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Spy agency warns of fraud schemes involving old N. Korean money
(Yonhap News) South Korea’s spy agency on Thursday alerted the public to overseas fraud schemes selling defunct North Korean money, taking advantage of the country’s recent move to reach out to the international community.The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said crime rings in China and Southeast Asia have secured massive amounts of old North Korean bills and attempted to sell them on the premise that their value will jump once North Korea denuclearizes and its economy develops.
Most of the bills were issued before the North’s currency reforms in 2009 and are no longer is use, according to the NIS.
They are also offering the money 30 to 40 percent cheaper than the current prices, the NIS said.
A crime organization was caught selling 5 million won worth of such bills in Thailand, it said. A South Korean businessman in Thailand received an offer from a local person to buy 2 billion won worth of bills. Similar cases were reported in other countries, too, largely in Southeast Asia, the NIS said.
South Koreans are mostly negative about possessing North Korean money but chances are high that international crime rings have their eyes on Korean residents as targets, the NIS said.
The spy agency plans to post warnings on websites of South Korean diplomatic missions.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Calls For Step-By-Step Denuclearization
(Bloomberg) In Beijing, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un told China’s President Xi that denuclearization would be a step-by-step process,according to Chinese state media.
China will play a constructive role in denuclearizing the regime. That’s the word from South’s top office as it evaluates the third Pyongyang-Beijing summit in as many months. Reporting from the presidential office in Seoul,… is our Hwang Ho-jun. In his regular press briefing Wednesday morning, the Blue House spokesperson said the latest North Korea-China summit is believed to have moved the denuclearization process a step further. He also said South Korea’s top office hopes Beijing will continue to help North Korea achieve a stable and complete denuclearization. The words “stable” and “complete,”… according to Kim Eui-kyeom,… mean China’s presence would act as a safety valve in the many negotiations to come during the denuclearization process. Those comments from the Blue House… were made after news broke that in their summit… North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to cooperate on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula… and that China has promise to play to a continued, constructive role in the future. This was Kim and Xi’s third meeting in three months. It came just a week after Kim Jong-un had his historic first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12th. The Blue House confirmed that President Moon had had no direct communication or phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart, but emphasized that diplomats from Seoul and Beijing are in constant, active communication.
South Korea, US defense chiefs to discuss details of joint drills next week
(Korea Herald) South Korean and US defense chiefs will hold talks in Seoul next week to discuss their policy options against North Korea and the prospects for the allies’ joint military drills, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Thursday.The meeting between Defense Minister Song Yong-moo and his US counterpart Jim Mattis will take place Thursday during the Pentagon chief’s one-day trip to South Korea, according the ministry.
Scheduled to visit China ahead of his visit to Seoul, Mattis will meet with Song to work out the “details” of the allies’ regular training drills scheduled to follow the Freedom Guardian exercise slated for August, the ministry added. “I think it is likely to happen,” said the ministry’s spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said during a regular briefing, responding to the question as to whether the two defense chiefs would discuss the prospect of the joint exercises.
South Korea and the US militaries said Tuesday that they decided to suspend the Freedom Guardian exercise, but added that no decisions were made regarding the allies’ other regular training exercises.
According to the Military Times, Mattis said Wednesday he would meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton on the issue of the military exercises to “sort out some of the details.”
The Pentagon chief added that he would take up the issue again with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo in Seoul. It is their second meeting in less than a month. They held talks in Singapore on June 2 on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum.
“We are meeting on Friday morning over here on this issue and then when I come out of Beijing next week I’ll go into Seoul,” Mattis said. “Usual close consultation ongoing as we sort out the way ahead.”
White House deputy chief of staff to leave in July
(The Japan News) The White House aide who led the planning for U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting last week with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has decided to leave the Trump administration to return to the private sector.
Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, has served in every Republican White House since the Reagan administration. He held the same title in George W. Bush’s White House.
Hagin’s departure comes as the Trump administration continues to set records for staff turnover. More than 60 percent of those who served in senior positions at the beginning of the administration have exited.
No successor has yet been identified.
A White House official said that after departing Singapore last week, Trump made a rare appearance in the staff cabin of Air Force One to praise Hagin for organizing the Kim summit and led White House staff in a round of applause for the aide.
Hagin was recruited to the Trump White House by former chief of staff Reince Priebus to bring a seasoned hand to a West Wing that had few experienced veterans.
North Korean summits bring sense of peace along DMZ border
(Korea Herald) Lt. Col. Hwang Myong Jin has been a guide on the northern side of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas for five years. He says it’s gotten quieter here since the summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the presidents of South Korea and the United States, in perhaps the last place on earth where the Cold War still burns hot.
“A lot of things have changed. Listen to how quiet it is,” he said as he stood on the balcony of a large building overlooking the blue and white barracks and concrete demarcation line that mark the boundary between North and South.
“The South used to blast psychological warfare propaganda at us,” he said. “But since the summits, they have stopped. Now there is a peaceful atmosphere here.”Indeed, all is quiet — deceptively so — in the DMZ these days.
On Wednesday, as Kim Jong-un was in Beijing for his third summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the northern part of the zone was buzzing with busloads of Chinese tourists taking selfies and eating ice cream cones outside the surprisingly well-stocked souvenir shop near the DMZ entrance.
A group of ethnic Korean high school students from Japan filed out of their tour bus as North Korean People’s Army soldiers watched disinterestedly with automatic rifles slung over their shoulders. Inside the souvenir shop, still more tourists, from Europe, looked over hand-painted propaganda posters. American tourists are still banned from visiting North Korea under an order issued last year by President Donald Trump that restricts all non-essential travel.
Though the DMZ has taken on something of a tourist trap atmosphere over the years — the South side is also a popular tourist destination and also has its share of kitschy souvenirs — Lt. Col. Hwang stressed that it remains first and foremost a military site.
“It’s not that we want tourists to come, but people want to see,” he said. “There are dangers.”The dangers are, in fact, all around the DMZ, though they are invisible to the throngs of day-tripping tourists.
While world attention tends to focus on the North’s development of nuclear weapons, North Korea has for decades stationed most of its conventional fire near its border with the South. South Korea’s capital, Seoul, is only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away from the DMZ and would be vulnerable to heavy artillery, and possibly chemical shells. Such an attack could cause hundreds of thousands of casualties.Getting North Korea to agree to move at least some of its big guns away from the border will likely be a key topic of negotiations in the months ahead, particularly now that the US and South Korea have agreed to halt their next set of annual war games, which never fail to outrage the North and heighten tensions on the peninsula.
Hwang generally follows a strongly patriotic and unapologetic script as he shows visitors around the usual spots — the building where the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War was signed, a giant stone engraved with North Korean founder Kim Il Sung’s last words, various other spots where talks took place. He still stays strongly on message — his job is to get the North’s position across to the tourists, even if they aren’t especially interested in listening.
But he also pointed out a tree planted by Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in when they held their first summit here in April, and the pavilion where Kim hosted Moon when he came to the North’s side last month. And when speaking to an American journalist, Hwang also seemed a tad less belligerent — or perhaps just a bit more relaxed — on Wednesday.
“War only brings disaster to our people. Nobody wants a war,” he said. “We held military talks with the South here, too. The talks are moving in the direction of what humanity wants. That’s peace. That’s a positive thing.”