SHANGHAI, May 16 -- North Korea has suffered its severest drought in 37 years, state-run media reported Wednesday, fanning fears about food shortage in the nation whose economy has been already sluggish amid international economic sanctions.
"According to a meteorologist, the average precipitation of the country from January to early May was 54.4 mm (millimeters), 42.3 percent of the average annual precipitation," the Korean Central News Agency said. "It is the lowest figure since 1982" when the average precipitation in North Korea was 51.2 mm, the news agency said, adding, "The agricultural sector is directing efforts to securing water to prevent drought damage." The United Nations has estimated that more than 10 million North Koreans, or about 40 percent of the population, are undernourished. The country has faced food shortages due partly to natural disasters including floods and a failing food distribution policy in the past.
North Korea's economy is also believed to be lackluster against a backdrop of economic sanctions aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
SEOUL, May 4 -- North Korea on Saturday fired a barrage of short-range missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan, the Yonhap news agency reported citing South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Pyongyang "fired multiple rounds of unidentified missiles from its east coast town of Wonsan in the northeastern direction between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. today," the JCS said in a release. The missiles flew for a range of about 70 km to 100 km. The Japanese government said these were not ballistic missiles and they did not reach the country’s exclusive economic zone.
In April 2018, Pyongyang announced it was halting tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of various range with the goal of developing the socialist economy and improving living conditions of its citizens. After that last May North Korea eliminated the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where six underground explosions had been conducted. Between 2016 and 2017, North Korea carried out nearly 40 ballistic missile launches.
KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 -- A Vietnamese woman who spent more than two years in a Malaysian prison on suspicion of killingthe half-brother of North Korea's leader has been freed.
Doan Thi Huong, 30, was charged along with an Indonesian woman of poisoning Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with liquid VX, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Huong received a jail term of several years which was cut due to sentence remissions. After a lengthy trial, Doan Thi Huong pleaded guilty last month to a lesser charge of "causing injury" over the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam, making her the only person convicted for a murder that made headlines around the world. Malaysian prosecutors dropped a murder charge following that. She was freed from a prison outside the Malaysian capital at about 7:20am (23:20 GMT Thursday), her lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told AFP news agency, adding that she would return to Vietnam later on Friday. Weeks earlier, Indonesian Siti Aisyah - the only other person to face trial over the killing - was released and flew home after her murder charge was withdrawn. The pair always denied having committed murder, arguing that they were pawns in a plan hatched by North Korean agents who fled Malaysia after the killing. South Korea accused Pyongyang of plotting the assassination. Journalists waiting outside the jail saw a van and a car with tinted windows race past, and a court official at the scene also confirmed Huong had been released.
Speaking before her release, Hisyam had said she was "definitely looking forward to going home". The 30-year-old former hair salon worker was expected to head to an immigration office in the administrative capital Putrajaya to sort out documentation, before flying to Vietnam. Other suspects in the killing of Kim Jong Nam have escaped justice. Exclusive pictures shows the man believed to be the chemist who prepared the VX nerve agent that killed Nam. In exclusive video thought to be captured in late 2017, he is seen, relaxed and happy while singing Karaoke in a restaurant in China with his wife and friends. "There was a golden opportunity to hold them accountable," Hoo Chiew Ping of the National University of Malaysia said. "We have completely lost that."
While there is relief for the women - who said they believed they were taking part in a TV show prank - those behind the plot are unlikely to ever face justice. "The assassins have not been brought to justice," said Hisyam, adding the women's legal teams consistently argued their North Korean handlers were the real murderers. The pair were arrested after they were captured on airport CCTV cameras walking up behind Kim, as he waited for a flight, and one was seen clasping her hands over his face. Kim, heir apparent to North Korea's leadership until he was exiled from his homeland, died in agony shortly afterwards, his face smeared with poison. The defence stage of the case was due to start in March, but in a shock move, prosecutors announced they were withdrawing the murder charge against Aisyah, 27, and she flew back to Jakarta. Her release followed intense diplomatic pressure from Indonesia, including from President Joko Widodo. Vietnam then stepped up pressure for Huong's murder charge to be dropped. Their initial request was refused, but at the start of April prosecutors offered her a reduced charge, paving the way for her release.
PYONGYANG, April 27 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has completed his visit to Russia has his armored train arrived to a rail station in Pyongyang, North Korea’s KCNA news agency reported on Saturday.
"Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the armed forces of the DPRK, returned home by the private train at dawn on Saturday after successfully concluding his visit to the Russian Federation," the agency said.
"After getting off the train amid the enthusiastic cheering of the masses, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un received a greeting report from the head of the guard of honor of the Korean People's Army," it said. Negotiations between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un were held on Thursday on Russky Island in Vladivostok. The leaders thoroughly discussed the state and prospects of interstate relations and dwelled on issues linked to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, in particular the denuclearization problem. The Vladivostok summit became the first face-to-face meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un.
VLADIVOSTOK, April 25 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said opening the Russian-North Korean summit on Thursday he expected Kim Jong-un’s visit to Russia to promote settlement on the Korean Peninsula.
"I’m convinced that your today’s visit to Russia will contribute to the development of bilateral relations, helps to gain a better understanding of possible ways to settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula, to see what can be done together, what Russia can do to support the processes that are now under way," he said. "Undoubtedly, we welcome your efforts to develop the inter-Korean dialogue and to normalize relations between North Korea and the United States," Putin said during talks with Kim Jong-un in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. "Of course, a lot remains to be done in bilateral relations, to develop trade and economic ties and humanitarian contacts," the Russian president went on. Putin said he was "very pleased" to see Kim Jong-un in Russia, adding that diplomats from the two nations have started to negotiate on it long ago. He congratulated his North Korean counterpart on being re-elected as the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission. He also noted that last year, the two states marked the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations.
"I remember my visit to your country. Your father was one of the authors of the basic treaty - the Treaty on friendship between our nations," Putin said.
VLADIVOSTOK, April 24 -- The cortege of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has arrived on Russky Island in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, as source in the Far Eastern Federal University said.
The source familiar with the visit’s preparations said that Kim’s residence would be the university’s building S, known as a sports complex, where the talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to be held. The train arrived at the station at 17:50 local time (7:50 a.m. GMT). Primorye Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora welcomed Kim upon his arrival. A military orchestra of the guard of honor greeted Kim at the station square. On April 25, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sides will discuss peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring security in Northeast Asia. Kim and Putin will also discuss different aspects of bilateral relations, including on the political, economic and cultural-humanitarian agenda. Talks in Vladivostok will be the first meeting between Kim and Putin. Russia will be the first country, which Kim visits after being re-elected Chairman of the State Affairs Commission at the first session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly earlier this month.
MOSCOW, April 24 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said that he is happy to visit Russia when he arrived to the Hasan station, the administration of the Primorsky region said on Wednesday.
"I am happy to visit Russia," Kim said. Russian Minister for the Far East and the Arctic Alexander Kozlov, who met the North Korean leader in Hasan, expressed hope that this visit will stay with Kim "as a heartwarming memory." "Kim Jong Un said that this is not his last visit to Russia. He said that this is only the first step," the administration said. In Hasan, Kim Jong Un was met by Russian Minister for the Far East and the Arctic Alexander Kozlov, Primorsky region Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora. The North Korean leader visited the House of Russian-Korean Friendship, also known as "The House of Kim Il Sung." After leaving the Hasan station, the train headed toward Ussuriysk. The train will reach the city in about seven hours. Then the train will get onto the Trans-Siberian Railway leading to Vladivostok.
SEOUL, April 18 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has attended the test launch of a new tactical guided weapon, the country’s KCNA news agency reported on Thursday.
"Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the Armed Forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supervised and guided a test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon conducted by the Academy of Defence Science on Wednesday," the agency reported.
"The design indexes of the tactical guided weapon whose advantages are appreciated for the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead were perfectly verified at the test-fire conducted in various modes of firing at different targets," the report reads.The report does not reveal the exact type of the weapon. Reuters suggested that the term "tactical" implies a short-range weapon, as opposed to long-range ballistic missiles which the US and its allies see as a potential threat.
According to the agency, it was the first weapons test officially announced by Pyongyang since the failed February 28 US-North Korean summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. When contacted by a TASS correspondent, a White House spokesperson said the US administration was not commenting on the report at present.
SEOUL, April 15 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could visit Russia as early as next week, Yonhap News Agency reported on Monday citing its own sources in Moscow.
"Chances are fairly high that a summit between Russia and North Korea could take place around that time," the news agency said. According to Yonhap, the top-level meeting is likely to be held in Vladivostok. The news agency noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would take part in the One Belt, One Road forum in China on April 26-27. According to one of its sources, Putin’s meeting with Kim could be held a day or two before or immediately after that event. Yonhap earlier reported that Kim Chang-son, known as Kim Jong-un's de facto chief of staff, visited Moscow and Vladivostok on March 19-25. According to the news agency, that trip is related to preparations for the North Korean leader's visit to Russia.
On March 14, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and his North Korean counterpart Im Chon Il discussed the schedule of political contacts between Moscow and Pyongyang.
SEOUL, April 13 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is open to a third summit with US President Donald Trumpbut that failure to reach mutually acceptable terms risked reviving tensions, state media KCNA said on Friday.
"It is essential for the US to quit its current method and approach us with a new one," Kim said in a speech to the Supreme People's Assembly on Friday. "If it the United States keeps thinking that way, it will never be able to move the DPRK even a knuckle nor gain any interests no matter how many times it may sit for talks with the DPRK." Kim said he would wait until the end of the year "for the US to make a courageous decision" on another meeting, after his most recent summit with Trump in Vietnam broke down and both sides left without an agreement. Trump and Kim have met twice, in Hanoi in February and Singapore in June, building good will but failing to agree on a deal to lift sanctions in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear and missile programs. Washington has blamed the February deadlock on the North's demands for sanctions relief in return for limited nuclear disarmament, but Pyongyang said it had wanted only some of the measures eased. In Hanoi, the US came "to the talks only racking its brain to find ways that are absolutely impracticable" and did "not really ready itself to sit with us face-to-face and settle the problem," Kim said.
Kim said that despite his good relationship with Trump, he would only be interested in attending a third summit if it offered concrete solutions to the dispute. "[The US] is further escalating the hostility to us with each passing day despite its suggestion for settling the issue through dialogue," Kim said.
The current US policy of sanctions and pressure is "as foolish and dangerous an act as trying to put out a fire with oil". President Trump, meeting with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on Friday, said sanctions on North Korea would stay in place. On Friday, the KCNA reported that Kim was re-elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission, the nation's most important decision-making body, during a session of the Supreme People's Assembly that praised his "outstanding ideological and theoretical wisdom and experienced and seasoned leadership".
Experts say the new appointments may be a sign of Kim's desire to keep recent months of up-and-down nuclear diplomacy alive rather than returning to the threats and weapons tests that characterised 2017, when many feared war on the Korean Peninsula.