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Pyongyang, Seoul hold inter-Korean basketball games in DPRK capital, By Dagyum Ji 

Pyongyang, Seoul hold inter-Korean basketball games in DPRK capital
Two Koreas set to hold two more “goodwill” games on Thursday

The two Koreas held two mixed basketball games in the North Korean capital on Wednesday afternoon, the South Korean Press Pool in Pyongyang reported.

Male and female players from the North and South were combined and organized into two teams called “Team Peace” and “Team Prosperity.”

Team Prosperity took 103-102 win over Team Peace in the women’s game, while the results of the men’s match are yet to be released.

The two Koreas also plan to form a united women’s basketball team for the 2018 Asian Games, which will be held in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia between August 18 and September 2.

Despite the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Wednesday morning saying that Seoul expected him to attend the match, DPRK leader Kim Jong Un did not make an appearance.

The DPRK leader has long been known to be a basketball fan, famously inviting former NBA hall-of-famer Dennis Rodman to North Korea multiple times in recent years.

He also reportedly proposed the resumption of sports exchanges – particularly in basketball – during a visit to Pyongyang by an ROK delegation in April.

Tuesday also saw North Korean vice-minister of Physical Culture and Sports Won Kil U say the basketball games were being held “on the direct suggestion” of Kim Jong Un.

In opening remarks, DPRK minister of Physical Culture and Sports Kim Il Guk said the North-South unification basketball game was an “auspicious event for the nation,” the ROK press pool in Pyongyang reported.


Japan pushes ahead with missile defense upgrade amid North Korean outcry, By Colin Zwirko

Japan pushes ahead with missile defense upgrade amid North Korean outcry

Radar systems purchase comes as Tokyo relaxes missile alert level at sea

Japan has selected U.S. company Lockheed Martin to provide radar systems for its planned Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) project, Reuters reported Tuesday.

With the purchase, Lockheed will reportedly provide Japan with its Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) systems to improve coverage of the Korean peninsula.

Japan selected Lockheed, which already produces the Aegis Ashore BMD, over Raytheon’s SPY-6 radar.

The move comes after reports surfaced over the weekend that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (SDF) was recalling naval Aegis-equipped destroyers and relaxing its alert level for North Korean missile launches.

But yesterday’s revelations suggest Japan’s plan to station the land-based systems in two west-coast prefectures by 2023 is back on track.

North Korean state-run media has published articles over the past week condemning the plans, following visits by Japanese defense minister Itsunori Onodera to Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures on June 22 to shore up support for the long-term plans.

Two commentaries published on June 26 and 27 criticized Onodera’s activities and the country’s Aegis systems plans as a challenge to its ongoing negotiations with the U.S. and South Korea.

One, originally published in the Minju Joson, said: “such arms buildup and military confrontation moves as deployment of Aegis Ashore go to prove that Japan does not want peace but escalation of tension.”

While there is some domestic opposition to the plans in Japan following North Korea’s stated plans to halt missile tests this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is continuing to prioritize military improvements in talks with the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis affirmed the plans to purchase the U.S.-developed missile defense systems during meetings last week in Tokyo with Prime Minister Abe and defense minister Onodera.

Mattis told the press following his meetings with Onodera he was “encouraged by our joint efforts to improve the foreign military sales process for Japan, while ensuring our cutting-edge technologies… remain protected.”

In a Reuters report the same day revealing Tokyo planned to announce a contract for the radar systems with either Lockheed or Raytheon sometime the following week, a Japanese government official was quoted as saying “Aegis will be a big-ticket purchase; it will be a nice gift for President Trump.”


Despite comments from PM, N. Korea’s trade with Thailand continued in 2018, By Leo Byrne

Despite comments from PM, N. Korea's trade with Thailand continued in 2018

Some raw material and electronic imports could also breach UN sanctions

North Korean trade with Thailand has continued so far this year, despite a statement from Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in December last year claiming there was “no commerce” between the two countries. Some of Thailand’s registered imports from the DPRK in recent months also include small quantities of iron products, which likely push against UN.


The Trump administration and CVID: a brief history, By Fyodor Tertitskiy

The Trump administration and CVID: a brief history

Where “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” came from – and where it goes next

When it comes to United States’ policy towards North Korea, one of the most well-known abbreviations that has emerged in recent months is CVID: complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization. This policy predates the election of Donald Trump and has been a stated goal not only of the United States.


Thae Yong-ho’s memoir: some key insights from the diplomat defector, By Andrei Lankov

Thae Yong-ho’s memoir: some key insights from the diplomat defector

The former deputy ambassador to the UK’s book is a treasure trove for any DPRK watcher

This is the second part of a two-part series by Andrei Lankov looking at some of the most interesting revelations from the memoirs of Thae Yong-ho, one of the highest-ranking North Korean diplomats to ever defect. The book, “Cypher of the third-floor secretariat,” can be purchased here.

For the last few weeks, the bestsellers list in South Korea has been dominated by a book by Thae Yong-ho, the high-level North Korea diplomat, once a deputy ambassador in Britain, whose defection in 2016 made headlines worldwide.

Such interest is unusual: contrary to what is typically assumed in the West, the average South Korean cares little about North Korea and is remarkably disinterested in what defectors and refugees can tell us about their country.

The success of Thae’s book, then, is remarkable – more so as the book is far from being sensationalist. One does not find anything about Kim Jong Un’s personal life, and even stories of regime brutality and corruption, while present, are not that prominent.

In essence, the book is best described as a high-quality diplomatic memoir, even though it also contains roughly a hundred pages (out of 500 total) dealing with Thae’s family and background. The tone of the book – highly informative and rich in detail, but also well-balanced and analytical – makes it one of the best examples of this genre. One can easily see a disappointed and embittered but intelligent and well-informed U.S. diplomat writing a similar text after their retirement.

SURPRISINGLY BALANCED

The book is a goldmine for everyone interested in North Korean diplomacy and the country’s recent history, and its 500 pages are packed with information related to these subjects. Remarkably, Thae refuses to speculate on things he does not have first-hand knowledge of, and limits himself to things he knows directly.

To understand why Thae Yong-ho knows so much one must recall his CV. Born in 1962 to a rather humble family, he, then still a teenager, was one of few North Korean students selected to study foreign languages overseas in the 1970s.

He graduated from a prestigious college, and embarked on a highly successful diplomatic carrier. In the 1990s he served in Scandinavia (Denmark and Sweden) and then made two tours of duty in London, in 2003-2008 and again in 2013-2016. He was then widely known as a rising star in the North Korean foreign policy bureaucracy, and some even saw him as a future deputy foreign minister or even higher.

In many regards, the tone of Thae’s memoirs differs greatly from what one would expect from a book written by a defecting official, and it is truly remarkable how favorably he describes most (indeed, nearly all) of the people with whom he worked over his long career.

For example, he writes with great sympathy about Ri Su Yong, who he knew since the days when Ri was an ambassador to Switzerland and something of a foster father to the teenage Kim Jong Un (Ri later became the foreign minister). He is described as a responsible and courageous man, sometimes ready to tell the leaders the bitter truth, albeit in the proper packaging. For example, Thae writes that it was Ri Su Yong who took the significant career risk by suggesting to Kim Jong Il that the country apply for foreign aid in the 1990s.

 

The latest from the podcast:

Political risk and investment in North Korea – MHI-NKNews Podcast ep.26 

Political risk and investment in North Korea – NKNews Podcast ep.26
Three experts discuss foreign investments and the future of the DPRK market

With genuine reform and opening up being discussed seriously in policy circles in Seoul and elsewhere, what investment opportunities and risks exist in North Korea?

South Korean wealth managers are scrambling to take advantage of the recent détente between Pyongyang and Seoul, with land values in some places near the DMZ more than doubling in the span of a few weeks. Major companies like Samsung and Hyundai have already begun rounding up research teams to explore inter-Korean economic cooperation.

In this podcast, we learn from three Korea experts about the long-term prospects and the challenges that exist for genuine change in Pyongyang.

This week’s guests:

Dr. June Park is currently a research fellow at the Key Research Institute and Northeast Asia Center of Seoul National University.

Dr. Tony Michell has been involved in projects in North Korea going back to 1993, including assisting Western investment into the free economic zone of Rajin-Sonbong.

Dr. JR Kim is Director of Planning and Research at the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU)’s North Korean Human Rights Center. Formerly, he was an MOU spokesperson and its Director of International Cooperation.

About the podcast: The “North Korea News Podcast” is a weekly podcast hosted exclusively by MHI-NK News, covering all things DPRK: from news to extended interview with leading experts and analysts in the field and insight from our very own journalists.

 

Top MHI-NK Stories from around the web:

N. Korea Designated as Food-shortage Nation Again (KBS)

N. Korea Designated as Food-shortage Nation Again

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has re-designated North Korea as a country facing a severe food shortage.

In its recent second quarter report on the world’s harvest prospects, it included the North among 39 countries in need of outside assistance.

The FAO cited last year’s drought, water shortage and international sanctions as reasons for the food shortage in the North. It estimated that some 641-thousand tons of food need to be imported or covered by external aid this year, up 180-thousand tons from a year earlier. Also on the list were 31 African countries, in addition to Syria, Iraq and Pakistan.


Donald Trump: ‘If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!’ (Associated Press)

Hasil gambar untuk Donald Trump: 'If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!'

President Trump praised his administration’s work with North Korea Tuesday, despite concerns over Kim Jong-un’s commitment to the Singapore summit agreement.

Mr. Trump said that conversations with the North Korean leader is going well, noting that the isolated country has not tested any of its nuclear projects or weapons systems in eight months.

Hasil gambar untuk Donald Trump: 'If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!'

White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton claimed on Sunday that North Korea’s nuclear program could completely dissolve in one year, depending on the success of negotiations with and cooperation from Mr. Kim.

However, some experts are concerned that North Korea is using negotiations to stall and continue its nuclear program in secret.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is scheduled to visit North Korea on Thursday to continue the denuclearization talks.


N.K. holds welcoming dinner for S. Korean basketball players, officials (Yonhap News)

This photo taken on July 3, 2018, shows South Korean basketball players entering a hotel in Pyongyang, welcomed by hotel staff members. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

North Korea held a welcoming dinner Tuesday for a delegation of South Korean athletes and government officials visiting Pyongyang for inter-Korean friendly basketball matches.

The 100-strong delegation including coaches and journalists arrived at Pyongyang’s Sunan airport earlier in the day on two military planes.

North Korea is holding the welcoming dinner at Pyongyang’s Okryugwan restaurant, which is famous for cold noodles, called “naengmyeon” in Korean.

South Korean government officials earlier told visiting journalists that Kim Il-guk, North Korea’s sports minister, is likely to attend the dinner.

“An official with authority will likely join the dinner,” a North Korean official said.

The two Koreas plan to hold four basketball matches in Pyongyang on Wednesday and Thursday. The matches were arranged as a follow up to the agreement reached during working-level talks on sports exchanges in mid-June.

They will hold basketball matches for the first time in 15 years.


Reasons to be optimistic about North Korea (East Asia Forum)

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, 12 June 2018. (Photo: Reuters).

With peace still being the main goal, the Singapore summit was just the beginning of a long process. “The time for talk of ‘maximum pressure’ and a ‘bloody nose’ strike is finished. Kim has made concessions: a voluntary moratorium on missile testing, a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing and dismantlement of the nuclear testing site. Skeptics argue that these are partial measures…” But of course they are, that’s the point — they are concessions, not irretrievable moves.

Hasil gambar untuk Reasons to be optimistic about North Korea

And yes, Kim could re-start North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing programs. But as long as he does not, there will be almost no support from US allies and partners for military action or even for continuing economic pressure against North Korea, no matter what rhetoric comes from Washington.

North Korea is not a problem to be solved. It is a country the world must learn to live with. Containment has never been successful. North Korea meets pressure with pressure of its own. Whether pressure on North Korean nuclear weapons, human rights or economic reform — all have failed. To his credit, Trump’s efforts at engagement and diplomacy have seen results. This is a dramatic and historic first step in the right direction.


A Small Country With a Nuclear Option (Haaretz)

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at the end of their historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Could North Korea’s nuclear weapons have let it maintain its domestic policy of repression and terror while broadcasting militancy outward – polices that condemned it to isolation and an increasing economic and political boycott? Could it have imposed on the outside world acquiescence and resignation to its regime, including the threat it held over its southern neighbor? To me the answer seems an emphatic no.

Possession of nuclear weapons has a limited role, a deterrent one, even when it comes to superpowers, and thus more so when it comes to mini-powers such as North Korea. The country’s leaders never really had the option of using these weapons other than when facing total annihilation, as in bringing the house down over their own heads as well. Possession of these weapons would never ease the siege or improve its economy or international standing.

In contrast, in an ingenious move, North Korea’s leaders found a way to extract optimal benefits from their nuclear weapons – not by threatening to use them but through offers to dismantle them and have them banned from the entire Korean Peninsula. “From the very outset, the development of nuclear weapons was intended to obtain not just deterrence against any threat or attempt at coercion by the powers, but also a bargaining chip when the time was ripe for change…”

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