Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

North Korea inches closer to striking the USA mainland

The Mangyongbong, a cargo-passenger ferry, arrived at the port in Russia's Far East.

North Korea has feted the scientists and technicians behind its latest missile launch with a parade on the streets of Pyongyang, the state news agency reported on Friday.

The launch of the first-ever weekly service linking Vladivostok and the North Korean port of Rajin on May 18 was also not deterred by North Korea's test-firing of a ballistic missile on May 14 that landed in the sea near Russian Federation.

Investstroytrest said the ferry will provide transport for North Koreans working in Russian Federation and Chinese tourists wanting to travel by sea to Vladivostok.

"It's our business, of our company, without any state subsidies, involvement and help", Mikhail Khmel, the deputy director of Investstroytrest, the Russian Federation firm operating the ferry, told reporters.

But the US administration, four months into office, has not spelled out what those conditions may be, and analysts caution that a resumption of long-stalled negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program is far from imminent.

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"We call on all nations to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions, and sever or downgrade diplomatic and commercial relations with North Korea", U.S. State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams said on May 18 when asked about the ferry service.

The ferry's Russian operators say it is purely a commercial venture, but the service's launch coincides with what some experts say is a drive by North Korea to build ties with Moscow in case its closest ally China turns its back. "But he said Washington will only openly send messages, rather than hold closed-door talks, emphasizing the North should take action to cease nuclear and missile tests".

"The most impressive thing that I heard (from Tillerson) was that sanctions and pressure are not by themselves aimed at harassing North Korea, but are designed to create an opportunity for North Korea's development through opening its doors and scrapping its nuclear program", Hong said.

China urged the United States and North Korea to commit to a political decision to solve the "nuclear problem".

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he's willing to engage in talks with the North "if conditions are right", using language also touted by Seoul and Pyongyang.

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