Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North Korea

Newsline: North Korean diplomat heads to Finland ahead of possible US talks

A senior North Korean diplomat left for Finland on Sunday for talks with former U.S. and South Korean officials, Yonhap News Agency reported, amid a series of diplomatic encounters ahead of a possible U.S.-North Korean summit. North Korea is pursuing its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. It defends the programs as a necessary deterrent against a possible U.S. invasion. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea but denies any invasion plans. Tensions have eased in recent weeks, coinciding with North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics held in the South last month. Choe Kang Il, a deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, plans to attend the “track 1.5 talks”, according to Yonhap, reflecting planned contact between former U.S. officials and current North Korean ones in a broader bid to end the standoff over North Korea’s weapons programs. South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement North Korea would participate in the meeting joined by former South Korean officials and academics but did not provide further details.



Newsline: North Korean Embassy in Cairo accused of military sales

Egypt has purchased North Korean weapons and allowed North Korean diplomats to use their Cairo embassy as a base for military sales across the region, American and United Nations officials say. Those transactions earned vital hard cash for North Korea, but they violated international sanctions and drew the ire of Egypt’s main military patron, the United States, which cut or suspended $291 million in military aid in August. Tensions may bubble up again in the coming weeks with the publication of a United Nations report that contains new information about the cargo of a rusty North Korean freighter intercepted off the coast of Egypt in 2016. The ship was carrying 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades worth an estimated $26 million. The report, due to be released this month, identifies the customer for the weapons as an arm of the Arab Organization for Industrialization, Egypt’s main state weapons conglomerate.

Newsline: Number of staff at Mexico’s North Korean embassy down to three

Only three members of staff remain at the DPRK’s embassy in Mexico, the country announced in a February implementation report to the UN Sanctions Committee on North Korea. In a report detailing Mexico’s implementation of UNSC Resolution 2371, the Directorate-General of Protocol of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs said that while the country had hosted “five accredited diplomats” in 2016, the DPRK embassy was now “composed of three staff members.” It remains unclear whether the three remaining staff members are fully accredited diplomats, and numerous requests for further clarity to the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs went unanswered. It also remains unclear whether the reported reduction in staff also includes the North Korean ambassador, who was deported last year.


Newsline: Japanese men nabbed in shooting at de facto North Korea embassy

Police said they arrested two Japanese men believed to be right-wing activists for shooting early Friday at North Korea’s de facto embassy in Tokyo. The men fired several shots at the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, a pro-North Korean group representing ethnic Koreans in Japan, Tokyo metropolitan police said. The men, aged 46 and 56, drove by in a vehicle and one of them fired several shots, police said. The gate was damaged but nobody was injured. The motive was not known. Japanese media reports said the two men have staged protests criticizing the pro-North Korean group, also known as Chongryon. Patrolling police rushed to the closely monitored building and arrested the two on the spot, confiscating a gun, police said. The two men face allegations of damaging a building and could also face allegations of violating gun control laws.


Newsline: North Korea’s Berlin embassy accused of acquiring nuclear tech

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency chief has claimed North Korea has been acquiring equipment and technology for its nuclear and weapons programmes through its Berlin embassy. “We have noticed that so many procurement activities have taken place from the embassy,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), or Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. “From our point of view, they were for the missile programme but also partly for the nuclear programme,” Maassen added in an interview with German public television channel ARD, aired on Monday. Although the exact nature of the technology was not specified, the intelligence chief said they would have civilian and military uses. “When we see such things, we stop them. But we cannot guarantee that we spot and block each attempt,” he said. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency obtained clues on the technology procurements in 2016 and 2017, according to an investigation by ARD. In 2014, it said a North Korean diplomat attempted to obtain equipment used in the development of chemical weapons.


Newsline: Germany withdraws diplomat from North Korea

Germany is withdrawing a third diplomat from its embassy in North Korea over increasing concerns about Pyongyang’s missile program, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday, a day after Pyongyang test fired a new missile. North Korea said on Wednesday it had successfully tested a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that put the entire U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons. Berlin strongly condemned the test as a violation of international law. Speaking in Washington after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Gabriel said he had offered support for taking a tough line towards Pyongyang. Two diplomats had already been withdrawn from the German embassy in Pyongyang, and a third was being pulled out now, Gabriel said. Germany was also demanding North Korea reduce its diplomatic presence in Germany. Gabriel said Washington had not demanded that Germany, one of seven European countries with embassies in North Korea, shut its mission or withdraw its ambassador. It was not Germany’s desire to shut down its embassy, he said, but added: “that doesn’t mean we are ruling it out.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States had called on countries to scale back or cut ties with North Korea as part of an effort to pressure Pyongyang to give up its weapons programs.


Newsline: At UN, Ambassador Haley warns against war in which North Korean regime ‘will be utterly destroyed’

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned Wednesday that the North Korean regime “will be utterly destroyed” if a war breaks out, a day after that country launched an intercontinental ballistic missile in a new provocative test. “We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it,” ambassador Nikki Haley said at an emergency UN Security Council meeting. “If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday.” “And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed,” Haley said. “The nations of the world have it within their power to further isolate, diminish and, God willing, reverse the dangerous course of the North Korean regime.” North Korea on Tuesday fired what appeared to be a new type of ICBM. North Korean state television claimed was a nuclear-capable missile that was “significantly more” powerful than missiles in previous tests, the Associated Press reported.