DPRK

Analysis: North Korea: Trump-Kim meeting proves our president’s strategy worked

President Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – announced Thursday night to a shocked world – is a stunning vindication of the president’s strategy and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s artful behind-the-scenes acumen. North Korea’s invitation for the meeting and President Trump’s acceptance marked a historic step. If a genuine rapprochement occurs on President Trump’s watch, leading to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the impact on global security and President Trump’s legacy will be enormous. But at this point, it’s important for President Trump and his foreign policy and defense team to proceed with extreme caution. While they deserve credit for cracking the North Korean silence, the historical record suggests this could be a trap, if not an intentional distraction. President Trump’s engaged, creative and blunt approach – with artful backroom diplomacy – has turned the dial. If this strategic opening leads somewhere, the Russia investigation of the 2016 election will become a footnote on world-changing achievement. President Trump will instead be remembered for calling out North Korea’s intolerable nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile threats to global civilization. But a decision to meet, even a North Korean promise to denuclearize, is not an agreement, implementation, verification or a factually denuclearized Peninsula. And the odds of success remain long. On the plus side, President Trump not only triggered this opening, but persuaded China to make sanctions real, which occasions a nod to both the president and China. On the minus side, the record suggests profound skepticism is warranted about North Korea’s intentions. In 1985, pressured hard by Ronald Reagan, North Korea – led by the current leader’s grandfather – signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty (NPT). Everyone was happy. The world celebrated. That triggered a running of the clock on an 18-month signing of the “safeguards agreement,” implementing the NPT. The North Koreans ignored the clock. Suddenly, they demanded South Korea drop nuclear weapons. Six years on, President George H.W. Bush withdrew all American nuclear weapons from overseas – including from South Korea – in order to induce the Soviets to do the same. At that time, North Korea finally signed the safeguards agreement. Reversal was again fast. That year, North Korea was caught and sanctioned for missile proliferation and cheating on the NPT with a rogue plutonium reprocessing plant. By early 1993, the North Koreans had firmly refused International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections. But later that year, they doubled back. They allowed them in theory, if the West would pledge not ever to attack, which of course we did. But in 1994, North Korea was caught red-handed again, this time producing enough plutonium for “one or two nuclear weapons.” Funny thing, the North had done all this cheating while allowing IAEA inspections to other locations. When caught by the IAEA with the plutonium reprocessing plant, North Korea summarily quit the NPT. So much for a solid kick between the goalposts, long run, but no cigar. Like Charlie Brown to the rescue, idealist on call, former President Jimmy Carter flew over to North Korea, and magically announced he had negotiated a “freeze” on North Korea’s nuclear program. The world again celebrated. For better or worse, North Korea’s President, Kim II Sung died that year, succeeded by his son Kim Jong II, who was later be succeeded by his son, current leader Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong II toyed with agreements halting nuclear weapons and missile development, but suddenly demanded “compensation” from the U.S. for giving them up. President Clinton gave nothing to North Korea. A smart move. Soon enough, more cheating produced American sanctions. Without Chinese support, they failed. Over the next 20 years, the North Korean nuclear weapons and missile programs continued their unmitigated, undeterred and largely ignored advance. Missile launches and underground nuclear tests proliferated, beside useless negotiations. More sanctions came, but U.S. intelligence concluded by 2000 that North Korea was developing missiles that would soon be able to hit American territories in the Pacific. Promises were ritually made anew, boldly flouted, with new sanctions imposed, and nothing changed. After seven rounds of negotiations, and a steady flow of wishful diplomats and wistful proclamations, nothing led to nothing, as nothing ever does. When the North Koreans need time, they promise talk. Is talk worth having? Sure – as long as everyone understands, talk is not a substitute for action. Today things are definitely different. America’s economic and military might are locked, loaded and ready. Current sanctions are real, robust and bound to bite. China is finally helping, and America’s credibility has been boldly restored. But this is not enough, unless North Korea is serious. Frankly, the stakes are higher than most imagine, a fork in the road, resolution or submission to nuclear blackmail. We are at a Rubicon, a moment of choosing for us, but more so for North Korea’s leadership. For good to come of this, we must see a mutual intent to end the madness. The question at this moment, with true and new hope in our sails, is this: Does North Korea appreciate the enormity of this moment, which could be existential? Is the regime serious about this negotiation? President Trump set out to stop the historic merry-go-round. And it looks like, for the moment, he has done it. The North Korean invitation and President Trump’s acceptance are monumental steps, but the unspoken question remains – toward what? Can they get to genuine denuclearization and a rollback of North Korea’s decades-old ambition and threat? Or are we about to be disappointed again? If that happens, the risk to North Korea goes sky high, but does the Kim government know that? As hope is not a strategy, talk cannot be an endgame. What happens next is critical, but is infused with new hope. Suddenly, there exists a previously unknown, world-changing breakthrough. Such things do happen. If this produces a lasting peace and a denuclearized North Korea, President Trump will rise in global stature like no president since Ronald Reagan. But history suggests caution. Courage and hard work may produce the good outcome, or may not. We can dare to hope, we should dare, as the president has, but with realism.

Agreed!!  And well said, Robert.  Author Robert Charles is a former Naval intelligence officer, attorney, and was a former Assistant Secretary of State who worked in multiple White House administrations.

North Korea hit with new sanctions by State Department over Kim Jong Un’s brother’s death

The State Department announced Tuesday new sanctions against North Korea in response to their findings of the use of the illegal nerve agent VX in the 2017 death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged brother of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, the U.S. concluded in February “that the Government of North Korea used the chemical warfare agent VX to assassinate Kim Jon Nam, in the Kuala Lumpur airport,” the department said. Kim Jong Nam died on Feb. 13, 2017 after two women allegedly wiped VX on his face before fleeing the Malaysia airport. He stumbled around before eventually falling. CCTV footage also showed the two women accused of carrying out the attack walking in the airport and going into the restroom before the incident. They were both charged with murder. Four other North Korean men who fled the country on the same day were believed to be involved in the plot. The sanctions, which reportedly took effect Monday, top a mounting list already levied against the hermit kingdom. “The United States strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons to conduct an assassination,” the State Department said. “This public display of contempt for universal norms against chemical weapons use further demonstrates the reckless nature of North Korea and underscores that we cannot afford to tolerate a North Korean WMD program of any kind.” The announcement from the State Department follows earlier comments on Tuesday from President Trump, who said “the world is watching,” in response to North Korea’s promise not to use nuclear or conventional weapons against Seoul. The country also reportedly expressed a willingness to hold talks with the U.S. on denuclearization, a South Korea official said in a statement after meeting with the neighboring country. “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

U.S. commanders forecast 10,000 American casualties in war with North Korea

As many as 10,000 U.S. service members would end up wounded or dead in the opening days of a potential war with North Korea, with civilian casualties possibly reaching into the hundreds of thousands, says a recent U.S. military assessment of a future conflict on the peninsula. The casualty assessment was one of several generated during a large-scale vitrual wargame, known as a tabletop exercise in Pentagon parlance, conducted by several service and combatant commanders including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Tony Thomas, The New York Times reported Thursday. The wargame, held at U.S. Pacific Command’s headquarters in Hawaii, put on stark display the devastating cost of engaging in all-out war with the North Korean regime. “The brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” Gen. Milley reportedly said after seeing the results of the exercise, according to The Times. Results of the recent wargame come as the White House continues raising tensions in the region, touting the fact that all options — including military action — remain on the table in an effort to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Officials within the Trump administration have also suggested a series of non-nuclear, preemptive strikes dubbed the “bloody nose”option to force the North to ratchet down their actions. Goodwill generated between Pyongyang, Seoul and the U.S. as a result of the recent Olympic games prompted Mr. Trump to suggest his administration would be open to some form of talks with the North Korean regime. That said, Washington remains intent on moving forward with this year’s Foal Eagle exercises, in spite of claims by Pyongyang that such a move could have a chilling effect on those seemingly warming relations. U.S. and South Korean commanders are in the process of zeroing in on a start date for the exercise, known as Foal Eagle, after being forced to postpone the drill due to the Olympics, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters Monday. He declined to comment on what dates both countries were considering for the exercise, one of the largest military drills in the world, but noted “it will be an alliance decision when that [exercise] will occur,” Col. Manning told reporters at the Pentagon. Officials in Pyongyang warned that any military drills set to take place after the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, “seriously threatened, and hard-won atmosphere for reconciliation and cooperation between the north and the south were spoilt in a moment,” according to a statement issued on state-run media outlet Korean Central News Agency last week.

North Korea willing to hold talks with US, ex-spy chief says

North Korea has “enough” willingness to hold talks with the U.S., a former intelligence chief from the rogue country believed to be the mastermind behind a deadly attack on South Korea told the country’s president on Sunday. The Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, reported Sunday the news of the meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Yong Chol, a senior official of the North’s ruling Worker’s Party, during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, according to Yonhap News Agency. “President Moon pointed out that U.S.-North Korea dialogue must be held at an early date even for an improvement in the South-North Korea relationship and the fundamental resolution of Korean Peninsula issues,” spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said of the meeting. The two met for an hour in Pyeongchang, the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to Yonhap. “The North Korean delegation too agreed that North Korea-U.S. relations must develop along with the South-North Korea relationship while noting [the North] has enough intention to hold North Korea-U.S. dialogue,” the spokesman added. The United States and North Korea, which have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war after an armistice in 1953, have been at odds for decades. In recent months the war of words between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump has escalated as the North tests nuclear missiles and Washington pushes the Hermit Kingdom to disarm. The White House said in a statement on Sunday that “denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea.” “We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end,” the statement read.

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CNN slammed for glowing puff piece about Kim Jong Un’s sister at Olympics

CNN is getting dragged online for writing a glowing puff piece about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister appearing at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — with a headline claiming she was “stealing the show.” The article, published Saturday afternoon, began with these cooing words about the woman who gave South Korean President Moon Jae-in an invite to visit North Korea: “If ‘diplomatic dance’ were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister would be favored to win gold. With a smile, a handshake and a warm message in South Korea’s presidential guest book, Kim Yo Jong has struck a chord with the public just one day into the PyeongChang Games.” It barely referenced the North Korean regime’s murderous ways — and critics called out CNN for it. Still, despite the almost-immediate backlash from people on both sides of the political aisle, CNN has not taken down its story. When Fox News reached out for comment, CNN would not say whether it would remove the story or discipline any editors over the controversial article. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo defended his left-leaning network by throwing in a dig at President Donald Trump. He tweeted to one reader, “You don’t think having a President who lies about what is ‘fake’ and actively maligns the free press out of convenience is a bigger reason for animosity toward us than how some decide to cover this?” He also bashed a Reuters story on Kim Yo Jong, writing, “This is a murderous regime that is stifling a population. Progress has to be evidenced by a lot more than this no?” Jonathan Chait, writer for New York magazine, mockingly cheered the CNN piece: “Also stealing her country’s meager wealth to live in opulence while they starve. But doing it in style. You go, girl!” Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin chimed in, tweeting: “Next up: An EXCLUSIVE @CNN investigative report on Kim Jong Un’s sister’s workout playlist, favorite boba tea flavors, and nighttime skin care routine. #SLAYGIRLFRIEND” Fox News’ Brit Hume tweeted: “Does this puff piece mean she’s gotten over her dictator brother’s murder of her other brother?” Speaking for the millennial audience, David Mack of BuzzFeed tweeted: “yasss kweeen! werk it as you oppress your people! gettttt that crime against humanity, gurlllll!” The CNN piece did mention at one point that Kim Yo Jong’s brother, the North Korean Supreme Leader, “has ruled with an iron fist since coming to power,” running prison camps and killing senior officers to preserve his power. The article did not mention the reign of terror brought about by their father, Kim Jong Il.

Officials: Mike Pence Did Not Snub North Koreans Seated Nearby at Olympics Opening Ceremony

Officials traveling with Vice President Mike Pence during his trip to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies pushed back on reports that Pence snubbed the North Koreans and that he knowingly chose to accept a seat in South Korea’s box in which North Korean representatives were also seated. Earlier on Friday, Pence and second lady Karen Pence met with North Korean defectors at the Cheonan Memorial, which is located outside of Seoul, South Korea. The Pences were joined by Otto Warmbier’s father, Fred Warmbier. Pence told the defectors that he was “very grateful for [their] presence and very grateful for [their] courage.” He added that he “wanted the honor of meeting with the men and women who fled the tyranny of North Korea.” Pence told the defectors that it was important that the truth about North Korea is known during the Olympic Games. The Vice President held a press gaggle outside of the memorial during which he was asked whether his message on North Korea was being overshadowed by Olympic fever or Kim Jonh-un’s sister’s presence there. Pence responded that President Donald Trump sent him there to “reaffirm the strong relationship between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.” He then added that the President also sent him to South Korea to: Make sure that as north Korea engages in what prime minister Abe rightly called a “charm offensive” around the Olympics. A charm offensive that they’ve have done before at the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2006 – which as I mentioned earlier this week – it would just be a matter of eight months after the 2006 winter Olympics that North Korea tested their first nuclear bomb. Pence also told the press that the night prior, he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in “reaffirmed our commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” He added that Moon repeated a message in private that Moon has spoken in public, “that South Korea stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and our allies in continuing to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically.” During a pre-Olympics Opening ceremonies reception in Pyeongchang later that day, Pence “did not come across” the North Korean delegation, according to a spokesman for the Vice President. The North Koreans were present at the reception at the same time as Pence. Vice President Pence and second lady Karen Pence sat in South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s box for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. They sat in the same row as President Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The three had held a meeting ahead of the ceremony. Both Kim Yong Nam and Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, also sat in Moon’s box. A White House official indicated that it was fair to cast the lack of interaction between Pence and the North Koreans in Moon’s box as mutual. White House officials clarified for the press that it was known ahead of time that the North Koreans would also be seated in Moon’s box, and Pence knowingly chose to sit in Moon’s box instead of in the U.S. delegation box. White House officials told the press: We wanted to show the alliance seated together. We wanted the North Koreans to see the vice president, Abe and Moon sitting directly in front of them for the Opening Ceremonies, and it would show that that alliance is strong. At any moment, he could have gotten up and left and sat somewhere else, and then you would have had the imagine of North sitting in the box with South Korea and Japan. But he stayed there the entire time. Pence sat in front row and talked to Moon and Abe and their spouses, and the North Koreans sat in the back and didn’t talk to anybody, and that image is telling,” the officials said. The North Koreans had met with Abe at the earlier reception and with Moon. “I just don’t think you talk geopolitics over speed skating. He’s been very clear what his message is. Fred Warmbier attended the ceremony as Pence’s guest, but in the U.S. delegation box. The North and South Korean Olympic athletes entered the ceremony together under a united flag. White House officials speaking with the press after the evening’s Opening Ceremony pushed back on reports in the South Korean media that Pence had snubbed the North Koreans.

Report: China Moves 300,000 Troops Closer to North Korean Border

China is reportedly moving missile defense batteries and troops closer to its border with North Korea, a potential sign that Beijing anticipates either a large refugee wave north or a military disturbance triggered by the belligerence of communist dictator Kim Jong-un. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo cited Radio Free Asia (RFA) in a report Monday, stating that RFA had compiled evidence that China had “late last year deployed another missile defense battery at an armored division in Helong, west of Longjing in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture.” The “North Korean source in China” speaking to RFA also noted that Pyongyang had observed the movement of 300,000 troops closer to the North Korean border and “missile defense batteries near North Korean reservoirs by the Apnok and Duman rivers.” The batteries would prevent the violent outpouring of those reservoirs into China in the event of an airstrike. On Friday, China’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper reported that Beijing was also investing in establishing nuclear monitoring stations throughout the world, but especially near North Korea, to more rapidly gather information about a potential airstrike. While carefully noting that “detection is not targeted at any particular country,” the newspaper noted that the planned 11 nuclear monitoring stations “are responsible for detecting nuclear activities in neighboring countries, including North Korea.” The People’s Daily claims the monitor plan “shows China’s commitment to global nonproliferation.” Taken in tandem with reports of military movements near North Korea, however, this development indicates concern that a major military or political event in North Korea will impact China significantly. Another state newspaper, the Global Times, remarked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week that “risks of US military action are growing.” Trump singled North Korea out as the world’s most egregious human rights abuser, celebrating the plight of North Korean refugees who risked their lives to escape. In December, Chosun Ilbo reported that China is not only using its military assets to prepare for a potential catastrophe in North Korea; the newspaper cited Japanese media that had revealed evidence of China’s building massive refugee camps near the North Korean border, some that could welcome up to half-a-million refugees. Officials reportedly ordered the construction of such camps in Jilin, the same city where state media published a citizens’ guide to surviving a nuclear war triggered by North Korea. The state-run Jilin Daily published an article in December suggesting citizens “close their windows and doors during an emergency and immediately take a shower and wash out their mouths and ears after being exposed to radiation.” It mentioned potential regional tensions without blaming North Korea directly. While state media remained subtle about government fears regarding North Korea, communist academics made clear in December that they believed Kim Jong-un’s regime could not be trusted to keep China out of a major regional war. “North Korea is a time bomb,” remarked Professor Shi Yinhong. “We can only delay the explosion, hoping that by delaying it, a time will come to remove the detonator.” China, North Korea’s largest trade partner, almost single-handedly keeps Kim’s economy afloat. Through a tense year for Kim and President Trump, who has not shied away from challenging the autocrat, China stuck by North Korea, increasing trade to the fellow communist country. Beijing has abided by some United Nations sanctions, however, and forced businesses on North Korea’s border to limit their contact with the regime. According to Radio Free Asia, businesses along the border “are now being severely hurt as wider customs controls are established along the border, sources working in the area say.” Many of these businesses traffic in goods that are not obvious candidates for sanctions, such as cosmetics and paper. RFA suggests that those impacted on the ground have soured on North Korea’s government, as its belligerence has triggered the sanctions. Dictator Kim Jong-un has rejected all attempts by the global community to convince the country to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program and has continued testing ballistic missiles and suggesting that their ultimate destination will be the United States. On the other side of the border, RFA reported that Pyongyang is “stirring up anti-China sentiment among ordinary citizens through conferences and lecture sessions as the closed, authoritarian country’s economy bears the brunt of tough new economic sanctions supported by its longtime ally.” North Korea rarely confronts China on international platforms, but even this line was crossed in 2017, when the Korean Central News Agency accused China, without naming the country, of “dancing to the tune of the U.S.” by agreeing to abide by U.N. sanctions.

Definitely something to keep an eye on…