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Entries in North Korea (136)

Sunday
Jul212013

Soccer Diplomacy: North Korea Beats South Korea in Women's East Asian Cup

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- Despite tensions on the Korean peninsula, the game of soccer brought North Korean and South Korean players together for Women's East Asian Cup on Sunday.

North Korean women's soccer team won 2 to 1 against the South.

The game was held in hot humid weather in Seoul and was in favor of a strong North Korean team with defense Ho Un-byol scored two goals in the latter half.

"It was not easy for our players because of weather conditions and they were very tired. But we won with strong belief that our people (in the North) are waiting for good news," said North's coach Kim Kwang-min at a press conference. "Our dear leader Kim Jong-Un gives great attention and love to our players. So our players try to fulfill that expectation with love (to him) and do our best to compensate back."

North Korea is barred by FIFA from the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada after five of their players tested positive for steroids in the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany.

Coach Kim had said the doping was unintended and was due to a traditional medicine that contained musk deer glands to treat the five players because they had been struck by lightning while training before the match. They had lost 2-0 to the United States.

Analysts see the North's participation to the four-nation Women's East Asian Cup as Pyongyang's shot at sports diplomacy in line with recent efforts to ease tensions after bombarding South Korea and the U.S. with threats of nuclear strikes and missile tests in April.

"They are completely isolated from the world and they know that this is serious," said Yang Moo-jin, professor of politics at University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. The two Koreas are in rare talks to reopen a joint industrial park in Kaesong that closed after North Korea ordered closure as relations tumbled.

The game though did not shine any positive light in terms of easing tensions on the public level. Contrary to the strong emotional support showered by the public at times when North Korean sports teams made rare visits to the South, the 67,000 seat stadium was largely empty except for a few blocks of soccer fans and a few hundred scattered audience.

A large group of pro-North Japanese supporters were expected but only about 20 people were seen seated in a secluded area behind the goal.

"This is the harsh reality of where North-South relations stand at the moment," said Yang. "We used to greet them with open arms because Koreans are one nation even if relations were bad. But this time, both the public and the South Korean government are all in the 'let's isolate them more, they deserve it' mood."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun092013

North Korea, South Korea Engage in Marathon Talks

Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Delegates from North and South Korea held marathon preparatory talks at Panmunjom on Sunday, after months of tension between the nations.

The talks, which occurred along the heavily-armed border of the two countries, were initiated with the hopes of setting ground rules for higher-level discussions. According to BBC News, the talks went smoothly, with no arguments.

South Korea had invited the North to engage in high-level discussion at Seoul, but the two sides decided to lower-level conversation first. The meeting between officials from the two sides was the first in over two years.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May182013

North Korea Launches Three Short-Range Guided Missiles

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The South Korean Defense Ministry says that North Korea fired three short-range guided missiles into waters off its east coast on Saturday, raising concerns about the potential for more military provocation in the region.

Two KN-02 missiles were fired in the morning, followed by another in the afternoon, spokesman Min-seok Kim said.

Unlike the mid-range Musudan missiles which are believed to be capable of traveling more than 1,800 miles, within reach of Japan and South Korea, the missiles launched Saturday only have a range of 75 miles.

Kyodo News, citing an unnamed Japanese official, said the missiles never reached Japanese waters.

North Korea routinely tests short-range missiles, but the launches Saturday came amid signs that diplomacy may finally be cooling tempers on the Korean Peninsula after weeks of warlike threats from Pyongyang.

This past week, Glyn Davies, the State Department's senior envoy on North Korea, traveled to Beijing, South Korea, and Japan, to discuss all aspects of the North Korea issue. That trip was preceded by a surprise visit to Pyongyang by one of Japan's most experienced diplomats on North Korea, Isao Iijima.

During his four day trip, Iijima, an adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, met with senior officials, including North Korea's No. 2 leader Kim Yong Nam.

Abe has largely remained mum about the secret visit, aimed at restarting talks to bring home Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s, a key hurdle in normalizing bilateral ties.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula escalated to its worst in decades earlier this year, after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February.

Angered by UN sanctions, and joint US-South Korean military drills, Pyongyang threatened nuclear strikes on Seoul and Washington, and unilaterally pulled out of the 60-year-old war armistice that ended the Korean War.

In April, North Korea suspended operations at the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex, pulling out 53,000 workers.

US officials said North Korea withdrew two of their Musudan missiles earlier this month, but Pyongyang renewed threats of a nuclear war last week, following the arrival of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

The ship was brought in to the southern port city of Busan for joint US-South Korea naval drills.

North Korea's state TV called the move an "extremely reckless" provocation, saying "The risk of a nuclear war in the peninsula has risen further due to the madcap nuclear war practice by the US and the South's enemy force."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr182013

North Korea Lists Requirements Before Talks Can Occur

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- North Korea's top military body issued a list of conditions necessary before any talks will take place with the United States or South Korea.

Among the conditions are the lifting of United Nations sanctions, the calling off of war games scheduled to begin next week and removal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from the region.

The demands from North Korea come days after Secretary of State John Kerry said that no talks would be held until North Korea agreed to denuclearize.

"If they had a true will to have dialogue, they should have halted all acts of hurting the dignity of the DPRK," said a statement from North Korea's National Defense Commission.

South Korea offered conditions for discussions last week, but the North Korean government dismissed the offer as a "crafty trick," according to BBC News.

It remains unlikely that other side will succumb to the prerequisites set forth thus far. According to the New York Times, the White House's policy of "strategic patience" has allowed them to remain steadfast in their demands for North Korean denuclearization.

Tension in the region have been high as North Korea has threatened attacks on South Korea, Japan and the U.S. in recent weeks.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr142013

Kerry on NKorea: US Would Not Rule Out Talks, but only if Denuclearization Steps Taken

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Tokyo Sunday for the last leg of his Asia trip, reiterating the Obama Administration's pledge to seek a "peaceful resolution" on the Korean peninsula, amid increasing unease about North Korean provocations in the region.

Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Kerry said the U.S. would not rule out direct talks with North Korea, but would only consider it if Pyongyang took steps towards denuclearization, and agreed to negotiate in a "responsible way."

"I think it's really unfortunate that the media and others have been so focused on the possibility of war when there's a possibility of peace," Kerry said. "We can find a way to resolve these differences at the negotiating table."

Kerry's visit to Japan comes as Pyongyang ramps up its rhetoric towards Tokyo.

On Friday, the regime singled out Japan as the first target in the event of a war on the Korean peninsula, in a scathing commentary that raised concerns in a country without a combat military, but Self Defense forces.

On Sunday, Kishida said Japan was fully prepared against such contingencies, including a potential missile launch, but added that Tokyo would push forward with a "dialogue and pressure" policy.

"We must not be influenced by [these provocations]," Kishida said. "Instead we have to get North Korea to understand that such behavior will not benefit anybody whatsoever."

Fresh off meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, Kerry once again expressed confidence in Beijing's willingness to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and calm tensions on the peninsula.

In a joint statement Saturday, both Kerry and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi reaffirmed U.S. and China's commitment to work on the denuclearization of North Korea.

Yang said China was committed to restarting stalled six-party talks and holding North Korea accountable to its international agreements.

"What happened yesterday should not be underestimated and it is not a small event," Kerry said. "What you have is a China that made it very clear that we can't simply have a rhetorical policy. I agree with China. Question is, what steps do you take to make sure we don't repeat the cycles of the last year."

In North Korea, festivities continued for the upcoming 101th birthday celebration of founder Kim Il Sung Monday, with Pyongyang hosting an international marathon. But threats toward the outside world remained persistent denouncing South Korean President Park Geun-hye's offer of dialogue as a "cunning ploy" and an "empty shell."

"It is a cunning ploy to hide the South's confrontational policy towards the North and escape from its responsibility for putting Kaesong Industrial Complex into a crisis," an announcer read on North Korea's Central TV.

The statement came from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, in charge of handling relations with South Korea.

Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint economic project using South Korean capital investment and the North's cheap labor, was recently shut down after North Korea pulled out its 53,000 workers in light of a series of tension building measures in the past few weeks.

Pyongyang has strongly protested the ongoing U.S.-South Korea military exercises scheduled to wrap up at the end of this month.

Eager to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula, President Park offered peace through dialogue on Thursday, a surprise move that was widely welcomed by Kerry, who has repeatedly extended his support for bilateral talks, adding any missile launch would be a "huge mistake."

"I think she's shown great courage in her willingness to take [talks] in that direction, provided she has a willing partner," Kerry said in Tokyo.

Analysts have speculated that North Korea may launch a mid-range Musudan missile sometime before the April 15 celebration.

But on Sunday, South Korean local media questioned why the North's young leader Kim Jong-Un has not been seen in public over the past two weeks.

That's prompted further speculations his absence may be a sign he "might be tempted to tone down fiery threats," though others say it may be a sign Kim is posturing for the launch.

His last public appearance was on April 1, at the annual rubber-stamp parliamentary meeting. Kim is widely expected to show up in the military parade in Pyongyang on Monday.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr132013

Alaskan Fort Is Last Defense Against Possible North Korea Nuke

Ralph Scott/MDA Public Affairs(FAIRBANKS, Alaska) -- In the remote Alaskan wilderness, some 3,800 miles from Pyongyang, North Korea, the United States' last line of defense against a nuclear warhead from North Korea or Iran stands ready to attack.

Fort Greely, Alaska, a World War II-era Army base that was reopened in 2004, is America's last chance to shoot down a missile from overseas that could be carrying a nuclear weapon. Its underground steel and concrete silos house 26 missile interceptors that have, in tests, a 50 percent success rate.

The 800-acre base is located some 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, in the looming shadow of Denali. It is one of only two missile defense complexes in the country. The other, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, houses four interceptors that are used for testing and "backup," according to defense officials.

In March, as the North Korean crisis began to heat up, President Obama ordered another 14 interceptors be sent to Fort Greely, bringing its arsenal to 44 by 2017.

Concern about North Korea heightened earlier this week when the Defense Intelligence Agency released a document that concluded with "moderate confidence" that North Korea might have a nuclear weapon small enough to be placed on a ballistic missile. But the agency also said the reliability of a North Korean missile would be low.

Greely is equipped to handle the current threat, which is seen as slight, according to Leon Sigal, an expert on North Korea at the Social Science Research Council in New York.

"If all it has to worry about is a single missile coming at it, chance is it could kill it. If you fire six missiles at one time ... and if one gets through, your whole day is ruined ... The problem is sooner or later, North Korea will improve its missile ranges, so the question you have to ask is will our anti-missile capabilities make sufficient progress so it could work against a more robust threat?" Sigal said.

"What we've got at Greely is of some limited utility. It's better than nothing," he said.

The U.S. military, however, is confident that Greely is poised to swat away any missile threat.

"Basically central Alaska was an ideal spot because of the geometry you'd have to conduct a hit-to-kill intercept from a country like Iran or North Korea," said Ralph Scott, spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency in Alaska.

"Alaska is like the top of the world, and the only way you can view it as a missile defense benefit would be to look at a globe. You can see the routes the missiles from North Korea and Iran would take to get to the U.S. Having the system there in central Alaska would give you that geometry," Scott said.

The base at Fort Greely is desolate and spare, with one highway that rolls into and out of the base connecting it to a rugged Alaskan landscape. As the base's spokeswoman, Deborah Coble, pointed out, the nearest stoplight is 100 miles away.

The base was used in the years after World War II to train soldiers in cold climate-warfare. Soldiers now stationed at the base still test cold-weather uniforms, layered with synthetic and engineered fibers, for the Army.

"Travel to areas with standard day-to-day services can be treacherous," Coble said. "Temperatures can reach from 60 below zero and colder in winter to the high 80s to low 90s in summer. Winds can reach over 80 (miles per hour). Fort Greely is truly the 'Home of the Rugged Professional.'"

Now, Fort Greely's sole purpose is missile defense, and its only occupants are staff to operate and maintain the missiles, their software, and the base's operations. The population is usually about 1,450 people. Most are contractors charged with maintaining the technology and base support staff. The crew includes only 40 active duty Army troops and 160 members of the National Guard's 49th Missile Defense Battalion.

The interceptor silos are spread across two missile fields on the base. In the event of a missile launched from the other side of the world, clam shell-like doors at the top of the silos would shoot open and the interceptor would rocket more than 100 miles into the sky at speeds of 18,000 miles per hour, according to Scott.

When the 54-foot-long interceptors reach the right altitude, the interceptors launch the attached 140-pound "kill vehicle" at the warhead, Scott explained. The two collide, taking down the nuclear warhead.

"There are no explosives. It's all done by kinetic energy," he explained.

 "It's hit-to-kill technology," said Rick Lehner of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. "What it does is, you're colliding the kill vehicle directly with the warhead, and just the sheer force of the collision happens very high in space."

Tests of the technology, however, have shown problems with the interceptors and their effectiveness in taking down another missile. While the Alaska interceptors have never been tested, the ones at Vandenberg have been tested with about a 50 percent success rate.

"We've had 15 tests, and eight have had successful intercepts. Seven did not, but of those seven only three were actual misses and the other four came from problems with quality control or software issues," Lehner said.

"Based upon what we learn from the failures, we've incorporated fixes into the silos in Alaska and California," he said. "We have very, very high confidence in their ability to perform."

Congress has also asked the Defense Department to look into placing a missile defense system on the East Coast, though Lehner insisted that the Alaska base would be able to protect the entire country from a missile attack.

As rhetoric from North Korea has grown more belligerent in recent weeks, missile defense systems around the world are prepared for any kind of launch, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. That includes defenses against short- and mid-range missiles aboard battle ships in the Pacific as well as radar and ground systems in Japan and Guam.

But the interceptors at Fort Greely are specifically designed for long range missiles, known as Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or ICBMs, currently in development in North Korea and Iran.

The Defense Department believes that North Korea was testing one such ICBM when it launched a rocket in December that the North Korea press described as a space launch.

"We believe they're testing their ICBM," said Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson of the Secretary of Defense's office. "That's why the international community objected to the December launch."

If North Korea developed the ability to launch a nuclear warhead on an ICBM, the interceptors would need to be ready, the Defense of Department said.

The time between a missile being launched to the interceptors needing to be fired would be "minutes," Scott said.

"We know that they have an ICBM program, and we know that they are pursuing a nuclear program," Wilkinson said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr072013

Minuteman 3 Missile Test Delayed in Light of North Korea Situation

iStockphoto(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel  has delayed a Minuteman 3 missile test that had been scheduled for Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California “to avoid misperception or manipulation” by North Korea, according to a senior defense official who spoke with ABC News.

The official said the test has been long planned “and thus unconnected from the recent tensions with North Korea.”

“We recognized that an ICBM test at this time might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea,” the official said. “We wanted to avoid that misperception or manipulation.

“We are committed to testing our ICBMs to ensure a safe, secure, effective nuclear arsenal,” a second defense official said. “The test is being rescheduled, likely next month.”

According to the senior official, Hagel made his decision Friday night.

The test was for the Air Force and not part of the Missile Defense Agency’s program to test missile interceptors as part of the missile defense program designed to counter a North Korean missile threat to the U.S.

MDA routinely conducts tests of the interceptor missiles and uses Minuteman 3′s for targeting purposes.
The test that had been planned for Tuesday was part of a long-scheduled series of launches for the Air Force’s Global Strike Command to test the effectiveness of the Minuteman 3 fleet.  The U.S. has 450 of the missiles in its arsenal that are equipped to carry nuclear warheads.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr072013

American and South Korean Generals Postpone Trips to Washington

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The ongoing tense situation on the North Korean peninsula has led the top American general in South Korea and South Korea’s top general to cancel long-planned trips to Washington this week.

On Sunday, Col. Amy Hannah, a U.S. Forces Korea spokesperson, said that Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. and U.N. forces in South Korea, would not be traveling to Washington this week for previously scheduled congressional budget hearings.

“Given the current situation General Thurman will remain in Seoul next week as a prudent measure.  He has asked the Senate Armed Services Committee,” said the statement.

The statement says that Thurman had asked three congressional committees to ” to excuse his absence until he can testify at a later date.  He looks forward to appearing before the committee at the earliest possible date.”

Earlier on Sunday it was announced that South Korea’s top military officer was rescheduling a planned visit to Washington because he could not be away while North Korea was making bellicose threats.

South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Jung Seung-jo was to have visited the Pentagon on April 16 to meet with his American counterpart, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for regular consultative meetings.

The meeting in April had been scheduled during their previous meeting in October.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr062013

North Korea Might Launch Missile on Date of Founder’s 101st Birthday

PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The South Korean military is now speculating that if there is a missile launch from North Korea, it could happen on or before April 15, the nation’s founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday.

North Korea has a habit of connecting parades, marches and military action with important dates. April 15 would be Kim Il-sung’s 101st birthday. Last year North Korea honored his 100th birthday with a rocket test shortly before April 15. That rocket launched failed.

South Korea, Japan and the United States are all intently watching movement toward the coast in anticipation of the anniversary.

Despite the worry, life seems to be going more or less as normal in South Korea. South Koreans are no stranger to North Korean bluster and propaganda, and the streets of Seoul were full of people going about their daily lives.

"Our government should have a sword in one hand and hold out their other" an unfazed South Korean father told a reporter with ABC’s Good Morning America. “The Kim Jong-un regime will collapse.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar302013

White House Responds to North Korean Threats

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that the time had come to "settle accounts with the U.S.," the White House responded, calling Kim's comments "unconstructive."

"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies," said Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

In the statement, Hayden did note that North Korea "has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats," a pattern followed by Friday's threat.

Kim's statements on Friday declared a "state of war" with South Korea. He additionally threatened to respond to any provocation by South Korea or the United States "without any prior notice."

The Pentagon continues to take every North Korean threat seriously. Recently, plans were announced to increase U.S. ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar.

"We're concerned that their reach in and beyond the region will be extended over time," said a senior defense official. "That's one reason why it's all the more important to show that the United States is committed to our alliances, interests, and personnel in the Asia-Pacific."

South Korean media reported on Friday that North Korea's missile sites have been the location of increased activity. However, the South Korean government has said that there is no evidence to suggest the threats are anything more than propaganda.

Thousands of North Koreans gathered in Kim Il Sung Square on Friday in support of their leader's strong words. The rally came just one day after U.S. B-2 stealth bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula.

According to USA Today, North Korea's military, while poorly trained and equipped, is large enough to cause significant damage to its southern neighbor, before ultimately falling to a joint effort between South Korea and the U.S.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio