US says NKorea blocking resumption of nuclear talks

North Korea must stop blocking nuclear talks with the United States before it is too late, the US special envoy to that country said amid a stalemate in the negotiations.

"If we are to succeed, North Korea must set aside its search for obstacles to negotiations and instead seek the opportunities for engagement while that opportunity lasts," Stephen Biegun said Friday in a speech at the University of Michigan.

The State Department released the text of his remarks on Saturday.

The two countries began a historic dialogue after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a summit in Singapore in June 2018.

A second summit in Hanoi in February collapsed without an agreement. The pair met again in June in the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea, and agreed there to restart working-level dialogue, but those talks have yet to begin.

In recent weeks North Korea has carried out a series of tests of short-range missiles. US officials have called these launches provocations, although Trump himself has avoided criticizing them.

North Korean officials have also criticized the US position that sanctions against North Korea will not be lifted until the country gives up its nuclear weapons.

"We have made clear to North Korea that we are prepared to engage as soon as we hear from them. We are ready, but we cannot do this by ourselves," Biegun said in his speech.

"We must set in motion an intensive set of negotiations," he added.

He also raised the prospect of "immediate actions" that might be taken if the nuclear talks make progress in moving away from hostility and distrust.

"It is clear that both sides can quickly agree to significant actions that will declare to our respective peoples -- and to the world -- that US-North Korea relations have taken an irreversible turn away from conflict," Biegun said, without giving an idea of what such actions might be.

He once again criticized the idea of a phased approach as advocated by some experts and sought by North Korea, which wants Washington to ease sanctions in exchange for the North taking steps toward denuclearization.

Ex N.Korea prisoner says he was CIA spy: German media
Berlin (AFP) Sept 6, 2019 - A former prisoner in North Korea has told German media that he used to spy for the CIA, seeking out nuclear secrets and taking pictures with a concealed wristwatch camera.

In a TV report by public broadcaster NDR, South Korean-born US citizen Kim Dong-chul, 67, recounts his former espionage operations, arrest and the abuse and torture he suffered behind bars.

"I approached military officers and scientists who I knew needed money," Kim says in the programme, showing crooked fingers that he claims were broken by soldiers' boots during his interrogation.

Kim Dong-chul was one of three American detainees freed by Pyongyang in May 2018, in the lead-up to the first summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The ex-prisoner has since told South Korean media that he used to gather information for the country's National Intelligence Service and the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The businessman and former Christian missionary had become a trusted insider in North Korea, where from 2001 he ran a hotel in the Rason special economic zone near the China and Russia borders.

He was arrested in October 2015 after he reportedly received a USB stick containing nuclear-linked data and other military information from a former North Korean soldier.

In April 2016 he was sentenced to 10 years' hard labour for subversion and espionage.

In the TV programme, he reports that after the 2011 death of former leader Kim Jong Il, he was recruited by a CIA agent in South Korea.

"After Kim Jong Il's death, there were many rumours about possible successors and the future course of the country," the presumed ex-agent tells the NDR.

Agreeing to gather intelligence on the regime and its arms programmes, he was equipped with a wristwatch that featured a concealed camera and an eavesdropping device he could wear inside his ear.

He says he photographed ships of which the CIA previously had only inaccurate satellite images.

Kim Dong-chul also shows a photo of an ingot of high-purity zinc, a substance used in weapons technology, from the former Soviet Union, which he says he purchased from a North Korean nuclear scientist.

NDR on Friday pre-released details from the programme that was due to screen at 1720 GMT Sunday.

The broadcaster said its inquiry to the US administration about Kim Dong-chul's alleged CIA activities had so far remained unanswered.

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China backs N. Korea amid deadlocked nuclear talks
Seoul (AFP) Sept 3, 2019
China reasserted its backing for North Korea on Tuesday as its foreign minister visited Pyongyang, vowing to maintain "close communication" with its longstanding ally in the face of deadlocked nuclear talks with Washington. Beijing has long been North Korea's key diplomatic backer and main provider of trade and aid, and while ties deteriorated over Pyongyang's nuclear provocations and China's subsequent backing of UN sanctions, the two have since worked to repair their relationship. Since March ... read more

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