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Archive for North Korea

Newsline: ‘Executed’ North Korean diplomat is alive

The North Korean diplomat who South Korea’s largest newspaper said had been executed by firing squad is alive and in state custody, according to several sources familiar with the situation. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/03/asia/north-korea-diplomats-intl/index.html) North Korea’s special envoy to the United States, Kim Hyok Chol, is being investigated for his role in the failed Hanoi summit that took place between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February, the sources said. That meeting, the second between the two leaders, ended abruptly without the two sides reaching a deal. Kim Jong Un’s translator in Hanoi, Sin Hye Yong, also is in custody and under investigation, sources said.


Newsline: Chinese special envoy to North Korea becomes ambassador to Japan

China has appointed its special envoy to North Korea, vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou, as its ambassador to Japan, state media said on May 28. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3012163/chinese-special-envoy-north-korea-kong-xuanyou-becomes) Kong, who has held the South Asia portfolio at the ministry, has been envoy to North Korea since 2017, although much of the diplomacy between Beijing and Pyongyang was handled by the Communist Party. Chinese media said Kong would take up his new position in Japan as successor to Cheng Yonghua. Kong’s replacement as special envoy to North Korea was not named. China and Japan have sparred frequently about their shared history. China has often accused Japan of not properly atoning for its invasion of China before and during the second world war.

Newsline: U.S. warrant issued for accused ringleader of North Korean embassy raid in Madrid

U.S. authorities are focused on Southern California in their manhunt for a one-time human rights activist accused of leading a violent takeover of North Korea’s embassy in Spain, according to a federal arrest warrant unsealed on Apr. 26. (https://kfgo.com/news/articles/2019/apr/27/us-warrant-issued-for-accused-ringleader-of-north-korean-embassy-raid-in-madrid/) Adrian Hong Chang is wanted by Spain in connection with the alleged embassy raid in February, but his lawyer denounced the U.S. Justice Department for seeking his arrest and extradition based on “the highly unreliable accounts of North Korean government witnesses.” The warrant, citing information from Spanish authorities, describes Hong Chang as the mastermind of a raid by seven individuals on the North Korean Embassy in Madrid on Feb. 22 that began with Hong Chang posing as a visiting businessman. He and six fellow intruders, armed with knives, iron bars, machetes and imitation pistols, then stormed the embassy, restrained and physically beat the charge d’affaires and several other employees and held them captive for several hours before fleeing the compound, according to the warrant. They got away with computer equipment and a mobile phone stolen from the embassy, which Hong Chang, also known as Adrian Hong, presented days later to the FBI in New York after fleeing back to the United States, the warrant says. A Spanish judicial court said earlier this week that the FBI later handed the material over to Spanish authorities who have since returned it to Pyongyang’s mission in Madrid. The incident at the embassy came at a sensitive time, just days ahead of a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that abruptly collapsed without the two men reaching a deal on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s foreign ministry denounced the incident as a “grave terrorist attack” and cited rumors that the FBI was partially behind the raid. The U.S. State Department has said Washington had nothing to do with it. Spain is seeking Hong Chang’s extradition to face charges of breaking and entering, illegal restraint, robbery, causing injuries and being a member of a criminal organization. Similar charges are pending against an accused accomplice, Christopher Philip Ahn, 38, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested April 18 in Los Angeles on a separate warrant stemming from the same incident. He remains in U.S. custody.

Newsline: American accused of attacking North Korean embassy in Spain denied bond

Spain’s case against a U.S. citizen accused of being part of a group that allegedly stormed the North Korean Embassy in Madrid with weapons and beat and tied up the staff before making off with electronics and hard drives became clearer on Apr. 23 when a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled to unseal court documents at a detention hearing. The unsealed documents state that Christopher Philip Ahn was among the group that entered the embassy in February with knives, iron bars, machetes and imitation handguns and left with a mobile phone, computers and hard drives. Spain hopes to have Ahn, 38, extradited in the alleged attack. The arrest warrant out of Spain lists a half dozen criminal counts against Ahn including breaking and entering, illegal restraint, threats, robbery with violence and intimidation, causing injuries. Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth also ruled that the probable cause warrant for the arrest of Ahn was framed by a prevailing Extradition Treaty between Spain and the United States, though the formal process for Ahn facing charges in Spain has not yet begun and could be lengthy. (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/american-accused-attacking-north-korean-embassy-spain-denied-bond-n997876) The defense lawyer for Ahn had asked for the proceedings to be sealed to protect the safety of the accused, given the North Korean regime’s history of hunting down its opponents and critics. A former U.S. Marine, Ahn was arrested on Apr. 18 in California by U.S. Marshals. The U.S. attorney’s office argued Ahn should be held in federal custody because he was a flight risk and “the serious and violent nature” of the alleged crimes, his military training and his familiarity and access to firearms. It noted that bail in any amount would not guarantee his presence in court and would invite the possibility of embarrassing the United States. Supporters of the group that claimed responsibility for the raid on the embassy, Free Joseon, said they were surprised and disappointed that U.S. authorities had chosen to issue arrest warrants based on the Spanish extradition request, possibly raising the risk that the accused eventually could be handed over to the North Korean government. On its website, Free Joseon has denied it used force when its members entered the embassy in Madrid. NBC News Investigations reported in March that the opposition group that stormed the North Korean embassy said it handed over stolen data to the FBI, and a law enforcement source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News that the bureau had received the information. On Feb. 22, according to the Complaint For Provisional Arrest With A View Towards Extradition, another man identified as Adrian Hong Chang came to the North Korean Embassy and asked to see its charge’ d’ affaires, the diplomat who oversees the embassy. Hong was asked to wait as the individual identified in the complaint by their initials allowed Hong Chang on the embassy ground and to wait on a bench. Hong Chang opened the door to let others in the group into the compound, and security images show Ahn entering with the others, the document states. The complaint identified Ahn as being part of the group that allegedly attacked an individual identified as Y.S.S. The group took him to a bathroom and tied his hands behind his back, placed a bag over his head and threatened him with iron bars and imitation handguns, according to the complaint. During the incident, the wife of one of the Embassy workers allegedly suffered injuries trying to escape through a terrace. When Spanish police arrived, Hong Chang appeared wearing the face of the North Korean president on his jacket lapel and represented himself as the person in charge, the document states. He reportedly told police that if a North Korean had been injured, police needed to officially inform the Consulate. Meanwhile, two members of the group identified themselves as members of a human rights group, took the charge’ d’ affaires to a basement and asked to leave North Korea, the complaint said. He refused and then they allegedly tied him up and put a bag over his head.

Newsline: Top U.S. diplomat says he’s still in charge of North Korea talks

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Apr. 19 he remained in charge of negotiating with North Korea despite the regime’s demands to exclude him, as he voiced guarded hope with Japan on securing a deal. (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/04/20/asia-pacific/politics-diplomacy-asia-pacific/top-u-s-diplomat-mike-pompeo-says-hes-still-charge-north-korea-talks/) Pompeo led four-way talks in Washington of the U.S. and Japanese foreign affairs and defense chiefs, the latest in a flurry of major meetings scheduled between the close allies. Amid a standstill with North Korea, Pompeo brushed aside an angry statement this week in which Pyongyang called the top U.S. diplomat “reckless” and immature and demanded that he be removed from future negotiations. Pompeo is believed to have encouraged Trump, who has admitted to having a soft spot for Kim Jong Un, to hold firm with North Korea’s young authoritarian leader during a summit in February in Hanoi that ended in deadlock. “Nothing’s changed. We’re continuing to work to negotiate. I’m still in charge of the team,” Pompeo told a joint news conference, while adding that Trump is “obviously in charge of the overall effort.” Pompeo, who traveled four times last year to Pyongyang as he eased once soaring tensions, said he was still hopeful for an agreement that would solidify Kim’s promises to give up the nuclear arsenal which his dynasty has built over decades.

Newsline: U.S. arrests former Marine connected to North Korea embassy raid in Spain

U.S. authorities have arrested a former U.S. Marine who is a member of a group that allegedly raided the North Korean embassy in Madrid in February and stole electronics, two sources familiar with the arrest said on Apr. 19. Christopher Ahn was arrested on Apr. 18 and appeared on Apr. 19 in federal court in Los Angeles, according to a law enforcement official and a source close to the group. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-northkorea-usa/us-arrests-former-marine-connected-to-north-korea-embassy-raid-in-spain-idUSKCN1RV1AJ) In a related development, armed U.S. federal agents on Apr. 18 raided the apartment of Adrian Hong, leader of Cheolima Civil Defense, a group seeking the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that is blamed for the Feb. 22 embassy raid, a person close to the group said without providing more details. Hong was not present at his residence when the raid occurred, the source said. The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment. A group of at least 10 people stormed into the embassy, restrained and physically beat some personnel and held them hostage for hours before fleeing, according to a Spanish court. Spanish investigators have said the intruders removed computers and hard drives from the embassy before fleeing to the United States, where they handed over the material to the FBI.

Newsline: Spanish court just returned all the material stolen from North Korea’s embassy without looking at it

Material stolen by intruders from the North Korean Embassy in Madrid in February has been returned by Spanish authorities to Pyongyang’s mission without a review of the contents, a Spanish judicial source said. Investigators said the intruders, self-professed members of a group seeking the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, removed computers and hard drives from the embassy before fleeing to the United States, where they handed the material to the FBI. The Spanish judicial source said the FBI returned the material two weeks ago to the Spanish court investigating the raid. The court did not review the material before turning it over to the North Korean Embassy, in keeping with standard practice to protect diplomatic information, the source said. Another source, familiar with the US government involvement in the case, confirmed the FBI had returned the material to Spanish authorities. It was not known how the material was handled while in the United States. (https://www.businessinsider.com/spanish-court-returns-stolen-material-to-north-korea-embassy-judicial-source-2019-4) A group of at least 10 people stormed into the embassy in February, restrained and physically beat some personnel and held them hostage for hours before fleeing, the Spanish court said earlier.