Relations between the United States and South Korea had their beginnings at the end of World War ll in 1945 when the US occupied the south end of the peninsula and the Soviet Union took the north end pending planned national elections. The two sides could not agree on the type of government (Washington was for a democracy and Moscow favored communism;) hence, an election never took place, resulting in the United Nations recognizing South Korea (Republic of Korea) as the legitimate government.
In 1950, North Korea invaded the ROK and the US sent its military to South Korea to help them fight against the communist invasion. By 1953, the war ended in a stalemate, but the US troops remained, and in 1954, both countries signed the ROK/US Mutual Security Agreement, a pact to defend each other in case of foreign attacks. In reality, this was more of a one-sided agreement. South Korea feared another invasion from North Korea and the presence of the US military hindered such plans.
Post-Korean War, the ROK was ravaged. Its per capita GDP plunged to $64, lower than the African nation of Congo, which was then the poorest. Millions of people were injured, killed and separated from their families. The United States was its single biggest contributor, giving its Asian ally a total of $64 billion in grants, aids, and loans from 1948 to 1978. Its economy grew rapidly in the 1960s and today, it is the fourth biggest economy in Asia, and is a member of the OECD and the G20.
Image source Wikimedia
The ties that bind Seoul and Washington have remained strong. Trade between the two countries reached an estimated $144.6 billion in 2016, and Korea is the US’ sixth biggest goods trading partner. Seoul has the second largest contingent of US military personnel, numbering around 23,500 troops.
But 2017 brought in new leaders for the two nations. President Trump took office in January and President Moon Jae-in in May, and one is as different from the other as night is from day. Trump has shown himself to be a racist, misogynist, and favoring isolationism. Moon is a former student activist and human rights lawyer.
Already, some issues are possible areas of contention. While Trump is aggressively hostile against North Korea and threatens to attack it, Moon, a champion of human and civil rights, prefers the soft approach by engaging in talks to reach an agreement.
On the US’ bilateral trade agreement, Trump wants a renegotiation of the KORUS Free Trade Agreement to reduce US’ trade deficit. He has been quoted as saying that the US is losing $40 billion a year on ROK in trade. The White House Chief Executive has also demanded cost sharing on defense spending with Asian allies and talks on the Special Measures Agreement have begun. During his campaign period, Trump was quite vocal in his criticism of the nation’s expenses for the US troops stationed in allied countries.
South Korea’s show of independence from its benefactor was evident in the High Court’s ruling on the lawsuit that former comfort women brought against the ROK government. The women, now in their 70s, claim that they were forced into prostitution for the US military with the tacit consent of their officials. They won their case and Seoul’s court has ordered the government to pay them damages. While the United States was not a party to the suit, and embassy officials would not comment on it, this is the first official acknowledgment that American soldiers are not as faultless as they are portrayed to be.
What hasn’t changed is its arrogance towards Japan. Japan has taken to heart its war crimes and the atrocities its army has committed against the comfort women of World War ll. It has given billions in aid and compensation and offered numerous apologies to the women. But South Korea’s leaders, past and present, never stop asking for more.
The recent case involving their own government selling their own women to US soldiers should make them realize that they should clean up their own backyard instead of throwing garbage on to other countries.
China has welcomed the development, saying the Korean peninsula issue was “heading in the right direction” and calling for “political courage”.
However, North Korea has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it lost patience or felt it was not getting what it demanded.
The latest announcement came days after the South Korean delegation met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.
Speaking outside the White House after briefing President Trump, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said he had passed on a message that Kim Jong-un was “committed to denuclearization” and had “pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests”.
According to a statement sent to the Washington Post, North Korea’s UN ambassador said the “courageous decision” of Kim Jong-un would help secure “peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region”.
There is no indication yet of where the Trump-Kim talks might take place, but the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as likely options.
Kim Jong-un is hosting a dinner for two South Korean delegates, the first time officials from Seoul have met the North Korean leader since he took office in 2011, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
The dinner has been confirmed by a South Korean presidential spokesman.
The South Korean delegation is in Pyongyang for rare talks partly aimed at restarting dialogue between North Korea and the US.
Relations between North Korea and South Korea have warmed following the PyeongChang Winter Games.
In an unprecedented move the delegation includes two ministerial-level envoys – intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security adviser Chung Eui-yong.
According to the North Korean state radio, the delegation was met by Ri Son-gwon, North Korea’s reunification chief, who led talks in the weeks before the Winter Olympics.
During the two-day visit, the South Korean group will focus on establishing conditions for talks aimed at getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons as well as dialogue between the US and Pyongyang.
Chung Eui-yong had earlier told a press briefing he would deliver President Moon Jae-in’s “resolution to maintain the dialogue and improvement in relations between the South and the North… [and] to denuclearize the Korean peninsula”.
On March 3, President Donald Trump said that the US would be prepared to meet North Korea, but reiterated that Pyongyang would first have to “denuke”.
However, North Korea – which has said it wants to talk to the US – said it was “preposterous” for the US to insist on preconditions.
It’s remains unclear who would represent the US in any such meeting.
The top US diplomat on North Korea Joseph Yun announced his decision to retire earlier last week, a departure which could hamper the Trump administration.
The relationship between the US and North Korea were particularly tense before the Winter Olympics, with both countries repeatedly threatening each other with total destruction.
The US has distanced itself from the North Korean overtures during the Games.
VP Mike Pence has said there is “no daylight” between the US and its regional allies on the need to “continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program.
According to US officials, VP Mike Pence was due to meet North Korean officials at the Winter Olympics last week, but the North Koreans canceled the meeting at the last moment.
VP Mike Pence was in South Korea for the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
A spokesman said the vice-president was scheduled to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, among others.
It would have been the first official interaction between North Korea and the Trump administration.
North Korea has made no comment on the reports.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said when the “possibility arose” of a brief meeting with the North Korean delegation, Mike Pence “was ready to take this opportunity to drive home the necessity of North Korea abandoning its illicit ballistic missile and nuclear programs”.
Heather Nauert said in a statement: “At the last minute, DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] officials decided not to go forward with the meeting. We regret their failure to seize this opportunity.”
North Korea’s attendance at the Winter Olympics was seen as a major thaw in consistently tense relations on the Korean peninsula.
Mike Pence was criticized by some for not engaging diplomatically with the North Koreans while in South Korea.
He sat feet away from Kim Yo-jong – who is accused of human rights violations – at the Games but did not interact with her, saying: “I didn’t believe it was proper for the United States of America to give her any attention in that forum.”
Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said North Korea had “dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics”.
“This administration will stand in the way of Kim’s desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics. Perhaps that’s why they walked away from a meeting or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down,” Nick Ayers said.
On leaving the Games, Mike Pence said the US and its allies remained firmly aligned on North Korea
“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program.”
However, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has said he is considering accepting an invitation to visit Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
South Korean and North Korean athletes entered under the same flag during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
North Korea ice hockey player Chung Gum Hwang and South Korean bobsledder Won Yun-jong were joint flagbearers.
Olympic president Thomas Bach has declared: “We are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us.”
Russian athletes came in under the neutral Olympic flag during the ceremony.
Russia is banned from the Games, and the forthcoming Paralympics, as a consequence of the 2016 McLaren report which claimed more than 1,000 of its sportspeople benefitted from state-sponsored doping.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) invited 169 Russians who have met the anti-doping criteria to compete as independent athletes and their team will be known as the ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’.
An estimated 35,000 spectators inside the Olympic Stadium were given seat warmers, wind shields, hats and gloves with temperatures as low as -6C during the two hour-long ceremony.
Senior political figures from North Korea and the United States – two of the countries at the center of the political row – were both present.
Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, was sat one row behind VP Mike Pence in the VIP section.
South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Yo-jong and said at the ceremony: “I would like to take this opportunity to convey greetings and a message of friendship from the people of Korea.
“The Seoul 1988 Summer Games paved the way for reconciliation between east and west – breaking down the wall of the Cold War. Thirty years after hosting the Summer Games, the Pyeongchang Olympics has commenced with a hope for peace from everyone around the world.
“It was with an ardent desire that the people of Korea aspired to host the Winter Games, the only divided nation in the world. It mirrors the Olympic spirit in its pursuit of peace.”
North Korea announced it was to send a delegation to Pyeongchang in January after it met its South counterparts in their first high-level talks in more than two years.
The North Korean team consists of 22 athletes who will compete in five sports, although their women’s ice hockey players will compete in a unified Korean team. They played together for the first time on February 4 in their only practice match, which they lost 3-1 to Sweden.
The ‘wow moments’ in the ceremony included the formation of the Olympic Rings made up of 1,218 drones – a Guinness World Record for drones used in a performance – and 100 skiers.
There was also ‘the vision of peace in the sky’ which was a constellation inside the arena, while ‘the balance of yin and yang’ saw Korean drummers perform in unison before forming the South Korea flag. And the center of the stadium was lit up in the eye-catching ‘link to the world’ segment.
It all culminated in the ceremony centerpiece, which was the traditional lighting of the Olympic flame. That saw the final torchbearer Yuna Kim, who won Olympic ice skating gold in 2010, at the top of a slope light the flame as 30 fire rings ascended towards the white moon-shaped porcelain cauldron.
Believed to have been born in 1987, Kim Yo-jong is the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong-il and is Kim Jong-un’s full sister. She is about four years younger than her brother and is said to be very close to him.
Kim Yo-jong is reportedly married to the son of Choe Ryong-hae, the powerful party secretary.
She has been in the spotlight sporadically in recent years, with her main job being to protect her brother’s image via her role in the party’s propaganda department.
Kim Yo-jong remains blacklisted by the United States over alleged links to human rights abuses in North Korea.
It would be the first by a direct member of the Kim dynasty.
Chang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle and brother in law of Kim Jong-il, did travel to South Korea but did not belong to the Baekdu blood line, which is considered significant.
North Korea’s head of state Kim Yong-nam will go to PyeongChang this week for the Winter Olympics.
Kim Yong-nam, 90, is the most senior official to ever visit South Korea.
North Korea confirmed his attendance at the opening ceremony, set for February 9.
Both Koreas will march under one flag at the opening ceremony.
Although Kim Yong-nam’s attendance at the Winter Olympics signals a thaw in relations between the Koreas, experts say it is unlikely to have any impact on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Kim Yong-nam will be in South Korea for a three-day visit and will lead a 22-member delegation.
He has seen the rule of all three North Korean leaders in his career.
Kim Yong-nam is the ceremonial head of state who receives credentials from foreign diplomats in Pyongyang. As such, he is usually responsible for sending condolences or congratulatory messages to foreign leaders.
He has been the president of North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, since 1998.
Unlike North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-nam has traveled abroad on official visits. In August 2017, he travelled to Iran to attend President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration ceremony for his second term in office.
Kim Yong-nam also attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
He is said to be a loyal follower of the top leadership.
“As Kim is known to be acting and speaking under the country’s guidance, he makes no mistakes. That’s why he could keep his high-level post in a country where political purges are common,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted one North Korean defector as saying.
South Korea has said it will seek high-level talks with the North Korean delegation during the visit, Yonhap reported.
Kim Yong-nam’s attendance at the opening ceremony will also put him in the company of Vice President Mike Pence, at a point of high tension with Washington over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
On February 4, the Washington Post reported that Fred Warmbier, whose son Otto Warmbier was jailed by North Korea and died days after returning to the United States, would attend the opening ceremony as a guest of VP Mike Pence.
Fred Warmbier and his wife, Cindy, were guests of President Donald Trump at last week’s State of the Union address.
On February 5, North Korea proposed sending an art troupe to the Games by ferry, a move that would require an exemption from bilateral sanctions.
According to South Korea’s unification ministry, Pyongyang proposed that its delegation use the Mangyongbong 92, a ferry that usually operates between North Korea and Russia, for transportation and as accommodation for the group.
All North Korean ships have been banned from entering South Korean ports since 2010.
South Korean ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a press conference: “We’re seeking to apply an exemption… to support a successful hosting of the Olympics.”
On February 4, the united Korean women’s ice hockey team played its first match, but lost the friendly against Sweden 1-3.
The outing was the first and only practice match for the newly minted Korean squad.
As well as the ice hockey players, North Korean athletes will compete in skiing and figure skating events. It is also sending hundreds of delegates, cheerleaders and performers.
North Korea currently faces growing international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs after it conducted a series of missile tests designed to demonstrate its nuclear capability.
Its participation in the Olympics, which run from February 9 to 25, was an unexpected warming of ties.
Meanwhile, although South Korea and the US have agreed to delay the annual big joint military exercises which always enrage North Korea, they will still go ahead at the end of the Paralympics.
North Korea and South Korea will march together under a single “unified Korea” flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
In rare talks at the truce village of Panmunjom, the two Koreas also agreed to field a joint women’s ice hockey team.
These are the first high-level talks between North Korea and South Korea in more than two years.
It marks a thaw in relations that began in the new year when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered to send a team to the games.
The games will take place between February 9 and 25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
If the plans are realized, a hundreds-strong North Korean delegation – including 230 cheerleaders, 140 orchestral musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes – could cross into South Korea via the land border to attend the Winter Olympics.
It will mean the opening of the cross border road for the first time in almost two years.
The two Koreas have also agreed to field a joint team for the sport of women’s ice hockey. It would be the first time athletes from both Koreas have competed together in the same team at an Olympic Games.
North Korea has also agreed to send a smaller, 150-member delegation to the Paralympics in March.
The agreement will have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on January 20, because North Korea has missed registration deadlines or failed to qualify.
South Korea will also need to find ways to host the North Korean delegation without violating UN Security Council sanctions outlawing cash transfers to Pyongyang and blacklisting certain senior North Korean officials.
South Korea’s hockey coach and conservative newspapers have expressed concern about the prospect of a united hockey team, saying it could damage South Korea’s chances of winning a medal.
Tens of thousands of people are said to have signed online petitions urging South Korean President Moon Jae-in to scrap the plan.
However, the president told South Korean Olympic athletes on January 17 that North Korea’s participation in the Games would help improve inter-Korean relations.
President Moon Jae-in has said the Olympic agreement could pave the way for the nuclear issue to be addressed and lead to dialogue between North Korea and the US, according to Yonhap news agency in Seoul.
In a tweet, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) said simply: “NO missile threat to Hawaii.”
TV and radio broadcasts across the state were also interrupted with a recorded emergency message: “Stay indoors!
“If you are outdoors seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building while laying on the floor. We’ll announce when the threat has ended. This is not a drill!”
Matt Lopresti, a member of the Hawaiian House of Representatives, was at home when he received the emergency alert on his mobile phone.
He described how he and his family had sought shelter in a bath tub.
He told local broadcaster KGMB: “We got our children, grabbed our emergency supplies, put them in our most enclosed room in our house which is our bathroom.
“We put them in the bath tub, said our prayers, tried to find out what the Hell was going because we didn’t hear any alarms, any of the sirens.
“There’s not much else you can do in that situation. You know, we did what we could… and I am very angry right now because it shouldn’t be this easy to make such a big mistake.”
The US military confirmed no missile threat had been detected and the alert had been released in error.
Ajit Pai, chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission, announced an investigation.
He tweeted: “The @FCC is launching a full investigation into the false emergency alert that was sent to residents of Hawaii.”
North Korea’s missile and nuclear program is seen as a growing threat to America. Hawaii is one of the American states closest to North Korea.
In September, North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test.
In December, the Star-Advertiser reported that a missile launched from North Korea could strike Hawaii within 20 minutes of launch.
North Korea has accepted South Korea’s proposal to hold military talks to defuse border tension, after their first high-level meeting in two years.
It will also send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games taking place in South Korea in February.
According to the South Korean government, an agreement was also reached to reinstate a military hotline suspended two years ago.
However, the North Korean delegation was negative on the subject of denuclearization, South Korea added.
The US gave a cautious welcome to the meeting.
The state department said the United States remained in close consultations with South Korean officials who would ensure North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics did not violate UN sanctions.
After a day of negotiations, both Koreas issued a joint statement which confirmed they had agreed to hold military talks on defusing military tension.
North Korea also agreed to send a National Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, cheerleaders, art performers, spectators, a taekwondo demonstration team and media to the games, while South Korea would provide the necessary amenities and facilities.
The statement also referred to exchanges in other, unspecified areas and other high-level talks to improve relations, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.
South Korea asked North Korea to end any hostile acts that might raise tension, while the North agreed there was a need to guarantee a peaceful environment on the peninsula, a statement from the South’s government said.
The South also proposed that athletes from both Koreas march together at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang as they did at the 2006 Winter Olympics. It also pushed for the reunion of family members separated by the Korean War – a highly emotional issue for both countries – to take place during the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls in the middle of the Games.
South Korea said it would consider temporarily lifting relevant sanctions, in co-ordination with the UN, to facilitate North Korea’s participation in the Olympics.
North Korea’s reaction to these proposals is not known.
In his opening remarks, the head of North Korea’s delegation, Ri Son-gwon, was fairly neutral. He said he hoped the talks would bring a “good gift” for the new year and that his country had a “serious and sincere stance”.
Talks were held in the Panmunjom “peace village” in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the border.
Five senior officials on each side attended and the leaders of both were said to have watched the talks via a CCTV feed.
In his New Year address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had said he was considering sending a team to the Olympics. South Korea’s Olympics chief had said last year that North Korea’s athletes would be welcome.
Following Kim Jong-un’s overture, South Korea then proposed high-level talks to discuss North Korea’s participation, but the North only agreed to the talks after the US and the South agreed to delay their joint military exercises until after the Olympics. North Korea sees the annual drills as a rehearsal for war.
Some critics in the US see North Korea’s move as an attempt to divide the US-South Korea alliance.
President Donald Trump has responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un saying his nuclear button is “much bigger” and “more powerful”.
In a tweet, the president warned: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
President Trump’s tweet is the latest contribution to the bickering, increasingly personalized feud between the nuclear-armed leaders.
Earlier this week, Kim Jong-un threatened that his nuclear launch button was “always on my table”.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s unorthodox words sent social media into a frenzy.
It ended a quick-fire day of tweeting that included taking credit for a lack of airplane crashed, announcing awards for “corrupt media”, and threatening to pull aid from Palestinians who do not show “appreciation or respect”.
President Trump’s latest comment states the obvious: any US president has immediate access to the nuclear codes and the US has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal.
Many people online have expressed alarm at the apparently light-hearted use of nuclear threats by world leaders.
However, Donald Trump’s supporters have defended him, saying his comments are both factually accurate and show American strength and resolve.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump had a long-running spat with Marco Rubio over the size of his hands.
At the time, he insisted: “He referred to my hands – ‘if they are small, something else must be small’. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee”.
This connection was not missed by social media users.
In a New Year speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said a nuclear launch button is “always on my table” and warned the US it will never be able to start a war.
Kim Jong-un said the entire US was within range of North Korean nuclear weapons, adding: “This is reality, not a threat.”
However, he also offered a potential olive branch to South Korea, suggesting he was “open to dialogue”.
Kim Jong-un also announced that North Korea may also send a team to the Winter Olympics in Seoul.
When asked by reporters to respond to Kim Jong-un’s latest threats, President Donald Trump said: “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
President Trump was speaking at the sidelines of New Year’s Eve celebrations at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
North Korea has come under increased criticism and sanctions over the past year because of its nuclear weapons program and repeated testing of conventional missiles.
During the time, North Korea claimed to have a fully deployable nuclear weapon, though there is still some international skepticism about its true capacity to carry out such an attack.
In his televised speech, Kim Jong-un re-emphasized his focus on the weapons program, but implied the country still has a few stages left to go before achieving its ambitions. North Korea must “mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles and speed up their deployment”, he said.
Kin Jong-un also said they would not use their weapons unless they felt that peace was threatened.
While his language against the United States remained tough, Kim Jong-un did not employ his typically antagonistic tone when speaking about his neighbors in South Korea.
He said: “The year 2018 is a significant year for both the North and the South, with the North marking the 70th anniversary of its birth and the South hosting the Winter Olympics.
“We should melt the frozen North-South relations, thus adorning this meaningful year as a year to be specially recorded in the history of the nation.”
A spokesperson for South Korean President Moon Hae-in said their office had “always stated our willingness to talk with North Korea at anytime and anywhere”.
“We hope the two Koreas will sit down and find a solution to lower tensions and establish peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Kim Jong-un also said he would also consider sending a delegation to the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February – a gesture which South Korea has previously suggested would be welcome.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people and we wish the Games will be a success,” he said.
“Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility.”
Lee Hee-beom, the president of the PyeongChang Games’ organizing committee, told South Korea’s news agency Yonhap he was delighted to hear of the potential participation.
He said: “[The committee] enthusiastically welcomes it. It’s like a New Year’s gift.”
The only two North Korean athletes who qualified for the Games are figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik.
Although North Korea has missed the official deadline to confirm their participation, the skaters could still compete with an invitation by the International Olympic Committee.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in last month suggested delaying an annual joint military drill with US troops until after the Games. North Korea usually denounces any such exercises as a rehearsal for war.
Characteristically bellicose, North Korea described the latest UN sanctions “as a violent breach of our republic’s sovereignty and an act of war that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and a wide region: “The United States, completely terrified at our accomplishment of the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, is getting more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country.
“We will further consolidate our self-defensive nuclear deterrence aimed at fundamentally eradicating the US nuclear threats, blackmail and hostile moves by establishing the practical balance of force with the US.”
The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions, including deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year; all North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency.
There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment.
The UN sanctions came in response to North Korea’s November 28 firing of a ballistic missile, which the US said was its highest yet.
President Donald Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack while North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described the American president as “mentally deranged”.
Australian authorities have arrested a man for allegedly acting as an economic agent for North Korea.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) said that Chan Han Choi, 59, has been charged with brokering illegal exports from the country and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction.
Police allege Chan Han Choi has broken both UN and Australian sanctions.
The case against Chan Han Choi, who has lived in Australia for more than 30 years, is the first of its kind in the country.
It is the first time anyone has been charged under Australia’s 1995 Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act.
Police say there was evidence that Chan Han Choi had been in contact with “high ranking officials in North Korea”.
They allege he had brokered services related to North Korea’s weapons program, including the sale of specialist services including ballistic missile technology to foreign entities, in order to generate income for the North Korean regime.
Chan Han Choi also was charged with brokering the sale of coal from North Korea to groups in Indonesia and Vietnam. He is facing six charges in total after being arrested at his Sydney home on December 16.
In a news conference, police confirmed the man was a naturalized Australian citizen of Korean origin who had been in the country for over 30 years.
They described him as a “loyal agent” who “believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose”.
However, police insisted Chan Han Choi’s actions did not pose any “direct risk” to Australians, with the actions occurring offshore.
“I know these charges sound alarming. Let me be clear we are not suggesting there are any weapons or missile component that ever came to Australian soil,” AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said.
“Any individual who attempts to fly in the face of sanctions cannot and will not go unnoticed in Australia.”
Chan Han Choi could face up to 10 years in prison and has been denied bail.
In October the Australian government said they had received a letter from North Korea urging Canberra to distance itself from the Trump administration.
North Korea had previously warned that Australia would “not be able to avoid a disaster” if it followed US policies towards Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Former US Army Sergeant Charles Jenkins, who defected to North Korea and became Pyongyang’s prisoner for nearly 40 years, has died at the age of 77.
Charles Jenkins lived in Japan where he had settled with his family after his 2004 release.
He was among four US soldiers who defected in the 1960s and later became North Korean film stars, but was the only one who was released.
The other three soldiers reportedly died in North Korea, including James Dresnok who was said to have died of a stroke in 2016.
Charles Jenkins died on Sado island on December 11, where he was living with his wife Hitomi Soga, also a former prisoner of North Korea.
According to Japanese media, Charles Jenkins collapsed outside his home and later died of heart problems in hospital. His wife said in a statement that she was “very surprised” by his death and “cannot think of anything”, according to AFP.
Charles Jenkins had led an extraordinary but also difficult life in North Korea, which he would later chronicle in a memoir and several interviews.
In 1965, while stationed with the US Army in South Korea by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Charles Jenkins decided to abandon his unit and defect to North Korea, fearing he would be killed in patrols or sent to fight in the Vietnam War.
He said he thought that once in North Korea, he could seek asylum with the Russian embassy, and eventually return to the US in a prisoner swap.
One January night, Charles Jenkins said he downed several beers, walked across the DMZ, and surrendered to North Korean soldiers there. He was only 24 years old.
However, Russia did not grant him or the other Americans asylum. Instead, they were held as prisoners by the North Koreans.
In a 2005 interview with CBS, Charles Jenkins said: “Thinking back now, I was a fool. If there’s a God in the heaven, he carried me through it.”
The men were forced to study the teachings of then-leader Kim Il-sung; did translation work; and taught English. However, they also became minor celebrities when they acted in North Korean propaganda films, starring as Western villains.
Charles Jenkins said his captors often beat him, and conducted medical procedures on him that were sometimes unnecessary or brutal, including cutting off a US Army tattoo without anesthesia, an experience which Charles Jenkins had described as “hell”.
In 1980, he was forced to marry a Japanese woman abducted to teach North Korean spies her language.
The couple had two daughters, Mika and Brinda. Charles Jenkins said that as foreign prisoners, they were treated better than ordinary North Koreans and given rations, even during the famine that swept North Korea in the 1990s.
In 2002, his wife was freed after negotiations by the Japanese government. Pyongyang then allowed Charles Jenkins to leave two years later, along with their daughters.
The family reunited under intense scrutiny from the press in Japan, where there was widespread sympathy.
In Japan, Charles Jenkins surrendered to the US Army, almost four decades after he had defected, and was court-martialled.
He was eventually given a 30-day prison sentence, and a dishonorable discharge.
The family settled in Sado island Charles Jenkins eventually found work as a greeter in a tourist park.
However, he had to cope with the culture shock of adapting to the modern world, after spending so many years in an isolated country.
He claimed he had never touched a computer, let alone used the internet, and was surprised to see many women serving in the army as well as black people working as policemen, according to CBS.
Charles Jenkins also suffered from lingering complications from medical procedures he received in North Korea and had to be hospitalized after his release, he told the Los Angeles Times in one of his last media interviews published in August.
Even while living in freedom, Charles Jenkins still remained afraid of his former captors, and was constantly worried that he or his family would eventually be assassinated.
The vast majority of North Korea’s trade is conducted with China, Pyongyang’s biggest economic supporter.
The latest round of UN sanctions targeted several companies and individuals, including two businesses in Singapore.
In January 2016, a Singapore company was fined $125,700 for facilitating a shipment of arms from Cuba to North Korea. A court found the Chinpo Shipping Company was in breach of the UN sanctions on North Korea.
Tension in the Korean peninsula reached unprecedented levels earlier this year after North Korea’s repeated missile tests, including two long range missiles that flew over Japan, and its sixth and biggest nuclear test.
The US and the UN are hoping that sanctions will starve North Korea of the means to pursue its aggressive program of nuclear weapons development.
Singapore still retains diplomatic ties and North Korea maintains an embassy in its financial district.
According to a statement from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the North Korean soldier made it across by passing through the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom, which is the only portion of the DMZ where both forces stand face-to-face.
“He crossed from a North Korea post towards our Freedom House [a building on the South Korean side of the border],” the statement said.
The soldier was hit in the arm and shoulder by gunfire, it added.
According to South Korean media this is only the third defection across the JSA since the end of the Cold War. The last time a soldier crossed was in 2007, and before that in 1998.
The number of North Koreans defecting to the South in the first two-thirds of this year dropped by 13% compared with 2016.
According to South Korean officials, from January to August 2017, 780 North Koreans escaped to South Korea.
The fall is believed to be a result of tighter government surveillance and reinforced border security by both North Korea and China.
The majority of the defectors flee via China, which has the longest border with North Korea that is easier to cross than the heavily protected Demilitarized Zone.
South Korea says more than 30,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
Xi Jinping recently consolidated his power at a Chinese Communist Party congress, a move analysts say will make him less likely to reach compromise with President Trump.
Despite his congratulations, there are tensions between the two men, with President Trump having attacked China over its allegedly unfair trade practices.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania are scheduled to visit the Forbidden City, for centuries the home of China’s emperors, followed by afternoon tea.
The president’s arrival came just hours after his speech in the South Korean capital Seoul, in which he described North Korea as “a hell that no person deserves”.
North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has sparked international alarm, with Pyongyang carrying out its biggest nuclear test yet in September. In typically stark language, Donald Trump warned North Korea: “Do not underestimate us. Do not try us.”
However, there were hints though he might be open to a deal, telling North Korea “we will offer you a path for a better future”.
Singling out Russia and China, President Trump urged “all responsible nations” to isolate North Korea, and fully implement UN sanctions, downgrade diplomatic ties and sever trade and technology ties.
“You cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept,” he said.
China is North Korea’s only major ally, but says it is committed to the UN sanctions and argues its leverage is overestimated.
The two women suspected of murdering Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, have pleaded not guilty at their trial in Malaysia.
The brazen nature of Kim Jong-nam’s killing, using the highly toxic VX nerve agent as he waited for a flight at Kuala Lumpur airport in February, shocked the world.
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29, and Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, are accused of rubbing the chemical on Kim Jong-nam’s face.
Doan Thi Huong and Siti Aisyah say it was a TV prank and they were tricked by North Korean agents.
North Korea has denied any involvement in the killing, but in court prosecutors said that four men – believed to be four North Koreans who fled Malaysia on the day of murder – were also charged in the case.
The incident led to a bitter diplomatic row and strained the once cordial ties between North Korea and Malaysia, which expelled each other’s ambassadors.
The trial has been eight months in the making and the two women are the only suspects actually charged so far with the murder of Kim Jong-nam.
After the charges were read to them in court in Indonesian and Vietnamese, the two women entered their pleas through interpreters.
If found guilty, the women face the death penalty. Their defense lawyers are likely to argue that the real culprits are North Korean agents, who left Malaysia.
However, in his opening remarks, the prosecutor said he aims to prove that the women, along with four people still at large, had the “common intention” to kill Kim Jong-nam.
The prosecutor said the women had carried out practice runs in Kuala Lumpur shopping malls before the attack, under the “supervision” of the four people, who were not named in court.
Dozens of witnesses, including airport staff who came into contact with Kim Jong-nam, are expected to take the stand in the trial which will run for weeks.
The murder is notable for its sheer audacity, taking place as it did mid-morning in full view of security cameras at Kuala Lumpur’s airport.
On February 13, the two women were seen threading through crowds of people and accosting Kim Jong-nam, before rubbing their hands on his face.
Then there was the speed with which Kim Jong-nam died. Immediately after the attack he sought help from airport staff, who led him to a clinic, but he collapsed and died just minutes later.
After a post-mortem examination, Malaysian authorities announced Kim Jong-nam had been killed by VX, a toxin so lethal that it is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
The two women, who were arrested days after the killing, have insisted that they were tricked by North Koreans into taking part in what they thought was a TV prank. Four North Korean men who fled Malaysia shortly after the incident are believed to suspects. In March, Interpol issued “red notices” for the North Koreans arrest.
Malaysia has named and questioned other North Koreans in relation to the case.
However, authorities also allowed three of them to leave the country in late March, in return for North Korea releasing nine Malaysian diplomats and their families.
Kim Jong-nam, who was in his mid-40s, was the estranged older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
At the time of his death, Kim Jong-nam was believed to have been living in self-imposed exile in Macau and was thought to have had some links to China.
The US has expanded its travel ban to include people from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad.
According to the White House, the new restrictions follow a review of information sharing by foreign governments.
President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation on September 24.
He said in a post on Twitter: “Making America safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.”
The restrictions on Venezuelans apply only to government officials and their family members.
The three new countries join five others from President Trump’s original travel ban: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. However, the new proclamation removed restrictions that were placed on Sudan.
President Trump’s original ban was highly controversial, as it affected six majority-Muslim countries, and was widely labeled a “Muslim ban”.
The travel ban was subject to a range of legal challenges and several large-scale protests, and is due to be considered by the US Supreme Court in October, having been partly reinstated in July.
The American Civil Liberties Union rights group said the addition of the new countries “doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban”.
It is not yet clear how President Trump’s new proclamation, which changes several key elements, will affect that legal challenge.
The addition of North Korea and Venezuela now means not all nations on the list are majority-Muslim.
The criteria for the new ban list is now based on vetting procedures and co-operation, and the restrictions have now been “tailored” on a country-by-country basis. The White House said North Korea did not co-operate with the US government “in any respect” and failed all requirements – and so all travel to the US by its citizens has been banned. Chad, while an important counter-terrorism partner, did not share terrorism-related and other public information the US required – business and tourist visas for its nationals are suspended. Only “certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members” have been banned – its government has recently been hit with economic sanctions by the US, who now say it does not co-operate “in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public-safety threats” and does not receive deported nationals willingly.
Most of the restrictions come in the form of suspension of B-1 and B-2 business and tourist visas, and they do not appear to be time-limited in the way that President Trump’s former executive order was.
In a fact sheet accompanying President Trump’s proclamation, the White House said that while Iraq also falls short of the required criteria, the country was not included in the new restrictions “because of the close co-operative relationship between the United States” and their part in fighting so-called Islamic State.
The restrictions come into effect on October 18, but will not apply to those already in possession of a valid visa, the White House said.
North Korean missile tests often come in response to South Korean military exercises involving the US.
Thousands of US and South Korean troops are currently taking part in joint military drills, which are mainly largely computer-simulated exercises.
The projectiles were launched at 06:49 on August 26, South Korea’s defense ministry said.
The US military initially reported that two of the missiles had failed but, according to its later assessment, one appears to have blown up almost immediately while two flew about 155 miles in a north-easterly direction.
The launches were spread over a period of 30 minutes, an official said.
The South Korean defense ministry said: “The military is keeping a tight surveillance over the North to cope with further provocations.”
On August 16, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said there could be no military solution to the stand-off.
He told The American Prospect: “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
Gen. Dunford agreed a military solution would be “horrific” but went on to say “what’s unimaginable to me is not a military option”.
“What is unimaginable is allowing [North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un] to develop ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead that can threaten the United States and continue to threaten the region.”
He said President Trump “has told us to develop credible, viable military options, and that’s exactly what we’re doing”.
A senior Chinese military official who met Gen. Joseph Dunford told him that military action should be ruled out and that “dialogue” was the only option, the Chinese defense ministry said.
China is North Korea’s only major ally. The US has criticized China for not doing enough to rein it in, but Beijing says it has begun halting iron, iron ore and seafood imports from North Korea, in line with new UN sanctions.
Thousands of people have enjoyed a pop concert close to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea.
The South Korean “peace concert” takes place every year near the zone which splits the Korean peninsula.
This year, it comes as North Korea is threatening to fire missiles towards the US territory of Guam, while President Donald Trump has threatened them with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.
There are two events – the first and more popular one is a Korean pop (or K-pop) extravaganza on August 12, followed by a classical music concert on August 13.
Though they are marketed as “DMZ Concerts”, they are obviously not held within the demilitarized zone, but at a tourist spot called Nuri Peace Park in the South Korean city of Paju, north of Seoul.
The free and public event is organized by South Korean broadcaster MBC, the Ministry of Unification – which promotes and prepares for potential future reunification of the Koreas – and local authorities. The concert will be broadcast on August 15 on national TV.
This year’s K-pop concert was taglined “Again, Peace!” and boasted top acts like Girls Generation and BTOB.
The concert is in part a celebration of National Liberation Day, a public holiday in both Koreas and a potent symbol of their shared history.
The date the show will be broadcast on TV – August 15 – marks the end of Japanese colonial rule on the Korean peninsula in 1945. The Korean War began a few years after that and ended in an armistice, so the two countries are still technically at war with each other.
The current series of concerts began in 2011, but back in 2000, South Korea tried to convince North Korea to hold a joint concert in Pyongyang as a cultural exchange. The plan fell through reportedly over a financial disagreement.
The organizers position the concerts as a way of encouraging the resolution of the Korean conflict through cultural exchange.
Korean acts are already hugely popular across Asia, and have an increasing following worldwide.
Despite their heavily controlled lives, many North Koreans are reportedly huge fans of South Korea’s music and other cultural imports such as soap operas, which are often smuggled in.
North Korean defectors have previously said that South Korean entertainment helped them learn the realities of life outside their country.