North Korea exports coal to South Korea and Japan through Russian Federation

North Korea exports coal to South Korea and Japan through Russian Federation

In December, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution against North Korea, which caps imports of refined oil products, including diesel and kerosene, at 500-thousand barrels a year.

The planned war games cast a shadow over hopes that the recent détente between the two Koreas may lead to a broader dialogue with the United States after months of saber rattling over the North's nuclear weapons program.

He added that the response to the threat remained "diplomacy led, backed up with military options available to ensure that our diplomats are understood to be speaking from a position of strength".

"We could fight tonight, shoulder to shoulder with the Koreans - or South Koreans, if they're attacked", Mattis added.

The coal carried by the North Korean vessels was unloaded at the Russian ports and moved to other ships that then traveled to South Korea or Japan, the sources said.

Any North Korean attack would be "severely rebuffed", Mattis added.

Secretary Mattis welcomed the recent advent of Olympics-related talks between the two Koreas, but stressed that those talks alone do not address the "overarching problem".

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Kang said she was positive the United States, her country's main ally in the standoff with North Korea, would obtain South Korea's approval before any military action on the issue.

If such plans are finalized, it would mark the first direct South Korean flight to the North since former first lady Lee Hee-ho made a rare goodwill visit to Pyongyang in 2015, the official said.

The pre-Olympic cultural concert will likely showcase North Korea music as well as contemporary and traditional music from the South Korean side.

North Korea has frequently responded to the exercises - and similar drills held by the allies in the fall - with missile tests and a stream of bellicose rhetoric. "Diplomacy should repose reason on Kim's reckless rhetoric and unsafe provocations", he added.

Regarding the possibility that South Korea could arm itself with nuclear weapons, the minister said the government will stick to the principle of denuclearization made in 1992 when the two Koreas pledged to abandon all nuclear weapons deployed on the Korean Peninsula, including United States tactical nukes.

"We're deconflicting during the period of the Olympics, and exercises will continue immediately after the Olympics", joint staff director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said Thursday during a press briefing in Washington. Moreover, they emphasized that any efforts to drive a wedge in the U.S. -ROK alliance would fail.

The UN Security Council banned North Korean exports of coal on August 5 under sanctions meant to cut off an importance source of foreign currency to fund its nuclear weapon and missile programme.

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