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Summary of external news of North Korea this week

16:00 May 14, 2021

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

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N. Korea says U.S. offer to explain outcome of policy review 'well received'

WASHINGTON, May 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is said to have acknowledged a recent U.S. offer to explain the outcome of its policy review on Pyongyang after earlier overtures from the administration of Joe Biden went unanswered.

In response to the U.S. offer last week, the North has reportedly said the proposal has been "well received," a different reaction from when the first dialogue offer was made. Last month, the U.S. said it had sought to engage with the North in mid-February, but the regime remained "unresponsive."

Still, whether it will lead to actual dialogue remains to be seen as the North earlier said it will ignore U.S. overtures until Washington gives up its hostility toward Pyongyang.

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U.S. willing to share COVID vaccine with N. Korea if requested: report

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Yonhap) -- The United States may consider sharing COVID-19 vaccines with North Korea if requested by the impoverished nation, if the vaccines will reach the intended beneficiaries, a U.S. news outlet reported Tuesday.

CNN noted the sharing of vaccines may help resume diplomatic dialogue with the North but that no request for assistance has been made.

"While we are open to considering DPRK requests for humanitarian assistance, these would need to be accompanied by effective monitoring to ensure that it reached the intended beneficiaries," it reported, quoting an unidentified senior administration official.

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N. Korea continues to strictly restrict religious freedom: U.S. State Dept.

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea continues to strictly limit the basic rights of its people, including religious freedom, with up to 200,000 people believed to be held in prison camps because of their beliefs, the U.S. State Department said Wednesday.

In its annual report on religious freedom, the State Department also noted the North Korean government continues to actively take part in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom.

"Since 2001, the DPRK has been designated as a 'Country of Particular Concern' (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom," the report said. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

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Blinken offers outcome of N. Korea policy review to Russian counterpart: State Department

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday explained the outcome of the recently concluded North Korea policy review to his Russian counterpart, the State Department said, amid a continued silence from North Korea to a U.S. offer to do the same for the country.

"The secretary provided the minister an overview of U.S. policy toward the DPRK, and the two committed to continued discussion on issues of mutual concern," the department said of a call between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name. Russia, along with China, maintain close relations with North Korea.

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U.S. will address N. Korean human rights and nuclear issues at same time: official

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States will continue to tackle the North Korean nuclear issue while at the same time pressing for improved human rights conditions, including freedom of religion, in the reclusive state, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

Daniel Nadel, a senior official from the U.S. Department of State office of international religious freedom, also argued that a push for improved human rights conditions in the North would ensure "better outcomes" by addressing fundamental problems.

"The nuclear issues are real. They are a significant challenge. We intend to address those issues head on, as we have. But there is no trade off between addressing human rights issues or addressing other matters of national security or bilateral concern," he said in a telephonic press conference.

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U.S. intel chief Haines visits DMZ amid policy coordination efforts on N. Korea

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas on Thursday to take a first-hand look at the heavily fortified border, as Washington seeks to round out its policy on North Korea.

Haines arrived here Wednesday after holding a trilateral meeting with her South Korean and Japanese counterparts -- Park Jie-won and Hiroaki Takizawa -- in Tokyo apparently with cooperation on the North's denuclearization topping their shared agenda.

It remains unknown which part of the DMZ she would visit, but the top intelligence official was expected to take a brief tour of the Joint Security Area in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, among other areas.

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Blinken says U.S., Australia share commitment to UNSC resolutions on N. Korea

WASHINGTON, May 13 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed his country's commitment to U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea on Thursday, amid U.S. outreach for engagement with the reclusive North.

The top U.S. diplomat said he and his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne, discussed a range of challenges, including North Korea, in their bilateral meeting in Washington.

"The (Australian) foreign minister and I touched on a number of key challenges that we face together," he said in a joint press conference with Payne at the State Department.
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