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Archive for North Korea

Newsline: North Korean Ambassador to Italy Reportedly Defects

North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil, was supposed to go back home when his mandate ended in late November. He had been stationed in Italy since 2015 and was named as acting ambassador when Italy kicked out his predecessor, Mun Jong Nam, in October 2017 in response to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. Instead of returning directly to North Korea when his gig was up in November, the acting ambassador reportedly took a little Italian vacation, which he’d apparently like to extend for life, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news service, which first reported what appears to be a high-level defection. “Italian authorities are reportedly protecting the 48-year-old Jo and his family at a safe place,” the news agency reports. “It was not immediately clear if Jo had expressed a desire to go to South Korea.”



Newsline: North Korean diplomat handling nuclear issues arrives in Russia

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who handles nuclear weapons issues and negotiations with the United States, arrived in Moscow on Saturday on a two-country trip that has already taken her to China. According to the Russian Embassy in North Korea, while in Moscow Choe will take part in bilateral consultations with Russia on Monday, and three-way talks including China on Tuesday, with the situation on the Korean Peninsula set to be on the agenda. The trilateral meeting will involve Choe, Russian Vice Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, who is Russia’s top negotiator on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, who doubles as China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs. During her trip, Choe is expected to seek support from China and Russia, both traditional allies of North Korea, as Pyongyang envisions advancing denuclearization talks with Washington.


Newsline: North Korea denies running casino out of Moscow embassy

North Korea is denying media reports that it was hosting an illegal casino in its embassy in Moscow. Earlier this month, Russia media reported on a series of raids on 15 underground gambling dens in the Moscow region. Russian investigators believe the illegal operation had been around since May 2016, generating profits of hundreds of millions of rubles each month. These illegal operations were reportedly connected to licensed sports betting operator Panorama, which operates the GreenBet, UnionBet and Winline brands. Over 100 individuals were arrested, including Anton Bazhanov, a reputed high-ranking member of the local “criminal community.” On Wednesday, the Tass news agency quoted a law enforcement source saying that one of the underground casinos was located “on the premises of the North Korean embassy” and that it catered to a VIP clientele of diplomats and lawyers. Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted other law enforcement sources saying they’d been denied access to the premises by embassy staff who cited sovereign territory rights. Following these reports, a North Korean spokesperson denied the allegations, telling Tass: “We know nothing about this.”


Newsline: New North Korean ambassador to U.N. has yet to receive U.S. visa

North Korea’s next Ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song has not yet received his visa to begin work at his new post in New York, an official told Kyodo News. He is to replace Pyongyang’s previous envoy, Ja Song Nam, who left at the end of July after having served as his country’s top representative at the U.N. headquarters since February 2014. Kim apparently applied for his visa in late May through the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, but has received no indication of when the process will be completed and is unable to travel to the country in the meantime. During at least part of the previous North Korean ambassador’s term, Kim had been posted in New York as a counselor with the country’s mission. Much was made of the first-ever summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un when the two met in June in Singapore, with Kim promising to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Since that time, however, bilateral negotiations over the issue have not proceeded smoothly as Pyongyang has yet to take concrete steps toward the goal, raising doubts about Kim’s actual willingness to relinquish his country’s nuclear weapons.


Newsline: North Korean ambassador returns to Beijing

North Korea’s Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong has returned to Beijing after being recalled to Pyongyang. The top North Korean diplomat to Beijing was seen returning to the Chinese capital, Yonhap reported. A Yonhap reporter tried to ask Ji whether he attended a Kim Jong Un-initiated meeting of the ambassadors, but he declined to answer any questions. Ji is believed to have accompanied top official Ri Su Yong to North Korea from Beijing, as Ri was returning from a tour of Cuba and Russia. It is believed Kim called for an “emergency” meeting of ambassadors, an unscheduled meeting of senior diplomats as North Korea continues its policy of engagement with the world. Kim may have called for the meeting, to provide instructions to the ambassadors ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean government on Sep. 9.


Newsline: Malaysia to reopen embassy in North Korea

Malaysia will reopen its embassy in Pyongyang, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said, suggesting an end to the diplomatic row over the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur last year. “Yes, we will reopen the embassy,” Mahathir said in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review published on Monday during his trip to Japan. Malaysia’s once-close ties with North Korea were severely downgraded after Kim Jong Nam was killed at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017 when two women smeared his face with VX nerve agent, which the United Nations lists as a weapon of mass destruction. The United States and South Korea have said the murder was orchestrated by Pyongyang. After Kim Jong Nam’s death, North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia questioned the credibility of the police probe and insisted he was an ordinary citizen who died of a heart attack. Malaysia then recalled its ambassador to North Korea, banned its citizens from traveling to the North and canceled visa-free entry for North Koreans. North Korea retaliated with a travel ban on all Malaysians in Pyongyang, trapping three diplomats and six family members. They were able to fly out only after Malaysia agreed to hand over Kim Jong Nam’s corpse and send three North Koreans wanted for questioning back to North Korea.


Newsline: Trump may discuss opening US embassy in Pyongyang

US President Donald Trump may discuss establishing official diplomatic ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and consider opening an American embassy in Pyongyang, a US media website reported, quoting sources. Citing two sources familiar with preparations for the Singapore summit, the Axios news website reported that this was among topics that could be discussed during their talks on Tuesday. “It’s definitely been discussed,” the unnamed source told Axios. “His view is: ‘We can discuss that: It’s on the table. Let’s see.’ Of course we would consider it. There’s almost nothing he’ll take off the table going in.” But nothing has been decided for sure or is necessarily expected to emerge from Mr Trump’s talks with Mr Kim, the Axios report said. The White House has not officially commented on the matter.