Kim Jong Un invites South Korean president for summit: South Korea

UNTV News   •   February 11, 2018   •   3409

South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

SEOUL/PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.

Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power last year on a policy of engaging more with the reclusive North and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North’s weapons programs last year and pressure from Seoul’s allies in Washington.

The personal invitation from Kim was delivered verbally by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “in the near future” and would like for him to visit North Korea “at his earliest convenience”, his sister told Moon, who had said “let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

A Blue House official said Moon “practically accepted” the invitation.

“We would like to see you at an early date in Pyongyang”, Kim Yo Jong told Moon during the lunch, and also delivered her brother’s personal letter that expressed his “desire to improve inter-Korean relations,” the Blue House said.

The prospect of two-way talks between the Koreas, however, may not be welcomed by the United States.

Washington has pursued a strategy of exerting maximum pressure on Pyongyang through tough sanctions and harsh rhetoric, demanding it give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons first for any dialogue to occur.

“This is the strongest action yet by North Korea to drive a wedge between the South and the United States,” said Kim Sung-han, a former South Korean vice foreign minister and now a professor at Korea University in Seoul.Moon asked the North Korean delegation during Saturday’s meeting to more actively seek dialogue with the United States, saying that “early resumption of dialogue (between the two) is absolutely necessary for developments in the inter-Korean relations as well,” the South said.

It said the two sides held “a comprehensive discussion … on the inter-Korean relations and various issues on the Korean peninsula in an amicable atmosphere,” but did not say whether the North’s weapons program was mentioned.

A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007, and would mark only the third inter-Korean summit to take place.

EXTREME PRESSURE

Pyongyang conducted its largest nuclear test last year and in November tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile that experts said has the range to reach anywhere in the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership traded insults and threats of nuclear war as tensions rose, with Trump repeatedly dismissing the prospect or value of talks with North Korea.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who had attended the opening ceremony seeking to counter North Korea’s attempt to use the Olympics for propaganda, said the United States, South Korea and Japan were in complete agreement on isolating Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program.

“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program,” Pence told reporters on his flight back to the United States.

A senior U.S. official said Pence and Moon, while watching speed skating together on Saturday night, discussed intensifying sanctions. Moon shared details with Pence of his meeting with North Korean leaders, but did not talk about the invitation to talks in Pyongyang.

As part of his push against North Korean propaganda, Pence attended the short track speed skating with Fred Warmbier, the father of an American student who died last year after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.

Moon joined Pence in the arena and sat next to him, turned around to greet Warmbier, according to a White House pool report.

Later, Moon watched the joint Korean women’s ice hockey team – the first ever combined team at the Olympics – take on Switzerland, joining Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, the North’s nominal head of state, who is also visiting the South for the Games. [L4N1Q007Q]

North and South Korea are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. The United States fought with South Korea and maintains tens of thousands of troops and an “ironclad” agreement to protect its ally.

North Korea has spent years developing its military, saying it needs to protect itself from U.S. aggression.

SACRED BLOODLINE

Moon hoped to use the Olympics to ease tensions and North Korea agreed to send high-profile officials as well as athletes.

Pence and the North Korean delegation, who both attended the Games opening ceremony, had no contact with each other. The senior U.S. official said Pence was not trying to avoid the North Korean officials but rather ignore them.

Kim Yo Jong, 28, is the first member of the ruling Kim family bearing the bloodline of the sacred Mount Paektu, a centerpiece of the North’s idolization and propaganda campaign, to cross the border into the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.

At the Blue House meeting, the delegations shared a lunch of dried pollack dumpling soup, a regional specialty of the only divided province on the Korean peninsula, and soju, a spirit popular on both sides of the heavily militarized border.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL and Soyoung Kim in PYEONGCHANG; Additional reporting by Haejin Choi in SEOUL and James Pearson, Hyunjoo Jin in PYEONGCHANG, Mary Milliken in WASHINGTON; Writing by Lincoln Feast, Editing by Paul Tait, Richard Balmforth and Daniel Wallis

South Korean president warns of epidemic second wave

UNTV News   •   May 10, 2020

South Korean President Moon Jae-In

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday (May 10) warned of a second wave of the epidemic later this year, saying the recent cluster underscored the risks that the virus which causes COVID-19 can spread widely again at any time.

“It’s not over until it’s over. While keeping enhanced alertness till the end, we must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention,” he said in a televised speech marking the third anniversary of his inauguration.

South Korea reported 34 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest daily number in a month, after a small outbreak emerged around a slew of nightclubs that a confirmed patient had visited.

Of the new cases, 26 were domestically transmitted infections and eight were imported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

As part of a long-term battle on COVID-19, the KCDC will be given greater power and will be renamed the Disease Control and Prevention Administration, Moon said. Local governments will set up their own epidemic response systems with more experts.

(Production: Hyunyoung Yi)

South Korean officials call for caution amid reports that North Korean leader is ill

UNTV News   •   April 27, 2020

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows Kim Jong Un (C), chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and supreme commander of the armed forces of the DPRK, inspecting the defence detachment on Changrin Islet, North Korea (issued 25 November 2019).

South Korean officials are calling for caution amid reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be ill, emphasizing that they have detected no unusual movements in North Korea.

A spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry said on Monday (April 27) she had nothing to confirm when asked about reports that Kim was in Wonsan.

South Korea’s defence ministry spokeswoman said on Monday that the military hotline is operating normally and there’s no more to say, when she asked about whether they discussed the recent issue with North Korea.

Rumours and speculation over the North Korean leader’s health began after he made no public appearance at a key state holiday on April 15 and has since remained out of sight.

South Korea media last week reported that Kim may have undergone cardiovascular surgery or was in isolation to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus. (Reuters)

(Production: Daewoung Kim, Hyunyoung Yi)

Questions hang over North Korea succession amid reports on Kim health

UNTV News   •   April 22, 2020

North Korea has never publicized who would follow leader Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated, and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.

South Korean and Chinese officials on Tuesday (April 21) cast doubt on reports that Kim was gravely ill following a cardiovascular procedure, after his absence from a key state anniversary event triggered speculation about his health.

But the media reports sparked questions about who would be in place to take over if the 36-year-old Kim, a third-generation hereditary leader, fell seriously ill or died. He became leader when his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack.

The following are key figures in the North Korean leadership circle and what role they may play in any future transition.

Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s younger sister has been the most visible presence around the leader in the past two years, while serving formally as a vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee but unofficially as her brother’s chief of staff.

She was named an alternate member of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee Politburo earlier this month, continuing her climb through the leadership hierarchy.

Kim, who is believed to be 31, has a firm control of key party functions, setting herself to be the main source of power behind a collective leadership.

Choe Ryong Hae rose to be the North’s nominal head of state last year becoming the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

It capped decades of service with the party for the ruling Kim family, previously serving as the influential political head of the North’s military under the young leader.

He and Pak Pong Ju, a fellow politburo member and former state premier who oversaw the North’s push to introduce more free market functions to revive its economy, are likely to be the figureheads leading a collective leadership.

Kim Kyong Hui was once a powerful figure in the leadership circle when her brother Kim Jong Il ruled the country. She had not been seen since her husband, Jang Song Thaek, once regarded as the second most powerful man in the country, was executed in 2013 by Kim Jong Un. She has long been ill but briefly appeared early this year at a gala performance alongside her nephew.

Kim Han Sol, the 24-year-old son of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un who was murdered by North Korean agents in 2017, is expected to remain in exile.

Kim Jong Un is believed to have three children with Ri Sol Ju, the youngest born in 2017, according to the South’s National Intelligence Service.

The oldest is a 10-year-old son, meaning any of the three would need the assistance of their relatives or political guardians if they were to become a fourth-generation hereditary leader.

Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the country, while Kim Jong Un only had just over a year due to his father’s sudden death from a stroke. (Reuters)

(Production: Hyunyoung Yi)

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