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North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed his military's plans to rain "an enveloping fire" around the U.S. territory of Guam — but opted not to fire missiles at this time, according to state media. Despite the stand-down, some Guamanians were alarmed after two radio stations aired an erroneous emergency alert Tuesday.

KUOW PHOTO/BOND HUBERMAN

Seattle is reportedly within range of a North Korean nuclear missile, and there's a war of words between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Should we be afraid?

Puget Sound is still tucked in beneath a smoky haze from British Columbia wildfires. But has it really "ruined summer?"

This week saw a dramatic escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. As North Korea promised to engulf the U.S. territory of Guam in "enveloping fire", President Trump tweeted that the U.S. military is "locked and loaded" should North Korea "act unwisely".

The North's missile and nuclear programs have been shrouded in secrecy for years, but recent tests have shed more light on their capabilities. Here is what's currently known.

North Korean missiles can reach the continental United States.

There is trouble in paradise — but that is nothing new for Guam.

The U.S. island territory in the western Pacific Ocean is ringed by beaches, studded with palm trees and packed with bombs. It's small but strategically significant.

After President Trump threatened to bring "fire and fury" down on North Korea, Pyongyang said Wednesday that it is "carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam."

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

As the leaders of two nuclear-armed countries trade threats, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Trump "is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language."

U.S. intelligence analysts say North Korea has developed a warhead that fits on its ballistic missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S. territory, according to The Washington Post.

Updated at 8:05 p.m. ET

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to meet North Korea with "fire and fury" a day after Pyongyang said it was ready with "ultimate measures" in response to new U.N. sanctions pushed by Washington.

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," the president warned at a meeting on the opioid crisis held at Bedminster, N.J., where he is on an extended working vacation.

In his North Korean mining town, Kim Hak-min loved getting his hands on electronics so much that he became the go-to guy to fix his neighbors' watches, TV's and radios. It earned the nickname "Repair Boy."

"I remember first opening up an electric toy when I was eight years old, figuring out how it worked and clutching it when I went to sleep," Kim recalls.

But by 2011, Kim had yet to encounter a smartphone.

"When I was in North Korea the only phones I saw where 2G and they were flip phones," Kim says.

KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

State lawmakers avoid a government shutdown with a last-minute budget deal that adds billions to public education. Is it good enough for the state Supreme Court?

The Ballard Locks turn 100. We'll take up the good and the bad of a project that transformed Seattle.

Americans shot fireworks, and North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile. Some experts say it could hit Alaska -- could it ever hit us?

And a Seattle driver beats a speeding ticket by convincing a judge that a traffic sign is too wordy.

A North Korean soldier looks at the southern side through a pair of binoculars at the border village of Panmunjom, north of Seoul, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle-based journalist and author Blaine Harden about the history of North Korea and the tensions between it and the U.S.

The case for Trump negotiating with North Korea

Jul 5, 2017
R
Reuters via KCNA

North Korea has a working intercontinental missile that can hit US soil. It will only be a matter of time before the regime of Kim Jong-un can miniaturize a nuclear warhead to put in it. So, the question is what should the US do about it?

No one is suggesting Kim would randomly try to nuke America. “However ruthless and brutal Kim Jong-un is to his own people,” says Joseph Cirincione, “he’s not suicidal.”

Bill Radke speaks with Kent Boydston, a research analyst with The Peterson Institute for International Economics, about North Korea testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach Alaska. Boydston discusses the details of the test, President Trump's response, and how worried we should be living in the Pacific Northwest.

On the Fourth of July, North Korea marked a milestone by firing an intercontinental ballistic missile that soared high into space before turning around and landing in the sea near Japan. The North's state media said the missile, Hwasong-14, flew 580 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles, and flew for nearly 40 minutes.

When Yeonmi Park was a young girl in North Korea's Ryanggang Province, near the Chinese border, she went to her uncle's house to watch TV. But this wasn't the usual state-run broadcast praising the "Dear Leader." The movie she watched at her uncle's house was illegal.

She covered the windows with blankets, turned the volume down low and huddled in close around the TV. She watched a pirated copy of Titanic.

After Otto Warmbier, detained for more than a year in North Korea, returned home this week in a coma, the Trump administration is looking into ways to stop other Americans from going there.

The State Department currently warns Americans against travel to that country, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signaled he may go further.

President Trump just seems to have a thing for strongmen.

He invited the brutal Philippine leader, Rodrigo Duterte, to the White House during a "very friendly" phone call Sunday. On Tuesday, Trump has another call — this one with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration is open to direct talks with North Korea as long as the agenda is right — that is, denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

As he prepared to chair a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject, Tillerson sat down with NPR's Steve Inskeep to explain his approach. The secretary says North Korea has to come to the table willing to talk about giving up its nuclear weapons.

North Korea could reduce a U.S. strike force to a sea wreck if it's provoked, the country's propaganda outlets said Monday, adding to tensions on the Korean Peninsula. With the threat of a nuclear test in North Korea looming and another U.S. citizen reportedly detained there, China's President Xi Jinping is urging President Trump to avoid escalating the situation.

USA flag, China flag
Flickr Photo/USDA (CC BY 2.0)

Bill Radke talks to Gary Locke, former Washington State Governor and Ambassador to China about the relationship between the U.S. and China and what China means to the Pacific Northwest. 

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. doesn't want to take military action against North Korea, but "all of the options are on the table" if a serious threat arises. Tillerson made his frank remarks in a visit to South Korea on Friday, a day after saying diplomatic efforts "have failed" to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Tillerson's Asia tour began in Japan and will end in China. The top American diplomat is traveling without a press contingent.

The nerve agent that was used to kill Kim Jong-nam, brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is among the most deadly chemical weapons developed.

It's also been banned by the United Nations.

According to Malaysian investigators, two female suspects coated their hands with the liquid toxin and wiped it on Kim Jong-nam’s face as he waited for a flight home to Macau. Investigators found VX on Kim’s face and eyes after his death.

Malaysian investigators want to talk with a senior North Korean diplomat in connection to the poisoning death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The development comes as the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lampur insists no poison was used.

In a surprising move, China's commerce ministry has announced that the country would be suspending its coal imports from North Korea. China released a statement Saturday saying that the freeze in imports will begin Sunday and will be in place through the end of the year.

A North Korean soldier looks at the southern side through a pair of binoculars at the border village of Panmunjom, north of Seoul, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

“It is very likely by the end of Mr. Trump's first term, the North Koreans will be able to reach Seattle.” —Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA.

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that would never happen.

This week, we're the target

Jan 6, 2017
'Week in Review' panel Joni Balter, Knute Berger, Eli Sanders and Bill Radke.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

The Washington State Legislature convenes on Monday and one of the issues on the table is a bill that would ban drivers from holding their phone while driving. Is this a necessity or distracted legislating?

The former head of the CIA General Michael Hayden said that by the end of Trump’s first four years in office, North Korea could have a nuclear weapon that would reach Seattle. Richard Ellings of the National Bureau of Asian Research says Seattle would be the perfect target. Is it time to move?  

North Korea got 2017 off to a menacing start. In his New Year's address, supreme leader Kim Jong Un warned that the nation was in the "final stage" of preparations to test an intercontinental ballistic missile.

A day later, President-elect Donald Trump said the North would never develop a nuclear weapon capable of striking the U.S. "It won't happen!" Trump tweeted.

In 2011, when North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died, the state news agency reported that Mount Paektu took on a supernatural glow, and that at its summit, Heaven Lake shook with cracking ice.

Those reports were pretty unscientific. But several years earlier, between 2002 and 2005, Mount Paektu had experienced a swarm of little earthquakes.

In a cavernous, dimly-lit auditorium in Washington last month, three officials took the stage.

They settled themselves into tan, leather armchairs and fielded questions, including this one: Name a global flashpoint you're looking to with concern?

"North Korea," came the reply from one. "And how the United States and China deal with that situation."

The exchange is worth noting because the three people on stage were current or former CIA officials.

It's well-known that Dear Leader was crazy about movies. What's less known — at least in the West — is that infamous North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was so crazy about them that he kidnapped a South Korean actress and a movie director in 1978 and forced them to work for him for years. That story is the subject of a new documentary called The Lovers and the Despot.

A powerful typhoon in North Korea has caused devastating floods, killing more than 130 people and displacing at least 100,000, according to United Nations agencies.

Typhoon Lionrock struck North Korea about two weeks ago. It triggered floods that have left at least 138 people dead and some 400 others missing, the U.N. resident coordinator's office says.

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