Archive for the ‘2012 DPRK engagement’ Category

US visas issued to DPRK in 2012

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

According to the data compiled by the U.S. State Department, a total of 87 visas were issued for North Koreans in the 2012 fiscal year running from October 2011 to September 2012. This represents a 22 percent decrease from a year earlier.

The drop is mainly attributed to the soured relations between Washington and Pyongyang after the communist country launched a long-range rocket last April in breach of an earlier agreement to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches.

North Koreans were issued more than 200 visas per year during 2003-2005, but the figure has been on a downward trend since then, with 148 cases in 2006, 150 in 2007, 137 in 2008, 76 in 2009 and 53 in 2010, according to the official data.

The notable falls in 2006 and 2009 show a correlation with Pyongyang’s first and second rounds of nuclear tests, experts say.

By type of visa issued in fiscal 2012, short-term business and travel visas of B1 or B2 took up the largest share with 50 cases, followed by 32 G-type visas for representatives of international organizations and their immediate family members. There were also three F-type visas for students and two C-type visas issued for short-stay visitors, the data showed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government issued a total of 90,927 visas to South Koreans in fiscal 2012, down 15 percent, the data showed.

Read the full story here:
U.S. visa issuance to N. Koreans drops last year


Global Resource Services

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

The Atlantic has an article on Global Resource Services, a religious US-based NGO which has been running programs in the DPRK for years. The full article is well worth reading.

According to the GRS web page, these are the project in which they are involved:

1. “HaePo Ri Soy Farm“. I suspect that this is located in Haepho-ri (해포리)in Singye County. According to the web page:

About 500 hectares of land originally used to grow corn, has now been dedicated to growing soybeans. Initially, GRS helped by supplying soy seed and equipment to process the soybeans. The soybean products are an excellent source of protein for the local diet. Growing soybeans also helps replenish the soil after growing corn for many years. The soybean oil is used for cooking oil, and the soymilk is used in the local school lunch program.

The newest installation at the HaePo Ri Soy Farm is a soybean oil factory. The soybean oil is used for cooking oil, which is very important in preparing meals with locally grown corn and other grains. Soybean meal is also a byproduct of the factory that is also high in protein, and can be used in the local diet and to supplement animal feed. Approximately 30 tons of soybean oil are produced each year.

GRS and local farm managers at HaePo Ri have a long range plan for community development. Economic development, water resource development, medical health programs, and educational programs are being planned and implemented.

2. “Jangpoong Goat Dairy Farm”. I suspect that this is the “Jangphung (장풍읍) Goat Farm”.


According to the web page:

GRS began working with the DPRK Ministry of Agriculture and officials from the Jangpoong Goat Dairy Farm in 2002. The engineers and workers at the Jangpoong Farm constructed a building, and GRS began installing dairy processing equipment in June 2003. Dairy processing began in October 2003. Since that time, GRS staff and partners have made several visits to the farm with ongoing support. A delegation of DPRK agricultural experts visited Langston University in 2004 for discussions and training in goat care, nutrition, cheese making, and artificial insemination. GRS began a several year program in 2004 to improve the goat breed at the farm through artificial insemination. A pelletizing machine was installed at the farm in 2007 to pelletize locally grown goat feed for winter storage. Currently the farm has over 3000 goats and regularly processes cheese, yogurt, and butter. Winter production is often continued using powdered milk.

3. Global Health Program and exchanges.


WIPO project in the DPRK

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

UPDATE 6 (2012-9-24): The Associated Press reports that WIPO didn’t violate sanctions. According to the article:

The U.N. patent agency says it has been cleared of breaking sanctions against North Korea by sending computers to the regime in Pyongyang.

The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization said Monday that a U.N. panel found it had not violated any of three U.N. Security Council resolutions by providing technical assistance to North Korea.

In July, the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives launched an investigation into whether WIPO had violated U.N. sanctions by sending computers and other technology to Iran and North Korea.

WIPO has insisted it did nothing wrong in providing ‘‘standard IT equipment’’ to the patent and trademark offices in those two countries. The Iran review is still pending.

UPDATE 5 (2012-7-24): A preliminary assessment by the State Department has concluded that WIPO did not violate U.N. sanctions when it sent materials to the DPRK. According to a State Department briefing on July 24:

QUESTION: Two small things. One on WIPO, if that’s how it’s pronounced. WIPO. So following suggestions that WIPO allowed the transfer of banned technology to Iran and North Korea, has the United States been able to mount its own investigation of this?

MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, to repeat what we said here last week, we share the concerns raised here in Washington, in the media, regarding these equipment and software transfers by WIPO. We’ve been concerned since we first learned that they had transferred equipment to both North Korea and Iran. We’ve been in contact with WIPO and urged them to institute substantive safeguards.

Our own preliminary assessment, but we are still seeking more information from WIPO, is that there doesn’t appear to have been a violation of UN sanctions. However, this has now been referred to the sanctions committee for them to make their own determination, so we will await the views of the respective UN sanctions committees. We are also seeking more information from WIPO so that we can conclude our own work on whether there was any violation of U.S. law, but we don’t yet have everything that we need in order to make that assessment.

QUESTION: I understand that you don’t yet have everything you need to make a final assessment. But based on what you have, are you able to make a preliminary assessment as to whether or not any U.S. laws were broken?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a preliminary assessment for you. We’re still seeking some more detail from WIPO.

QUESTION: And then one last thing. I believe there was supposed to have been a hearing in the House today on this that got canceled, I think because the WIPO officials were not going to be available to testify. Are you – given that you don’t yet have all the information that you want, are you satisfied that you are getting enough cooperation from them?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are continuing to work with them, and that is a conversation that is ongoing. I think we are – we have seen a number of positive steps from WIPO with regard to their procedures going forward that are important. For example, they have agreed to a commission that will have an external and independent auditing ability with regard to their projects to try to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future. As I said, they’re going to seek a retroactive opinion from the sanctions committee, which wasn’t evident at the beginning of this. And they’re also going to ensure that any future projects are reviewed by their legal counsel. But we are still working with them on some of this U.S. stuff that we need.

QUESTION: But you don’t feel like they’re stonewalling you on this?

MS. NULAND: We do not. No.

Here is what the Chicago Tribune had to say about the canceled House committee hearing:

On Tuesday, the ranking Republican and Democrats on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee accused Gurry of preventing two senior WIPO staff members from testifying before a planned committee hearing, forcing its cancellation.

The staff members asked to testify were James Pooley and Miranda Brown, a source familiar with the matter said.

“Director-General Gurry is obstructing this committee’s investigation of WIPO’s transfer of U.S.-origin technology to rogue regimes under international sanctions — a transfer that occurred on his watch,” Republican chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and ranking Democrat Howard Berman said in a statement.

A WIPO spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment on the statement. Gurry told Reuters late last week that he would allow “a properly competent person” to testify.

Lawmakers have suggested that the United States freeze contributions to WIPO until they are satisfied it is cooperating, although this would likely have a limited impact on the U.N. agency, which relies on member state contributions for only 10 percent of its budget.

UPDATE 4 (2012-7-19): WIPO has issued this statement on their web page:

Information and Clarifications Concerning WIPO’s Technical Assistance Programs
Geneva, July 19, 2012

Following some recent media attention and requests for information from certain member states relating to WIPO’s technical assistance programs, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry provided the following information and clarifications concerning the actions that have been undertaken, or are being undertaken, by the Organization in relation to the provision of technical assistance to countries that are the subject of United Nations (UN) sanctions.

The Director General reiterated that the Secretariat is treating concerns relating to the Organization’s technical assistance programs to countries that are the subject of UN sanctions with the utmost seriousness.

The actions undertaken include:

1. Following the expression of initial concerns over the provision of standard IT equipment to patent and trademark offices for the processing of intellectual property (IP) applications, new internal procedures were established and made operational on May 1, 2012. Under these procedures, all managers must refer any activity proposed in a country subject to UN sanctions to WIPO’s Legal Counsel for guidance and clearance. The Legal Counsel will, wherever necessary, consult the appropriate UN Sanctions Committee. Additionally, any work plan for a country subject to UN sanctions will be submitted at the commencement of each calendar year for guidance by the appropriate Sanctions Committee.

2. The provision of standard IT equipment to the IP offices of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Islamic Republic of Iran that occurred in the preceding years, within the context of the Organization’s business modernization program for IP Offices in developing countries, is being referred to the relevant UN Sanctions Committees for their information and guidance.

3. The initial steps are being undertaken for a full external and independent review of the technical assistance provided to countries subject to UN sanctions.

4. A new internal instruction has been issued ending any provision of IT hardware in any of WIPO’s technical assistance programs.

The Director General reiterates his commitment to transparency and re-affirms the readiness of the Secretariat to continue to provide any information requested by any of the member states of the Organization.

While the legal advice received with respect to the technical assistance provided to DPRK and Iran was that the technical assistance was not in breach of UN Sanctions, it is hoped that the measures outlined above will provide assurance that the Organization is treating this matter with the seriousness that it warrants.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Section at WIPO:

Tel: (+41 22) – 338 81 61
Fax: (+41 22) – 338 81 40



Statistics Without Borders in the DPRK

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

UPDATE 1 (2013-1-18): The Wall Street Journal has published a couple of pieces on statistics education in the DPRK. The first piece is here.  The second piece is here.

Here is a blurb from the first piece:

The Pyongyang Summer Institute in Survey Science and Quantitative Methodology last year began teaching students at North Korea’s first private university about such topics as probability, correlation and survey methodology. More than 250 students, mostly in their 20s, learned from 13 instructors from the U.S. and Europe. This summer, the institute hopes to have 30 teachers instructing 250 students and 100 government workers.

Funded in part by the International Strategy and Reconciliation Foundation, a small Washington, D.C., nonprofit that focuses on North Korea, the institute has an annual budget of about half a million dollars, Dr. Chun said. The group sent an email this week to members of statistical organizations—including the American Statistical Association, which helps run the institute through its international outreach arm—soliciting instructors for the summer. The institute made clear it wouldn’t be able to fund most travel costs. Dr. Chun expects 60 to 70 applications for 30 spots.

Here is a blurb from the second piece:

The institute’s organizers steer well clear of politics. “PSI stays away from controversial courses,” said Yena Lee, co-founder of PSI. She added, “Through dialogue over these nonpolitical issues, we hope to pave the way to greater scholarly and professional engagement with DPRK and to long-term sustainable science diplomacy.”

“I had to change some of my ‘go-to’ examples about political polling, but discussion of politics and religion were off limits,” said Fisher, who in addition to — and unconnected to — his work in North Korea is a statistician at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. “Our purpose was one of science diplomacy and we all viewed it as an educational humanitarian mission.”

Governmental constraints extend to instructors while they’re in the program — for instance, barring them from leaving campus unaccompanied. Rules also kept students from PSI and PUST from being interviewed about the program. “That would not be allowed” by the North Korean government, said Norma H. Nichols, director of the International Academic Affairs Office at the institute’s host university, PUST. “If I were in Pyongyang and had the students nearby, it would still be a near impossibility to get permission even for one of them to participate with me in a Skype call.”

Instructors spoke positively about their students in the stats classes. The institute’s director, Asaph Young Chun, described how in one of his two classes last summer, students had to share textbooks because there weren’t enough to go around. “Most of the students now know by heart what survey is about, why pretest is essential and how data analysis should be planned in advance,” Chun said. And most, Chun said, “were so engaged, responsive, and interactive, I observed. They did not hesitate asking questions when in doubt or when I gave them opportunities to ask questions.”

ORIGINAL POST (2012-6-13): According to the group’s press release:

Statistics Without Borders Participates in Unprecedented Science Diplomacy Program between North Korea and the US/International Community
Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) June 13, 2012

Statistics Without Borders (SWB), an outreach group of the American Statistical Association (ASA), this summer will provide pro-bono instructors for the Pyongyang Summer Institute (PSI) in Survey Science and Quantitative Methodology in North Korea. The PSI is an intensive, international teaching program at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the first and only private and international university, which was launched in North Korea in the fall of 2010.

PSI is the first program of its kind in North Korea, which has now approved visas for 15 visiting faculty. PSI students are expected to be upper level undergraduates and graduate students whose academic credentials are comparable to those students in Ivy plus schools.

The Summer Institute is jointly administered by the International Strategy and Reconciliation Foundation (ISRF), PUST and SWB. The ISRF is a 501(c)(3) organization recognized by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce for its humanitarian and educational programs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The PSI will begin as a three-year pilot program that will take place from July 2012—July 2014.

SWB members make up the majority of the 15 instructors who will provide pro-bono instruction during July for seven four-week courses that will provide training in areas including sampling, statistics, survey methods, census methods, questionnaire design, computer-assisted data collection and analysis, both fundamental and advanced courses. The courses are modeled after those of the 65-year-old Michigan Summer Institute, a renowned international survey training program.

PSI instructors with expertise in survey research methods are: Sunny Bak, statistical consultant; Dr. Annelies Blom, Germany; Dr. Woody Carter, University of Chicago; Dr. Young Chun, an alumnus of Michigan Summer Institute and PSI Director; Bob Colosi, an alumnus of the Joint Program in Survey Methodoloy of the University of Maryland; Michael Costello, RTI International; Justin Fisher, George Washington University; Dr. Mark Griffin, Australian Development Agency for Statistics and Information Systems; Professor Patricia Gwartney, University of Oregon; Professor Ryung Kim, Einstein College of Medicine; Adam Molnar, University of Georgia; Dr. Rene Paulson and Dr. Jacquelyn Pennings, Elite Research in Texas; Pinar Ucar, Qatar Statistics Authority; and Elena Zafarana, Swiss Federal Office of Communications.

The DPRK Working Group of SWB, all ASA members, was formed for planning and implementing the PSI. Co-chairs of the working group are Dr. Gary Shapiro, chair of Statistics without Borders and former mathematical statistician, U.S. Census Bureau; Justin Fisher; and Dr. Young Chun. Other members of the group are: Professor Duncan Thomas, Director of the Biostatistics Division, and Verna R. Richter Chair in Cancer Research, University of Southern California; Dr. Griffin; Dr. James Cochran, professor, Louisiana Tech University; Michael Costello; Professor Sunghee Lee, University of Michigan Joint Program in Survey Methodology; Professor Dominique Haughton, Bentley University; and Professor Mary Gray, American University, Washington, D.C.

About Statistics Without Borders
Statistics without Borders is an apolitical group that was formed in late 2008 to provide pro-bono statistical support to organizations involved in not-for-profit international efforts, mostly involving survey planning and/or analysis of survey data. The goal of the group is to achieve better statistical practice, including statistical analysis and design of experiments and surveys. SWB has more than 500 members from some 30 countries.

About the American Statistical Association
Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the American Statistical Association is the world’s largest community of statisticians and the second oldest continuously operating professional society in the United States. For more than 170 years, the ASA has supported excellence in the development, application, and dissemination of statistical science through meetings, publications, membership services, education, accreditation, and advocacy. Its members serve in industry, government, and academia in more than 90 countries, advancing research and promoting sound statistical practice to inform public policy and improve human welfare. For additional information about the American Statistical Association, please visit the ASA web site at or call 703.684.1221.

For more information:
Rosanne Desmone
703.302.1861 (direct)
703.946.3820 (mobile)
Rosanne (at) amstat (dot) org


American chorus to perform at Spring Arts Festival

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The Sons of Jubal, an all-male chorus and orchestra made up entirely of Georgians, has been invited to perform during the Spring Arts Festival in Pyongyang, DPRK (North Korea). They are the largest American group ever invited to enter the country. The visit is the culmination of years of preparation. They will also perform additional concerts in Beijing, China.

Here is the press release:

All-Male Chorus and Orchestra to perform in Pyongyang, DPRK 

ATLANTA—A 150-member all-male chorus and orchestra from the Atlanta area will perform in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during their Spring Arts Festival in April.

The chorus and orchestra, named the Sons of Jubal, will be one of the largest musical groups of Americans ever to enter the DPRK. The Sons of Jubal was founded in 1954 and consists of volunteer professional musicians, church musicians, educators, and institutional leaders from the state of Georgia.

Global Resource Services, Inc. (GRS), a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Atlanta, is coordinating the cultural exchange. Through its “Advocacy for the Arts” program, GRS is providing opportunities to promote goodwill and reconciliation.

GRS has already sent three other groups to DPRK, including the Grammy Award Winning group, Casting Crowns. The organization has three main principles: relationships, respect, and reconciliation.

“We are excited that this opportunity has come after a decade and a half of experience in DPRK-United States musical exchanges,” said Robert Springs, GRS Chief Executive Officer and President.

The Sons of Jubal will also have performances in Beijing, China, which will include a brass choir, handbell choir, and vocal ensemble. The group has presented concerts in major halls, local churches, and communities in the United States, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Moldova, the Czech Republic, and Russia.

“This is a historic opportunity for the group and I am privileged to be a part of this great musical endeavor,” commented Dr. Jon Duncan, conductor of the group for the past 10 years.

The Sons of Jubal performs an extensive repertoire in the classics, Broadway show tunes, spirituals, and contemporary genres. Members of the Sons of Jubal will leave on April 10 and return to Georgia on April 23.

UPDATE: Here is a follow up article on the group (Augusta Chronicle):

Last month, amid reports of rocket launches in North Korea, a handful of Augusta pastors and musicians were quietly making history.

They were part of a men’s choir that performed in North Korea and China.

The 150-member Sons of Jubal, who are ministers from churches across the Georgia Baptist Convention, is the largest group of Americans to visit North Korea in decades, according to Global Resource Services, an Atlanta nonprofit that coordinated the trip.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We made history,” said the Rev. Roy Kiser, an associate pastor with senior adults at First Baptist Church of North Augusta. He has sung in the choir for 14 years.

The choir performed American show tunes, Korean folk songs and a few hymns at various venues, including a Beijing Christian church; the Morang Hill Symphony Hall, the home of the North Korean National Symphony Orchestra; and a spring festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, the first rule or North Korea, who died in 1994.

For those two weeks, members of Sons of Jubal were celebrities everywhere they went, said the Rev. Keith Burrow, an associate minister of music and senior adults at First Baptist Church of Augusta, who has sung in the choir for five years.

“We were the first Americans a lot of them had ever met,” he said.

The performances took more than three years of planning and six months of rehearsals. The choir worked hard to learn How Great Thou Art in Chinese, and a few traditional Korean songs, Burrow said.

“Music has a way of breaking down barriers in ways other things can’t,” he said. “You could feel the two people groups coming together, all because we sang in their language.”

Between concerts, the group did a little sightseeing, stopping at both the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. Under military escort, the group toured the north side of the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea from South Korea.

Upon returning from the tour, church members have asked Burrow whether he ever felt scared while traveling through the communist countries.

“Not once,” he said. “Because of the (political) relations between us and them, we really didn’t know what to expect. We saw over and over again that people are people no matter where they are.”

Kiser agreed.

“They rolled out the red carpet for us,” he said. “Everyone was friendly, personable. They made quite the positive impression.”

So did one translator in particular, Burrow said.

“Our guide told us, ‘I will never look at Americans the same way again.’ She said, ‘I hope you never look at Koreans the same way again either.’ ”


Joint exhibition by the AP and KCNA

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

UPDATE (2012-3-15): Ironically, we have coverage of the photo exhibit from the Associated Press:

“Daily life is really what I try to focus on when I’m there. … It’s unscripted, it’s candid,” said AP Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder, who took some of the photographs in the show, and who has made who has made many reporting trips to North Korea since 2010.

“For people to see their own life in other people’s lives, I think it has a lot of power to break down barriers.”

“Windows on North Korea: Photographs From the DPRK,” is a joint exhibition by The Associated Press and the state-run Korean Central News Agency, and features a mix of archival and contemporary images.

The show was timed to open before the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15, and comes two months after the AP expanded its operations in Pyongyang to include writers and photojournalists. The AP became the first international news organization to have a full-time presence in the secretive communist country when it opened a video bureau in 2006.

The photographs “give us rare views of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a nation of great interest to the world, though little known,” said Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP.

North Korea and the United States have never had formal diplomatic relations, and the two nations have experienced tensions over the years, particularly over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. North Korea has tested two atomic devices in the past six years.

Tensions had recently eased somewhat. Late last month, the United States and North Korea announced an agreement that calls for Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear activities in exchange for food aid. But a surprise announcement by the North Koreans on Friday that they plan to blast a satellite into space on the back of a long-range rocket could jeopardize that agreement.

The exhibit’s organizers said they hoped the show would help foster better understanding between the two countries.

“My expectation is that this will be the first step in some peaceful reconciliation, and in a few years there will be trade, cultural exchange and tourists from each country coming to (the) other,” said Donald Rubin, who co-founded The 8th Floor gallery hosting the exhibit.

Images on display included a 1953 KCNA photograph showing residents helping to rebuild Pyongyang’s central district after the Korean War, AP photos documenting visits by such prominent foreigners as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, as well as everyday scenes ranging from sunbathers at the beach to shoppers inside a modern department store.

“It is our hope that this exhibition would give exhibition-goers visual understanding of the people, customs, culture and history of the DPRK, thereby helping to deepen mutual understanding and improve the bilateral relations,” Kim Chang Gwang, KCNA’s senior vice president, said in an address at the show’s opening.

“In this exhibit, we are offered two perspectives of the DPRK — as viewed by her native daughters and sons from KCNA and by AP journalists visiting to chronicle news and daily life there. We can appreciate the different styles and techniques and points of view,” Carroll said. “These photographs also show us that different people can find common ground.”

The show also includes images taken by KCNA journalists who participated in a joint workshop in October led by AP instructors. It runs from March 15 to April 13 at The 8th Floor gallery, which was established to promote cultural and philanthropic initiatives.

The AP, an independent news cooperative founded in New York and owned by its U.S. newspaper membership, has operations in more than 100 countries and employs nearly 2,500 journalists across the world in 300 locations.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-3-10): According to Yonhap:

A group of North Korean journalists left for the United States Saturday to attend a photo exhibition set to open next week, marking the centenary of the birth of the North’s late founding leader, Kim Il-sung, the country’s media said.

The North’s delegation, led by Kim Chang-gwang, vice director of the Korean Central News Agency, will attend the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition scheduled for March 15, the news agency said in a report.

The photo exhibition, to be jointly organized with The Associated Press, is scheduled to run until April 13, two days before the late leader’s 100th birthday, the American news agency said in its Web site.

The photo exhibition is part of joint programs being pushed by the KCNA to promote its nascent relations with the U.S. news agency. The AP opened a bureau in Pyongyang in January, the first international news agency with a full-time presence in the reclusive country to dispatch texts, photos and video.

The KCNA said the New York exhibition will showcase photos archived by two news agencies, including the North’s late founding leader and his deceased son Kim Jong-il who died of heart failure in December last year, as well as people and life in the communist state.

Additional information:

1. Here is the coverage of the KCNA delegation’s departure from Pyongyang reported by KCNA.

2. Here is the web page of the exhibit.

3. Extensive comments and additional information at OFK.

4. Foreign Policy writes about the conditions under which the aP operated in the DPRK.

5. How the AP selected its North Korea reporter


DPRK nuclear negotiator meets US academics

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

According to the AFP:

North Korea’s main nuclear negotiator on Wednesday held talks with US academics in New York as part of a private visit amid new hopes of disarmament progress after the isolated state agreed to freeze its weapons program.

Ri Yong-Ho, a vice foreign minister and chief envoy to international nuclear talks, held talks with the academics at a New York hotel.

The talks were part of a forum organized by Syracuse University which South Korea’s nuclear envoy Lim Sung-Nam was also to attend. No details on the talks have been given.

It was not immediately known, however, whether Ri would go to Syracuse in New York state or what other meetings he would have. Ri has been the North Korean lead negotiator at six nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which have been suspended since April 2009.

His three-day visit, however, comes after a breakthrough agreement that will provide US food aid to the North in exchange for the suspension of its nuclear program.

North Korea and the United States are discussing the delivery of 240,000 tons of food aid after Pyongyang agreed to freeze nuclear and missile tests and its uranium enrichment program.

The Hankyoreh offers more information.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea nuclear negotiator meets US academics


US – DPRK “leap day deal” announced

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

UPDATE 7 (2012-4-18): The IAEA now states that it is not likely to send an inspection team to the DPRK. According to the Voice of America:

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it is now unlikely to send a delegation to North Korea, after Pyongyang stated it is no longer bound by an agreement with the United States not to test missiles and nuclear devices.

Spokeswoman Gill Tudor made the announcement late Tuesday, ending hopes for the visit for which IAEA officials began negotiating with North Korea in March.

Earlier in the day, Pyongyang said it was breaking off a bilateral agreement to halt its nuclear activities and allow IAEA inspectors to enter the country after the U.S. suspended much needed food aid. Washington said North Korea did not keep its end of the bargain when it carried out its failed missile launch on Friday.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry vowed to continue trying to fire a long-range rocket into space to place what it said was a weather satellite into orbit. It also vowed unspecified retaliation now that the agreement with the U.S. is no longer in place.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Tuesday that Pyongyang’s statement was “not surprising, given their recent behavior.” He said he could not predict whether North Korea is laying the ground work for a future nuclear test, as some fear.

UPDATE 6 (2012-4-17): North Korea announced that it has scrapped the “Leap day deal“. According to KCNA (2012-4-17):

Thirdly, as the U.S. violated the Feb. 29 DPRK-U.S. agreement through its undisguised hostile acts, we will no longer be bound to it.

UPDATE 5 (2012-4-17): Following the launch of the Unha-3 rocket in April of 2012, the US has scrapped the “Leap Day Deal” to provide food aid for a suspension of the DPRK’s nuclear program. According to the Los Angeles Times:

The Obama administration announced shortly after the launch Friday that it was scrapping a Feb. 29 agreement to send 240,000 metric tons of food to North Korea, a promise made as inducement for Pyongyang to abide by previous U.N. resolutions and suspend its nuclear programs.

UPDATE 4 (2012-3-31): The DPRK attacks the US decision to suspend food assistance. According to Bloomberg:

North Korea criticized a U.S. announcement that it would suspend food aid if the Asian country carries out a planned “peaceful” satellite launch, calling it an overreaction “beyond the limit.”

Suspending food aid “would be a regrettable act” scrapping the entire Feb. 29 agreement between the two nations, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said, quoting a foreign ministry spokesman it didn’t name.

North Korea drew rebukes from nations including the U.S. earlier this month when it revealed plans to launch an “earth observation satellite” in April to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who visited Seoul for a Nuclear Security Summit this week, warned North Korea that its plan to fire a long-range rocket undermined prospects for future negotiations, while South Korea’s military said Kim Jong Un’s forces had moved the missile to a launch site.

North Korea’s announcement of a mid-April launch will make it difficult to move forward with the aid deal and broader efforts to get the regime back to negotiations on its nuclear weapons program, Obama said.

UPDATE 3 (2012-3-28): Food aid deal will be suspended if DPRK goes through with April rocket launch.  According to the American Forces Press Service:

Concerns that North Korea would resume provocative behavior on the international stage in 2012 have proven true, so the United States has suspended plans to provide nutrition aid to the impoverished nation, senior defense officials told Congress today.

“Our suspicions … were confirmed when North Korea announced on March 16 that it plans to conduct a missile launch between April 12th and 16,” Peter R. Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, told members of the House Armed Services Committee. “This grand launch is highly provocative, because it manifests North Korea’s desire to test and expand its long-range missile capability.”

Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, testified alongside Lavoy in a hearing examining the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

After a series of U.S.-North Korean discussions in late February, the North Korean government agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches — then announced plans for the launch just two weeks later, Lavoy explained.

The United States had agreed during the February talks to provide nutritional aid to North Korea. The World Food Program in November 2011 recommended targeted high-nutrition aid as critical to 3 million North Koreans most at risk for starvation.

Lavoy and Thurman both confirmed the United States will not deliver the planned nutrition aid.

“During those discussions, the United States made it very clear that a satellite launch would be a deal-breaker,” Lavoy told the panel.

Both men said U.S. officials have worked to “delink” humanitarian aid and political concerns, but defended the decision to suspend nutritional aid.

“The fact that North Korea so brazenly violated commitments that it just so recently agreed to … indicates that they’re not reliable,” Lavoy said. “We cannot expect them to meet … the commitments that they’ve agreed to that are associated with the provision of nutritional assistance to the needy population in their country.

“It’s regrettable that the food aid is not moving forward,” he added. “The North Korean population really needs nutritional assistance. And we’re prepared to provide that to North Korea.”

Thurman said officials are working closely with allies and other partners in the region to try to discourage North Korea from launching the missile. Meanwhile, the general added, “we have been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance to North Korea.”

Lavoy said the threatened launch would be in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit North Korea from conducting any launches that use ballistic missile technology.

The launch would involve a North Korean-made Kwangmyongsong-3 polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite to mark the 100th birthday of late President Kim Il Sung, a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said in a statement.

The late president’s birthday is April 15.

Lavoy said North Korea’s authoritarian government, founded by Kim Il Sung and subsequently led by Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un — his son and grandson, respectively — seeks to provoke other nations militarily as a means of demonstrating power to its people.

“Political successions are extraordinarily difficult when you don’t have a representative government, which is the case there, of course,” he noted. Kim Jong Un took power after his father’s death in December.

“What we’re seeing now and what we anticipate is provocative behavior, because, unfortunately, this seems to be the only way that the North Korean regime can try to demonstrate its bona fides to a population that is suffering terribly,” Lavoy added.

Thurman said North Korea’s “military first” policy diverts national resources away from food and essential services to the people.

“They maintain the fourth-largest conventional military force in the world, the world’s largest special operating force, and significant long-range artillery capabilities,” the general said. “Over 70 percent of their combat powers are arrayed within 90 miles of the demilitarized zone.”

South Korea, home to some 28,500 forward-based U.S. troops, is “a vibrant democracy, economic success and global security partner, currently serving beside us in Afghanistan and off the Horn of Africa,” Thurman said.

“In stark contrast, one of the world’s poorest, most closed and
most militarized countries, North Korea, lies less than 20 miles from the northern districts of Seoul, a city of over 24 million people,” he added.

The United States and South Korea have for 60 years maintained a close partnership aimed at deterring North Korean aggression and maintaining stability on the peninsula, Thurman noted.

“We are prepared to defend the peninsula and can do that,” the general said. “And we can repel any type of attack should the North Koreans decide to do that.”

UPDATE 2 (2012-3-23): North Korea has announced it will conduct another “Satellite” Launch (aka ICBM test).  Jeffrey Lewis writes about the unwinding of the “Leap-day deal” at Arms Control Wonk.

UPDATE 1 (2012-3-15):  The Choson Ilbo reports that the DPRK has agreed to allow more monitoring of food aid distribution:

The North apparently agreed during the latest meeting with U.S. officials in Beijing to increase the number of monitors to 70. Their task will be to check that the food reaches civilians who need it and is not diverted to the military. A diplomatic source in Seoul said the U.S. has decided to send monitors who are fluent in Korean to the North when it takes delivery of 20,000 tons of food aid per month over a year, as agreed.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, met on March 7 and 8 with An Myong-hun of the North Korean Foreign Ministry and agreed the terms, the source said.

North Korea accepted most U.S. demands, the source added. Washington apparently insisted that Pyongyang must accept U.S. requests to dispatch monitors to a particular regions at 24 hours’ notice.

After the talks, King said he was “very satisfied” with the results. The U.S. will brief the World Food Programme in Rome on the outcome on Thursday. The WFP then handles the provision of food aid along with five other aid groups based in the U.S. The aid, which takes the form of nutritional supplements rather than rice, will go to North Korean children between the ages of five and seven as well as pregnant women.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-2-29): According to the Associated Press (Via Washingotn Post):

The United States says North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and agree to a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said Wednesday the North has agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment and confirm disablement of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

Her statement says the U.S. will meet with North Korea to finalize details for a proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of food aid.

The Washington Post provides additional information:

The agreement is the result of talks between U.S. and North Korean negotiators late last week in Beijing — the first such negotiations since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the elevation of his son Kim Jong Eun.

While U.S. leaders have insisted that the food aid for the impoverished country and nuclear disarmament are separate issues, North Korean officials have tied the two in past negotiation

Here is the official statement by the State Department:

U.S.-DPRK Bilateral Discussions

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 29, 2012

A U.S. delegation has just returned from Beijing following a third exploratory round of U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks. To improve the atmosphere for dialogue and demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization, the DPRK has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities. The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities.

The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas, but today’s announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these. We have agreed to meet with the DPRK to finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with our proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance.

The following points flow from the February 23-24 discussions in Beijing:

The United States reaffirms that it does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK and is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.

The United States reaffirms its commitment to the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement.

The United States recognizes the 1953 Armistice Agreement as the cornerstone of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. and DPRK nutritional assistance teams will meet in the immediate future to finalize administrative details on a targeted U.S. program consisting of an initial 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance with the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need.

The United States is prepared to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports.

U.S. sanctions against the DPRK are not targeted against the livelihood of the DPRK people.

Here is the statement in KCNA:

DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman on Result of DPRK-U.S. Talks

Pyongyang, February 29 (KCNA) — The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Wednesday gave the following answer as regards questions raised by KCNA concerning the result of the latest DPRK-U.S. high-level talks:

Delegations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States of America (U.S.) met in Beijing, China on 23rd and 24th of February for the third round of the high-level talks between the DPRK and the U.S.

Present at the talks were the delegation of the DPRK headed by Kim Kye Gwan, the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the delegation of the U.S. headed by Glyn Davies, the Special Representative of the State Department for the DPRK Policy.

The talks, continuation of the two previous DPRK-U.S. high-level talks held respectively in July and October, 2011, offered a venue for sincere and in-depth discussion of issues concerning the measures aimed at building confidence for the improvement of relations between the DPRK and the U.S. as well as issues related with ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and resumption of the six-party talks.

Both the DPRK and the U.S. reaffirmed their commitments to the September 19 Joint Statement and recognized that the 1953 Armistice Agreement is the cornerstone of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula until the conclusion of a peace treaty.

Both the DPRK and the U.S. agreed to make a number of simultaneous moves aimed at building confidence as part of the efforts to improve the relations between the DPRK and the U.S.

The U.S. reaffirmed that it no longer has hostile intent toward the DPRK and that it is prepared to take steps to improve the bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.

The U.S. also agreed to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports.

The U.S. promised to offer 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance with the prospect of additional food assistance, for which both the DPRK and the U.S. would finalize the administrative details in the immediate future.

The U.S. made it clear that sanctions against the DPRK are not targeting the civilian sector, including the livelihood of people.

Once the six-party talks are resumed, priority will be given to the discussion of issues concerning the lifting of sanctions on the DPRK and provision of light water reactors.

Both the DPRK and the U.S. affirmed that it is in mutual interest to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, improve the relations between the DPRK and the U.S., and push ahead with the denuclearization through dialogue and negotiations.

Both sides agreed to continue the talks.

The DPRK, upon request by the U.S. and with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere for the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks, agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activity at Nyongbyon and allow the IAEA to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment while productive dialogues continue.

Evan Ramstad analyses the differences be3tween the DPRK and US State Department statements in this Wall Street Journal article.

The New York Times offers some caveats:

North Korea has agreed in the past to halt its nuclear program only to back out, demanding more concessions or accusing the United States of reneging on its obligations. And the statement Tuesday from the North’s official Korean Central News Agency appeared to give the country’s leaders wiggle room again this time, saying that Pyongyang would carry out the agreement “as long as talks proceed fruitfully.”

Still, North Korea’s agreement to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to the country appeared to be a significant concession. After years of negotiations, North Korea expelled inspectors and went on to test nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. American intelligence officials believe the country has enough fuel already for six to eight weapons.

If the North lives up to its agreement to stop uranium enrichment, it could help ease some anxieties in Washington over the program at a time when the administration, in an election year, is consumed with halting Iran’s nuclear program before Israel decides to stage an attack.

For the relatively young and inexperienced Mr. Kim, the agreement could be crucial to solidifying his hold on power and the backing of the powerful military, analysts in South Korea said. He needs to show in the early months of his rule that he is improving people’s lives after years of food shortages and a devastating famine. Bringing in 240,000 metric tons of food aid from the United States will surely help.

CNN reports (sorry, no link) that the details of this agreement were largely negotiated before Kim Jong-il passed away.

Additional Information:

1. Here are Scott Snyder’s thoughts on the agreement. Here are Joel Wit’s comments. Here are Gordon Flake’s.

2. Here is coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Stratfor.

3. Joshua Stanton (OFK) posted a transcript of the entire State Department briefing. Here is the State Department Briefing transcript from State.

4. I have kept a collection of significant news and satellite imagery of the DPRK’s nuclear facilities.  You can see the information here.

5. The DPRK lobbied very hard for food aid from the international community throughout 2011.

6. Here is a list of US – DPRK engagement in 2011Fox News also reports that an American ship has arrived in North Korea to assist in the search for the remains of Korean War MIAs.

7. More on the talks that preceded the announcement of the deal here

Read the full stories here:
U.S. says N. Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, moratorium on nuclear, missile tests
Associated Press (Via Washingotn Post)

N. Korea agrees to suspend uranium enrichment, nuclear tests
Washington Post
William Wan


US – DPRK joint Korean War MIA search

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

UPDATE 1 (2012-3-20): The DPRK’s announced launch of the Kwangmyongsong-3  has brought an end to the program. According to the Associated Press:

The United States said Wednesday it is suspending efforts to recover remains of thousands of fallen service members in North Korea, the latest sign that a recent thaw in relations is over.

The U.S. was in the process of resuming the hunt for remains missing from the 1950-53 Korean War that had been on hold since 2005, the only form of cooperation between the two militaries.

But North Korea announced plans last week to launch a satellite into space by rocket — a step the U.S. says would violate a U.N. ban. That knocked back recent progress in negotiations on the North’s nuclear program, and has jeopardized a Feb. 29 agreement in which the U.S. was to provide food aid in exchange for a nuclear freeze.

The U.S. left open the door to resuming remains recovery if the situation improves.

North Korea says the rocket launch, intended to mark the centennial of the nation’s founder in mid-April, has peaceful aims. The U.S. and other countries suspect it would serve to test capabilities of a long-range missile. Pyongyang has also threatened a “sacred war” against rival South Korea, in response to recent U.S.-South Korean military drills.

The agreement on resuming the troop recovery operations was made last October, and the program was beginning this month. The U.S. had already sent equipment by ship, and an advance team had been due in the country this month. North Korea would have received millions in compensation this year for its support of the operations.

Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters that North Korea has not acted appropriately in recent days and weeks and “it’s important for them to return to the standards of behavior that the international community has called for.”

“When there are suggestions that they might launch ballistic missiles, when they make bellicose statements about South Korea, and engage in actions that could be construed as provocative, we think that it’s not the right time to undertake this effort,” he said.

He said at some point the U.S. hopes to restart the recovery effort.

More than 7,960 U.S. servicemen are unaccounted for from the Korean War, which ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving the adversaries in a state of war. Some 5,300 of the missing are believed to be in North Korea.

Pentagon spokeswoman Tara Rigler said North Korea had refused to take agreed steps, including permitting the U.S. advance team into the country, and had politicized the remains recovery operations by linking them to the recent U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

She said no U.S. personnel are currently on the ground in North Korea.

The announcement is the latest setback for family members of veterans of the conflict who have lobbied hard for a resumption of the recovery operations. Of the nearly 8,000 missing service members, the remains of just 192 have been recovered and identified so far, based on remains handed over by North Korea or retrieved between 1996-2005.

“It’s heartbreaking to have such a humanitarian, positive mission be continually caught up in political storms,” said Richard Downes, who leads a volunteer group representing families of Korean War MIAs.

See also this story in the Washington Post and this in the Herald Tribune.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-2-28): According to Fox News:

The U.S. military says an American ship has arrived in North Korea to support the hunt for the remains of soldiers missing-in-action from the Korean War.

Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Robert Willard, said Tuesday the ship is offloading equipment at Nampho, a port city west of the capital, Pyongyang.

The U.S. and North Korea agreed in October to restart the search for thousands of American service members, a sign of easing tensions between the wartime enemies.

The program is due to begin formally on March 1, with a U.S. advance team arriving in Pyongyang later in the month.

The search was suspended in 2005 during tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program. The U.S. cited misgivings about the security of its personnel.

Read more about the origins of this project here.

Read the full story here:
US ship in North Korea to prepare for remains hunt
Fox News