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.


We Have Sovereign Right To “Ruthlessly Punish” American Citizens – North Korea

North Korea said on Thursday it was its sovereign right to “ruthlessly punish” American citizens it has detained for crimes against its government system.

Pyongyang also said that U.S. media’s description of such arrests as a bargaining ploy was “pure ignorance.”

The North’s KCNA news agency said the crimes of recent Americans detained by its authorities will soon be revealed. Two American citizens affiliated with a private university in the North’s capital have been detained in the past month.


On May 7, Kim Hak-song became the fourth American citizen currently detained by the repressive regime, on charges such as espionage and crimes against the state. The American who has been held the longest in North Korea at this time is Kim Dong-chul, a naturalised American citizen who was born in South Korea.


Kim is a businessman in his mid-60s who at one time lived in Fairfax, Virginia. Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name, Kim Sang-duk, a 58-year-old American citizen who was temporarily teaching an accounting course at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.


He was detained at the airport while trying to fly to China with his wife on April 22. It is unclear what prompted his detention, but he has been charged with hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country. Also in detention is Kim Hak-song. Reports, however, said that little is known about Kim Hak-song.


The regime’s official news agency said on May 6 that he was being held for “hostile acts against the country,” although details about the alleged acts were not provided by North Korean authorities. Kim had also been working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, in agricultural development with its “experimental farm,” the university said in a statement. He was arrested on May 5 as he was “about to leave, after a visit of several weeks,” it added

Source: Vanguard

N/Korea Destroys U.S. City in Video Simulation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed to be having an upper-hand in the country’s stained relationship with U.S. when a video simulation of a North Korean nuclear missile attack was featured destroying what appears to be an unidentified American city.

This occurred when Jong Un celebrated his grandfather’s birthday on Sunday with a rousing concert.

According to reports, a full orchestra played alongside the video, which depicted missiles soaring over the Pacific and engulfing a city on the U.S. west coast.

The videos ends with an American flag and a cemetery superimposed with flames. The propaganda video was reportedly received with raucous applause.

‘When the performance was over, all the performers and participants in the military parade broke into enthusiastic cheers of “hurrah!”,’ state run KCNA news agency said, according to the Daily Mail.

North Korea has a long history of portraying mock violence against the United States in propaganda videos. Often they are released to mark national holidays.

Nearly a month ago, the totalitarian nation released a fiery video with scenes including troops blowing up a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and bomber.

The most recent video comes amid growing tensions between the United States and North Korea. Both countries have express outrage over missile tests and massive military exercises.

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the U.S. military, promising it would make an “overwhelming and effective” response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.

“The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” Pence told 2,500 sailors dressed in blue fatigues and Navy baseball caps on a sunny, windy morning aboard the carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay.

“Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response,” Pence said.


U.S. can Handle N/Korea Alone, Trump tells China

U.S. President Donald Trump has told his Chinese counterpart that the United States can go it all alone in solving the problem in the Korean Peninsula especially the nuclear weapon treat from North Korea, if China decides not to assist.

Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the situation in North Korea and Syria with U.S. President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said.

The phone call between the two came after Trump turned to Twitter to vent his frustrations over North Korea.

Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to rein in its unruly neighbor, which has stepped up its missile development and nuclear program since 2016.

“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem,” he tweeted.

“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.,” he wrote in a second tweet.

The U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region after the latest missile test by North Korea last week, drawing a forceful warning from Pyongyang.

According to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Xi reiterated that China wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula and called for peace and stability.

“China advocates to resolve the issue through peaceful means, and is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the US on the Korean Peninsula issue,” the statement quoted Xi as saying.

The two leaders met for the first time last week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and were having dinner when the US launched a strike against a Syrian airfield following a chemical attack.

On Syria, Xi said: “Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. We should adhere to the direction of resolving the issue through political means.

“Maintaining unity within the UN Security Council is very important to resolve the Syria issue and I hope the UNSC will speak with one voice.”


Malaysia Gives N/Koreans 7 Day Ultimatum

Authorities in Malaysia are looking for 117 North Koreans who have overstayed their work permits, according to the country’s Immigration Department.

Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali, director-general of Malaysia’s Immigration Department said authorities are seeking the North Korean workers.

North Koreans were temporarily barred from leaving Malaysia during a three-week diplomatic row with Pyongyang following the death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

That standoff ended, but it revealed that a significant number of North Koreans lived and worked in Malaysia,

All of the 117 North Koreans wanted by immigration are in the state of Sarawak, Ali said.

It is the only state that employs North Korean workers, the country’s human resource minister said, according to state-run Bernama news agency.

Ali said the workers have been given one week to turn themselves in, and he said his department knows of their whereabouts.

“We will definitely go after them as their work permits have expired, and thus they are considered illegal workers,” he said. “But first we would like to give them or their employers a week’s notice to voluntarily turn them in.”

Ali would not say which companies the men worked for but said they were in the coal and construction industries.

North Koreans have been employed in the Malaysian coal industry in the past.

In 2014, 46 North Koreans were employed at the Selantik coal mine in Sarawak when an explosion hit, killing three people including a North Korean.

The deputy minister of home affairs at the time, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, told reporters the North Koreans were brought in to work via a special arrangement between the Sarawak and North Korean governments because locals would not take the jobs and specialised workers were needed.

Domestic coal is believed to be the biggest source of North Korea’s foreign currency. It accounted for a third of all of Pyongyang’s exports in 2015.

North Korea also sends thousands of workers abroad, and their wages are believed to be worth billions of dollars to the regime, according to a report from the United Nations.


North Korean Leader’s Half-brother Murdered in Malaysia

The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been murdered in Malaysia, a South Korean government source said on Tuesday.

Kim Jong Nam, the older half brother of Kim Jong Un, was known to spend a significant amount of his time outside North Korea and had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated state.

The South Korean government source who spoke to Reuters did not immediately provide further details. In Washington, A U.S. government source said the United States believed that North Korean agents were responsible for the murder, but did not provide firm evidence to support that conclusion.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Trump administration, which is facing a stiff challenge from a defiant North Korea over its test of a ballistic missile last weekend.

In a statement, Malaysian police said the dead man, aged 46, held a passport under the name Kim Chol.

Kim Jong Nam has been caught in the past using forged travel documents.

Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat said the cause of Kim’s death was not yet known, and that a post mortem would be carried out.

“So far there are no suspects, but we have started investigations and are looking at a few possibilities to get leads,” Fadzil told Reuters.

According to Fadzil, Kim had been planning to travel to Macau on Monday when he fell ill at the low-cost terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

“The deceased … felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind,” Fadzil said. “He felt dizzy, so he asked for help at the … counter of KLIA.”

Kim was taken to an airport clinic where he still felt unwell, and it was decided to take him to hospital. He died in the ambulance on the way to Putrajaya Hospital, Fadzil added.

South Korea’s TV Chosun, a cable-TV network, reported that Kim had been poisoned with a needle by two women believed to be North Korean operatives who fled in a taxi and were at large, citing multiple South Korean government sources.

Reuters could not confirm those details.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said it could not confirm the reports, and the country’s intelligence agency could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was possible that Kim Jong Nam had been poisoned. The U.S. source said it could not be ruled out that assassins used some kind of “poison pen” device.

A former U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. authorities had been closely following Kim Jong Nam for years and thought he was at risk but could not say whether North Korea was behind his murder.

When asked about the nature of the reported attack, Malaysian police official Fadzil said: “We don’t know if there was a cloth or needles; the receptionist said someone grabbed his face, he felt dizzy.”

Malaysia is one of a dwindling number of countries that has close relations with North Korea, which is under tightening global sanctions over its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, the latest of which took place on Sunday.

Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Un are both sons of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011, but they had different mothers.

Kim Jong Nam did not attend his father’s funeral.

The portly and easygoing Kim Jong Nam was believed to be close to his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was North Korea’s second most powerful man before being executed on Kim Jong Un’s orders in 2013.

Trump Pokes North Korea

President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter again on Monday evening to promise North Korea would not develop a nuclear missile capable of reaching US territory.
His comments come a day after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, appeared to try to put pressure on Trump by announcing his country is in the “final stages” of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US,” Trump tweeted. “It won’t happen!”

Although Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept North Korea as a nuclear state, Trump has not previously clearly stated his policy on the isolated Stalinist state.
The Republican billionaire has already upended precedent by routinely taking to Twitter since his election last month to lambast critics and issue statements — sometimes about the most serious national security issues — sending analysts scrambling to divine what they may mean for US policy once he takes office on January 20.

He launched a solo bid to restart the Cold War arms race last month, tweeting that the United States must “greatly strengthen and expand” its nuclear capabilities.

He has also angered China by tweeting accusations of military expansionism and currency manipulation.

But he will need Beijing, Pyongyang’s closest ally, to deal with North Korea’s mounting confrontation.

However, he appeared to complicate that prospect with his latest criticism on Monday evening following his vow about North Korea.

“China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea,” he tweeted. “Nice!”

In a 30-minute televised New Year’s speech on Sunday, Kim said Pyongyang had “soared as a nuclear power,” adding that it is now a “military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy.”

Although he did not make a specific reference to the incoming Trump administration, he called on Washington to make a “resolute decision to withdraw its anachronistic hostile North Korea policy.”

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realizing its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an ICBM.

However, North Korea carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches last year in pursuit of its oft-stated goal — developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to the South in August, has said Kim was planning a “prime time” nuclear weapons push in 2017 to take advantage of leadership transitions in Washington and Seoul.

Missile Launch: Comply With UN Directives, Nigeria Tells North Korea

The Federal Government has expressed concern over the recent missile launch carried out by North Korea.

Nigeria urged the North Korean authorities to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to ballistic missile program  and return to the six-party talks.

A statement issued by the ministry of foreign Affairs said the Nigerian government is concerned by the recent missile launch by North Korea on Sunday, February 7.

The statement reads: The Federal Government of Nigeria is concerned by the recent missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Sunday, February 7, 2016.

“It must be restated that Nigeria has consistently called upon the government of North Korea to abide by the extant United Nations Security Council resolutions and not to take any action that will jeopardize peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the world in general.

“UN security council resolution 1718 requires North Korea to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program. Nigeria would therefore like to see North Korea comply with this and other relevant council resolutions.

“Nigeria supports the commitment of the United Nations Security Council and member states of the UN in working towards a diplomatic and political solutions leading to the full demilitarization of the Korean peninsula.

“While we reaffirm our support for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and strong commitment to nuclear non-profile ration and disarmament, the Federal Government encourages North Korea to return to the six-party talks.”