China has welcomed the development, saying the Korean peninsula issue was “heading in the right direction” and calling for “political courage”.
However, North Korea has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it lost patience or felt it was not getting what it demanded.
The latest announcement came days after the South Korean delegation met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.
Speaking outside the White House after briefing President Trump, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said he had passed on a message that Kim Jong-un was “committed to denuclearization” and had “pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests”.
According to a statement sent to the Washington Post, North Korea’s UN ambassador said the “courageous decision” of Kim Jong-un would help secure “peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region”.
There is no indication yet of where the Trump-Kim talks might take place, but the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as likely options.
Kim Jong-un is hosting a dinner for two South Korean delegates, the first time officials from Seoul have met the North Korean leader since he took office in 2011, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
The dinner has been confirmed by a South Korean presidential spokesman.
The South Korean delegation is in Pyongyang for rare talks partly aimed at restarting dialogue between North Korea and the US.
Relations between North Korea and South Korea have warmed following the PyeongChang Winter Games.
In an unprecedented move the delegation includes two ministerial-level envoys – intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security adviser Chung Eui-yong.
According to the North Korean state radio, the delegation was met by Ri Son-gwon, North Korea’s reunification chief, who led talks in the weeks before the Winter Olympics.
During the two-day visit, the South Korean group will focus on establishing conditions for talks aimed at getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons as well as dialogue between the US and Pyongyang.
Chung Eui-yong had earlier told a press briefing he would deliver President Moon Jae-in’s “resolution to maintain the dialogue and improvement in relations between the South and the North… [and] to denuclearize the Korean peninsula”.
On March 3, President Donald Trump said that the US would be prepared to meet North Korea, but reiterated that Pyongyang would first have to “denuke”.
However, North Korea – which has said it wants to talk to the US – said it was “preposterous” for the US to insist on preconditions.
It’s remains unclear who would represent the US in any such meeting.
The top US diplomat on North Korea Joseph Yun announced his decision to retire earlier last week, a departure which could hamper the Trump administration.
The relationship between the US and North Korea were particularly tense before the Winter Olympics, with both countries repeatedly threatening each other with total destruction.
The US has distanced itself from the North Korean overtures during the Games.
VP Mike Pence has said there is “no daylight” between the US and its regional allies on the need to “continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program.
Believed to have been born in 1987, Kim Yo-jong is the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong-il and is Kim Jong-un’s full sister. She is about four years younger than her brother and is said to be very close to him.
Kim Yo-jong is reportedly married to the son of Choe Ryong-hae, the powerful party secretary.
She has been in the spotlight sporadically in recent years, with her main job being to protect her brother’s image via her role in the party’s propaganda department.
Kim Yo-jong remains blacklisted by the United States over alleged links to human rights abuses in North Korea.
It would be the first by a direct member of the Kim dynasty.
Chang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle and brother in law of Kim Jong-il, did travel to South Korea but did not belong to the Baekdu blood line, which is considered significant.
North Korea has accepted South Korea’s proposal to hold military talks to defuse border tension, after their first high-level meeting in two years.
It will also send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games taking place in South Korea in February.
According to the South Korean government, an agreement was also reached to reinstate a military hotline suspended two years ago.
However, the North Korean delegation was negative on the subject of denuclearization, South Korea added.
The US gave a cautious welcome to the meeting.
The state department said the United States remained in close consultations with South Korean officials who would ensure North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics did not violate UN sanctions.
After a day of negotiations, both Koreas issued a joint statement which confirmed they had agreed to hold military talks on defusing military tension.
North Korea also agreed to send a National Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, cheerleaders, art performers, spectators, a taekwondo demonstration team and media to the games, while South Korea would provide the necessary amenities and facilities.
The statement also referred to exchanges in other, unspecified areas and other high-level talks to improve relations, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.
South Korea asked North Korea to end any hostile acts that might raise tension, while the North agreed there was a need to guarantee a peaceful environment on the peninsula, a statement from the South’s government said.
The South also proposed that athletes from both Koreas march together at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang as they did at the 2006 Winter Olympics. It also pushed for the reunion of family members separated by the Korean War – a highly emotional issue for both countries – to take place during the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls in the middle of the Games.
South Korea said it would consider temporarily lifting relevant sanctions, in co-ordination with the UN, to facilitate North Korea’s participation in the Olympics.
North Korea’s reaction to these proposals is not known.
In his opening remarks, the head of North Korea’s delegation, Ri Son-gwon, was fairly neutral. He said he hoped the talks would bring a “good gift” for the new year and that his country had a “serious and sincere stance”.
Talks were held in the Panmunjom “peace village” in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the border.
Five senior officials on each side attended and the leaders of both were said to have watched the talks via a CCTV feed.
In his New Year address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had said he was considering sending a team to the Olympics. South Korea’s Olympics chief had said last year that North Korea’s athletes would be welcome.
Following Kim Jong-un’s overture, South Korea then proposed high-level talks to discuss North Korea’s participation, but the North only agreed to the talks after the US and the South agreed to delay their joint military exercises until after the Olympics. North Korea sees the annual drills as a rehearsal for war.
Some critics in the US see North Korea’s move as an attempt to divide the US-South Korea alliance.
President Donald Trump has responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un saying his nuclear button is “much bigger” and “more powerful”.
In a tweet, the president warned: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
President Trump’s tweet is the latest contribution to the bickering, increasingly personalized feud between the nuclear-armed leaders.
Earlier this week, Kim Jong-un threatened that his nuclear launch button was “always on my table”.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s unorthodox words sent social media into a frenzy.
It ended a quick-fire day of tweeting that included taking credit for a lack of airplane crashed, announcing awards for “corrupt media”, and threatening to pull aid from Palestinians who do not show “appreciation or respect”.
President Trump’s latest comment states the obvious: any US president has immediate access to the nuclear codes and the US has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal.
Many people online have expressed alarm at the apparently light-hearted use of nuclear threats by world leaders.
However, Donald Trump’s supporters have defended him, saying his comments are both factually accurate and show American strength and resolve.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump had a long-running spat with Marco Rubio over the size of his hands.
At the time, he insisted: “He referred to my hands – ‘if they are small, something else must be small’. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee”.
This connection was not missed by social media users.
The Chinese foreign ministry described the situation on the peninsula as “complex and sensitive” and called on all sides to “exercise restraint and make active efforts to ease tensions”.
The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions, including: deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year; all North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency. There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment.
Tensions have risen this year over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which it has pursued despite pressure from world powers.
The UN sanctions came in response to North Korea’s November 28 firing of a ballistic missile, which the US said was its highest yet.
President Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described President Trump as “mentally deranged”.
The US has urged the world to cut diplomatic and trade ties with North Korea following its latest ballistic missile test.
Speaking at the UN Security Council, US envoy Nikki Haley said President Donald Trump had asked his Chinese counterpart to cut off oil supplies to Pyongyang.
Nikki Haley said the US did not seek conflict but that North Korea’s regime would be “utterly destroyed” if war broke out.
The warning came after North Korea tested its first missile in two months.
North Korea said the missile fired on November 29, which it said reached an altitude of about 2,780 miles – more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station – carried a warhead capable of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The claim was not proven and experts have cast doubt on North Korea’s ability to master such technology.
However, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called the launch “impeccable” and a “breakthrough”.
The test – one of several this year – has been condemned by the international community and the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting.
Nikki Haley warned that “continued acts of aggression” were only serving to further destabilize the region.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sanctions were exhausted.
He told reporters: “The Americans should explain to all of us what they are trying to do – if they want to find a pretext for destroying North Korea they should come clean about it, and the American leadership should confirm it.”
Earlier the Russian UN ambassador said North Korea should stop its missile and nuclear tests but also called on Washington to cancel military exercises with South Korea planned for December as it would “inflame an already explosive situation”.
China also suggested North Korea should stop the tests in return for a halt to US military exercises – a proposal Washington has rejected in the past.
Nikki Haley said on November 29: “We need China to do more.
“President Trump called President Xi this morning and told him that we’ve come to the point where China must cut off the oil for North Korea.
“We know the main driver of its nuclear production is oil,” she said. “The major supplier of that oil is China.”
China is a historic ally and North Korea’s most important trading partner and Pyongyang is thought to be dependent on China for much of its oil supplies.
Also in the day, the White House said that President Trump spoke to his counterpart, Xi Jinping, by phone, urging him to “use all available levers to convince North Korea to end its provocations and return to the path of denuclearization”.
Donald Trump tweeted: “Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”
Speaking in Missouri, President Trump derided Kim Jong-un, describing him as a “sick puppy” and “little rocket man”.
Xi Jinping responded by telling Donald Trump it was Beijing’s “unswerving goal to maintain peace and stability in north-east Asia and denuclearize the Korean peninsula”, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
Experts say the height reached by the inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) indicates the US could be within range, although North Korea is yet to prove it has reached its aim of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.
While being in Vietnam for his Asia tour, President Donald Trump have fired off a series of angry tweets about his war of words with Kim Jong-un and his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He wrote: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!”
On November 11, North Korea denounced President Trump’s Asia trip, calling it a “warmonger’s visit” and again described the president as a “dotard” – a centuries-old insult for an elderly person.
President Trump responded by suggesting in a tweet that Kim Jong-un was “short and fat”, and complaining: “Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!”
The president also tweeted out a short tirade over criticism of his handling of Vladimir Putin.
On November 11, he told reporters that he trusted Vladimir Putin’s word that Russia had not attempted to interfere with the US election, despite a consensus among US intelligence agencies to the contrary.
“When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Donald Trump wrote.
“There [sic] always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!” he added.
He later clarified, after intense criticism, that he supported US intelligence agencies in their conclusion.
“As to whether or not I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies. I believe in our… intelligence agencies,” the president said.
“What he believes, he believes,” he added, of Vladimir Putin’s belief that Russia did not meddle.
He went on and tweeted: “Does the Fake News Media remember when Crooked Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was begging Russia to be our friend with the misspelled reset button? Obama tried also, but he had zero chemistry with Putin.”
Asked at a news conference in Vietnam if he could see himself being friends with Kim Jong-un, President Trump said: “That might be a strange thing to happen but it’s a possibility.
“If it did happen it could be a good thing I can tell you for North Korea, but it could also be good for a lot of other places and be good for the rest the world.
“It could be something that could happen. I don’t know if it will but it would be very, very nice.”
President Trump will travel to Manila on November 12 for the final stop on his Asia tour, before flying back to the US.
The US and South Korea have conducted a joint military exercise, flying two strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula.
The B-1B combat bombers were joined by two South Korean F-15K fighter jets, and carried out air-to-ground missile drills off South Korean waters.
The move comes amid heightened tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program.
North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, and launched two missiles over Japan, in recent months.
The bombers took off from the US Pacific territory of Guam on October 10, before entering South Korean airspace and conducting firing exercises over the East Sea and Yellow Sea, South Korea’s military said.
The training was part of a program of “extended deterrence” against North Korea, it added.
The US said Japan’s air force also took part in the drill.
According to the White House, President Donald Trump met top officials from his national security team on Tuesday night for a briefing on ways to respond to threats from North Korea.
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged heated rhetoric in recent weeks.
In aspeech at the UN last month, President Trump accused Kim Jong-un of being “on a suicide mission” – while the North Korean leader responded by vowing to “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”.
On October 11, a South Korean lawmaker said North Korean hackers had reportedly stolen a large cache of military documents from his country, including a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un, and wartime contingency plans drawn up by the US and South Korea.
The South Korean defense ministry refused to comment about the allegation, while North Korea denied the claim.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that the US is in “direct contact” with North Korea.
He also said Washington was “probing” the possibility of talks with Pyongyang, “so stay tuned”.
During a trip to China, Rex Tillerson said: “We have lines of communications to Pyongyang.
“We’re not in a dark situation.”
In recent months, North Korea and the US have engaged in heated rhetoric, but it was not previously known they had lines of communication.
President Donald Trump has threatened to annihilate North Korea, saying Kim Jong-un, “is on a suicide mission”, which led the North Korean leader to release a statement vowing to “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”.
On September 30, North Korea continued the rhetoric, releasing a statement calling President Trump an “old psychopath” bent on the “suicidal act of inviting a nuclear disaster that will reduce America to a sea of flames”.
The war of words comes against a backdrop of repeated missile tests and North Korea’s claim that, on September 3, it successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb which could be loaded on to a long-range missile.
The tests were internationally condemned, with the UN bringing in sanctions against the secretive country in an attempt to force it to stop its weapons program.
Rex Tillerson is in China meeting with President Xi Jinping and other officials, hoping to encourage them to implement the sanctions.
China this week told North Korean businesses operating in its territory to close down. However, China remains keen to see negotiations with North Korea.
President Trump said last month that “talking is not the answer”.
However, there were reports of so-called back channels between the two administrations.
According to the Associated Press, the US and North Korea had been engaged in quiet discussions for months, with “diplomatic contact… occurring regularly” between the US envoy for North Korea policy and “a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s UN mission”.
Rex Tillerson has also previously hinted there are channels available between the two countries, AP added.
More widely known is the role Sweden plays in negotiating with North Korea on Washington’s behalf.
In August, Ulv Hanssen from the Swedish Institute of International Affairs told Reuters Sweden could step in again because it was trusted by both US and North Korea.
“Sweden has done so on numerous occasions before, especially in relation to imprisoned Americans,” he said.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the speculation.
The Pentagon has said that US bombers have flown close to North Korea’s east coast to demonstrate the military options available to defeat any threat.
It said the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas that any US fighter jet or bomber had flown in the 21st Century.
Tensions have risen recently over North Korea’s nuclear program.
At the UN, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said President Donald Trump was on a “suicide mission”.
Ri Yong-ho’s comments to the General Assembly mimicked President Trump’s remarks at the UN on September 20, when he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man on a suicide mission”.
The North Korean foreign minister added that “insults” by President Trump – who was, he said, “mentally deranged and full of megalomania” – were an “irreversible mistake making it inevitable” that North Korean rockets would hit the US mainland.
President Trump, the foreign minister said, would “pay dearly” for his speech, in which he also said he would “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself or its allies.
Donald Trump responded to the speech on Twitter by saying Ri Yong-ho and Kim Jong-un “won’t be around much longer” if they continue their rhetoric.
Shortly before his address, the Pentagon announced that the show of force underscored “the seriousness” with which the US took North Korea’s “reckless” behavior, calling the country’s weapons program a “grave threat”.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam, escorted by Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace, the Pentagon added.
The flight follows a week of heated rhetoric between the leaders of both countries – after President Trump’s comments, Kim Jong-un called him “mentally deranged” and “a dotard”.
Ri Yong-ho did not comment on the Pentagon’s announcement.
North Korea has refused to stop its missile and nuclear tests, despite successive rounds of UN sanctions. The North Korean leaders say nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.
After North Korea’s latest and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month, the UN Security Council approved new sanctions on the country.
However, speaking at the UN, Ri Yong-ho repeated that the restrictions would not make the country stop its nuclear development.
Meanwhile, a 3.4-magnitude tremor was detected near North Korea’s nuclear test site on September 23, but experts believe it was a natural earthquake.
The earthquake was recorded at a depth of 0km in North Hamgyong province, home to the Punggye-ri site, South Korea’s meteorological agency said.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) also said it occurred in the nuclear test area, but added that its seismologists assessed it as having a depth of 5km.
South Korea said no specific sound waves generated by artificial earthquakes were detected.
China’s Earthquake Administration said the quake was not a nuclear explosion and had the characteristics of a natural tremor. The agency had initially said it was a “suspected explosion”.
The launch followed a fresh round of UN sanctions and was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council as “highly provocative”.
The foreign ministry statement, carried by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, said: “The increased moves of the US and its vassal forces to impose sanctions and pressure on the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force.”
North Korea also said that the goal of the new UN sanctions, approved on September 11, was to “physically exterminate” the country’s people, system and government.
The sanctions are an attempt to starve North Korea of fuel and income for its weapons programs, and restrict oil imports and ban textile exports.
The fresh measures followed the sixth and most powerful nuclear test conducted by North Korea earlier this month.
However, some critics have raised questions over the effectiveness of the restrictions, as North Korea is still able to trade internationally.
North Korea’s commerce with China, its main ally, was partially responsible for an estimated economic growth of 3.9% in 2016, Bloomberg news agency reports.
The issue of North Korea’s weapons program is expected to dominate President Donald Trump’s address at the UN General Assembly and his meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan.
President Trump previously warned that “all options” were on the table and that North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US.
In a phone call on September 18, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to “maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement” of UN Security Council resolutions, the White House said.
Russia has also criticized what it describes as “aggressive rhetoric” from the US.
China and Russia only agreed to the new UN sanctions after they were softened by Washington.
On September 7, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi told reporters that the council should respond further “by taking necessary measures”, but did not elaborate.
Wang Yi added that “sanctions and pressure are only half of the key to resolving the issue. The other half is dialogue and negotiation.”
China is both North Korea’s and the US’s biggest trade partner, and has supported recent sanctions against it.
President Vladimir Putin has argued that the amount of oil Russia exports to North Korea – some 40,000 tonnes – is negligible.
“It is not worth giving in to emotions and driving North Korea into a corner,” President Putin said.
Both China and Russia have been pushing for an alternative solution.
They are proposing that the US and ally South Korea stop their military drills – which anger the North – and end the deployment of the controversial anti-missile THAAD system in South Korea, in return for North Korea ceasing its nuclear and missile program.
The proposal has been rejected by the US and South Korea.
On September 7, South Korea’s military announced it had completed the deployment of THAAD, Yonhap reported.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in also met with Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe, where both agreed to push for greater sanctions. Shinzo Abe called for “the greatest possible pressure” to be put on North Korea.
President Donald Trump had previously warned the US could cut off trade with countries that do business with North Korea.
The US has indicated that if the resolution is not passed when the Security Council meets on September 11 it may impose its own sanctions unilaterally.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters on September 6: “We believe that we need to economically cut off North Korea.
“I have an executive order prepared. It’s ready to go to the president. It will authorize me to… put sanctions on anybody that does trade with North Korea.”
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping also discussed North Korea over the phone on Wednesday, where they agreed to “take further action”, said a White House statement.
Donald Trump, who has previously threatened a military response to North Korea, told reporters this was “not our first choice”, but did not rule it out.
He added: “President Xi would like to do something. We’ll see whether or not he can do it. But we will not be putting up with what’s happening in North Korea.”
Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that President Xi called for a “peaceful settlement of the issue” involving “dialogue combined with a set of comprehensive measures”.
North Korea claims that it has successfully tested a nuclear weapon that could be loaded onto a long-range missile.
Pyongyang said its sixth nuclear test was a “perfect success”, hours after seismologists had detected an earth tremor.
North Korea said it had tested a hydrogen bomb – a device many times more powerful than an atomic bomb.
Analysts say the claims should be treated with caution, but its nuclear capability is clearly advancing.
Pyonyang last carried out a nuclear test in September 2016. It has defied UN sanctions and international pressure to develop nuclear weapons and to test missiles which could potentially reach the mainland US.
According to South Korean officials, the latest test took place in Kilju County, where North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site is situated.
The “artificial quake” was 9.8 times more powerful than the tremor from North Korea’s fifth test, the state weather agency said.
It came hours after Pyongyang said it had miniaturized a hydrogen bomb for use on a long-range missile, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was pictured with what state media said was a new type of hydrogen bomb. State media said the device could be loaded on to a ballistic missile.
Initial reports from the US Geological Survey put the tremor at 5.6-magnitude with a depth of 6 miles but this was later upgraded to 6.3-magnitude at 0 miles. This would make it North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test to date.
Japan condemned the test and South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened emergency security council talks.
A series of recent missile tests has caused growing international unease.
In a report on September 3, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said Kim Jong-un had visited scientists at the nuclear weapons institute and “guided the work for nuclear weaponization”.
The report said: “The institute recently succeeded in making a more developed nuke.”
“He (Kim Jong-un) watched an H-bomb to be loaded into a new ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile),” it added.
The report carried pictures of Kim Jong-un inspecting the device. It described the weapon as “a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes”.
International experts say North Korea has made advances in its nuclear weapons capabilities but it is unclear if it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon it can load on to a missile.
North Korea has previously claimed to have miniaturized a nuclear weapon but experts have cast doubt on this. There is also skepticism about North Korea’s claims to have developed a hydrogen bomb, which is more powerful than an atomic bomb.
Hydrogen bombs use fusion – the merging of atoms – to unleash huge amounts of energy, whereas atomic bombs use nuclear fission, or the splitting of atoms.
According to North Korean state media, supreme leader Kim Jong-un reviewed plans to fire missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam but will hold off.
Although prepared for “the enveloping fire at Guam”, North Korea said it would watch what “the foolish Yankees” do before taking a decision.
Last week’s threat against Guam escalated the sharp rhetoric being exchanged between the two sides.
This latest report points to a pause in the increasingly bitter war of words.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged the US not to launch an attack on the Korean peninsula without its consent, saying “no one may decide to take military action without the consent” of the South.
The KCNA report said Kim Jong-un “examined the plan for a long time” and discussed it with senior military officials.
Kim Jong-un was now merely waiting for orders “after rounding off the preparations for the enveloping fire at Guam”.
However, crucially, the report also said that Kim Jong-un would watch the US before making any decision, signaling an apparent deceleration in the provocative rhetoric.
Correspondents say that after days of menacing threats it might seem that the North Korean leader could be in the mood to finally hit the pause button – but in a nation as secretive as North Korea, one can never be sure.
Analysts say it could simply mean North Korea is not fully ready to launch an attack on Guam, so it could just be buying more time.
South Korea and China – North Korea’s closest ally – have been urging calm and a renewed push for diplomatic resolutions.
On August 15, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the US should not act unilaterally. The two countries’ defense agreement states that they must “consult together” when either is threatened.
On August 14, China’s foreign ministry reiterated its “suspension for suspension proposal” where North Korea stops its missile tests in exchange for a freeze on military exercises by the US and South Korea.
Defense Secretary James Mattis earlier warned that any attack could quickly escalate into war, and if North Korea fired a missile towards Guam, “then it’s game on.”
He told reporters that the US military would defend the country “from any attack, at any time and from any quarter”.
James Mattis also sought to reassure residents of Guam, home to US military bases and about 160,000 people, that they were well-protected and if a missile was fired, “we’ll take it out”.
Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said, according to Reuters: “We wish him well. But we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety.”
Dennis Rodman told reporters: “My purpose is to actually see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea, so that’s the main thing.”
Image source Wikimedia
It is unclear whether the former NBA player will also bring up the detention of US citizens in the country.
The US and North Korean tensions have intensified under President Donald Trump.
However, President Trump has also said he would be “honored” to meet Kim Jong-un, in the right circumstances.
Speaking at the airport on June 13, Dennis Rodman said: “I am pretty much sure that he [President Trump] is happy with the fact that I am over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”
When asked about the former Chicago Bulls star ‘s North Korea visits in 2013, Donald Trump told Fox News: “You look at the world, the world is blowing up around us. Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have.”
Dennis Rodman had been a contestant on Donald Trump’s reality TV show The Celebrity Apprentice that same year.
In 2014, Donald Trump flatly dismissed rumors that the pair might travel to North Korea together.
Dennis Rodman also once encouraged former President Barack Obama to “pick up the phone and call” Kim Jong-un, emphasizing that the two leaders both liked basketball.
His trips have been referred to as “basketball diplomacy” in the US press.
In 2014, Dennis Rodman told luxury lifestyle magazine DuJour he had approached the US government for support but was rejected.
He has previously broken down in tears during TV interviews, saying he has had death threats over his trips, which have been condemned by human rights activists.
Although at one point he did tweet Kim Jong-un to ask if he would “do me a solid and let Kenneth Bae loose” – referring to a US-Korean missionary who served two years in prison for trying to overthrow the government.
South Korea’s military said it could not yet verify North Korea’s claims.
However it said North Korea’s missiles did appear to be able to leave and re-enter the atmosphere, which is crucial to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the Yonhap news agency reported.
The US and Japan have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on May 16.
North Korea’s KCNA state news agency said on May 15 that the test of a “newly developed mid/long-range strategic ballistic rocket, Hwasong-12” had gone to plan.
“The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead,” it said.
North Korea is known to be developing both nuclear weapons – it has conducted five nuclear tests – and the missiles capable of delivering those weapons to their target. Both are in defiance of UN sanctions.
However, it remains unclear whether it has the ability to make the weapons small enough to be mounted on a rocket, and it has never tested a long-range ICBM which could reach, for example, the US.
ICBM’s are considered to have a range of about 6,000km, but analysts believe the missile tested on May 14 would have travelled about 4,000km if it had been fired at a standard trajectory rather than upwards.
The KCNA report said that, as ever, the test had been overseen by North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
It said Kim Jong-un had told the scientists and technicians involved “not to be complacent” but to build further “nuclear weapons and methods of delivery” until the US made “the right choice”.
In a statement on May 14, the White House said Pyongyang had been “a flagrant menace for far too long” and that this “latest provocation” should “serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions”.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said on May 14 that until Kim Jong-un meets the US conditions, “we’re not sitting down with him”.
South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who is seeking deeper engagement with North Korea, said it was a “reckless provocation”.
North Korea has announced it has detained US citizen Kim Hak-song on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the state.
Kim Hak-song worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) and was held on May 6, state-run news agency KCNA said.
Three other US citizens are currently held in North Korea, including Kim Sang-duck, who had taught at PUST.
The US has in the past accused North Korea of detaining its citizens to use them as pawns.
KCNA said that “a relevant institution” was “conducting [a] detailed investigation” into Kim Hak-song’s alleged crimes.
It gave no further details.
A State Department official said Washington was “aware of reports that a US citizen was detained in North Korea”, adding it would liaise with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which helps look after US interests in North Korea.
Kim Hak-song had previously described himself as a Christian missionary who intended to start an experimental farm at PUST, Reuters reported, citing an online post by Kim Hak-song.
PUST is a university that mostly teaches the children of North Korea’s elite.
It was founded in 2010 by a Korean-American Christian entrepreneur, with much of the costs funded by US and South Korea Christian charities.
Several foreign lecturers are thought to teach at the university.
A joint statement issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said: “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
“We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.
“The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners.”
The US already has extensive sanctions in place on North Korea, including a blanket ban on trade and a blacklist of anyone dealing with North Korea.
It is not clear what further sanctions the US could impose.
Democratic Senator Christopher Coons told reporters that military options were discussed at the special presidential briefing for senators.
“It was a sobering briefing in which it was clear just how much thought and planning was going into preparing military options if called for – and a diplomatic strategy that strikes me as clear-eyed and well-proportioned to the threat,” he said.
President Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, imposed sanctions over a year ago following a nuclear test and satellite launch by North Korea.
North Korean government property in America was frozen and US exports to, or investment in, North Korea was banned.
The order also greatly expanded powers to blacklist anyone, including non-Americans, dealing with North Korea.
The senators received a highly unusual briefing by the Trump administration on the seriousness of the threat from North Korea and Donald Trump’s strategy for dealing with it on April 26.
Earlier Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, said the US would be ready “with the best technology” to defeat any missile threat.
The deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea was aimed, he argued, at bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “to his senses, not to his knees”.
Admiral Harry Harris said he believed that North Korea would try to attack the US as soon as it had the military capabilities.
China says the deployment of THAAD will destabilize security and there have been protests in South Korea itself, where three people were injured in clashes with police as the system was being delivered to a former golf course on April 26.
The latest development comes as Vice-President Mike Pence heads to Seoul, where he is expected to discuss the best way to deal with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.
“North Korea attempted to test an unidentified type of missile from [its eastern port of] Sinpo,” the South Korean defense ministry said, adding that the launch on April 16 had “failed”.
The ministry said that it was investigating for further details.
The US Pacific Command later confirmed the failed test, adding that it had detected and tracked what it believed to be a North Korean ballistic missile.
“The missile blew up almost immediately,” said US Navy Commander Dave Benham, quoted by Reuters.
One unnamed US official said it was unlikely to have been an intercontinental missile, but investigations were continuing.
On April 15, North Korea marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founding president, Kim Il-sung, with a huge military parade in Pyongyang amid speculation that current leader Kim Jong-un could order a new nuclear test.
The event, which appeared to include new intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, was a deliberate show of strength.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday’s military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world.”
At the parade on April 15, North Korean military official Choe Ryong-hae, who is believed to be the country’s second most powerful official, said that his country was “prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war”.
“We are ready to hit back with nuclear attacks of our own style against any nuclear attacks,” he said.
Earlier this month, North Korea test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile from Sinpo into the Sea of Japan.
The launch took place on the eve of a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to the US to meet President Donald Trump. The two leaders later discussed how to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea is banned from any missile or nuclear tests by the UN, though it has repeatedly broken those sanctions.
North Korean military official Choe Ryong-Hae said: “We’re prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war.”
He added: “We are ready to hit back with nuclear attacks of our own style against any nuclear attacks.”
North Korea staged an extravagant display of military strength at April 15 parade amid concern that mounting tensions in the region could lead to a conflict with the US.
Rows of military bands and columns of troops marched into Pyongyang’s main Kim Il-sung square in the heart of the city.
On display for the first time were what appeared to be submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which could be developed to house nuclear warheads capable of reaching targets around the world.
With concerns that the state is getting closer to successfully producing a nuclear arsenal, the parade was an opportunity for Kim Jong-un to broadcast North Korea’s current military capabilities.
The event made clear how vital North Korea’s nuclear program is to its future ambitions as it continues to ignore growing pressure from the US to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches. Experts and government officials believe it is working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that can reach the US.
On April, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “conflict could break out at any moment”, adding that if war occurred there could be no winner.
China, North Korea’s only backer, fears conflict could cause the regime to collapse and problems on its border.
“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Wang Yi said.
Adding to Chinese unease, President Donald Trump said on April 13 that “the problem of North Korea” would be “taken care of”.
“If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”
President Trump has recently demonstrated his willingness to resort to military methods. He ordered a cruise missile attack on Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack, and the US military just used a huge bomb against ISIS in Afghanistan.
This test came from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan and will be seen as a response to annual military drills under way between the US and South Korea, which North Korea sees as preparation for an attack on it.
North Korea is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the US, and has previously claimed it had successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads so they can fit on missiles.
However, most experts believe the North is still some time away from being able to realize such a goal.
Last weekend, North Korea conducted a rocket engine test that its leader Kim Jong-un claimed was a breakthrough in its rocket technology. This has not been confirmed by independent experts.
The move came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Japan, South Korea and China for talks on North Korea’s recent actions, including its two most recent nuclear tests.
North Korean military has tested a new high-performance rocket engine, the state media says.
Kim Jong-un declared the test “a new birth” for North Korea’s rocket industry, state news agency KCNA said.
The North Korean leader said the engine would help his country achieve world-class satellite launch capability, it added.
The development, not confirmed elsewhere, comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits China – Pyongyang’s main ally.
After personally overseeing the test, Kim Jong-un “emphasized that the world will soon witness the great significance of the epoch-making victory we achieved today”, KCNA reported, adding that it marked the birth of the country’s rocket industry.
Rex Tillerson’s East Asian tour has been dominated by anxieties over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
In South Korea on March 17, the secretary said a US military response would be on the table if North Korea threatened South Korea or US forces.
According to a South Korean military official, the launch had taken place at 07:36 local time on March 6 and was being investigated to determine the type of projectile used.
The US military said later it had detected and tracked a launch but had determined that it did not pose a threat to North America.
State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement: “The United States strongly condemns the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches tonight, which violate UN Security Council Resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea’s launches using ballistic missile technology.”
On March 3, Pyongyang threatened to fire missiles in response to the Foal Eagle military exercises under way between South Korea and the US. North Korea sees the annual drills as preparation for an invasion against it.
Today’s launches were just the latest in a long series of tests of North Korean missile technology, which experts say is likely to be improving with successive tests.
North Korea has repeatedly said its space program is peaceful but it is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the US.
However, most believe North Korea is still some time away from being able to miniaturize nuclear warheads so they could fit on to a missile.
He was released from police custody due to insufficient evidence.
Speaking to reporters early on March 4, Ri Jong-chol accused Malaysian investigators of using coercion in an attempt to extract a confession.
He said: “If I just accept everything, they will make arrangements for a good life in Malaysia.”
Ri Jong-chol added: “This is when I realized that it was a trap. It was a trap to bring down the reputation of my country.”
When questioned about reports of a car discovered near the airport said to be registered in his name, Ri Jong-chol said: “It was in my car garage. Malaysian police accepted this too.”
He admitted to investigators that he was an expert in chemistry, but said that he worked in Malaysia “importing ingredients needed for soap”.
Malaysian authorities are continuing their investigation into the death of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who was killed with nerve agent VX at a Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13.
Ri Jong-chol, who said he was not at the airport on the day of the incident, was the only North Korean held in connection with the death.
Malaysia is seeking to question several North Koreans, including an embassy official.
Both women said they thought they were taking part in a TV prank. They have yet to make a formal plea in their case.
Malaysia, which has condemned the use of the powerful nerve agent in the attack, is also investigating a company thought to be used by North Korea to evade sanctions on military exports.
According to Reuters, Ri Jong-chol had lived in Malaysia for three years, but his work permit expired on February 6.
Malaysia’s immigration director-general Mustafar Ali said Ri Jong-chol, who was escorted out of the country by two North Korean embassy officials, was blacklisted from re-entering the country.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government said it had launched an investigation into a company called Glocom, which has been operating in the country for several years.
According to a confidential UN report, Glocom is run by North Korea’s top intelligence agency to sell military communications equipment, in violation of United Nations sanctions.
On March 3, Malaysian police said that an arrest warrant had been issued for 37-year-old Kim Uk-il, who works for North Korean national airline Air Koryo. He is believed to be still in Malaysia.
Security checks on North Koreans had been stepped up at all border crossings to prevent them from leaving, Reuters reported.
On March 2, Malaysia announced it was cancelling visa-free travel for visiting North Koreans, citing security reasons.
It has not directly blamed North Korea for the attack, but there is widespread suspicion Pyongyang was responsible.
North Korea has strongly rejected the allegations. Pyonyang also rejected the findings of the post-mortem examination, having objected to it being carried out at all, and has demanded the body be handed over to them.
It has not yet confirmed that the body is that of Kim Jong-nam, acknowledging him only as a North Korean citizen.
Kim Jong-nam was traveling using a passport under a different name.
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