In the News – China to Reconsider N.Korean Investment Program

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In the News – China to Reconsider N.Korean Investment Program

China has told North Korea that it will reconsider a dubious development project on North Korea’s Hwanggumpyong island.

The island located on the border between China and North Korea was designated a special economic zone last June. North Korea promised to lend the island to China for 50 years so Beijing can foster IT, tourism, light industry and modern agricultural industry there. In return for the development project from Chinese investors, North Korea would give China access to its Rajin port on the East Sea.

However, the Chinese government told North Korea last month that it will review the project from the scratch, apparently because it believes the island has little business value. North Korea’s rocket launch in April despite Chinese protests may also have provoked the rethink.

 

Original article can be found here.

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In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

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In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) — Senior South Korean and Russian diplomats will hold one-day talks this week in Seoul to discuss possible ways to revive the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, a Seoul official said Monday.

Russia’s deputy chief envoy to the six-party talks, Grigory Logvinov, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul later Monday for a three-day visit and hold talks with South Korea’s top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam on Tuesday, the senior official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

“During the talks, Ambassador Logvinov and Lim plan to hold in-depth discussions about North Korea’s nuclear issue and other overall matters with regard to North Korea,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

They will also discuss “the current state of the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s failed rocket launch and ways to move forward on the North’s nuclear issue,” the official said.

The visit by Logvinov to Seoul also coincides with the Russian government’s move to write off 90 percent of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt of US$11 billion.

Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, were frozen in April when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket.

The North’s failed launch ended a possible deal with the U.S. in which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid by Washington. Such conditions had been considered necessary steps to reopen the six-party talks.

The six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition have been stalled since late 2008. Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

In Seoul, the Russian envoy is also expected to discuss an ambitious plan to build a natural-gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via North Korea, the ministry official said.

The gas project, which has been discussed for about 20 years but never has materialized due in part to security tensions, gained momentum after late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his willingness to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through the nation during summit talks with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in August last year.

Kim died of a heart attack last December, and his youngest son, Jong-un, took the helm of North Korea.

 

Original article can be found here.

Kim Jong Un’s First Speech Exalts Military, Unification

Kim Jong Un speaks at a military parade in Pyongyang celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15th, 2012, as seen from space. Photo credit Digital Globe, Inc. via MSNBC.

As far as we know, Kim Jong Il, late president of North Korea, spoke publicly one time only during his thirty years in the limelight of his country’s ruling party. When he did, it was a single line. His father, Kim Il Sung, had given a speech during celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the North Korean People’s Army’s establishment; after the speech, the younger Kim stepped to the microphone and voiced his only public sentiment: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean people’s army!” (see it in this video).

That was in 1992. The Western media heard his voice a few more times; for instance, in this video from 2007. Still, he gave no more speeches that his own country would hear.

Kim Jong Un gave his first public speech on April 15th, during the 100th-anniversary celebrations of his grandfather’s birth. It is the nation’s most important holiday. The younger Kim’s speech was extensive—20 minutes long—and stands in sharp contrast to his father’s reclusiveness.

Yet the content of the speech matches the sentiment shared by his father’s single line almost perfectly. Continue reading

Two Years Later

Amidst the frenzy of North Korea’s recent rocket launch, another very important day came and passed. For many of you, this may have been just another day in your life. But whether you knew it or not, March 26th marked the second anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship.

March 26th 2010 was just an average day for the 104 crew members of the Cheonan. They were on a routine patrol near Baekryong Island, which is an extremely tense maritime border with North Korea, when they were suddenly torpedoed. The ship tore apart into two and sank to the bottom of the sea, killing 46 soldiers. Continue reading

In the News – 30 North Korean officials involved in South talks die ‘in traffic accidents’

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In the News – 30 North Korean officials involved in South talks die ‘in traffic accidents’

In its annual study, Amnesty International claimed that in addition to the 30 who died in purges last year, a further 200 were rounded up in January this year by the State Security Agency as Pyongyang carried out the transfer of power from Kim Jong-il, who died of an apparent heart attack in December, and his 29-year-old son, Kim Jong-un.

Of those 200, Amnesty said, some were apparently executed and the remainder were sent to political prison camps. The gulag system presently contains an estimated 200,000 people in “horrific conditions,” the group said.

North Korea has a habit of executing bureaucrats who are perceived to have failed the regime, even though they are often merely carrying out the orders of higher-ranking officials or members of the ruling family.

In 2010, Pak Nam-gi, the former head of the finance department of the Workers’ Party, was reportedly executed by firing squad for the catastrophic attempt to reform the impoverished nation’s currency. The result was rampant inflation and food shortages became even more acute.

The 30 men executed for failing to improve Pyongyang’s ties with Seoul are considered scapegoats for the new low point in inter-Korean ties.

Their task would have been made immeasurably more difficult given North Korea’s insistence with pushing ahead with its development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In spite of universal condemnation of its failed attempt to launch what Pyongyang claimed was a rocket to put a satellite into orbit in April, North Korea appears to be putting the finishing touches to a test detonation of a nuclear device.

Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Defence, said on Thursday that intelligence reports indicate the North has completed its technical preparations to carry out the long-awaited test and that it could go ahead at any time.

Satellite images of the Punggye-ri site and other data show that the tunnel that had been excavated for the test has been refilled, indicating that the nuclear device has been put in place.

There is speculation that the test may be timed to coincide with the Memorial Day national holiday in the United States, which falls in Monday.

“The North Korean regime is hell-bent on being a belligerent actor,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, during a visit to Seoul with a congressional delegation. “And I think that on holidays or sad commemorations like Memorial Day weekend is when the leadership tries to provoke the democratic allies into action.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. Officials in Secret Visit to N.Korea Before Rocket Launch

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In the News – U.S. Officials in Secret Visit to N.Korea Before Rocket Launch

Two senior U.S. figures apparently flew to Pyongyang aboard a U.S. Air Force plane in a secret mission six days before North Korea’s failed rocket launch on April 13.

“At around 7:40 a.m. on April 7, a U.S. Air Force Boeing 737 entered North Korea,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said. “The aircraft flew from Guam and into North Korea along the same route on the West Sea used by former President Kim Dae-jung during his visit to the North back in 2000.”

Experts speculate that the plane carried Joseph Di Trani, a nuclear negotiator in the George W. Bush administration, and Sydney Seiler, a National Security Council advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The secret visit appears to have been a last-ditch effort by Washington to stop North Korea from pressing ahead with the rocket launch.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

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In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 23 (Yonhap) — A White House official said Wednesday that the U.S. will again consider food aid for North Korea if it stays away from provocations and averts a confrontational course.

“I think the precondition is that North Koreans have to demonstrate that they are going to refrain from those types of provocative actions and they are serious about moving in a different direction,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said at a press conference for foreign reporters.

He pointed out that Washington has lost trust in the communist regime as it reneged on a bilateral deal by launching a long-range rocket in April.

The two sides reached an agreement on Feb. 29, nicknamed the “Leap Day Deal,” after high-level talks. It called for the North to suspend some of its nuclear activity and put a moratorium on missile launches.

In exchange, the U.S. promised to deliver 240,000 tons of food. Washington halted a related process after the North’s rocket launch.

Rhodes said the U.S. is not convinced that food, if shipped, will reach ordinary people in need such as mothers, children and pregnant women.

He stressed that the U.S. remains open to bilateral and multilateral talks with the North.

But he expressed skepticism that Pyongyang will change its mode.

“We haven’t seen that indication yet,” he said. “Right now we not optimistic that there will be any imminent breakthrough that could lead to the provision of additional assistance.”

On a trip to Northeast Asia, meanwhile, Washington’s point man on Pyongyang also said food assistance is still a viable option depending on the North’s attitude.

“I think as you all know the United States has been historically very generous when it comes to the provision of nutritional assistance,” Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters after meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.

The U.S. has provided more than 2.2 million metric tons of food, valued at over $850 million, to North Korea since the mid-1990s, he noted.

“And should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans’ ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance,” he said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

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In the News – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

BEIJING—A group of Chinese fishermen apparently detained by North Koreans nearly two weeks ago has been released, Chinese state media reported Sunday.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Jiang Yaxian, Chinese counselor to North Korea, as saying the detained vessels and fishermen were on their way back to China.

The Xinhua report provided few details about the fishermen’s detention, and it remained unclear why the vessels were detained in the first place and whether Chinese authorities had agreed to pay a ransom in exchange for their release. Continue reading

In the News – Study: Outside media changing N. Korean worldview

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In the News  – Study: Outside media changing N. Korean worldview

WASHINGTON (AP) — The growing availability of news media and cellphones in reclusive North Korea likely forced it to admit within hours that its long-range rocket launch last month was a failure, the U.S. human rights envoy to the country said Thursday.

The envoy, Robert King, was speaking at the launch of a U.S. government-funded study that says North Koreans now have unprecedented exposure to foreign media, giving them a more positive impression of the outside world.

North Korea allowed foreign journalists extensive access to the country to report on the centennial of the nation’s founder in mid-April, which included the launch of a satellite into space that violated U.N. sanctions. The rocket, which uses the same technology to ballistic missiles, disintegrated within a minute or two of takeoff.

“The media environment in North Korea has changed and is changing, and with the availability of cellphones for internal communication, and greater availability of information internally, you can’t just say, ‘Let’s play patriotic songs’ so all can tune in,” King said.

The study, commissioned by the State Department and conducted by a consulting group, InterMedia, said North Korea still has the world’s most closed media environment — there’s still no public access to the Internet — but the government’s ability to control the flow information is receding. Continue reading

In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

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In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

By Kim Young-jin

North Korea may have intentionally crashed its long-range Unha-3 rocket last month due to problems in staging, a U.S. missile expert said Monday.

David Wright, a senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, put forward the possibility among a range of scenarios in an analysis of the failed April 13 launch that sent regional tensions soaring.

The rocket failed shortly after liftoff, dealing an embarrassing blow to the fledgling regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command said the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 kilometers west of Seoul, some 300 kilometers from the launch site. Local reports estimated the splashdown occurred closer to 400 kilometers from the site.

“North Korea reportedly announced prior to the launch that the rocket was equipped with a flight termination system that would allow operators to shut down the engines manually if the ground station detected a problem,” Wright wrote on 38 North, a website focused on North Korean affairs.

“It is possible that if, as some sources have suggested, the first stage burned to completion but there was a problem with staging, that the North may have aborted the flight at that point.

“For example, if the launcher was seen to be deviating from the intended trajectory, it is possible that it was destroyed intentionally.”

The move earned the North a U.N. Security Council statement that expanded sanctions on the cash-strapped country. Tensions remain high as Pyongyang has reportedly made some preparations to carry out a third nuclear test.

The expert said that based on open source information it remains impossible to determine the exact cause of the failure and that more data on possible irregularities in the flight path and operation of the engines would shed light on whether the flight was aborted.

If splashdown occurred at 300 kilometers, analysts say the failure likely occurred during the operation of the first stage, before staging took place.

The expert said a splashdown at 400 kilometers would raise another possibility.

“That would suggest that the first stage worked essentially as intended, but that ignition and separation of the second stage did not occur properly so that it fell with the first stage into the sea at this location,” he said, adding portions of the rocket could also have landed at both places.

The North insists the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit for science. But it was widely condemned as a ballistic missile test amid concerns that Pyongyang is working to build long-range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.N. committee sanctions three North Korea companies

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In the News – U.N. committee sanctions three North Korea companies

Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, speaks to the media at UN headquarters in New York, May 2, 2012.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS | Wed May 2, 2012 4:41pm EDT

(Reuters) – A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Wednesday added three North Korean state companies to a U.N. blacklist of firms banned from international trade in response to Pyongyang’s rocket launch last month.

The decision by the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee came after China consented to sanctions on the trio of companies. It falls far short of the roughly 40 firms the United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan had wanted to blacklist after Pyongyang’s launch.

The newly blacklisted firms are “very significant North Korean entities” involved in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea suspected of jamming flight signals in South

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In the News – North Korea suspected of jamming flight signals in South

(Reuters) – More than 250 flights in and out of South Korea have experienced GPS signal jamming since the weekend, with North Korea high on the list of suspects, officials said on Wednesday.

Similar jamming in the past was traced to the reclusive North, which last month breached U.S. Security Council resolutions with a failed long-range rocket launch and was blamed for cyber attacks on South Korean financial institutions last year.

None of the flights, including 11 operated by foreign airlines, was in danger, the Transport Ministry said, with automatic switching of navigation to alternative systems.

“As it happened at the time of (military) drills in 2010 and 2011, we suspect North Korea was engaged in jamming signals,” a government official said.

Officials at the Korea Communications Commission declined to comment whether North Korea was the source of the signal jamming but said it had been identified as the culprit in at least one similar incident.

A Defence Ministry official declined to comment on the source of the jamming but said the military’s equipment had not been affected.

North Korea has stepped up its rhetoric against the South in recent weeks, hurling personal insults at South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and threatening to reduce the capital Seoul to ashes.

It is expected to conduct a third nuclear test any day, possibly using a uranium device which would infuriate neighbouring countries and the United States which have been involved in talks to try to rein in its nuclear weapons programme.

The threat of cyber war from North Korea is seen in the South, one of the world’s most wired countries, as increasing in sophistication.

News reports said North Korea operates vehicle-mounted jamming devices that can disrupt signals up to 100 km (60 miles) away and is developing systems with further reach.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea believed to have enriched uranium for up to 6 bombs: expert

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In the News – N. Korea believed to have enriched uranium for up to 6 bombs: expert

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) — North Korea is believed to now have enough large stocks of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium for up to six bombs, a local nuclear expert said Wednesday, amid growing concerns that the North may be ready for a new nuclear test.

The North has long been believed to have enough radioactive material for six to seven bombs using plutonium from its main nuclear complex located at Yongbyon, north of the capital Pyongyang. Since 2009, Pyongyang appears to have started relying on enrichment activities because of its dwindling stock of plutonium after two rounds of nuclear tests.

In November 2010, North Korea disclosed an industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant to a visiting U.S. scientist, claiming that the enrichment program is for peaceful energy development. Outside experts, however, believe that it gives the North a new source of fissile material to make atomic bombs. Continue reading

North Korea’s Embarrassing Rocket Launch

If you’ve kept up with the news at all, you may know about North Korea’s recent failed rocket launch. I know it’s been in the news quite a lot but I thought I’d provide a simplified version of what happened.

This past March, North Korea and the United States entered negotiations once again. The United States offered to provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance if North Korea would “freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors.” This was big step both for North Korea and the U.S. because it meant that the North would possibly be giving up its biggest weapon and it also meant that the United States would be sending food aid to the impoverished country for the first time since 2009. It was also the first time North Korea and the U.S. had official talks since Kim Jong Un came to power. Thus, these negotiations had a lot of meaning because it would have determined DPRK’s future relationship with the United States. Continue reading

In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

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In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

North Korea detains university students over a failed rocket launch.

North Korean students work on their computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, April 11, 2012.

Authorities in North Korea are hunting down college students suspected of “spreading rumors” about a recent failed rocket launch amid warnings the reclusive state may stage a nuclear test.

North Korea defied international warnings and fired a long-range rocket on April 13 saying that it would carry a satellite into space, but the rocket crashed into the sea just minutes after takeoff, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and its allies who called the act a “provocative” move.

New leader Kim Jong Un had shrugged off international concerns and pushed ahead with the launch in conjunction with the 100th birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder of the state.

Now, according to students, security personnel at some universities in North Korea are being instructed to take those who talk about the rocket failure into custody.

“The authorities are hunting down students who have spread rumors about the failed launch of the Kwangmyung-sung-3 [satellite] at the Hoeryong Teacher Training College (now renamed Kim Jong Suk Teacher Training College),” said one student from North Hamyong province, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Continue reading

In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

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In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

(Reuters) – The United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan have submitted a list of about 40 North Korean companies to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee for possible blacklisting due to Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch, envoys said on Tuesday.

The committee, which includes all 15 Security Council members, received an initial response from China that it would only consent to adding two entities to the U.N. list of banned North Korean firms, which the United States and its allies see as too few, envoys told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

“The U.S., Europeans, Japan and ROK (South Korea) have together produced a list of around 40 entities to be designated by the 1718 Committee,” a senior diplomat told Reuters. “The challenge remains as usual squarely on PRC (China).”

The United States was continuing to press China to allow more North Korean firms to be sanctioned, envoys said. Continue reading

In the News – Obama: North Korean provocations a sign of weakness

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In the News – Obama: North Korean provocations a sign of weakness

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda On Monday decried aggressive acts from North Korea, including its recent failed rocket launch.

Obama said Pyongyang is operating from a position of weakness, not strength, and Noda said the launch undermined diplomacy to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Obama said the U.S. and Japan, along with other countries in the region are unified in insisting that North Korea abide by its international responsibilities.

“The old pattern of provocation that then gets attention and somehow insists on the world purchasing good behavior from them, that pattern is broken,” Obama said in a joint news conference with Noda at the White House.

Noda said that given North Korea’s past practice, there appears to be a good chance that it would undertake yet another nuclear test. The Japanese prime minister said China remains an important player in trying to restrain North Korea’s nuclear program.

Noda was in Washington looking to reaffirm Japan’s strong alliance with the U.S. and to boost his leadership credentials as his popularity flags at home.

Noda, who came to power in September and is Japan’s sixth prime minister in six years, faces huge challenges in reviving a long-slumbering economy and helping his nation recover from the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Satellite photos show intense activity at N. Korea nuclear site

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In the News – Satellite photos show intense activity at N. Korea nuclear site

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Satellite images of North Korea’s nuclear test site shows “lots of activity” in preparation for another underground bomb test, analysts who have studied the aerial surveillance of the prohibited weapons site said Friday.

The 38 North website of the U.S.-Korea Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies posted three satellite photos showing the progression of work at the blast site over the last seven weeks.

“We can tell there has been a lot of activity at the site. You can see vehicles moving around, objects being moved around. They’ve been digging a lot of dirt out of the tunnel,” said Joel Wit, a visiting scholar at the institute and editor of the website on North Korea. “But, at end of day, you can’t really tell whether it’s ready or not.”

Diplomatic and intelligence sources have been warning for weeks that a nuclear test — in defiance of international warnings to Pyongyang — appeared to be imminent. Continue reading

In the News – Analysts Say North Korea Faked New Missiles

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In the News – Analysts Say North Korea Faked New Missiles
Rockets are carried by military vehicles during a military parade to celebrate the centenary of the birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.

Two German analysts say ballistic missiles unveiled in a North Korean military parade earlier this month were clumsy fakes.

In a paper titled, “A Dog And Pony Show,” Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker of Germany’s Schmucker Technologie wrote that the six intercontinental ballistic missiles carried on mobile launchers in the April 15 parade were all bad mock-ups.

The paper said the missiles appeared to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together.  In addition, undulating casings on the missiles suggested the metal is too thin to withstand flight.  The two analysts said each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make, and they did not even fit the launchers that carried them.

Schiller and Schmucker said there is still no evidence that North Korea actually has a functional ICBM.

The large military parade, including nearly 900 pieces of military equipment, took place on April 15 to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of North Korea’s first leader, Kim Il Sung.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China Warns N.Korea Off Nuclear Test

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In the News – China Warns N.Korea Off Nuclear Test

A high-ranking official in China’s Foreign Ministry has issued a rare public warning to North Korea against another nuclear test, saying it would violate China’s national interest. The comments were made by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai to reporters at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

“I am opposed to any act that damages peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, since such acts can damage the national security and interests of not only other countries but China’s as well,” Cui said. “No side should commit acts that raise tensions.”

This is the first time for China to comment publicly on the North’s nuclear development since the possibility of Pyongyang conducting a third nuclear test was raised.

But Cui resisted U.S. demands that China step up pressure on North Korea. “Maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia is the joint responsibility of all of the concerned countries, not just China alone,” he said.

 

Original article can be found here.