United Nations Backs New Sanctions On North Korea

The UN Security Council came to a unanimous decision to impose new sanctions on North Korea after Washington toned down its original proposals to secure backing from China and Russia banning textile exports and restricting shipments of oil products to punish Pyongyang for its sixth and largest nuclear test.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the tough new measures were a message to Pyongyang that “the world will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea,” but she also held out the prospect of a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“We are not looking for war. The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no-return,” Haley told the council, adding: “If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure. The choice is theirs.”

During tough negotiations, the United States dropped initial demands for a full oil embargo and a freeze on the foreign assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The resolution instead bans trade in textiles, cuts off natural gas shipments to North Korea, places a ceiling on deliveries of refined oil products and caps crude oil shipments at current levels.

It bars countries from issuing new work permits to North Korean laborers sent abroad — there are some 93,000, providing Kim’s regime with a source of revenue to develop its missile and nuclear programs, according to a US official familiar with the negotiations.

Under the measure, countries are authorized to inspect ships suspected of carrying banned North Korean cargo but must first seek the consent of the flag-state.

Joint ventures will be banned and the names of senior North Korean official and three entities were added to a UN sanctions blacklist that provides for an assets freeze and a global travel ban.

 

North Korea Nuclear Test Rocks Parts Of China

North Korea’s nuclear test Sunday was widely felt in northeast China and rocked some cities for as long as eight seconds, according to reports and accounts on social media.

The tremor was felt as far away as the city of Changchun around 400 km (250 miles) northwest of the North’s test site at Punggye-ri, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

In the small city of Yanji, some 20 km from the border, some people reported the shaking was so intense that they fled their homes.

Jiemiao Cangxin, a commentator on the Chinese microblog Weibo, said his building swayed so much that “I put my underpants on and I just ran, and when I reached the first floor I can say I wasn’t the only one running away with just my underpants on!”

“In Yanji, we felt the shaking for ten seconds,” said Weibo user Buziranshaonv.

“I was lying down and sleeping when the tremor woke me up. At first, I thought it was a dream,” said another.

The test, North Korea’s sixth, was substantially larger than previous ones, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale according to US monitors.

That would make it between five to six times larger than Pyongyang’s previous effort in September last year, according to South Korea’s weather agency.

The North called it a test of a hydrogen bomb which was a “perfect success”.

Reports of the explosion also provoked widespread concern further away in China, with many commentators speculating about the timing of the event — just hours before Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to open a summit of BRICs nations in southern China.

“An earthquake happened in North Korea, everyone thinks at once it is a nuclear test,” said one user, cheekily adding “is it a form of greetings for the summit in Xiamen?”

AFP

North Korea Says It Has Missile-Ready Hydrogen Bomb

Kim Jong-un provides guidance on country’s nuclear weapons programme in this undated photo released by North Korea’s KCNA news agency on Sunday. [KCNA via Reuters]

North Korea has said it has developed a more advanced nuclear weapon that has “great destructive power” and can be loaded onto a intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The North’s official KCNA news agency on Sunday showed Kim Jong-un inspecting what it said was a hydrogen bomb that is to be loaded onto a new ICBM.

There will be some scepticism about the claim from experts about Pyongyang’s assertion that it has mastered hydrogen technology.

But Sunday’s statement by KCNA will raise already high worries on the Korean Peninsula and in Washington that the North is closer to its goal of an arsenal of viable nuclear ICBMs that can reach the US mainland.

KCNA said the hydrogen bomb’s power is adjustable to hundreds of kilotons and can be detonated at high altitudes, with its indigenously produced components allowing the country to build as many nuclear weapons as it wants.

Questions remain over whether Pyongyang has successfully miniaturised its weapons, and whether it has a working H-bomb, but KCNA quoted Kim as saying that “all components of the H-bomb were 100 percent domestically made”, claims that have not been independently verified.

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from the South Korean capital Seoul, said it will be “almost impossible” for the US, South Korea and others to verify the North’s claims.

Hay said, however, that “there will be a lot of concern about it regardless of whether it is real because it clearly shows that the North Koreans are serious about the message they are trying to get across and that they are serious about taking these provocations to another level”.

The reports come less than a week after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan, drawing strong international condemnation, including from the UN Security Council, which called the launch an “outrageous” threat and demanded that the country not launch any more missiles.

Last month, the Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on the North that could cut by a third the country’s $3bn annual export revenue after it staged two long-range missile launches in July.

North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.

It has conducted launches at an unusually fast pace this year – at least 13 times, according to South Korean officials – and some analysts believe it could have viable long-range nuclear missiles before the end of US President Donald Trump’s first term in early 2020.

A newly revealed US intelligence assessment indicates those missiles can carry nuclear warheads.

Last month, three short range North Korean ballistic missiles failed, which was considered a temporary blow to Pyongyang’s.

The threat last month came after Trump warned that he would unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued its threats.

Source: Aljazeera

6.3 Earthquake Hits North Korea Near Known Nuclear Site

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake has struck North Korea near a known nuclear test site – Punggye-ri. The Japanese Foreign Ministry claims that according to its data, “it was a nuclear test.”

 

“After examining the data we concluded that it was a nuclear tests,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono said at a briefing following a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council, Reuters reports.

North Korea’s state television said it would carry an important announcement at 06:30 GMT.

An allegedly artificial quake was detected at 12:36pm in North Hamgyeong Province, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), Yonhap reports.

“Today, at around 12:36pm, we detected an artificial earthquake measuring 6.3 magnitude… we are analyzing whether a nuclear test was conducted,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, according to Yonhap.

The USGS reported the tremor as a 6.3 magnitude, while China’s earthquake administration also said it detected a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in northeastern North Korea, calling it a “suspected explosion,” Reuters reported.

South Korean scientists say the possible explosion was far more powerful than previous tremors recorded after Pyongyang’s tests.

“The power is 10 or 20 times or even more than previous ones,”Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear engineering professor at Seoul National University, said, as quoted by Reuters. “That scale is to the level where anyone can say a hydrogen bomb test.”

Japan gives roughly the same estimate for the earthquake. According to Japanese meteorological agency, the tremors in North Korea were at least 10 times as powerful as previous nuclear tests.

The Pentagon and the JCS have urgently called for a crisis countermeasure, assuming that North Korea is most likely to have conducted a sixth nuclear test, the report added. Seoul has placed its military on highest alert and is closely cooperating with the US.

Seoul’s presidential office has already accused its neighbor of conducting a nuclear test while president Moon Jae-in has convened a National Security Council meeting.

Earlier in the day, North Korea’s official news agency (KCNA) reported that the Nuclear Weapons Institute has created a“more developed nuke,” that can be fitted on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The new alleged hydrogen bomb, the report said, not only features“enormous destructive power” but can also be used to detonate a“super powerful” electromagnetic pulse.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service warned Monday that its neighbor might be preparing its sixth nuclear weapon test from a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri. North Korea has already conducted five nuclear tests – in 2006, 2009, 2013 and in January and September 2016. During the last test, the North claimed it had successfully detonated a small nuclear warhead.

Source: RT Newspaper

Missile Launch: North Korea Says They Still Have More Coming

North Korea had on Tuesday launched a missile across Japan that left citizens terrified. North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un has after the first launch promised more missile flights over Japan, insisting his nuclear-armed nation’s provocative launch was a mere “curtain-raiser”, in the face of UN condemnation and US warnings of severe repercussions.

The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile that Pyongyang unleashed on Tuesday represented a major escalation in the face of tensions over its weapons programmes.

In recent weeks it has threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards the US territory of Guam, while President Donald Trump has warned of raining “fire and fury” on the North.

After the latest launch Trump said that “all options” were on the table, reviving his implied threat of pre-emptive US military action just days after congratulating himself that Kim appeared to be “starting to respect us”.

The UN Security Council — which has already imposed seven sets of sanctions on Pyongyang — said in a unanimous statement the North’s actions “are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states”.

Both the North’s key ally China and Russia, which also has ties to it, backed the US-drafted declaration, but it will not immediately lead to new or tightened measures against Pyongyang.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, on Wednesday carried more than 20 pictures of the launch near Pyongyang, one showing Kim smiling broadly at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, surrounded by aides.

South Korea’s military said Tuesday that it had travelled around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 550 kilometres.

The official Korean Central News Agency cited Kim as saying that “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future” were necessary.

Tuesday’s launch was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam, advanced base of invasion”, he said, and a “curtain-raiser” for the North’s “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military exercises which the North regards as a rehearsal for invasion.

Wednesday’s statement was the first time the North has acknowledged sending a missile over Japan’s main islands. Two of its rockets previously did so, in 1998 and 2009, but on both occasions it claimed they were space launch vehicles.

North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan

Citizens were thrown into terror this Tuesday when a Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

A visibly unsettled Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat”, while the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting at Tokyo and Washington’s request.

Sirens blared out and text messages were fired off across northern Japan warning people in the missile’s flight path to take cover.

Trains were delayed as passengers were urged to seek shelter inside stations.

“All lines are experiencing disruption,” said one sign on Sapporo’s metro system. “Reason: Ballistic missile launch.”

The last time a North Korean rocket overflew Japan was in 2009, when Pyongyang said it was a satellite launch. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo believed it was a clandestine test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Pyongyang last month carried out two overt ICBM tests that appeared to bring much of the US mainland within reach for the first time and heightened strains in the region.

At the time, US President Donald Trump issued an apocalyptic warning of raining “fire and fury” on the North, while Pyongyang threatened to fire a salvo of missiles towards the US territory of Guam.

South Korea said the latest missile was launched from Sunan, near Pyongyang and flew around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) at a maximum altitude of around 550 kilometres.

Guam is about 3,500 kilometres from North Korea — although the missile was fired in an easterly direction and not towards the US outpost, home to 160,000 people and host to major military facilities.

Abe said the overflight was an “outrageous act” that “greatly damages regional peace and security”.

In a 40-minute telephone call with Trump, he said, the two allies had agreed to “further strengthen pressure against North Korea”.

Robert Wood, US Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament at the UN in Geneva labelled it “another provocation” that was “a big concern”.

But China, the North’s key ally and main trading partner, urged restraint on all sides, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying the situation had reached a “tipping point” but warning pressure and sanctions “cannot fundamentally solve the issue”.

Russia, which also has ties to Pyongyang, said it was “extremely worried”, hitting out at a “tendency towards escalation”.

 

Trump And Japan Develop New Plan Against N/Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and agreed on the need for more action on North Korea.

Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, said in a statement China must decide if it is willing to back imposing stronger U.N. sanctions on North Korea over Friday night’s long-range missile test, the North’s second this month.

Any new U.N. Security Council resolution “that does not significantly increase the international pressure on North Korea is of no value”, Haley said, adding that Japan and South Korea also needed to do more.

Abe told reporters after his conversation with Trump that repeated efforts by the international community to find a peaceful solution to the North Korean issue had yet to bear fruit in the face of Pyongyang’s unilateral “escalation”.

“International society, including Russia and China, need to take this seriously and increase pressure,” Abe said.

He said Japan and the United States would take steps toward concrete action but did not give details.

Abe and Trump did not discuss military action against North Korea, nor what would constitute the crossing of a “red line” by Pyongyang, Deputy Chief Cabinet spokesman Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

A White House statement after the phone call said the two leaders “agreed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and other countries near and far”.

The white house said Trump “reaffirmed our ironclad commitment” to defend Japan and South Korea from any attack, “using the full range of United States capabilities”.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the talk between Abe and Trump lasted for about 50 minutes.

“The role that China can play is extremely important,” he told a news conference.

“Japan intends to call on those countries involved, including the UN, the United States and South Korea to start, but also China and Russia, to take on additional duties and actions to increase pressure,” Suga said, declining to give details about what those steps might be.

North Korea said on Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that proved its ability to strike the U.S. mainland, drawing a sharp warning from Trump and a rebuke from China.

Trump later wrote on Twitter that he was “very disappointed” in China and that Beijing profits from U.S. trade but had done “nothing” for the United States with regards to North Korea, something he would not allow to continue.

Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming, asked at a news conference in Beijing about Trump’s tweets, said there was no link between the North Korea issue and China-U.S. trade.

 

China Set For Showdown At Border With North Korea

There are indications that China could engage North Korea following series of missile tests by Pyongyang and the refusal of its leader Kim Jong-un to stop actions capable of endangering peace in the Korean Peninsula.

Subsequently, the Chinese military has reportedly been building up defences along its border with North Korea that coincide with warnings by President Trump that he is considering military action over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons push.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a review of official military and government websites and interviews with experts, reported that Beijing has built bunkers to protect against nuclear blasts, established a new border brigade and a 24-hour surveillance of the mountainous frontier.

The preparations are intended to respond to worst-case scenarios, like an economic collapse, nuclear contamination or a conflict, the experts told the paper.

The Chinese government has not spoken out about the report of preparations. An official from its defence ministry said in a statement that the forces “maintain a normal state of combat readiness and training.”

“Military means shouldn’t be an option to solve the Korean Peninsula issue,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Mark Cozad, who works at the Rand Corp think tank, told the paper these preparations “go well beyond” creating a buffer zone at the border.

“If you’re going to make me place bets on where I think the U.S. and China would first get into a conflict, it’s not Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea: I think it’s the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

The Trump administration is searching for more effective ways to ramp up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang’s recent successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile — the first by the North — has created even more urgency as the U.S. seeks to stop North Korea before it can master the complex process of putting a nuclear warhead atop a missile capable of hitting the United States.

President Trump has expressed frustration that his initial strategy — enlisting China’s help and influence to squeeze the North economically and diplomatically has not yielded major results.

Trump’s administration is also considering other economic steps including “secondary sanctions” that could target companies and banks — mostly in China — that do even a legitimate business with North Korea, officials said.

US Tourists Travel Ban: North Korea Feels Less Concern

Washington’s ban on US citizens travelling to North Korea will have no effect on the country’s tourism industry and Pyongyang does not care about it “at all”, a senior development official insisted Tuesday.

The measure is due to be enacted this week and once it goes into force US passports will no longer be valid for travel to the isolated country, which is subject to multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes.

Around 5,000 Western tourists visit the North each year, tour companies say, with about 20 percent of them Americans. Standard one-week trips cost about $2,000.

But Han Chol-Su, vice-director of the Wonsan Zone Development Corporation, denied the loss of business would have any impact.

“If the US government says Americans cannot come to this country, we don’t care a bit,” he told AFP in Pyongyang.

Washington announced the move after the death of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in the North for trying to steal a propaganda poster.

Warmbier was sent home in a mysterious coma last month -– Pyongyang said he had contracted botulism -– and died soon afterwards, prompting US President Donald Trump to denounce the “brutal regime”.

The State Department has long warned its citizens against travelling to North Korea, telling them they are “at serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement”, which “imposes unduly harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States”.

Showing disrespect to the country’s leaders and proselytising are among the actions that can be treated as crimes, the State Department warns, saying it is “entirely possible” that money spent by tourists in the North goes to fund its weapons programmes.

Han’s organisation is trying to promote the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang International Tourist Zone, a grandiose vision of a tourism-driven development hub on the east coast.

He said Washington’s move was politically motivated. “The US has been continuing with sanctions against us but we don’t care at all,” he said.

Tour companies say business has already been hit hard by recent developments, including tensions over the North’s weapons programmes, which have seen Trump administration officials warn that military action was an option on the table.

“Certainly, of all the dramas that have gone on lately, the Warmbier issue is the biggest one for tourism,” said Simon Cockerell, general manager of market leader Koryo Tours which has seen bookings fall 50 percent. “It’s depressed the market quite considerably.”

The latest US move, he said, would hit North Koreans working in the tourist sector, and wipe out “any possibility of a humanising human element between those two sides who demonise each other so much”.

Matt Kulesza, of Young Pioneer Tours -– the company which brought Warmbier to the country -– said the ban’s effect on the North would be “absolutely nothing”.

But Americans, he added, would lose “the freedom to travel to DPRK (North Korea) and experience the DPRK for themselves and another side to this country that’s not often portrayed in the media”.

US Bans Travel To North Korea After Warmbier Death

The United States will bar Americans from traveling to North Korea in the coming weeks, two travel agencies said Friday, a month after a US tourist, student Otto Warmbier, died following his imprisonment by Pyongyang.

China-based Young Pioneer Tours, which had taken Warmbier to North Korea, and Koryo Tours said the ban will come into force on July 27 — the anniversary of the end of the Korean War — with a 30-day grace period.

“We have just been informed that the US government will no longer be allowing US citizens to travel to the DPRK (North Korea),” Young Pioneer Tours said on its website.

“After the 30-day grace period any US national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government,” it said.

The company did not say who had notified it of the ban, which followed its earlier announcement that it would no longer take Americans to North Korea in the wake of Warmbier’s death last month.

Koryo Tours general manager Simon Cockerell told AFP that his company was notified by the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which usually acts on behalf of the United States in North Korea since Washington has no diplomatic ties with the isolated regime.

The official announcement “will basically end American tourism” in North Korea, Cockerell said.

Travellers wanting to visit the North must go with a tour company. Americans are required to fly to Pyongyang from Beijing, while other nationalities are allowed to go by train. But the US State Department has strongly warned Americans against travelling there.

Warmbier, 22, died after being medically evacuated to the United States suffering from severe brain damage. He had spent 18 months in captivity in North Korea.

US President Donald Trump blamed Pyongyang’s “brutal regime” for his plight.

North Korea accused the United States of waging a “smear campaign” and denied that Warmbier was tortured or abused.

The University of Virginia student was arrested at the airport as he was leaving Pyongyang in January last year and sentenced at a show trial to 15 years of hard labour for stealing a political poster from a hotel.

His case added to already high tensions in the region over North Korea’s weapons ambitions, culminating in the country’s successful test launch earlier this month of an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts say could reach Alaska.

Young Pioneer Tours, founded in 2008 by a British expat, came under fire after Warmbier was flown home in a coma following a flurry of secret diplomatic negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

World Needs To Talk To North Korea, Not Threaten It – Putin

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Monday said Moscow was opposed to any new country acquiring nuclear weapons, but that the world should talk to North Korea rather than threaten it.

Mr. Putin, speaking in Beijing, said nuclear tests of the type that Pyongyang had been carrying out in recent weeks were unacceptable, but that a peaceful solution to rising tensions on the Korean peninsula was needed.

“I want to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers, including within the Korean Peninsula and North Korea.

“But at the same time, we understand that what we have observed in the world recently, and specifically flagrant violations of international law.

“Also the incursions into the territory of foreign states, changes in regime, lead to such kinds of arms races,’’ Mr. Putin said, adding that any such move would be harmful and dangerous.

Mr. Putin did not specify what countries he had in mind, but he has in the past repeatedly criticised the U.S. for military operations in Iraq, Libya and Syria, and accused it of trying to oust legitimate governments.

“In this connection, we need to act in a joined-up way and strengthen the system of international guarantees with the help of international law and with the help of the UN Charter.

“We need to return to dialogue with North Korea and stop scaring it and find ways to resolve these problems peacefully,” Mr. Putin said.

The Russian leader said he thought such an approach was possible because of what he called “the positive experience” of holding talks with Pyongyang in the past.

“If you recall, there was a time when North Korea announced it was suspending this kind of nuclear program, but unfortunately certain participants in the negotiations process did not have enough patience.

“I think we need to return to this,’’ he added.

Mr. Putin said he was briefed by his defence minister after North Korea’s latest missile test.

“This missile launch presented no threat to us, but it of course escalates this conflict and there is nothing good about that,’’ he stressed.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Sunday that a ballistic missile fired by North Korea had crashed into the Sea of Japan around 500 kilometres off the Russian coast.

(Reuters/NAN)