December 12, 2019 10:08
The U.S. is ramping up diplomatic and military pressure on North Korea ahead of the year-end deadline set by Pyongyang for restarting nuclear talks.
Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, on Wednesday met representatives of UN Security Council member countries, who gathered to discuss a response to North Korea's latest provocations. Biegun asked for their cooperation in putting pressure on the North.
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "personally made the commitment to denuclearize [and] said there wouldn't be long-range missile tests, nuclear tests."
"All of those are commitments that we are very hopeful that the North Koreans will continue to abide by," he added. He was speaking in a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the State Department.
Pompeo also stressed the need for international cooperation to put pressure on the North and called on his Russian counterpart to expel North Korean slave laborers by Dec. 22 in accordance with UN sanctions.
"There are many North Korean workers that have been in Russia," he said. "The UN Security Council resolution requires them to depart. We're hopeful they'll be able to complete that and come into full compliance with that."
Washington also sent a military warning to Pyongyang ahead of the UNSC meeting. According to flight tracker Aircraft Spots, a B-52H strategic bomber of the U.S. Air Force took off from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and flew over skies near Japan on Wednesday. The bombers are a strategic asset capable of carrying nuclear bombs.
The same day the U.S. sent a Global Hawk surveillance drone capable of identifying a 30-cm-diameter object on the ground from an altitude of 20 km and a RC-135W Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft to skies over the Korean Peninsula.
Biegun, who is expected here on Sunday, reportedly hopes to meet Vice North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui at the border truce village of Panmunjom.
"It's uncertain whether North Korean officials will come to Panmunjom to meet him," a diplomatic source said. "Biegun wants to keep talking to North Korea regardless of its year-end deadline."
Meanwhile, an expedition of Workers Party's propaganda operatives from across North Korea climbed Mt. Baekdu to visit "revolutionary sites" on Tuesday, the official Rodong Sinmun reported Wednesday.
They were following orders from Kim Jong-un who called for "exploring battle sites in Mt. Baekdu" to stiffen officials' morale when he rode a white horse up the mountain early this month.
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