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Two Koreas begin removal of mines from Joint Security Area: ROK, By Dagyum Ji

Two Koreas begin removal of mines from Joint Security Area: ROK

Move following signing of military agreement in Pyongyang last month

Seoul and Pyongyang on Monday began the process of removing landmines from the Joint Security Area (JSA) and Cheorwon County, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced, as part of measures to implement an inter-Korean military agreement signed in Pyongyang last month.

That agreement saw the North and South commit to demilitarizing the JSA through the setting up of a trilateral consultative body between Seoul, Pyongyang, and the United Nations Command (UNC) “to consult and implement measures to demilitarize” the area.

Gambar terkaitLocation of  Dokgeum-ri, Site for Pilot Project for Joint Recovery Operation

As a first step, the two Koreas and the UNC on Monday began removing the landmines – a process expected to last 20 days.

In a written statement, the defense ministry said the South will deploy an engineer corps to sweep for mines in the eastern and western area of woodlands and areas surrounding surveillance towers in the JSA.

The North has not publicly confirmed the move.

When the removal of landmines in the region is complete, the three parties will remove guard posts, personnel, and firearms within five days, according to the annex of last month’s military agreement.

The two Koreas and the UNC will also “withdraw unnecessary surveillance equipment.”

Once the demilitarization of the JSA is complete, the trilateral consultative body will decide issues including the composition, mission, and the operation methods of a joint administrative body for the area.

Monday saw the defense ministry also announce a plan to remove landmines near Hill 281 or Arrowhead in Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from October 1 and November 30.

The measure is part of the Inter-Korean Joint Operation to Recover Remains within the DMZ pilot project, which will be carried out between April 1 and October 31 next year, according to last month’s military agreement.

Minesweeping will be conducted for four hours a day from 1000 to 1200 and from 1500 to 1700 local time, though working hours can be extended or reduced depending on the circumstances.

This is the first time that the two Koreas have worked to excavate the remains of soldiers in the DMZ, where around 200 remains of South Korean soldiers and 300 remains of foreign combatants are estimated to be buried.

In Monday’s statement, the South Korean defense ministry said it aims to establish an inter-Korean road within the joint remains recovery site within the year.

The two Koreas have agreed to construct a 12 meter-wide road to facilitate progress in the joint recovery operations.

Seoul and Pyongyang must also notify the other side of the composition of the Joint Remains Recovery Team  — made up of 80-100 personnel — by the end of February.


North Korea will not disarm unilaterally, without trust in U.S.: Ri Yong Ho, By Hamish Macdonald

North Korea will not disarm unilaterally, without trust in U.S.: Ri Yong Ho

Trust building must come before anything else, DPRK foreign minister tells UNGA

North Korea will in no way unilaterally disarm and that the U.S. must first and foremost build trust with North Korea, the country’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Saturday.

Ri also said that North Korea was “unwavering” in its commitment to implementing the joint declaration signed in Singapore by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances, there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first,” Ri said.

“The primary task for effectively implementing the DPRK-U.S. joint statement should be bringing down the barrier of mistrust,” he added.

Hasil gambar untuk North Korea will not disarm unilaterally, without trust in U.S.: Ri Yong Ho

The foreign minister told the UNGA that U.S. attempts to coerce North Korea into denuclearization will not work and that corresponding steps must be taken by both sides in order to advance progress between the two countries.

Sanctions were directly referenced by Ri as a barrier to bilateral progress and as an example of U.S. efforts to coerce the DPRK.

“The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us but the problem is that the continued sanctions are continuing our mistrust,” Ri said.

The minister said that the current diplomatic impasse between both countries is a result of such pressure that he said was contrary to trust building. Ri also sought to contrast this with the relatively rapid progress achieved in inter-Korean relations in 2018.

“The recent dramatic improvement of the North-South relations and the atmosphere of cooperation clearly show how decisive the role of trust building can be,” he said.

“If the party to this issue of denuclearization were South Korea and not the U.S. the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would not have come to such a deadlock,” Ri added.

The subject of North Korea-U.S. relations have been raised several times during the course of the week at the UN by a number of member states.

This includes at two UN Security Council (UNSC) meetings, chaired by Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo respectively. Both stated that sanctions will remain in place until North Korea denuclearizes.

Ri had previously met with Pompeo on Wednesday, during which he extended Pompeo an invitation to Pyongyang from Kim Jong Un.

It is expected that Pompeo will be discussing plans to hold a second summit between the two leaders, which Trump said could occur relatively soon.


Paid in full: North Korea’s changing wage system, By Peter Ward

Paid in full: North Korea's changing wage system

Official sources suggest employers have increased freedom to hand out bonuses and benefits

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has presided over quiet but significant legal changes in the country. Market prices and market forces are becoming central to how the economy works, not only in practice, but increasingly in law. One area where big changes are to be found is in the price of labor – i.e.


Rodong Sinmun publishes rare travelogue hailing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, By Dagyum Ji

Rodong Sinmun publishes rare travelogue hailing China’s Belt and Road Initiative

DPRK state media spotlights Beijing’s push for large-scale regional infrastructure development

North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday published a rare piece of travel reportage, describing a visit by two journalists to three Chinese cities and a detailed appraisal of Beijing’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Reporters from the daily newspaper, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), visited Daqing and Harbin city in Heilongjiang Province and Hohhot city, the capital of north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

“We recently learned about the great fruition that Chinese people bear in our journey to cover China’s Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region,” the report – published on the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China – reads.

Reporters visited an urban planning exhibition and an oil field museum in the Daqing region – home to China’s biggest oil field – the Rodong reported, explaining that crude oil is connected to the city’s economic development and the improvement of the people’s living standards.

rodong photo

The journalists developed a “deeper understanding on past, present, and future of Daqing city,” the article, titled “Trip to China: Huge land moving forward vibrantly with the struggle to build a great modern socialist country,” said.

The Rodong linked the visit to the BRI — also known as “One Belt, One Road” — a major infrastructure and trade initiative launched by Beijing in 2013.

The Chinese government hopes to “achieve prosperity and development by strengthening international cooperation and jointly establishing ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’” the Rodong said.

“The plan has now its own framework five years after ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ international initiative was proposed.”

The DPRK newspaper stressed the connection between the Daqing city and the BRI.

“We learned that Daqing city plays the role of a supply depot in implementing the Belt and Road Initiative’s international cooperation, based on its natural resources and natural geographical advantages.”

Citing the construction of a second oil pipeline between China and Russia, the Rodong reported the city would become a “fresh growth engine for general development of the Daqing.”

On the second leg of the trip, the reporters visiting sites including the HIT Robot Group (HRG) and theHAO International Logistics Co., Ltd.

The reporters praised local company HAO International Logistics Co., Ltd, which runs a freight train service between Harbin city and Europe and Harbin-Russia cargo trains.

Harbin’s infrastructure is described as a “dynamic force to promote international cooperation by exporting advanced generating equipment and a foothold for logistics distribution connecting economic districts of China’s interior to Europe.”

“We could observe the development of Heilongjiang Province pursuing the establishment of the great modern socialist country of a new era with their own distinct features…,” the Rodong reported.

State media reported that the North Korean leader said the researchers at the innovation park “have fulfilled excellent achievements in science and technology research… contributing to the agricultural development of the country.”

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also reported that Kim had “marveled at the high-level of automation and well-established integrated control system” during his visit to the rail traffic control center.

DPRK state-run has also mentioned the BRI in the past, however, though never in quite as much detail.

One expert said it was noteworthy that the Rodong Sinmun had reported on regions which don’t share a border with the North such as Jilin and Liaoning Province.

“The fact that they visited cities in Heilongjiang Province shows that the country pays attention to the connection between North Korea, China, and Russia,” Lee Chang-ju, a researcher at the Sejong Institute and author of “All about Belt and Road Initiative,” told NK News.

“The travel indicates that the country may have intention to push multilateral cooperation… between North Korea, China, Russia or Mongolia using Heilongjiang Province or Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as a foothold.”


Russia detains North Korean tanker on safety grounds, By Leo Byrne 

Russia detains North Korean tanker on safety grounds
DPRK vessel failed routine safety inspection with six detainable deficiencies

Russian port authorities have detained a North Korean oil tanker for failing a safety inspection, Port State Control (PSC) records of the region show. A previous NK Pro report highlighted the ship’s visit to the Russian Far Eastern city of Nakhodka, the first such reported trip to the region by a DPRK tanker in months.


How secondary sanctions impact Russia’s position on North Korea, By Anthony V. Rinna

How secondary sanctions impact Russia’s position on North Korea

Moscow sees the measures as part of a wider plan to undermine its foreign policy

Demonstrating its traditional solidarity with Beijing over the Korean security crisis, Moscow has backed Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s plea for loosening economic restrictions against Pyongyang, made last week during a ministerial-level meeting at the UN.

That Moscow should support such measures should come as no surprise, given that Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov declared only weeks prior that the time had come for the UN Security Council to consider easing sanctions against the DPRK.

Morgulov’s comments come only months after he affirmed that while Russia did have an obligation to comply with UN punitive economic measures, it had no need to adhere to unilateral U.S. sanctions against North Korea.

Unilateral U.S. sanctions imposed against the DPRK have, in fact, affected Russia’s ties to North Korea. Thus even if the United Nations were to loosen restrictions placed on Pyongyang via Security Council resolutions, the U.S.’s own sanctions will likely remain problematic for Moscow’s hopes at closer economic cooperation with the DPRK.

Last August, Washington targeted the Russian company Profinet over trade with the DPRK. Later, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, citing an executive order, announced that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted two Russian firms, Primorye Maritime Logistics and Gudzon Shipping over transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korea.

In response, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov described the U.S.’s continued application of sanctions as a “spiral” perpetuated by the American political elite, decrying what he saw as the United States’ lack of regard for the DPRK-Russia relationship.

Although the particular laws cited as the justification for applying the most recent sets of sanctions did not specifically mention Russia, there has nevertheless been a growing tendency for U.S. policymakers to draft legislation related to North Korea that simultaneously takes aim at Moscow.

Perhaps the most notable grouping of the DPRK and Russia under the same umbrella in an American policy context is the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

The law devotes entire separate sections to North Korea and Russia, respectively. The Act’s provisions on North Korea, however in some cases specifically mention Russia in relation to sanctions compliance. In other cases the law contains guidelines for dealing with violations of US policies in areas that have been, in Washington’s view part of the growing ties between North Korea and Russia.

In addition to that law, there are other proposed pieces of legislation currently in the midst of the U.S. legislative process that mention Russia in the context of American policy toward the DPRK. Some of the bills currently under consideration by  lawmakers include the North Korea Follow the Money Act as well as the North Korea Ballistic Missile Investigations Act.

These legislative proposals, both of which have been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee, call upon organs of the United States government to investigate and document instances where the Russian Federation has had a role in helping the DPRK procure materials illicitly or otherwise circumvent sanctions.

Another example of the U.S. policy community’s continued calls for action against Russia in light of the North Korea crisis is the Korean Interdiction and Sanctions Modernization ActThe bill, which has been referred to the U.S. Senate’s foreign relations committee, calls for U.S. authorities to monitor ports located in sovereign Russian territory for illegal activities involving North Korean vessels.  Reactions to the tendency toward including Russia in American policy making on the DPRK are sure to be mixed. Depending on your perspective, Washington is either acting against Russian entities from a basis of legitimacy to enforce international sanctions, or is using the Korean security crisis as a pretext for continuing to attack Russia in it own right.

The U.S.’s targeting of Russia with DPRK-related sanctions and other legislative initiatives, as an addition to the existing blistering U.S.-led sanctions regime directed against Russia itself, will likely harden Moscow’s position against U.S. interests in the Korean security crisis.

The latest from the podcast:Summits, sanctions, and diplomacy: the past month in the DPRK – Ep.39 

Summits, sanctions, and diplomacy: the past month in the DPRK – NKNews Podcast ep.39
Korea Risk Group’s managing director Chad O’Carroll breaks down recent developments in the DPRK

In this episode of the NK News Podcast, Korea Risk Group‘s Managing Director Chad O’Carroll delves into NK Pro’s latest “Month in Review,” a new regular in-depth analysis series only available to NK Pro members.

Looking at the main developments that took place between August 18 to September 21, O’Carroll discusses the most important issues discussed in a recent inter-Korean summit, the state of sanctions, and implications for maximum pressure, as well as the risks and wider significance associated with these events.

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

Listen to the full episode at MHI-NK News

Top MHI-NK Stories from around the web:

South Korea requests exemptions to sanctions at UN General Assembly (The Hankyoreh)

Exemptions to international sanctions on North could be applied “flexibly in short-term, tactical areas according to the situation,” a senior South Korean government official said on Sept. 28.

The message was a call from Seoul to maintain the broader framework of North Korea sanctions while allowing some exemptions as needed for inter-Korean exchange and cooperation.Meeting with South Korean correspondents in New York that day, the senior official responded to a question on Seoul’s position regarding Washington’s emphasis on keeping North Korea sanctions in place.“The position that the sanctions framework is to be kept in place until we are confident about North Korea’s complete denuclearization is the shared position of the US and South Korea governments,” the official replied.

“But while we are working to proceed in the same direction in the broader framework, it is not realistic to proceed mechanically at the same speed,” the official added.“Rather than the loosening of sanctions, our administration is requesting exemptions or exceptions to sanctions for areas necessary to carry out the inter-Korean cooperation efforts specified in the Apr. 27 Panmunjom Declaration.

”The same official said that the “resumption of Kaesong Industrial Complex [operations] and tourism at Mt. Kumgang would be possible once the international community is satisfied with North Korea’s denuclearization measures and sanctions have been lifted.”“Things like surveys in connection with railway and road projects or the establishment of a permanent office for divided family reunions are unrelated to sanctions, as they do not offer economic benefits to North Korea.”

Shutdown of Yongbyon complex would much more than “step-by-step” approach

On the issue of North Korea-US denuclearization talks, the official said, “We do not anticipate that nuclear reporting and verification will follow a ‘step-by-step’ approach.”“For example, if North Korea shuts down its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, they would be dismantling a huge portion,” the official added.“If North Korea shuts down its Yongbyon nuclear facilities for certain under observation by the IAEA and inspectors, it would result in that much more trust between North Korea and the US, which could be used as a basis for a process of adopting other measures.”The official’s remarks were read as suggesting that substantial initial steps such as dismantlement of the Yongbyon facilities – as opposed to reporting of North Korea’s full nuclear capabilities – could provide the starting point and impetus for future North Korea-US talks.

Political significance of end-of-war declarationThe same senior official also said the South Korean and US governments were in agreement on a declaration ending the Korean War – which North Korea has demanded as a means of improving its ties with the US and ensuring its regime’s security – being a “political declaration.”“After mention of an end-of-war declaration was included in the Panmunjom Declaration, it looks like the US needed some time to consider the impact it would have in a legal sense on the armistice system,” the official said.“But now the US amply understands our government’s position,” the official added, suggesting the US shares the view that an end-of-war declaration would hold no implications in terms of the withdrawal of US Forces Korea, the standing of the UN Command, or weakening of the South Korea-US alliance.


Number of N. Korean defectors to S. Korea falls under Kim Jong-un: data (Korea Herald)

Rep. Park Byeong-seug of the ruling Democratic Party, citing figures he received from the unification ministry, said the figure has been on a steady decline since 2012. Kim took power in late 2011 following the death of his father,Kim Jong-il. According to Park, there were 2,706 North Koreans who defected to South Korea in 2011, but only 1,502 in 2012.

The number went up slightly to 1,514 in 2013, but fell again to 1,397 in 2014 and 1,275 in 2015. It bounced up to 1,418 in 2016 and dropped again to 1,127 last year. So far in 2018 through August, 703 North Koreans have left their country to defect to the South.

Park explained that tighter border control by the Chinese authorities and rising costs of hiring brokers have apparently discouraged North Koreans from escaping the country.


Nuke Envoys of S. Korea, US Meet 3 Times in New York (KBS)

Nuke Envoys of S. Korea, US Meet 3 Times in New York

The chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and the U.S. met three times on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Seoul’s Permanent Mission to the UN said Friday that Lee Do-hoon and U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun discussed recent summit diplomacy along with concrete ways to achieve North Korea’s complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

They are also known to have agreed on the importance of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang next month to prepare for a second U.S. – North Korea summit.

A senior official in Seoul it’s important the two sides meet again soon in Vienna to begin working-level discussions.


China calls on US to reciprocate NK denuclearization steps (Korea Herald)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the United States Friday to respond to North Korea’s efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons program with “timely” and “positive” steps. Wang issued the call in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, saying the political situation on the Korean Peninsula has seen a “major turnaround” this year.

“China supports all-out improvement of relations between the North and the South of the Peninsula, as well as efforts to facilitate dialogues between the DPRK and the US,” the minister said, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He added that Beijing encourages Pyongyang to continue down the path of denuclearization. “At the same time,” Wang said, “we believe it is also right for the US to make timely and positive responses so as to truly meet the DPRK halfway.”

The US and North Korea have been in negotiations to implement a denuclearization agreement reached by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their historic Singapore summit in June.

The agreement committed Kim to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees from the US. North Korea has taken steps to dismantle its nuclear and missile testing sites, but fallen short of US demands for a verification process and a full declaration of its nuclear arsenal.

At a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week, Kim committed to permanently shut down a missile engine testing facility in front of international inspectors, and, conditional on corresponding measures from the US, the regime’s key nuclear complex. China, North Korea’s sole major ally and trading partner, has been accused by the US of violating UN Security Council sanctions on the North. Wang said Beijing will continue to enforce them.

“Meanwhile, China calls upon the Security Council to take timely actions in light of the development and changes of the situation to create more favorable conditions for a peaceful settlement of the Peninsula issue through political and diplomatic means,” he said. “Effective settlement of the issue requires complete denuclearization, as well as establishment of a peace mechanism. Only when the two wheels move in tandem can the issue be truly resolved and can peace start to dawn.”


They were promised a ‘paradise’ in North Korea. They are now suing over the lies (Washington Post)

Four women and one man who spent decades in North Korea before escapiong to Japan are seeking damages for the lies and mistreatment. “They had been told they could live where they wanted, do whatever jobs they chose. It was a lie. Many ended up in prison camps or coal mines…”,the families in the lawsuit claims. Some died of malnutrition and disease, while others survived by selling what they had brought from Japan and through money sent to them by relatives who had stayed behind.

The fate of the Zainichi is not a priority for the Japanese government. It is fixated on the “abductees,” a much smaller number of Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Their stories have become something of a national obsession and a major obstacle to any rapprochement between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

But the Zainichi are a powerful reminder of other humanitarian catastrophes that have unfolded in North Korea in the past six decades, and how the regime of Kim Jong Un faces reckonings and recriminations on many fronts as it seeks dialogue with the West and its allies.The lawsuit by the Zainichi also cuts another way: highlighting the cultural politics in Japan and elsewhere in East Asia that can relegate ethnic minorities to underclass status.

Sakakibara’s parents, both ethnic Koreans, found life a challenge in Japan, she said. Her father struggled to find regular work, and her mother had suffered a stroke. Hiroko Sakakibara — now 68 — remembers being shamed at school because she did not have lunch money.In May 1961, the family boarded a Soviet passenger vessel bound for the North Korean port of Chongjin.Sakakibara vividly remembers the propaganda photos the family were shown before leaving Japan: beautiful girls plucking rosy apples off a tree, idyllic country scenes and modern cityscapes.

In Japan, the ethnic Koreans were seen as politically suspect — many were left-wing — and a drain on the welfare state. They had also been stripped of their Japanese citizenship after the empire was dismantled following World War II, and the government quietly backed the campaign to send them to home or to North Korea, says Tessa Morris-Suzuki, an Australian National University professor and author of “Exodus to North Korea: Shadows From Japan’s Cold War.”

The proselytizing campaign was carried out by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon, a pro-North Korea organization. The Japanese Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross helped with arrangements.

Once in North Korea, many immigrants tried to warn relatives not to join them: Letters home were heavily censored, but some wrote messages on the back of stamps or used prearranged codes such as writing in ink if the letter was telling the truth, in pencil if it was a lie.

Historical archives show Japan knew what was happening. It told Britain in the early 1960s that conditions for the immigrants were very hard, but still backed the campaign to send more back, said Morris-Suzuki.

“The Japanese government should face its role in facilitating this historical wrong, recognize that the victims are still suffering, and set the situation right by supporting these victims’ demands,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch.

Sakakibara is grateful to Japan for allowing her back. All she really wants now is an apology from the people who lured her and her family away.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” she said. “All they have to say is ‘Sorry, we meant well, but it didn’t turn out right.’ But they won’t acknowledge their fault. That’s what makes me so mad.”

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