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Summary of external news of North Korea this week

16:00 February 14, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of external news of North Korea this week.

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U.S. official in Seoul for working group talks on N. Korea

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. State Department official involved in nuclear talks with North Korea arrived in South Korea on Sunday for a meeting of a bilateral policy coordination working group on the communist regime.

Alex Wong, U.S. deputy special representative for North Korea, is expected to meet with his South Korean counterpart, Rhee Dong-yeol, director general at the foreign ministry's Korean Peninsula Peace Regime bureau, for the working group talks Monday, according to foreign ministry officials.

He could also pay a courtesy call on Lee Do-hoon, the South's chief nuclear negotiator, and meet with other government officials here until he returns Wednesday.

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S. Korea, U.S. hold working group talks on N. Korea

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean officials briefed their U.S. counterparts Monday on Seoul's push to expand exchanges with North Korea, such as allowing individual trips to the communist nation, as they held a "working group" meeting to coordinate policy on Pyongyang, officials said.

U.S. officials, led by U.S. Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Alex Wong, expressed understanding of Seoul's position during the closed-door meeting with South Korean officials led by Rhee Dong-yeol, direct general at the foreign ministry's Korean Peninsula peace regime bureau, officials said.

Wong arrived in Seoul on Sunday for the talks.

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Trump does not want another summit with Kim before election: CNN

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump told his advisers that he does not want another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before the November presidential election, CNN quoted two sources as saying Monday.

The report comes as denuclearization negotiations between the two countries have stalled since the unfruitful second summit between Trump and Kim in February 2019.

"And as Trump focuses on his re-election campaign his appetite to engage on the issue has waned," CNN reported, citing the sources.

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U.S. flies patrol plane on apparent mission to monitor N. Korea

SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. maritime surveillance plane has flown over South Korea this week, an aviation tracker said Tuesday, in the latest in a series of U.S. surveillance operations apparently aimed at monitoring North Korea.

According to Aircraft Spots, a P-3C plane of the U.S. Navy was spotted over South Korea on Monday.

The operation came just days after North Korea quietly marked the 72nd anniversary of its army's founding without a military parade.

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N. Korea exported $370 mln in coal in violation of sanctions last year: report

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea exported some US$370 million worth of coal last year in violation of United Nations sanctions, a U.N. panel of experts was quoted as saying in a draft report Monday.

The transactions were largely carried out via illicit ship-to-ship transfers between North Korean vessels and Chinese barges, according to a report that is to be submitted to the U.N. Security Council committee overseeing North Korea sanctions implementation, Reuters said.

U.N. Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from exporting coal and other minerals that could be used to generate revenue for the regime's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

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Deputy nuke envoys of S. Korea, U.S. hold talks on N.K. dialogue, peninsula security

SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- The deputy nuclear envoys of South Korea and the United States held consultations in Seoul on Tuesday, officials said, amid joint efforts to resume stalled nuclear talks with North Korea.

Lee Moon-hee, director general at the foreign ministry's North Korean nuclear affairs bureau, met U.S. Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Alex Wong, foreign ministry officials said.

The meeting came a day after Wong held a "working group" session with Rhee Dong-yeol, director general at the ministry's Korean Peninsula peace regime bureau, to coordinate policy on Pyongyang.

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Trump plans to name No. 2 N.K. envoy as representative to U.N.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump plans to nominate the No. 2 U.S. envoy for North Korea as a representative to the United Nations, the White House said Tuesday.

Alex Wong, currently the deputy U.S. special representative for North Korea, has been tapped to serve as the U.S. alternative representative for special political affairs at the global body, with the rank of ambassador, the White House said in a press release.

The planned nomination adds to uncertainty about the future of denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea, which have stalled since an unfruitful summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February 2019.

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Trump open to summit with Kim if it produces deal: O'Brien

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump is open to having another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but only if it will lead to a nuclear deal, his national security adviser said Tuesday.

Robert O'Brien told an audience at the Atlantic Council think tank that the president has been clear about that and will act independently of any political considerations.

O'Brien spoke a day after CNN reported that Trump has told his advisers he does not want another summit with Kim before the November presidential election in the United States. The view within the administration is that the risks of resuming denuclearization talks far outweigh the potential benefits, it said.

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U.S. Treasury says it will continue to use financial sanctions against N. Korea

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Treasury Department will continue to focus on applying financial sanctions against North Korea, according to the agency's budget request for fiscal year 2021.

In the budget proposal published on the Treasury's website this week, the department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence outlined its efforts last year to support the administration's efforts to achieve the final and fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.

TFI said that in fiscal year 2019 it sanctioned more than 20 individuals, entities and vessels linked to North Korea.

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U.S. voices deep concern over vulnerability of N.K. people to coronavirus outbreak

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- The United States is "deeply concerned" about the vulnerability of the North Korean people to the new coronavirus, the State Department said Thursday, stressing its support for aid agencies seeking to help contain the spread of the deadly virus in the communist state.

Pyongyang has yet to report any confirmed case of COVID-19 that first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, amid speculation that it may have difficulty testing or treating its citizens due to a lack of medical supplies.

"The United States is deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the North Korean people to a coronavirus outbreak," the State Department said in a press statement posted on its website Thursday.

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U.S. commander says N. Korea may be ready to flight-test advanced ICBM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may be prepared to test-fire an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to threaten the U.S. mainland, the U.S. northern commander has said, citing rocket engine tests Pyongyang conducted in December.

Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, made the remark in a statement submitted for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's earlier warning of a "new strategic weapon" and a "shocking actual action."

"While Kim did not specify what this new weapon would be, recent engine testing suggests North Korea may be prepared to flight-test an even more capable ICBM design that could enhance Kim's ability to threaten our homeland during a crisis or conflict," O'Shaughnessy said.
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