North Korea to close nuclear test site

Lofty rhetoric and big promises by Kim Jong Un meet with scepticism in Seoul

North Korea says UN sanctions are stopping it from paying UN fees
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
(Image credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korean soldier shot while defecting

14 November

A North Korean solider has been shot and wounded while attempting to defect to South Korea at the heavily guarded Demilitarised Zone, according to the South Korean military.

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The solider, who has not been identified, was reportedly shot in the shoulder and arm by his fellow troops after he crossed to the South Korean side of a jointly run part of the village of Panmunjom.

“The soldier made it across by passing through the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom, which is the only portion of the Demilitarised Zone where both forces stand face-to-face,” the BBC reports.

“Alerted by gunshots, South Korean guards found the North Korean soldier about 55 yards south of the border line that bisects Panmunjom,” the New York Times reports. The soldier was taken to a South Korean hospital for treatment.

Around 1,000 North Koreans defect to South Korea every year, yet very few attempt to cross the border at the DMZ. This is just the third soldier to defect at the DMZ since the end of the cold war.

North Korea warns of atmospheric nuclear test

26 October

A senior North Korean diplomat has warned the US that last month’s threat by foreign minister Ri Yong Ho that Pyongyang would conduct an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean should be taken seriously.

“The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally,” Ri Yong Pil, a senior diplomat in North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said.

“North Korea carried out the strongest of its six-ever nuclear tests in early September, claiming to have used a hydrogen bomb,” CNN says. All of those tests have been carried out underground.

Last week CIA chief Mike Pompeo “said North Korea could be only months away from gaining the ability to hit the US with nuclear weapons,” The Guardian reports. “Experts say an atmospheric test would be a way of demonstrating that capability.”

North Korea says Donald Trump has declared war

26 September

The North Korean foreign minister claimed last night that Donald Trump had declared war on his country, giving Pyongyang the right to shoot down US bombers.

“The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country,” Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York, after addressing the UN General Assembly.

“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make counter-measures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country,” he said.

Ri's claim appeared to be “a response to Trump’s tweet that the North Korean leadership would not ‘be around much longer’ if they continued their rhetoric,” the BBC says. The US President also said last week that North Korea woould be “totally destroyed” if it threatened the US or its allies.

“The latest escalation in the war of words between the nations came two days after US Air Force bombers, escorted by fighter jets, flew over waters east of North Korea on Saturday,” Sky News says.

“China called for all sides in the North Korea missile crisis to show restraint adding that the situation was ‘getting too dangerous’”, the ABC says.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times published a casualty assessment presented by Rob Givens, a retired Air Force brigadier general who spent four years stationed on the Korean peninsula.

“The Pentagon has estimated the potential number of dead in South Korea at 20,000 each day,” Givens told the paper. “And that is before the North Koreans turn to nuclear weapons.”

North Korea: Kim Jong Un calls Trump a ‘mentally deranged dotard’

22 September

Kim Jong Un has issued a direct rebuke to Donald Trump, who told the UN on Tuesday that he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the US and its allies.

Kim “called President Donald Trump ‘deranged’ and said he will ‘pay dearly’ for his threats, a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon”, the Associated Press reports.

“I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the US pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK,” Kim said, describing Trump as a rogue, a gangster and “a mentally deranged US dotard”.

Kim's statement came after Trump revealed new sanctions targeting Pyongyang’s shipping, banking and trade networks.

“Trump stopped short of going after North Korea’s biggest trading partner, China, but praised Beijing’s central bank for ordering Chinese banks to stop doing business with North Korea,” ABC says.

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, said sanctions would lead to more nuclear tests.

“Ri told reporters in New York, where he is attending the UN, that a response ‘could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific’”, The Australian reports.

North Korea: Donald Trump mocks Kim Jong Un as ‘Rocket Man’

22 September

Donald Trump has mocked Kim Jong Un on social media, referring to the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man”.

“I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night,” he said yesterday on Twitter. “Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!”

His comments “suggested increased sanctions recently passed by the UN restricting its gas and oil imports were having a noticeable effect,” Sky News says.

The intervention came as White House officials warned that North Korea faces destruction unless it backs down from its pursuit of its weapons program.

US national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters the North Korean leader is “going to have to give up his nuclear weapons because the president has said he’s not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon”.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley “warned of a tougher U.S. response to future North Korean provocations, and said she would be happy to turn the matter over to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis ‘because he has plenty of military options’”, CNBC reports.

The crisis on the Korean peninsula “will be high on the agenda for world leaders this coming week at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, Trump’s biggest moment on the world stage since his inauguration in January”, says the Associated Press.

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