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U.S. sanctions North Korean national for Sony, Wannacry and other hacks, By Hamish Macdonald

U.S. sanctions North Korean national for Sony, Wannacry and other hacks

DOJ unveils charges against DPRK citizen simultaneously

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned a North Korean national and entity over multiple cyber attacks, which include the high profile hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, a press release from the government department read on Thursday.

The sanctions from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) came immediately prior to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also unveiling a complaint against the same individual named as Park Jin Hyok.

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Park, the DOJ says, was involved “in a conspiracy to conduct multiple destructive cyber attacks around the world resulting in damage to massive amounts of computer hardware, and the extensive loss of data, money and other resources .”

Aside from the Sony hack, the 33-year-old North Korean was also alleged by both departments to be involved in the fraudulent transfer of $81 million from a Bangladeshi Bank in 2016 and the ransomware attack known as “WannaCry2.0” which targeted computers around the world and impacted the UK’s National Health Service among others.

This is on top of “numerous other attacks or intrusions on the entertainment, financial services, defense, technology, and virtual currency industries, academia, and electric utilities,” the DOJ said in a press release.

This includes, the press release adds, attacks against U.S. defense contractors including an unsuccessful attempt targeting Lockheed Martin.

“We will not allow North Korea to undermine global cybersecurity to advance its interests and generate illicit revenues in violation of our sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in its press release.

“The United States is committed to holding the regime accountable for its cyber-attacks and other crimes and destabilizing activities,” he added.

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The designation lists multiple aliases for Park, which include “DAVID, Andoson”, “HENNY, Watson”,”KIM, Hyon U”, “KIM, Hyon Woo”, “KIM, Hyon Wu”, “PAK, Ch’in-hyo’k”, “PAK, Jin Hek”, and “PAK, Jin Hyok”.

According to the departments, Park worked for a company called Chosun Expo Joint Venture (aka Korea Expo Joint Venture), which was also designated by the Treasury on Thursday.

“Park Jin Hyok and his co-conspirators operated from North Korea, China, and elsewhere to perpetrate these malicious activities,” the Treasury said.

The DOJ complaint goes on to allege that Park was part of the well known hacking team called the “Lazarus Group” as well as unveiling other affiliations.

“Chosun Expo Joint Venture had offices in China and the DPRK, and is affiliated with Lab 110, a component of DPRK military intelligence,” the DOJ said.

David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) said the new designations were “a critically important development. Nuclear weapons are so 20th Century. Cyber is the 21st Century.”

“Although there is a significant time lapse between the hack and this indictment, it shows that the U.S. is tracking the North Korea threat, and that despite the current nuclear diplomacy the U.S. will pursue cyber operatives and hacker/criminals who wish to do the U.S. and the U.S. economy harm.”

North Korea has consistently denied its involvement in the high profile cyber attacks mentioned, however, both the U.S. and its allies have said the DPRK was behind the incursions.

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The U.S. has also previously issued multiple warnings and public notices regarding North Korea’s malicious software and cyber attacks as the DPRK appeared to be expanding its cyber capabilities.

The country has also been widely credited with attacks on South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges in recent years.


Moon aiming for a peace declaration with North Korea this year, By Dagyum Ji 

Moon aiming for a peace declaration with North Korea this year
Government to submit a bill to the National Assembly in order to ratify the Panmunjom Declaration

South Korean President Moon Jae-in hopes to be able to secure an end to the Korean War and a declaration of peace with North Korea within the year, Moon told an Indonesian newspaper on Friday.

During an interview with the newspaper, Moon was asked about his current inter-Korean policy goals. The President said that it is essential to “implement the agreements among the leaders with sincerity”, citing both the Panmunjom Declaration and the U.S.-DPRK joint statement at the Singapore Summit.

“As a substantive step of building confidence, it would be greater to declare an end to the War — which declares the termination of hostile relations — on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement,” Moon said.

Moon emphasized the “most fundamental” part of his policy is to rule out a possibility of war on the Korean peninsula and that he hopes to make “irrevocable progress” on the establishment of a peace regime and the denuclearization of North Korea.

While he appeared to focus on the ending of the war and not necessarily denuclearization as an immediate priority, a Blue House spokesperson later clarified that Moon is focused on both of the goals.

“My understanding is that [Moon] intends to mean that he will make substantial progress in the two goals,” spokesperson Kim Eui-keum said.

Pyongyang agrees with Seoul’s position regarding a declaration to end the war, saying it would be a “political declaration and the first step to building confidence among the concerned parties.”

In a step towards solidifying the Panmunjom Declaration, the Blue House on Friday also announced its plan to submit a motion to the South Korean National Assembly seeking the ratification of the agreement next week.

The Moon administration is set to submit the bill along with estimated costs to implement the Panmunjom Declaration after it passes a Cabinet meeting next Tuesday.

President Moon has called for “institutionalizing” the inter-Korean agreement based on the ratification of the bill by the National Assembly for its perpetual implementation regardless of changes in the political situation. The aim is to make the inter-Korean agreement irreversible.

The ROK President’s interview was released one day after Director of National Security Chung Eui-yong said Kim Jong Un expressed his will – during his meeting with South Korean special envoys – to achieve denuclearization within U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term.

Friday saw the ROK presidential spokesperson say that North and South Korean leaders shared the view that a process for the denuclearization and the establishment of peace regime should be “accelerated.”

Kim Eui-keum added the Moon administration expects that Trump and ROK officials will take corresponding measures after “seriously deliberating” upon Kim’s comments during the meeting.

In the efforts to share the outcome of the trip to Pyongyang, President Moon on Friday instructed Chung and Director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Suh Hoon to visit China and Japan for the purpose of debriefing both countries on the outcome of their visit to Pyongyang.

Chung is scheduled to meet Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Saturday while Suh is due to pay a courtesy visit to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the South Korean presidential spokesperson told a press briefing.


The UN General Assembly: will Kim Jong Un attend? By Fyodor Tertitskiy

The UN General Assembly: will Kim Jong Un attend?

North Korean leader could go if he wants, but Trump may still have a say

Recently, there has been talk of Kim Jong Un possibly visiting New York to speak at the United Nations during this month’s General Assembly – scheduled to open September 18.

Given Kim’s personality and the fact that there has been little-to-no progress in talks between Washington and Pyongyang, Kim coming to New York would undoubtedly create meeting at The UN General Assembly.


The 8th Rason International Trade Exhibition in review: domestic firms, By Hamish Macdonald

The 8th Rason International Trade Exhibition in review: domestic firms

Majority of North Korean entities advertising health supplements, medicines and pharmaceuticals

This is part one of a two-part series on the 8th Rason International Trade Exhibition. Part one concentrates on domestic firms appearing, while part two will cover foreign, cooperative and joint venture companies. The 8th Rason International Trade Exhibition opened in the northeastern city near the DPRK-Russian border on August 20 with state media reporting.


Second North Korean ship visits Chinese port capable of handling sanctioned goods, By Leo Byrne

Second North Korean ship visits Chinese port capable of handling sanctioned goods

The visit is the second of its kind within seven days

A second North Korean ship returned to a Chinese cargo terminal capable of handling sanctioned commodities on Wednesday, marking the second visit of its type in ten days.

The 3600-tonne, DPRK-flagged Min Hung arrived at Lianyun port on China’s eastern coast and remained for around 12 hours before departing in the direction of the DPRK.

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Two Koreas in Talks to Open Joint Liaison Office Next Week (KBS)

Two Koreas in Talks to Open Joint Liaison Office Next Week

The two Koreas are in talks to open their joint liaison office inside North Korea’s Gaeseong Industrial Complex later next week. South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun said at a briefing Friday that discussions are under way to fix the opening date near the end of next week.According to officials in Seoul, the liaison office is most likely to open next Friday.

The spokesperson added Seoul and Pyongyang have completed consultations on the composition and operation of the liaison office and the only thing left is for the two sides to sign a related deal during the opening ceremony.

Following his North Korea trip Wednesday, Seoul’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong said the two Koreas agreed to open the liaison office before the inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang slated for September 18th to the 20th.


Dialogue and Pressure Can Never Go Together: Rodong Sinmun (DPRK Today (English))

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An official concerned of the spokesmen’s office of the U.S. Department of State recently said that the U.S. set it as a goal to replace the armistice agreement when the DPRK is denuclearized,

The official added that sanctions will be comprehensively maintained unless the DPRK is denuclearized, reaffirming the stand to stick to the principle of “denuclearization first and conclusion of a peace treaty next.”

State Secretary Pompeo also told the Senate that international sanctions will be maintained until the DPRK is denuclearized.

Commenting on it, Rodong Sinmun Thursday says: Sanctions and pressure can never go together with dialogue.

Pressure will only heighten the other party’s vigilance and do more harm than good to dialogue. The same is the relations of the DPRK and the U.S. which have antagonized with each other most on the earth for a long time.

The two parties declared before the world their will to hold hands with each other and put an end to the hostile relations through the Singapore DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks and joint statement.

The DPRK has shown goodwill and magnanimity by dismantling its nuclear test ground in northern area and sending the remains of GIs.

However, the U.S. paid only lip-service to the improvement of the relations but did nothing. On the contrary, it is going against its promise.

The present U.S. administration should draw a lesson from the preceding administrations which drained the cup of sorrow only while resorting to sanctions and pressure for over half a century.

The U.S. side should neither insist on “denuclearization first and conclusion of a peace treaty next” nor delay the settlement of the issue of adopting a war-end declaration its president promised during the Singapore DPRK-U.S. summit.

It is the invariable will of the DPRK to resolve the matter through dialogue and negotiations.


New envoy for North Korea to visit South Korea, China, Japan (LA Times)

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The newly appointed U.S. special envoy for North Korea will make his first diplomatic trip abroad next week in the latest effort to press for progress in uncertain denuclearization talks.

As President Donald Trump expressed confidence he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will get it done together” following talks between Kim and South Korean officials, the State Department announced Thursday that Stephen Biegun will visit South Korea, China and Japan between Sept. 10 and Sept. 15.

Biegun, who was named late last month as special representative for North Korea, “will meet with his counterparts and continue diplomatic efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim in Singapore,” the department said, referring to Trump’s historic June 12 summit with Kim. He had been set to visit North Korea with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week, but Trump called off the trip, citing a lack of progress. That postponement put new urgency into South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s attempts at rapprochement with Kim, which led to the visit to Pyongyang of some of his top aides who arranged a third summit between Moon and Kim for Sept. 18-20.

Those officials said earlier Thursday that Kim still has faith in Trump’s commitment to ending their nations’ hostile relations, but is frustrated by questions about his willingness to denuclearize and wants his “goodwill measures” to be met in kind. They also said they forwarded a message from Trump to Kim during their meeting and would send a separate message from Kim to Trump.Trump responded by tweeting, “Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims ‘unwavering faith in President Trump.’ Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!”

Despite that sentiment, there were signs that progress could remain elusive.

In a move that will irk North Korea, the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against North Korean computer programmer Park Jin Hyok in connection with several major cyberattacks, including the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, a February 2016 cyber-enabled fraudulent transfer of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank and the WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017. And, the Treasury Department hit Park and the company he worked for, Chosun Expo Joint Venture, with sanctions that will freeze any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing any business with them.

“We will not allow North Korea to undermine global cybersecurity to advance its interests and generate illicit revenues in violation of our sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “The United States is committed to holding the regime accountable for its cyber-attacks and other crimes and destabilizing activities.”

And, speaking earlier Thursday in India, Pompeo said an “enormous amount of work” remains. He said the U.S. will continue to work with North Korea to “deliver for the world” in upholding U.N. Security Council resolutions against its nuclear and missile programs, and the commitments Kim made at the summit with Trump on denuclearization.

“It is the case that there is still an enormous amount of work to do,” Pompeo told a news conference in New Delhi. “We haven’t had any nuclear tests, we haven’t had any missile tests, which we consider a good thing. But the work of convincing Chairman Kim to make the strategic shift that we’ve talked about for a brighter future for the people of North Korea continues.” Although North Korea has destroyed at least parts of its nuclear test site, and says it has dismantled a missile engine test site, it has yet to declare what is in its atomic arsenal or take concrete steps to end its weapons program. Last month, the U.N. atomic watchdog vied “grave concern” about the continuation and development of the nuclear program.


‘Trump ordered a preemptive strike on N. Korea 1 month into presidency,’ a book says (Dong-a Ilbo)

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After attending the National Security Council (NSC) meeting on January 19 this year, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis expressed his frustration to his close associates. This was because President Donald Trump, at the meeting, deval‎ued the “significance of the U.S. military presence in South Korea” and asked why the United States is spending resources on the Korean Peninsula.

“We’re doing this (stationed in South Korea) in order to prevent World War III,” answered Mattis. But he later expressed concerns to his close associates. James Mattis is said to have made a self-mocking joke that he cannot get to choose the president he wants to work with. These accounts are all included in the book “Fear: Trump in the White House” by renowned Watergate journalist Bob Woodward. The book is scheduled to be published on September 11.

“Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders,” The Washington Post said of the book. They were deeply shocked by how Trump impulsively deals with diplomatic issues.The most shocking account of all is President Trump, one month into his presidency, asking Joseph F. Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to plan for a preemptive military strike on North Korea. Dunford is said to have been baffled. At the January 19 JSC meeting, President Trump also disregarded a special intelligence operation to detect a North Korean missile in seven seconds, mentioning cost issues.

President Trump also simply regarded the North Korean nuclear issue as emotional battle between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. When President Trump called the North Korean leader “little rocket man,” his aides expressed their concern. Then Trump told them, “This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim.”

The book said President Trump was skeptical about the significance of the U.S. military presence in South Korea in January this year. According to NBC’s report, President Trump was set to order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula in May ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, but White House Chief of Staff John Kelly talked him out of it. Judging from the controversy surrounding the U.S. plan to deliver a “bloody nose” attack against North Korea earlier this year, the discussion on a preemptive military strike on North Korea seems to have been underway since Trump took office.

President Trump on Tuesday (local time) posted seven tweets about the book, saying what the book says is not true. “The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources,” tweeted Trump, calling the quotes in the book, “made up frauds.” On the other hand, Woodward says he wrote the book after interviewing people who worked for the Trump administration for over hundreds of hours.


North Korea’s founding anniversary a chance for Kim to raise cash, project new image (Reuters)

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North Korea’s celebrations marking its 70th anniversary on Sunday are expected to showcase a country that has secured a nuclear arsenal and is now focusing on developing its economy and cultivating international relations.

Sunday’s events will kick off about a month of performances, as well as a trade show and other visits designed to drum up foreign investment and tourism spending in the sanctions-strapped country.

Having declared his nuclear program “complete,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will use Sunday’s events to highlight his renewed focus on economic development, and possibly his diplomatic campaign that has netted him historic summits with the United States, China and South Korea this year, analysts say.

“It is a day Kim Jong Un should reminisce the past 70 years of the republic, and it is an event where he has the pressure to offer a long-term statecraft vision that looks into more than 10 years that follow,” said Hong Min, senior researcher of Korea Institute for National Unification.

“However, it won’t be easy for him this weekend, because he did not really achieve anything ground-breaking after he changed the national policy line to economy-first.”

Economic sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons development have been squeezing the impoverished state, where some 40 percent of the population, or more than 10 million people, need humanitarian assistance and about 20 percent of children suffer from malnutrition, according to U.N. estimates.

Under Kim’s one-man rule, the country has also been accused of widespread human rights abuses, with a U.N. report last year estimating between 80,000 and 120,000 people are held in prison camps.

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Hasil gambar untuk North Korea's founding anniversary a chance for Kim to raise cash, project new image

State media have called for the day to be “a celebration of the victor and continuously expand the results of the big economic development march.”For the first time in five years, Pyongyang is organizing “Mass Games,” a huge, nationalist pageant performed by up to 100,000 people in one of the world’s largest stadiums.

In downtown Pyongyang on Thursday, thousands of children in school uniforms could be seen practicing marching and playing music in Kim Il Sung square, and on street corners throughout the city.

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Posters on major roads commemorated the anniversary and crews were seen patching the road between the airport and the city center. One Air Koryo flight from Beijing to Pyongyang observed by Reuters was fully booked, mostly with foreign tourists and media.

The events, especially the photogenic Mass Games, offer North Korea a chance to raise foreign currency from thousands of international visitors pouring into the capital, at a time when tourism remains one of the few remaining reliable sources of income amid U.N. sanctions targeting 90 percent of its $3 billion annual exports.

While ticket prices for past Mass Games topped out at 300 euros ($350), this year VIP seats cost 800 euros, said Simon Cockerell, general manager for the Koryo Tours agency. The cheapest seats are 100 euros, with several other pricing brackets in between.Despite the costs, demand is strong, he said.

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