North Korea | KUOW News and Information

North Korea

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.

North's Korea's No. 2 diplomat in the U.K. has defected to South Korea — one of the highest-ranking officials to do so, according to South Korea.

A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry announced Wednesday that London-based Thae Yong Ho had recently arrived in the country and that he and his family are now under government protection, the Yonhap News Agency reports.

Kenneth Bae spent two years in a North Korean prison
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

After a year in the North Korean prison, Kenneth Bae softened toward his guards.


On the heels of new U.N. sanctions that could crimp its economic dealings with China, North Korea has fired six projectiles — possibly rockets or missiles — into the sea on the country's eastern coast, South Korean officials say.

The projectiles that were fired Thursday flew for at least 60 miles before hitting the water, according to media reports in South Korea.

From Seoul, NPR's Elise Hu reports:

About 4,000 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, have landed in South Korea in the past few weeks, to serve along the border of the two Koreas. As policy makers contend with the thorny security challenges of the region, soldiers are adjusting to more day-to-day challenges.

Fresh off the planes from central Texas, the men and women of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team say it's the snow that made the most noticeable first impression.

North Korea was celebratory in its claims that it detonated its first hydrogen bomb on Wednesday.

"Through the test conducted with indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts [North Korea] fully proved that the technological specifications of the newly developed H-bomb for the purpose of test were accurate and scientifically verified the power of smaller H-bomb," the country's official news agency reported.

But the White House, along with many others, isn't buying it.

Deciphering events in North Korea often seems more like long-distance psychoanalysis than reporting.

So it's not surprising there's a dearth of hard information about the country's latest nuclear test. In a statement heavy on propaganda and light on details, North Korea claimed it successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test Wednesday morning.

The most closed country on earth — North Korea — is now denying its involvement in one of the biggest corporate hacks in history.

Someone attacked Sony Pictures Entertainment last week and made public troves of stolen data, including five unreleased films, medical records and salaries of nearly 7,000 global employees. But before a recent denial — another North Korean diplomat played coy about the country's involvement.

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Kenneth Bae’s family got the call they had been waiting for early Saturday morning. 

North Korea had freed him. 

Later that night, his plane touched down at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a military base south of Seattle. 

Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, Wash., was free for the first time since 2012 when he landed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle Saturday night.

“It’s been an amazing two years,” he told reporters.

In 2012, Bae was sentenced in Pyongyang to 15 years hard labor, convicted of a Christian conspiracy to overthrow the North Korean government. Attempts by the Obama administration to secure his release were unsuccessful until last week.

freekennow.com

Kenneth Bae, a Lynnwood man detained for two years in North Korea, has been freed, U.S. officials say.

Detained in 2012, Bae was convicted of trying to overthrow the Pyongyang regime and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Updated at 4:45 a.m. ET Sunday

Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, held for months in North Korea, received a joyful homecoming Saturday as their plane set down at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.

Bae, 45, a Korean-American missionary and tour guide from Lynnwood, Wash., thanked family and supporters for not forgetting about him during his detention.

Inside The State Of North Korea

Feb 19, 2014
Flickr Photo/Gabriel Britto (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with Clark Sorenson, director of UW's Center for Korea Studies, following a United Nations report accusing North Korean leadership of crimes against humanity.

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

The Seattle-area family of Kenneth Bae, an American man held in North Korea, said their hopes fell again this week. For the second time, North Korea rescinded its invitation for a U.S. envoy to discuss Bae’s possible release.

AP Photo/The Choson Sinbo, Mun Kwang Son

President Obama said Thursday the United States is still trying to win the release of former Lynnwood, Wash., resident Kenneth Bae from North Korea.

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