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North Korea has announced it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and shutting their shared border point.
The announcement follows a fresh round of UN sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear test last month.
Earlier, Pyongyang said it had a right to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike and was pulling out of the armistice which ended the Korean War.
The US said “extreme rhetoric” was not unusual for Pyongyang.
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said the current security situation was “very grave” but that she would “deal strongly” with provocation from the North.
Park Geun-hye also said she was ready to talk to Pyongyang if it “comes out on the path toward change”.
The North Korean announcement, carried on the KCNA state news agency, said the North was cancelling all non-aggression pacts with the South and closing the main Panmunjom border crossing inside the Demilitarized Zone.
It also said it was notifying the South that it was “immediately” cutting off the North-South hotline, saying there was “nothing to talk to the puppet group of traitors about”.
The hotline, installed in 1971, is intended as a means of direct communication at a time of high tension, but is also used to co-ordinate the passage of people and goods through the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also visited front-line military units that were involved in the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010, KCNA reports.
The reports said he had urged soldiers to keep themselves ready to “annihilate the enemy” at any time.
It appears the North is trying to build a sense of crisis domestically, with a large rally staged in Pyongyang on Friday and reports of camouflage netting on public transport.
North Korea has breached agreements before and withdrawing from them does not necessarily mean war, our correspondent says, but it does signal a more unpredictable and unstable situation.
Shutting down the hotline will leave both more exposed to misunderstandings, she adds.
Seoul’s defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said that if the North were to carry out a nuclear attack on South Korea it would become “extinct from the Earth by the will of mankind”.
Kim Min-seok also warned that in response to any provocation from the North, Seoul would “immediately” turn the US-South Korean military drills currently being conducted “into a punishment mode to respond to it as planned”.
North Korea has announced it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and shutting their shared border point
The US, the main focus of North Korean ire, said it was capable of protecting itself and its allies from any attacks.
“One has to take what any government says seriously,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of the nuclear threat.
“It is for that reason that I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States. But I would also say that this kind of extreme rhetoric has not been unusual for this regime, unfortunately.”
The North Korean declaration came after the UN Security Council in New York unanimously backed Resolution 2094, imposing the fourth set of sanctions.
The resolution targets North Korean diplomats, cash transfers and access to luxury goods.
It imposes asset freezes and travel bans on three individuals and two firms linked to North Korea’s military.
South Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Kim Sook, said it was time for North Korea to “wake up from its delusion” of becoming a nuclear state.
“It can either take the right path toward a bright future and prosperity, or it can take a bad road toward further and deeper isolation and eventual self-destruction,” he said.
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the sanctions would “further constrain” North Korea’s ability to develop its nuclear programme.
Susan Rice warned that the UN would “take further significant actions” if Pyongyang were to carry out another nuclear test.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang issued a statement supporting the UN resolution and describing it as a “moderate response”.
Qin Gang said China – North Korea’s sole ally – urged “relevant parties” to stay calm and said the main priority was to “defuse the tensions, bring down heat” and restart negotiations with Pyongyang.
- Strongly condemns North Korea’s ongoing nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment programme
- Imposes new sanctions to block financial transactions and bulk cash transfers in support of illicit activity
- Strengthens states’ authority to inspect suspicious cargo
- Requires states to deny port access to any North Korean vessel that refuses to be inspected
- Calls on states to deny permission to any aircraft to take off, land in or overfly their territory if the aircraft is suspected of transporting prohibited items
- Enables stronger enforcement of existing sanctions by UN member states
- Sanctions new individuals and entities
Dennis Rodman has decided to cancel his whirlwind tour of post-North Korea television appearances, causing curiosity and relief among political commentators and media observers.
The cancellations follow his bizarre and inflammatory interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, in which Dennis Rodman called Kim Jung-un a “friend for life” and assured his host that the dictator just wants President Barack Obama to call him.
“He’s very humble,” Dennis Rodman told George Stephanopoulos during his appearance on ABC’s This Week.
“He’s a great guy, he’s a great guy.”
During an interview with the Associated Press after returning to the US Dennis Rodman said: “I love him.”
Dennis Rodman was getting ready to make appearances on ESPN’s Outside the Lines with Bob Ley and CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, but aborted both scheduled interviews with little advance notice and little explanation.
“Rodman was supposed to be interviewed this a.m. by @BobLeyESPN for OTL after his interview w/ @GStephanopoulos but skipped out on @espn,” sports James Andrew Miller tweeted on Sunday at 3:11 pm.
CNN’s John Berman told viewers late Monday morning that Dennis Rodman “decided to cancel” his interview on The Situation Room, as TVNewser reported.
John Berman instead hosted former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend and journalist John Avlon, who chastised the retired basketball player for his praise of Kim Jong-un.
Following the news of Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea, including speculation as to whether he now has more first-hand knowledge of North Korea’s leader than the CIA, White House spokesman Jay Carney told White House reporters that the U.S. government disapproved of the flashy attempt at diplomacy.
“The United States has direct channels of communication with the DPRK and instead of spending money on celebrity sporting events to entertain the elites of that country, the North Korean regime should focus on the well-being of its own people, who have been starved, imprisoned and denied their human rights,” Jay Carney said Monday.
Dennis Rodman has decided to cancel his whirlwind tour of post-North Korea television appearances, causing curiosity and relief among political commentators and media observers
Since returning from North Korea, Dennis Rodman has been silent on Twitter, despite a promise on Friday to tell his followers “what is true and not true of what you have heard and read”.
Dennis Rodman tweeted several times while he was visiting North Korea with three members of the Harlem Globe Trotters and Vice Media’s film crew to work on an upcoming HBO series that will debut on April 5.
“It’s true, I’m in North Korea.Looking forward to sitting down with Kim Jung Un. I love the people of North Korea. #WORMinNorthKorea,” he tweeted just after 8 am EST on February 26, before meeting with Kim Jung-un.
“I’m not a politician. Kim Jung Un & North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story. #WORMinNorthKorea,” Dennis Rodman tweeted after few minutes.
During his interview with George Stephanopoulos, Dennis Rodman said he may take another trip to North Korea in the future.
“The next time you go back you should take this report from Human Rights Watch and ask him about that,” the ABC host replied.
The United States and China have reached a tentative deal on a new sanctions resolution to punish North Korea for its nuclear test, according to UN diplomats.
Unnamed diplomats said a deal was agreed late on Monday and they hoped a draft resolution would be put to the Security Council on Tuesday.
The details of what has been agreed have not been announced.
North Korea carried out its third and most powerful nuclear test in February, sparking worldwide condemnation.
It was the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.
Pyongyang said the nuclear test was a “self-defensive measure” made necessary by the “continued hostility” of the US.
Nuclear test monitors based in Vienna say the underground explosion had double the force of the last test, in 2009, despite the use of a device said by the North to be smaller.
The US and China have reached a tentative deal on a new sanctions resolution to punish North Korea for its nuclear test
North Korea claimed that a “miniaturized” device had been tested, increasing fears that Pyongyang had moved closer to building a warhead small enough to arm a missile.
The test came weeks after Pyongyang successfully used a rocket to put a satellite into space, a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.
China is North Korea’s only ally and its major trading partner. Beijing has been reluctant to support tougher sanctions in the past, citing the impact of potential instability inside its secretive neighbor state. With the recent test, however, its stance appears to have changed somewhat.
A UN diplomat told AFP there had been “tough talks” between China and the US on the issue and that a vote on the draft would happen “soon”, though it was unlikely to be at Tuesday’s session.
Another diplomat told Reuters that whether a draft was circulated on Tuesday was “up to the Americans”.
The UN press office said Russia, which this month holds the presidency at the Security Council, would hold closed-doors talks on Tuesday morning.
North Korea is already subject to a raft of sanctions affecting individuals and government bodies, restricting financial activities and barring any trade or test of ballistics and nuclear technology.
Former basketball star Dennis Rodman, who recently visited North Korea, says Kim Jong-un doesn’t want war with the United States.
Kim Jong-un just wants President Barack Obama to call him.
Dennis Rodman, the highest-profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since he took power in North Korea in December 2011, says Barack Obama and Kim share a love of basketball, so “let’s start there”.
The former NBA star is just back from a visit to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and camera crews for the upcoming HBO series VICE, during which he spent two days with Kim Jong-un.
In his first interview about the trip, Dennis Rodman spoke on ABC’s This Week.
“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Dennis Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“He said, <<If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war>>. He said that to me.”
The trip took place amid strained ties between the U.S. and North Korea over the North’s recent underground nuclear test.
Kim Jong-un is regarded as one of the world’s most oppressive leaders in a nation that builds prison camps and lets millions of its citizens starve to death.
In stark contrast to the poverty of his citizens, Kim Jong-un welcomed the group with a feast, ice skating, and an aquarium visit.
Dennis Rodman, who recently visited North Korea, says Kim Jong-un doesn’t want war with the United States
Upon returning, Dennis Rodman shocked many by praising Kim Jong-un.
“I love him,” he said.
Dennis Rodman stood by the controversial statement during his ABC interview.
“No, I’m not apologiz[ing] for him,” Dennis Rodman said.
“You know, he’s a good guy to me. Guess what? He’s my friend. I don’t condone what he does… [but] as a person to person – he’s my friend.”
Dennis Rodman is the first widely-known American to meet with Kim Jong-un since he became head of North Korea, succeeding his Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.
Kim Jong-un has followed in his father’s footsteps, defying U.N. sanctions by pursing a nuclear arms and missiles program he says is aimed at the U.S.
He also shared a love of basketball with his father, and is particularly fond of the 1990s Chicago Bulls championship teams, which included Dennis Rodman.
On his trip the two watched an exhibition game between the Globetrotters and North Korean players, with Dennis Rodman telling Kim Jong-un before the crowd: “You have a friend for life.”
“I’m not a politician,” Dennis Rodman wrote on Twitter.
“Kim Jung-un & North Korean people are basketball fans. Love everyone. Period. End of story.”
The U.S. State Department has distanced itself from the visit and will not debrief Dennis Rodman on the meeting.
The decision not to talk to Dennis Rodman has been characterized as “ridiculous” by some intelligence experts.
“There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more personally about Kim Jong-un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary,” said Steve Ganyard, a former deputy assistant secretary of state.
Dennis Rodman expects to return to North Korea.
“I’m not like a diplomat,” he said.
“I’m [going to] go back, do one thing and find out more, what’s going on. Find out more.”
Pictures of Kim Jong-un meeting retired basketball player Dennis Rodman have been released in North Korea.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, who is known to be a basketball fan, was seen attending a game with Dennis Rodman, who is in the country filming a documentary with a US media company.
The game involved the three members of the Harlem Globetrotters, who had joined Dennis Rodman on the tour, and members of North Korea’s “Dream Team”.
Dennis Rodman told Kim Jong-un he had “a friend for life”, the Associated Press reports.
Dennis Rodman and the Globetrotters arrived in North Korea earlier this week, accompanied by the Vice television company which said they hoped to engage in some “basketball diplomacy”.
Vice correspondent Ryan Duffy told AP the crowd at the Pyongyang game was “really engaged, laughed at all of the Globetrotters antics, and actually got super loud toward the end as the score got close”.
“Most fun I’ve had in a while,” said Ryan Duffy, who was one of the players.
The game ended in a 110-110 tie.
Kim Jong-un was seen wearing his trademark blue Mao suit, while Dennis Rodman – known for his flamboyant appearance and occasional cross-dressing – wore a dark suit and glasses, but with many of his facial piercings in place.
“They bonded during the game,” Vice’s founder, Shane Smith, told AP.
“They were both enjoying the crazy shots, and the Harlem Globetrotters were putting on quite a show.”
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, who is known to be a basketball fan, was seen attending a game with Dennis Rodman, who is in the country filming a documentary with a US media company
In a speech at the gymnasium, Dennis Rodman told Kim Jong-un he had “a friend for life”.
The meeting was also reported in North Korea’s KCNA state media, which said Kim Jong-un had “warmly welcomed” Dennis Rodman and “let him sit next to him,”.
KCNA said the US and North Koreans had exchanged match tactics and techniques.
The players later joined Kim Jong-un and his wife at a banquet which Ryan Duffy described as an “epic feast”.
The meeting makes Dennis Rodman the most high-profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since he took over from his father last year. The US said it had no comment to make on the meeting.
Dennis Rodman’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and North Korea over the test and Pyongyang’s launch of a three-stage rocket, a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.
Both were seen as a breach of UN resolutions and condemned as a threat to stability in the region.
North Korea has commemorated late leader Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday with a military parade, pledges of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong-un, and thousands of red “kimjongilia” begonias.
Kim Jong-un, wearing a dark Mao suit and a solemn expression, bowed deeply before a large portrait of his smiling father. Hundreds of senior officials, military leaders and citizens followed to pay their respects.
Outside the palace, thousands of North Korean soldiers lined up in neat rows on a sunny but cold day, listening to speeches praising the Kim family. Later, Kim Jong-un and other officials watched as a parade of goose-stepping soldiers marched by followed by military jeeps and trucks carrying artillery guns and rocket launchers. Fireworks exploded, military music boomed and people waved artificial pink and red flowers.
Events on Wednesday included an international skating show and synchronized swimming. Both opened with mournful odes to Kim Jong-il and ended with a new song for his son: “We Will Defend General Kim Jong-un at the Risk of Our Lives.”
Kim Jong-il ruled for 17 years, a period that included a famine in the 1990s, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, and protracted tensions over the nation’s drive to build nuclear weapons. Food shortages persist in North Korea and relations with South Korea are at their lowest point in years. But since Kim Jong-il’s death, expressions of mourning and adoration have been common in Pyongyang.
North Korea has commemorated late leader Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday with a military parade, pledges of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong-un, and thousands of red “kimjongilia” begonias
Composers have crafted new odes to Kim Jong-il, while sculptors have chiseled slogans honoring him into the sides of mountains. His birthday was renamed “Day of the Shining Star,” and this week he was accorded a new title: Generalissimo.
At Kim Il-sung Square, the main plaza in the capital, North Koreans bowed and laid flowers, including red “kimjongilia” begonias, at a portrait of Kim Jong-il hanging on the Grand People’s Study House. Among them was Paek Won-chol, who described himself as a “soldier and disciple” of Kim Jong-il.
“I will devote my all for the building of a powerful and prosperous nation” under Kim Jong-un, Paek Won-chol said.
Thursday’s parade could serve as closure to North Korea’s mourning as the country prepares for important nuclear talks next week with the United States, said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University’s graduate school of international studies in South Korea.
Kim Jong-il’s death halted discussions between Pyongyang and Washington on much-needed food aid in exchange for nuclear disarmament. A US envoy will hold talks with North Korea on its nuclear programme in Beijing next week, the first such negotiations since Kim Jong-il’s death.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been photographed with a smartphone beside him during a meeting.
The mystery of what make of smartphone the ruler of one of the world’s most secretive countries favors has sparked international controversy not only among geeks but the average person in the Western street.
Is it an Apple iPhone? An HTC from Taiwan? A Sony from Japan? Surely not a Samsung from South Korea, the enemy across the border?
“I regret to say that I don’t think Kim would be seen dead with a Samsung,” said a technician in the South Korean capital, Seoul.
The dark phone seen beside Kim Jong-un’s elbow as he presided over a meeting with top national security advisers last week is at such an angle that its make cannot be defined.
But experts are agreed that it is definitely a smartphone, revealing that if it does actually belong to Kim Jong-un he is keeping up with modern technology.
“It’s believed that the smartphone seen in the picture belongs to Kim, given that the device was placed right next to the documents he was looking at,” said a Seoul government official.
South’s Korea’s media has given the picture – issued by North Korea’s state media – prominent coverage, along with a discussion about the possible manufacturer.
Samsung was 99% sure it wasn’t one of theirs.
“It looks more like an HTC model,” said a spokesman for the company whose Galaxy SIII phone is now outselling the iPhone.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been photographed with a smartphone beside him during a meeting
South Korea’s intelligence agents have carefully inspected the photo and they have also concluded that the Taiwanese firm was the likely manufacturer.
So what does HTC have to say about the phone?
“We aren’t going to get into a discussion about the device but we do appreciate the support of all users,” the Taiwanese company said in a statement.
It is highly unlikely Kim Jong-un’s smartphone of choice is an iPhone – apart from the fact that the device at his side appears chunkier than an iPhone it is doubtful he would be endorsing a product of the hated United States.
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspasper suggested that politics was behind the brand choice.
“It must have been politically uncomfortable for Kim Jong-un to use products made by the U.S. … and he can’t publicly endorse the fact that the South [Korea] is more technologically advanced,” it said, in a reference to Samsung phones.
Apart from highly-placed officials, about one million people in North Korea own mobile phones, which were introduced into the country in 2008 through a joint venture with the Egyptian telecom Orascom.
However, they can only phone each other and not make international calls. In addition phones available to the public cannot access the internet.
But it is believed Kim Jong-un and his close associates are able to get online to the outside world.
“Kim and his family members as well as the North’s political elite appear to use smartphones or other mobile phones capable of accessing the internet,” said a Seoul government official.
Foreign visitors entering North Korea are now allowed to bring their mobile phones into the country, but they have to purchase a local SIM card that allows them to make international calls but prevents them connecting to local people.
Speculation is growing that Ri Sol-Ju, wife of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un, has given birth in recent weeks, continuing the family dynasty into a fourth generation.
Photographs seen on North Korean TV show Ri Sol-Ju wearing a neatly-fitting two-piece skirt suit in contrast to the loose-fitting clothing she was seen wearing in mid December and which suggested she was heavily pregnant.
Adding to the speculation that Ri Sol-Ju has given birth was her recent slimmed-down appearance at an official event, which included an all-woman band singing the Johnny Mathis Christmas favorite When a Child is Born.
Before-and-after photos were run on South Korean TV and in Seoul newspapers today resulting in widespread agreement that Kim Jong-Un’s wife has had a child.
“The bulging stomach has gone down – has Ri Sol-Ju given birth?” asked one newspaper, the Dong-A Ilbo.
The caption in another South Korean paper, the Chosun Ilbo, read: “Ri Sol-Ju with her tummy reduced in 11 days. Has she come out right after childbirth?”
The photographs have undergone the most intense scrutiny and the verdict is that Ri Sol-Ju is a mother.
Speculation is growing that Ri Sol-Ju, wife of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un, has given birth in recent weeks, continuing the family dynasty into a fourth generation
A South Korean government official, quoted by the national Yonhap news agency concluded that Ri Sol-Ju “appeared to have already given birth based on analysis of the TV images”.
Whether North Korea will officially announce what would be the equivalent of a royal birth is open to speculation.
No official announcement was made that Kim Jong-Un even had a wife until state media eventually revealed it.
But the announcement came long after pictures had emerged of a stylishly-dressed young woman accompanying the new leader at official events.
Kim Jong-Un was elevated to leader of the secretive Stalinist state following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, who had succeeded his own father, “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung.
According to South Korean media, citing intelligence reports, the couple were married in 2009 and already have one child.
But that has never been confirmed.
Ri Sol-Ju is said to have come from an “ordinary family” – although her father being an academic and her mother a doctor raises them above the average level.
The young wife of North Korea’s leader made her first public appearance in two months in October – bringing to an end what might have been a period of “home detention” for being too carefree.
Ri Sol-Ju had been photographed earlier this year smiling and strolling about in a casual manner when accompanying her husband.
But then she disappeared from view, provoking speculation that she might be pregnant but more likely because she was not presenting the dour image promoted by her husband’s late father, Kim Jong-Il.
Analysts say that despite the young Kim’s appointment as supreme commander of the nation, he is still under the control of the military hierarchy who make sure he presents a rigid, authoritative image to the rest of the world.
That means that his wife must remain aloof and untouchable in the eyes of the masses, say North Korean experts.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has delivered a new year’s message on state TV, the first such broadcast for 19 years.
Kim Jong-un, in power since 2011, spoke of the need to improve the economy and also to reunify the Koreas, warning that confrontation only led to war.
The speech came less than a month after the conservative Park Geun-hye was elected president of South Korea.
In 1994, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, spoke on radio and TV. His son, Kim Jong-il rarely spoke in public.
In addition to KimJong-un’s televised address, new year’s messages were issued in the form of a joint editorial by North Korea’s three main newspapers.
Kim Jong-un said 2013 would be a year of creations and changes, calling for a “radical turnabout” that would transform the impoverished, isolated state into an “economic giant” and raise living standards.
But while he said confrontation between the North and the South should be removed, Kim Jong-un stressed that military power remained a national priority.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has delivered a new year’s message on state TV, the first such broadcast for 19 years
“The military might of a country represents its national strength. Only when it builds up its military might in every way can it develop into a thriving country,” he said.
The message coincides with UN Security Council discussions on how to punish Pyongyang for a recent long-range rocket launch.
Under Kim Jong-un’s leadership, North Korea has conducted two long-range rocket launches – actions condemned by the US and Pyongyang’s neighbors as banned tests of missile technology.
The launch in April failed, but December’s attempt appears to have been a success, placing a satellite into orbit.
The US, Japan and South Korea are seeking a response in the UN Security Council, which banned North Korea from missile tests after nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Kim Jong-un saw in the new year by watching a musical performance with his wife, North Korean state media reported.
The online version of the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily, appears to have fallen for a Kim Jong-un spoof by the US satirical website, The Onion.
The People’s Daily ran a 55-page photo spread of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after he was declared The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.
He is shown riding horses, holding children and greeting his troops.
The spread is accompanied by tongue-in-cheek quotes from The Onion about the “Pyongyang-born heart-throb”.
“With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-born heart-throb is every woman’s dream come true,” the People’s Daily quoted The Onion as saying.
“Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle and, of course, that famous smile.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” said The Onion editor Will Tracy, responding to the People’s Daily feature.
“I mean, this kind of thing has happened in different forms before, so it never totally takes us by surprise, although it’s a total delight whenever it does happen.”
The People’s Daily ran a 55-page photo spread of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after he was declared The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012
The Onion, which ran its Sexiest Man Alive piece earlier in the month, had an update to its article on Tuesday.
“For more coverage, please visit our friends at the People’s Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades,” it added.
By around midday on Wednesday the People’s Daily spread appeared to have been removed, with the link to the English version returning an error message.
The Onion said previous winners of its Sexiest Man Alive prize included Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and US financial swindler Bernard Madoff, who is currently serving a 150-year prison sentence.
Two months ago, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency was forced to apologize after being taken in by a spoof news item from The Onion which declared rural Americans preferred Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to US President Barack Obama.
It quoted one fictional West Virginian resident as saying he would rather go to a baseball game with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because “he takes national defense seriously”.
Ri Sol-ju, the young wife of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, has made her first public appearance in two months, bringing to an end what might have been a period of “home detention” for being too carefree.
Ri Sol-ju had been photographed earlier this year smiling and strolling about in a casual manner when accompanying her husband Kim Jong-un, the newly appointed leader of the secretive Stalinist state.
But then she disappeared from view, provoking speculation that she might be pregnant but more likely because she was not presenting the dour image promoted by her husband’s late father, Kim Jong-il.
Analysts say that despite the young Kim Jong-un’s appointment as supreme commander of the nation, he is still under the control of the military hierarchy who make sure he presents a rigid, authoritative image to the rest of the world.
That means that his wife must remain aloof and untouchable in the eyes of the masses, say North Korean experts.
But now Ri Sol-ju is back in the public eye and fuzzy TV pictures from North Korea show her enjoying the company of her husband at a football match and a musical concert on Monday.
According to the official KCNA news agency, the couple’s appearance at the concert “drew a thunderous cheer from the audience”.
The couple’s attendance also marked the first public appearance in two weeks by Kim Jong-un himself, raising speculation that he has been receiving behavioral advice from the military hierarchy.
Ri Sol-ju made her public appearance joining Kim Jong-un at a football match and a musical concert on Monday
South Korea’s intelligence agency is convinced that the sudden disappearance of Ri Sol-ju from state media since early September is because the nation’s elders had raised an issue over her casual and cheerful demeanor.
“The analysis has been that there was concern over breach of discipline [by Ri Sol-ju] among North Korean elders, plus the speculation of pregnancy,” reported South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, quoting the National Intelligence Service which had giving a closed-door briefing to parliament.
Photos taken at the concert showed Ri Sol-ju in a long cream coat and what appeared to be a thickening waistline, strengthening speculation that she is pregnant.
It was also being suggested Ri Sol-ju had been kept at home as a disciplinary measure because she had been seen in public not displaying a red lapel pin bearing the image, or images, of the two previous leaders.
All senior North Koreans and any working for the government must wear them.
A pin is not visible in the latest photos of Ri Sol-ju but she might be wearing it under her coat.
If Ri Sol-ju is pregnant and she gives birth to a son the Kim dynasty is assured.
If she has a girl, analysts say the hierarchy will insist she “tries again”.
The South Koreans have carefully studied photographs of Kim Jong-un and his wife, published over four pages in the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper. Facial expressions and the people who accompany the couple are all of vital importance to intelligence-gatherers.
It was last July that North Korea finally put an end to speculation about the young woman seen accompanying Kim Ri Sol-ju at numerous events in and around the capital, Pyongyang.
She was, said state media, his wife – and that announcements was seen as a slight lifting of the veil of mystery hiding events in the country.
But just as it seemed North Korea was lightening its hard, reclusive image, the temporary disappearance of Ri Sol-ju has left analysts wondering if anything has really changed there at all.
Kim Chol, a North Korean military officer, has been executed with a mortar shell blast for disrespecting late leader Kim Jong-il by drinking alcohol during the 100-day mourning period.
South Korean media claim Kim Chol, the secretive state’s former vice minister of the army, was forced to stand on a spot that had been targeted with a mortar on the orders of Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un, who took over from his father after his death in December 2011, demanded Kim Chol was “obliterated”, with “no trace of him behind, down to his hair” in January.
It followed the North Korean regime’s decision to order its 25 million population to abstain from pleasurable activities –including drinking alcohol – in honor of Kim Jong-il.
As an initial crack down on pleasure, anyone found to be not showing extreme distress in the hours after the dictator’s death were dealt with severely by being sent to six months in labor camps, according to reports leaking from the Stalinist nation.
It was claimed that anyone who failed to turn up at organized mourning events within two days of the burial service were sent to a labor camp and punishment was also meted out to anyone who even made a mobile phone call out of the country.
But when the mourning period to mark Kim Jong-il’s burial was over and the strict “no pleasure” 100 days followed, anyone who raised a glass of alcohol was in danger of receiving a death sentence.
According to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, Kim Chol was one of those who failed to resist the chance of having a drink.
Kim Chol has been executed for disrespecting late leader Kim Jong-il by drinking alcohol during the 100-day mourning period
And while Kim Chol was the most senior official reported to have been arrested and executed, the South Korea newspaper reporter that a number of other generals were shot after being found guilty of drinking and being involved in sex scandals.
In total, 14 senior party, government and military officials were said to have been “purged” on the direct orders of new leader Kim Jong-un.
It was claimed by sources outside the country that the mourning periods had created a “vicious atmosphere of fear” which have spilled over to daily life almost a year after Kim Jong-il’s death.
South Korean lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun told the Chosun Ilbo paper that the executions were probably not over.
“It seems that the purges will continue for the time being, as Kim Jong-un is tightening his grip on power,” he said.
Kim Han-sol, the grandson of the late Kim Jong-il and nephew of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, has given a rare TV interview from Bosnia, where he is studying.
Kim Han-sol, 17, said that he wished to ”make things better” for the people in his country.
He was speaking to former UN Under-Secretary General Elisabeth Rehn in an interview for Finnish television.
Kim Han-sol is the son of Kim Jong-nam, eldest brother of Kim Jong-un, who has been living in Macau and China.
“I’ve always dreamed that one day I would go back and make things better and make it easier for the people there,” said Kim Han-sol, in fluent English.
Sporting ear-studs, styled hair and a black suit, the teenager spoke of his dreams of reunification of the two Koreas in the televised interview.
Kim Han-sol had South Korean friends, he said, and while it was awkward when he first met them, ”little by little” they started to understand each other.
”Through meeting people, I’ve concluded that I will just take opinions from both sides, see what’s good and what’s bad, and make my own decisions,” he said.
It is not clear why Kim Han-sol agreed to the interview. He first drew international attention in October 2011, when pictures and comments on his Facebook page were reported by South Korean media.
His account was quickly blocked and it was reported that he would be studying at the United World College (UWC) in Mostar.
Kim Han-sol was speaking to former UN Under-Secretary General Elisabeth Rehn in an interview for Finnish television
Elisabeth Rehn is the patron of the UWC initiative in Bosnia. She is also formerly Finland’s Minister of Defence and a UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Kim Han-sol said he had never met his grandfather or uncle. He described an isolated childhood spent mostly in Macau and China, after his birth in Pyongyang in 1995.
He only realized who his grandfather was after putting ”pieces of the puzzle” together as he grew up.
”I was actually waiting for him… till before he passed away, hoping he would come find me, because I really didn’t know if he knew that I existed,” he said.
On the succession, Kim Han-sol added that he did not know how his uncle, Kim Jong-un ”became a dictator”.
“It was between him and my grandfather,” he said.
His father, Kim Jong-nam, 39, was thought to have fallen out of favor in 2001 after he was caught trying to sneak into Japan using a false passport. He told officials that he was planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Kim Jong-nam has maintained a low profile overseas but he was quoted by Japanese TV station Asahi in October 2011 as saying he was opposed to ”dynastic succession”.
“My dad was definitely not really interested in politics,” Kim Han-sol said, when asked why his father was passed over for succession.
As for his own future, he said he pictured himself going to university and then ”volunteering somewhere”.
”I would like to engage in more humanitarian projects… work to contribute to building world peace, especially back home because that is a really important part of me….” he said.
Speculation is growing that Ri Sol-ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is either pregnant or has angered Communist leaders as the number of days she has spent out of the public eye rises to 40.
Ri Sol-ju was announced as Kim Jong-un’s wife in July but recent newspaper reports in South Korea are rife with rumors about the reasons why the new first lady has not been spotted for nearly six weeks.
Some reports have suggested she may be pregnant, an idea fuelled by appearances on Chosun Central TV and of her visiting Changieon Street homes in early September with Kim Jong-un to deliver birthday food and gifts.
Other reports have highlighted the fact Ri Sol-ju failed to join her husband on a roller coaster ride at the opening of the Reungra People’s Resort, while her aging aunt Kim Kyung-hee took the plunge as evidence that she was pregnant.
A more bizarre theory that is also receiving publicity is that Ri Sol-ju may have received a ban from appearing in public after she failed to wear a lapel pin declaring her loyalty to the Communist regime.
China.org reported a North Korean rebel source revealing that a strict rule says the country’s adults must adorn badges featuring leaders on formal occasions
Ri Sol-ju’s modern appearance marked a major change from the traditional images of North Korean women, who are expected to dress conservatively, wearing skirts or Mao-style work clothes in shades of grey or brown.
Ri Sol-ju was announced as Kim Jong-un’s wife in July
Some commentators have suggested that Kim Jong-un may have gone too far by replacing the Kim lapel badge with more feminine flowered brooches.
She was not present at a recent high-profile event for the 67th founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea on October 10 where Kim Jong-un and top officials were all in attendance the JoongAng Ilbo Daily reported.
The following day, the South Korean media cited a source who said Ri Sol-ju’s failure to wear any badges of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il had sparked criticism in the party’s upper ranks and as well as the army who deemed her behavior to bet “completely unacceptable, with repercussions to ensue”.
On her last public appearance former pop star Ri Sol-ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, wore a stylish black trouser suit during a visit to the Taedonggang tile factory in Pyongyang.
Most residents of the city, the country’s capital, only ever wear drab colored Mao-style suits and North Korean women generally dress only in conservative skirts.
Ri Sol-ju’s appearance in the unconventional outfit comes just weeks after she was pictured at an event with what looked like a luxurious Dior evening pouch.
The appearance of Ri Sol-ju, who is thought to be in her 20s, was enough of a fashion statement to incite comment over the border in South Korea, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Chang Song-Taek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, is visiting Beijing, amid signs the impoverished state wants to tackle its economic problems.
Chang Song-Taek, who some observers believe is the key power behind Kim Jong-Un, arrived in Beijing on Monday, state media said.
He will discuss joint development of two special economic zones, KCNA news agency said.
Chang Song-Taek is married to late leader Kim Jong-Il’s sister.
He was named a vice-chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission in 2009, and before that had a number of high-profile roles in the party. He accompanied Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011, on several of his foreign trips.
Chang Song-Taek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, is visiting Beijing, amid signs the impoverished state wants to tackle its economic problems
North Korean state media said Chang Song-Taek would be discussing joint economic projects in Rason, on North Korea’s east coast, and Hwanggumphyong, on the border with China.
No further details were given. The two Koreas currently have a joint industrial zone running in Kaesong, which helps boost the state-run North Korean economy.
North Korea has been hit by flooding in recent months and has appealed for food aid. It suffered a famine in the mid-1990s which is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Since then, it has remained unable to grow enough food to feed its people.
The visit comes after senior Chinese diplomat Wang Jiarui visited Pyongyang earlier this month, the China Daily said.
It also follows the removal in July of army chief Ri Yong-Ho in a high-level military reshuffle. A previously little-known general, Hyon Yong-Chol, was named as his replacement.
Ri Yong-Ho’s demotion was attributed to illness, but has been widely interpreted by analysts as a move aimed at stamping the authority of the new leader on North Korea’s powerful army.
More details are emerging in South Korea about Ri Sol-Ju, the woman identified as the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
A lawmaker, quoting intelligence officials, said they believed Ri Sol-Ju had visited South Korea in 2005 and had studied singing in China.
Other news reports suggest that Kim Jong-Un may have spotted her at a musical performance.
North Korea has not given any details beyond saying she was Kim Jong-Un’s wife.
There had been speculation about Kim Jong-Un, who took over as leader of the country after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il last year, after he was seen with a woman on various occasions since June.
State media confirmed for the first time on Wednesday that leader Kim Jong-Un was married.
A lawmaker, quoting intelligence officials, said they believed Ri Sol-Ju had visited South Korea in 2005 and had studied singing in China
An eight-minute report on North Korean radio mentioning Ri Sol-Ju’s name was broadcast at 20:00 local time on Wednesday.
South Korean lawmaker Jung Chung-Rai told reporters following a briefing by intelligence agents that Ri Sol-Ju was from an ordinary family in Pyongyang.
Ri Sol-Ju may have visited South Korea in 2005 as part of the North’s cheerleading team for the Asian Athletics Championships, Jung Chung-Rai said.
The cheerleaders are seen wearing red baseball caps, twirling umbrellas and dancing in the stands with tambourines, television footage of the event shows.
Ri Sol-Ju is also likely to have “participated in several inter-Korean exchange programmes”, reports South Korean news ageny Yonhap.
The paper cited three separate events between 2003-2005 attended by someone from North Korea with the same name as Ri Sol-Ju, including the championships.
It remains unclear when the couple got married. Most South Korean reports suggest that Ri Sol-Ju may have been a singer who caught Kim Jong-Un’s attention during a performance.
A source told The Choson Ilbo newspaper that a singer with the same name as Ri Sol-Ju had performed with the Eunhasu Orchestra until last year.
At least two newspapers, including the Choson Ilbo, say that Ri Sol-Ju has been groomed as the first lady, possibly studying at Kim Il-Sung University.
Ri Sol-Ju’s Western-style dress and short cropped hair have led to speculation over whether Kim Jong-Un has a less traditional, more international outlook than his father.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is married, state media have confirmed for the first time.
Reports referred to Kim Jong-Un attending the opening of an amusement park with his wife, “Comrade Ri Sol-Ju”.
There had been much speculation Kim Jong-Un’s private life in recent weeks when an unidentified woman was pictured attending events with him.
Kim Jong-Un took over as leader of the country after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in December last year.
The eight minute report on North Korean radio which mentioned Ri Sol-Ju was broadcast at 20:00 local time on Wednesday.
North Korean media reports referred to Kim Jong-Un attending the opening of an amusement park with his wife, "Comrade Ri Sol-Ju”
Analysts have been watching Kim Jong-Un and his inner circle for clues as to the direction in which they will take the isolated state.
Last week authorities performed a military reshuffle widely interpreted by analysts as an attempt to stamp the authority of the new leader on North Korea’s powerful army.
There is a North Korean singer by the name of Ri Sol-Ju but it has not been confirmed whether Kim Jong-Un’s wife is the same woman.
Ri Sol-Ju is thought to be the same “mystery woman” who accompanied Kim Jong-Un to several events in recent weeks and whose Western dress and hairstyle led some to speculate on the influence of Kim Jong-Ju’s brief European education.
South Korean media had previously speculated that the woman was another North Korean singer, Hyon Song-Wol.
The focus on Kim Jong-Un’s personal life has been intense – within minutes of the news breaking, Ri Sol-Ju’s name was trending on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Young North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been given the title of ”marshal”, state media has announced.
The move followed a high-level military reshuffle in which army chief Ri Yong-Ho was removed ”due to illness” and a little-known general promoted.
Marshal is the highest military rank and would cement Kim Jong-Un’s control over the army, reports say.
Kim Jong-Un inherited the leadership of North Korea from his father, Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011.
Marshal is the highest military rank and would cement Kim Jong-Un's control over the army
The title of marshal was previously held by the late Kim Jong-Il, who received a posthumous promotion to the rank of generalissimo in February, when the country marked his 70th birthday.
”A decision was made to award the title of Marshal of the DPRK [North Korea] to Kim Jong-Un, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army,” the KCNA statement said.
The decision was jointly made by the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the National Defence Commission of the DPRK [North Korea] and the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK [North Korea], the statement said.
This latest promotion is another sign that Kim Jong-Un is planning to rule North Korea through the army, just as his father did – and that he is tightening his grip on the levers of power.
Ri Yong-Ho, 69, who was a vice-marshal, was also vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission and held top posts in the ruling Workers’ Party.
His removal took many North Korea observers by surprise, with widespread skepticism at the official explanation for the move.
He was seen as a key figure in the recent transition of power to the young leader.
A day after Ri Yong-Ho’s removal, Pyongyang appointed a new vice-marshal, Hyon Yong-Chol, of whom little is known except that he was made a general in 2010.
”What we are seeing is a reconstitution of the North Korea leadership from the old guard who were loyal to Kim’s father to a new guard,” said Jasper Kim of the Asia Pacific Global Research Group.
North Korean state media has announced that military chief Ri Yong-Ho has been removed from all official posts.
As well as being head of the army, Ri Yong-Ho was vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission and held top posts in the ruling Workers’ Party.
In a short statement, the party said Ri Yong-Ho had been removed from his posts “because of illness”.
However, there is widespread skepticism about that explanation.
The decision to relieve Ri Yong-Ho of his duties came at a meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Committee politburo on Sunday, state-run news agency KCNA said.
The brief report made no mention of a successor.
North Korean military chief Ri Yong-Ho has been removed from all official posts
In Seoul, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry told reporters that the move was “very unusual”.
“It’s quite a rare case that the North promptly and publicly announced early this morning the outcome of a meeting yesterday, on 15 July. We will keep monitoring closely,” Kim Hyung-suk said.
Ri Yong-Ho was made army chief three years ago under Kim Jong-Il, the current leader’s father who died in December 2011 after ruling North Korea for almost two decades.
The army chief regularly appeared at state occasions beside Kim Jong-Il.
He was also one of seven top officials to accompany the younger Kim as he followed the hearse containing his father’s body at his state funeral.
Ri Yong-Ho was widely thought to be a figure in the inner circle of the new leader and instrumental in helping him cement his position.
His removal is now being scrutinized by analysts for signs of the direction in which Kim Jong-Un, seen as young and inexperienced, will take the country.
The army and Workers’ Party are the two primary institutions that bolstered the Kim family dynasty, said Robert Kelly, a professor at the Pusan National University in South Korea.
Kim Jong-Un did not serve in either of those two institutions which are ”traditional proving grounds and grooming grounds… for the leadership in the system”.
”So his position is very vulnerable because he does not know the generals and colonels who prop up the state,” said Dr. Robert Kelly.
In April North Korea defied international warnings to launch a rocket – an action its neighbors called a long-range missile test that contravened UN resolutions.
South Korea also warned earlier this year that Pyongyang appeared to be in the late stages of preparing for a third nuclear test – a claim North Korea has denied.
International talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have been stalled since 2009.
Agency news in Seoul reported that a mystery woman was sitting next to the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at a concert this week.
The question of who she was, and what she was doing sitting next to Kim Jong-Un, buzzed through South Korea’s news media.
North Korean media gave no details, but showed her accompanying Kim Jong-Un to various state occasions: bowing with him in front of his grandfather’s portrait to mark the 18th anniversary of Kim Il-Sung’s death, walking with him in a fitted black skirt suit and heels, and sitting next to him during the concert performances.
The Hankyoreh newspaper in South Korea said one picture taken during the performances showed the mystery woman with her hand on the armrest of Kim Jong-Un’s chair.
The normal posture for those in Kim Jong-Un’s entourage is to keep their elbows tucked respectfully in.
This, said the paper, indicated that she was either his wife, or his younger sister.
One picture taken during the performances showed the mystery woman with her hand on the armrest of Kim Jong-Un's chair
A similar discussion erupted six months ago, when an unnamed woman appeared beside Kim Jong-Un during his father’s funeral commemorations.
It is not known whether Kim Jong-Un – believed to be in his late 20’ – has married.
But North Korea’s two previous rulers did not routinely include their partners in public events, leading many to conclude that the new mystery woman is a family member.
Not South Korea’s Joongang Ilbo newspaper, though. Its headline this week asked: “Is Hyon the new first lady of NK?”
The paper identified Kim Jong-Un’s companion as Hyon Song-Wol, a former singer with North Korea’s Bochonbo Electronic Music Band, whose popularity, it says, peaked in 1995 with her hit song Excellent Horse-Like Lady.
She reappeared to perform for the new North Korean leader in March this year, says the paper, after six years away from the limelight, during which time she reportedly married and had a child.
An unnamed South Korean intelligence official was quoted as saying that “the two have known each other since they were in their teens, and… rumors about the two having an affair have been circulating among Pyongyang’s top elite”.
If true, Seoul’s rumor mill goes, what does that say about the workings of North Korea’s new leadership – and more particularly, about the mind of its young leader?
Has Kim Jong-Un chosen this smart young woman in western dress as his partner? Is he bucking hoary old tradition by appearing with her – perhaps still married – in public?
As usual, windows into North Korea throw up more questions than answers.
For now, ”mystery woman” she may remain.
But then, let us not forget, after six months in power, the man next to her – the heir to North Korea’s closed “Communist Monarchy” – is only slightly less of a mystery than she.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been seen attending different events with a mystery woman.
The fact was led to speculation in South Korean media about her identity.
The woman was shown on state TV on Sunday with the new leader at an official ceremony in honor of his late grandfather, Kim Il-Sung.
And on Saturday, the same woman was seen sitting next to Kim Jong-Un at a concert.
Kim Jong-Un has been seen attending different events with a mystery woman
The appearances have made front-page news in South Korea.
Kim Jong-Un took power in the Communist state after the death of his father at the end of last year.
North Korean society is so closed to the outside world that no-one knows if Kim Jong-Un is married, or even his exact age.
So the appearance by his side of an elegant, black-clad, short-haired woman, probably in her 20s, has left many North and South Koreans playing guessing games.
Some South Korean news outlets suggested she might be his younger sister, Kim Yo-Jong, of whom very little is known, or even his wife.
On Sunday, the woman, dressed in a black jacket and skirt, was seen bowing with Kim Jong-Un, as part of a ceremony to mark the 18th anniversary of the death of Kim Il-Sung, the country’s founder.
She is believed to be the same woman shown by North Korea’s KRT broadcaster on Saturday walking into a concert behind Kim Jong-Un and sitting next to him.
A photo of the pair was also published in the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
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