Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North Korea

Newsline: Venezuela opens first embassy in North Korea

Facing increasing diplomatic pressures from the West, Venezuela moved to open its first embassy in North Korean capital Pyongyang. The move was apparently designed as a message to Washington. New embassy serves as symbol of alliance in the face of U.S. “imperialism,” Venezuelan vice-FM said at the opening of the embassy.

https://www.nknews.org/2019/08/venezuela-to-open-embassy-in-north-korea-on-wednesday-afternoon/

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Newsline: Germany cannot shut down North Korean Embassy youth hostel

The German government wants to stop a hostel manager from paying rent to the North Korean Embassy. But despite a UN resolution forbidding rent payments, the City Hostel Berlin is still open for business. The German government still cannot find a way to shut down the City Hostel in the center of Berlin, even though the building is leased from the North Korean Embassy next door. According to a report earlier this week by Süddeutsche Zeitung, along with public broadcasters NDR and WDR, the embassy appears to be stalling attempts to cancel the lease contract with the German management company EGI GmbH, by failing to pay the necessary court fees. (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-cannot-shut-down-north-korean-embassy-youth-hostel/a-50057740) Newly uncovered information shows that the embassy, under pressure from the German Foreign Ministry, cancelled the contract with EGI in February 2018 and then filed an eviction notice at Berlin’s state court. But it then failed to provide the required advance on the court fees, which means that the large hostel, with some 435 beds in around 100 rooms, remains open for tourists hoping to see the German capital on a budget. The ministry’s pressure came in the wake of a United Nations resolution in November 2016, which banned member states from allowing North Korea from using embassy property for anything other than diplomatic activities.

Newsline: US ex-marine tied to North Korean embassy raid in Spain to be released on bail

hristopher Ahn, a former U.S. marine who Spanish authorities have linked to the February break-in at North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, was at a hearing at a California court on July 9 ordered to be freed on a $1.3 million bail. Ahn — who the U.S. government has asked be held in captivity since his detention in April — must remain under house arrest pending further proceedings into his potential extradition to Spain. He will be required to use an ankle monitor, and will only be permitted to leave home for medical appointments and to attend church. (https://www.nknews.org/2019/07/chris-ahn-ex-marine-tied-to-north-korean-embassy-raid-to-be-released-on-bail/) Family and friends who put up the bail, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean Rosenbluth said, stood to risk losing the money should Ahn, previously described as a “flight risk,” flee. “I spent a lot of time reading about you and I’m confident you’re going to do the right thing,” Rosenbluth was quoted as having told the former marine, first tied to the mystery break-in at the DPRK embassy in Madrid back in February. That raid, Spanish authorities have alleged, saw Ahn and others from the “Free Joseon” group forcibly enter the DPRK embassy, before allegedly assaulting and restraining diplomatic staff.

Newsline: North Koreans want to kill ex-Marine accused of entering Spain embassy

A former U.S. Marine who is an activist in a group advocating freedom for North Korea has had a target placed on his back by Kim Jong Un’s regime, a federal judge in Los Angeles has said. “The F.B.I. has confirmed that the North Korean government has threatened his life,” U.S. Magistrate Jean Rosenbluth wrote in an order conditionally granting bail to Christopher Ahn on $1 million bond. ” … He is apparently the target of a dictatorship’s efforts to murder him.” (https://www.foxnews.com/us/north-koreans-want-to-kill-ex-marine-accused-of-entering-dictatorships-spain-embassy) The 37-year-old Ahn, who spent six years in the military and served in the Iraq War, was arrested in February as a member of the group Free Joseon. The group, whose name means “Free North Korea,” opposes the Kim regime and has helped some high-level North Koreans to defect. They even consider themselves the “provisional government” of North Korea. That resistance has seemingly earned Ahn a death sentence from Pyongyang. Ahn and Free Joseon leader Adrian Hong, who remains at large, face extradition to Spain on charges that they broke into the North Korean embassy in Madrid before tying up and beating some of the diplomats. Those claims were the basis for Spain seeking the men’s return. Attorneys for Free Joseon blast the allegations of violence committed by Ahn and Hong as lies from Kim Jong Un’s diplomats, whom they say have to make up a story to save their own skins. The activists claim that they were invited into the embassy and spent hours inside with no problems. Videos viewed by Fox News show the activists calmly walking into the embassy, and one sitting in an office having a quiet chat with a member of Kim’s diplomatic corps. One unidentified activist takes the official photographs of Kim Jong Un and his father, Kim Jong Il from the wall, and smashes the portraits on the floor.

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.