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.
It said the projectile reached an altitude of 1,731 miles and flew 583 miles before hitting a target in the sea.
Earlier the US Pacific Command said it was an intermediate range missile.
Image source Wikipedia
While Pyongyang has appeared to have made progress, experts believe North Korea does not have the capability to accurately target a place with an intercontinental ballistic missile, or miniaturize a nuclear warhead that can fit on to such a missile.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has called on the UN Security Council to take steps against North Korea over its latest missile test.
Moon Jae-in has ordered security and diplomatic officials to seek “Security Council measures in close co-operation with the country’s allies, including the United States,” his chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan told reporters.
South Korea’s sports minister had suggested a joint ice hockey team – even going as far as to suggest they might allow the north to host skiing events – to help make the 2018 games a “peace Olympics”.
President Moon Jae-in, who advocates greater dialogue with South Korea’s neighbors, then put forward the idea of a wider unified Olympic squad.
How Chang Un said the games should not be used for political purposes, adding: “As an expert of the Olympics, it is a little late to be talking about co-hosting. It’s easy to talk about co-hosting, but it is never easy to solve practical problems for that. It’s the same for forming a joint team for ice hockey.”
South Korean officials have said they continue to be open to the idea.
The two sides remain technically at war as the fighting at the end of the Korean War in 1953 did not end with a peace treaty. Tensions have risen recently following repeated missiles tests carried out by Pyongyang.
Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea for more than 15 months.
The coroner said only an external exam was performed on Otto Warmbier, who arrived home in a coma.
North Korea claims Otto Warmbier’s coma was due to botulism and a sleeping pill, but his family and doctors disagree.
Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in March 2016 after being tried for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.
The coroner’s office in Cincinnati, Ohio, said in a statement: “No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Mr. Warmbier at this time of their tragic loss.”
Doctors at the Cincinnati Medical Center, where Otto Warmbier was treated following his return to the US on June 13, determined he suffered from “unresponsive wakefulness”, also known as persistent vegetative state, due to “severe neurological injury”.
However, it remains unclear exactly what happened to the student while in North Korea detention. His family and doctors dispute North Korea’s version of events.
A funeral is to take place on June 21 at a high school in Wyoming, Ohio, that Otto Warmbier attended before enrolling at the University of Virginia.
“All those that wish to join his family in celebrating his life are cordially invited,” the announcement states.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier wrote: “When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13, he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands.
“He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day, the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace. He was home, and we believe he could sense that.”
They also said: “The awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”
President Trump said that a “lot of bad things happened” to Otto Warmbier, but added: “At least we got him home to be with his parents, where they were so happy to see him, even though he was in very tough condition.”
The president said Otto Warmbier’s death had deepened his administration’s resolve “to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency”.
“The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”
The company Otto Warmbier traveled with, Chinese company Young Pioneer Tours, has announced it will no longer take visitors from the US to North Korea.
However, a team of doctors assessing Otto Warmbier in Cincinnati said they had found “no sign of botulism”.
Otto Warmbier had suffered a “severe neurological injury” of unknown cause, the doctors said, leading to an extensive loss of brain tissue.
He could open his eyes but showed no sign of response to communication.
Doctors said the most likely cause, given Otto Warmbier’s young age, was cardiopulmonary arrest that had cut the blood supply to the brain.
It is not known when Otto Warmbier had fallen into his coma and there is a suspicion it was quite recently, as the US was only told at the beginning of this month about his health situation.
The North Koreans may have realized there was the possibility of an American citizen dying on their hands.
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has helped free other Americans in North Korea, said he had met North Korean envoys 20 times during Otto Warmbier’s incarceration and on no occasion was his health mentioned.
Bill Richardson called for the release of the three US citizens still held in North Korea:
Kim Dong-chul, a 62-year-old naturalized US citizen born in South Korea, who was sentenced to ten years hard labor in April 2016 for spying;
Korean-American professor Kim Sang-duk (known as Tony Kim), who was detained in April 2017. The reasons for his arrest are not yet clear;
Kim Hak-song, like Kim Sang-duk, worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) and was detained in May 2017 on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the state.
President Donald Trump was criticized in May when he said he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the “appropriate” time.
The US authorities have been accused by North Korea of “literally mugging” its diplomats at a New York airport.
A spokesman for North Korea said the country’s officials had been “robbed” of a diplomatic package at John F. Kennedy Airport on June 16.
According to North Korea’s state news agency KCNA, the incident proved the US was a “lawless gangster state”.
The White House – which considers “solving” the North Korea crisis a priority – has yet to comment.
Image source Wikimedia
The North Korean diplomats were reportedly returning from a UN conference on disability rights when the incident – branded by KCNA as an “illegal and heinous act of provocation” – took place.
The news agency said: “The international community needs to seriously reconsider whether or not New York, where such an outrageous mugging is rampant, is fit to serve as the venue for international meetings.”
This alleged incident marks the latest addition to a catalogue of increasingly strained tensions between the two countries.
North Korea said Otto Warmbier’s coma was caused by botulism and a sleeping pill he took after his trial last year.
However, US doctors disputed this, while Otto Warmbier’s father said: “Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing the coma – and we don’t – there’s no excuse for a civilized nation to have kept his condition secret and to have denied him top notch medical care.”
North Korea had accused Otto Warmbier – who had been on a tour of North Korea – of stealing a propaganda sign, claims disputed by those who were with him on the trip.
Otto Warmbier is now being treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after the flight carrying him landed in Ohio on June 13.
He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.
Otto Warmbier was given a sleeping pill after becoming ill after his trial in 2016 and did not wake up, North Korea said.
His parents, Fred and Cindy, said: “We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime.”
Former US ambassador and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who has previously served as special envoy to North Korea and in 2016 attempted to negotiate Otto Warmbier’s release, said the student’s family had updated him on their son’s condition.
“In no uncertain terms, North Korea must explain the causes of his coma,” Bill Richardson said.
If Otto Warmbier’s illness is the direct result of brutality in prison, there might be pressure on President Trump to take action against Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Otto Warmbier is an economics student from the University of Virginia, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Otto Warmbier appeared emotional at a news conference a month later, in which he tearfully confessed to trying to take the sign as a “trophy” for a US church, adding: “The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people.”
Foreign detainees in North Korea have previously recanted confessions, saying they were made under pressure.
In a statement on June 13, Otto Warmbier’s parents said: “Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March 2016. We learned of this only one week ago.”
They were quoted by the Washington Post as saying they had been told Otto Warmbier had contracted botulism, a rare illness that causes paralysis, soon after his trial in March 2016.
Otto Warmbier was given a sleeping pill and had been in a coma ever since, the newspaper said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made no mention of Otto Warmbier’s condition in a statement, saying only that he was on his way home to be reunited with his family and would not make any further comment, out of respect for the privacy of the family.
Otto Warmbier appeared emotional at a news conference a month later, in which he tearfully confessed to trying to take the sign as a “trophy” for a US church, adding “the aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people”.
Foreign detainees in North Korea have previously recanted confessions, saying they were made under pressure.
His parents Fred and Cindy told CNN in early May that they had had no contact with their son for more than a year.
In a statement, Fred and Cindy Warmbier said: “Otto has left North Korea. He is on a Medivac flight on his way home.
“Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March 2016. We learned of this only one week ago.”
They were quoted by the Washington Post as saying they had been told their son had contracted botulism, a rare illness that causes paralysis, soon after his trial in March 2016.
Otto Warmbier was given a sleeping pill and had been in a coma ever since, the newspaper said.
Rex Tillerson made no mention of Otto Warmbier’s condition in his statement, saying only that he was on his way home to be reunited with his family and would not make any further comment, out of respect for the privacy of the family.
The US has in the past accused North Korea of detaining its citizens to use them as pawns in negotiations over its nuclear weapons program.
The arrests have come at a time of heightened tension between North Korea and the US and its regional neighbors.
Dennis Rodman is a friend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and has made several visits to the country in recent years.
There was some speculation that Dennis Rodman might plead the case for the American detainees, but en route to North Korea the basketball star told reporters “my purpose is to actually see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea”.
Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said, according to Reuters: “We wish him well. But we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety.”
Dennis Rodman told reporters: “My purpose is to actually see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea, so that’s the main thing.”
Image source Wikimedia
It is unclear whether the former NBA player will also bring up the detention of US citizens in the country.
The US and North Korean tensions have intensified under President Donald Trump.
However, President Trump has also said he would be “honored” to meet Kim Jong-un, in the right circumstances.
Speaking at the airport on June 13, Dennis Rodman said: “I am pretty much sure that he [President Trump] is happy with the fact that I am over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”
When asked about the former Chicago Bulls star ‘s North Korea visits in 2013, Donald Trump told Fox News: “You look at the world, the world is blowing up around us. Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have.”
Dennis Rodman had been a contestant on Donald Trump’s reality TV show The Celebrity Apprentice that same year.
In 2014, Donald Trump flatly dismissed rumors that the pair might travel to North Korea together.
Dennis Rodman also once encouraged former President Barack Obama to “pick up the phone and call” Kim Jong-un, emphasizing that the two leaders both liked basketball.
His trips have been referred to as “basketball diplomacy” in the US press.
In 2014, Dennis Rodman told luxury lifestyle magazine DuJour he had approached the US government for support but was rejected.
He has previously broken down in tears during TV interviews, saying he has had death threats over his trips, which have been condemned by human rights activists.
Although at one point he did tweet Kim Jong-un to ask if he would “do me a solid and let Kenneth Bae loose” – referring to a US-Korean missionary who served two years in prison for trying to overthrow the government.
Experts fear the tests indicate progress towards North Korea’s ultimate goal of putting a nuclear warhead on a missile.
The latest firing, however, does not violate the UN Security Council’s resolutions against the North, as those resolutions only ban ballistic missile launches, reported South Korean news agency Yonhap.
South Korean military spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the latest launch showed the North “likely wanted to show off its ability to precisely target a large warship” after recent military drills involving US aircraft carriers and South Korean troops.
“By testing different types of missiles, North Korea also appears to be aiming to secure the upper hand in relations with South Korea and the United States,” Roh Jae-cheon told reporters.
Anti-ship cruise missiles are guided missiles which generally skim the water. In 2012, North Korea displayed several such weapons known as Styx.
North Korea has also previously unsuccessfully tested anti-ship ballistic missiles, experts believe.
Last week the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution to impose targeted sanctions on certain North Korean officials and state entities.
The US has also ramped up its military presence in the region, conducting drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defense system in South Korea, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
However, South Korea said on June 7 it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment is completed.