “rogue,” which the diplomat rejected as “thoughtless” comment. [Aljazeera] 

Amid stalled talks between Washington and Pyongyang, South Korea’s top nuclear envoy is set to meet the Russian Vice Foreign Minister to discuss North Korea’s denuclearization. They are expected to discuss how to facilitate the stalled negotiations between Pyongyang and the US. [Hankyoreh]

Meanwhile, a US reconnaissance plane flew over Seoul and its surrounding regions in a North Korean intelligence-gathering mission stepping up its surveillance of North Korea amid fears that Pyongyang would continue missile tests. Pyongyang defended again the weapons testing, arguing that it is crucial as a means to defend against “imperialistic behavior,” referring to the United States’ behavior in the region. Since late July, seven rounds of weapons testing have been conducted, primarily using short-range missiles and projectiles. [Korea Herald 2]

Complicating the situation, Japan claimed that Pyongyang is developing a new range of short-range ballistic missiles which penetrate a ballistic missile shield defending Japan. [Japan Times]

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16 July 2019

North Korea: Pyongyang condemns Seoul’s F-35 fighter jet purchase 

(jd) In a move dimming expectations towards the possible resumption of nuclear talks between the USA and North Korea after the recent meeting between US President Donald and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone [AiR 1/7/2019], Pyongyang has slammed South Korea for purchasing high-tech US stealth fighters, calling the purchase “impudent” and announcing as response that it has “no choice” but to develop “special armaments” to defend itself. South Korea received in March the first batch of F-35s and is to buy 40 F-35 fighter jets by 2021. [Reuters] [Wall Street Journal]

Pyongyang remarks come as Israel’s President Rivlin has arrived on Sunday in South Korea for a five-day visit cement cooperation between both countries, with a focus on regional security, a free trade agreement and advanced technologies. Israel-North Korea relations are hostile, with North Korea not recognizing Israel. [Yonhap]

Meanwhile US Forces Korea, in a recently published annual report “2019 Strategic Digest”, has acknowledged that North Korea’s Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile, can reach anywhere on US soil, with an estimated reach of around 13000 km. [Japan Times] After North Korea tested the missile in November 2017, South Korea also acknowledged in their Defense White Paper last year that it has a range of over 10000 km.

This makes the Hwasong-15 the second missile created by North Korea which is capable of reaching some part of the US mainland. The other missile is its predecessor, the Hwasong-14, which is believed to be capable of reaching most parts of the US mainland. [Chosunilbo]

16 July 2019

North Korea officially makes Kim Jong-un Head of State

(jd) North Korea has revised its constitution to officially name Kim Jong-un as the country’s Head of State. Prior to the revision, the President of the Supreme People’s Association (SPA), North Korea’s unicameral legislature, was technically the head of state. [UPI]

The revision is seen as part of efforts to normalize the nation’s diplomatic affairs to the rest of the world. Since March 2018, Kim has met with multiple foreign heads of state and government. [Bloomberg]

2 July 2019

North Korea-USA relations: Trump and Kim agree to resume denuclearization talk at meeting at the DMZ

(jyk) U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to resume the previously deadlocked denuclearization talks at a meeting at the inner-Korean Demilitarized Zone on Trump’s return from the G20 Summit.  “We’ve agreed that we’re each going to designate a team. The teams will try to work out some details”, said Trump — referring to the U.S. negotiators that will be led by Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun. He also said the U.S. and North will start working on a comprehensive deal for the next two to three weeks, which won’t be a rushed agreement as he was “not looking for speed” but “looking to get it right”. [JoongAng Daily]

18 June 2019

Japan seeks Mongolia’s support in North Korean abduction issue

(jyk) Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met his Mongolian counterpart in Ulaanbaatar on Sunday, in an effort to seek Mongolia’s cooperation in resolving issues related to North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in 1970s and 80s. The two agreed on the importance of fully implementing U.N. sanctions against North Korea toward denuclearization, according to Japanese officials. This is the first time in 9 years for a Japanese foreign minister to visit Mongolia, and the two agreed to deepen ties. North Korea has reacted coldly to Japanese Prime Minister’s offer of holding a meeting so far. Japan currently lists 17 people as missing from NK’s abduction, five of whom were repatriated in 2002. [Mainichi]

18 June 2019

North Korea: TJWG Report details on-going public executions in North Korea

(jyk) Last week, the Seoul-based non-governmental organization Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) published a report, detailing the 323 locations in the hermit kingdom where state-led executions have taken place without appropriate legal procedures. According to the report, a wide range of crimes, as petty as stealing a cow and as grave as murder, warranted executions in the firing squad, where hundreds of ordinary citizens would watch.

The report was compiled on the basis of interviews with more than 600 North Korean defectors over four years, but its findings are not definitive due to the lack of third-party that can confirm the veracity of the interviewee’s allegations. And it may be under-representative of what is in fact going on in the country as most defectors were from North Hamgyong, close to the Chinese borders. The human rights conditions could be more destitute in areas farther away from the borders. [JoongAng Daily]

11 June 2019

Inter-Korean relations: President Moon leaves for Scandinavian countries after signing off food aid to North Korea

(jyk/dql) Soon after signing off 8 million USD worth of food and medical aid for North Korea [JoongAng Daily 1], President Moon went on a weeklong trip on Sunday to Finland, Norway and Sweden to seek economic cooperation in technological areas including 5G networks and artificial intelligence. [JoongAng Daily 2] Moon will also deliver a speech about his vision for denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula at the Oslo Forum, as a way of issuing a message to North Korea as he did in Berlin in 2017. President Trump is also known to have discussed and supported the food aid program to North Korea over the phone with Moon, according to the Presidential Office. [New York Times]

28 May 2019

North Korea-USA relations: Pyongyang slams US seizure of North Korean cargo ship, while Bolton and Trump add odds over recent North Korean missile tests

(jyk/dql) At a press conference at UN headquarters, North Korea’s top envoy, Kim Song, protested and said the US’s recent seizure of North Korean large carrier [AiR 2/5/2019], was unlawful and a serious violation of international law. The carrier was known to have shipped large amounts of goods such as coals, petroleum, and heavy machinery in out of the sanctioned country until a warrant issued in New York led to its custody in the US. It was the first instance in which the USA has seized and impounded a North Korean vessel for violation of international sanctions. [JoongAng Daily]

The move came after North Korea fired two short-range missiles a few days earlier which White House national security adviser John R. Bolton described as violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, prompting Pyongyang calling him a “warmonger” and “human defect”. [New York Times]

Contradicting Bolton, but also Japanese Prime Minister Abe during his trip to Japan, US President Trump reportedly said: “My people think it could have been a violation. I view it differently.” Like Bolton, Abe called the missile tests a breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions. [Politico]