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According to the US military, North Korea has fired three short-range ballistic missiles.

The missiles were launched from a site in the North Korean province of Gangwon and flew for about 150 miles, officials in South Korea said.

Since firing an intercontinental ballistic weapon last month, North Korea has threatened to aim missiles at the US Pacific territory of Guam.

However, this latest test did not threaten the US or Guam, the US military said.

Image source Wikipedia

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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.”

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North Korea has announced it successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

It is the first time North Korea has claimed to have successfully tested a long-range “intercontinental” missile which could potentially have the range to reach the US mainland.

Earlier the US said a missile landed in the Sea of Japan but that it did not pose a threat to North America.

North Korea has increased the frequency of its missile tests, raising tensions.

An announcement on North Korea state TV said it had launched a Hwasong-14 missile, overseen by their leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea Tests New Rocket Engine

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.

North Korea Accuses US of Mugging Its Diplomats at JFK Airport

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.

North Korea Fires Several Anti-Ship Missiles Off Its East Coast

Earlier Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “North Korea’s repeated provocations like this are absolutely unacceptable.”

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe said his country would “unite strongly” with the US and South Korea to put pressure on Pyongyang.

President Donald Trump also responded swiftly on July 4 to the missile launch.

On his Twitter account, Donald Trump made apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

President Trump has repeatedly called on China, Pyongyang’s closest ally, to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs.

China has not fully responded to the latest test.

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According to US officials, North Korea has tested a new rocket engine as part of its efforts to build a missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

The news comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The Trump administration has made the issue one of its top priorities.

Despite international condemnation, North Korea has increased its missile tests, with the aim of developing an intercontinental nuclear-armed rocket.

Last month, the US Defense Intelligence Agency warned that North Korea was on an “inevitable” path to achieving this.

On June 22, US officials speaking anonymously to several news agencies said the latest engine test could be one stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) engine that would be able to reach the American mainland.

Due to the secretive nature of all of North Korea’s military activity, it is hard for experts to assess how close the country is to building a reliable ICBM.

On June 21, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged China to use more diplomatic pressure on North Korea “if they want to prevent further escalation in the region”.

China is seen as North Korea’s main ally and the US hopes Beijing can have greater influence on the totalitarian state to stop both its missile tests and nuclear program.

President Donald Trump has said he would like to solve the North Korea crisis diplomatically, but has previously warned that a “major, major conflict” is possible.

Tensions spiked once again last week when American student Otto Warmbier, who was serving a hard labor sentence in North Korea for stealing a propaganda sign, died shortly after returning home in a coma.

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 recently said it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment was completed.

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Pope Francis has urged for international mediation to ease rising tensions between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear activity.

The Pope suggested that Norway, for example, was “always ready to help”.

Pope Francis warned the crisis risked sparking a devastating war in which “a good part of humanity” would be destroyed.

The pontiff’s comments come hours after North Korea test-fired another ballistic missile, which the US and South Korea say exploded shortly after take-off.

The missile was fired from a site in South Pyeongan province, north of Pyongyang, South Korea said.

President Donald Trump accused Pyongyang of showing “disrespect” towards China and its president.

He recently hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping and praised him for “trying very hard” on North Korea.

The test came just hours after the UN Security Council had discussed North Korea’s missile program.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane after a visit to Egypt, Pope Francis said: “There are so many facilitators in the world, there are mediators who offer themselves, such as Norway for example.”

The pontiff warned that the situation had become “too hot” and said: the “path is the path of negotiations, of a diplomatic solution”.

In 2003 six-party talks – involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia – were launched to address concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program. However, Pyongyang withdrew from the negotiations in 2009.

Tensions in the region have increased lately, with both North and South Korea conducting military exercises.

North Korea is believed to be continuing efforts to miniaturize nuclear warheads and fit them on long-range missiles capable of reaching the US.

It is not known what kind of missile was unsuccessfully launched on April 29. However, US officials told Reuters that it was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17.

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According to reports from Seoul, South Korea has a plan to annihilate Pyongyang if North Korea shows any signs of mounting a nuclear attack.

A military source told the Yonhap news agency every part of Pyongyang “will be completely destroyed by ballistic missiles and high-explosives shells”.

Yonhap has close ties to South Korea’s government and is publicly funded.

On September 9, North Korea carried out what it said was its fifth, and largest, nuclear test.

The international community is considering its response.

Photo KCNA

Photo KCNA

The US says it is considering its own sanctions, in addition to any imposed by the UN Security Council, Japan and South Korea.

Pyongyang responded on September 11 by calling the threats of “meaningless sanctions… highly laughable”.

The South Korean military official told Yonhap that Pyongyang districts thought to be hiding the North’s leadership would be particularly targeted in any attack. Pyongyang, the source said, “will be reduced to ashes and removed from the map”.

News of South Korea’s attack plan for North Korea is believed to have been revealed to parliament following September 9 nuclear test.

Meanwhile, the US’s special envoy for North Korea says Washington is considering taking unilateral action against Pyongyang.

Sung Kim said: “North Korea continues to present a growing threat to the region, to our allies, to ourselves, and we will do everything possible to defend against that growing threat.

“In addition to sanctions in the Security Council, both the US and Japan, together with [South Korea], will be looking at any unilateral measures as well as bilateral measures as well as possible trilateral cooperation.”

North Korea is banned by the UN from any tests of nuclear or missile technology and has been hit by five sets of UN sanctions since its first test in 2006.

The secretive country said September 9 test had been of a “nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets”.

Estimates of the explosive yield of the latest blast have varied. South Korea’s military said it was about 10 kilotonnes, enough to make it the North’s “strongest nuclear test ever”. Other experts say initial indications suggest 20 kilotonnes or more.

The nuclear bomb dropped by the US on Hiroshima in 1945 had a yield of about 15 kilotonnes.

 

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North Korea is holding a huge rally in capital Pyongyang to mark the end of the Workers’ Party Congress, the first in 36 years.

The congress of North Korea’s ruling party cemented the position of leader Kim Jong-un, elevating him to the role of party chairman.

On May 10, state media announced that Kim Jong-un’ sister, Kim Yo-jong, had been elected to the ruling committee.

The Congress also endorsed the national policy of building nuclear capability alongside economic development.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have joined the rally in Pyongyang, where Kim Jong-un was seen waving to the crowds and chatting with military and party officials.

People marched through the square waving pink paper flowers, colored balloons and red party flags. Floats were also moved through the square, some of them carrying mock-ups of missiles.North Korea mass rally after congress

The confirmation of a new title for Kim Yo-jong had been widely expected.

Kim Jong-un’s younger sister is already influential as vice-director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, but her elevation to the central committee is seen as a further consolidation of power around her brother.

More than 100 foreign reporters have been granted visas to cover the congress, although only a few were, briefly, allowed in to watch the meeting.

The congress, which began on May 6, also launched a new five-year plan for the economy, which has been hit by some of its strongest sanctions yet after the country’s recent nuclear and rocket tests.

Kim Jong-un also used a speech to say North Korea would not use its nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty was threatened.

China has sent a message of congratulations to Kim Jong-un on his new position, though it declined to send a representative to the gathering.

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North Korea has threatened the US and South Korea with nuclear strikes as the two begin their largest ever military drills.

The US and South Korean exercises, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are an annual event and always generate tension.

The order for a “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice” was made in a statement put out by Pyongyang.

Such rhetoric is not uncommon, and experts doubt North Korea’s ability to put nuclear warheads on its missiles.

North Korea says it sees the annual US-South Korean war games as a rehearsal for invasion.

In 2015, North Korea threatened to turn Washington into a “sea of fire”.

“We will launch an all-out offensive to decisively counter the US and its followers’ hysteric[al] nuclear war moves,” a newsreader on the state-run North Korean KRT news channel said of the latest exercises.North Korea threatens with nuclear strikes

Approximately 17,000 US forces are participating in the exercises, alongside around 300,000 South Korean troops – both significant increases on 2015’s numbers.

Despite starting on the same day, Key Resolve is more computer simulation-driven and ends on March 18, while Foal Eagle is more focussed on field exercises and runs until 30 April.

South Korea’s defense ministry has warned Pyongyang against any “rash act that brings destruction upon itself”.

“If North Korea ignores our warning and makes provocations, our military will firmly and mercilessly respond to it,” said spokesman Moon Sang-gyun.

Japan’s foreign minister also demanded that North Korea show restraint.

Though unconfirmed, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing military sources, has reported that the exercises will include training for precision attacks on North Korean leadership and its nuclear and missile facilities.

Seoul is expected to announce more sanctions of its own on March 8, which is likely to draw another angry response from Pyongyang.

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Kim Jong-un has appeared to suggest North Korea possesses a hydrogen bomb, in comments published on state media.

North Korea was “ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb”, KCNA quoted Kim Jong-un as saying.

If true, the development would mark a significant advancement in North Korean nuclear capabilities.

However, the claim has not been independently verified and has drawn skepticism from experts.Kim Jong un North Korea H bomb

The North Korean leader made the remarks as he inspected a historical military site in the capital Pyongyang.

The work of his grandfather Kim Il-sung had turned North Korea into a “powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation”, Kim Jong-un is quoted as saying.

While North Korea has made previous claims about its nuclear weapons capabilities this is thought to be its first reference to an H-bomb.

Such devices use fusion to create a blast far more powerful than a more basic atomic bomb.

North Korea has carried out three underground nuclear tests before, but experts cast doubt over the latest suggestions.

Independent observers are rarely allowed access to the secretive communist state, making verifying the authorities’ claims difficult.

North Korea has expelled US aid worker Sandra Suh after accusing her of engaging in “plot-breeding and propaganda”.

Sandra Suh frequently visited North Korea over the past 20 years.

According to North Korea’s state media, Sandra Suh had traveled to North Korea “under the pretense of ‘humanitarianism”, but that she had secretly produced and directed anti-North Korean videos and photos because of her “inveterate repugnancy” toward Pyongyang.

Sandra Suh arrived on a flight to Beijing on April 9 but made no comments to reporters there.North Korea deports Sandra Suh

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf in Washington said on April 8 she could not confirm any of the details that have been reported about Sandra Suh.

North Korea has occasionally detained Americans and other foreigners for what it considered missionary work or “anti-state” activities that it sees as attempts to bring down its authoritarian government.

Analysts say past detentions have been attempts to wrest outside concessions out of Washington. Authorities in Pyongyang have also in the past staged news conferences, during which foreign detainees appeared before the media and made statements that they then recanted after their releases.

However, the KCNA report appeared to be the first word about Sandra Suh.

Pyongyang said it decided to deport Sandra Suh because of her “old age” and after she apologized and admitted that she’d “seriously insulted” its citizens’ trust in leader Kim Jong-un.

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Two suspected short-range missiles have been launched by North Korea, South Korea says, in the fourth such test in two weeks.

The projectiles were fired from a western province into waters east of the Korean peninsula in the early hours of Wednesday, officials said.

The move follows a recent visit by the Chinese president to South Korea.

Chinese leaders traditionally go to Pyongyang before Seoul, and the visit has been seen as a snub to North Korea.

North Korea has fired two suspected short-range missiles into the sea

North Korea has fired two suspected short-range missiles into the sea

“North Korea fired two short-range missiles presumed to be Scud-type ones… from a site in Hwanghae province in a north-easterly direction,” South Korean spokesman Um Hyo-sik was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

“They flew some 500km [310 miles] and landed in international waters,” he added, without giving further details.

North Korea has carried out several such launches in recent months, including four within the last two weeks.

It has interspersed these launches with apparently conciliatory moves towards the South, including a recent offer to suspend provocative military activities and cross-border slander.

Previous similar offers have come to nothing and South Korea has dismissed this latest offer.

The latest launch also comes days after Chinese President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye reaffirmed their opposition to North Korean nuclear tests during talks in Seoul.

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According to South Korean reports, North Korea has fired two more short-range rockets into the sea, the latest in a series of recent missile tests.

The rockets were fired off the east coast and flew about 110 miles, South Korean military officials said.

The move comes as China’s President Xi Jinping prepares to visit South Korea, with whom North Korea is technically at war.

It also comes a day after Japan urged Pyongyang to stop such launches and after Seoul rejected a North Korean offer to end hostilities as insincere.

The two rockets were fired from a site near the eastern city of Wonsan at 06:50 and 08:00, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

North Korea has fired two more short-range rockets into the sea

North Korea has fired two more short-range rockets into the sea

North Korea appeared to be testing the range of the projectiles, Yonhap news agency reported, citing military officials. It also carried out similar tests on June 26 and 29.

To date North Korea has carried out three nuclear tests and is believed to be working on long-range missile development. In recent months it has also carried out a steady stream of short-range missile tests.

Talks between North Korea’s leaders and other nations on ending its nuclear ambitions have been stalled for years.

China, which is North Korea’s biggest trading ally, is the nation believed to wield the most influence over Pyongyang.

But Beijing appears increasingly frustrated with its unreliable neighbor.

The issue of North Korea – including possible plans for a fourth nuclear test – is expected to top the agenda during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul, which begins on Thursday.

North Korea has also in recent weeks alternated between threatening South Korea and offering apparent concessions.

On Monday Pyongyang offered to suspend hostile military activities and slander, a move Seoul described as “nonsensical”.

North Korea has made similar offers in the past but these have invariably broken down.

North Korea is also currently engaged in talks with Japan on the issue of Japanese nationals it abducted in the 1970s and 1980s to teach language and culture to its spies.

Japan criticized Sunday’s rocket launch at the start of one-day talks in Beijing on Tuesday, at which no breakthroughs were reported.

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The North Korean government has apologized for the collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang last week which is feared to have killed scores of people.

The accident in Pyongyang on Tuesday was reported on Sunday morning by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The news agency said that the collapse happened in the city’s Phyongchon district.

While it is not clear how many people died, some reports say that the “unimaginable” accident could possibly have killed more than 100 residents.

North Korea has apologized for the collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang which is feared to have killed scores of people

North Korea has apologized for the collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang which is feared to have killed scores of people

The construction of the apartment block “was not done properly and officials supervised and controlled it in an irresponsible manner”, the news agency said.

Correspondents say that it is extremely rare for North Korea to admit negative news, and the report from the official KCNA news agency included equally rare apologies from top officials.

An “intensive” emergency rescue effort had been carried out to rescue survivors and treat the wounded, it said.

The KCNA did not provide detailed casualty figures or explain the cause of the collapse, but said it had left Pyongyang citizens “greatly shocked”.

A South Korean official, speaking to the AP news agency on condition of anonymity, said the collapsed building was a 23-story apartment complex.

Another unidentified official told Reuters that the building was thought to have held 92 households.

“Hundreds are presumed to be dead, assuming that each family has an average of four members,” he said.

It is not uncommon for residents of partially built apartment blocks in North Korea to move into them before construction officially ends, correspondents say.

A senior Pyongyang official was quoted by KCNA as saying that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “sat up all night, feeling painful” after being told about the collapse.

It is estimated that about 2.5 million people – mostly top party members or other privileged people – live in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang’s inhabitants are known to have more regular electricity supplies and better access to food, goods and other services compared with those living elsewhere in North Korea.

North Korea has decided to withdraw an invitation for US envoy Robert King to visit Pyongyang to discuss the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae who has been held in the Asian nation for more than a year, a State Department official said Sunday.

“We are deeply disappointed by the DPRK [North Korean] decision – for a second time – to rescind its invitation for Ambassador [Robert] King to travel to Pyongyang to discuss Kenneth Bae’s release,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said.

North Korea has decided to withdraw an invitation for US envoy Robert King to visit Pyongyang to discuss the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae

North Korea has decided to withdraw an invitation for US envoy Robert King to visit Pyongyang to discuss the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae

“The DPRK announced publicly in May 2013 that it would not use the fate of Kenneth Bae as a political bargaining chip.”

Ambassador Robert King is the State Department’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.

Jennifer Psaki added that civil rights activist Jesse Jackson has volunteered to go to Pyongyang to try to free imprisoned Kenneth Bae.

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The United States and South Korea have responded coolly to North Korea’s offer of high-level talks with Washington.

North Korea will be judged “by its actions and not its words”, a US spokeswoman said.

The North proposed talks on “regional peace” with the US on Sunday, but said there should be no “preconditions”.

Last week, planned talks between Pyongyang and Seoul fell through following disagreement over which delegates should attend.

Regional tensions were raised earlier this year after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test and threatened to attack South Korean and US targets in the region.

In recent weeks rhetoric from Pyongyang has softened, but US officials appeared skeptical of its offer.

The US and South Korea have responded coolly to North Korea's offer of high-level talks with Washington

The US and South Korea have responded coolly to North Korea’s offer of high-level talks with Washington

“Our desire is to have credible negotiations with the North Koreans, but those talks must involve North Korea living up to its obligations to the world, including compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and ultimately result in denuclearization,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

North Korea had to live up to its obligations on nuclear proliferation, Denis McDonough, chief of staff to the US president, told US broadcaster CBS news.

“We’ll judge them by their actions, not by the nice words that we heard yesterday,” Denis McDonough said.

“They’re not going to be able to talk their way out of very significant sanctions they’re under now,” he added.

North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission had also suggested that any talks on reducing nuclear weapons would need to include American weapons as well as North Korean ones.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said its stance on talks was the same as the US.

“The window of dialogue is open but that the North should take concrete steps first,” ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-seok said.

North Korea has reneged on deals with the US on several occasions in the past. In February 2012, it agreed to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid.

However, it announced plans for a rocket launch in March that year – something the US called a disguised test of banned missile technology – leading the US to suspend its plans for food aid.

The US, Japan and South Korea are scheduled to meet in Washington on Wednesday to discuss resuming six-party talks on nuclear disarmament with North Korea.

The six party talks are the agreed forum for discussing North Korean denuclearization, but have been stalled since 2009.

The US also wants a commitment to denuclearization to be a precursor to negotiations with North Korea.

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North Korea has blamed the South for “arrogant obstructions” that led high-level talks to be cancelled.

South Korea’s “deliberate disturbance” by changing the head of its delegation made “the talks between authorities abortive”, North Korea said.

The planned talks, which followed months of raised tensions, were aborted after the two sides failed to agree on the composition of the delegations.

Seoul said it was disappointed with North Korea’s response.

North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA described the South’s nomination of Vice-Unification Minister Kim Nam-shik to lead the delegation as “the height of discourtesy and disrespect unprecedented in the history of the North-South dialogue”.

This, and the difficulty in agreeing an agenda for discussion, proved “that the South side had no intent to hold dialogue from the beginning and that it only sought to create an obstacle to the talks, [to] delay and torpedo them”, it said.

It added that this made the North question whether inter-Korean talks were possible.

The two Koreas have not held ministerial-level talks since 2007.

North Korea has accused South Korea of "arrogant obstructions" that led high-level talks to be cancelled

North Korea has accused South Korea of “arrogant obstructions” that led high-level talks to be cancelled

The agreement to hold the talks – seen by analysts as a major development in itself – came in the early hours of Monday after lengthy preliminary discussions in the truce village of Panmunjom.

It came after months of heightened tensions following North Korea’s third nuclear test in February.

After the UN tightened sanctions against the North as a result of the test, Pyongyang threatened to attack South Korea and US bases in the region, cut various hotlines used for intra-Korean communication, and withdrew its workers from a joint industrial park.

South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae was originally reported as the head of the South’s delegation for Wednesday’s planned talks.

However, when Seoul asked Pyongyang to send Kim Yang-gon, an adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea refused. Seoul then named its vice-minister as its chief negotiator instead.

North Korea said the implication that Kim Yang-gon was not equal in rank to Ryoo Kihl-jae was “a revelation of its ignorance”, and “a manifestation of [South Korea’s] sinister intention” to abort the talks.

Speaking on Wednesday, South Korean PM Chung Hong-won said Seoul would no longer make “infinite concessions” to North Korea.

“In the past, we have made infinite concessions to the North, but the time has come to hold talks where both sides are represented by officials of the same level,” Chung Hong-won said.

Meanwhile, North Korea has not answered routine calls from South Korea via the Red Cross communications line linking the two countries, South Korea says.

North Korea cut the communications link in March amid rising regional tensions, but restored it last Friday.

South Korean media say the unanswered calls may suggest that Pyongyang has cut the hotline again.

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North Korea is marking today the 101st anniversary of the birth of country’s founding father Kim Il-sung as tensions continue in the Korean peninsula.

Kim Jong-un, Kim Il-sung’s grandson, visited the mausoleum of his grandfather and his father Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, the official KCNA news agency reports.

In recent weeks North Korea has threatened to attack South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region.

The US has ruled out holding any more “artificial talks” with North Korea.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said North Korea’s main diplomatic ally, China, had made a very strong statement criticizing Pyongyang for its recent behavior. He said he hoped Beijing was now recognizing the regional instability created by the actions of Kim Jong-un.

North Korea is marking the 101st anniversary of the birth of founding father Kim Il-sung as tensions continue in the Korean peninsula

North Korea is marking the 101st anniversary of the birth of founding father Kim Il-sung as tensions continue in the Korean peninsula

Early on Monday Kim Jong-un was at the Kumsusan mausoleum to pay “high tribute and humblest reverence” to the country’s former leaders, KCNA reports.

The streets of Pyongyang are adorned with flags and banners for the holiday, a red-letter day for one of the world’s most powerful cults of personality.

Tensions have been high on the Korean peninsula after North Korea conducted its third underground nuclear test on February 12 that resulted in sanctions from the UN.

There is speculation that North Korea will use Kim Il-sung’s birthday for a missile launch.

At this time last year, North Korea launched a rocket with the stated aim of putting a satellite into orbit to mark the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth. The rocket broke up shortly after take-off.

The UN Security Council condemned the launch, which many outside the country saw as an illegal test of long-range missile technology.

On Sunday US Secretary of State John Kerry called on North Korea’s leaders to “come to the table in a responsible way” to end regional tensions, warning it risked further isolation if its threats continued.

He also reaffirmed the US commitment to defend its allies, including Japan.

Speculation has been building that North Korea is preparing a missile launch, following reports that it has moved at least two Musudan ballistic missiles to its east coast.

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A statement attributed to North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee on Tuesday warned the situation on the Korean peninsula is heading for a nuclear war.

The statement said: “The situation on the Korean peninsula is heading for a thermo-nuclear war.

“In the event of war, we don’t want foreigners living in South Korea to get hurt.”

A statement attributed to North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee on Tuesday warned the situation on the Korean peninsula is heading for a nuclear war

A statement attributed to North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee on Tuesday warned the situation on the Korean peninsula is heading for a nuclear war

North Korea’s statement urged “all foreign organizations, companies and tourists to work out measures for evacuation”.

Last Friday, Pyongyang warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassy staff in the event of a war.

No foreign embassies immediately announced plans to evacuate, and the UK and Russian embassies have said they have no plans to shut their embassies.

The US, which has also been threatened by Pyongyang, has said there were no imminent signs of threats to American citizens.

Tuesday’s warning from Pyongyang to foreigners in South Korea came amid growing concern that North Korea may be about to launch a missile test.

Japan has deployed defensive anti-missile batteries at three locations in Tokyo, to protect the capital’s 30 million residents.

US-made Patriot anti-missile systems have been deployed at the defense ministry and at two other military bases.

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North Korea appears to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test, according to South Korean officials.

South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told lawmakers there were signs of increased activity in North Korea’s main nuclear test site.

North Korea has stepped up its habitual fiery rhetoric against the US and South Korea in recent weeks.

Correspondents say it is unclear whether a test is being prepared or it is a ruse to boost the sense of crisis.

Ryoo Kihl-jae did not elaborate on the specific intelligence which led South Korea to suspect the North was set to carry out its fourth nuclear test.

North Korea appears to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test, according to South Korean officials

North Korea appears to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test, according to South Korean officials

But when asked about a news report that North Korea had stepped up activity at the underground site it has used in previous tests, he said “there are such signs”.

Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, said it was possible that the North could fire a ballistic missile and conduct a nuclear test at the same time.

But South Korean official Yonhap news agency quoted him as playing down the threat of an imminent test, saying there were several facilities at the nuclear test site so the movement of vehicles and people there was expected.

“Currently, there is no new movement to add on to the previous briefing,” he said.

Newspaper JoongAng Ilbo quoted an unnamed South Korean official as saying that South Korean intelligence had detected “increased activity of labor forces and vehicles” at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country’s north-east.

“We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation, which is very similar to the situation ahead of the third nuclear test,” the official told the newspaper.

“We are trying to figure out whether it is a genuine preparation for a nuclear test or just a ploy to heap more pressure on us and the US.”

The UN imposed tough sanctions on North Korea last month following its third nuclear test. Pyongyang responded by stepping up angry rhetoric, including threats to use nuclear weapons and restarting its nuclear reactor.

In recent weeks, North Korea has shut down an emergency military hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang, stopped South Koreans from working at the Kaesong joint industrial complex and warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of foreign embassy staff in the event of a war.

On Monday, the North Korea’s state news agency said a senior official had visited the Kaesong complex and told workers there to prepare for all possible developments.

Analysts have suggested that the rhetoric is in large part designed to shore up the standing of a young, inexperienced leader, Kim Jong-un, in the eyes of his own people.

North Korea’s state media have been broadcasting a continuing diet of war and retribution with programmes about biochemical war, nuclear war and military preparations dominating the listing.

Meanwhile, Japan’s defense ministry said the country’s armed forces have been ordered to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory.

Over the weekend, the US cancelled a scheduled test of its Minuteman III ballistic missile, citing concerns that it could be misinterpreted by Pyongyang.

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North Korea has released footage showing its leader Kim Jong-un supervising a “drone drill” attack amid tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Kim Jong-un is seen watching a rocket-launched small aircraft blowing up in the sky after being intercepted by anti-aircraft missile – on Friday he was seen brandishing a gun in a video.

The footage broadcast by North Korea’s state television comes amid reports the US has deployed an unmanned spy plane to Japan for surveillance following reports the rogue state has moved missile launchers to its east coast.

North Korea has released footage showing its leader Kim Jong-un supervising a “drone drill” attack amid tensions on the Korean peninsula

North Korea has released footage showing its leader Kim Jong-un supervising a “drone drill” attack amid tensions on the Korean peninsula

The Global Hawk will be stationed at the US airbase in Misawa, northern Japan – it was due to be deployed between June and September, but it has now been bought forward according to the Sankei Shimbun.

On Friday, foreign embassies in Pyongyang have been warned to evacuate staff as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond Wednesday, April 10.

But on Saturday staff appeared to be staying in embassies across North Korea despite the appeal.

Several aid organizations were also given the warning, as the North Koreans moved more mid-range Musudan missiles to their east coast – where they could directly threaten Japan and America’s Pacific bases.

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North Korea has threatened to shut down Kaesong Industrial Complex it jointly operates with South Korea that stands as the last significant symbol of cooperation, after reiterating that it considered the Korean Peninsula back in “a state of war”.

The eight-year-old Kaesong complex in the North Korean border town of the same name, is a crucial source of badly needed cash for the heavily sanctioned North.

North Korea has threatened to shut down Kaesong Industrial Complex reiterating the state of war with South Korea

North Korea has threatened to shut down Kaesong Industrial Complex reiterating the state of war with South Korea

The industrial park funnels more than $92 million a year in wages for 53,400 North Koreans employed there, and its operation has survived despite years of military tensions. The latest threat to close down Kaesong came amid a torrent of bellicose statements by North Korea in recent days, widely seen as a strategy to increase pressure on South Korea and the US to soften their policies on the North.

Although South Korean officials reasserted that they were ready to retaliate if North Korea committed any military provocations, they said they saw no imminent sign of any such attacks.

On Saturday, cross-border traffic operated as normal, allowing hundreds of South Koreans to travel to and from Kaesong.

Over 300 South Koreans remained in the complex, where 123 South Korean textile and other labor-intensive factories employ the North Korean workers, at an average monthly wage of $144.

The fate of Kaesong is seen as a crucial test of how far North Korea is willing to take its recent threats against the South. Its continued operation was often seen as a sign that Pyongyang’s verbal militancy was not necessarily matched by its actions.

“The South Korean puppet forces are left with no face to make complaint even though we ban the South side’s personnel’s entry into the zone and close it,” North Korea said Saturday in a statement carried by its official KCNA.

North Korea said its dignity was insulted by South Korean news media reports that suggested the North kept the complex open to obtain hard currency.

In another development, some of North Korea’s main government-run Web sites were disabled on Saturday in what news media reports said were cyber attacks.

The disabled sites included those of Naenara, the government’s official Web portal; Air Koryo, the state-run airline; and Voice of Korea, Pyongyang’s international broadcast outlet.

North Korea Tech, a Web site that monitors Internet activities on the Korean Peninsula, said the problems appeared “to be part of a loosely coordinated effort by hackers to target North Korean sites.” By late Saturday afternoon, North Korean officials had not confirmed any attacks on government-run Web sites.

The problems come as some analysts suspect that cyber attacks have become an increasingly frequent weapon in the intensified sparring between the Koreas, although each side denies hacking the other.

South Korean officials suspect that North Korea was behind cyber attacks on March 20 against three banks and the country’s two largest broadcasters. The attacks came five days after North Korea blamed South Korea and the US for cyber attacks that temporarily shut down some of its official Web sites, and warned of “consequences”.

North Korea has been angry ever since South Korea and the US started a joint military exercise in early March. Its bellicosity further escalated when the UN imposed more sanctions against it after its February 12 nuclear test.

North Korea has since declared an “all-out action” against Washington and Seoul and said that the armistice that stopped the Korean War in 1953, as well as all nonaggression agreements with South Korea were nullified.

North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered all his missile units to be on standby and if provoked, attack the US and South Korea with nuclear-tipped long-range missiles, although most analysts doubt the North has them.

A statement by South Korea’s military said that although the North Korean threats were not new, they “are unacceptable and harm the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.”

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North Korea has hit out at South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, a day after she urged Pyongyang to change course and abandon its nuclear goals.

Warning her against “slandering”, North Korea told Park Geun-hye to behave with discretion to avoid “horrible disaster”.

Park Geun-hye’s comments came as she marked three years since the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship.

Overnight, meanwhile, South Korea briefly placed a border military unit on its highest alert.

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye spoke in Daejeon, where the 46 sailors who died when the Cheonan warship sank on 26 March 2010 are buried

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye spoke in Daejeon, where the 46 sailors who died when the Cheonan warship sank on 26 March 2010 are buried

The alert happened early on Wednesday after a South Korean soldier discovered a “strange object” at the border, military officials said. The alert prepares troops for a possible incursion from North Korea.

The soldier, who was at a military post in Hwacheon, in South Korea’s north-eastern Gangwon province, threw a grenade at the object at around 02:30 local time, officials said. The alert was lifted at 09:20 local time.

Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula following multiple threats from North Korea in recent days.

The border incident came hours after North Korea said it had ordered artillery and rocket units into “combat posture” to prepare to target US bases in Hawaii, Guam and the US mainland.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said that North Korea’s threats “followed a pattern designed to raise tensions” and that North Korea would “achieve nothing by these threats”.

North Korea has been angered by fresh UN sanctions imposed after its nuclear test on February 12. It also bitterly opposes joint US-South Korea military drills that are currently taking place.

In its latest statement, carried by state-run KCNA news agency, North Korea told President Park Geun-hye that its patience was being pushed to the limit.

“She should behave with discretion, clearly mindful that a wrong word may entail horrible disaster at a time when the North-South relations are being pushed to the lowest ebb and the danger of an all-out war is increasing on the Korean Peninsula,” it said.

“If she keeps to the road of confrontation like traitor [former president] Lee [Myung-bak], defying the warnings of the DPRK [North Korea], she will meet a miserable ruin.”

On Tuesday Park Geun-hye had told the North its only path to survival lay “in stopping provocations and threats, abandoning its nuclear weaponry and missiles”.

Park Geun-hye spoke in Daejeon, where the 46 sailors who died when the Cheonan warship sank on 26 March 2010 are buried. South Korea says a North Korean torpedo sank the ship; Pyongyang denies any role in the incident.

The South Korean president has spoken in the past of a desire for more dialogue with North Korea but current tensions are obstructing movements to improve ties.

Late on Tuesday, North Korean state-run media also reported that its top political bureau would soon hold a rare meeting to discuss “an important issue for victoriously advancing the Korean revolution”.

It did not specify the issue, or the date of the meeting.

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North Korea has announced it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and shutting their shared border point.

The announcement follows a fresh round of UN sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear test last month.

Earlier, Pyongyang said it had a right to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike and was pulling out of the armistice which ended the Korean War.

The US said “extreme rhetoric” was not unusual for Pyongyang.

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said the current security situation was “very grave” but that she would “deal strongly” with provocation from the North.

Park Geun-hye also said she was ready to talk to Pyongyang if it “comes out on the path toward change”.

The North Korean announcement, carried on the KCNA state news agency, said the North was cancelling all non-aggression pacts with the South and closing the main Panmunjom border crossing inside the Demilitarized Zone.

It also said it was notifying the South that it was “immediately” cutting off the North-South hotline, saying there was “nothing to talk to the puppet group of traitors about”.

The hotline, installed in 1971, is intended as a means of direct communication at a time of high tension, but is also used to co-ordinate the passage of people and goods through the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also visited front-line military units that were involved in the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010, KCNA reports.

The reports said he had urged soldiers to keep themselves ready to “annihilate the enemy” at any time.

It appears the North is trying to build a sense of crisis domestically, with a large rally staged in Pyongyang on Friday and reports of camouflage netting on public transport.

North Korea has breached agreements before and withdrawing from them does not necessarily mean war, our correspondent says, but it does signal a more unpredictable and unstable situation.

Shutting down the hotline will leave both more exposed to misunderstandings, she adds.

Seoul’s defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said that if the North were to carry out a nuclear attack on South Korea it would become “extinct from the Earth by the will of mankind”.

Kim Min-seok also warned that in response to any provocation from the North, Seoul would “immediately” turn the US-South Korean military drills currently being conducted “into a punishment mode to respond to it as planned”.

North Korea has announced it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and shutting their shared border point

North Korea has announced it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and shutting their shared border point

The US, the main focus of North Korean ire, said it was capable of protecting itself and its allies from any attacks.

“One has to take what any government says seriously,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of the nuclear threat.

“It is for that reason that I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States. But I would also say that this kind of extreme rhetoric has not been unusual for this regime, unfortunately.”

The North Korean declaration came after the UN Security Council in New York unanimously backed Resolution 2094, imposing the fourth set of sanctions.

The resolution targets North Korean diplomats, cash transfers and access to luxury goods.

It imposes asset freezes and travel bans on three individuals and two firms linked to North Korea’s military.

South Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Kim Sook, said it was time for North Korea to “wake up from its delusion” of becoming a nuclear state.

“It can either take the right path toward a bright future and prosperity, or it can take a bad road toward further and deeper isolation and eventual self-destruction,” he said.

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the sanctions would “further constrain” North Korea’s ability to develop its nuclear programme.

Susan Rice warned that the UN would “take further significant actions” if Pyongyang were to carry out another nuclear test.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang issued a statement supporting the UN resolution and describing it as a “moderate response”.

Qin Gang said China – North Korea’s sole ally – urged “relevant parties” to stay calm and said the main priority was to “defuse the tensions, bring down heat” and restart negotiations with Pyongyang.

Resolution 2094:

  • Strongly condemns North Korea’s ongoing nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment programme
  • Imposes new sanctions to block financial transactions and bulk cash transfers in support of illicit activity
  • Strengthens states’ authority to inspect suspicious cargo
  • Requires states to deny port access to any North Korean vessel that refuses to be inspected
  • Calls on states to deny permission to any aircraft to take off, land in or overfly their territory if the aircraft is suspected of transporting prohibited items
  • Enables stronger enforcement of existing sanctions by UN member states
  • Sanctions new individuals and entities

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A new North Korean propaganda video posted on YouTube has portrayed President Barack Obama and American troops in flames and says the country conducted its recent nuclear test because of U.S. hostility.

The video, posted on Sunday, follows a string of critical rhetoric against the United States.

Another video posted earlier this month showed an American city, with similarities to New York, being attacked by missiles.

The most recent video was posted by a YouTube account affiliated with a pro-reunification government agency, shows a blazing fire superimposed over footage of Barack Obama.

The video ends with a generic simulation of a nuclear device exploding underground, appearing to refer to North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

The U.S. currently is negotiating in the Security Council for stronger U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang following a February 12 nuclear test in the far northeast, the country’s third since 2006.

Pyongyang released the clip on Uriminzokkiri – Korean for “Our Nation” – which distributes new and propaganda.

A new North Korean propaganda video posted on YouTube has portrayed President Barack Obama and American troops in flames and says the country conducted its recent nuclear test because of U.S. hostility

A new North Korean propaganda video posted on YouTube has portrayed President Barack Obama and American troops in flames and says the country conducted its recent nuclear test because of U.S. hostility

According to the Global Post, the backing track to the clip comes from a video gamed, Elder Scrolls Oblivion.

North Korea has said the aim of the nuclear test was to bolster its defenses in the wake the hostility of the U.S., which is pushing for sanctions on North Korea.

The country has already told key ally China that it is prepared to stage one or two more tests this year to force the United States into diplomatic talks, a source said.

North Korea also warned its neighbor South Korea on Tuesday that it faces “final destruction” as it took part in a UN conference on disarmament.

U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy said she found North Korea’s threat profoundly disturbing and later tweeted that it was “offensive”.

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US experts say North Korea appears to be upgrading one of its two rocket launch sites, perhaps in a move to test bigger rockets.

“Important progress” had been made at Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground since October 2012, the analysis from the 38 North website said.

Activities around the new launch pad also revealed possible evidence of assistance from Iran, it said.

Pyongyang used a three-stage rocket to put a satellite into space last year.

That launch – condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology – took place at the Sohae launch site.

But previous unsuccessful attempts in 2006 and 2009 took place at the Tonghae site, which is also known as Musudan-ri.

The analysis from 38 North, the website of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore, was based on satellite imagery.

Construction of the new launch pad was continuing, it said, with images showing Pyongyang would be able to test rockets “perhaps three to four times the size of the Unha [launched in December 2012] when construction is completed, possibly in 2016”.

Two new design features were similar to those used at the Semnan Launch Complex in Iran, it said.

The images also confirmed activity at the old launch pad.

US experts say North Korea appears to be upgrading one of its two rocket launch sites, perhaps in a move to test bigger rockets

US experts say North Korea appears to be upgrading one of its two rocket launch sites, perhaps in a move to test bigger rockets

“That activity may be related to another round of modifications intended to support future launches of the Unha rocket or possibly another liquid-fuelled missile,” 38 North said, while cautioning that more information was needed.

North Korea last week conducted its third nuclear test, claiming to have successfully detonated a smaller but more powerful device than in previous tests.

The move drew immediate condemnation from the UN Security Council.

Observers fear North Korea is working towards creating a nuclear device small enough to fit on a long-range missile.

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North Korea confirms it has successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, a move that has drawn international condemnation.

Pyongyang said the test involved a “miniaturized” device and was carried out in a “perfect manner”.

The confirmation came three hours after seismic activity was detected at North Korea’s nuclear test site.

President Barack Obama called for “swift” and “credible” international action in response.

He said the “provocative” nuclear test did not make North Korea more secure, adding that Washington would remain vigilant and steadfast in its defence commitments to its allies in Asia.

The United Nations had warned of “significant consequences” if Pyongyang went ahead.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the test as a “clear and grave violation” of UN resolutions and a “deeply destabilizing” provocation.

The Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting at 14:00 GMT on Tuesday in New York, diplomats say.

North Korea previously conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. It announced in January that it would conduct a third as a response to UN sanctions that were expanded after its December rocket launch.

Confirmation of the test came in a statement from state-run KCNA news agency.

“It was confirmed that the nuclear test that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment,” KCNA said.

North Korea confirms it has successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, a move that has drawn international condemnation

North Korea confirms it has successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, a move that has drawn international condemnation

The claim to have tested a “miniaturized” device is likely to alarm observers. The US and North Korea’s neighbors fear Pyongyang’s ultimate goal is to produce a nuclear device small enough to fit on a long-range missile, something it is not yet believed to have mastered.

In December it put a satellite into space using a three-stage rocket – a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.

North Korea said the nuclear test – which comes on the eve of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address – was to “to protect our national security and sovereignty against the reckless hostility of the United States”.

It is the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.

Activity had been observed at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for several months.

Seismic activity was then detected by monitoring agencies from several nations at 11:57 a.m. A shallow earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 was recorded, the US Geological Survey said.

Both South Korea and Japan convened emergency meetings of their national security teams shortly afterwards.

“This is an unacceptable threat to the security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia, and a challenge to the whole international community,” South Korea’s presidential national security adviser Chun Young-woo said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government would “consider every possible way to address this issue”.

The US, South Korea and Japan had all warned Pyongyang not to go ahead with the test. China, North Korea’s closest ally and biggest trading partner, had also called for restraint.

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