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Summary of external news of North Korea this week

All Headlines 16:00 February 28, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 28 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of external news of North Korea this week.

IFRC receives sanctions waiver for assistance to N.K.'s anti-virus fight

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- The United Nations has granted a sanctions waiver for the International Red Cross's plan to help North Korea prevent the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) received the exemptions for its planned provision of medical devices and testing kits necessary to the North, the organization said in a press release.

"The potential for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea poses a threat to millions of people who are already in need of humanitarian assistance," it said, using the North's official name.

U.S. flies surveillance plane over Korean peninsula

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- The United States has flown a surveillance aircraft over South Korea, an aviation tracker said Tuesday, on an apparent mission to monitor North Korea.

The U.S. Navy P-3C maritime surveillance plane was spotted in the skies over the peninsula on Monday, Aircraft Spots tweeted.

It is the latest in a series of U.S. operations seemingly aimed at monitoring the North after the communist nation warned of a "new strategic weapon" and "shocking actual action" against the U.S.

UNC says hotlines with N.K. up and running despite new virus

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- The United Nations Command (UNC) has said its hotlines with North Korea at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom are up and running around-the-clock despite the spread of the new coronavirus in South Korea.

"#COVID19 worries or not, UNC maintains a 24/7/365 presence in this building at the #JointSecurityArea," the U.S.-led command said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, referring to its joint duty office.

"Located just 10 meters from the #DPRK side, the 'Joint Duty Office' is where we keep our hotlines to North Korean counterparts & prep for face-to-face meetings," it said. DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Esper says N. Korea seeks legitimacy with nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that North Korea seeks to attain legitimacy by developing its nuclear and ballistic missile capability.

Esper made the remarks in a written statement to the House Armed Services Committee ahead of a hearing on the Pentagon's 2021 budget request.

"North Korea seeks to build legitimacy through the development of a variety of nuclear, conventional, and unconventional weapons, and by growing its ballistic missile capabilities," he said. "Our forces on the Korean Peninsula remain at a high state of readiness, alongside our Republic of Korea counterparts. While we support continued diplomatic efforts to bring about lasting peace in Korea, we remain prepared to fight and win tonight, if required."

U.S. will be ready when N. Korea is ready to talk: envoy

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- The United States stands ready to continue denuclearization negotiations with North Korea when the regime is ready to talk, a top American envoy said Wednesday.

Alex Wong, the U.S. deputy special representative for North Korea, made the remark at a seminar in Washington as negotiations between the two countries have stalled for about a year.

"When they're ready to set in motion the necessary talks, when they're ready to seize the opportunities that we have before us, our team will be ready as well," Wong, the No. 2 State Department official in charge of the negotiations, said at the Hudson Institute.

Russia sends coronavirus test kits to N. Korea

SEOUL, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- Russia has provided North Korea with coronavirus diagnosis kits at the request of Pyongyang, according to the Russian foreign ministry on Wednesday.

"Due to the persisting risk of the new COVID-19 infection, Russia has donated 1,500 coronavirus diagnostic test kits to Pyongyang at the request of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the Russian foreign ministry said in a press release available on its website, referring to North Korea by its official name.

"We hope that this step will help North Korea prevent the infection from penetrating the country," it said.

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