BEIRUT, December 4 -- Syria and North Korea’s foreign ministers met in Damascus on Tuesday, officials said, and thanked each other for their support during years of international isolation.
North Korea’s Ri Yong Ho thanked Walid Al-Moualem for Syria’s opposition to economic sanctions on Pyongyang, according to Syria’s foreign ministry. Moualem said Syria was grateful for North Korea’s support in international forums. United Nations monitors say the relationship has gone deeper than diplomacy and accused North Korea in February of cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons — a charge North Korea denied.
Israel in 2007 bombed a suspected nuclear reactor in eastern Syria which it said was being constructed with help from North Korea and had been months away from activation. Syria, a signatory of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has always denied that the site was a reactor or that Damascus engaged in nuclear cooperation with North Korea.
Both countries have faced international isolation, North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and Syria over its nearly eight-year-old civil war. A Syrian parliamentary delegation visited North Korea in October.
TOKYO, November 13 -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed on Tuesday their countries' cooperation in resolving North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs, and its abductions of Japanese citizens decades ago.
At a meeting held at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Abe and Pence also confirmed close bilateral collaboration in order to realize constructive dialogue with China. They agreed to expand trade and investment in a way to benefit both Japan and the United States through bilateral trade pact talks seen starting in January 2019. The two sides reaffirmed the need to fully implement U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against North Korea toward realizing the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Abe told a joint press conference after the meeting.
Abe also underscored that he and Pence agreed on close Japan-U.S. cooperation for the early resolution of the abduction issue, which is of the most importance for Japan.
BEIJING, January 27 -- New UN resolution on North Korea should not provoke aggravation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday at a joint press conference with US State Secretary John Kerry.
Wang also said that new UN Security Council resolution on North Korea should bring the sides back to the negotiations table on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. China refutes ungrounded speculations about Beijing’s position regarding North Korea’s nuclear program, Wang Yi went on to say. He stressed that China’s position on the Korean issue will remain unchanged under influence of temporary factors and short-term developments.
According to Chinese Foreign Minister, international sanctions against North Korea should not be the goal in itself but rather serve as means of resuming negotiations on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. "Sanctions do not represent the end [of international efforts] and its goal. The goal is to maintain peace and stability in the region, continue negotiations and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Wang said.
North Korea announced on January 6 that it had successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test. The country’s government said in a statement circulated by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the test had had "no adverse impacts on the environmental situation." Now, according to the statement, North Korea "possesses the strongest deterrent forces." North Korea previously conducted three nuclear tests: in 2006, in 2009 and in 2013. Following these tests, the United Nations Security Council imposed various sanctions on Pyongyang. In the past two years, North Korea refrained from nuclear tests limiting itself to ballistic missile launches as a response to the US-South Korea large-scale military drills.
PYONGYANG, December 22 -- North Korea has said US President Barack Obama is "recklessly'' spreading rumours of a Pyongyang-orchestrated cyber attack on Sony Pictures and warned of strikes against "the whole US mainland, that cesspool of terrorism".
North Korea has said US President Barack Obama is "recklessly'' spreading rumours of a Pyongyang-orchestrated cyber attack on Sony Pictures and warned of strikes against "the whole US mainland, that cesspool of terrorism".
Pyongyang specifically threatened the White House and the Pentagon in a long statement from the powerful National Defence Commission late on Sunday.
Such North Korean rhetoric during times of high tension with Washington is routine. But it also underscores the country's sensitivity over a movie whose plot focuses on the assassination of leader Kim Jong-un.
The US blames North Korea for the cyber attack that escalated to threats of terror attacks against US movie theatres and caused Sony to cancel the release of "The Interview".
The US is now considering whether to put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terror, Obama said on Sunday.
"We're going to review those through a process that's already in place," the president said in an interview aired on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union".
"And we don't make those judgements just based on the news of the day. We look systematically at what's been done and based on those facts, we'll make those determinations in the future."
'A dangerous precedent'
North Korea had earlier denied responsibility for the hack attack and proposed a joint investigation with the US to to find the culprits. Obama's remarks, in the interview which was taped on Friday, followed a call from a leading US senator to reconsider North Korea's terror designation.
Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, saying the Pyongyang regime had set a "dangerous precedent" through cyber attacks that were "able to inflict significant economic damage on a major international company".
The State Department rescinded its designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in October 2008. Currently, the list includes just four countries: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Obama has asked the State Department to consider removing Cuba, following the historic thawing of relations between the two Cold War rivals announced earlier this week.
SEOUL, November 9 -- North Korea unexpectedly released two American prisoners, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, following a Saturday conclusion of closed-door negotiations led by U.S. director of intelligence James R. Clapper.
The surprise development, which follows the release of fellow American citizen Jeffrey Fowle earlier this month, now brings the count of detained U.S. citizens in North Korea to zero.
“We can confirm that U.S. citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller have been allowed to depart the DPRK and are on their way home, accompanied by DNI Clapper, to re-join their families,” a rare statement published by the office of the Director of National Intelligence said on Saturday.
“We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release both Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller. We want to thank our international partners, especially our Protecting Power, the Government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure their release,” the statement continued, adding that Washington was “facilitating their return to the United States”.
The State Department subsequently told CNN that Clapper, who visited Pyongyang as an envoy of President Barack Obama, did not make a ”quid pro quo” offer for the men’s release.
The development comes as a major surprise to North Korea watchers, something for which the rationale may not be revealed soon, one observer suggested.
“The United States will probably not admit to talking with North Korea, especially under these circumstances,” said North Korea watcher Christopher Green, also international editor at the Seoul-based Daily NK.
“We’ll likely never be told the content of the dialogue that goes on in Pyongyang, either, unless North Korea reveals it in a fit of pique at a later date. But at the end of the day James Clapper is a very serious man, and his presence cannot be overlooked,” added Green.
Bae was arrested on November 3 2012 in the northeastern city of Rajin, and found to possess a computer hard drive containing pictures of starving North Korean children and a copy of the 2007 National Geographic documentary “Don’t tell my mother I’m in North Korea.”
Sentenced to 15 years hard labor in May 2013, Bae was sentenced on four counts:
- Plotting the overthrow of the North Korean government with a plan called “Operation Jericho.”
- Admitting setting up bases in China to overthrow the government.
- Inciting North Korean to overthrow their government.
- Conducting a smear campaign against the DPRK.
North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced American detainee Matthew Miller to six years of hard labor in October 2014, for allegedly destroying his tourist visa and announcing his intention to seek asylum.
In reports released after his trial, KCNA said that Miller “committed acts hostile to the DPRK while entering the territory of the DPRK under the guise of a tourist in last April”.
“Prison life is eight hours of work per day. Mostly it’s been agriculture, like in the dirt, digging around. Other than that, it’s isolation, no contact with anyone,” Miller said in an interview with AP following his sentencing.
“But I’ve been in good health and no sickness or no hurts (sic),” Miller added.
PYONGYANG, October 25 -- The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “has repeatedly warned the South Korean authorities that such actions can lead to resolute counter-measures,” the newspaper said
Planned launches of balloons by South Korean activists to send provocative leaflets to North Korea “may trigger large-scale military activities,” North Korea’s state-run Minju Choson newspaper writes on Saturday.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “has repeatedly warned the South Korean authorities that such actions can lead to resolute counter-measures,” the newspaper said. This position “affects inter-Korean relations extremely negatively,” it said.
Earlier reports said activists from a South Korean conservative organization, having North Korean defectors in its ranks, plan to launch balloons carrying up to 50,000 leaflets from Imjinkak area close to the border with the North.
A representative from the South Korea’s Korean National Police Agency said in this connection that “the government has no legal foundations to block launches of leaflets by private organizations”.
PYONGYANG, October 22 -- Pyongyang has released Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held captive by North Korea (DPRK), the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Wednesday.
The US citizen has been released “pursuant to President Barack Obama’s repeated requests,” the agency said.
“The US citizen who arrived in DPRK as a tourist on April 29, committed actions in violation of the country’s law,” KCNA reported previously. Fowle was detained in April after apparently leaving a Bible in the bathroom of a nightclub in the northern port of Chongjin.
In September, the Supreme Court of North Korea sentenced to six years of hard labour American Matthew Miller who was kept in custody since April 2014. According to KCNA, he confessed “to committing hostile acts against DPRK where he arrived this April as a tourist.”Another US citizen of Korean descent Pae Jun Ho, known as Kenneth Bae by US authorities, was found guilty in an April 30, 2013 trial of “hostile acts to bring down its government” and planning anti-North Korea religious activities. He was sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labour camp. The American was arrested in Rason City in the northeast of North Korea on November 3, 2012. He arrived in North Korea as a tourist.
DPRK and the United States have no diplomatic relations. The interests of Washington in Pyongyang are represented by the Swedish embassy. The two countries’ bilateral political tension has been maintained over many years.
SEOUL, October 19 -- South Korea and North Korea exchanged fire at the border, the Republic of Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported on Sunday.
Another border incident occurred at about 17:40 local time (9:40 Netherlands time) as near the city of Paju in the western sector of the demilitarisation zone, dividing the two countries, several warning shots were made from the South Korean side as North Korean soldiers were approaching the demarcation line in the middle of the demilitarisation zone. Before the shots, the military of South Korea voiced several warnings through loudspeakers.
North Korea, in its turn, fired back. Traces from North Korean shooting were found at the South Korean border station. In response, the South Korean military fired back. No victims were reported in South Korea.
Technically, Seoul and Pyongyang are in the state of military confrontation, as the Korean War of 1950-1953 finished by signing of only a truce agreement, and the countries do not have a peace treaty.
Exchanges of fire between the North and the South were registered several times last week at the sea and land borders.
PYONGYANG, October 18 -- The United States and its allies deliberately distort the human rights situation in North Korea "to tarnish its reputation in the international arena," a representative of the National Association for the Study of Human Rights said in a statement released on Saturday via the KCNA news agency.
Western countries criticise the report, which was presented recently to the United Nations Organisation as an official document and which received international recognition, to "focus on activities of the committee they created to investigate into human rights violations in the North," the report reads. Pyongyang believes that this committee makes decisions based on data provided by defectors from North Korea, "who have committed serious crimes in their home country."
In Association stressed that North Korea "is taking efforts to strengthen international cooperation in the human rights area." However, the United States and its allies, "seek to politicize the issue of human rights and undermine the social system of the DPRK under the pretext of their violation."
The Association’s representative said the DPRK would disrupt attempts from "hostile forces" to cause damage to the country "by means of their inflated campaign in human rights, and will undertake all necessary measures to protect the socialist system of the Korean style.
SEOUL, October 16 -- North and South Korea held their first high-level military talks in seven years on Wednesday.
The discussions took place in the border village of Panmunjom. Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo was granted a rare access to film inside the joint security area on the North Korean side of the border a few days before the meeting.
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
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