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Chief Bakes

BBC: North Korea to dismantle nuclear site in May ceremony

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Chief Bakes
  • 10 May 2018
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First ever summit between sitting North Korean and US leaders will take place in Singapore on 12 June, Trump says

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.

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Chief Bakes

North Korea: UN gains 'unprecedented access' during visit

  • 12 May 2018
woman seen from above serving rice into small bowls Image copyright WFP/Silke Buhr
Image caption People are going hungry in North Korea, the head of the WFP said, but are not starving

The head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) believes there is a "sense of optimism" among North Korea's leaders after enjoying what he said was unprecedented access to the country.

David Beasley spent two days in the capital, Pyongyang, and two outside it, accompanied by government minders.

He said the country was working hard to meet nutritional standards, and hunger was not as high as in the 1990s.

"There is a sense of turning a new page in history," he told the BBC.

Relations between North Korea and the rest of the world have seen a dramatic shift.

Last year North Korean government carried out a string of nuclear and missile tests.

But next month, its leader Kim Jong-un will meet US President Donald Trump, it what would be the first time a sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.

The confirmation came after landmark talks between North and South Korea, and hours after three US detainees were released from North Korea and allowed to return home.

What did the UN see in North Korea?

David Beasley visited North Korea from 8-11 May. The visit included trips to WFP-funded projects - a children's nursery in South Hwanghae province and a fortified biscuit factory in North Pyongyan province.

He told the BBC's Radio 4 programme Today that the farming he saw in the countryside reflected the fact that only about a fifth of the land is arable.

He said: "One of the most powerful things that I saw was out in the countryside - it's spring, they're planting - there's not mechanisation, you've got oxen pulling ploughs, men and women in the fields.

Image copyright WFP/Silke Buhr
Image caption David Beasley visited WFP programmes in the North Korean countryside

"It's very structured, very organised, every foot and inch of dirt is being toiled with rakes and hoes and shovels and they're literally planting crops up to the edge of the road, down embankments, using every available space, because it is a land that's mostly mountainous.

"I didn't see starvation like you had in the famine back in the 1990s, that's the good news. But is there a hunger issue, is there under-nutrition? There's no question about it."

Last month the UN requested $111m in aid funding to help people in North Korea. The US has offered to help rebuild the country, on condition of denuclearisation.

How do North and South Korean economies compare?

Daily life in the two countries couldn't be more different.

p05k69hq.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFour defectors talk about what life is like in North Korea

After the end of the Korean war in 1953 the South, an ally of the US, embraced a capitalist philosophy. It has developed into one of Asia's most affluent nations.

A government-sponsored industrial push in the 1960s led to huge corporations like Samsung and Hyundai being created.

Key figures:

  • Population:51.2m in South Korea; 25.4m in North Korea
  • GDP: $1.4tn - South Korea; less than$20bn - North Korea
  • Life expectancy: 82 years - South Korea; 70 years - North Korea

South Korea is one of the world's top 20 economies, with GDP of $1.4tn (£1tn).

By contrast, North Korea's GDP is less than $20bn, placing it well outside the top 100 economies.

It has a communist system, but capitalism is creeping into the country.

There are things to buy - but only for some people, those who have money. The majority of people in North Korea live in poverty.

Kim Jong-un has made clear that development is a priority.

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Chief Bakes

North Korea to dismantle nuclear site in May ceremony

  • 12 May 2018
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This DigitalGlobe satellite image of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility in North Korea was taken February 11, 2013. Image copyright DigitalGlobe
Image caption A satellite image of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea

North Korea says it will begin dismantling its nuclear test site in less than two weeks in a ceremony attended by foreign journalists.

Pyongyang said it was taking "technical measures" to carry out the process between 23-25 May, North Korean state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.

Scientists previously said the site may have partially collapsed in September.

The move is due to take place three weeks before US President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

What will the ceremony include?

The dismantling of the Punggye-ri site, the exact date of which will depend on weather conditions, will involve the collapsing of all tunnels using explosives and the removal of all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.

Journalists from South Korea, China, the US, the UK and Russia will be asked to attend to witness the event.

In a statement on Saturday, North Korea said the intention was to allow "not only the local press but also journalists of other countries to conduct on-the-spot coverage in order to show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground".

What do we know about the test site?

Situated in mountainous terrain in the north-east, the Punggye-ri site is thought to be the North's main nuclear facility.

Nuclear tests have taken place in a system of tunnels dug below Mount Mantap, near the Punggye-ri site.

Six nuclear tests have been carried out there since 2006.

After the most recent test, which took place in September 2017, a series of aftershocks hit the site, which seismologists believe collapsed part of the mountain's interior.

How important is the Trump-Kim meeting?

Mr Trump and Mr Kim are due to meet in Singapore on 12 June. It will be the first time a sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.

The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, over which the two leaders furiously sparred in 2017.

The US wants Pyongyang to give up its weapons programme completely and irreversibly.

Confirmation of the meeting between the two men came after landmark talks between North and South Korea.

Mr Trump announced the date and place of the summit earlier this week, hours after he welcomed home three US detainees released from North Korea.

"We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" he tweeted.

Is North Korea opening up?

There is a "sense of optimism" among North Korea's leaders, the head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said on Saturday after enjoying what he said was unprecedented access to the country.

David Beasley spent two days in the capital, Pyongyang, and two outside it, accompanied by government minders.

He said the country was working hard to meet nutritional standards, and hunger was not as high as in the 1990s.

Mr Beasley's visit, from 8-11 May, included trips to WFP-funded projects - a children's nursery in South Hwanghae province and a fortified biscuit factory in North North Pyongyan province.

"I didn't see starvation like you had in the famine back in the 1990s, that's the good news. But is there a hunger issue, is there under-nutrition? There's no question about it," he told the BBC.

"There is a sense of turning a new page in history," he said.

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Chief Bakes

N Korea cancels talks with South Korea and warns US

  • 15 May 2018
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North Korea has cancelled high-level talks with South Korea because of anger over military exercises, state media reports.

The North's official KCNA news agency said the exercises between the US and the South were a "provocation".

It also warned the US over the fate of the historic summit between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump that is scheduled for 12 June.

In March, Mr Trump stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Mr Kim.

"We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" the US leader tweeted at the time.

Some 100 warplanes, including an unspecified number of B-52 bombers and F-15K jets began the Max Thunder drills on Friday.

The US and South Korea insist such drills are purely for defence purposes, and based out of a mutual defence agreement they signed in 1953.

They also say the exercises are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.

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Chief Bakes
  • 16 May 2018
Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump Image copyright EPA
Image caption The two leaders are due to meet in Singapore on 12 June

North Korea has said it may reconsider attending a summit with US President Donald Trump if the US insists it gives up its nuclear weapons.

The highly anticipated meeting between Mr Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un is due to take place on 12 June.

It came about because North Korea said it would be prepared to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

But on Wednesday, it withdrew from talks with South Korea, angered by its joint military drills with the US.

North Korea's state media on Wednesday quoted Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan as saying that if the US "corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks and will have to reconsider whether we will accept the upcoming DPRK-US summit".

Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name for North Korea.

The latest announcement appears to be a further reaction to Max Thunder, the South Korea-US military drills currently talking place in the South.

The drills had been due to take place around the time of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but were postponed because of an unexpected thaw in North-South relations.

North Korea had previously said it understood that the drills needed to go ahead.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.

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North Korea summit: US hopeful Trump-Kim meet will go ahead

  • 16 May 2018
p067b4r7.jpg
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Media captionWhy North Korea is angry at this man

The Trump administration is hopeful its summit with North Korea will go ahead, despite threats of cancellation.

A White House spokesperson said the US president remained ready.

Hours earlier, North Korea released an angry statement saying it might pull out of the meeting if the US insisted it gave up its nuclear weapons.

The highly anticipated meeting between Mr Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un is due to take place on 12 June.

"The president is ready if the meeting takes place," said White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders. "If it doesn't, we'll continue the maximum pressure campaign that's been ongoing."

Mr Trump has not yet commented on the latest development.

The groundbreaking agreement for Mr Kim and Mr Trump to meet came about as North Korea said it was committed to denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

Exactly what that would entail has remained unclear but North Korea has invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month.

What suddenly upset North Korea?

North Korea's statement, carried by state media, said the country had had high expectations from the summit, but it was "totally disappointed" by recent reckless remarks from the US.

It pointed the finger squarely at US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

"We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him," said the statement, which was written by Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan.

Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption The words of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are being closely followed on South Korean television

In a television interview at the weekend, Mr Bolton said North Korea could follow a "Libya model" of verifiable denuclearisation, but this alarms Pyongyang, which watched Libya's Colonel Gaddafi give up his nuclear programme only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

A sudden change in tune

By Laura Bicker, BBC News, Seoul

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nuclear weapons have been central to North Korean ideology for its entire history

The whole reason the North Korean state has spent years building up a nuclear arsenal, at such a great cost, is for survival.

So to compare denuclearisation in North Korea with Libya or indeed Iraq as John Bolton did on Sunday is not going to offer much comfort. Both regimes collapsed.

This is also a warning shot to the Trump administration. They will be aware how much Mr Trump wants this summit and how it is being spun as a success brought about by his maximum pressure strategy.

There were signs this boasting irritated Pyongyang, but now it has decided to speak out through someone in a position of power.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The release of three Americans from prison was a major concession by North Korea

North Korea wants the world to know that it is coming to the negotiating table from a position of strength, and they may feel that they are making all the concessions.

They've suspended all missile tests, released the three US detainees, Kim Jong-un met President Moon and the pair signed a declaration, and they're about to dismantle a nuclear test site in front of international media.

So to hear the Trump administration claiming credit for a deal they don't like has been a step too far.

These statements more than hint that North Korea is prepared to walk away from President Trump's summit in Singapore until it does hear a deal it does like.

What does North Korea's statement say?

Kim Kye-gwan said: "If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue."

The vice-foreign minister is known to be highly respected in the North Korean leadership and has taken part in negotiations with the US before. There is very little chance his comments were not personally endorsed by Kim Jong-un.

Hours before the announcement, in a sign of growing problems, North Korea had also pulled out of a meeting scheduled with South Korea on Wednesday because of anger over the start of US-South Korea joint military drills.

A Chinese government spokesman urged North Korea and the US to "meet each other halfway" ahead of negotiations.

p060lh3z.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionKim Jong-un and Donald Trump: From enemies to frenemies?

Why the personal attack on John Bolton?

The hawkish conservative is a firm defender of US power and a confrontational advocate for wielding that strength abroad. He has previously said it would be "perfectly legitimate" to carry out a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.

In media interviews over the weekend, he said North Korea could follow a Libyan model of nuclear disarmament - Libya gave up its weapons' programmes in the early 2000s and only then secured economic aid and normalised relations with the US.

However during the 2011 uprising against Colonel Gaddafi's regime, Western powers intervened in Libya in favour of the rebels, and Gaddafi was captured and killed.

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