Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North Korea

Newsline: Malaysian police enter North Korean embassy

Malaysian police on Sunday entered the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in connection with last month’s murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, according to China Press, a Malaysian Chinese-language newspaper. Four police officers, including the investigating officer of the murder, the Selangor state police chief and Selangor prosecution team officer, entered the embassy in the morning and were there for two and a half hours, the China Press said, adding they were granted permission by the embassy to enter. The entry indicates that a preliminary agreement may have been reached on processing the body of Kim Jong-nam, and on the recording of statements of three suspected accomplices in the murder believed to be hiding in the embassy, according to the report. One of the three is Hyon Kwang-song, 44, the second secretary of the embassy. Malaysian officials indicated that talks with North Korea on thorny affairs plaguing bilateral relations following murder could wrap up “very soon.” The remarks follow reports Saturday that former North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Ri Tong-il has returned to the Malaysian capital.


Newsline: North Korean suspect in Jong-nam’s murder is son of ex-envoy to Vietnam

A North Korean suspect in the killing of Kim Jong-nam is reportedly the son of a former top North Korean envoy to Vietnam, and he allegedly lured a Vietnamese female suspect to join the plot to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader. Ri Ji Hyon, 33, is the son of former North Korean ambassador to Hanoi, Ri Hong, and had lived in Vietnam for about 10 years, Yonhap news agency quoted sources as saying on Wednesday. Ji Hyon worked as a trainee diplomat at the North Korean embassy for more than one year and he also worked as an interpreter, according to the sources. Using his fluent Vietnamese, he lured Doan Thi Huong into the plot to kill Jong-nam while the latter was waiting to board a flight to Macau at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Feb 13, according to Yonhap. The Vietnamese woman and Indonesian Siti Aisyah allegedly smeared banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent on Jong-nam’s face. They have been charged with murder but they claim they were told that the act was a prank on a reality show. Ji Hyon is among four North Korean suspects who left Malaysia on the day Jong-nam was murdered and they are believed to have returned to Pyongyang. Interpol has issued a red notice to track down and arrest them.


Newsline: Dying Interest By Media To Camp Outside North Korean Embassy in Malaysia

Scenes of local and foreign pressmen waiting outside the North Korean embassy to catch embassy officials for comments related to the murder of Kim Jong-nam is slowly diminishing. Pressmen feel there is no reason to wait outside the embassy because none of the embassy staff or its spokesman Ri Tong-il had issued any statements or talked to the media since Feb 18.


Newsline: North Korea moves Singapore Embassy to prestigious downtown location

North Korea has opened a new embassy office at a prestigious fifteenth-floor address in downtown Singapore. The move to 1 North Bridge road’s High Street Centre building, which comes amid tightening new sanctions and pressure on North Korea, is notable for its high-end location, adjacent to Singapore’s parliament house building, Supreme Court and national gallery. The new location is not cheap, Singapore’s Commercial Guru website indicates, with office rents at the building costing as high as $17,312.40 to as low as $1937.99 per month, depending on the size and type of office. In contrast, Thae Yong Ho, a former number two diplomat who in August defected from North Korea’s London embassy, revealed that his former Ambassador earned just $1,100 per month, raising questions as to how Pyongyang might be financing the Singapore move.


Newsline: North Korean Leader Visits Cuban Embassy to Mourn Castro’s Death

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim Jong Un signed the condolence book at the Cuban Embassy. When at the embassy, the North Korean leader was accompanied by the country’s senior officials. “Although the outstanding leader died, his name will always be kept alive in our memory,” Kim wrote, as quoted by the agency. Fidel Castro died on Friday, at the age of 90. North Korea declared the mourning on November 28-30. Cuba established diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1960, and maintains an embassy in Havana. Military and commercial ties between the two communist states have increased since Raul Castro came to power in 2008.


Newsline: Former US envoy to North Korea becomes ambassador to Philippines

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed confidence that the US relationship with the Philippines can survive recent turbulence as he swore in a new US ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation. Kerry administered the oath of office to Sung Kim, formerly the chief US envoy for North Korea policy, in a ceremony at the State Department. Kim, a career diplomat, takes up his new position in turbulent times. Outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in June after winning a presidential election, has been antagonistic to Washington over human rights criticisms. Duterte has forged closer ties with China — a blow to the Obama administration effort to forge deeper ties with Asia. He has declared his desire to scale back military engagements with the US and has told President Barack Obama to “go to hell.” But Kerry remained confident about the future of the 70-year alliance between the US and its former colony, “notwithstanding a difference here or there about one thing or another.” Kerry met with Duterte in Manila in July and said Thursday he hopes to visit again before he ends his terms as secretary of state.


Newsline: Two top officials defect from North Korean embassy in Beijing

Two high-ranking officials from the North Korean embassy in Beijing -including a man who had overseen leader Kim Jong-un’s health care – defected with their families last month, a source well-informed on North Korea revealed. “On Sept. 28, a heavyweight representative in North Korea’s mission in Beijing – who came from the Health Ministry – escaped with his wife and daughter,” the source exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo. “This family made contact with the Japanese Embassy in China to begin the procedure to head to Japan.” The official has relatives in Japan, which was why he chose to defect to Tokyo rather than Seoul. “Around the same time, another senior official at the Beijing mission also defected with his family,” he added. “This official also hoped to head to Japan, and Chinese and Japanese authorities negotiated this.” South Korean authorities are aware of the defections and are working on bringing the defectors to Seoul, the source said. Such officials are not diplomats with the North Korean Embassy in China. They handle trade, economic cooperation and other exchanges in the country they reside in. The two defectors and their families resided in the North Korean Embassy housing. In July, Thae Yong-ho, North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London, defected to South Korea with his family. He was one of the most senior North Koreans to defect. Following Thae’s defection, North Korean leader Kim issued orders to tighten the watch over the regime’s envoys oversees.