How to Defuse the Crisis with North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

How to Defuse the Crisis with North Korea

WASHINGTON — I have been meeting with North Korean government officials for over two decades, first for almost 10 years as part of my job at the State Department, and then as a researcher working at universities and think tanks. This experience has made me familiar with the North Koreans’ views on safeguarding their country’s security. I believe that President Trump is making a big mistake if he thinks that the threat of a military strike and escalating sanctions will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Following a two-month review, the Trump administration has moved to implement a policy that emphasizes pressure — including the threat of military force and new sanctions against North Korea, as well as new restrictions intended to punish Chinese businesses with ties to Pyongyang. While the theory is that doing so will persuade North Korea to stop its provocative behavior, return to negotiations and give up its nuclear weapons, it won’t work that way. These threats will make the North Korean government only more likely to dig in its heels and move forward with its nuclear and missile programs, embroiling the United States in a festering crisis on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate out of control.

For more than 60 years, North Korea has successfully resisted not only pressure from great powers, mainly the United States, but also attempts at manipulation by its patrons, the Soviet Union and China. This reflects a strong nationalism but also a principle dear to the North Koreans: that as a small country in a life-or-death confrontation with the world’s most powerful nation, any display of weakness would amount to national suicide.

A longstanding, deeply ingrained view in Pyongyang is that Washington’s real agenda is to get rid of the North Korean regime because of the military threat it poses to American allies like South Korea and Japan, its widespread human rights violations and now its nuclear arsenal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to reassure the North during his visit to Tokyo last month, saying, “North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbors in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea.” But Vice President Mike Pence’s assertion in Seoul this week that the United States seeks to end repression in North Korea, when viewed from Pyongyang, clearly translates into a policy of regime change.

Threats like these reinforce a view in Pyongyang that North Korea needs nuclear weapons to shield it against a much larger, much more powerful country. That’s a message I have heard repeatedly from the North Koreans, most recently in a private meeting I attended with government officials who stated that their country would not have developed nuclear weapons if it did not see the United States as a threat or had not been subjected to American and South Korean provocations. American actions in other countries — whether backing regime change in Libya or launching airstrikes against Syria for its use of chemical weapons — strengthen that view.

The Trump administration may also be mistaken if it believes that China will rein in North Korea. President Trump’s effort to establish cooperation with China, combined with the threat of American military action against the North, seems to be yielding some results, as China recently threatened to impose new sanctions on North Korea. But how far will China go?

There are legitimate concerns in Beijing that too much economic pressure on North Korea will trigger dangerous instability there. Moreover, the North Koreans are just as likely to resist Chinese strong-arm tactics as they are American pressure. Attempts by China to send top-ranking diplomats to Pyongyang over the past week were reportedly rejected out of hand by North Korea. Most observers forget that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is aimed at China as well as the United States and its allies.

In the weeks ahead, the combination of underestimating North Korean intransigence and overestimating China’s influence will expose the Trump administration’s inability to stop North Korea’s nuclear program and could escalate tensions. Pyongyang’s bellicose statements threatening thermonuclear war, the display of new missiles at a parade this past weekend and the failed test on Sunday of a missile able to reach targets in Northeast Asia could be North Korea’s opening moves.

If the Trump administration’s current course continues, it will lead to a dead end. Pyongyang will push forward with its nuclear and missile programs, American threats will ring increasingly hollow if force is not exercised because of the very real risks of triggering a North Korean military response against South Korea and Japan, and Beijing’s support will soften as it looks for a way out of the tensions. As a result, the administration will end up trapped in a policy no-man’s land, its only options to retreat back to the Obama administration’s failed policy of “strategic patience” (without, of course, saying so) or doubling down on sanctions aimed at China and deploying more missile defense and forces to the region.

Time is not on President Trump’s side. The administration should seriously consider pivoting away from pressure to soon resuming dialogue with North Korea. In fact, the United States government should already be quietly talking to the North Koreans, either through contacts with Pyongyang’s United Nations mission or elsewhere, emphasizing Washington’s resolve to defend American interests and making clear that the United States does not have hostile intentions toward North Korea. The Americans should also make clear that they want to explore peaceful paths forward.

The next step for the administration should be to initiate “talks about talks,” allowing both sides to raise their concerns — in the case of the United States, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. If common ground is found — and if the North is willing to address the objective of eventually achieving a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula — the two would then move on to the resumption of formal negotiations.

There are no guarantees that this approach will work. But the Trump administration’s constant refrain that “all options are on the table” should mean just that — not only a military strike but also a diplomatic offensive. In doing so, President Trump would avoid the policy quagmire just over the horizon, strengthen cooperation with China and give Pyongyang a face-saving way out of the current confrontation before it’s too late.

(The New York Times)

China Is Getting Fed Up With North Korea’s Little Fat Boy With The Bad Haircut

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States.

A day after North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister said Pyongyang would test missiles weekly and use nuclear weapons if threatened, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “gravely concerned” about North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile activities.
In the same press conference, spokesman Lu Kang praised recent US statements on the North Korean issue.
“American officials did make some positive and constructive remarks… such as using whatever peaceful means possible to resolve the (Korean) Peninsula nuclear issue. This represents a general direction that we believe is correct and should be adhered to,” Lu said.

Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

 Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

That direction was not evident from North Korean leadership, as state-run TV highlighted a propaganda video showing missile strikes leaving the US in flames.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol ratcheted up the rhetoric in an interview with the BBC.
“If the United States is reckless enough to use military means, it would mean from that very day an all-out war,” Han said.
Statements of that vein do not help the situation, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Trump: North Korea pushed off by past presidents

 Trump: North Korea pushed off by past presidents

“China firmly opposes any words or actions that would escalate rivalry and tension,” Lu said.
US President Donald Trump has been pressing China to rein in North Korea, suggesting that doing so could ease US-China relations over trade and other issues.
Experts point out that China also wants to prevent North Korea from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power — and certainly wants to prevent a war on its southern border that could send millions of refugees flooding into China and potentially risk bringing a US military presence to China’s borders.

North Korea Launches Missile: Blows Up Almost Immediately: Sources: S. Korea, U.S.

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) An attempted missile launch by North Korea on Sunday failed, US and South Korean defense officials told CNN.

The attempted launch occurred a day after the regime of Kim Jong Un showed off a bevy of new missiles and launchers at a large-scale military parade on its most important holiday.
A South Korean defense official said the action took place in Sinpo, a port city in eastern North Korea. That was the site of a ballistic missile test earlier this month in which the projectile fell into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.
The North Koreans use Sinpo shipyard for their submarine activity, and US satellites have observed increased activity there in April, a US official said at the time of the previous test.
South Korean and US intelligence officials are trying to determine what type of missile was used Sunday.
Here are the latest developments:
• US Vice President Mike Pence, en route to South Korea for a previously scheduled trip, was briefed on the launch, administration officials said. Pence and President Donald Trump have been in contact, aides to the vice president said.
• “The President and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The President has no further comment,” US Defense Secretary James Mattis said.
• South Korean officials called a meeting of the country’s National Security Council.
• US Pacific Command said it tracked a missile launch at 5:21 p.m. ET and said the missile blew up almost immediately.
• At this point, US military officials don’t believe the missile had intercontinental capabilities, a US defense official told CNN. The official said the missile blew up so quickly there is limited data.
• CNN’s Will Ripley in Pyongyang, North Korea, reported there was no immediate confirmation from North Korean state media about the launch.

Rising tensions

North Korea’s actions come as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.
The US Navy dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group to the region last weekend, and Trump has been tweeting this week that if China can’t rein in North Korea’s nuclear program, the United States will.
Pence is headed to Asia this weekend, with planned stops in Seoul; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo and Sydney.
Analysts had expected North Korea to conduct a nuclear missile test around the time of his visit, possibly on Saturday as the nation celebrated the 105th birthday of its founder — Kim II Sung, the late grandfather of North Korea’s current leader.
The status of the North Korean underground nuclear test program is unchanged, a senior US defense official told CNN’s Barbara Starr, and a test could come at any time.
The reported failed test comes at a time of year when North Korea has previously tried to launch missiles. Last year, Pyongyang attempted to launch a Musudan missile on April 15, an auspicious date on which millions celebrate Kim II Sung’s birthday.
That test also failed, as there was “no evidence the missile reached flight,” a US official told CNN.

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

As thousands of soldiers mass at Kim Il-sung square, Pyongyang tells US to end its dangerous ‘military hysteria’

Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday.
Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday. Photograph: AP

North Korea has begun a vast military parade to celebrate the birth of its founding father, Kim Il-sung, and warned that it was prepared to take the “toughest” action unless the US ended its “military hysteria”, as speculation grows that the regime is preparing to conduct a nuclear test.

On a sunny morning in the capital, Pyongyang, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung square as a band played rousing military music, the instruments falling silent for oaths of loyalty to the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Dressed in his trademark black suit and flanked by senior military and Workers’ party officials, Kim applauded and occasionally smiled as he watched the tributes to his grandfather, who was born 105 years ago today.

But the “Day of the Sun” was clouded in uncertainty as the world waited to see if Kim Jong-un, the country’s third-generation ruler, would provoke a potential regional crisis with what would be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in just over a decade, or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its strike group sailed towards the peninsula in a show of force, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, warned of “merciless” retaliation against any US provocation.

Donald Trump’s decision to send an “armada” of warships to waters off the tense peninsula, coupled with recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, were proof that Washington had chosen the path of “open threat and blackmail”, KCNA said.

“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” it added.

It said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” has reached a “dangerous phase that can no longer be overlooked”.

It added: “Under the prevailing grave situation, the United States has to come to its senses and make a proper option for the solution of the problem.”

Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking party official, earlier told crowds North Korea was ready for war. “We will respond [to a US attack] with an all-out war … and nuclear attacks with nuclear strikes,” Choe said in a speech, according to Yonhap.

As the parade unfolded in Pyongyang, China’s state-run media warned that the US president was mistaken if he believed that piling military pressure on North Korea would resolve the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Global Times said Trump’s decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan was clearly “a new gimmick in US military deterrence” designed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

“North Korea must have felt the shock wave travelling all the way from Afghanistan,” the Communist party-controlled newspaper said in an editorial.

However, the Global Times, which sometimes reflects government views, said the use of such a “vicious weapon” was in fact likely to make Pyongyang even more determined to upgrade its own arsenal. “[Trump] has demonstrated a certain level of obsession and pride toward US military prowess,” it said, adding, that the US president “may go down in history as the ‘war president’”.

As North Korea’s only ally and biggest trading partner, China has come under unprecedented pressure in recent days to use its influence to persuade Kim not to risk conflict with a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch.

On Friday, China again called for talks to defuse the crisis. “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing.

Speaking to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Friday night, Wang said steps were needed to prevent “war and chaos” on the Korean peninsula.

US officials have said the policy of “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration has ended, after years of diplomatic pressure and international sanctions failed to slow North Korea’s progress towards developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland – a milestone some experts believe is only years away.

In echoes of the bellicose rhetoric that reverberated around the Korean peninsula during its last major crisis in the spring of 2013, KCNA said North Korea would respond in kind to any perceived US military provocation.

Referring to the country by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it warned: “The army and people of the DPRK will as ever courageously counter those who encroach upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and will always mercilessly ravage all provocative options of the US with Korean-style toughest counteraction.”

China fears North Korea-US conflict ‘at any moment’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

China fears North Korea-US conflict ‘at any moment’

  • 14 April 2017
  • From the section Asia
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, 14 April 2017Image copyright AFP
Image caption“All relevant parties should be highly vigilant,” the Chinese foreign minister says

China has warned that “conflict could break out at any moment” as tension over North Korea increases.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said if war occurred there could be no winner.

Mr Wang’s comments come as the US voices increasing concern at North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and deploys a Navy carrier group off the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea’s only backer, fears conflict could cause the regime to collapse and problems on its border.

Mr Wang said: “One has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment.

“I think that all relevant parties should be highly vigilant with regards to this situation.”

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage.”

The USS Carl Vinson, 8 April 2017Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption The US carrier group deploying off the Korean peninsula is led by the USS Carl Vinson

Adding to Chinese unease, President Donald Trump said on Thursday that “the problem of North Korea” would be “taken care of”.

“If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

The North Korean military responded on Friday by saying it would “mercilessly foil” any US provocation.

“Our toughest counteraction against the U.S. and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” read a statement from the army, reported in English by North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA.

The US president has recently demonstrated his willingness to resort to military methods. He ordered a cruise missile attack on Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack, and the US military just used a huge bomb against so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Washington is concerned North Korea might develop the ability to launch a nuclear weapon at the US.

Mr Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping have been in contact by phone since their summit last week in Florida, and Reuters quotes US officials as saying tougher economic sanctions against North Korea are also being considered.

Media caption John Sudworth asks people on the Pyongyang subway how they feel about the country’s nuclear tests.

China is concerned any conflict could lead to a huge refugee problem on its border with North Korea. It also fears the collapse of the North Korean regime, which would remove a buffer between China and a country with US military bases, and has thus long been wary of pushing Pyongyang too hard.

But, in a sign of growing frustration with its neighbour, it recently blocked coal imports from the North. And Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reports that the government will suspend direct Air China flights between Beijing and Pyongyang from Monday 17 April.

There is also intense speculation that North Korea could carry out a sixth nuclear bomb test or another missile launch – possibly a long-range missile – on Saturday.

Saturday marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of its first leader, Kim Il-sung.

In an interview with the Associated Press, North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol accused the Trump administration of “becoming more vicious and more aggressive” in its policy towards the North.

An institute linked to the North Korean foreign ministry also warned that “thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment”.

China Issues Stern Warning To the U.S. And North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

April 14 
China issued a stern warning Friday to both the United States and North Korea, urging them not to push their recriminations to a point of no return and allow war to break out on the Korean Peninsula.In comments carried by China’s official Xinhua news agency, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “storm clouds” were gathering, an apparent reference to North Korean preparations to conduct a new nuclear test and the United States’ deployment of a naval strike force to the waters off the peninsula. In addition, the U.S. military has been conducting large-scale military exercises with South Korean forces, drills that the North considers provocative.

“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent,” Wang said at a news conference after a meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Xinhua reported. “We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory or threatening statements or deeds to prevent irreversible damage to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

If they allow war to break out on the peninsula, they must bear the historical responsibility and “pay the corresponding price,” Wang warned. In the event of war, “multiple parties will lose, and no one will win,” he said. “It is not the one who espouses hasher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win.”

Wang also indicated that China is willing to broker a resumption of “dialogue,” whether it be “official or unofficial, through one channel or dual channels, bilateral or multilateral.”

Trump says good trade with China hinges on help with North Korea

 

Play Video1:32
President Trump spoke highly of Chinese President Xi during a press conference at the White House on April 12, but avoided commenting directly on the decision not to label China a currency manipulator. “We’re going to see,” he said when asked if a deal was struck. (White House)

Earlier Friday, North Korea accused President Trump of “making trouble” with his “aggressive” tweets, amid concerns that tensions between the two countries could escalate into military action.

And the North Korean army threatened to annihilate U.S. military bases in South Korea and the presidential palace in Seoul in response to what it called Trump’s “maniacal military provocations.”

Tensions have been steadily mounting in recent weeks, as North Korea prepares for what it is calling a “big” event to mark the anniversary of the founder’s birthday Saturday, while the Trump administration warns that all options are on the table.

Expectations for a nuclear test or missile launch in the lead-up to Saturday’s celebrations in Pyongyang have not come to pass. Instead, there are signs that the regime is getting ready to hold a huge parade this weekend, perhaps showing off new missiles — something that would qualify as the “big” event it had heralded.

The United States has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula region, and Trump has repeatedly tweeted that if China will not use its leverage to rein in North Korea, the United States will act.

Vice President Pence arrives in Seoul on Sunday on the first leg of an Asia tour, and he will doubtless underscore Washington’s strong alliances with South Korea and Japan and their determination to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

But North Korea’s vice foreign minister said Trump was “becoming more vicious and more aggressive” than previous presidents, which was only making matters worse.

“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press in an interview in Pyongyang. “So that’s why. It’s not the DPRK but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble,” he said, using the abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially known.

Han also repeated the regime’s common refrain that North Korea is ready to act to defend itself.

“We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. preemptive strike,” Han told the AP.

As for when the next nuclear test would take place, “that is something that our headquarters decides,” he said.

His message chimed with a statement Friday from North Korea’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace that it was the United States pushing the Korean Peninsula, “the world’s biggest hotspot,” to the brink of war by bringing back a naval strike group.

“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out any moment on the peninsula and pose a serious threat to the world’s peace and security,” the statement said.

North Korea has a habit of fueling tensions to increase the rewards it might extract from the outside world if it desists. Previously, North Korea has agreed to return to denuclearization talks in return for aid or the easing of sanctions.

Trump is tearing up that old playbook, analysts said.

“This approach to North Korea is relatively new,” said James Kim of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies in Seoul. “The approach in the past has been very calculated.”

That has gone out the window with talk about military options, he said. “We always knew all these options were there, but no one was bold enough to go down that path. It’s a new approach.”

Some in Beijing are noting the difference, too.

“It should be noted that there is a personality difference between Trump and Obama,” the Global Times newspaper wrote Friday. The paper does not speak for the Chinese government on policy but often reflects a strain of thinking within the Communist Party.

“Trump is also willing to show he is different. Bombing Syria helps him to show that,” it continued, while noting that he was far from “revolutionary” because he dispatched only missiles, not troops.

But North Korea could prove different if it calls Trump’s bluff and conducts another nuclear test, the paper said. “Trump just took the office; if he loses to Pyongyang, he would feel like he had lost some prestige.”

Right now, Trump has some cards to play, said Kim of the Asan Institute.

“He might say: ‘If you want one less battleship in the region, what are you going to give me?’” he said, in a reversal from the usual situation in which North Korea asks what it can get from its adversaries in return for changing its behavior.

Amid these tensions, reports of impending military action have been swirling.

NBC News, citing intelligence officials, reported Thursday that the United States was ready to launch a preemptive strike if North Korea appeared to be about to conduct a nuclear test.

But a defense official said this was “speculative,” and analysts said they highly doubted that Washington would take such action, describing a situation in which tougher sanctions and more rigorous implementation remained the best remedy.

Trump’s tweets and his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping seem designed to push Beijing to crack down on North Korea, and there have been some indications that China is getting tougher on its errant neighbor.

China banned coal imports from North Korea in mid-February — potentially cutting off an economic lifeline — and Chinese customs data released Thursday showed a 52 percent drop in imports in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is taking precautions of its own.

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

By Dominique Patton and Sue-Lin Wong | BEIJING/PYONGYANG

China said on Friday tension over North Korea had to be stopped from reaching an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test.

Concerns have grown since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. and unilateral sanctions.

The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” is over. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbor which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the decentralization of the Korean peninsula.

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.

“Force cannot solve the problem, dialogue can be the only channel to resolve the problem.”

North Korea for its part denounced the United States for bringing “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace issued a statement condemning the United States for its attack on the Syrian airfield.

“The U.S. introduces into the Korean peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of a war,” the North’s KCNA news agency said on Friday, citing the statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to people cheering during an opening ceremony of a newly constructed residential complex in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment.”

North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.

On Saturday, it marks the “Day of the Sun”, the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

While Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not tolerate any more provocation, U.S. officials have said his administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.

Trump said on Thursday North Korea was a problem that “will be taken care of” and he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping would “work very hard” to help resolve it.

Trump has also said the United States is prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary.

He diverted the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its strike group towards the Korean peninsula last weekend in a show of force. (tmsnrt.rs/2p1yGTQ)

The dollar fell on Friday against a basket of currencies, on track for a losing week as tension over North Korea underpinned the perceived safe-haven Japanese yen.

Media in Japan said the government confirmed it would take all precautions in the face of possible North Korean provocations.

The Nikkei business daily said government discussions included how to rescue the estimated 57,000 Japanese citizens in South Korea as well as how to cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees coming to Japan, among whom might be North Korean spies and agents.

In Pyongyang, retired soldier Ho Song Chol told Reuters that North Korea would win should there be any conflict with the United States.

“We don’t think about other things, we just live in our belief that we will win as long as our Supreme Leader is with us,” Ho said, referring to Kim Jong Un.

Kang Gil-won, a 26-year-old graduate living in Seoul, said his biggest concern was not North Korea, but finding work in a tough job market.

“There’s no concern that war is going to break out tomorrow,” he told Reuters at a “study café” where many young job seekers prepare for interviews.

“Getting a job is a war that I feel in my bones.”

Many South Koreans, meanwhile, marked “Black Day” on Friday, but it had nothing to do with worry about North Korea.

Black Day is a day for singles, marked by eating “jajangmyeon”, a noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of black beans. It’s celebrated by singles as a response to “White Day”, an Asian Valentine’s Day which falls a month earlier, on March 14.

(Additional reporting by Nick Macfie, James Pearson and Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Natalie Thomas in Pyongyang, Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

China’s President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Trump Discuss N. Korea’s Dictator By Phone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China called for a “peaceful” resolution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula Wednesday, as a United States aircraft carrier strike group churned towards the contested region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the situation in North Korea and Syria with US President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said, in what one analyst described as a “new phase” of China-US relations on North Korea.
“I think at this point the common interest between the US and China outweigh (North Korea saber-rattling),” Alexander Neill, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, told CNN.

Trump & Xi's North Korea problem

Trump & Xi’s North Korea problem
“China may be prepared to do some sort of trade off… They want to rein in (leader) Kim Jong Un.”
Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to rein in its unruly neighbor, which has stepped up its missile development and nuclear program since 2016.
The US dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after the latest missile test by North Korea last week, drawing a forceful warning from Pyongyang.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said Trump and Xi had pledged to stay in close contact after their first meeting earlier this month and the phone call didn’t indicate any change in China’s position.

North Korea ‘looking for trouble’: Trump

The unexpected phone call between the two came after Trump turned to Twitter to vent his frustrations over North Korea.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem,” he tweeted.
“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.,” he wrote in a second tweet.

US, China to Increase Cooperation on North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS PAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

US, China to Increase Cooperation on North Korea

Korea

Beijing – The United States and China vowed to work together against threats of the North Korea’s nuclear program, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the situation has reached a “dangerous” level.

Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart’s language seemed more reconciliatory in light US President Donald Trump’s accusations that China was not exerting enough efforts to control its troublesome neighbor. Beijing had meanwhile accused the White House of causing tensions.

“I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and things have reached a rather dangerous level. And we have committed ourselves to doing everything we can to prevent any kind of conflict from breaking out,” Tillerson added during a press conference in Beijing with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Tillerson’s visit to China is the last leg of his Asian trip, where he made stops in Japan and South Korea.

He avoided using strong language during the joint press conference with Wang, who seemed to have reproached his counterpart for statements he had made earlier this week.

Wang urged the US to remain “cool-headed” and defended his government’s position, saying all international parties should seek diplomatic solutions while implementing UN sanctions against the regime in North Korea.

“We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” he added.

Neither parties announced any tangible future steps to solve the issue and Tillerson did not publically respond to Beijing’s calls for negotiations with North Korea.

Trump had increased the pressure on China, accusing it of not exploiting all means possible to control North Korea, whom he said considered Beijing to be its closest ally and economic benefactor.

“North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!” he tweeted.

The developments come after North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and launched missiles last month. The US considered the test-launch an attack on its bases in Japan.

The developments alarmed South Korea, spurring it to deploy the US’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD). The Chinese leadership had accused the US of aggravating the situation through military trainings with its ally Seoul and the deployment of THAAD.

China is hesitant to increase its pressure on North Korea, whose reactions can be unpredictable.

Washington and Seoul insist that the THAAD system is for defense purposes only, but Beijing fears it could undermine its capabilities to denuclearize North Korea.

Beijing had always called for diplomatic talks to denuclearize North Korea, which is barred by the UN from proceeding with its program.

Wang also said that the Korean peninsula nuclear issue is of interest to everyone, reiterating his country’s commitment to the goal of denuclearization

“We are for the settlement of this issue through dialogue and negotiations and the maintenance of peace and stability on the peninsula and the overall region,” he added on Saturday.

Wang reiterated that China, as a close neighbor of the peninsula and a major power, has devoted a lot of energy and efforts to seek a settlement to the issue. The tremendous important efforts China has made are visible to all, he said.

Tillerson, who was CEO of ExxonMobil before being appointed secretary of state, said that a military option is possible if Pyongyang intensified its work.

“We do believe that if North Korea stands down on this nuclear program, that is their quickest means to begin to develop their economy and to become a vibrant economy for the North Korean people,” the US officials said.

He added: “All options are on the table, but we cannot predict the future.”

Maybe one of the reasons for the calm American-Chinese rhetoric is the expected talks between US President Trump and Chinese President Xi during the latter’s upcoming visit to US next month, the first such summit between the two leaders.

Trump is expected to host Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach on April 6 and 7 for an informal “no necktie” encounter. Experts hope this meeting will reduce tensions between the two officials.

China shares US fears of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition, but it makes sure not to provoke its neighbor.

In February, Beijing issued a strong position when it announced it will stop coal imports from North Korea until the end of this year.

North Korea expert at Beijing University Wong Dong said: “It is a mistake to think that China can control Pyongyang and it is not reasonable for Washington to accuse Beijing of doing nothing. The situation is complicated and sensitive and there is no magical solution.”

The Obama administration ruled out any diplomatic involvement with Pyongyang until the latter shows commitment to denuclearization.

The communist state insists on owning nuclear weapons to defend itself and executed its first test in 2006 despite international objection. It had done four other tests, two last year.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Malaysia summons North Korean ambassador, recalls envoy from Pyongyang

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Malaysia summons North Korean ambassador, recalls envoy from Pyongyang

Malaysia’s foreign ministry summoned North Korea’s ambassador on Monday over allegations he had made over the Southeast Asian country’s handling of the investigation into the murder in Kuala Lumpur of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother.

Malaysia also recalled its envoy from Pyongyang “for consultations”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the North Korean ambassador Kang Chol was summoned for “an explanation on the accusations he made against the Government of Malaysia in his press conference on 17 February 2017”.

“In his press conference, the Ambassador…insinuated that…the Malaysian Government had ‘something to conceal’. The Ambassador also alleged that Malaysia was ‘colluding and playing into the gallery of external forces’,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor)