Singapore officials reject rumors of spy devices used at Trump-Kim summit

USB fan espionageSingaporean officials have dismissed reports that a promotional item given away for free during the June 12 summit between the leaders of the United States and North Korea contained an espionage device. Over 2500 reporters from nearly every country covered the meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. Upon arriving in Singapore’s Sentosa Island, where the summit took place, journalists were given a free promotional packet that included novelty items such as pens, notepads, a water bottle, and a USB fan. The USB fan consisted of blades connected to a miniature electric motor, which was in turn connected to a USB cable. The cable allowed the device to be powered by a computer or other electronic device with a built-in USB port.

But rumors soon emerged in the media that the free USB fans, which were made in China, contained malware. As soon as the fans were plugged into an electronic device, the malware penetrated its operating system, allowing hackers to access its contents remotely, said the reports. The allegations were first aired on Radio France Internationale, the French government’s international broadcaster. They were then picked up by the BBC, which said that many reporters covering the historic summit had been warned “not to plug [the USB fans] in to their laptops”. According to the reports, the malware installed on the USB fans was able to steal computer files and turn a laptop’s built-in camera and microphone into remotely-controlled eavesdropping devices.

But the government of Singapore has strongly rejected these reports. In a statement issued in English, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information said that the USB fans had been a gift of the Sentosa Development Corporation, a Singapore government body tasked with promoting tourism in Sentosa Island, where the Trump-Kim summit took place. The ministry added that the USB fans had been produced long before Trump and Kim decided to meet in Singapore and that they had been originally manufactured as gifts for tourists visiting the island. The statement issued by the ministry also said that reporters appreciated the fans, given the tropical climate on Sentosa Island, where the temperature reached 33C (91F) on the day of the summit.

Author: Ian Allen | Date:  25 June 2018 | Permalink

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North Korea secretly imports Russian oil through Singapore, says defector

Ri Jong-hoThe government of North Korea uses intermediary firms in Singapore to import thousands of tons of Russian oil each year, according to a senior North Korean defector who has spoken publicly for the first time since his defection. Ri Jong-ho was a senior official in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under its previous leader, the late Kim Jong-il. He rose through the ranks of the Workers’ Party of Korea and was directly mentored by Kim, who personally appointed him to a post in Bureau 39. The powerful body is in charge of securing much-needed foreign currency for Pyongyang —often through illegal activities— and partly funds the personal accounts of the ruling Kim dynasty.

From the mid-1990s until his 2014 defection, Ri spent nearly three decades in senior positions inside the DPRK. These included the chairmanship of the board of the Korea Kumgang Group, a state-managed firm that oversees large-scale economic activity in North Korea, such as constructing energy networks and commissioning oil and natural-gas exploration. Between 1998 and 2004, Ri lived in the Chinese city of Dalian, where he headed the local branch of the Korea Daesong Trading Corporation. The Pyongyang-based company facilitates North Korea’s exports to China in exchange for Chinese goods and products.

But Ri’s mentor, Kim Jong-il, died in 2011. His son and successor, Kim Jong-un, engaged in a brutal campaign to remove his father’s advisers and replace them with his own people. During that time, said Ri, thousands of senior and mid-level officials were purged, some physically. Frightened and disillusioned, Ri defected with his family to South Korea in October 2014; fifteen months later, in March 2016, he arrived in the United States. On Tuesday, the Voice of America published Ri’s first public interview since his defection.

Among other things, the former Bureau 39 official said that the North Korean regime sustains itself with the help of oil it imports from nearby countries. One of the regime’s main sources of energy is Russia, which supplies Pyongyang with between 200,000 and 300,000 tons of oil every year. But the trade does not occur directly, said Ri. Moscow sells the oil to energy-trading companies in Singapore. These mediators then sell the oil to the DPRK through separately agreed contracts, so that Russia does not appear to be providing Pyongyang with desperately needed oil. The so-called “Singapore line” was established by North Korea in the 1990s, said Ri, and appears to still be active. In addition to Russian oil, the DPRK imports approximately 500,000 tons of oil per year from China, through pipelines, according to Ri.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 June 2017 | Permalink

News you may have missed #683

Lech WalesaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Walesa scorns new claims he was communist informant. Poland’s former President and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa has brushed off new claims that crucial documents concerning his alleged collaboration with Poland’s communist secret services may be stored in the Polish parliament’s archives. “I know that if there are any papers on me that are unknown, they are only toilet paper”, he said in an interview with Polish television network TVN. Rumors and accusations that Walesa, an anti-communist union leader was in fact a secret communist informant have been circulating for years in Poland.
►►Israeli embassy in Singapore dismisses Barak assassination plot. The Israeli embassy in Singapore confirmed Friday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had visited the city-state, but dismissed reports of an assassination plot targeting him. Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida wrote recently that Barak had been targeted for assassination by three members of a Hezbollah militant cell during his trip to Singapore from February 12-15.
►►Moves to question Turkish spy chiefs quashed. State prosecutors have abandoned an attempt to question Turkey’s spy chiefs over past secret contacts with Kurdish militants, after government moves to curb their investigation of the intelligence agency (MİT). State media said on Monday that prosecutors lifted an order summoning MİT head Hakan Fidan. Nice to be reminded who is really in charge in 21st-century ‘democratic’ Turkey.

News you may have missed #0188

  • India arrests Pakistani ‘spy’ carrying documents at airport. The Delhi Police says it arrested a Pakistani spy just as he was set to board a flight to Saudi Arabia, carrying with him a set of vital documents on Indian defense installations. The man was reportedly using a fake passport bearing the name “Aamir Ali”.
  • Hezbollah claims infiltration of Israel. Lebanese militant group Hezbollah says it has infiltrated the security services of Israel and obtained vital documents regarding military activity, by “taking pictures and copying sensitive documents”.
  • Spy arrest causes major Peru-Chile diplomatic row. A senior Peruvian Air Force officer was arrested in Lima on Saturday, on charges of spying for Chile. The spying affair caused the Peruvian delegation to pull out of an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore on Sunday.

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Australian espionage convict leaving US for home

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An Australian former intelligence officer who was arrested by the FBI for trying to sell classified US defense documents will be allowed to serve the remaining of his prison sentence in Victoria, Australia. Jean-Philippe Wispelaere was an employee of Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation, the agency responsible for assessing and relaying intelligence information to Australian government officials. In 1999, he resigned from his job and flew to Bangkok, Thailand, where he contacted embassy officials of a third country (rumored to be Singapore) and offered to sell them over 700 pages of classified US documents. Read more of this post