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Rapid reaction forces latest group to siphon bribes from merchants


Local North Korean officials were reportedly shocked recently when, according to sources in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, merchants selling illegal items pushed back against Rapid Reaction Forces that were demanding bribes. “Earlier this month, on the anniversary of the Party’s foundation (October 10), authorities from the Rapid Reaction Forces (RRF) began circling the jangmadang in Hyesan ‘in accordance with the holiday’, demanding bribes from merchants. However, many pushed back or fled the scene, with some responding, “How many times have we already had to pay the authorities this month?” a source in Ryanggang Province informed Daily NK on October 24. Kim Jong Il established the RRF under the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) and tasked the unit with “stamping out the subversive elements of society”, and those attempting to incite anti-government riots. Bribes demanded by the RRF come in addition to the other fees merchants must already pay to the market’s management unit, the police, and Ministry of State Security (MSS) agents on national holidays. Considering RRF’s origins and official objectives, the prevailing opinion is that they have no business invading the markets and harassing merchants. Residents have pointed out that there are three other government organizations already fulfilling that role. “On top of the already chaotic situation in our country, it seems that every person that gains any power just uses that to exploit the people and take every last dime they have, even from the poor and downtrodden. There is no hope left for the people, and nobody in power to help them”, a separate source in Ryanggang Province said.”The authorities have no reservations about destroying people’s lives. The mere sight of the authorities in the markets is driving people to new levels of fear as more and more money is extracted from the people”.

North Korea justifies its most powerful nuclear bomb test


As South Korea and the United States began their week-long joint Navy drills in the waters around the Korean peninsula on Monday – North Korea released a statement justifying its nuclear program. A North Korean lawmaker said that was America’s antics that compelled Pyongyang to develop and successfully test what was by far its most powerful nuclear weapon yet. Addressing the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Deputy Chairman of North Korea’s parliament An Tong Chun argued that U.S. military pressure was the primary inspiration for Pyongyang’s decision to pursue its nuclear and ballistic weapons program, despite heavy international sanctions. He said, “It was the United States who prompted the DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) to create a hydrogen bomb and ballistic missiles. We are determined to build up our nuclear forces until peace in struggle with the United States is secured. North Korea will never discuss its right to nuclear weapons as long as the United States keeps its nuclear threat and belligerent policy towards North Korea”. Now, North Korea has claimed that it has a right to create, test and possess nuclear and ballistic weapons as a deterrent against an invasion from hostile powers such as the U.S., but the U.S. and a number of other countries, including North Korea’s closest traditional ally, China, have objected to Kim Jong Un’s actions. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has previously protested Kim Jong Un’s moves, signed a decree affirming Moscow’s commitment to a November 2016 UN Security Council resolution that implements harsh sanctions against North Korea and individuals believed to be linked to its nuclear weapons program. Earlier this month, a Russian lawmaker who returned from a visit to Pyongyang said that North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile which it believes can reach the west coast of the United States. According to South Korean intelligence officials and analysts, North Korea might time its next provocation to coincide with China’s all-important Communist Party Congress that begins on Wednesday. Meanwhile, on Monday, the European Union banned the sale of oil and oil products to North Korea, in a largely symbolic move aimed at encouraging countries that have more significant levels of trade with the country to follow suit.

BAE Systems blames North Korea’s Lazarus hackers for cyberattack on Taiwanese bank


BAE Systems, the defence and security firm, said on Monday that it believed the North Korean Lazarus hacking group was likely to have been responsible for a recent cyber heist in Taiwan, the latest in a string of hacks targeting the global Swift messaging system. The British firm has previously linked Lazarus to last year’s US$81 million cyber heist at Bangladesh’s central bank, as have other cyber firms including Russia’s Kaspersky Lab and California-based Symantec. BAE’s claim that Lazarus was probably responsible for the hack on Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank showed that North Korea was continuing to seek to generate cash through hacking. Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported last week that while hackers sought to steal about US$60 million from Far Eastern Bank, all but 500,000 dollar had been recovered. BAE previously disclosed that Lazarus attempted to steal money from banks in Mexico and Poland, though there is no evidence the effort succeeded. A security executive with Swift ( Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), a Belgium-based cooperative owned by banks, said last week that hackers had continued to target the message system this year, although many attempts had been thwarted by the new security controls.

US flies B-1 bombers over Korean peninsula again, flanked by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets


The US military flew two Air Force B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force late on Tuesday amid high tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, South Korea’s military said. The two B-1B Lancer bombers were accompanied by two F-15K fighters from the South Korean military after leaving their base in Guam. The US military said in a separate statement Japanese fighters had also joined the drill, making it the first nighttime combined exercise for the US bombers with fighters from Japan and South Korea. The South Korean military said this was part of a regular exercise to bolster military defences and also to display the alliance between the United States and South Korea. South Korean and US government officials have been raising their guard against more North Korean provocations with the approach of the 72nd anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s ruling party, which fell on Tuesday. US Air Force Major Patrick Applegate said: “Flying and training at night with our allies in a safe, effective manner is an important capability shared between the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea and hones the tactical prowess of each nations’ aviators”. “This is a clear demonstration of our ability to conduct seamless operations with all of our allies anytime, anywhere”, the US release quoted him as saying.

Pentagon chief backs Tillerson’s North Korea diplomatic strategy after Trump tweet undermined it


Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has tried to clear up doubts about the US administration’s North Korea strategy, backing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s effort to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off. Defence Secretary Mattis was speaking two days after US President Donald Trump appeared to undermine his top diplomat by saying Tillerson was “wasting his time” by maintaining contacts with Kim Jong-un’s regime. State Department officials insist Trump was not criticising Tillerson, but pressuring North to agree to discuss its disarmament while a diplomatic option remains on the table. Jim Mattis said: “The Defence Department supports fully Secretary Tillerson’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution but remains focused on defence of the United States and our allies”. Tillerson has explained the strategy as one of using United Nations and US sanctions and diplomatic pressure to convince Kim of his isolation and force him to negotiate nuclear disarmament. Trump wrote: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”.


DPRK Will Win Victory in Final Battle with U.S.: Rodong Sinmun


The service personnel and people of the DPRK will give full play to the pent-up wrath and fury and biggest power to annihilate the U.S. imperialists and achieve the historic cause of national reunification without fail, says Rodong Sinmun Monday in an article. Everyone believes that the DPRK is sure to win victory in the all-out death-defying struggle against the U.S. The DPRK has the single-minded unity more powerful than nuclear weapons, the most powerful striking means developed by itself and the Juche-oriented war methods beyond imagination. The DPRK has already been in full readiness. All striking means are on the alert. All our service persons and people have turned out in the retaliatory war of justice. Once the Korean-style striking battle prepared for centuries for a final battle with brigandish U.S. imperialists starts, this will be the most dreadful and horrible retaliatory war, and continue till there is no one left to sign a surrender document to cry out and till the U.S. imperialists are removed from this planet.

He talks of war with US, but North Korea’s top diplomat Ri Yong-ho has a ‘great sense of humour’


During the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting, he emerged as the fire-breathing mouthpiece of North Korea’s inflammatory government. Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho mocked Donald Trump as “President Evil” and offered up sound bites about detonating nuclear bombs over the Pacific and shooting down US planes. But here’s a little secret about Ri: beneath the bluster, he has a reputation as a soft-spoken, self-deprecating diplomat whom US officials have for years deemed one of the most accessible representatives of his government. Gary Samore, a former US diplomat and non-proliferation specialist now at Harvard’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, said: “He was put in that job for the purpose of being the negotiator. His speciality is negotiating with Americans”,  he add: “He is not one of these guys who acts like a caricature of a communist apparatchik. He has a great sense of humour. He is very creative in coming up with wording acceptable to both sides”. Samore described Ri’s as “excellent, superb, idiomatic”.

As UN sanctions bite, North Korean workers leave Chinese border hub


North Korean workers have begun to leave the Chinese border city of Dandong, after the latest round of sanctions seeking to restrict Pyongyang’s ability to earn foreign currency income, local businesses and traders say. Almost 100,000 overseas workers, based mostly in China and Russia, funnel some 500 million dollar in wages a year to help finance the North Korean regime, the US government says. Dandong, a city of 800,000 along the Yalu River, which defines the border with North Korea. Thousands of workers, most of them women, are also employed by Chinese-owned garment and electronics factories in Dandong, with a significant share of their wages going straight to the North Korean state. In a statement on Thursday, China’s Ministry of Commerce ordered the implementation of the new sanctions across the country within 120 days. The sanctions allow workers to serve out existing contracts. Businesspeople in Dandong, through which most of trade between the two countries flows, said contracts could not be renewed and new visas were not being approved. The sanctions have come as a rude jolt to Dandong businesses and traders who had long rolled with North Korea’s unpredictability but believed their neighbour’s economic reliance on China would keep its belligerence in check.

Kim’s threat to ‘tame’ US President Trump prompts 4.7 million North Koreans to join fight, media says


North Korea claims 4.7 million of its citizens have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the military since leader Kim Jong-un threatened to “tame” US President Trump “with fire” last week, North Korean state media reported. Millions of young men and 1.22 million women said they wanted sign up to counter the US since Friday, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported. Pyongyang has previously claimed that North Koreans have volunteered to join the military as part of propaganda campaigns to boost solidarity, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.


Trump ready for military option to devastate North Korea


On Monday, the White House spent a lot of time convincing the world that America had not declared war on North Korea, as claimed by the reclusive nation. The White House, however, rejected the notion it had declared war, and ripped North Korea’s talk of shooting down American planes as “absurd”. At a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We have not declared war on North Korea and, frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd. On Tuesday, Trump declared that the U.S. is “totally prepared” for “devastating” military action against North Korea should that be necessary, further ratcheting up tensions between the two nations. Trump said the time had come for the world “to isolate the North Korean menace” and its dictator Kim Jong Un for “behaving very badly” and “saying things that should never ever be said”. The U.S. president meanwhile also praised China for placing new restrictions on banking relationships with Pyongyang and enforcing new United Nations sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s regime. The U.S. President said, “I applaud China’s recent action to restrict its trade with North Korea. In particular, I applaud China for breaking all banking relationships with North Korea. I want to thank President Xi”. On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department stepped up measures in the effort to choke off North Korea from the international financial system. The Treasury imposed new penalties on banks and individuals linked to the country’s financial networks. The U.S. designated eight North Korean banks and 26 North Korean nationals who act as representatives for the country’s banks, operating in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.

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