WASHINGTON, August 16, 2018 (News Wires) - The United States imposed sanctions on a Russian port service agency and Chinese firms on Wednesday for aiding North Korean ships and selling alcohol and tobacco to North Korea in breach of US sanctions aimed at pressuring it to end its nuclear programmes.
The US Treasury said in a statement China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading Co. Ltd and its Singapore-based affiliate SINSMS Pte. Ltd had netted more than $1 billion a year by exporting alcohol and cigarette products to North Korea.
The department also sanctioned Russian-based Profinet Pte Ltd and its director general, Vasili Aleksandrovich Kolchanov, for providing port services on at least six occasions to North Korean-flagged ships.
Kolchanov was personally involved in North Korea-related deals and interacted directly with North Korean representatives in Russia, the department said.
"The tactics that these entities based in China, Singapore, and Russia are using to attempt to evade sanctions are prohibited under US law, and all facets of the shipping industry have a responsibility to abide by them or expose themselves to serious risks," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions mandate that no US citizen can deal with any of those designated in the order, and any of their properties in the United States "must be blocked", Treasury said.
The United States has been pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme.
Liang Ye, legal representative of Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading, said when asked for comment on the US Treasury statement the matter was still unclear and the Chinese company had not received any notice.
China's official Xinhua news agency said the United States needed to back off with the pressure on North Korea if it was serious about wanting lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
"Washington should be reminded that the 'maximum pressure' approach on Pyongyang is not in keeping with the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and it needs to consider easing sanctions," Xinhua said in a commentary.
SEOUL, August 13, 2018 (Reuters) - North and South Korea agreed on Monday to hold a summit in the North in September, another step towards boosting co-operation between the old rivals, even as doubts grow over efforts to end the North’s nuclear weapons programme.
Officials from both sides meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, reached an agreement on a September summit between the countries' leaders in the North’s capital of Pyongyang.
No date was announced for what will be the third meeting this year between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
They first met in April in Panmunjom, a remarkable thaw in ties after more than a year of rising tension and fears of war over the North’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
There they agreed that Moon would visit the North’s capital in the autumn, though the pair met again in May in an unannounced meeting at Panmunjom.
No details on an agenda for next month’s talks were announced, but the two Koreas have been discussing a range of issues, from a possible peace declaration to joint economic and infrastructure projects.
The progress between the two Koreas comes as North Korea and the United States are struggling to agree on how to bring about the North’s denuclearisation, after Kim vowed to work towards that goal at a landmark summit in June in Singapore with US President Donald Trump.
US officials have told Reuters that North Korea had yet to agree to a timeline for eliminating its nuclear arsenal or to disclose its size, which US estimates have put at between 30 and 60 warheads.
After Monday’s talks, Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of a North Korean committee aiming for the “peaceful reunification” of the peninsula, told reporters it was important to clear “obstacles” preventing inter-Korean relations from moving forwards.
“If the issues that were raised at the talks aren’t resolved, unexpected problems could emerge and the issues that are already on the schedule may face difficulties,” Ri said, without giving details.
SEOUL, August 11, 2018 (MENA) - South Korea's Defense Minister Song Young-moo has held talks with his Indian counterpart, Nirmala Sitharaman, to discuss ways to expand bilateral ties and collaboration for North Korea's denuclearization, Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday.
During the talks, which took place in India on Friday, they agreed to promptly hold the 2+2 dialogue involving the two countries' foreign and defense ministries, according to the Ministry of Defense.
Song called for cooperation and support from the international community, including India, to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
The Indian defense minister said in response she shares the need for close ties between the two countries.
SEOUL, South Korea , August 10, 2018 (News Wires) - The rival Koreas plan to hold high-level talks on Monday to prepare for a third summit between their leaders, as Pyongyang called on the United States to reciprocate its "goodwill measures" by easing sanctions and stopping demands that the North denuclearize first.
The plans by the Korean leaders to meet come as Washington and Pyongyang try to follow through on nuclear disarmament vows made at a US-North Korea summit in June between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In the most recent sign of growing frustration between Washington and Pyongyang, North Korea criticized senior American officials for insisting that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons first before easing sanctions. Notably, the statement didn't directly criticize Trump.
North Korea said in a statement Thursday that "some high-level officials within the US administration" were making "desperate attempts at intensifying the international sanctions and pressure."
"We hoped that these goodwill measures would contribute to breaking down the high barrier of mistrust" between Pyongyang and Washington, the North's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. "However, the US responded to our expectation by inciting international sanctions and pressure."
Those American officials are "going against the intention of President Trump to advance the DPRK-US relations, who is expressing gratitude to our goodwill measures for implementing the DPRK-US joint statement," it said referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Washington has said that sanctions will not be lifted until Pyongyang fully and finally dismantles its nuclear weapons. Some experts say that North Korea does not want to denuclearize first or maybe denuclearize at all because it wants a long, drawn-out process that sees external aid shipped in in return for abandoning nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang has also stepped up its calls for a formal end to the Korean War, which some analysts believe is meant to be the first step in the North's effort to eventually see all 28,500 US troops leave the Korean Peninsula.
A South Korean official at the Unification Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules, said the two Koreas will also discuss on Monday ways to push through tension-reducing agreements made during an earlier summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Among the agreements was holding another inter-Korean summit in the fall in Pyongyang.
TEHRAN, Iran, August 7, 2018 (News Wires) - As Iranians awoke Tuesday to renewed US sanctions that had been lifted by Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers, the question on everyone's mind remained: What happens now?
From deciphering President Donald Trump's tweets on Iran - including one demanding "WORLD PEACE" - to trying to figure out how much their cratering currency is worth, Iranians on the streets appear divided on how to respond.
The same goes for inside its theocratic government. President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, has taken an increasingly confrontational line in recent weeks, applauded by the hard-liners who had long opposed him.
Meanwhile, Rouhani seemed to suggest on live television the night before that direct talks with Trump could be possible - something of which North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-hu, who visited Tehran on Tuesday, has personal experience.
Whether Iran should choose a Singapore-style photo-op with the American president who backed out of the nuclear deal or abandon the unraveling accord and increase its uranium enrichment remains a fiercely debated question. But everyone agrees something has to be done soon, as sporadic, leaderless protests across the country of 80 million people only add to the pressure.
"Their sanctions are very effective, as you can see, the government should find a solution," said Mahmoud, a 62-year-old former civil servant who only gave his first name. "They should first solve domestic problems because people are really drowning in poverty and misery."
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean state media on Monday urged the United States to drop sanctions, as South Korea said it was investigating nine cases of coal shipments that potentially violated UN resolutions.
Pyongyang had demonstrated good faith by ending nuclear weapons testing and returning the remains of US troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, and the resolutions had lost a reason to exist, said the Rodong Sinmun, a mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party.
The statements came days after a confidential United Nations report concluded that North Korea had not halted nuclear and missile programme, in breach of UN resolutions, and continued illegal trade in oil, coal and other commodities.
South Korea is examining nine cases in which coal from North Korea disguised as Russian products was possibly brought in, Seoul's foreign ministry and customs officials said.
They declined to detail the number of ships or identify the companies involved, saying the investigation was in the final phase following raids and forensic analysis, but some cases might prove lawful.
North Korea and the United States vowed to work to end Pyongyang's weapons programme at a landmark summit in June in Singapore, but have struggled to reach a pact to meet that goal.
The Rodong Sinmun accused Washington of "acting opposite" to its plan to improve ties, despite goodwill gestures by Pyongyang, such as a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, the dismantling of a nuclear site, and the return of the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War.
"There have been outrageous arguments coming out of the US State Department that it won't ease sanctions until a denuclearisation is completed, and reinforcing sanctions is a way to raise its negotiating power," it said in an editorial.
"How could the sanctions, which were a stick the US administration had brandished as part of its hostile policy against us, promote the two countries' amity?"
The editorial, which accompanied front-page articles and photographs of leader Kim Jong Un's visit to a catfish farm, was a fresh sign of Pyongyang's frustration over the slow-moving nuclear talks.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States pushed the United Nations to impose tough sanctions on North Korea as Kim conducted a string of missile and nuclear tests last year.
At a security forum on Saturday, the two sides sparred over the Singapore pact, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for sanctions against Pyongyang to be maintained, and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, criticising Washington for "retreating" from ending the war.
Pompeo suggested the North's continued work on its weapons programme was inconsistent with Kim's commitment to denuclearise, but expressed optimism it would be achieved.
Returning to Washington, Pompeo played down the exchange with Ri, saying the tone was far different from last year.
North Korea's propaganda websites on Monday also urged the United States to drop sanctions and build trust.
One of them, Uriminzokkiri, lambasted the sanctions and pressure campaign as "anachronistic" and a hurdle to better relations, urging efforts to officially declare an end to the Korean War.
Maeri, another North Korean website, stressed the need for US action to build confidence in response to the North's moves to end weapons programme and send back the remains.
"It takes two to tango," it said.
Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for South Korea's presidential Blue House, said on Monday the government was asking the North to hasten denuclearisation and the United States to show sincerity over the North's demands for reciprocal steps.