North Korea says U.S. cruise missile test, military moves ‘dangerous,’ still committed to dialogue: KCNA

FILE PHOTO: A conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile is launched by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) during a test to inform development of future intermediate-range capabilities at San Nicolas Island, California, U.S., August 18, 2019. Scott Howe/U.S. Dept of Defense/Handout via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) – A North Korean spokesman said on Thursday the United States’ recent mid-range cruise missile test and plans to deploy F-35 jets and offensive military equipment around the Korean peninsula were “dangerous” moves that would “trigger a new cold war” in the region.

North Korea remains unchanged in its position to resolve all issues through dialogue and negotiation, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, but “dialogue accompanied by military threats is of no interest to us,” according to state media KCNA.

“Dangerous and unusual military moves are now on the horizon, which would trigger a new cold war on the Korean peninsula and in the region,” the statement added.

Working-level talks between the United States and North Korea have yet to restart since they were stalled by the failed second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February.

Trump and Kim met again in June at the inter-Korean border and agreed to reopen negotiations.

U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, who leads working-level talks with North Korea, has been in Seoul since Tuesday after a stop in Japan to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea.

“We are prepared to engage as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea,” Biegun said on Wednesday.

The KCNA statement also echoed North Korea’s repeated protest against high-tech weapons being imported by South Korea such as F-35 stealth jets, calling them “grave provocations.”

The Pentagon said on Monday it tested a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of more than 500 km (310 miles), the first such test since the United States pulled out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

North Korea has fired several short-range missiles in recent weeks, citing the need to strengthen its own security.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Peter Cooney)

North Korea upbeat on Trump-Kim surprise meeting as a chance to push nuclear talks

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cross over a military demarcation line at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed at their meeting on Sunday to push forward dialogue for making a new breakthrough in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, North Korean state media said on Monday.

Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea on Sunday when he met Kim in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas and agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they meet at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they meet at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

“The top leaders of the two countries agreed to keep in close touch in the future, too, and resume and push forward productive dialogues for making a new breakthrough in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and in the bilateral relations,” KCNA news agency said.

The meeting, initiated by a tweet by Trump that Kim said took him by surprise, displayed the rapport between the two, but analysts said they were no closer to narrowing the gap between their positions since they walked away from their summit in February in Vietnam.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters shortly before departing South Korea that a new round of talks would likely happen “sometime in July” and the North’s negotiators would be foreign ministry diplomats.

In a photo released by KCNA on Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Pompeo are shown sitting next to Kim and Trump respectively in Freedom House, the building in which the two leaders had their one-on-one talks.

KCNA said that during the chat between Trump and Kim, the two leaders explained “issues of easing tensions on the Korean peninsula,” “issues of mutual concern and interest which become a stumbling block in solving those issues,” and “voiced full understanding and sympathy.”

Kim said it was the good personal relationship he had with Trump that made such a dramatic meeting possible at just one day’s notice and that the relationship with Trump would continue to produce good results, according to KCNA.

The two leaders’ “bold, brave decision” that led to the historic meeting “created unprecedented trust between the two countries” that had been tangled in deeply rooted animosity, KCNA said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the meeting between Trump and Kim and “fully supports the continued efforts of the parties to establish new relations toward sustainable peace, security and complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

China also welcomed the meeting, with a foreign ministry spokesman describing it as “constructive and achieving positive results”.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they meet at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they meet at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

But problems could lie ahead.

“The fact that the nuclear talks have jump-started is very encouraging, but that doesn’t mean that the two sides have already adjusted their positions and set the conditions for successful working-level negotiations,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, dismissed a report in The New York Times on Monday that Washington is seeking to soften its approach, floating an idea of accepting a nuclear freeze – instead of complete dismantlement – and giving tacit recognition that North Korea is a nuclear state.

“I read this NYT story with curiosity,” Bolton said in a tweet. “Neither the [National Security Council] staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to ‘settle for a nuclear freeze by NK.’ This was a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the President. There should be consequences.”

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Joyce Lee; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at United Nations, Josh Smith in Seoul, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)

U.S., North Korea in behind-the-scenes talks over third summit, Moon says

FILE PHOTO: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump talk in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States is in behind-the-scenes talks with North Korea over a possible third summit and has proposed working-level negotiations that have been stalled since the second such meeting in February, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: South Korea's President Moon Jae-in attends a press meeting at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden June 14, 2019. Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in attends a press meeting at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden June 14, 2019. Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

Moon, in written answers to questions posed by visiting foreign journalists, said there was no reason to talk of a “stalemate” just because there had been no official dialogue, aimed at the denuclearization of North Korea.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held their second meeting in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi in February but failed to reach a deal due to differences between U.S. calls for denuclearization and North Korean demands for relief from sanctions.

“Both sides have been engaged in dialogue in regard to a third summit,” Moon said.

“It’s noteworthy that the behind-the-scenes talks have been preceded by the mutual understanding of each other’s position gained through the Hanoi summit.”

The United States had made a proposal for working-level talks, Moon said, urging North Korea to return to the negotiating table “at the earliest date possible”.

North Korea pursued nuclear and missile program for years in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and U.N. and U.S. sanctions.

Moon has been an ardent champion of efforts to end the confrontation, vowing to play a mediator role in nudging North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for an end to sanctions and security guarantees.

The Hanoi breakdown was a blow for Moon, who days before the summit offered to “ease the burden” of the United States by providing concessions to the North through inter-Korean economic initiatives which he seeks to revive.

Moon did not specify when and how the U.S. proposal was made. But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that a recent exchange of letters between Trump and Kim boosted hopes for a restart of talks, calling it a “very real possibility.”

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said on Sunday that Trump’s letter had “excellent content” and Kim would “seriously contemplate” it, without elaborating.

‘NEXT LEVEL’

Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea who led working-level talks ahead of the Hanoi summit, is visiting Seoul from Thursday for meetings with South Korean officials before joining Trump, who is due in South Korea this weekend.

Trump is considering visiting the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, where Kim and Moon had their historic first summit last year, a South Korean official said. The two Koreas are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.

But a U.S. official said on Tuesday that Trump had no plans to meet Kim during his trip and declined to comment on whether Trump would go to the DMZ.

Trump wanted to travel to the DMZ on a 2017 visit to South Korea but heavy fog prevented it.

“The resumption of negotiations between North Korea and the United States will take it to the next level. I believe everything has now fallen into place for that to happen,” Moon said.

The Hanoi summit cast doubt on Kim’s commitment to denuclearize. There has been little progress since then, with Pyongyang resuming some limited testing of weapons and being aloof toward dialogue offers both from Washington and Seoul.

There is also a gray area over talk about the denuclearization of the “Korean peninsula”, which, by North Korea’s reckoning, includes the regional U.S. nuclear umbrella protecting Japan and South Korea. The United States only wants North Korea to denuclearize.

Moon said Kim had told him he wanted to “finalize a denuclearization process as soon as possible and to concentrate on economic development”.

Moon called for the North to scrap the “passive stance” it has presented since the Hanoi summit and take action on its past promises.

“By responding to the U.S. proposal for working-level negotiations, it can also show its determination to denuclearize,” he said.

The questions for the written interview were provided by Reuters, AP, AFP, Yonhap, Kyodo, Xinhua and Tass ahead of a symposium on the Korea peace process hosted by Yonhap in Seoul on Thursday.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Nick Macfie)

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday: Kremlin

A combination of file photos shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending a wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019 and Russia's President Vladimir Putin looking on during a joint news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma after their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Krasnodar region, Russia, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Pool/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool

By Vladimir Soldatkin and Maria Vasilyeva

MOSCOW/VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Thursday in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok to discuss the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, a Kremlin official said.

The visit is part of Kim’s effort to build foreign support after the breakdown of a second U.S.-North Korea summit in Vietnam in February meant no relief on sanctions for North Korea, analysts said.

The summit will be the first between Putin and the North Korean leader and the nuclear row, and how to resolve it, would be the main item on the agenda, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.

“In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilized somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea’s initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site,” Ushakov said. “Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend.”

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Tuesday the visit would happen soon, but did not elaborate on a time or location.

Kim’s chief aide, Kim Chang Son, was seen in Vladivostok on Sunday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Vladivostok is the closest major Russian city to the short stretch of border that Russia and North Korea share, and can be reached from the border via train, Kim’s preferred mode of international transport.

Russia has for years been involved in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program. It was involved in so-called six party talks – along with the two Koreas, Japan, the United States and China – that were last held in 2009.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said it understood the agenda would include Russia-North Korea relations, denuclearisation, and regional cooperation.

“Russia shares our viewpoints such as the achievement of complete denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace,” foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said in Seoul.

“I hope that the summit will be an opportunity that contributes to positive progress.”

RUSSIAN PRESTIGE

After the failed Hanoi summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Kim is probably looking to prove that he is still sought after by world leaders, and that he has more options, said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University.

Kim did not want to look too dependent on Washington, Beijing and Seoul, he said.

“As for Russia, the Putin-Kim summit will reaffirm Moscow’s place as a major player on the Korean Peninsula. This meeting is important for Russian international prestige.”

Putin previously held a summit in Russia with Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor as North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, in 2002. Kim Jong Il visited Russia again in 2011, when he was hosted by Dmitry Medvedev, the Putin lieutenant who at the time was serving as Russian president.

Online media which monitor North Korea reported that the venue for the summit would be the Far Eastern Federal University, on an island that is connected to the mainland part of Vladivostok by a bridge.

The bridge was built in time for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Cooperation Summit, which took place on the same site that now houses the university.

At the university campus on Tuesday, the sports complex had been closed and workers were seen bringing in pieces of furniture, a Reuters TV crew at the site reported. A white tent had been erected next to the sports complex.

At the entrance to the campus, security guards were stopping vehicles as they drove in, and searching them. There were no signs of preparation at Vladivostok railway station.

But at Khasan, a Russian settlement where the train line crosses the border, the state flags of Russia and North Korea were fluttering from the station building on Tuesday. A set of mobile steps for alighting from a train was positioned on the platform edge.

(Additional reporting by Joyce Lee and Josh Smith in SEOUL; Maxim Rodionov in MOSCOW; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Don’t take this North Korea guidebook with you, warns publisher

The North Korea Petit Fute touristic guide book is displayed during an interview with Reuters in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

By John Irish and Noemie Olive

PARIS (Reuters) – A French publisher has produced a rare guide to North Korea, highlighting its history, cultural wealth and beautiful landscapes but advising tourists not to take the politically sensitive book with them.

Tourism is one of the few remaining reliable sources of foreign income for North Korea after the U.N. imposed sanctions targeting 90 percent of its $3 billion annual exports including commodities, textiles and seafood.

Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Tensions over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles spiked on the Korean peninsula last year and there were fears of a U.S. military response to North Korea’s threat to develop a weapon capable of hitting the United States.

“There are a lot of people that are interested in this country be it for nuclear and military reasons, but also economically so … it’s important to provide information,” said Dominique Auzias, president of the Petit Fute, which publishes some 800 guides.

“As it’s a country that’s closed and forbidden everybody dreams of going there,” he said.

Some 400 French tourists visit the country each year with trips costing about 2,000 euros ($2,267).

The reclusive communist state has no official diplomatic relations with France.

Talks in June last year between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provided a detente even if in recent weeks tensions have once again flared.

North Korean authorities would probably confiscate the printed edition given some of the material, Auzias said.

“You don’t go for adventure, but to discover,” he said.

The guide, which took three years to put together, touches little on where to stay or eat because accessing the country as a tourist can only be done through specific travel agents who determine what visitors see.

In some cases, however, they respond to requests and Auzias said the guide helps people decide what they would like to see.

It makes clear it is imperative to stick to the country’s strict rules or face dire consequences as American student Otto Warmbier did in 2016 when he was sentenced to 15 years of forced labor for trying to steal a propaganda poster in his hotel.

He was returned to the United States in a coma 17 months later, and died shortly after. A coroner said he died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

“The first time I went 10-12 years ago I was proud because I was one of the rare French citizens to get in … but my second moment of happiness was about three weeks later when I left because it was suffocating and mind-boggling,” Auzias said.

(Reporting by John Irish and Noemeie Olive; Editing by Bate Felix and Alexandra Hudson)

North Korea warns U.S. skeptics as Kim heads for summit with Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves from a train as he departs for a summit in Hanoi, in Pyongyang, North Korea in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 23, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

By Jack Kim and Josh Smith

HANOI (Reuters) – North Korea warned President Donald Trump on Sunday not to listen to U.S. critics who were disrupting efforts to improve ties, as its leader, Kim Jong Un, made his way across China by train to a second summit with Trump in Vietnam.

The two leaders will meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, where they pledged to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But their vaguely worded agreement has produced few results and U.S. Democratic senators and U.S. security officials have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The North’s KCNA state news agency said such opposition was aimed at derailing the talks.

“If the present U.S. administration reads others’ faces, lending an ear to others, it may face the shattered dream of the improvement of the relations with the DPRK and world peace and miss the rare historic opportunity,” the news agency said in a commentary, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up its nuclear weapons program, which, combined with its missile capabilities, pose a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions.

But in recent days Trump has signaled a possible softening, saying he would love to be able to remove sanctions if there is meaningful progress on denuclearization.

Trump also said he was in no rush and had no pressing schedule for North Korea’s denuclearization, hinting at a more gradual, reciprocal approach, long favored by Pyongyang.

The North also wants security guarantees and a formal end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Trump said on Sunday that he and Kim expect to make further progress at this week’s summit and again held out the promise that denuclearization would help North Korea develop its economy.

He also said Chinese President Xi Jinping has been supportive of Trump’s meeting with Kim. “The last thing China wants are large scale nuclear weapons right next door.”

TRUMP SCOFFS AT CRITICS

Trump scoffed at critics of his handling of North Korea.

“So funny to watch people who have failed for years, they got NOTHING, telling me how to negotiate with North Korea. But thanks anyway!” he said in a tweet.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” that North Korea has yet to take “concrete” steps on denuclearization and said another summit might be needed beyond the one in Hanoi, but that he hoped for substantial progress this week.

“The alternative to giving up his nuclear weapons is remaining a pariah state, remaining a nation that is unable to trade, unable to grow, unable to take care of its own people,” Pompeo said of Kim in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In a letter to Trump last week, three Democratic chairmen of key committees in the House of Representatives accused the administration of withholding information on the negotiations with North Korea.

“There are ample reasons to be skeptical that Chairman Kim is committed to a nuclear-free North Korea,” the lawmakers wrote.

U.S. intelligence officials recently testified to Congress that North Korea was unlikely to ever give up its entire nuclear arsenal.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Pompeo has conceded in private discussions with Korea experts that he would be lucky if North Korea agreed to dismantle 60 percent of what the United States has demanded, although he added that it would still be more than any other administration had achieved.

The State Department declined to comment on the report.

KCNA, referring to U.S. fears of the North’s weapons, said if this week’s talks ended without results, “the U.S. people will never be cleared of the security threats that threw them into panic”.

Few details of Kim’s trip to Vietnam were announced until early on Sunday, when North Korean state media confirmed he had left Pyongyang by train, accompanied by senior officials as well as his influential sister, Kim Yo Jong.

RED CARPET SEND-OFF

In rare, revealing coverage of Kim’s travel, the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper featured photographs of the leader getting a red-carpet send-off on Saturday afternoon and waving from a train door while holding a cigarette.

He was joined by top officials also involved in the Singapore summit, including Kim Yong Chol, former spy chief and Kim’s top envoy in negotiations with the United States, as well as senior party aide Ri Su Yong, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and defense chief No Kwang Chol.

Other senior officials, such as his de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, and Kim Hyok Chol, negotiations counterpart to U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, were already in Hanoi to prepare for the summit.

Both sides are under pressure to forge more specific agreements than were reached in Singapore.

The two leaders are likely to try to build on their personal connection to push things forward in Hanoi, even if only incrementally, analysts said.

“They will not make an agreement which breaks up the current flow of diplomacy. (President Trump) has mentioned that they’ll meet again; even if there is a low-level agreement, they will seek to keep things moving,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Few details of summit arrangements have been released.

Some lamp posts on Hanoi’s tree-lined streets are decked with North Korean, U.S. and Vietnamese flags fluttering above a handshake design, and security has been stepped up at locations that could be the summit venue, or where the leaders might stay.

It could take Kim at least 2-1/2 days to travel to Vietnam by train.

(Additional reporting by Joyce Lee, Ju-min Park, Soyoung Kim, Hyonhee Shin, James Pearson, and Ginger Gibson in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jeffrey Benkoe)

No need for Shinzo Abe: Trump already nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not saying whether or not he nominated Donald Trump for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, but the question may be moot: the U.S. president has been put forward by others for the prestigious award.

During a White House news conference on Friday, Trump said the Japanese premier had given him “the most beautiful copy” of a five-page nomination letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Since then Abe has declined to say whether he had done so. Regardless, Trump has already been nominated by two Norwegian lawmakers.

“We have nominated him of course for the positive developments on the Korean Peninsula,” Per-Willy Amundsen, who was Justice Minister in Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s cabinet in 2016-2018, told Reuters.

“It has been a very difficult situation and the tensions have since lowered and a lot of it is due to Trump’s unconventional diplomatic style,” he added.

Amundsen, who is a member of the rightwing Progress Party, wrote a letter to the award committee together with his parliamentary colleague Christian Tybring-Gjedde, he said.

The letter was submitted in June, immediately after a summit Trump held in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un aimed at easing tensions and tackling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Tybring-Gjedde, who sits on the Norwegian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, also confirmed the joint nomination of Trump when contacted by Reuters.

“A possible award would, of course, depend on the talks leading to a credible disarmament deal,” he said.

A wide range of people can nominate for the Nobel Peace Prize, including members of parliaments and governments, heads of state, university professors of history, social sciences or law and past Nobel Peace Prize laureates, among others.

The deadline for nominations for the 2019 prize, which will be announced on Oct. 11., was Jan. 31.

The five-strong Norwegian Nobel Committee, which decides who wins the award, does not comment on nominations, keeping secret for 50 years the names of nominators and unsuccessful nominees.

Still, it did say earlier this month that 304 candidates were nominated for this year’s prize, of which 219 are individuals and 85 are organizations.

Last year’s prize was jointly awarded to Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad.

(Editing by Frances Kerry)

North Korea says it wants peace, relations with U.S.

Directional signs bearing North Korean and U.S. flags are seen near the demilitarized zone in Paju, South Korea, June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday that relations with the United States will develop “wonderfully at a fast pace” if Washington responds to its efforts on denuclearization with trustworthy measures and practical actions.

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Han Tae Song, told the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament that Pyongyang would continue working to establish a “permanent and durable peace mechanism on the Korean peninsula”.

The landmark summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump last June produced a promise to work toward the complete denuclearization of the divided peninsula. Progress since then has been patchy.

Washington is demanding concrete action, such as a full disclosure of North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, before agreeing to key goals of Pyongyang – easing international sanctions and declaring an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with an armistice.

The summit had brought about a dramatic turn in relations that had been “the most hostile on earth” and contributed to ensuring peace and security on the peninsula, Han said..

He referred to the two leaders’ joint statement issued after their meeting in Singapore and Kim’s New Year’s Address, adding:

“Accordingly we declared that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them and we have taken various practical measures.

“If the U.S. responds to our efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the process of taking more definite and epoch-making steps,” he said.

Han told Reuters that he had no information on a possible second summit between Kim and Trump, which the White House has said would be held in late February without saying where.

“As we open a new year, we are determined to seize this hard-won unprecedented window of opportunity of diplomacy,” South Korea’s deputy ambassador Lee Jang-Keun told the Geneva forum on Tuesday.

“The recent announcement by the U.S. of holding a second U.S.-DPRK summit meeting in late February is another harbinger of hope,” he said.

South Korea’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha told Reuters at Davos last week that North Korea must make concrete pledges toward curbing its nuclear weapons program, such as dismantling its main nuclear complex and allowing international inspections to confirm the process, when leader Kim meets Trump as soon as next month.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Angus MacSwan)

Next U.S.-North Korea summit must give concrete results: Seoul

By Soyoung Kim and Alessandra Galloni

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – A planned second summit next month between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un must “deliver concrete results on denuclearization”, South Korea’s top diplomat said on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the two leaders should make “really great big strides” on the road to denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, in line with international demands.

Trump and Kim met in Singapore last June for an unprecedented summit, producing a promise to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula, but the two sides have since struggled to agree how to implement the pledge.

Critics of U.S. efforts say that summit only boosted Kim’s international stature while doing little to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal that now threatens the United States.

After Trump met Pyongyang’s top nuclear negotiator, Kim Yong Chol, in Washington on Friday, the White House announced that the second summit would take place in late February.

The two sides have given no sign of having narrowed their differences over U.S. demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program and Pyongyang’s demands for a lifting of economic sanctions and a formal end to the Korean War.

North and South Korea are still technically at war, given the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The North Korean envoy’s recent visit to Washington has put nuclear talks “back on track”, Kang said in Davos. Details of the second summit would continue to be negotiated despite a partial government shutdown in Washington, she added.

Trump did not elaborate on the country chosen to host the summit, but Vietnam has been considered a leading candidate.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kang met with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum to discuss the planned second summit between Washington and Pyongyang, Seoul’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Kono agreed that “concrete results” will have to be made toward denuclearization while stressing that Japan expects close communication and coordination with South Korea on the nuclear negotiations regardless of “several pending issues” between the neighbors, the ministry said.

The two U.S. allies share a bitter history that includes Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of the Korean peninsula and the use of comfort women, Japan’s euphemism for girls and women, many of them Korean, forced to work in its wartime brothels.

The rows between the neighbors flared again in late October when South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp must compensate South Koreans for their forced labor during World War Two. Japan maintains that the issue of forced labor was fully settled in 1965 when the two countries restored diplomatic ties, and has denounced the ruling as “unthinkable.”

Wartime history has long been a stumbling block for relations between the neighbors, sparking concern about regional efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program.

In the latest escalation of tensions, a Japanese patrol aircraft made an “intimidating” pass over a South Korean warship on Wednesday, in what South Korea’s military said was a “clear provocation” toward a friendly neighbor.

Kang expressed “regret” over the incident and urged defense authorities from the two countries to resolve the issue soon, the foreign ministry said.

(Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Alessandra Galloni in DAVOS, Switzerland, Editing by Mark Bendeich, William Maclean)

Top North Korea envoy meets Pompeo, headed for talks with Trump

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo escorts Vice Chairman of the North Korean Workers' Party Committee Kim Yong Chol, North Korea's lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy with the United States, into talks aimed at clearing the way for a second U.S.-North Korea summit as they meet at a hotel in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A North Korean nuclear envoy held talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday and was then due to meet President Donald Trump at the White House, a diplomatic flurry aimed at laying the groundwork for a second U.S.-North Korea summit.

The visit of Kim Yong Chol, Pyongyan’s lead negotiator with the United States, marked a rare sign of potential movement in a denuclearization effort that has stalled since a landmark meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year.

Kim Yong Chol and Pompeo, with tight smiles, posed together for photographs at a Washington hotel before holding about 45 minutes of talks that could determine whether the two sides can make headway. There has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over U.S. demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States or over Pyongyang’s demand for a lifting of punishing sanctions.

Hours before Kim Yong Chol’s arrival on Thursday, Trump – who declared after the Singapore summit in June that the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was over – unveiled a revamped U.S. missile defense strategy that singled out the country as an ongoing and “extraordinary threat.”

The State Department said after the meeting that Pompeo had a “good discussion” with Kim Yong Chol “on efforts to make progress on commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore.” But it provided no specifics.

After the talks with Pompeo, Kim Yong Chol, a hardline former spy chief, the White House confirmed that he would hold a meeting with the president in the Oval Office later on Friday.

The high-level visit could yield an announcement of plans for a second summit. Both Trump and Kim have expressed an interest in arranging but some U.S.-based analysts say it would be premature due to the lack of obvious progress so far.

Their first meeting produced a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but he has yet to take what Washington sees as concrete steps in that direction.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alistair Bell)