North Korean airport among world’s worst in global survey

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SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s only international airport in Pyongyang has been named one of the world’s worst airports in a British customer satisfaction survey released this week.

In Skytrax’s review of over 500 airports around the world, Sunan International Airport failed to make it into the 2017 World Airport Awards list in any category including cleanness, staff service, or dining and shopping facilities.

It received the lowest level of two points in a scale of 10 in customer assessment.

Sunan, which has been touted as a high-tech airport by the North’s state media, does not even have a website offering basic information on plane operations and facilities.

Skytrack has conducted the survey since 1999. Seoul’s Incheon International Airport ranked third in the world’s top 10 airport list, a notch down from the previous year. Singapore’s Changi Airport took first place for the fifth consecutive year.



Source : Yonhap News Agency

North Korea seen excavating tunnel for far more powerful nuke test

Flag of North Korea.svg

(ATTN: ADDS U.S. analyst comment and background in last two paras)

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) — North Korea is continuing to excavate a tunnel at its nuclear test site, which may support an explosion up to 14 times more powerful than its last test, according to U.S. analysts Saturday.

Satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the northeast shows that substantial tunnel excavation is continuing at the North Portal, where the last four of the five underground nuclear tests by the North were conducted, according to the analysis posted at 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

“The continued tunneling under Mt. Mantap via the North Portal has the potential for allowing North Korea to support additional underground nuclear tests of significantly higher explosive yields, perhaps up to 282 kilotons (or just above a quarter of a megaton),” said the article written by Frank Pabian, a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) fellow, and David Coblentz, an earth and environmental science expert at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The North’s latest nuclear test on Sept. 9, 2016, is estimated at 15-20 kilotons yield. One kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT.

They said that after the test, new tunneling activity has only been observed at the North Portal while activity at other portals had either been sharply reduced or already halted.

“This suggests that the North Portal will very likely continue to be used as the primary test location, possibly because it provides the greatest amount of overburden and would likely be the most capable of containing the largest possible explosive yields, potentially up to just above a quarter of a megaton.” they said.

Meanwhile, John Schilling, an engineering specialist at the U.S. Aerospace Corporation, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia on Saturday that North Korea is likely to successfully launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) within the next two years and deploy it by 2020.

In the past decade, Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to develop a nuclear-tipped long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental U.S.


Source : Yonhap News Agency

North Korea fires several ballistic missiles: Seoul military

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North Korea on Monday fired several ballistic missiles into the East Sea in an apparent protest against the ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the United States, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The unidentified projectiles were launched from an area near the North’s Dongchang-ri long-range missile site at 7:36 a.m. and flew about 1,000 kilometers before splashing into the East Sea, JCS said in a text message.

“We are conducting an analysis on the projectiles to determine their type and other specifications. It will take a while before we come up with a final analysis (based on US satellite data),” the JCS said.


It could be an ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland, an official at the defense ministry said.

The North test-fired a long-range ballistic missile at the Dongchang-ri or “Sohae” missile launch site in February last year.

South Korean and US troops here will stay on high alert to counter any provocations by the North, the ministry said.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reportedly said three out of four missiles fired by the North fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), some 250 km west of Akita Prefecture.

The latest provocation comes a day after the US said it may consider redeploying a tactical nuclear weapon to South Korea as a deterrent against growing nuclear and missile threats posed by the rogue regime.

On Friday, Pyongyang threatened to conduct more missile firings in response to the two-month-long Foal Eagle exercise between Seoul and Washington, which lasts through April.

The Rodong Sinmun, the ruling party’s official newspaper, said in a commentary that “new types of strategic weapons will soar” if Seoul and Washington continue their annual war drills, which the North claims to be a preparation for a war against it.

The communist state has staged a series of missile tests with increasing range, with the aim of eventually building long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland.

In its latest provocations, Pyongyang launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the East Sea on Feb. 12 to boast its military readiness and test the response from the new Donald Trump administration.

It was the first test-firing of a North Korean missile since Trump became US president on Jan. 20. and the country’s first major provocation in 2017. (Yonhap)

Source : Yonhap News Agency

North Korea bristles at South Korean top diplomat’s remarks in Munich

North Korea on Friday launched a vicious personal attack on the South Korean foreign minister, calling him an idiot and traitor who begs for tougher international pressure on its nuclear ambitions.

The invective came amid heightening tensions following the North’s test of a new ballistic missile on Feb. 12 and the death of leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia last week.

The North’s Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea denounced Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se’s speech during a security conference last week in Munich, where he said that the tipping point may not be too far off before the North’s nuclear weaponization.

“Yun Byung-se spouted rubbish, regardless of whom he was meeting, that the nuclear issue of the North is like a time bomb, the North’s nukes will reach the critical phase of actual deployment in one or two years and now is the last opportunity to stop it,” the committee said in a statement.


“What Yun uttered to take issue with the nuclear deterrent of the DPRK is no more than nonsense by an idiot ignorant of how peace is being preserved on the Korean Peninsula,” it added. DPRK is short for the North’s official name — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It also threatened that what it sees as such a “desperate” action will only bolster its move to emerge as “the strongest power of self-reliance and self-development.” (Yonhap)


Source : Yonhap News Agency

South Korea to raise issue with North Korea’s biochemical weapons threat

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South Korea has decided to raise its voice against North Korea’s possession of biochemical weapons in international meetings following the Malaysian police’s announcement that a VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, foreign ministry officials said Saturday.

“The government will bring up the issue of North Korea’s biochemical weapons programs when top nuclear envoys from South Korea, the United States and Japan meet in Washington on Monday, as well as during various multilateral talks based in Geneva and other locations,” one of the officials said.

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of late former leader Kim Jong-il, died on Feb. 13 at an airport in Kuala Lumpur after apparently being poisoned by two Asian women. Malaysian police named eight North Koreans, including a diplomat, as suspects, though Pyongyang denies its involvement.

On Friday, the police announced that Kim Jong-nam was killed with a VX nerve agent. VX is listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations and its use is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to which North Korea is not a signatory.

“The government plans to take a tough stance on the killing of Kim Jong-nam,” the other government official said. The third official said, “Things went out of control as the use of a chemical weapon was unveiled… The government is currently on the stage of trying to find the truth behind the case on the one hand and considering many different countermeasures on the other.”

Seoul officials forecast that security threats from North Korea’s biochemical weapons programs will likely be discussed during Monday’s talks along with its main topic, the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

Seoul will also call for relisting the North as state sponsor of terrorism during the meeting, officials said.

North Korea was put on the U.S. terrorism sponsor list for its 1987 midair bombing of a Korean Airlines flight that killed all 115 people aboard. But the U.S. administration of former President George W. Bush removed Pyongyang from the list in 2008 in exchange for progress in denuclearization talks.

The South Korean military believes North Korea has up to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons stockpiled, the third largest after the U.S. and Russia. (Yonhap)

Source : The Korea Herald

North Korea ready for new nuke test: Seoul

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With ripples from North Korea’s latest nuclear test continuing to spread throughout the region, speculation surfaced Monday that the communist state may be gearing up to detonate another fission device in defiance of international condemnation.

Friday’s underground explosion as well as the previous three rounds occurred in the second of the three tunnels installed at the North’s Yongbyon nuclear complex in the northwest town of Punggye, leaving the others ready for additional blasts, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said. The North’s maiden experiment in 2006 was carried out in the first one.

A satellite image of Punggye-ri nuclear test site (Yonhap)

“The South Korean and US intelligence communities assess that North Korea is prepared for further nuclear tests in the Punggye region,” ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun said at a news briefing.

“If (the North) does conduct an additional test, it is possible to take place in a tunnel that branches off from the second tunnel or in the third tunnel, where preparations have been completed.”

Defense Minister Han Min-koo also raised the possibility of another detonation in the remaining channels during a parliamentary session late Friday.

Confirming its fifth test, Pyongyang pledged to “continue measures to qualitatively and quantitatively strengthen the nation’s nuclear forces.”

Emboldened by recent technical progress, the Kim Jong-un regime may push for the fresh launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching US mainland, possibly in time for the Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party or the US presidential election slated for Nov. 8, observers say.

Pyongyang also successfully fired a long-range rocket on Feb. 7, about one month after its fourth atomic test.

“A new ICBM test sounds like one of the doable scenarios,” a diplomatic source said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“The North appears to have been making headway in its nuclear and missile capabilities as shown in recent various tests, which is probably why it did press ahead with them despite warnings from everywhere including China.”

To review the situation and coordinate sanctions, the chief nuclear negotiators of South Korea and the US plan to hold talks in Seoul.

Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea policy, arrived here late Monday for a two-day stay after visiting Japan last weekend. He is scheduled to have relay meetings including a joint news conference on Tuesday with Kim Hong-kyun, the special representative for the Korean Peninsula’s peace and security affairs at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.

The allies are currently spearheading a campaign to craft a fresh batch of stronger sanctions at the UN Security Council, while exploring independent steps to back up the international resolution.

Pyongyang, on its part, dispatched Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to Beijing in an apparent move to appease an angry China, its economic lifeline and top diplomatic sponsor which holds a permanent UNSC membership.

Shortly after the newest provocation, Beijing quickly issued a statement carrying its “resolute opposition” to North Korea’s nuclear development and urging it to comply with the UNSC resolutions.

Ri is reportedly expected to continue traveling to Venezuela for the Non-Aligned Movement Summit before visiting New York for the UN General Assembly later this month.

By Shin Hyon-hee (

Source : The Korea Herald

North Korea is ‘single most significant danger’ for next U.S. president:John Negroponte

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (Yonhap) — North Korea is the “single most significant danger” that the next U.S. president will face, a former top U.S. diplomat said Sunday, calling for greater efforts to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Former Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte (Yonhap)

Former Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte (Yonhap)

Former Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte issued the caution in a radio interview after the communist North carried out its fifth nuclear test, just eight months after its fourth test in January. It was the first time the regime has conducted more than one nuclear test in a year.

“I think this is the single most significant danger that the next administration is going to face,” Negroponte said. “Something is going to have to be done about the continuing developments of North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.”

Negroponte, who also served as director of national intelligence and ambassador to the U.N., also said that resolving the issue will take more than a U.N. Security Council resolution or more sanctions, adding that those measures have failed to curb the North’s weapons ambitions.

“We’re gonna have to find a way to really come to grips with this situation so that someday we don’t wake up and learn that the North Koreans have shot a missile that has reached the continental United States,” Negroponte said.

Jonathan Pollack, a senior expert on Korea at the Brookings Institution, also said that the issue of the North’s nuclear and missile programs will be “a lead item” that the administration of President Barack Obama will bequeath to his successor.

The communist nation is seeking to get the outside world to take its weapons programs as a fait accompli, the expert said, pointing out some unusual points in the North’s announcement of its fifth nuclear test conducted Friday.

“North Korea announced the latest test not through governmental or diplomatic channels, but from technical personnel affiliated with an organization identified as the Nuclear Weapons Institute of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Pollack said in an article on the institution’s website.

The institute made a very specific claim that the test was of “a newly researched and manufactured nuclear warhead” and that the purported warhead was now standardized and could be utilized on an array of ballistic missiles, he said

“Until now, Pyongyang had described tests of its nuclear weapons by a variety of names but never as a warhead,” he said. “It clearly wants the outside world to conclude that its weapons capabilities are now an established, irreversible fact.”

The North’s nuclear and missile testing of recent weeks and months gives them “added urgency that cannot be ignored,” he said.

“It will also be a lead item that the Obama administration — despite its repeated efforts to curtail North Korea’s weapons programs through increased cooperation with all affected states — will bequeath to the next president,” Pollack said.


Source : Yonhap News Agency

Calls surge for North Korea policy fix in wake of nuke test

As Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test highlighted its threats, Seoul is coming under mounting pressure for an overhaul of its North Korea policy that critics say has failed to deter the regime’s military ambitions while eroding room for its own maneuvering.

Despite its earlier introduction of a series of bold inter-Korean initiatives, the Park Geun-hye government has turned hard line, in particular after the North detonated a fission bomb for the fourth time last January, followed by another successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile a month later.

Seoul has since pressed ahead to shutter a joint factory complex in North Korea, a longstanding symbol of cross-border rapprochement, and virtually closed the door for any dialogue unless the Kim Jong-un leadership first shows signs of change.


Meanwhile, the communist neighbor appears to have made sweeping progress in its nuclear and missile programs, accentuated yet again by Friday’s blast, which had the largest explosive power to date — a little short of the device that devastated Hiroshima some 70 years ago. It has also been developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile and claims to have mastered “miniaturizing, standardizing and diversifying” warheads to fit on missiles.

Since Pyongyang’s maiden atomic experiment 10 years ago, each and every administration in South Korea has seen a gush of skepticism and calls for a revamp of its policy.

With the North inching closer to becoming a full-blown nuclear state, however, more experts and even some officials were quick to call for a comprehensive, levelheaded review of the current cross-border situation and what to do going forward.

“With the fifth nuclear test, midrange missile launches and other recent provocations, we need to assess North Korea’s threats and our responses from a coolheaded point of view,” a diplomatic source said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“To me, the North seems to be nearly on the verge of completing its nuclear development in light of the increasingly shortening time intervals between tests and technical advances shown during some of the recent ones.”

Seoul’s present approach is “excessively lopsided” toward sanctions and pressure, which he said would not be a decisive cure for the nuclear standoff alone and could also make it harder to pull support from China, which apparently holds the largest sway over the defiant Kim regime.

While reaffirming its opposition to a nuclear North Korea, Beijing has also underscored the need to work to resolve the issue through dialogue. During a UN Security Council emergency meeting last Friday, China reportedly called for a restart of the six-nation denuclearization talks.

Under growing international pressure, China is expected to renew its proposal for a parallel launch of denuclearization and peace treaty talks once a fresh resolution is put in place and tension slightly dies down, observers say.

South Korea has dismissed the idea, sticking to its “no dialogue first” principle, though the US displayed a passive yet somewhat positive tone.

“Given the rapidly intensifying North Korean threats, we cannot just rely on sanctions to solve the problem especially at a time of strain between South Korea and China, and the US and China due to the planned deployment of the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system on the peninsula,” said Chung Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, calling for a more realistic approach toward “management.”

Chun Yung-woo, a former presidential senior secretary on foreign and security affairs and current adviser at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, stressed the need for Seoul and Washington to prepare for uncertainties from the North.

“It’s surreal to mention inter-Korean relations at this point, but if the latest test was successful and no extra test is needed, North Korea could declare a moratorium on nuclear tests and missile launches and offer dialogue,” he said at a seminar hosted Friday by the Seoul-based think tank.

“Then the North will likely make its completed nuclear weapons a fait accompli. To respond with a united voice, South Korea and the US should have prior consultations.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (

Source : The Korea Herald

North Korea holds meeting to mark founding anniversary

N.K. holds meeting to mark founding anniversary


A national meeting takes place at the People’s Palace of Culture in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Sept. 8, 2016, to celebrate the country’s 68th founding anniversary, which falls the next day, in this image provided by the North’s Central TV Station. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap) (END)


Source : Yonhap News Agency

Quake detected near North Korea nuke site

Quake detected near N.K. nuke site

This March 9 file photo shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) talking with scientists and technicians in front of a purported model warhead part during a field guidance tour. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said on Sept. 9, 2016, that a magnitude 5 earthquake was detected near North Korea’s nuclear test site in its northeastern region. A South Korean government source said it sees a high possibility that North Korea conducted a nuclear test on the occasion of its founding anniversary. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap) (END)

Source : Yonhap News Agency