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Summary of external news of North Korea this week

North Korea 16:00 July 12, 2019

SEOUL, July 12 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of external news of North Korea this week.

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Trump says U.S. has 'very nice' relationship with N. Korea

WASHINGTON, July 5 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump insisted Friday that the United States has a "very nice" relationship with North Korea following his diplomatic engagement with the regime's leader, Kim Jong-un.

Trump returned this week from a visit to South Korea, where he held an impromptu meeting with Kim on the inter-Korean border and agreed to restart negotiations on the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. president, who has now met three times with Kim, has often touted North Korea's suspension of nuclear and missile tests as his major foreign policy achievement.

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S. Korea says it complies with anti-N.K. sanctions after Abe raises suspicion

SEOUL, July 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is faithfully complying with sanctions on North Korea, a foreign ministry official said Monday, a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raised the possibility of non-compliance, apparently to justify Tokyo's recent export restrictions against Seoul.

In a debate hosted by Japan's BS Fuji TV, Abe said it is a matter of course to suspect that South Korea may not abide by sanctions on the North because it did not keep to an agreement with Tokyo over the issue of wartime forced labor.

The broadcaster also reported that Koichi Hagiuda, a close confidant of Abe and senior member of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, suggested that chemical exports to South Korea, which could be diverted for military purposes, could end up in the North.

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U.S. spokesperson unaware of plans for meeting with N. Koreans in Europe

WASHINGTON, July 8 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Monday that there are no plans for a meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials in Europe this week as far as she is aware.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun is scheduled to be in Belgium and Germany for meetings with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, and European officials.

The trip raised the possibility of U.S. and North Korean officials meeting in Europe following last week's agreement between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to resume negotiations on the denuclearization of the regime.

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U.S. says Trump and Kim had meeting, not summit, in DMZ

WASHINGTON, July 9 (Yonhap) -- The latest encounter between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the inter-Korean border was a meeting, not a summit or a negotiation, the State Department said Tuesday.

The impromptu meeting in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30 had raised questions about whether it was a summit akin to the previous encounters in Singapore in June 2018 and in Vietnam in February this year.

"It wasn't a summit, it wasn't a negotiation; it was a meeting of two leaders," department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said during a press briefing.

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U.S. says it seeks elimination of N.K. WMDs that begins with freeze

WASHINGTON, July 9 (Yonhap) -- The United States wants to see the complete elimination of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction that begins with a freeze on their production, the State Department said Tuesday.

The comment comes ahead of the expected resumption of negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and could signal the U.S.' openness to adopting a step-by-step approach to its dismantlement.

The U.S. position in earlier negotiations with the North had centered on the regime dismantling all of its nuclear and missile facilities before receiving any sanctions relief in return.

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Top diplomats of S. Korea, U.S. hold phone talks over Japan's export curbs, N.K.

SEOUL, July 11 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats of South Korea and the United States have held phone talks to discuss Tokyo's recent export control measure against Seoul and diplomacy for North Korea's denuclearization, Seoul's foreign ministry said Thursday.

During the 15-minute talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday night, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha voiced concerns over Japan's restrictions on the exports of key high-tech materials to South Korea.

Last week, Japan enforced the measure in an apparent retaliatory step over last year's Supreme Court rulings against Japanese firms over wartime forced labor.

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N. Korea's Hwasong-15 ICBM can strike anywhere in U.S. mainland: USFK

SEOUL, July 11 (Yonhap) -- The United States Forces Korea (USFK) has said that North Korea's Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is capable of reaching anywhere in the U.S. mainland, its first official assessment of the long-range missile.

The Hwasong-15 ICBM that the communist country test-fired on Nov. 29, 2017, has an estimated range of 8,000 miles, or 12,874 kilometers, and is "capable of striking any part of the continental U.S.," according to the "2019 Strategic Digest," an annual publication by the USFK along with the United Nations Command and the Combined Forces Command.

Following its successful launch of the ICBM last year, North Korea has claimed that it is the first missile capable of putting the whole U.S. within its range. In its 2018 defense white paper, South Korea stopped short of describing it as having a range of over 10,000 km.

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U.S. mulling 12- to 18-month sanctions relief in exchange for Yongbyon, nuclear freeze: source

WASHINGTON, July 11 (Yonhap) -- The United States is considering offering a 12- to 18-month suspension of certain sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the dismantlement of its main nuclear facility and a freeze of the entire nuclear program, a source close to White House deliberations on North Korea said Thursday.

The potential offer would see the suspension of U.N. Security Council sanctions restricting North Korea's exports of coal and textiles -- a major source of income for the regime -- and mark a compromise between the two countries after the collapse of their second summit in Vietnam in February.

The source spoke to Yonhap News Agency and two other outlets just days before the expected resumption of U.S.-North Korea negotiations. The date and location of the talks have not been announced yet.

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Nuke envoys of S. Korea, U.S. discuss cooperation ahead of working-level talks with N. Korea

SEOUL, July 11 (Yonhap) -- Top nuclear negotiators from South Korea and the United States held talks in Germany on Thursday to discuss cooperation toward progress in working-level talks with North Korea, which are expected to resume this month, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, met with his U.S. counterpart, Stephen Biegun, in Berlin as Washington and Pyongyang are seeking to relaunch their nuclear talks, likely in the middle of this month.

During their impromptu meeting at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas on June 30, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to resume the negotiation that has been stalled since their no-deal summit in Hanoi in February.
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