North Korea | KNKX

North Korea

A group of North Korean defectors sing a hymn at a Lynnwood church during a Sunday-evening service.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 


Escaping North Korea is treacherous, and the flow of refugees has slowed to a trickle in recent years, making North Korean defectors a rare breed. But more than two dozen of them are in the Seattle area this week. 

Updated at 8:05 p.m. ET

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to meet North Korea with "fire and fury" a day after Pyongyang said it was ready with "ultimate measures" in response to new U.N. sanctions pushed by Washington.

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," the president warned at a meeting on the opioid crisis held at Bedminster, N.J., where he is on an extended working vacation.

Listen closely to what U.S. officials like to say about America's long security alliance with South Korea, where 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in bases around the country. Something in the language perpetually pops up:

"America's commitment to defending our allies ... remain[s] ironclad," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Seoul in February.

Young Pioneer Tours, the travel company that took Otto Warmbier on a fateful trip to North Korea, will no longer take U.S. citizens into North Korea. The company says the "tragic outcome" of Warmbier's trip — the American died after being jailed and had been in a coma — prompted the change.

An American college student who has been in North Korean custody for a year and a half arrived in Cincinnati on Tuesday night on a medical evacuation flight.

Otto Warmbier, 22, is in a coma, his father, Fred Warmbier, told NPR News on Tuesday. An ambulance took Otto Warmbier from the airport to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast on Monday into the Sea of Japan, South Korean and Japanese officials say, its ninth launch this year.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff described it as a Scud-type missile that flew for some 280 miles, NPR's Jihye Lee tells our Newscast unit, from Seoul.

"The military is saying that the launch took place from Wonsan, home to a test site of intermediate-range missiles," Lee reports.

The Associated Press adds:

A liberal human rights lawyer born to North Korean refugees has won South Korea's presidential election with a promise to improve the economy and hold talks with the nuclear-armed North.

North Korean state media reports the country has detained a U.S. citizen — the fourth U.S. citizen being held there amid rising tensions between the two countries.

The official Korean Central News Agency identifies the man detained Saturday as Kim Hak-song, an employee of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).

An American THAAD missile defense system is now operational in South Korea, less than two months after its components arrived there, the U.S. military says.

The system is meant to protect South Korea from ballistic missiles fired by North Korea, the Pentagon says. But China and other critics of the move say it will only increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The decision to install the missile shield was made by the U.S. and South Korea last July.

President Trump says that while he would like to resolve the issue of North Korea's nuclear program diplomatically, it will be hard — and there is a potential for a major clash with the Asian nation, Trump said in an interview with Reuters.

"There's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea, absolutely," the president told the news agency. "We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult."

A U.S. missile defense system that's now being installed in South Korea will be operational "in the coming days," says Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

North Korea could reduce a U.S. strike force to a sea wreck if it's provoked, the country's propaganda outlets said Monday, adding to tensions on the Korean Peninsula. With the threat of a nuclear test in North Korea looming and another U.S. citizen reportedly detained there, China's President Xi Jinping is urging President Trump to avoid escalating the situation.

The "armada" that President Trump said he was sending to deter North Korea still hasn't arrived — and it has thousands more miles to cover if it actually does sail to the Korean Peninsula.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its strike group actually sailed south after U.S. Pacific Command announced April 8 that it was canceling the ships' planned visit to Australia and instead ordering them to "sail north and report on station to the Western Pacific Ocean."

Amid the fanfare and regalia of its founder's birthday celebrations, North Korea rolled out what appeared to be new missiles – a brazen display as the country ratchets up its rhetoric against efforts to curb its weapons programs.

A U.S. Navy strike group has been ordered to relocate to the western Pacific Ocean, providing a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula as concerns mount over North Korea's missile program.

The Pentagon announced the deployment late Saturday. In a statement, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman David Benham said the Carl Vinson Strike Group set sail toward the peninsula from Singapore.

North Korea fired a missile from its east coast Wednesday, in a test that appears to have failed in an explosion within seconds of launch, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry and U.S. Pacific Command. Both groups confirm the launch occurred at North Korea's air base in Wonsan.

The ill-fated missile, which marks the country's third test of the year and second so far this month, is seen as a response to annual joint military drills by the U.S. and South Korea.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. doesn't want to take military action against North Korea, but "all of the options are on the table" if a serious threat arises. Tillerson made his frank remarks in a visit to South Korea on Friday, a day after saying diplomatic efforts "have failed" to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Tillerson's Asia tour began in Japan and will end in China. The top American diplomat is traveling without a press contingent.

North Korea announced Tuesday that Malaysian citizens in the country would not be allowed to leave, and Malaysia retaliated by broadening a previous travel ban on North Korean Embassy officials to cover all North Korean citizens in the country.

So, more than three weeks after the half-brother of North Korea's leader was murdered in a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal, the two countries are in a full-blown diplomatic standoff.

For the first time in two decades, South Korea is increasing the reward money it's offering North Korean defectors for classified information. And the hike in the cash reward is no pittance: The South Korean government is quadrupling the amount, from roughly $217,000 up to $860,000.

That sum would be paid to "people who provide intelligence and knowledge that can enhance South Korea's security," the Yonhap news agency reports.

South Korea's government says it's convinced the North Korean regime orchestrated the bizarre poisoning death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We are observing this pointless and merciless incident with grave concern," the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

In a surprising move, China's commerce ministry has announced that the country would be suspending its coal imports from North Korea. China released a statement Saturday saying that the freeze in imports will begin Sunday and will be in place through the end of the year.

China appears to have censored an insulting nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, blocking it from appearing on popular websites.

The name in question: "Kim Fatty the Third."

The Associated Press reports:

"Searches for the Chinese words 'Jin San Pang' on the search engine Baidu and microblogging platform Weibo returned no results this week.

On Monday afternoon, a security engineer named Matt Bryant stumbled upon a part of the Internet that is usually hidden from most of the world: a list of websites available to people with Internet access in North Korea.

The total number of sites was just 28.

Bryant's list includes every site ending in .kp, which is the country code associated with North Korea.

The ground had barely stopped shaking from North Korea's most recent nuclear test last week when the international condemnations began.

A powerful typhoon in North Korea has caused devastating floods, killing more than 130 people and displacing at least 100,000, according to United Nations agencies.

Typhoon Lionrock struck North Korea about two weeks ago. It triggered floods that have left at least 138 people dead and some 400 others missing, the U.N. resident coordinator's office says.

Days after North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test yet, two U.S. bombers flew over South Korea in a display of force — a warning to Pyongyang and reassurance to Seoul.

"U.S. and South Korean fighter jets escorted the bombers in their low-altitude flight over South Korea's Osan Air Base ... about an hour from the border between North and South Korea," NPR's Elise Hu reports. She says the supersonic B-1B Lancers are based in Guam.

Updated 11:15 a.m. ET

North Korea confirmed it has conducted its fifth test of a nuclear weapon, the second this year. The test occurred Friday morning local time and triggered a magnitude 5.3 seismic event.

The North's state TV said the test "examined and confirmed" the design of a nuclear warhead intended for placement on a ballistic missile. It said there was no leakage of radioactivity. China's Ministry of Environmental Protection said radiation levels in its border region with North Korea were normal.

The North Korean regime's network of overseas restaurants have enjoyed a bit of renown this year, after the defection en masse of 13 restaurant workers from one of the Pyongyang dining outposts in Northeastern China this spring.

As world leaders were gathered in China for the G-20 summit, North Korea launched three ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, NPR's Elise Hu reports.

The launch — the latest in a series of North Korean missile tests that violate U.N. Security Council resolutions — came on the final day of the summit. U.S. Strategic Command tracked the launch, and a spokesman says the missiles began by the western city of Hwangju and passed over North Korea before traveling off the country's eastern coast and into the sea of Japan.

The U.S. and South Korea began annual military drills today amid heightened inter-Korean tensions and threats of a nuclear strike from the North.

In a statement, U.S. and South Korean forces described the 12-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian war games as "non-provocative in nature" and designed to enhance "readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula."

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