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Summary of external news of North Korea this week

All News 16:00 September 04, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of external news of North Korea this week.

N. Korea yet to face major outbreak but will need assistance: U.N. rapporteur

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may not have yet experienced a major outbreak of the potentially deadly new coronavirus but will require serious international assistance if it does, given its poor health system, the special U.N. rapporteur on North Korean human rights situation insisted Friday.

Tomas Ojea Quintana said he or anyone else at the world body had not enough information to accurately tell the current situation in the impoverished North, but noted the country may not have yet faced a "major outbreak in the whole country."

"I don't want to base my statement on speculations. I wish I could have the information about this so then I can help the government and the people suffering from an outbreak of COVID-19 to overcome this situation," he said in a virtual seminar hosted by Washington-based nongovernmental organization, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

N. Korea capable of storing up to one year's worth of oil needs: U.S. think tank

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has the capacity to store up to 1.5 million tons of oil, which is capable of meeting all its oil needs for about one year without outside supply, a U.S. think tank report showed Tuesday.

According to the report by Nautilus Institute, the North's oil storage facilities can stock up on around 1-1.5 million tons. The report is based on its analysis of already known storage facilities and Google images on suspected areas in the North, it said.

"Estimates suggest that the DPRK has oil storage facilities that could accommodate on the order of 1 to 1.5 million tonnes of crude oil and (mostly) oil products," the report said, using the acronym of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

U.S. report accuses China of failure to implement sanctions on N. Korea

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- The United States on Tuesday accused China of failing, if not refusing, to faithfully implement international sanctions placed on North Korea, citing what it called "warming" relations between the two communist neighbors.

"China largely continues to enforce a number of the U.N. Security Council's resolution sanctions against North Korea, but Beijing regularly fails to act against illicit ship-to-ship transfers in China's territorial seas, take action against China-based North Korean banking and weapons trade representatives and their activities," the U.S. Department of Defense said in its 2020 China Military Power Report.

The report noted China's alleged failure to fully implement sanctions against North Korea may have followed a recent improvement in their relationship, highlighted by exchanges between their highest leaders.

U.S. extends travel ban on N. Korea for third time, citing 'serious risk'

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. State Department has extended the travel ban on North Korea for another year, citing what it called a "serious risk" of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. citizens by the communist state, a public notice showed Tuesday.

The one-year extension marks the third of its kind since Washington declared all U.S. passports invalid for visits to, in and through the North on Sept. 1, 2017.

The move followed the death of Otto Warmbier, who died six days after he returned home following his release from North Korea in June 2017. The then 22-year-old had been detained by North Korea since January 2016 on suspicions of trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel in Pyongyang.

U.N. human rights office in Seoul calls on N.K. to clarify 316 cases of missing people

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul office of the U.N. human rights body has called on North Korea to clarify the fate of 316 cases of missing people, including South Korean and Japanese nationals, on the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Seoul made the call in a tweet Sunday, noting 11 passengers and crew members from South Korea who disappeared in the North's 1969 hijacking of a Korean Air flight and 12 Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 80s.

The tweet came as the office marked the special day aimed at increasing public awareness of people who disappeared involuntarily, including those imprisoned or kidnapped at places unknown to their families.

Top nuclear envoys of S. Korea, U.S. hold phone talks on stalled N.K. dialogue

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- The top nuclear envoys of South Korea and the United States held phone talks Wednesday on joint efforts to resume stalled dialogue with North Korea, the foreign ministry said.

Lee Do-hoon and his U.S. counterpart, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who doubles as Washington's chief nuclear envoy, shared the view that an early resumption of dialogue with Pyongyang is "necessary" to make substantive progress in efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry said.

"The two sides had consultations about ways to forge the conditions and push for dialogue," the ministry said in a press release.

It will take 'miracle' to denuclearize N. Korea: ex-White House spokeswoman

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- A former White House spokeswoman and unflappably loyal supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump believes it would take a "miracle" to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, a news report said Wednesday, citing a new book from the former aide to Trump set to be released next week.

In her new book, titled "Speaking for Myself," Sarah Sanders describes in length Trump's first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June 2018, according to the report from British newspaper The Guardian.

"Of the incident with Kim, whom Trump courted assiduously in the first two years of his presidency, Sanders describes a session at the Singapore talks in which the dictator 'reluctantly' accepted a Tic Tac from Trump, who 'dramatically blew into the air to reassure Kim it was just a breath mint' and not a capsule of poison," the report writes.

U.S. urges N. Korea to return to dialogue

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- The United States renewed its call on North Korea to return to the negotiating table Wednesday, saying it cannot remain isolated and that there is a brighter future for the country and its people.

"This administration has gone far further than any other in taking strong actions to let North Korea know that they are going to have to negotiate," said David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

"They can't just sit back and threaten and launch (missiles) and all things they have been doing," he told a press conference when asked about the nature of an industry advisory issued the previous day against dealing with North Korea.

U.N. special rapporteur calls for N. Korea's release of political prisoners

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- The U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea's human rights situation has renewed calls for North Korea to release political prisoners, saying that Pyongyang should "follow suit" after Venezuela recently let such people free.

Tomas Ojea Quintana made the appeal in a tweet following Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's decision earlier this week to pardon over 100 political prisoners and activists who had been exiled or imprisoned.

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea should follow suit. Once again, I urge the Government to release political prisoners, specially older, ill and undernourished, persons with disabilities, children, pregnant and lactating mothers and nursing parents," he said, using the North's official name.

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