Korean North

Kim Jong Un puts North Korean city on lockdown over suspected coronavirus case, says ‘vicious virus’ may be in country – Fox News

After claiming for months that North Korea has no coronavirus cases, dictator Kim Jong Un placed a border city on lockdown after a person was discovered with suspected symptoms, state media reported Sunday.

North Korea’s Central News Agency said Kaesong near the border with South Korea has been shut down after Kim believed the “vicious virus” may have entered the country.

Kim said he took “the preemptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City and isolating each district and region from the other” on Friday afternoon, the state-run news agency said.


According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, O Chun-bok, North Korea’s minister of public health, underscored the situation in a news broadcast on Korean Central Television.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea under total lockdown after a person was found there with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, saying “the vicious virus” may have entered the country, state media reported

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea under total lockdown after a person was found there with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, saying “the vicious virus” may have entered the country, state media reported
(Naohiko Hatta/Kyodo News/Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“In the past six months since the outbreak of infectious diseases, strong emergency measures have been taken on all fronts across the country,” O said. “Despite the efforts, it appears that a dangerous crisis has occurred in which the virus may have entered our borders.”

State media said the suspected COVID-19 patient is a runaway who fled to South Korea three years ago before illegally returning early last week.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an emergency Politburo meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea Saturday, July 25, 2src2src.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an emergency Politburo meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea Saturday, July 25, 2020.
(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea said respiratory secretion and blood tests showed the person “is suspected to have been infected” with the coronavirus and has since been quarantined.

People who had been in contact with the patient and those who have been in Kaesong in the last five days were also quarantined.


NK News, an organization that tracks North Korean state-run media, said the person crossed the border on July 19. At a meeting on July 24, top North Korean leadership shifted to a “maximum emergency system” and agreed to put out a “top-class alert.”

If the person is officially declared a coronavirus patient, he or she would be North Korea’s first confirmed case. As the coronavirus has spread globally and shut down various countries this year, North Korea has steadfastly said it has had no cases of the virus, a claim questioned by outside experts.

“It’s impossible for North Korea not to have a single case of coronavirus,” Jung H. Pak, a former CIA analyst on North Korea, told Fox News in March.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk by a map of two Koreas showing North Korea's capital Pyongyang and South Korea's capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2src2src.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk by a map of two Koreas showing North Korea’s capital Pyongyang and South Korea’s capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2020.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The Hermit Kingdom has repeatedly said there hasn’t been a single case on its soil but implemented social distancing measures back in April. North Korea also received $900,000 from the World Health Organization in the spring to fight the virus.


In late March, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported more than 100 North Korean soldiers who were stationed at the border with China died from the virus. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo also claimed that Kim was spending “considerable time” away from the capital of Pyongyang due to the virus.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned foreign tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms.

After Kim Jong Un disappeared from public view for weeks in the spring before reemerging, reports also circulated he was concerned about the virus.

The Kaesong lockdown, however, is the first known measure taken in a North Korean city to stem the pandemic.

People make their way in Kaesong, North Korea July 23, 2src19.

People make their way in Kaesong, North Korea July 23, 2019.
(Naohiko Hatta/Kyodo News via AP)

Kaesong, with an estimated population of 200,000, is located just north of the heavily fortified border with South Korea. It once hosted the Koreas’ jointly run industrial complex, which has been shuttered since 2016 amid nuclear tensions.

Last month, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong to protest a campaign by South Korean activists who have been sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

One analyst said the announcement Sunday by North Korea was important for several reasons.

“It’s an ice-breaking moment for North Korea to admit a case,” Choo Jae-woo, a professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, told Reuters. “It could be reaching out to the world for help. Perhaps for humanitarian assistance.”


During an emergency Politburo meeting Saturday, state media said Kim criticized the “loose guard performance” at the border area where the suspected patient crossed over.

Hand clean gels are displayed at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2src2src.

Hand clean gels are displayed at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2020.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Kim and other leaders were reportedly briefed on the results of an intensive investigation of a military unit responsible for the crossing and discussed administering “a severe punishment.”

More than 33,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea over the past 20 years to avoid poverty and political suppression, mostly via China. But it is highly unusual for North Korean refugees to return, according to The Associated Press.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pass by a notice about precautions against the coronavirus disease at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2src2src.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pass by a notice about precautions against the coronavirus disease at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2020.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea’s military told Yonhap that it appears likely that an individual crossed the border into North Korea, adding that authorities are investigating what route the person used.

Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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North sister

Kim Yo Jong, Sister Of North Korea’s Ruler, Rises Through Ranks With Tough Rhetoric – NPR

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, on March 2, 2019.

Jorge Silva/AFP via Getty Images

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Jorge Silva/AFP via Getty Images

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, on March 2, 2019.

Jorge Silva/AFP via Getty Images

“Rip apart the defectors, the traitors and the human trash,” demonstrators wearing masks and standing in neat rows shouted at a rally in Nampo, North Korea, last month, state media reported.

Similar demonstrations took place around the country last month, aiming to signal dismay at South Korea for allowing defectors to send propaganda leaflets, often floated on balloons, over the border to criticize North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

While government-organized demonstrations are not unusual in the North, one notable feature of these rallies is that they echo the harsh rhetoric of Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong. She is believed to be 32 and apparently in charge of the campaign against the defectors and their leaflets.

Kim Yo Jong is the first vice director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Her political star has risen steadily since her brother took power in 2011, leading to speculation that she could one day become the country’s first female ruler. But while there are plausible reasons for her recent elevation, analysts say, the traditional patriarchal nature of North Korean society will likely prevent her from advancing higher up the ranks.

“She’s gone from being her brother’s proxy to his protocol assistant, to his eyes and ears, to a punisher,” comments Kim Seung-chul, a defector who runs the Seoul, South Korea-based North Korea Reform Radio, which broadcasts news into the North.

Kim Yo Jong helps her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sign a joint statement following a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 19, 2018.

Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP

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Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP

Kim Yo Jong helps her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sign a joint statement following a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 19, 2018.

Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP

Olympic debut

Kim Yo Jong was still in her 20s in 2011 when her father, Kim Jong Il, died and her brother took power.

Her debut on the international stage came in 2018, when she acted as a special envoy at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and met with the country’s president, Moon Jae-in.

In her most recent statement this month, she showed that she remains involved in relations with the United States. She voiced doubt about a summit between Kim Jong Un and President Trump this year. But she left the door open to talks and insisted, “We do not have the slightest intention to pose a threat to the U.S.”

2 Years After Singapore Summit, U.S.-North Korea Relations Back To Square 1

On some occasions, such as Kim-Trump summits in Singapore and Vietnam, she has appeared to act as her brother’s personal assistant, holding his pens and ashtrays. On others, she has been seen watching her brother’s public events from the sidelines. She has also reportedly managed her brother’s public image as an official in charge of propaganda.

Following the abortive Vietnam summit last year, Kim Yo Jong dropped from view for nearly two months.

In 'Terrific Explosion,' North Korea Blows Up Liaison Office

Tough threats and insults

Her rhetoric has recently grown harsher. In a statement last month, she threatened to destroy an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea — a symbol of ties with the South. Days later, the building was blown up.

In another statement, she assailed North Korean defectors as “human scum little short of wild animals who betrayed their own homeland.” She described Moon, the South Korean president, as an “insane” man who put his neck in “the noose of the pro-U.S. flunkyism.”

Such language suggests that while her political status may have been upgraded, her political acumen and maturity have not, says Kim Seung-chul.

He also argues that Kim Yo Jong’s efforts to dismantle warmer ties with Seoul cannot have been very popular at home. Some North Korean elites, he says, had hopes that the détente would bring in badly needed South Korean investment and lead to better ties with Washington and an easing of sanctions.

“To those in North Korea who still had a positive attitude toward cooperating with South Korea, [Kim Yo Jong’s actions] are a huge disappointment,” Kim Seung-chul says.

But the younger sister’s rise to what many now see as the de facto No. 2 position in the Kim regime has historical precedent and political logic behind it.

“There is nothing unusual about, say, a sibling of the current leader to be his second in command. It’s actually a very well-established tradition of the Kim family,” says professor Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul. He notes that the current leader’s father, Kim Jong Il, was assisted by his sister during his rule in the 1990s.

Kim Yo Jong’s new role was necessitated by her brother’s disappearance this spring, Lankov says, apparently because of an unknown illness. By one estimate, Kim Jon Un has made only seven public appearances from April through June, compared with 46 in the same period last year.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) shakes hands with Kim Yo Jong upon his arrival for a meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, on May 26, 2018, in Panmunjom, North Korea.

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Handout/Getty Images

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) shakes hands with Kim Yo Jong upon his arrival for a meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, on May 26, 2018, in Panmunjom, North Korea.

Handout/Getty Images

“This makes it more necessary for him to have a trusted deputy,” Lankov says. “And this person has to come from, if you like, the royal family, and in the ruling clan, they have now a shortage of adults.”

“Big socialist family”

The ruling Kim clan is known in North Korea as the “Mount Paektu bloodline,” a reference to the mountain on the country’s border with China where North Korea claims Kim Jong Il was born and his father fought the Japanese.

“In many regards, North Korea is similar to the European societies of late medieval and early modern days. It is essentially a monarchy,” Lankov says, in which family members are more trusted than other elites.

That bloodline is what allows Kim Yo Jong to rise so high in North Korean politics, despite a bias against women in power in a country where traditional attitudes are summed up in the Korean maxim “If the hen cries, the household will be ruined.” The saying, used in both Koreas, suggests that when women speak up or take charge, no good will come of it.

“The North Korean system is fundamentally patriarchal,” says Lim Soon-hee, an expert on women in North Korea who is now retired from the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government think tank in Seoul.

“The government tells the people that they form one big socialist family,” she adds. The father of this metaphorical family, she explains, is Kim Jong Un. The mother is the ruling Workers’ Party. The children are the North Korean people. And the father’s authority is unchallenged.

North Korea, she points out, went from being part of the 1392-1910 Choson dynasty to being a colony of the Japanese Empire from 1910 to 1945, to becoming a dictatorship. Although its socialist rhetoric upholds equality of the sexes, the North, unlike the South, never had a strong civil society or government agencies designed to improve women’s place in society.

As a result, “the social atmosphere is that women are inferior to men. Women themselves would never dare to compare themselves to men,” she says.

This is why she believes Kim Yo Jong’s most likely future role is not that of successor but, instead, a regent or caretaker until the leader’s son is old enough to take over. Lim says Kim Jong Un reportedly has three small children who are too young to rule.

Even if Kim Yo Jong were to take power, Lim argues, North Korea’s conservative military would never accept it.

“Kim Yo Jong herself would not hope to be a successor, although she may have a strong will to acquire greater practical power,” Lim concludes. “She is smart enough to know that it wouldn’t be easy for a woman.”

Se Eun Gong and Ha-Kyung Kim contributed to this story in Seoul, South Korea.

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Carolina North

3 North Carolina police officers fired after conversation about ‘slaughtering’ Black people and the need for a second Civil War | TheHill – The Hill

Three police officers in North Carolina have been fired after they were heard on camera making racist comments, including the use of racial epithets and references to “slaughtering” Black people, police said Wednesday. 

Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams said Cpl. Jessie Moore and officers James Gilmore and Kevin Piner would be fired for misconduct after an internal investigation “uncovered extensive violations” of the department’s policies, including its standard of conduct and use of appropriate language. 

The department also released a document containing a detailed summary of the investigation. 

“Why are we releasing this information this way and at this time? Because it is the right thing to do,” Williams said. “Normally, personnel laws allow only a very small amount of information to be made public. However, in exceptional cases, when it is essential to maintain public confidence in the administration of the City and the Police Department, more information may be released.

“This is the most exceptional and difficult case I have encountered in my career,” he added. “We must establish new reforms for policing here at home and throughout this country.”

The investigation started a result of a supervisor’s routine inspection of a video from officer Piner’s in-car camera, Williams said. 

About 46 minutes and 12 seconds into the video, Piner started speaking with Gilmore from their respective cars. During the conversation, Piner criticized the department, telling Gilmore the agency is concerned with “kneeling down with the Black folks.” Gilmore then said he watched a video on social media about white people bowing down on their knees and “worshipping Blacks,” according to the report released by the department. 

About an hour and 14 minutes into the video, Piner received a call from Moore. Shortly into the conversation, Moore referred to a female he arrested using a racial slur. 

Later in the conversation, Piner told Moore he feels a second Civil War is coming and he is “ready,” according to the police report. He said he is going to buy a new assault rifle in the next couple of weeks, and said society will be close to “Marshall Law” and discusses “slaughtering” people using a racial slur. Moore responded that he would not do that, to which Piner said “I’m ready,” based on the report 

When interviewed separately, each officer admitted to their voice on the video and did not deny saying any of the things that were heard, according to the police report. However, each officer also denied being racist, based on the report. 

Williams said he is recommending that the officers will not be eligible for rehire in the city and will notify the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission of their behavior. The commission determines whether or not an officer can maintain their state certification.

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Korea's North

North Korea’s Kim testing limits of diplomacy as sanctions bite – Al Jazeera English

In February 2018, Kim Yo Jong was the friendly face of North Korea, smiling and waving as she joined the crowds in South Korea at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The two Koreas had entered the stadium together at the opening ceremony and fielded a joint women’s ice hockey team. Kim was not only the first member of the North’s ruling family to visit the South, but also shook President Moon Jae-in’s hand. Relations were set to improve.

This month, however, it was Kim, the younger sister of the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, who was repeatedly cited in bellicose warnings directed at South Korea, apparently over the leaflets floated across the border or along the river by defector groups, but really about the North’s increasing frustration about Seoul’s inability to deliver on cooperation promises or convince the United States to ease crippling economic sanctions.

The events were a “manufactured crisis”, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a reader in international relations at King’s College London and an expert on the two Korean Peninsula.

On Wednesday, the eve of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, state media reported that Kim Jong Un had instead decided to suspend the military actions his sister had threatened.

“North Korea feels that it hasn’t received the concessions it was looking for from South Korea and the United States at the summits over the past few years,” Pacheco Pardo told Al Jazeera. “The heightening of tensions is to signal displeasure at what has happened and that something different is needed.”

State media reported, Kim’s step back reflected an analysis of “prevailing conditions”.

Uneasy truce 

North and South have been stuck in an uneasy truce since 1953 when an armistice brought an end to the fighting in which millions of civilians had died and militaries on all sides had suffered heavy casualties. A peace treaty has never been formalised, and in recent decades, Pyongyang has lurched between engagement, isolation and the kind of headline-grabbing act exemplified by its decision to blow up the joint liaison office in Kaesong.

That move – a week after Pyongyang said it had severed all communication links with Seoul – effectively signalled the end of the Panmunjon Declaration and the latest round of engagement which had begun in 2018 under Moon.

It was “an attempt to make a clean break with the Moon administration,” noted a commentary in 38 North, a website devoted to the analysis of North Korea from the Stimson Center in Washington, DC.

The heightened rhetoric followed a series of missile tests last year after the second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump broke down over sanctions relief, and a later attempt to revive denuclearisation talks foundered. Kim had set a yearend deadline for the US to shift its stance.

North KOrea

North Korea grabbed world attention when it blew up the joint liaison office it set up with South Korea in the border town of Kaesong last week [KCNA via Reuters]

In targeting Seoul, and dismissing Moon’s offer of envoys, Pyongyang might have been hoping that the president, who has made inter-Korean cooperation a cornerstone of his administration, would lean on the US to ease some of the sanctions imposed as a result of the North’s nuclear testing.

Instead, the South responded more forcefully than usual, saying that by criticising Moon, Kim had “fundamentally damaged the trust between the two leaders”. The unification minister resigned.

Seoul priorities

Jay Song, an academic at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, says the internal politics in the South also requires scrutiny, and notes that the Unification Ministry cannot do anything without a green light from the National Security Council in the presidential Blue House.

“The National Security Council are internationalists [and] prioritise the Republic of Korea-US alliance over the Unification Ministry’s ethno-nationalist mandate on improving inter-Korean relations,” said Song, who is the Korea Foundation senior lecturer in Korean Studies. “The choice for South Korea is not an easy one, especially when the North wants to be a nuclear state.”

South Korea has struggled with how to deal with its northern neighbour since the end of Japanese colonisation led to the partition of the Korean Peninsula between the Soviet Union-backed North and the US-backed South.

Pyongyang, which has long dismissed Seoul as a “puppet” of the US, sent its troops across the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950, in a move that led to UN intervention, the mobilisation of US and Commonwealth forces, and brought in Chinese troops fighting in support of the North Koreans.

China was worried then, as it is now, about maintaining a buffer state, while the US continues to station some 28,500 troops in the South. The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two countries remains one of the world’s most heavily-fortified frontiers, despite calming measures that were part of the 2018 agreement.

Korean War

United Nations forces hold their ears while firing mortars at Communist positions on the Naktong River front in South Korea, in August 1950. The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel into the South [File: AP Photo/Max Desfor]

Under the deal, the two sides agreed to remove soldiers from some border areas, withdraw loudspeakers used to broadcast propaganda messages from North to South – moves Pyongyang this month said it would reverse – and curb the activities of defectors and activists floating balloons of propaganda leaflets from South to North.

Amid the escalation, South Korea again promised legal action to put an end to the leafleting, but the sanctions make it difficult for Moon to deliver on the economic initiatives envisaged in 2018 without the backing of the US.

Even before Kim’s move to step back from provocations, analysts noted that while the posturing was helping Kim Yo Jong burnish her credentials for leadership in a patriarchal and militarised regime, the decision to map out its planned steps suggested some flexibility – an opportunity for her brother to “refrain from directly engaging in hostilities in order not to exhaust the chance that he could still meet with President Moon and President Trump to make a deal in the future”, said Lami Kim, a professor of Asian Studies at the US Army War College.

“The wording of the announcement, certainly in Korean, makes clear that this is a temporary decision,” KCL’s Pacheco Pardo observed. “So the announcement leaves the door open for further de-escalation, but also for re-escalation.”

Trump disappointment

After the heady days of the Singapore and Hanoi Summits, Trump now seems to have lost interest in North Korea, focused instead on shoring up his own position in a bruising battle for re-election in November amid the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak and public anger over police brutality and systemic racism.

Even during the Singapore summit, if former national security adviser John Bolton is to be believed, Trump’s focus was merely on the optics, wanting to know how many journalists were expected to attend the final news conference.

“That’s what he was focused on,” Bolton said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday. “That he had this enormous photo opportunity – first time an American president has met with the leader of North Korea.” 

Kim Jong-un

Kim and Trump leave their historic summit in Singapore, after signing documents that acknowledged the progress of the talks and pledged to keep the momentum going. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton says the president was preoccupied with the optics of the event [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

“Like many other countries around the world, North Korea has probably realised that this president is not going to deliver,” said Pacheco Pardo. “But they don’t want to completely break with the US.” 

China remains North Korea’s biggest ally and satellite images shared by the Stimson Center suggest trade may have resumed at the border, after months of closure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The outbreak of COVID-19 suspended tourism and trade with China, taking the country’s economy close to a breaking point,” said the US Army War College’s Kim. “It is still too early to give up on diplomacy, not because KJU is a trustworthy leader, but because the dire economic situation in North Korea make economic inducements highly appealing.”

In Pyongyang, the regime feels it has made sufficient concessions – taking steps to destroy its nuclear facility in Yongbyon and returning the remains of soldiers who were killed during the war – to deserve some concessions.

Some 147 sets of remains arrived back in Seoul from Hawaii on Wednesday, some of which were discovered as a result of the 2018 initiative, but if the South had hoped the two-year-old detente was a sign that the cycle of provocation and engagement had been consigned to the past, the events of the past few weeks have shown there is still a long way to go.

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Korea's North

North Korea’s Kim stokes tensions with eye on distracted Trump – Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has been ramping up tensions with South Korea in recent weeks, but the campaign seems aimed at making a renewed push for sanctions relief by recapturing the attention of a U.S. administration that is distracted by domestic issues.

FILE PHOTO: File picture of U.S. President Donald Trump meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

North Korea blew up a joint liaison office on its side of the border last week, declared an end to dialogue with South Korea and threatened military action.

After three historic meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to lead to a denuclearisation deal, U.S. President Donald Trump’s attention is fixed elsewhere, including the coronavirus epidemic, anti-racism protests and the November presidential election.

Kim, however, is facing real-world consequences for the failed talks, with North Korea’s sanctions-hit economy further strained by a border lockdown imposed to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, potentially threatening his support base among the elites and military.

Analysts say one of Kim’s goals in lashing out at U.S. ally South Korea is to remind Washington of the unresolved issues with North Korea, potentially forcing it to intervene.

“Trump could feel the need to talk to the North to manage the situation for now, and publicly claim that he had warded off the possible military provocations that Kim has threatened,” said Chang Ho-jin, a former South Korean presidential foreign policy secretary.

“By raising inter-Korean tensions, North Korea could also be hoping South Korea will push harder to get sanctions exemptions for joint economic projects that have so far been elusive.”


A diplomatic source in Seoul said U.S. officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun who had led negotiations with North Korea, are willing to make “last-ditch efforts” before the U.S. election.

“There was anxiety among them that they couldn’t just idle away the first half of this year,” the source said, noting Washington would switch to full election mode soon.

But a U.S. source familiar with the matter told Reuters that while Washington is willing to talk with Pyongyang at any time, there will unlikely be any negotiations that lead to a significant breakthrough in the near future, especially if North Korea only offers to dismantle its main Yongbyon nuclear facility.

The source said that sanctions relief is likely far away, as North Korea has been unwilling to discuss abandoning enough of its nuclear programmes for the United States to consider rolling back sanctions.

The pandemic, anti-racism protests and the rise of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden may have changed Kim’s strategy for winning concessions, said Wi Sung-lac, a former South Korean chief nuclear negotiator.

In his New Year address, Kim vowed to unveil a “new strategic weapon,” after Washington ignored a year-end deadline he had set for a restart of talks, but North Korea appears to have fallen off Trump’s agenda as he found himself mired in domestic crises.

“North Korea had been expected to stage a serious provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, but COVID-19 and the ensuing U.S. political situation seem to have provided Kim a new calculation,” Wi said.

“With Trump already in trouble, firing an ICBM would only benefit Biden, so he resorted to short-range missile testing as a stop-gap measure and now is targeting the South.”

A view of an explosion of a joint liaison office with South Korea in border town Kaesong, North Korea in this picture supplied by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 16, 2020. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

If Biden is elected, any negotiations would be “much more painful” for Kim as he would take a more principled approach and empower seasoned negotiators without summitry extravaganzas, said Cho Tae-yong, a South Korean lawmaker who previously as vice foreign minister worked with Biden’s foreign policy advisers.

Some experts do not rule out a return to ICBM testing if Trump looks increasingly likely to lose in the election, but that would also upset China which has been lobbying for Pyongyang to ease international sanctions.

“Serious provocations like an ICBM test could backfire, so Kim must be thinking hard not to overplay his hand until November,” Wi said.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha in Seoul and David Brunnstrom and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Josh Smith and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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Korea North

North Korea says it sees little reason to maintain ties to Trump | TheHill – The Hill

North Korean leaders said they see little reason to maintain ties with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE two years after the leaders’ first summit in Singapore. 

Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said in a statement run by state media Friday that since the summit the hostile relationship between the two countries is “unchanged, but the situation of the Korean peninsula is getting worse.”

The 2018 summit was largely symbolic and lacked a tangible agreement. At a second summit in 2019, the U.S. failed to reach a deal with North Korea to completely give up its nuclear weapons, and North Korean demands for swift sanctions relief.


Pyongyang has lashed out with a rash of weapons tests in recent months and criticism of Washington’s scrutiny of China, its chief ally and economic booster.

Ri said Trump, who has touted his relationship with North Korea, was trying to gain political clout instead of actually reaching a mutual agreement. 

“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns,” he said. “Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise.”

On Thursday North Korea warned the U.S. to stay out of its affairs and threatened to disrupt the presidential election in November if the Trump administration kept up its criticism of Pyongyang for its decision to cut communication with South Korea. 

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Korean North

North Korean leader’s sister emerges as policymaker in spat with South Korea – Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is taking a leading role in a new, more hard-line pressure campaign against South Korea, highlighting what analysts say is a substantive policy role that goes beyond being her brother’s assistant.

FILE PHOTO: Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un attends wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Pool

Believed to be in her early 30s, Kim Yo Jong is the only close relative of the North Korean leader to play a public role in politics.

During the 2018-2019 flurry of international diplomacy, Kim Yo Jong garnered global attention by leading a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Later, she was often seen dashing about to make sure everything went well for her older brother, including holding an ashtray for him at a train station on his way to a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam.

But this year, Kim has taken on a more public policy role, cementing her status as an influential political player in her own right.

“Prior to this, Kim Yo Jong was portrayed in state media as Kim Jong Un’s sister, his protocol officer, or one of his accompanying officials,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former North Korea open source intelligence analyst in the U.S. government. “Now, North Koreans know for sure there is more to her than that.”

Kim has worked behind the scenes in North Korea’s propaganda agencies, a role that led the United States to add her to a list of sanctioned senior officials in 2017 because of human rights abuses and censorship.

In March, state media carried the first ever statement by Kim, in which she criticised South Korean authorities. That was followed by several more, including a response to comments by Trump, and last week, a warning that the North would cut communications with South Korea.

Lee said Kim’s statements have a unique style, showcasing her wit and underscoring her powerful position.

“In addition to the harsh words and sarcasm, they can be bitingly witty in ways that the other statements are not,” Lee said. “She seems to have more leeway in crafting her statements, which of course is not surprising.”

When state media announced on Tuesday that the hotlines between North and South Korea would be severed, they said Kim Yo Jong and a longtime hard-liner, Kim Yong Chol, championed the decision at a meeting.

This rare explanation of a policymaking process portrayed Kim Yo Jong as “a very substantive person,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea leadership expert at the Stimson Centre, a U.S.-based think tank.

Madden said this new portrayal of Kim in state media may be a subtle dig at international analysts who have cast doubts on her ability to wield influence in the North’s male-dominated society.

“They clearly have high hopes and expectations for her,” he said. “Not necessarily the next leader, but something of a king maker nonetheless.”

Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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US indicts 28 North Koreans alleging a $2.5bn scheme –

People wearing protective face masks in front of Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, where the state-owned bank on Thursday was accused by the United States Department of Justice of evading US sanctions laws [File: Kyodo/via Reuters]

People wearing protective face masks in front of Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, where the state-owned bank on Thursday was accused by the United States Department of Justice of evading US sanctions laws [File: Kyodo/via Reuters]

The Justice Department accused more than two dozen North Korean and Chinese individuals with operating an illegal global financial network to aid Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile program in violation of U.S. sanctions.

The department unsealed a 50-page indictment on Thursday alleging that the participants used North Korea’s state-owned Foreign Trade Bank to process about $2.5 billion in illegal payments.

“The charges alleged in this indictment arise from a multiyear scheme to covertly access the U.S. financial system in spite of sanctions which are intended to deal with unusual and extraordinary threats to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” according to the indictment by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Despite punishing U.S. and international sanctions and several summits with President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has found ways around the economic restrictions on his country and so far has refused to abandon his nuclear weapons program.

Although none of the people charged in the indictment are in custody, the move reflects the U.S.’s escalating efforts to target foreign nationals allegedly involved in criminal activity even if they’re difficult to apprehend.

“The defendants in this case used more than 250 front companies to obscure $2.5 billion in illicit financial dealings conducted by North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank,” Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said in an interview.

“Through this indictment, the United States has signified its commitment to hampering North Korea’s ability to illegally access the U.S. financial system and limit its ability to use proceeds from illicit actions to enhance its illegal WMD and ballistic missile programs,” Sherwin said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

A confidential United Nations report earlier this year said North Korea had stepped up its exports of illegal coal shipments in 2019, with most of those deliveries headed for China.

SOURCE: Bloomberg

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Carolina North

North Carolina sheriff’s employee fired after group converged on wrong black teen’s home – CNN

(CNN)A North Carolina corrections officer is out of a job and facing charges after he and 15 other people, some armed, harassed a black teenager they mistakenly believed was involved in a girl’s disappearance, the teen’s attorney said.

Jordan Kita is charged with forcible trespass, breaking and entering and willful failure to discharge duties, New Hanover and Pender County District Attorney Ben David said last week.
Kita, who the teen’s family says wedged his foot in the door when 18-year-old Dameon Shepard and his mother tried to close it, committed the crimes “while armed and in uniform in a county that he was not duly sworn in and in furtherance of personal not law enforcement purposes,” the prosecutor said.
Pender County resident Austin Wood, who is accused of carrying a gun in the mob, is charged with going armed to the terror of the public, the police said.
The New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon fired Kita, he said in a statement that David read to reporters.
“Upon hearing of the incident involving Jordan Kita, I immediately began an internal affairs investigation,” the Friday statement said. “Today, after speaking with the district attorney and (Pender County) Sheriff (Alan) Cutler, Jordan Kita has been terminated.”
Asked why no one was arrested May 3, when the incident happened, Cutler told reporters his office “wanted to make sure the right thing was done.”
“Instead of rushing in and making a charge that evening, the situation was defused,” he said. “We felt like the threat was over, and this has allowed us … some time to be able to investigate this situation and make some informed decisions.”
David declined to delve too deeply into the facts but urged residents to “please remain calm and to know that committed professionals are going to see that justice is done in a courtroom, not the court of public opinion.”
CNN’s attempts to reach Kita and Wood went unanswered as of Monday afternoon.

The allegations in the case

Monica Shepard and her son, Dameon, are one of two black families in the middle-class Pender County neighborhood about a 30-minute drive northeast of Wilmington, family attorney Jim Lea told CNN. Her son is about to graduate from Laney High School, and a bright yellow sign reading, “Congratulations, Dameon. We are proud of you!” sits in the front yard.
On May 3, at about 10 p.m., Dameon Shepard was playing video games when he heard a knock at the door. His mother was sleeping. The teen opened the door, Lea said, to find a group of about 15 white people — mostly men and three of them armed — on the porch and walkway of his property.
The group “came up like a lynch mob up to the door demanding the Shepards answer their questions,” Lea told CNN.
They were looking for another black teen and wanted information about a 16-year-old girl who Lea said had run away from home. At the head of the group was Kita, in uniform, and a man who identified himself as the girl’s brother but may have been her father, Lea said.
“Directly behind them were two armed individuals, one with an assault weapon and one with a shotgun,” Lea wrote last week in a letter to David.
Dameon Shepard attempted to close the front door on them, but Kita “stuck his foot in the door and refused to let him shut it and kept demanding to come into the home. Dameon became very frightened and hysterical and kept repeating that his name was Dameon,” the letter said.

Mother enters fray

Monica Shepard woke up during the confrontation and ordered her son to go back inside, and Kita and others began grilling her, insisting they be allowed to come in, Lea wrote.
“As she attempted to close the door, (Kita) placed his foot again and pushed against the door preventing (her) from closing it fully. She repeatedly demanded that they leave,” his letter said.
The black teen being sought by the group, and the teen’s mother, previously lived next door but had moved out of the neighborhood weeks before the incident, Lea told CNN.
The group eventually began to realize they were at the wrong residence, the letter said. The group dispersed but many of them, including the people who were armed, returned when Pender County deputies arrived at the home, Lea wrote.
The deputies made no arrests, despite the Shepards’ and some of their neighbors’ protestations, and later, a captain with the sheriff’s office came by and told Shepard “it was complicated to arrest anyone who had been there the previous night or apprehend them,” Lea’s letter said.
The deputies hadn’t even taken anyone’s name, but he’d follow up, the captain told Shepard, according to the letter.
“We obviously cannot have armed groups of citizens patrolling the streets of Pender County or New Hanover County terrorizing innocent families,” Lea wrote in conclusion.
The 16-year-old girl was found later that night, Lea told CNN.

‘No one’s above the law’

David said he consulted with 10 prosecutors before making his decision to have Kita and the other man arrested. Part of the problem was figuring out where exactly the law had been broken because “not everything that offends us is illegal under the criminal laws,” he said.
More arrests could come, he said.
Where Sheriff Cutler said his deputies took their time to “make sure we made an informed decision,” David said the sheriff was also dealing with a protocol, put in place years ago by David’s office, that prohibits citizens from swearing out misdemeanor warrants against law enforcement officers.
Because officers are so often in a position to be accused of wrongdoing — and because the integrity of the institution demands authorities “make absolutely certain that no one is wearing the badge who would violate the laws” — his office requires that a criminal investigation precede any officer’s arrest, he said.
“No one’s above the law, and no one’s beneath its protection, and one thing that we absolutely make certain of is that anyone who’s violating the law be treated the same,” he said.
David would not say how Kita was related to the missing girl, but he said there was a “familial relation and they’re not total strangers to each other.”

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North Carolina now estimating COVID-19 recoveries – WLOS

North Carolina now estimating COVID-19 recoveries – WLOS
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