Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, has been killed in Malaysia, South Korean and Malaysian sources say.
The 45-year-old is said to have been targeted at the airport in Kuala Lumpur.
According to local media, his body was now undergoing an autopsy.
Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Malaysian police have confirmed to Reuters that a North Korean man who died in transit to hospital from the airport on February 13 was Kim Jong-nam.
According to a report from TV Chosun, a cable TV network in South Korea, Kim Jong-nam was poisoned at the airport by two women, believed to be North Korean operatives.
In 2001, Kim Jong-nam was caught trying to enter Japan using a false passport. He told officials that he was planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Once seen as a likely successor to Kim Jong-il, he was thought to have fallen out of favor with his father over the incident.
Bypassed in favor of his youngest half-brother for succession when their father died in 2011, Kim Jong-nam kept a low profile, spending most of his time overseas in Macau, Singapore and China.
Kim Jong-nam was quoted by Japanese media in 2011 as saying he opposed “dynastic succession”.
In a 2012 book, he was also quoted as saying he believed his younger half-brother lacked leadership qualities, the succession would not work and that North Korea was unstable and needed Chinese-style economic reform.
Kim Jong-nam was reportedly targeted for assassination in the past. A North Korean spy jailed by South Korea in 2012 was reported to have admitted trying to organize a hit-and-run accident targeting Kim Jong-nam.
Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, is expected to take up an important role in North Korea’s core leadership as the secretive country gears up for a rare party congress this weekend.
South Korea’s news agency Yonhap has quoted experts as saying that Yo-jong may take up a minister-level post within the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
The move will likely be seen as part of a larger plan by Kim Jong-un to cement power within his party and over the country.
According to North Korea Leadership Watch, a website run by scholar Michael Madden, Kim Yo-jong is the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong-il, and shares the same mother as Jong-un and brother Jong-chol.
Born in 1987, Kim Yo-jong is said to be very close to Kim Jong-un, who is four years older than her. The two of them lived and studied in Berne, Switzerland at the same time.
Kim Yo-jong is reportedly married to the son of Choe Ryong-hae, the powerful party secretary.
Her main job has been to protect her brother’s image, taking up a key role in the party’s propaganda department in 2014.
Kim Yo-jong is said to manage all his public appearances, including his itineraries and logistics, as well as act as a political adviser.
Kim Jong-un’s sister has sporadically been in the spotlight in recent years, appearing at the state funeral of her father in 2011 and the election of her brother in 2014, and occasionally seen trailing her brother in state media pictures.
In October 2015, Kim Yo-jong she was rumored to have been sacked from the propaganda department by Jong-un for doing a poor job.
However, observers believe that she is still destined for a top job in the leadership, with a place said to be carved out for her as early as 2008, when major succession planning was conducted following Kim Jong-il’s deterioration in health.
Kim Yo-jong was even speculated to be a possible, though unlikely, candidate to take over from her brother when Jong-un disappeared from public view for a prolonged period in 2014.
She has been described as having a sweet, good-natured disposition, with a bit of a tomboy streak in he.
However, reports say Kim Yo-jong also has had a sheltered upbringing, and other members of the Kim family have not interacted with her much.
School officials in Switzerland have said Kim Yo-jong was over-protected by the coterie of guards and caretakers – she once reportedly had a mild cold and was immediately pulled from school and taken to the hospital.
North Korea has launched a long-range rocket, which critics say is a test of banned missile technology.
But according to local media, North Korea had successfully placed a satellite in orbit.
The launch was condemned by Japan, South Korea and the US, who have requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on February 7.
South Korea says it is to begin discussing with the US the deployment of a missile defense system.
Ryu Je-Seung, a senior defense official, said if the THAAD missile system – considered one of the most advanced in the world – were deployed it would be only to counter the threat from the North.
In a statement, the North Korean National Aerospace Development Administration said earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 had entered orbit about 10 minutes after lift-off from the Sohae space centre in North Phyongan province.
Announcing the launch on state TV, a newsreader said it had been ordered by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and said the country planned to launch more satellites in the future.
“The fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star,” was how the launch was described.
South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said a warship had detected the launch at 09:31.
The rocket launch was roundly condemned by the international community. US Secretary of State John Kerry called it a “flagrant violation” of UN resolutions and warned of “significant measures to hold the DPRK [North Korea] to account.”
China said it “regrets” North Korea’s actions but urged “the relevant parties” to “refrain from taking actions that may further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula”.
Contenders for the Republican ticket in the US presidential election this year were asked for their reaction during a debate in New Hampshire.
Donald Trump said China was the key.
“I would get on with China. Let China solve that problem.”
UN Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from carrying out any nuclear or ballistic missile tests.
South Korean analysts had speculated that North Korea might carry out the launch ahead of February 16, the birthday of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.
North Korea is marking the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party with huge parades in capital Pyongyang.
It is expected to be one of North Korea’s biggest celebrations ever.
A cavalcade of armored vehicles and ballistic missiles rumbled through Pyongyang, accompanied by marching troops.
North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un presided over the ceremony, but no world leaders attended.
Kim Jong-un said that North Korea was ready to fight any war waged by the US.
“The party’s revolutionary armament means we are ready to fight any kind of war waged by the US imperialists,” he said at Pyongyang’s main Kim Il-sung Square.
The celebrations featured thousands of soldiers – many carrying red party flags or banners – in tight square formations goose-stepping to martial music.
Tanks rolled past the podium where Kim Jong-un spoke, with an aircraft flypast forming the number 70.
When it announced plans for the anniversary earlier this year, the government spoke of “cutting-edge” weaponry suitable for modern warfare, and the day’s event will be closely watched for any new military hardware indicating North Korea’s military development.
China, North Korea’s closest ally, sent a senior Communist Party official to the anniversary.
Kim Jong-un began the day by paying respects to his late father and grandfather at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, official media reported.
Officials did not divulge details of the day’s celebrations, although thousands of Pyongyang citizens have been seen in public squares across the city practicing for a torchlight parade to be held in the evening.
A stage has also been set up on a river for a late-night concert featuring the all-female Moranbong Band – North Korea’s most popular musical group.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has accepted an invitation to Moscow in May, South Korea’s Yonhap reports.
The news agency cites a written response from the Kremlin, but says it does not mention Kim Jong-un by name.
Yonhap quotes a Unification Ministry official as saying the reference to the leader could be ambiguous, as Kim Yong-un is the nominal head of state.
Kim Jong-un has not made any overseas visits since taking power in North Korea in late 2011.
His first destination will been keenly watched for what it might indicate about his policies and strategy.
Earlier this month, reports emerged suggesting Russia could be the recipient of Kim Jong-un’s first official visit.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists on January 21 that Russia had invited Kim Jong-un to the May 9 celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
He said that the “first signal was positive” from the North Korean government.
Yonhap news agency said the response from the Russian presidential office confirmed that North Korea’s leader was among heads of state from 20 nations who had confirmed plans to attend.
However, the response did not specify Kim Jong-un by name and said: “The list of attendees has not been finalized yet, as we continue a process of confirming the attendance of those invited,” Yonhap reported.
There has been no statement from North Korea. Kim Yong-un, whose official title is president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, has more traditionally represented North Korea at overseas events.
Visits by Kim Jong-un’s late father, Kim Jong-il, were never announced ahead of his departure.
The late Kim Jong-il visited Russia in August 2011, shortly before his death. But he paid more regular visits to China which, under his leadership, was seen as Pyongyang’s closest ally.
If Kim Jong-un did choose to visit Moscow ahead of Beijing, the decision would be seen as significant – and as a snub to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In recent years, China has come under pressure from Japan, South Korea and the US to exert more pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear program.
Beijing has, on some occasions, expressed exasperation with its northern neighbor via official media channels.
It also backed UN resolutions strengthening sanctions on Pyongyang after its recent missile and nuclear tests in 2013.
Kim Jong-un missed a key political anniversary ceremony on October 10, the North Korean media said, amid speculation over his absence from public view.
The North Korean leader’s name was not on a list of those who visited a mausoleum to mark the ruling party’s anniversary.
Kim Jong-un has not been seen for more than a month, the longest hiatus since he came to power in 2011.
State television last month said Kim Jong-un had an “uncomfortable physical condition” and later showed him limping.
On October 10, South Korea said it believed Kim Jong-un remained in control of the communist state.
“It seems that Kim Jong-un’s rule is in normal operation,” Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.
“With regard to his specific health conditions, our government has no information to confirm yet,” he said.
On October 10, North Korean officials visited Kumsusan Palace, a mausoleum for late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, to mark the 69th anniversary of the Workers’ Party.
For the first time in three years, Kim Jong-un’s name was not included in the list.
Kim Jong-un, 31, who inherited power after his father Kim Jong-il died in 2011, has not been seen in public since September 3.
Kim Jong-un has not been seen in public for more than a month, the longest hiatus since he came to power in 2011
His absence has led to speculation over both his health and his grip on power.
South Korean media outlets, citing unidentified sources, suggest Kim Jong-un, who is overweight, has gout.
Adding to speculation about Kim Jong-un’s whereabouts, Reuters correspondent James Pearson tweeted an image of a North Korean newspaper on Friday featuring an image of Kim Jong-il, the now deceased former leader.
“Front page of today’s main North Korean paper shows leader Kims pics, but no Kim Jong-Un – to whom it pledges loyalty,” said James Pearson, who covers North and South Korea.
Appearances by Kim Jong-un’s number two, coupled with recent claims by a former North Korean official, have also led to suggestions that the young leader may have been toppled.
Hwang Pyong-so, a top military aide who is considered Kim Jong-un’s number two, has made high-profile appearances.
General Hwang Pyong-so, 65, led a delegation of North Korean officials to Seoul for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, in a visit seen as a rare opportunity for high-level talks between the North and South.
None of the speculation can be confirmed.
Hwang Pyong-so’s visit, coupled with continued coverage in North Korean state media of Kim Jong-un’s leadership, were cited by the Seoul on October 10 as evidence that Kim Jong-un was still in power.
It is not the first time that Kim Jong-un has failed to appear in public for an extended period. He spent 21 days out of the public eye in March 2012 and then another 24 in June the same year.
In January 2013, Kim Jong-un was absent for 18 days.
Dennis Rodman has unveiled the team of former NBA players to play an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea, this month.
Dennis Rodman will lead the team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean senior national team on Wednesday, January 8th, marking Kim Jong-un’s birthday.
The former NBA star is the highest profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since the leader inherited power from his father in late 2011.
Dennis Rodman calls the game his version of ”basketball diplomacy.”
”My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans,” he said.
”The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics. We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return.”
Dennis Rodman made his latest visit to North Korea shortly before Christmas to train the North Korean basketball team, though he did not meet with Kim Jong-un.
Dennis Rodman has unveiled the team of former NBA players to play an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang
He said his trips would not be affected by the recent execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle.
Charles D. Smith, who played for the New York Knicks, said he was looking forward to the game with Dennis Rodman.
”Dennis and I are total opposites, but we work very well together,” he said.
”Dennis is one of the few people I know that doesn’t just talk but actually lives a culturally diverse life. We have traveled everywhere together, so I was not surprised with his first visit to North Korea.
”Cultural exchange is about sharing. Sharing ideas and thoughts on education, culture and life.”
Irish betting company Paddy Power PLC, a driving force behind the exhibition, removed its name last month as the title sponsor. The company is still financing the trip and is honoring all contractual commitments.
Dennis Rodman has been criticized for not talking about North Korea’s human rights record, described as one of the world’s worst by activists, the US State Department and North Korean defectors.
Dennis Rodman held tryouts Friday for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday on January 8th, 2014.
However, the former NBA star hasn’t convinced all the players on the American team that it’s safe to come to Pyongyang.
Dennis Rodman said plans for the January 8th game are moving ahead but some of the 12 Americans he wants are afraid to come.
Some foreign analysts say the dramatic purge and execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle less than a week ago has cast doubt on Kim’s future. But officials here say there is no instability and Kim Jong-un remains firmly in control.
“You know, they’re still afraid to come here, but I’m just telling them, you know, don’t be afraid man, it’s all love, it’s all love here,” Dennis Rodman told The Associated Press after the tryouts at the Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium.
“I understand what’s going on with the political stuff, and I say, I don’t go into that venture, I’m just doing one thing for these kids here, and for this country, and for my country, and for the world pretty much.”
Dennis Rodman, who arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday, said he expects to announce the roster soon. He also said he is planning another game in June.
Dennis Rodman held tryouts for North Korean team to face NBA veterans in an exhibition game on Kim Jong-un’s birthday
He watched as a couple dozen local players took to the basketball court for the tryouts. After the session, he told the players that each of the 12 he chooses will get two new pairs of tennis shoes.
When asked why he liked basketball, North Korean player Kim Un-chol told Dennis Rodman he started playing the game because he was impressed by it on TV, and said he also wants to be good at the sport because it is a favorite of leader Kim Jong-un and his late father, Kim Jong-il.
Dennis Rodman asked all the players if they felt the same way. They nodded in unison.
“I want you guys to do one thing for your leader,” Dennis Rodman then told them.
“It’s his birthday. It’s a very special, special day for the country.”
Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un have struck up an unlikely friendship since he traveled to North Korea for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television.
The former NBA player remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since the leader inherited power from his father in 2011.
Dennis Rodman has mostly avoided politics in his dealings with North Korea and has avoided commenting on the North’s human rights record or its continued detainment of American Kenneth Bae for allegedly committing anti-state crimes.
On Friday, he stressed that he hopes the game will be friendly, without political or nationalistic overtones.
Dennis Rodman said the former NBA players will take on the North Koreans in the first half, but the teams will be mixed for the second half.
“It’s not about win or loss. It’s about one thing – unite two countries,” he said.
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has convened a meeting of security officials after the shock execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek.
Ahead of the meeting Park Geun-hye warned of possible “reckless provocations” by the North and called for increased border vigilance.
Last week’s execution of Jang Sung-taek left the region in a “grave and unpredictable” situation, she said.
Jang Sung-taek, a key figure in North Korea, was executed for allegedly planning a coup.
President Park Geun-hye has convened a meeting of security officials after the shock execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle
The move – together with the recall of a North Korean business team from China – prompted concerns that Jang Sung-taek’s associates were being purged as part of a campaign by Kim Jong-un to consolidate his power.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said he believed an “important change” was taking place inside North Korea.
China – which in state media has called for Kim Jong-un to visit Beijing – was “closely watching” the situation, Wang Yi said.
“Given the latest development in the North, it is uncertain in what direction its political situation would evolve,” Park Geun-hye said early on Monday.
“We also can’t rule out the possibility of contingencies such as reckless provocations,” she added.
President Park Geun-hye later met her foreign affairs and security officials in a specially convened session to discuss events in the North.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek, has been executed after being purged for “acts of treachery”, state media say.
Jang Sung-taek was dramatically removed from a Communist Party session by armed guards earlier this week.
It was the biggest upheaval since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father two years ago.
State news agency KCNA said Jang Sung-taek had admitted at a military trial on Thursday to attempting to overthrow the state, and was executed immediately.
Jang Sung-taek, who is thought to have mentored his nephew during the leadership transition from Kim Jong-il to his son Kim Jong-un in 2011, was “worse than a dog”, said the agency.
He had admitted abusing his positions of responsibility to form a faction against the state and to harboring his own political ambitions, it said in a lengthy and detailed report.
The White House said it could not independently verify the reports but had “no reason to doubt” them.
“If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime. We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region,” it said in a statement.
Jang Sung-taek – married to the elder Kim Jong-il’s sister – had held senior posts in the ruling party and the National Defense Commission, the North’s top military body.
He was frequently pictured alongside his nephew and seen by some observers as the power behind the throne.
But in early December, it emerged that he had been removed from his senior military position and that two of his aides had been executed.
Then on Monday, KCNA broadcast footage of him being removed from a party session by uniformed guards.
Jang Sung-taek has been executed after being purged for acts of treachery
In a long report on Friday, KCNA described Jang Sung-taek as a “traitor” and “human scum”.
It said: “Chang dreamed such a foolish dream that once he seizes power by a base method, his despicable true colors as <<reformist>> known to the outside world would help his <<new government>> get <<recognized>> by foreign countries in a short span of time.”
KCNA also said Jang Sung-taek:
Attempted to “overthrow the state”
Transformed his department into “a ‘little kingdom'” and attempted to “trigger off discontent” within the army to mobilize a coup
Took control of the “major economic fields of the country” and “schemed to drive the economy of the country and people’s living into an uncontrollable catastrophe”
Committed corruption by transferring construction units to his contacts
Committed irregularities related to a joint economic zone with China, Rason
Was responsible for unpopular currency reforms in 2009. In December 2009 Pyongyang’s reported redenomination of the won knocked two zeros off the nominal value of each banknote.
Jang Sung-taek admitted his “crimes” in court and a death sentence was “immediately executed”, KCNA said.
Analysts say his fall from grace could be seen as the latest in a series of carefully calibrated moves to demonstrate Kim Jong-un’s authority and an assertion of his independence.
In August 2012, Jang Sung-taek made a high profile trip to China, where he met then-President Hu Jintao. The two sides later signed a raft of economic deals, including the development of two special economic zones: Rason, on North Korea’s east coast, and Hwanggumphyong, on the border with China.
As news of the purge emerged earlier this week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye warned the North was “carrying out a reign of terror” to reinforce Kim Jong-il’s position.
She said the volatile relationship between the two countries was likely to become “more unstable” as a result.
On Friday, South Korea’s military said it had tightened surveillance on Pyongyang, news agency Yonhap reported.
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eyi-do said the government had “deep concerns” about the latest developments and was “watching the situation closely”.
Meanwhile, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said: “We will calmly monitor the situation while communicating with other countries and collect relevant information.”
Chinese state media reported on Jang Sung-taek’s execution, but there has been no official government response so far.
Who is Jang Sung-taek:
Born 1946, he married Kim Jong-il’s sister in 1972
Joined Korean Workers’ Party administrative ranks in 1970s
Elected to Central Committee in 1992
Sidelined in 2004, but rehabilitated in 2006
2011: Got top military post under Kim Jong-un
November 2013: Dismissed from his position
December 2013: Executed as a “traitor”[youtube rsiqP8eIA9o 650]
North Korean state television KCNA has broadcast images of Jang Sung-taek – the once powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong-un – being removed from a meeting, confirming reports of his dismissal.
The dramatic images show Jang Sung-taek being escorted from a party session by uniformed guards.
The television accused Jang Sung-taek of forming factions against the state, corruption and “depraved” acts such as womanizing and drug abuse.
Analysts say such a public dismissal is unique and could signal a wider purge.
It is the biggest upheaval in North Korea’s leadership since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father Kim Jongil two years ago.
The KCNA state news agency said the decision was announced after a meeting of the ruling communist Korean Workers’ Party Politburo over the weekend.
News of Jang Sung-taek’s dismissal filtered out in South Korea last week along with reports that two of his close aides had been executed for corruption. It is unclear when these latest images date from.
Jang Sung-taek escorted from a party session by uniformed guards
The KCNA report accuses Jang Sung-taek of being part of a faction working against the North Korean state.
“Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scenes.”
It also accused Jang Sung-taek of offences such as financial mismanagement and selling off national resources for his personal gain, but it also denounced him for leading what it called “a dissolute and depraved life”.
“Ideologically sick and extremely idle and easy-going, he used drugs and squandered foreign currency at casinos while he was receiving medical treatment in a foreign country under the care of the party,” the KCNA report said.
It added that Jang Sung-taek had “improper relations” with several women and “was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants”.
Such an official announcement detailing a leader’s alleged crimes is unique.
Almost overnight, Jang Sung-taek has morphed from uncle and mentor to North Korea’s young leader, to “anti-revolutionary” criminal outcast.
The move could be seen as the latest in a series of carefully calibrated moves to demonstrate Kim Jong-un’s control, yet another sign of his authority and an assertion of his independence.
Jang Sung-taek is reported to have been stripped of all his positions and expelled from the party.
On Saturday, North Korean state TV was also reported to have removed footage of Jang Sung-taek from a documentary.
Hyon Song-wol, long-term mistress of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was executed by firing squad along with 11 others, Reuters reported.
The group was “accused of filming and selling s** tapes of themselves” while some of them “allegedly possessed bibles, which is a political crime”.
The women were machined-gunned with their families forced to watch. Their families were then sent to prison camps because of North Korea’s policy of “guilt by association”.
Hyon Song-wol, a singer in North Korea’s famed Unhasu Orchestra, was killed along with 11 other members of the orchestra and the Wangjaesan Light Music Band, another popular state-run music group, according to a report in The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily newspaper.
The report, which cites an anonymous source in China, says the group was arrested on August 17. The clip reportedly found its way across the border to China. Their families were forced to watch the execution, which took place three days later, and were then sent to the country’s notorious prison camps, the source said.
Hyon Song-wol, long-term mistress of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was executed by firing squad along with 11 others
Hyon Song-wol was a famous performer whose fame peaked around 2005 with the popular song Excellent Horse-Like Lady. She is said to have dated Kim Jong-un in the early 2000’s, after the young leader returned from boarding school in Switzerland. But she disappeared from the public eye around 2006, near the time Kim Jong-il began grooming his son to be Supreme Leader. Kim Jong-il reportedly disapproved of the relationship and ordered Hyon Somng-wol to leave the orchestra to keep her away from his son.
Shortly after the breakup, HyonSong-wol is said to have married an officer in the North Korean army and given birth to his son. But after Kim Jong-il’s death in late 2011, rumors spread among Pyongyang’s military elite that Kim Jong-un and Hyon Song-wol had rekindled their romance.
A young woman photographed next to Kim Jong-un at a concert in Pyongyang last summer was thought by South Korean intelligence officials to have been Hyon Song-wol. Experts speculated that the photos were circulated as a play to make Kim Jong-un seem more approachable. However, reports later said the woman was Ri Sol-ju, Kim Jong-un’s current wife.
Ri Sol-ju was also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before she married Kim Jong-un, but it’s unclear if she knew Hyon Song-wol personally. Kim Jong-un and Ri Sol-ju have a baby daughter called Ju-ae together, as retired US basketball player Dennis Rodman confirmed.
Hyon Song-wol’s ties to Kim Jong-un raise the question whether it’s possible there is an ulterior motive for the execution. In North Korea, executions have been carried out as a way to eliminate perceived threats to the power of the Supreme Leader and his inner circle, but with such a dearth of facts in this case, it is hard to say anything for certain.
Kim Jong-un has sent Choe Ryong-hae as special envoy to Beijing, North Korean state media has announced, amid cooling relations between the two neighbors.
Choe Ryong-hae, a top military official, flew to the Chinese capital on Wednesday, KCNA said.
The brief dispatch gave no details of the visit, which comes amid an apparent toughening of Beijing’s stance in the wake of Pyongyang’s third nuclear test.
Chinese media said Choe Ryong-hae met Wang Jiarui, a top foreign affairs official.
The visit – the duration of which remains unknown – follows weeks of high tension on the Korean peninsula.
China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner and closest ally. It has traditionally sought to maintain stability in North Korea, avoiding any crisis that could trigger the fall of the regime and propel a flow of refugees across the border.
In recent weeks, following Pyongyang’s February 12 nuclear test and amid strident rhetoric from its leaders, China has expressed frustration with North Korea, with state media openly debating the benefits of close ties.
Beijing supported expanded UN sanctions against Pyongyang after its nuclear test and some of its banks have recently suspended trading with North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank.
Kim Jong-un has sent Choe Ryong-hae as special envoy to Beijing
It is also under domestic pressure after unidentified North Koreans seized, and subsequently released two weeks later, a 16-strong Chinese crew who had been fishing in the Yellow Sea.
The KCNA report described Choe Ryong-hae as director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army.
He has risen quickly under North Korea’s young leader – last year he was promoted to vice-marshal and given senior positions within the party’s key organizations.
Kim Jong-un inherited the North Korean leadership in December 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il. The late Kim Jong-il visited China in August 2011 and his brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, who is thought to be a key adviser of the younger Kim Jong-un, in August 2012.
Choe Ryong-hae is thought to be the most senior North Korean official to visit China since then.
He appears to be the first top-level envoy publicly dispatched by the North Korean leadership to the region since the recent tensions, which saw multiple threats of attacks from North Korea and a show by the US of high-profile military hardware in joint exercises with the South.
Japan, meanwhile, said on Wednesday it would be open to direct talks with North Korea if it would help resolve the issue of Japanese nationals kidnapped by the communist state in the 1970s and 1980s.
The comments, from Japan’s top government spokesman, followed a visit to Pyongyang by a special envoy of Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. South Korea and the US have criticized the visit as unhelpful and said they were not consulted.
In another development, a KCNA report named a hard-line general, Kim Kyok-sik, as North Korea’s army chief. Kim Kyok-sik was previously defense minister, a lower ranked position, until earlier this month.
Kim Kyok-sik was said to be responsible for the shelling of South Korea’s border island Yeonpyeong in 2010, which killed four South Koreans.
North Korea is marking today the 101st anniversary of the birth of country’s founding father Kim Il-sung as tensions continue in the Korean peninsula.
Kim Jong-un, Kim Il-sung’s grandson, visited the mausoleum of his grandfather and his father Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, the official KCNA news agency reports.
In recent weeks North Korea has threatened to attack South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region.
The US has ruled out holding any more “artificial talks” with North Korea.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said North Korea’s main diplomatic ally, China, had made a very strong statement criticizing Pyongyang for its recent behavior. He said he hoped Beijing was now recognizing the regional instability created by the actions of Kim Jong-un.
North Korea is marking the 101st anniversary of the birth of founding father Kim Il-sung as tensions continue in the Korean peninsula
Early on Monday Kim Jong-un was at the Kumsusan mausoleum to pay “high tribute and humblest reverence” to the country’s former leaders, KCNA reports.
The streets of Pyongyang are adorned with flags and banners for the holiday, a red-letter day for one of the world’s most powerful cults of personality.
Tensions have been high on the Korean peninsula after North Korea conducted its third underground nuclear test on February 12 that resulted in sanctions from the UN.
There is speculation that North Korea will use Kim Il-sung’s birthday for a missile launch.
At this time last year, North Korea launched a rocket with the stated aim of putting a satellite into orbit to mark the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth. The rocket broke up shortly after take-off.
The UN Security Council condemned the launch, which many outside the country saw as an illegal test of long-range missile technology.
On Sunday US Secretary of State John Kerry called on North Korea’s leaders to “come to the table in a responsible way” to end regional tensions, warning it risked further isolation if its threats continued.
He also reaffirmed the US commitment to defend its allies, including Japan.
Speculation has been building that North Korea is preparing a missile launch, following reports that it has moved at least two Musudan ballistic missiles to its east coast.
While the US and South Korea were on high alert for a missile launch on Thursday, North Korea was celebrating its ruling Kim dynasty and appeared to tone down rhetoric of impending war.
Despite threats it will attack US bases and the South in response to any hostile acts, North Korea started to welcome a stream of visitors for Monday’s birthday celebrations of its founding father, Kim Il-sung.
Performers carry a flag at the opening of the April Spring People’s Art Festival at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater on April 11.
The festival opened Thursday to mark late president Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 15, known in North Korea as the Day of the Sun. In the background are portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il.
Meanwhile Pyongyang issued a statement that appeared to be tinged with regret over the closure of the joint Kaesong industrial zone that was shuttered when it ordered its workers out this week, terming the North-South Korean venture “the pinnacle of General Kim Jong-il’s limitless love for his people and brothers”.
The statement on North Korea’s KCNA news agency blamed South Korean President Park Geun-hye for bringing the money-spinning venture to “the brink of shutting down.”
North Korea celebrates Kim dynasty with song and dance as world watches for missile launch
Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung’s son, ruled North Korea until his death in December 2011. He was succeeded by Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to preside over one of the world’s poorest and most heavily militarized countries.
Since taking office, Kim Jong-un, 30, has staged two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear weapons test. The nuclear test in February triggered UN sanctions that Pyongyang has termed a hostile act and a precursor to invasion.
For over a month, North Korea has issued an almost daily series of threats to the US and South Korea, most recently warning foreigners to leave the South due to an impending “thermonuclear” war.
Apart from the swipe at South Korea’s new president, verbal threats appeared to fall off as KCNA listed arrivals for the upcoming birthday celebrations, naming an eclectic mix ranging from Chinese businessmen to Cold War-era enthusiasts of its socialist monarchy and official ideology of “Juche,” or self-reliance.
Reinforcing the rule of the Kim dynasty and the legitimacy of Kim Jong-un to hold power in Pyongyang is a key tenet of North Korea’s ideology.
It was the first anniversary on Thursday of Kim Jong-un’s official ascent to power, although he became de-facto leader immediately after his father’s death.
Key North Korean anniversaries:
11 April – Kim Jong-un elected first secretary of the Workers’ Party, and late father Kim Jong-il named General Secretary for Eternity in 2012
13 April – Kim Jong-un appointed first chairman of the National Defence Commission in 2012
15 April – Birthday of state founder Kim Il-sung (15 April 1912- 8 July 1994)
Former basketball star Dennis Rodman, who recently visited North Korea, says Kim Jong-un doesn’t want war with the United States.
Kim Jong-un just wants President Barack Obama to call him.
Dennis Rodman, the highest-profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since he took power in North Korea in December 2011, says Barack Obama and Kim share a love of basketball, so “let’s start there”.
The former NBA star is just back from a visit to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and camera crews for the upcoming HBO series VICE, during which he spent two days with Kim Jong-un.
In his first interview about the trip, Dennis Rodman spoke on ABC’s This Week.
“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Dennis Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“He said, <<If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war>>. He said that to me.”
The trip took place amid strained ties between the U.S. and North Korea over the North’s recent underground nuclear test.
Kim Jong-un is regarded as one of the world’s most oppressive leaders in a nation that builds prison camps and lets millions of its citizens starve to death.
In stark contrast to the poverty of his citizens, Kim Jong-un welcomed the group with a feast, ice skating, and an aquarium visit.
Dennis Rodman, who recently visited North Korea, says Kim Jong-un doesn’t want war with the United States
Upon returning, Dennis Rodman shocked many by praising Kim Jong-un.
“I love him,” he said.
Dennis Rodman stood by the controversial statement during his ABC interview.
“No, I’m not apologiz[ing] for him,” Dennis Rodman said.
“You know, he’s a good guy to me. Guess what? He’s my friend. I don’t condone what he does… [but] as a person to person – he’s my friend.”
Dennis Rodman is the first widely-known American to meet with Kim Jong-un since he became head of North Korea, succeeding his Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.
Kim Jong-un has followed in his father’s footsteps, defying U.N. sanctions by pursing a nuclear arms and missiles program he says is aimed at the U.S.
He also shared a love of basketball with his father, and is particularly fond of the 1990s Chicago Bulls championship teams, which included Dennis Rodman.
On his trip the two watched an exhibition game between the Globetrotters and North Korean players, with Dennis Rodman telling Kim Jong-un before the crowd: “You have a friend for life.”
“I’m not a politician,” Dennis Rodman wrote on Twitter.
“Kim Jung-un & North Korean people are basketball fans. Love everyone. Period. End of story.”
The U.S. State Department has distanced itself from the visit and will not debrief Dennis Rodman on the meeting.
The decision not to talk to Dennis Rodman has been characterized as “ridiculous” by some intelligence experts.
“There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more personally about Kim Jong-un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary,” said Steve Ganyard, a former deputy assistant secretary of state.
Dennis Rodman expects to return to North Korea.
“I’m not like a diplomat,” he said.
“I’m [going to] go back, do one thing and find out more, what’s going on. Find out more.”
North Korea has commemorated late leader Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday with a military parade, pledges of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong-un, and thousands of red “kimjongilia” begonias.
Kim Jong-un, wearing a dark Mao suit and a solemn expression, bowed deeply before a large portrait of his smiling father. Hundreds of senior officials, military leaders and citizens followed to pay their respects.
Outside the palace, thousands of North Korean soldiers lined up in neat rows on a sunny but cold day, listening to speeches praising the Kim family. Later, Kim Jong-un and other officials watched as a parade of goose-stepping soldiers marched by followed by military jeeps and trucks carrying artillery guns and rocket launchers. Fireworks exploded, military music boomed and people waved artificial pink and red flowers.
Events on Wednesday included an international skating show and synchronized swimming. Both opened with mournful odes to Kim Jong-il and ended with a new song for his son: “We Will Defend General Kim Jong-un at the Risk of Our Lives.”
Kim Jong-il ruled for 17 years, a period that included a famine in the 1990s, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, and protracted tensions over the nation’s drive to build nuclear weapons. Food shortages persist in North Korea and relations with South Korea are at their lowest point in years. But since Kim Jong-il’s death, expressions of mourning and adoration have been common in Pyongyang.
North Korea has commemorated late leader Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday with a military parade, pledges of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong-un, and thousands of red “kimjongilia” begonias
Composers have crafted new odes to Kim Jong-il, while sculptors have chiseled slogans honoring him into the sides of mountains. His birthday was renamed “Day of the Shining Star,” and this week he was accorded a new title: Generalissimo.
At Kim Il-sung Square, the main plaza in the capital, North Koreans bowed and laid flowers, including red “kimjongilia” begonias, at a portrait of Kim Jong-il hanging on the Grand People’s Study House. Among them was Paek Won-chol, who described himself as a “soldier and disciple” of Kim Jong-il.
“I will devote my all for the building of a powerful and prosperous nation” under Kim Jong-un, Paek Won-chol said.
Thursday’s parade could serve as closure to North Korea’s mourning as the country prepares for important nuclear talks next week with the United States, said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University’s graduate school of international studies in South Korea.
Kim Jong-il’s death halted discussions between Pyongyang and Washington on much-needed food aid in exchange for nuclear disarmament. A US envoy will hold talks with North Korea on its nuclear programme in Beijing next week, the first such negotiations since Kim Jong-il’s death.