North Korea ‘executed’ officials after failed Trump summit

Previous South Korean reports of North Korean purges and executions have later proved inaccurate. (AP)
Updated 31 May 2019

North Korea ‘executed’ officials after failed Trump summit

  • One of the officials was executed by firing squad for “betraying the supreme leader” after he was turned by the US
  • Kim Jong Un and Trump left the Vietnamese capital without a deal after they failed to reach agreement

SEOUL: North Korea executed its special envoy to the United States following the collapse of the second summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.
The Chosun Ilbo said Kim Hyok Chol, who laid the groundwork for the Hanoi meeting and accompanied Kim on his private train, was executed by firing squad for “betraying the supreme leader” after he was turned by the US.
“Kim Hyok Chol was executed in March at Mirim Airport along with four senior foreign ministry officials following an investigation,” the newspaper quoted an unidentified source as saying.
The other officials were not named.
Kim Hyok Chol was the North’s counterpart of US special representative Stephen Biegun in the run-up to the Hanoi summit in February.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, declined to comment on the report.
The paper also said Kim Jong Un’s interpreter Shin Hye Yong was sent to a prison camp for a mistake at the summit.
She failed to translate Kim’s new proposal when Trump declared “no deal” and walked away from the table, Chosun reported, citing another unnamed diplomatic source.
Kim Jong Un and Trump left the Vietnamese capital without a deal after they failed to reach agreement on rolling back Pyongyang’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The North has since sought to raise the pressure and carried out two short-range missile tests in May.
Senior party official Kim Yong Chol, the North’s counterpart to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in nuclear talks, was also sent to a labor camp, the paper said.
In April, South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee said Kim Yong Chol had been censured over his handling of the Hanoi summit, despite the fact he had recently been named a member of the State Affairs Commission, a supreme governing body chaired by Kim Jong Un.
News of the reported purge came as North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, mouthpiece of the ruling party, Thursday warned that officials who committed anti-party or anti-revolutionary acts would face the “stern judgment of the revolution.”
Previous South Korean reports of North Korean purges and executions have later proved inaccurate.
The Chosun Ilbo itself incorrectly reported in 2013 that Hyon Song Wol, head of the North’s Samjiyon Orchestra, was executed by firing squad for distributing and watching pornographic content.
And the Unification Ministry also mistakenly announced in February 2016 that Ri Yong Gil, chief of the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army, had been executed.


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 43 min 10 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.