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North Korea to repatriate U.S. citizen detained since October: KCNA, By Colin Zwirko
Bruce Byron Lowrance reported to have claimed to be under “manipulation of the CIA”
North Korea will deport a U.S. citizen detained after illegally entering the country last month, state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Friday. The KCNA said the man, named in the report as Bruce Byron Lowrance, was detained after crossing into North Korea illegally from China on October 16.
Friday’s KCNA report said Lowrance had told investigators in North Korea he had “illegally entered the DPRK under the manipulation of the CIA.”
Following an investigation, North Korean authorities “decided to deport American citizen Lowrance from the DPRK,” the report added. A man with the same name was deported from South Korea almost exactly a year ago after reportedly being caught wandering near the inter-Korean border.
Chief Director of Operations at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Suh Wook at the time told lawmakers that Lowrance had “made an incoherent testimony” and that the U.S. citizen had believed he “could contribute in some way in North Korea.” Lowrance reportedly developed a plan to defect to the North through research online, and told South Korean investigators at the time he was not aware crossing into the DPRK was illegal.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Friday thanking North Korea and Sweden for Lowrance’s return. “The United States appreciates the cooperation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the embassy of Sweden in facilitating the release of an American citizen,” Pompeo said.
“The United States is grateful for the sustained support of Sweden, our protecting power in North Korea, for its advocacy on behalf of American citizens.”
Neither side has revealed when the man is expected to be deported. The man is the fourth U.S. citizen to be released from captivity in the North this year, though news of his detention was not make public until today.
Pyongyang in May repatriated Kim Sang-duk (also known as Tony Kim), Kim Hak-song, and Kim Dong-chul as a goodwill gesture ahead of a planned DPRK-U.S. summit.
Both Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song were linked to the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the country’s only private university, and had been accused of carrying out “hostile acts” against the country.
Kim Dong-chul, in turn, was in April 2016 sentenced to ten years’ hard labor for having committed “unpardonable espionage” on behalf of the U.S. and South Korea.
Senior North Korean official hails “dramatic changes” in ROK-DPRK relations, By Dagyum Ji
Ri Jong Hyok tells conference in Gyoenggi, ROK that “nothing can block” inter-Korean reconciliation
Senior DPRK official Ri Jong Hyok on Friday hailed the two Koreas’ recent progress towards peace and prosperity on the peninsula in a speech at an international history forum held in the South.
“Dramatic changes have continuously taken place,” Ri, currently visiting South Korea as part of a five-person delegation, said in a speech at the Asia Pacific Peace and Prosperity conference.
Citing three meetings between DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and ROK President Moon Jae-in and July’s DPRK-U.S. summit, the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) vice-chairman said the two Koreas could “not stop or hesitate our steps here.”
“We are making our sacred great march toward national reconciliation, peace, independent reunification, and prosperity which nothing can block… and strong hopes and conviction were fully filled with heart of every North and South Korean nation,” Ri said.
Seoul and Pyongyang had shown the world that the “blood of the same people is thicker… and peace is more precious and mighty than war,” through their joint participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, he continued.
Friday’s conference, co-hosted by South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province and the association for Asia-Pacific peace and exchange, saw scholars call for further steps to investigate and raise awareness of the forced mobilization of Korean laborers by the Japanese during Word War II. Cooperative measures for Asia-Pacific peace and prosperity in the 21st century were also discussed.
Around 300 people were in attendance, including former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and former South Korean unification minister Jeong Se-hyun.
In his speech, the DPRK KAPPC vice-chairman attacked Japan for its “crimes against humanity” including abduction, forced mobilization, and use of so-called “comfort women.” “Korean people were the greatest victims of these crimes,” Ri said.
The DPRK delegation is scheduled to return to Pyongyang on Saturday after what will be a four-day trip to the South. Ri’s speech came just hours after news broke in North Korean state media that the country had carried out a test of a new “ultramodern tactical weapon.”
Asked for comment on the development by NK News on arriving at the venue for Friday’s event, he did not respond.
Russian oil shipments to North Korea increased again in September: UN, By Leo Byrne
Shipments still only a fraction of previous years, however
Russia increased exports of oil products to North Korea in September, a recent report by Moscow to the UN shows, sending more than triple the volume it shipped two months earlier. UN resolutions require member states to report their monthly fuel shipments to the DPRK, which are then published on the 1718 Committee’s website.
North Korea proposes connecting air routes on east, west coast of peninsula, By Dagyum Ji
Announcement follows first-ever inter-Korean aviation talks at KIC
DPRK delegates at inter-Korean aviation talks on Friday proposed connecting international air routes over the east and west coast of the peninsula, the ROK Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) announced.“The North Korean side proposed connecting international air routes over the east and west coast between the two Koreas,” the MOLIT said in a statement following the first-ever working-level talks on aviation cooperation between the two sides.
The talks took place at the joint liaison office located at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
“In return, our side made a suggestion to continue discussions through talks between aviation authorities,” the ministry added, without providing further details.
The North in February requested the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which dictates territorial airspace, establish a new Air Traffic Service (ATS) route between Pyongyang and the Incheon Flight Information Region (FIR).
The ICAO told NK News at the time that it planned to hold a discussion over pending issues including the new route, air navigation, and safety matters with a DPRK representative in May.
The request was conveyed to the ROK Korea Office of Civil Aviation (KOCA) and was said to be under consideration.
The ROK MOLIT on Friday said the round of talks had “significance” as they saw North and South Korean aviation authorities meet for the first time.
Seoul and Pyongyang respectively dispatched a five-member delegation to Friday’s talks.
Son Myoung-soo, South Korean Deputy Minister for Civil Aviation at the MOLIT, participated in the meeting in the capacity of chief ROK delegate.
Deputy Director General of the General Administration of Civil Aviation (GACA) Ri Yong Son, in turn, led the DPRK delegation.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Wednesday said North Korea had proposed the working-level aviation talks last week, though refused to confirm potential topics.
“It is not appropriate to make mention of North Korea’s intentions… based on our prejudgment,” ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun told a press briefing.
Aviation cooperation was not an official agenda item during the third and fifth inter-Korean summits this year, though the two Koreas previously committed to establishing a direct air route between Seoul and Mount Paektu in the 2007 October 4 Declaration.
The plans never materialized.
South Korean airplanes were previously able to fly over North Korean airspace following the DPRK’s opening of the Pyongyang FIR to international traffic in 1998, though the flights were stopped when Seoul imposed unilateral sanctions in May 2010.
The May 24 Measures, announced in the wake of the sinking of the Cheonan naval corvette by the North, ban South Korean airplanes from flying over Pyongyang FIR.
South Korean national flag carrier Korean Air and the country’s Asiana Airlines respectively spent an average of around KRW2 billion (USD$1.7 million) and KRW700 (USD$619,414) annually avoiding the airspace, according to statistics provided by lawmaker Shim Jae-kwon in October last year
Kim Jong Un orders large-scale construction in Chinese border city of Sinuiju, By Colin Zwirko
Major redevelopment reportedly underway in DPRK’s “gateway city of the country”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently visited Sinuiju along the country’s border with China, state media reported Friday morning, ordering the building of high-rises, shops, and parks as well as a complete review of the city’s overall plan.
Kim described Sinuiju a “gateway city of the country” in Friday’s report, with this circular tower appearing to be its main gate, overlooking the Yalu River Broken Bridge in Dandong – one of the Chinese city’s most popular tourist attractions.
Within Sinuiju, Kim reportedly also called for the building of a “theater, cinema, sports village, ice rink and sci-tech library and service facilities including hotel and department store.”
But he also ordered that the current master plan be reviewed, saying local officials should consult with “powerful design organs of the country” to come up with something better.
Officials “must submit a realistic, remapped plan within the span of a few months,” KCNA reported Kim as having ordered, which the “Party Central Committee would discuss and decide on the plan after going through relevant procedures.”
“The construction of the border city will be conducted year by year and phase by phase with the state backing after setting the goals of 5-year plan,” Kim reportedly added.
While the KCNA article did not mention plans to connect North Korean roads to the Chinese-built modern New Yalu River Bridge just to the west of South Sinuiju, blueprints for road plans are visible on the wall in the room Kim visited during his inspection.
New elements visible in the 3D model – which is subject to change with the newly submitted plan – include high-rises lining the banks of the Yalu river along the entire stretch of Sinuiju, a new stadium in the city’s western quarter, and a green park running through the city’s center.
In addition to explicitly requesting the building of high-rise apartments, Kim stressed the importance of building parks as part of the city’s “cultural environment,” saying Sinuiju should become known as a “city within a park.”
“He called for creating green belts near the city’s main road and around the industrial area to make sure that there are 50 square meters of green land per capita, and for building city park, botanical garden and recreation ground in a cozy and peculiar manner to suit the specific conditions of the local city,” KCNA reported.
Kim is also seeking the “remodeling the railway station of the city and Uiju Airport in a modern way” in addition to “sprucing up the present industrial areas.”
North Korean national carrier Air Koryo currently runs flight JS6101/6102 between Pyongyang and Uiju Airport, which, lying around 10 kilometers to the east of Sinuiju, is now not much more than an airfield and a small reception building.
Kim Jong Un inspects test of new “tactical” weapon: KCNA, By Hamish Macdonald
State media reports new technology aims at “significantly improving” combat power of DPRK army
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently inspected the testing of a new “ultramodern tactical weapon,” a report released by North Korean state media said on Friday. While ambiguous about the nature of the device being tested, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the weapon has been under development for a long time and that the test took place at the “test ground of the Academy of Defence Science.”
“The state-of-the art weapon that has been long developed under the leadership of our party’s dynamic leadership has a meaning of completely safeguarding our territory and significantly improving the combat power of our people’s army,” the report by the KCNA said. “The testing of the ultramodern tactical weapon has been carried out successfully, meeting all superior and powerful designing indicators,” it continued.
“With our party at the center, the Dear Leader oversaw the success of the ultramodern tactical weapon test along with the workers of the national defense science sector such as the scientists, engineers, and munitions labor class, and highly commended their contributions.” The news represents the first visit by the North Korean leader to the Academy of Defence Science since August last year.
KCNA reported he was accompanied at the test by, among others, Deputy Director of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Military Industry Department Kim Jong Sik and First Vice Department Director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee Ri Pyong Chol.
The two were identified by the U.S. last year as part of a group of “leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs.”
He was also notably joined by Pak Jong Chon, head of the Korean People’s Army (KPA)’s Artillery Command and Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff. “With today’s success, the Dear Leader is rapidly developing our national defense capabilities under the justification of the Party’s Sci-Tech-centered National Defense Policy, which has made yet another accomplishment,” the report added – the first reference to that policy since January.
“With great satisfaction, [Kim Jong Un] said an epoch-making shift had been made in strengthening our battle capability.” Recent North Korean weapons testing has typically been much more public and has involved underground nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches.
No launches have yet been reported by South Korea’s military, typically the first to do so in such an event, or U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). No seismic activity, indicative of an underground nuclear test, has been reported either.
In its report, the KCNA said the weapon tested was one that had been “personally set in motion and with particular interest” by the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
“Now this weapons system is finally complete,” it said. “Like a child born after the death of their father, today, [Kim Jong Un], seeing this success, could not but think of our General and could not suppress his ardent love for him.” In response to the reported test, a U.S. State Department spokesperson reiterated that talks with North Korea on its nuclear program were ongoing and that the U.S. believes Kim Jong Un will honor commitments made in Singapore in June.
“At the Singapore Summit, President Trump and Chairman Kim made a number of commitments regarding final, fully verified denuclearization and creating a brighter future for North Korea,” the spokesperson told NK News. “We are talking with the North Koreans about implementing all of those commitments.”
“The President has made clear that if Kim Jong Un denuclearizes, there is a bright future for North Korea,” they continued. “We remain confident that the promises made by President Trump and Chairman Kim will be fulfilled.”
North Korea last tested an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) almost 12 months ago, on November 28. Following that successful test, Kim said the country had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power.”
The country has since refrained from nuclear and missile testing, with a high-level ruling party meeting in April seeing Kim announce that was no longer any need for them to take place.
North Korea, too, has embarked on a diplomatic campaign that has so far resulted in relative calm on the peninsula and multiple summits with foreign leaders, including with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore. Since that summit, however, little concrete progress has been made towards improving U.S.-DPRK ties or realizing the denuclearization of North Korea.
The two sides have increasingly been at odds over sequencing, with the U.S. insisting that sanctions will remain until the North denuclearizes while the DPRK insisting that sanctions are an impediment to trust and must be removed prior to any further moves on their part.
Earlier this month, state media published an article suggesting that North Korea would resume overt nuclear development should the U.S. not change its position. Responding to Washington’s ongoing public aversion to North Korea sanctions relief, a director of the foreign ministry-linked Institute for American Studies warned that Pyongyang may reconsider Kim Jong Un’s April directive to focus solely on economic development.
“If the U.S. keeps behaving arrogant without showing any change in its stand…the word “pyongjin” (simultaneously conducting economic construction and building up nuclear forces) may appear again and the change of the line could be seriously reconsidered,” director Kwon Jong Gun said in the KCNA-distributed statement.
North Korea later called off a planned meeting in New York between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior DPRK official Kim Yong Chol.
Friday’s news also comes amid the ongoing U.S. Korean Marine Exchange Program (KMEP) joint military drill, which began on November 5, and South Korea’s Taeguk and Hoguk exercises. North Korean media earlier in the week denounced the KMEP drills, warning their taking place “runs counter” to September’s inter-Korean military agreement and accusing the U.S. and South Korea of “threatening peace.” In October, the Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC) announced its plan to conduct the KMEP 24 times next year.
UN Committee passes resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights record, By Leo Byrne
Resolution will very likely be passed next month at the UNGA
The UN Third Committee on Thursday adopted a resolution condemning North Korea’s ongoing human rights violations. The document was cosponsored by 61 countries and will almost certainly be adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) next month, for the 14th consecutive year.
The resolution expresses the deep concern “at the grave human rights situation, the pervasive culture of impunity and the lack of accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” Yonhap reported Seoul had also signed off on the resolution and was hoping to work with the international community for a “substantial improvement” in the DPRK’s human rights situation.
South Korea also noted how this year’s version of the resolution mentioned the ongoing diplomatic detente and positive momentum on the Korean peninsula, a likely reference to the paragraph of the resolution which welcomes “the ongoing diplomatic efforts, and noting the importance of dialogue and engagements for the improvement of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the country.”
But Sudan and Cuba distanced themselves from the UN measures, with the former attempting to delete a provision that calls for the DPRK to referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). During the session, the DPRK also rejected the resolution, saying it wanted dialogue and negotiation on the protection of human rights, not confrontation.
But also preempting the resolution, North Korea on Wednesday issued a statement accusing western countries and Japan of their own human rights abuses. “The U.S., Europe and Japan are not in a position to take issue with other countries’ human rights problems, as the world’s most serious violations of human rights occur in Western countries,” state-owned media outlet Rodong Sinmun said, in a translation from Yonhap. “The (Western countries) are busily moving to internationalize and politicize our country’s human rights problem on the basis of forged and fake documents.”
The UN resolution draws from the 2014 Commission of Inquiry (COI) report which was tasked with investigating the “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the State, with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular, for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.”
“The particular nature and the overall scale of human rights violations in the State can be more easily understood through an appreciation of the nature of its political system, which is based on a single party led by a single Supreme Leader, an elaborate guiding ideology and a centrally planned economy,” the 2014 report reads.