“North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was shown riding a white horse in the snow on a sacred mountain, in several photographs released by state media Wednesday that experts said could presage a major announcement,” the Washington Post reports.
A senior North Korean diplomat on Saturday berated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over his comments describing North Korean behavior as “rogue” and warned that Pyongyang’s hopes for talks with Washington are fading, the AP reports.
“North Korea is extremely sensitive to outside criticism about its authoritarian leadership. It has also repeatedly expressed displeasure about a months-long stalemate in negotiations and ramped up testing of short-range ballistic missiles and rocket artillery in recent weeks in an apparent effort to build bargaining leverage.”
Associated Press: “North Korea said Wednesday leader Kim Jong Un supervised a live-fire demonstration of newly developed, short-range ballistic missiles intended to send a warning to the United States and South Korea over their joint military exercises.”
“North Korea said Saturday its leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test-firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system that could potentially enhance the country’s ability to strike targets in South Korea and U.S. military bases there,” the AP reports.
North Korea fired two short range ballistic missiles, both landing in the sea, NBC News reports.
This is the country’s third missile launch in the last two weeks.
Washington Post: “The missile launch was the second in a week, after Pyongyang also fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan last Thursday.”
“Although a ballistic missile test is a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and the missiles are designed to threaten South Korea, Trump played down the significance of last week’s test, saying many countries test short-range missiles.”
“Over the past year, there have been handshakes, compliments and extravagant photo-ops—in Singapore, in Hanoi and even at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“President Trump’s summit diplomacy has raised hopes around the world: Is North Korea now willing to surrender its nuclear arsenal?”
“Analysts who pore over satellite images of the isolated country paint a different picture: North Korea’s scientists have ramped up production of long-range missiles and the fissile material used in nuclear weapons.”
Associated Press: “North Korea said Tuesday that upcoming regular summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills are forcing it to rethink whether it should be committed to the promises it has made to the United States. It cited its moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and other steps aimed at improving ties with Washington.”
“The statement said Trump vowed to suspend military drills with South Korea during his first and third meetings with Kim, but the planned summertime drills with Seoul and the deployment of weapons in the South show that Washington is not fulfilling that promise.”
“Few Americans alive today have set foot inside North Korea, the isolated, nuclear-armed dictatorship sometimes called the Hermit Kingdom,” the Washington Post reports.
“On Sunday, Ivanka Trump became one of them, capping a consequential three-day Asian trip in which the president’s eldest daughter played a very public role that blended family ties with diplomatic work that is usually performed by diplomats.”
“She pronounced the short walk to the other side of one of the world’s most fortified borders ‘surreal.'”
A South Korean newspaper reports that Kim Hyok Chol, “who led working-level negotiations for the summit in Hanoi between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Trump in February, was executed with four other North Korean foreign ministry officials in March,” according to Bloomberg.
“Kim Jong Un’s top aide Kim Yong Chol is reportedly undergoing hard labor.”
Reuters: “The North Korean leader is believed to be carrying out a massive purge to divert attention away from internal turmoil and discontent.”
“Ahead of the second summit in Hanoi, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un requested as part of the agreement between the countries moving forward that the U.S. send ‘famous basketball players’ to normalize relations between the two countries,” ABC News reports.
“The request was made in writing, officials said, as part of the cultural exchange between the two countries, and at one point the North Koreans insisted that it be included in the joint statement on denuclearization. The North Koreans also made a request for the exchange of orchestras between the two countries.”
“The relationship continues. We’ll see what happens. I know they want to negotiate. They are talking about negotiating, but I don’t think they are ready to negotiate.”
— President Trump, quoted by the Washington Post, on North Korea continuing weapons testing.
“U.S. authorities have seized a North Korean ship used to sell coal in alleged violation of international sanctions,” the Washington Post reports.
“Justice Department officials confirmed the ship, the ‘Wise Honest,’ is approaching U.S. territorial waters.”
“North Korea on Thursday fired at least one unidentified projectile from the country’s western area, South Korea’s military said, the North’s second weapons launch in the last five days and a possible warning that nuclear disarmament talks with Washington could be in danger,” the AP reports.
“The launch comes as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun visits South Korea, and hours after the North described its firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile on Saturday as a regular and defensive military exercise.”
“Four in ten North Koreans are chronically short of food and further cuts to already minimal rations are expected after the worst harvest in a decade,” Reuters reports.
“Official rations are down to 300 grammes – under 11 ounces – per person per day, the lowest ever for this time of year, the U.N. said following a food security assessment it carried out at Pyongyang’s request from March 29 to April 12.”
“Joseph Yun, the former State Department Special Representative for North Korea, confirmed Monday that he signed an agreement to pay North Korea $2 million for the release of American student Otto Warmbier in 2017,” CNN reports.
Said Yun: “As soon as North Korea side told me that this bill for $2 million would have to be paid … I contacted my boss then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He got back to me very quickly thereafter to say yes, go ahead and sign.”
Trump has flatly denied any money was paid for the release of Warmbier.
President Trump said the United States did not pay any money to North Korea as it sought the release of Otto Warmbier, a day after a report said Trump had approved a $2 million bill from Pyongyang for the American student’s care, Reuters reports.
Said Trump: “No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else.”
“North Korea issued a $2 million bill for the hospital care of comatose American Otto Warmbier, insisting that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay it before being allowed to fly the University of Virginia student from Pyongyang in 2017,” the Washington Post reports.
“The presentation of the invoice — not previously disclosed by U.S. or North Korean officials — was extraordinarily brazen even for a regime known for its aggressive tactics… But the main U.S. envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier signed an agreement to pay the medical bill on instructions passed down from President Trump.”