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Summary of external news of North Korea this week

All News 16:00 April 03, 2020

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of external news of North Korea this week.

U.S. flies surveillance plane over Korean Peninsula as N.K. fires missiles

SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. surveillance aircraft flew over South Korea on Sunday on an apparent mission to monitor North Korea as the communist nation fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles the same day.

The U.S. Navy's EP-3E was spotted in skies above South Korea at 25,000 feet, Aircraft Spots tweeted. The exact time of its operation was not immediately clear.

Earlier in the day, North Korea fired two projectiles from the eastern coastal city of Wonsan toward the East Sea, marking the fourth major weapons test the North has conducted this year, except for small artillery firing drills.

Pompeo: U.S. looks forward to meeting N.K. leadership for nuclear talks

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Yonhap) -- The United States looks forward to sitting down with North Korea's leadership for nuclear talks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday, shortly after Pyongyang accused him of slandering the regime and said it will "go our own way."

Pompeo was responding to an official North Korean statement that condemned his earlier call on the Group of Seven major economies to continue diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang.

In a telephone briefing with Yonhap News Agency and other Asian news outlets, the secretary said President Donald Trump has made clear that international sanctions on North Korea must continue until it takes steps to denuclearize.

511 N. Korean workers remain in Russia due to Pyongyang's border closure: report

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- Around 500 North Korean workers have remained in Russia despite the expiry of their work permits, as Pyongyang has closed its borders as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to a Russian report submitted to the United Nations.

Under a U.N. resolution adopted in late 2017 to punish North Korea for its nuclear and missile activities, member states were required to repatriate all North Korean workers by December last year so as to cut off a key source of hard currency for the communist regime.

According to the report, recently posted on the website of the U.N. Security Council panel monitoring implementation of sanctions on Pyongyang, 511 North Korean workers have remained in Russia as of March 10 due to Pyongyang's border shutdown.

N. Korea appears to launch new department handling negotiations with U.S.: official

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to have created a new foreign ministry department tasked with handling negotiations with the United States, a unification ministry official said Tuesday, after the bureau's new chief issued a statement blasting the U.S. the previous day.

On Monday, the North Korean foreign ministry's "new department director general for negotiations with the U.S." issued a statement criticizing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for seeking to maintain sanctions on the North. The unnamed official also said the North has lost interest in dialogue and will "go our own way."

Speculation has since arisen that the department is newly created since it has not been mentioned in North Korean media before. The North's foreign ministry has a department exclusively handling North American affairs.

WHO to spend US$900,000 to help N. Korea's fight against coronavirus

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- The World Health Organization will spend $900,000 to support North Korea's efforts to prevent the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, data showed Wednesday.

According to the data posted on the website of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the WHO will spend the money on COVID-19 response activities in North Korea.

The money was allocated to the agency through the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) as part of an "early action response" to global containment of the coronavirus, the website showed.

Top nuclear envoys of S. Korea, U.S. hold phone talks on peace efforts with N.K.

SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) -- The top nuclear envoys of South Korea and the United States held phone talks Thursday over the North Korean nuclear issue and joint efforts for lasting peace on the peninsula, the foreign ministry said.

Lee Do-hoon, the ministry's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea and deputy secretary of state, spoke over the phone in a show of their continued coordination on peace efforts.

The conversation came amid tensions caused by the North's repeated short-range rocket tests and a protracted stalemate in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

U.S. calls on N. Korea, others to free religious prisoners amid coronavirus pandemic

WASHINGTON, April 2 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. State Department on Thursday called on North Korea and other countries to release religious prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sam Brownback, the department's ambassador at large for international religious freedom, said he was looking at millions of religious prisoners in China, Iran, Russia and other nations.

"North Korea has a very high number, and we don't know how many are in their gulag system that they have, and they would be under exceeding exposure to COVID," he said in a teleconference with reporters.

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