(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SLATE NEWS)
Some say last week’s cancellation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang signaled a breakdown in the U.S.–North Korean disarmament talks, but this misses three much larger points, which go way beyond Korea and speak to the failings of President Trump’s foreign policy as a whole.
First, the talks were never going anywhere to begin with; there is nothing to break down.
Second, the Trump administration’s policy on North Korea is in complete chaos.
Third, the reason it’s in chaos is that Trump himself has no idea that it is in chaos, or that the talks have been moribund from their beginning, or that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is taking him for a ride and everyone knows it, except Trump.
Our story begins on Friday, when Trump tweeted:
This jolted close observers. The day before, Pompeo had hired Steve Biegun, a Ford Motors executive who had worked in George W. Bush’s National Security Council, to be his special envoy to North Korea. The trip was to be their maiden voyage as a team. But then North Korea’s chief negotiator (and former top spy) Kim Yong-chol sent Pompeo a belligerently toned letter, which suggested to the secretary—who persuaded Trump—that a trip would be pointless. Hence Trump’s tweet.
If that had been Trump’s only tweet, it might have been a shrewd move. In past negotiations, North Koreans get cranky as a way of testing their interlocutors; a piss-off note from Trump might have compelled a concession, even if just a superficial one.
But Trump didn’t stop there. He proceeded to blame the lack of progress not on the North Koreans but rather on the Chinese, who, “because of our much tougher Trading stance,” are not “helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were.”
Finally, Trump added:
If Kim had been concerned for a moment that his bluff had been called and that the Americans were about to get tough, Trump’s final tweet allayed his worries—and perhaps made him laugh. It assured Kim that he can continue stalling on disarmament—that he can do almost anything he wants—without facing any punishment because, like other autocrats who have learned the art of dealing with Trump, he’s bamboozled our narcissistic president into thinking that the two of them are friends.
At their June summit in Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a one-page “joint statement,” which Trump hailed as a pledge—he later even called it a “contract”—to “denuclearize” North Korea. In fact, as anyone who has ever read an international communiqué could tell (a group that clearly did not include Trump), it was nothing of the sort.
A few weeks before that summit, Trump tweeted that he was canceling it, in response to a typically nasty North Korean press release—then put it back on the calendar after Pyongyang officials put out a “very nice statement,” as Trump described it. That was no doubt the first sign—reinforced by his latest cancellation with warm regards—that Trump is a pushover.
Not only does Kim seem to know this—so does practically everyone in the Trump administration.
Daniel Sneider, lecturer on Asian studies at Stanford University and a seasoned international journalist, reported this week that U.S. officials who are working this issue have the following aims: to contain Kim so he doesn’t expand his nuclear arsenal, to contain Chinese President Xi Jinping so he keeps enforcing economic sanctions against Kim’s regime; to contain South Korean President Moon Jae-in so he doesn’t rush forth with massive economic projects in the North before Kim makes good on nuclear disarmament, and, most important, to contain their own boss, President Trump, from giving away the store.
At the summit in Singapore, Kim asked Trump to suspend America’s joint military exercises with South Korea, and Trump obliged him—without first consulting South Korea, Japan, or his own secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, who were all surprised by the move. At a press conference today, Mattis said, “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.”
Of course, the key words here are “no plans at this time.” Mattis didn’t have plans to suspend the last exercise either. Mattis may have lots of plans; Trump makes the decisions—if he becomes aware of the plans. This may be one reason Mattis is keeping a low profile these days: He doesn’t always want Trump to know precisely what he’s doing.
The same is true of the officials working North Korean policy. Their No. 1 goal, at the moment, is to keep Trump from having another summit with Kim. This is what terrifies them about Trump’s final tweet. (“I look forward to seeing him soon!”) None of these officials, including Pompeo, wanted Pompeo to make the trip to Pyongyang. They knew it would go nowhere, and they knew Trump would infer from the failure that only he could solve the problem by sitting down with his friend Kim and asking him, as a favor, to help break through the logjam.
This is how Trump thinks international politics works. Back in June, when he proposed letting Russia back into the G-8, he explained his thinking: “If Vladimir Putin were sitting next to me at a table … I could say, ‘Would you do me a favor and get out of Syria? Would you do me a favor, would you get out of Ukraine?’ ” Soon after this bizarre remark, Trump held his infamous summit with Putin and, whatever else happened (this remains a mystery), no such favors were granted.
We don’t know what other concessions Trump made in his one-on-one session with Kim in Singapore (or, for that matter, his one-on-one with Putin in Helsinki). Kim claims that Trump said he would sign a peace treaty, ending the 1950–53 Korean War (which has been in a state of cease-fire these past 65 years, but not a formal peace). As a result, ever since, North Korean negotiators have demanded a treaty before they take any steps to dismantle their nuclear arsenal. Pompeo rejected that demand the last time he was in Pyongyang. According to Sneider’s account, Kim Yong-chol, the North Korean negotiator, held up a cellphone and taunted Pompeo, saying, “Why don’t you call your president.”
Before Trump canceled the meeting, Pompeo had planned to offer Kim a deal: The United States would declare a willingness to negotiate a peace treaty if North Korea declared the number and location of its nuclear facilities. Pompeo was going to do this without first having his negotiators test it on their counterparts. U.S. officials now say Kim would have rejected it. He would probably reject any offer, knowing that Trump would respond by offering more.
The way Kim is believed to see it, Trump wants a deal—wants to be seen as a peacemaker—more than anything, especially before the 2020 (or even this year’s midterm) elections. If Trump had read his own book, much less written it, he would know that you should never appear to want a deal too eagerly. He is violating that basic principle.
Pompeo is proving to be a better secretary of state than his hapless predecessor, Rex Tillerson, in the sense that he sees the value of filling his department’s empty slots with competent people and letting them do their work.
But Trump keeps undercutting their efforts, and Pompeo—an ambitious ex-congressman who got this job by kowtowing to Trump’s political needs while he was CIA director and who is too keen to maintain his access to the White House—will go only so far to rein the boss in. He convinced Trump to call off the trip, but he is too cowed to tell Trump that his policy, his understanding of the joint statement, and his view of Kim are all wrong.
Meanwhile, national security adviser John Bolton, who came into office with a clear record of wanting to bomb North Korea (and Iran), seems to be sitting back, waiting for the roses to wilt and for Trump to realize that Kim is not a friend and will never disarm, before pouncing into action.
For the moment, though, Trump’s reality is whatever reality that grooms and praises Trump. He’s not interested in any other reality. He thinks the polls show that he’s popular. He thinks the leaders of the world respect him. At 10:02 on Tuesday morning, he Googled “Trump” and “news,” saw that almost all the entries were unfavorable, inferred that the search algorithm was “RIGGED,” and tweeted that regulations should be considered.
Meanwhile, the real world follows its own dynamics, Trump is steadily divorcing himself from reality, but, as president, he still has an oversize impact on what really happens. That’s the danger. The pity, and potentially the tragedy, is that many of those around him know this and are doing little about it.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs in violation of United Nations sanctions, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on Friday.
The six-month report by independent experts monitoring the implementation of U.N. sanctions was submitted to the Security Council North Korea sanctions committee late on Friday.
“(North Korea) has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” the experts wrote in the 149-page report.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on the report.
The U.N report said North Korea is cooperating militarily with Syria and has been trying to sell weapons to Yemen’s Houthis.
Pyongyang also violated a textile ban by exporting more than $100 million in goods between October 2017 and March 2018 to China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Uruguay, the report said.
The report comes as Russia and China suggest the Security Council discuss easing sanctions after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the first time in June and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization.
The United States and other council members have said there must be strict enforcement of sanctions until Pyongyang acts.
The U.N. experts said illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in international waters had “increased in scope, scale and sophistication.” They said a key North Korean technique was to turn off a ship’s tracking system, but that they were also physically disguising ships and using smaller vessels.
The Security Council has unanimously sanctioned North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
The experts said “prohibited military cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic has continued unabated.” They said North Korean technicians engaged in ballistic missile and other banned activities have visited Syria in 2011, 2016 and 2017.
The report said that experts were investigating efforts by the North Korean Ministry of Military Equipment and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) to supply conventional arms and ballistic missiles to Yemen’s Houthi group.
A country, which was not identified, showed the experts a July 13, 2016 letter from a Houthi leader inviting the North Koreans to meet in Damascus “to discuss the issue of the transfer of technology and other matters of mutual interest,” according to the report.
The experts said that the effectiveness of financial sanctions was being systematically undermined by “deceptive practices” of North Korea.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chris Sanders and Toni Reinhold
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Pyeongchang, South Korea (CNN)North Korea is sending another high-level delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony this Sunday, led by a man widely believed to have masterminded the sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors.
As most folks know, the Winter Olympics are being staged in South Korea right now. South Korea’s President, Mr. Moon appears to be being ‘played’ for a fool by the Kim family of North Korea during these games. There is a small athletic delegation from the North that are participating as we speak. Among the non-athletes of the North’s delegation is the sister of Kim Jung Un, the mass murdering vicious Dictator self-proclaimed ‘Living God’. The out of touch with reality President of South Korea has welcomed the visitors from the North with open arms. Personally I do not have a problem with allowing the athletics from the North to participate, but it should be under their own flag. Mr. Moon decided that instead of South Korean athletics and the Country of South Korea using the South Korean Flag they are using a ‘unification’ flag and allowing the North Koreans to participate as part of a ‘one Korea’ team. Thus many athletics from the South who have spent many years working their selves half to death to make their Country’s Olympic Team got ‘bumped’ off the team so the unqualified North members could take their place. I say unqualified because to become a member of a country’s team you must have gone through many different qualifying events and either winning them or placing very, very high in those contest. The North’s athletics did none of these things, they were just handed the spots by the insistence of the South Korean President. Now if in team events ‘South Korea’ is able to win a metal, North Koreans also get that metal to take back home for Kim Jung Un to brag about.
Enough of the Olympic’s part of this article, now down to the meat of what I am writing to you about tonight. Kim Jung Un’s sister at the direction of her brother has offered President Moon an invitation to visit him in North Korea. The North Korean delegation has been putting on what has been widely referred to as a ‘charm’ campaign this past two months. Mr. Kim of North Korea has widely made it known that he wants the two Korea’s to be ‘unified’, yet the unification is to be under his command with himself as the one and only Leader of the Korean Peninsula. Folks, this is something that the extreme majority of the citizens of South Korea do not want to ever see happen.
What is going on is very obvious. The UN has put a lot of sanctions on the Kim government because of their missile program and the firing of ICBM’s as well as their Nuclear Program that Mr. Kim says he will never ever give up. A ‘show’ of Mr. Kim’s intentions was obvious when the North Koreans asked the South Korean government to give them the fuel that would be needed for the ship the North Korean delegation was going to use to make the very, very short trip to the South. Kim is playing the poor, poor pitiful me song and dance trying to get pity from the South Koreans and from the UN. For years the people of North Korea have been starving to death as the very fat Kim Jung Un who just keeps getting fatter and fatter himself. If Kim Jung Un can get the very liberal President Moon to start sending food and oil to the North, that would be a huge win for Mr. Kim. If Mr. Kim can convince the very liberal and gullible President Moon to break the UN sanctions all together, then Russia and China would do the same. What if Mr. Kim can play sweet toward Mr. Moon and could convince him to throw the American military forces out of South Korea and to quit doing military exercises with the U.S. and to quit allowing U.S. ships to use South Korean Ports. It is obvious that the next thing would be the North Korean Army storming the South Korean’s thus unifying the Peninsula under Mr. Kim’s control. Of course this is if Mr. Kim cannot convince President Moon to do this voluntarily. Let’s all give this ongoing situation about 100 days, lets say until June 1st to see how this all shakes out. Another option of course would be if Mr. Kim gets President Moon up North and lets him know if the two Countries do not unite as one that he (Mr. Kim) will nuke the South ‘off the map’. Lets see what the History Books will be saying about this next 100 days. As a very dear old friend of mine used to say, “we shall see, what we shall see”.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)
NOW PLAYINGEric Shawn reports: Can China really rein in Kim Jong Un?
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is reportedly so terrified of being targeted for assassination that he travels incognito inside the Hermit Kingdom, and there’s growing evidence his paranoia may be well-founded.
The 33-year-old, third-generation ruler is “extremely nervous” about a clandestine plot to take him out, according to a key South Korean lawmaker who spoke to The Korea Herald. Rep. Lee Cheol-woo, chairman of the South Korean parliament’s intelligence committee, made the claim based on reports from South Korea’s intelligence agency.
“Kim is engrossed with collecting information about the ‘decapitation operation’ through his intelligence agencies,” Lee said following a briefing last week.
“Kim is engrossed with collecting information about the ‘decapitation operation’ through his intelligence agencies.”
The rumored “decapitation plan” to target Kim and key deputies in the event fighting broke out on the peninsula first surfaced in late 2015, when the U.S. and South Korea signed “Operation Plan 5015,” a joint strategy for possible war scenarios with North Korea. According to the Brookings Institute, the plan “envisions limited warfare with an emphasis on preemptive strikes on strategic targets in North Korea and “decapitation raids” to exterminate North Korean leaders.”
Something about the term “decapitation” seems to have gotten the attention of the gout-addled, unpredictable and violent dictator. According to Lee, Kim’s is so frightened that he now disguises his movements, travels primarily at dawn and in the cars of his henchmen. Public appearances and jaunts in his prized Mercedes Benz 600 have been curtailed.
North Korea’s United Nations representative referenced the “beheading operation” in a sternly worded, 2016 letter to the body’s Security Council, suggesting that the joint military operations regularly conducted by the U.S. and South Korea “constitute a grave threat to [North Korea] as well as international peace and security.”
By January of this year, there were reports that South Korea was speeding up the creation of a specialized unit designed for this mission, initially slated to be ready by 2019.
During this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises with South Korea, one of the largest annual military exercises in the world, members of U.S. Navy SEAL teams reportedly participated in decapitation drills with our South Korean counterparts for the first time. Naval officials denied reports that members of SEAL Team 6, the group that took out Usama Bin Laden, took part.
Shortly after those war games, however, the USS Michigan, a submarine that is sometimes used to move U.S. Special Forces, took a position just off of North Korea’s coast.
While there are concerns that taking out North Korea’s leader might not be enough, a White House review revealed earlier this year that the U.S. strategy on North Korea does include the possibility of regime change.
Kim has become a major problem regionally and for the U.S. as well. Pyongyang has repeatedly tested missiles potentially capable of delivering nuclear warheads and Kim’s threats against South Korea, Japan and the U.S. have grown increasingly bellicose. Last week, North Korea returned American college student Otto Warmbier after holding him for 17 months on a dubious charge. Doctors say Warmbier underwent devastating brain injuries while in North Korean custody and is now in an unresponsive state. Three other U.S. citizens remain locked up in the reclusive nation’s infamous gulags.
But while taking out Kim may be a possibility, experts say it would be much more complicated that the 2011 raid in Pakistan in which CIA operatives and SEALs took out Bin Laden.
“A U.S. special operations strike against Kim Jong Un in today’s conditions would make the bin Laden raid look easy,” said Mark Sauter, a former U.S. Army and special forces officer who operated in the Korean de-militarized zone during the Cold War and now blogs about the decades-long effort to defend South Korea at www.dmzwar.com.
The daring, night-time raid on the Abbottabad compound went off nearly flawlessly. But U.S. forces would face much more deadly opposition in an assault on the North Korean capital.
“Pyongyang is surrounded by antiaircraft weapons, and while the corpulent Kim presents a large and sluggish target, he’s kept on the move, always surrounded by fanatical guards and often near or in complex underground compounds,” Sauter said.
Despite those potential challenges, Sauter suggests the North Korean leader “does need to worry about strikes by precision-guided missiles and bunker-buster bombs in the early stages of a preemptive allied attack, and if a conflict continues, everything from (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to special operators will be on his tracks.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
At a time when North Korea is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the United States announced that it will test an existing missile defense system to try to intercept an ICBM.
The test, scheduled for Tuesday, is the first time the United States will try to intercept an ICBM, announced US officials.
The goal is to more closely simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the US homeland. The test had been planned well in advance and was not in reaction to any specific event. they explained.
The United States has used the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, managed by Boeing Co. and in place to counter attacks from rogue states such as North Korea, to intercept other types of missiles but never an ICBM.
While US officials believe Pyongyang is some years away from mastering re-entry expertise for perfecting an ICBM, it is making advances.
This week the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency said that if left unchecked, North Korea is on an “inevitable” path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile capable of striking the United States.
The remarks are the latest indication of mounting US concern about Pyongyang’s advancing missile and nuclear weapons programs, which the North says are needed for self-defense.
The Missile Defense Agency said an interceptor based out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, one of 36 in California and Alaska, will be used in the test to shoot down a target similar to an ICBM over the Pacific Ocean.
The system has carried out successful intercepts in nine out of 17 attempts dating back to 1999. The most recent test was in 2014. Last year a science advocacy group said the system has no proven capability to protect the United States.
The American interceptor has a spotty track record, succeeding in nine of 17 attempts against missiles of less-than-intercontinental range since 1999. The most recent test, in June 2014, was a success, but that followed three straight failures. The system has evolved from the multibillion-dollar effort triggered by President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 push for a “Star Wars” solution to ballistic missile threats during the Cold War — when the Soviet Union was the only major worry.
North Korea is now the focus of US efforts because its leader, Kim Jong Un, has vowed to field a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching American territory. He has yet to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, but Pentagon officials believe he is speeding in that direction.
The Pentagon has a variety of missile defense systems, but the one designed with a potential North Korean ICBM in mind is perhaps the most technologically challenging. Critics say it also is the least reliable.
The basic defensive idea is to fire a rocket into space upon warning of a hostile missile launch. The rocket releases a 5-foot-long device called a “kill vehicle” that uses internal guidance systems to steer into the path of the oncoming missile’s warhead, destroying it by force of impact. Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens it to hitting a bullet with a bullet.
An interceptor is to be launched from an underground silo at Vandenberg and soar toward the target, which will be fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. If all goes as planned, the “kill vehicle” will slam into the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead high over the Pacific Ocean.
The target will be a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it will fly faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency. The target is not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM.
“We conduct increasingly complex test scenarios as the program matures and advances,” Johnson said Friday. “Testing against an ICBM-type threat is the next step in that process.”
Officials say this is not a make-or-break test.
The interceptor system has been in place since 2004, but it has never been used in combat or fully tested. There currently are 32 interceptors in silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and four at Vandenberg, north of Los Angeles. The Pentagon says it will have eight more, for a total of 44, by the end of this year.
In its 2018 budget presented to Congress this week, the Pentagon proposed spending $7.9 billion on missile defense, including $1.5 billion for the ground-based midcourse defense program. Other elements of that effort include the Patriot designed to shoot down short-range ballistic missiles and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the US has installed in South Korea as defense against medium-range North Korean missiles.
The Trump administration has yet to announce its intentions on missile defense.
President Donald Trump recently ordered the Pentagon to undertake a ballistic missile defense review. Some experts argue the current strategy for shooting down ICBM-range missiles, focused on the silo-based interceptors, is overly expensive and inadequate. They say a more fruitful approach would be to destroy or disable such missiles before they can be launched, possibly by cyberattack.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NORTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCY ‘KCNA’ AND ‘CNBC’)
North Korea’s official news agency leapt into overdrive Wednesday, accusing Chinese politicians and journalists of fomenting trouble and outright “betrayal.”
“China should no longer recklessly try to test the limitations of our patience,” said the commentary released by the rogue state’s Korean Central News Agency.
The KCNA agency added, “We have so devotedly helped the Chinese revolution and suffered enormous damage.” It said China has regularly “infringed upon the strategic interests” in becoming closer to the U.S. and thus committed a “betrayal” in the process.
The rare rebuke from Pyongyang’s official mouthpiece follows President Donald Trump’s warming ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Trump administration is hoping the Chinese can convince the North Koreans to abandon a nuclear weapons program and end development of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching North America.
Still, the North’s official news agency reiterated Wednesday it has no plans to end its nuclear program.
“For us, nuclear is an absolute symbol of dignity and power, and it is the highest interest,” said KCNA. “If we give up nuclear weapons, we will not only intensify economic sanctions, but also military intervention.”
Beijing indicated Wednesday that Pyongyang was taking a dangerous course and should reconsider.
“It is reasonable for the DPRK to pursue its own security, but its nuclear and missile ambitions have put itself and the whole region into dire peril,” People’s Daily, China’s communist party’s official newspaper said in a commentary. “The DPRK must not be obsessed in a wrong path of repeated nuclear tests and missile launches that resulted in rounds of sanctions.”
DPRK is a reference to North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Repubic of Korea.
Meantime, the U.S. early Wednesday announced it launched an unarmed ICBM missile from Vandenberg AFB in California. It was the second such test in a week and comes as the Air Force works to improve the Minuteman III missile’s reliability and demonstrate to North Korea the U.S. nuclear deterrent capability.
At the same time, the U.S. is beefing up its military resources in the Asian region as a show of force with tensions still remaining high over the North Korean threat.
The U.S. Pacific Command said Tuesday it sent the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Cheyenne to the U.S. Navy base at Sasebo, Japan. The U.S. also activated its THAAD anti-missile defense system in South Korea this week at a former golf course.
Last week, a carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson held drills off the Korean Peninsula and there’s also been recent training in the Asia-Pacific region involving F-35 stealth fighters and bomber aircraft. The U.S. military confirmed Wednesday two B-1B bombers left Guam’s Andersen AFB on May 1 to hold training missions with forces from Japan and South Korea.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) North Korea on Saturday launched a ballistic missile that blew up over land, a spokesman for the US Pacific Command said.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) Nearly every US senator attended an unusual all-hands meeting on North Korea at the White House Wednesday, though afterward few said any new information emerged about the increasingly tense US standoff with Pyongyang.
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