Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian woman who was arrested for the murder of Kim Jong-nam, has said she was given 400 Malaysian ringgits ($90) to carry out a prank.
Indonesian embassy officials met the 25-year-old on February 25 in Kuala Lumpur.
Siti Aisyah said she was given the cash to smear Kim Jong-nam’s face with “baby oil” as part of a reality show joke.
Tests show the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was killed with the highly toxic nerve agent VX.
VX is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
Kim Jong-nam died on February 13 after two women accosted him briefly in a check-in hall at Kuala Lumpur international airport.
Malaysian police have said that a sweep of the airport for toxic chemicals by a forensic team, the fire department and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board will take place from 01:00 on February 26.
There is widespread suspicion that North Korea was behind the attack, which it strongly denies.
A Vietnamese woman and a North Korean man have also been arrested in connection with the assassination of Kim Jong-nam. At least seven other suspects are wanted by police.
After a 30-minute meeting with Siti Aisyah on February 25, Indonesian Deputy Ambassador Andreano Erwin said: “She only said in general that somebody asked her to do this activity. She only said in general she met with some people who looked Japanese or Korean.
“According to her, that person gave her 400 ringgits to do this activity… She only said she was given a kind of oil, like baby oil.”
The officials said they did not see any physical signs that the suspect had been affected by the chemical.
Vietnamese officials also met their arrested national, Doan Thi Huong, 28, but made no comment.
Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said on February 24 that the presence of the nerve agent had been detected in swabs taken from Kim Jong-nam’s eyes and face.
Kim Jong-nam had sought medical help at the airport, saying someone had splashed or sprayed him with liquid. He then had a seizure and died on the way to hospital.
It appears Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has been killed in Malaysia by a highly toxic nerve agent called VX.
The VX nerve agent is the most potent of the known chemical warfare agents. It is a clear, amber-colored, oily liquid which is tasteless and odorless.
Image source Wikimedia
The agent works by penetrating the skin and disrupting the transmission of nerve impulses – a drop on the skin can kill in minutes. Lower doses can cause eye pain, blurred vision, drowsiness and vomiting.
VX can be disseminated in a spray or vapor when used as a chemical weapon, or used to contaminate water, food, and agricultural products.
It can be absorbed into the body by inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or eye contact.
Clothing can carry VX for about 30 minutes after contact with the vapor, which can expose other people.
VX was banned by the 1993 UN’s Chemical Weapons Convention.
North Korea has accused China, its only international ally, of giving in to American demands.
Last week, China announced a ban on coal imports during 2017, in response to North Korea’s continuing ballistic missile tests.
The Pyongyang statement did not name China, but referred to a “neighboring country” which “often claims” to be friendly.
“This country, styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the US,” the state-run KCNA news agency said.
In a direct reference to the ban on imports, the Pyongyang statement said China had “taken inhumane steps such as totally blocking foreign trade”, which would help its enemies “to bring down the social system” in North Korea.
North Korea relies on the coal trade with China for cash income.
Although China backs North Korea, alone among the international community, it has been a critic of its nuclear program, and has backed UN sanctions against it.
China’s ban on coal imports came a week after North Korea tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
The following day, Chinese media reported that a coal shipment from North Korea worth $1 million had been stopped at Wenzhou port, on China’s eastern coast, before the ban was officially announced a few days later.
Image source Getty Images
North Korea claims to have advanced nuclear capabilities that have never been verified. The country said it created a nuclear weapon in just a few years without any external aid.
If North Korea successfully created a fully functional inter-continental ballistic missile, it could conceivably threaten the US – about 5,500 miles away – as well as closer neighbors.
Howver, the government remains defiant in the face of international pressure.
“It is utterly childish to think that [North Korea] would not manufacture nuclear weapons and inter-continental ballistic rockets if a few [pennies] of money is cut off,” it said in its statement.
The words “dancing to the tune of the US” may refer to President Donald Trump’s remarks, before taking office, that China should bring North Korea “under control”.
Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox and Friends on January 4: “China has… total control over North Korea.
“And China should solve that problem. And if they don’t solve the problem, we should make trade very difficult for China.”
The rebuke of its only ally is the second verbal attack on another nation by North Korea on the same day.
Earlier, the secretive country appeared to blame Malaysia for the death of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, and said the country was attempting to politicize the return of his body.
Kim Jong-nam died after being poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport in an apparent planned attack.
North Korea has reacted for the first time to Kim Jong-nam’s assassination saying that Malaysia is responsible for the death of one of its citizens and is attempting to politicize the return of his body.
It does not name Kim Jong-nam, but the KCNA report appears to be state media’s first reference to the death of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother.
Kim Jong-un died after being poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport and his body remains in a hospital mortuary.
Several North Koreans are wanted in connection with his death.
They include a senior official at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur as well as an employee of the state airline, Air Koryo.
Four other North Koreans named earlier in the case are thought to have left Malaysia already, while another North Korean is in detention.
Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said on February 23 that he had asked international police agency Interpol to issue an alert for the four.
On February 22, Malaysian police confirmed that Kim Jong-nam died after two women – also in detention – wiped a toxin on his face while he was waiting for a flight to Macau.
It said the attack was “planned” and that the women had been well trained. They have not directly blamed the North Korean state, but said North Koreans were clearly behind it.
Kim Jong-nam was once seen as a possible successor to his father, Kim Jong-il, but was bypassed in favor of his younger half brother, Kim Jong-un, and spent many years living abroad.
He had been travelling on a passport under the name Kim Chol.
Malaysia says it believes the man was indeed Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, though it is seeking family DNA samples for official confirmation, a request North Korea called “absurd”.
KCNA said only that “a citizen of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]” who was traveling on a diplomatic passport had died due to “a heart stroke”.
It said reports of a poisoning were false and Malaysia was part of an “anti-DPRK conspiratorial racket launched by the South Korean authorities”.
Conducting a post-mortem on the holder of a diplomatic passport without state permission was “a wanton human rights abuse and an act contrary to human ethics and morality”, it said.
“The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia,” said the KCNA report, and the refusal to hand the body back to North Korean officials “proves that the Malaysian side is going to politicize the transfer of the body in utter disregard of international law and morality and thus attain a sinister purpose”.
Four more North Korean suspects are hunted by Malaysian police in connection with the murder of Kim Jong-nam.
The men are said to have left Malaysia on February 13, the day the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was killed at Kuala Lumpur airport.
Four other people have already been detained.
Malaysian police believe poison was sprayed into Kim Jong-nam’s face as he waited to board a flight to Macau.
Deputy national police chief Noor Rashid Ismail identified the North Korean suspects in a press conference on February 19.
He said: “The four suspects are holding normal passports, not diplomatic passports.”
The four already in custody are an Indonesian woman, a Malaysian man, a woman with a Vietnamese passport and a North Korean.
The Indonesian national, named as Siti Aisyah, is said to have told Malaysian police she had been paid to perform what she thought was a prank.
Kim Jong-nam is believed to have been attacked in the airport departure hall on February 13 by two women, using some form of chemical.
A grainy image taken from security camera footage, which has been broadcast in South Korea and Malaysia, shows a woman wearing a white T-shirt with the letters “LOL” written on the front.
Despite widespread speculation that North Korea was behind the killing, there has been no proof. Pyongyang has made no public comments on the issue.
Kim Jong-nam was largely estranged from his family, after being passed over for the North Korean leadership in favor of his youngest half-brother. He spent most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.
North Korea announces it has “successfully” fired a ballistic missile on February 12 in a test supervised by leader Kim Jong-un.
According to the state news agency KCNA, the Pukguksong-2 is a “surface-to-surface medium-to-long-range ballistic missile”.
South Korea’s defense ministry called it an armed provocation to test the response of President Donald Trump.
North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test has been widely condemned.
The US, Japan and South Korea have requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the incident.
KCNA reported that the test of the Pukguksong-2 missile, a new type of strategic weapon said to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, was overseen by Kim Jong-un.
The news agency added that the missile was fired at a high angle in consideration of neighboring countries.
The rocket used a solid-fuel engine, the report said, which gives ballistic rockets greater power and range.
South Korea military experts said the rocket had been launched by a “cold-eject” system, which uses compressed gas for its initial thrust, a system employed for submarine-launched missiles.
The report also said that Kim Jong-un “expressed great satisfaction” over the test launch, which it said “adds to the tremendous might of the country.
South Korean and American officials said the missile flew east towards the Sea of Japan for about 300 miles.
The missile reached an altitude of about 350 miles, the South Korean military said.
Experts suggest the tests are programmed for shorter distances to avoid a missile landing on Japan.
This was the latest in a series of tests in the past year, including North Korea’s fifth of a nuclear device.
The launch took place at 07:55 local time from the Panghyon air base in North Pyongan province on the west side of the Korean peninsula.
UN resolutions forbid North Korea from carrying out ballistic missile tests – part of wider efforts to prevent it becoming a fully nuclear-armed power.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said that “North Korea’s repeated provocations show the Kim Jong-un regime’s nature of irrationality, maniacally obsessed in its nuclear and missile development”.
NATO also condemned the missile test, with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urging North Korea “not to raise tensions further and to re-engage in a credible and meaningful dialogue with the international community”.
The EU joined the criticism, declaring in a statement that North Korea’s “repeated disregard of its international obligations is provocative and unacceptable”.
China, North Korea’s closest ally, has yet to comment. Beijing has joined in international efforts to press Kim Jong-un to rein in his nuclear ambitions.
North Korea has conducted a ballistic test in for the first time since President Donald Trump took office.
President Trump assured Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe that “America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%”.
The ballistic missile fired by North Korea flew east towards the Sea of Japan for about 310 miles, South Korean officials say.
PM Shinzo Abe said the test was “absolutely intolerable”. According to Japanese officials, the missile did not reach its waters.
Speaking at a joint press conference during a visit to the US, Shinzo Abe added that Donald Trump had also assured him that he was committed to “further enforcing our alliance”.
North Korea has conducted a number of nuclear tests in the past year in acts of aggression that continue to alarm and anger the region.
Image source Reuters
February 12 launch took place at 07:55 local time from the Banghyon air base in North Pyongan province on the west side of the Korean peninsula.
The missile reached an altitude of about 350 miles, according to a South Korean official quoted by Reuters, and appeared to be a Rodong medium-range missile.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said: “North Korea’s repeated provocations show the Kim Jong-un regime’s nature of irrationality, maniacally obsessed in its nuclear and missile development.”
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed the missile had not reached Japanese territorial waters, adding that Tokyo would make a “strong protest” to North Korea over the incident.
There has so far been no comment from North Korea.
Kim Jong-un said last month that North Korea was close to testing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
On a visit to South Korea last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response.
James Mattis also reconfirmed plans to deploy a US missile defense system in South Korea later this year.
North Korea conducted its fifth test of a nuclear device in 2016, and claims it is capable of carrying out a nuclear attack on the US, though experts are still unconvinced that its technology has progressed that far.
North Korea has also said in recent weeks that it has a new intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of reaching the US mainland, which it is prepared to test launch at any time.
Kim Jong-un has said North Korea is close to testing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
During his New Year’s message, Kim Jong-un claimed that the intercontinental ballistic missiles were in their “last stage” of development.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests in 2016, including its biggest one to date.
This raised fears that Pyongyang has made significant nuclear advances.
However, it has never successfully test-fired such a missile.
Reuters reported a senior US military official as saying that although Pyongyang appears able to put a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a missile, the missile re-entry technology necessary for longer range strikes is still a serious obstacle to its weapons development.
Kim Jong-un, who took control of the secretive state following his father’s death in 2011, said during a TV addresss: “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing and ICBM [inter-continental ballistic missile] rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage.”
The north Krean leader said his country was now a “military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy”.
UN resolutions call for an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
When Pyongyang tested its nuclear bomb in September 2016, estimates varied on how strong it was.
The September test triggered widespread condemnation and further international sanctions against North Korea.
North Korea executed Vice Premier Kim Yong-jin last month, South Korea government officials have said.
According to Seoul’s unification ministry, Kim Yong-jin was one of Pyongyang’s vice premiers and in charge of education.
Officials did not explain how they got the information. Seoul’s record on reporting such developments is patchy.
In May, North Korean military chief Ri Yong-gil said to have been executed was found to be alive and attending official events.
Ri Yong-gil was widely reported to have been executed in February but when he made an appearance at North Korea’s party congress it highlighted just how difficult it is to get accurate information from the secretive country.
Seoul’s unification ministry, the government department which manages relations with North Korea is, along with the spy agency, South Korea’s primary source of information about Pyongyang.
The unification ministry also said a prominent minister responsible for intelligence and inter-Korean relations, Kim Yong-chol, had been sent for re-education along with another official, named as Choi Hwi, for a month in mid-July.
North Korea itself very rarely provides confirmation of such reports. The last execution Pyongyang released official information about is thought to be the purge of kim Jong-un’s uncle, Chang Song-thaek in 2013.
The strongest confirmation is usually that an executed official simply disappears from media reports.
If this report turns out to be untrue, Kim Yong-jin may well appear in public or be listed as in attendance at a major public event in Pyongyang.
Another clue to his fate might emerge if North Korea announces a replacement vice premier. Again, this does not necessarily mean he has been executed.
Ri Yong-gil was replaced as military chief but turned up months later, albeit with an apparent demotion.
Kim Yong-jin and Ri Yong-gil have held high office and were mentioned in official statements and dispatches from Pyongyang.
While less is known about Kim Yong-jin, Kim Yong-chol has often been seen alongside Kim Jong-un in photographs and is thought to be close to him. At the party congress in May he was named as head of national intelligence.
North Korean officials are frequently sent for re-education, a process that can sometimes be seen as “corporate training” with some emerging from re-education with higher office while others are demoted.
The statement from Seoul’s unification ministry comes a day after an unconfirmed report in a South Korean newspaper said two different high-ranking officials in the departments of education and agriculture had been executed.
If Kim Yong-jin’s execution is confirmed, it would be just the latest in a series of purges and executions of top officials that Kim Jong-un has enacted since he came to power in 2011.
North Korea is holding a huge rally in capital Pyongyang to mark the end of the Workers’ Party Congress, the first in 36 years.
The congress of North Korea’s ruling party cemented the position of leader Kim Jong-un, elevating him to the role of party chairman.
On May 10, state media announced that Kim Jong-un’ sister, Kim Yo-jong, had been elected to the ruling committee.
The Congress also endorsed the national policy of building nuclear capability alongside economic development.
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have joined the rally in Pyongyang, where Kim Jong-un was seen waving to the crowds and chatting with military and party officials.
People marched through the square waving pink paper flowers, colored balloons and red party flags. Floats were also moved through the square, some of them carrying mock-ups of missiles.
The confirmation of a new title for Kim Yo-jong had been widely expected.
Kim Jong-un’s younger sister is already influential as vice-director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, but her elevation to the central committee is seen as a further consolidation of power around her brother.
More than 100 foreign reporters have been granted visas to cover the congress, although only a few were, briefly, allowed in to watch the meeting.
The congress, which began on May 6, also launched a new five-year plan for the economy, which has been hit by some of its strongest sanctions yet after the country’s recent nuclear and rocket tests.
Kim Jong-un also used a speech to say North Korea would not use its nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty was threatened.
China has sent a message of congratulations to Kim Jong-un on his new position, though it declined to send a representative to the gathering.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country will not use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is threatened, state media report.
North Korea first tested nuclear weapons in 2006, after withdrawing from an international treaty.
The secretive country has made repeated threats of nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US.
However, Kim Jong-un reportedly told the Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang that he is willing to normalize ties with previously hostile countries.
It appears Kim Jong-un tends to send mixed messages and movement observed at North Korea’s nuclear site is consistent with preparations for another nuclear test.
State media also quoted Kim Jong-un as saying there should be more talks with South Korea to build trust and understanding.
Kim Jong-un said North Korea would “faithfully fulfill its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for global denuclearization”.
The meeting is the first congress of North Korea’s ruling party since 1980.
The KCNA news agency reported Kim Jong-un as saying: “As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our Republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes.”
Kim Jong-un said the government would “improve and normalize the relations with those countries which respect the sovereignty of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and are friendly towards it, though they had been hostile toward it in the past”.
North Korea withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2003 and started testing nuclear weapons three years later.
International sanctions on North Korea were tightened in March this year after it claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb and launched a missile into space.
The sanctions include export bans on materials used in nuclear and military production as well as restrictions on luxury goods and banking.
Kim Jong-un has opened the North Korea’s Workers’ Party congress by praising the country’s nuclear achievements.
Appearing before thousands of delegates, the North Korean leader said: “Unprecedented results have been accomplished.”
This year, North Korea announced its fourth nuclear weapon test and that it sent a rocket into space.
The showpiece congress, the first in 36 years, is a chance for Kim Jong-un to cement his power.
More than 100 foreign journalists were invited but were barred from the April 25 House of Culture, where the party congress is being held.
They were instead taken on a tour round a wire-making factory.
News of Kim Jong-un’s comments came via state television, which showed him on stage speaking to a packed venue.
This is the seventh meeting of the North Korea’s Worker’s Party and it is being closely scrutinized for any signs of political or economic change.
Few details were released before the congress, but it is due to elect a new central committee, which appoints a Politburo – the central decision-making body of the Communist party.
The appointments will be watched carefully.
In 2013, Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed for “acts of treachery” and there have followed many reports of purges of high-profile figures.
Some experts have said that Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong is tipped for promotion.
Pyongyang was spruced up ahead of the event, with North Koreans planting flowers and hanging up huge banners with slogans like “Defend the Headquarters of the Korean Revolution at the Cost of our Lives”.
No congress was held during the rule of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il. His death in 2011 brought Kim Jong-un to power when he was still in his 20s.
The 1980 congress, held before Kim Jong-un was born, saw Kim Jong-il presented as successor to the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung.
Despite his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung, who has been named North Korea’s “eternal president”, still officially presides over the latest congress, which is expected to run for several days.
Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, is expected to take up an important role in North Korea’s core leadership as the secretive country gears up for a rare party congress this weekend.
South Korea’s news agency Yonhap has quoted experts as saying that Yo-jong may take up a minister-level post within the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
The move will likely be seen as part of a larger plan by Kim Jong-un to cement power within his party and over the country.
According to North Korea Leadership Watch, a website run by scholar Michael Madden, Kim Yo-jong is the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong-il, and shares the same mother as Jong-un and brother Jong-chol.
Born in 1987, Kim Yo-jong is said to be very close to Kim Jong-un, who is four years older than her. The two of them lived and studied in Berne, Switzerland at the same time.
Kim Yo-jong is reportedly married to the son of Choe Ryong-hae, the powerful party secretary.
Her main job has been to protect her brother’s image, taking up a key role in the party’s propaganda department in 2014.
Kim Yo-jong is said to manage all his public appearances, including his itineraries and logistics, as well as act as a political adviser.
Kim Jong-un’s sister has sporadically been in the spotlight in recent years, appearing at the state funeral of her father in 2011 and the election of her brother in 2014, and occasionally seen trailing her brother in state media pictures.
In October 2015, Kim Yo-jong she was rumored to have been sacked from the propaganda department by Jong-un for doing a poor job.
However, observers believe that she is still destined for a top job in the leadership, with a place said to be carved out for her as early as 2008, when major succession planning was conducted following Kim Jong-il’s deterioration in health.
Kim Yo-jong was even speculated to be a possible, though unlikely, candidate to take over from her brother when Jong-un disappeared from public view for a prolonged period in 2014.
She has been described as having a sweet, good-natured disposition, with a bit of a tomboy streak in he.
However, reports say Kim Yo-jong also has had a sheltered upbringing, and other members of the Kim family have not interacted with her much.
School officials in Switzerland have said Kim Yo-jong was over-protected by the coterie of guards and caretakers – she once reportedly had a mild cold and was immediately pulled from school and taken to the hospital.
The North Korean Workers’ Party is holding its first congress since 1980.
Analysts believe the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, will cement his status within the party’s structure at this rare political gathering.
The first full congress of the ruling party in 36 years is being closely watched for any shift in policies or changes in political leadership.
Kim Jong-un is expected to reassert his nuclear ambitions, amid speculation he will soon conduct a fifth nuclear test.
Foreign media have been invited but are not allowed inside the venue.
Capital Pyongyang was spruced up ahead of the event and citizens laid flowers in central squares as it got under way.
The streets are lined with National and Workers’ Party flags with banners that read “Great comrades Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il will always be with us” and “Defend the headquarters of the Korean revolution at the cost of the our lives”.
It is the seventh meeting of North Korea’s Worker’s Party and the first since 1980, and is being held inside the April 25 House of Culture, now covered in vast red and gold banners and massive images of the current leader’s father and grandfather.
This year’s event is shrouded in secrecy. About 100 foreign journalists have been invited to the congress and reporters are being closely monitored.
Kim Jong-un is inside the hall with guards lined up outside.
Instead of being allowed into the congress, reporters have instead been taken to on a factory tour.
The agenda and duration of the event is not known but experts say Kim Jong-un is likely to declare his so-called “byongjin” policy, which is the simultaneous push towards economic development and nuclear capability.
It could also see a new generation of leaders put in place.
The meeting will elect a new central committee, which appoints a Politburo – the central decision-making body of the Communist party – and many say loyalists to the current leader will be rewarded with high profile posts.
Who he chooses will be watched carefully. In 2013 Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed for “acts of treachery” and there have followed many reports of purges of high profile figures in the establishment.
Some experts have said that Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong, with whom he attended school in Switzerland, is tipped for promotion.
Many observers will scrutinize announcements carefully to evaluate North Korea’s commitment to a planned economy and hints at reform, but the congress is also being seen as the public stage for Kim Jong-un to define his leadership for the years to come.
No congress was held during the rule of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il. His death in 2011 brought Kim Jong-un to power when he was still in his twenties.
The 1980 congress, held before Kim Jong-un was born, saw Kim Jong-il presented as successor to the North’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
Despite his death in 1994, Kim Il-Sung, who has been named North Korea’s “eternal president”, still officially presides over the latest congress.
US citizen Kim Dong-chul has been sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in North Korea.
Kim Dong-chul, who was born in South Korea, was arrested in October 2015 after being accused of spying.
In March, the 62-year-old had made an apparent confession in Pyongyang in front of reporters, saying he was paid by South Korean intelligence officers.
The US has previously accused North Korea of using its citizens as pawns in a diplomatic game. The North Korean government denies the accusations.
Last month, US student Otto Frederick Warmbier was jailed for 15 years for stealing a propaganda sign and “crimes against the state”.
North Korea has previously said Kim Dong-chul had a USB stick containing military and nuclear secrets on him when he was arrested in the special economic zone of Rason.
Kim Dong-chul, who used to live in Virginia, had said he was introduced to South Korean spies by US intelligence officers.
Forced public confessions by foreign prisoners are common in North Korea.
Kim Dong-chul’s imprisonment comes amid a period of high tensions. North Korea has recently conducted a series of missile tests following its fourth nuclear test in January, both of which break UN sanctions.
Pyongyang attempted to launch two mid-range ballistic missiles on April 28 which crashed shortly after their launches, prompting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
It is believed North Korea will attempt a fifth nuclear test soon.
The recent burst in activity is thought to be a ramp-up to a rare party congress due to be held on May 6, where leader Kim Jong-un is expected to consolidate power.
North Korea has announced its ruling Workers Party will hold its first congress in 36 years in May.
The North Korean Workers Party congress, which will take place in Pyongyang from May 6, will be only the seventh in the party’s history and the first under leader Kim Jong-un.
The gathering will be closely watched for signs of major policy shifts, movement among senior officials or comment on North Korea’s nuclear program.
The announcement comes as North Korea is believed to be preparing a fifth nuclear test.
North Korea has often timed its controversial tests to coincide with big political occasions.
Its fourth test, in January, was followed by the launch of a satellite.
Both were violations of existing sanctions and resulted in the UN imposing further measures limiting trade and contact with North Korea.
The last North Korean congress was in October 1980, before the current leader Kim Jong-un was born.
The congress lasted four days and among other issues saw Kim Jong-il formally named as the intended successor to then leader Kim Il-sung.
Expectation has been growing for months that the leadership was about to announce the seventh congress.
The statement from North Korea’s KCNA news agency on April 27 gave no details of the event, and did not specify how long it would last.
However, it is widely expected that Kim Jong-un will use the party’s congress to both reinforce his role as Supreme Leader and to push his agenda of economic development coupled with nuclear progress.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on April 26 that North Korea had finished preparations for its fifth nuclear test and could carry it out it any time.
North Korea also claimed last week to have used “cold launch” technology to fire a missile from a submarine, while South Korean officials say it also appears to be preparing another test launch of its medium-range Musudan ballistic missile.
North Korea has announced that it successfully tested an engine designed for an intercontinental ballistic missile.
According to the KCNA news agency, the new type of engine would “guarantee” the ability to launch a nuclear strike on the US mainland.
The test was conducted at North Korea’s long-range missile launch site near its west coast.
It is the latest in a series of tests and launches carried out by North Korea.
Kim Jong-un supervised the test, state media report, during which “the engine spewed out huge flames with a deafening boom”.
North Korea would now be able to “keep any cesspool of evils in the earth including the US mainland within our striking range,” the country’s leader was quoted as saying.
In response to the latest announcement, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said North Korea should “refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations”.
In March, North Korea said it had developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles.
However, experts cast doubt on the claims.
Last month also saw North Korea threaten “indiscriminate” nuclear strikes on the US and South Korea as they held big joint military drills, which the north sees as a rehearsal for an eventual invasion.
Meanwhile, the US imposed new sanctions on North Korea following a nuclear test in January and a satellite launch in February, widely seen as a test of banned missile technology.
North Korea announces it has carried out a live-fire artillery drill simulating an attack on the official residence of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, known as the Blue House.
The exercise was overseen by Kim Jong-un, said the KCNA state news agency, who called on the military to be ready to “ruthlessly” destroy the government in South Korea.
It is the latest in a series of angry gestures by Pyongyang.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has ordered the army to be on alert.
However, Park Geun-hye said on March 24 that “reckless provocations will only become a path to self-destruction for the North Korean regime”.
North Korea has been reacting after the UN imposed some of its toughest sanctions following its nuclear and long-range rocket tests.
Pyongyang has also been angered, as it is annually, by joint US-South Korean military exercises taking place south of the border.
Already known for vitriolic language, the KCNA report threatened to turn South Korea’s presidential residence into a “sea of flames and ashes”.
“Artillery shells flew like lightning and intensely and fiercely struck targets simulating Cheong Wa Dae and rebel governing bodies in Seoul,” it said of the latest drill, using the Korean name for the Blue House.
It was not clear when the drill was carried out, but the report warned of a “miserable end” for President Park Geun-hye.
The Blue House (Cheongwadae) was attacked by North Korean commandos in 1968.
The attempt to assassinate then-President Park Chung-hee was unsuccessful, but seven South Koreans and most of the 31 North Koreans attackers were killed.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claims North Korea’s scientists have developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles.
State media published images showing Kim Jong-un standing next to what it said was a miniaturized weapon.
The claim is impossible to verify from the images alone and experts have long cast doubt on such assertions.
North Korea has stepped up its bellicose rhetoric in response to the UN imposing some of its toughest sanctions.
The move by the Security Council came after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test and launched a satellite, both of which broke existing sanctions.
In recent days, Pyongyang has threatened to launch an “indiscriminate” nuclear strike on the US and South Korea, as they began their largest ever round of annual military exercises.
The drills, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, routinely generate tension.
The claim from Kim Jong-un was made as he inspected a nuclear facility on March 9.
“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” state news agency KCNA quoted Kim Jong-un as saying.
“This can be called true nuclear deterrent,” he added.
Kim Jong-un also inspected nuclear warheads designed for thermo-nuclear reaction, the type used in a hydrogen bomb, KCNA said.
If the claim is true and North Korea can put nuclear warheads on to the tips of its ballistic weapons, it would represent a clear threat to the North’s neighbors and the US.
In October 2014, the commander of US forces in South Korea, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, told reporters that he believed North Korea had the capability to miniaturize a nuclear device.
In May 2015, the North Korea’s National Defense Commission said the country had succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear weapons.
However, the validity of the nuclear boasts has been widely questioned. Experts also still doubt North Korea’s claim that the nuclear test it conducted in January was of a hydrogen bomb.
In addition to the new UN sanctions, which target luxury goods, financing and trade, South Korea has also announced its own measures against North Korea, which includes blacklisting individuals and entities it believes are linked to the weapons program.
The US and South Korea are currently discussing the possible deployment of a US missile defense system to the peninsula, a move strongly opposed by North Korea, Russia and China.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced that his country’s nuclear weapons should be ready for use “at any time”, state media report.
Kim Jong-un told military leaders North Korea would revise its military posture to be ready to launch pre-emptive strikes, the KCNA said.
However, despite its rhetoric it remains unclear how advanced North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is.
The UN has imposed some of its toughest ever sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear test and missile launch.
In response on March 3, North Korea fired six short-range projectiles into the sea.
According to the KCNA, Kim Jong-un was speaking at a military exercise on March 3, which is thought to be when the projectiles were fired.
Kim Jong-un said North Korea “must always be ready to fire our nuclear warheads at any time” because enemies were threatening the North’s survival.
“At an extreme time when the Americans… are urging war and disaster on other countries and people, the only way to defend our sovereignty and right to live is to bolster our nuclear capability,” he was quoted as saying.
Analysts still doubt whether North Korea has the ability to make a nuclear bomb small enough to put on a feasible missile, but Kim Jong-un’s announcement brought a swift response from the US.
“We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Urban said.
The US and South Korea began talks on March 4 on the possible deployment of a US missile defense shield in the South.
Initial talks will focus on the costs, effectiveness and environmental impact of installing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, among other issues, the Yonhap news agency reported.
The US has imposed new expanded sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear program, weeks after it launched a long-range rocket.
North Korea has refused to stop its nuclear program and the bill was easily passed last week by Congress.
The sanctions attempt to cut off money North Korea needed to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads.
The US and China are negotiating over a UN Security Council resolution on new sanctions.
China has said some of the measures could cripple North Korea’s economy.
The sanctions freeze the assets of anyone doing business related to North Korea’s nuclear or weapons program or involved in human rights abuses.
The bill also allows for $50 million to support humanitarian programs and transmit radio broadcasts into North Korea.
North Korea recently fired a long-range rocket, which critics said was a test of banned missile technology. State television announced that North Korea had “successfully placed a satellite in orbit”.
The morning after that launch, Barack Obama said: “This is an authoritarian regime. It’s provocative. It has repeatedly violated UN resolutions, tested and produced nuclear weapons, and now they are trying to perfect their missile launch system.”
It came after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January. Analysts say Kim Jong-un is looking to appear powerful before his important Seventh Party Congress in May.
“The bill was the first one exclusively targeting North Korea, which was passed in an unusually expeditious fashion. We expect it to provide a platform for the US to take strong and effective measures [against North Korea],” said South Korea’s foreign ministry in a statement.
South Korea has said it will be discussing with the US the deployment of a missile defense system.
According to unconfirmed South Korean reports, North Korea’s military chief of staff, General Ri Yong-gil, has been executed.
However, senior officials in North Korea have previously been absent from view for long periods only to reappear.
Ri Yong-gil would be the latest of several high-ranking North Korea officials to be purged under leader Kim Jong-un.
South Korean media reported that Gen. Ri Yong-gil had been executed earlier this month for corruption and “factional conspiracy”.
Last week, a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party attended by Kim Jong-un discussed how to deal with corruption.
While no individuals were mentioned, state news agency KCNA reported at the time that those at the meeting criticized “the practices of seeking privileges, misuse of authority… and bureaucratism manifested in the party”.
According to analysts, Gen. Ri Yong-gil had fallen from favor first surfaced late last year.
If this is the case, Ri Yong-gil will be the fourth chief of staff since Kim Jong-un took over in 2011, as opposed to three during his father Kim Jong-il’s 17 years in power.
The reports of Ri Yong-gil’s execution come days after North Korea launched a long-range rocket, which critics say is a test of banned missile technology.
On January 6, North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test.
Some observers say the regime’s recent behavior may be linked to Kim Jong-un wanting to shore up his position ahead of a rare congress of the Workers’ Party due in May.
In May 2015, South Korea’s spy agency told parliament that North Korea’s Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol had been executed for showing disloyalty to Kim Jong-un.
The agency said Hyon Yong-chol was killed by anti-aircraft fire in front of an audience of hundreds – it later said it was yet to verify the information. That news came weeks after the reported execution of 15 senior officials.
Also on February 10, South Korea announced it was suspending operations at the jointly-run Kaesong industrial park in North Korea following the North’s recent rocket launch and nuclear test.
Seoul said all operations at the Kaesong complex would halt, to stop North Korea using its investment “to fund its nuclear and missile development”.
The suspension will mean North Korea will lose the income it currently gains from the site, which comes to $100 million a year.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.