DPRK (North Korea) Chronology for 2019


DPRK (NORTH KOREA) CHRONOLOGY FOR 2019
Compiled by
Leon V. Sigal
Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project
Contact:


1/1/19:
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, said today that he was willing to have a second summit meeting with President Trump, but he paired the offer with a threat that if international sanctions against his country were not lifted, the North would “have no choice” but to return to nuclear confrontation. “I am willing to meet the United States president at any time for the betterment of our international community,” Kim said in his New Year’s Day speech, broadcast on North Korea’s state-run television. “However, if the United States does not keep its promise in our international community and misinterprets our patience and intention and continues with the sanctions, then we have no choice for the sake of our national interest and peace of the Korean Peninsula but to come up with new initiatives and new measures.” Wearing a suit and tie and sitting in an overstuffed leather armchair in a book-lined room, Kim offered a largely motivational speech about the need to strengthen the North Korean economy. But he took the opportunity to reiterate a demand that South Korea cease all military drills with “other foreign sources.” “Those should be completely stopped,” Kim said. “That is our stance.” Kim said the country would not be willing to take further steps toward removing its nuclear weapons unless the United States reciprocated. “The statements and agreements after the summit with the United States were that we are going toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that is my resolute commitment,” he said. “We will not make nuclear weapons and we will not proliferate nuclear weapons, and I have said this, and I will say this again now. If the United States can show corresponding measures, the relationship between the two countries will, through many processes, accelerate for the better. But if the counterpart continues with its past habits, it won’t be good, but I hope they stop this.” Kim also indicated that the North wanted a peace declaration formally ending the Korean War. In declaring that he would not make nuclear weapons, Kim was going further than anything he said at his summit meeting with Trump in Singapore in June. North Korea made no explicit promise to “freeze” its program, and American intelligence officials have said that they believe North Korea has continued to produce the fuel for nuclear weapons — and likely the weapons themselves. The distinction is a relatively minor one, because once the fuel is produced, fashioning it into weapons is no longer much of a challenge, as the North has proved through a series of nuclear tests that ended 13 months ago. Kim’s demand that the United States begin to lift sanctions before North Korea takes any steps toward dismantling its nuclear infrastructure is essentially a return to the state of affairs when Trump took office early in 2017. Trump entered the White House vowing he would not repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, who lifted some sanctions. Trump and his aides said the North would have to dismantle everything first and trust that sanctions would be lifted later. Since the Singapore meeting, Trump has occasionally seemed to waver on the question of lifting some sanctions before the North dismantles its facilities and gives up its weapons and missiles. Now, with Kim’s demand, he must decide whether to back down — and take steps similar to those of his predecessors. Analysts noted that Kim did not specify what exactly he wanted the Trump administration to do but was suggesting that removing some sanctions and moving toward a formal peace declaration to end the Korean War might prod the North to take certain steps toward denuclearization. “Previous public and private comments from Kim and other North Korean officials suggest they would be willing to decommission the Yongbyon nuclear complex under expert supervision,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, referring to a plutonium reactor, spent fuel reprocessing facility and uranium enrichment plant. Kim’s remarks followed a recent escalation of rhetoric from the North suggesting that he was losing patience with the diplomatic stalemate and the sanctions that have remained in place since his
meeting with Trump in Singapore. This month, the North Korean Foreign Ministry warned that the United States’ continued hardline sanctions policy might “block” any chance of denuclearizing the country. A few days later, the North said through its official news agency that it would not dismantle its nuclear weapons program until the United States agreed to shrink its military presence on and near the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is “very good at playing hard to get. They are always saying, ‘We could go back to our old ways,’” said Lee Sung-yoon, a professor of Korean studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Lee, who said Kim had shrewdly tempered his rhetoric, said he did not believe the North Korean leader intended to abandon his nuclear weapons program. “He came across as more peace-prone, reform-minded and denuclearization-prone, which I think is a ruse,” Lee said. “A nation doesn’t spend 50 years in building the bomb and just give it up for the empty privilege of shaking hands with the U.S. president. But it’s in his interest to play this game for the time being.” In his New Year’s speech, Kim praised the progress toward further cooperation that the two Koreas had made over the previous year. “North and South Koreans have to continue resolving our tensions in the skies, waters and land in and surrounding the peninsula, through carrying out practical measures based on already agreed upon inter-Korean agreements,” he said. He also suggested that South Koreans who once worked at the Kaesong industrial complex, which was run jointly by North and South Korea and shut down in 2016, should be allowed to return. The North, he suggested, would accommodate them unconditionally. “We should all be proud that we are moving together, North and South, as Koreans,” he said. “We should expand our inter-Korean cooperation so that we can actually see changes.” Over the weekend, Kim sent a rare personal letter to the South Korean leader, Moon Jae-in, saying he hoped to visit Seoul in the new year. Analysts expect he may also try to meet China’s president, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. One of the distinguishing factors of this year’s speech was its more casual delivery. By giving the speech live and in what appeared to be his library, Kim projected a more relaxed demeanor that was largely intended for his domestic audience. Kim’s “presentation to his own people was a leader who’s authoritative and decisive, but also very comfortable and familiar,” said Jean H. Lee, a former Associated Press bureau chief in Pyongyang who is now a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. (Motoko Rich and David E. Sanger, “North Korean Leader Warns U.S. to Drop Sanctions, or Relations ‘Won’t Be Good,’” New York Times, January 1, 2019, p. A-6)

Full text of the New Year Address made by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un on January 1, 2019: “ … The year 2018 was a historic year, in which remarkable changes took place in the internal and external situations and our socialist construction entered a new stage thanks to our Party’s line of independence and strategic decision. The Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Party Central Committee held in April last year constituted an occasion of pivotal significance in developing our revolution onto a new stage and continuing to speed up the advance of socialism on the basis of the great victory of the line of promoting the two fronts simultaneously. … Thanks to our proactive and positive efforts, a peace-oriented current was created on the Korean peninsula and the international prestige of our Republic continued to be raised, and in the midst of this we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the glorious DPRK in splendor with great dignity and self-confidence. … The munitions industry, in hearty response to our Party’s militant call for concentrating all efforts on economic construction, produced a variety of farm machinery, construction equipment, cooperative products and consumer goods, thereby giving an impetus to economic development and the improvement of the people’s living standards. … True to the decision of the April Plenary Meeting of the Party Central Committee on bringing about a revolutionary turn in science and education, the sector of science and technology presented valuable research findings conducive to accelerating the growth of hi-tech industries and revitalizing the national economy; the efforts to make education modern and scientific gained momentum, the teaching conditions and environment being updated at many universities, colleges, middle and primary schools across the country. … Every sector in the national economy should give impetus to hitting the targets of the five-year strategy for national economic development. We should direct primary efforts to relieving the shortage of electricity to make a breakthrough in revitalizing the national economy. One of the most important and pressing tasks in socialist economic construction for this year is to radically increase the production of electricity. By focusing state investment on the electric-power industry to maintain and reinforce its existing foundation and making maximum and effective use of it to renovate and modernize one by one badly needed sectors and projects, we can, for the present, raise power generation to the peak year level. We should take the problem of easing the strain on electricity as an undertaking of the whole state, step up the construction of hydroelectric power stations including Orangchon and Tanchon power stations and create a capacity for generating tidal, wind and atomic power under a far-reaching plan. Provinces, cities and counties should develop and utilize in an effective way various energy sources available in their local areas. … Improving the people’s standard of living radically is a matter of greatest importance for our Party and state. … Last year was a stirring year which witnessed a dramatic change unprecedented in the history of national division spanning over 70 years. With a determination to usher in an era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity by putting an end to the abnormal state on the Korean peninsula which had suffered a constant war crisis, we took proactive and bold measures to effect a great turn in north-south relations from the outset of last year. It is unprecedented that three rounds of inter-Korean summit meetings and talks were held in a year amid great expectations and interest of peoples at home and abroad, and this clearly showed that north-south relations entered a completely new stage. The Panmunjom Declaration, the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration and the north-south agreement in the military field, which were adopted by reflecting the firm resolve and will to usher in an era of peace in which war exists no longer on the Korean peninsula, are of great significance as a virtual nonaggression declaration in which north and south have committed themselves to terminating fratricidal war based on force of arms. While sportspersons of north and south displayed the wisdom and strength of the nation by jointly entering international competitions, artistes came and went to Pyongyang and Seoul to fire the enthusiasm for national reconciliation and reunification. We took the significant first step towards common prosperity of the nation by promoting cooperation projects in various fields including railways, road, forestry and public health while resolutely overcoming manifold obstacles and difficulties. The surprising changes which took place in inter-Korean relations last year convinced all the fellow countrymen that when they join minds and efforts, they can turn the Korean peninsula into the true home of the nation, which is the most peaceful and will prosper forever. Though it was the initial step, north and south pooled intentions and wisdom to surely reverse inter-Korean relations in the utmost extremes of distrust and confrontation to those of trust and reconciliation and make in a short time eye-opening achievements which were unimaginable in the past. I am very satisfied with that. In the New Year 2019 we should make greater strides in our efforts to boost inter-Korean relations, achieve peace and prosperity and reunify the country on the basis of the priceless achievements we made last year which was wonderfully adorned with unprecedented events. All the nationals should hold high the slogan “Let us usher in a heyday of peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula by thoroughly implementing the historic north-south declarations!” It is our steadfast will to eradicate military hostility between north and south and make the Korean peninsula a durable and lasting peace zone. North and south, as they agreed, should take practical measures proactively to remove military hostility on the whole of the Korean peninsula, including the ground, airspace and sea, as a follow-up to its ending in the areas of confrontation. Given that north and south committed themselves to advancing along the road of peace and prosperity, we maintain that the joint military exercises with foreign forces, which constitute the source of aggravating the situation on the Korean peninsula, should no longer be permitted and the introduction of war equipment including strategic assets from outside should completely be suspended. It is also needed to actively promote multi-party negotiations for replacing the current ceasefire on the Korean peninsula with a peace mechanism in close contact with the signatories to the armistice agreement so as to lay a lasting and substantial peace-keeping foundation. All the fellow countrymen should unite as one, being conscious that the master of peace on the peninsula is our nation, in order to wage a powerful struggle to check and frustrate all the moves that wreck peace and incite military tension on this land. Inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges should be expanded and developed in an all-round way so that national reconciliation and unity can be consolidated and all the fellow countrymen can practically benefit from improved north-south relations. For the present, we are willing to resume the Kaesong Industrial Park and Mt Kumgang tourism without any precondition and in return for nothing, in consideration of the hard conditions of businesspersons of the south side who had advanced into the Kaesong Industrial Park and the desire of southern compatriots who are eager to visit the nation’s celebrated mountain. When north and south join hands firmly and rely on the united strength of the fellow countrymen, no external sanctions and pressure, challenges and trials will be able to hinder us in our efforts to open a broad avenue to national prosperity. We will never tolerate the interference and intervention of outside forces who stand in the way of national reconciliation, unity and reunification with the design to subordinate inter-Korean relations to their tastes and interests. North and south should not pass up the favorable atmosphere of today when all the nationals’ interest in and aspiration for reunification are growing unprecedentedly, but actively try to find a peaceful reunification plan based on nationwide agreement and direct sincere efforts to this end. All the fellow countrymen in north, south and abroad should further accelerate in high spirits the nationwide advance for implementing the north-south declarations, and thus glorify this year as a historic one when another radical change is brought about in the development of inter-Korean relations and implementation of the cause of national reunification. Comrades, Last year, our Party and the government of our Republic exerted responsible efforts to safeguard the peace and security of the world and expand and strengthen friendship with different countries. The three rounds of our visit to the People’s Republic of China and the Cuban delegation’s visit to our country were remarkable events in boosting strategic communication and traditional ties of friendship and cooperation among the socialist countries. Last year, frequent visits and exchanges were made on Party, state and government levels between the DPRK and many countries of the world, with the result that they deepened mutual understanding and confirmed the stand and will to promote sound development of the international community. The historic, first-ever DPRK-US summit meeting and talks brought about a dramatic turn in the bilateral relationship which was the most hostile on the earth and made a great contribution to ensuring peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the region. It is the invariable stand of our Party and the government of our Republic and my firm will to establish a new bilateral relationship that meets the demand of the new era as clarified in the June 12 DPRK-US Joint Statement, build a lasting and durable peace regime and advance towards complete denuclearization. Accordingly, we declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures. If the US responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the process of taking more definite and epochal measures. We have no intention to be obsessed with and keep up the unsavory past relationship between the two countries, but are ready to fix it as early as possible and work to forge a new relationship in line with the aspirations of the two peoples and the requirements of the developing times. As evidenced by the reality of north-south relations that made rapid progress last year, nothing is impossible to a willing heart, and dialogue partners will reach the destinations that are beneficial to each other without fail if they put forward fair proposals on the principle of recognizing and respecting each other by abandoning their dogged insistence broadmindedly and conduct negotiations with a proper stand and the will to settle issues. I want to believe that our relations with the United States will bear good fruit this year, as inter-Korean relations have greeted a great turn, by the efforts of the two sides. I am of the opinion that, while meeting and holding talks beneficial to both sides with the US president in June last year, we exchanged constructive views and reached a consensus of understanding for a shortcut to removing each other’s apprehensions and resolving the entangled problems. I am ready to meet the US president again anytime, and will make efforts to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community. But if the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world, and out of miscalculation of our people’s patience, it attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic, we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula. The stabilized situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region is never something that has been created with ease, and the countries that are truly desirous of peace have the common responsibility for setting great store by the current situation. The neighboring countries and international community have to support our sincere stand and efforts for promoting the positive development of the situation on the Korean peninsula and fight against all practices and challenges that wreck peace and run counter to justice. Our Party and the government of our Republic will continue to bolster up unity and cooperation with the socialist countries and develop relations with all countries that are friendly to us under the ideals of independence, peace and friendship. … This year, too, we will face constant obstacles and challenges in our progress, but no one can change our determination and will and stop our vigorous advance and our people will successfully achieve their beautiful ideals and goals without fail. Let us all work energetically and with one mind and will for the prosperity and development of the genuine people’s country, the socialist motherland.” (KCNA, “New Year Address of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un,’ January 1, 2019)


1/2/19:
Future denuclearization talks should pay attention to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s comments on the possible development of nuclear energy to tackle the country’s electricity shortage, according to Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon. In a television show tonight, Cho said the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was guaranteed in exchange for the development of a resolution of the nuclear weapon issue in the agreement of the six-party talks, in which South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan participated in 2005. “Our basic stance is that North Korea’s nuclear power development for peaceful use should be discussed after the North’s denuclearization,” he said. His remarks came after the North Korean leader hinted at using nuclear power as part of the country’s plans to increase electricity supply during his New Year’s speech. “We should take the problem of easing the strain on electricity as an undertaking of the whole state, step up the construction of hydroelectric power stations, including Orangchon and Tanchon power stations, and create a capacity for generating tidal, wind and atomic power under a far-reaching plan,” he said. His comment has prompted speculations that the North could refuse to demolish uranium-enrichment facilities in order to supply fuel for a light-water reactor at Yongbyon in negotiation with the US President Donald Trump. In the speech, Kim reiterated his determination to achieve complete denuclearization while calling on his country to seek economic development and modernize its defense industry. “The potential nuclear power capability could be discussed with progress on denuclearization in the future through talks such as negotiations between the North and the US,” a Unification Ministry spokesperson said today. “For the time being, we should focus on making efforts for the joint goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” (Park Han-na, “Unification Minister: N.K.’s Nuclear Energy Development Could Be Discussed in Denuclearization Process,” Korea Herald, January 2, 2019)

President Donald Trump said that he is ready to help North Korea reach its “tremendous economic potential” after revealing today at the White House that he received a letter from the North’s leader Kim Jong-un. “I just got a great letter from Kim Jong-un,” Trump told reporters at his first Cabinet meeting of the new year. He displayed what appeared to be a three-page letter without elaborating its content, which he said he has shown to only a “few people.” In his New Year’s address Tuesday, Kim said he is ready to meet with Trump again “anytime.” Kim reiterated his commitment to “complete denuclearization” and pledged that North Korea will not make, test, use or proliferate nuclear weapons. “We had our meeting six months [ago] in Singapore,” said Trump, recalling his first summit with Kim on June 12. “We’ll probably now have another meeting. He’d like to meet, I’d like to meet.” “I look forward to our meeting with Chairman Kim,” said Trump. “We’ll be setting it up in the not-too-distant future.” Trump did not elaborate on how the letter from Kim was conveyed to the White House. “They’ve never written letters like that,” Trump said. “We’ve made a lot of progress with North Korea and Kim Jong-un.” While denuclearization talks have been at a deadlock, there has been continued communication behind-the-scenes between the United States and North Korea. Trump said that he and Kim have “established a very good relationship.” Trump also appeared to acknowledge Kim’s ambition for the economic development of his country, a key policy the North Korean leader prioritized in his New Year’s address. The North’s economic development is currently being hindered by the international sanctions campaign against it. In his speech, Kim also warned against continued strong U.S. sanctions on his country, as Washington is maintaining its strong economic pressure on Pyongyang. “We have somebody that I really think wants to get on to economic development and making a lot of success and money, frankly, for his country,” Trump said on Kim. “North Korea has tremendous potential, and we’ll help them out too.” During the Cabinet meeting, Trump had a poster on his desk that featured a photo of himself that read: “Sanctions are coming,” apparently a reference to the HBO television show “Game of Thrones.” The poster previously appeared last year when the administration planned to re-impose sanctions on Iran after Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. Trump further added that he is not looking for “speed” in nuclear negotiations, words that could help assure Pyongyang. Officials in his administration initially floating the notion that North Korea’s denuclearization should occur by the end of Trump’s first presidential term early next year. “I’m not in any rush,” said Trump. “All I know is there’s no rockets, there’s no testing.” He pointed out that the alternative to the current denuclearization talks led by his administration and the North could have been a “nice big fat war in Asia.” “That could have been a World War III, to be honest with you,” Trump said. “A lot of people would have to get involved in that all over Asia, then it spreads beyond Asia.” In a turnaround from a year ago, when Trump threatened nuclear war with North Korea, he said that, “Instead of that, we’re getting along fine.” For a second Trump and Kim summit to proceed smoothly, diplomatic observers have pointed out that North Korea and the United States still have to reach a compromise. Pyongyang is calling for sanctions relief and economic support in return for its steps toward denuclearization. Even while pointing out that “a deal’s a deal,” Trump said. “They really want to do something.” Trump mentioned PBS NewsHour’s coverage of Kim’s speech in a Twitter post on Tuesday. “I was watching PBS, and they really covered it accurately,” said Trump. “They said that in Chairman Kim’s speech, he really wants to get together, he wants to denuclearize and a lot of good things are happening.” Kim Eui-kyeom, South Korea’s Blue House spokesman, said in a briefing Thursday that, “We look forward to Chairman Kim Jong-un’s letter playing a positive role in enabling the complete denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.” (Sarah Kim, “Trump Gushes over Kim’s Letter to Him,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 3, 2019)

Ruediger Frank: “ … The very first sentence in the actual text already points at what is perhaps the most important message of the whole speech. Kim uses the formulation “undeletable deep historical footprint. In other words, Kim regards the achievements of 2018 as irreversible, no matter what the enemy—namely, the US and conservative forces in South Korea—will do. If we look at this together with the key sentence in the whole speech—the warning that “we even might find ourselves in a situation where we have no other choice but to find a new way) for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” we see an almost exuberant confidence. It is tempting to interpret this “new way” as being a thinly veiled threat of more nuclear tests, or as a reminder that North Korea in late 2017 claimed to have achieved the status of a nuclear power that can reach US territory with nuclear-armed ICBMs. However, none of this is “new.” Rather, Kim’s confidence stems from the expectation of growing and reliable support by China. The three summits with Xi Jinping in 2018 seem to have made Kim Jong Un very optimistic. The ongoing trade war between Beijing and Washington, including the arrest of a top manager of Chinese telecom giant Huawei in Canada, creates the impression among strategists in Pyongyang of a Cold War 2.0 situation. Like in the decades before the collapse of the Soviet Union, supporting smaller allies could again become a matter of principle for the Big Powers even if these allies step out of line occasionally. The not unfounded hope of Kim Jong Un is that in such a strategic setting, China would be willing to provide protection and economic support while abstaining from too massive direct interference. Forcing the US out of Korea, and out of East Asia, is more important to Beijing than reigning in on a self-confident or even provocative North Korea. I thus interpret Kim’s threat of “finding a new way” not as a hint at more nuclear tests, but rather as a message to Donald Trump: You are not our only option for security and economic development. If you refuse to be cooperative, we will ignore you and turn to China. Oh, and we will take South Korea along. It remains to be seen how realistic such a threat is, as it always takes two to tango. It is not at all certain that China would indeed provide full support to such an unreliable and difficult ally as North Korea. Furthermore, Pyongyang would not feel very comfortable with expanding its already overwhelming dependency on China. But the North Koreans have in the past been masters of tactical flexibility and used even the slightest weakness of their opponents—in other words, everybody else—to their advantage. In his 2019 New Year’s address, by pointing at “finding a new way,” Kim Jong Un has thus threatened to start a new round of the old balancing game that Kim Il Sung had played with Beijing and Moscow in the 1950s during the Cold War. Even if his demands are not fulfilled, Kim Jong Un will not give up on cooperation with Washington permanently, because it can be nicely used as a tool to extract concessions from China. He might hope to be able to do the same with Donald Trump, just the other way around. And in case the two Big Powers refuse to play, he can, unlike the situation in the 1950s, use his nuclear threat to force them to pay attention. South Korea must be careful not to become a pawn in this game.” (Ruediger Frank, “Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day Speech: Dropping a Strategic Bombshell,” 38 North, January 2, 2019)


1/3/19:
Pompeo: “Q: We’re talking about Central America, but you’ve had a pretty busy year. We have the talks with North Korea, talk about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We have issues now with China. We also have issues with the Middle East, new alliances, opportunities hopefully emerging, certainly with Israel, with the Iranian deal being drawn back. Where do you see on the world stage, where is America different now? Because I don’t think the President gets a lot of credit for a lot of progress around the world. POMPEO: Oh, Sean, we have made fundamental changes in American foreign policy that enormously benefit the American people. I could tick through the same list of places that you spoke about. The previous administration had decided that the world’s largest state sponsor of terror was the partner in the Middle East, Iran. We have fundamentally flipped that. We know that that is a real threat to the world and to America, and so we have developed relationships with Arab countries and Israel. We’ve brought them together to develop a coalition to keep Americans safe from things going on in the Middle East. You spoke first, I think, about North Korea. Lots of work that is left to be done, but I am confident that in the next short period of time President Trump and Chairman Kim will get the chance to meet again and truly create a much better, safer America with less threat of not only nuclear weapons being launched at us but nuclear proliferation as well. These are real risks and real changes from the previous administration’s policies. Q: All right, let’s talk specifically about North Korea. So the President has been hinting and saying that there’s going to be another meeting with Kim Jong-un. Will that be about and will there be the potential at that meeting of the denuclearization of the entire peninsula? Obviously, missiles aren’t being fired, remains have been sent back, hostages have been released, so a lot of progress. Is this where you might close that deal? POMPEO: Sean, I’d be surprised if we get all the way home in this meeting, although it would be fantastic if we did. I don’t want to tell you exactly what our negotiating strategy is, but suffice it to say I think we have set the conditions where we can make real progress when Chairman Kim and President Trump meet and take down the threat to the United States and to the world that has been, frankly, holding America hostage for so long in North Korea. It’ll be good for South Korea. It’ll be good for Japan. It’ll be good for all of the world.” (DoS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Interview with Sean Hannity on Hannity, Fox News, January 3, 2019)


1/5/19:
A security policy advisor to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that “bold” action by North Korea and partial U.S. sanctions relief could help address a perceived deadlock in negotiations over Pyongyang’s denuclearization. Moon Chung-in, a Yonsei University professor, made the remarks as Seoul seeks to advance its peace initiative by creating fresh momentum for the apparently stalled dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. “A breakthrough may emerge should the North take bold action and the U.S. partially lift sanctions at the same time,” Moon said during an internet broadcast. “But it is not easy to demand that one of them give ground first,” he added. Moon also pointed out the need for the U.S. and North Korea to “take action rather than just exchanging verbal pledges” to make progress in their peace efforts. Touching on the rumors that the North Korean leader has delayed his plan to visit Seoul due to his advisors’ opposition, Moon said the rumors are true. “Chairman (Kim) has made that decision to come (to Seoul), though his people, including Kim Yong-chol, the vice chairman (of the Workers’ Party), asked him not to do so,” he said. The presidential advisor also said that even if he decides to visit Seoul, Kim may not be able to achieve a resumption of operations at the shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex in the North’s border city of Kaesong or of tour programs to Mount Kumgang due to the current sanctions regime. (Yonhap, “Moon’s Adviser Says ‘Bold’ N.K. Action, Partial U.S. Sanctions Relief Needed for Breakthrough,” January 5, 2019)


1/8/19:
KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is to visit China on Jan. 7-10, Juche 108 (2019) at the invitation of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China. Supreme Leader of the Party, state and army Kim Jong Un left Pyongyang with his wife Ri Sol Ju on Monday afternoon to visit the PRC. He was accompanied by Kim Yong Chol, Ri Su Yong, Pak Thae Song, Ri Yong Ho, No Kwang Chol and other leading officials of the Party, government and armed forces organs. He was warmly seen off by leading officials of the Party, government and armed forces organs at the railway station. He said good-bye to the officials before boarding the private train. The officials warmly saw Kim Jong Un off, wholeheartedly wishing him good successes in his visit to China and a safe trip. (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Leaves Pyongyang for China,” January 8, 2019)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has issued a veiled warning to President Trump with his surprise visit to China this week: He has other options for economic and diplomatic normalization if their rapprochement falters. Kim and Trump are planning a follow-up meeting to their historic summit in Singapore in June. But there are misgivings on both sides about each other’s sincerity and commitment to improving their bilateral relations. Against this backdrop, Kim, joined by his wife and an entourage of officials, arrived in Beijing today for his fourth summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in less than a year. He will remain here through January 10, making this the longest of his trips. It is the North Korean leader’s 35th birthday — a government spokesman declined to say whether there would be a party — but also the second day of talks between American and Chinese trade negotiators aimed at finding a way through their fractious trade war. It was almost as if Kim and Xi had picked a date that would hammer home their messages to Trump most forcefully.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said it was just a coincidence. China had a “wonderful and rich” diplomatic schedule, so it was inevitable that events would sometimes overlap, he said. “It’s very normal for us to maintain friendly exchanges,” Lu said. Xi has yet to visit North Korea. Analysts, however, saw a deeper significance in Kim’s arrival. “Kim Jong Un is not feeling confident about his second summit with Donald Trump, so he is trying to court his Chinese counterpart,” said Zhao Tong of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing. “This sends a message to the U.S. that, even if the U.S. does not cooperate, even if they keep the economic sanctions, North Korea can still do well with China’s support.” For his part, Xi appears eager to make progress to resolve the trade war between China and the United States. The dispute has been rumbling on for nine months, and during that period China’s economy has begun to slow sharply. Independent economists expect the growth rate to decelerate to about 6 percent this year, the slowest since 1990. Reminding Trump that he can be helpful when it comes to dealing with North Korea could be a way for Xi to broker a better trade deal, analysts said. “This could undermine the United States’ coercive leverage over North Korea,” said Zhao of Carnegie-Tsinghua. “This would make the U.S. nervous. Washington would hate seeing China having a much closer relationship with North Korea and therefore having much greater regional influence.” It was the American president who first made this connection. During the early days of the trade war, Trump repeatedly suggested that tariffs could be slapped on China if it did not do everything in its power to rein in its errant neighbor. More than 90 percent of North Korea’s trade goes to or through China, giving Xi enormous leverage over Kim. North Korea has long resented China’s influence over it, and Kim had been trying to reduce its dependence on its much larger neighbor by diversifying markets within the constraints of the sanctions. But now China can prove helpful. “The United States started this trade war and has been using every possible means to put China in a difficult situation and to contain China,” said Xuan Dongri, director of the Institute of Northeast Asia Studies at Yanbian University in northern China. “Against this background, it is useful for China to have a friend like North Korea when dealing with the United States.” With preparations for Trump and Kim’s second summit proceeding, Kim’s visit could also be seen as preparation for the meeting with Trump, Xuan said. Kim visited Xi immediately before and after the June summit with Trump. “As a young leader dealing with the United States alone, he needs a country like China to offer advice,” Xuan said. “After all, China deals with the United States all the time.” For years, dating back to when Kim’s grandfather and father were in power, China has tried to nudge North Korea down a path of economic reforms similar to the ones the Chinese visionary Deng Xiaoping began at the end of 1978. But the Kims, afraid that opening North Korea to outside information would spell the end of their authoritarian dynasty, resisted. Some Chinese analysts are hopeful that this might be starting to change. Since returning from his summit with Trump, Kim has turned his attention almost entirely to developing North Korea’s decrepit economy. That has prompted Wang Sheng, researcher at the Co-Innovation Center for Korean Peninsula Studies at Jilin University, to speculate that 2019 could be for North Korea what 1979 was for China. Deng’s economic reforms really began in 1979, starting with the liberalization of agricultural production and greater autonomy for managers in China’s industrial sector. China also established diplomatic relations with the United States in 1979. “Since then, over the past 40 years, China has achieved great things,” Wang said. “Likewise, North Korea also needs a safe and stable external environment for its development. North Korea has seen China’s achievements and learned from the experience.” (Anna Fifield, “In Kim’s China Visit, a Message to U.S.,” Washington Post, January 9, 2019, p. A-13)


1/10/19:
KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from January 7 to 10, Juche 108 (2019) at the invitation of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and president of the PRC. Supreme Leader of the Party, state and army Kim Jong Un was accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju. Among his entourage were Ri Su Yong, Kim Yong Chol, Pak Thae Song, members of the Political Bureau and vice-chairmen of the C.C., WPK, Ri Yong Ho, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., WPK and minister of Foreign Affairs, and No Kwang Chol, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., WPK and minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Kim Yo Jong, alternate member of the Political Bureau and first vice department director of the C.C., WPK, Ri Il Hwan and Choe Tong Myong, department directors of the C.C., WPK, and other leading officials of the C.C., WPK and the SAC of the DPRK. … Kim Jong Un arrived in Beijing at 11 a.m. Beijing time on Jan. 8. He was greeted at Beijing Railway Station by Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and Cai Qi, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., CPC and secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee. DPRK Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong was also there to greet him. As Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju got off the train, children presented them with bunches of flowers. Kim Jong Un exchanged warm greetings with senior party and government officials of China and headed for the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. He met Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People at 5 p.m. on Jan. 8. Upon arrival at the Great Hall of the People, Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju were warmly greeted by Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan. Being so pleased to meet again at the beginning of the New Year, Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping gladly shook their hands with each other and had a souvenir photo taken. Warmly welcoming Kim Jong Un who started his external activity in the New Year by visiting China, Xi Jinping said the current visit will offer a specially important occasion in successfully guiding the development of the China-DPRK relations. Kim Jong Un expressed thanks to Xi Jinping for sparing time to detail the itinerary and pay deep attention despite his tight schedule at the beginning of the New Year. Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju had a souvenir photo taken with Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan with the flags of the two countries for a background. A ceremony for welcoming Kim Jong Un’s visit to China was held grandly at the Great Hall of the People. The welcome ceremony was followed by talks between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People. Present there from the DPRK side were Ri Su Yong and Kim Yong Chol, members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK and vice-chairmen of the WPK Central Committee, and Ri Yong Ho, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and minister of Foreign Affairs. Present there from the Chinese side were Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPC and member of the CPC Central Committee Secretariat, Ding Xuexiang, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, Wang Yi, state councilor and minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, and Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the CPC Central Committee. Exchanging greetings with each other again in a comradely, sincere and friendly atmosphere, the top leaders of the two parties and two countries had an in-depth and candid exchange of views over the issue of further boosting the friendship and unity, exchange and cooperation between the two parties and the two countries as required by the times and over the international and regional issues of mutual concern, the joint study and coordination of the management of the situation of the Korean peninsula and the denuclearization negotiations, in particular, and expressed mutual understanding, support and solidarity to the independent stands preserved by the parties and governments of the two countries in the external relations. Expressing thanks to Xi Jinping and the friendly comrades of the Chinese party and government for warmly inviting him at the beginning of the New Year despite their busy schedule and enthusiastically according cordial hospitality to him with all sincerity, Kim Jong Un conveyed the best wishes from the Party and the government of the DPRK and all its people to them. Saying that his current visit would play a very important role in putting the DPRK-China friendship on a firmer stage and promoting it to more developed relations also this year of weighty significance marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in the wake of last year which was recorded as a year that opened a brilliant page in the history of the DPRK-China friendship and unity, Kim Jong Un said that his visit would also offer an occasion in strikingly demonstrating to the world the invariability and invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship. The DPRK-China friendship was forged and developed by the leaders of the elder generations of the two countries and is now further brilliantly developing under the special situation, he said, stressing that the WPK and the DPRK government will as ever act in unity with the Chinese side and make fresh efforts to continuously develop the friendly relations by inheriting the tradition of close cooperation between the two parties and the two countries. Noting that he was encouraged by the confident Chinese people keeping to the path of socialism with the Chinese characteristics in the new era and the reality of China developing with each passing day under the seasoned leadership of the CPC, Kim Jong Un expressed the firm belief that the Chinese party and people will achieve new successes and great victory in the efforts for creating a new miracle of the Chinese nation. Xi Jinping once again warmly welcomed Kim Jong Un’s China visit on behalf of the Chinese party, government and people, saying that the visit at the outset of New Year 2019 is of very special and important significance in terms of time and shows importance attached to China-DPRK friendship and deep confidence in the Chinese party and people. In-depth exchanges of views with Kim Jong Un, close comrade and friend of the Chinese people, helped promote active exchanges and cooperation in different fields including party and culture, and also helped the friendly relations between the two parties and two countries gain historic development and promotion, Xi Jinping said. He said that last year Kim Jong Un put forward the new strategic line of concentrating all efforts on socialist economic construction and took several important measures by making bold and wise decision, thus showing the international community the hope and expectation of the DPRK loving peace and aspiring after development. This has commanded increased international influence, and also great support, understanding and warm welcome from the whole world, he added. This proves that Kim Jong Un’s strategic decision was correct and it was in line with the Korean people’s interests and the trend of the times, Xi Jinping said, highly praising the Workers’ Party of Korea and government of the DPRK for registering admirable successes at home and abroad. He said that, as a comrade and friend, he is convinced that the WPK would achieve greater and fresh successes in accomplishing the socialist cause under the leadership of WPK led by Kim Jong Un, and expressed his best wishes with sincerity. Both sides had in-depth exchanges of views on international and regional matters of mutual concern. Both sides highly appreciated that the top leaders of the two countries brought about and promoted beneficial development of the situation on the Korean peninsula through close communications, open-hearted exchanges of views and tuning, thereby defending mutual interests. They unanimously agreed on continuously preserving the stand for final and peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula to meet the interests of the international community and all sides around the peninsula by properly managing the situation on the peninsula that has entered an important and vital time. Kim Jong Un said that the DPRK remains unchanged in its main stand to keep the goal of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, sincerely implement the joint statement adopted at the Singapore DPRK-U.S. summit talks and seek negotiated peaceful solution, referring to the difficulties and concern arising in the course of the improvement of the DPRK-U.S. relations and the negotiations for the denuclearization and the prospects of resolving them. Xi Jinping said that he fully agreed that the principled issues suggested by the DPRK side are deserved requirements and its reasonable points of concern should be resolved properly, adding it is a correct choice for the parties concerned to prioritize and reasonably tackle them. He said that the Chinese side would as ever play a positive and constructive role for the defense of the fundamental interests of both sides and the stability of the situation on the peninsula as the reliable rear, resolute comrades and friends of the Korean comrades. The top leaders of the two parties and the two countries agreed on the new plans to maintain, expand and develop the traditions of high-level visits in political, economic, military, cultural and other fields in the new year marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Kim Jong Un invited Xi Jinping to make an official visit to the DPRK at a convenient time and the latter accepted the invitation with pleasure and informed Kim Jong Un of the plan. The talks proceeded in a warm, comradely and friendly atmosphere from beginning to end. Xi Jinping gave a grand banquet at the Great Hall of the People on the evening of Jan. 8 in welcome of the China visit by Kim Jong Un. Present there at invitation were Ri Su Yong, Kim Yong Chol, Pak Thae Song, members of the Political Bureau and vice-chairmen of the WPK Central Committee, Ri Yong Ho, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and minister of Foreign Affairs, No Kwang Chol, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Kim Yo Jong, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and first vice department director of the WPK Central Committee, Ri Il Hwan and Choe Tong Myong, department directors of the WPK Central Committee, and other leading officials and retinue accompanying Kim Jong Un. Also invited there were Ji Jae Ryong, DPRK ambassador to China, and his embassy members. Seen at the banquet were Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, Ding Xuexiang, member of the Political Bureau, member of the Secretariat and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, Guo Shengkun, member of the Political Bureau, member of the Secretariat and secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee of the CPC Central Committee, Huang Kunming, member of the Political Bureau, member of the Secretariat and head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, Cai Qi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee, Wang Yi, state councilor and minister of Foreign Affairs of PRC, Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the CPC Central Committee, Li Jinjun, Chinese ambassador to the DPRK, and other Chinese party and government officials. Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju entered the banquet hall, being guided by Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan. Xi Jinping made a congratulatory speech at the banquet. Saying that Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju visited China again with deep friendly feeling of the Party, government and people of the DPRK toward the party, government and people of China in the auspicious and fine period greeting the new year to open up a historic prelude to the development of China-DPRK relations for this year, Xi Jinping warmly welcomed their China visit. He said Kim Jong Un’s three China visits within 100 days last year and his visit to China at the beginning of the new year fully showed that he values much the traditional China-DPRK friendship and cherishes friendly feeling toward the Chinese people. Xi Jinping stressed that he would make efforts together with Kim Jong Un to write a new history of visits between China and the DPRK. Saying that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the DPRK, he proudly noted that for the past seven decades the two parties, two countries and two peoples have advanced while supporting and encouraging each other and achieving great successes in socialist construction of the two countries after forging the lips-and-teeth relations. The China-DPRK relations have already opened a page of new history and entered a new stage of development, and the party and government of China have attached high importance to the traditional relations between China and the DPRK, he said, clarifying once again that it is the consistent and steadfast stand of the Chinese party and government to defend, consolidate and develop the China-DPRK relations on good terms. Saying that he was pleased to witness remarkable successes achieved by the WPK and the people of the DPRK in the socialist revolution and construction, he expressed his conviction that they would surely carry out the new strategic line set forth at the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the WPK under the leadership of the WPK headed by Kim Jong Un and thus achieve signal successes by powerfully accelerating the cause of socialist construction in the DPRK. Kim Jong Un made a reply speech. He said that he visited China as his first political schedule for the new year with the firm will to gain overall prosperity of the DPRK-China friendship, as required by a new great history and brilliant era of the DPRK-China relations, greeting the new year after seeing out the last year full of epochal events unprecedented in the history of the development of the relations between the two parties and two countries. He expressed his profound thanks for the warm hospitality and deep attention of the party and government of China on his visit made at the beginning of the new year and extended heartfelt New Year greetings to Xi Jinping, all the members of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people on behalf of the members of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Korean people. Saying that last year the meetings between the top leaders of the two parties and the two countries served as a firm foundation and a powerful engine to develop the relations between the DPRK and China as required by a new era, he expressed his will to go on writing a beautiful epic of the DPRK-China friendship to be envied by the world and handed down generation after generation by joining hands with comrades of China and firmly defend peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the region by the concerted efforts of the DPRK and China this year, too. He sincerely wished the fraternal Chinese people endless success in the long journey for attaining the “Two Century Goals” and realizing the dream of China, i.e. great prosperity of the Chinese nation, united close around the CPC with Xi Jinping as the core this year marking the 70th anniversary of the birth of new China. The banquet proceeded in a warm atmosphere overflowing with the feelings of friendship and fellowship. A special art performance was given by the Chinese artistes in honor of the historic visit of Kim Jong Un to China at the banquet. Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju mounted the stage with Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan to express their thanks to the performers and had a photo session with them. Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping met again at Beijing Hotel on Wednesday. Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan warmly greeted Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju as they got to the hotel. Kim Jong Un had a candid conversation with Xi Jinping, further deepening special comradeship and close relations. Having a luncheon provided by Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan, Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju had a pleasant chat in an amicable and familiar atmosphere. Kim Jong Un expressed his deep thanks to Xi Jinping for sincerely hosting the luncheon once again at a special place in a special atmosphere. At the end of the luncheon Kim Jong Un shared farewell greeting with Xi Jinping. Kim Jong Un expressed satisfaction over making a fine and worthwhile visit without any inconvenience thanks to the special care and hospitality given by Xi Jinping, before thanking him. Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju said goodbye to Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan, promising to have another meeting. Kim Jong Un visited a branch pharmaceutical plant of the Beijing Tongrentang Co. Ltd. together with accompanying officials and entourage that morning. Accompanying him were Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Song Tao and Li Jinjun. He was warmly greeted by the board director of the Beijing Tongrentang Co. Ltd. who is also its party secretary, the general manager of the company who is also its vice-secretary and leading officials of the plant. Kim Jong Un watched the goods in production, while looking round the production processes at the plant. Touring the production site, he highly appreciated that the plant has undergone a good development by registering many achievements in production and technical upgrading through enterprising and determined efforts, and wished it bigger successes in its business management in the future. Kim Jong Un successfully finished his historic visit to China and left Beijing at 3:00 p.m. Beijing time on Wednesday. He received a good sendoff from Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and member of the CPC Central Committee Secretariat, and Cai Qi, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., CPC and secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the CPC, at Beijing Railway Station and Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Lu Dongfu, general manager of the China Railway Corporation, and Li Jinjun, Chinese ambassador to the DPRK, traveled together with him to Dandong Railway Station to see him off. Before leaving Dandong Railway Station, Kim Jong Un sent a personal letter of thanks to Xi Jinping for his splendid and warm welcome, sincere and good hospitality during the visit.” (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Visits China,” January 10, 2019)

Xinhua: “Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chinese president, on Tuesday held talks with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), who arrived in Beijing on the same day for a visit to China. In a cordial and friendly atmosphere, the two leaders had an in-depth exchange of views on China-DPRK relations and issues of common concern, and reached important consensus. The two sides agreed to make joint efforts to push for continuous new development of China-DPRK relations in the new era, constantly advance the political settlement process of the Korean Peninsula issue, bring more benefits to people of the two countries, and make positive contribution to peace, stability, prosperity and development of the region and the world. Xi pointed out that Comrade Chairman’s visit to China at the beginning of 2019, which marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of China-DPRK diplomatic relationship, fully embodied the great importance Comrade Chairman attaches to the two countries’ traditional friendship and Comrade Chairman’s friendship with the CPC and the Chinese people. “I highly appreciate it, and, on behalf of the CPC, the Chinese government and the Chinese people, extend sincere festival greetings to the WPK and the government and the people of the DPRK, “Xi said. Xi stressed that with concerted efforts of both sides, the China-DPRK relations opened a new historic chapter in 2018. The two sides, with concrete actions, have demonstrated the strong vitality of the China-DPRK friendship and displayed the resolute determination of the two countries to jointly advance the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the China-DPRK relationship and bears great significance to the efforts of building on past successes to further advance bilateral relationship. “I am willing to work with Comrade Chairman to make sound efforts to guide the future development of China-DPRK relationship,” Xi said. He said the two sides should maintain high-level exchanges, strengthen strategic communication, deepen friendly exchanges and cooperation, and promote the long-term, healthy and stable development of China-DPRK relations. Kim said he was grateful to General Secretary Xi for taking time from a busy schedule at the beginning of the year to receive the DPRK delegation. He extended festival greetings to the CPC, the Chinese government and the Chinese people on behalf the WPK, the government and the people of the DPRK. “Under the utmost care of Comrade General Secretary, the DPRK-China relations last year were elevated to a new height and a new chapter was written,” he said. Kim said with this visit, he hoped to take the opportunity of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries to conduct deep exchanges of views with Comrade General Secretary on consolidating the DPRK-China traditional friendship and stepping up the DPRK-China exchanges and cooperation, and to push for the DPRK-China friendly ties to be consolidated and improved with each passing day. On the situation of the Korean Peninsula, Xi spoke highly of the positive measures taken by the DPRK side to maintain peace and stability and promote the realization of denuclearization on the peninsula. He said major progress was made in the process of a political solution to the Korean Peninsula issue last year with joint efforts of China, the DPRK and relevant parties. Noting that a general trend of peaceful dialogue on the peninsula has taken shape, Xi said it has become the international community’s common expectation and consensus for the dialogue to continue and yield results. The political settlement of the Peninsula issue faces a rare historic opportunity. China supports the DPRK’s continued adherence to the direction of denuclearization on the peninsula, supports the continuous improvement of inter-Korean relations, supports the DPRK and the United States holding summits and achieving results, and supports relevant parties resolving their respective legitimate concerns through dialogue, Xi said. China hopes that the DPRK and the United States will meet each other halfway, Xi said, adding China stands ready to work with the DPRK and relevant parties to play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability and realizing denuclearization on the peninsula and lasting peace and stability in the region. Kim said the Korean Peninsula situation has been easing since last year, and China’s important role in this process is obvious to all. He said the DPRK side highly and sincerely appreciates the Chinese efforts. The DPRK will continue sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation, and make efforts for the second summit between DPRK and U.S. leaders to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community, Kim said. Kim said he hoped that relevant parties will attach importance to and positively respond to the DPRK’s legitimate concerns, and jointly push for a comprehensive resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue. The two sides informed each other of their respective countries’ situations. Xi said this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China. In the past seven decades, the CPC has led the Chinese people in achieving a historic leap: they have stood up, grown rich, and are becoming strong. The CPC has the resolve and confidence to unite and lead people of all ethnic groups in China to overcome all difficulties, obstacles, risks and challenges and forge ahead towards the realization of the two centenary goals and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. Xi said positive results have been achieved since the WPK implemented the new strategic line in the past year, demonstrating the WPK and DPRK people’s strong will of loving peace and pursuing development, and receiving wholehearted support from the DPRK people and positive comments from the international community. The Chinese side firmly supports Comrade Chairman in leading the WPK and the people to implement the new strategic line and focus on developing economy and improving people’s wellbeing. “We believe that the DPRK people will surely and constantly make new and greater achievements in the cause of socialist construction, “Xi said. Kim said that having visited China four times in less than a year, he was deeply impressed by the achievements made in China’s economic and social development as well as the Chinese people’s spirit and character of striving for the country’s prosperity. The DPRK side considers China’s development experience most valuable and hopes for more trips to China for study and exchanges, he said. Kim said he believes that under the leadership of the CPC with Comrade General Secretary at the core, the Chinese people will continuously make fresh great achievements on the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and successfully realize the two centenary goals and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. The WPK will lead the DPRK people to continue their great efforts to implement the DPRK’s new strategic line and create a favorable external environment for this endeavor, Kim said. Prior to the talks, Xi held a welcome ceremony for Kim at the Great Hall of the People. After the talks, Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan hosted a welcome banquet for Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju, and they watched an art performance together. On Wednesday morning, Xi met with Kim at Beijing Hotel. Xi spoke positively of the significance of Kim’s visit to China this time and looked back on the history of friendly exchanges between China and the DPRK. Xi said China is willing to make joint efforts with the DPRK to safeguard, consolidate and develop relations between the two parties and two countries, jointly write a new chapter of development of relations between the two countries, and jointly make new contributions to regional peace, stability, development and prosperity. Kim said the DPRK highly values the sound momentum of continuous development of DPRK-China relations, and is willing to work with China to earnestly implement the important consensus reached between the two sides and continue writing a more glorious future of friendship from a new starting point. Peng Liyuan and Ri Sol Ju attended the meeting. After the meeting, Xi and his wife held a luncheon for Kim and his wife. On Wednesday, Kim also visited a Tong Ren Tang pharmaceutical plant in Yizhuang, Beijing, where he inspected relevant processing and production lines of traditional Chinese medicine that use traditional and modern techniques. Related activities were also attended by Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee; Ding Xuexiang, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee; Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee; Guo Shengkun, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee; Huang Kunming, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee; Cai Qi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee; and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Ri Su Yong, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee and director of the International Department; Kim Yong Chol, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee and director of the United Front Department; Pak Thae Song, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee; Ri Yong Ho, member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and foreign minister; No Kwang Chol, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and minister of People’s Armed Forces; and Kim Yo Jong, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and first vice director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, accompanied Kim Jong Un on his China tour and attended related activities.” (Xinhua, “Xi, Kim Hold Talks, Reaching Important Consensus,” January 10, 2019)

Moon Jae-in New Year speech: “ … In the past year, the people opened up a path toward peace. We have become a main player on issues regarding the Korean Peninsula. We have overcome power politics and taken the lead in forging our own destiny. We have experienced and confirmed before our own eyes that our efforts can bring us peace. The path toward peace on the Korean Peninsula still continues to expand even at this moment, and it will speed up even more this year. It was very comforting to hear that the remains of 13 soldiers killed during the Korean War were found during the operation to remove land mines on Arrowhead Hill. Along with the remains, we could regain the spirit of reconciliation that has laid buried in our battlegrounds. When we initiate an operation to locate other remains in April, we will be able to fulfill the duty of the nation by excavating many more of the fallen. The second North Korea-United States summit — to take place soon, and a reciprocal visit to Seoul by Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea will be other turning points that will firmly solidify peace on the Korean Peninsula. We will not loosen our guard until the promise to denuclearize the Peninsula is kept and peace is fully institutionalized.

Peace can drive economic growth. The desire to prosper lies in the people of both South and North Korea. The connection of railroads and roads between the two Koreas will help find new breakthroughs for our economy. The Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism in Kumgangsan Mountain were beneficial to both South and North Korea. We welcome North Korea’s intention to resume their operation without conditions or compensation. As such, the prerequisites for the two Koreas resuming operation of the Complex and Kumgangsan tourism have essentially been met already. My Administration will cooperate with the international community, including the United States, to resolve the remaining issues such as international sanctions as soon as possible. Peace on the Korean Peninsula is expanding northward and southward. We will move forward to create economic and security communities in Northeast Asia through the New Northern Policy. We will diversify our trading destinations through the New Southern Policy and create a people-centered community of peace and prosperity with countries in those regions. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement and the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. In the past century, we have built an independent democratic republic based on popular sovereignty by breaking free of colonial rule and dictatorship. We are now dreaming of building a peaceful, prosperous and powerful country and overcoming division. We are now passing the last crucial moment of realizing our dream. Before long, permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula and an innovative, inclusive nation where everyone prospers will arrive before us.” (Korea Herald, “Full Text of President Moon’s New Year Speech,” January 10, 2019)

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said today that the visit to China this week by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, heralded an imminent second summit meeting between Kim and President Trump to negotiate the terms of denuclearizing the North. “I think both sides know what the other side wants,” Moon said during his nationally televised New Year’s news conference. “But they don’t trust each other because of the mistrust that has accumulated between them for a long time, and they are insisting on the other side moving first.” But Moon said Kim’s trip to Beijing “indicates that a second North Korea-U.S. summit has come close.” He said he expected North Korea and the United States to soon resume long-stalled, high-level government talks to finalize the preparations for a second summit meeting. Moon said he believed that North Korea and the United States had narrowed their differences considerably in recent months. “If they agree to hold a second North Korea-U.S. summit in a not-too-distant future, we can see this as a rather optimistic sign that both sides have narrowed their differences on this issue,” Moon said. Moon said that South Korea was willing to reopen the joint inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean city of Kaesong, as well as South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain. But the projects cannot resume until international sanctions are eased, and Moon vowed today to discuss removing the obstacle with Washington as soon as possible. (Choe Sang-hun, “U.S.-North Korea Meeting Near, South’s Leader Says,” New York Times, January 11, 2019, p. A-4)

The U.S. government has revised its policy on humanitarian engagement towards North Korea and will work to better facilitate the flow of private individuals and aid to the country, multiple people engaged in discussions with the U.S. Department of State told NK News on Thursday. Individuals representing American and international NGOs, the United Nations, and U.S. government departments attended a meeting with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun yesterday in Washington D.C. to discuss a review of policy announced late last year. Among some of the changes the U.S. would be making, according to those at the meeting, is the easing of granting special permissions for American citizens seeking to travel to the DPRK to conduct humanitarian work. Additionally, the U.S. will work to ease or push through humanitarian exemption requests at the national level through the granting of special licenses and at the UN level via the 1718 Committee, in order to facilitate increased shipments of aid to North Korea, one attendee said. According to the attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, representatives from the U.S. Department of the Treasury were also present at the meeting to hear the policy changes as well. The effort to include Treasury officials, the individual said, appeared to be to ensure that the appropriate level of scrutiny would be applied by the U.S. government towards exemptions requests, without impeding humanitarian work. While the U.S. says it will work to make such changes, Biegun also asserted, according to the source, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s authorization of the policy review and easing of humanitarian engagement was not to be considered a diplomatic concession or a “quid pro quo” deal with the DPRK. According to the source, Biegun added that while the U.S. government will continue to abstain from providing humanitarian aid to North Korea directly, NGOs are free to do so and — by doing so — would showcase “the best from the U.S.” “We are pleased that the U.S. government has reconsidered its stance on humanitarian engagement with DPRK,” Jennifer Deibert of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which was confirmed to have had a presence at the meeting with Biegun, told NK News today. “I feel hopeful MCC will receive permissions necessary to continue building on more than 23 years of engagement with DPRK through the delivery of aid to vulnerable people.” Keith Luse, Executive Director of the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK) — an organization representing several American NGOs — was also present at the meeting. “Yesterday’s meeting between Special Representative Biegun and U.S. humanitarian NGOs and UN officials was a continuation of the earlier dialogue with the humanitarian community initiated by Mr. Biegun,” he told NK News today adding that there would be a third meeting in early spring to continue the dialogue. According to another informed source in the NGO community who wished to remain anonymous, the developments were seen as very positive and raised NGO hopes that normal activities could be resumed. September 2017 saw the U.S. State Department impose a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to the DPRK in response to concerns “over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention” in North Korea. The ban, which was extended in August 2018 for a further 12 months, allows for exemptions to be granted for humanitarian workers and other groups such as journalists, diplomats, and those “working in the national interest.” However, in 2018, American humanitarian workers increasingly complained that their applications for exemptions were being rejected by the State Department. As many as five NGOs told NK News in October that they had been affected by travel rejections the month prior. According to an attendee at the meeting, Biegun said that the State Department would adopt a more “expansive” view of the requests for such exemptions and encouraged those who were previously rejected to resubmit. “A clear takeaway from the session was that Secretary Pompeo is committed to a process of providing timely consideration to humanitarian workers’ requests to visit North Korea while concurrently factoring State Department concern for the safety of Americans traveling anywhere in the world,” NCNK’s Luse told NK News. Deibert, who along with her boss had been denied travel exemptions in 2018, told NK News she was hoping to once again “receive Special Validation Passports as we have received in the past.” Humanitarian workers, however, would still need to make a case for the exemptions and include details about how they would monitor aid deliveries or activities, it was communicated at the meeting according to one attendee. Additionally, international humanitarian groups had complained that sanctions on North Korea were impeding the delivery of humanitarian goods to the country throughout 2018. While UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions state that they are not intended or designed to impede humanitarian activities, organizations and workers have reported encountering adverse consequences and an increasingly complex operational environment due to sanctions. In order to better facilitate such deliveries, the UNSC in August agreed to adopt new guidelines to streamline the process of obtaining humanitarian exemptions from international sanctions via the UN’s 1718 Committee. Currently, there are only two active exemptions in effect through this channel, with UNICEF and the Eugene Bell Foundation receiving permission to transport goods to North Korea on October 19 and November 20 of 2018 respectively. According to an attendee at Wednesday’s meeting, Biegun acknowledged there was a backlog of exemption requests currently facing the 1718 Committee and that these would now be pushed forward. Throughout 2018 as negotiations stalled, the U.S. was widely seen by American NGOs to be impeding humanitarian work in, or aid deliveries to, North Korea. As a result, the government increasingly came under public criticism from such NGOs, DPRK watchers and former government officials for what was seen by some as a policy of including humanitarian aid as an element within the “maximum pressure” strategy towards North Korea. In a statement to NK News in October, however, the State Department denied such assertions and said that the rejections were “not part of a broader pressure campaign.” “Special validations are reviewed on a case by case basis taking into account a range of factors,” an official said at the time. In particular, the U.S. continued to “have grave concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention in the DPRK, as well as the diversion and misuse of humanitarian assistance by the DPRK regime for its weapons programs,” the official added. And in evaluating what constitutes “the “national interest” factor under the (travel ban),” the U.S. remained “very focused on preventing the diversion and misuse of humanitarian assistance by the DPRK regime” the official told NK News. But while a U.S. policy shift towards better facilitating humanitarian engagement appears to be taking place, the informed source in the NGO community stressed this does not mean that barriers to humanitarian work are being dismantled. “The significant legal/administrative hurdles (largely erected in 2017/18) have not magically disappeared overnight — we still face very intense scrutiny and high administrative/legal burdens for our work,” the source said via email, referencing U.S. Department of Commerce, State, and Treasury restrictions. However, the source added, the largest change appears to be that “the presumption is now more towards approval for humanitarian support/engagement, rather than a presumption of denial.” “We remain concerned about payment issues (international banking) vis a vis purchases made in third countries, and customs clearance,” the source said, adding however, that the policy shift was a hopeful first step. (Hamish MacDonald, “U.S. to Ease Humanitarian-Related Travel, Shipments to North Korea,” NKNews, January 11, 2019)


1/12/19:
Pompeo: “Q: And North Korea, that always seems to be a part of the discussions. In his New Year’s address, Kim Jong-un floated a production cap and a pledge not to transfer arms in exchange for sanctions relief. Can you rule that out as a possibility, because that would be sanctions relief before the complete, verifiable denuclearization? POMPEO: The good news is our conversations with North Korea continue. They’re out in the public light, they are going to remain so, so I won’t share with you this morning things that are being discussed in our negotiations. But we’re moving forward in these conversations, lots of ideas about how we might continue to decrease the risk to the American people. Remember, Rich, at the end that’s the objective; it’s the security of American people. And so reducing the threat from North Korea, whether that’s by our success to date in stopping their missile testing, stopping their nuclear testing, those are the important elements. We’ve got to get to full and final denuclearization. We’ve been unambiguous when we speak with Chairman Kim and other Korean interlocutors. I am hopeful that in the year ahead we can make substantial progress on that, including getting another summit between the two leaders. Q: And the position is still the same: They must give up their nuclear weapons in order to get sanctions relief from the United States? POMPEO: I don’t think there has been a single variant from the core proposition, which is the fully denuclearized North Korea as verified by international experts, is the objective of this administration. We intend to achieve that.” (DoS, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Interview with Rick Edson of Fox News, Cairo, January 11, 2019)


1/13/19:
President Donald Trump suggested holding the anticipated second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam in mid-February, Yomiuri Shimbun reported today. North Korea appears to review the US proposal but has not yet give a response, citing officials familiar with the matter. For the second meeting, Vietnam, Singapore and Hawaii had been mentioned as possible venues for the bilateral summit. But experts thought Vietnam and Singapore held higher possibilities as they have North Korean embassies, while Hawaii does not. Vietnam reportedly has delivered messages to both South and North Korea that it wishes to host the envisioned summit in its resort town of Danang. Robert Gallucci, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator with North Korea said the summit was likely to take place at the end of this month or next in an interview with a US news outlet, Radio Free Asia, yesterday (US time). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated their stance on a “full” and “final” denuclearization while expressing hope that the US and North Korea make “substantial progress” this year. “Reducing the threat from North Korea, whether that’s by our success to date in stopping their missile testing, stopping their nuclear testing, those are the important elements. We’ve got to get to full and final denuclearization.” he said in an interview with Fox News on Friday (US time). “I don’t think there has been a single variant from the core proposition, which is the fully denuclearized North Korea as verified by international experts, is the objective of this administration. We intend to achieve that.” (Jo He-rim, “Trump Suggests Vietnam for U.S.-N.K. Summit: Report,” Korea Herald, January 13, 2019)

South Korea will receive its first F-35A stealth fighters in March, a milestone in the country’s effort to boost its defense capabilities despite a diplomatic thaw with its nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea. A South Korean military official said the first two jets would be “combat-deployed in April or May” and that 10 jets would be ready for deployment by the end of this year. The jets and their pilots have been put through their paces at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, a training facility for the state-of-the-art jet fighter. South Korea is among a handful of US allies to buy the jet, including Japan and Australia. However, the jet program, which launched in 2001, has been plagued by cost overruns and technical problems. South Korea approved a deal in September 2014 to acquire 40 F-35As for about 7.3 trillion won (US$6.8 billion). “By the end of 2021, all of the 40 F-35A strike fighters will be deployed, combat-ready as planned”, the military official said. The F-35A is one of three variants of the aircraft, including the F-35C used aboard aircraft carriers. The jets have radar-evading capabilities and can perform ground-attack and air-superiority missions with a variety of precision weapons. That would give it a significant advantage over North Korea’s air defenses and fleet of ageing combat aircraft. However, it remains undecided whether South Korea will want to give its new F-35A jets a high-profile welcome ceremony when they are delivered in March. It may instead consider something lower key to avoid provoking the North following months of rapprochement that includes three inter-Korean summits and a meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. North Korea reacted angrily after high-ranking South Korean officials attended a ceremony in March last year for the first jets to roll off the assembly line at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. “The South’s war maniacs are indulging in a spending spree to buy F-35A Stealth jet fighters. This stems from an adventurous plot to stage a pre-emptive strike against us that goes along with US attempts to start a war,” the ruling Worker’s Party daily, Rodong Sinmun, said at that time. South Korea, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with its 2019-2023 midterm defense project known as “Defense Reform 2.0” to help to counter potential threats from North Korea and elsewhere. South’s defense ministry plans to spend 32 trillion won during this five-year period, up 30 per cent from the previous five-year period, the defense ministry said. This program includes the F-35As, tactical surface-to-surface guided missiles, the upgrading of Patriot air-defense missile systems and strengthening other assets with surveillance and strike capabilities. “The most outstanding point in the Defense Reform 2.0 is the shift of focus from threats from North Korea to overall security threats (including those from other countries)”, the ministry said. South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month called for a “strong defense capability” all the more although negotiations have been underway with the North. “Peace is being made on the Korean peninsula but it is still a precarious peace”, he said, urging the military not to lower its guard. (Park Chan-kyong, “South Korea to Get its First F-35A Stealth Fighter Jets in March. How Will the North React?South China Morning Post, January 13, 2019)

North Korea has told Japan it could raise the subject of wartime forced labor during Tokyo’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula in any future bilateral talks, diplomatic sources have said. According to the sources, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned his Japanese counterpart, Kono Taro, via a Mongolian diplomat in mid-December, that he would have “no choice” but to bring up the matter if Tokyo insists on pursuing the issue of Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Ri met with Mongolian Foreign Minister Damdin Tsogtbaatar in Ulan Bator on December 8. According to the sources, Ri asked Tsogtbaatar to relay the message that Japan was being illogical by asking for the return of individuals it identifies as abductees who have already died or never entered North Korea in the first place. Ri also said that should Tokyo continue to focus on the abductions, he would bring up the issue of the “more than 8.4 million Koreans who were forced to work” under Japanese colonial rule, the sources said. Japan passed the National Mobilization Law in 1938, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, allowing it to begin requisitioning workers at home the following year and later on the Korean Peninsula. Abe said last week that his government is “using various channels” to communicate with North Korea, including over a potential summit with leader Kim Jong Un. Asked by a reporter about meeting Kim, Abe said last June’s summit in Singapore between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump meant the “situation has greatly changed” and as both sides work toward further talks, “I think next time around I will also have to face Kim Jong Un.” (Kyodo, “North Korea Tells Japan It Will Raise Wartime Labor Issue If Japan Keeps up Pressure on Abductees,” Japan Times, January 13, 2019)


1/14/19:
North Korean authorities may be increasingly open to dialogue and engagement with the United Nations on human rights, the UN’s Special Rapporteur said on the issue in a recent interview in Seoul. Speaking to NK News as he wrapped up a five-day visit to the South Korean capital on Friday, Tomás Ojea Quintana reported that he believed an ongoing diplomatic detente with the DPRK may be making Pyongyang more open to cooperation with the UN on human rights. “In regards to North Korea, it seems they are exploring different possibilities to engage on human rights, especially in Geneva,” he said, adding that the DPRK’s requirements under the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of member states’ human rights records may offer a good “starting point.” This could involve “technical cooperation, or capacity building of their officials on specific human rights issues.” Space for engagement with the North Koreans on the human rights issue could also lie in discussion of what he described as “less controversial” rights. “You can start with social rights, labor rights,” he said, pointing to the potential reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) — agreed to by the two Koreas in September last year — as offering room for that discussion. “The human rights people will need to put the point and say ‘what about labor standards, what about wages’… that’s a starting point,” he said. “Of course, it’s not going to be a discussion on political prison camps, that’s out of reality… to start discussing that on the negotiations table.” The Special Rapporteur also pointed to some phrases from Kim Jong Un’s recent New Year’s speech as suggesting the country’s leadership is increasingly open to discussing the issue. “It’s the head of state saying this… there are a couple of things that have to do with human rights,” he said, pointing to the DPRK leader’s calls for the ruling party to “lend an ear to the sincere opinions” of the people as a sign that attitudes may be changing. Nonetheless, the Special Rapporteur stressed that the situation on the ground remains “extremely serious,” and that interviews last week with recently-defected North Koreans had offered little sign that change is taking place. “The fact is that with all the positive developments the world has witnessed in the past year, it is all the more regrettable that the reality for human rights on the ground remains unchanged,” he said in a statement to press ahead of his interview with NK News. How, then, to engage with a country which typically dismisses any discussion of the issue as part of a “hostile policy” against it, and which has refused to allow Ojea Quintana to visit the country? “You always have to have a starting point,” Ojea Quintana said. “There’s always a starting point… even in the worst situation.” “North Korea has different options in addition to my mandate, to show at least willingness or progress on human rights,” he said, pointing to Pyongyang’s decision in 2017 to allow a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities Catalina Devandas-Aguilar. “There may be some other thematic rapporteurs who may be able to engage with North Korea and even visit North Korea,” he suggested, while urging Pyongyang to “engage with me as a matter of priority.” Increasing inter-Korean engagement may also be providing an opening for a visit by the Special Rapporteur, he said, adding he was in contact with a number of South Korean organizations who are in regular discussions with North Korean counterparts. Among these are the South Korean Red Cross, which held frequent meetings with DPRK counterparts ahead of reunions of families separated by the Korean War last year. “They are very supportive of my mandate and they are good interlocutors to convey my message,” Ojea Quintana said. Asked to comment on the fate of the six South Korean citizens believed to be imprisoned in the North, the Special Rapporteur said that government officials had not provided any update on when they will be released — or whether Seoul has sought to pressure Pyongyang on their continued detention. “They haven’t shared any information on that,” he said. “I hope that their detention is not being subject to negotiations… what they do deserve is first fair trial, if they are being accused of committing a crime and, if not, they should be released.” The South Korean government previously claimed President Moon Jae-in had raised the issue with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their summit in April last year, though did not comment on the reply given by Kim. So, with a fourth Moon-Kim summit on the horizon in the coming months — this time in Seoul — will the South Korean leader use the meeting to raise human rights? “I don’t think that’s on the agenda,” Ojea Quintana said. (Oliver Hotham, “North Korea ‘Exploring’ Ways to Engage on Human Rights, Says UN Special Rapporteur” NKNews, January 14, 2019)


1/15/19:
Senior North Korean and U.S. officials may meet in Washington later this week for consultations on a second summit, a diplomatic source in Seoul said today. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to greet Kim Yong-chol, a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The source pointed out that the two sides are resolved to have face-to-face negotiations. “Given Secretary Pompeo’s other commitments, it’s true that (he’s) available for the talks on January 17-18,” the source said. Chosun Ilbo also reported today that Kim Yong-chol will likely travel to the U.S. capital for a two-day trip starting in two days. There has been no related announcement yet by either Pyongyang or Washington. South Korea’s foreign ministry said that there has been diplomatic contact between Washington and Pyongyang regarding their high-level talks, but it is inappropriate to comment on it. “When the date and venue for the follow-up negotiations between the North and U.S. are fixed, there will be a public announcement on that,” Noh Kyu-duk, the ministry’s spokesman, said during a regular press briefing. Speculation has been raised in Seoul that the Trump administration might have moved the goal post or lowered its expectations in its bargaining with Pyongyang. Trump said his administration won’t rush to make a deal. In a recent Fox News interview, Pompeo said, “We’re moving forward in these conversations — lots of ideas about how we might continue to decrease the risk to the American people.” He added, “Reducing the threat from North Korea, whether that’s by our success to date in stopping their missile testing, stopping their nuclear testing — those are the important elements.” Some South Korean news outlets construed the remarks as suggesting a shift of Washington’s focus toward the elimination of Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) away from complete denuclearization, apparently a more difficult aim. Meanwhile, Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice foreign minister, arrived at an airport in Beijing on Tuesday. Asked about her destination, Choe answered, “I am going to an international conference in Sweden.” A South Korean foreign ministry official told reporters there is nothing to share about the visit for now. The official also said that Seoul and Washington are in talks to hold a video conference of their “working group” this week. The group was launched late last year to coordinate the allies’ approaches on Pyongyang’s denuclearization, sanctions enforcement and inter-Korean cooperation. But the latest session may not be related to the highly anticipated North-U.S. talks, the official added. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, U.S. May Hold High-Level Talks This Week: Source,” January 15, 2019)

A letter was delivered from President Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the weekend, a source familiar with the ongoing denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang told CNN. The letter comes as the two sides negotiate details of a second meeting between the two leaders. It was flown to Pyongyang and delivered by hand, the source said. According to the source, North Korea’s former spy chief Kim Yong Chol could visit Washington as soon as this week to finalize details of the upcoming summit. (Will Ripley, “Trump Sends Letter to North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un,” January 15, 2019)

Kim Gye Gwan, first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK, press statement: “Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, made a strategic decision to put an end to the unpleasant history of the DPRK-U.S. relations and met Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, for two times during his visit to our country and took very important and broad-minded steps for peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the world. In response to the noble intention of Chairman Kim Jong Un, President Trump stated his position for terminating the historically deep-rooted hostility and improving the relations between the DPRK and the U.S. I appreciated the position positively with an expectation that upcoming DPRK-U.S. summit would be a big step forward for catalyzing détente on the Korean peninsula and building a great future. But now prior to the DPRK-U.S. summit, unbridled remarks provoking the other side of dialogue are recklessly made in the U.S. and I am totally disappointed as these constitute extremely unjust behavior. High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment, “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization”, “total decommissioning of nuclear weapons, missiles, biochemical weapons”. etc, while talking about formula of “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards.” This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers. I cannot suppress indignation at such moves of the U.S., and harbor doubt about the U.S. sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations through sound dialogue and negotiations. World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate. It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development. We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him. If the Trump administration fails to recall the lessons learned from the past when the DPRK-U.S. talks had to undergo twists and setbacks owing to the likes of Bolton and turns its ear to the advice of quasi-“patriots” who insist on Libya mode and the like, prospects of upcoming DPRK-U.S. summit and overall DPRK-U.S. relations will be crystal clear. We have already stated our intention for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States. But now, the U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure. The U.S. is trumpeting as if it would offer economic compensation and benefit in case we abandon nuke. But we have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future, either. It is a ridiculous comedy to see that the Trump administration, claiming to take a different road from the previous administrations, still clings to the outdated policy on the DPRK — a policy pursued by previous administrations at the time when the DPRK was at the stage of nuclear development. If President Trump follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he will be recorded as more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors, far from his initial ambition to make unprecedented success. If the Trump administration takes an approach to the DPRK-U.S. summit with sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations, it will receive a deserved response from us. However, if the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit.” (Uriminzokkiri, “Press Statement of First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs,” January 15, 2019)

Pound for pound, the deadliest arms of all time are not nuclear but biological. A single gallon of anthrax, if suitably distributed, could end human life on Earth. Even so, the Trump administration has given scant attention to North Korea’s pursuit of living weapons — a threat that analysts describe as more immediate than its nuclear arms, which Pyongyang and Washington have been discussing for more than six months. According to an analysis issued by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey last month, North Korea is collaborating with foreign researchers to learn biotechnology skills and build machinery. As a result, the country’s capabilities are increasing rapidly. “North Korea is far more likely to use biological weapons than nuclear ones,” said Andrew C. Weber, a Pentagon official in charge of nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs under President Obama. “The program is advanced, underestimated and highly lethal.” The North may want to threaten a devastating germ counterattack as a way of warding off aggressors. If so, its bioweapons would act as a potent deterrent. But experts also worry about offensive strikes and agents of unusual lethality, especially the smallpox virus, which spreads person-to-person and kills a third of its victims. Experts have long suspected that the North harbors the germ, which in 1980 was declared eradicated from human populations. Worse, analysts say, satellite images and internet scrutiny of the North suggest that Pyongyang is newly interested in biotechnology and germ advances. In 2015, state media showed Kim Jong-un, the nation’s leader, touring a biological plant, echoing his nuclear propaganda. But compared to traditional weapons, biological threats have a host of unsettling distinctions: Germ production is small-scale and far less expensive than creating nuclear arms. Deadly microbes can look like harmless components of vaccine and agricultural work. And living weapons are hard to detect, trace and contain. The North’s great secrecy makes it hard to assess the threat and the country’s degree of sophistication. Today, the North might well have no bioweapons at all — just research, prototypes, human testing, and the ability to rush into industrial production. Still, Anthony H. Cordesman, a former Pentagon intelligence official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the North “has made major strides” in all technical areas needed for the production of a major germ arsenal. In unclassified reports, the Trump administration has alluded to the North’s bioweapons program in vague terms. President Trump did not broach the subject of biological weapons during his meeting with Kim in Singapore, according to American officials. The lack of detail and urgency is all the more surprising given that John R. Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, has long described it as a regional and even a global threat. In 2002, as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the George W. Bush administration, Bolton declared that “North Korea has one of the most robust offensive bioweapons programs on Earth.” Last century, most nations that made biological arms gave them up as impractical. Capricious winds could carry deadly agents back on users, infecting troops and citizens. The United States renounced its arsenal in 1969. But today, analysts say, the gene revolution could be making germ weapons more attractive. They see the possibility of designer pathogens that spread faster, infect more people, resist treatment, and offer better targeting and containment. If so, North Korea may be in the forefront. South Korean military white papers have identified at least ten facilities in the North that could be involved in the research and production of more than a dozen biological agents, including those that cause the plague and hemorrhagic fevers. United States intelligence officials have not publicly endorsed those findings. But many experts say the technological hurdles to such advances have collapsed. The North, for instance, has received advanced microbiology training from institutions in Asia and Europe. Bruce Bennett, a defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, said defectors from the North have described witnessing the testing of biological agents on political prisoners. Several North Korean military defectors have tested positive for smallpox antibodies, suggesting they were either exposed to the deadly virus or vaccinated against it, according to a report by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Starting three years ago, Amplyfi, a strategic intelligence firm, detected a dramatic increase in North Korean web searches for “antibiotic resistance,” “microbial dark matter,” “cas protein” and similar esoteric terms, hinting at a growing interest in advanced gene and germ research. According to the Middlebury Institute analysis, at least 100 research publications that were jointly written by North Korean and foreign scientists have implications for military purposes, such as developing weapons of mass destruction. The collaborations may violate international sanctions. Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., a North Korean [focused] military analyst, said it is entirely likely that the North has already experimented with gene editing that could enhance bacteria and viruses. “These are scientists, and scientists love to tinker,” he said. Western concerns about the North’s program jumped in June 2015, after Kim posed in a white lab coat alongside military officers and scientists in a modern-looking pesticide facility called the Bio-Technical Institute, his arms outspread toward shiny lab equipment. The plant allegedly produced pesticides. The photos showed enormous fermenters for growing microbes, as well as spray dryers that can turn bacterial spores into a powder fine enough to be inhaled. Kim was beaming. Melissa Hanham, a scholar who first identified the site’s threatening potential, said equipment model numbers showed that the North had obtained the machinery by evading sanctions — laundering money, creating front companies or bribing people to buy it on the black market. She said the evidence suggests the North succeeded in building a seemingly harmless agricultural plant that could be repurposed within weeks to produce dried anthrax spores. Arms-control analysts say intrusive inspections are needed to see whether a facility is intended for peaceful aims or something else. “A nuclear weapons facility has very visible signals to the outside world,” Bermudez said. “We can look at it and immediately say, ‘Ugh, that’s a nuclear reactor.’ But the technology for conducting biological weapons research is essentially the same as what keeps a population healthy.” Americans felt the sting of bioweapons in 2001 when a teaspoon of anthrax powder, dispatched in a handful of envelopes, killed five people, sickened 17 more and set off a nationwide panic. The spores shut down Congressional offices, the Supreme Court and much of the postal system, and cost about $320 million to clean up. Federal budgets for biodefense soared after the attacks but have declined in recent years. “The level of resources going against this is pitiful,” said Weber, the former Pentagon official. “We are back into complacency.” Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, said, “We don’t spend half of an aircraft carrier on our preparedness for deliberate or natural events.” The National Security Council’s top health security position was eliminated last year, so biological threats now come under the more general heading of weapons of mass destruction. Still, on the Korean Peninsula, troops gird for a North Korean attack. According to the Belfer report, American forces in Korea since 2004 have been vaccinated against smallpox and anthrax. Recently, Army engineers sped up the detection of biological agents from days to hours through Project Jupitr, or the Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition, a Department of Defense spokeswoman said. The comptroller general of the United States, after a request from the House Armed Services Committee, is currently conducting an evaluation of military preparedness for germ attacks. “If you’re a country that feels generally outclassed in conventional weapons,” Hanham said, a lethal microbe such as anthrax might seem like a good way “to create an outsized amount of damage.” Such an attack would maximize casualties, she said, while terrorizing the uninfected population. For North Korea, Hanham added, “That would be the twofold goal.” (Emily Baumgaertner and William J. Broad, “The Threat in North Korea’s Germ Ambitions,” New York Times, January 15, 2019, p. D-1)


1/16/19:
Multiple official sources confirmed this to me, as well as South Korean reports that U.S. special envoy Stephen Biegun will travel to Stockholm for a planned meeting with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who is attending an international conference there. (Josh Rogin, “North Korea Spy Chief’s Visit to Washington Shrouded in Mystery,” Washington Post, January 16, 2019)

President Trump could announce a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as soon as Friday, following an expected meeting at the White House with a North Korean envoy, U.S. and Asian diplomats said today. Kim’s lead negotiator, former spymaster Kim Yong Chol, is expected to carry a letter from the North Korean dictator to Trump when he travels to Washington this week. He is expected to meet the president in two days, in what would be a repeat of an unusual diplomatic move ahead of the first summit between the two leaders in June. The administration has not announced the envoy’s visit, which comes amid wrangling within the administration over terms for a second Trump-Kim meeting and the promised eradication of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. If announced soon, the summit would probably take place in March or April, with Danang, Vietnam, seeming to be the most likely venue, according to people familiar with the flurry of diplomatic activity over the past month. Trump and Kim have exchanged letters in recent weeks, two people briefed on aspects of the diplomacy said. “We are working to make progress on our goal of achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, and the president looks forward to meeting Chairman Kim again at their second summit at a place and time yet to be determined,” said a White House spokesperson. Kim Yong Chol, who is scheduled to arrive tomorrow night, is also expected to meet with CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has become more involved in matters related to Pyongyang’s nuclear threat in recent months. If the two sides make progress, U.S. officials are hoping to establish the first working-level talks between America’s special representative to the negotiations, Stephen Biegun, and his North Korean counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Choi Sun Hee. North Korea has repeatedly given Biegun the cold shoulder and denied meetings with him, but people familiar with the deliberations said the two could meet shortly in Western Europe if Kim Yong Chol’s visit goes well. Biegun, through a State Department spokesperson, said: “We have no meetings to announce at this time.” Pompeo is expected to meet the North Korean official on this visit, but it’s clear Pyongyang’s goal is to speak directly with Trump, diplomats and others who follow the rogue regime closely said. “I think the North Koreans have come to the conclusion that the only one they can deal with is Trump,” said Ken Gause, a North Korea expert at the Center for Naval Analysis. “They believe this is a leader-to-leader relationship and the only reason that they would be meeting with Pompeo or even Biegun is to set up logistics.” Trump has overridden concerns among aides, including national security adviser John Bolton and former defense secretary Jim Mattis, about North Korea’s sincerity in getting rid of nuclear weapons, people familiar with the diplomacy said. “Different parts of the administration have different views on the path forward,” a person familiar with the deliberations said. Bolton and others have argued for maintaining the hard-line articulated last year — the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, that person said. However, U.S. officials have used that language less frequently lately, which some observers take as a sign that the ground may be shifting toward a U.S. concession, with the goal of reaching a deal that Trump sees as otherwise impossible. “There needs to be a starting point for both sides, where both sides get a clear win,” the person familiar with the deliberations said. The administration is debating whether to engage in what many North Korea hawks see as a risky move of offering the regime relief from sanctions or other incentives up front, diplomats and other officials said. “Basically the U.S. position is gravitating toward the North Korea position, which has always been for a phased, reciprocal process that does not involve giving up the nuclear capability on the front end,” Gause said. “The North Koreans are not going to give up something for nothing.” Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said that the United States is likely to make an announcement soon that the yearly joint military exercises with South Korea have again been scaled back, a move Mattis had opposed. It’s also possible the exercises will be renamed, Kimball said. One possible North Korean move, he added, would be to decommission the Yongbyon nuclear plant to show it is making concessions. Kim Yong Chol’s visit will probably not be a negotiating session, but a necessary step “to discuss and agree on a second summit date, a venue and maybe broad outlines of what corresponding steps the U.S. may be prepared to take,” Kimball said. (Anne Gearan and John Hudson, “Trump Could Announce a Second Summit with North Korean Leader within Days,” Washington Post, January 16, 2019)


1/17/19:
North Korea’s lead negotiator in nuclear talks with the US, Kim Yong Chol, arrived in Washington today, just hours after President Donald Trump rolled out a new missile defense strategy that appears to contradict his own claim that Pyongyang is no longer a nuclear threat. Kim arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, bringing with him a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meant for Trump, a source familiar with the denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea told CNN. Lead negotiator Kim was spotted leaving the airport with US Special Representative to North Korea Steve Biegun and Pak Chol, a North Korean official who chairs the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. Amid signs the two sides are close to agreeing to a second summit the newly unveiled Missile Defense Review, which Trump personally introduced at the Pentagon, explicitly states that North Korea remains an “extraordinary threat” to the US, an assessment that is consistent with previous findings by US military and intelligence agencies but rarely acknowledged by Trump himself. Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday that the US is still waiting on North Korea to take concrete steps to denuclearize, and the missile defense strategy released today indicates that Pyongyang currently poses a significant threat to the US despite ongoing negotiations. “While a possible new avenue to peace now exists with North Korea, it continues to pose an extraordinary threat and the United States must remain vigilant,” the Pentagon assessment says. “Over the past decade, it has invested considerable resources in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and undertaken extensive nuclear and missile testing in order to realize the capability to threaten the US homeland with missile attack. As a result, North Korea has neared the time when it could credibly do so,” it says. Trump made little mention of North Korea in his public remarks at the Pentagon Thursday but the underlying missile defense strategy emphasizes efforts to improve protection measures against the existing North Korean arsenal. “The review reflects the fact that the Pentagon still views North Korea as a nuclear threat and states that the United States will enhance its missile defense capabilities to defeat a North Korean missile attack,” according to Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. “The review states that North Korea has yet to achieve the capability to credibly threaten the US homeland. North Korea has not conducted enough tests to establish confidence in a reliable, working missile. But we have to assume that North Korea has a nuclear-armed ICBM that could strike the United States,” he said. “Even if the missile only has a 50% chance of hitting a major US city, that’s enough to establish a modicum of deterrence,” Reif added. Prior to today’s roll out of the Missile Defense Review, a senior administration official was asked specifically whether North Korea still poses a nuclear threat as Trump has previously suggested it does not. “The review does look at the comprehensive environment that the United States faces and our allies and partners face and it does posture forces to be prepared for the capabilities that currently exist and that anticipate in the future,” the official said. (Zachary Cohen, “Kim’s Envoy Arrives in D.C. as Pentagon States ‘Extraordinary Threat’ Posed by North Korea,” CNN, January 18, 2019)


1/18/19:
President Trump will meet with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in late February, the White House announced, renewing a high-level diplomatic dialogue that has eased tensions with a rogue nuclear state but has shown no progress in eliminating its nuclear arsenal. A White House official said the date and the location of the meeting would be announced later, suggesting either that the Trump administration was seeking concessions from the North Koreans before Trump committed to the meeting or that the two sides were still haggling over the site and other logistical details. Vietnam, Thailand and Hawaii have all been mentioned as potential settings. The announcement came after a 90-minute meeting in the Oval Office between Trump and Kim Yong-chol, a former North Korean intelligence chief, who has acted as the top nuclear negotiator for Kim. Trump, who had made a celebratory appearance after a session with the intelligence chief last June to announce his first meeting with Kim, this time stayed out of sight. But his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters, “We’ve continued to make progress.” The United States, she said, will keep sanctions against North Korea in place until Kim agrees to surrender his arsenal. She added that the North had shown “good faith” in releasing imprisoned Americans. Still, the very fact that Trump agreed to a second meeting with Kim — after North Korea’s failure to begin dismantling its arsenal following their first meeting in Singapore last June — is a sign of how quickly the president has backed away from his initial insistence on swift disarmament by Pyongyang. And it raised anew the question of whether Trump will enter a second summit meeting better prepared than he was in Singapore. While Trump emerged from that meeting brimming with optimism and declared on Twitter that there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” American intelligence officials have concluded that the country continues to produce nuclear fuel, weapons and missiles. There have been no substantive working-level negotiations between the two sides since last fall. [?] While Pompeo emerged from a meeting with Kim in October declaring that the North Korean leader told him “he’s ready to allow” inspectors into a nuclear testing site that the North had blown up, that inspection has yet to happen. Larger issues of inspection will hang over the next meeting as well. One subject under discussion with the North, according to officials of several countries briefed on the talks, is whether the country would “freeze” its nuclear fuel and weapons production during negotiations, so that the country’s arsenal does not grow while talks drag on. “But that would require highly intrusive inspections, across the country,” said Jung Pak, a former senior C.I.A. analyst now at the Brookings Institution. “Previous negotiations have fallen apart because of our insistence on those inspections. And who is going to take North Korea’s word on whether it is truly freezing its program?” Some analysts and diplomats said they worried that by agreeing so readily to another meeting, Trump was inviting the same situation as in Singapore — a press extravaganza that produces little in the way of concrete achievements. “You have to be afraid that we are playing into North Korea’s hands,” said Joseph Y. Yun, a former State Department official who has negotiated with the North. “They want to wait, and have as much time as possible elapse when they don’t do anything significant to denuclearize, and become accepted regionally and globally as a nuclear state.” The risk was even greater, some said, because of the multiple political and legal challenges facing Trump, from the government shutdown to the investigation of ties between his presidential campaign and Russia. “The timing is advantageous to the North Koreans, because Trump needs some sort of win now,” said Victor D. Cha, who negotiated with Pyongyang during the George W. Bush administration and was briefly considered by Trump as ambassador to South Korea. Among the potential risks, experts said, is that Trump would accept a deal with Kim that would freeze his nuclear program and dismantle his intercontinental ballistic missiles, but leave in place the North’s arsenal of intermediate and short-range missiles. That would rattle Japan, which lies in range of those rockets. The Japanese are also concerned that Trump, long a critic of the expense of maintaining an American military presence in Asia, would agree to pull troops out of South Korea and Japan. Still, South Korea welcomed the announcement, with a government spokesman saying he expected the second Trump-Kim summit meeting to be “a turning point for solidifying a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.” The first step the North Koreans were expected to take after the June meeting was a detailed inventory of their nuclear assets. That was to include the number of weapons they have produced — variously estimated at 20 to 60 nuclear bombs — the locations of those weapons, any nuclear materials used to produce new weapons and a detailed list of their missiles and missile launchers. The United States wanted to use the list to truth-test the North, comparing it with what American intelligence agencies have gathered over the past 30 years. But the North Koreans have complained that the inventory would amount to a targeting list, guiding the United States on what to attack should Trump ever order a pre-emptive strike. The arrival of Kim Yong-chol, and his stay at a hotel in Dupont Circle, was an unusual spectacle for a senior North Korean, particularly since the United States suspects him in the torpedoing of a South Korean naval ship, and one of the most aggressive cyber takedowns of an American company, Sony Pictures Entertainment. Vietnam appears to be the leading candidate to host the meeting. North Korea maintains diplomatic relations with it, and the United States could point to Vietnam as a country run by former enemies who have turned into trading partners. (Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, “President Plans Talks with Kim for Next Month,” New York Times, January 19, 2019, p. A-1) Before arriving at the White House, Kim Yong Chol met for less than an hour with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a hotel in Dupont Circle. After Kim’s visit to the White House, he and the rest of the North Korean delegation were scheduled to join Pompeo at the State Department for lunch. U.S. officials want the North to start treating the American envoy for the talks, Stephen Biegun, seriously. The North has repeatedly turned down meetings between him and his counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui. If the talks go well on Friday, Biegun is expected meet Choe for follow-up negotiations in Stockholm over the weekend. (John Hudson , David Nakamura and Simon Denyer, “Trump, Kim Agree to Second Summit,” Washington Post, January 19, 2019, p. A-1)

Pompeo: “Q: On North Korea, there’s plenty of reporting about a delegation here in Washington this weekend planning for a possible second summit. Critics say since that first meeting that North Korea has yet to truly denuclearize as far as giving up weapons, long-range missiles. Some people wonder what is the point of having these conversations anymore. Is there a reason to be optimistic? POMPEO: Yeah. “Critics say” is how you began this question, as I recall. Some critics have said we’ve offered too much. Many critics have said we haven’t offered enough. I don’t have much to add other than the President has made enormous strides in working with North Korea to get their commitment to denuclearize. We now need to execute. We need to implement. We’ve always known this would be a long process. While we do that we need to make sure we reduce risk, and we’ve done that. There aren’t nuclear tests being conducted. There haven’t been missile tests conducted. These are things that were threatening the United States when President Trump took office. We want to reduce that risk, reduce North Korea’s capacity to build out their program. These discussions are an important component for making sure that we do everything we can to deliver on the commitments that were made in Singapore between Chairman Kim and President Trump. Q: Five past presidents have tried the same thing. Is there reason to believe that this time is different? POMPEO: Yeah. It’s the first time a North Korean leader has met with a United States president, looked him in the eye and said I’ll do it.” (DoS, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo with Scott Thuman of Sinclair Broadcasting, January 18, 2019)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is wishing for a breakthrough in advancing talks aimed at disbanding his regime’s nuclear program as he hopes to avoid more confrontation, a Cheong Wa Dae official told the Korea Times, today. “Kim Yong-chol, Pyongyang’s lead negotiator in denuclearization with the United States, plans to deliver a handwritten letter from Kim Jong-un to U.S. President Donald Trump during his few hours in the United States,” the official said by telephone asking not to be identified. Details of the letter have yet to be known. But the soon-to-be-delivered letter included “more detailed plans” by North Korea toward dismantling its nuclear arsenal and reaffirmation by its leader to move forward with Pyongyang’s roadmap on how to gradually retire its hypersonic and cruise missiles, according to the official. (Kim Yoo-chul, “’Kim Jong Un Hopes Breakthrough in Nuke Talks,” Korea Times, January 19, 2019)

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks: “Nick Schifrin: Let’s just talk about the news of the day, first of all. Do you believe it’s a good idea for there to be a second summit? Brooks: I do. I think that the dialogue part of pressure and dialogue is a critical aspect of this. Without conversation, we go right back where we were in 2016 and ’17, with the great potential of miscalculation one another’s actions. So, I think it’s good. It’s important to recognize that any decision made in North Korea about the way forward is going to be made by Kim Jong-un himself. And so the fact that he sent his trusted representative, Kim Yong-chol, to Washington to carry the message that the door is still open, I believe, is a good thing. Schifrin: So let’s talk about Kim Jong-un himself. There’s a debate in Washington, as you know, about his intentions. Do you believe he’s serious about getting rid of his nuclear weapons? Brooks: I do. I think that the dance is going to be very important here, though, as we think about how we go from where we were to where we all want to be. First, we ought to take him at his word. And that’s not an easy thing to accept, especially given the track record of North Korea. But this is a new leader in North Korea. And this is the first episode that he’s gone through with national leaders. And, indeed, there’s evidence that he’s serious about committing to what he said. For example, we have now gone 415 days without a strategic provocation, test or demonstration. I think that’s a signal by itself that Kim Jong-un has moved in a different direction. Schifrin: But, as you know, there are a lot of skeptics of this approach, perhaps that Kim Jong-un is somehow buying time. You called him a new leader. Does he want a new relationship fundamentally with the United States? Brooks: I do believe that Kim Jong-un wants a different relationship. But that’s really at the heart of the pace of the interaction that I believe was perhaps restarted today with this meeting in Washington. And it is, can trust be built sufficiently to overcome so many decades of distrust and expectation of failure? That’s the challenge that is ahead right now. Schifrin: So let’s talk about some of the mechanics of how to rebuild that trust and some of the topics that will be discussed at this second summit. What do you think Kim Jong-un’s priorities are? Is it sanctions relief first, or perhaps a political declaration to end the war, which the U.S. is debating right now? Brooks: I think the broader aim is to have a completely new set of relationships in Northeast Asia. And with that, then there will be subordinate actions, like the specific decisions you made reference to, that will get us toward that. What the sequence is going to be, that’s what I think we have — the significant work to be done ahead. Schifrin: I want to go back to September 2017. The North Koreans had set off a hydrogen bomb. They had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the United States. And then we heard from Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Mattis: Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response. We’re not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely, North Korea, but, as I said, we have many options to do so. Schifrin: How close were the United States and North Korea to war? Brooks: I would say we were close. Now, but this is the nature of being close to war. And I think it’s important to dig into this one just a little bit, Nick, and that is, the capability to go to war was clearly there. The military preparations were also there. We were posturing in a number of different ways, logistically, policy-wise. The concentration of all of the U.S. military services and the combatant commands was focused on this problem, in the event that we ended up where we didn’t want to be. The greater danger though, Nick, in all this was the potential for miscalculation. And that is that one side would perceive the actions of another or the other in such a way that they presume that there was something hostile and different. Schifrin: What might have been the spark that lit the U.S. decision, so to speak, to go to war? Brooks: The spark could have been any action without explanation or dialogue that was misconstrued. It could have been something as small as ordering all of the noncombatants, those civilians who are in South Korea, either part of families of government, government workers who were not mission-essential, or even those who are expatriates of some sort, ordering their departure from the Republic of Korea. That could have been perceived… Schifrin: You mean a U.S…. Brooks: Yes, U.S. Schifrin: You mean a U.S. decision that would have led to a North Korean decision? Brooks: It could have triggered a North Korean reaction, looking for that signal as a very significant move by the United States that would be preparatory to military action. So that didn’t happen, thankfully. Schifrin: How close was it to happening? Brooks: And, as a result, we didn’t see the spark. Well, it was clearly being discussed in Washington and in other capitals. And, at that time, of course, we didn’t have an ambassador in Seoul. And I spent quite a bit of my own time having discussions with ambassadors, foreign ministers, defense ministers of various countries around — around the world who have citizens in the Republic of Korea, wondering whether this was going to happen or not. Schifrin: Among the scenarios you were considering, did any of them include the U.S. attacking first? Brooks: The entire array was planned. And we made sure we were prepared for whatever decision the two presidents that I was serving made together. And that could include a unilateral decision made by either one of the two presidents. And I think it’s very important to understand that I was a commander serving two presidents during that entire time. Schifrin: Meaning the South Korean president under your joint forces command and the U.S. president. Brooks: Exactly, the South Korean president and the president of the United States, absolutely. Schifrin: The U.S. suspended the major U.S.-South Korean military exercises, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, as well as a number of smaller exercises. In your opinion, has that degraded readiness? Brooks: Well, in real terms, there’s no substitute for the most credible, realistic scenario that you can train less the conditions of actual combat. So any commander would say yes. The answer is yes. The readiness does get degraded. But let’s put that in context. So there has to be room for diplomatic maneuvering, diplomatic action to occur. And if creating leverage or traction comes from these adjustments to the exercises, then that’s a risk that has to be consciously taken. And it was. And commanders then have a responsibility of finding other ways to maintain readiness, less than the optimum method. And that’s exactly what’s going on. We have got very creative commanders and leaders out there who are going to find ways to keep the edge of this sword sharp, while, at the same time, having been told to put it in the sheath for a period of time, never forgetting how to use it. That’s the way I describe it. And that’s what happened here. But it does create a new challenge for how you maintain that readiness and make sure that the credible threat is still intact.” (PBS NewsHour, Interview with Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Former USFK Commander, January 18, 2019)

When it comes to who should get credit for denuclearization talks with North Korea, South Korean leader Moon Jae-in has specifically pointed the finger toward one man. “President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize,” Moon told reporters last April, in one of many moments of flattery toward the U.S. leader. A new poll, however, shows that many South Koreans would not agree. According to a survey, conducted in late December by Hankook Research for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 31 percent of South Koreans thought that Trump had a greater impact than Moon on bringing North Korea to the table for denuclearization talks. Comparatively, almost 6 out of 10 said that Moon had a greater impact on talks than Trump did; a further 5 percent said they had an equal impact. The Chicago Council poll showed relatively little confidence among South Koreans that either world leaders’ negotiating abilities would lead North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons — 52 percent said they had little or no confidence in Moon’s ability on this front, while 53 percent said the same of Trump. In general, supporters of Moon’s leftist government were more positive about both Trump and Moon, while supporters of the conservative Liberty Korea Party were more skeptical. More than three-quarters of all South Koreans thought that the sanctions on North Korea were what had brought Kim to the negotiating table. There were notable areas of optimism. Forty-two percent of South Koreans thought that the national security situation in the country had gotten better, compared with four years ago, with 30 percent saying it was the same and 23 percent saying it had gotten worse. Another poll conducted last year by the Asan Institute found that 60 percent of the country approved of Moon’s policy toward North Korea. Perhaps because of this, South Koreans’ own desire for nuclear weapons appears to have dipped to 54 percent in favor, compared with 43 percent opposed. Older polls have put the percentage of South Koreans who want nuclear weapons slightly higher, with as much as two-thirds in favor. Despite Trump’s sometimes critical talk about the alliance with South Korea — complaining about the nature of the military alliance with the country and delaying joint exercises last year — most South Koreans seem comfortable with the state of the countries’ partnership. A plurality of 36 percent credited the alliance in general for stopping a wide-scale North Korean attack in past 10 years, while 75 percent said they thought that the United States would defend South Korea in such an attack. Such confidence may be earned. A separate poll conducted in 2017 by the Chicago Council found that 62 percent of Americans supported the use of U.S. troops if North Korea were to invade South Korea — the first time since 1990 that a majority favored backing South Korea in this way. Hankook Research conducted the poll Dec. 26 and 27. The sample size was 1,000 South Koreans ages 19 and older. They were contacted on landline phones. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. (Adam Taylor, “Most South Koreans Think Moon, Not Trump, Is Leading the Way on North Korea Talks,” Washington Post, January 18, 2019)


1/19/19:
Trump: “So, I’m going to Dover Air Force Base. A very sad occasion. We’ll then be back, and we have a very busy day planned. We had a very good meeting yesterday with North Korea. That was an incredible meeting. It lasted almost two hours. And we’ve agreed to meet sometime probably at the end of February. We’ve picked the country, but we’ll be announcing it in the future. Kim Jong Un is looking very forward to it and so am I. We’ve made a lot of progress that has not been reported by the media, but we have made a lot of progress as far as denuclearization is concerned. And we’re talking about a lot of different things. But we’ve made tremendous progress that has not been reported, unfortunately, but it will be. Things are going very well with North Korea.” (White House Press Office, Remarks by President Trump before Marine One Departure,” January 19, 2019)


1/20/19:
Senior officials from the United States and North Korea have kicked off working-level talks in Sweden to prepare for a second summit between the leaders of the two countries, sources said today. Stephen Biegun, Washington’s special representative for North Korea, arrived in Stockholm yesterday afternoon for four days of meetings with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui in an effort to break the current deadlock over denuclearization talks. It is the first time that Biegun has met Choe for working-level denuclearization talks since he became the U.S. nuclear envoy in August last year. South Korea’s top nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, also arrived in Sweden on January 18 for possible three-way negotiations with them as a potential mediator in denuclearization talks. While at a retreat 50 kilometers northwest of Stockholm, the nuclear envoys are expected to hold intensive negotiations to break the impasse. The facility is under tight security, with police blocking journalists and outsiders’ access to it. Experts said that the U.S. and North Korea may seek to focus on making some concessions to break the current deadlock. Some have floated an idea of a small package deal that may involve the North shutting down or freezing operations at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and dismantling intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in exchange for Washington’s partial sanctions relief. (Yonhap, “U.S., N.K. Kick off Working-Level talks for Second Summit of Their Leaders,” January 20, 2019)

President Trump’s demands that South Korea take on far more costs for hosting U.S. troops is straining the alliance and potentially playing into North Korea’s hands ahead of a second summit with Kim Jong Un, South Korean lawmakers and experts say. South Korea has about 28,500 U.S. troops on more than 20 sites and paid $855 million last year toward the cost. But the cost-sharing pact expired at the end of last year after 10 rounds of negotiations that left — in the words of one foreign ministry official in Seoul — a “huge gap” between both sides. South Korean lawmakers and experts worry that Trump is so obsessed with Seoul paying more that he could take the previously unthinkable step of withdrawing some troops if a deal is not reached. That would be an indirect gift to North Korean leader Kim, undermining one of the most important cards the United States has during negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program, experts say. “We are experiencing difficulties because the U.S. side abruptly brought up a condition totally unacceptable to our side at the last stage of negotiations,” Chung Eui-yong, national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told reporters earlier this week. Chung said he still believed the two sides could reach a “reasonable deal,” and many experts still expect a crisis to be averted. But there is no doubt the risks are growing, especially if a deal isn’t reached before Trump’s potential summit with Kim. “I am very concerned,” said Chun Yung-woo, a conservative former national security adviser. “The danger of failure of the negotiations is, I think, broadly underestimated.” Lawmakers from the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, which need to approve any deal and have been briefed on the negotiations, said the United States first demanded South Korea nearly double its contribution, to $1.6 billion, but later scaled that back to $1.2 billion. When that demand was also rejected, Washington lowered the money demands but suggested the deal be extended for only one year, instead of the usual five. The United States has also proposed that South Korea cover some “operational costs” for the U.S. military presence in the region, including deploying aircraft carriers. South Korean lawmakers called this demand unacceptable. Lawmakers from both the liberal ruling party and conservative opposition said South Korean public opinion is sensitive to any impression that the United States is bullying them. Moon’s government, meanwhile, cannot afford to look weak in the eyes of its own people. “One trillion won is a psychological barrier,” said Lee Soo-hyuck, a ruling-party lawmaker, referring to an amount in South Korean won equivalent to nearly $890 million. “It would be very difficult to get the consent of the National Assembly if it is over 1 trillion,” Lee added. “We would need some very persuasive argument or logic.” Ruling-party lawmaker Song Young-gil called Trump’s demands “unreasonable and groundless,” while Won Yoo-chul, a conservative member of the foreign affairs committee, fears a backlash that will fuel “anti-American sentiments among the Korean people.” Timothy Betts, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for plans, programs and operations, is leading negotiations. But instructions appear to be coming directly from the White House. Trump has said the United States gets “practically nothing” toward the cost of the troops, while complaining bitterly about South Korea’s trade surplus with the United States — until the two sides signed a new trade deal last September. In “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s account of the Trump White House, the U.S. president is described as being obsessed with the cost of the U.S. troop presence, angrily threatening to pull them out on more than one occasion. At various times, he was talked down by a host of insiders, including former defense secretary Jim Mattis, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Today, only Dunford remains in his job, with Mattis’s resignation — over the plan to withdraw troops from Syria and the treatment of U.S. allies in general — seen as especially damaging. “It’ll make it much harder,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There’ll be nothing to filter what Trump wants to do, nothing to filter a very uniformed view on how he wants things done.” Cha said the Trump administration is looking for a “paradigm shift” in military burden sharing and is particularly keen to establish a precedent with South Korea ahead of similar negotiations with Japan and NATO next year. Many members of Moon’s administration began their political careers as left-wing pro-democracy student activists, who were inclined to see the U.S. troop presence as more motivated by American strategic interests than South Korea’s views. “I don’t think they will ever ask the U.S. to withdraw,” said Chun, the conservative former national security adviser, referring to officials in Moon’s entourage. “But if President Trump decides to withdraw because of this cost issue, I don’t think any of them will cry over that kind of decision.” The question of the share South Korea is paying depends on your vantage point. The United States says Seoul pays $855 million out of a total cost of about $2 billion. South Korea says that doesn’t account for the large amounts of land supplied rent-free and calculates it pays more like 70 percent of the cost. Seoul also paid almost the entire cost of building a massive new U.S. base at Pyeongtaek and spent $13 billion between 2013 and 2017 on U.S. military hardware, training and services. Talks have overrun the deadline before. After the last agreement expired in December 2013, a new deal wasn’t implemented until the following June. But Kim Dae-jung, a lawmaker with the left-leaning Justice Party, said the risks are higher this time, given Trump’s “isolationist” tendencies and clear desire to bring more U.S. soldiers home. Many South Koreans, he said, were pleasantly surprised by Trump’s sincere attempt to make peace on the Korean Peninsula but are perplexed by his “coldhearted dealmaking” over the troop-cost issue. In Pyongyang, though, Kim Jong Un is likely happy at any hint of a possible reduction in U.S. forces. “The withdrawal of U.S. troops is the most important card to play in getting North Korea to denuclearize,” Chun said. “What I am most concerned about is that [Trump] will waste the card without using it. If he decides to withdraw troops out of exasperation without thinking of how to link to denuclearization negotiations, this becomes a dead card.” (Simon Denyer, “Trump Faces Dual Demands in Koreas,” Washington Post, January 22, 2019, p. A-8)


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Talks held near the Swedish capital Stockholm that ended today and included representatives from North and South Korea and the United States were constructive, Sweden’s foreign ministry said. “Constructive talks have been held covering issues concerning developments on the Korean peninsula, including confidence building, economic development and long-term engagement,” a ministry spokesman said. A diplomatic source said the Swedish round-table conference, held on the outskirts of Stockholm over the weekend and concluded on Monday, had touched on the planned summit while bilateral talks had also been held on the sidelines. “Different mechanisms for regional security have been discussed, that issue was something to which a lot of time was devoted,” the source said. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and South Korean negotiator Lee Do-hoon took part. (Daniel Dickson, Simon Johnson and Niklas Pollard, “Sweden Holds ‘Constructive’ Talks, Eye o Second Summit,” Reuters, January 21, 2019)

U.S. intelligence officials have met with North Korean counterparts secretly for a decade, a covert channel that allowed communications during tense times, aided in the release of detainees and helped pave the way for President Trump’s historic summit last year with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The secret channel between the Central Intelligence Agency and spies from America’s bitter adversary included two missions to Pyongyang in 2012 during the Obama administration by Michael Morell, then deputy CIA director, and at least one by his successor, Avril Haines, say current and former U.S. officials. The channel appears to have gone dormant late in the Obama administration. Mike Pompeo re-energized it while CIA director, sending an agency officer to meet with North Korean counterparts in Singapore in August 2017. By early 2018, a whirlwind of secret and public talks was underway, which brought together Trump and Kim in a pomp-filled Singapore meeting in June. The intelligence channel played a role. A few details of the contacts have been previously reported. This article represents the most comprehensive description of how it worked. The channel wasn’t the only factor bringing the leaders together. They took risks in pursuing the summit, the first between their countries. North Korea’s improving ties with South Korea helped. But the intelligence channel’s existence reveals a new dimension to what was known about U.S.-North Korean ties, adding texture to the public picture of mutual threats, stymied talks, and, more recently, a top-level summit. Dating to at least 2009, the channel created relationships between the security apparatuses that provided a path to diplomacy. A key interlocutor was Gen. Kim Yong Chol, former head of Pyongyang’s Reconnaissance General Bureau spy agency. Now the senior North Korean negotiator, he met Friday with Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo. Some of the intelligence meetings have been public. When North Korea in 2014 insisted a senior U.S. official visit Pyongyang to obtain release of two detained U.S. citizens, it was James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence then, who went. There, he met with Gen. Kim. A look inside the secret intelligence channel emerges from current and former Trump and Obama administration officials who describe how the administrations employed it and how the channel helped lead to the historic summit. The CIA, State Department and White House declined to comment on the secret channel, as did a diplomat at North Korea’s U.N. mission in New York. Other officials mentioned in this article or their institutions were given an opportunity to comment. The U.S. and North Korea have long exchanged messages through the North Korean U.N. mission in New York. Some U.S. officials have viewed that channel’s usefulness as limited, saying its primary purpose has been to pass messages to North Korea’s less influential foreign-affairs ministry. In contrast, before the new era of summits, the intelligence channel was a way to communicate directly with regime hard-liners. U.S. officials sometimes called it the “goon channel,” referring to North Korean interlocutors the Americans found distasteful but important in deciding security matters. Some South Korean politicians accuse Gen. Kim of having overseen the 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship. The U.S. has accused the spy agency he ran of conducting the 2014 computer hack of Sony Pictures. North Korea has denied responsibility for both. Washington used the intelligence encounters for multiple purposes. They expanded from a way to discuss detained Americans to a potential tool for crisis management, a means of reaffirming the U.S. was prepared to normalize relations in return for denuclearization, and a mechanism to discuss summit plans, culminating in a visit by Pompeo last spring when he was CIA director. “The rationale for using a channel between intelligence agencies would be that in the event of some sort of crisis it could provide a capability to reach people in their system with authority,” says Daniel Russel, a senior State Department and National Security Council official on Asia during the Obama administration. “Generally speaking, in countries like North Korea, the foreign ministry has limited influence, so you need to be able to speak to the guys with the guns.” There are precedents for using spies for sensitive talks with authoritarian regimes. Officers from Britain’s intelligence service and the CIA initiated talks that ended with Libya’s abandoning its nuclear and chemical weapons programs in 2003. The secret intelligence talks began by 2009, when relations were frozen. President Obama’s White House asked Joseph DeTrani to reach out to the North. Nicknamed “Broadway Joe,” with a reputation for a gregarious manner, he was the North Korea “mission manager” for the director of national intelligence, coordinating U.S. spy agencies’ efforts to decipher the hermetic country. DeTrani, who speaks Mandarin and who spent more than two decades at the CIA, was among the few American officials who had extensive interaction with North Korea. He was a negotiator during the ill-fated Six Party Talks, a multicountry effort from 2003 to 2009 to persuade North Korea to abandon nuclear ambitions. “DeTrani thinks that under all circumstances it is worth talking to North Korea so at least we are in communication, we are not misinterpreting what is happening and there is the possibility to grab small openings,” says Dennis Blair, a retired admiral and director of national intelligence during the Obama administration’s first 16 months. DeTrani’s mission was narrow. Obama wanted him to secure release of two U.S. journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. DeTrani held unpublicized meetings in Singapore under tense circumstances: Pyongyang carried out missile tests that DeTrani’s North Korean counterparts declined to discuss. The talks helped lead to former President Clinton’s 2009 Pyongyang visit, when he brought back the journalists. After assuming responsibility in 2010 for the U.S. intelligence community’s counter-proliferation efforts, DeTrani made a secret trip to Pyongyang, warning North Korea against proliferating nuclear and missile systems. He passed the baton for secret meetings to Morell, the CIA’s No. 2. In April 2012, the two officials flew to Pyongyang in a U.S. aircraft from Guam, and DeTrani introduced the CIA deputy director to the North Koreans. The moment was critical. The Obama administration had concluded the “Leap Day agreement” in February under which the North agreed to a moratorium on long-range missile tests and nuclear tests and to shut down its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, including its uranium-enrichment plant there. The U.S. promised to provide food aid. But Washington said North Korea’s plans to launch a satellite would breach the deal. Kim Jong Il, who ruled North Korea for 17 years, had died the previous December, transferring power to Kim Jong Un—making it crucial to keep the communication line open. U.S. efforts to head off that launch failed. Morell, a career CIA officer with Asia experience, returned to Pyongyang the following August with the message that North Korea faced a choice. It could build its nuclear and missile arsenals and suffer diplomatic and economic isolation—or choose denuclearization and become part of the international community. The trip ended in disappointment: He didn’t get the hoped-for audience with Kim Jong Un. Glimpses of the secret channel have occasionally become public. In late 2012, a South Korean newspaper reported mysterious Americans had made two trips to North Korea. The Financial Times reported in January 2018 that Morell had made a secret trip to North Korea in 2012. Morell was succeeded as CIA deputy director by Ms. Haines, whose path to a senior national-security post included a stint as owner of an independent book store. She traveled to Pyongyang during her tenure as the CIA’s No. 2 from August 2013 to January 2015. Despite the paucity of breakthroughs, some former officials say it was useful to have contacts to hardline elements of the regime, who were deemed to be influential and controlled the security apparatus holding U.S. prisoners. Keeping the channel secret also enabled the Obama administration to encourage international partners to isolate Pyongyang diplomatically and economically as part of a pressure campaign to denuclearize. “It’s been the only reliable channel of communications for the most basic of issues,” says a senior Trump administration official. “That is where the North Koreans have been comfortable.” Key officials at the State Department, which continued on a parallel track to work though North Korean diplomats in New York and sent envoys on rare trips to North Korea, were aware of the back channel. Still, skeptics among some former administration officials have questioned whether the covert channel diminished the State Department’s traditional negotiating role. “Keeping channels of communication open is always important, but the messengers and the messages also matter,” says Joel Wit, a former State Department official now at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. “Intelligence officers are not trained diplomats, and if they don’t convey the right message it can backfire.” Use of the covert channel appears to have waxed and waned. After 2016 intelligence reports showed North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs were making headway, Washington ratcheted up economic sanctions, including on Kim Jong Un. There appeared to be a hiatus in high-level visits, though it isn’t clear if the channel went dormant entirely. As tension rose in August 2017, the channel was re-energized. That month, Trump threatened North Korea’s leaders with “fire and fury,” U.S.-South Korean annual war games resumed and Pyongyang responded by testing a ballistic missile over Japan. Andrew Kim, a veteran CIA officer and head of the agency’s new Korea Mission Center, traveled to Singapore to meet North Korean officials. Kim, former chief of several CIA overseas stations, was born in South Korea and had longstanding ties to its top national-security officials. Separate efforts, apart from the intelligence channel, also show Trump’s interest in establishing a dialogue. In September 2017, North Korea’s foreign minister invited Jeffrey Feltman, a former American diplomat serving as U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, to Pyongyang for a dialogue. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres told him to first run the idea by other interested countries, Feltman says, and Trump administration officials advised against the trip. But when Guterres raised the issue with Trump during an Oval Office meeting in October, the president said Feltman should go, Feltman and a U.N. spokesman say. Trump’s personal role in approving the trip hasn’t previously been disclosed. Feltman made the trip publicly. During four days of meetings in December 2017, he says, he told the North Koreans the U.S. wasn’t the only country alarmed at its nuclear and missile tests. He gave North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho a copy of “The Sleepwalkers,” a book about how European nations stumbled into World War I. In a November speech, Kim Jong Un had boasted his country had finished building its nuclear and missile forces. Citing that speech, Feltman urged the North Koreans to redirect their efforts to the coming Winter Olympics in South Korea to seek an opening with South Korea and the West, an idea that officials in Pyongyang may have already had. Kim Jong Un’s 2018 New Year address hinted at change: While underscoring his nuclear capabilities, he offered to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics. Adding to the momentum, South Korean officials began encouraging the idea of a top-level meeting between Trump and Kim, and the idea was explored in the covert channel as well. In March, South Korean officials visited the White House and relayed the North Korean leader’s invitation to meet with Trump. The plan had been for then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and top officials to confer with the South Koreans, discuss the offer and have the South Koreans meet with Trump the next day. Instead, Trump decided to meet the South Koreans then and there, and he immediately agreed to the summit, saying: “Tell them I’ll do it.” The administration still wanted direct confirmation from North Korean leadership that they wanted a summit. The intelligence channel had been active since the August meeting in Singapore, and the U.S. used it to confirm Pyongyang’s summit invitation came from the top and to advance plans for the meeting. At the end of March, Pompeo, then CIA director, flew to Pyongyang. Six weeks later, as Secretary of State, he went again, accompanied by Andrew Kim, and returned with three American detainees. Less than a month later, Messrs. Trump and Kim met in Singapore. U.S.-North Korean diplomacy is now largely in the open and occurring at the highest levels. Intelligence contacts continue. In Washington on Friday, Gen. Kim met unannounced with the CIA’s deputy director, Vaughn Bishop. (Michael R. Gordon and Warren Strobel, “U.S. and North Korean Spies Have Held Secret Talks for a Decade,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2019)

Japan has agreed to talks with South Korea over the name of the body of water that separates the two nations — but it intends to resist calls that it be renamed the East Sea. The move by Japan comes amid pressure from the International Hydrographic Organization. However, Japan also says it is uncomfortable with the suggestion the area appear on maps as both the Sea of Japan and the East Sea. It argues that the waters have been known as the Sea of Japan for a century and that the IHO has already recognized that name as the sea’s official title. Based in Monaco, the IHO is tasked with identifying the names of oceans and seas around the world and provides guidelines when nations draw up marine charts that include maritime borders. Tokyo points out that since the organization was set up in 1921, the waters between Japan and the Koreas have been known as the Sea of Japan and that South Korea only raised the issue at the UN, with which the IHO is affiliated, in 1992. Since then, Seoul has insisted that the term Sea of Japan was introduced only as a result of Tokyo’s colonial occupation of the peninsula, between 1910 and 1945. South Korea has continued to apply pressure and the IHO last year informed Tokyo that it reserved the right to revise the name of the body of water without any input from Japan if the government continued to refuse to hold discussions on the matter with Seoul. North Korea, unsurprisingly, has sided with the South on the issue and the IHO wants all three nations to hold talks before the organization holds its next general meeting, in 2020. In a statement issued to the South China Morning Post, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “As a responsible member of the IHO, Japan intends to make constructive contributions to informal talks. The government of Japan continues to call for its position, that there is no need or reason for changing the name, as the name ‘Sea of Japan’ is the only internationally established name for the sea area concerned.” Okumura Jun, a political analyst at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, said: “Koreans appear to be making quite a big deal out of something that is really rather insignificant, which hopefully means that it won’t have a substantive impact on bilateral relations — but it could do.” He said the debate was ironic given that Seoul had steadfastly refused to consider requests from Tokyo for international arbitration over the sovereignty of the South Korean-held islands of Dokdo, which Japan claims and knows as Takeshima. “Conservatives might be angry at this, but I can also see the broader ill will growing over this and other issues and that will have an impact on the real economy, on tourism, for example, on K-pop and we might see TV channels here not renewing Korean dramas for broadcasting,” Okumura said. “But while the Koreans might find it impossible to stand up to China and difficult to resist the United States, standing up to Japan is the easiest thing in the world and something that they know will unite the nation behind them.” The argument over the sea’s name is the latest sore point in bilateral relations. Other recent sticking points have included Seoul’s scraping of an agreement to draw a line under the “comfort women” issue and a ruling by South Korean courts that Japanese companies should compensate former forced laborers, despite a 1956 pact that stated that no further redress need be provided. There are also tensions between the armed forces of the two nations, in particular tit-for-tat allegations over an incident between a South Korean warship and a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. Seoul denies that its vessel locked its fire control radar onto the Japanese plane and instead insists that the Japanese military performed a dangerous maneuver at low altitudes. Today, the Japanese defense ministry said its “final view” was that South Korea’s claims were “baseless” and that it was impossible to continue talks on the matter. Tokyo is also extremely concerned at Seoul’s apparent willingness to accept North Korean promises on denuclearization and to meet its demands for an end to international sanctions and the provision of economic assistance. “Under the administration of President Moon Jae-in, South Korea is collaborating with North Korea to mount a campaign against Japan about history, and the name of the Sea of Japan is just one part of that,” said Yamada Shoichi, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University. “Russia and China have never complained about the name and we Japanese have not protested about the Korea Strait, which we know as the Tsushima Strait,” he said. “They’re raising their voices louder and more frequently, but it just comes across as Koreans being neurotic,” he said. (Julian Ryall, “Tokyo to Discuss Sea of Japan’s Name with Seoul. Just Don’t Call It the East Sea,” South China Morning Post, January 21, 2019)

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has identified a secret North Korean ballistic missile base about 160 miles northwest of Seoul that is reportedly the headquarters of the country’s strategic missile force. The report, released today by researchers at the center’s Beyond Parallel project, said the base is one of approximately 20 undeclared missile operating bases, part of Pyongyang’s ongoing ballistic missile program. “While diplomacy is critical, and should be the primary way to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem, any future agreement must take account of all of the operational missile base facilities that are a threat to U.S. and South Korean security,” the report said. “North Korea is not supposed to have these ballistic missile bases,” said Victor Cha, one of the report’s authors. “And of course they have them and have not disclosed them.” “North Korea basically wants to trade away things they won’t do in the future, or to give up things from the past they don’t need anymore, while not negotiating over things like this, their actual capabilities,” Cha, a former National Security Council official focused on Asian affairs, said in an interview. Of the 20 or so undeclared missile bases, CSIS researchers have been able to locate 13. In November, researchers released a report on the first of the 13 bases; Monday’s report describes the second. The Sino-ri base is about 130 miles north of the demilitarized zone, the report said. It served as one of the first bases for the country’s most widely deployed ballistic missile, the Nodong ­medium-range ballistic missile. The base may also have played a role in the development of the country’s newest ballistic missile, first tested or unveiled in February 2017, shortly after Trump was inaugurated. The base is most often referred to as a missile operating base. But “it has fulfilled broader missions” as an operational test and development site and training facility subordinate to the “Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army,” the report said. The KPA Strategic Force is responsible for all ballistic missile tests. Unlike other known North Korean ballistic missile operating bases, which are “nestled within narrow and steep mountain valleys,” the main parts of this base are “distributed within a shallow valley and rolling hills,” the report said. The base’s four square miles include several small vil­lages, one for which the facility is named. (Lena H. Sun, “Report Identifies Another N. Korean Ballistic Missile Base, One of 20,” Washington Post, January 22, 2019, p. A-8)


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Bermudez, Cha, and Collins: “Located 212 kilometers north of the DMZ, Sino-ri is an operational missile base that houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM). It is one of the oldest of approximately 20 undeclared missile operating bases and is reported to serve as the headquarters of the Strategic Rocket Forces Nodong missile brigade. It may have also played a role in the development of the newest Pukkuksong-2 (KN-15) ballistic missile first tested or unveiled on February 12, 2017, shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president. The Sino-ri missile operating base and the Nodong missiles deployed at this location fit into North Korea’s presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability against targets located both throughout the Korean Peninsula and in most of Japan. The base continues to be defended against preemptive attack by nearby anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air positions. The Sino-ri missile operating base has thus figured prominently in the historical development of the North Korean force serving as one of the first deployments of Scud missiles and later the Nodong medium range ballistic missile. The base has often also fulfilled broader missions as both an operational test and development, and training facility for Korean People’s Army (KPA)’s Strategic Force. Beyond Parallel analysis has found that the missile operating base is complemented by two nearby Strategic Force facilities—the Sobaek-su Academy and Myodu-san training area. North Korean missile operating bases would presumably have to be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal. North Korea’s decommissioning of the Sohae satellite launch facility, while gaining much media attention, obscures the military threat to U.S. forces and South Korea from this and other undeclared ballistic missile bases. … The Sino-ri missile operating base in Unjon-gun (Unjon County), North Pyongan province … sits 77 kilometers northwest of Pyongyang, 212 kilometers north of the demilitarized zone and 270 kilometers northwest of Seoul. Although most often referred to as simply a missile operating base, it has fulfilled broader missions as both an operational test and development facility and training facility subordinate to the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). The KPA Strategic Force is responsible for all ballistic missile units. In these latter roles, the Sino-ri base appears to have been involved at different times in validating designs and testing capabilities for new launchers, support vehicles, and specialized equipment, etc. It has also been a site for assisting in the development of operational procedures and tactics; and conducting training for ballistic missile personnel and units. … Located approximately 7.5 kilometers northwest of the Sino-ri missile operating base are the Sobaek-su Academy and Myodu-san training area that are also subordinate to the Strategic Force. Preliminary analysis indicates that while the precise nature of their relationships to each other is unknown, they are likely to be centered around a division of responsibilities—Sino-ri for ballistic missile operations and development, Sobaek-su for higher education of Strategic Force personnel, and Myodu-san for ballistic missile training. … Although there was a KPA barracks and storage area at Sino-ri since at least the 1960s, it was not until the late 1970s when a FROG-7 battalion was first identified as being deployed there that the facility was associated with North Korea’s nascent ballistic missile program.7 A partially declassified report from August 19, 1982, describes these events and the subsequent deployment of at least a second FROG-7 battalion to the base by 1982. “Elements of two FROG-7 tactical surface-to-surface missile (TAC SSM) battalions were observed at Sino Ri BKS [barracks] a WPNS [weapons] test FAC [facility] on 1 August. Six canvas-covered FROG-7 TEL [transporter-erector-launchers] were parked in the open between the two double-secured vehicle sheds in the vehicle storage area. This is the first time that more than two FROG-7 TEL have been seen here. The equipment was probably parked in the open because the roof of one of the two large vehicle sheds had been removed for repair. FROG-7 TEL were last seen here [REDACTED] when two were present. Limited sightings of FROG-related equipment at Sino Ri has indicated the presence of only one FROG-7 battalion. However, the presence of six FROG-7 TEL and sufficient vehicle storage capacity for at least two battalion-sized complements of support equipment indicates that the installation has probably housed at least two battalions since the initial identification of FROG-7 here in 1979. The vehicle sheds that house the FROG-7 equipment have been present since at least 1971. [REDACTED]” This 1982 report is also the earliest known reference to Sino-ri as a weapons test facility—a role that it apparently intermittently played up to the present day. Although FROG units deployed at Sino-ri at this time were located within the KPA’s VIII Corps, they were directly subordinate to the General Staff Department’s Artillery Command.9 The Sino-ri FROG-7 battalions are reported to have trained not only within the base but also in areas throughout North Pyongan province. Training exercises were sometimes conducted jointly with FROG-3/-5/-6 units, as was the case during February 1982 when U.S. intelligence observed a training exercise at the “Komsan-dong Training Area SW 1” (39.757295, 125.023256), 31 kilometers to the northwest of Sino-ri: “At Komsan Dong training area SW 1, the FROG-3/-5 and FROG-7 training underway here [deleted] continues. Equipment includes four FROG-3/-5 transporter-erector-launchers (TEL), two FROG-7 TEL, three FROG-6 trainers, two FROG-3/-5 resupply semitrailers, two FROG-7 resupply vehicles, two truck-mounted cranes, and 19 trucks. Eleven trucks and eight vehicles are in a separate area on the other side of the Tongnae [Tongnae-gang] river immediately northeast of the FROG bivouac.” Sometime about 1983 North Korea acquired the Scud B—its first true short-range ballistic missile system (SRBM). During the mid-1980s it began production of a version of the system known domestically as the Hwasong-5. While production was in its initial stages, a Hwasong-5 unit was reportedly established at Sino-ri. As well as being an operational ballistic missile base, Sino-ri was reportedly involved in evaluating new equipment, developing operational procedures and tactics, and training personnel for soon to be established Hwasong-5 units. As the number of available Hwasong-5 missiles, their associated TELs, and new MELs (mobile-erector-launchers) slowly increased the unit at Sino-ri was expanded to regiment size. A Hwasong-5 regiment was established and deployed south of Pyongyang in 1988 and the construction of additional missile operating bases in North Hwanghae and Kangwon provinces along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) commenced. With the increased deployment of Hwasong-5s (and later Hwasong-6/Scud Cs) at Sino-ri, they displaced the existing FROG-7s, which were apparently redeployed south to bases in the II, III and IV Corps. Available information suggests that by the early-1990s the KPA had improved the missile support facilities at Sino-ri by constructing a small drive-through vehicle shed, three four-bay hardened vehicle shelters for TELs, and a small TEL driver training course—all along the slopes of Obong-san (Obong Mountain). With the development of the Nodong-1 MRBM (Hwasong-7), the process of deploying new missile types to Sino-ri was repeated, and the base became home to the KPA’s first Nodong missile unit during the mid-1990s.16 When U.S. intelligence first identified a field-deployed Nodong-1 TEL at Sino-ri, it precipitated a difference of opinion between US and South Korean intelligence as to the system’s operational status. While the U.S. assessed that the system had been operationally deployed at Sino-ri by the end of 1996, the South Korean side disagreed. By late 1998, both sides had narrowed their differences and reportedly agreed that the KPA had deployed a brigade-sized unit with 12 Nodong-1 TELs at the Sino-ri base by September 1997. Supporting this assessment, reports from the late 1990s indicated that the North had “… manufactured 20 Nodong missiles in 1997 and another 10 by the summer of 1998, and exported some of them to Iran or Pakistan.” According to documents released during September 1999 by the Ministry of National Defense to Representative Suh Chung-won of South Korea’s Grand National Party, the Nodong-1 unit at Sino-ri had 9 TELs with 50 missiles. This represents an approximate regiment-sized unit rather than a brigade as previously reported, and except for one curious set of reports released in 1999, all subsequent reports have cited these same figures. During October 1999, there was a report that a Taepodong-1 battalion with nine launchers was deployed at Sino-ri. However, this report was quickly denied by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense. This denial makes sense as the Taepodong-1 may have never been operationally deployed. From the late 1990s through 2006, the U.S. did not view the system as being operational, and in 2009, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) dropped it from the intermittently published Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat report. Almost all subsequent references to the Sino-ri missile operating base refer to Nodong (Rodong) missiles: “…the North recently deployed Rodong-1 missiles at four battalion groups in two strategic regions …one at Sino-ri, north of its capital Pyongyang and three other units at Tugol… ‘One battalion is thought to have nine launchers for Rodong-1 missiles’…” … Referencing the Sino-ri missile operating base, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense stated in March 2001 that, “The Rodong battalion, located at Sino-ri, is reportedly equipped with nine missile-launch pads. Considering that each launch pad can contain about four missiles, the battalion is estimated to have a total of 40 missiles at its disposal.” The KPA reportedly conducted its first combined “Command Post Exercise (CPX)” with elements from both the Nodong and SCUD brigades during 2002. As the reported headquarters of the Nodong brigade, it is likely that the units based at Sino-ri participated in this exercise. Such CPXs would subsequently become part of the annual training exercise for KPA missile units. In early September 2004, increased activity was observed at a number of KPA bases around the country. While not initially considered significant, this activity subsequently expanded to include the Sino-ri Nodong unit. “On 21 September 2004, at the Nodong base located in the hills at Sino-ri, Unjon County, North Pyongan Province, 100 kilometers north of Pyongyang, detected was activity such as movement from underground tunnel hangers of several TEL-mounted missiles, communications equipment, trucks loaded with fuel, and troop movements. U.S. reconnaissance satellite and wireless intelligence analysis revealed joint exercises were underway at not only the Sino-ri Base but at Musudan-ri and Wonsan missile launching units and army, navy, and air bases in about 10 locations with Sino-ri Base serving as the combat command center.” This activity was also assumed by some to be an indication of preparations for a Nodong missile training launch. However, no launch took place and this activity was finally assessed as being associated with a larger-than-normal nationwide exercise that included a major ballistic missile component. Four years later, during April 2008, the media again reported activity involving the Sino-ri Nodong unit that suggested an impending training launch. Once again, no launch took place and the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff quickly issued a cautionary statement that “[they had not] confirmed reports of signs of North Korea preparing for a missile launch in Shinori [Sino-ri].” Subsequently, minor infrastructure developments continued at the Sino-ri missile operating base. From 2010 to 2011, excavation for two large structures began 140 meters east of the T-shaped drive-through shed. By 2014, however, only one medium-sized storage shed was built, and this area has remained unchanged since. In September 2012, the Sino-ri missile operating base was once again described as being the headquarters of a Nodong missile regiment. Two years later, a source of uncertain reliability stated that Nodong “…equipment is currently stored in a tunnel located in Sino-ri, Unjon-gun, Pyongbukdo.” Then on March 26, 2014, North Korea conducted a training launch of two Nodong missiles from the Sukchon area 30 kilometers southeast of Sino-ri. A former senior official from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service stated that it appeared that the launch was conducted by elements from the Sino-ri Nodong missile unit. The following year, between February 8 and May 8, 2015, North Korea conducted an extended ballistic missile training/testing campaign launching a total of 13 Hwasong-11 (KN-02), Hwasong-6, and Pukkuksong-1 (KN-11) missiles. In the middle of this campaign, in March, activity was observed at the Sino-ri missile operating base, where a Nodong missile was reportedly loaded onto a TEL. Though this action was thought to be an indicator of a forthcoming launch exercise of the system at the time, no launch was conducted. Most recently, in November 2018, it was suggested that the Sino-ri missile operating base might have a relationship with the development and fielding of the Pukkuksong-2. Such a relationship would appear logical as the TEL for the system was manufactured at the No. 95 Factory, 45 kilometers to the northwest. Additionally, crew and driver training for the TEL and ejection testing of the missile were undertaken at the nearby Iha-ri Driver Training and Test Facility. The relationship, if any, between the Sino-ri missile operating base and the Pukkuksong-2, however, remains to be determined. … Oftentimes detailed organizational information for KPA ballistic missile units is nonexistent or, if available, is inconsistent. Preliminary data suggests that this is not only because of KPA camouflage, concealment, and deception practices (CCD), but also because KPA ballistic missile unit organizational structures do not necessarily neatly fit into Western organizational structures of battalion, regiment, and brigade. Rather, they may fit somewhere in between these Western structures or be organized around a base structure. Regardless, since the late 1990s, the term “battalion” is most often used in reports describing the Nodong unit stationed at Sino-ri. These same reports, however, also cite 9 TELs/MELs, suggesting a regiment-sized unit consisting of a headquarters, service elements, and three missile battalions. Each battalion would thus consist of a headquarters, battery, and three firing batteries—each with a single Nodong-1 TEL/MEL. This would suggest a personnel strength of approximately 550 and 9 Nodong-1 TELs/MELs.” (Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha and Lisa Collins, “Undeclared North Korea: The Sino-ri Operating Base and Strategic Force Facilities,” CSIS, January 21, 2019)


1/22/19:
Kim Hyok Chol, a former North Korean Ambassador to Spain had accompanied the North’s ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol on his visit to Washington, appearing with the vice chairman in a meeting with President Donald Trump on January 18. His appearance had triggered speculations that he may have come as a new negotiator in charge of U.S. relations. Kim, the North’s former ambassador to Spain, was expelled from the European country in September 2017, after Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 and launched a long-range ballistic missile over Japan on September 15. While not much has been revealed about Kim aside from his expulsion, Thae Yong-ho, the North’s former deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom who defected to the South in 2016, claimed Kim is a veteran strategic planner in foreign policy who comes from the elite family of a high-ranking official. According to Thae, Kim majored in French at Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, and entered the Foreign Ministry there in the early 2000s. Kim was the first ministry official to be promoted to a deputy ministerial rank in his 30s. Kim’s father was a high-ranking official who worked in the international department of the North’s ruling party and served as an ambassador to Cambodia in the early 2000s. “Kim is a strategic figure systematically trained by Ri Yong-ho (North’s foreign minister) and Kim Gye Gwan (North’s first vice foreign minister),” Thae explained in a post on his blog January 25. Regarding Kim’s appearance, experts have differing views on Kim’s role and the communist regime’s direction in the negotiating process with the U.S. “North Koreans have seemed to develop an allergy toward working level talks with the U.S. regardless of counterpart. I think a lot of people are going to see this as a sign of further resistance by North Korea to effective working level engagement,” Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview with the Voice of America. Gary Samore, a former White House official who participated in the 1994 North Korea nuclear agreement, also told the news outlet that Kim’s appointment was intended to adjust the level of negotiators, saying Choe is a “too senior official.” “Choe outranks Stephen Biegun. I see that (the appointment of Kim) as an indication that the North Koreans have identified an official at Stephen Biegun’s level,” Samore said. Thae, however, stressed that Kim would not be “replacing” Choe, as some claim, but that they would be dividing roles. “Kim is likely to take charge of the bigger approach plans, such as building trust before denuclearization, and Choe will work on the details of each deal that is to be made with the US,” Thae said. The North’s vice foreign minister had attended the bilateral or trilateral working-level meeting with Biegun and Lee Do-hoon, Seoul’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, in Sweden on Jan. 19. Hong Min, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, agreed they would both take on duties but said that Kim would be the negotiator dealing with details of the denuclearization process and Choe would take on more comprehensive agenda items. “The denuclearization process is a very sensitive and technical topic and political at the same time. Each sequence of the denuclearization move should be carefully planned for North Korea,” Hong told Korea Herald. “Choe is a veteran negotiator who has participated in big summits from the past, so I believe it is more likely that Choe continues to take charge in drawing the bigger picture for the North while Kim focuses on planning the details of the denuclearization.” (Jo He-rim, “Former N.K. Ambassador Likely to Divide Roles in U.S. Negotiations with Choe: Experts,” Korea Herald, January 27, 2019) Kim Hyok Chol, who is believed to have become the new interlocutor to lead negotiations with the United States, has worked for the country’s State Affairs Commission chaired by leader Kim Jong Un, diplomatic sources said January 28. By entrusting talks with the United States to a senior official belonging to a core state organization, Kim Jong Un appears intent on showing his strong commitment to a planned second summit with President Donald Trump, set to be held as early as next month. The State Affairs Commission, whose chairman is Kim Jong Un, is an organization that discusses and determines key national policies. It was transformed from the National Defense Commission in 2016 following a constitutional revision. Kim Hyok Chol is in his late 40s. In the 2000s, he joined a delegation to the six-party talks. The former Foreign Ministry official was appointed ambassador to Spain at a relatively young age, but he was expelled in 2017 in the wake of international sanctions aimed at stopping Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon and missile development. After returning to North Korea, he started working for the State Affairs Commission, the sources said. (Inoue Tomotaro, “New North Korean Point Man on U.S. Works for Kim Jong Un’s Policymaking Unit,” Kyodo, January 28, 2019)

North Korea has replaced an envoy handling negotiations with the United States ahead of the second summit between their leaders, an informed source said today. The new representative is Kim Hyok Chol, who previously served as the first North Korean ambassador to Spain, according to the source privy to North Korea-Spain relations. “It’s a mystery to us,” the source told Yonhap, referring to the sudden switch of interlocutors. Stephen Biegun’s counterpart was widely believed to be Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, a seasoned diplomat who played a key role in preparations for last year’s first summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Biegun and Choe met for the first time in Sweden over the weekend, presumably for talks on the next summit, planned for late February. It’s unclear whether Choe still has a role in the bilateral negotiations. She and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim held several rounds of talks ahead of the Singapore summit in June to produce an accord for their leaders. Kim Hyok-chol was ambassador to Spain until 2017, when he was expelled from the country over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests. He was part of the delegation that accompanied Kim Yong-chol, a close aide to the North Korean leader, to Washington last week, which raised speculation he is now in charge of protocol or U.S. relations at the North Korean foreign ministry. The apparent switch from Choe to Kim was revealed today by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told the World Economic Forum in Davos that Biegun had the opportunity to meet with his “newly designated counterpart” during Kim Yong-chol’s visit to Washington. The two men discussed “some of the complicated issues towards achieving what the two leaders laid out back last June in Singapore,” Pompeo said. (Lee Haye-ah, “N. Korea’s Envoy Replaced ahead of 2nd Trump-Kim Summit,” Yonhap, January 23, 2019)

Pompeo: “MR BRENDE: Mr. Secretary, it is with deep appreciation that I welcome you to our annual meeting here in Davos. In the 49-year history of the forum, we have only done video links less than 10 times, always under exceptional circumstances. … We will hear from you for brief opening remarks where we look forward to hearing your vision regarding the future global architecture, which will be followed by a discussion. Secretary, the floor is yours, and welcome. … POMPEO: As you all know, we face many new threats, some of them not so new. They range from North Korea’s nuclear program, to Iran’s foreign adventurism, to China’s state-centered economic model, its belligerence toward its neighbors, and its embraces of a totalitarian state at home. Radical Islamic terrorism remains a persistent threat that we will continue to fight together. In all of these areas we’re making progress. But none of this progress could have happened without beautiful coalitions in which America has played a central role. Collectively, we have exerted maximum pressure on North Korea, and that pressure has gotten Kim to the negotiating table. The United Nations did amazing work, acting as the center of gravity for sanctions that built out this global coalition. We’ve also assembled a global coalition of nations to confront Iran and support the aspirations of the Iranian people. And we’re rebalancing the relationship with China, alongside partner nations in Asia and all around the world. … BRENDE: Thank you, Secretary. We’re very pleased that you have joined us, and it does look brisk there. And you also mentioned China in your short intervention, and I know from all participants here in Davos there is huge interest in the Sino-U.S. relationship. We see that growth is slowing in China. We also know that there will be a trade delegation visiting DC later this year. So from your perspective as Secretary of State, how do you see the role of China in the world today as an emerging regional and global power, and also in relationship to the U.S.-Sino relationship? POMPEO: Borge, there are those who say that conflict, superpower conflict between our two countries, is inevitable. We don’t see it that way. We want to find places where we can work together. You talked about the trade delegation coming. I am optimistic that we’ll receive them well and that we’ll have a good outcome from those conversations. But remember, the course of the relationship will be determined by the principles that America standbys — stands by: free and open seas, the capacity for nations to take their goods around the world, fair and reciprocal trade arrangements where every country has the opportunity to compete on a fair, transparent, and open basis. These principles of democracy, these things that have created so much wealth for the whole globe, will drive the relationship between the United States and China in the years ahead, and we hope that China will adopt policies that are consistent with that. If they do, I am very confident that our two nations can thrive and prosper together. … BRENDE: Secretary, know that you personally have shown a lot of leadership when it comes to North Korea and the DPRK. History was made last June when President Trump met with Chairman Kim Jong-un, which a lot of hope for improvements of the security situation in the Korean Peninsula was established. Expectations, as I said, were high. We know that the President will meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un late in February. I think there is a lot of curiosity. Maybe you can shed some light on the next steps you envisage when President Trump meets again with the chairman, and maybe you can also let us know where it’s going to happen. POMPEO: Borge, I don’t have any news to break today on that front, but I can say this: The negotiations have been underway for some time now. There’s lots of discussions that have taken place. When Kim Yong-chol visited Washington last week, we made further progress not only in the discussions that he had with the President, but Special Representative Biegun had the opportunity to meet with his newly designated counterpart as well, where they were able to discuss some of the complicated issues towards achieving what the two leaders laid out back last June in Singapore. And so we have a handful of weeks before the two leaders will meet together again. A set of discussions that took place in Sweden over the weekend have now wrapped up. Again, a little bit more progress. There remains an awful lot of work to do, but good things have happened already. The North Koreans aren’t conducting missile tests. The North Koreans aren’t conducting nuclear tests. There are many steps yet along the way towards achieving the denuclearization that was laid out in Singapore and in achieving the security and stability and peace on the peninsula that the two leaders agreed to as well. We’re determined to work towards achieving that. I believe at the end of February we’ll have another good marker along the way. BRENDE: Thank you. When Professor Schwab and I met with you in your office in December, planning for your visit here in Davos, we also touched on a possibility for private sector to contribute, if there was a breakthrough. Any further reflections on that? POMPEO: We did have a good conversation about that, Borge. There’s not much role for the private sector today, but if we’re successful, if we can make a substantial step towards achieving the denuclearization and create the right conditions, it’ll be the private sector that sits there, looming in the background, that I know the North Koreans understand they need, whether that’s power for the people of the country, whether it’s to install the infrastructure that is so desperately needed in North Korea. Those things will certainly have a government component to them, but there’ll be an enormous private sector push that will be required to achieve the economic growth in North Korea that will ultimately lead to the stability that we’re all looking for. And so the specter, the specter of private sector companies who are prepared to invest in North Korea and to assist North Korea if we’re able to achieve that full denuclearization that I know the entire world wants, the private sector will be an important player in achieving the final elements of the agreement as well.” (DoS, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Remarks to the World Economic Forum, Washington, January 22, 2019)

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia dashed Japanese hopes of a settlement any time soon to a territorial dispute that has festered since 1945, declaring after a meeting with the visiting Prime Minister Abe Shinzo that there was still much “painstaking work” ahead. In his remarks to reporters, Putin gave no sign that Russia might accede to Tokyo’s demand that it relinquish Japanese islands seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. He said that any agreement must have support from the public, which in Russia, according to a November opinion poll, is strongly opposed to returning any islands to Japan. Abe, whose father, Abe Shintaro, spent years trying in vain to settle the territorial dispute with Russia while serving as Japan’s foreign minister, has made improving relations with Moscow a priority. But he, too, conceded today that “resolving a problem left unresolved for over 70 years since the end of the war is not easy.” Putin had previously raised Japanese hopes of reclaiming at least a small portion of what it calls its “Northern Territories” and what Russians refer to as the Southern Kuriles, a chain of islands off Japan’s northern prefecture of Hokkaido. But any settlement involving the surrender of territory would collide with the central pillars of Russia’s state ideology under Putin: a commitment to rebuilding Russia as a great power, ceaseless celebration of Moscow’s victory in the war, and rejection of anything that might challenge the outcome of that conflict. Putin, who has met with Abe four times in the past six months, has spoken frequently of his desire to attract more Japanese investment, particularly to bolster the flagging economic fortunes of deprived areas of the Russian Far East. A deal over the Kurile Islands with Japan, which would allow the two countries to finally sign a peace treaty formally ending World War II, would also give Russia other large potential benefits, not least the possibility that Japan, a close ally of the United States, would be more receptive to Moscow’s views on issues like missile defense. While closely allied with the United States, Japan has been far less critical of Moscow than have Europe and America. Putin and Abe have met 25 times and the Russian leader has praised Abe as a “friend,” a term he rarely uses for Western leaders. Osuga Takeshi, a spokesman for the Japanese prime minister’s delegation in Moscow, told reporters late today that the fate of the Kurile Islands had been discussed during talks lasting nearly three hours in the Kremlin, but he declined to say whether Putin had accepted the possibility of returning territory. The prospect that Russia might return two small islands to Japan has outraged hardline Russian nationalists, who gathered in Moscow two days ago to curse Putin and demand that Moscow hang on to all its territorial gains from 1945. “World War II is sacred. The view is that if we got something as a result of the war we can’t give it up because that would only undermine the greatness of our victory,” said Alexander Verkhovsky, the director of the Sova Center, a Moscow research group that monitors Russian nationalist groups. Hardline nationalists, emboldened by the seizure of Crimea but embittered by Putin’s reluctance to grab more territory from Ukraine, have scant popular support. But they still present a potential danger for the Kremlin at a time of growing economic hardship and widespread public anger over the overhaul of Russia’s pension system. “Putin unleashed so many nationalist forces after Crimea he needs to be careful,” said Alexander Gabuev, an Asia expert at the Moscow Carnegie Center. “His hands are really bound by nationalist sentiment and the fact that his ratings are going down.”mong those speaking at the protest rally was Igor Girkin, a former military intelligence officer who helped ignite the Russian-backed separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Now back in Russia, Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, commands a small but noisy following of self-declared patriots committed to expanding Russian territory and resisting, by force if necessary, any accommodation with the West. “I will say just one thing. If the authorities decide, against the will of the overwhelming majority of the people, to hand over to the Japanese two, one, even a piece of the Kurile Islands, we will not stop at any action, lawful or unlawful,” he told flag-waving protesters. A group of demonstrators from The Other Russia, a political party founded by writer Eduard Limonov and whose red flag features a hand grenade, held up a large banner declaring Hokkaido, an integral part of Japanese territory, a “Russian island.” Moscow and Tokyo agreed in 1956 to put an end to their wartime hostility and that two small parts of the territory near Hokkaido — Habomai and Shikotan — would be handed back to Japan after the signing of a formal peace treaty. The treaty, however, was never signed, leaving Russia in control of all the islands. Hopes of a breakthrough rose last year when Putin announced in Vladivostok that the two countries should sign a peace treaty by the end of 2018. Abe, after a November meeting with Putin in Singapore, told reporters that he and the Russian leader had revived peace talks based on the 1956 agreement, suggesting that Moscow might give up two islands. Gabuev, the Moscow-based Asia expert, said that Putin had simply been “toying” with Abe, raising hopes of an agreement in an effort to sow discord between Japan and the United States. Analysts in Tokyo, however, said that a deal might make sense, in the current geopolitical environment, for both nations. “It’s a kind of a compromise solution for the Japanese side,” said Shimotomai Nobuo, a specialist in Russian-Japanese relations at Hosei University in Tokyo. But with the rising power of China, he said, and a new Cold War between China and the United States, “Japan and Moscow have good reason to have a kind of counterweighting relationship with regard to other great powers.” (Andrew Higgins, “Putin Politely Dashes Abe’s Hopes of Ending Island Dispute,” New York Times, January 23, 2019, p. A-8)


1/23/19:
KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, met the delegation to the second DPRK-U.S. high-level talks that had visited Washington D.C. of the United States. On January 23, Supreme Leader of the Party, state and army Kim Jong Un met the members of the delegation led by Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee, and listened to the results of the visit. He was reported about the details of the visit during which the delegation visited the White House, met the U.S. president and discussed the issue for the second DPRK-U.S. summit and also had negotiations with the U.S. working group on a series of issues to be settled between the two countries. He was presented by Kim Yong Chol a personal letter sent to him by President of the United States of America Donald Trump. Upon receiving the good personal letter sent by President Trump, the Supreme Leader expressed great satisfaction. He spoke highly of President Trump for expressing his unusual determination and will for the settlement of the issue with a great interest in the second DPRK-U.S. summit. Kim Jong Un said that we will believe in the positive way of thinking of President Trump, wait with patience and in good faith and, together with the U.S., advance step by step toward the goal to be reached by the two countries of the DPRK and the U.S. Expressing satisfaction over the results of the talks and activities done by the DPRK delegation in Washington D.C., the U.S., he set forth tasks and orientation for making good technical preparations for the second DPRK-U.S. summit high on the agenda.” (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Meets Delegation to 2nd DPRK-U.S. High-Level Talks,” January 24, 2019)

The United Nations Security Council has granted sanctions exemptions to four humanitarian organizations for relief activities in North Korea, its website showed today. A U.N. committee handling sanctions on North Korea approved the waiver requests from the organizations — the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Eugene Bell Foundation, Christian Friends of Korea, and the Canadian NGO First Steps Health Society — on January 18, according to its website. The exemptions allow shipments of items to North Korea for the groups’ humanitarian programs, including those to combat tuberculosis and malaria in the impoverished country, according to the website. The list of items approved for UNICEF’s shipment to North Korea includes computers and televisions for hospital use, as well as nine ambulances worth US$205,740. The total items are worth some $520,000. Items approved for the Eugene Bell Foundation include microphones and loudspeakers. Detailed lists of items allowed for Christian Friends of Korea and First Steps Health Society were not immediately available. The latest series of approvals raised the total number of humanitarian exemptions related to North Korea in effect to six. The exemptions are valid for six months. Humanitarian activities are not banned under international sanctions, but related materials are subject to sanctions waivers from the U.N. Aid organizations have said that multilayered sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear provocations are affecting their operations through a disruption of banking channels, a breakdown in supply chains and delays in the transportation of goods. (Yonhap, “UN Grants Sanctions Exemptions for Humanitarian Aid to N. Korea,” January 23, 2019)


1/24/19:
South Korea’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos that she is optimistic that North Korea will agree to concrete steps toward abandoning its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, developed in violation of United Nations resolutions. “The (North Korean) leader has promised to his people many times that ‘I’m going to take this country toward economic development’. He has to deliver that, and he’s not going to get the kind of significant assistance unless he takes concrete steps toward denuclearization and somehow eases the sanctions regime,” she said on Thursday. “Given the strong political will on the part of the top leaders of the two sides … I think we will see concrete results.” Kang said she had been heartened by a recent flurry of diplomacy, “I think the Sweden meeting was very useful,” she said. “So I feel much better about the situation.” Despite the slow pace of talks since the June summit, North Korea and the United States could still reach a “comprehensive” denuclearization deal that includes Pyongyang declaring the extent of its nuclear arsenal, Kang said. “Full disclosure has to be a part of the process,” she said, while noting that the implementation of any comprehensive plan would be “step by step”, with each side making corresponding concessions. During his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last September, Kim said North Korea would allow experts to watch the closure of its missile engine testing site and launch pad in the northwestern town of Tongchang-ri. Should there be corresponding action from Washington, the North suggested it could also permanently disclose the Yongbyon facility. “I think we need to take that word, and make sure that that progresses,” Kang said. She said North Korea has yet to take steps that would warrant lifting international sanctions, but that Washington could offer several incentives short of sanctions relief. “We’ve been in close consultations with the U.S. at all levels to see what these steps could be — a big part of this would be security guarantees to North Korea,” Kang said. South Korea has proposed that the United States sign a declaration formally ending the technical state of war, increase humanitarian aid, and establish U.S.-North Korea liaison offices, Kang said. “If we do see real steps that assure us that North Korea is definitely on the denuclearization track, I think we can start thinking about sanctions relief,” she said. “But before that, there are many other things that we can do.” (Soyoung Kim, “South Korea Looks for Kim Nuclear Dismantling Pledge at Next Trump Summit,” January 24, 2019)

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun held talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou following working-level nuclear talks with his North Korean counterpart in Sweden. The meeting of the chief nuclear negotiators of Washington and Beijing has raised the possibility that China will participate in the future nuclear talks where they will also discuss the establishment of a multilateral peace regime. The State Department said today (local time) that Biegun met with Kong Xuanyou in Washington to address “efforts toward advancing the final, fully verified denuclearization (FFVD)” of North Korea. It added that the two nuclear envoys discussed the results of the U.S.-North Korea working-level talks held last Friday in Washington D.C. as well as the developments between the United States and the North and the North and China. Biegun and Kong also discussed the importance of continuing UNSC sanctions implementation, the State Department said. Washington seems to have reconfirmed its principle of maintaining sanctions until the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearization while discussing the possible “carrot” for the regime, which is likely to be discussed at a second U.S.-North Korea summit. Kong’s trip to Washington to meet with Biegun apparently signals that China keeps a careful eye on the recent denuclearization talks and wants to engage in the negotiation process. Observers also point out that North Korea appears to have recently replaced Vice Foreign Minister Choi Sun Hee with Kim Hyok Chol, former ambassador to Spain, to negotiate with Washington in an attempt to seek a two-track process for denuclearization and the establishment of a multilateral peace regime. Gary Samore, former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons for mass destruction, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia today that if Trump and Kim, at their second summit, agrees to hold a two-plus-two meeting with South Korea and China to discuss a peace regime, the North is likely to send Choi as a negotiator. (Dong-A Ilbo, “China Brings Itself Closer to Table for Denuke,” January 26, 2019)


1/25/19:
John Bolton: “Tim Constantine: What role has China played in negotiations with North Korea and moving forward, what role should they play? JB: In past negotiations they played a very significant effort, part of the six party talks. President Trump has tried a different approach. The six party talks obviously failed, so he has been negotiating directly with Kim Jong-un. The Chinese tell us that they agree with the press for denuclearization. We certainly say to them on every occasion that we want them to maintain the international economic sanctions against North Korea very tightly. Watch the border, as President Trump says to them, and that is the position we are going to continue to take as we get ready for the second summit between the President and Kim Jong-un. Tim Constantine: That is tentatively set for late February. The President has said we have made significant progress in our talks for denuclearization for North Korea. Can you define what progress we have made? JB: President Trump, I think, has said repeatedly that North Korea has not engaged in nuclear tests. North Korea has not engaged in missile tests. What we need from North Korea is a significant sign of a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons and it is when we get that denuclearization that the President can begin to take the sanctions off. Tim Constantine: Can we trust Kim Jong-un? JB: It’s the sort of thing where the negotiation really is between the President and Kim Jong-un. He is prepared to engage in this negotiation. If I was Kim Jong-un, I would not think of crossing the President.” (Tim Constantine, “John Bolton Explains Trump’s Strategy on North Korea, China Trade,” Washington Times, January 25, 2019)


1/27/19:
As Donald Trump seeks progress with North Korea at a second summit, the United States has a series of cards it can play including easing sanctions, signing a peace declaration or even pulling troops from South Korea. Washington policymakers are adamant on the need for tangible concessions by Pyongyang on its nuclear program at the sequel meeting, which Trump says will take place around late February, with Vietnam the most likely venue. North Korea watchers believe that Kim’s primary goal is relief from international sanctions and doubt he will suddenly give up his nuclear arsenal, which his dynastic regime has built for decades even through famine. The sanctions “are not strong enough to create serious economic problems in the country, but they are strong enough to make economic growth difficult or unachievable,” said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul who studied in Pyongyang. “In order to maintain stability in the country and to stay in power, the North Koreans know they will have to end or at least narrow the yawning gap between their economy and the economies of the neighboring countries, especially South Korea and China,” he said. When Kim met Trump, the first-ever summit between the two nations, North Korea was seen as seeking a treaty or at least statement formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice. But Victor Cha, the director of Asian studies at Georgetown University and former U.S. negotiator with North Korea, said a peace declaration was ultimately symbolic. “I don’t think they would say no to it. A peace declaration would be a sign of non-hostile intent. But they want tangible evidence of non-hostile intent, which would be removing some of the sanctions,” Cha said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed no let-up in sanctions until North Korea denuclearizes. And many U.S. sanctions involve human rights or corruption laws and cannot be lifted without intervention by Congress, which is unlikely to be sympathetic. But Cha said the United States could offer relief indirectly through South Korea’s dovish government, working at the United Nations to remove sanctions that impede the restart of inter-Korean projects such as the Kaesong industrial complex. The US is already preparing to ease restrictions on humanitarian aid and could offer to exchange liaison offices with Pyongyang, a step before diplomatic relations. Trump points to North Korea’s halt of missile and nuclear tests as progress, two years after fears soared of war. US officials want a full accounting of all North Korean weapons sites as well as inspections. But experts fear North Korea will agree only on dismantling outdated facilities while keeping its capacities. In 2008, North Korea invited international media to watch as it blew up a cooling tower at Yongbyon, which remains the regime’s main nuclear site. South Korea and Japan have increasingly wondered if Trump — who has made “America First” his guiding worldview — would focus on ridding North Korea of its fast-moving program of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which threaten the mainland United States. Pompeo in recent interviews has described North Korea diplomacy as a way to protect Americans. “Fairly or unfairly, that’s being interpreted by our allies as a potential US willingness to cut a deal that only protects America and disregards the safety of our allies,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. The summit also comes amid a prolonged impasse in negotiations on how much South Korea should pay the United States to maintain its 28,500 troops in the country. “There are concerns that Trump may be so eager for a success that he may agree to signing a peace declaration, signing an ICBM-only agreement and even reducing US forces on the peninsula either in return for perhaps a freeze on Yongbyon production or in response to the ongoing stalemate in Seoul,” Klingner said. Trump is a longstanding skeptic on the cost value of alliances and is demanding more from South Korea. But any promise by Trump to Kim to pull out troops would likely meet wide opposition in Congress, fury from Japan’s conservative government and quiet unease from South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in is more supportive of the US presence than previous left-wing leaders. And it is not even a given that North Korea would welcome a withdrawal. Lankov said that Pyongyang saw US forces on the peninsula as a counterweight to China — its closest ally, but which Pyongyang views as a longer-term concern. (Shaun Tandon, “Sanctions, Peace Deal on Card for New U.S.-N. Korea Summit,” January 27, 2019)


1/28/19:
The Trump administration is quietly preparing a special “economic package” designed to entice North Korean leader Kim Jong-un into taking specific steps toward dismantling his nuclear weapons program when he and President Trump meet for their highly anticipated second summit. The initiative, spearheaded by Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, has already been touted in private working-level talks with the North Koreans and involves creating a kind of escrow account to prove to Kim that the U.S. and its allies are truly committed to rewarding Pyongyang economically if it comes through on denuclearization, The Washington Times has learned. While the State Department has not commented publicly, sources familiar with the plan say it centers on securing guarantees for billions of dollars’ worth of cash contributions from Japan, South Korea, the European Union and others that would go toward North Korean infrastructure and development projects. “These are guarantees that can be waved under Kim’s nose to assure him of the pot of gold waiting for him on the other side of the rainbow,” said one of the sources. Several said there is a consensus within the administration about the need to “incentivize” Kim, following a lack of concrete progress on the reducing the North’s nuclear and missile arsenals after the first Trump-Kim summit last June in Singapore. The administration has weighed the establishment of a pure cash escrow account filled with assets seized through the enforcement of international sanctions against North Korea, but there’s a catch. Analysts say the North Korean state is so poor that such assets don’t amount to the kind of money seized in past sanctions campaigns against other rogue nations — most notably Iran. While U.S.-led sanctions against Iran resulted in more than $1 billion of seized cash assets that were used to lure the Iranian regime into concluding a nuclear deal during the Obama administration, such assets don’t exist when it comes to North Korea. Because of this, the “logical move for the U.S. to follow toward incentivizing Kim is to say, ‘Our allies and friends are willing to put money in a global bank account in escrow with your name on it, Chairman Kim, to be released in exchange for meaningful denuclearization steps,’” said Patrick Cronin, the head of Asia-Pacific Security at the Hudson Institute in Washington. “What those steps ultimately are, along with how much money is actually there,” said Cronin, “are things that can then be negotiated.” Some in the administration have suggested Trump is eager to find ways of encouraging Kim to make a deal. “What we need from North Korea is a significant sign of a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons, and it is when we get that denuclearization that the President can begin to take the sanctions off,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said in an interview published by The Washington Times on Friday. “It’s the sort of thing where the negotiation really is between the president and Kim Jong-un,” Bolton said. Trump “is prepared to engage in this negotiation.” Enter the behind-the-scenes push by Biegun for U.S. allies to guarantee cash contributions for North Korea. “By setting up an ability to give a substantive promise to the North Koreans in return for action, we are able to stop the problem of giving something to them for nothing,” said David Maxwell, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel and North Korea expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. “It makes sense that we’re setting up a promise to provide them with what is apparently a huge amount of money and resources, but they have to take substantive action to benefit from that,” Maxwell said. Michael Pillsbury, a long-time regional expert also at the Hudson Institute, praised Biegun’s approach at a moment when Kim himself may be facing challenges from within the regime who fear he is being “tricked by Trump.” “Biegun is a man of action and he’s showing bold creative initiative to fill a vacuum,” Pillsbury said in an interview. “To me, it sounds like he is seeking ways to present incentives that Kim and his entourage will be persuaded by, and that’s a very creative way to seek leverage over the very black box that is Kim and his advisers.” “There is historical precedent for asking the Japanese, South Koreans and Europeans to contribute,” said Maxwell, although he noted the 1994 deal ultimately failed when North Korea was found to have cheated before it was fully implemented. One source familiar with the negotiations said the largest guarantee being sought this time around is from Japan and could value several billion dollars for reconstruction and economic development investments in North Korea. “Japan is being specifically pushed to commit what would be otherwise considered reparation money for North Korea, similar to the way that Japan paid South Korea when those two nations restored diplomatic relations,” the source said. The Japanese reparation funds, which amounted to roughly $500 million given to South Korea in 1964, were designed to foster economic development and compensate for the brutality that marked Japan’s occupation and attempted colonization of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and the end of World War II. If Tokyo were to now promise a similar package for North Korea, it would amount to more than $3 billion when adjusted for inflation. It’s still unclear whether Japan will agree to that kind of money, particularly in light of potential political hang-ups over the emotional, unresolved issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North Korean regime. “There are still a handful of these abductees known to be in North Korea — people the regime has captured and used to train North Korean intelligence services in Japanese language and culture to prepare to go spy in Japan,” Maxwell said. “This is a very sensitive issue for Tokyo. If it gets resolved, then I believe Japan would be more willing to pay reparations to North Korea.” There are signs Japan is eager for a resolution: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Monday for “break[ing] the shell of mutual mistrust in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile issue, and the most important issue of abduction.” “The goal is to settle the unfortunate history with North Korea and normalize diplomatic relations,” Abe said in a speech to Parliament, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. According to Cronin, Japan and others can be expected to offer substantial cash guarantees for North Korea if they see “serious steps” being taken by the Kim regime. If Pyongyang were, for instance, to dismantle specific missile systems that threaten the Japanese mainland, he said, “then I think Japan would be willing to promise some sizeable money.” But Cronin stressed that talks on a specific deal are still at a very early and limited stage. “Detailed discussions with North Korea right now have been exceedingly difficult,” he said. “I’m concerned that if the Trump administration goes into a second summit without meaningful denuclearization steps already in hand, it will be giving North Korea the advantage.” “In the first summit, in Singapore, the president could get away with breaking the ice,” he added. “With the second summit, you don’t get that pass. If you don’t come away with something really tangible, you really look like you’re being taken for a ride by the Kim family playbook — and I think the administration knows that.” (Guy Taylor, “Team Trump Quietly Filling ‘Pot of Gold’ Encouraging Kim Jong Un to Denuclearize,” Washington Times, January 28, 2019)

The UN Security Council has granted a sanctions exemption for an inter-Korean project to excavate Korean War remains in the Demilitarized Zone, a diplomatic source said today.

The UNSC made the decision last week as Seoul sought the exemption to ensure that the delivery of equipment into the communist state for the project will not be impeded by anti-Pyongyang sanctions. The Koreas plan to carry out the project in Arrowhead Ridge, a notorious battle site of the 1950-53 Cold War conflict, from April to October under last year’s bilateral military accord aimed at reducing tensions, preventing accidental clashes and building trust. During the “working-group” meeting via videoconferencing on January 17, Seoul and Washington reached a consensus over the sanctions exemption for the project. The excavation project is a key part of the inter-Korean military accord. The accord includes a series of confidence-building and arms control measures, including disarming the Joint Security Area, withdrawing some border guard posts and setting up air, maritime and ground buffer zones. (Yonhap, “UNSC Grants Sanctions Exemption for Inter-Korean Excavation in DMZ,” January 28, 2019)

Seoul and Washington last week confirmed that Pyongyang will scrap its Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts, a South Korean diplomatic source said January 28. That promise was one of several agreements reached by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last September in their third and most recent summit. The regime, however, has stayed quiet on the matter, as nuclear talks between the United States were deadlocked. The silence had left Pyongyang watchers wondering whether the regime would actually follow through and destroy the site. The South Korean diplomatic source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said nuclear envoys from the three countries exchanged a to-do list last week in the outskirts of the Swedish capital of Stockholm as they were attending a so-called Track 1.5 international conference on denuclearization. The list was said to have outlined the tasks that each country promised to complete in the three summits between the South and North and the historic summit between the North and the United States last year. In that process, the local source continued, Pyongyang said it was willing to carry out its promise to dismantle the Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and a launch pad while allowing outside experts to view the process. Whether a timeline was mentioned is not known. And Pyongyang also reaffirmed its will to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear plant if the United States offers reciprocal measures, reiterating Kim’s promise to Moon in their last summit. The three envoys agreed to continue further discussions in the near future. The main participant from North Korea in the Sweden talks was Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui. Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative on North Korea, and Lee Do-hoon, the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, were their countries’ main interlocutors. (Jeong Yong-soo and Lee Yoo-jeong, “North Korea to Destroy Its Main Missile Test Site,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 29, 2019)

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo Abe said his goal is to normalize relations with North Korea during his annual speech at the opening of parliament, Jiji Press reported. “I will act with determination and not miss the opportunity to break the shell of mutual distrust to resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile, as well as the all-important issue of the abduction [of Japanese citizens], by meeting directly with Kim Jong Un,” Abe told parliamentarians. The Japanese leader added he will “settle the unfortunate past” with the North and that his government will “closely cooperate with the international community, including the United States and South Korea,” to normalize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. (Elizabeth Shim, “Shinzo Abe Calls for Normalization of Ties with North Korea,” UPI, January 28, 2019)


1/29/19:
Russian officials made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall aimed at resolving deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration over the North’s nuclear weapons program, said U.S. officials familiar with the discussions. In exchange for North Korea dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant. The Russian offer, which intelligence officials became aware of in late 2018, marked a new attempt by Moscow to intervene in the high-stakes nuclear talks as it reasserts itself in a string of geopolitical flash points from the Middle East to South Asia to Latin America. It’s unclear how President Trump will view Moscow’s proposal. For months, he has embraced an unorthodox approach to the negotiations, but his aides are likely to strenuously oppose any major Russian role in a final agreement. As part of the deal, the Russian government would operate the plant and transfer all byproducts and waste back to Russia, reducing the risk that North Korea would use the power plant to build nuclear weapons, while providing the impoverished country a new energy source. “The Russians are very opportunistic when it comes to North Korea, and this is not the first time they’ve pursued an energy stake in Korea,” said Victor Cha, a former White House staffer whom the Trump administration considered nominating last year to serve as U.S. ambassador to South Korea. “Previous administrations have not welcomed these Russian overtures, but with Trump, you never know because he doesn’t adhere to traditional thinking,” Cha said. During negotiations with the Bush administration, Russia proposed providing a light-water reactor to North Korea in exchange for the dismantlement of the North’s plutonium production facilities, said Cha, who served in the Bush White House. “The U.S. was opposed to this,” he said, because it wanted Pyongyang to accept an alternative energy solution that did not include nuclear power. “I imagine the Russians want to provide a light-water reactor, make money off of it and get a foothold on the energy links in East Asia,” said Cha, who had not been briefed on the Russian proposal. One diplomat who focuses on Russia issues said Moscow’s involvement could help it argue against sanctions placed on it for interventions in Ukraine. “They may be trying to deal themselves back into the global game,” the diplomat said. “‘We helped save the world from North Korean nukes, so why the continued sanctions?’” In the past, U.S. officials have opposed a major role for Russia in the denuclearization process because of a long-standing distrust of Moscow, Cha said. China, a key player in the negotiations, has also opposed a prominent Russian energy role, though that could appeal to Trump. “If this is part of a final deal, Trump could be okay with it if it pokes China in the eye,” said Cha. “The Chinese don’t want the Russians on the peninsula, so if they’re going to be the primary energy supplier, they won’t like it.” Russia’s offer to North Korea, in late October, came as negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang deadlocked over when the North should disclose an inventory of its nuclear program. (John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima, “Russia Secretly Offered North Korea a Power Plant,” Washington Post, January 29, 2019)

The United States and North Korea will likely start preparing a joint statement of their leaders to be issued at their second bilateral summit scheduled for next month, the head of Seoul’s state spy agency said today. Suh Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), said he expected the two sides to begin discussing major topics for the proposed summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “I believe they will begin coordinating topics for the summit in order to draft a joint declaration in the North Korea-U.S. working level negotiations, along with their working-level preparations for the second North Korea-U.S. summit such as safety and protocols,” the NIS chief was quoted as telling the parliamentary intelligence committee. (Yonhap, “U.S., N. Korea Expected to Start Drafting Summit Agreement: NIS Chief,” January 29, 2019)

A new American intelligence assessment of global threats has concluded that North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear stockpiles and that Iran is not, for now, taking steps necessary to make a bomb, directly contradicting the rationale of two of President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. Those conclusions are part of an annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” released today. The 42-page threat report found that American trade policies and “unilateralism” — central themes of Trump’s “America First” approach — have strained traditional alliances and prompted foreign partners to seek new relationships. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee linked to the release of the report, the nation’s intelligence chiefs tried to avoid directly questioning administration policies. Yet they detailed a different ranking of the threats facing the United States. The starkest contradiction drawn by the intelligence chiefs was their assessment of North Korea. After his last meeting, in Singapore, Trump tweeted that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, described his concerns in opposite terms. He cited “some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization,” adding that most of what North Korea has dismantled is reversible. He said the North’s “leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.” Similarly, the threat review declared that “we currently assess North Korea will seek to retain its W.M.D. capability and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability.” Trump has often noted, accurately, that North Korea has suspended missile tests; its last major test was 14 months ago. But today, Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, said the government in Pyongyang “is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.” Haspel said it was encouraging that North Korea was communicating with the United States. But under questioning by Senator Kamala Harris, the California Democrat, Haspel said the diplomatic objective was still to insist that North Korea fully disclose and dismantle its nuclear program. (David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Intelligence Disputes Trump on Global Peril,” New York Times, January 30, 2019, p. A-1)


1/30/19:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be held in Asia next month. In an interview with Fox News, the top U.S. diplomat reaffirmed the plan to have the summit at the end of February and added, “We’ll do it someplace in Asia.” While media reports have speculated that Vietnam will host the meeting, it’s the first time that a U.S. official has revealed a location. “I am dispatching a team,” Pompeo said. “They’re headed that way now to lay the foundations for what I hope will be a substantial additional step towards the path for not only denuclearization of the peninsula, but a brighter future for the North Korean people and security on the peninsula in a way that no previous administration’s been able to achieve.” A senior official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said that high on the agenda for the upcoming preparatory working-level talks for the Trump-Kim summit may be the proposed dismantlement of the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear complex and the U.S.’ “corresponding measures” in return for that. During his third summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last September, Kim agreed to close the nuclear complex should the U.S. take measures correspondingly. “As the North first talked of (the shutdown of the complex), the talks will focus first on the Yongbyon issue and then move to other (issues),” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. Both Seoul and Washington will view the dismantlement of the complex, the crux of Pyongyang’s nuclear program, as “very significant” progress toward complete denuclearization, the official added. He, in addition, anticipated that the U.S. may take a number of “considerable steps” should the North shutter the nuclear facility. However, the U.S. still remains “adamant” when it comes to sanctions. “Though the U.S. and the North may discuss the whole of the sanctions, I can’t imagine the two sides negotiating over the resumption of the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong,” he said. (Yonhap, “Pompeo Says 2nd U.S>-N.K. Summit to Be Held in Asia,” January 31, 2019)

A former senior North Korean diplomat, known for decades of involvement in dealing with the United States, has been dropped from South Korea’s latest who’s who directory of North Korean officials amid a media report he was sent to a remote mine for ideological re-education. Former Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol, who served twice as deputy chief of the North’s mission at the United Nations in New York, was removed from the directory because he was believed to have been replaced by Choe Son Hui, a unification ministry official said today. Han has been absent from North Korean state media reports since his trip to Sweden in February last year. Today, Chosun Ilbo reported that Han and five other ranking North Korean officials were punished in September for unclear reasons and sent to a mine in South Hamgyong Province for ideological re-education. The paper said that a proposal Han submitted to leader Kim Jong-un with regard to talks with the U.S. might have been a reason for his punishment. But the unification ministry official said that he has no information to confirm the media report. Born in 1954, Han is known as a veteran diplomat handling U.S. affairs. He served as deputy head of the North’s mission to the United Nations twice. Ideological re-education is used in North Korea for punishing senior government officials by sending them to rural areas and forcing them to engage in harsh physical labor. They sometimes get reinstated but, in many cases, those sent for re-education cannot make a comeback. The mine where Han was reportedly sent is one of the toughest re-education places in North Korea, just shy of the brutal conditions of prison camps, the newspaper said, citing an anonymous North Korean defector. (Yonhap, “N.K. Official Handling U.S. Affairs Removed from Seoul’s Info Book amid Punishment Speculation,” January 30, 2019) “Kim is well-versed in nuclear issues, well-trained and a hard work,” said a diplomatic source who met Kim on several occasions during his post in Spain (2014-2017). Unlike other North Korean ambassadors, he is very knowledgeable in nuclear issues and immediately appeared as an expert. “Kim spoke fluent English describing all the terminology related to North Korean nuclear issues and spoke with no hesitation about the range of North Korea’s key missiles, including ICBM,” the diplomatic source explained. When someone commented that “North Korea should suspend provocation and come forward as a normal country,” Kim immediately objected, explaining the reason for North Korea’s nuclear development. Kim previously worked for the Bureau 9, which oversees foreign affairs strategy development, and was quickly promoted by earning trust from North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. He was known to have said that he was appointed to a key post at a relatively young age. He attended social events with his wife and lived with his children during his stay in Spain. (Gi-Jae Han, “Kim Hyok Chol Is an Expert on N. Korea Nuclear Issues, Sources Say,” Dong-A Ilbo, February 1, 2019)


1/31/19:
A top American diplomat signaled today that the United States might no longer demand that North Korea turn over a complete inventory of its nuclear assets as a first step in the denuclearization process that President Trump is pursuing. The diplomat, Stephen E. Biegun, said in his first public speech that “before the process of denuclearization can be final, we must have a complete understanding of the full extent of the North Korean W.M.D. and missile programs through a comprehensive declaration.” Biegun, appointed in August to be special representative for North Korea, was speaking to a room of North Korea experts at Stanford University. His reference to the timing of North Korea’s releasing a full list of its weapons of mass destruction indicates that the United States could be more flexible than it previously indicated about at what point in the negotiations the list is handed over. If American negotiators drop their demand that the list is an essential first step in denuclearization, that would remove one obstacle that has hampered diplomacy since a summit meeting last June between. Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. Based on Biegun’s statement, the requirement now is that North Korea give international officials the list sometime before it ends its nuclear program for good, a process that could take years. Biegun also reiterated the Trump administration’s position that it would “not lift sanctions until denuclearization is complete.” [?] It is unclear what American negotiators would demand as an initial step for Pyongyang to prove it is committed to denuclearization, if the inventory of nuclear assets is delayed. “Sequencing always confounds negotiators,” Biegun said after his speech in a question-and-answer session with Robert Carlin, a former intelligence analyst and policy adviser on North Korea. Last October, the South Korean foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, told the Washington Post that it would be better to leave the inventory until later in the process. “If you start with a list and then get into a huge discussion about verification, you’re still working at that level of a lack of trust,” she said. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea supports Kim’s request that the two Koreas and the United States issue an end-of-war declaration, a move that American officials are reluctant to support. The Korean War halted in 1953 with an armistice, and some Korea experts say the lack of an end-of-war declaration and formal peace announcement contributes to the present-day tensions. “Both the South Koreans and the North Koreans have made a very compelling case for starting the process with at least a declaration,” Jean H. Lee, a Korea expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said at a talk there yesterday. (Edward Wong, “U.S. Signals Less Urgency to Inventory Kim’s Arsenal,” New York Times, February 1, 2019, p. A12)

Biegun: “BIEGUN: Good afternoon. Thank you, Dr. Shin, and thank you to Stanford University and to the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center for inviting me here today. I want to add particular thanks to a few representatives of the university community who are here with us today, especially Dr. Sig Hecker, Bob Carlin, and my friend and former colleague, Andy Kim. … For our part, we have communicated to our North Korean counterparts that we are prepared to pursue — simultaneously and in parallel — all of the commitments our two leaders made in their joint statement at Singapore last summer, along with planning for a bright future for the Korean people and the new opportunities that will open when sanctions are lifted and the Korean Peninsula is at peace, provided that North Korea likewise fulfills its commitment to final, fully verified denuclearization. … In addition to the commitments on Tongchang-ri and Punggye-ri, Chairman Kim also committed, in both the joint statement from the aforementioned Pyongyang summit as well as during the Secretary of State’s October meetings in Pyongyang, to the dismantlement and destruction of North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities. This complex of sites that extends beyond Yongbyon represents the totality of North Korea’s plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment programs. Chairman Kim qualified next steps on North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities upon the United States taking corresponding measures. Exactly what these measures are a matter I plan to discuss with my North Korean counterpart during our next set of meetings. From our side, we are prepared to discuss many actions that could help build trust between our two countries and advance further progress in parallel on the Singapore summit objectives of transforming relations, establishing a permanent peace regime on the peninsula, and complete denuclearization. Finally and importantly, in describing to us their commitment to dismantle and destroy their plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities, the North Koreans have also added the critical words “and more.” This is essential, as there is more — much more — to do beyond these facilities to follow through on the Singapore summit commitment to complete denuclearization. Before the process of denuclearization can be final, we must also have a complete understanding of the full extent of the North Korean weapons of mass destruction missile programs. We will get that at some point through a comprehensive declaration. We must reach agreement on expert access and monitoring mechanisms of key sites to international standards. And ultimately, we need to ensure the removal and destruction of stockpiles of fissile material, weapons, missiles, launchers, and other weapons of mass destruction. All of this must be addressed in a roadmap of working-level negotiations that will be essential if we are to put in place the necessary conditions to fundamentally transform U.S.-North Korean relations and establish a peace — a permanent peace — on the Korean Peninsula. And President Trump has made clear that should North Korea follow through on Chairman Kim’s commitment to complete denuclearization, the United States will in return exceed anything previously thought possible. So, with the progress made so far, what remains is where we go next. As I have mentioned, President Trump and Chairman Kim will meet at a second summit at the end of February. President Trump has made clear both to North Korea as well as to our team that he expects significant and verifiable progress on denuclearization, actions that are bold and real, to emerge from that next summit. We expect to hold working-level negotiations with our North Korean counterparts in advance of the summit, with the intention of achieving a set of concrete deliverables, a roadmap of negotiations, and declaration — a roadmap of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcomes of our joint efforts. We have that responsibility to our two leaders, who laid out a bold vision when they met in Singapore last year. We also have that responsibility to the people of the Korean Peninsula. When President Trump met with Chairman Kim in Singapore, he showed him a vision of what robust economic development could mean for North Korea. This bright future, driven by investment, external engagement, and trade and built with the incredible resources of the Korean Peninsula is also part of our strategy to plan for success. At the appropriate time, with the completion of denuclearization, we are prepared to explore with North Korea and many other countries the best way to mobilize investment, improve infrastructure, enhance food security, and drive a level of economic engagement that will allow the North Korean people to fully share in the rich future of their Asian neighbors. This prosperity, along with the denuclearization and peace, lies at the core of President Trump’s vision for U.S.-North Korea relations. … As I have mentioned already, United States policy toward North Korea stands on the foundation of final, fully verified denuclearization. This means the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, and the means to produce them. But I also want to say again, emphatically, that President Trump’s vision is also much, much more, including, as outlined in Singapore last summer, the transformation of U.S.-North Korea relations and the establishment of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The President believes in a bright and more secure future for all the people of the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia, and the world. It is a cliché to say that failure is not an option, but that suggests that failure is a choice rather than a consequence. I have intentionally not focused on the many ways that this could all fail. As the diplomatic record of the past 25 years shows, they are too numerous to count. We need to have contingencies if the diplomatic process fails, which we do. But if we are to avoid failure, it will take the United States, North Korea, and many other nations to make the affirmative choice for a transformed and peaceful Korean Peninsula. The United States has made that choice. It is the promise of closing the door on 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean Peninsula that led President Trump to Singapore last year. His relentless pursuit of that goal has created the space to achieve everything I’ve discussed today. Now is the opportunity. Now is the moment. The United States is ready to turn the vision outlined by President Trump and Chairman Kim at Singapore into reality. Thank you. (Applause.) … CARLIN: We’re going to find out. I just want to say, I’ve been at this a long time, and I feel like an old diplomatic warhorse. I can hear — sort of hear the future thusly, and I’m jealous because the opportunity is the greatest I have ever seen for progress. Our problem in the past has always been the stars have never quite been in alignment with all the players, and as Steve described it, this is the moment, and we can’t afford to lose it, which is why we’re fortunate to have someone like Steve leading the American team. These are some questions to me that maybe the group would be interested in hearing your views on. One thing everyone is going to ask you about, I’m pretty sure, is the testimony in the Congress the other day, which was portrayed as challenging, in effect, the basis of the negotiations. As it was played in the press, it suggested that, no, no, the North Koreans will never give up their nuclear program, and therefore unstated is, well, then therefore, why are we trying? So how do you — how do you see it? BIEGUN: Yeah, thank you, Bob, and thanks for joining me today, and thanks for all of your personal efforts in this regard and also your mentoring since I took on this position six months ago. I’d say that I entirely share President Trump’s frustration with the way this intelligence information was briefed and played out over time, and I don’t know what — to what degree it was responsibility of how we in the administration drafted it versus how it was interpreted or how the media reacted to it. But I think it’s very important to step back and look at this with a broader perspective. First of all, I want to say I have enormous respect for my colleagues in the Intelligence Community. I work on a daily basis with them. They are absolutely partners in the efforts that we’re trying to do to succeed in the diplomacy in North Korea. They have given us uniformly good analysis, including from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and I’m not at all critical of the information. But we also have to understand what intelligence information is. Intelligence information is data and information combined with analysis that’s given to policymakers, and if you take it out of context, you — if you divorce it from policy, then you have a very incomplete picture, and this is really where my frustration is with the story that played out last week. North Korea has a significant and potentially dangerous capacity in weapons of mass destruction. We all know that. North Korea has given us little indication that they have yet made the decision to completely dismantle and destroy that capability. We all know that. Therefore, ‘what’ is the question, and what President Trump has done is directed the Secretary of State to engage diplomatically through a combination of pressure and incentives to see if we can invite North Korea to make a different set of choices. That’s the complete picture. It’s not that we’re deceived, it’s not that we don’t know what’s going on, it’s not that we don’t take the threat with the gravity that it requires. And by the way, we have enormous capacities to deter that threat as well. So if I were presenting this same information, I would say that we have the potential here for a grave threat to the United States of America, and therefore it is all the more urgent that we engage diplomatically with North Korea to see if we can change the trajectory of their policies by changing the trajectory of our own. And that’s what we’re trying to do. So my frustration isn’t with the accuracy of the information. It’s how it’s presented and how it’s interpreted. You cannot divorce the intelligence information from policy. The intelligence information is critical as an underpinning for the policy, but the policy is to address the threat and that’s what my frustration was last week. CARLIN: You said some — you said some things which sound familiar to me and I’m sure some familiar to the North Koreans about essentially if you choose path A, good things will happen, your future will be wonderful. But you’ve said something up here several times, which seems to me to be very different, and I suspect the North Koreans will hear it differently as well. And what you said implied that the United States finally sees a place for North Korea in Northeast Asia. That’s critical, and the question is: What is that place? How does it fit with our alliances? How does it fit with our concept, our strategic concept in Northeast Asia? Doesn’t all that have to be discussed and worked out, obviously internally but also with the North Koreans as well? BIEGUN: Yeah. So I heard some of the criticisms of the Singapore summit — I was in the private sector at the time — not enough preparation before, not enough detail in the agreements coming out. I’ll tell you that as a negotiator, which is my profession largely in corporate and government life, I could not have a better mandate. I have four streams of potential cooperation to discuss with North Korea: transforming our relations, building a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, denuclearization, and the fourth, which I’ve addressed briefly here, which is the return of remains from the Korean War — doesn’t involve the same level of negotiation, but should emphasize it’s every bit as important that we heal the wound of that war as part of the process of resolving the larger dispute on the Korean Peninsula. And the good news is we’re making a lot of progress in that regard, as I mentioned. But in the other areas, what’s complicit in that is this is — at the core of this is denuclearization. It absolutely — the essential test of this is removing the weapons of mass destruction programs in North Korea. But the issue is much larger than that. It’s something of a trite trick in Washington that when you can’t solve the problem, you enlarge the problem, but here the President has embraced it full on. … I don’t mince my words when I say that he is unconstrained by the assumptions of his predecessors. President Trump is ready to end this war. It is over. It is done. We are not going to invade North Korea. We are not seeking to topple the North Korean regime. We need to advance our diplomacy alongside our plans for denuclearization in a manner that sends that message clearly to North Korea as well. We are ready for a different future. It’s bigger than denuclearization, while it stands on the foundation of denuclearization, but that’s the opportunity we have and those are the discussions we will be having with the North Koreans. CARLIN: You listed all the meetings that the Secretary of State and you have had with a variety of North Korean officials, and they’re usually described in the newspapers as one sentence or so and then people move on. Seems to me it’s critically important, after 2017, that this President was able to meet with Kim Jong Un, the Secretary was able to meet with him as well, you were at the table with him as well. What’s your sense of how important it is they have this third dimension, this personal contact, so that you’re not just reading statements, you really get a sense of the person, where they’re coming from, how they think, how they react? BIEGUN: So I’ll tantalize you a bit. I listed some of our meetings, Bob, not all of our meetings. … But let me also say that there are some things that are very different here. You said you heard some things that are familiar here. One of the sad realities I had to confront about two months ago was I haven’t had an original idea yet on North Korea. Every idea that we’re seeking to pursue has been conceived of by that long line of distinguished diplomats that I described in my speech, including the gentleman sitting next to me. But there are some things different. So if it’s not the combination of possibilities and what our expectations are and what they might arrive at, what’s different about this moment? Well, nothing less important than the leaders and the relationship between the leaders, and that has real tangible consequences on how we execute our diplomacy. President Trump has laid out a vision that’s created a room for maneuver for my team and for the Secretary of State that is probably bigger than any of my predecessors who’ve served in this position in the past, inside the government as well as outside the government. But that’s not inconsequential, especially inside the North Korean system, where Chairman Kim has likewise dictated these things. And so when we see his New Year’s address, where he declares not to us but to the people of North Korea that he has made the decision to denuclearize, that’s creating room for us to begin this discussion in a manner that gives us hope we can get to the goal we seek. When he says to his people that he is shifting the focus of his leadership to developing the economy of North Korea — that we can do together. That’s not an adversarial approach at all. And so that’s very different as well. The messages from the top, the space created by a top-down diplomacy, creates very different potential for how this diplomacy can proceed. And I am hopeful that the same amount of momentum that it has provided to our team is going to be matched with the momentum that our counterparts in North Korea bring to the table. CARLIN: You said that the U.S. is now prepared for or is committed to parallel and simultaneous action with the North Koreans. And I think we’ve heard that from the Secretary of State, actually, before. But that suggests a very different approach than the second line that we hear, which is we’re not going to do anything until you do everything. So it seems to me people would be confused. How should we understand what’s going to be coming down the pike? BIEGUN: Okay, so you’re asking me a question for the benefit of the audience, Bob, because I know you know the answer to this. CARLIN: That’s fine. BIEGUN: Because, among other things, what Bob does for me — with me in discussion — is he reads the North Korean media, and he’s one of the nation’s leading experts on parsing every single word, which is very important when you’re reading the Korean newswire KCNA or their state newspaper Rodong Sinmun. And I would encourage any of you — and you, sir — to apply the same careful attention to the words that we use when we say we will not lift sanctions until denuclearization is complete. That is correct. We didn’t say we won’t do anything until you do everything, but it’s often — it’s often cast as that, and that’s why an opportunity like this today is so important to be able to maybe put a little bit more flesh on the bones of our diplomacy. Let me go back to a larger issue, which is one that confounds negotiators in every dimension, which is sequencing. What do — who — what am I going to do, what are you going to do, and who’s going to act first? And that’s what we’re trying to resolve and get away from. In the past, the shorthand interpretation of our policy is more or less what Bob helpfully laid out as a strawman, which is, you do everything first and then we’ll begin to think about whether or not we’re going to do anything in response, and that is not our policy and has not been our policy. What we’re talking about is simultaneously looking at ways to improve relations, looking at ways to advance a more stable and peaceful, and ultimately, a more legal peace regime on the Korean Peninsula — how we advance denuclearization. And an added dimension that President Trump introduced in Singapore is how do we also proceed toward an end where there’s a brighter economic future for North Korea to support the goals that Chairman Kim has laid out to focus on the economic development of his country. And the goal will be to bring this this all together at the same time, and I have this — I have this perfect outcome moment where the last nuclear weapon leaves North Korea, the sanctions are lifted, the flag goes up in the embassy and the treaty is signed in the same hour. Now, that’s an ideal, I know, and these things are going to move haltingly along different courses. But they also can be mutually reinforcing, because if we’re doing the right thing with each other in relations, it makes it easier to do the right thing with each other on nuclear weapons. And if we’re doing the right thing on nuclear weapons, it makes a lot more conceivable that there would be a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. And so all of it has to work in concert as well. This is an ideal, I know, and as I said earlier in a private conversation, when I hear the words come out of my own mouth, it even sounds slightly Pollyannaish. But I am absolutely convinced, and more importantly, the President of the United States is convinced that it’s time to move past 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean Peninsula. There is no reason for this conflict to persist any longer. CARLIN: I want to ask you a question about normalization, but I want to make a quick observation about reading North Korean media. I was in Pyongyang once and we were having a meeting with the vice foreign minister, and I said to him, “Mr. Vice Foreign Minister, can I ask a favor of you? You can transmit it to the party newspaper Rodong Sinmun,” and he said, “Sure, what is it?” I said, “Could you have them print it with the lines farther apart?” And he said, “Well, why?” And I said, “Well, my job is to read between the lines, and I need more space.” He laughed. BIEGUN: And he fell for it? CARLIN: Yeah, he did. He thought it was funny. Normalization — where does that fit? In your view, in the sequence, how useful of a card is that or is it something that needs to be withheld? Is it going to cause complications or is it something that should just come naturally as we describe to the North Koreans their future? BIEGUN: Yeah, I think it’s only possible if it’s organic and natural. So it has to be a consequence of what we’re doing in the other areas and — but at the same time we can think about steps we’d take along the road in order to get us closer to that point. We have big issues with North Korea on weapons of mass destruction, and that drove the sense of crisis over the past couple of years, over the past generation, but also in working with — in working with North Korea, we have a lot of other issues in the relationship that we have to resolve too. My theory of the case would be that we can resolve issues of disagreement outside of the weapons of mass destruction issue much more effectively through engagement than through the separation that we have right now. I am not kidding when I say it is difficult for us to communicate with each other. Those of you in the room who are seasoned hands of U.S.-North Korea diplomacy know this. It is a convoluted, multistage process simply to get a message from one side to the other. Goodwill and authority from the top can speed that process up for sure — and here I mean on the North Korean side — but still it isn’t easy. And we have to find ways to communicate better with each other, and that’s one of the things we’re certainly focusing on. … CARLIN: Okay. The role or the space for people-to-people, cultural exchanges, things like that with — you see those as a useful adjunct? Is it just sort of fluff? How are you going to integrate it? How important do you think the North Koreans see it? BIEGUN: We have a lot of experience in this because this is a tool that we used — we’ve used for generations in other adversarial relationships. North Korea hasn’t had such a breadth of experience on how to move past tensions with adversaries and become former adversaries, and — but they clearly have an appreciation for it. In case you did miss, there was a cultural performance troupe in Beijing last week, and it’s not lost on the North Koreans either the important role that these type of exchanges play in accepting each other’s cultures and in accepting each other and building the soft sinews of a relationship. And so I’m sure there are plenty of areas that we could explore in this that would build momentum to the other parts of our diplomacy. We’re at an inflection point here because we have been in a campaign of maximum pressure for almost two years now, building up and certainly escalating and peaking in 2017, but there’s still a substantial amount of impediments to any normal exchange of any kind between our two countries. And part of the challenge that we are doing, we have to do is we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. We will sustain the pressure campaign; at the same time, we are trying to advance the diplomatic campaign, and we have to find the right balance between those two. Areas like cultural exchanges or people-to-people initiatives that you described seem to me a very obvious place where we could begin to make progress in that environment. … CARLIN: I deliberately did not talk about the nuclear issue because (a) there are going to be a lot of questions and (b) I think it’s important, from what you said, for people to understand that you view a resolution of the nuclear issue in a broader context — that is, you’re not going to be able to just focus on that and get it done. Lots of things are going to have to come together. Do you want to make a few observations? BIEGUN: Well, let me say first that you are absolutely correct, but that should be in no way interpreted as diminishing the degree to which that is the threshold challenge that we face. The President, Secretary of State, entire administration are devoted to the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. If we do not address the weapons of mass destruction issue on the Korean Peninsula today, we will have an Asia Pacific nuclear weapons challenge tomorrow, and we all need to keep that front of mind. We already see editorial opinion in regional newspapers calling for governments to begin to think about exactly this outcome. We have to address this, and we have to address it in absolute terms as well as in relative terms. But in relative terms, we’re also not demanding that this be the starting point. As I said, in parallel we’re willing to look at a lot of other things that we can do together that also build the confidence and reduce the sense of risk or threat that would potentially drive a country to want to sustain that kind of capacity. It’s not necessary for North Korea to be a safe and stable country to have weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the one remaining issue that could potentially lead to conflict on the Korean Peninsula is the presence of weapons of mass destruction. … SHIN: So the first one, it’s about terminology of denuclearization. So the question is, “Do U.S. and North Korea share what that means?” BIEGUN: So coming out of the Singapore summit — I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, that there was no detailed definition or shared agreement of what denuclearization entails. Our view is that it entails the elimination of the totality of the weapons of mass destruction programs in North Korea, consistent with the requirements of international law. It also is going to require the means of production of those weapons, as well as the means of delivery, the intercontinental ballistic missiles. Holistically, we want to see North Korea move into a very different posture, but they have to be comfortable moving into that posture as well, and that’s part of the efforts of our diplomacy. So we do not have a specific and agreed definition of what final, fully verified denuclearization or comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization — whatever your preferred term of art — is. We do need to have a shared understanding of what the outcome is going to be, and within the space that that creates, we should be able to also agree on the steps necessary to achieve a mutually accepted outcome. We do have a well-developed view inside the United States of America on what this entails, but that’s something that over time you’ll also have to come to agreement with the North Koreans on. SHIN: Okay. They had a lot of concerns in both Washington and Seoul about the future of alliance. The question is: Is the removal of U.S. troops from South Korea an option to give incentive to North Korea for giving up their nukes? BIEGUN: So we are not involved in any diplomatic discussion, full stop, that would suggest this tradeoff. It has never been discussed. The future of the alliance is an important question, and sustaining the future of that alliance is something that both sides have to fully commit themselves to. I have the — I have the assignment to work on North Korea. The alliance management issues affect my work, but they are not my central responsibility. Those are the responsibilities of our East Asia and Pacific director at the Department of State. Let me put in a point of emphasis here that the Secretary of State and the President have nominated a tremendously talented individual in Retired General Dan (sic) Stilwell to lead that effort, and his nomination is still stuck in the Congress. We need our diplomats in place, and we need our diplomats on the field for exactly reasons like this. But the alliance does play an important role and is an important foundation for the success that we hope to achieve in the Korean — on the Korean Peninsula, and I am hopeful that we’ll continue to be able to make progress on that regard. SHIN: Okay. So next question is: Given domestic politics in the United States, so how can you convince North Koreans that any major agreements that you make now can and will continue after Trump leaves office? BIEGUN: Yeah. So one of the things that the Secretary of State has been quite clear with our team on is that we need to plan for success. So part of our planning for success is trying to create a picture of what that bright future looks like if all the endeavors that I’ve described today make the progress that we hope they do. Part of that success also is making those achievements durable, and we spend a lot of time focused on that. For my part, I am a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill. Shortly before I got on the plane Friday to come out here to Palo Alto, I spoke to two senators who had called wanting updates, wanting to know where we are on North Korea. And it’s not just me; it’s our entire team at the department are focused on working closely with the other institutions of government to ensure that we’re bringing everyone along at the same time. And that is ultimately towards that concept of planning for success and making this a durable outcome. One of the benefits of working on the North Korea issues is it is actually one of the more bipartisan issues in Washington, D.C., today. Notwithstanding some of the gotcha culture and some of the reporting that we see, even over the — of events over the past week, for the most part, when I’m on Capitol Hill, whether it’s with Democrats or Republicans, they all want us to succeed. We’re going to have to pass a test of scrutiny from the United States Congress in whatever we ultimately achieve here, and it will be important therefore that this be a meaningful and verifiable outcome. But in the event we’re able to produce that outcome, I have the highest level of confidence there will be strong, bipartisan support, because President Trump isn’t just giving vision to a personal point of view when he looks at a future for the Korean Peninsula that moves past 70 years of war and hostility; I think he’s speaking for the entire country, Democrats and Republicans alike. SHIN: Okay. So how do you see the U.S.-China relations playing out in the U.S.-DPRK relationship? BIEGUN: So it’s well known that United States and China are engaged in some fairly significant areas of disagreement, primarily focused but not exclusively focused around international economics. Even as I sit here today, there’s talks ongoing in Washington, D.C., in attempt to strike an agreement to move forward beyond those disagreements. I have a counterpart in China who is likewise responsible for diplomacy with North Korea, and I’ve had a chance to meet with him on more than one occasion, as I mentioned in my speech. I played host to him and his team in Washington, D.C., just last Wednesday, just a week ago yesterday. What the Chinese have told us is that they will compartmentalize North Korea from the other areas of dispute in U.S.-China relations, and my inclination is to take them at their word until we have evidence to the contrary. And so far I think the track record has been pretty good. The reason why this works is because China isn’t doing anything in North Korea for the United States. China’s policies in North Korea are not a favor to our country. China is doing this because it’s in their interests. China does not want a conflict on the Korean Peninsula. China does not believe that weapons of mass destruction induce the stability over time that we all want on the Korean Peninsula. And China sees the opportunity that would flow from a normalized relationship with North Korea in terms of regional economic engagement. And North-South-China-Russia commerce has potentially enormous benefits, and more so for China in some of the parts of China that are most economically challenged today in the north. So China has plenty of reasons of its own to be working alongside us, and they are. And so — and I’m a big fan of countries acting in their own interests, in the context of values as well, but when the — the core of the Chinese policy is they’re acting in their own interests, and I think we can make a lot of progress. I’ve described it in other settings as this: that China is with us 100 percent some of the way. And that’s what we need from them. … (DoS, Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, Remarks on DPRK at Stanford University, January 31, 2019)


2/5/19:
Trump: “As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months. If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea with potentially millions of people killed. Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one. And Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam.” (White House, President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union Address, February 5, 2019)


2/6-8/19:
A senior American negotiator arrived in North Korea today to sort out crucial details for a nuclear summit meeting in Vietnam between President Trump and the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, with only three weeks to go before the talks take place. Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration’s special representative for North Korea, arrived in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, around the time that Trump announced in his State of the Union address that he and Kim would meet for a second time on February 27-28 in Vietnam. Biegun’s trip had been announced in advance. Trump now wants “significant and verifiable progress on denuclearization, actions that are bold and real,” Biegun said last week in a speech at Stanford University. But American intelligence agencies recently cautioned that the North was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability.” During his Pyongyang visit, Biegun plans to pursue “concrete plans to advance all of the elements of the Singapore joint statement,” he said last week. He said the working-level talks in Pyongyang would be aimed at finding concessions that each side could accept, as well as “a road map of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcomes of our joint efforts.” President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has said that Trump’s apparent strong desire to become the American leader who ends the North Korean nuclear threat, along with Kim’s announcement that reviving the North’s economy is his top priority, have increased the chances for a breakthrough in the decades-old nuclear dispute. “We hope that both leaders will take more detailed and concrete steps in Vietnam,” Moon’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, said today. “Vietnam and the United States once wielded guns and bayonets against each other, but they are now friends,” the spokesman said. “We hope that Vietnam will provide a perfect backdrop as both sides try to write a new history.” Biegun said last week that Trump’s bold approach had allowed more room for maneuver than any of the envoy’s predecessors had. His North Korean counterpart is from the State Affairs Commission, a powerful agency that reports directly to Kim Jong-un. “It’s a positive sign that the working-level teams of both sides are headed by figures who are considered flexible and deeply trusted by their leaders,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea. In his speech last week, Biegun acknowledged that the United States and North Korea had yet to come up with “a specific and agreed definition” of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the goal that both leaders pledged in Singapore to work toward. Analysts have long warned that Kim could try to give up just enough of his nuclear weapons program to create the illusion of progress, allowing Trump to claim victory while leaving unchanged the North’s long-term goal of being recognized as a de facto nuclear weapons state. “This is like the train racing ahead without even knowing where its final destination is,” said Cheon Seong-whun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. “If they produce another half-cooked agreement in the second summit and fail to specify what their final goal is, it would only help make North Korea’s nuclear arsenal a fait accompli.” When Kim met with Moon in Pyongyang in September, Kim said the North was willing to take significant actions toward denuclearization — including the permanent dismantlement of its facilities in Yongbyon, a key site for producing nuclear bomb fuel — if Washington took “corresponding” steps. Biegun said he would discuss those measures while in Pyongyang. He also indicated that the Trump administration was softening its position to make a deal possible. He said the United States was ready to take actions “simultaneously and in parallel” with the North as denuclearization proceeds. In the past, Washington insisted that the North take significant steps of its own, starting with the full disclosure of all of its nuclear assets, before expecting any rewards. But Biegun said last week that a comprehensive disclosure of such assets could come “at some point.” He even indicated that Washington might ease sanctions against the North before the North denuclearizes completely. ”We didn’t say, ‘We won’t do anything until you do everything,’” Biegun said. Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, said one stated goal of Biegun’s trip — a “road map of negotiations and declarations going forward” — was particularly crucial. “Without a negotiated road map, the denuclearization process lacks transparency, accountability and a decent chance of success,” Easley said. (Choe Sang-hun, “U.S. Envoy Preparing for Trump-Kim Talk,” New York Times, February 7, 2019) During the first working-level talks in Pyongyang last week for the upcoming second North Korea-US summit, the North Korean side demanded the partial loosening of sanctions in exchange for allowing inspections of its Yongbyon nuclear facilities, while the U.S. proposed a declaration ending the Korean War as a corresponding measure. The next question is whether the two sides can find common ground going ahead — at a second set of talks scheduled for next week between State Department Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and North Korean State Affairs Commission Special Representative for U.S. Affairs Kim Hyok-chol, and at the summit in Hanoi at the end of the month. According to a South Korean government source closely acquainted with the North Korea-U.S. talks, Kim reaffirmed the North’s willingness to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear facilities during the first round of working-level talks in Pyongyang, while demanding the partial loosening of sanctions as a corresponding measure for allowing inspections of the facilities. The North Korean side said it “could offer more generous steps” if the US were to even partially loosen sanctions as a corresponding measure, the source reported. Biegun’s negotiating card reportedly concerned an end-of-war declaration, which the U.S. would offer in exchange once inspections of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities are complete. As in his public statements on the matter, Biegun stated in no uncertain terms that the US would not be able to loosen or lift sanctions. At the same time, he reportedly suggested it may consider loosening sanctions if North Korea were to offer the Yongbyon dismantlement “plus something extra.” The second North Korea-U.S. summit now appears poised to hinge on how much progress the two sides can make in bridging their differences on the US’ “corresponding measures.” It was not confirmed what specific areas the North Korean side mentioned in suggesting the partial loosening of sanctions as a corresponding measure for the Yongbyon inspections. One possibility mentioned among foreign affairs analysts is that it was considering a partial loosening or waiving of sanctions to allow resumption of operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism at Mt. Kumgang, or lowering of the ceiling on crude oil supplies according to UN Security Council Resolution 2397. (Kim Ji-eun, “N. Korea Demands Partial Relaxation of Sanctions in Exchanges for Yongbyon Inspections,” Hankyore, February 14, 2019)


2/8/19:
President Trump announced that his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place in Hanoi, ending weeks of speculation over the venue for the two leaders’ second meeting. Trump revealed the decision in an evening tweet. “My representatives have just left North Korea after a very productive meeting and an agreed upon time and date for the second Summit with Kim Jong Un,” Trump said in the tweet. “It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 & 28. I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!” In a second tweet Friday night, Trump predicted that North Korea “will become a different kind of Rocket — an Economic one!” Before their first summit in Singapore last year, Trump had long mocked Kim as “Little Rocket Man.” “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse,” Trump said in the tweet. “He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is.” (Felicia Sonmez and Simon Denyer, “Second Trump-Kim Summit to Take Place in Hanoi,” Washington Post, February 8, 2018)

KCNA, “Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, made a congratulatory visit to the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces on Friday, the 71st founding anniversary of the KPA. Supreme Leader of the Party, state and army Kim Jong Un had a significant photo taken with the KPA commanding officers before the statues of President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il at the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. At the conference hall of the ministry, Kim Jong Un sat together with generals and other officers of the ministry and commanders of KPA large combined units and combined units and warmly congratulated them on the Day of Army Founding. He made a highly important speech. … A fundamental key to pushing forward the drive of turning the army into the elite revolutionary armed forces lies in ideological revolution, training revolution, modernization of arms and equipment and establishment of military discipline, he said. He said that all units and subunits of the entire army should raise the three-point hot winds more fiercely to effect a new turn in improving logistic supply and soldiers’ life. He said that the People’s Army should keep holding high the slogan “Let Us Take Charge of Both Defense of Country and Socialist Construction!” and display the stamina of struggle and creation peculiar to the KPA in all fields of socialist construction called for by the Party and thus have a large share this year, a crucial year in carrying out the five-year strategy for national economic development. He specified the ways for successfully carry out important tasks facing the KPA this year including further enhancing the role of party organizations and political institutions of the KPA at all levels and increasing the combat capabilities in every way by braving hardships and difficulties in the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance. So great is the trust of the Party in the commanding officers of the KPA, he said, voicing his expectation and conviction that they would hold full responsibility for their work before the Party, revolution, country and the people and register greater successes in their work. Firm is the determination and will of the Party to shape a new roadmap toward building a powerful socialist country for realizing the wishes of the great leaders and no force can check the dynamic advance of the country, he said, appealing to the entire army to work hard for the accomplishment of the revolutionary cause of Juche in firm unity around the Party Central Committee.” (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Makes Congratulatory Visit to Ministry of People’s Armed Forces,” February 9, 2019)


2/9/19:
The US envoy for North Korea today cast this week’s working-level talks with North Korea to prepare for the two countries’ second summit late this month as “productive” but said “some hard work” still remains. US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun flew back to Seoul yesterday evening following a three-day visit to Pyongyang aimed at fine-tuning details for the Feb. 27-28 summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam. “I would say it was a productive set of discussions over the last few days, and our team engaged on a number of areas of mutual interest, and we’ve agreed to meet again,” he said during a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon. “So I think this is a constructive place to be especially in advance of the president’s second summit with Chairman Kim,” he added. During a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha earlier in the day, Biegun cited “some hard work” to do with the North before the Trump-Kim summit but did not elaborate. “We don’t know where it is going to go, but we are in the midst of a conversation with the North,” he said. “I am confident that both sides stay committed, that we can make real progress,” he added. Giving Seoul’s “full” support for summit preparations, Kang noted that the past week has been a “long and momentous” week for the US negotiator. “I think you’ve come back with outcomes from Pyongyang that we can both build upon, first of all for the very successful second summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim,” she said. (Park Ha-na, “U.S. Envoy Calls Talks with N.K. ‘Productive,’” Korea Herald, February 9, 2019)


2/10/19:
“North Korea and the US have agreed to continue negotiations in a third country in Asia during the week of February 17,” Seoul’s presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters. (U.S., N. Korea to Continue Summit Talks Next Week: Seoul,” February 10, 2019)

South Korea signed a Special Measures Agreement with the United under which South Korea will pay 1.03 trillion won (US$890 million) for the operation of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), up from 960 billion won in 2018. It was formally called a “preliminary signing,” as domestic procedures, including parliamentary ratification in South Korea, are required. The U.S. government does not need congressional approval for the accord. South Korea’s defense budgets this year have hiked 8.2 percent from 2018, but inflation has remained at 1.5 percent. The deal put an end to months-long disputes on money between the allies. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha met with Timothy Betts, the top U.S. delegate to the SMA talks, minutes before the signing ceremony. Betts, deputy assistant secretary of state for plans, programs and operations, had 10 rounds of face-to-face negotiations with Chang Won-sam, a veteran South Korean diplomat, throughout last year. But they failed to strike a deal on how much Seoul would contribute. The previous agreement signed in 2014 expired at the end of 2018. The two sides continued negotiations in the new year and reached a deal on the one-year contract. It’s open to an extension in case of the allies’ agreement, the ministry said. South Korea wanted it to be valid for three to five years, but the Trump administration pushed for a one-year deal, saying a comprehensive review of defense cost-sharing with allies is still underway, according to a diplomatic source. Seoul and Washington also agreed to launch a working group for continued discussions on systemic reform amid criticism about a lack of detailed data and other information on the USFK’s expenditures and standards of calculation. South Korea has largely provided money in a lump-sum method as the U.S. is apparently loath to a “program-project based cost” settlement system. Under the new accord, South Korea will expand its contribution in the form of goods or services, instead of money, for construction and logistical support. At the start of the talks in March last year, the U.S. demanded South Korea pay around 1.4 trillion won a year and later offered 1.1 trillion won, a ministry official told reporters on background. The U.S. had proposed that South Korea cover the “operational support” costs, which include budgets for the deployment of so-called strategic assets to Korea such as aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and strategic bombers, the official added. But Washington retracted the offer as Seoul remained firm on its position that it’s outside the purpose of the SMA. South Korea has shared the financial burden for USFK since the early 1990s. The funds are used to cover the wages of South Korean workers at USFK bases, construction and logistical support. (Lee Chi-dong, “S. Korea to Up Its Financial Burden for U.S. Troops by 8.2 Pct.,” Yonhap, February 10, 2019)

As of today, it will have been three years since the South Korean government, under former president Park Geun-hye, closed the Kaesong Industrial Complex in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapon tests and missile launches. The possibility of resuming operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism to Mt. Kumgang has emerged as one of the potential corresponding measures the US could take to compensate North Korea for closing its Yongbyon nuclear facilities, leading up to the two countries’ second summit on February 27 and 28. Last month, Rep. Lee Eon-ju, a lawmaker with the Bareunmirae Party, wrote on Facebook that “the creation of the Kaesong Complex moved companies and jobs out of the country” and that “there are strong suspicions that that a portion of the wages paid to workers were used to develop North Korea’s nuclear program.” On his YouTube channel, former Liberty Korea Party (LKP) leader Hong Jun-pyo alleged that the North Korean policy of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations was to give North Korea handouts that were then used to build the North’s nuclear weapons. The argument that the wages paid to North Korean workers at Kaesong led to the development of North Korea’s nuclear program is only an assumption, and no one has provided objective grounds or evidence to back it up. But the narrative about handouts to the North led the international community to conclude that bulk cash had been funneled from the Kaesong Complex into the North’s missile and nuclear weapon development programs, and that belief now functions as an obstacle to reopening the complex. In order for efforts to persuade the international community of the need to reactivate the Kaesong Complex, experts believe, there first needs to be an accurate assessment of the complex’s economic benefits and its impact on inter-Korean relations as well as the formation of a consensus inside South Korea. “Before we take our case to the international community, the ruling and opposition parties need to hash out the conditions under which they’re willing to reopen the Kaesong Complex,” said Shin Han-yong, president of the Corporate Association of Kaesong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex, during a debate on Jan. 24 that was hosted by the Korea Peace Forum. In a recently released report titled “Kaesong Industrial Complex: The Benefits Outweigh the Costs,” the Kaesong (Kaesong) Industrial District Foundation (GIDF) argues that “The debate about the economic costs and benefits of the Kaesong Complex is heating up without an accurate understanding of the complex’s value. We provide an empirical analysis that contradicts the narrative that reopening the complex would be giving handouts to North Korea and demonstrates instead that the complex is highly beneficial for South Korea.” In this article, the Hankyoreh draws upon the foundation’s report, along with data and research from Statistics Korea and various institutes, to ascertain the truth of the claim that the Kaesong Complex is basically a handout to North Korean regime. From the time the Kaesong Complex first opened in 2004 until it was shut down in 2016, the accumulated value of goods produced there amounted to US$3.23 billion. That figure reflects how much subcontractors operating at the complex were paid for the products they supplied to prime contractors. South Korean companies at the complex produced US$4.60 dollars’ worth of output for every dollar of input. When these figures are converted to the final consumer price, it amounts to 20 or 30 times the value of the investment. “Everything except the air and water was supplied by South Korea — not only the raw and subsidiary materials but even the vegetables and seasoning used in the complex cafeteria. North Korea’s toll processing fee only represented about 5% of the complex’s production value, with the remaining 95% going to South Korea,” the Kaesong Complex tenant companies explained. Even though three years have passed since the Kaesong Complex was shut down, the majority of the tenant companies still plan to return to the complex, the GIDF said. Their rationale is the complex’s overwhelming comparative advantage, economically speaking. This comparative advantage largely consists of a skilled workforce available for low wages. As of 2015, North Korean workers at the complex were being paid US$168.50 a month. That’s extremely low compared to China (US$647.90) or even Vietnam (US$261.70). Because these workers are supplied by the North Korean authorities, there’s very little worker turnover, and most of the employees there are skilled workers who’ve been on the job between five and 10 years. Their annual wage increase is capped at 5%. The land that North Korea provided the complex cost US$1 per square meter, with an annual usage fee of US$0.64 per square meter. That’s extremely low, compared to China’s Hebei Province (US$34.8) or the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi (US$2.28-2.64). The Kaesong Complex, which is a duty-free zone, is just 60km from Seoul. This means that vehicles can bring materials into the complex in the morning and then ship finished products out in the afternoon. North Korean workers are highly productive since they share the language and culture of their South Korean counterparts. These are competitive features that are unique to the Kaesong Complex, with no equivalents in other countries. Contrary to the argument advanced by some that the “creation of the Kaesong Complex moved companies and jobs out of the country,” the GIDF contends that the complex sustained South Korean jobs that were on the verge of disappearing and even created new jobs. Over 90% of the tenant companies at the complex are subcontractors that do toll processing. The tenant companies — largely operating on a small scale in a limited group of industries — could no longer compete in South Korea and had been forced to relocate their factories first to China and then to Southeast Asia. When a textile sewing factory sets up a plant overseas, it has to build facilities for creating the raw and subsidiary materials there as well. That causes South Korean producers of those materials to lose customers and may ultimately force them to close. The approximately 120 tenant companies at the Kaesong Complex sourced their raw and subsidiary materials from some 3,800 South Korean suppliers, supporting 80,000 jobs. If the tenant companies had relocated to China and Southeast Asia, South Korean suppliers would have had to close, but those companies’ presence at the Kaesong Complex maintained and created South Korean jobs, the GIDF argued. “Because of ignorant misconceptions about the Kaesong Complex, there’s a growing, completely inaccurate belief that the complex is taking people’s jobs,” the GIDF said. The Kaesong Complex brought major benefits not only to SMEs but also to sizable firms and even large corporations — which were the companies that subcontracted work to the tenant companies at the complex. The toll processing rates at the complex in 2015 were similar to the rates in South Korea in 1995. This basically meant that the firms placing orders were paying 20-year-old fees, saving a good deal of money. For South Korean companies, the GIDF asserted, there isn’t an industrial complex anywhere in the world that’s comparable to the Kaesong Complex in economic terms. Viewed in terms of its economic value, therefore, the complex stands to benefit South Korea much more than the North. The GIDF also argues that the Kaesong Complex can provide relief to challenges faced by the South Korean economy, including sluggish domestic demand, the decreasing competitiveness of the manufacturing sector and unemployment among the youth. “There’s a question I’d like to ask the people who equate reopening the Kaesong Complex with a government handout. What exactly is being handed out, and to whom? There’s no substance to the handouts claim, which fuels a meaningless and counterproductive debate,” said a spokesperson for the GIDF. (Kwon Hyuk-chul, “Experts Rebut Claim That Kaesong Industrial Complex Is a Handout to N. Korea,” Hankyore, February 10, 2019)


2/11/19:
The U.S. envoy for North Korea was quoted as saying that the two sides have yet to narrow their differences on denuclearization ahead of this month’s second bilateral summit. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun made the remark during a meeting with a visiting South Korean parliamentary delegation, according to the group. Biegun said last week’s meetings were only the first round of preparatory talks, and that while there was agreement on the summit’s agenda they would need more time to understand each other. “With only two weeks until the summit, it will be difficult to resolve all the tricky issues, but there’s a chance if we can agree on a timeline (for denuclearization),” a South Korean delegation member quoted Biegun as saying. (Yonhap, “U.S., N. Korea Yet to Narrow Differences on Denuclearization: Envoy,” Korea Herald, February 12, 2019)

North Korea possesses the capabilities to track and target satellites, posing a challenge to other militaries, according to the report published by the Defense Intelligence Agency, “Challenges to Security in Space.” “Iran and North Korea maintain independent space launch capabilities, which can serve as avenues for testing ballistic missile technologies,” the report said. While North Korea would try to deny an adversary use of space during a conflict, it has demonstrated non-kinetic counterspace capabilities, including GPS and satellite communications jamming, according to the report. “North Korea also has ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles that can reach orbit and could, in theory, be used to target satellites in a conflict,” the report said. “Both (North Korea and Iran) will maintain their ability to conduct (electronic warfare) against adversaries and theoretically could use their missile and (space launch vehicle) advancements to target orbiting satellites.” Pyongyang’s space program is operated by the National Aerospace Development Administration, a state-run civil body. North Korea placed two satellites in orbit in 2012 and 2016, using its Sohae Satellite Launching Station located on the west coast, and has associated space tracking facilities in Pyongyang. An older space launch complex on the east coast has not been used for a launch since 2009, according to the DIA report. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits placing weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on any celestial body. It also prohibits using celestial bodies for military bases, testing or maneuvers, the DIA report explained. The treaty has been ratified by 107 states, including the United States, China, North Korea and Russia. (Jo He-rim, “North Korea Capable of Tracking, Targeting Satellites: U.S. Report,” Korea Herald, February 15, 2019)


2/12/19:
North Korea has continued to produce bomb fuel while in denuclearization talks with the United States and may have produced enough in the past year to add as many as seven nuclear weapons to its arsenal, according to a study by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the U.S. Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico who is now at Stanford and was one of the report’s authors, told Reuters analysis of satellite imagery showed North Korea’s production of bomb fuel continued in 2018. He said spent fuel generated from operation of the 5-megawatt reactor at its main nuclear plant at Yongbyon from 2016-18 appeared to have been reprocessed starting in May and would have produced an estimated 5-8 kg of weapons-grade plutonium. This combined with production of perhaps 150 kg of highly enriched uranium may have allowed North Korea to increase the number of weapons in its arsenal by between five and seven, the Stanford report said. Hecker’s team had estimated the size of North Korea’s arsenal in 2017 at 30, bringing a possible current total of 37 weapons. U.S. intelligence is not certain how many nuclear warheads North Korea has. Last year, the Defense Intelligence Agency was at the high end with an estimate of about 50 nuclear warheads, while analysts have given a range of 20-60. (David Brunnstrom, “North Korea May Have Made More Nuclear Bombs, But Threat Reduced — Study,” Reuters, February 12, 2019)

Bolton: “Staff-level negotiations were scheduled over the weekend in Sweden, and it was there I feared things would start slipping out of control. Indeed, according to press reports, that seemed ever more likely, especially since North Korea had finally named a counterpart to the State Department’s special envoy Steve Biegun, one Kim Hyok Chol, a veteran of the Bush 43–era Six-Party Talks. This was not a good sign. With the summit venue and dates fixed for Hanoi on February 27 and 28, I thought hard about how to prevent a debacle. Remarks by Biegun at Stanford strongly implying that the Administration was prepared to follow the ‘action for action’ formula demanded by North Korea only increased my concern, compounded by the State Department’s reversion to type: uncooperative and uncommunicative on what they were telling the North Koreans. The State Department had done exactly the same thing to the NSC during the Six-Party Talks. It was possible that Pompeo was not fully aware that Biegun’s personal agenda to get a deal was so firm. But whether Pompeo ordered Biegun’s enthusiasm, allowed it, or was ignorant of it was beside the point; the dangerous consequences were the same. Since State’s negotiators seemed to be spinning out of control, overcome by zeal for the deal, and intoxicated by the publicity, I considered what to do with Trump personally to prevent mistakes in Hanoi. I concluded that Trump’s pre-Hanoi briefings needed to be significantly different from those before Singapore, which had had little impact. The first Hanoi prep session was on February 12 in the Sit Room, starting at four forty-five and lasting forty-five minutes. We showed a film, opening with news clips of Carter, Clinton, Bush, and Obama all saying they had achieved great deals with North Korea, then turning to North Korea’s actual conduct since Singapore and how they were still deceiving us. The film ended with clips of Reagan describing his 1986 Reykjavik Summit with Gorbachev. Reagan’s point was that when you held firm, you got better deals than when you gave in.[?] There was a smooth flow of discussion, Trump asked good questions, and the session was remarkably focused. When we finished, Trump himself said the key points he carried away were: ‘I’ve got the leverage.’ ‘I don’t need to be rushed,’ and ‘I could walk away.’ The briefing allowed Trump to conclude that Hanoi was not make-or-break; if no real progress emerged, he could simply proceed as before. I couldn’t have scripted it better. Our economic pressure on North Korea was greater than before, but it was a matter of degree. The sanctions nonetheless gave us a near-term advantage. Kim Jong Un was the one more desperate for the deal because the squeeze, while far from perfect, continued to frustrate his efforts to deliver economic improvement inside his country. Over the long term, time always benefited the proliferator, but my definition of “long term” was now two weeks: getting past the Hanoi Summit without making catastrophic concessions and compromises. If we stalled any rush to make a deal just to say we had, which was the State Department’s every inclination, I would be satisfied. I foresaw the pressure on us to deal declining once we were past the second Trump-Kim summit. We could instead refocus on the very grave threat the North still represented, whether or not they were actively testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. I felt enormously relieved the briefing hadn’t been a disaster and that we might even have made progress with Trump. The second briefing, on February 15, just after two o’clock, again lasted about forty-five minutes. We ran an excerpt from a North Korean propaganda film showing them still engaged in robust war games, even if we weren’t, pursuant to Trump’s orders. He was very interested in the video and asked to have a copy. We focused on the most important point: the meaning of ‘complete denuclearization.’ Trump asked for the conclusions on a single sheet of paper, which we had already prepared. After a good discussion, Trump said, ‘Clean this up and get it back to me,’ which suggested he might hand it to Kim Jong Un at some point. I stressed the importance of getting a full baseline declaration, not the piecemeal approach that the State Department would accept. I thought this second briefing also went extremely well, accomplishing all we could expect to get Trump into the right frame of mind so as not to give away the store in Hanoi.” (Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, pp. 286-87)


2/13/19:
Rodong Sinmun featured a written contribution from an ethnic Korean in Japan saying that nuclear weapons “are [North Korea’s] powerful war deterrent that counters the power of the U.S.” It quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowing not to “produce, test, use or distribute nuclear weapons.” (Yu Yong-weon, “N. Korea State Media Hint at Freeze of Nuke Program,” Chosun Ilbo, February 14, 2019

Pompeo: “Q: You’ve mentioned Iran’s activities in the Middle East. In some conditions that you introduced last year, you said Iran needs to meet these — POMPEO: A dozen. Q: Yes. Iran needs to meet 12 conditions before it will — before the U.S. would be willing to negotiate a new nuclear deal. Why are there no preconditions for North Korea? POMPEO: We’ve made very clear that these situations are very different. We take each of them where we find them. North Korea today has weapons, nuclear weapons, capable of reaching the United States of America. This is a threat that President Trump said we needed to take on now and take on immediately. The President’s chosen to meet with Chairman Kim. I’ve now met with him several times myself. We’re very hopeful that we can push them back. Remember too, North Korea behaves very differently. They’re not destabilizing Yemen. They’re not destabilizing Syria. They’re not conducting enormous assassination campaigns. These countries’ behaviors are different, therefore, the way America is approaching resolving this. Our goal isn’t to punish the North Korean people. Our goal is not to punish the Iranian people. Our goal, indeed, is just the opposite: It’s to create security, safety, and frankly, prosperity for the people of each of those two countries. Q: And yet, in North Korea, you do see human rights violations such as — POMPEO: Absolutely. Q: — labor camps, forced labor. POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. Absolutely. Q: Are those not issues of concern? POMPEO: Yes, absolutely. Q: So what should be done about that, those — there’s no precondition — POMPEO: We’re — we — we talk about them with great frequency, the same way we talk about human rights violations in every country in which we find them. We have lots of goals. They’re complex; they compete. We try to achieve them all. Q: What are you hoping from the summit? POMPEO: You mean the summit that will be held in Hanoi. Well, look, we hope that we will make a substantial step on each of the four pillars the two nations committed — Chairman Kim and President Trump committed to four primary pillars. We hope to make substantial steps on each one of them: security and peace on the peninsula, denuclearization, the effort to create a brighter future for North Korean people. It’s our intent to make real progress on each of those pillars, and the two leaders are hoping they do that as well. Q: What kind of tangible progress do you need to see? POMPEO: Yeah, I’m not going — I’m not going to talk about specifics. We’ve been engaged in lots of negotiations, not all of them have been public. Many of them more recently have, in fact, been public. You can see the work that’s being done by our two teams. We have a team leaving again this weekend to travel to Asia to continue to prepare for the summit. I’m not going to talk about what it is we hope to achieve, but I’m very hopeful that we’ll get a good outcome. Q: The commander of U.S. Forces Korea has just said that — he said last week he hasn’t seen a change in North Korea’s military capabilities since the last summit that President Trump held with North Korea. How confident are you that North Korea is committed to complete denuclearization? POMPEO: Chairman Kim’s told us that repeatedly. And we’ve also said: trust but verify. We’re going to have to see that he does this. We’re going to have to be able to verify that he does it. And until such time as we do that, the economic sanctions that the whole world has put in place — not American sanctions, not European sanctions, but U.N. Security Council resolutions that every nation in the world supported save for North Korea — every nation saw that this was in the world’s best interest, and it’s our full intention of getting a good outcome in exchange for relieving those sanctions. I’m very hopeful that we can do that. It will be up to Chairman Kim to make this decision. He’s told us that he will, and now it’s time for him to deliver. Q: So first complete denuclearization, verification of complete denuclearization, and then removal of sanctions? POMPEO: Remember, you have to go back to first principles, right? For years the United States has conducted negotiations with the North Koreans, and what we’ve done is we’ve taken a pig in a poke. We’ve said we’ll do something and then we handed them a whole bunch of money or agreed to build them a light water reactor, and the North Koreans didn’t come through on that. President Trump engaged. He’s gotten missile tests stopped. There haven’t been nuclear testing in a substantial period of time. We have the beginning of the effort to return all of the remains. I’ve had a chance to talk to some of those families; it’s been a remarkably good outcome. Now it’s time for us to begin the effort to take the step on denuclearization, and I’m hopeful that this summit will deliver that.” (DoS, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Interview with Roxana Saberi of CBS News, Sheraton Warsaw Hotel, Warsaw, February 13, 2019)


2/14/19:
Pompeo: “Q: I want to talk to you about a couple more things. One is North Korea. We’re nearly six months after Singapore, obviously heading towards Vietnam. The Vice President acknowledged the U.S. is still waiting on North Korea to take concrete steps to dismantle its weapons. What does the U.S. need to see from North Korea to say there’s progress here on that front? POMPEO: Yeah, I think the Vice President summed it up pretty well, Bret. We’ve had some good things that followed from the Singapore summit. We haven’t had a missile test; there haven’t been the testing of nuclear explosive devices. Those are good things. But the ultimate objective, the complete and final denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, there’s still a lot of work to do. And we hope — I guess it’s only two weeks off now. We hope when the two leaders get together again they can make substantial progress along that objective, which I think the entire world shares. Q: How much does the formal ending of the Korean War factor in? POMPEO: Bret, it’s something we’ve had a lot of talks about. In fact, my team will redeploy to Asia here in a day or two to continue conversations around all elements that were discussed back in Singapore. Remember we not only discussed denuclearization, but we talked about creating security mechanisms, peace mechanisms on the Korean Peninsula. I hope the two leaders have a chance to talk about that as well. I fully expect that they will. We also talked about a brighter future for the North Korean people, if we can successfully get the result that Chairman Kim promised President Trump. Remember he made that commitment that they would denuclearize. And so we hope to make real progress along each of those elements of what the two leaders agreed to back in June.” (DoS, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Interview with Bret Baier of Fox News, Sheraton Hotel, Warsaw, February 14, 2019)

The State Department announced that it was considering the option of waiving sanctions and the travel ban on relief groups that provide humanitarian aid to North Korea. Responding to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stating that four out of 10 North Koreans are in a state of malnutrition, a spokesperson for the US State Department said that the US is deeply concerned about North Koreans’ well-being, the Voice of America reported. The spokesperson explained that the policy was being reviewed to ensure that the strict implementation of sanctions was not preventing lawful support from reaching North Koreans. This spokesperson also responded to criticism from some figures that the U.S. government’s position that sanctions must remain in place until denuclearization is complete was hampering humanitarian aid activities. “We expect humanitarian aid organizations to meet international standards related to access and surveillance. The U.S. and the UN continue to carefully consider requests for authorizing aid and for making exceptions to sanctions on North Korea,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that, for the time being, the US government was not planning to get directly involved in humanitarian aid. On February 13, the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea authorized Handicap International and Première Urgence Internationale (PUI), both international aid organizations whose headquarters are located in France, to take humanitarian aid supplies into North Korea. Handicap International is planning to ship a total of 73 items worth 233,363 euros, including construction material for expanding accessibility and support equipment for people with disabilities, including metal crutches and wheelchairs. PUI was given permission to take materials into North Korea for programs aimed at improving nutrition for children at nurseries and kindergartens and for building goat farms in South Hwanghae Province. So far, exemptions from sanctions have been granted to 12 humanitarian aid programs for North Korea. These programs are run by groups including UNICEF, the Eugene Bell Foundation, First Step, the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit under the Swiss Foreign Ministry, World Vision, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. (Yoo Kang-moon, “U.S. State Department Considers Waiving Sanctions and Travel Bans for Humanitarian Aid to N. Korea,” Hankyore, February 16, 2019)


2/15/19:
North Korea has informed Japan that Tanaka Minoru, a Hyogo Prefecture native who vanished in 1978, is living in Pyongyang with his wife and children, Kyodo reported, quoting unnamed Japanese government sources. The government claims Tanaka was kidnapped by North Korean agents while staying in Europe. Pyongyang also reportedly told Tokyo that Kaneda Tatsumitu, one of his coworkers at a noodle shop, is also living in Pyongyang with his wife and children. Japanese officials were told that neither Tanaka nor Kaneda intends to return to Japan, according to Kyodo. The government has long suspected that Kaneda, who was 26 when he disappeared, could have been abducted by North Korean agents. Pyongyang has maintained that all issues related to the abductions of Japanese by North Korean spies have already been resolved. Tanaka was 28 when he disappeared. The government added him to the official list of abductees in April 2005. (Japan Times, “Suspected Abductee Alive in Pyongyang, North Korea Reportedly Tells Japan,” February 15, 2019)

Chesser, Wit and Pitz: “…If an agreement to dismantle Yongbyon is reached, implementation will pose enormous political, technical and financial challenges. It would require US-DPRK agreement on a game plan including the possible involvement of other actors such as South Korea, China, Russia, the IAEA and perhaps the European Union. The objective will be to quickly disable, dismantle and decontaminate the plutonium reprocessing facility, the uranium enrichment plant, and the 5 MWe reactor as well as to safely dispose of spent and enriched fuel and nuclear waste products. It will also be necessary to make sure that North Korean personnel involved in the operation of those facilities are not reemployed in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Based on previous experience, all options for disablement and dismantlement of the plutonium recovery facilities, uranium enrichment cascades and IRT research reactor will require years of work and millions if not billions of dollars. For example: Rocky Flats: Remediation of the US plutonium recovery plant at Rocky Flats was completed over 14 years at a cost of $7-$10 billion. Rocky Flats, however, involved the demolition of 802 structures and remediation of hundreds of acres of contaminated soil. Over 500,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste was characterized, packaged and transported to radioactive waste repositories off-site. The cost and scope of cleanup at Yongbyon will be far less because it has thousands of fewer acres to remediate and many fewer structures to dismantle. For example, the estimated amount of time required to disable and dismantle Yongbyon’s reprocessing plant is 8-12 years at a cost of $525 million-$1.5 billion, significantly less than Rocky Flats’ 14 years of work totaling roughly $7.7 billion. Belgium: Developing effective and thorough decommissioning techniques for Eurochemic took precedence over urgency. The process took 25 years to complete at a cost of $333.75 million. During that time, nuclear waste and sludge were treated, buildings were demolished, and a research reactor decommissioned. There are far fewer process cells, however, to decommission at Yongbyon and far less area that requires decontamination. Eurochemic’s decommissioning cost is at the lower end of the estimated cost for Yongbyon, but it already had waste storage processes and facilities. These would need to be built and tested at Yongbyon, adding to the cost and processing time. Nonetheless, the experience at Eurochemic can help illustrate effective methods and processes. Three key variables will determine the length of time and cost of disabling and dismantling the Yongbyon facility. 1. The End-Use Objective The extent of remediation and cleanup needed subsequent to the disablement and dismantlement of facilities will dictate the methods, duration and ultimate costs of the decommissioning process. There are three common end-use options: Unrestricted Use: This requires sufficient cleanup to prevent annual radiation doses from exceeding safety standards for the general population for all onsite activities. Since reduced radiation doses will require the transfer of contaminated materials to waste storage facilities, this status will usually cost more and require greater remediation times than the other options. Industrial Use: This would restrict access and use of the area to trained personnel. Restrictions may involve protective measures, regulated exposure times and limited access to regions with unacceptable exposure rates. Radiation-Controlled Area: Time and budget constraints, physical inaccessibility, and inadequate equipment or storage may prevent timely remediation. In these cases, conducting minimal cleanup may only be possible, leaving remaining radiation exposures that are unacceptable for normal human activities. Specific and detailed procedures will need to be followed in these areas to limit radiation exposure. 2. The Timing and Extent of Site Characterization and Remediation Dismantlement of facilities requires comprehensive knowledge of structural challenges, threats to worker and public safety during dismantlement procedures, probable waste volumes, avenues of transport, and workforce required to perform the tasks. Potential health hazards caused by radioactive contamination and standard regulatory practice for nuclear dismantlement will require a thorough site characterization prior to accepting site safety and remediation plans. The characterization would identify potential safety hazards, radiation exposures and alternative dismantlement methods necessary to minimize health risks for workers during dismantlement and future activities at the site. It would also estimate waste stream volumes and processes required to meet the decided end-use objective. Specific work plans are developed to reduce safety concerns to the lowest possible level. However, many potential hazards and radioactive sources may not be readily identified prior to dismantlement. In such cases, structural dismantlement and material characterization may be conducted simultaneously in a staged process. Most regulations also require a post-dismantlement site characterization to document that all hazards have been minimized and that end-use objectives have indeed been fulfilled. If the process of site and facilities characterization were to use DPRK workers, the below chart gives an estimate of the number of workers needed and in which sectors the North Korean workers could be utilized. 3. The Amount of Foreign Involvement in the Project It will be critical to clearly establish which nations and agencies will participate in the disablement, dismantlement, regulatory oversight and advisory activities. The most efficient, but perhaps the costliest process for the US would be to make disablement and decommissioning of Yongbyon facilities a bilateral US-DPRK undertaking. While bilateral participation could expedite nuclear disablement measures, it may be necessary to include international partners to help in sharing the costs. Other nations and international actors, including South Korea, China, Russia and the IAEA could participate in one of the following capacities: Strictly advisory, providing recommendations for work plans, regulatory objectives, and/or verification; Educational, assisting in redirection training given to Yongbyon workers; or Participatory, as full partners in all dismantlement and disposal procedures. Including DPRK scientists and administrators in all processes of safe disablement, dismantlement and disposal of critical facilities will introduce personnel to international agencies and acceptable standards for future actions. Disablement and Dismantlement Options The choices above are not necessarily independent of one another. For example, unrestricted end-use is unlikely to result from rapid disablement and minimal site characterization. Likewise, maximal retraining of key personnel may not be feasible without thorough site characterizations, extensive onsite presence of international experts, and full IAEA technical cooperation. These trade-offs will need to be carefully considered. The US and allies would likely benefit from rapid disablement to meet their short-term objectives, followed by long-term training and onsite verification. North Korea, on the other hand, may suggest gradual completion of retraining and incentive programs prior to an autonomous process of dismantlement and disposal. There are some possible compromises which would allow short-term nonproliferation assurances and retraining of hundreds of key personnel while delaying major portions of dismantlement and disposal until well into the future. A. Rapid Disablement and Dismantlement A large team of experts from the United States would be required to implement this option in compliance with international standards. Rapid disablement can be achieved by filling glove boxes with concrete, removing remote manipulator arms from hot cells, defueling reactors and flooding cooling circuits, steam generators and reactor vessels with concrete. Similar disabling tactics were employed by IAEA inspectors in post-Desert Storm Iraq (although the reactors were disabled by coalition bombing). Nuclear reactors may be further disabled by coating vessel components with neutron absorbing materials such as boron. Uranium enrichment processes are more readily dismantled with less exposure to hazards than plutonium processes. Plasma torches could quickly compromise control rooms and centrifuge functions and disrupt cascade integrity. Nevertheless, skilled technicians would be required for cutting concrete and pipe, removing circuitry, and packing and transporting hazardous materials after disablement. Given the necessary resources, manpower and prior planning, the primary facilities for uranium enrichment and plutonium recovery could be rendered useless in less than a year at a cost of about $4-6 million. At the end of disablement, the facilities would still require careful and prolonged dismantlement to render the areas safe and ready for alternative uses. Rapid disablement would likely complicate subsequent dismantlement of concrete-filled structures. Moreover, the use of concrete will reduce effectiveness of waste minimization, thereby increasing the volume of radioactive waste. Therefore, cost savings realized by quick disablement would likely be offset by higher costs and prolonged time for dismantlement and waste processing over the long-term. Implementation would require the rapid deployment of a team of 50-75 American specialists. This option could also include defueling and disabling the 5 MWe reactor, which is the source of plutonium generation. Of course, this procedure would be carried out only after rejecting any consideration for refurbishing the reactor for peacetime purposes. Ultimate dismantlement of the reactor facility would be delayed allowing a gradual schedule that permits IAEA oversight and inclusion of DPRK personnel. The rapid disablement by defueling and compromising primary and secondary coolant circuits would cost about $3 million (including transport of reactor fuel rods), while subsequent dismantlement and disposal of the structure would be an additional $20-$30 million. The total costs for rapid disablement followed by dismantlement and disposal of the plutonium recovery facilities, uranium enrichment centrifuges, and the IRT reactor would range from $250 million to $1.5 billion. Disablement and dismantlement under IAEA supervision would take 10-20 years at a cost of $525 million-$1.5 billion; without IAEA supervision, 4-10 years and $250 million-$1 billion. B. Disablement and Delayed Dismantlement It may be advantageous to delay the dismantlement of some structures, allowing time for the decay of radioactivity to safe levels for removal and disposal. Neutron-activated materials in reactor vessels and contaminated interiors of hot cells may pose high risks initially, but these will diminish significantly over time. In such cases, the structures may be isolated and surrounded (“cocooned”) by a thick shell of impermeable concrete. The cocooned structures can be more readily removed from the shells after many years and then disposed of in conventional storage facilities. Cocooning has become a common practice for reactor vessels and the projected delay time may be 75-100 years. This procedure would eliminate the high costs of dismantling and storing very radioactive materials. Disablement and partial dismantlement would then be followed by a projected period of sequestration of the remaining structures. The presence of isolated cocoons would probably require “highly restricted” use of the surrounding area. Thus, this option may not be favored at Yongbyon if the area is projected for future public or industrial uses. Also, the initial cost savings may be offset by very expensive dismantlement and disposal at the end of the isolation period. The process of disabling, partial dismantlement, and cocooning Yongbyon’s 5 MWe reactor would cost about $40-$60 million and take over 4-5 years; the subsequent post-cocooning dismantlement and disposal cost would be between $100 and $200 million C. Traditional Disablement and Dismantlement This option would place greater emphasis on adhering to international norms than on achieving rapid progress, requiring a slower, steadier process of disablement and dismantlement. One significant difference between this approach and option one, which would immediately begin work on disablement and dismantlement, is that a much more extensive effort would be made up-front to characterize the radioactive contamination of the facility before any work began. These procedures would include training of North Korean participants and would establish detailed work and safety procedures to be followed throughout the subsequent dismantlement process. All three options would follow international standards but this option places greater emphasis from the very beginning on building a multilateral team and developing North Korean participation. Under this option, the IAEA would be brought into the process at the outset to help establish technical credibility, increase transparency and provide dismantlement training to indigenous experts. This would take much longer, but would reduce costs and liability and safety concerns. Cost and timelines may vary considerably depending on the extent of work performed by indigenous workers and the amount of training required. This approach may prove incompatible, however, with achieving rapid disablement and moving forward quickly on dismantlement, which could be one of the US highest priorities. Of course, U.S. and foreign partners would be needed onsite to verify that agreed standards and conditions are met. This option would be the most expensive and prolonged alternative, requiring 5-20 years and $400 million-$2 billion. Other Considerations There are three other important dimensions to disablement and dismantlement that will drive costs, timelines and outcomes. Disposition of Radioactive Waste Any dismantlement option will require updated facilities for the treatment and long-term storage of radioactive wastes generated by the operations at Yongbyon. Remaining spent fuel and control rods may be returned to the supplying countries or purchased for export to secure storage facilities. Temporary storage of wastes may be accomplished by importing caravans while permanent facilities are designed and constructed. It is anticipated that completion of a radioactive waste treatment and disposal facility will cost in excess of $200 million and require 4-8 years for site selection, design and construction. Environmental Remediation The disablement and dismantlement of Yongbyon will not only focus on the reprocessing and enrichment facilities, but must also address the environmental contamination. Environmental remediation could encompass more than site cleanup and waste disposal, due to North Korea’s long history of poor land-use including forest management, agricultural practices and water and air pollution. Including environmental remediation in the dismantlement process for unrestricted use would require additional planning, time and money. Thus, this option may not be financially feasible for the US or other international actors, and end use may remain either highly restricted or limited to industrial activities. The Scope of Cooperative Threat Reduction The disablement and dismantlement process at Yongbyon would provide many opportunities for various incentive and redirection programs for North Koreans who currently work at the site. These programs should be integrated into a wider discussion of dismantlement and nonproliferation objectives from a long-term perspective. The North Korean government has expressed interest in re-allocating resources from the military to the civilian sector. A robust US-DPRK cooperative threat reduction program, with multinational involvement where it is cost effective, offers tremendous potential for civilian spinoffs that would boost North Korea’s economic development and raise the living standards of the population. Turning Swords into Plowshares The development of civilian spinoffs could begin in parallel with the disablement and dismantlement process. The Yongbyon facility and its workers could potentially support activities such as: Improving Health and the Environment Setting up a medical diagnostics center onsite can initially focus on worker safety at Yongbyon and then expand over time to provide the regional population with medical practices to diagnose patient health and a medical treatment branch for common and debilitating conditions. For example, it could support hospitals and medical practitioners by helping to provide laboratory analysis of blood, urine and tissues, as well as x-rays and other medical imaging. Mobile laboratories could provide these examinations and laboratory diagnostic services on a regular basis. Another possible role would be to maintain medical databases in support of public health and forecasting conditions, as done by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States. This would help set the stage for modernization of health care records and a better understanding of the medical needs of the North Korean people. Along with creating indigenous infrastructure for medical monitoring for radiation detection and worker safety, the process could also develop a national environmental management laboratory that would initially focus on mitigating radiation exposures and impacts. Over time, the laboratory could grow to include water, soil and air quality assessments, along with forest, biodiversity and agricultural management practices. Center for Energy Modernization North Korean scientists and technicians would be trained on topics such as energy surveys and needs assessments, national energy supply-demand modeling, energy efficiency analysis methods and practices (including green buildings), renewable energy systems, up-to-date electricity transmission and distribution systems and other subjects relevant to a modern energy system. Initially, training would be provided by foreign experts (for example, from China, the European Union, Australia and the United States) with North Korean staff eventually training others using the upgraded Yongbyon center as demonstration facilities. A key goal would be to provide workers with alternative, sustainable employment through the center’s nationwide activities, and possibly through exporting services to other countries at a later time. Second, the center could serve as a research and development institute to develop or adapt designs for key energy efficiency and renewable energy devices with the goal of establishing enterprises in the North to manufacture such devices. It could eventually become the equivalent of a North Korean national laboratory. American organizations (including national laboratories) have worked with local officials in China and Eastern Europe to establish similar institutions. Conclusion The decommissioning of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon can take a number of different paths, each offering different end-use objectives, costs, timelines and opportunities for continued nonproliferation programs with North Korea. Decisions on the objectives, remediation methods and training and cooperative programs will determine the methods of dismantlement and disposal necessary to meet those goals. A wide array of experiences in nuclear dismantlement that allow realistic estimates of costs, manpower and time commitments needed to achieve different dismantlement objectives. Negotiations on reducing North Korea’s capacity to produce fissile materials should elucidate the details of nuclear decommissioning and not leave underlying steps open to interpretation. Once the approaches for nuclear dismantlement have been successfully negotiated, attention should be focused on technical developments that will assist North Korea to improve and sustain the quality of life of its population. The more robust economic stimulus programs discussed here will require, however, greater North Korean integration with the global economy and comprehensive contributions from international partners. (Ronald K. Chesser, Joel S. Wit and Samantha J. Pitz, “A How-To Guide for Disabling and Dismantling Yongbyon,” 38 North, February 15, 2019)

Bermudez, Cha and Collins: “The Sangnam-ni missile operating base (40.838977 128.541650) is located within North Korea’s strategic missile belt in Hochon-gun (Hochon County), Hamgyong-namdo (South Hamgyong Province). It sits 310 kilometers northeast of Pyongyang, 250 kilometers north of the demilitarized zone, 390 kilometers northeast of Seoul and 1,130 northwest of Tokyo … .Subordinate to the KPA’s Strategic Force (the organization responsible for all ballistic missile units), the Sangnam-ni missile operating base houses a battalion- or regiment-sized unit equipped with Hwasong-10 (Musudan) intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM). This unit, with its 3,000+ kilometers range Hwasong-10’s, represents an important component of North Korea’s presumed offensive ballistic missile strategy by providing a strategic-level first strike capability against targets throughout East Asia including the major U.S. bases on Okinawa and potentially Guam. Until more is known, however, this capability should be characterized as “theoretical” as the Hwasong-10 was deployed to operational units without testing in an “emergency launch capability” mode during the early 2000s. Later, in 2016, when KPA units conducted a number of training launches with the system it suffered repeated catastrophic failures. These repeated launch/flight failures appear to have resulted in no new launches of the Hwasong-10 since that time. This, in turn, may lead to the Strategic Force’s abandoning the system and replacing it with the more successful Hwasong-12 IRBM or Pukkuksong-2 (KN-15) MRBM. The production status of these newer systems is, however, unknown. Unlike the Sakkanmol or Sino-ri missile operating bases, reliable open source information concerning the development and operations of the Sangnam-ni base is scarce. What is known is that during the late 1980s and early 1990s, in addition to its construction of forward Hwasong-5/-6 missile operating bases north of the DMZ, North Korea developed plans for the construction of a series of strategic ballistic missile operating bases in the northern sections of the country for longer range systems under development. One of the first known public reports concerning these new ballistic missile operating bases became available in March 1999 when a senior South Korean official told reporters of bases being built at Sangnam-ni, Yongjo-rii and Yongnim-up. At that time there were no indications of the types of missiles that were to be deployed at these new bases, however, reports later that year stated that these were “suspected to be Nodong-1 or Taepodong-1 and -2 bases.” Construction of the Sangnam-ni missile operating base began sometime during 1994 using specialized engineering troops from the KPA’s Military Construction Bureau. … Although no open source high-resolution satellite imagery from the mid-1990s is presently available, construction is reliably reported to have proceeded slowly and was initially focused upon road construction, construction of a hardened drive-through facility and the excavation of what is believed to be an underground facility (UGF) approximately 2.6 km up from the base of the valley. Satellite imagery from August 2000 indicates that at this time two new roads had been built into both sides of the southern valley—with the longest being 2.8-kilometers-long. Additionally, major excavation of the potential UGF was likely complete—but may have been continuing internally—as imagery analysis revealed there were no external indications of excavation activity or equipment at the time. Construction of the hardened drive-through facility was also complete and a small number of barracks (likely for worker housing) and support structures was ongoing. Although no large buildings were under construction at this time, initial grading had begun at the intersection of the main and branch valleys where the headquarters would be located. No activity of significance was noted at the village of Togyongdong-ni (40.839840 128.551308), up the branch valley to the east. Reports from mid-2001 state that the base was “…60-80 percent complete in the construction phase.” Analysis of a December 2002 satellite image supports these reports showing a number of significant changes since 2000. At the base of the valley, in the support and headquarters area, an entrance/security checkpoint had been established and minor agricultural support activity was present. In addition, approximately seven new structures were built just east of the entrance, and the grading in the headquarters area was completed and a headquarters/administration building was erected. The road south had now been extended far past the hardened drive-through facility and over the northern slopes of Huisa-bong (Huisa Mountain) by means of a series of large switchbacks. The support area along the east side of the road had been expanded significantly with at least thirteen structures (e.g., barracks, warehouses, vehicle maintenance, etc.) now present. A new building was also constructed on the side of the road at the southern entrance to the base that appears to be a security checkpoint and barracks. No significant changes were noted in the area of the hardened drive-through facility. At the village of Togyongdong-ni some initial grading and several new structures were noted. Agricultural support appears to have been slightly expanded and a small bridge on the road leading to the village was under construction in the headquarters area. During May 2004 new reports stated that the base was now “…70 to 80 percent completed…” Satellite imagery from November of that year tends to support these reports. In the barracks and support area just east of the entrance, a number of new barracks or support buildings had been built. In the headquarters area three additional structures were built and the small bridge on the road leading to Togyongdong-ni was now complete. In the support area along the road south there were continuing changes among the structures, however, the overall number remained relatively constant. Again, no significant changes were noted in the area of the hardened drive-through facility. Along the branch valley east of the headquarters several new structures were built and minor grading continued in the village of Togyongdong-ni. By 2004, reports had also begun to surface that Sangnam-ni, Yongjo-ri and Yongnim-up were being equipped with a “new IRBM” and were “not Scud and Nodong-1 bases.” Shortly afterwards it was confirmed that Sangnam-ni was a missile operating base that housed a battalion- or regiment-sized unit equipped of the KPA’s recently established Hwasong-10 (Musudan) IRBM brigade. It is unclear whether the Sangnam-ni unit participated in the large 2004 Command Post Exercise (CPX) for ballistic missile units, however, from 2006 onwards it is reported to have regularly participated in the annual training cycle. During 2005, minor construction was observed throughout the facility and a new road was built from the barracks, warehouse, and support area 500 meters up the ridge to the west where a new anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) battery position was established. The bridge leading to Togyongdong-ni in the headquarters had been finished and work on improving the road to the village was underway. While a report from August 2006 states that the “…construction of a base in Sangnam-ri is 70 to 80 percent completed” satellite imagery from 2005-2008 suggests that it is likely that the initial phase of construction at the base was essentially complete by the end of 2006. During 2009-2010, a small second phase of construction was undertaken that witnessed an expansion of the headquarters area with the construction of two administration buildings. Aside from these buildings only minor construction activity (e.g., erection of a memorial, removal and construction of small structures) and minimal increases of agricultural support activities were observed in satellite imagery from 2006-2012. Subsequently, during 2013-2015, the existing cultural/education hall within the headquarters area was razed and a new larger hall was built, two new monuments were erected on the east side of the headquarters area, a small orchard was planted, and a greenhouse was built. Analysis of satellite imagery from 2015 until present shows only minor infrastructure changes to the base that are consistent with what is often observed at remote KPA bases of all types. As of December 2018, the base is active and being well-maintained by North Korean standards. Encompassing approximately 3.85 square kilometers, the primary section of Sangnam-ni missile operating base extends 2.9 kilometers up the primary branch valley running southeast and then south on the northern slopes of Huisa-bong (Huisa Mountain). A small secondary branch extends off this valley to the east and the village of Togyongdong-ni that provides agricultural and other support. Most of the area encompassed by the base consists of unoccupied mountains and small agricultural activities that support the base. The small hamlet at the base of the valley, and outside the entrance, does not appear to be directly associated with the base. The base can be functionally divided into four activities—agricultural support (including a greenhouse, small orchards and small terraced fields), main base (including headquarters, barracks, vehicle maintenance, storage, and a variety of small support elements), missile support, and potential underground facilities. As with a number of other KPA missile operating bases located in remote mountainous areas the Sangnam-ni headquarters area is located at the intersection of the eastern and southern branches of the valley. This area consists of the headquarters, cultural/education hall, approximately a dozen small barracks and support buildings, greenhouse, small orchard and a parade ground. There is also a lesser valley that branches off to the east from the headquarters area to the small village of Togyongdong-ni. This village appears to provide agricultural and other minor support to the base. Extending approximately 750 meters south and up the valley from the headquarters area are a number of barracks, warehouses and support structures. Above this area, on a ridge 500 meters to the west, is a light AAA battery position equipped with eight guns. This battery is likely organic to the base as the only access road to it originates at the support area. Located approximately 1.4 km up the valley from the headquarters area is the base’s missile support facility—used for arming, fueling, systems checkout, and maintenance operations. It consists of a hardened drive-through facility measuring approximately 130-meters-by-40-meters overall with two approximately 20-meter-long earth-covered shelters separated by an open bay. Each shelter has an approximately 40-meter-by-15-meter concrete pad running through it. A third approximately 30-meter-by-15-meter concrete pad is on the road side and between the two shelters. The intended purpose of this third concrete pad is unknown, however, it is large enough to support a missile launch under emergency conditions—KPA tactics and doctrine is believed to call for ballistic missile TELs/MELs to disperse from their bases during wartime launch operations. Cut into the mountain slope on the north side of each shelter is an approximately 9-meter-by-6-meter opening that is likely an entrance to an underground storeroom or small UGF. If a UGF, it is likely that the two entrances are internally connected. While sufficient for some trucks and support vehicles to enter, these entrances appear to be too small to be useable by known Hwasong-10 transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) or mobile-erector-launchers (MEL). A further 150 meters up the valley is what appears to be the first of two potential UGF entrances. The second potential entrance is a further 100 meters up the valley. Positive confirmation of these entrances is elusive due to the resolution of available imagery and the entrances being cut into a steep western mountain face that is often in shadow. Exploratory measurements suggest that the entrances are at between 10- and 13-meters-wide and large enough to handle any of the missile unit’s TEL/MELs and support vehicles. It is uncertain whether the UGF entrances are internally connected so that vehicles can drive through them. At a minimum, per typical KPA practice, they are linked by small internally connected tunnels. Unlike at other missile operating bases there are no large rock and dirt berms in front of the entrances. This is likely due to the narrowness of the valley at this point, which provides some measure of protection from artillery fire and aerial attack. Due to the fact that the hardened drive-through facility and potential UGF entrances are embedded into the western slope of a narrow tree-lined valley they are frequently hidden from sight in satellite imagery during spring and summer. These structures are just visible during fall and visible in winter after a snow fall—typically when viewed looking west. Approximately 175 meters higher up the valley is a single building that is likely a guard barracks and secures the facility from the south. The dirt road that runs south past this barracks continues over the eastern and southern slopes of Huisa Mountain and terminates in the Pochi-ri area 10 kilometers south of the base. This road is of sufficient quality and design (e.g., wide turns, switchbacks, etc.) to allow missile TELs/MELs to use it during wartime. Potentially, there are additional facilities and UGFs within Hochon-gun (Hochon County) that are either directly associated with the missile unit at Sangnam-ni or tasked to support its operations during wartime. No such facilities, however, have been identified in open source reporting. Detailed organizational information for the KPA ballistic missile unit at the Sangnam-ni missile operating base, other than being part of the Strategic Force’s Hwasong-10 brigade, is essentially nonexistent. From the nature and size of the infrastructure observed in satellite imagery it is likely that it is a battalion- or regiment-sized unit consisting of a headquarters, small service elements and several firing batteries. The number of Hwasong-10 TELs/MELs in the unit is unknown but postulated to be between 2 and 6. Despite the strategic importance of all the KPA’s ballistic missile operating bases and concerns of either pre-emptive or wartime airstrikes against these facilities, and aside from the base’s organic AAA battery, there is only a single additional fixed anti-aircraft artillery position within 10 km of the Sangnam-ni base. It is likely that in addition to the organic AAA battery, the missile unit itself possesses organic air defense elements equipped with both light AAA and shoulder fired SAMs (e.g., SA-7, SA-14, SA-16, etc.). The base is within the air defense umbrella of only a single SA-2 and potentially one SA-5 surface-to-air missile (SAM) bases. The Hwangsuwon-ni Airbase is, however, only 36 kilometers to the southwest.” (Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha and Lisa Collins, “Undeclared North Korea: Sangnam-ni Missile Operating Base,” CSIS, Beyond Parallel, February 15, 2019)


2/17/19:
An administration source says the U.S. is considering opening a liaison office in North Korea as a corresponding step to maintain progress in negotiations. CNN has previously reported that both sides are open to the proposal, but it is not clear how supportive North Korea is of the decision. Opening joint liaison offices was part of the 1994 Agreed Framework, but was abandoned after North Korea refused to permit the transmission of documents through diplomatic pouches. Although North Korea has said it wants actions for actions, a joint liaison office is not one of its stated desires. During his New Year’s speech, Chairman Kim said that he is more interested in the reopening of the Kaesong industrial complex, and the Kumgang tourist resort. Opening those locations would require relaxing international sanctions, which the Trump administration has not said it will not do. Still, Special Envoy Biegun noted last month before traveling to North Korea: “We didn’t say we won’t do anything until you do everything.” The Trump administration official said that the proposal for liaison offices is just one of a package of possible concessions President Trump and Chairman Kim will discuss at their summit in Vietnam next week. (Michael R. Gordon and Andrew Jeong, “U.S. Weighs Opening Liaison Office in North Korea,” Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2019)


2/18/19:
South Korea’s leader urged President Trump to offer joint North-South economic projects as an incentive for North Korea to denuclearize when he meets with its leader, Kim Jong-un, next week. President Moon Jae-in and Trump spoke on the phone to discuss the planned second summit meeting scheduled to take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 27-28. Washington is studying what Trump can offer in exchange for North Korean steps toward denuclearization. Moon urged Trump to give South Korea a role in measures to encourage the North’s denuclearization, said Moon’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, referring to cross-border economic projects Moon has supported. “President Moon said if President Trump asks, South Korea will be ready to do its part, lessening the United States’ burden,” Kim said. Speaking with reporters today, Trump said that he and Moon had had a broad discussion about the summit meeting, and he reiterated his view that he was in “no particular rush” on denuclearization. He said he would speak about the meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Abe Shinzo Abe, tomorrow. “I would like to see ultimately denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump said, adding, “I really believe North Korea can be a tremendous economic power when this is resolved.” “As long as there’s no testing, I’m in no rush,” the president said. With little more than a week to go before the Hanoi meeting, United States and North Korean officials planned to meet in the Vietnamese capital this week to negotiate a potential deal, to be announced by their leaders next week. Among possible incentives it can offer, Washington has studied exchanging liaison offices with Pyongyang and declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which was halted in a truce, according to South Korean officials familiar with United States-North Korean talks. North Korea’s top priority is the easing of economic sanctions. But Washington is reluctant to lessen its economic pressure on the North because doing so would weaken the strongest leverage it has to force the country to rid itself of nuclear weapons. Today, Moon appeared to suggest that if Washington could not immediately ease United Nations or bilateral sanctions, it should consider letting South Korea press ahead with inter-Korean collaborative projects, such as the relinking of railways of the two Koreas, as an alternative incentive for the North. North Korea has wanted those projects. During his New Year’s Day speech, Kim called for the reopening of the joint inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean city of Kaesong, as well as South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain. The Diamond Mountain and Kaesong projects had provided badly needed foreign currency for the impoverished North until they were shut down in 2008 and 2016, amid rising tensions between the two sides … Moon supports broader inter-Korean economic cooperation, arguing that it will help encourage the North to denuclearize by demonstrating the potential economic benefits. But to promote those projects, South Korea needs exemptions from international sanctions that ban investments, joint ventures and other significant economic cooperation with the North. Until now, Washington has been reluctant to help South Korea win such exemptions, insisting that it refrain from joint economic projects until the North takes important steps toward denuclearization. Moon’s critics, including conservative South Koreans, say that an easing of sanctions will only encourage North Korea to drag its feet over denuclearization. They also warn that any exemptions would undermine Washington’s own international efforts to enforce sanctions. China and Russia are already calling for easing the economic restrictions around North Korea. (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Proposes Joint Economic Projects with North,” New York Times, February 20, 2019, p. A-12)

Kim Jong Un has exiled, imprisoned or executed suspected opponents of his diplomatic outreach to the U.S. and South Korea, while also targeting his country’s moneyed elite with asset seizures, according to a new report that details a purge of some 50 to 70 individuals. The crackdown, portrayed as an anticorruption campaign in state-run media, suggests Kim is looking to silence critics and shore up his regime’s finances in the face of international sanctions, said U.S. security analysts and former South Korean intelligence officials. Economic sanctions have pinched Pyongyang’s traditional sources of foreign currency, from exports to its access to the global banking system, and the confiscations represent a way for the regime to replenish much-needed funds. The purge takes aim at officials who have used their powerful positions to amass wealth illicitly—albeit on a North Korean scale, according to analysts and the report from the North Korea Strategy Center, a Seoul-based think tank founded by a North Korean defector. The report’s findings are based on interviews with 20 current and former high-ranking members of the Kim regime. In a widely watched New Year’s Day speech, Kim publicly declared a war against corruption—a rare statement by any North Korean leader, according to former South Korean intelligence officials. Party and government organs “should intensify the struggle to eradicate both serious and trivial instances of abuse of power, bureaucratism and corruption, which would wreak havoc…and undermine the socialist system,” Kim said. The remarks came after senior officials of the North Korean Guard Command—responsible for the personal security of the Kim family—were purged late last year when the regime accused them of managing a slush fund valued at tens of thousands of dollars, according to authors of the North Korea Strategy Center report. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t independently confirm specifics of the purge, although South Korean analysts expressed confidence in the authors’ findings about Kim’s new crackdown. The sweep, which took off late last year, seeks mainly to confiscate foreign-cash piles amassed by the North Korean establishment, and is thought to have netted the regime as much as several million dollars, the authors of the North Korea Strategy Center report said. The authors said they interviewed 14 former North Korean officials, six current officials and five additional North Koreans now residing outside the North for their report. “Many of these purges are related to money,” said Kim Jung-bong, a former South Korean intelligence official. Although the North Korean leader has condoned some degree of corruption to satisfy loyalists for the sake of regime stability, sanctions appear to have altered his thinking: Pyongyang now views graft money as wealth taken from increasingly cash-strapped government coffers, the former official said. The crackdown differs from previous ones directed by Pyongyang because it appears aimed at offenses involving unremarkable, if not broadly practiced, types of bribery, said the U.S. and South Korean security analysts. Kim is thought to have purged around 400 individuals among the Pyongyang establishment since taking over from his father in late 2011, according to the authors, with a campaign against his influential uncle in 2013 accounting for about half that figure. Researchers of the Kim regime don’t see the latest crackdown as evidence that Pyongyang is in political disarray, describing Kim’s grip as firm. But in the near term, Kim needs foreign cash as international sanctions block much of the country’s potential trade. In anticipation of eventual sanctions relief, and having publicly stressed the need to develop his economy, Kim wants to clean up rampant graft to ensure economic projects aren’t undone by corruption, these people said. Ken Gause, director of the adversary analytics program at CNA, a Virginia-based nonprofit think tank, said Kim could be concerned that widespread bribery is hurting growth, and in turn his political legitimacy, given his desire to boost the economy. “He is trying to put together, within a country, an economic plan that will actually take root,” he said. “And if you have an environment that is steeped in corruption, whatever you plant in that environment will die.” Among the victims of the latest arrests and executions, according to the North Korea Strategy Center, are senior members of powerful military units that Kim’s father never touched, lest he alienate the most ardent domestic supporters of the family’s rule. It is the first time that a North Korean leader has targeted the 100,000-member Guard Command, according to the authors and other experts on North Korea. The sweep follows similar actions in 2017 against 10 members of the General Political Bureau—the political commissariat of the North Korean military. They were executed for crimes related to “foreign reserves bribery,” according to the NKSC report. (Andrew Jeong and Timothy W. Martin, “Kim Jong Un Purges Wealthy Elite and Opponents of Outreach to U.S.,” Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2019)


2/19/19:
Bolton: “Even another phone call with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, persistently pushing South Korea’s agenda, on February 19 didn’t cause major damage. Trump proclaimed that he was the only person who could make a nuclear deal with Kim Jong Un. He pressed Moon to let the media know that progress was being made, since they typically tried to put a negative spin on whatever he did. He promised to keep South Korea’s interests in mind, but stressed that Kim wanted a deal. They all wanted deals. Later that morning, Pompeo, Biegun, the NSC’s Allison Hooker, and I yet again had a meeting with Trump, during which he said, ‘If we walk away, it’s okay,’ the main point made in the briefings. To Biegun, Trump said, ‘Tell them [the North Koreans] how much I love Chairman Kim, but also tell them what I want.’ After further discussions, Pompeo and I went back to my office to talk about Hanoi. I stressed again why a baseline declaration by North Korea was the starting point for any intelligible negotiation. I also underlined why we couldn’t give up economic sanctions and why we needed more pressure. Pompeo bristled at my ‘interference’ with his turf, but he didn’t disagree on the substance, which he rarely did when we talked alone. At a Principals Committee later that day on North Korea, the clear weakness Biegun displayed disturbed many of those present, especially Shanahan and Dunford, even Pompeo. Was he managing Biegun or wasn’t he? Dunford wanted to be sure that any ‘end-of-war declaration’ would not have binding legal effect, which of course raised the question of why we were considering it at all. The North had told us they didn’t care about it, seeing it as something Moon wanted.[??] So why were we pursuing it?” (Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, pp. 287-88)

Carlin: “This is an article about the “p” word—process. In some circles, it considered best to speak the word with head tilted slightly back, indicating barely concealed contempt. That way, you can demonstrate that you don’t think the manner and means—i.e., the process—by which agreements are negotiated are important because you are tough-minded and are really only interested in results. Why such an allergy to using the “p” word exists is a good question. How in the world anyone expects to cross the street without putting one foot in front of the other, I don’t know. Negotiations need process—at the simplest level, the where, when, what and who; tables and chairs and coffee breaks for crucial off-line conversations; dinners or lunches sometimes; paper, pencils, a joke here or there to break the tension. And most of all, process is communication—serious, sustained, intense communication of ideas back and forth across the table. That includes listening closely as well as speaking precisely. Perhaps one reason “process” is in ill repute is that from the outside negotiations look like a game where the score can be tallied after each inning. Who won, who lost, what were the errors, and is anyone left on base? From my experience, that is not normally how things have worked with the North Koreans. Quite the opposite. What made negotiations possible, for talks to move forward, was the agreeable fiction that “nothing is decided until everything is decided.” That can sound like an awkward approach, but it had significant advantages. Any single concession in isolation may have been too much for Pyongyang—or Washington, for that matter—to digest. Seen as part of a final structure, however, the pieces could appear logical, practical and necessary. Moreover, with trust in short supply, neither side had to commit fully on any one issue until the entire structure was complete, at which point it became possible to weigh the balance of all the give and take. Whether that approach will work in the current context, starting at top-level meetings and coming back down the mountain to working levels remains to be seen. The intense public and political focus on the US-DPRK “summits”—a word infused with almost mythical importance—may make it much more difficult to hold off scoring the inning, thus depriving the process of its full potential. Negotiations with the North Koreans are widely described as tough, rough, rugged, contentious, and other words suggesting unpleasantness. That may be, and certainly was how many people have felt at the end of a long day sitting across from a DPRK negotiating team. But it is actually a question of where along the arc of the negotiations one looks. The North’s opening positions—certainly those at the beginning of a negotiating process—can be frightful, though they often contain faint clues about movement down the road. The word “impossible,” repeated frequently enough in the North Korean position starts to make the entire exercise seem a waste of time, until, usually late in the talks, what was impossible suddenly becomes possible. Although normally cautious at the outset, there have been times when the North started the talks with a big bang, as in July 1993 when it advanced the idea of trading graphite moderated (plutonium production) reactors for light water reactors. In effect, Kim Jong Un has done something similar along these lines by feeding into the mix important concessions (e.g., announcing a full stop to nuclear and missile tests; putting Yongbyon on the table) even before the negotiations have begun. The North Koreans pay a lot of attention to atmospherics. Generally, they do their best to keep the atmosphere civil and professional, even using humor at times to keep things buoyant. What they expect in return is for the other side to respond in kind. Make no mistake, that isn’t meant to imply that things don’t sometimes get testy, but those moments tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Sometimes they are part of a well-defined tit-for-tat exercise. “If you Americans slam your notebooks down and walk out of the room, then we have to do that, too.” The North Koreans are at their most prickly and defensive when they sense that the other side is toying with them, not taking them seriously. They demand a level playing field at least in terms of respect at the table. Their radars are sensitive to slights of the sort Americans are all too prone to give without even realizing it. That becomes less of a problem when the two teams become accustomed to each other, but it never goes away entirely. North Korean negotiators often nibble at the edges of compromise, giving way on small matters in order to keep up some sense of forward momentum while saving the most difficult issues for last. If they are looking down the road to an eventual resolution of a problem, experience suggests they would rather avoid butting heads too hard too early in the process, or risk putting themselves into tactical corners from which it is hard to get out. In negotiations, speed can kill. Solutions—rarely perfect, it is true—tend to emerge over time. If the DPRK side retreats from a position, it may not be immediately apparent. In some instances, they lay down what is in effect a rhetorical barrage to cover the fact that they have backed up to a new line both easier to defend and easier to abandon when the time comes for a settlement. A key point to remember is that when dealing with the North, diplomacy can change “reality” as it moves; perspectives and options for both sides begin to look different in the light of even incremental progress. As a general rule, North Korean negotiators proceed cautiously, sometimes circuitously. The path to “yes” tends not to come in a straight line. They tend not to drop old positions; what is important is to listen for their description of “changed circumstances” within which they carve out room for flexibility down the line. They don’t, as a matter of course, simply raise new demands when old ones are met, pocketing a concession and asking for more. They often use progress to build more progress, sometimes even expressly matching concession for concession. They insist on a sense of balance and reciprocity at all times, especially in any documents that emerge from talks. Procedure and agenda are seriously important. An American position that starts with “You are the problem, and you have to solve it,” is a good way to get nowhere fast. Americans tend to be impatient, to want rapid and well-defined progress. We are prone to lay down preconditions, either to convince ourselves that the other side is seriously committed, or to wriggle around domestic political pressure. The North Koreans will not accept anything that is expressly identified as or even has the whiff of being a precondition. If the other side insists on preconditions, they will lay down their own, something they understand will obstruct even starting serious talks. Preconditions are, to the North Koreans, a way of bullying them, of seeming to put them on a leash even before negotiations begin. That is something they simply will never accept. The way around this? Diplomats are paid to wrap fish in perfumed silk bags, and a precondition has to be well packaged to pass the smell test in Pyongyang. All, some, or none of the above may be applicable to what goes on in Hanoi at the next summit. Both leaders are free to put aside their briefing books—assuming they even look at them—and move according to their instincts and sense of the possible. Bureaucracies and advisors working with kings, emperors and presidents have known that for centuries. Having the Hanoi talks over two days (February 27-28) may provide useful space for refining and correcting missteps by either side on day one. Many experts would be more comfortable with the working-level process leading, possibly and eventually, to the summit. But we have the reverse, and no one really knows what it will mean to ski downhill from the top of Mt. Everest.” (Robert Carlin, “Negotiating with North Korea,” 38 North, February 19, 2019)


2/20/19:
Trump: “Q Mr. President, you spoke to the Prime Minister of Japan today. PRESIDENT TRUMP: I did. Q How hard is it going to be to get North Korea to completely, verifiably denuclearize, which I think you — TRUMP: Well, I spoke with — this morning, with Prime Minister Abe. I had a long conversation with him. We talked about the trip next week to Vietnam, which will be, I think, very successful. I think the first trip to Singapore was extremely successful. We’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim for two days, and I think we’ll accomplish a lot. We started off with a very good meeting, and I think we’ll continue that along. I don’t think this will be the last meeting by any chance, but I do think that the relationship is very strong. When we started, as you know, there were a lot of problems. There was the missiles going all over. There were hostages that were being held. There were remains that we wanted to get back. There were many, many things. Now there’s no nuclear testing, no missiles going up. And we have a good relationship — a very good relationship, I’d say. So I spoke with Prime Minister Abe of Japan about that, and we compared notes. And I think we are very much on the same wave length. It was a good meeting. A good conversation. Q They seem very reluctant — the North Koreans — to denuclearize. Do you think you’ll be able to make any — TRUMP: No, I don’t think they’re reluctant. I think they want to do something. But I — you know, you’ve been talking about this for 80 years. They’ve been talking about this for many, many years, and no administration has done anything. They’ve gotten taken to the cleaners. And I think we have a really meaningful relationship. We’ll see what happens. The sanctions are on in full. As you know, I haven’t taken sanctions off. I’d love to be able to, but in order to do that, we have to do something that’s meaningful on the other side. But Chairman Kim and I have a very good relationship. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something work out. I really believe that, as an economic power, because of its location in between. I mean, if you look on a map and you see Russia, China, and right in the middle of everything is South Korea, but North Korea right smack in the middle. So you have Russia, China, and then South Korea. And this is right in the middle. Tremendous potential for economic wellbeing, long term. And I think he understands that very well. I think he might understand that better than anybody. So they have a great, great potential as a country, and I think that’s what they’re looking to do. We’ll see. But we’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve made a tremendous amount. That doesn’t mean this is going to be the last meeting, because I don’t believe it will. But we have subjects to discuss which will be very fruitful, I believe.” (White House Press Office, Remarks by President Trump and Federal Chancellor Kurz of the Republic of Austria before Their Bilateral Meeting,” February 20, 2019)

President Trump’s special envoy Stephen E. Biegun arrived here late today on a mission to close substantial gaps with North Korea ahead of the president’s second nuclear summit next week with Kim Jong Un, a daunting task intensified by skepticism over his approach within the Trump administration. The challenge for Biegun in meeting his counterpart, Kim Hyok Chol, will be to try to clinch a detailed agreement that can satisfy Trump’s desire for a historic deal but one that can withstand the scrutiny of detractors, including national security adviser John Bolton and others, who warn that Pyongyang is not to be trusted. Last month, in a lengthy speech at Stanford University, Biegun set out his vision for North Korea to dismantle its plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities in exchange for “corresponding measures” by the United States. Among the incentives Biegun appeared to dangle was a potential peace declaration that would aim to put a formal end to the Korean War, which has been suspended by an armistice since 1953. Hawks such as Bolton have fiercely opposed this “step-by-step” process in favor of maintaining maximum pressure through economic sanctions that would, in theory, force a better deal by eroding North Korea’s resolve. Bolton has fretted privately that Biegun’s team is too eager for a deal, and he continues to believe the negotiations will fail, according to people familiar with the deliberations. He’s not the only one who is concerned. At a recent interagency meeting, senior officials from the Treasury Department and the Pentagon warned Biegun not to loosen sanctions or move too quickly to agree to an end-of-war declaration, according to a person with knowledge of the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. The person said it was “startling” to see the concerns raised in the meeting, adding that Biegun has “one job” — to strike a deal — while others in the administration are intent on maintaining a hard line. Biegun allies outside the administration praised his willingness to press forward on engagement in a difficult environment. “If you don’t like this approach, then I don’t think you’re in favor of diplomacy — period. And it may be that Bolton isn’t,” said Tod Lindberg, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. “This is what good diplomacy looks like.” White House aides said there was no friction between Bolton and Biegun, but they declined to elaborate on their relationship. Biegun, 55, a former Ford Motor lobbyist and longtime Republican aide on Capitol Hill, was hired by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in August to take the reins of the lower-level negotiations after Trump’s first meeting with Kim in Singapore. “The dilemma that Steve and the negotiators face is that the North Koreans view Donald Trump as their pot of gold and they are not going to negotiate” with the president’s subordinates, said Michael Green, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who worked with Biegun at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. In Biegun’s Stanford address, which came days before he traveled to Pyongyang for a meeting with Kim Hyok Chol, Biegun said he was well versed in the criticism that the Singapore agreement was threadbare. In meetings with former U.S. government negotiators and think tank experts in Washington, Biegun has sought advice over the potential pitfalls of negotiating with the North Koreans, including parsing their often blustery, occasionally opaque language. Biegun acknowledged that there are “no new ideas” after nearly three decades of sporadic U.S. talks with Pyongyang, but he emphasized that his job was to identify openings for progress, said people who have met with him and spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe those conversations. “We have big issues with North Korea on weapons of mass destruction, and that drove the sense of crisis … . But in working with North Korea, we have a lot of other issues in the relationship that we have to resolve, too,” Biegun said at Stanford. “My theory of the case would be that we can resolve issues of disagreement outside of the weapons of mass destruction issue much more effectively through engagement than through the separation that we have right now.” People who have met with Biegun described him as a politically savvy and seasoned negotiator who remains clear-eyed about his challenge and privately acknowledges the steep odds of a successful outcome. Biegun was a well-known GOP aide during 14 years on the Hill, working as a foreign policy staffer for then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and, later, as national security adviser for then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). In between, he served on Bush’s NSC from 2001 to 2003 under then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Though Biegun’s foreign policy expertise and background is in Russia, one former colleague recalled Rice bringing him into North Korea-related meetings. In February 2002, when Bush visited the Korean demilitarized zone, his speechmakers were putting together remarks when Biegun lobbied to include the phrase, “Chairman Kim, tear down this wall!” — a pointed rebuke to then-North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father. The Bush team, still dealing with the geopolitical fallout of the 43rd president’s “axis of evil” remark in his State of the Union address, nixed that language, said the former colleague who requested anonymity to discuss the private deliberations over the speech. In 2008, Biegun joined the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and drew a challenging assignment: briefing his vice-presidential running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on foreign policy. “Whether it’s advising Sarah Palin or working on North Korea, it says something very favorable about Steve Biegun that he’s a guy very different people want in situations like this,” said Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, who worked on the McCain campaign with Biegun. Biegun was working as the international government relations director at Ford when Pompeo tapped him for the role as special envoy to North Korea. The job came with significant risk. North Korea reneged on an agreement to suspend missile tests made during the six-party talks in the Bush era, scuttling years of painstaking negotiations with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. That collapse probably played a strong role in shaping the views of Bolton, who served in the State Department during the Bush administration. Ahead of the Singapore summit in June, Bolton publicly suggested that North Korea would be expected to pursue the “Libya model” of relinquishing its nuclear program wholesale — a prospect that angered Pyongyang, given that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was later overthrown and killed. Bolton has continued to gripe internally about the talks and is said to have complained about Biegun’s approach directly to Pompeo, according to two people familiar with the issue who requested anonymity to discuss the internal discussions. “A lot of critics say nothing works, everything fails, but that’s not true,” said Robert Carlin, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who was involved in North Korea talks during the Clinton administration and has met with Biegun. “A lot of people want to look way ahead, but there are stages and ways to reduce risk but not get to the endpoint right away.” For Biegun, criticism comes with the territory, and it is ultimately muted by Trump’s support. On Christmas Eve, the president offered Biegun a vote of public confidence, tweeting a photo of them together in the Oval Office, along with Allison Hooker, an NSC staffer. “Progress being made,” Trump wrote. “Looking forward to my next summit with Chairman Kim!” (John Hudson and David Nakamura, “Stephen Biegun Tutored Sarah Palin on Foreign Policy. Now He’s Trying to Clinch a Foreign Policy Deal for Trump,” Washington Post, February 20, 2019)


2/21/19:
North Korea has warned that it is facing a food shortfall of some 1.4 million tons in 2019 and has been forced to almost halve rations, blaming high temperatures, drought, floods and United Nations sanctions in a memo seen by Reuters today. The release of the undated two-page memo by the North Korean mission to the United Nations comes ahead of a second summit next week between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. “The DPRK government calls on international organizations to urgently respond to addressing the food situation,” read the North Korean memo, which the country’s U.N. mission described as a follow-up to joint assessment with the World Food Program between November 26 and December 7, 2018. WFP declined to comment. The memo said North Korea’s food production last year was 4.951 million tons, 503,000 tons down on 2017. The United Nations confirmed these figures as official government data provided at the end of January and said North Korea’s food production included rice, wheat, potatoes and soy beans. North Korea said it would import 200,000 tons of food and produce about 400,000 tons of early crops, but that it would still be left with a gap and from January would cut daily rations to 300 grams (10.5 ounces) per person from 550 grams. U.N. officials and aid groups in North Korea were consulting the government to “further understand the impact of the food security situation on the most vulnerable people in order to take early action to address their humanitarian needs,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said today. He said the United Nations and aid groups were only able to help one third of six million people estimated to be in need last year due to a lack of funding. A U.N. appeal for $111 million in 2018 was only a quarter funded, Dujarric said. The United Nations estimates a total of 10.3 million people — almost half the population — are in need and some 41 percent of North Koreans are undernourished, Dujarric said. (Michelle Nichols, “North Korea Warns of Food Crisis, Slashes Rations before Next Leaders’ Summit,” Reuters, February 22, 2019)

Bolton: “The third and final North Korea briefing, on February 21, followed a call with Abe the day before that couldn’t have teed it up better. We had prepared a set of ‘wild cards’ that Kim Jong Un might bring to Hanoi to surprise Trump and get him to make unnecessary concessions. Once again lasting about forty-five minutes, the session was a successful conclusion to our briefing efforts. Whether they would suffice to prevent catastrophic concessions to Kim remained to be seen.” (Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, p. 288)


2/22/19:
Senior North Korean and U.S. envoys held hours-long talks in Hanoi today as part of home-stretch preparations for another summit between the leaders of the Korean War foes. Kim Hyok-chol, Pyongyang’s special representative for Washington, left the Vietnamese government’s guesthouse at around 8:50 a.m. (local time). He was accompanied by two other officials: Kim Song-hye, director of the United Front Department’s tactical office, and Choe Kang-il, acting director-general for the foreign ministry’s North American affairs. Their sedan arrived at Hotel du Parc in downtown Hanoi, where Stephen Biegun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea, is staying, about 10 minutes later. The North Koreans returned to the guesthouse at around 2:40 p.m., suggesting the discussions lasted up to five and half hours. Yesterday, the two sides had about four and a half hours of talks to map out a deal that will be finalized at the Trump-Kim summit. Speaking to reporters in Washington in a conference call yesterday, a senior Trump administration official said that a priority is to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities, while its “ultimate and overriding” goal is the denuclearization of the communist nation. The official also said that developing a “shared understanding of what denuclearization is” and putting together a roadmap for denuclearization will also be key issues. He stressed a full inventory of Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal would be required, albeit not immediately. “Eventually, we are going to need a full declaration in order to complete the process of denuclearization, though I expect that will come well before the end,” he said.” It’s basically the international standard on how one can go about addressing the issue of elimination of weapons of mass destruction.” He added, “I don’t know if North Korea has made the choice yet to denuclearize, but the reason why we’re engaged in this is because we believe there is a possibility.” South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, visited Hanoi today for consultations with Biegun to coordinate a negotiation strategy. Japan’s leading nuclear envoy, Kanasugi Kenji, also headed to Hanoi earlier in the day, according to Kyodo News. (Yonhap, “N. Korea, U.S. Envoys Hold Additional Talks on Summit Agenda,” February 22, 2019)

A former U.S. intelligence official with vast experience dealing with North Korea presented a road map for achieving the U.S. goal of final, fully verified denuclearization (FFVD) of the North. Andrew Kim, who retired as head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea Mission Center in December, said Washington’s vision for FFVD starts with the continued suspension of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests. The next step, he said in a lecture at Stanford University, was the inspection of North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities by international experts. “Pyongyang must declare its facilities,” he continued. “The North must completely dismantle and remove nuclear weapons delivery system facilities and associated materials from the Korean Peninsula on an agreed timeline. The North must provide a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear, ballistic missile, chemical and biological programs.” In return for the North abandoning its nuclear programs, Trump promised security guarantees from the U.S. and committed to build new relations between the countries, as well as lasting peace on the peninsula.

“At the end they need to rejoin the NPT for verification and confirmation as part of the process,” the former CIA official said, referring to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Pyongyang withdrew from in 2003. North Korea, for its part, seeks the removal of all United Nations sanctions on the regime, according to Kim, who was a key member of the U.S. team handling preparations for the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore in June. It also wants the resumption of inter-Korean projects, such as the industrial complex in North Korea’s Kaesong and tours to its scenic Mount Kumgang, he said. North Korea is also after a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. “The North wants to be recognized as a nuclear state,” Kim elaborated. “The North wants to improve its relations with the U.S. toward eventually establishing a diplomatic relationship. North Korea wants to put in place a long-lasting peace mechanism … that assures the continued rule of the Kim family.” (Yonhap, “Ex-CIA Official Lays out Complete Roadmap for Denuclearization,” Korea Times, February 23, 2019) Andrew Kim: “In early April 2018, I accompanied then-CIA Director Pompeo to Pyongyang to meet with Chairman Kim. Our main objective was to confirm one single most important point that the South Korean special envoy relayed to us a couple of weeks prior. According to the South Korean envoy, Chairman Kim stated to the South Korean delegation that he is willing to denuclearize. When Director Pompeo asked Chairman Kim directly whether the Chairman intended to denuclearize, the Chairman said that he is a father and husband and he does not want his children to live their lives carrying nuclear weapons on their back.” (Andrew Kim, Remarks Delivered at Stanford’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, February 22, 2019)

Pabian and Liu: “Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center from February 2019 indicates that despite recent assertions that the 5 MWe reactor is running, there are no obvious indicators that it or the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) are operating. Commercial satellite imagery from February 11 and 21, 2019 of the 5 MWe plutonium production reactor shows no indicators that the reactor is operating. There is no steam venting from the generator hall, nor is there any hot water effluent at the cooling water outfall pipe. The last time such activity was observed was in November 2018, when a small outfall was noted, though was likely due to the transfer of residual heat from previous reactor operations. There is, however, continued movement of vehicles and personnel around the reactor over the last few weeks; roads have been swept clean, showing that the reactor site is being well maintained. Dredging continues near the 5 MWe reactor’s secondary cooling system, where piles of dredged material now effectively block the river channel that serves the system’s pump house. The purpose of this activity is still unclear.” (Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu, “North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Facility: No Indications Plutonium Production Reactor Is Operating,” February 22, 2019)

As U.S. diplomats prepare for the second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un next week in Hanoi, senior Democrats in the House and Senate, joined by a few Republicans, have been sounding alarm bells, warning that South Korean President Moon Jae-in is moving too fast in reconciling with North Korea by seeking a premature lifting of sanctions on the nuclear-armed state. They are also expressing strong reservations about the U.S. and South Korean negotiations with Kim and warning Trump not to budge on his “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign until Kim has completely dismantled North Korea’s nuclear-weapons and missile program. Kim temporarily halted the program nearly 500 days ago by suspending all testing of his “nuclear force.” The congressional actions have been fueled by a steady stream of pessimistic and often misleading studies from Washington think tanks, eagerly embraced by US media hostile to the peace process, alleging that Kim is “playing” Trump and that both Moon and Trump may stop short of demanding North Korea’s immediate denuclearization by embracing a more incremental approach. Last week, Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, joined Republican Ted Cruz in sending a strongly worded letter to Trump that directly attacked President Moon’s push for closer economic ties with North Korea. They urged the White House to rein in the U.S. ally by committing “the full weight of the U.S. government to ensuring the integrity of the sanctions regime.” Senator Menendez is also the author of a resolution, now under consideration in the Senate and House, promoting the trilateral military alliance between the United States, Japan, and South Korea, which is highly unpopular among Koreans. It comes as Tokyo and Seoul are locked in a bitter dispute over Japan’s use of “comfort women” as sex slaves during World War II and its refusal to provide restitution to thousands of Koreans forced to labor in Japanese mines and factories during that time. The resolution, which was introduced in the House by Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is widely seen in Seoul as a way to pressure President Moon to back off and settle the dispute. The most dramatic moment of congressional impatience with South Korea came last week, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with a high-level delegation of South Korean lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties. The group, which was led by Representative Moon Hee-sang, the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly, came to Washington to seek support for the inter-Korean peace process started by President Moon during the “Olympic Truce” of January 2018. According to Korean reporters who were briefed on the meeting, the session was uncomfortable from the start and had to be extended “as the talks grew intense.” Pelosi, citing her own visit to Pyongyang in 1997, reportedly told her visitors not to trust the North and asserted (apparently with prodding from Representative Na Kyung-won, the floor leader of the right-wing opposition Liberty Korea Party) that North Korea’s “real goal isn’t its own denuclearization but South Korea’s demilitarization.” At one point, Pelosi insisted that last June’s summit in Singapore—the first-ever meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader—was “nothing but show.” The implication was that the South Koreans, who have had extensive discussions on economic, political, and military issues with their Northern counterparts over the past year, are naive and don’t understand the threat to their own country. Representative Moon, in an interview with Fox 11 in Los Angeles, said he responded to Pelosi that the second summit in Hanoi “is of great importance to the Korean people and it will determine the fate of our country. That’s how important it is.” The congressional pressure on South Korea to end its dispute with Japan also contributed to the tension. The issue of Japan’s wartime crimes is particularly sensitive for Representative Moon, who recently suggested that the Japanese emperor apologize to his country for its war crimes against Koreans. Later, he called Japan a “brazen thief” for demanding that he retract his comments. After hearing Pelosi express her concern about the dispute between South Korea and Japan, Speaker Moon told Korean reporters that the House speaker was essentially lobbying for Abe Shinzo’s Liberal Democratic Party government in Tokyo. “I think Japan told her to have a word with [us] before the meeting, or in other words, scold us,” he said, according to the Joongang Ilbo. Pelosi’s press office did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment and clarification. Still, Pelosi’s comments rattled many Koreans, who are hoping for a successful summit so they can proceed with their plans to eliminate tensions with the North. “Reconciliation and peace between North and South Korea is a gravely historic matter that should be for the Korean people to decide,” Simone Chun, a Korean scholar and activist who has spoken to congressional staffers about the peace process, told The Nation. “It cannot be allowed to be reduced to a bargaining chip in the struggle for one-upmanship between Republicans and Democrats.” Chun was also critical of Representative Na of the Korean opposition party for raising fears during her visit to Washington about a North Korean nuclear attack and opposing an end-of-war declaration at the upcoming summit. “What Pelosi did was to legitimize the ultra-right-wing views expressed by Na,” she said. Hwang Joon-bum, the Washington correspondent for Hankyoreh, South Korea’s largest progressive daily, wrote an op-ed about the House speaker’s remarks. “Pelosi is just one person who reflects the dominant viewpoint in the American political establishment, the mainstream media and think tanks,” he said. “There was never any chance” that the lawmakers’ tour “would reverse the deep-rooted distrust of North Korea and the antipathy to Trump both inside and outside of the US political establishment.” The US critics, he added, “aren’t impressed by North Korea’s suspension of nuclear and missile testing since Nov. 2017, its willingness to demolish its Yongbyon nuclear facility and [Kim Jong-un’s] focus on an economic line.” The Menendez letter showed little appreciation for South Korea’s efforts to help the North improve its economy. Menendez and Cruz listed a series of South Korean actions they consider troublesome, including moves by Korean banks to “pursue investments and operations” in the North and the participation of “multiple business executives” in President Moon’s summit in Pyongyang last September to discuss reopening the Kaesong Industrial Zone just north of the DMZ and tours of Mount Kumgang, a tourist site beloved by South Koreans. They also complained about President Moon’s recent calls to lift sanctions on the North “as soon as possible” and plans by both Koreas to break ground on a new cross-border rail project “within this year.” They added that North Korea’s “opacity” and its “well-documented efforts of evading sanctions” makes it impossible to ensure “that economic engagement with the North—regardless of intent to contribute to positive diplomatic progress on denuclearization—would not violate U.N. Security Council resolutions or be used for illicit activities prohibited by U.S. sanctions.” Meanwhile, in another move that could constrain both South Korea and the United States in their negotiations with the North, Representative Tom Malinowski, a newly elected Democratic congressman from New Jersey, joined Republican Representative Mike Gallagher in introducing a bill that would restrict the US government and the Pentagon from reducing US troops in South Korea from their current level of about 28,000 to 22,000 or less unless the secretary of defense could assure Congress it would not have an “adverse” impact on US security. The bill, H.R. 889, states that a “withdrawal or significant reduction” of US forces, which could happen eventually if a peace deal is reached, “may risk upsetting the military balance” in the Asia region. It also uses language similar to the Menendez letter concerning the US alliance with Japan, saying that the trilateral ties between the United States, Japan, and South Korea “form the bedrock of regional stability.” Malinowski, a former director of Human Rights Watch, was the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor during the Obama administration. In 2017, he wrote an article for Politico titled “How to Take Down Kim Jong Un” that essentially called for a campaign that would “lead to the end” of the North Korean regime “and its reason to exist as a country.” The Democratic Party’s current approach was established last June, one week before the Singapore summit, in a letter to Trump from Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and signed by Senators Menendez, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Sherrod Brown, Mark Warner, and Patrick Leahy. It laid out a series of demands, including North Korea’s “dismantlement and removal” of its chemical and biological weapons, which are not currently part of the talks, and urged the White House to “maintain a tough approach to China” throughout the peace process. The Schumer letter also rejected any incremental steps by the US government in its dealings with Kim. “Any deal that explicitly or implicitly gives North Korea sanctions relief for anything other than the verifiable performance of its obligations to dismantle its nuclear and missile arsenal is a bad deal,” the Democratic senators declared. Chun, the scholar-activist, said in a recent e-mail to peace activists that the Schumer letter “completely overlooked the recent progress toward peace evinced by the inter-Korean summit and the Panmunjom Declaration and discounted the overwhelming support for the peace process by Koreans. It also offers no alternative vision for peace on the Korean Peninsula and considers Korean interests only insofar as they serve the narrow political agenda of the Democratic Party.” After the Schumer letter went out, according to activists who spend time on Capitol Hill, Representative Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders told their caucus “not to speak supportively” of the Singapore summit, which happened to coincide with a week of advocacy on Korea by peace groups. “Many of our folks lobbying on the Hill were stunned at how hostile many Dems were,” one activist told The Nation. But now, with the Trump-Kim negotiations in full swing, a few Democrats are ready to take a new approach. A group of lawmakers from the Congressional Progressive Caucus plan to announce an action next week to express support for the Korea peace process and call on the United States to finally end the Korean War through a peace agreement. That would be most welcome, said Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action and national coordinator of the Korea Peace Network. “Democrats should support diplomacy, and remember the most important president in this process is Moon Jae-in, not Donald Trump,” Martin said. “Moon’s persistent leadership toward reconciliation and diplomacy with North Korea represents the fervent desire of the Korean and Korean-American people for peace. Members of Congress from both parties should understand that and support it, skepticism about Trump and Kim notwithstanding.” (Tim Shorrock, “Why Are Democrats Trying to Torpedo the Korea Peace Talks?” The Nation, February 22, 2019)


2/24/19:
Bolton: “Flying toward our refueling stop in Anchorage, we received a draft US–North Korea statement. the NSC’s Allison Hooker said Biegun had ‘table-dropped’ it at a meeting with the North, without previously clearing it. It read as if drafted by North Korea, enumerating all Trump’s prior ‘concessions’ to Kim Yong Chol in the Oval Office without seeking anything in return beyond another vague statement that North Korea would agree to define ‘denuclearization.’ It was a complete mystery to me why Pompeo would allow such a text. What if the North Koreans simply accepted it word for word? This was another massive process foul, and a political time bomb. I had Kupperman show the draft to Mulvaney and Stephen Miller in Washington, and Mulvaney agreed it was both a first-magnitude political mistake and a deliberate violation of the established interagency process. They were flying with Trump to Hanoi on Air Force One and explained the problems to him en route. Trump was completely unaware of the draft, so Biegun had no authority from on high. I also called Pence on Air Force Two, as he flew back to Washington from the Lima Group meeting in Bogotá, and he had the same reaction to the Biegun draft that I did.’ (Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, pp. 288-89)


2/26/19:
A country once at war with the United States cozies up to its former enemy. Market reforms galvanize its economy, even as the Communist Party remains firmly in control. As Vietnamese officials play host to the summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea this week, they are offering up the hope that the North Koreans could somehow mirror Vietnam’s trajectory — transforming from a closed society strangled by central planners to a bustling nation full of capitalist enterprise. Ideological fraternity has long bound Vietnam and North Korea. Now, as Kim is expected to tour Vietnamese industrial zones filled with foreign-invested factories, Vietnam has advice that might sound surprising from a nation that ejected American forces from its soil more than 40 years ago. “The success of the Vietnamese economy is due to its decision to normalize relations with the United States in 1995,” said Maj. Gen. Le Van Cuong, the former director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security, noting that the United States is the top destination for Vietnamese exports. “I would say to our North Korean friends that as long as they have a conflict with the United States, they will not be able to develop their economy properly,” he added. “China will try every possible tactic to keep North Korea in its arms because it wants a country to control,” General Cuong said. “Luckily, North Korea has the necessary conditions to escape China’s grip if it deepens its relationship with America.” (Hannah Beech, “Vietnam Shows the Value of Burying the Hatchet with the U.S.,” New York Times, February 27, 2019, p. A-11)

Elleman: “President Donald Trump on Sunday [February 24], during an address to state governors, said, “I’m not in a rush, I don’t want to rush anybody, I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.” For those hoping to see a concrete agreement with North Korea that verifiably denuclearizes North Korea in the near future and in one comprehensive step, Trump’s statement comes as a disappointment. However, the value the president assigns to the absence of nuclear and missile testing is not misplaced and supports a phased approach to denuclearization. Without additional testing, North Korea’s capacity to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons is unreliable and questionable. …The administration should therefore use the upcoming US-DPRK summit in Hanoi to negotiate a formal, verifiable long-range missile test ban with Pyongyang. Such a ban, if implemented fully, would limit the viability of North Korea’s long-range strike capacity, strengthen US security commitments to South Korea and Japan, and protect American lives. It would also provide momentum for bolder, more ambitious steps toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Ballistic missile development requires flight testing. Without extensive testing, neither the missile’s designers, nor its end-users, can have a high degree of confidence that the new system will perform as expected under a full spectrum of operational conditions. The number of flight tests needed for the development of a country’s first- or second-generation strategic missiles depends on the level of confidence required by the end-user. The U.S. and Soviet Union conducted roughly three dozen flight tests for their respective first- and second-generation long-range missiles. France’s strategic missiles were subjected to roughly two dozen flight tests, and although publicly available test records seem incomplete, China appears to have relied on about a dozen test launches. North Korea has conducted only two test flights of its Hwasong-14, and only a single launch of its more capable Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. How Many Flight Tests are Required? There is no fixed answer to this question, as it is partially subjective and depends on the missile’s design criteria, most notably the performance and reliability requirements as specified by the end-user. A detailed study of early-generation, long-range missile development in the Soviet Union and United States reveals interesting and consistent trends that illustrate what is required before a system is deemed combat ready. The flight-test records of 10 missiles have been evaluated here. On average, across nine of the missiles examined, the tests failed more often than they succeeded during the initial ten launches. As one might expect, the success rate over the second batch of ten tests improved to 74%. Overall, after 20 flight tests each missile performed successfully just 61% of the time. A deeper look at the available launch data indicates that consistent improvement in reliability begins after roughly 16 flight tests, on average, though the number varies across each of the nine systems. Over a span of ten years, beginning in 2006, Pyongyang launched five three-stage, liquid-fueled Unha-type rockets attempting to place a satellite into low-earth orbit. The first three failed, and the fourth succeeded in orbiting an object, though the satellite was tumbling and inoperable. The fifth attempt succeeded in achieving an orbit, but the satellite appears to have malfunctioned. Failing three of five times is consistent with available data on similar systems. In 2016, North Korea test launched up to eight Musudan (Hwasong-10) intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), with all but one failing catastrophically. A year later, the first three Hwasong-12 launch attempts ended in failure; the subsequent three appear to have been successful, with the last two launches employing a standard, rather than highly lofted trajectory. The North Korean experience is reasonably consistent with the test histories experienced elsewhere. The Hwasong-14 and -15 ICBMs appear to have broken the trend seen elsewhere and in North Korea itself. How does one explain the apparent successes of the first two flight tests of the Hwasong-14, and the only test of the Hwasong-15 ICBM? First, without access to telemetry and tracking data it is impossible to assess the overall performance or success of each ICBM flight test. In fact, there are no public reports indicating that North Korea positioned observation or telemetry-collection ships near the re-entry vehicle impact zones in the East Sea. Moreover, ground-based sensors stationed within North Korean territory to collect flight data would be unable to see the final 20 km of descent, where the most severe thermal and mechanical loads on the re-entry vehicle would occur. Hence, it is not possible to determine from available information if the missiles performed to their respective design specifications. Notably, we do not know, and North Koreans may not know, if the mock warheads survived re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere or impacted near their projected aim points. (There is some evidence that the re-entry vehicle for one of the tests did not survive, and that it likely did not contain a mock warhead.) North Korea cannot be certain, therefore, that it has a survivable re-entry vehicle design for its ICBMs. And perhaps equally critical, North Korean engineers have not yet collected empirical data on the thermal and mechanical loads experienced during atmospheric re-entry of a warhead traveling at ICBM velocities of more than 7 km per second. Without such data, engineers will be forced to make educated guesses when establishing the nuclear bomb’s design criteria, particularly the ruggedness of the bomb design. Consequently, North Korea would need to over-design the re-entry vehicle’s protection systems and hope the bomb itself is rugged enough to withstand the extreme re-entry environment. Second, the Hwasong14 or -15 were flight tested using very steep trajectories, which minimized the ground-path distance traveled. Delivering a nuclear weapon to US territory requires a much flatter trajectory. The static and dynamic loads the missile experiences during the boost phase for a steep trajectory are quite different from those faced during a standard flight path. While the applied stresses of a standard trajectory can be modeled by North Korea’s engineers, without empirical flight data, considerable uncertainty remains, and must be factored into performance and reliability estimates of the missiles deployed without further flight testing. The history of missile development elsewhere and in North Korea shows that there is no reason to conclude after so few tests that North Korea has an operationally viable ICBM capability. Many unknowns remain, and without additional testing Pyongyang’s leadership cannot be certain that its ICBMs would succeed more often than they would fail if launched during a crisis. Given that the North is likely to field a small number of ICBMs, perhaps six of each type (i.e., Hwasong-14 and -15) the risk that none of its ICBM warheads will reach the continental US is a real, finite possibility. Figure 1 depicts the probability that at least one North Korean warhead strikes US territory under five potential circumstances, assuming no more flight tests are performed, and ICBM reliability is 0.4 (i.e., a success rate of 40 percent). The solid-blue curve shows that North Korea would need to launch three ICBMs to expect an 80 percent chance (i.e. a probability of 0.8) of landing an ICBM warhead on US soil, assuming the failure modes across the missiles launched are independent. If the failure mode for the Hwasong-14 or -15 missiles is systemic, affecting each missile launched, then obviously no missiles would reach US territory. There is a finite probability that a failure mode for ICBMs flown on a standard trajectory is applicable to all North Korea’s long-range missiles, as the Hwasong-14 and -15 have never been tested under such conditions. The curves shown in Figure 1 also assume the nuclear warhead is 100 percent reliable, which after just six test detonations may be an optimistic projection. If one further assumes that U.S. missile defenses have some efficacy against a small number of first-generation ICBMs, the odds of North Korean success in landing a warhead on US territory decline dramatically. To date, the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) protecting the US homeland have an unimpressive test record, with only about half of the intercept attempts succeeding. If we accept that each interceptor has a 50 percent chance of destroying a North Korean ICBM, the probability of at least one Hwasong-14 or -15 striking the US homeland can be calculated and depicted by the dotted-blue line. In the case a single interceptor is launched at each inbound ICBM, North Korea must fire between seven and eight missiles to have an expectation that 80 percent of the time at least one warhead lands on US soil. Three ICBM launches are needed before Pyongyang could expect a 50 percent chance of success. Curves corresponding to the assignment of two and four GBIs to each incoming threat are also depicted. Current missile-defense doctrine calls for four interceptors committed to each threat missile. Under that condition, North Korea must fire about nine missiles to have a one in five chance that at least one warhead strikes America. In other words, Kim Jong Un would need to launch a substantial fraction of his ICBMs to have a modest expectation, about 20 percent, of one striking the U.S. If North Korea more fully matured Hwasong-14 and -15 development by flight testing each more than a dozen times, a reliability of about 80 percent might be achievable. As shown by the solid-red line in Figure 1, doubling ICBM reliability to 80 percent provides nearly 100 percent chance of success when just two missiles are launched in the absence of missile defenses. If the standard practice of committing four interceptors to each ICBM is assumed, the seven North Korean missiles must be launched to achieve a 50 percent chance of striking the US. And only two ICBMs need to be launched to achieve the 20 percent chance of success, compared to the roughly nine launches of the 40 percent reliable ICBMs needed to achieve the same performance expectation. Very clearly, it is in the U.S. interest to prevent North Korea from further testing its Hwasong-14 and -15 ICBMs. The potential threat to the US homeland posed by Pyongyang’s ICBMs would be substantially reduced if no additional tests are conducted. The reduced threat to the US would help Washington more fully reassure its allies in South Korea and Japan that it will meet its security commitments. If a verifiable moratorium on long-range missile tests can be successfully concluded, the next step might include a ban on all missile testing, including the short- and medium-range missiles that threaten Japan and South Korea. Such a ban would substantially impede full development of the submarine-launched Pukguksong-1 and land-based Pukguksong-2. A flight ban would also severely degrade North Korea’s ability to perfect the terminal guidance systems for its Scud-type missiles, thus preventing the development of highly accurate short- and medium-range systems that would have military utility even when armed with conventional warheads.” (Michael Elleman, “Why a Formal End to North Korean Missile Testing Makes Sense,” 38 North, February 26, 2019)


2/27/19:
President Trump offered a public embrace of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they opened a two-day nuclear summit here, referring to the brutal authoritarian ruler as “my friend” and stating that he is “satisfied” with the progress of their negotiations. “Some people would like to see it be quicker. I’m satisfied; you’re satisfied,” Trump told Kim before a private, one-on-one meeting, followed by a social dinner with a small group of aides at the luxurious, five-star Metropole hotel. “We want to be happy with what we’re doing.” Trump said he believed their first summit in Singapore was a success and added that their meetings in Hanoi “will be equal to or greater than the first.” He held up Vietnam as a model for economic growth for North Korea, which he said has “unlimited” potential. “I look forward to watching it happen, and we will help it happen,” Trump said, sitting next to Kim in front of a row of American and North Korean flags. The president wore a dark suit and striped tie, while Kim wore his traditional Mao-style suit. At the dinner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney joined Trump and Kim, along with two senior North Korean aides, Kim Hyok Chol and Ri Yong Ho, and two interpreters. “Disbelief and misunderstandings were everywhere, and old hostile habits were getting in our way, but we’ve overcome it well, come face to face and walked all the way to Hanoi in 260 days,” Kim Jong Un said in the photo op with Trump. “I think it’s been a time period that took me more agony, effort and patience than ever. I am confident a great result will be produced this time to be welcomed by everyone, and I will do my best toward that goal.” Ahead of meetings with Vietnamese officials earlier today, Trump praised Vietnam on Twitter as “thriving like few places on earth” and said North Korea has a chance to do the same “very quickly.” “The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un,” Trump wrote. “We will know fairly soon — Very Interesting!” “Vietnam is thriving,” said Trump, who signed a bilateral trade deal with Hanoi to purchase U.S.-made plane engines and other equipment. Referring to Kim Jong Un, Trump added: “We both felt very good about having this very important summit in Vietnam because you really are an example of what can happen with good thinking.” Trump administration officials, led by the State Department, have worked over the past two weeks to try to nail down specific commitments from Pyongyang to advance the process, but progress has been slow, according to U.S. and South Korean officials familiar with the talks. The U.S. said is said to be seeking a detailed timeline and verification process for Pyongyang to close its primary nuclear processing facility at Yongbyon — but North Korean negotiators have resisted agreeing to specifics. Yet Trump at times appeared distracted. Retiring to his hotel for several hours of downtime before his dinner with Kim, Trump unleashed a Twitter broadside on Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), mocking him as he has before over questionable statements that Blumenthal has made about his military service. “I have now spent more time in Vietnam than Da Nang Dick Blumenthal, the third-rate Senator from Connecticut (how is Connecticut doing?),” Trump wrote. “His war stories of his heroism in Vietnam were a total fraud — he was never even there. We talked about it today with Vietnamese leaders!” In another tweet this afternoon, Trump appeared to take aim at critics who have warned that he could wind up giving unwise concessions to Kim by easing economic sanctions too quickly. “All false reporting (guessing) on my intentions with respect to North Korea,” the president wrote. “Kim Jong Un and I will try very hard to work something out on Denuclearization & then making North Korea an Economic Powerhouse. I believe that China, Russia, Japan & South Korea will be very helpful!” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in a statement called last year’s Trump-Kim summit a “complete disaster” and discounted the North’s testing moratorium as a meaningful step forward. “North Korea has a long history of pretending to comply in order to get what it wants — giving just enough to get something important in return, but never actually walking back its nuclear program,” he said. Murphy also criticized Trump for lavishing “syrupy praise” on Kim, whose regime, like those of his father and grandfather, has imposed brutal rule, with more than 100,000 citizens held in hard-labor camps. In 2017, Trump had denounced North Korea as a “hell no person deserves,” but he has touted a personal rapport with Kim since their first summit. “The Democrats should stop talking about what I should do with North Korea and ask themselves instead why they didn’t do ‘it’ during eight years of the Obama Administration?” Trump wrote in another tweet Wednesday morning. (David Nakamura and Simon Denyer, “Trump Offers Public Embrace of Kim Jong Un as Summit Begins,” Washington Post, February 27, 2019)

Bolton: “We then trooped to another room set up to brief Trump for the day’s events. Trump was still on fire because of the Time article but started by telling Pompeo he didn’t like Biegun’s comments, which were “too much,” referring to the draft statement Kupperman and Mulvaney had shown him on Air Force One. The import was clear to everyone in the room. … Trump again criticized Biegun, repeating what he had said just minutes before. (For the record, when he saw Biegun the next morning, he didn’t recognize him.) Trump said he saw three possible outcomes: a big deal, a small deal, or ‘I walk.’ He immediately rejected the “small deal” because it would mean weakening the sanctions. The “big deal” wasn’t going to happen because Kim Jong Un remained unwilling to make a strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons. The idea of ‘I walk’ came up repeatedly, which meant Trump was at least prepared for it, and might even prefer it (ditch the girl before she ditches you). There would be criticism no matter what he did, Trump said with a shrug, so I mentioned Reagan’s walking away at Reykjavik and the important boost that gave to later negotiations [?] (ironically, on the INF Treaty, which we were leaving). Trump mused about what he would say at the concluding press conference (“We still like each other; we’ll keep talking”) and, looking at me, said, ‘You should go out and defend it.’ Trump seemed consumed by the coming testimony in Washington of Michael Cohen, one of his former lawyers, a rare occasion when I saw his personal problems bleed into national security. I was relieved the earlier briefings were still top of mind and that the option of walking away was live. We spent the rest of the day in meetings with Vietnam’s top leadership, up until Trump’s dinner with Kim Jong Un. By that time, morning in Washington, the news coverage was all Michael Cohen. The North Koreans excluded me from the dinner, with only Pompeo and Mulvaney attending with Trump, following a one-on-one with the two leaders. I didn’t like it but figured it was a cost of doing business. Mulvaney called me to his room after the dinner ended at nine p.m. to debrief with Pompeo and others. Trump had wanted to avoid substance until the next morning, but as the dinner was ending, Pompeo said Kim had proposed that the North give up its Yongbyon nuclear facilities, in exchange for the lifting of all post-2016 UN Security Council sanctions. This was a typical ‘action for action’ ploy, giving them economic relief they desperately needed but giving us very little, since even without Yongbyon, it was publicly well known that North Korea had many other facilities with which to continue its nuclear program. I asked if Kim Jong Un had something else up his sleeve, but Pompeo didn’t think so. I also asked if Trump had raised the Japanese-abductee issue, which he had, meaning he had fulfilled his commitment to Japan. ’ (Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, pp. 289-90)

Woodward: Kim was ready to give up one of his nuclear sites, but he had five [??] “Listen one doesn’t help and two doesn’t help, and three doesn’t help and four doesn’t help,” Trump said. “Five does help.” “But it’s our biggest,” Kim said, referring to the Yongbyon center. “Yeah, but it’s also your oldest,” Trump said. Because I know every one of those sites. I know all of them, You understand that.” (Bob Woodward, Rage (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020), p. 175)


2/28/19:
As President Trump settled into the dining room of a French-colonial hotel in Hanoi this morning, the conversation with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader with whom he had struck up the oddest of friendships, was already turning tense. In a dinner at the Metropole Hotel yesterday evening, Kim had resisted what Trump presented as a grand bargain: North Korea would trade all its nuclear weapons, material and facilities for an end to the American-led sanctions squeezing its economy. An American official later described this as “a proposal to go big,” a bet by Trump that his force of personality, and view of himself as a consummate dealmaker, would succeed where three previous presidents had failed. But Trump’s offer was essentially the same deal that the United States has pushed — and the North has rejected — for a quarter century. Intelligence agencies had warned him, publicly, Kim would not be willing to give up the arsenal completely. North Korea itself had said repeatedly that it would only move gradually. Several of Trump’s own aides, led by national security adviser John R. Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thought the chances of a grand bargain for total nuclear disarmament were virtually zero. Some questioned whether the summit meeting should go forward. As Trump and Kim parted company, nearly a year of optimism and flattery was left poolside at the Metropole, steps from a meeting room with two empty chairs and flags that had been carefully prepared for a “signing ceremony.” Trump and senior diplomats say they hope negotiations will continue, though nothing has been scheduled. Kim has promised not to resume weapons testing, and the Pentagon continues to hold off on large-scale military exercises with South Korea. In interviews with a half-dozen participants, it is clear Trump’s failed gambit was the culmination of two years of threats, hubris and misjudgment on both sides. Trump entered office convinced he could intimidate the man he liked to call “Little Rocket Man” with tough talk and sanctions, then abruptly took the opposite tack, overruling his aides and personalizing the diplomacy. Kim also miscalculated. He bet Trump might accept a more modest offer that American negotiators in Hanoi had already dismissed: The North would dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear complex, three square miles of aging facilities at the heart of the nuclear program, for an end to the sanctions most harmful to its economy, those enacted since 2016. It is unclear whether Trump was tempted to take that deal, which could have turned headlines away from the damaging testimony of his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, in Washington. But Pompeo, who knew the details of the North Korean program intimately from his days as C.I.A. director, opposed it. The president was told that if he settled for Yongbyon alone, he might appear to have been duped by the young leader of a country renowned for hiding pieces of its nuclear program in tunnels around the country. Pompeo said later that Kim’s offer “still leaves missiles, still leaves warheads and weapons systems” — and a senior State Department official argued that sanctions relief would fund the production of more weapons. It also would have let the North continue to produce uranium, a key ingredient for nuclear weapons, at a hidden enrichment center near the capital, Pyongyang — one of several suspected nuclear sites beyond Yongbyon that the United States has been monitoring from afar for nearly a decade. “I think that they were surprised that we knew,” Trump said. In the end, the president took a brief walk with Kim around the hotel’s pool, shook his hand and then canceled lunch in a glassed pavilion. “This kind of opportunity may never come again,” Ri Yong-ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, told reporters later that night. For a president who often complains that his predecessors only let the North Korea problem fester, the 8,000-mile trek from Washington to Hanoi was a crash course in why those past presidents failed. Many around Trump believe he will, too. North Korea was the first international crisis of the Trump administration, and discussion about how hard to press the country sometimes got heated. At one point, aides said they heard Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, shouting at each other behind closed doors. Gen. McMaster was intent on signaling to both North Korea and allies that Trump was serious about enforcing sanctions and that he would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. In a series of Situation Room meetings, the administration reviewed options to ramp up sanctions and covert operations, including an Obama-era program of cyber sabotage against North Korean missiles. War plans were rewritten, and Gen. McMaster spoke openly about the possibility of a “preventive war” if the threat grew. The shouting was prompted by Gen. McMaster’s insistence that Mattis intercept North Korean ships on the high seas to determine whether they were engaged in sanctions busting. But Mattis resisted, worried that the outbreak of a firefight at sea could quickly escalate out of control. Kim, for his part, turned up the pressure, launching missile after missile, including new intercontinental ballistic models that appeared capable of hitting the United States. There was also another nuclear test, which some experts believe may have been a hydrogen bomb, as the North claimed. After that first summit meeting in Singapore in June, the talk of hostilities ended. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump declared on Twitter, despite the absence of any timetable for denuclearization. Some of his aides, starting with Bolton, the new national security adviser, were appalled. But with Trump repeating that he should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, no one wanted to argue. Bolton told colleagues not to worry. The negotiations, he said, would collapse on their own. Pompeo flew to Pyongyang in early July to turn the Singapore discussion into a timetable for the North to produce an inventory of weapons, the first step toward disarmament, but Kim declined to see him. Instead, Pompeo met with Kim Hyok Chul, a former spy chief with hardline views on the United States. After the visit, the North said the Americans had pushed a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization.” But it also said Kim Jong-un still wanted to build on the “friendly relationship and trust” with Trump. The message was clear: A real breakthrough was only possible if the two leaders got together again. The North Koreans seemed to believe Kim could get a better deal from Trump than they could from his State Department negotiators. Then in August, Trump abruptly canceled a trip by Pompeo to Pyongyang, saying there had not been enough progress in the talks. This stymied the new special envoy, Stephen E. Biegun, who had planned to accompany Pompeo. Meanwhile, diplomacy between South Korea and North Korea was progressing quickly. The result was the Pyongyang Declaration, which outlined a peace process for the peninsula — and dangled a potential concession by North Korea. The North, it said, would agree to dismantle the Yongbyon complex if the United States took “corresponding measures.” Suddenly, Yongbyon was in play. But what did North Korea want? Some analysts said they believed then that the North was seeking an end-of-war declaration as a prelude to legally replacing the armistice that halted the Korean War, an idea that Trump told Kim in Singapore he supported. And Moon was pushing for the end-of-war declaration. American officials were worried it could lead too quickly to a peace treaty and then negotiations to draw down the 28,500 American troops on the peninsula — a longtime goal of the North. Then, a few days before the midterm elections in the United States, North Korea released a belligerent statement that said the country would return to a policy of strengthening its nuclear force if the United States did not lift sanctions. In retrospect, it was an important message that was obscured by the discussion of an end-of-war declaration. What really mattered to Kim were the sanctions, which, after three new rounds in 2017, were strangling his nation’s already pitiful economy. The United States had even cut off critical humanitarian aid to the country by barring American aid groups from traveling there. With diplomacy stalled, Trump decided to weigh in again. Bolton announced in December that Trump wanted another summit meeting in early 2019 because North Korea had “not lived up to the commitments” it made in Singapore. To some diplomats and analysts, that seemed like a reason not to meet again. The North Koreans appointed a former ambassador to Spain, Kim Hyok-chol, to lay the groundwork with Biegun, 55, a pragmatic former senior aide to Condoleezza Rice in the Bush administration who had been passed over for the national security adviser position in favor of Bolton. The first meetings in Pyongyang did not go smoothly. And when the two sides met in Hanoi starting six days before the summit meeting, the North Koreans kept demanding that the five most recent rounds of sanctions imposed by the United Nations since March 2016 be lifted. These sanctions, imposed to punish Pyongyang for new weapons tests, differed from previous restrictions that were focused on weapons and nuclear-related equipment. Instead, they covered entire export sectors, including minerals, metals, coal, agriculture and seafood. They also banned energy sales to North Korea. Altogether, they held back billions of dollars of trade, a senior State Department official said. The far-reaching nature of the sanctions — and the suffering they were causing — were exactly why hardline administration officials wanted to keep them up. After Trump’s surprise decision at Singapore to suspend military exercises with South Korea, these officials worried the United States was losing leverage. That camp, led by Bolton, regarded Pompeo and his diplomats with suspicion. Would they give away too much for too little? Would they give in to the North Korean entreaties to loosen sanctions? A Stanford speech by Biegun in January appeared to the hawks to be a red flag: He suggested then that North Korea might not need to immediately hand over a complete declaration of nuclear assets, which American officials had demanded as a first step. But behind closed doors, Biegun and his team told the North Koreans that giving up the aging facilities at Yongbyon was not nearly enough for such extensive sanctions relief. At the same time, the North Korean negotiators were inconsistent about which of the facilities inside Yongbyon they were offering to dismantle — at one point saying that only Kim Jong-un could decide. The negotiating teams were still deadlocked even as Kim boarded a train for a two-day journey to Vietnam and Trump took off on Air Force One. The American team thought their North Korean counterparts would warn Kim that the demand to lift the five sanctions was a non-starter, so the two leaders would work on hashing something else out during the summit meeting. But soon after the two men arrived at the Metropole, the North Korean leader began arguing for relief from the five rounds of sanctions in exchange for Yongbyon. While North Korea had suspended operations at Yongbyon under agreements in 1994 and again in 2007, and later offered various moratoriums that were never fully executed, Kim’s proposal appeared to go further than ever toward dismantling the entirety of the complex, officials said. But the exact terms were still vague. Trump countered with the grand bargain. The divide was underscored by the fact that, at one point, he presented Kim with a document laying out his definition of denuclearization. Kim objected that there was not enough trust between the two countries to give up everything at once. At a rare news conference shortly after midnight, Ri argued that his country mostly needed “security guarantees” related to American military forces on the peninsula, and portrayed the sanctions-for-Yongbyon trade as a step to build trust. In the end, Trump flew back to Washington with nothing — no agreement on a peace declaration, and no ban on producing more nuclear fuel — meaning the North’s arsenal will keep expanding while the two sides argue. There were only promises to keep talking. (David E. Sanger, “Trump-Kim Talks Undone by Big Egos and Bad Bets,” New York Times, March 3, 2019, p. A-1) President Donald Trump gave North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “several alternatives” when they met to try to strike a deal on denuclearizing the regime, National Security Adviser John Bolton said today. On what the alternatives were, Bolton didn’t elaborate. “President Trump gave him several alternatives, what he called the big deal: North Korea gives up all of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, and in exchange, there’s a very bright economic future for North Korea,” he said in a radio interview with the conservative Breitbart News. “In many respects — in Hanoi and even before that, in Singapore — what the president did was hold the door open for North Korea, to say, ‘You can have this future but you’ve got to give up your weapons of mass destruction,'” he said. “So far, the North Koreans haven’t walked through it.” Asked to explain what victory would look like for the U.S., Bolton reaffirmed that the main objective is a denuclearized North Korea. “And we gave them a definition. The president actually handed over a piece of paper, two pieces really, one in English and one in Korean to Kim Jong-un that describes our definition of denuclearization,” he said. “0nce that happens, the president, you know, he sees these things sort of in real estate terms. He says, ‘Look at North Korea’s position there between China, Russia, South Korea. It’s a great location. It could have a great economy.’” (Yonhap, “Bolton Says Trump Gave N. Korean Leader ‘Several’ Options,” March 21, 2019) On the day that their talks in Hanoi collapsed last month, President Donald Trump handed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a piece of paper that included a blunt call for the transfer of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States. Trump gave Kim both Korean and English-language versions of the U.S. position at Hanoi’s Metropole hotel on February 28, according to a source familiar with the discussions. It was the first time that Trump himself had explicitly defined what he meant by denuclearization directly to Kim, the source said. Now seen by Reuters, the document’s existence was first mentioned by White House national security adviser John Bolton in television interviews he gave after the two-day summit. Bolton did not disclose in those interviews the pivotal U.S. expectation contained in the document that North Korea should transfer its nuclear weapons and fissile material to the United States. The document appeared to represent Bolton’s long-held and hardline “Libya model” of denuclearization that North Korea has rejected repeatedly. It probably would have been seen by Kim as insulting and provocative, analysts said. The document was meant to provide the North Koreans with a clear and concise definition of what the United States meant by “final, fully verifiable, denuclearization,” the source said. Aside from the call for the transfer of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel, the document had four other key points. It called on North Korea to provide a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear program and full access to U.S. and international inspectors, to halt all related activities and construction of any new facilities, to eliminate all nuclear infrastructure, and to transition all nuclear program scientists and technicians to commercial activities. (Lesley Wroughton and David Brunnstrom, “With a Piece of Paper, Trump called on Kim to Hand over All His Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Weapons,” Reuters, Japan Times, March 30, 2019)

President Donald Trump reaffirmed his commitment to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue today, hours after his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without an agreement. In a telephone conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the U.S. president also asked Moon to “actively” help mediate future dialogue with the North Korean leader. “While expressing disappointment over the failure to reach an agreement in the summit, President Trump reaffirmed his determination to resolve the issue through dialogue with North Korea in the future,” Moon’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said of the phone conversation. His call to the South Korean president was made from his Air Force One plane en route to the United States. Cheong Wa Dae earlier expressed disappointment but said the US and North Korean leaders have already made more progress than ever. Trump asked Moon to help mediate future dialogue with the North. “In addition, (Trump) asked President Moon to actively perform the role of a mediator that may entail talking with Chairman Kim and letting him know the outcome of his dialogue,” the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said in a press release. “President Trump suggested they work closely together so North Korea would actively implement its denuclearization commitment,” he added. (Yonhap, “Trump Reaffirms Commitment to Dialogue with N. Korea in Talks with Moon,” February 28, 2019)

Trump: “THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking the Prime Minister and President of Vietnam. We’re in Hanoi. It’s an incredible city. What’s happened over the last 25 years has been incredible for the people of Vietnam, the job they’ve done — economic development. Really something special. So I want to thank all of the people of Vietnam for having treated us so well. … On North Korea, we just left Chairman Kim. We had a really, I think, a very productive time. We thought, and I thought, and Secretary Pompeo felt that it wasn’t a good thing to be signing anything. I’m going to let Mike speak about it. But we literally just left. We spent pretty much all day with Kim Jong Un, who is — he’s quite a guy and quite a character. And I think our relationship is very strong. But at this time — we had some options, and at this time we decided not to do any of the options. And we’ll see where that goes. But it was a very interesting two days. And I think, actually, it was a very productive two days. But sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times. And I’ll let Mike speak to that for a couple of minutes, please. SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. President. We had been working, our teams — the team that I brought to bear, as well as the North Koreans — for weeks to try and develop a path forward so at the summit we could make a big step — a big step along the way towards what the two leaders had agreed to back in Singapore, in June of last year. We made real progress. And indeed we made even more progress when the two leaders met over the last 24, 36 hours. Unfortunately, we didn’t get all the way. We didn’t get to something that ultimately made sense for the United States of America. I think Chairman Kim was hopeful that we would. We asked him to do more. He was unprepared to do that. But I’m still optimistic. I’m hopeful that the teams will get back together in the days and weeks ahead, and continue to work out what’s a very complex problem. We have said, since the beginning, that this would take time. Our teams have gotten to know each other better. We know what the limits are. We know where some of the challenges are. And I think as we continue to work on this in the days and weeks ahead, we can make progress so that we can ultimately achieve what it is that the world wants, which is to denuclearize North Korea, to reduce risk for the American people and the people all around the world. I wish we could have gotten a little bit further, but I’m very optimistic that the progress that we made — both in the run-up to this summit, as well as the progress that the two leaders made over these past two days — put us in position to get a really good outcome. And the President and Chairman Kim both felt good that they had made that progress but couldn’t quite get along the line any further to make a deal that would have been bigger at this point. I hope we’ll do so in the weeks ahead. Thank you, Mr. President. THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Q Mr. President — THE PRESIDENT: All right, Major, please. Q Has this process been more difficult than you thought? And was the North Korean demand for lifting of some sanctions the real sticking point here — THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Q — in that you did not want to do that and they did? And will there be — THE PRESIDENT: It was about the sanctions. Q Will there be a third summit, Mr. President? THE PRESIDENT: Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that. So we continue to work, and we’ll see. But we had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that. Q Will all the sanctions that are currently in existence remain, sir? THE PRESIDENT: They’re in place. You know, I was watching as a lot of you folks over the weeks have said, “Oh, we’ve given up.” We haven’t given up anything. And frankly, I think we’ll end up being very good friends with Chairman Kim and with North Korea, and I think they have tremendous potential. I’ve been telling everybody: They have tremendous potential. Unbelievable potential. But we’re going to see. But it was about sanctions. I mean, they wanted sanctions lifted but they weren’t willing to do an area that we wanted. They were willing to give us areas but not the ones we wanted. John? Q As we know, I mean, there’s an incredibly complex set of issues that are at play here in terms of lifting the sanctions and what denuclearization is. THE PRESIDENT: Right. Q Did you get any distance toward sort of what Kim’s vision of denuclearization is? THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we did. We did. Q Because there is a lot — a line of thinking that he wants to keep some nukes. THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Q I mean, would you allow him to do that? And if you can’t — THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t — John, I don’t want to comment — Q If you can’t get — THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, I don’t want to comment on that exactly, but he has a certain vision and it’s not exactly our vision, but it’s a lot closer than it was a year ago. And I think, you know, eventually we’ll get there. But for this particular visit, we decided that we had to walk, and we’ll see what happens. Okay? Oh, look, we have a gentleman nobody has ever heard of. Sean Hannity — what are you doing here, Sean Hannity? Should we let him do a question? I don’t know. Yeah, John, go ahead. Q If I could just follow up. THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Q So if he wants the sanctions completely off, and you want more on denuclearization, how can you bridge that gap between now and the next time you might sit down with him? THE PRESIDENT: With time. It’ll be bridged, I think, at a certain point. But there is a gap. We have to have sanctions. And he wants to denuke, but he wants to just do areas that are less important than the areas that we want. We know that — we know the country very well, believe it or not. We know every inch of that country. And we have to get what we have to get, because that’s a big — that’s a big give. Yeah, Sean. Please. Q I work in radio and TV. The mic is on. Mr. President, thank you. Mr. Secretary, good to see you. Mr. President, if you could elaborate a little bit more. We have some history. President Reagan walked away in Reykjavik. A lot of condemnation at the time. And it ended up working out very well in the end for the United States. Was this mostly your decision? Or — and what message would you want to send Chairman Kim, as he’s listening to this press conference, about the future and your relationship? THE PRESIDENT: Well, Sean, I don’t want to say it was my decision, because what purpose is that? I want to keep the relationship, and we will keep the relationship. We’ll see what happens over the next period of time. But, as you know, we got our hostages back. There’s no more testing. And one of the things, importantly, that Chairman Kim promised me last night is, regardless, he’s not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear. Not going to do testing. So, you know, I trust him, and I take him at his word. I hope that’s true. But, in the meantime, we’ll be talking. Mike will be speaking with his people. He’s also developed a very good relationship with the people — really, the people representing North Korea. I haven’t spoken to Prime Minister Abe yet. I haven’t spoken to President Moon of South Korea. But we will, and we’ll tell them it’s a process and it’s moving along. But we just felt it wasn’t appropriate to sign an agreement today. We could have. I just felt it wasn’t very appropriate. Yeah, Jonathan. Q Thank you, Mr. President. THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Q Two questions, if I may. First, did you learn anything new about Chairman Kim, through this meeting? And secondly, of course, while this was going on, the drama back in Washington, your former lawyer, Michael Cohen — who worked for you for 10 years; his office right next to yours, right by yours at Trump Tower — he called you a liar, a conman, a racist. What’s your response to Michael Cohen? THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s incorrect. And, you know, it’s very interesting, because I tried to watch as much as I could. I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy. But I think having a fake hearing like that, and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing. They could’ve made it two days later or next week, and it would’ve been even better. They would’ve had more time. But having it during this very important summit is sort of incredible. And he lied a lot, but it was very interesting because he didn’t lie about one thing. He said no collusion with the Russian hoax. And I said, “I wonder why he didn’t just lie about that, too, like he did about everything else?” I mean, he lied about so many different things, and I was actually impressed that he didn’t say, “Well, I think there was collusion for this reason or that.” He didn’t say that. He said, “No collusion.” And I was, you know, a little impressed by that, frankly. Could’ve — he could’ve gone all out. He only went about 95 percent instead of 100 percent. But the fact is, there is no collusion. And I call it the “witch hunt.” This should never happen to another President. This is so bad for our country. So bad. You look at this whole hoax — I call it the Russian witch hunt. I now add the word “hoax.” It’s a very, very bad thing for our country. But I was impressed with the fact that he — when — you know, because the most important question up there was the one on collusion. And he said he saw no collusion. So we’ll see what happens. But it was pretty shameful, I think. Yes, ma’am. Please. … Q Thank you, President Trump. Jane Tung (ph) from (inaudible) Television. What was the atmosphere like when you walked away from the negotiation table? And — THE PRESIDENT: I think it was very good, very friendly. This wasn’t a walk away, like you get up and walk out. No, this was very friendly. We shook hands. You know, there’s a warmth that we have, and I hope that stays. I think it will. But we are — you know, we’re positioned to do something very special. This has been going on for many decades. This isn’t me. You know, this was — this should’ve been solved during many presidential runs. And, you know, people talked about it; they never did anything. I get a kick out of so many people from past administrations telling me how to negotiate when they were there, in some cases, for eight years; they did nothing. But I think the relationship was very warm, and when we walked away it was a very friendly walk. Mike, you might want to speak to that for a second. SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I agree. I talked with my counterparts as well. But we hope we can do more, but everyone is very focused on how we continue to build on this. We are certainly closer today than we were 36 hours ago. And we were closer then than we were a month or two before that. So real progress was made. I think everyone had hoped we could do it just a little bit better. But the departure was with an agreement that we would continue to work on what has been an incredibly difficult problem. Both sides are resolved to achieve it, and everyone walked away in that spirit. Q And may I add: You and Chairman Kim are from very different political systems. You are from different generations. And what do you find — THE PRESIDENT: It’s a very different system. I would say that’s true. Q How do you find, you guys, in common? Because we saw the atmosphere — THE PRESIDENT: We just like each other. I mean, we have a good relationship. Yeah. It’s a totally different system, to put it mildly. But we like each other. A good relationship. Go ahead. In the back. Go ahead. Q Mr. President, do you think it was premature to have held the summit when all these things had not been tied down? I mean, in the White House schedule last night, it said signing agreement today. And I wonder whether — as a follow-up question, whether you could sketch out what the next few months look like. Thank you. THE PRESIDENT: You always have to be prepared to walk. I could’ve signed an agreement today, and then you people would’ve said, “Oh, what a terrible deal. What a terrible thing he did.” No, you have to be prepared to walk. And, you know, there was a potential we could’ve signed something today. I could’ve 100 percent signed something today. We actually had papers ready to be signed, but it just wasn’t appropriate. I want to do it right. I’d much rather do it right than do it fast. Yes, please. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go. First. Go. Yeah. Q (Inaudible.) THE PRESIDENT: You have to speak up. Q I’m a reporter from South Korea, and I appreciate your effort to advance denuclearization in Korean Peninsula. And could you elaborate on the options and the various ways that you discussed with Chairman Kim to advance denuclearization? Could you specify? THE PRESIDENT: We discussed many ways. And the denuclearization is a very important — it’s a very important word. Become a very well used word. And a lot of people don’t know what it means, but to me it’s pretty obvious: We have to get rid of the nukes. I think he’s got a chance to have one of the most successful countries — rapidly, too — on Earth. Incredible country, incredible location. You’re right between — if you think of it, you have, on one side, Russia and China, and on the other you have South Korea, and you’re surrounded by water and among the most beautiful shorelines in the world. There is tremendous potential in North Korea, and I think he’s going to lead it to a very important thing, economically. I think it’s going to be an absolute economic power. Yes. Go ahead. Please. Go ahead. Yeah. Q Mr. President, David Sanger from the New York Times. THE PRESIDENT: I know, David. Q Six months ago, when you spoke — or eight months ago, in Singapore, you said, if you didn’t have something in six months, we should come back and ask you about it. In that time, you have seen Chairman Kim increase the number of missiles he’s produced and continue to produce more nuclear material. And that’s been a pressure point on you, because he’s showing you the arsenals getting larger while this is going on. THE PRESIDENT: Well, some people, David, are saying that, and some people are denying that. They have shots from above — way above — and some people are saying that and some people aren’t. But I could’ve taken that out today, but I think you and others would’ve said we didn’t get enough for what we’d be giving up. So — and, you know, don’t forget, we’re partners with a lot of countries on this, if you think about it, with the sanctions. We have a whole big partnership with the United Nations and many countries, including Russia, China, and others. And then, of course, South Korea is very important to this whole thing, and Japan. I don’t want to do something that is going to violate the trust that we’ve built up. We have a very strong partnership. Q So can you just give us a little more detail? Did you get into the question of actually dismantling the Yongbyon complex? THE PRESIDENT: I did. Yes. Absolutely. Q And does he seem willing, ultimately — THE PRESIDENT: Totally. Q — to take all of that out? THE PRESIDENT: Sure. Totally. Q He does? He just wants all the sanctions off first? THE PRESIDENT: He would do that, but he wants the sanctions for that. And as you know, there’s plenty left after that. And I just I felt it wasn’t good. Mike and I spent a long time negotiating and talking about it to ourselves. And just — I felt that that particular, as you know, that facility, while very big, it wasn’t enough to do what we were doing. Q So he was willing to Yongbyon, but you wanted more than that? I assume — THE PRESIDENT: We had to have more than that, yeah. We had to have more than that because there are other things that you haven’t talked about, that you haven’t written about, that we found. And we have to have — that was done a long time ago, but the people didn’t know about. Q Including the uranium — THE PRESIDENT: And we brought — yeah. Q Including the second uranium enrichment plant? THE PRESIDENT: Exactly. And we brought many, many points up that I think they were surprised that we knew. But we had to do more than just the one level. Because if we did the one level, and we gave up all of that leverage that’s been taking a long time to build. And I want to tell you, by the way — Q So he was not willing to take out that second — THE PRESIDENT: David, I want to take off the sanctions so badly, because I want that country to grow. That country has got such potential, but they have to give up, or we could’ve done that deal. Mike, you want to speak to that? SECRETARY POMPEO: Only, David, there are also timing and sequencing issues that were associated with that as well, which we didn’t quite get across the finish line as well. But remember, too, even that facility, even the Yongbyon facility and all of its scope — which is important, for sure — still leaves missiles, still leaves warheads and weapons systems. So there’s a lot of other elements that we just couldn’t get to. Q And the listing of all of them. SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir. And a declaration. So, all of those things, we couldn’t quite get there today. THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. Go ahead. Q Thank you, Mr. President. THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Q I just wanted to clarify, when you talk about what you would willing to give up all of the sanctions for, are you still thinking that you want North Korea to give up everything to do complete, verifiable denuclearization — THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t want to say that to you — Q — before you lift sanctions? THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a good question. I don’t want to say that to you because I don’t want to put myself in that position, from the standpoint of negotiation. But, you know, we want a lot to be given up. And we’re giving up. And we’ll have to — you know, we’ll be helping them along economically, us and other — many other countries are going to be helping. They’re going to be in there. They’re prepared to help. I can tell you: Japan, South Korea, I think China. So many. And speaking of China, we’re very well on our way to doing something special, but we’ll see. I mean, I am always prepared to walk. I’m never afraid to walk from a deal. And I would do that with China, too, if it didn’t work out. Q Are you concerned, if you’re not able to reach an agreement, that the testing will start again? Or that while all of this time is happening by — THE PRESIDENT: Well, he said the testing — yeah. Q — they are continuing to develop their program? THE PRESIDENT: He said the testing will not start. He said that he’s not going to do testing of rockets or missiles or anything having to do with nuclear. And all I can tell you is that’s what he said. And we’ll see. Yes, go ahead. Please. Go ahead, please. In the back. Red. In the red. Q Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. Q Jessica Stone from CGTN. I have a question about China, as you were talking about. You talk about China being willing, potentially, to help economically. And the fact that you’ve talked — or will talk to Presidents Moon and Prime Minister Abe, how would you describe China’s role in facilitating the engagement that’s happened, so far, between Pyongyang and Washington? THE PRESIDENT: I think China has been a big help. Bigger than most people know. On the border, as you know, 93 percent of the goods coming into North Korea come through China. So there’s a great power there. At the same time, I believe — I happen to believe that North Korea is calling its own shots. They’re not taking orders from anybody. He’s a very strong guy. And they’re able to do things that are pretty amazing. But 93 percent still come in from China. China has an influence, and China has been a big help. And Russia has been a big help too. As you know, there’s a pretty small part of the border, but nevertheless significant — about 28 miles. And things can happen there too. And they’ve been a help. Yes, go ahead, please. Q Thanks, President. Jen Chen with Shenzhen Media Group of China. In your meeting with Chairman Kim this morning and yesterday, did the topic of China come up? If so, what can you share with us today? And you probably will have the (inaudible) of Mar-a-Lago summit in March with Chinese President Xi Jinping. What would you like accomplished with your agenda regarding China at that time? Thank you. THE PRESIDENT: We did talk about China today a lot. And he’s getting along with China and so are we. And we are — you know, we’re — we’re, right now, you look at what’s happened to our country; we’ve picked up trillions and trillions of dollars of net worth. Our stock market is almost at its all-time high. Our economy is incredible. Our unemployment numbers are among the best we’ve ever had in our history. Individual groups like African American, women — you just take a look at any group; Hispanic, you saw that just came out — the best in history; African American, best in history. So many different numbers are coming out so good. So we have the strongest economy, probably, possibly that we’ve ever had. Fiat Chrysler just announced that they’re going to spend $4.5 billion right next to Detroit, in Michigan. They’re building a tremendous plant. It’s actually an expansion of another plant. It’s going to be — it’s going to double up their jobs, and even more than that. A lot of great things are happening. And with China, they’re having some difficulty, as you know. But I think that a lot of the difficulty is because of the tariffs that they’re having. And in addition to that, we’re putting a tremendous amount of money; you saw trade deficits went down last month. Everybody was trying to find out why. Well, we’re taking in a lot of tariff money, and it’s going right to the bottom line and it has reduced the trade deficits. So we’ll see what happens with China. I think we have a very good chance. Their numbers are down. But I don’t want that. I want their numbers — I want them to do great. But we’ve been losing anywhere from $300- to $500 billion a year with China for many, many years. And again, like other things, many Presidents should have done this before me, and nobody did. So we’re doing it. Go ahead. Go ahead, please. Right here. This gentleman. Q Chad O’Carroll from NK News, (inaudible) with North Korea News. What’s your message for President Moon, who has effectively reached the glass ceiling, as far inter-Korean cooperation is concerned, due to sanctions? And what’s next for U.S.-ROK military drills? THE PRESIDENT: Well, I like President Moon very much. We have a great relationship. Believe it or not, I have a great relationship with almost every leader. A lot of people find that hard to understand, but I do. But some take advantage of our country like you wouldn’t believe. And when they know I know it — which I know in every case — maybe it sort of freezes them up a little bit. But we do; we have a lot of good relationships. We’ll be calling President Moon very soon, as soon as I get by the phone, on the plane. And he’ll be one of the first calls. I’ll be calling Prime Minister Abe of Japan, telling him about where we are and what we’re doing. But I’ll be making those calls. No, he’s working very hard. President Moon is working very hard. He’d love to see a deal and he’s been very helpful. Okay? Thank you. Go ahead, please. Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’m (inaudible), reporter from Global Times China. I would like to ask you, what are you expecting China to do in the next step to mediate your relationship with North Korea? Thank you. THE PRESIDENT: To use China? Q Yeah, from China. THE PRESIDENT: Well, we do. I mean, China has been very helpful. President Xi is a great leader. He’s a highly respected leader all over the world and especially in Asia. And he’s helped us — Mike, I would say he’s helped us a lot, right? SECRETARY POMPEO: He has. THE PRESIDENT: We’ve — I actually called him just recently to say, “Hey, you know, whatever you can do on this.” But he has been very helpful at the border, and he’s been very, very helpful with, I think, North Korea generally. Could he be a little more helpful? Probably. But he’s been excellent. Go ahead, please. No — yeah, please. Q (Laughs.) (Inaudible) next. THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. You’re friends. Q Thanks, Mr. President. Could you — did you commit with Chairman Kim to a next summit during your term? THE PRESIDENT: No, we haven’t — no. Q Okay. THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see. If it happens, it happens. I have not committed. Q They are, at this point, some would say, a nuclear power. Do you accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, at least for the time being? And are you thinking about re-imposing the military exercises with South Korea, or will you keep it a freeze-for-freeze? THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the military exercises, I gave that up quite a while ago because it costs us $100 million every time we do it. We fly these massive bombers in from Guam. And when I first started, a certain general said, “Oh, yes, sir, we fly them in from Guam. It’s right next door.” Well, right next door is seven hours away. And then they come and they drop millions of dollars of bombs, and then they go back and — But we would spend — I mean, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars on those exercises, and I hated to see it. I thought it was unfair. And, frankly, I was, sort of, of the opinion that South Korea should help us with that. You know, we’re protecting South Korea. I think they should help us with that. So those exercises are very expensive. And I was telling the generals — I said: Look, you know, exercising is fun and it’s nice and they play the war games. And I’m not saying it’s not necessary, because at some levels it is, but at other levels it’s not. But it’s a very, very expensive thing. And you know, we do have to think about that too. But when they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on those exercises and we don’t get reimbursed — we’re spending a tremendous amount of money on many countries, protecting countries that are very rich that can certainly afford to pay us and then some. And those countries — by the way, and those countries know that it’s not right, but nobody has ever asked them before. But I’ve asked them and we’re doing — we’re gaining a lot of money. We’ve picked up over a $100 billion just in NATO over the last two years. A hundred billion dollars more has come in. And we’re doing that with a lot of countries. You’ll be seeing that a lot. Yes, sir. Please. Q Mr. President, sir — THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, one second, please. Q Yes, thank you, Mr. President. You have a personal relationship — and I believe Vice President Pence does — with the family of Otto Warmbier. THE PRESIDENT: I do. Q I’m wondering — you’ve talked about, this week, about Kim Jong Un being “my friend” — you called him on Twitter. You said you have a great relationship. Have you, in Singapore or here, confronted Kim Jong Un about Otto Warmbier’s death — THE PRESIDENT: I have. I have. Q — and asked him to take responsibility? And what did he say to you? And why do you call him your friend? THE PRESIDENT: I have. And I have, and we have talked about it. And I really don’t think it was in his interest at all. I know the Warmbier family very well. I think they’re an incredible family. What happened is horrible. I really believe something very bad happened to him, and I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it. And when they had to send him home — by the way, I got the prisoners back. I got the hostages back. And Otto was one of the hostages, but Otto came back in shape that was not even to be talked about. I find it — I thought it was horrible. Now, the others came back extremely healthy. But Otto came back in a condition that was just — just terrible. And I will — I did speak about it, and I don’t believe that he would’ve allowed that to happen. Just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen. Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places. And bad things happened. But I really don’t believe that he was — I don’t believe he knew about it. Q Did he say — did he tell you that he did not — did Kim Jong Un tell you — THE PRESIDENT: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly. But he knew the case very well, but he knew it later. And, you know, you got a lot of people. A big country. A lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps, you have a lot of people. And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things. But he tells me — Q Why are you (inaudible) THE PRESIDENT: He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word. Yes, ma’am. Go ahead. Please. Please. Go ahead. In the back. Q Me? THE PRESIDENT: No, in the back. Behind you. Thank you. Q Mr. President, (inaudible), Sputnik News Agency. Have you discussed the issue of possible inspections to North Korea’s nuclear sites during your negotiations? THE PRESIDENT: You’re going to have to speak a little louder. And where are you from? Where are you from? Q Russia’s Sputnik News Agency. Have you discussed the issue of possible inspections to North Korea’s nuclear sites during your talks with the Chairman? THE PRESIDENT: Why don’t you answer that, Mike? I can’t — Q Inspections. THE PRESIDENT: Good. Q Inspections. Inspections of nuclear sites. THE PRESIDENT: I was worried about my hearing. Q Inspections, sir. THE PRESIDENT: Oh, inspections. Q International inspections. Yes. THE PRESIDENT: Oh, inspections. Inspections on North Korea? Oh, we’d be able — yeah. Q Yeah. Inspections to the nuclear sites. THE PRESIDENT: We’d be able to do that very easily. We have that set up, so we would be able to do that very easily. The inspections on North Korea will take place and we’ll — if we do something with them — we have a schedule set up that is very good. We know things that, as David was asking about certain places and certain sites — there are sites that people don’t know about that we know about. We would be able to do inspections, we think, very, very successfully. … THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, go ahead. Please. Sir. Q Mr. President, I’m from China. My question is: Do you still believe it is possible that the North Korea and U.S. relation could be like the U.S. and the Vietnam relation in the future? THE PRESIDENT: You have to go again. Q Do you believe — do you still believe that is it is possible that the relation between U.S. and North Korea, in the future, could be like the relation between U.S. and Vietnam? THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I think we’re going have — yeah. I mean, we have very, very good relations. And, by the way, speaking of — you mentioned Japan — we have a lot of good things happening Japan. We have trade talks started. For years, Japan has been sending millions and millions of cars in, and as you know, it’s not been a very fair situation for the United States. We’re starting trade talks with Japan. They actually started about three months ago, and I think we’ll have a very good deal for the United States. But that’s been a very unfair situation. Prime Minister Abe understands that, and that’s fine. Yes, sir. Please. Back there. Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’m (inaudible) with Shanghai Media Group. Do you think the next meeting could be soon, or might take some time? THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can’t tell you. I mean, it might be soon. It might not be for a long time. I can’t tell you. I would hope it would be soon. But it may not be for a long time. I could’ve done — I could’ve done a deal today, but it would’ve been a deal that wouldn’t have been a deal that — it would’ve been something that I wouldn’t have been happy about, Mike would not have been happy about. We had some pretty big options. But we just felt it wasn’t appropriate, and we really want to do it right. Yes, in the back. In the back. Yes, ma’am. Please. Q Debi Edward, ITV News. At which point did it become clear to you that you wouldn’t be getting a deal here in Hanoi? The language from yourself and Kim Jong Un was very positive last night and even this morning. And therefore, was it a mistake to come here? THE PRESIDENT: No, I think the language was good all throughout. The language has been good even now. But, you know, I don’t go by language, because we had probably the toughest language in the history of diplomacy — if you call it diplomacy — at the beginning, and yet, we became very friendly. I don’t believe there was any tougher language ever than that. But, again, this was something that should’ve been handled by other Presidents long before me and long before they had the kind of power that they have. But it wasn’t. It should’ve been done by many — I’m not just blaming the Obama administration, which, by the way, it did nothing. Nothing. Did absolutely on North Korea. It allowed things that happened, and to happen, that were very inappropriate. But I’m not blaming the Obama administration. I’m blaming many administrations. Something should’ve happened. But I don’t think the rhetoric has been bad at all. Initially, it was horrible, but now it’s been very good. All right, one more. How about you? Go ahead. Please. Please. Go ahead. Q (Inaudible) from South Korea, (inaudible) South Korean media outlet here. I’d like to ask you: You said that we do not particularly know when there will be — North Korean leader will be willing to come to the table and take the actions that’s been required. If that’s the case, would the U.S. be willing to strengthen the sanctions and perhaps put the pressure on North Korea to move forward? THE PRESIDENT: I don’t want to comment on that. I can just tell you this: that we have very strong sanctions. I don’t want to talk about increasing sanctions. They’re strong. They have a lot of great people in North Korea that have to live also. And that’s important to me. And I would say this: My whole attitude changed a lot because I got to know, as you know, Chairman Kim very well. And they have a point of view also. So I don’t really want to talk about that. I just think that, hopefully, for the sake of South Korea, for the sake of Japan, and frankly, for the sake of China — I was talking to President Xi, who really is a man that gets the respect of a lot of people — I say, “You can’t love having a nuclear state right next to China.” And he doesn’t. He really doesn’t. I will tell you, he would like to see that problem solved, too. So that’s it. Well, ladies and gentleman, I’m about to get on a plane and fly back to a wonderful place called Washington, D.C. So, thank you very much.” (White House Press Office, Remarks by President Trump in Press Conference, JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi, February 28, 2019)

Pompeo: “So the President gave a pretty good description of the summit, how it ended, the progress that we made, and progress we didn’t make. … Q: Sir, I have two questions, just related — POMPEO: Yes, sir. Q: One, what gave you, the White House, the administration, the confidence to announce on Wednesday night that there would be a joint agreement signed on Thursday afternoon? Did you think you would reach an agreement? And what does this summit show about the pluses and minuses of trying to resolve fundamental issues at the leader level instead of trying to clear away the brushwork in advance of the meeting? POMPEO: Yeah, we — we’re coming at it from both ways, right, saw it on both ends of the train. We cleared away a lot of brush over the past, apparently, 60, 90 days at the working level, then we were hoping we could take another big swing when the two leaders got together. I think we did. We made some progress, but we didn’t get as far as we would have hoped to have gotten. And when you’re dealing with a country that is the nature of North Korea, it is often the case that the most senior leaders have the capacity to make those important decisions. We got some of them on this trip, but you don’t know which ones you’re actually going to get until the two leaders actually have a chance to get together. So there was a lot of preparatory work. We were prepared for the potentiality of this outcome as well, and tomorrow we’ll get right back at it. Q: But going back to what happened overnight, because you guys did announce that there was going to be a signing ceremony, so — POMPEO: Yeah, you all shouldn’t get hung up on things like that. You all — a lot of process. I watched predictions overnight from the media, people who acted like they knew what was going on. You should go back and look. And if any of you did that and said things that turned out to be wrong — I saw an NBC report that said oh, we’d given up on a declaration — you should all go back and correct your reporting. That’d be really important. I think that’d give you a lot more credibility to the world than going out and saying silly things that you know nothing about and speculating. … No, but I’m just — this is important because I saw some of it. I read some of it. It was radically uninformed and now I think can be proven incorrect, and so you ought to go fix it. And so we were continuing to work. We worked through the night. We were very hopeful we’d make enough progress that it would justify a signing statement at the ultimate concluding, and we didn’t. The President made that decision. Q: But Secretary, to be clear, that was the White House public schedule. That wasn’t — POMPEO: Yeah. No, it’s a schedule. Yeah, we were scheduled to leave seven minutes earlier than we did too. Yeah. The world has a way of having an impact. And so, but we were hopeful even this morning. We all went back and tried to shore up our vessels and see if we couldn’t get a little further, and we actually did. But still, look, it’s a long ways. We’ve known it was a long ways. There’s still a lot of work to do. … Q: Thank you so much for coming back. How did you leave it with Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-chol, in terms of when the next working-level meeting will occur? Days from now or — POMPEO: Yeah, we haven’t set a date. We haven’t set a date. Q: What’s your sense? POMPEO: My sense is it’ll take a little while. We’ll each need to regroup a little bit. But we’re hopeful that Special Representative Biegun and that team will get together before too long. But we’ll see. Look, there has to be a reason for the conversations. There has to be a theory of the case about how to move forward. I’m confident that there is one. I’ve seen enough congruence between what the two sides are trying to accomplish. I saw the goodwill between the two leaders. So I hope we can come up with that. Chairman Kim reiterated on his trip he is fully prepared to denuclearize. He recommitted that they will not conduct missile tests, that he will not conduct nuclear tests. Those are good things. Those remain as a pillar, as a foundation. You heard the President say that he is committed still not to conduct the major exercises. So there’s still a basis for believing that we can move forward to solve what’s been now a problem going on for an awfully long time. Q: Do you think the pressure on him back on Pyongyang might be just too great for him to move at the speed that we have the patience for? POMPEO: I try to do less psychoanalysis — Q: I’m talking about internal political pressure from military elites who don’t want to give up nuclear weapons. POMPEO: Yeah. I just — I know what they’ve told us. I know the things we’re working on. I know the things where they’ve said, hey, this is really important to them, their priority set. I think we do understand that better than we did even just a few weeks ago, so I think I know where there’s real room today. But as time goes on, the economic sanctions remain in place. This has been the President’s policy since the beginning. You’ve heard him reiterate maintaining those sanctions. And I think — so as time goes on, I think we’ll continue to see that we can make some progress. Q: Were there last-minute changes to what they were willing to commit to? I mean, I know that you said you couldn’t quite get them where you wanted to be. POMPEO: No. It’s been a steady stream of progress towards getting to where we want to be. We just didn’t get far enough. Q: So that — the demand that Kim gave to you about full sanctions relief in exchange for Yongbyon, was that something that they had made clear throughout the process but you felt that this was the summit where you could — the President could come in and crack that, or was that something that they sprung on you at the last minute and it was a surprise? POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t want to get into the details. I’ve always not talked about the details or the ins and outs of the negotiations. There have been lots of ideas proffered over the course of the last months, some by us, some by them, what might be a reasonable — set a path forward, right, a roadmap for what might be forward. And I will say we haven’t been surprised by much of anything. The team did really good work. Q: But did you feel that there — I mean, obviously, you didn’t — that there was a lot of speculation beforehand? This gets to your earlier point about the possibility of liaison offices, a peace declaration. … Did you feel that there was — why did you feel there wasn’t room to sort of pin down those, a possible agreement there, and call the whole thing off? POMPEO: I don’t understand your question. Q: But why not make — come to an agreement on those other issues, perhaps as a sort of basis for future discussions, rather than call the whole thing off? POMPEO: Yeah. You should not assume that we didn’t come to agreement on a whole number of issues. But we’ll all go back and continue to work on that. There have been lots of things that we’ve moved forward on, and I think we have a set of shared common understandings. But look, the big issue here, right, is achieving the denuclearization. That’s the objective of the conversations and in turn to provide peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and a brighter future for the North Korean people. On those things there’s still a lot of work. … Q: Yes. My question is when you were CIA director you talked about — POMPEO: Oh, now you’re testing my memory. Okay. (Laughter.) Q: Well, you famously said the threat was just a handful of months away. And now we’re more than — POMPEO: That’s not what I said, actually. Q: What did you say? Months away … . POMPEO: I didn’t say the threat was months away. Q: Well, now it’s been more than a year. Is the position that the testing means that it was frozen? POMPEO: I don’t understand your question. Q: Has the threat receded? When you were saying that it was just months away — POMPEO: The reason we’re having these conversations is because we’re concerned about the threat to the world. It’s the reason the UN Security Council placed the sanctions that are in place, right. The whole world voted for these sanctions there because of the risk, the concern that the North Koreans will act in a way that presents real risk to the world. That’s the reason we’re after this. It’s the reason we continue on this project. … Q: Can I just ask a clarifying question? POMPEO: Sure. Q: So you cited the reporting being incorrect about not asking for the full list of their nuclear program. POMPEO: Yeah. QUESTION: So did you, in fact, ask for that? SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve been working on that since almost a year ago, when I made my first trip, when I was in a different role. Yeah. Q: But it was a formal ask? POMPEO: I don’t know what “formal” means. What does “formal” mean to you? Q: You ask Kim Jong-un can you — can we have a full accounting of your nuclear program. POMPEO: Yes. And that is not a new request from us. But it’s important to have that kind of understanding. You can’t figure out when you’re done until you know what complete looks like. So yes, we’ve had this conversation now for an extended period of time. Q: You repeated that request at this summit? POMPEO: Yes. Yes, I’ll repeat it again. Yes, we repeated it at this summit as well. So if you’ll get NBC to take that story down, that’d be useful. Q: Not our story. POMPEO: Yeah, it’d be good.” (Secretary of State Remarks Michael R. Pompeo, Remarks with the Traveling Press, ERT Manila, Philippines, February 28, 2019)

Ri Yong Ho: “The heads of states of North Korea and United States carried out a sincere meeting this time with magnificent patience and self-restraint for two days. In accordance with the new constitution of faith and principle of phased resolution that were established under a joint recognition during the first North Korea-US summit meeting and talks held last June in Singapore, we presented a realistic proposal at this talks. And that is, if the United States lifts a part of the United Nations [UN] sanctions, in other words, the provision of sanctions that impact the civilian economy and people’s living standards, then we will permanently, completely dismantle entire nuclear materials production facilities of Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium, through a joint work of technicians from both countries in the presence of US experts. What we proposed was not the complete lifting of sanctions, but their partial lifting. In particular, out of the 11 UN sanctions resolutions all together, we proposed the lifting of the five groups first from those that were adopted from 2016 to 2017, especially the articles that impede the civilian economy and the people’s livelihood among them. Given the current level of trust between the two countries of [North] Korea and the United States, this is the biggest stride of denuclearization measure that we can take at the present stage. Even though the security guarantee is originally a more important issue in implementing denuclearization measures, we understood that it could be more difficult for the United States to take measures in the military field yet; so we proposed the partial lifting of sanctions as corresponding measures. During the meeting, we expressed our intent to make a commitment on a permanent suspension of nuclear testing and long-range rocket launch tests in writing in order to lower the concerns of the United States. If we go through this level of trust building measure, then we will be able to accelerate the process of denuclearization.

However, during the talks, the United States held out for a claim until the end that one more thing, other than the measure for dismantlement of the nuclear facilities of the Yongbyon area, needs to be done and thus, it became clear that the United States is not prepared to accommodate our offer. At this stage, it is hard to say here whether a better agreement, than what we have offered, could be reached. It may be difficult even to encounter this kind of opportunity again. For a journey toward complete denuclearization, this first step in the process is certainly unavoidable and a process of realizing the maximum measure, which we have put out, will certainly need to be gone through. Our principled position, as stated, will not change in the slightest and even at times when the United States brings up a negotiation again in the future, there will be no change in our measure.” (DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Press Conference, Hanoi, February 28, 2019, Yonhap transcript)

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly cut short their two-day summit today, with talks collapsing amid differing accounts of why both leaders walked away without an agreement or a clear plan on how to keep the dialogue alive. The fundamental disagreements rested on the trade-offs between sanctions relief by the United States and North Korea’s steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Trump said the main impediment to a deal was Kim’s requirement that the United States lift all economic sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the closure of only one nuclear facility, which still would have left Pyongyang with a large arsenal of missiles and warheads. Hours later, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, offered a slightly different take at a rare news conference, arguing that Kim’s regime sought only “partial” sanctions relief in return for dismantling the North’s main enrichment capabilities for fissile material. In a separate news conference, North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, suggested Kim had “lost the will to engage in deal-making” as the talks unraveled. The United States, she said, was missing a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” and said no future meetings between the two sides were planned. At a news conference before he left Vietnam to return to Washington, Trump said he and Kim parted ways on positive terms. But Choe, North Korea’s vice foreign minister, was less optimistic. “The impression I got observing this summit from the side, was that our chairman seems to have difficulty understanding the U.S. way of reckoning,” she said. “I felt that our chairman has lost the will to engage in deal-making, with the U.S. saying that even a partial lifting of sanctions for the civilian economy is hard.” The United States says U.N. sanctions cannot be unwound until North Korea fully denuclearizes. But it had left open the door to some marginal relief of unilateral U.S. sanctions if North Korea took steps in the right direction. North Korea’s foreign minister said the North had sought an end to “sanctions that hamper the civilian economy, and the livelihood of all people in particular,” citing five out of 11 sanctions packages imposed by the United Nations Security Council. While not total sanctions relief, that would have amounted to a very significant easing of the pressure on North Korea. Ri Yong Ho later confirmed that the North would be willing to “permanently dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities” at the main Yongbyon nuclear site, and would allow U.S. nuclear experts to observe. But he did not mention uranium enrichment facilities at other sites, leaving serious doubts about the North’s sincerity in the talks. “It is difficult to say whether there might be a better agreement than the one based on our proposal at current stage,” said Ri. “Our principal stance will remain invariable and our proposal will never be changed even though U.S. proposes negotiation again in the future.”(Philip Rucker, Simon Denyer and David Nakamura, “North Korea’s Foreign Minister Seeks Only Partial Sanctions Relief, Contradicting Trump,” Washington Post, February 28, 2019) Ri added that, specifically, North Korea asked “to lift five of the sanctions imposed between 2016 and 2017,” out of a total 11 UN Security Council sanctions. (Sarah Kim, “North Denies Trump’s Take on Summit Failure,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 2, 2019)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a failed last-ditch attempt to stop President Donald Trump from walking away from their meeting in Vietnam without reaching a deal on the easing of sanctions, CNN reported March 6. With Trump preparing to leave a Hanoi hotel last Thursday after cutting short the two-day summit, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui rushed over to the U.S. delegation with a message from Kim, CNN said, citing two senior administration officials and another source. The message offered a deal on “some” sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex. U.S. and North Korean officials had been haggling over a shared definition of the sprawling, three-square-mile site, and the last-minute overture sought to advance Pyongyang’s proposal for dismantling it, according to CNN. But Kim’s message did not make clear that Pyongyang shared Washington’s expansive definition of Yongbyon, and U.S. officials asked for clarity. Choe rushed back to get an answer and Kim replied that it included everything on the site, CNN said. But the U.S. delegation was unimpressed and did not want to resume the negotiations, a development that led to the cancellation of a planned working lunch and joint agreement-signing ceremony. (Kyodo, “N. Korea’s Kim Made Failed Bid to Stop Trump from Leaving Summit: CNN,” March 6, 2019)

Bolton: “Having stayed up well into the night watching Cohen testify, Trump canceled the preparatory briefings. I worried that his every instinct would be to do something to drown out Cohen’s hearings in the media, which he could only do with something dramatic and unexpected. Walking out would certainly achieve that objective. So too, however, would making a deal he could characterize as a huge success, even if it was badly flawed. The flaws wouldn’t catch up until later. Trump had Mulvaney, Pompeo, and me ride with him to the Metropole hotel in the Beast. He had heard from someone that we should ask the North Koreans to give up their ICBMs, which I thought secondary to dismantling the nuclear warheads. Eliminating just the ICBMs would not reduce the dangers to South Korea, Japan, and our deployed forces, nor protect against shorter-range, submarine-launched missiles fired just off our coasts, which the North was pursuing. Trump was irritable and frustrated, asking whether it was a bigger story if we got a small deal or if we walked away. I thought walking away was a far bigger story, if that was what he was looking for. Trump wondered how to explain taking a walk, and Pompeo offered a line: ‘The teams had met, we had made progress, there was still no testing, and we would meet again notwithstanding the failure of this summit,’ which Trump liked. It made me gag, but as long as Trump was comfortable with the explanation and walked away, I was not going to complain. He was moving in the right direction, but a fluttering leaf could have turned him 180 degrees. As we arrived at the Metropole, I had no sense of how the rest of the day would play out. Trump and Kim had a one-on-one at nine a.m., which broke after about forty minutes. They went to an inner courtyard, where they were joined by Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol for what was intended to be a short, perhaps ten-minute, break. Kim Jong Un did not like the heat and humidity, so they went inside a greenhouse-type structure in the inner courtyard used as a café, undoubtedly air-conditioned. The discussion continued, as we watched it through the greenhouse windows. My take was that Kim did not look particularly happy. His sister stood stoically outside in the heat and humidity, while the Americans, needless to say, went inside nearby where it was air-conditioned. After about an hour, this meeting broke, and Trump came into the main structure of the hotel for what was described as a thirty-minute break. In the holding rooms allocated to us, Trump immediately switched on Fox News to see how the late-night shows were covering Cohen’s testimony, as well as events in Hanoi. Pompeo said the discussion that had just concluded, like the one at dinner, had been all about North Korea’s closing down Yongbyon in exchange for sanctions relief, which wasn’t going anywhere. Kim Jong Un, he said, was ‘very frustrated’ and was ‘getting angry’ that Trump wasn’t giving him what he wanted. There had been no talk of ballistic missiles; the rest of the North’s nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs; or anything other than Yongbyon. Trump was visibly tired and irritated. It was clear he too was frustrated no satisfactory deal was at hand. That told me we were still in perilous territory. It was never over with Trump until he announced it at a press conference, and sometimes not even then. He still seemed comfortable walking away; there was no ‘big deal’ in sight, and he could not sustain a ‘small deal’ politically. I believed Trump’s ‘head for the barn’ instincts were kicking in; he wanted to get it over with and return home (after, of course, the big press conference). The larger meeting (Trump, Pompeo, Mulvaney, and I on our side of the table; Kim Jong Un, Kim Yong Chol, and Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on their side; plus interpreters) was scheduled for eleven a.m. We arrived first, then the North Koreans, and we all shook hands. I said to Kim Jong Un, “Mr. Chairman, it’s very nice to see you again,” which I hoped would be true. The press mob came in and out, and Trump asked Kim, ‘Does the press give you a hard time?’ Somewhat stunned, Kim said, “That’s an obvious question. I don’t have that burden,” and laughed. On human rights, Trump said happily we could say we talked about human rights because the press asked Kim a question. Another laugh-fest. Turning serious, Trump asked what Kim had come up with during the break. Kim was unhappy that he had traveled all the way to Hanoi with a proposal he claimed was incomparable to all those put on the table by all of their predecessors, and even so Trump was not satisfied. This went on for some time. While Kim was talking, Trump asked me for the definition of ‘denuclearization’ we had discussed in the Washington briefings, and also for what we called the ‘bright future’ page, which I gave him. [Libya solution] He handed both pages to Kim, and offered to fly him back to North Korea, canceling his evening in Hanoi. Kim laughed and said he couldn’t do that, but Trump observed happily that that would be quite a picture. He asked what North Korea could add to its offer; he knew Kim didn’t want him to look bad because he was the only one on Kim’s side. Kim readily returned the compliment, since he was the only one on Trump’s side. Doubtless without intending the pun, Trump observed that Kim called the shots in North Korea. Kim seemed surprised that Trump saw things that way, but said that even a leader who controlled everything still could not move without providing some justification. Trump said he understood Kim wanted to achieve consensus. Kim stressed again how significant the Yongbyon6 “concession” was for North Korea and how much coverage the idea was getting in the US media. Trump asked again if Kim could add something to his offer, such as asking only for a percentage reduction in the sanctions rather than completely removing them. This was beyond doubt the worst moment of the meeting. If Kim Jong Un had said yes there, they might have had a deal, disastrously for America. Fortunately, he wasn’t biting, saying he was getting nothing, omitting any mention of the sanctions being lifted. Trump tried changing the subject, asking about prospects for reunifying North and South Korea, and what China thought. Kim, growing tired of diversions, asked to get back to the agenda. Still trying to improve Kim’s package, Trump suggested he offer to eliminate his long-range missiles, the ones that could hit the United States. I saw this as an obvious dismissal of what I said earlier about the concerns of Japan and South Korea for the short- and medium-range missiles that could hit them. Then came the unexpected from Trump: ‘John, what do you think?’ I wasn’t going to miss the chance. We needed a full baseline declaration of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, biological, and ballistic-missile programs (echoing the paper Trump had given Kim Jong Un), I said. This was a traditional step in arms-control negotiations, and prior negotiations had failed without one. Trump responded that what I had just said was a little complicated, but looked to Kim for his reaction. Kim wasn’t buying, urging that if we went step by step, that would ultimately bring us a comprehensive picture. He complained, as he had in Singapore, that North Korea had no legal guarantees to safeguard its security, and Trump asked what kind of guarantees the North wanted. There were no diplomatic relations, seventy years of hostility and eight months of personal relations, Kim answered, obviously unwilling to respond with specifics. What would happen if a US warship entered North Korea territorial waters? he asked, and Trump suggested Kim call him. After more back-and-forth, Trump acknowledged that they had reached an impasse that it was politically impossible for him to resolve in the current meeting. Kim now looked visibly frustrated, but I was worried. After sustained efforts to explain to Trump how dangerous North Korea’s nuclear threat was, we were reduced to hoping that the politics of avoiding a mass Republican Party revolt was enough to stop a bad deal. Trump turned to Pompeo, asking him to repeat what he had said in the Beast on the way to the Metropole, which Pompeo rendered as, ‘The takeaway is the progress we have made; we understand each other better; we trust each other more; there was real progress made here. We can hold our heads high.’ I was glad I didn’t have to say it. We turned to closing statements, which Kim wanted to be one joint document. Trump initially preferred separate statements, then decided he didn’t. This went back and forth until Trump said again that he wanted to do a complete deal. Kim said flatly that the most he could do was what he had already proposed, which obviously wasn’t going to happen. He asked instead for a ‘Hanoi Statement’ to show that progress was made, perhaps mentioning that we were thinking about Yongbyon. This was now going in the wrong direction again, but I had been shot down earlier by Trump for saying that a joint statement risked showing we hadn’t achieved anything. ‘I don’t need risks. I need positives,’ Trump responded. Pompeo wanted to talk about progress: ‘We have made progress in the last eight months, and we will build on that.’ Even Kim wouldn’t accept that, saying that we had obviously not reached a good point. Trump interjected emphatically that if we accepted Kim’s proposal, the political impact in the United States would be huge, and he could lose the election. Kim reacted quickly, saying he didn’t want Trump to do anything that would harm him politically. Oh great. Kim kept pushing for a joint statement, but lamented that he felt a barrier between the two leaders, and felt a sense of despair. Kim was smartly playing on Trump’s emotions, and I worried it might work. Trump said Kim shouldn’t feel that way, and then, fortunately, we all laughed. Kim again stressed how important the Yongbyon package was. I said North Korea had already repeatedly promised to denuclearize, starting with the 1992 Joint North-South Declaration, so they already knew to a great extent what was required of them. Trump asked what had happened to the Joint Declaration, and I explained that Clinton had shortly thereafter negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework. Trump lamented that it was Kim’s proposal to lift the sanctions that was the deal breaker. Kim agreed that it was a shame, because he had thought the deal would receive a lot of applause. Instead, inside the room, there was total silence for several seconds, as we all thought the meeting had come to its end. But it hadn’t ended, as Kim kept pushing for some reference to Yongbyon that showed he and Trump had made progress beyond what their predecessors had achieved. I jumped in again, and pitched hard for two separate statements. I said if they were looking for a positive ending, we could each be positive in our own way. Kim said he didn’t want his own statement, which brought several more seconds of silence. Trump said he wanted Kim to be happy. No words for that. Trump made it clear he wanted a joint statement, assigning it to Kim Yong Chol and Pompeo to draft. With that, the North Koreans trundled out, leaving the US delegation alone in the room. While we were milling around, Trump asked me how we could be ‘“sanctioning the economy of a country that’s seven thousand miles away.’ I answered, ‘Because they are building nuclear weapons and missiles that can kill Americans.’ ‘That’s a good point,’ he agreed. We walked over to where Pompeo was standing, and Trump said, ‘I just asked John why we were sanctioning seven thousand miles away, and he had a very good answer: because they could blow up the world.’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said Pompeo. Another day at the office. Trump went back to his holding room, and Pompeo told me that this larger meeting had been essentially a replay of the earlier, smaller meeting, with Kim’s relentlessly pushing the Yongbyon deal, hoping Trump would fold. In the holding room, we found Trump tired, but he expressed the correct insight that ‘walking away’ in Hanoi made clear to the world he could do it elsewhere, such as in the China trade negotiations. Beyond that, however, he had no appetite for anything else, even lunch, which was canceled, along with the joint signing ceremony tentatively on the calendar.” (Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, pp. 291-95)


3/1/19:
KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, met again and had talks with Donald J. Trump, president of the United States of America, on Thursday. Supreme Leader of the Party, state and army Kim Jong Un met again with USA President Donald J. Trump at Metropole Hotel in Hanoi at 9:00 a.m. Hanoi Time and then had one-on-one talks before having extended talks with their aides attending. The top leaders of the two countries highly appreciated at the one-on-one talks and extended talks that a remarkable progress has been made in the historic course of implementing the Singapore joint statement. They had a constructive and candid exchange of their opinions over the practical issues arising in opening up a new era of the improvement of the DPRK-U.S. relations on the basis of the progress. At the talks they shared the common understanding that the efforts made by the two sides and proactive measures taken by them to defuse tensions and preserve peace on the Korean peninsula and completely denuclearize it were of great significance in building mutual trust and making a fundamental turn in the decades-long bilateral relations characterized by mistrust and antagonism. The top leaders listened to each other’s views on the issues to be resolved without fail at the present phase in order to carry out the joint goals specified in the Singapore joint statement, and had an in-depth discussion of the ways to do so. They expressed the conviction that though a high barrier of antagonism and confrontation stands due to over 7 decades-long hostile relations and there exist inevitable hardships and difficulties on the road to writing a new history of the DPRK-U.S. relationship, they could create a significant advance in the DPRK-U.S. relations as desired by the peoples of the two countries if they firmly join hands to overcome hardships and difficulties with wisdom and patience. The top leaders of the two countries appreciated that the second meeting in Hanoi offered an important occasion for deepening mutual respect and trust and putting the relations between the two countries on a new stage. They agreed to keep in close touch with each other for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the epochal development of the DPRK-U.S. relations in the future, too, and continue productive dialogues for settling the issues discussed at the Hanoi Summit. Kim Jong Un expressed his thanks to Trump for making positive efforts for the successful meeting and talks while making a long journey and said goodbye, promising the next meeting. .” (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, President Rump Hold Second-Day Talks,” March 1, 2019)

Yesterday afternoon, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was on the phone to Trump offering his services as mediator and even suggesting they meet in person in the near future for more “in-depth” discussions. Trump said he had no plans to meet Kim again for a third summit. But today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was “anxious to get back to the table so we can continue the conversation that will ultimately [lead] to peace and security, a better life for the North Korean people and a lower threat.” China, a neighbor keenly interested in the success of the talks, hoped there would still be a way to find a compromise. “As an old Chinese saying goes, the road to happiness is strewn with setbacks. However, I believe that a bright future awaits,” said Foreign Minister Wang Yi. North Korea, meanwhile, called the summit “successful” — although nothing that Kim ever does could really be described any other way — and the state news agency said the two men had agreed to “keep in close touch with each other for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But perhaps a more revealing insight into the minds of the North Korean negotiators came at an extraordinary news conference held by the country’s foreign minister and deputy foreign minister after midnight in Hanoi. “The impression I got observing this summit from the side was that our chairman seems to have difficulty understanding the U.S. way of reckoning,” Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told reporters. “I felt that our chairman has lost the will to engage in deal-making, with the United States saying that even a partial lifting of sanctions for the civilian economy is hard.” Different versions of the breakdown were presented by both sides, but the fundamentals of what North Korea was prepared to agree to were beginning to emerge a day after the failed summit. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said North Korea had offered to close down the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, a large complex that covers more than three square miles and includes about 300 buildings. Yongbyon is the site of North Korea’s main, aging nuclear reactor, which has been the regime’s only source of plutonium, although satellite imagery suggests that the reactor was largely not operating last year, possibly because of maintenance work. It is also home to a new light water reactor that has never been inspected as it is not thought to be operational yet, experts say. Choe said North Korea also offered to close a facility to enrich uranium that was shown to nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker in 2010. “They were pretty expansive with respect to what they were prepared to do at Yongbyon, but there was still not complete clarity with respect to the full scope of what they were prepared to offer,” Pompeo said in Manila. A senior State Department official said it was important to be precise about what exactly is being done at Yongbyon, but “the North Koreans struggled to give us a precise definition.” He characterized the North Korean offer as the closure of a “portion” of Yongbyon. Experts and intelligence officials say they believe North Korea has other covert sites to enrich uranium in other parts of the country. Closing Yongbyon entirely would slow North Korea’s ability to produce fissile material for bombs but not stop it entirely. To achieve that goal would require a complete declaration of all fissile material sites in the country, and the ability to conduct extensive, and intrusive, inspections at short notice. That is not something North Korea has ever agreed to. Closing Yongbyon would also leave North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles intact. In return, Trump said North Korea had basically asked for sanctions to be fully lifted. Ri, the foreign minister, took issue with that characterization, arguing that Pyongyang wanted only a “partial” lifting of sanctions and citing the most recent five out of 11 sanctions packages imposed by the United Nations Security Council. But the senior State Department official said the sanctions request included “metals, raw materials, transportation, seafood, coal exports, refined petroleum imports, raw petroleum imports.” The official added: “It was basically all the sanctions except armaments.” In effect, the United States was being asked to give up almost all of its leverage in return for an offer that would not prevent North Korea from making new bombs and missiles and would leave its current arsenal untouched. It would have given Kim the economic rewards he sought and left North Korea as a de facto nuclear weapons state. “The dilemma that we were confronted with is the North Koreans at this point are unwilling to impose a complete freeze on their weapons of mass destruction programs,” the State Department official said. “So to give many, many billions of dollars in sanctions relief would in effect put us in a position of subsidizing the ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea.” Ri, meanwhile, said it was “difficult to say” if there would be a better offer than the one presented in Hanoi. “Our principal stance will remain invariable and our proposal will never be changed, even though the U.S. proposes negotiation again in the future,” he said. Joseph Yun served as the U.S. special representative for North Korea from October 2016, under the Obama administration, to March 2018, under Trump. He says the negotiations may have hit a fundamental roadblock. “Trump is beginning to realize that North Korea’s not going to completely denuclearize, not now and probably not ever. I think he will have a tough time over that realization,” he said. “Both men have lost face.” That may make it even harder for working-level negotiators to get traction. (Simon Denyer, “After U.S.-North Korea Nuclear Summit Fails, All Sides Scramble to Salvage the Talks Despite Differences,” Washington Post, March 1, 2019) The meeting in Vietnam ended in shambles today when Kim insisted on a full lifting of sanctions, according to Trump, and would not agree to dismantle enough of his nuclear program to satisfy American demands. The North Koreans later contradicted Trump, saying they had demanded only a partial lifting of sanctions, but they confirmed that they had offered to dismantle their main nuclear site, at Yongbyon. The split underscored the risk of leader-to-leader diplomacy: When it fails, there are few places to go, no higher-up to step in and cut a compromise that saves the deal. In this case, the price may be high — especially if Kim responds to the failure by further accelerating his production of nuclear fuel and a frustrated Trump swings from his expressions of “love” for the North Korean dictator and back to the “fire and fury” language of early in his presidency. “No deal is better than a bad deal, and the president was right to walk,” said Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “But this should not have happened,” he said. “A busted summit is the risk you run when too much faith is placed in personal relations with a leader like Kim, when the summit is inadequately prepared, and when the president had signaled he was confident of success.” The outcome today took everyone by surprise. Trump was so convinced a deal was in the offing that the White House had announced that a “signing ceremony” would be held immediately after a warm lunch between the two leaders. But no one ever sat down at the elegantly set table in the century-old Metropole Hotel, and there was no signing ceremony because there was no communiqué to sign. For his part, Kim seemed to think he had Trump exactly where he wanted him: desperate for a deal, and in need of a headline-making victory after the devastating testimony on February 25 of Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer. If so, Kim clearly miscalculated. “Trump could have had a small deal,” Joseph Yun, the former State Department special envoy for North Korea, said after the collapse on Thursday. “Close a few sites, and lift a few sanctions. But because of Cohen, the president needed a big deal” — one that traded sanctions relief for the mass dismantlement of nuclear infrastructure that it took the North Koreans the better part of 40 years to construct. The risk now is that having placed their personal imprimatur on the negotiations, Trump and Kim will be tempted to raise the pressure on each other. In retrospect, there were warning signs that things were going south. When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Pyongyang to turn a vaguely worded agreement to pursue denuclearization struck at the June meeting in Singapore into reality, Kim declined to see him. When he returned, he got an audience — but no inventory of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, its production facilities and its missiles. Without that, there was no way for the two sides to agree on a timetable for dismantlement. For months, the North declined to deal with the State Department’s special envoy, Stephen Biegun. And when the North Koreans did, they explored many options, but made clear sanctions relief had to come first. Trump made his own situation worse. He kept repeating that there was “plenty of time” to reach an agreement, taking all the urgency out of the issue. When the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported on satellite evidence and expert analysis suggesting that the North was still producing nuclear material and expanding missile bases, Trump said on Twitter that there was no news in those reports. He blamed the media for making a big deal of it — rather than having used the moment to remind the North Koreans that its activities were being intensely monitored, and not just by spy satellites. And last night, when the two men met again at the Metropole, it was clear from the body language that something had changed since their first warm embrace in Singapore eight months ago. Trump, who said over the weekend that he would be happy just to have a continued ban on missile and nuclear testing, realized that if he acceded to Kim’s demand for an end to sanctions, he would lose whatever leverage the United States possessed. “I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” the president told reporters before leaving Hanoi early. One of the most telling obstacles in the negotiations was over a facility called Kangson, which the North Koreans have never publicly acknowledged. Detected by American intelligence agencies nearly a decade ago, the site, in a suburb of the capital, Pyongyang, is believed to be a secret nuclear enrichment plant. Trump’s team of negotiators believed that the North’s willingness to let inspectors into the plant, and ultimately shutter it, would be a good test of Kim’s commitment to denuclearization. For years, the American knowledge of the site was highly classified, and never discussed. But when asked by a reporter at a news conference on today whether Kim had been unwilling to deal with its fate, Trump acknowledged that was one of the problems, along with other facilities “they were surprised we knew.” “I think it is very positive that the Trump administration sought constraints at previously undisclosed facilities outside Yongbyon,” Robert J. Einhorn, one of the senior arms control experts who worked for the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Preventing North Korea from producing new fuel, he said, “would be a much better indication of North Korea’s willingness to go down the denuclearization track than simply closing Yongbyon, which would not halt their production of all bomb-making nuclear material.” By Trump’s account, Kim would not take up such issues until the world lifts the economic pressure on North Korea. “He wants the sanctions off,” he said. Now the question is whether Trump will continue his form of personal-relationship diplomacy or decide that the risks are too great, and that he should return to the step-by-step approach most of his predecessors used. “Look, there has to be a reason for the conversations,” Pompeo told reporters late Thursday, on his way to the Philippines. “There has to be a theory of the case of how to move forward. I’m confident there is one.” He just didn’t say what it was. (David E. Sanger, “Collapse of Talks Exposes Perils of 1-to-1 Diplomacy,” New York Times, March 1, 2019, p. A-1)

Choe Son Hui: “Regarding the Yongbyon area, the proposal we put out this time, as our Foreign Minister had stated — we have made a historic proposal for the permanent disposal of the whole of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, and within that, all of the plutonium and uranium facilities, including all nuclear facilities altogether in the presence of U.S. experts. In return, we have demanded — as our Foreign Minister has stated — of the sanctions resolutions, the five sanctions related to the people’s livelihood and the civilian economy we asked to be lifted. … About this proposal, I think the U.S. side missed the opportunity of a lifetime by not accepting it. … Despite the proposal we put out regarding the dismantlement of the entire Yongbyon nuclear complex, which will not be offered in the years to come, the United States disregarded it. While seeing the U.S. side’s response that a partial lifting of only those sanctions related to the civilian economy might be difficult, I got the feeling that our Chairman Kim has been a little discouraged about the future of dealings with the United States. … So, it is hard for me to guarantee whether this sort of opportunity for the U.S. will be forthcoming in the future.” (Press Conference with Choe Son Hui, Hanoi, NCNK translation, March 1, 2019)

Background Briefing: “SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay, so on background, as the President said in his press conference, he had an excellent set of talks with Kim Jong-un. They were productive, they were constructive, and we made progress in a number of areas between the two sides. It was worth the time to have the two leaders together. During the course of the discussions, the North Koreans made clear that any future steps on denuclearization would require the lifting of sanctions. As the President said in his press conference, the North Koreans basically asked for the lifting of all sanctions. Now, Ri Yong-ho, the foreign minister of North Korea, clarified their position overnight in a press conference, and I just want to clarify what he was saying. The — what the North Koreans asked, and what they have been asking for several weeks in our working-level negotiations, is the lifting of the United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed since March of 2016. Q: All of them? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ll clarify that. In the course of those discussions, they qualified their ask by saying that they wanted the sanctions lifted, that, as they said — as Ri Yong-ho said in his press conference last night — sanctions that impede the civilian economy and people’s livelihood among them. We culled through the sanctions and we asked the North Koreans during the working-level negotiation for a definition of what that included, and if you review the UN Security Council resolutions you’ll see that includes — the sanctions themselves include a broad range of products, including metals, raw materials, transportation, seafood, coal exports, refined petroleum imports, raw petroleum imports. We asked the North Koreans to clarify for us what they meant by these — this — their qualification, and it was basically all the sanctions except for armaments. Q: Except for what? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Armaments, weapons — except for weapons. And so we went through that and we did our own calculation, and it tallies up to the tune of many, many billions of dollars. We have — Q: When did they make the demand? During the working-level talks? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They first surfaced this request during the working-level negotiations in the week leading up to the summit, and we evaluated it closely and explained to them that that wouldn’t work. What they had offered in return was the dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, but Yongbyon nuclear complex is also an important entity to define, because the Yongbyon complex since the early 1990s has been at the center of the North Korean nuclear weapons program and it involves many institutions, buildings, outbuildings. It’s a substantial set of facilities on a single property and it’s important to be very precise about that, and the North Koreans struggled to give us a precise definition of what that was. Leaving aside those process questions that are still very much in discussion between the two sides, I want to say that the dilemma that we were confronted with is that the North Koreans at this point are unwilling to impose a complete freeze on their weapons of mass destruction programs, so to give many, many billions of dollars in sanctions relief would in effect put us in a position of subsidizing the ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea. Now, they didn’t ask us to do that, but that is effectively the choice that we were presented with. The President in his discussions challenged the North Koreans to go bigger. The President encouraged Chairman Kim to go all in, and we were going to go — we were prepared to go all in as well, and that’s where we are. So the good news is it was very constructive discussions. We’re not — we’re not shy about saying that, and it is absolutely true. And we ended on a very good note between the two sides. We just couldn’t get there on the agreement at this point but within the discussions on this agreement we got to a level of detail that has eluded us for quite a while, certainly since the Singapore joint statement, including things like what is the definition of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, which is a very important issue for us as we look to disassemble the entire weapons of mass destruction program in North Korea. So we’re in an okay place. We didn’t get a deal because the deal wasn’t there to be had, but we are prepared to continue talking. I was very reassured to see the official press release from the North Koreans this morning that they’re actually taking the exact same tone that President Trump took in his press conference yesterday. They were constructive discussions. There’s room to continue talking. The two leaders have a personal relationship that both of them believe will yield benefits for the development of our plans here, and for my part — well, I shouldn’t say this because I’m on background, but let me just say the United States very much looks forward to engaging further with the North Koreans as soon as they’re prepared. … Q: The North Korean foreign minister said that they were prepared to get rid of their plutonium-producing facilities at Yongbyon and/or HEU facilities in the presence of UN inspectors. Is that an accurate description of what they offered? That’s what they said publicly. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That is what they have discussed with us, and that is actually what they first raised in September — on September 19th of 2018 in the joint statement between Chairman Kim and President Moon Jae-in after their summit in Pyongyang. It’s not a new offer. It is only part of the Yongbyon nuclear complex. It’s — Q: What part is not included? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Some of that I can’t discuss. Q: The tritium? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I can’t discuss all the parts of it, but the Yongbyon nuclear complex is a sprawling, three-square-mile site. Q: The light water reactor? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s a sprawling, three-square-mile site with more than 300 different, separate facilities located on it, all of which are dedicated to supporting the nuclear weapons program of North Korea. Q: Are they looking to keep open a civilian nuclear energy production option? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They — MODERATOR: Can you talk about that, or — all right. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. We’re in the middle of negotiations on a number of issues, but we are not negotiating the civilian nuclear energy capability. … Q: We know that you want to shut down — Q: [Senior State Department Official], I’m Nick Wadhams with Bloomberg. Two questions. One, are you any closer to a shared definition of what denuclearization means? And then also, in your Stanford speech, you referenced Yongbyon but then also these other plutonium enrichment facilities beyond Yongbyon. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Uranium. Q: Sorry? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Uranium. Q: Sorry, uranium. Well, plutonium, and — you said “destruction of North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities. This complex… extends beyond Yongbyon.” SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Q: So were they — were those other facilities also on the table? Or were they offering to — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: What the North Koreans proposed to us was closing down a portion of the Yongbyon complex. Q: So only Yongbyon? And then how about on denuclearization? Are you any closer to a shared definition? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: On the definition of denuclearization, it’s a matter that we discussed at length in the working-level negotiations, but it wasn’t in the North Korean proposal yesterday. Q: What does that — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They haven’t agreed to it. Q: [Senior State Department Official], who else was in the working-level talks in the week leading up to the summit other than Kim Yong-chol? Did they have — was — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They have a delegation, about five people, representing the ministry of foreign affairs, what they would call the Asia Pacific Peace Commission, and the State Affairs Commission, which is effectively the — would be the equivalent of the White House. State Affairs Commission are the people who work directly for Chairman Kim in their structure. On our side, we had a delegation of 16 experts, including international law experts, nuclear fuel cycle experts, missile experts, trade sanctions experts, economists. We were prepared to evaluate any proposal that they put forward, and we did so with great seriousness, and I want to say we welcomed their proposals, Gus, but we didn’t have a deal that the President could agree to at this point. Q: When — sorry — were there any considerations for making smaller incremental agreements at this summit, like liaison or IAEA inspectors as a stepping stone and an example of goodwill and further trust building, or it’s basically all or nothing? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s not all or nothing, but our view is that all these pieces fit together and they have to move in parallel. Q: So you are not disputing the North Korean account of the conversation, just to be clear? You’re just clarifying that those sanctions — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. I think they’re parsing words. What they were asking for was basically the lifting of all sanctions. That’s what they were asking for. MODERATOR: As the President said. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: As the President said. So — .Q: And were there — sorry — and were there any other sites that were discussed other than Yongbyon and their — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think I want to be a little bit protective of the President and Chairman Kim and the discussion they had, but they had a good discussion. Q: So when they say — just to clarify, because — that they wanted five out of eleven of the sanctions, these are comments that are made subsequent to Hanoi that were not actually what they said at the summit? They — at the summit they were talking about (inaudible), and now they’re saying, oh, we only wanted five out of eleven? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right. The bulk of the sanctions — basically virtually all the sanctions, other than the ones directly related to the technology and equipment that support the weapons of mass destruction program — basically all the sanctions were imposed since March 16th of 2016. Q: Right. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You go back and look at the UN Security Council resolution, you see that’s where all the value of the sanctions were imposed. Q: Right. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sanctions prior to that point were largely targeted on depriving the North Koreans of specific technologies that aid their weapons of mass destruction program. So the economic benefit of this, the pressure campaign that sanctions represent, would have been eviscerated with the lifting of sanctions in exchange for — Q: But basically it’s all since March 2016. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. Q: But now they’re coming out and saying five of eleven, but the way they do that is they’re counting things from prior to March ’16? Is that what they’re doing? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, exactly. And I would hasten to add that these sanctions are actually layered on top of each other, so they’re actually tied together. They’re not severable. One of the things that you might potentially hear them say is they stopped testing, therefore all sanctions that were imposed because they were testing should be lifted. That’s another thing that you would hear, but that testing was part of a process of developing nuclear weapons, and the weapons themselves need to be on the table. It’s not the testing of the weapons, it’s the actual presence of the nuclear weapons — and, by the way, likewise in the case of missile testing, the ICBMs as well that are central to this discussion. So we can quibble about the words, and a little bit of this is parsing on the part of our counterparts, but I want to go back to the positives, too. We’re in a discussion with them on things that we really want to be discussing with them. They’re — the fact that the foreign minister of North Korea was out doing a press avail last night is an important sign, and the fact that some of you — I don’t know if you were in the room, but the media had the opportunity for the first time to have an open exchange with the North Korean delegation on these issues. We’re actually encouraged by where we’re going. Q: So what’s next? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We didn’t get close enough at this summit, but we’re encouraged with the opportunities ahead of us. … Q: Would you have been willing to take an agreement in which there were a fewer number of those sanctions lifted? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Kylie, what we were negotiating is the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. We still have a lot of work to do to get there. Q: Do you know what’s next, when your next meeting will be, or — because it just seems like — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We need to let the dust settle a little bit, but as I said, the North Korean press reports of their version of the summit last — that came out today in KCNA was actually quite constructive as well, and suggests to me that, like us, they feel that there’s still ample opportunity to continue the talks. So I think I’m going to wrap it up there. MODERATOR: Yep. Wrap it up right there.” (DoS, Senior State Department Official, Remarks to the Traveling Press, Peninsula Hotel Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019)

China said today it believed some sanctions relief was still justified. “The U.N. Security Council should relaunch discussions on reversible clauses of the resolution and readjust sanctions accordingly, based on the principle of simultaneous reciprocity,” spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference. That appeal is set to fall on deaf ears in Washington, with the United States almost certain to veto any attempts to ease sanctions. Lankov, who is also a director of the NK News service, said he expected China to ease up on the implementation of sanctions but not ignore them entirely. “China wants to position itself as the guardian of the international law and international norms when Donald Trump is so eager to break them,” he said. “So for China, it’s not a good idea to openly violate sanctions. They will do whatever is possible within plausible deniability limits. (Simon Denyer, “North Korean Leader Leaves Vietnam with a Grin and a Wave, but Empty Hands,” Washington Post, March 1, 2019)

During the State of the Union address in 2018, Fred Warmbier and his wife, Cindy, stood and wept while Trump spoke of the “menace” of North Korea and gave tribute to their son, who died days after his release. Today, the Warmbiers emerged into the public eye again, this time with a blistering statement directed at the president. They said they could no longer be silent after the summit meeting this week with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, and after hearing Trump say that he believed Kim’s claim that he did not know what had happened to Otto Warmbier while he was in custody. “We have been respectful during this summit process,” the Warmbiers said in a statement. “Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.” The outrage went far beyond the Warmbiers, as American political leaders, including members of Trump’s own party, joined the family in condemning Kim for Warmbier’s death. “Americans know, the world knows, Kim Jong-un knows, and most importantly, the Warmbier family knows that Otto suffered a cruel death inflicted by a brutal regime serving Kim Jong-un,” Representative Warren Davidson, Republican of Ohio, said on Twitter. Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said in an email: “North Korea murdered Otto Warmbier and the president of the United States has a responsibility to make sure they face the consequences. Anything short of that is unacceptable.” The Warmbiers filed a federal lawsuit last year in the United States against the autocratic government, and they were awarded over $501 million in damages, though it is unlikely that they would receive the full amount from North Korea. Trump said on Twitter today that his remarks had been “misinterpreted.” “Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death,” he said, adding: “I love Otto and think of him often!” (Julie Bosman and Keith Williams, “Grief Turns to Rage over Trump’s Trust of Kim, New York Times, March 2, 2019, p. A-1)


3/2/19:
U.S. and South Korean officials announced today that they will end longtime military exercises that had riled North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime and drawn criticism from President Trump. The Pentagon disclosed the decision Saturday evening after a phone call between acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan and his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo. The officials agreed “to conclude” the exercises and replace them with “newly designed Command Post exercises and revised field training program,” according to a Pentagon statement. “The Minister and Secretary made clear that the Alliance decision to adapt our training program reflected our desire to reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner,” the statement said. A U.S. military official said that the newer, scaled-back operation will be held March 4-12 and will entail a computer exercise. It will be called “Dong Maeng,” which means “Alliance,” the official said. The official also said the new exercise will include thousands fewer troops. Another U.S. defense official said Shanahan had hoped to find a solution that would allow the U.S. and South Korean militaries to continue the elements of the exercises focused on maintaining joint readiness while foregoing elements that in the past had been intended as a show of force. Those elements, the Pentagon leadership has concluded, could be viewed as saber-rattling at a time when the military looks to support diplomacy with North Korea, the official said. The plans to scale back the exercise could have some impact on readiness, officials said, but it’s not clear how much. Both the Foal Eagle series of exercises held in the spring and the Key Resolve exercises traditionally held in the summer will conclude. They focused on preparing for the possibility of war with North Korea, and involved thousands of troops. At times, they included U.S. bombers, submarines and other displays of force. The announcement of the change, which NBC News first reported yesterday, comes two days after Trump cut short a summit with Kim after they were unable to agree to terms on how to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. As he had previously, the president spoke warmly of Kim and with disdain for the exercises. “I was telling the generals — I said: Look, you know, exercising is fun and it’s nice and they play the war games,” Trump said, referring to the exercises by a phrase the Pentagon has typically avoided. “And I’m not saying it’s not necessary, because at some levels it is, but at other levels it’s not. But it’s a very, very expensive thing. And you know, we do have to think about that, too.” (Dan Lamothe, “U.S. and South Korea End Military Exercises That Riled North,” Washington Post, March 3, 2019, p. A-16)


3/3/19:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wasn’t prepared to accept President Donald Trump’s “big deal” at their summit in Hanoi last week, National Security Adviser John Bolton said today. “I don’t consider the summit a failure,” he said in an interview with CBS. “I consider it a success defined as the president protecting and advancing American national interest.” “The issue, really, was whether North Korea was prepared to accept what the president called ‘the big deal,’ which is denuclearize entirely under a definition the president handed to Kim Jong-un, and have the potential for an enormous economic future,” Bolton said. In a separate interview with Fox News, the adviser said Trump had tried to persuade Kim “to take the big deal that really could make a difference for North Korea.” When that didn’t work, the president walked away. “I think he made a very important point to North Korea and to other countries around the world about negotiating with him,” Bolton said. “He’s not desperate for a deal, not with North Korea, not with anybody, if it’s contrary to American national interest.” (Yonhap, “N.K. Wasn’t Ready to Accept Trump’s ‘Big Deal’: Bolton,” March 4, 2019)

Bolton: “MARGARET BRENNAN: We had different versions of the story as to why this summit failed to produce any results. Why was the president unable to negotiate a breakthrough? BOLTON: Well I don’t consider the summit a failure. I consider it a success defined as the president protecting and advancing American national interest. There was extensive preparation for this meeting. Extensive discussions between the president and Kim Jong Un and- and the issue really was whether North Korea was prepared to accept what the president called “the big deal,” which is denuclearize entirely under a definition the president handed to Kim Jong Un and have the potential for an enormous economic future or try and do something less than that which was unacceptable to us. So the president held firm to his view. He deepened his relationship with Kim Jong Un. I don’t view it as a failure at all when American national interests are protected. BRENNAN: But to be clear, North Korea still has not agreed to denuclearize as the U.S. defines it. BOLTON: Not as we have defined it although they have committed in public in prior regimes in North Korea — four or five times in writing to denuclearize and that’s something— BRENNAN: So that doesn’t mean much to you. AMBASSADOR BOLTON: — We expect them to do if they reach an agreement with us. BRENNAN: Well on the specifics, a senior State Department official spoke to reporters and said that what the North Koreans proposed specifically was about dismantling the three-mile Yongbyon complex which he defined as quote, “the totality of North Korea’s plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment programs in exchange for lifting all sanctions except those on the weapons programs.” Did the U.S. make a counter offer? BOLTON: Well, the counter offer has been there from the beginning — from- from the very first summit back in Singapore, which is if North Korea commits to complete denuclearization — including its ballistic missile program and its chemical and biological weapons programs, the prospect of economic progress is there. The president — BRENNAN: But that’s not what North Korea put on the table — BOLTON: That’s not what they — MARGARET BRENNAN: They put on this narrow definition. BOLTON: A very limited concession by the North Koreans involving the Yongbyon complex which includes an aging nuclear reactor and some percentage of their uranium enrichment plutonium reprocessing capabilities. In exchange, they wanted substantial relief from the sanctions. Now, one thing President Trump has said beginning in the 2016 campaign is that he’s not going to make the mistakes of prior administrations and get into this action for action kind of arrangement which benefits — BRENNAN: So there was no counter offer. BOLTON: — the North Koreans. Our counter offer was where we have been where the president has exercises persuasive abilities on Kim Jong Un to take the big deal and they weren’t willing to do it. BRENNAN: But what made the president stake out this maximalist position? AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It’s not — BRENNAN: You negotiated with the North Koreans before, going back to 2002. Did you see the same pattern playing out now? BOLTON: I think the difference that President Trump has articulated to the North Koreans is the future for them once they make the strategic decision to denuclearize. What they’ve done before is promise to denuclearize, get economic benefits in return and then renege on the deal. What the president was trying to get them to do is look at what was possible for them overall. And I think he remains optimistic that this is possible. Kim Jong Un himself said in our last meeting, you know we’re going to go through many stations on- before we achieve this deal. The meeting in Hanoi was one such station. So the president is ready to keep talking. BRENNAN: Are you expecting North Korea to come back with an offer? BOLTON: I don’t know what they’re going to do. I think the president himself said that he expects they’ll want to go back and re-evaluate what happened certainly we will- we’ll look at continuing the economic sanctions against North Korea which brought them to the table in the first place. We’ll see what happens next. BRENNAN: But in the meantime, North Korea can still produce nuclear fuel. BOLTON: And they have been doing it. Yes, they have. That’s exactly correct. BRENNAN: So they’re a growing threat. BOLTON: Well, I think our objective remains to find a way to get them to denuclearize. The president’s trying this negotiation but his objective has always been denuclearization. BRENNAN: Is the window for diplomacy about to close here? I mean this is- this seems like an open- ended timeline. BOLTON: I wouldn’t- I wouldn’t say it that way. Look, the president opened the door for North Korea in Singapore and they didn’t walk through. He kept the door open — BRENNAN: Eight months ago. BOLTON: He kept the door open during that eight-month period. He kept it open in Hanoi. The North Koreans can walk through it, it’s really up to them. That’s the diplomatic window. BRENNAN: When you were on this program last July though you said the plan was to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear facilities and have it turn over its weapons of mass destruction within a year. BOLTON: What — MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that still a realistic timeline? AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, the question you asked then was operationally how long would it take. There was some dispute within the U.S. government over a period of time, once North Korea made the strategic decision to give up its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, how long would it take to conduct that dismantlement and with a few exceptions our judgment was we could finish it within a year. Once the process started. BRENNAN: So you still think it’ll take a year to dismantle it? BOLTON: This is — BRENNAN: But you acknowledged they haven’t even agreed to denuclearize — BOLTON: No, no they have not agreed. Exactly. BRENNAN: — and there’s no expiration date on this offer to continue to negotiate? BOLTON: There- there is no expiration date. As I say, the president is fully prepared to keep negotiating at lower levels or to speak to Kim Jong Un again when it’s appropriate. BRENNAN: But aren’t they a growing threat if they can continue to develop nuclear fuel? Doesn’t the leverage get reduced on our end? BOLTON: I don’t think the leverage gets reduced because I think we will keep the maximum pressure campaign in place even before the summit. We were looking at ways to tighten it up to- to stop for example the ship to ship transfers that the North Koreans are using to evade the sanctions, to talk to other countries to make sure they tighten up on North Korea. It was the sanctions that brought the North Koreans to the table. It’s the sanctions they want relief from and relief they can get if they denuclearize. BRENNAN: Before the president went to Hanoi was the U.S. aware that North Korea would not allow anything beyond the Yongbyon complex? I mean the second uranium enrichment site that the president nodded to in his press conference. Did you know that was not on the table? BOLTON: Well we don’t know what’s on the table from — from North Korea until it comes out of the mouth of Kim Jong Un, the chairman. He’s calling — BRENNAN: Well that’s the diplomats are supposed to be laying the groundwork for. So the president doesn’t walk away with a failure. BOLTON: He — he didn’t walk away with a failure. Unless you’re prepared to say that it would be better to accept a bad deal than to walk away from no deal, to me that’s a success. BRENNAN: So you thought that nothing else was on the table. You were just testing the prospects by sending the president to Hanoi? BOLTON: No, no, no. We- we honestly didn’t know. I mean it’s- it’s not unusual in these circumstances to find that there are additional concessions that the other side might make. But we’ve tried to make it clear to them- as again the president has said this repeatedly we’re not going to make the mistakes of past administrations. We’re not going to make the mistake that Obama made in the Iran nuclear deal. What we want is denuclearization broadly defined as the president himself laid out for Kim Jong Un in the paper that he gave him. BRENNAN: So- but you’ve tested this proposition now of what it’s like to negotiate top down? BOLTON: Well we’ve had two- we’ve had two meetings. BRENNAN: This is now the — what — fourth commander in chief to try to do this? There’s a very different approach but the success rate hasn’t been anything more than in the past. BOLTON: Well the success rate in the past was zero. So that’s not a hard bar to overcome. There’s a- there’s an argument that proceeding deductively rather than inductively makes a lot of sense. We’ve had two meetings. We-we’ll see what happens next. BRENNAN: But in the meantime, as we say, they can still produce nuclear fuel. And as you saw after the president left Hanoi, Kim Jong Un stayed there. I mean he was walking around touring hot spots in Vietnam. He no longer looks like a pariah. Didn’t he gain from this? BOLTON: I don’t think that’s the president’s view at all. BRENNAN: He sat across from the president almost as if an equal. BOLTON: He- he did that in Singapore. The president’s view is he gave nothing away. BRENNAN: But do you actually believe that? BOLTON: The president’s view is he gave nothing away. That’s- that’s what matters, not my view. As I’ve said before, I guess I can’t get people to listen so I’ll try it one more time, I’m the national security advisor. I’m not the national security decision maker. BRENNAN: Well- well your views have been well documented in the past. BOLTON: Usually by me. I mean I’ve written a lot- I’ve written a lot in the past — BRENNAN: You’ve been skeptical for — BOLTON: And — BRENNAN: — many, many years. BOLTON: And as I’ve said, those- those views are out there. Anybody can read them. BRENNAN: Right. AMBASSADOR BOLTON: My job now is to help the president, give him his advice, give him my advice. He’ll make the decisions. BRENNAN: And to be clear the administration still is no longer advocating regime change? BOLTON: The position of the administration is we want denuclearization of North Korea and that’s the objective we’re pursuing. BRENNAN: And you still believe that Kim Jong Un can deliver on that? BOLTON: I think he is the authoritative ruler of that country and if he were to make the strategic decision to denuclearize, we think it would happen. BRENNAN: The president was asked about this American student Otto Warmbier who died tragically after being released after some brutal treatment in North Korean captivity. When was it that the president actually brought up his case to Kim Jong Un? BOLTON: Well, that was in one of the meetings in- on- on- the second day, I think, and look — BRENNAN: In Hanoi? BOLTON: In Hanoi. The president’s been — BRENNAN: Is that the first time he brought it up? AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No I think it’s been brought up before. I think it was brought up in Singapore. But the president’s been very clear he viewed what happened to Otto Warmbier as barbaric and unacceptable and I think the best thing North Korea could do right now would be to come up with a full explanation of exactly what happened to him. BRENNAN: But it seemed to suggest that the president, since he said he took Kim Jong Un at his word, was willing to put aside these egregious human rights abuses and basically the killing of an American while in captivity. AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Listen, I’ve heard the president talk about Otto Warmbier on any number of occasions in the Oval Office. And I know how strongly he feels about it. I have no doubt of that whatever.” (CBS, “Transcript: National Security Adviser John Bolton on “Face the Nation,” March 3, 2019.


3/4/19:
South Korea President Moon Jae-in today urged the US and North Korea to quickly resume denuclearization talks after their Hanoi summit last week ended without a deal. “We hope that both countries will continue their dialogue and that their leaders meet again quickly to reach an agreement that was held off this time,” Moon said during a security meeting in Seoul. “While I believe the North-US talks will produce an agreement in the end, I ask officials to work hard for the resumption of working-level talks between the US and the North as it is not favorable to have a long absence or stalemate in talks.” “I ask that we find out the exact gap between the two sides that led to a no-deal at the Hanoi summit and explore ways to narrow down that gap,” Moon said. Yongbyon is not believed to be the North’s only uranium enrichment facility and closing it down would not in and of itself signal an end to the country’s atomic program. However, Moon said that if all Yongbyon facilities were “terminated in entirety, it should be considered the North’s denuclearization has entered an irreversible stage.” (AFP, “S. Korea’s Moon Urges New Denuclearization Talks,” March 4, 2019)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful the United States would send a delegation to North Korea in the coming weeks, after a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended with no deal. The leaders’ second summit, held last week in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, failed to produce any agreement or immediate plan for follow-up negotiations. “I am hopeful, although I have no commitment yet, that we will be back at it, that I’ll have a team in Pyongyang in the next couple weeks,” Pompeo told the Iowa Farm Bureau. “I’m continuing to work to find those places where there’s a shared interest,” he said. (Makini Brice and Hyonhee Shin, “Pompeo Sees More North Korea Talks, Seoul Faces Limits in Mediator Role,” Reuters, March 5, 2019)


3/5/19:
North Korea stopped the operation of its 5-megawatt reactor at its mainstay nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, late last year with no signs of reprocessing activities there, South Korea’s spy agency said. During a briefing to the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) also said that the underground tunnels of the North’s nuclear test site in Punggye-ri remain shut down and unattended since their destruction in May last year, according to lawmakers of the committee. On a jarring note, the NIS said that it detected signs of the North restoring part of the Dongchang-ri missile launch site it tore down. “(The North) appears to be putting back a roof and a door (to a Dongchang-ri facility),” the NIS was quoted as saying. The NIS also said that the military authorities of South Korea and the United States have run a “thorough” monitoring system to keep track of the North’s nuclear and missile facilities, including its uranium enrichment sites that were apparently brought up in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. “The U.S. information is the same as ours, but we can’t comment on what facilities are located where,” the NIS was quoted as saying during the briefing. (Yonhap, “N.K. Keeps Yongbyon Dormant Since Last Year: NIS,” March 5, 2019)

North Korea has started rebuilding the facilities it uses to launch satellites into orbit and test engines and other technologies for its intercontinental ballistic missile program, according to American military analysts and South Korean intelligence officials. It could be a first sign that North Korea is preparing to end its moratorium on missile tests, which President Trump has claimed as a major diplomatic achievement. North Korea began dismantling the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri near its northwestern border with China last summer, after the June summit in Singapore. It partially took down an engine test site, a rocket launchpad and a rail-mounted building used by engineers to assemble launch vehicles and move them to the launchpad. The North did not completely dismantle the facilities, and when Kim Jong Un met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in September, he offered to destroy them in the presence of American experts. In Hanoi, Kim asked for the removal of punishing United Nations sanctions in return for the dismantling of its Yongbyon nuclear complex north of Pyongyang, the North’s capital, as well as the Tongchang-ri facilities. Trump rejected the demand, calling the lifting of sanctions too high a price to pay for partial moves toward denuclearization. Although the Yongbyon complex has been used to produce nuclear bomb fuel, North Korea is believed to have other fuel-making facilities elsewhere, as well as fissile materials, nuclear warheads and missiles that it keeps in secret locations. The news of rebuilding at Tongchang-ri first emerged hours after Kim returned home on yesterday from Hanoi. Speaking to lawmakers behind closed doors at South Korea’s National Assembly today, officials from its National Intelligence Service indicated that North Korea had been rebuilding the Tongchang-ri facilities even before the Hanoi summit meeting, South Korean news media reported. North Korea may have wanted to rebuild them in order to make their dismantling more dramatic if the Hanoi summit produced a deal with the Americans, the intelligence officials were quoted as saying. Or it may have wanted the option to resume rocket tests if the Hanoi talks broke down, they said. The Tongchang-ri facilities have been vital to North Korea’s space and missile programs. The country has used the facilities there to launch satellite-carrying rockets. The United States has called the satellite program a front for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Reports published on the rebuilding at Tongchang-ri were based on satellite images obtained March 2, but analysts said the work could have begun as early as mid-February. “Based on commercial satellite imagery, efforts to rebuild these structures started sometime between February 16 and March 2, 2019,” 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea analysis, said in a report about the Tongchang-ri facilities today. “On the launchpad, the rail-mounted transfer building is being reassembled,” it said. “At the engine test stand, it appears that the engine support structure is being reassembled.” Beyond Parallel, a website run by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, published a report with similar assessments today. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Koreans Start to Rebuild Launching Site,” New York Times, March 6, 2019, p. A-4)

The second North Korean nuclear site that President Donald Trump wanted eliminated were the covert underground highly enriched uranium facilities at Bungang, just a few kilometers away from Yongbyon, according to multiple sources familiar with last week’s summit in Hanoi. In a post-summit press conference, Trump said the United States knew about “every inch” of North Korea and that at the summit he “brought many, many points up that [he] think[s] the North Koreans] were surprised that we knew,” in reference to U.S. demands for denuclearization measures from Pyongyang that went beyond dismantling the nuclear complex at Yongbyon. Ri Yong-ho, the North’s foreign minister who took part in the closed-door discussions at the summit, also confirmed the Americans had demanded “one more measure” in addition to scrapping the Yongbyon facilities which they could not accept. Disagreement on demolishing a second plant is believed to have been a crucial sticking point in Hanoi. According to sources, the additional site flagged by the United States is the previously unreported underground facilities just west of Bungang Station, located in the same county as the well-known Yongbyon nuclear complex in North Pyongan Province. “The Bungang complex is situated just northeast of the existing Yongbyon complex,” one source said. “The North Koreans appear to have built an underground highly enriched uranium factory there to prevent detection from abroad.” The sources attest that the United States assumed Bungang would be included in the North Koreans’ promise to dismantle the Yongbyon complex, as it is just adjacent to the sprawling enrichment facilities there. But the North, apparently surprised at the United States’ knowledge of the site if Trump was to be taken at his word, did not accept Bungang as part of that deal, given that it is technically separate from Yongbyon despite being only a few kilometers away. The episode evidently demonstrates that the United States and North Korea have different views about the scope of the Yongbyon complex. The sources added that the facilities at Bungang are much bigger than those the North Koreans showed Dr. Siegfried Hecker — a Stanford professor and former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico — during his visit to the Yongbyon site in 2010.

Hecker, one of the leading experts on North Korea’s nuclear program who visited Yongbyon four times, estimated that around 2,000 centrifuges — through which uranium is enriched — were in operation at the complex. In comparison, intelligence officials in South Korea and the United States estimate that the nearby Bungang complex could be housing over 10,000 centrifuges. “The [facilities at Bungang] are older than those seen by Dr. Hecker,” one source said, “but it appears U.S. intelligence officials have been slow to identify them due to their covert location underground.” The only other public mention of Bungang dates back to a 2010 article by Dong-A Ilbo published shortly after Hecker’s visit to Yongbyon that raised the possibility the North was covertly operating another reprocessing center underneath a nearby mountain in Sowi-ri — in a place the North calls the Bungang laborers’ district. Intelligence agencies in South Korea and the United States in 2008 had already identified Sowui-ri as a possible uranium enrichment plant, the report read. Officials in South Korea on Tuesday, however, appeared to have stepped back from JoongAng Ilbo’s exclusive report on Bungang. Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Bungang merely referred to another area of Yongbyon County separate from where key nuclear facilities were located, implying it did not contain a covert plant. The head of Seoul’s spy agency, Suh Hoon, said at a closed-door briefing to legislators that South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials were “looking into” any further nuclear related facilities in North Korea in detail, but added the 5 MW reactor at Yongbyon had been inactive since the end of last year and no further reprocessing activities appeared to be taking place. “The Punggye-ri nuclear test site also shows no notable activity since its dismantlement last May,” Suh said. (Jeong Yong-soo, Baek Min-jeong, and Shim Kyu-seok, “North Korea’s Secret Enrichment Site Is Right Next to Yongbyon: Sources,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 6, 2019)

National Security Adviser John Bolton has warned that North Korea will face tougher sanctions if it continues to refuse to denuclearize, a remark that risks renewing tensions with Pyongyang. Despite a failure to strike a summit deal in Hanoi last week, he emphasized, time is on Washington’s side. “If they’re not willing to do it, President (Donald) Trump has been very clear they’re not getting relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them,” he said in an interview with the Fox Business Network this evening. “And we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up, in fact.” Bolton said the U.S. wouldn’t “buy the same pony that they’ve sold to previous administrations” and urged North Korea “to go back and reassess their strategy.” He said if Trump had accepted Kim’s offer, it would have “given North Korea a lifeline, giving them a chance to get their breath back economically while potentially still concealing a lot of nuclear weapons capabilities, missiles and the rest of it.” He added the ball is in North Korea’s court, reiterating that the U.S. still wants dialogue and will wait for positive signs from Pyongyang. “We’re going to see a lot of potential decisions coming out of North Korea, whether they’re serious about the talks, whether they want to get back into them and fundamentally whether they’re committed to giving up their nuclear weapons program and everything associated with it,” he said. Bolton, known to be hawkish on North Korea, said Trump did “the right thing” in Hanoi but remains open to nuclear talks with Kim. Speaking separately to Fox News Radio, the official said, “He’s still got the door open, they could have a bright, economic future — just give up all your weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.” Bolton earlier said that he “submitted a large document with the requirements for denuclearization,” written in both Korean and English, to North Korea — the so-called “big deal” document. (Yonhap, “Bolton Warns N. Korea of Tougher Sanctions,” March 6, 2019)

: UN Panel of Experts: “The nuclear and ballistic missile programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remain intact and the country continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal. These violations render the latest United Nations sanctions ineffective by flouting the caps on the import of petroleum products and crude oil by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as well as the coal ban, imposed in 2017 by the Security Council in response to the country’s unprecedented nuclear and ballistic missile testing. In addition to information provided to the Panel by several Member States on ship-to-ship transfers, one Member State indicated, while queried by another, that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had already procured over 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products in 2018. Global banks and insurance companies continue to unwittingly facilitate payments and provide coverage for vessels involved in ever-larger, multi-million-dollar, illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as an increasing number of ship-to-ship coal transfers and attempted transshipments. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to violate the arms embargo and has attempted to supply small arms and light weapons and other military equipment to Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as to Libya and the Sudan, via foreign intermediaries, including Syrian arms trafficker Hussein al-Ali in the case of the Houthi rebels. The Panel continued investigations into designated entities and individuals in Asia who clandestinely procured centrifuges for the nuclear program of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and attempted to sell a wide range of military equipment to armed groups and Governments in the Middle East and Africa. The Panel investigated the involvement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in gold mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the construction of a military camp in Sierra Leone and the sale of fishing rights in the waters surrounding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as activities of designated entities and other prohibited activities around the world. The Panel also investigated the acquisition by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of leading luxury brand goods, such as Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus vehicles. The world’s largest container shipping line continued to unwittingly transport prohibited items later seized by Member States. Financial sanctions remain some of the most poorly implemented and actively evaded measures of the sanctions regime. Individuals empowered to act as extensions of financial institutions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea operate in at least five countries with seeming impunity. The Reconnaissance General Bureau continues its international financial operations by transferring funds from accounts closed in the European Union to those held at financial institutions in Asia. The global operations of Glocom and the Malaysia-Korea Partners Group of Companies (MKP) continue despite the Panel’s past reporting on their illicit activities and show the ongoing use of overseas companies and individuals to obfuscate income-generating activities for the regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Panel also investigated companies acting as possible cooperative entities or joint ventures, some of which are officially registered as joint ventures and others that more actively conceal the nature of their collaboration with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. A number of these entities have also violated other provisions of the resolutions, including by maintaining links to designated entities. The Panel also investigated the sophisticated cyberattacks carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea against multiple Member States to evade financial sanctions. Ship-to-ship transfers involve increasingly advanced evasion techniques. The disguising of vessels through ship identity theft and false Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmissions is not being taken into account by most global and regional commodity trading companies, banks and insurers, whose due diligence efforts fall extremely short. The manipulation of vessel AIS transmissions remains an overarching feature of illegal transfers, contrary to International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations governing safety of life at sea, which require that AIS be in operation at all times. This highlights weak monitoring by flag States. In addition, insurers do not monitor the AIS of the vessels for which they provide coverage and services. Other methods of evasion include physical disguise of tankers of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the use of small, unregistered vessels, illegal name-changing and other forms of identity fraud, night transfers and the use of additional vessels for transshipment. In addition to evading sanctions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its maritime fleet are systematically violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, routinely engaging in double-flagging and providing safe harbor for hijacked ships. The Panel inspected seized vessels engaged in prohibited coal trades, documenting ship identity laundering, whereby the owners had deceived IMO into providing new vessel identity numbers to avoid repeat detection. The Panel found that ports and airports in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were being used for rampant violations of the resolutions, ranging from illegal oil imports and coal exports to the smuggling of bulk cash by nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Furthermore, the Panel found that the country was using civilian facilities, including airports, for ballistic missile assembly and testing with the goal of effectively preventing “decapitation” strikes. Diplomats of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continue to play a key role in sanctions evasion. While some Member States have limited the number of bank accounts of the country’s embassies and diplomats as required by the resolutions, the latter are evading this provision by controlling accounts in multiple countries, including those to which they are not accredited. Diplomats and representatives of designated entities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also circumvent the assets freeze and the limit on the number of diplomatic bank accounts by holding accounts in the name of family members and front companies and by establishing accounts in multiple jurisdictions. Diplomats of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continue to travel under false accreditation in their passports and have also facilitated the country’s efforts to illegally export large quantities of coal through transshipment to disguise the origin. Member States, United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations have expressed concern that despite the exemption provisions in the resolutions and the Committee’s efforts, United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations continue to experience difficulties in meeting critical life-saving needs of vulnerable populations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. … Ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products by foreign-flagged vessels using flags of convenience … have increased in scope, scale and sophistication, with more than 50 vessels and 160 associated companies under investigation. … On 17 September 2018, the United States informed the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) that “at least an additional 59 tanker deliveries to the DPRK have occurred from June 1 through to August 18 bringing the 2018 total to at least 148 deliveries, all of which involved deliveries to North Korean ports to unload refined petroleum products procured through UN-prohibited STS transfers. … While the Panel lacks the definitive evidence to conclude that the cap has been breached, since September 2018, it has nevertheless obtained evidence of the increasing frequency of ship-to-ship transfers and of one unprecedented prohibited petroleum product transfer comprising 57,623.491 barrels alone, worth $5,730,886. … The Panel found that the prohibited transfer by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of its fishing rights, as clarified in resolution 2397 (2017), continued throughout 2018, acting as a potential source of income for the country. The Panel analyzed two Member State reports, noting that during the period from January to November 2018, they had inspected more than 15 Chinese fishing vessels that were found to be carrying fishing licenses of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. … (UN, Report of the Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1874 (2009), S/2019/171, March 5, 2019)

Sigal: “The Hanoi Summit failed because both US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un overreached, demanding too much and offering too little. Yet each side put enough on the negotiating table for the makings of a deal. The need now is to resume talks—the sooner the better, perhaps with South Korea’s help—with the aim of having both sides offer a little more for a little more. The summit story is now trickling out. In a useful first draft of history, the right-hand lead story in The New York Times by David Sanger and Edward Wong on Saturday, March 2 reveals the crux of the collapse: “In a dinner at the Metropole Hotel [on February 27]…Mr. Kim had resisted what Mr. Trump presented as a grand bargain: North Korea would trade all its nuclear weapons, material and facilities for an end to the American-led sanctions squeezing its economy…Mr. Kim also miscalculated. He bet Mr. Trump might accept a more modest offer that American negotiators in Hanoi had already dismissed: The North would dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear complex, three square miles of aging facilities at the heart of the nuclear program, for an end to the sanctions most harmful to its economy, those enacted since 2016.” It is essential to unpack what Sanger reported. Some were quick to blame summitry. Sanger made this case explicit in his story a day earlier: “The split underscored the risk of leader-to-leader diplomacy: When it fails, there are few places to go, no higher-up to step in and cut a compromise that saves the deal. In this case, the price may be high—especially if Mr. Kim responds to the failure by further accelerating his production of nuclear fuel and a frustrated Mr. Trump swings from his expressions of “love” for the North Korean dictator and back to the “fire and fury” language of early in his presidency. ‘No deal is better than a bad deal, and the president was right to walk,’ said Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “But this should not have happened,” he said. ‘A busted summit is the risk you run when too much faith is placed in personal relations with a leader like Kim, when the summit is inadequately prepared, and when the president had signaled he was confident of success.’” Similar stories appeared throughout the news media, along with relief in some circles that President Trump didn’t give away the store for the sake of just any deal. Yet leader-to-leader diplomacy had its benefits as well as risks. North Korea is not like other states. It is extremely centralized. All authoritative decisions come from the very top down and anyone who contravenes them does so at his peril. Secretary of State Pompeo understood this rationale for summitry: “And when you’re dealing with a country that is the nature of North Korea, it is often the case that only the most senior leaders have the capacity to make those important decisions.” Kim Jong Un’s engagement is critical to moving a sclerotic policy process. The US system is very different, but summitry still serves a useful purpose. With its dispersion of power and intense political rivalries, especially in the chaotic Trump administration, the president’s interest in a second summit meeting created an action-forcing process that engaged the time and attention of his senior officials, leading to many useful changes in the US negotiating position in the weeks leading up to the summit. This process made advances possible. Given the intense establishment, partisan and bureaucratic opposition to various inducements, a comprehensive package solution was politically impossible to muster, which made a detailed road map to denuclearization out of the question. Instead, Washington adopted a step-by-step approach that, if implemented, would engender a modicum of mutual trust. Critics have focused on the rushed last-minute preparations for the second summit. That critique ignores the preceding months of meetings between the two sides’ diplomatic and intelligence officials, which gave Washington a better appreciation of Pyongyang’s bottom line: US movement to end enmity and reconcile with it in order to reduce its political and economic dependence on China. Sanctions relief alone would not satisfy the North; the overall relationship will have to be addressed, including its security needs. That was clear from the Singapore Summit last June, when both sides pledged in the joint statement to “establish new US-DPRK relations” and “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Hanoi was an especially suitable locale for underscoring the end of enmity given Vietnam’s fraught history with China and its postwar reconciliation with the United States. “The success of the Vietnamese economy is due to its decision to normalize relations with the United States in 1995,” Maj. Gen. Le Van Cuong, former director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security, told the Times. “I would say to our North Korean friends that as long as they have a conflict with the United States, they will not be able to develop their economy properly,” General Cuong said, adding, “China will try every possible tactic to keep North Korea in its arms because it wants a country to control.” “Luckily, North Korea has the necessary conditions to escape China’s grip if it deepens its relationship with America.” On the way to the summit, Washington moved to address Pyongyang’s concerns. The first step was suspension and then scaling down of large-scale joint exercises on the Korean Peninsula, which was done at the president’s behest. The next step came during Pompeo’s return visit to Pyongyang in October 2018. At an earlier meeting that July, as Sanger reports, “Mr. Kim declined to see him.” Sanger does not say why, but a likely reason is that Pompeo was not authorized to put on the negotiating table US willingness to commit to declaring an end to the Korean War, as Kim had been led to expect at the Singapore Summit, so Kim snubbed him. Without that commitment, Pompeo’s next planned visit that August was called off, lest it result in another failed mission and no meeting with Kim. Without that commitment, the North Koreans would also not meet with the newly named US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun. Finally, in early October, after word reached Pyongyang that Washington was prepared to make that commitment, Pompeo returned to put the end-of-war declaration on the negotiating table and spent over five hours with Kim. In the course of those meetings, Biegun told an audience at Stanford University, Kim, in an unprecedented offer, committed “to the dismantlement and destruction of North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities…‘and more.’” Kim, however, told Pompeo he was unwilling to provide a complete inventory of nuclear and missile assets and their locations, lest they be attacked. In another useful step, Washington then decided to phase in the inventory declaration instead, as Vice President Mike Pence hinted on November 15. Critics may carp but the administration is right to phase in that inventory declaration, starting with the location of its plutonium reactors, reprocessing and enrichment sites. Before seeking an accounting of fissile material and number of weapons, it is prudent to seek access to these locations as well as the North’s nuclear-weapons test sites, its uranium mines, its ore refining plants, and its uranium hexafluoride plant to take various measurements that better enable it to assess how much fissile material the North could have produced. This nuclear archeology will reduce uncertainty. Since US intelligence estimates vary widely, any number the North would turn over of its stockpiled fissile material is certain to be controversial, as was the case in the initial declaration to the IAEA in 1992, which is now nearly forgotten but for years complicated efforts to contain the growing security threat posed by North Korea’s continued fissile material and missile production and testing. During the run-up to this year’s summit, the United States also offered to exchange liaison offices in the two countries’ capitals, which Kim accepted in Hanoi. And it had scaled back joint military exercises on or near the Korean Peninsula. Where Washington fell short was sanctions relief. It had recently approved several exemptions from UN Security Council sanctions for NGOs to resume delivery of humanitarian aid. It was also prepared to relax some US sanctions, or as Biegun hinted at Stanford, “We didn’t say we won’t do anything until you do everything.” While it was willing to offer some of what Pyongyang wanted, as Biegun laid out, Washington still demanded a lot more in return. It wanted the verifiable suspension of all fissile material production throughout North Korea with a commitment to dismantle the production sites after measurements of production were taken. It sought a halt to production of ballistic missiles that could reach Japan and beyond. And it wanted access to other sites for nuclear archeology. On the eve of the summit, US negotiators narrowed their focus to suspending all the fissile material production with a written commitment to their ultimate dismantlement, as Kim Jong Un told Pompeo. But DPRK negotiators fell short of offering that while seeking excessive sanctions relief in return. As Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho explained in a post-summit press conference in Hanoi: “[I]f the United States lifts a part of the United Nations [UN] sanctions, in other words, the provision of sanctions that impact the civilian economy and people’s living standards, then we will permanently, completely dismantle entire nuclear materials production facilities of Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium, through a joint work of technicians from both countries in the presence of US experts. What we proposed was not the complete lifting of sanctions, but their partial lifting. In particular, out of the 11 UN sanctions resolutions all together, we proposed the lifting of the five groups first from those that were adopted from 2016 to 2017, especially the articles that impede the civilian economy and the people’s livelihood among them.” Ri seemed to rule out a missile production halt or access to other sites for now, never mind a grand bargain, by saying, “Given the current level of trust between the two countries of [North] Korea and the United States, this is the biggest stride of denuclearization measure that we can take at the present stage.” He also cast doubt on shutting down a suspect uranium enrichment site: “[D]uring the talks, the United States held out for a claim until the end that one more thing, other than the measure for dismantlement of the nuclear facilities of the Yongbyon area, needs to be done and thus, it became clear that the United States is not prepared to accommodate our offer. At this stage, it is hard to say here whether a better agreement, than what we have offered, could be reached.” A background briefing by a senior State Department official offered an expansive, perhaps excessive, interpretation of the North Korean demands on sanctions: “[I]f you review the UN Security Council resolutions you’ll see that includes—the sanctions themselves include a broad range of products, including metals, raw materials, transportation, seafood, coal exports, refined petroleum imports, raw petroleum imports. We asked the North Koreans to clarify for us what they meant…and it was basically all the sanctions except for armaments.” The situation seems to have changed during the summit after the DPRK’s offer fell short of what Kim had told Pompeo last October. Some attribute the shift to Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress. “Trump could have had a small deal,” Joseph Yun, the former State Department special envoy for North Korea, told Sanger. “Close a few sites, and lift a few sanctions. But because of Cohen, the president needed a big deal.” In either event, it was an opening for President Trump to up the ante and ensure the rejection of a deal. The senior State Department official hinted that the US ask included chemical and biological weapons: “[T]he dilemma that we were confronted with is that the North Koreans at this point are unwilling to impose a complete freeze on their weapons of mass destruction programs…The President in his discussions challenged the North Koreans to go bigger.” The summit was a disappointment, not a disaster. With both sides wanting far more than they were prepared to concede in return, the gap between them widened. Now the task is to close that gap. Shutting down all the fissile material production facilities in Yongbyon is not enough. The North will have to suspend fissile material production at all sites and commit to dismantling them once measurements are taken to gauge how much they might have produced. Pyongyang will also need to do what they were prepared to do in Hanoi. As Foreign Minister Ri revealed, “During the meeting, we expressed our intent to make a commitment on a permanent suspension of nuclear testing and long-range rocket launch tests in writing in order to lower the concerns of the United States.” Carrying out these commitments will, in turn, require much more sanctions relief than Washington has yet offered, including an exemption for reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex jointly operated by the North and South and resumption of South Korean tourism at Mount Kumgang in the North, an increased UN quota for oil imports to the North, and ending the US Trading with the Enemy Act sanctions, which previous presidents eased and then re-imposed. The administration needs to test whether relaxing sanctions will yield more than tightening them, making North Korea more dependent on South Korea than on China for a change. In short, the makings of a first stage deal are there. As Secretary of State Pompeo put it, “There has to be a theory of the case of how to move forward. I’m confident there is one.” He did not say, but going back to a step-by-step approach is essential. Washington needs to stop swinging for the fences and remember that singles and doubles drive in many more runs. (Leon V. Sigal, “Picking up the Pieces from Hanoi,” 38 North, March 5, 2019)


3/6/19:
President Trump expressed his displeasure at the prospect of new testing. “I would be very disappointed if that were happening,” the president said at the White House on Wednesday when asked about reports on the North Korean missile facilities. “It’s a very early report, and we’re the ones that put it out. But I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim. And I don’t think I will be, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll take a look. It’ll ultimately get solved.” Officially, both sides remain committed to dialogue, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing hope that the United States will send a delegation to North Korea “in the next couple weeks.” And this week, Washington canceled two major joint military exercises with South Korea to keep the diplomatic momentum alive. (Choe Sang-hun, “Sanctions’ Burn May Force Kim Back to the Table,” New York Times, March 7, 2019, p. A-1)

Liu, Buck and Town: “Commercial satellite imagery from March 6 of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) indicates construction to rebuild the launch pad and engine test stand that began before the Hanoi Summit has continued at a rapid pace. Given that construction plus activity at other areas of the site, Sohae appears to have returned to normal operational status. At the launch pad, work on the rail-mounted transfer structure appears to have been completed by March 6 and the structure may now be operational. The cranes have been removed from the pad and the overhead trusses that were being installed on the roof have been covered. The mobile structure is now situated at the far end of the launch pad adjacent to the checkout building. Several vehicles are parked near the gantry tower and the exhaust pit and debris remains on the launch pad to be cleaned up. At the engine test stand, poor imagery resolution prevents a clear assessment. However, progress has been made on rebuilding the support structure for the stand, the materials that were there as of March 2 are now gone and debris remains littered across the service apron. At other areas of the site, activity has also picked up. Vehicles can be seen at the horizontal assembly building and the security administration building. There is also a vehicle parked near the observation building. It is not possible to determine the purpose of these vehicles. “(Jack Liu, Irv Buck and Jenny Town, “North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launch Facility: Normal Operations May Have Resumed,” 38 North, March 7, 2019)


3/7/19:
The U.S. still believes the “fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea is possible by the end of President Donald Trump’s “first term,” a senior official said Thursday, despite warnings a key rocket launch site appears to have resumed operations. The official confirmed that Washington would seek from Pyongyang “clarifications on the purposes” of rebuilding the site, adding so far the US has not reached “any specific conclusion about what’s happening there.” “We’re watching in real time, as you are, the developments at Sohae,” he explained, adding: “We don’t know why they are taking these steps.” Kim had agreed to shutter Sohae at a summit with the South’s President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang as part of confidence-building measures, and satellite pictures in August suggested workers were dismantling the engine test stand. Trump equivocated when asked today if he was disappointed about the news. “We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll let you know in about a year.” The president had declared that it was “too early” to tell if a previous report about activity at the site was true, but said he would be “very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim” if the intelligence checked out. US media had speculated over whether Trump might tighten the thumbscrews on Pyongyang following the Vietnam summit, by ratcheting up an already crippling sanctions regime. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino affirmed Washington’s commitment to stay engaged with Kim, however, telling journalists today the administration was ready for “constructive negotiation.” Palladino would not say if Washington had been in contact with Pyongyang over Sohae, situated on North Korea’s northwest coast, or the aborted summit. And despite the apparent setback, the senior official insisted “we still believe this (denuclearization) is all achievable within the president’s first term.” Unless re-elected, Trump’s term will end in January 2021. “We have sufficient time,” they said, without mentioning a deadline for reaching an agreement so the goal could be met. “Where we really need to see progress and we need to see it soon is meaningful and verifiable steps on denuclearization as quickly as we can,” the official added. “We are mindful that every day the challenge is greater, the threat posed … is not going away.” (Francesco Fontemaggi, “U.S. Positive on Denuclearization despite ‘Operational’ Rocket Site,” AFP, March 7, 2019) President Donald Trump is open to more talks with North Korea over denuclearization, his national security adviser said today, despite reports it is reactivating parts of its missile program. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has argued for a tough approach to North Korea, said Trump was still open to more talks with the country. “The president’s obviously open to talking again. We’ll see when that might be scheduled or how it might work out,” he told Fox News, adding it was too soon to make a determination on the reports of the North Korean activity. “We’re going to study the situation carefully. As the president said, it would be very, very disappointing if they were taking this direction.” Asked today if he was disappointed about recent North Korean activity, Trump told reporters: “It’s disappointing,” while adding without elaborating: “We’ll see. We’ll let you know in about a year.” North Korea’s state media, which had focused its reporting on the “constructive” talks between the leaders, reported for the first time on March 8 that the summit ended with no agreement. Rodong Sinmun accused Japan of trying to “disturb” North Korea’s relations with the United States and said Japan had “applauded” the breakdown of the summit while the rest of the world regretted it. A senior State Department official told reporters today that Washington was keen to resume talks as soon as possible, but North Korea’s negotiators needed to be given more latitude than they were ahead of the summit. He said no one in the U.S. administration advocated the incremental approach that North Korea has been seeking and the condition for its integration into the global economy, a transformed relationship with the United States and a permanent peace regime, was complete denuclearization. “Fundamentally, where we really need to see the progress, and we need to see it soon, is on meaningful and verifiable steps on denuclearization. That’s our goal and that’s how we see these negotiations picking up momentum.” The official said the U.S. side still saw North Korea’s complete denuclearization as achievable within Trump’s current term, which ends in January 2021. While the official said he would “not necessarily share the conclusion” that the Sohae site was operational again, any use of it would be seen as “backsliding” on commitments to Trump. “We are watching in real-time developments at Sohae and we will definitely be seeking clarification on the purposes of that,” he said. South Korean spy chief Suh Hoon told lawmakers in Seoul that cargo vehicles were spotted moving around a North Korean ICBM factory at Sanumdong recently, JoongAng Ilbo reported. The paper also quoted Suh as saying North Korea had continued to run its uranium enrichment facility at the main Yongbyon nuclear complex after Trump and Kim’s first summit in Singapore last June. The Sanumdong factory produced the Hwasong-15 ICBM, which can fly more than 13,000 km (8,080 miles). After a test flight in 2017, North Korea declared the completion of its “state nuclear force” before pursuing talks with South Korea and the United States last year. Some analysts see the work as aimed at pressing Washington to agree to a deal, rather than as a definite move to resume tests. A U.S. government source, who did not want to be identified, said North Korea’s plan in rebuilding the site could have been to offer a demonstration of good faith by conspicuously stopping again if a summit pact was struck, while furnishing a sign of defiance or resolve if the meeting failed. Yesterday, Bolton warned of new sanctions if North Korea did not scrap its weapons program. Despite his sanctions talk, there have been signs across Asia that the U.S. “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against North Korea has sprung leaks. In a new breach, three South Korean companies were found to have brought in more than 13,000 tons of North Korean coal, worth 2.1 billion won ($2 million) since 2017, South Korea said. The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, referring on Friday to international tension over North Korea, said a “resolution could not be reached overnight”. “All parties should have reasonable expectations on this,” Wang told a news briefing. (David Brunnstrom and Hyunhee Shin, “U.S. Open to North Korea Talks despite Missile Program Activity,” Reuters, March 8, 2019)

Biegun background briefing: “SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: … The Singapore summit does remain very relevant to our discussions because that summit joint statement laid out the framework that we’ve been using to pursue negotiations with the North Koreans over the past many months. We went through a bit of a holding pattern with the North Koreans in the fall of last year, but we’ve been at a pretty active pace — in fact, the most robust pace — of diplomacy between the United States and North Korea in many, many years, since the — since Christmas and through the new year. I, myself, have made several trips to the region. I have had the opportunity, with the Secretary of State, to participate in discussions that we had here in Washington, D.C. in mid-January with Kim Yong-chol, the Secretary of State’s counterpart in the North Korean diplomacy. We have had working-level negotiations between the United States and North Korea on several occasions now, most recently in the run-up to the Hanoi summit. A team of U.S. negotiators has made a trip to Pyongyang, where over several days in-depth discussions took place in early February. And we had quite a bit of interaction between our North Korean counterparts and the U.S., as I said, in the days leading up — in the week leading up the President’s summit with Kim Jong-un. Throughout those negotiations, it’s largely been the same set of parties on both sides involved in these discussions. And as the President and the Secretary of State summed up at the end of the Hanoi summit, we have managed to close gaps on a number of issues in the U.S.-North Korea relationship. There are still important areas for us to progress, none more so than in the area of denuclearization. But the summit itself also provided us a very important opportunity at the senior levels of government to have an important exchange that lays out at least the options that we have to move forward on this issue, although ultimately at the conclusion of the summit, the ball was in North Korea’s court. And it is going to be up to the North Koreans, to some extent, to decide to engage on meeting some of the expectations that are out there on denuclearization. I think I’ll leave that, leave the framing at that, and then I’m going to ask [Moderator] if [Moderator] would help me here to call on questions, since [Moderator] is much more familiar with you than me. MODERATOR: Point of clarification. Singapore summit was in 2017. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: What year did I say? It’s 2018. It was June of 2018. … Q: Andrea Mitchell from NBC. There have been satellite images — two more identified today. Two think tanks are saying that it shows that a particular site that had been discussed in Singapore, and which the North Koreans, according to the President, had agreed to dismantle in Singapore and had been dormant since August is now fully operational — no sign of anything being put on a launchpad, but operational, that there had been a lot of activity in recent days or weeks. They are interpreting this to mean a symbol — a signal that — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Who’s “they?” Q: These experts at CSIS and at 38 North are interpreting this to mean that Kim Jong-un wants to send a message — he knows we’re watching; it’s commercial satellite imagery — that he’s angry about not getting more sanction relief offered, and that it’s a response to Hanoi. Do you interpret this imagery the same way? Do you interpret the — Kim Jong-un’s response at all, and has there been any discussions about this issue? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So we are familiar and well aware of what you’re describing. We obviously watch very closely developments in North Korea, both in open source and sensitive areas, and we have seen the open source reporting on this issue. We have not drawn the same conclusions that you cited, although it remains to be seen what exactly the purpose is of this activity. I think you heard the President’s comments yesterday that he would be disappointed, very disappointed, if this was in any way backsliding against commitments that the North Koreans have made to date, and we would very much see it as that if they use this facility in any capacity, because it is one that they have cited their intention to dismantle. I have also seen in that open source analysis — and I wouldn’t contradict it — that it’s likely that these steps were happening prior to this summit in Singapore … and were that the case, it would be very difficult to establish a causality between the outcome of a summit in which the North Koreans came to the table very much expecting a certain outcome and any steps that were taken. That’s not to rule out the possibility. We simply haven’t reached any specific conclusion about what’s happening there, nor would we necessarily share the conclusion — at least, I don’t have information that would support that that site is at this point, quote, “operational,” unquote. Q: Would — can I just clarify about what your conclusion is? Would you accept the conclusion that there is a lot of activity that was not seen during months of it being dormant? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We watch all of — we watch as much of North — as the President has said, we watch as much of North Korea as we can see, and we are not always able to explain activity that happens. We have not — we clearly see in the commercial satellite photography that there is some level of reassembly going on in these buildings, so I’m not disputing what’s in plain sight. Why it’s happening, for what purpose it’s happening, are areas that we’re not ready yet to reach a conclusion, but suffice it to say the President has spoken quite clearly on this, that he would be disappointed — in fact, I think he said very disappointed — if this, in fact, did turn out to be backsliding on commitments that had been previously made to him. MODERATOR: Let’s go to Michael Gordon. Q: Sir, just to clarify, would you interpret a launch of a space launch vehicle to be a violation of North Korea’s self-declared moratorium on missile launches? I ask that in light of the U.S. experience with the Leap Day Accord, where the North Koreans interpreted a space launch as consistent with a moratorium on missile launches. And have you conveyed that to them? Have you told them that if they launch a space launch vehicle, it would be considered to be a breach of their missile launch moratorium? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I won’t — I’m not going to elaborate on things that we might have discussed in privately with the North Koreans, but let me just say in our judgment, launch of a space launch vehicle from that site in our view would be inconsistent with the commitments that the North Koreans have made. MODERATOR: Let’s go to New York Times, David Sanger. Q: Thanks very much for doing this. Good to see you. If — just following on Andrea and Michael’s question here, you suggested that a lot of this activity had been going on prior to the summit, which seems reasonable, given all of the other reports we were seeing over the months from — between Singapore and the Hanoi summit. So first of all, in your view, did any of the activity that you were seeing on the satellites run counter to any commitments that you had gotten in Singapore or in your conversations with them since? And — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: On the satellites, to deal — Q: Right, so from the satellites what you’ve seen are expansions of missile bases. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You mean from the commercial photography? Is that what you’re referring to? Q: The commercial photography, right. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Q: Okay. So the first question is: did you — was any of this inconsistent? Second, have the North Koreans in any way explained this activity, even if to say we never told you we would stop doing this? And thirdly, the President, during the press conference, talked a bit about the second enrichment facility, which was obviously outside of Yongbyon and therefore a concern, given the Yongbyon proposal that President Kim made. Have you addressed that particular issue? Because that is obviously the one that would continue production in a significant way even if they closed Yongbyon. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So, David, first let me correct your characterization of what I said to Andrea. I said that we have also seen in the open-source reports suggestions that this activity had started prior to the Singapore — prior to the Hanoi summit. Q: And you agree with that? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s — I’m just telling you what I saw. I saw the reports, and that’s what they suggest. So that’s what we’re talking about here. Obviously, I’m not going to talk about intelligence information in this setting. As far as your second question, the President communicated to the North Koreans yesterday — the President suggested publicly, in front of the entire world, that he would be disappointed, very disappointed, if they were taking steps that would represent backsliding from commitments previously made. The North Koreans in fact not only mentioned the disassembly and dismantlement and destruction of this site, which is variously known as Sohae, or Tongchang-ri, or in some cases (inaudible) — the President not only received that commitment from Kim Jong-un in Singapore, but likewise Chairman Kim made that commitment to President Moon Jae-in at the Pyongyang summit on September 19th, when the North-South summit occurred, and specifically declared a North Korean intent to destroy that facility and allow access to international — what they said at the time was international inspectors to the facility. We have pressed the North Koreans on moving forward with that step. I should say that the Tongchang-ri rocket engine and missile test site is not a critical part of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure, but it is an important location where they tested many of their early ICBMs, and it is certainly a facility that, as part of our efforts on denuclearization, we would like to see completely dismantled and destroyed in a verifiable manner. You will know this from your previous coverage, that many of the more recent tests that the North Koreans made with their nuclear — excuse me, with their ICBMS — were actually from mobile launchers, or in sites outside of Tongchang-ri, or Sohae. So this is — I don’t want to under — I don’t want to diminish the concern that we would have if there is North Korean backsliding on commitments to dismantle and destroy Tongchang-ri, but I also don’t want to exaggerate the effect on their missile programs if we were to permanently disable and destroy it. It’s part of that infrastructure, but it is not a critical part of that infrastructure at this point. Q: Just to be clear on this, they never did allow the inspectors into Tongchang-ri, and they have committed as well, if I remember right, to the Secretary during one of his trips to Pyongyang that they would allow inspectors to the nuclear test site where they had blown up the entrances, that they would allow inspectors there, I think the Secretary said publicly. Did that ever happen? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, so that was Punggye-ri site, and your citation is correct; that was during Secretary Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang. And in that case they declared in the meeting to the Secretary that they would do that in the presence of U.S. inspectors. I’m not sure there’s a consequence between the two constructs they used, but in the case of Punggye-ri they have also not yet permitted the admission of experts to confirm the destruction. Needless to say, these places are in open view and commercial satellite photography has achieved a level of excellence in which it’s possible, even for a reporter from The New York Times, to monitor developments at those sites. But in terms of destroying and dismantling those in a manner that’s fully verifiable and to our satisfaction, in neither case have those occurred yet. They haven’t used the facilities to date, but they also haven’t completed to our satisfaction the destruction or dismantlement. Q: So no inspectors at either location that they have committed to? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Correct. MODERATOR: Margaret Brennan. Q: Hi, thank you for doing this. Margaret Brennan from CBS. Two questions. One: Can you clarify what the President meant today when he said we’ll see in a year? He was asked in the Oval Office by some reporters shouting questions about North Korea, he said we’ll see in a year. And sort of part two to that is: Can give you us a sense of your timeline here? John Bolton has said it would take a year from the point that the North Koreans agree to our definition of denuclearization to actually dismantle everything. That was the timeline he said the U.S. had worked out. How much time do you have for the diplomacy to get to that point? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So, Margaret, I have been in a communications cocoon all day and I have no idea what was discussed today or what might have been in the news today. I’d suggest on that one you go to the White House and ask them for an explanation. I wasn’t part of that discussion. I — this is the first time — Q: You don’t know anything about a one-year limit on any of your work? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, what I would say more generally, and this is to your second question, is that we still believe this is all achievable within the President’s first term, and that’s the timetable we’re working on. We have discussed extensively the outlines of the calendar that allow us to do that, and it is doable. The — ultimately, the ultimate driver of this is not going to be the amount of days it takes. It’s going to be the degree to which we can satisfactorily achieve the steps that we feel are necessary to finally and fully verify the denuclearization of North Korea. That’s what we’re working for, but I fully believe at this point we have sufficient time in the President’s first term to do that. That’s a little more than a year. Originally, we set out the aggressive timetable for this to happen in a year, but we also aren’t at a starting point yet where I think you could reasonably begin to run that clock. We’re not going to be held to a limit of 365 days to get this done. It’s the job that’s going to drive the outcome, not the timing. But in our view it is still doable within the President’s first term, and that’s what we’re pushing very hard with our North Korean interlocutors to achieve. Q: But to be clear, you don’t know that the one year the President referred to was the dismantlement? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t know — I don’t know what the President said at all. I could neither clarify nor contradict what the President said because I — this is the first time I’ve heard it. MODERATOR: David Brunnstrom. Q: Yeah, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. Thanks for doing this. I — have you been in direct contact yourself or have any of your colleagues been in contact with the North Koreans since the summit? And is there any possibility, as Secretary Pompeo suggested, that you could go back to Pyongyang in a couple of weeks? And also, do you agree with the suggestion by John Bolton that new sanctions may be necessary against North Korea to push this forward? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So on the communication and on the trips, to the extent that we have anything to say on those points, we will say them largely after the fact, not before the fact. But let me say that in terms of where we are with the North Koreans, we had a very constructive discussion with them in Hanoi and we left on very good terms. I think both sides agreed that the door remains open. Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding. The North Koreans have only been — the North Korean delegation has only been back in Pyongyang for approximately 48 hours at this point. Because keep in mind, while many of us who were there flew back on our U.S. Government aircraft, the North Koreans spent an additional two days in Vietnam conducting a bilateral visit with their Vietnamese hosts, and that was followed by a 60-plus-hour train ride through China back to Pyongyang. So there will necessarily need to be a period of reflection here. Both sides are going to have to digest the outcome to the summit. We ourselves have thought through some next steps to build on the progress that we were able to make in the discussions over the last several weeks, and quite frankly, in the President’s discussions with Kim Jong-un as well. But there’s a lot of work that’s left to be done as well, particularly around the central issue for us, which is an agreement on the denuclearization that allows us to get to the end state that we aspire to. As far as what it would take, the sanctions remain in place. Whether the President ultimately decides to expand those sanctions is a decision I think would ultimately rise to the President’s level, but at this moment I would say the sanctions are still in place. I think they’re still having a crushing effect on the North Korean economy, and we continue to put our full efforts into policing and enforcing those sanctions because, as we all know well, there is a certain amount of leakage and evasion that has taken place with those sanctions. We’re looking to many of our international partners to work closely with us in that effort, and we are certain that we can maintain the economic pressure against North Korea that will make clear to the entire North Korean Government, but to Chairman Kim specifically, that there’s a clear choice to be made here, and if they choose to go in the direction that the President laid out to them in an expansive manner at the summit in Hanoi, then they can — they have a very bright future ahead of them. Otherwise, the pressure campaign will be maintained and if the President decides, the sanctions will be increased. MODERATOR: Let’s go to CNN. Q: Hi. Quick question just following up on two things that you’ve said. You said that it remains to be seen what the purpose of this activity is at Sohae. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: At Sohae. Mm-hmm. Q: Yeah. So how will you make that determination? Is it based on U.S. intelligence? Is it based on you straight up asking the North Koreans that are your counterparts? How will that determination be made? And then, my second question is you said that this all is achievable within the President’s first term. What exactly is “this all?” The deal or denuclearization of North Korea writ large? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So we’re watching in real time, as you are, developments at Sohae and we will definitely be seeking clarification on the purposes of that, and we’ll definitely be continuing to seek the admission of U.S. inspectors to the site to verify the permanent dismantlement and destruction. That’s our operating plan, and we’re going to continue to move forward with that regardless of what we see happening right now. The intent of the North Koreans in this matter is known only to them at this point. We don’t know why they’re taking these steps. We don’t know what they intend to do with it. But suffice it to say we’re watching closely and we expect them to abide by the commitments that they’ve made to the President of the United States. In terms of your second question, it was what? Q: You said, “We believe this all is achievable within the President’s first term.” SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, it’s quite — writ large, what I’m talking about is the finally, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. That means taking out all their key — parts of their nuclear fuel cycle, removing all their fissile material, removing their nuclear warheads, removing or destroying all their intercontinental ballistic missiles, permanently freezing any other weapons of mass destruction programs, and moving them on a course to reorient their economy towards civilian pursuits in order to make this a permanent direction for their country. In exchange for that, what the North Koreans will be able to enjoy is integration into the global economy, a transformed relationship with the United States of America, a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and a closure to a 70-year relationship characterized by hostility and warfare between our two countries. … MODERATOR: Let’s go Washington Times. Q: Thanks so much for agreeing to interact with the free press. Can you say confidently — SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Grudgingly. (Laughter.) Q: No, we appreciate it. Can you say confidently that all of the different members of President Trump’s advisory team on the negotiations with North Korea were in agreement with the all-or-nothing strategy the President ultimately embraced in Hanoi? And I ask because there’s the appearance that Mr. Bolton may have had the most influence over the President’s decision not to embrace a more step-by-step approach that others on the team had advocated for in the weeks leading up to this summit. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So nobody in the administration advocates a step-by-step approach. In all cases, the expectation is a complete denuclearization of North Korea as a condition for all the other steps being — all the other steps being taken. It has very much been characteristic of past negotiations to take an incremental approach to this that stretches it out over a long period of time, and quite honestly, has failed on previous occasions to deliver the outcome that both sides at least ostensibly committed to. This would be in the 1994 Agreed Framework negotiations as well as in the Six-Party Talks. So we’re trying to do it differently here. The President has made abundantly clear to Chairman Kim that he’s personally invested in taking North Korea in this direction if North Korea gives up all of its weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery. That’s a position that is supported by the entire interagency, … Q: Yeah, regarding the Yongbyon plus alpha, and the big deal that the U.S. suggested at the Hanoi, it’s not quite clear, because what North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said was the U.S. side asked for one more. And South Korean media quoting sources say that this “one more” was (inaudible), the underground highly enriched uranium facility. And National Security Advisor John Bolton says that what the U.S. side offered was biochemical and all the WMD. So can you be more clear on what the U.S. side offered? Was it one more uranium facility or the entire WMD? And my second question is South Korea President Moon Jae-in told the National Security Council to speed up efforts to start tourists to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong Industrial Complex after the breakdown of the Hanoi summit. So is the State Department currently considering giving exemptions to the inter-Korean projects? Thank you. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So on your first question, I can’t clarify what Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho meant in his presentation, but I can certainly affirm what the President proposed to Chairman Kim, which was the complete elimination of their weapons of mass destruction program. So I’m not sure what Foreign Minister Ri meant by “one more thing,” but I will say that — to be clear too, the President’s vision wasn’t simply invested in what the North Koreans needed to do. The President likewise laid out an expansive vision for a brighter future that would be available for North Korea were it to make the right choices in this regard. I’m sorry. Your second question was? Q: Is the State Department currently considering giving exemptions to inter-Korean economic projects? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Yeah, I got it. No. MODERATOR: Please, right there. Barbara. … Q: Yeah. Just again to clarify your answer to this last question, the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction program means chemical, biological, and nuclear; is that correct? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. Q: And then also, there have been reports today of a tremor, 2.1 degrees on the Richter scale, coming out of a mine shaft, and I wondered if you’re aware of the reports and what’s your take on them? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I saw the press reports. It’s nothing that is causing us any particular alarm right now … but we’ll continue to watch it. MODERATOR: Rich from Fox. Q: Thank you very much. In your conversations and lead-up to the Hanoi summit, did you feel as though you had exhausted your conversations with the North Korean team and reached an impasse? And with the lack of a written agreement in Hanoi, where does that leave you, and are you confident in hopefully having more discussions with the same North Korean team that you were speaking with prior to the summit? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So thank you. The discussions — the negotiations, really, with the North Koreans in the run-up to the summit were very productive. We covered a lot of areas. The area that we fell most short was on denuclearization and it was clear to us that our North Korean interlocutors had very little authority to move on the set of issues that were, in our view, central to the success of this outcome. We have a lot of areas that we can continue to discuss with the North Koreans, and we will continue to discuss with them when we next engage. But fundamentally, where we really need to see the progress and we need to see it soon is on meaningful and verifiable steps on denuclearization. That’s our goal and that’s how we see these negotiations picking up momentum. The — one of the — I suppose every system of government is unique, but the North Korean system is particularly different, and in that system, virtually any position that’s going to be explored in the course of negotiations is going to be driven from the top down. There’s no clever think tanks or op-ed writers or experts or former government officials who are going to float ideas that people might cling to or think about. The system very much is driven from the top down and the President understands this very much, and that’s why he seeks to direct engagement with Kim Jong-un to invest him in a shared vision of that brighter future that could happen if they denuclearize. In order for our North Korean counterparts to have more latitude, it’s clear they’re going to have to get direction and space from the top. They will not do that on their own. They will not test ideas at the negotiating table. So there’s an important interplay between the President’s summit meetings and the President’s direct engagement between summit meetings with Kim Jong-un and the amount of latitude that the negotiating teams at the working level are entrusted with in order to breathe life into some of these agreements. We need the North Korean negotiators to have much more latitude than they did in the run-up to the summit on denuclearization, but I’m confident that if they get that direction from the top of the North Korean Government, we can make quick progress with them. MODERATOR: Last, we’re going to go to The Guardian, AFP, and then we’re done. Please. Q: Thank you. Julian Borger from The Guardian. You said the talks in Hanoi were productive and you said that the two leaders were on good terms. Why, then, was it cut short? Why didn’t they stay for lunch? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I think that’s a bit of a mischaracterization. It’s not yours. I’ve seen it reported many times. I know that. I think the amount of time that the President spent with Kim Jong-un equaled or exceeded what was the original plan. We worked through break times, we worked through scheduled lunches, we worked right up until the point where the President was previously scheduled to move back to his location where he was doing his press conference. So I think the schedule proceeded in a manner that was different than the planned structure, but in terms of the discussions themselves, they went on at quite some length and went on until the President, I think, was convinced that we weren’t going to be able to fully close the gap at this meeting. So a little bit different take on it, but they had more than sufficient time to explore in depth the possibilities here, and ultimately for the President to reach the conclusion he did at the conclusion of the summit. MODERATOR: Please, AFP. Q: Thank you. Francesco Fontemaggi for AFP. What would be for you the deadline to reach an agreement in order to get this done, the denuclearization done by the end of the first term? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, so we are certainly engaged in a forward-leaning way to get there as quickly as we can, because we are mindful that every day the challenge gets greater. The threat posed by North Korea is not going away, and we recognize that fact, but we’re not going to be driven by any artificial timeline. Certainly, as I said, we have a confirmed belief that we can achieve our goals for final, fully verified denuclearization in the course of the President’s first term. The sooner we get that started, the higher my level of confidence we’ll actually do that, but we’re not bound to any specific timeline. Q: Excuse me, if I just can add you said that in Stanford, just before the summit, that you didn’t even have an agreement on the definition of denuclearization. Do you now have one with the North Koreans? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have the elements of one. We have closed some of the gaps on what that would be, and as we have closed some of the gaps on other issues, like declarations and freezes. Some of that is an accumulation of the issues we have discussed in the course of our discussions over the first three months of this year. Some of the ideas are still ours and remain to be accepted by the North Koreans. It’s a grinding process to negotiate with the North Koreans. Part of it is the nature of their system; part of it is that they’ve been at this for a very long time. We’re not as far long as we would like to be, but we are making progress, and the door remains open to continue those negotiations as soon as possible.” (DoS, Special Briefing, Senior State Department Official on North Korea, Washington, March 7, 2019)

Sokolsky: “The attention of the US media, nonproliferation experts, pundits and policymakers has been fixated on denuclearization; hardly any attention has been paid to conventional threat reduction and demilitarization of North Korea. This tunnel vision is short-sighted. A “bolt out of the blue” North Korean nuclear attack on the United States, which would be suicidal for the Kim dynasty and his country, is a fantastical scenario. The most likely trigger for any large-scale conventional conflict between North Korea and combined US/ROK forces, which could escalate to a nuclear exchange, has always been a local incident or accident that spins out of control. If and when it occurs, positive movement towards North Korean denuclearization should not be conflated with progress toward building an enduring peace and security regime on the Korean Peninsula. The two are not the same. Capping and rolling back North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities are necessary for permanent peace on the peninsula and North-South reconciliation. But they are not enough. It is hard to visualize this end state if it does not include substantive CBMs to reduce the risk of surprise attack or an inadvertent conflict and reductions in and restrictions on the North Korean conventional forces. In the early 1990s, North and South Korea held serious discussions about how to reduce military tensions through the negotiation of CBMs. They agreed to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue and negotiation, pledged not to use force against one another, and established a North- South Joint Military Commission to discuss and implement steps to lower tensions and achieve conventional force reductions. These measures included the mutual notification and control of large-scale military maneuvers and exercises; the peaceful utilization of the demilitarized zone (DMZ); exchanges of military personnel and information; phased arms reductions; and verification of weapons destruction. Together, these steps would have significantly reduced the risk of surprise attack or a conflict arising from crisis, miscalculation, and miscommunication. For a variety of reasons, however, they were never implemented. At last year’s Pyongyang Summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made significant progress toward lowering tensions, building trust, and reducing the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula, with a heavy emphasis on the two most serious flash points for conflict: The DMZ and the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea (Yellow Sea). In a far-reaching agreement to implement the April, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, North and South Korea agreed to: establish no-fly zones along the border and halt artillery and other military drills close to the DMZ; withdraw and eventually destroy all guard posts within the DMZ under agreed procedures for mutual verification; demilitarize the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, including the removal of all mines; and create a maritime peace zone in the West Sea. Over the past five months, the two countries have made significant progress in implementing and verifying all these commitments, though important technical details, for example, the shape of the buffer zone the two sides agreed to establish in the West Sea, remain to be worked out. And real progress on resolving competing North and South Korean boundary claims in the West Sea remains elusive, creating the potential for a military incident like the one that happened recently over the disputed territory of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. These CBMs are positive steps, but more can be done to protect both countries from an inadvertent conflict, surprise attack and the threat of a large-scale, deep conventional invasion. As the two countries gain more trust in each other—and confidence that the commitments they made in Pyongyang are being faithfully implemented—they should focus on more ambitious CBMs in two areas: 1) greater transparency and information sharing on military plans, programs, movements, and deployments; and 2) restrictions on peacetime military operations. Together, the measures outlined below, many of which are based on the CBMs that Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) countries agreed to in Vienna Document 90, as well as those existing between India and Pakistan, would reduce both the risk of surprise attack and miscalculations or miscommunications that could trigger a crisis that might escalate into conflict. Greater Openness and Transparency A menu of options in this basket could include the following measures: Prior notification of an annual calendar of major military activities above a defined threshold and invitations to outsiders to observe and monitor these exercises under procedures established by the Inter-Korean Military Committee. These rules would alleviate fears of North Korean use of major military exercises as a cover for an attack and mitigate the risk of US and ROK overreaction to or misunderstanding of major military movements. • An annual exchange of military information on the command organization, location, personnel strength and major conventional weapons and equipment of active combat forces. Sharing this information could reduce uncertainty and alleviate fears about capabilities and intentions and create greater predictability. • An exchange of information on defense policy, force planning, military budgets and procurements, and force modernization plans. As part of this dialogue, the two sides should also discuss how they might adjust defense spending and modernization to reduce the burdens of defense expenditures and make it more difficult to conduct short-notice, large-scale military operations. • Reciprocal observer visits by military officers to military exercises, air bases and demonstrations of new weapons systems or equipment and more regular contacts between members of the North and South Korean armed forces. These measures would foster greater understanding and trust between the two militaries and potentially alleviate worst-case planning. • Creation of joint aerial monitoring arrangements to verify mutual compliance with restrictions established on military activities in buffer zones on both sides of the military demarcation line. Such a scheme for unarmed aerial surveillance flights could be implemented under the auspices of the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee and patterned after the Treaty on Open Skies. Its geographic coverage eventually could be broadened to permit gathering of information about military forces and activities of concern to each party across their entire territory or to verify compliance with other CBMs that might be established. Restrictions on Military Movements Changing the way North Korean forces conduct peacetime operations and exercises—sometimes referred to as operational arms control—can reinforce greater transparency. Seoul and Pyongyang should consider the following measures: The establishment of “red lines” beyond which large military forces should not move; when developing this no-go zone, the two Koreas, taking geographic constraints into account (e.g., the proximity of the two capitals to the DMZ), should pull back their forces from the DMZ—40-50 km for the North and 10-20 km for the South. Any measures that push North Korean forces farther from the DMZ, especially artillery and other direct fire systems, would increase warning time of an attack and allow the Combined Forces Command (CFC) to better prepare for an attack. Pulling South Korean artillery back from their forward positions along the DMZ would also improve their survivability. The Inter-Korean Military Agreement signed in Pyongyang prevents exercises within 10 km of the DMZ. The two sides could extend the range of this ban; in addition, they could also agree to limit the duration of exercises and ban the use of live ammunition in them. These measures would mitigate the risk of an incident that could spark a crisis as well as build greater mutual confidence in the peaceful intentions of both sides. Rigorous Compliance Ensuring that both sides fulfill the obligations they have incurred in the Inter-Korean Military Agreement is, in itself, an important confidence and trust building measure. The agreement to reinvigorate and elevate the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee is a welcome step, but it needs to be given teeth to help ensure that agreements that are entered into are actually carried out. Thus, in addition to its enhanced role in military communications and crisis management, it should also be empowered to investigate charges that either side is violating the letter or intent of agreed upon CBMs and to enforce compliance with these measures by holding both sides accountable for violations. Implementing measures that have already been accepted by the two countries is an important barometer of intentions and the credibility of commitments. Both sides should establish a solid record of compliance before they move forward with more ambitious plans for CBMs and actual reductions in or restrictions on the movement of conventional forces. The implementation of the Pyongyang Summit commitments is an encouraging development. Conventional Arms Control Conventional force reductions could play an important role in reducing not only tensions and the risk of inadvertent conflict, but also in making it more difficult for North Korea’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) to launch a devastating conflict.2 The Pyongyang Summit and the improvement in inter-Korean cooperation provide a positive political atmosphere and thus an important opportunity to pursue more ambitious measures. The failure of the Hanoi Summit to impart momentum to the goal of creating a comprehensive peace and security regime on the peninsula adds even greater weight to the importance of getting conventional arms control discussions off the ground. The overwhelming majority of North Korea’s roughly 950,000 active ground forces are deployed in three echelons—a forward operational echelon of four infantry corps; a second operational echelon of two mechanized corps, an armor corps and an artillery corps; and a strategic reserve of the two remaining mechanized corps and the other artillery corps. These forces are garrisoned along major north-south lines of communication that provide rapid, easy access to avenues of approach into South Korea. The KPA has positioned massive numbers of artillery pieces, especially its longer-range systems, close to the DMZ that separates the two Koreas. This is a force that is structured for high-speed, large-scale offensive operations with little or no warning. Over the past several years, North Korean officials have hinted that a transformational change in US-DPRK relations could pave the way for negotiations on conventional force reductions with South Korea. Both countries, in fact, have strong incentives to achieve this goal. Kim wants to reduce the overall size of his military to free up resources for development of the civilian economy. Moon will face not only growing popular support for cuts in ROK defense spending if North-South reconciliation continues but also economic pressures. The South Korean population is about to dramatically shrink. In anticipation of these demographic changes, the Moon government recently announced that it planned to cut 120,000 troops by 2022. Ideally, these reductions would be paralleled by comparable reductions in the size of the North Korean army. The readiness and combat effectiveness of North Korean ground forces may have declined over the past decade due to maintenance and morale problems, and the quality of the North’s mostly vintage Soviet-era equipment is outclassed by the far more sophisticated weapons systems operated by South Korean and US forces. But the North still maintains frightening short-warning invasion capabilities because of the thousands of artillery pieces, rockets and missiles that are poised to attack Seoul from just outside the DMZ. The North also possesses geographic advantages and has developed a broad range of military options as part of a larger asymmetric military strategy that leverages special capabilities like cyber weapons, special operations forces and electronic warfare. Although South Korean forces enjoy qualitative superiority over North Korean forces in weapons/equipment, training and command and control, questions persist about the training, readiness and morale of ROK forces, and some experts worry about the “hollowing out” of the Army. Moreover, a large number of South Korean artillery pieces are deployed along the DMZ, and that makes them vulnerable to North Korean artillery pieces, which are all buried underground and outrange South Korean artillery pieces. The North’s military strengths and the South’s military shortfalls notwithstanding, most experts believe that combined US and South Korean forces would ultimately prevail in an all-out conventional war with North Korea, but with horrific casualties and destruction of property. Such a war, moreover, significantly increases the risk of nuclear escalation, which would be catastrophic. In addition to geographic restrictions described above on where the North and South can station their forces, the two sides should also consider the elimination of major weapons and equipment. In the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), NATO and the Warsaw Pact set equal ceilings on key armaments essential for conducting surprise attacks and high-speed, large-scale offensive operations. The five major categories were: tanks, artillery pieces, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. Because the Warsaw Pact had numerical superiority in all five areas, the reductions to equal ceilings had an asymmetrical impact on the forces of the Soviet Union and its allies. To further limit the readiness of armed forces and thus their ability to mount large-scale attacks with little or no warning, the treaty: 1) set equal ceilings on equipment that could be deployed with active units and required that some ground equipment had to be placed in designated permanent storage sites; and 2) established regional limits to prevent destabilizing force concentrations of ground equipment. To meet required troop ceilings, equipment had to be destroyed or, if possible, converted to non-military purposes. The treaty also included unprecedented provisions for detailed information exchanges and on-site inspections and monitoring of destruction and conversion of treaty-limited equipment. A Joint Consultative Group was established to deal with questions related to compliance with provisions of the treaty. North and South Korea should draw on the CFE experience if Pyongyang and Seoul continue to make significant progress on normalization and peace and security building. A notional force reductions scheme would consist of the following elements: The optimal step for the US and South Korea would be North Korean agreement to reduce its forces to levels equal to or possibly lower than the current total of South Korean and US forces across the same five categories embodied in the CFE Treaty. (See Figure 1 below.) This outcome would require highly asymmetrical North Korean reductions, and Pyongyang would almost certainly demand compensatory moves by Washington and Seoul to reduce those capabilities Pyongyang finds most threatening. Whether North Korea’s longer-range ballistic missile systems should be part of this equation will require careful study of the trade-offs that would be involved. The highest priority should be placed on eliminating North Korea’s massive edge in heavy artillery and short-range missiles and mortars (which would go beyond the CFE Treaty). Reductions in ground force capabilities, specifically heavy armor designed for deep penetration into South Korean territory, should also be accorded high priority. North Korean combat aircraft and attack helicopters are of much less military concern; in fact, the US and South Korea, if they’re looking for trade space, could offer asymmetrical reductions in these two categories—especially since aircraft moved off of the peninsula can be easily moved back in—to secure greater asymmetrical cuts in North Korean land forces. The US and South Korea, if necessary, could sweeten the pot by having the US take the greatest hit on combat aircraft, for example, by removing a tactical air squadron and making a token withdrawal of a ground force battalion (which could perhaps be re-located and forward deployed elsewhere in PACOM). Weapons and equipment would be destroyed or converted under agreed monitoring provisions to ensure that it could no longer be put to military uses. The ROK and perhaps the US could provide technical assistance to the North, if needed, to convert this equipment for use in the civilian economy. Figure 1. Estimated Deployments of US, ROK, and DRPK Forces on the Korean Peninsula

  MAIN BATTLE TANKS ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIERS HEAVY ARTILLERY (155mm+) COMBAT AIRCRAFT ATTACK HELICOPTERS MILITARY MANPOWER (Active forces only)
NORTH KOREA 3,500+ 2,500+ 21,100+ 5454 80+ 1,280,000
3OUTH KOREA 2,614 2,790 4,238 603 96 625,000
UNITED STATES 140 170 70 81 70 28,500
COMBINED US/ROK FORCES 2,754 2,960 4,308 684 166 653,500

Sources: “The Military Balance 2018,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2018; and Anthony Cordesman, “The Military Balance in the Koreas and Northeast Asia,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2017.

North and South Korea have rebuilt a certain amount of trust as a result of President Moon’s “Nordpolitik,” and that has created a political climate conducive to agreement on threat reduction measures. That said, at present it remains uncertain how much appetite the North Koreans have for CBMs beyond what they agreed to in last September’s Comprehensive Military Agreement with the South—for example, observations of exercises, bases, and demonstrations of weapons systems—because it could expose North Korean weaknesses they would prefer to conceal. Similarly, North Korean thinking on conventional arms control is also opaque and there is no evidence that the South Korean government is thinking about structural arms control. It is certainly possible, when Seoul begins to debate the merits of arms control negotiations with the North, that it will have concerns about the impact of conventional force reductions on its ability to deter threats from North Korea and China. Moreover, the US and South Korea will need to come to agreement on several important issues before further engaging with the North Koreans on more ambitious and militarily significant CBMs and conventional threat reduction measures that have the potential to impinge on US forces in the South. These include the pace at which negotiations on CBMs should proceed; the relationship between CBMs and arms control talks and US-North Korean negotiations on denuclearization—specifically, whether the two processes should be linked or proceed independently of one another; the implications of different CBMs and conventional force reduction options for US and ROK planning for the defense of South Korea against a North Korean attack; the timing and sequencing of discussions on CBMs and conventional force reductions, i.e., whether talks on these two baskets should be held sequentially or simultaneously; and lastly whether there is a role for third-party involvement in verifying, monitoring, or implementing CBMs and conventional force reductions. All these issues underscore the importance of close US-ROK consultations. Conclusion CBMs and conventional arms control measures, if properly crafted, would significantly mitigate the risks of a large-scale, surprise attack by North Korea as well as the danger that an incident, accident or miscalculation could spark a crisis and increase the risk of military escalation. Until there is a true transformation in North-South relations and an effective peace and security regime on the Korean Peninsula, CBMs and arms reductions would constitute an effective hedge against a return to tensions and confrontation between the US and North Korea or the collapse of the US-North Korean diplomatic process. The US should encourage further North-South progress on tension and threat reduction measures, while Washington and Seoul forge a consensus on future conventional force reductions and their implications for the future of both US force structure, operations, and planning for the defense of the peninsula and, more broadly, the US-South Korean alliance—the subject of the next installment in this special report series.” (Richard Sokolsky, “Conventional Threat Reduction on the Korean Peninsula,” 38 North, March 7, 2019)


3/8/19:
Rodong Sinmun:South Korea and the U.S. reportedly started a joint military drill under new codename Alliance from March 4. South Korea and the U.S. announced that the drill Alliance is the one replacing the former Key Resolve and it will continue until March 12. As for joint military drill Foal Eagle, they said they would stage it without codename round the year in the form of small-scale field mobile drill involving units smaller than battalion. They said that the on-going drill aims at examining wartime operation plan through computer-aided simulation of “the north’s all-out invasion of the south” and increasing the capabilities to fight a war. The ill-boding moves of the south Korean military authorities and the U.S. are a wanton violation of the DPRK-U.S. joint statement and the north-south declarations in which the removal of hostility and tensions were committed to, and an open challenge to the aspiration and desire of all Koreans and the international community for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.” (Rodong Sinmun, “S. Korea and U.S. Start New Joint Military Drill,” March 8, 2019)

Rodong Sinmun: “The whole world sincerely hopes to see smooth peace process on the Korean Peninsula and earlier improvement of the DPRK-U.S. relations. The public at home and abroad that had hoped for success and good results from the second DPRK-U.S. summit in Hanoi are feeling regretful, blaming the U.S. for the summit that ended without an agreement. But only the Japanese reactionaries have gone spiteful, applauding it, just as if they had heard good news, … The aim sought by Japan going desperate to interrupt the relations between the DPRK and the U.S. is to get rid of its deplorable situation being left out of the discussion of peace on the Korean Peninsula and the region. They are utterly detestable just like those who deserve slap on the face. The Abe group has now gone impudent as to knock at the door of Pyongyang, claiming now is the time for Japan to come out and set up a bridge. Japan committed too much crime to be dealt with by the DPRK and nothing can gain from the dwarfs clinging to the coattail of the U.S. Japan must not dream of dealing with the DPRK unless it clears itself of all the black-hearted intention and makes full reparation for its past crimes and drops ambition for becoming a military giant. Deserted Japan is fated to wait for a moment to be vanished from history.” (KCNA, “Japan Rebuked for Trying to Disturb DPRK-U.S. Relations,” March 8, 2019)

President Trump was forced to publicly acknowledge this past week what American intelligence officials said they had long been telling the White House: Even during eight months of blossoming diplomacy, Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, was steadily adding to his weapons arsenal and nuclear infrastructure. Three times, Trump told reporters that he would be “very disappointed” if North Korea was preparing to launch a space rocket that intelligence officials believe could help Kim perfect the means to heave a nuclear warhead across the ocean. [?] Satellite imagery taken Friday, and analyzed by the Beyond Parallel program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, shows that the North has “continued preparations” on the launching pad at Sohae consistent with readying for “the delivery of a rocket.” American officials said the reconstruction there began long before Trump left Washington in late February for a summit meeting with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, where talks abruptly ended. The rebuilding at Sohae was not the only work underway. While North Korea blew up the entrances to its major underground testing site at Punggye-ri in May, it never allowed in inspectors, as promised, to determine whether the facility had actually been destroyed. Commercial satellite photographs suggest the buildings containing the control rooms and computers used to trigger and study the explosions were carefully mothballed. And in the time between Trump and Kim’s first meeting, in Singapore in June, and their second in Hanoi, intelligence estimates suggest that North Korea produced enough uranium and plutonium to fuel a half-dozen new nuclear warheads. [reprocessed?] The evidence that North Korea was moving ahead with its weapons program was clear, according to American intelligence officials familiar with the briefings provided to Trump. But the president sought to soften it in public to avoid imperiling negotiations, the officials said. At a news conference late last month in Hanoi, Trump was still in that mode, suggesting the evidence that North Korea was adding to its ability was ambiguous. “Some people are saying that and some people aren’t,” he said. But for an administration that regularly acknowledges or dismisses intelligence findings to fit the moment, North Korea has served as a comeuppance. Trump’s aides have been forced to back away from his now famous tweet, issued soon after the Singapore meeting, that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” On March 7, a senior administration official told reporters that the United States remained open to continuing discussions with North Korea. But the official asserted that sanctions would not be lifted until all the threats were removed — which he defined as the North’s entire nuclear program, complex of road-mobile missiles and chemical and biological weapons programs. That is a far broader demand than the Trump administration has previously detailed in public, and was at the core of the collapse of the discussions in Hanoi. Kim had offered to close an aging nuclear plant at Yongbyon in exchange for the lifting of some of the toughest sanctions imposed on North Korea. To his surprise, Kim was told that the United States would not lift all sanctions until the North surrendered its entire weapons program. By all accounts, Kim believed Trump was desperate for a deal and would accept a more gradual approach — a partial disarmament leading to partial sanctions relief. Unable to bridge the gap, they walked away, though Trump insisted they agreed to continue talking. No further negotiations have been scheduled. North Korea, for its part, is using its continued production of nuclear material to pressure Trump — making clear its ability to pose a threat will only grow unless the United States eases its demands. “For all the talk, nothing has really changed,” said Victor Cha, whom Trump considered appointing as American ambassador to South Korea. “They are playing the same old game of putting pressure on the U.S.” The White House and State Department say that is not the case. The continued moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, officials said, has slowed Kim’s progress and kept him from demonstrating that North Korea could launch a warhead that could hit an American city. Some independent analysts agree with the Trump administration’s rationale, but worry the moratorium may be coming to an end. North Korea’s satellite launching site at Sohae, on the Yellow Sea, offers a case study in the deep ambiguity of the dismantlement and denuclearization claims by both sides. The site is important because the North has test-fired powerful rocket engines there on a giant experiment stand and, at the nearby launching pad, successfully cast two satellites into space. The United States has declared that space launches violate the commitment that Kim made to Trump in Singapore, and later to President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, to suspend all missile and nuclear tests. In June, after the summit meeting in Singapore, Trump declared that Kim had told him the North was “already destroying” the sprawling site. “That’s a big thing,” he told reporters. “The site is going to be destroyed very soon.” Challenged by reporters about the North’s past record of broken promises, Trump added: “Honestly, I think he’s going to do these things. I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’” “I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that,” he said with a smile, “but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.” That enthusiasm proved premature. For the next eight months, analysts poring over satellite images of the densely wooded site at Sohae found little evidence of dismantlement. No major structures were changed, destroyed or disassembled. Instead, the images showed the opposite: evidence that North Korea was completing work on an extensive building complex next to the launching pad at Sohae. Rather than disassemble the site, as Kim had promised, it was expanding. “We all watched it go up and kept wondering, ‘What is it?’” recalled Jenny Town, a senior official at 38 North, a research project and website of the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, which tracks political and technical developments in North Korea. They are still wondering. No one is certain about the purpose of the structure — or if it has an intent other than to stoke fear in the United States. This past week, 38 North and Beyond Parallel reported that reconstruction at the Sohae site had greatly accelerated. “Based on commercial satellite imagery, efforts to rebuild these structures started sometime between February 16 and March 2, 2019,” 38 North said in its report on March 5. The summit meeting in Hanoi began on February 27 — suggesting the construction was intended to give Kim some leverage in his talks with Trump. As of yesterday, administration officials were telling allies they still did not know if North Korea planned to resume missile launches at Sohae. But Trump no longer denounces news reports of expanded missile bases or revived test sites as “fake news,’’ as he did before the meeting in Hanoi. In late January, the president even called in the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the director of the C.I.A., Gina Haspel, to demand they pull back recent public declarations that North Korea was not likely to ever give up its entire weapons arsenal and production facilities. Two days later, Trump said the problem lay not in the intelligence officials’ testimony but in the news coverage about it. One senior official later said the deflection was “all about avoiding criticism of Kim.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president’s meeting with the intelligence chiefs was intended to be private. Town said the satellite site expansion and rebuilding at Sohae reminded her of a similar episode at the Yongbyon nuclear research center, the main known site for the processing of fuel for nuclear weapons. Last year, North Korea finished building a large facility across from Yongbyon’s experimental light water reactor. Analysts believe the reactor could double the North’s supply of weapons-grade plutonium, producing more fuel for its nuclear arsenal. “Why do that if it’s on the bargaining table?” Town said of the construction at Yongbyon, which Kim had offered to close if the United States agreed to lift sanctions. “There are a few of these cases where it could be part of a hedging strategy.” Then there are the headquarters at Punggye-ri’s mountainous atomic test site — a mile-high peak full of tunnels where North Korea has set off its nuclear detonations. In November, 38 North analysts reported that, contrary to reports of the site’s destruction and abandonment, the two largest buildings at Punggye-ri’s command center remained intact, as did nearby support facilities for personnel and security forces. The lack of dismantlement, the analysts concluded, suggested that the site “may only be mothballed, with reactivation possible.” (David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, “Kim’s Arms Buildup a Comeuppance for Trump,” New York Times, March 10, 2019, p. A-4)

Kim Yeon-chul, who was tapped as the new unification minister, has more than 20 years of experience dealing with inter-Korean and unification issues as a policy adviser and scholar. Currently, Kim serves as the president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded think tank, and teaches at the Department of Korea Unification of Inje University. Kim is one of seven new ministers nominated by President Moon Jae-in. In 2018, he advised the preparatory committee for the inter-Korean summit between President Moon and North Korean leader Kim. While working as a policy adviser to former Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, Kim participated in the six-party talks and a meeting between Chung and the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2005. He earned a doctoral degree in political science and diplomacy from Sungkyunkwan University. (Park Han-na, “Kim Yeon-chul Tapped as New Unification Minister,” Korea Herald, March 8, 2019)


3/10/19:
Bolton: “ … RADDATZ: OK, let’s back track a bit. At the Singapore summit, North Korea committed only to, quote, “work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”. How do you define that, how do they define that? BOLTON: Well, again, they have committed to denuclearization in a variety of forms several times in writing, solemn international agreements that they have happily violated. We define denuclearization as meaning the elimination of their nuclear weapons program, their uranium enrichment capability, their plutonium reprocessing capability. From the beginning we’ve also included chemical and biological weapons in the elimination of their weapons of mass destruction, this is important to us because of our deployed forces in South Korea. It’s important to South Korea and Japan. And of course we want their ballistic missile program ended as well. That is — RADDATZ: But they didn’t sign onto that. BOLTON: They — well they have signed on to elements of that in the 1992 joint North-South denuclearization agreement, and we’ve made it clear the president handed Kim Jong-un a piece of paper — actually two pieces of paper, one in English, one in Korean, that laid it out. RADDATZ: That said, all of what you just said and more, can you tell us exactly what that said? And who wrote that? BOLTON: Well, I can’t tell you in Korean, but … RADDATZ: Try with the English. We’ll settle for the English. BOLTON: I think I just did. RADDATZ: It’s just that? That’s exactly what was said in that piece of paper? BOLTON: I’m not going to tell you it was word for word, and I don’t have the piece of paper in front of me to check it, but that is in the substance what it said. RADDATZ: And who authored that proposal? BOLTON: It was written at staff level and cleared around as usual. RADDATZ: And Steve Biegun, the special envoy to North Korea, said in a speech in January that he hoped the two sides could move simultaneously and in parallel through a road map of concrete deliverables. That sounds like step by step, you do something, we do something. Is that how you see it? BOLTON: Look, the president, as I mentioned before, is determined to avoid the mistakes prior presidents have made, and one of those mistakes is falling for the North Korean action for action ploy. And the reason that that doesn’t work, is that what North Korea needs, and it needs it very much right now, is economic relief. I think it’s very much on Kim Jong-un’s mind. He wants the economic sanctions released. And to get that, he is prepared to give up some part of his nuclear program, perhaps at a declaratory level, even a substantial part. But the marginal benefit to North Korea of economic relief is far greater than the marginal benefit to us of partial denuclearization. So that’s why action for action almost inevitably in the past three administrations has worked to North Korea’s benefit. And as I say, over a 25-plus year period they never seem to get to denuclearization, isn’t that interesting? RADDATZ: But you also talk about strategic patience. The president said that era was over, and yet just the other day, he said a year. Ask me in a year. You really give him a year? You yourself have said that time is on the side of the proliferator. BOLTON: Time — the historical lesson is time is inevitably on the side of the proliferator in the long run. Right now I think it’s the president’s judgment, and I think it’s correct, that the economic leverage that we have because of the sanctions, puts the pressure on North Korea. And it’s one reason why all of the pundits and all of the experts predicting a deal in Hanoi were wrong, because the leverage is on our side right now, not on North Korea’s … .“ (ABC News, “This Week” Transcript: White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, March 10, 2019)

Spanish police and intelligence have linked an attack on the North Korean Embassy in Madrid on February 22 to the US Central Intelligence Agency, El Pais reported. At least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy, tied up staff and stole computers and cellphones have been identified to have connections to the CIA, according to the newspaper. The CIA has denied any involvement, but Spanish government sources said their response was “unconvincing,” El Pais said, adding that should the CIA be proven to have been behind the attack, it could lead to a diplomatic row between Madrid and Washington. The newspaper quoted unnamed Spanish government sources as saying that it would be “unacceptable” for an ally to violate international conventions that protect diplomatic delegations on Spanish soil. Spanish investigators ruled out the possibility that the attack was by common criminals as the attackers knew what they were looking for, taking only computers and cellphones. The operation was perfectly planned as if carried out by a “military cell,” sources close to the investigation were quoted as saying by the newspaper. El Pais said that sources believe the attack was intended to get information on former North Korean Ambassador to Spain Kim Hyok-chol, who negotiated nuclear disarmament plans with US special envoy Stephen Biegun ahead of the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi February 27-28. (Kim So-hyun, “NK Embassy in Spain Attackers Linked to CIA: Report,” Korea Herald, March 14, 2019) Days before President Trump was set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, a mysterious incident in Spain threatened to derail the entire high-stakes nuclear summit. In broad daylight, masked assailants infiltrated North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, tied up the staff, stole computers and mobile phones, and fled the scene in two luxury vehicles. The group behind the late February operation is known as Cheollima Civil Defense, a secretive dissident organization committed to overthrowing the Kim dynasty, people familiar with the planning and execution of the mission told the Washington Post. The group’s alleged role in the attack has not previously been reported, and officials from the governments of North Korea, the United States and Spain declined to comment on it. But in recent days, rumors about the motivations behind the attack have swirled in the Spanish media, including a report in El Pais alleging that two of the masked assailants have ties to the CIA. People familiar with the incident say the group did not act in coordination with any governments. U.S. intelligence agencies would have been especially reluctant to be involved, given the sensitive timing and brazen nature of the mission. But the raid represents the most ambitious operation to date for an obscure organization that seeks to undermine the North Korean regime and encourage mass defections, they say. “This group is the first known resistance movement against North Korea, which makes its activities very newsworthy,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at Tufts University. Any hint of U.S. involvement in an assault on a diplomatic compound could have derailed the talks, a prospect of which the CIA would likely be mindful. “Infiltrating a North Korean embassy days before the nuclear summit would throw that all into jeopardy,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former Korea analyst at the CIA. “This is not something the CIA would undertake.” The agency declined to comment. According to Spanish media reports, the assailants tied up the embassy staff with rope, put hoods over their heads and asked them questions. They spoke in Korean and appeared to be Asian. More than an hour into the raid, a woman reportedly escaped, and her screams for help alerted a neighbor, who contacted police. When authorities arrived at the embassy, a man opened the door and told them there was no problem. Moments later, the embassy gates opened, and the assailants dashed out to two embassy cars and sped away, according to local reports. The vehicles were found abandoned on a nearby street. Though the incident has attracted a flurry of Spanish media attention, no police reports were filed by the embassy or the victims, according to the reports. Experts say the computers and phones seized in the raid contain a treasure trove of information that foreign intelligence agencies are likely to seek out from the group. “It could have contacts and documents related to North Korea’s efforts to bypass sanctions and import luxury goods from Europe, which was one of the key assignments for Kim Hyok Chol, the former North Korean ambassador to Spain,” Lee said. Recently, Kim Hyok Chol was reassigned as North Korea’s point man for the nuclear negotiations with the United States, making any information about his previous activities especially coveted by foreign governments looking to gain an edge in the negotiations. The assailants also possess a video recording they took during the raid, which they could release anytime, said one person who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive and illegal operation. The Cheollima group, which also goes by the name Free Joseon, drew attention in 2017 after it successfully evacuated the nephew of Kim Jong Un from Macau when potential threats to his life surfaced. The nephew was the son of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s exiled half-brother who was assassinated in a nerve-gas attack in a Malaysian airport that same year. Kim Jong Nam was widely believed to have been killed by the regime, making his son a likely target. Members of the Cheollima group transported Kim Han Sol out of Macau with the help of the governments of the United States, China and the Netherlands, which provided travel and visa assistance, the group told the Wall Street Journal in 2017. For safety reasons, the leader of the group does not disclose his name, and his identity is known only to a small group of people. In March, the group published a manifesto calling on North Koreans inside and outside the country to resist Pyongyang in ways big and small. “To those within the system who hear this declaration: We call on you to defy your oppressors. Challenge them openly or resist them quietly,” the declaration said. “To those of like-mind and like-spirit of our diaspora: We call upon you to join our revolution.” Since the attack on the embassy in Spain, the group has asserted responsibility for the defacing of the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, on March 11. Authorities said four men who wore hats and masks painted the graffiti. The group has not claimed responsibility for the raid in Madrid. “In its messaging, the group said they have formed a provisional government to replace the regime in Pyongyang,” said Terry, who is a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They have now shown the seriousness of their intent and some capabilities to carry out operations. We will see in the coming months the extent of their capabilities.” (John Hudson, “N. Korean Dissidents Allegedly Raided Embassy in Madrid,” Washington Post, March 16, 2019, p. A-6) The revolutionary group that carried out a brazen daytime raid of North Korea’s Embassy in Spain last month has shared information about the incident with the FBI, said people familiar with the meeting. The decision by the group to engage federal authorities thrusts the U.S. intelligence community into a sensitive international investigation led by Spanish authorities, who have not publicly identified any suspects in the mysterious February 22 operation. Any substantive ties between the group and U.S. authorities could complicate the nuclear negotiations given the organization’s stated mission of overthrowing and replacing North Korea’s Kim dynasty. The secretive group calls itself Free Joseon, but is also known as Cheollima Civil Defense. Today, the group released a video of one of its members destroying portraits of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il. The captions of the 34-second clip exclaim “Down with Kim family rule!” and claim it took place on “our homeland’s soil,” suggesting the footage was possibly shot inside the North Korean Embassy in Madrid. Any desecration of the leaders’ image is punishable by death in North Korea, given the Kim family’s self-ordained godlike status and could invite a harsh response from Pyongyang. The raid on the embassy generated international headlines last week after Spanish authorities released details about the incident, telling reporters it was carried out by 10 masked assailants who entered the embassy with fake firearms, tied up the staff and interrogated them. Reports said the assailants stole computers, documents and other items before speeding away in two cars with diplomatic license plates that were later abandoned on a nearby street. A spokeswoman with the FBI, when asked about its contacts with the secretive group, said “it is our standard practice to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. However, the FBI enjoys a strong working relationship with our Spanish law enforcement partners that centers on information sharing and regular cooperation around matters of mutual assistance.” A spokeswoman for Spain’s Embassy in Washington confirmed that Spanish authorities have launched an investigation into the incident but did not offer details. Free Joseon has not publicly asserted responsibility for the raid and on March 17 urged the international news media to refrain from identifying the names of its members for fear of being targeted by North Korean hit teams. “The regime does not hesitate to conduct assassinations on foreign soil,” the group said in a statement published on its website. Experts say the documents and computers seized in the raid would probably contain a treasure trove of information valuable to foreign intelligence agencies. The former North Korean ambassador to Madrid was Kim Hyok Chol, the country’s current point man for the nuclear negotiations with the United States. Details about Kim’s activities during his time there contained in the stolen materials could prove useful for governments seeking an edge in the negotiations. It is unclear why the group reached out to U.S. authorities, but its published statements indicate it is fearful of a punitive response from the North Korean regime. “The group most likely does not have an unlimited supply of funds or a vast logistical network. Approaching the U.S. government with the assets retrieved in Madrid would possibly secure the group some protection,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at Tufts University. The FBI does not have jurisdiction over foreign intelligence gathering, but it regularly passes information along to the CIA if it is relevant to the organization. The CIA declined to comment. Free Joseon first drew wide attention in 2017 after it reportedly evacuated the nephew of Kim Jong Un from Macau when potential threats to his life surfaced. The nephew was the son of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s exiled half-brother who was assassinated in a nerve-gas attack in a Malaysian airport that same year. Kim Jong Nam is widely believed to have been killed because he was viewed as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s grip on power. Members of the Free Joseon group transported the nephew out of Macau with the help of the governments of the United States, China and the Netherlands, which provided travel and visa assistance, the group told the Wall Street Journal in 2017. In March, the group published a manifesto calling on North Koreans inside and outside the country to resist the Kim dynasty. (John Hudson, “Group Shares Details of Raid at North Korean Embassy with FBI,” Washington Post, March 22, 2019, p. A-12) The leader was Adrian Hong Chang, a well-known North Korea human rights activists who associates say have links to U.S. intelligence. According to a person familiar with the matter, Hong had contact with U.S. intelligence agents and has urged North Korean defectors to work with the CIA against Pyongyang. The Spanish court report tells of ten assailants who entered the embassy on February 22 and held staff hostage for almost five hours before stealing electronic devices and fleeing to Portugal and then, in several cases, to the U.S. They beat bound, and covered the heads of embassy residents and dragged So Yun Sok to the basement and demanded that he defect. He declined. In its March 26 statement the group said it had shared “certain information of enormous potential value with the FBI” but that their “mutually agreed terms of confidentiality” appeared “to have been broken.” (Edward White and Kang Buseong, “FBI Offered Stolen Data after Activists Raid North Korean Embassy in Madrid,” Financial Times, March 30, 2019, p. 3)

Liu, Makowsky and Town: “Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) shows no changes to the launch pad or engine test stand between March 8 and March 13. In imagery from March 8, the construction observed over the past few weeks seemed to have been completed and the two facilities had been cleared of debris. At the launch pad, the rail-mounted transfer/processing structure had been moved to the edge of the pad and the environmental cover had been closed around the gantry tower. In imagery from March 13, the transfer structure remains in the same position and the environmental cover still conceals the gantry tower. At the engine test stand, by March 8, construction on the engine support structure seemed to be complete and the rail-mounted environmental shelter (which conceals transfer of rocket engines from the service apron) had been rebuilt and positioned adjacent to the vertical engine test stand. Furthermore, construction materials and debris had been cleared from the service apron leaving only a few fuel/oxidizer tanks in place. Imagery from March 13 shows the environmental shelter remains in the same position. …” (Jack Liu, Peter Makowsky and Jenny Town, “North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launch Facility: No New Activity Since March 8,” 38 North, March 13, 2019)

Squassoni: “Before the Hanoi Summit, President Trump suggested in remarks that he was in no rush for denuclearization as long as North Korea wasn’t testing missiles or nuclear weapons. It’s a good thing, too, since denuclearization didn’t happen at the Hanoi Summit. Did Trump simply seek to dampen expectations for the summit ahead of time? Or did this reveal a superficial understanding of what’s important for actual denuclearization? In any event, the all-or-nothing position Trump favored over a step-by-step denuclearization process made the best the enemy of the good by squandering an opportunity to begin the process of capping and eventually eliminating North Korea’s fissile material production. As nuclear weapons experts appreciate, testing is one of the last steps in a complex industrial program to build bombs and their delivery systems. And once testing has proven design concepts, its value diminishes. To limit North Korea’s true nuclear weapons capacity, there has to be a verifiable end to its fissile material production—the weapons-grade enriched uranium and plutonium whose atoms split apart in the process of fission, releasing the tremendous amounts of energy in nuclear weapons. Without monitoring the end of production of highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium, it’s impossible to irreversibly eliminate North Korea’s current arsenal. Arms control and disarmament experts have long sought a global fissile material production cutoff treaty precisely for this reason—it is a way to cap the world’s stockpile of weapons-grade material on the path towards disarmament. Pyongyang, if media reports are correct, was ready to offer the shutdown of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, home to its known fissile material production. Yongbyon hosts the 5 MWe production reactor that transmutates natural uranium into plutonium; a reprocessing plant that separates plutonium from uranium and radioactive waste; at least one centrifuge uranium enrichment facility; a fuel fabrication facility; a spent fuel storage facility; a small research reactor (IRT-2000-type pool reactor) for producing medical radioisotopes that uses 80 percent highly enriched uranium fuel; and, an experimental light water reactor (ELWR) under construction, as North Koreans tell us, to produce electricity. North Korea likely also has facilities for transforming weapons-grade material into weapons-ready shapes and forms. Metal conversion, casting and machining all precede assembly into warheads. It is not clear where those facilities are, but it’s a good bet they are somewhere on or near the Yongbyon site. Even in a well-crafted denuclearization process, North Korea might choose to simply destroy such facilities rather than submit them to verification. For the purposes of verifying that North Korea is no longer producing fissile material for weapons, those facilities are less important because they are only relevant to the weapons fabrication process. Who knows what Pyongyang had in mind when it offered to shut down Yongbyon? The best case would have been a process in which North Korea declared all its facilities and provided their records, put all of its inventory under international safeguards, shipped it out of the country, or processed it so it could not be used for weapons, and then dismantled the site altogether. These tasks would take years to complete properly. North Korea probably had something less comprehensive in mind. To be sure, even a complete dismantlement of everything at Yongbyon would not have been the end of the story since there are almost certainly other facilities connected to fissile material production that are hidden. Some experts contend there is a second uranium enrichment plant at Kangsong. Any agreement worth signing would need a mechanism to provide confidence that North Korea’s stockpile was not growing anywhere in the country. The “go for broke” strategy employed by the Trump administration is sacrificing the good for the best. Whatever happens to negotiations now, North Korea’s fissile material production is the key to the size of its arsenal and well worth targeted efforts to cap and eventually eliminate. What are some of the steps worth taking? 1. Moratorium on fissile material production A declaration of no more fissile material production hardly seems worthwhile, but Russia, the US, the UK and France all declared moratoria on producing fissile material for nuclear weapons two decades ago and have not resumed production. A simple declaration by North Korea would be the quickest, easiest and cheapest action to take. This would be a confidence-building measure by North Korea that would bring it into line with established nuclear weapon state behaviors, with the exception of China. A multilateral approach to North Korea with all nuclear weapon states reaffirming their commitments and China joining in could be a “win” not just on the Korean Peninsula but also globally. At a time when all the nuclear weapon states have modernization programs and there is a potential risk of a new arms race between the US and Russia, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for these countries to reaffirm their commitments to cap fissile material production. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been watching North Korea from afar since its inspectors were last kicked out ten years ago, recently confirmed that the 5 MWe reactor and the reprocessing plant have not been operating. Satellite imagery and other techniques to monitor environmental signals from operations can help provide confidence that this is the case. Should the North begin to operate its experimental light water reactor, the pattern of operations can help establish whether it is operating to produce weapons-grade plutonium or electricity. Of course, Pyongyang could provide additional confidence by asking the IAEA to apply safeguards to the civilian reactor. It would need to rejoin the IAEA and pay its dues, but then potentially receive technical assistance to ensure the reactor was safe, secure and optimized for efficient electricity generation. The country might also consider, for similar reasons, inviting the IAEA to apply safeguards to its IRT research reactor. A moratorium on uranium enrichment would be impossible to monitor remotely without North Korea’s cooperation. Ironically, it might prefer providing assurances of no enrichment at all rather than attempting to show it is not producing highly enriched uranium because of the intrusiveness of measures in the latter case (think “Iran”). For example, North Korea could allow verification of the absence of key equipment (e.g., feed and withdrawal units) or inputs (uranium hexafluoride). There would still be uncertainty about undeclared enrichment sites, which would need to be addressed. 2. Monitored production or closure North Korea’s permission to allow monitoring of either production or closure of facilities would be better than a simple, declared moratorium. The generally accepted approach for verifying a global fissile material production cutoff treaty is to apply IAEA safeguards to uranium enrichment and reprocessing plants to ensure that material produced is not diverted for weapons purposes. Production reactors might or might not be subject to verification. Material accounting and control at operating plants would be a minimum requirement, while non-operating (closed, decommissioned or dismantled) plants would be subject to a set of measures specifically designed to ensure that they were no longer operating. To eventually achieve complete denuclearization, North Korea’s existing fissile material needs to be accounted for. Verifying the end of fissile material production for weapons can focus exclusively on the production facilities. By contrast, a monitored end of production could appeal to North Korea for its potential to provide technical assistance (in accounting, safety and security), to keep some facilities operating and workers engaged, and to preserve a future civilian nuclear energy option. However, like other nuclear weapon states, North Korea might also find it useful to safely close down, clean out and decommission if not dismantle its reactor and reprocessing plants to keep monitoring to a minimum. On the uranium side, Pyongyang might be less inclined to verifiably shut down the country’s facilities, reasonably arguing that its enrichment plant could be used to make fuel for the experimental light water reactor and research reactors for civilian uses. However, the only way to verify the facility’s exclusively peaceful activities would be to apply IAEA safeguards, perhaps with new measures developed within the context of the Iran nuclear deal, like continuous enrichment monitoring techniques. 3. Disable/dismantle Verifiably disabling or dismantling entirely North Korea’s reactor, enrichment and reprocessing plants would eliminate uncertainties at declared facilities. Examples of disabling actions at the 5 MWe reactor include removing fuel, draining pipes, pouring concrete into steam tanks and/or the reactor vessel, and other actions (like applying boron to prevent neutron flux) to make the reactor inoperable. Alternatively, North Korea could ask for assistance in preparing the reactor for interim safe storage before decommissioning. “Cocooning” reactors strips the facility down to their radioactive core (eliminating 80 percent of the auxiliary structures) and sealing them shut against the environment. The United States has “cocooned” six of the eight reactors at the Hanford plutonium production site, at a cost of about $21 million each. Disabling activities at the reprocessing plant could include removing (and destroying) hot cell equipment, glove boxes and mixer-settlers, and cutting pipes and removing key items like controllers from cells. Examples at the uranium enrichment plant include draining all vacuum and feed lines, disabling and removing control mechanisms and circuitry, cutting and removing gas feed lines, and disassembling centrifuge cascades. Dismantling is a much more extensive and expensive process, but does not require long-term monitoring once it is completed. In all of these approaches, the wildcard is whether North Korea has hidden capabilities, equipment or facilities. Measures that go beyond traditional IAEA safeguards (as in the Iran nuclear deal) will likely be necessary to build confidence in the country’s intention to no longer produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The Trump administration rejected a step-by-step approach in Hanoi, but without any fallback options, North Korea’s nuclear program will continue to grow in size and sophistication. Closer to the 2020 election, the stakes will be higher both for Trump and for Kim Jong Un to cut a deal. A verifiable halt in fissile material production needs to be the highest priority until then. (Sharon Squassoni , “North Korea’s Fissile Material Production: How to Know It’s All Gone,” 38 North, March 13, 2019)


3/11/19:
Stephen Biegun told a conference in Washington that although U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un parted on good terms after their February 27-28 summit in Hanoi, big gaps remained between the two sides and North Korea needed to show it was fully committed to giving up its nuclear weapons. Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, stressed that U.S.-led sanctions, which Pyongyang wants dropped, would stay in place until North Korea completed denuclearization. He rejected an incremental approach sought by Pyongyang, and said that easing sanctions for partial steps would amount to subsidizing North Korea’s weapons programs. As Biegun spoke at the Carnegie Nuclear Conference, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank issued a new report on activity at North Korea’s Sohae rocket launch site, in which commercial satellite images from March 6 and 8 showed North Korea had continued preparations on the launch pad at its Sohae launch facility and at the engine testing stand there. “Based on past practices, these activities could be consistent with preparations for the delivery of a rocket to the launch pad or engine to the test stand; or they could be North Korean coercive bargain tactics,” it said. Biegun said Washington did not know what the activity spotted in North Korea meant. He said the Trump administration took it “very seriously” but cautioned against drawing any snap conclusions. “What Kim Jong Un will ultimately decide to do may very much be his decision and his decision alone,” Biegun said, adding that Trump had made clear last week he would be “very disappointed” if North Korea were to resume testing. An authoritative U.S. government source familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments said they did not conclude that a launch was imminent, given North Korea’s apparent desire to keep negotiations going with the United States. However, the source said Pyongyang appeared to want to make clear it retained the capability to resume launches at any moment. “Diplomacy is still very much alive,” Biegun said. He offered no specifics on when new talks might be held and did not say whether any talks had taken place since the summit, which collapsed over differences on U.S. demands for Pyongyang’s denuclearization and North Korea’s demand for sanctions relief. “It’s certainly our expectation that we will be able to continue our close engagement,” Biegun said. The State Department has declined to say whether there has been any direct engagement between the two sides since the summit. A national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on March 12 the United States should seek the gradual denuclearization of North Korea because an “all-or-nothing” strategy will not help break the impasse in talks. To bridge the gap, Moon could pursue an unofficial inter-Korean summit as he did last year before the first summit between Trump and Kim, and then visit Washington, the adviser said. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson told the Washington conference she thought there would be another summit. Asked if there would be a third meeting, she said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump had “been very clear that they remain open to the dialogue. They haven’t got a date on the calendar but our teams continue to work towards that.” Thompson said it was “incredibly important” that all countries continued to maintain U.N. sanctions on North Korea until it gave up its nuclear weapons. “We are not letting the foot off the gas. We are going to continue with the pressure campaign,” she said. At the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders scoffed at reports that China was wary of holding a summit with Trump on trade after he walked out of his meeting with Kim without a deal. “We’ll see what happens with North Korea the same way we’re going to see what happens in the negotiations with China. They’re ongoing,” she said. Trump on Friday stressed again his belief in his personal rapport with Kim. (David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick, “U.S. Says North Korea Diplomacy ‘Very Much Alive, but It’s Watching Rocket Site,” Reuters, March 12, 2019)

Biegun: “HELENE. COOPER [New York Times]: … In your Stanford speech, back in January, you seem to suggest that you, the United States was totally open to confidence building steps. And there is certainly — one of the things, you know, as soon as, I’ve been getting a lot of tweets from people and questions from people wanting to direct to you the whole idea of whether or not the American stance is hardening, because in your Stanford speech you said, “From our side we are prepared to discuss many actions that could help build trust between our 2 countries and advance further progress in parallel on the Singapore summit objections — objectives of transforming relations, establishing a permanent peace regime on the Peninsula and complete denuclearization,” you said that. And that sounds totally — that sounds like a — an opening for negotiations. But last week a senior administration official said this at the State Department, “Nobody in the 1 administration advocates a step-by- step approach. In all cases expectations is complete denuclearization of North Korea as a condition for all other steps. That’s a position supported by the entire inter-agency.” Which is it? MR. BIEGUN: It’s — so the semantic differences I have to say escape me. All four of these priorities are linked. The United States is interested in transforming relations with the DPRK. United States is interested in advancing a permanent peace regime with North Korea. United States is absolutely interested in pursuing denuclearization with North Korea. And the fourth pillar, as I mentioned, the return of remains very much remains a high priority for us as well. They’re all linked. They’re all proceeding in parallel. The United States has discussed many initiatives in each of these areas with the North Koreans, but as is so often the case that nothing can be agreed until everything is agreed. That’s a clear principle that has permeated our negotiations on both sides with the North Koreans. That’s not to say that we can’t take steps to build confidence between the two countries. But the foundation of this policy is denuclearization. And until we can get to some point where we have the same traction on that issue that we have on the other issues, that makes it very difficult for us to move forward. You’ve heard the President himself talk about many of the issues that would build confidence. And most recently at the summit he had an exchange in front of the press on this very point. These are issues that we have explored in detail with our North Koreans in parallel with denuclearization. But we’re just not there on denuclearization, and that’s — that was the issue at the summit that really challenged us to move forward with a more complete agreement. We’ve closed some gaps. As the President and the Secretary said, we had a very constructive discussion, but we’re not there yet. And that’s the place where we need to, really need to exert the most effort to see if we can advance an agenda that achieves all of these issues in parallel, not just in isolation. MS. COOPER: But I think that’s where there’s some confusion. Are you saying then that you — that the United States is going to do this incrementally? And if you don’t do this incrementally how can you get it all done? Why should North Korea believe that at the end of this rainbow we’ll get a pot of gold? MR. BIEGUN: Yeah. We are not going to do denuclearization incrementally. The President has been clear on that and that is a position around which the U.S. government has complete unity. Our goal, our objective is the final fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. One of the reasons we were unable to reach a final agreement in Hanoi was, as the President laid out, the North Koreans had offered a portion of their nuclear program in a sense in exchange for lifting basically all the sanctions against North Korea. In effect, that would have put us in a position where we and presumably the international community, because these are United Nations Security Council sanctions, not United Nations sanctions, we would be in a position where we would be lifting all the economic pressure that’s been imposed upon North Korea for the totality of its weapons of mass destruction programs. We’d lift that pressure, but in exchange for only a portion of those weapons of mass destruction programs. That would have put us in a position, a very difficult position of essentially subsidizing what would potentially be ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea. We need a total solution. This is why the President, this is what the President brought to the table and this is what the President has sincerely conveyed to Chairman Kim Jong-un. The United States is ready to go down this road with North Korea to transform relations, to create a permanent peace regime, to denuclearize and also to close some of the humanitarian issues like the return of remains, but North Korea has to be committed. And what the President — as the President said at his press conference, he challenged Chairman Kim to go big, to buy into the vision, to do this together with us. I know the North Koreans found that difficult to accept. Obviously we didn’t get to a point at the summit in Hanoi where we could have reached an agreement on that broad framework. But we’re prepared to continue trying. The door is open to diplomacy. We want a very different future for the United States and North Korea on the Korean Peninsula. And the President is 100 percent supportive of us remaining engaged diplomatically to try to achieve that goal. The gap is still just a little bit too large for us to get there today. MS. COOPER: I’m going to try this one — a slightly different way because you are certainly aware that there is a narrative that is out there right now that National Security Advisor John Bolton has now got a hold of the process and that the United States’ position has hardened considerably. Are you saying that we — the Trump administration position has not hardened? MR. BIEGUN: No. The Trump administration position is not hardened. From the very beginning the U.S. view has been to achieve the final fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. The President on down (phonetic) have said that the lifting of sanctions will come with attaining that goal. That’s not to say that we can’t continue to talk with the North Koreans and that there aren’t other areas we can explore outside of the lifting of sanctions that can potentially advance all the Singapore commitments the two leaders made, but there has absolutely been no difference in — or distinction in the U.S. policy on denuclearization. I will say that I have — I am acutely aware that I inherited a portfolio that for 25 years has been mired in political disagreements, in policy differences and also has a fairly miserable record of achievement. We started this diplomacy with North Korea with the agreed framework in the early 1990s and one can debate why each subsequent initiative failed and who was at fault, but you can’t deny the outcome. … MS. COOPER: Okay. What do the North Koreans mean when they say close Yongbyon? There is some confusion about what exactly that might mean. I mean you had working level talks in Hanoi before Trump arrived. How do you think that — do you — do both sides agree on what exactly, do both sides have a clear understanding of what exactly that means? MR. BIEGUN: So we have no agreement to close Yongbyon. Let me just state that upfront. So there is no agreed approach to anything related to Yongbyon at present. But that’s a good question and it’s the right question you asked, because Yongbyon can be many different things. MS. COOPER: Yes. MR. BIEGUN: Yongbyon in the 2008 declaration as part of the six-party talks was a plutonium reactor and a plutonium reprocessing facility. We also know that at — over the course of that decade that the North Koreans had developed a undeclared highly enriched uranium capability at Yongbyon. And so obviously the production of fissile material at Yongbyon comes from both a uranium facility as well as a plutonium facility, both of which are usable in the development of nuclear weapons. The Yongbyon is much more than that too. Yongbyon is a whole industrial complex involved in the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapons development in North Korea. Consists of dozens if not hundreds of facilities spread across a large area that is generically referred to as Yongbyon. What we’re asking the North Koreans to do in the process of denuclearization is to eliminate all dimensions of the nuclear fuel cycle and the nuclear weapons program. And so our definition of Yongbyon would be quite expansive. In our discussions with the North Koreans — I won’t go into every detail of how they have chosen to describe Yongbyon, but let me just say, you know, in general it’s been shifting. Things like this are why 11 it is so important that in the denuclearization process you also have an accompanying declaration. We need to agree on the definition of the North Korean weapons programs. We can begin some elements of the denuclearization before that declaration is complete. In the case of the 2008 declaration it took approximately 9 months to generate it. And if the North Koreans are willing to proceed immediately with steps to begin addressing elements of their weapons of mass destruction program, we won’t hold up for that. But we do have to have a complete declaration. An industrial site like Yongbyon 1 illustrates exactly why it’s so important that we agree 2 on the full set of capabilities and also the hold — 3 what they hold as a consequence of their complex of 4 weapons of mass destruction. … MS. COOPER: Okay. Some of the reporting that came out of Hanoi suggested that we’ve now added chemical and biological weapons developments at the table in the negotiations, have we? And again this again gets back to the whole moving the goal post thing that we keep — I keep harping on? MR. BIEGUN: Yeah. So since the day I arrived and adopted this portfolio, the effort to bring a more permanent peace to the Korean Peninsula has involved the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. It would hardly make sense to remove the threat of nuclear weapons from North Korea and endorse the continued presence of chemical and biological weapons. It would be unacceptable to us, it would be unacceptable to North Korea’s neighbors, including Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. But also it — to suggest it’s moving the goal post is in defiance of the factual history of the issue of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs. If you read the UN Security Council resolutions, they are as pointed on the issues of chemical and biological weapons as they are on nuclear weapons. And ultimately the process of final fully verified denuclearization is to set the antecedent for the lifting of those sanctions. Those sanctions, which are international sanctions imposed unanimously by the UN Security Council would also look to the elimination of biological and chemical weapons programs as part of the complete process that we’re undertaking. So this issue is one that we’ve discussed with the North Koreans, it is not new, and it would be a very serious oversight on our part to leave any weapons of mass destruction out of the equation if we truly are going to be successful in transforming the Korean Peninsula in order to have a much more peaceful and engaged relationship, not only between the United States and North Korea, but between North Korea and all of its neighbors. You know, Helene, we talk a lot about the challenges of the diplomacy, about the need to decipher opaque messages that are sent to us and also about the complexities that are involved in this process which generically is called denuclearization, but really is the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. But I also think we need to focus just as much on the positive possibilities too. The diplomatic engagement between the United States and North Korea since June of last year has not been without its results. Yes, the President has frequently cited the moratorium the North Koreans have on nuclear missile tests as well as the partial dismantlement of Sohae and Tongchang or Tongchang-ri as it’s called and also Punggye-ri. And while these steps aren’t permanent and irreversible as the news accounts for the last few days have sent us, they also are not inconsequential entirely. They offer some insight into the direction that we believe North Korea is willing to take. And what we need to see them do is go further down the road. But outside that there has been much else as well. The United States is more engaged with North Korea diplomatically right now than we have been in the past decade. We are deeply engaged in a regularized contact that I laid out a little bit in my framing remarks upfront. And the North Koreans are also involved in outreach with their neighbors, with China, with a halting discussion with Japan, and with South Korea. And the South Koreans and the North Koreans are working very closely also to try to lower hostilities on the Korean Peninsula and create an opening for the full vision that President Trump laid out at Singapore to come fruition. I have traveled recently to the demilitarized zone in North Korea. The demilitarized zone was affected by a number of confidence-building measures that were negotiated between Chairman Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea late last year in consultation with the United Nations Command and the U.S. Forces Korea. They’ve done a number of — taken a number of steps around the demilitarized zone in order to lower tensions. The elimination of all weapons has been implemented in the joint security area around Panmunjom village. It’s a remarkable thing. And for those of you who are in Korea or have the opportunity to visit the DMZ, I would strong commend it. I think some of the details are still being worked out in the final arrangements in the DMZ. I had heard from someone recently that it’s not so easy to travel there until all the remaining issues are implemented around this set of agreements. But I was able to visit. And I’ll tell you, just palpable difference from anything I’ve seen since I first visited the DMZ in 1988. Over those 31 years we have gone from a feeling of two armies brisling with weapons poised on a very narrow buffer on the Korean Peninsula to a more calm and orderly and engagement. There is regular communications between the North, South, and between — and with the UN Command in the DMZ. You know these are not inconsequential changes that have taken place on the Korean Peninsula. So as we focus on the urgency of this particular issue or the crisis or potential crisis du jour, I think we also need to step back and realize that over the past 8 months President Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea and South Korea’s diplomacy with North Korea have created space for many constructive things to happen. And while we’re a long way away from where we need to be, and as I said at the beginning of my remarks, we’re not nearly as far long on denuclearization as I would have hoped we are. You know, we’re making progress. We’re still engaged diplomatically, the door remains open, the President was emphatic on this point coming out of the Hanoi summit. The conversations were constructive. They ended without an agreement, but they didn’t end badly. And so I don’t want to lose sight of the positives in this environment as we focused on the particular issues or controversies or semantics of the moment. MS. COOPER: That’s a lovely wrap-up. … But in the meantime, you brought up steps that we’ve taken, one of them, you know, I couldn’t sit here as a Pentagon reporter and not ask you about the suspension, the continued suspension of military exercises with — between the United States and South Korea in the peninsula. President Trump himself has called them expensive and provocative. How do you see this continued suspension playing part or — what kind of role do you think that this continues to put in your negotiations? You know the people at the Pentagon don’t like this. MR. BIEGUN: Yeah. So what the President said is — and this is a unilateral policy, but the President is committed to it, it is that he has suspended major joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea and — or as he would refer to them as war games. And that remains the policy. The President reaffirmed it from the podium — MS. COOPER: The war games thing really got them at the Pentagon because they really don’t like that. MR. BIEGUN: The President reaffirmed that point from the podium in Hanoi when he did his press conference. But I will also say that I think the Pentagon has done a fantastic job of working within the parameters of that policy — MS. COOPER: Because we continue to do the military exercises, we just don’t call them that. MR. BIEGUN: To make sure we do the necessary military training that any responsible decision-maker at the Pentagon would want to undertake. You know, we do — militaries have to train. We have 28,500 U.S. soldiers on the Korean Peninsula and they need to be prepared always to defend the mission that’s been assigned to them. … My job from the Department of State is to give them the diplomacy they deserve. General Robert Abrams, our commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the head of United Nations Command, his job is to make sure they’re ready. President’s job is to set the policy for the United States of America. And the President has done that clearly, unambiguously. And notwithstanding what you’re hearing, my view is that he’s fully supported by his advisors and that they have within the parameters of that developed an approach to training our forces that is acceptable. So, you know, I think we’re in a good place. … MS. COOPER: Kay Huyen (phonetic). “You mentioned that the U.S. despite not being open to incremental denuclearization is open to pursuing confidence-building measures. Could you give a few examples of these confidence-building measures?” MR. BIEGUN: The — certainly we’re very interested in getting inspectors into North Korea. And as part of that we’re going to need some sort of permanent liaison with the North Koreans in order to be able to look out for the welfare and the rights of our people who are there. You’ve heard the President in fact at the summit in Hanoi, there was an exchange in front of the cameras between President Trump and Chairman Kim on this very issue. We’re not there yet, we’re not able to establish a liaison office, but this is just one that’s been mentioned in public. There are a lot of other initiatives that we have discussed in private with the North Koreans that I would be loathed to lay out in public because they are the subject of private discussions and negotiations between us. But we’ve discussed a lot of ideas and we will continue to engage with them diplomatically to see if there is an opportunity to engage and reach agreement on some of these. … ” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, A Conversation with U.S. Special Representative Stephen Biegun, 2019 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, March 11, 2019)

Samore: “This article assesses the significance of dismantling nuclear facilities at Yongbyon for constraining North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities. Reportedly, North Korea has not yet specified exactly which facilities in Yongbyon would be dismantled. It may seek to spare some facilities to employ scientists and continue civilian operations, such as radioisotope production. For the sake of simplicity, in this article, I assume that a dismantlement deal will include all the major nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, including the 5 MWe gas-graphite reactor and related reprocessing facility, the IRT-2000 Soviet-supplied research reactor and related hot cells, the 25 MWe experimental light water reactor (under construction), the gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility and (suspected) Lithium-6 enrichment facility, as well as related fuel cycle facilities for conversion and fuel fabrication. In addition, any spent fuel that has not been reprocessed would be removed. There are three central uncertainties in evaluating the significance of dismantling Yongbyon. The first uncertainty concerns plutonium. Dismantling the 5 MWe reactor and reprocessing facility at Yongbyon and disposing of any spent fuel would eliminate North Korea’s only known source for producing additional plutonium. However, the impact of capping plutonium supplies on the number and type of nuclear weapons in North Korea’s arsenal is difficult to determine. If plutonium is an essential requirement for North Korea’s thermonuclear weapons (presumably the device tested in September 2017), then the limit on plutonium supplies would limit the number of such weapons in North Korea’s arsenal to the quantity of plutonium on hand divided by the amount of plutonium used per weapon. For example, if the total amount of available plutonium is 20 to 40 kilograms and 4 to 6 kilograms of plutonium are required for each weapon, then the total arsenal would be in the range of 3 to 10 thermonuclear weapons. Of course, this is a rough estimate because the total quantity of plutonium available and the amount used in each weapon is not publicly known. If, however, North Korea manufactures thermonuclear weapons without using plutonium, then the limit on plutonium supplies would not prevent North Korea from building additional thermonuclear weapons as long as additional supplies of weapons-grade uranium are available. For advanced nuclear weapons states, plutonium is the material of choice for thermonuclear weapons to reduce size and weight, but thermonuclear weapons can also be made entirely with weapons-grade uranium. It is necessary to know the details of North Korea’s thermonuclear weapons design to determine the significance of ceasing plutonium production in North Korea. The second uncertainty involves tritium. Tritium gas is widely used in modern nuclear weapons to increase yield for a given quantity of fissile material (plutonium or weapons-grade uranium) in fission weapons. This technique is also used to reduce the overall weight and size of nuclear warheads. Because tritium has a short half-life of 12.3 years, a source of fresh supply is necessary to maintain the gas charge in a “boosted” fission device. Tritium is commonly produced by irradiating Lithium-6 targets in a nuclear reactor and then separating the tritium in a radiochemical laboratory. However, tritium can also be produced in a linear accelerator or even purchased in small quantities on the open market because tritium is used for a variety of non-nuclear civilian uses. With respect to North Korea, dismantling the 5 MWe reactor and the IRT-2000 and associated radiochemical facilities would certainly eliminate the most obvious sources for tritium production. However, it would not necessarily prevent North Korea from acquiring or producing additional tritium, for example, from a linear accelerator (if one exists in North Korea). In any event, the importance of tritium to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program depends on whether North Korea uses tritium gas in its more advanced fission and fusion weapons. Tritium gas is not essential for thermonuclear weapons or even boosting. The final uncertainty—and the most important—concerns enriched uranium. Dismantlement of the enrichment facility at Yongbyon would not prevent North Korea from continuing to produce weapons-grade uranium at undeclared enrichment facilities outside Yongbyon; without knowing the output capacity of its enrichment facility relative to the capacity of undeclared enrichment facilities, it is not possible to calculate the significance of ending enrichment at the site. For example, if its enrichment facility represents a small fraction of North Korea’s overall enrichment capability, then shutting it down would not substantially reduce North Korea’s ability to produce additional nuclear weapons. Even if the enrichment plant there represents a more significant portion of North Korea’s overall enrichment capacity, dismantling the plant would have little long-term effect if North Korea is free to increase its capacity at undeclared enrichment facilities. In sum, determining the significance of dismantling nuclear facilities at Yongbyon requires detailed knowledge about the design and construction of North Korea’s more advanced nuclear weapons, as well as accurate information about the country’s entire enrichment complex, both within and outside Yongbyon. This information is not publicly available. In a worst-case scenario, dismantlement of Yongbyon might have no effect on the North’s ability to produce additional thermonuclear weapons; alternatively, dismantling the complex might prevent or limit further production of thermonuclear weapons. In any event, North Korea could continue to produce weapons-grade uranium for additional fission weapons at undeclared enrichment facilities outside of the Yongbyon complex. At best, dismantlement of the Yongbyon enrichment plant could reduce the rate of production of fission weapons, but would not stop it. In my experience, North Koreans often begin negotiations by asking a very high price for a very small give on their part. If that initial offer is rejected, the North Koreans are not shy about coming back to the bargaining table to discuss proposals to give more and get less in return. Thus, the failure at Hanoi may turn out to be a prelude to a more realistic North Korean negotiating posture. On the American side, the proposal to eliminate all of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in a single grand bargain is obviously not achievable. Having experienced failure first hand, President Trump may be amenable to a more modest incremental process of denuclearization that would stretch out over many years. If so, US-DPRK negotiations are likely to focus on proposals to curtail or cease fissile material production in North Korea to “cap” or “freeze” its nuclear weapons arsenal, as a first step towards reduction and eventual elimination. The benefits of a US deal with the North to dismantle Yongbyon should not be dismissed, but they should also not be oversold. If the US decides to buy it, the administration shouldn’t pay too much for the prize. Washington needs to preserve as much bargaining leverage as possible to achieve a real freeze on fissile material production, which would require North Korea to allow international inspections to verify that secret facilities outside Yongbyon are shut down and dismantled. Equally important, the US should not allow North Korea to drag out the dismantlement of Yongbyon for years. Technically, the key facilities at Yongbyon can be “dismantled” (or rendered virtually unrepairable) within months, using various inelegant shortcuts that would probably not be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. During this period of dismantlement, US and DPRK negotiators should try to hammer out the difficult and intrusive measures necessary to verify a comprehensive freeze on fissile material production, including a North Korean declaration of its secret fissile material production facilities. In other words, a deal to dismantle Yongbyon could begin a process that would eventually lead to the more technically significant step of shutting down and dismantling all of North Korea’s fissile material production facilities. Ideally, an agreement to dismantle Yongbyon would be part of a bigger package that includes the next step of implementing a comprehensive freeze and effective verification system within a specific time frame. The package would also have to specify the additional measures that the US will take once a comprehensive freeze has been implemented, such as further sanctions relief and steps towards normalizing political and economic relations with the US. Finally, a bigger diplomatic package needs to include North Korean agreement that a freeze on fissile material production is a first step towards reduction and elimination of its entire nuclear and missile program and forces. Correspondingly, the US should not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state but should continue to work towards achieving peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Obviously, the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea won’t happen any time soon. The country has had a nuclear weapons program for over 30 years and probably nuclear weapons for over a decade; Pyongyang has spent billions of dollars to develop these capabilities while exacting tremendous sacrifices from the North Korean people. It won’t give them up quickly or easily—and certainly not until it stops seeing the US as a threat to its survival. The strategy, therefore, should be to impose as many limits as possible on North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities and establish a long-term political process that might eventually create the conditions for disarmament by fundamentally transforming the US-DPRK relationship. In the meantime, the US and its allies will need to maintain a strong mutual defense of South Korea to deter North Korean use of both conventional and nuclear weapons and to prevent South Korea and Japan from deciding to build their own nuclear weapons.” (Gary Samore, “How Significant Is the Dismantlement of Yongbyon?” 38 North, March 11, 2019)


3/4-12/19:
South Korea and the United States wrapped up their new, weeklong combined defense exercise on March 12, amid worries that the apparent downsizing of their springtime drills could hurt military readiness. The allies launched the Dong Maeng command post exercise on Monday last week, replacing the Key Resolve exercise to support ongoing diplomacy to denuclearize North Korea and foster lasting peace on the divided peninsula. Dong Maeng is the Korean word for alliance. The computer simulation exercise was half the duration of the usually two-week Key Resolve. It apparently focused on bolstering the combined defense capabilities with a counterattack portion of its predecessor removed. The exercise involved members from the South Korean defense ministry, Joint Chiefs of Staff and operations commands of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and those from the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea and Indo-Pacific Command. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. Wrap up Joint Exercise,” March 12, 2019)


3/12/19:
UN sanctions monitors are investigating Kim Jong Un’s luxury purchases of a Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz limousines and Lexus four-wheel-drive vehicles rolled out during the North Korean leader’s recent international meetings, the head of the panel told AFP Tuesday. Kim drew the attention of sanctions experts when he turned up at a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang in October in a brand-new Rolls-Royce Phantom limousine. At the Singapore summit with President Donald Trump in June, Kim’s entourage was ferried in a fleet of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars, none of which had license plates. And a number of Lexus LX570 all-wheel drive luxury vehicles were used by the North Korean delegation at an inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang in September. “The North Koreans procure what they want. They get the best when they need it,” said Hugh Griffiths, who for the past five years has been the coordinator of the UN panel of experts investigating sanctions-busting by North Korea. The sale of luxury goods including high-end cars, yachts and jewelry to North Korea has been banned since 2013, and the list of lavish items has been extended in subsequent sanctions resolutions. The use of the swanky, expensive cars at summits was seen as a brazen display by Kim of his defiance of international sanctions, at a time when North Korea has appealed for UN help to deal with food shortages. “Violating sanctions is bad behavior and such obvious violations at international events aren’t helpful, in my view, for enforcing of sanctions,” Griffiths said. “You don’t want to make a mockery of the sanctions.” The UN panel released a report today that detailed highly-sophisticated evasion tactics used by North Korea to circumvent the sweeping sanctions imposed for its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. After providing Rolls-Royce with photos of the Phantom, the company said it appeared to have been produced between 2012 and 2017 at its British plant in Goodwood, the report said. The investigation continues to determine how the Phantom, listed at a price of about $450,000 in car trade publications, was shipped to Pyongyang. The fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles was sent from a U.S. port in California to Hong Kong at the direction of a Chinese businessman, George Ma, whose company Seajet has ties to North Korea’s Air Koryo national airline. Asked about the Lexus vehicles, Toyota told the panel that it had not exported them to North Korea and that the vehicles probably were bought through back channels. Despite the loopholes, Griffiths said the sanctions — the most comprehensive imposed on any country by the Security Council — had put Kim “in a box” and forced him to expend major efforts to circumvent the restrictions. “They are getting around them, but it’s not sustainable,” said Griffiths, who will be leaving his post next month. One of North Korea’s key weapons in battling sanctions is its fleet of vessels, which have been renamed, placed under foreign flags and disguised to avoid detection of illegal cargo. Pyongyang has been able to continue selling banned commodities such as coal and to secure deliveries of fuel through ship-to-ship transfers in international waters, according to the panel’s findings. “It’s crazy what is happening in international waters now. It’s essentially anarchy,” said Griffiths. The panel has recommended that governments put pressure on commodity traders, insurers, flag-states and global banks to keep closer watch over vessels used in sanctions-busting. (Carol Landry, “UN Says North Korea Violated Sanctions with Luxury Vehicles,” AFP, March 12, 2019)

The list of members elected to the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) was announced on the sate-run Korean Central Television broadcast, this afternoon, two days after a nationwide election. A total of 678 deputies have been elected, one from each constituency. Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s sister and first director of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), was elected to constituency No. 5 in the capital Pyongyang’s Mangyongdae district, considered the home neighborhood of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung. Kim Yo-jong has been assisting her brother on the country’s diplomatic stage with South Korea as well as with the U.S. The North’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, who played an active part behind the scenes of the Hanoi summit between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump, were elected as SPA members for the first time. Other diplomatic figures newly elected to the SPA included Ri Su-yong and Kim Yong-chol, vice chairmen of the WPK central committee, as well as North Korea’s ambassador to the United States Kim Song, and Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. According to an analysis of the North’s election results by the South’s Ministry of Unification, Tuesday, 50 percent of the SPA members have been replaced. The ministry said it was noteworthy that Kim Jong-un’s name was off the list. “This is the first time since the foundation of the North Korean regime that the country’s leader has not been named as a member of the Supreme People’s Assembly,” the ministry said. “Further observation is needed to figure out the specific situation behind it.” (Jung Da-min, “North Korea Gives Senior Diplomats Supreme Assembly Seats,” Korea Times, March 13, 2019)


3/13/19:
For the first time since 2007, Japan will not take part in the submission of a draft joint resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses to a U.N. panel, the government said, in a conciliatory gesture apparently aimed at convincing Pyongyang to hold talks with Tokyo. The turnaround reflects Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s desire to settle the issue of Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese nationals — a top priority of his administration, according to government sources. Tokyo has jointly presented such a motion with the European Union to the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council for the last 11 years. “We have reached this decision based on a comprehensive examination of the outcome of the second U.S.-North Korean summit and the situations surrounding the abduction and other issues” related to the North, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide told a news conference. “There is no change in (Japan’s) stance to closely work together with the international community, including the United States, and fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions” imposed over the North’s nuclear and missile programs, the top government spokesman said. The decision “would not hamper Japan’s effort to keep in step with the international society” and Tokyo will continue to urge Pyongyang to improve its human rights situation, Suga added. Trump has said he raised the abduction issue in the meeting with Kim, but the official newspaper of North Korea’s Workers’ Party slammed Abe for asking the U.S. president to take up the issue. The Foreign Ministry has told senior lawmakers of the ruling bloc comprising Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its partner, Komeito, that Tokyo’s softer position on Pyongyang at the U.N. committee would signal its intention to resume bilateral talks, especially when the North has shown signs of being nervous over international criticism of its human rights record, the sources said. Abe’s government hopes to alleviate concerns among ruling bloc members and conservative supporters over the softening of its policy by stressing its resolve to make progress on the long-standing issue, they said. Whether this strategy will work as Tokyo wishes, he said, remains to be seen. In a meeting with Abe yesterday, Chimura Yasushi, 63, who was repatriated in 2002 along with his wife after both were abducted in 1978, urged the prime minister to settle the issue through direct talks with Kim. Tokyo officially recognizes 17 citizens as having been kidnapped by North Korea and suspects the country’s involvement in many more disappearances. Among them, five, including the Chimuras, returned to Japan in 2002 after Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro held talks with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang earlier that year. Abe accompanied Koizumi as deputy chief Cabinet secretary. (Kyodo, “Japan to Opt out of U.N. Motion Condemning North Korea’s Rights Abuses in Apparent Bid for Talks on Abductions,” Japan Times, March 13, 2019)

Days before President Trump was set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, a mysterious incident in Spain threatened to derail the entire high-stakes nuclear summit. In broad daylight, masked assailants infiltrated North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, tied up the staff, stole computers and mobile phones, and fled the scene in two luxury vehicles. The group behind the late February operation is known as Cheollima Civil Defense, a secretive dissident organization committed to overthrowing the Kim dynasty, people familiar with the planning and execution of the mission told the Washington Post. The group’s alleged role in the attack has not previously been reported, and officials from the governments of North Korea, the United States and Spain declined to comment on it. But in recent days, rumors about the motivations behind the attack have swirled in the Spanish media, including a report in El Pais alleging that two of the masked assailants have ties to the CIA. People familiar with the incident say the group did not act in coordination with any governments. U.S. intelligence agencies would have been especially reluctant to be involved, given the sensitive timing and brazen nature of the mission. But the raid represents the most ambitious operation to date for an obscure organization that seeks to undermine the North Korean regime and encourage mass defections, they say. “This group is the first known resistance movement against North Korea, which makes its activities very newsworthy,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at Tufts University. Any hint of U.S. involvement in an assault on a diplomatic compound could have derailed the talks, a prospect of which the CIA would likely be mindful. “Infiltrating a North Korean embassy days before the nuclear summit would throw that all into jeopardy,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former Korea analyst at the CIA. “This is not something the CIA would undertake.” The agency declined to comment. According to Spanish media reports, the assailants tied up the embassy staff with rope, put hoods over their heads and asked them questions. They spoke in Korean and appeared to be Asian. More than an hour into the raid, a woman reportedly escaped, and her screams for help alerted a neighbor, who contacted police. When authorities arrived at the embassy, a man opened the door and told them there was no problem. Moments later, the embassy gates opened, and the assailants dashed out to two embassy cars and sped away, according to local reports. The vehicles were found abandoned on a nearby street. Though the incident has attracted a flurry of Spanish media attention, no police reports were filed by the embassy or the victims, according to the reports. Experts say the computers and phones seized in the raid contain a treasure trove of information that foreign intelligence agencies are likely to seek out from the group. “It could have contacts and documents related to North Korea’s efforts to bypass sanctions and import luxury goods from Europe, which was one of the key assignments for Kim Hyok Chol, the former North Korean ambassador to Spain,” Lee said. Recently, Kim Hyok Chol was reassigned as North Korea’s point man for the nuclear negotiations with the United States, making any information about his previous activities especially coveted by foreign governments looking to gain an edge in the negotiations. The assailants also possess a video recording they took during the raid, which they could release anytime, said one person who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive and illegal operation. The Cheollima group, which also goes by the name Free Joseon, drew attention in 2017 after it successfully evacuated the nephew of Kim Jong Un from Macau when potential threats to his life surfaced. The nephew was the son of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s exiled half-brother who was assassinated in a nerve-gas attack in a Malaysian airport that same year. Kim Jong Nam was widely believed to have been killed by the regime, making his son a likely target. Members of the Cheollima group transported Kim Han Sol out of Macau with the help of the governments of the United States, China and the Netherlands, which provided travel and visa assistance, the group told the Wall Street Journal in 2017. For safety reasons, the leader of the group does not disclose his name, and his identity is known only to a small group of people. In March, the group published a manifesto calling on North Koreans inside and outside the country to resist Pyongyang in ways big and small. “To those within the system who hear this declaration: We call on you to defy your oppressors. Challenge them openly or resist them quietly,” the declaration said. “To those of like-mind and like-spirit of our diaspora: We call upon you to join our revolution.” Since the attack on the embassy in Spain, the group has asserted responsibility for the defacing of the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, on March 11. Authorities said four men who wore hats and masks painted the graffiti. The group has not claimed responsibility for the raid in Madrid. “In its messaging, the group said they have formed a provisional government to replace the regime in Pyongyang,” said Terry, who is a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They have now shown the seriousness of their intent and some capabilities to carry out operations. We will see in the coming months the extent of their capabilities.” (John Hudson, “N. Korean Dissidents Allegedly Raided Embassy in Madrid,” Washington Post, March 16, 2019, p. A-6)


3/15/19:
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media, including The Associated Press, in Pyongyang said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump. She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation.” Choe said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the U.S. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust was created by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate. Even so, she said personal relations between the two leaders are still good “and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.” She said it was entirely up to Kim whether to continue the launch and test moratorium, and said she expects he will “clarify his position” within a short period of time. “On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said. ‘For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?'” she said. “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger. We have neither the intention to compromise with the U.S. in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.” Choe questioned the claim by Trump at a news conference after the talks in Hanoi broke down that the North was seeking the lifting of all sanctions against it, and said it was seeking only the ones that are directed at its civilian economy. Choe said it was the U.S. that was being too demanding and inflexible and called the demand that denuclearization come before sanctions are eased “an absurd sophism.” She added that while South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to help bring the U.S. and North Korea together to talk, the South is “a player, not an arbiter” because it is an ally of Washington. She said even though the people, military and officials of the munitions industry have sent Kim thousands of petitions to never give up the nuclear program, he went to Hanoi to build trust and carry out mutually agreed commitments “one by try and step by step.” “What is clear is that the U.S. has thrown away a golden opportunity this time,” she said. “I’m not sure why the U.S. came out with this different description. We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety.” “This time we understood very clearly that the United States has a very different calculation to ours,” she added. She refused to comment directly when asked by one of the ambassadors about news reports the North may be preparing for another missile launch or satellite launch. “Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission,” she said, using one of Kim’s titles. “He will make his decision in a short period of time.” (Eric Talmadge, “N. Korean Official: Kim Rethinking U.S. Talks, Launch Moratorium,” Associated Press, March 15, 2019) North Korea threatened to suspend negotiations with the Trump administration over the North’s nuclear arms program and said its leader, Kim Jong-un, would soon decide whether to resume nuclear and missile tests. Addressing diplomats and foreign correspondents at a news conference in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said that personal relations between Kim and Trump were “still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.” But she said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, rump’s national security adviser, had created an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust” that thwarted the top leaders’ negotiations in Hanoi, Vietnam, last month. After the Hanoi meeting ended without a deal, the North Korean leader had serious doubts about the merits of continuing negotiations with Trump, Ms. Choe said. “We have neither the intention to compromise with the U.S. in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation,” said Choe, according a report from Pyongyang by The Associated Press. She also said the North might end its self-imposed moratorium on tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. “Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission,” she said. “He will make his decision in a short period of time.” The office of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, who did much to broker the talks between the North and the United States, said it was closely monitoring the situation. “Whatever the situation, our government will try its best to help resume North Korea-US. negotiations,” it said in a statement. North Korea insisted, as it has before, on moving in phases. In Hanoi, Kim offered to dismantle the plutonium, uranium-enrichment and other facilities at its Yongbyon site, north of Pyongyang, and demanded that Washington in return lift crucial sanctions that have been imposed on the North since 2016. Trump rejected the offer, demanding more substantial steps toward denuclearization. North Korea is widely believed to run at least one other uranium-enrichment plant outside Yongbyon, as well as keeping other elements of its nuclear program in secret locations around the mountainous country. Officials from both countries have said that North Korea asked the United States at the Hanoi talks to lift five rounds of sanctions that have been imposed since May 2016. American officials are concerned that pulling back from major sanctions would diminish their leverage over North Korea, and at least one official has said that the North would use any new revenue to subsidize its nuclear weapons program. United Nations sanctions currently ban all of the North’s key exports, including coal, and drastically cut back its fuel imports. By avoiding direct criticism of Trump and blaming the Hanoi talks’ breakdown mainly on his aides, Choe appeared to signal that North Korea still hoped Trump might soften Washington’s position. “On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said, ‘For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?’” Choe said, according to A.P. “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger.” She said the United States had thrown away “a golden opportunity” in Hanoi, adding that the North was no longer interested in negotiating unless Washington changed its “political calculation.” (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Threatens to Scuttle Talks with U.S. and Resume Tests,” New York Times, March 15, 2019) President Donald Trump was open to easing sanctions on North Korea provided there was a ‘snapback’ clause if the North restarted nuclear activities, according to South Korean media reports of a North Korean statement. The new statement from a March 15 news conference by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said Trump had a “flexible position” on the issue during his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton “created an obstacle”, South Korean news agencies Yonhap and Newsis reported late on March 25. The second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi broke down without resolution but North Korea has continued to speak positively about Trump. Choe said relations between the two leaders were still good and that “the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful”, according to news reports from the media conference in Pyongyang. News reports at the time did not mention Choe saying Trump had been flexible about easing sanctions on North Korea provided there was a ‘snapback’ clause. There was no explanation for the apparent omission. (Joyce Lee, “North Korea Says Trump Was Open to Easing Sanctions with ‘Snapback’ Clause: South Korean Media,” Reuters, March 25, 2019) President Donald Trump was open to easing sanctions on North Korea at last month’s summit with Kim Jong-un, but was thwarted by his top aides, according to a senior Pyongyang official. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui made the remarks at a press conference in the North Korean capital on March 15, which was widely reported on for her threat to abandon denuclearization negotiations with the U.S. Yonhap obtained a copy of her opening remarks. “When we tabled a realistic proposal, President Trump was of the flexible position that a deal could be possible if it contained a reference to the fact that sanctions removal would be reversible in the event that North Korea resumed nuclear activities,” she said. The vice foreign minister continued that a “meaningful outcome” was not reached because U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton “created an obstacle in the constructive negotiation efforts of the two leaders with extant hostility and mistrust.” Choe’s accusations against Pompeo and Bolton were previously reported and subsequently denied by both men. If Trump’s alleged openness to a “snapback” clause is true, it could explain his decision last week to hold back on additional sanctions on North Korea. Choe also claimed that Kim has tried to negotiate with the U.S. despite “much opposition and challenge” within his own country. “Our people, and especially our military and munitions industry, are writing thousands of petition letters to our State Affairs Commission Chairman Comrade to urge against giving up our nuclear (program) at any cost,” she said. (Yonhap, “Trump Was Open to Easing Sanctions at Summit: N.K. Official,” March 25, 2019)

Pompeo: “MR PALLADINO: We have time — the Secretary has time for a few questions. Let’s go to Associated Press, Matt. … Q: Just very briefly on the ICC decision, are you doing this today because they haven’t closed or dropped the pending Afghanistan investigation or is there some other reason? And then secondly, I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to see and if you could respond to what the North Korean deputy foreign minister said overnight about the U.S. giving up a golden opportunity by walking away in Hanoi and blaming you personally and Ambassador Bolton for creating this atmosphere of hostility. POMPEO: … I did have a chance to see the remarks overnight from Choe Son-hui. In Singapore, after a great deal of work, the two leaders came together and began a course of action which has led to the toughest sanctions that have existed against North Korea — global sanctions, UN Security Council resolution sanctions that remain in effect. The demands of those sanctions are the complete denuclearization of North Korea, the missiles, the weapons systems, the entire WMD program. That’s the requirement laid out by the United Nations Security Council. The two leaders met. Chairman Kim made a commitment to denuclearize. We continued to work between Singapore and Hanoi to deliver on that. We’ve had hostages return. We have them having stopped missile testing and nuclear testing. We are hopeful that we can continue to have conversation, negotiations. I saw the remarks that she made. She left open the possibility that negotiations would continue for sure. It’s the administration’s desire that we continue to have conversations around this. As the President said when he was in Hanoi, the offer that they made simply didn’t rise to the level that was acceptable given what they were asking for in exchange for that. MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to BBC, Barbara. Q: Just a quick follow-up on North Korea: What’s the next step, then? Because there has also — she also hinted that Kim Jong-un would make a statement possibly lifting the moratorium on tests. And then secondly, if I could on Golan, the human rights ambassador said on Wednesday that removing the word “occupation” or “occupied” from the Golan and the West Bank was not a policy change, but we know that Israel is afraid of Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan, so in your view, does that strengthen the Israeli case for annexing the occupied bit? POMPEO: So I don’t have anything to add about the change in language that we used. It was characterized properly. There is a real risk. The proxies that are in the region, in southern Syria and in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, are presenting risk to the Israelis, and we’ve made clear the Israelis have a right to defend themselves. With respect to what was said last night about Chairman Kim potentially considering ending the moratorium, I can say only this: In Hanoi, on multiple occasions, he spoke directly to the President and made a commitment that he would not resume nuclear testing, nor would he resume missile testing. So that’s Chairman Kim’s word. We have every expectation that he will live up to that commitment. MR PALLADINO: CNN, Michelle. Q: Thanks. This week — on North Korea again — the State Department has said that talks have continued with North Korea. On what level have they continued? POMPEO: Yeah, I’m not going to talk about the negotiations. They’re ongoing. … MR PALLADINO: Last question. Washington Post, Carol Morello. Q: Sir, do you think the attacks on you personally made by the North Koreans will hamper your ability to continue negotiations or do you think you’re going to have to pull back in some way? Because they clearly are accusing — clearly, they flatly accused you of creating an atmosphere of mistrust and hostility. POMPEO: Yeah. Well first, they’re wrong about that, and — I was there. I have — my relationship with Kim Yong-chol is professional. We have detailed conversations. I expect that we will continue to do that. He’s the counterpart that the North Koreans have put forward for me. It’s not the first time — I have a vague recollection of being called “gangster-like” from a visit that I took one time previously, and following that we continued to have very professional conversations where we tried our best to work together and represent our respective sides. I have every expectation that we’ll be able to continue to do that.” (DoS, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Remarks to the Press, Press Briefing Room, Washington, March 15, 2019)

President Trump’s claims that reduced tensions with North Korea resulting from his personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un demonstrated progress toward a nuclear deal were undercut today as Pyongyang lashed out at the administration’s “gangster-like” tactics and blamed his top aides for the failed summit last month. The threat came amid evidence that the regime had recently rebuilt a space-rocket and missile-launch site and raised doubts about the future of the negotiations. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui emphasized at a news conference in Pyongyang that the two leaders maintain a good relationship after the summit ended without a deal. And U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down tensions, responding in Washington that he expected that the two sides would continue “very professional conversations.” Yet behind the scenes, Trump aides have struggled to articulate a path to bridge the wide gaps between Washington’s demands that the North fully dismantle its nuclear weapons program and Pyongyang’s insistence that the United States ease punishing economic sanctions in exchange for incremental steps. In a private briefing in Washington this week, one White House official told foreign-policy analysts that Trump’s talks with Kim last month convinced the president that the regime is unwilling to surrender its nuclear program, said Sue Mi Terry, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who attended the briefing. “What he was saying is that everybody knew North Korea would not give up its nukes, but Trump was not sure,” she said. “And, most significantly, that Trump finally gets that fact, and it’s not easily solvable.” That realization throws into question Trump’s strategy of abandoning the precedent of past U.S. administrations that rejected presidential-level talks, choosing instead to engage in direct negotiations with Kim — without a clear road map for how a denuclearization process would work. Some foreign-policy experts suggested that the sharp language from Choe was typical of Pyongyang’s negotiating tactics and were aimed at winning leverage rather than scuttling talks. The vice minister accused Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, both of whom accompanied Trump to Hanoi, of creating an atmosphere of “hostility and mistrust,” but she did not directly criticize Trump. “The chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” Choe said of Kim and Trump’s relationship. Bolton called Choe’s characterization of the Hanoi talks “inaccurate,” while Pompeo noted that he had been the focus of North Korean umbrage after a trip he made to Pyongyang last July. U.S. officials said the president’s willingness to walk away without a deal would help empower the administration’s negotiating team, led by special envoy Stephen Biegun, who has been frustrated in working-level meetings with his counterparts in Pyongyang. During an appearance this week at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Biegun emphasized that the administration would not lift sanctions until the North completely dismantled its nuclear program and ballistic missiles. Asked whether Kim might resume missile testing after a 16-month moratorium, Biegun replied: “The short answer is: We don’t know. What Kim Jong Un will decide to do may very much be his decision and his decision alone.” Trump “indicated that nuclear and missile testing really is a red line. He basically said that as long as they’re not testing, he’s happy, even though behind the scenes they continue to perfect their arsenal,” said Bruce Klingner, a former U.S. intelligence official who is now a Northeast Asia analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. A test “certainly closes the book on diplomacy,” Klingner added. “I think the U.S. is trying to figure out where to go. The president is now less optimistic.” After returning from Hanoi, Trump aides sought to shore up political support, briefing lawmakers on Capitol Hill and other stakeholders and making the case that the president had showed his negotiating fortitude by holding a hard line on sanctions and being willing to walk away without a deal on his top foreign-policy initiative. At one briefing, according to one person in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting, Biegun told congressional staffers that the North Koreans were not creative in their thinking and did not appear to have a “plan B” after the United States rejected a proposal to lift most sanctions in return for the closure of some of the Yongbyon nuclear site, the country’s main production site for fissile materials. Yet Biegun also took pains to emphasize that he had not assumed his job until last fall, well after the first Trump-Kim summit, which some lawmakers and staffers interpreted as a signal that he felt he had inherited a difficult portfolio and did not want to be blamed for the breakdown in talks. “I honestly don’t know what they do next. I think this has devolved even from the week we sat down” for the briefing, said the person who was at Biegun’s briefing. “The more that Pyongyang is demonstrating its resolve and the more we make hardline statements that demonstrate our resolve, the harder it is to figure out how to get back to the negotiating table.” After the administration’s outreach efforts, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers offered public praise last week for Trump’s approach, affirming his decision to reject Pyongyang’s offer in Hanoi. But former U.S. officials who have negotiated with the North Koreans said the tougher rhetoric since the summit was evidence that the engagement process was showing signs of collapsing. “I worry this could all get worse before it gets better,” said Victor Cha, who served as a high-ranking Asia policy official in the George W. Bush administration. “There do not seem to be any tangible diplomatic pieces to pick up after Hanoi. They’ve both taken extreme positions.” (David Nakamura, “Path for Nuclear Talks Is Elusive as U.S.-N. Korea Tensions Mount,” Washington Post, March 16, 2019, p. A-6)

The past three weeks may have been the toughest of Moon Jae-in’s presidency. The centerpiece of the South Korean leader’s rule, rapprochement with North Korea, is in tatters after the breakdown of the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Opinion polls released this past week show his popularity falling to its lowest level since his inauguration nearly two years ago, while on Friday, North Korea threatened to pull out of negotiations with the United States entirely if Washington didn’t drop its “gangster-like” demands. Hours after the Hanoi summit broke down, Trump spoke to Moon by telephone and asked him to “play an active role as a mediator” by talking to Kim, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said. But if Moon’s skills as mediator have perhaps never been more in demand, his credibility as a neutral intermediary have seldom been more questioned. In the National Assembly last week, conservative opposition leader Na Kyung-won caused a furor by suggesting that Moon was embarrassing the nation by acting as “the chief spokesman of Kim Jong Un.” But the attacks have come not just from his domestic political foes, but also from Washington and the United Nations. Moon, a former human rights lawyer, has faced persistent criticism for downplaying North Korea’s abysmal human rights record in the interests of the peace process. Yesterday, the U.S. State Department said his government had put “direct and indirect” pressure on North Korean defector organizations to reduce their criticism of North Korea. “This pressure allegedly included, for example, the termination of 20 years’ funding support for the Association of North Korean defectors in December 2017, police blocking groups’ efforts to send leaflets into North Korea by balloon, and police visits to organizations and requests for information on financial and other administrative matters,” the State Department wrote in its annual human rights report. North Korean refugees were also reportedly asked “not to participate in public-speaking engagements that might be perceived as critical of the Moon administration’s engagement with North Korea,” the report said. Earlier in the week, a report by a U.N. panel of experts said Seoul should have informed the United Nations of the transfer of more than 300 tons of petroleum products to North Korea in 2018. Although the transfers were made to support inter-Korean engagement projects and were of no “economic value” to North Korea, the transaction should still have been reported to the United Nations’ sanctions committee, the report said, in what was an embarrassing oversight for a key U.S. ally. Moon has also been criticized for cozying up to Kim and failing to ask him tough questions — for example, about how Kim defines denuclearization — so as not to upset the talks process. But it seems that his efforts have not been entirely appreciated in Pyongyang, either. On Friday, North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, described South Korea as “a player, not an arbiter” because it is an ally of Washington, the Associated Press reported. To some extent, that’s a reflection of the difficult job Moon ­faces. “A South Korean progressive mediating between a Republican president and North Korean communists — that’s not easy,” said John Delury, an associate professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. Delury says there is no obvious next move for Trump and Kim, with neither wanting to lose face and both having to deal with hard-liners at home. In that sense, Moon might have the best hope of unlocking the impasse, perhaps by inviting Kim to visit Seoul, he argues. “I’m not overflowing with optimism, but he’ll try” to mediate, Delury said. “Who else will get Kim Jong Un back into play? They do seem to have a good relationship, and some level of trust is there.” Others are more skeptical. North Korea’s uncompromising behavior in recent weeks partly reflects the limits of Moon’s capacity to mediate, said Christopher Green, senior adviser for the Korean Peninsula at the International Crisis Group. That means “the praise heaped upon his diplomatic skill in 2018 was somewhat misplaced,” he said. With Moon’s reputation staked so heavily to the peace process, it is not surprising to see the impasse reflected in public opinion. The Realmeter polling agency said the drop in Moon’s approval rating, to 45 percent, was partly attributable to growing skepticism over North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization after the failure of the Hanoi summit. There have also been persistent reports of tensions between Seoul and Washington over Moon’s enthusiasm for fostering closer economic ties with North Korea, despite the lack of progress toward denuclearization. Chun Yung-woo, a South Korean conservative who represented his country in talks over North Korea’s nuclear program from 2006 to 2007, says Moon now needs to prove he is able not just to convey U.S. positions to Kim, but also to have a “candid discussion” and persuade Kim to do what needs to be done to get the dialogue process back on track. “If Washington believes President Moon and his administration are blind, and are only interested in marketing North Korea’s position, that their goal is to resume inter-Korean economic projects even at the expense of denuclearization — in short, if President Trump believes President Moon is on North Korea’s side — his role as a moderator will be constrained,” Chun said. Tong Zhao, a fellow at the ­Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, said it was “increasingly puzzling” to figure out what Moon really thinks — whether he really believes that Kim is willing to denuclearize, or is just playing along with the idea to achieve his own goal, ending the war that is technically not yet ended on the Korean Peninsula. Tong and others appear increasingly doubtful that Moon’s confidence-building approach is still the best way forward. “We have a lot of things going on and somebody has to take the helm, but I’m not sure that South Korea’s approach, which is continue with inter-Korean economic engagement, is the right answer,” said Jung H. Pak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies. (Simon Denyer, “Moon’s Credibility as U.S.-N. Korea Mediator Is on the Line,” Washington Post, March 17, 2019, p. A-20)


3/17/19:
North Korea is expected to accept an offer of talks from South Korea, but progress will depend on how much Seoul can do to persuade the United States to lower its demands in denuclearization talks with Pyongyang, experts said March 18. Yesterday, a high-ranking official of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said that it is time for South Korea to push for talks with North Korea amid mounting uncertainty following the breakdown of last month’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump. “We helped North Korea and the U.S sit down for talks last year, and through the June 12 Singapore summit (between the North and the U.S), President Trump helped us hold inter-Korean summits,” he told reporters on condition of anonymity. “It now appears to be inter-Korean talks’ turn,” he said. The official also said the so-called “all-or-nothing” strategy on North Korea should be reconsidered, apparently urging Washington to change its approach of focusing on reaching a big deal, in contrast to Pyongyang’s push for step-by-step denuclearization. (Koh Byung-joon, “N.K. Likely to Accept Seoul’s Dialogue Offer, But Can Seoul Deliver What Pyongyang Wants?” Yonhap, March 18, 2019)


3/18/19:
South Korea’s top diplomat said the United States wants a deal with North Korea on a “big picture” roadmap to get rid of its nuclear and missile programs. On the other hand, in the Hanoi talks held in late February, Pyongyang limited its immediate denuclearization steps to the Yongbyon nuclear complex, according to Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. “Both the U.S. and South Korea think that a comprehensive roadmap is necessary,” she said at a National Assembly session on her ministry’s affairs. “It appears that the U.S. took part in the summit with that position.” Asked to elaborate, the minister said it means starting the full-fledged denuclearization process with a “big picture” to deal with all elements related to North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities and capabilities. The U.S. maintains the stance that it will be able to lift sanctions on Pyongyang if complete denuclearization if achieved, she said. “Clearly, the time to discuss such a lifting of sanctions will come some day,” she added. “For that, it’s necessary to pull off slightly bolder denuclearization measures.” With a timetable in hand, the U.S. may be open to an incremental formula for the negotiation of details including methods of implementation, Kang said. In a report to lawmakers, Kang’s ministry earlier said Trump focused in Hanoi on clarifying the definition of denuclearization, freezing all weapons of mass destruction programs run by Pyongyang and crafting a roadmap. But Kim was more interested in striking a deal on measures Pyongyang can take “at the current stage,” it added. Kim’s approach reflects his country’s call for a step-by-step, action-for-action formula, versus Washington’s big deal scheme. But Trump’s plan does not mean North Korea won’t get anything if it does not agree to the “big picture,” Kang explained. “The U.S. stance is that the negotiation must come with the big picture in mind. It does not mean ‘all or nothing,'” she said. “A comprehensive deal comes first and then we can talk about going step by step. (Washington) has learned its lesson from past negotiations with Pyongyang that a one-by-one approach before anything else won’t work.” Kang, meanwhile, made clear that South Korea is a “core party concerned” in the denuclearization process and is apparently troubled by the Hanoi summit having ended with no breakthrough. “There’s no denying that we play an active role in (resolving) this problem directly linked to our national security and interest,” Kang emphasized. She said sending a special envoy to North Korea may be an option and also agreed with the view that holding another inter-Korean summit could be conducive to revitalizing denuclearization talks. Doubts have grown about South Korea’s role in the process. In recent weeks, South Korean officials have formally described Seoul’s role as that of “facilitator,” instead of using the words “mediator” or “arbiter.” North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui played down Seoul’s stature, reportedly saying it is just a “player, not an arbiter.” Speaking to some foreign reporters in Pyongyang last week, she was also quoted as saying Kim will decide soon whether to continue dialogue in consideration of Washington’s attitude. Seoul’s top nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, also said his nation is a “key player” in the push for denuclearization and lasting peace. Heading to Russia for consultations on North Korea, Lee said, “At this moment, I think, it’s important to have close consultations with other countries, join hands and resolve the problem.” He is scheduled to meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, who doubles as the country’s top nuclear negotiator, in St. Petersburg on Tuesday (local time). (Lee Chi-dong, “Minister: U.S. Seeks ‘Big Picture’ Master Plan to Handle N. Korea’s Nuclear, Missile Programs,” Yonhap, March 18, 2019)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States and North Korea are trying to get the “sequencing” right in talks to end the regime’s nuclear weapons program and open a brighter future for the country. Pompeo made the remark in an interview with KCMO, a radio station based in Mission, Kansas, his home state, in the wake of North Korea’s threat to abandon the talks. “I can’t say much about the details of the negotiation as those are important private conversations,” the top U.S. diplomat said, when asked about the failure to produce an agreement at last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “But it’s clearly a range of issues around timing and sequencing and how it is we achieve this.” He said Trump’s commitment to a brighter future for the North Korean people is “very, very real.” “But it must follow — it has to follow the verified denuclearization of North Korea,” he said. “And getting that sequencing right and getting it laid out in a way that each of the parties can agree to and take down the tension level along the North and South Korean border, it matters to the people of Japan and South Korea, our important partners, and it matters to the whole world.” In a press conference in Pyongyang last week, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said the regime is reviewing whether to continue the talks and maintain its self-imposed moratorium on missile and nuclear tests. “We believe we’re still moving forward. It’s certainly difficult — we knew it would be,” Pompeo said in an interview with Kansas radio station B98 FM. “We made a little bit more progress in Hanoi, now three weeks back, when President Trump traveled there to meet with Chairman Kim. We’ll re-engage with him,” he said. In an interview with Kansas radio station KQAM, he admitted, “we still haven’t made the progress we need to make on denuclearization.” “The conversations certainly continue. I hope we can achieve that,” he added, noting that was Kim’s “promise” to the world at his summit with Trump in Singapore. (Yonhap, “U.S., N. Korea Trying to Get ‘Sequencing’ Right in Nuclear Talks: Pompeo,” March 19, 2019)


3/21/19:
President Donald Trump gave North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “several alternatives” when they met last month to try to strike a deal on denuclearizing the regime, National Security Adviser John Bolton said today. On what the alternatives were, Bolton didn’t elaborate. “President Trump gave him several alternatives, what he called the big deal: North Korea gives up all of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, and in exchange, there’s a very bright economic future for North Korea,” he said in a radio interview with the conservative Breitbart News. “In many respects — in Hanoi and even before that, in Singapore — what the president did was hold the door open for North Korea, to say, ‘You can have this future but you’ve got to give up your weapons of mass destruction,'” he said. “So far, the North Koreans haven’t walked through it.” Asked to explain what victory would look like for the U.S., Bolton reaffirmed that the main objective is a denuclearized North Korea. “And we gave them a definition. The president actually handed over a piece of paper, two pieces really, one in English and one in Korean to Kim Jong-un that describes our definition of denuclearization,” he said. “0nce that happens, the president, you know, he sees these things sort of in real estate terms. He says, ‘Look at North Korea’s position there between China, Russia, South Korea. It’s a great location. It could have a great economy.'” Bolton noted the importance of China as North Korea’s dominant trading partner and the need for Beijing to tighten enforcement of sanctions on Pyongyang. “China’s always said, going back over 20 years now, they don’t want to see North Korea with nuclear weapons,” he said. “And I think they have good reason not to want to see North Korea with nuclear weapons because China ultimately doesn’t want to see Japan get nuclear weapons. So China could really hold the key to this here if they press North Korea hard enough.” (Yonhap, “Bolton Says Trump Gave N. Korean Leader ‘Several’ Options,” March 21, 2019)

The Trump administration sanctioned two Chinese shipping companies suspected of helping North Korea evade sanctions — the first targeted actions taken against Pyongyang since its nuclear negotiations with the U.S. in Hanoi last month ended without agreement. “The maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea’s illicit shipping practices,” Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton tweeted. “Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.” The White House says the sanctions are evidence that the U.S. is maintaining pressure on North Korea in an effort to coax its leader, Kim Jong Un, to give up his nuclear weapons program. The Treasury Department sanctioned Dalian Haibo International Freight Co. Ltd. and Liaoning Danxing International Forwarding Co. Ltd. for using deceptive methods to circumvent international and U.S. sanctions and the U.S. commitment to implementing existing U.N. Security Council resolutions. Calls to the two companies rang without response Friday or were answered by people who immediately hung up the phone. Treasury, in coordination with the State Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, also updated a North Korea shipping advisory, adding dozens of vessels thought to be doing ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean tankers or exported North Korean coal in violation of sanctions. Two senior administration officials, who briefed reporters only on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. policy on North Korea, said illegal ship-to-ship transfers that violate U.S. and international sanctions have increased and not all countries, including China, are implementing the restrictions. They said the deceptive practices include disabling or manipulating ship identification systems, repainting the names on vessels and falsifying cargo documents. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that fully implementing the U.N. resolutions is key to getting Kim to give up his nuclear weapons program. “Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk,” Mnuchin said. (Deb Riechmann, “U.S. Targets Chinese Firms for Alleged N. Korea Sanctions Dodge,” Associated Press, March 22, 2019)

Joseph Yun, a former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said the U.S. needs a step-by-step approach to denuclearization instead of an “all-or-nothing” tactic. “I do believe they could have salvaged something, and to me it is a regretful situation that they salvaged nothing,” Yun said. “To say no deal is better than a bad deal is rhetoric only.” Yun suggested for the U.S. to lift some of the sanctions placed on the North to help ease Kim into the idea of dismantling his nuclear arsenal in return. This includes the Yongbyon reactor complex, which was a central point of contention at the summit, as well as accounting for nuclear weapons and fissile material that Pyongyang is still believed to be hiding, he said. “We need to see a step-by-step approach … there is no other possible approach,” Yun said in an interview with KBS World Radio. He said the two countries are in “a tough spot.” The Hanoi breakdown and the standoff between Washington and Pyongyang make it difficult for lower-level officials “to gloss over their differences.” Yun said he found it “a little disturbing” concerning North Korea’s suspected restoration, instead of dismantlement, of its Tonchang-ri missile test site after the Hanoi talks. But he downplayed the possibility that either side would provoke each other, namely Pyongyang with nuclear and missile tests, and the U.S. resuming large scale joint military exercises with South Korea. “As long as these two things don’t take place, I think we can maintain this standoff situation,” he said. Yun urged working-level diplomats on both sides to re-start building a process and not to repeat the huge spike in tensions as seen in 2017, saying they “have to get together, try to salvage what was on the table, and improve on it a little bit as far as both sides are concerned.” “For the American side, this would mean giving up somewhat on sanctions, and for the North Korean side, it would mean increasing the offer on denuclearization, not just Yongbyon, but perhaps through a declaration that would consist of an accounting of nuclear weapons and fissile material,” he added.

Commenting on South Korea’s mediation between the U.S. and Pyongyang, Yun urged Seoul to be clandestine, especially in forging sanctions exemptions related to inter-Korean projects. “Many ideas coming from Seoul are good, but they should be kept on quiet channels, they should not be announced publicly, so that differences are obvious to see,” he said. “I’m afraid right now there is too much public discourse accentuating differences rather than the unity between the two alliance partners.” (Yi Whan-woo, “Ex-U.S. Negotiator Opposes Trump’s North Korea Approach,” Korea Times, March 22, 2019)

Kumkhop Trading Co. President Ri Jong Ho sweeps his hand over a table full of foods produced at his factory. There’s a bowl of assorted candies and rice cakes, a plate of sausages and ham, slices of a French baguette and Russian dark bread. “We are doing fine,” he says with a confident smile. “Just look.” But while model North Korean factories like Ri’s, replete with a rooftop swimming pool ringed by banana trees, are filling the shelves of department stores in Pyongyang and elsewhere with ever better and fancier snack foods and sugary drinks, government officials and international aid organizations warn the nation could be on the verge of a major food shortage. North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, issued an unusual appeal for “urgent” food assistance last month. North Korea blames the shortfall on a combination of bad weather and “barbaric” international sanctions. Critics argue the North is simply trying to use the situation to undermine support for sanctions without addressing the nuclear issues that led to them in the first place or the government’s systemic economic problems. Potential donors, meanwhile, face the old but still controversial question: should the world help a government that seems determined not to help its own people? Kim, the ambassador to the U.N., said record-high temperatures, drought and flooding last year shaved more than 500,000 tons off of the 2018 harvest from the nearly 5 million tons produced in 2017. He said North Korean farmers have been hamstrung by “dreadful” restrictions on imports of everything from tractors, harvesters and sowing machines to chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and imports of refined petroleum. He also claimed that sanctions, or the fear of running afoul of them, are blocking or delaying legitimate assistance from possible donors and international organizations. Humanitarian assistance from the U.N. agencies is “terribly politicized,” he said, and sanctions against North Korea are “barbaric and inhuman.” North Korea claims it is now “channeling all its efforts” to importing food and increasing the output of early and basic crops such as wheat and barley in coming months. Even if Pyongyang achieves its targets of importing 200,000 tons of food and producing 400,000 tons of early crops, supplies will still fall short by 1.486 million tons. Hazel Smith, a North Korea expert at the University of London, believes food supplies in 2019 from all sources will only suffice to feed about three quarters of the population at the most basic survival level. But the shortage’s severity likely won’t be clear until July or August. “Without substantial external aid … it is difficult to see any outcome other than large-scale deaths from malnutrition-related causes this year,” she wrote in a commentary earlier this month for the Pacific Forum policy research institute. North Korea informed international organizations of the potential crisis in January. Praveen Agrawal, the U.N. World Food Program’s representative in Pyongyang, said the WFP and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization are opening their own field assessment to determine if the North’s figures are credible. Sanctions have had both “indirect” and “unintentional” effects on the situation, he said. Aid groups are hamstrung for a lack of support. The WFP, for example, has only gotten about $26 million for its operations in North Korea, less than half of its budget. Humanitarian aid is explicitly exempted from sanctions, but getting virtually anything through customs has become slower and more cumbersome. North Korea is chronically vulnerable to shortages. In its statement to the U.N., the government said it has cut its average food ration per capita for a family of blue- or white-collar workers to 300 grams from the target 550 grams per person per day. Agrawal said the government has never achieved that 550-gram target — reaching closer to just 380 to 400 grams. With a population of about 25 million and food production that even at its peak in 2016 was only about 5.8 million tons, it has never had enough to go around. “The situation can only get worse if they don’t revisit and re-prioritize or help to address some of the issues through their ministries and technical areas,” he said. Smith, the North Korea watcher at the University of London, said North Korea has made progress in improving food security since the famines of the 1990s, and now has malnutrition levels well below those of much richer Asian countries, including India. Agrawal said he has also seen more openness to engage and provide statistics over the past year as Kim has reached out to Beijing, Seoul and Washington. Smith believes the claim that the North doesn’t deserve humanitarian help is fundamentally flawed. “In all cases where humanitarian aid — to stop people dying of starvation, disease and malnutrition-related illness — is given everywhere in the world, it is given to the population precisely because of the failure of their government,” she said in an email to The AP. “No government ‘deserves’ humanitarian aid — but people do.” All seem to agree the problem is real. “Forty percent of this population is malnourished — 11 million people,” Agrawal said in an interview at his office in Pyongyang’s diplomatic quarter. “That’s a fact.” Back in the food factory, company president Ri said that over the past three years his directions have been to produce more, and better, products. Kim has visited personally, twice, to drive that point home. “The leader cares a lot about the dietary food problems of the people,” he said. The ramped-up output of factories like Ri’s, which produces 40-50 tons of food each day, shows in supermarket and department store shelves stocked with a surprising variety of inexpensive, colorfully packaged and tasty — if not terribly healthy — chips, sodas and sweets. Opponents of sending aid to North Korea note the irony. While the WFP is focusing on making nutritious biscuits for pregnant women and infants, Ri boasts his factory is now North Korea’s most important maker of sports drinks. His group is doing so well that it’s set up a processing plant across the border in Dandong to produce foods for the Chinese market. One of its most popular products is chocolate “moon” pies. (Eric Talmadge, “North Korea, Seeking Food, Links Shortage to Sanctions,” Associated Press, March 22, 2019)

Bolton: “I sensed Trump beginning to worry he had been too tough in Hanoi, which manifested itself in several ways. He began saying again, ‘We shouldn’t spend ten cents on war games,’ referring to our exercises with South Korea. On the other hand, he never relented in supporting the economic ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against North Korea. I held a Principals Committee on March 21 to assess whether the campaign was as ‘maximum’ as it could be and to consider how to stiffen it up. The major issue for discussion was whether the United States should do more to inhibit ship-to-ship transfers at sea, coal being exported from North Korea and oil being imported. Through the ship-to-ship transfers, the North obviously hoped to escape surveillance, and I wanted to see if there were steps short of using force that would make it harder for these exchanges to take place. There was no discussion of additional sanctions against North Korea, only how to better enforce those already in place. The next day, a Friday, we were in Mar-a-Lago … Trump pulled me and a few others into the “library” (really a bar) off the lobby lounge and said he wanted recent Treasury enforcement actions against two Chinese companies for violating North Korea sanctions rolled back. We had approved these decisions—all of which had been signed off on personally by Pompeo, Mnuchin, and me—which were enforcement measures under existing sanctions, not ‘new’ sanctions broadening or enlarging what was already there. After Singapore, we had expressly reviewed this distinction with Trump. He agreed strict enforcement of existing sanctions would continue, and pursuant to that understanding, we had, in over nine months since Singapore, penalized a significant number of companies and individuals for violations. Why Trump wanted to roll back these latest enforcement actions was anybody’s guess, other than that he was feeling Kim Jong Un’s pain. Trump dictated a tweet that could only be read as reversing the Treasury Department’s recent announcement. I argued as strenuously as I could not to do so, with which Mulvaney fully agreed. We had no effect. The whole point, said Trump, was that the tweet was “for an audience of one” with whom he was trying to make a deal. ‘It won’t affect anything else,’ he said, ignoring my obviously futile efforts to explain that lots of other people would also see this tweet and would inevitably interpret it as weakening the sanctions and a public repudiation of his own advisors, especially Mnuchin. Trump simply didn’t care. He wanted to send a message to Kim Jong Un, just as he had wanted to send a message to Xi Jinping when he rolled back Ross’s ZTE sanctions after they had been publicly announced. Sanders asked what to say about why Trump had tweeted, and he replied, ‘I like Kim Jong Un, and these sanctions were unnecessary.’ The tweet went out. After we concluded with the Caribbean leaders, discussing common regional challenges, and headed for the airport, we saw media reports that Trump’s North Korea tweet did not refer to what Treasury had announced on Thursday but to other, unspecified future sanctions that weren’t yet public.” Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, pp. 298-99)


3/22/19:
Trump letter to Kim Jong Un: “Thank you again for making the long journey to Hanoi. As I said to you when we parted ways, you are my friend and always will be.” (Woodward, Rage, p. 176)

North Korean officials withdrew from an inter-Korean liaison office in the country’s border city of Kaesong as the peace and denuclearization process reached a deadlock following last month’s no-deal summit between the North and the United States. The North notified the South during a liaison officers’ meeting earlier in the day that it would pull out of the office, in accordance with a directive from the higher-ups, and then all North Korean officials, totaling about 15, left the building, the South’s unification ministry said in a statement. The North said it will not care about whether South Korean officials remain or withdraw from the office, the ministry said. Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung said that 25 South Korean officials will staff the office over the weekend. Chun said the North gave no reason for the decision. South Korea expressed regret. “The government considers this withdrawal decision regrettable and hopes the North will return at an early date so that the office will be operated normally,” Chun said during a press briefing. Chun also said that all other inter-Korean communication channels are operating normally and the government will comprehensively review the situation and contemplate follow-up measures. He also said that no unusual signs have been detected over the past week, but the weekly liaison meeting between Chun and his North Korean counterpart, Jon Jong-su, has not been held since the breakdown of the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump late February. The office of President Moon Jae-in said that Chung Eui-yong, Moon’s top security advisor, presided over a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the North’s decision and its possible repercussions on inter-Korean relations. Analysts said that the North’s decision appears to be aimed at pressuring South Korea to do more to persuade the U.S. to lower its demands in the stalled denuclearization negotiations. “They appear to be pressuring our government to play a more active role in narrowing differences over denuclearization and sanctions relief,” Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far East Studies at Kyungnam University, said. “I think their message is that there should be a meaningful agreement between the North and the U.S. in order for the liaison office to be operated normally,” he said. South Korea had been pushing to hold video reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in a follow up to an agreement the leaders of the two Koreas reached in their September summit. “It is true that it became difficult to consult with the North over the video reunions of the separated families,” the vice minister said. “We will continue our efforts to resume consultations on such issues before too late.” (Choi Soo-hyang, “N. Korea Withdraws from Inter-Korean Liaison Office,” Yonhap, March 22, 2019)

President Trump undercut his own Treasury Department with a sudden announcement that he had rolled back newly imposed North Korea sanctions, appearing to overrule national security experts as a favor to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. The move, announced on Twitter, was a remarkable display of dissension within the Trump administration. It created confusion at the highest levels of the federal government, just as the president’s aides were seeking to pressure North Korea into returning to negotiations over dismantling its nuclear weapons program. “It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large-scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” The Treasury Department announced new sanctions on today against Iran and Venezuela, but not North Korea. However, economic penalties were imposed yesterday on two Chinese shipping companies suspected of helping North Korea evade international sanctions. Those penalties, announced with news releases and a White House briefing, were the first imposed against North Korea since late last year. It was initially believed that Trump had confused the day that the North Korea sanctions were announced, and officials said they were caught off guard by the president’s tweet. Asked for clarification, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined to give specifics. “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” she said. Hours later, two officials familiar with Trump’s thinking said the president was actually referring to additional North Korea sanctions that are under consideration but not yet formally issued. That statement sought to soften the blow that Trump’s tweet had dealt to his most loyal aides. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, personally signed off on the sanctions that were issued yesterday and hailed the decision in an accompanying statement. He described the sanctions as part of an international campaign “The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” Mnuchin said in the statement. against North Korea that “is crucial to a successful outcome.” John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, had also hailed the earlier action against North Korea in a tweet yesterday: “Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.” Officials at the Treasury and State Departments, including career staff members and political appointees, spend months carefully drafting sanctions based on intensive intelligence gathering and legal research. The North Korea sanctions were no different, and the White House held a formal briefing yesterday afternoon to explain the rationale behind the actions. During the briefing, senior administration officials pushed back on the idea that the sanctions sought to increase pressure on North Korea. Instead, they said, the new measures were meant to maintain the strength of existing sanctions. But one of the senior administration officials strongly rebutted any suggestion that the administration would ease some sanctions as confidence building, or in return for smaller steps by North Korea. “It would be a mistake to interpret the policy as being one of a step by step approach, where we release some sanctions in return for piecemeal steps toward denuclearization” said the administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity. “That is not a winning formula and it is not the president’s strategy.” While it is not unusual for the White House to have comment and even final approval of major sanctions, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed doubts about Trump’s ability to execute sanctions policy responsibly. The reversal on the North Korea sanctions drew swift condemnation today from Democrats, who accused the president of being reckless with national security. “Career experts at the Treasury Department undertake a painstaking process before imposing sanctions,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee. “For Donald Trump to overturn their decision via tweet because he has an inexplicable fondness for one of the world’s most brutal dictators is appalling.” He added, “Without a well-conceived diplomatic strategy, Trump is simply undermining our national security by making clear that the United States is not a trusted foreign policy partner.” Some Republicans also pushed back against the president, with Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado saying that North Korea sanctions should be imposed. “Strategic Patience failed,” he tweeted. “Don’t repeat it.” Trump’s decision stunned current and former Treasury Department officials, some of whom wondered if the move was planned in advance as a gesture to Kim. Others feared that America’s vaunted sanctions regime had been compromised. “For an administration that continues to surprise, this is another first — the president of the United States undercutting his own sanctions agency for imposing sanctions on Chinese actors supporting North Korea,” said John E. Smith, the former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, who left the department last year. “It’s a win for North Korea and China and a loss for U.S. credibility.” Sarah Bloom Raskin, who was deputy Treasury secretary under President Barack Obama, said the sudden backtracking on a decision that would normally be made with comment from intelligence agencies and the National Security Council was perplexing. “Reversing sanctions decisions within hours of making the announcement that you would impose them in the first place is a head-spinner,” she said. “This reversal signals the injection of some peripheral consideration or factor that only the president seems to know about and that may have nothing to do with national security.” (Alan Rappeport, “A Defiant Trump Mutes North Korea Sanctions,” New York Times, March 23, 2019, p. A-1) Administration officials said Trump is determined to prevent his more hawkish advisers from undercutting what he considers his biggest foreign policy accomplishment: reducing tensions with North Korea and creating the opportunity for a historic deal. Others said the incident underscores the dysfunctional nature of the White House’s policy process, which seems driven more by presidential tweets than deliberative collaboration. “Usually a national security process exists to make policy decisions AND agree on rollout and messaging,” Alyssa Ayres, a former State Department official, said in a tweet. Trump has remained fixated on his negotiations with the rogue state, telling senators, visitors and others that he can still make a deal — and that he believes Kim will eventually agree to his demands, according to administration officials who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s thinking. Trump has sought to project to Kim that while some in his administration are skeptical, he is the ultimate decider and remains eager to reach a landmark agreement, officials said. “Trump doesn’t want the situation to unravel, and by putting out this tweet, he’s sending a signal directly to Kim that he wants to keep a good working relationship,” said one official familiar with the negotiations. But the move created confusion today as White House and Treasury officials could not immediately explain which sanctions Trump had rescinded. The day before, Bolton tweeted that the new Treasury sanctions were “important” and that other nations “should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.” Questions have long been raised about whether Trump’s hawkish advisers are making decisions that reflect the president’s wishes. Bolton’s differing views on North Korea have not been lost on the president or his staff. During the summit last month, officials kept Bolton from attending Trump’s dinner with Kim because of concerns that he could hurt the discussions, two administration officials said. (John Hudson and Josh Dawsey “Halting New N. Korea Sanctions, President Creates Confusion,” Washington Post, March 23, 2019, p. A-1) President Donald Trump intended to reverse sanctions imposed on two Chinese shipping companies accused of violating North Korea trade prohibitions — until officials in his administration persuaded him to back off and then devised a misleading explanation of his vague tweet announcing the move. For hours, officials at the White House and Treasury and State departments wouldn’t explain what he meant. The president in fact intended to remove penalties Treasury had announced the day before against two Chinese shipping companies that had helped Pyongyang evade U.S. sanctions, according to five people familiar with the matter. Trump hadn’t signed off on the specific measures before they were announced but had given Treasury discretion to decide some sanctions as it saw fit, according to one person familiar with the matter. Later today, in the wake of Trump’s tweet, the administration sought to explain away the move with a statement — initially requesting no attribution to anyone — that said the penalties against the Chinese companies hadn’t been reversed but the U.S. wouldn’t pursue additional sanctions against North Korea. There were no additional North Korea sanctions in the works at the time, according to two people familiar with the matter. The people asked not to be identified in order to candidly describe the events and the administration’s attempt to provide a cover story for the president. The sanctions on the two Chinese shipping companies were the subject of a National Security Council principals meeting last week, according to two people familiar with the matter. Robert Blair, a national security aide to White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, warned that he didn’t think Trump would support issuing the measures. But National Security Adviser John Bolton, a North Korea hawk, disagreed and argued he knew Trump better than Blair, the two people said. Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican facing re-election in 2020, blasted the Trump administration’s handling of North Korea sanctions at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the morning of March 26. “We now have sanctions that are being waived by the president after Treasury, by law, issues them,” he said. “This body ought to be growing more and more frustrated with the U.S. continuing to change our policy while Kim Jong Un sits back and continues to develop fissile material, nuclear weapons without doing a doggone thing except watch the United States change its negotiating position.” Victor Cha, a North Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who was considered to be Trump’s ambassador to South Korea, said at the Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Trump’s tweet “reinforces the worst tendencies which have actually led us to where we are now. “The North Korean leader made clear what mattered to him in Hanoi,” where Trump and Kim met in February for their second summit. “He had his time with the president and the one thing he focused on was sanctions relief.” (Saleha Mohsin, Jennifer Jacobs, and Nick Wadhams, “Trump Tried to Undo North Korean Penalty, Contrary to U.S. Account,” Bloomberg, March 26, 2019)


3/23/19:
North Korea today escalated its attempt to create a rift between South Korea and the United States, as Washington sent mixed signals over whether it would tighten or relax sanctions on the North. Ever since the summit meeting in Hanoi, North Korea has ceaselessly urged South Korea to distance itself from the United States and to push ahead with joint economic projects that have been held back by American-led United Nations sanctions. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea remains eager to boost inter-Korean economic ties, raising fears at home and abroad that he may steer his government away from international efforts to enforce sanctions against the North. But in reality, Moon’s hands are tied unless the United States and North Korea reach an agreement on denuclearizing the North and Washington helps to ease sanctions. DPRK Today, a North Korean government-run website, accused Moon’s government of reneging on its promise to improve inter-Korean ties and giving priority to “cooperation with a foreign force” over “cooperation among the Korean nation.” “The South Korean authorities’ behavior is deeply deplorable,” it said. “The only things the South will get from cooperating with the U.S. will be a deepening subordination, humiliation and shame.” North Korean state media has been issuing similar messages in recent days, even denigrating Moon’s efforts to mediate talks between his “American boss” and North Korea, and advising Moon’s government to throw its policy “in a garbage can.” Moon suffered another slap in the face when the North abruptly withdrew its staff from a joint inter-Korean liaison office yesterday. The South’s authorities can’t do anything without approval or instruction from the United States, so how do they think they can be a mediator or facilitator?” the North Korean website Meari said yesterday. “They should know their place.” After Trump tweeted that he ordered his government yesterday to withdraw “additional large scale sanctions” against the North, the tweet raised hopes among Moon’s supporters, who took Trump’s latest move as a sign that Washington did not want to antagonize North Korea with new sanctions. “By withdrawing additional sanctions against North Korea, President Trump showed his firm will to continue dialogue to realize the denuclearization of North Korea,” Lee Hae-sik, a spokesman of Moon’s governing Democratic Party, told reporters. But the main opposition Liberty Korea Party said that Moon has been used as “a pawn” by Kim and had ended up creating a fission in the alliance with Washington. “President Moon Jae-in and his Blue House still don’t grasp the reality and have a delusional belief that he is a mediator or facilitator,” Jun Hee-kyung, a spokeswoman for the opposition party, said in a statement. By dropping North Korea-related sanctions, Trump was trying to defuse growing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang after the Hanoi breakdown, said Harry J. Kazianis, director of Korean studies at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest. Recently, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui of North Korea threatened to suspend negotiations with Washington and said that Kim would soon decide whether to resume nuclear and missile tests, which it has not carried out in more than a year. “Trump’s canceling out of sanctions might have been a bid to get North Korea to change its thinking,” Kazianis said. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Urges South Korea to Leave U.S., Alone” New York Times, March 24, 2019, p. A-4)

Bolton: “On Saturday morning at about seven thirty, I called Mulvaney, who had stayed at Mar-a-Lago. Mnuchin had called him Friday afternoon to speak with Trump, to urge that pulling down the new Treasury sanctions would be embarrassing to him. Mulvaney put the call through, and Mnuchin gave Trump the same analysis I had. Trump agreed, hours after disagreeing with precisely the same points, to keep the decisions in place. Hearing this, I asked Mulvaney if I had not been clear about this the day before. “You were very clear about it,” said Mulvaney, “but sometimes it takes two or three tries to get it through.” As for the “future” sanctions, Mulvaney said this was merely Treasury’s “ham-fisted way of explaining things.” He and I decided to conference Mnuchin in. Mnuchin said he was trying to protect Trump from embarrassment by saying we wouldn’t do additional sanctions, although he agreed that the rest of the world could conclude we were receding from “maximum pressure.” We all agreed, however, that correcting the correction (our new synonym for “reversing”) would only make things worse. Although I didn’t initially like Mnuchin’s cover story, as the day wore on, I couldn’t think of anything better. We, or more accurately, Trump, might have appeared confused, but at least we didn’t look too weak. I spoke later to Pompeo, and he also agreed we should just let matters lie. In any other Administration, this affair would have been a major story, but for us, it passed almost unnoticed. The release of the Mueller report, which ended the “Russia collusion” issue, dominated news coverage. On Monday, with Pompeo and me in the Oval with Trump, and Mnuchin on the phone, we reaffirmed what we had decided after Singapore, namely that enforcement actions would continue, but that we would not impose additional prohibitions on North Korea without Trump’s approval. If Trump had simply listened on Friday, all this drama could have been avoided.” (Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, p. 300)


3/25/19:
North Korea restored some personnel to an inter-Korean liaison office in its border city of Kaesong, a unification ministry official said, just three days after the regime withdrew all its staff from there. Four or five North Korean officials returned to the office earlier in the day and held a meeting with their South Korean counterparts, according to the ministry official. “The North Koreans said that they came down (to the liaison office) to take their shift as usual,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. “Accordingly, the representatives of liaison officers (of the two Koreas) held a meeting in the morning and plan to operate (the office) as usual.” “They said that the North’s commitment remains unchanged for the liaison office to carry out projects in line with the North-South joint declarations,” he said, apparently referring to the agreements that their leaders reached in their three summits last year. The new statement also says Kim “faced much opposition and challenges” from within North Korea in order to make the second summit happen. “ … our people, especially our military and munitions industry, are saying we must never give up nuclear capabilities”, it said, according to Yonhap. (Koh Byung-joon and Choi Soo-hyang, “N. Korean Staff Return to Inter-Korean Liaison Office,” Yonhap, March 25, 2019)

President Donald Trump was open to easing sanctions on North Korea provided there was a ‘snapback’ clause if the North restarted nuclear activities, according to South Korean media reports of a North Korean statement. (Joyce Lee, “North Korea Says Trump Was Open to Easing Sanctions with ‘Snapback’ Clause: South Korean Media,” Reuters, March 25, 2019) President Donald Trump was open to easing sanctions on North Korea at last month’s summit with Kim Jong-un, but was thwarted by his top aides, according to a senior Pyongyang official. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui made the remarks at a press conference in the North Korean capital on March 15, which was widely reported on for her threat to abandon denuclearization negotiations with the U.S. Yonhap obtained a copy of her opening remarks. “When we tabled a realistic proposal, President Trump was of the flexible position that a deal could be possible if it contained a reference to the fact that sanctions removal would be reversible in the event that North Korea resumed nuclear activities,” she said. The vice foreign minister continued that a “meaningful outcome” was not reached because U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton “created an obstacle in the constructive negotiation efforts of the two leaders with extant hostility and mistrust.” Choe’s accusations against Pompeo and Bolton were previously reported and subsequently denied by both men. If Trump’s alleged openness to a “snapback” clause is true, it could explain his decision last week to hold back on additional sanctions on North Korea. Choe also claimed that Kim has tried to negotiate with the U.S. despite “much opposition and challenge” within his own country. “Our people, and especially our military and munitions industry, are writing thousands of petition letters to our State Affairs Commission Chairman Comrade to urge against giving up our nuclear (program) at any cost,” she said. (Yonhap, “Trump Was Open to Easing Sanctions at Summit: N.K. Official,” March 25, 2019)

The Pentagon said that a test today of a new tactic for intercepting missiles aimed at American cities was a success, in an exercise that appeared intended to simulate how the United States would defend against an adversary like North Korea. The test, the first in nearly two years, was conducted over the Pacific Ocean. It fired two “interceptors” from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California against a mock warhead launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. “The system worked exactly as it was designed to do,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement. “This test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.” Evaluating the success of missile interceptions is difficult. In the past, the Missile Defense Agency has been accused of exaggerating its “kills” in order to quiet critics who say a 50 percent successful interception rate is far from satisfactory. The new system was intended to boost the success rate by launching multiple interceptors — one to hit the target or knock it off its trajectory, and the next as a backup — at a single warhead. In today’s test, the Pentagon said the incoming warhead was destroyed by the first interceptor, and that the second went after the largest remnant. The number of interceptors that can be fired at a single warhead is classified, but officials have been quoted as saying that they ultimately hope to direct three or four at each incoming warhead. Over the decades, the United States has spent more than $300 billion on the antimissile goal, according to a tally conducted by Stephen I. Schwartz, an independent consultant who studies the cost of military projects. The program is expensive because the problem is so difficult. Warheads fired by intercontinental missiles travel faster than four miles a second. Overall, the rate of success for attempted interceptions has been so unimpressive that President Barack Obama stepped up a program called “left of launch,’’ designed to sabotage missiles before they are launched. The secret program was used against North Korea in Obama’s second term. The more public program is based on ground-based interceptors. They race skyward and release speeding projectiles meant to destroy incoming warheads by force of impact — what experts call hitting a bullet with a bullet. After exiting a treaty with Russia that banned antimissile systems, the administration of President George W. Bush began deploying a bullet-on-bullet system in Alaska and California, largely to defend against North Korean warheads. Since then, the system has undergone 10 costly flight tests against mock warheads. Five of the tests failed. The most recent test, in May 2017, successfully smashed the mock target, and was declared a success. Today’s statement said the lead interceptor “destroyed the re-entry vehicle, as it was designed to do.” The trailing interceptor, it added, then looked at the debris and remaining objects. Not finding any other mock warheads, it selected the next “most lethal object” in the debris it could identify, the statement said, and struck that. The test was not announced beforehand and the statement on the outcome was released late in the day, which seemed to suggest that the test had encountered problems. The statement also introduced a note of hesitancy. “Initial indications show the test met requirements,” it said. “Program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.” The mock target at Kwajalein, not far from where the United States once conduced nuclear tests, was launched more than 4,000 miles from the California coasts. The interceptors were on the same base where the United States keeps a part of its antiballistic missile fleet. (William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “Pentagon Claims Success in Test of New Method to Intercept Missiles,” New York Times, March 26, 2019, p. A-8)


3/27/19:
The commander of US forces in South Korea warned lawmakers today that the US might not have sufficient intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities on the Korean peninsula to see an attack coming if denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang fall apart, causing hostilities to flare up again. “As we look to the future as conditions might change, if they change negatively then our stance, our posture is not adequate to provide us an unblinking eye to give us early warning and indicators,” Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of US Forces Korea told the House Armed Services Committee. “Suffice it to say we are short to do that if things start to turn bad,” he added. Abrams also said that North Korean activity observed by the US is “inconsistent with denuclearization,” making it necessary for the US to “maintain a postured and ready force to deter any possible aggressive actions.” “I remain clear-eyed about the fact that despite a reduction in tensions along the demilitarized zone and a cessation of strategic provocations coupled with public statements of intent to denuclearize. Little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea’s capabilities,” he said. “Further, North Korea conventional and asymmetric military capabilities along with their continued development of advanced conventional munitions and systems all remains unchecked. These capabilities continue to hold the United States, South Korea and our regional allies at risk,” Abrams added. Those remarks come after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford last week called himself a “glass half-empty guy when it comes to North Korean capabilities,” and said Kim Jong Un’s ballistic missile and nuclear arsenal still poses a threat. “I still see a potential although as yet undemonstrated the capability to match a nuclear weapon with an intercontinental ballistic missile, and I think it’s incumbent on the United States military to be prepared to defend the homeland and our allies from that eventuality,” he said at an event at the Atlantic Council in Washington. (Zachary Cohen, Barbara Starr and Jamie Crawford, “Top General Warns U.S. May Not See a North Korean Attack Coming,” CNN, March 27, 2019)


3/29/19:
North Korea has almost completed restoration work on its key long-range rocket launch site in Dongchang-ri, on the west coast, South Korea’s spy agency said. Pyongyang launched work to restore the launch pad there in February, before the United States and North Korea held a summit later that month in Hanoi, lawmakers quoted the National Intelligence Service (NIS) as saying at a meeting of the parliamentary intelligence committee. “The North started the reassembly work before the Hanoi summit. We cannot verify what that means,” the NIS said. The NIS added North Korea appears to be keeping its uranium enrichment facility in its mainstay nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, in “normal operation.” North Korea stopped the operation of a five-mega-watt nuclear reactor at the Yongbyon complex late last year, it noted. (Yonhap, “N.K. Almost Completes Work to Restore Long-Range Rocket Site: NIS,” March 29, 2019)

Donald Trump reaffirmed that he would stop new sanctions on North Korea, saying the country was suffering and he valued his relationship with its authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un. “They are suffering greatly in North Korea. They’re having a hard time in North Korea,” he told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “And I just didn’t think additional sanctions at this time were necessary. Doesn’t mean I don’t put them on later but I didn’t think additional sanctions at this time were necessary,” he said. Trump said he got along “very well” with Kim, adding: “We understand each other.” “I think it is very important you maintain that relationship at least as long as you can,” Trump said. Trump’s announcement last week on the sanctions raised eyebrows as he said he was reversing sanctions that had been announced that day but which had not. Answering a question today, Trump said the sanctions had been set to be announced at the time but that he stopped them. (AFP, “Trump Says N. Korea Suffering, Doesn’t Need New Sanctions,” March 29, 2019)

Senior South Korean officials, including President Moon Jae-in, are launching a series of meetings with U.S. counterparts, in a bid to jumpstart stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea and mend fraying ties in their alliance. Moon will hold a summit meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington on April 11 to discuss North Korea and other alliance issues, the White House. Ahead of the Trump-Moon summit, South Korea said it was sending its foreign and defense ministers, and other senior officials, to meetings in Washington. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is set to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday to discuss ways to move forward after the failed Trump-Kim summit. Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo will meet the U.S. acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, on Monday, the ministry said. The lack of progress with North Korea has become a domestic problem for Moon, who has staked much of his political capital on improving relations with Pyongyang. A Gallup poll on Friday showed Moon’s approval ratings at a record low of 43 percent as respondents complained about the stalemate with the North while the economy suffers. (Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin, “South Korea’s Moon to Meet Trump over Stalled North Korea Talks,” Reuters, March 29, 2019)


3/31/19:
DPRK FoMin spokesman’s “answer to a question put by KCNA on March 31 as regards the recent assault on the DPRK Embassy in Spain: A grave terrorist attack occurred on February 22, where an armed group assaulted the DPRK Embassy in Spain and bound, beat and tortured the Embassy staff and extorted the communication apparatus. An illegal intrusion into and occupation of diplomatic mission and act of extortion are a grave breach of the state sovereignty and a flagrant violation of international law, and this kind of act should never be tolerated over the globe. We are following the rumors of all hues now in the air that FBI of the United States and the small fry of anti-DPRK “body” were involved in the terror incident, and so on. We expect that the authorities concerned in Spain, a place of incident, carry out an investigation into the incident to the last in a responsible manner in order to bring the terrorists and their wire-pullers to justice in conformity with the relevant international law, and we will wait for the result in patience.” (KCNA, “Foreign Ministry Spokesman Urges Responsible Investigation into Assault on DPRK Embassy,” March 31, 2019)


4/1/19:
The defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States have reaffirmed their commitment to closely coordinating to support last year’s inter-Korean military accord aimed at reducing border tensions and building trust, their offices said. During their talks in Washington on Monday (local time), Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan also reiterated their will to closely cooperate to expedite the fulfillment of conditions needed for Washington’s envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul. Jeong and Shanahan met face to face for the first time since the latter took the Pentagon post in January. “The secretary and the minister assessed that implementation of the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) has contributed to the easing of military tension and confidence building on the Korean Peninsula,” Seoul’s defense ministry and the Pentagon said in a press release. The Koreas’ defense chiefs signed the CMA at the close of the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang last September. It entails a series of trust-building and arms control measures under a broader scheme to halt all hostile acts against each other. Jeong and Shanahan underscored their will to further reinforce the alliance through the “synchronized” efforts of their militaries amid ongoing peace efforts with North Korea. “The secretary and minister affirmed that the U.S.-ROK alliance is ‘ironclad’ and ready to face an evolving security environment,” the press release reads. ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea. “The two sides reaffirmed the commitment to maintain an unwavering combined readiness posture while continuing to support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” it added. Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, gave the defense chiefs an evaluation of the allies’ new exercise staged last month. He said that it has strengthened the militaries’ combined readiness and contributed to the groundwork for the OPCON transfer. Abrams was referring to the Dong Maeng command post exercise that replaced the Key Resolve exercise. Dong Maeng is the Korean word for alliance. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. Reaffirm Commitment to Support Inter-Korean Military Accord,” April 2, 2019)


4/4/19:
Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, told a conference in Seoul, one week ahead of President Moon Jae-in’s summit with President Donald Trump in Washington, “Sanctions are a means to deter North Korea from making bad decisions, but sanctions themselves cannot fundamentally resolve our problem. North Korea persisted in its nuclear development through decades of sanctions and pressure. To believe that stronger sanctions and more pressure would make North Korea suddenly give up its entire nuclear program is an illusion.” Despite the breakdown of the summit, Lee said “considerable progress has been made” and that on certain issues, the U.S. and North Korea had narrowed their differences “almost to the point of reaching an agreement.” The envoy said the top-down approach “armed with political determination” and backed by “meaningful working-level interaction” is the only feasible way to find a breakthrough in the current negotiating deadlock. “Some argue that the Hanoi summit concluding without an agreement demonstrates the limits of the top-down approach, but looking back at what we have done in the past year, it is clear that the top-down approach is still very valid and the limitations do not outweigh the merits,” Lee said. Still, he made it clear that more substantive working-level discussions are necessary, noting that officials failed to “fully discuss and fine-tune denuclearization and corresponding measures” ahead of the Hanoi summit. Lee also emphasized the importance of promptly producing outcomes “large or small” in the process of denuclearization talks, citing “blind suspicions against North Korea and skepticism toward dialogue” as one of the biggest challenges facing the peace efforts. “When the dialogue resumes, the substantive early harvest is of utmost importance,” Lee said. (Yonhap, “Envoy Says Sanctions Alone Won’t Lead North Korea to Give up Nuclear Program,” April 4, 2019)

In one of the clearest signs of just how much Kim Jong Un wanted an agreement at what became the failed Hanoi summit in February with President Donald Trump, CNN has learned that the North Korean leader gave specific orders to his generals to not carry out any unplanned activity in the days and weeks leading up the meeting, according to a senior South Korean official and a U.S. defense official. The U.S. official added that Kim was worried any inadvertent movement of his military units would raise tensions leading up to the summit. He issued specific orders that forces stay in place in a passive status, without any indication they were moving in the field. His goal was to ensure existing military confidence building measures would remain in place, especially in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, with the aim of helping him convince Trump to ease sanctions on the regime. The previously undisclosed orders by the North Korean leader and the subsequent failure to convince Trump to agree to a partial lifting of sanctions without a move towards denuclearization have underscored the assessment by the U.S. that Kim thought he could convince Trump to agree. “He underestimated the President,” the official said. North Korean forces subsequently returned to their regular deployment status. The orders did not involve missile and nuclear sites which are always under Kim’s strict controls, according to the official. The orders issued by Kim prior to the summit would have significantly reduced the ability of the units affected to suddenly fire their weapons. The US saw no evidence that North Korea was intending any provocation using its conventional forces, suggesting Kim’s order may have had more to do with his worries about a sudden mistake in the field. Several senior U.S. military officials continue to say, for now, they see no evidence Kim is planning any satellite or missile launch, or nuclear test, all of which would be seen by the US as a major provocation. (Barbara Starr and Kylie Atwood, “Officials Say Kim Warned His Generals ahead of Summit,” CNN, April 4, 2019)


4/5/19:
Pompeo: “Q: I want to turn now to North Korea because you have been heavily involved in this. You’ve met more with Kim Jong-un, the leader, than just about anybody else. President Trump’s second summit with the North Korean leader failed to produce an agreement to declare and denuclearize their nuclear weapons. Will there be a third summit with North Korea? POMPEO: I’m confident there will be. Q: When? POMPEO: I don’t know. Q: Soon? POMPEO: I hope so. Look, we came out of Hanoi with a deeper understanding of each other, the positions that the two sides had. The two leaders were able to make progress in that respect. We didn’t get as far as the world is demanding. These are global sanctions that are on North Korea today. Q: Are you disappointed? POMPEO: It’s a negotiation, and we’ve always known this was going to take a while, so I don’t know that I was disappointed. You always hope you’ll make progress faster, better. You know that in every interaction you have. We’re determined; I’m convinced the North Koreans are determined as well. Chairman Kim has promised me, he’s promised President Trump he will denuclearize. Now it’s the mission of my team to make sure that that happens. Q: And so this is really going to come to a head next week, again, because the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, is coming to the White House to meet with President Trump and you. Will you agree to some easing of economic sanctions to continue the momentum on these talks with the North Koreans? POMPEO: President Trump has been unambiguous. Our administration’s policy is incredibly clear: Economic sanctions, United Nations Security Council sanctions, will not be lifted until we achieve the ultimate objective that we set out now almost two years ago. Q: So it’s my understanding that the South Koreans are really pushing the U.S. to try and open some of these economic sanctions — the Kaesong manufacturing park, the reopening of tourism in North Korea — they want to continue this. You’re saying the U.S. is going to say, no, we’re not going there? POMPEO: I talk to my South Korean counterpart a lot. She’s a delightful, capable minister for their country. They’re neighbors with the North Koreans. Many North — South Koreans have family members there. I understand the sentiment, but they’ve been great partners, and we have worked closely together to enforce these sanctions. We appreciate what they’re doing. Q: And just to give the context of why I’m asking that question is because it’s my understanding the South Koreans are pushing for that because the diplomatic channels have gone cold. Have the diplomatic channels gone cold? POMPEO: Nope. Q: They’re still open? POMPEO: Yes. Q: With the North Koreans? POMPEO: Yes. Q: Between the U.S. and the North? POMPEO: Yes. QUESTION: And the South and the North? POMPEO: Yes. Q: Those diplomatic — okay. POMPEO: Yes, we have had conversations after Hanoi about how to move forward. Q: And again, the significance of next week, April 11th, the day that the South Korean president will meet with President Trump, it’s a big day in North Korea … is my understanding, that Kim Jong-un is going to give a big speech there. What are you watching from in that speech? Are we expecting some sort of surprise out of North Korea next week? POMPEO: It is a big day. It’s something that’s an annual event where the leader of North Korea speaks to his people. We’ll watch very closely what he says. I don’t expect there’ll be great surprise, but I do hope that he will share his sentiment, his sentiment that says: We — I believe, as the leader of North Korea, I believe the right thing to do is for us to engage with the United States to denuclearize our country, and that we’ll have a brighter future for the North Korean people. We hope that’s what he’ll talk about with his people, and we’ll be watching it very closely.” (DoS, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS This Morning, New York, April 5, 2019)


4/10/19:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country should strengthen its self-reliance and deliver a “telling blow” against countries imposing sanctions in an attempt to force concessions over his nuclear program. The comments, reported by North Korean state media, represent Kim’s first official, defiant response to the breakdown of the second U.S.-North Korea summit in February. They also come as South Korean President Moon Jae-in was in Washington to meet President Trump. Moon is seeking a way to mediate between the United States and North Korea and restart a stalled dialogue. Kim, in remarks delivered to a plenary session of officials from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, underlined the need to “vigorously advance socialist construction” based on North Korea’s own “efforts, technology and resources.” Kim called for the country to unite “under the uplifted banner of self-reliance, so as to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees.” “Kim is showing that he’s confident enough not to feel any urgent pressure under the sanctions,” said Lim Eul-chul, an expert on the North Korean economy at Kyungnam University in Seoul. “Indeed, North Korea has beefed up significant resilience against sanctions over a long period of time,” he added. “His latest message is that North Korea will further develop self-reliance rather than give in to Washington’s demands.” Over the past week, Kim made four publicized visits to economic-related projects, including a beach resort, department store and more. Although Kim extended the deadline for the completion of the Wonsan-Kalma resort until April 2020, experts said the trips were designed to demonstrate the resilience of North Korea’s economy. Yesterday, Kim also stressed the need to maintain the party’s strategic line of focusing on economic development with a “spirit of self-reliance,” given what he called the current “tense situation,” according to KCNA. “The Supreme Leader urged the need for leading officials to fully display a high sense of responsibility and creativity, and the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and fortitude in an attitude befitting the masters of the revolution and construction under the prevailing tense situation and thus follow through on the new strategic line of the party,” he told his ruling Politburo. Although sanctions have undoubtedly made it more difficult for Kim to deliver on his public pledge to provide economic development for the people of North Korea, few experts believe he will cave to external pressure to surrender his nuclear arsenal. But some say the carrot of economic development may encourage him to limit the size of that arsenal and eventually submit to limited international inspections. Yesterday in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered some wiggle room in the U.S. government’s long-standing insistence that sanctions on North Korea will be lifted only once the country fully denuclearizes. “I want to leave a little space there,” Pompeo told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “From time to time, there are particular provisions, if we are making substantial progress, where one might think it’s the right thing to do.” “But yes, the enforcement regime, the core U.N. Security Council resolutions, need to remain in place,” he added. (Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim, “Kim Jong Un Vows Pyongyang Will Withstand Sanctions Pressure, Prove Its Self-Reliance,” Washington Post, April 11, 2019)

KCNA: “The 4th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) took place at the headquarters building of the C.C., WPK on Wednesday. Kim Jong Un, chairman of the WPK, guided the plenary meeting. Attending the meeting were members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, members and alternate members of the Political Bureau, members and alternate members of the WPK Central Committee and members of the Central Auditing Commission of the WPK. Vice directors of some departments of WPK Central Committee and other members were on hand as observers. Kim Jong Un chaired the meeting upon authorization of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee. The plenary meeting discussed agendas as follows: On holding higher the banner of self-reliance in the socialist construction. On the plan of formation of state leadership bodies to be presented to the First Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly. Organizational affairs. There was discussion on the first agenda at the plenary meeting. Kim Jong Un made a report on the first agenda. He in his report made a scientific analysis of the changed international landscape and the peculiarities of the present situation becoming daily acute and clarified the main tenor of the recent DPRK-U.S. summit talks and the Party’s stand towards it. He underscored the need to more vigorously advance socialist construction by dint of self-supporting national economy suited to the specific local conditions of our country based on our efforts, technology and resources under the uplifted banner of self-reliance, so as to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees. He reviewed and analyzed the successes and faults in the struggle for speeding up the socialist construction under the uplifted banner of self-reliance after the 7th Congress of the WPK, and set forth immediate objectives and tasks to be carried out without fail in further demonstrating the might of the self-supporting economy. He referred to the great achievements for socialist construction made in all the fields and regions and by units through the indomitable offensive under the banner of self-reliance and self-sufficiency in recent years. He noted that a great progress was registered in the struggle to make the national economy Juche-based and self-supporting and the reserved strength of the DPRK and tremendous potential of its independent economy were vividly demonstrated at home and abroad, adding that through the remarkable successes achieved in socialist construction he could keenly feel that our line was right over and over again. Self-reliance and self-supporting national economy are the bedrock of the existence of our own style socialism, the motive power of its advance and development and the eternal lifeline essential to the destiny of our revolution, he stressed. Noting that the first and foremost issue arising in accelerating socialist construction under the uplifted banner of self-reliance is to secure a sure guarantee for putting the national economy on a new phase of growth by expanding and reinforcing the foundation of self-supporting economy, he clarified in detail the immediate tasks for sectors of the national economy. Officials in all the fields and units should do their best for the development of science and education, bearing in mind that the success of relevant fields and units as well as the present and future of socialist construction depend on the thorough implementation of the Party’s policy of attaching importance to science and education and talents, he said. He put special stress on decisively enhancing the role of the Party organizations in the struggle to vigorously speed up the socialist construction under the uplifted banner of self-reliance.” (KCNA, “Report on 4th Plenary Meeting of 7th Central Committee of WPK,” April 11, 2019)

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, one of Pyongyang’s top negotiators with the United States, was named a key member of the ruling party, state media reported, despite the collapse of February’s summit between the two countries. Choe was included in a list of officials “directly appointed” as members of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee during its plenary session today, according to KCNA. The “direct appointment” indicates that Choe became a member of the Central Committee without being an “alternate member” first. (Yonhap, “N. Korean Negotiator Named Key Party Member despite Summit Breakdown,” April 11, 2019)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to signal some flexibility in Washington’s position in negotiations with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program. Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo was asked by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) whether he agrees that no sanctions should be lifted until North Korea demonstrates a commitment to complete and verifiable denuclearization. “I want to leave a little space there,” he answered. “From time to time, there are particular provisions that if we were making substantial progress that one might think that was the right thing to do to achieve. Sometimes it’s visas. I want to leave a little room.” Pompeo added that Gardner’s point was well taken. “The enforcement regime, the core U.N. Security Council resolutions, need to remain in place until the verification of denuclearization has been completed,” he said. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) called for still stronger sanctions on North Korea, saying Trump’s recent withdrawal of additional sanctions sent the wrong message to both North Korea and the rest of the international community. Moreover, he said, a U.N. panel recently reported massive increases in ship-to-ship transfers of oil to North Korea in defiance of sanctions. “You may think the enforcement regime is ineffective, but you should move to the outskirts of Pyongyang because those folks think it’s very effective,” Pompeo said. “I don’t know about massive, but let me assure you, there’s less coal, less fuel, less resource there today than there was when President Obama was in office,” he added. (Yonhap, “Pompeo Leaves ‘a Little Room’ in Sanctions Regime against N.K.,” April 11, 2019) Pompeo offered no clear road map to reopening nuclear negotiations with North Korea nearly six weeks after the collapse of the Hanoi summit, leaving the Trump administration with dwindling options to salvage the talks. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Pompeo struggled to answer basic questions, including whether the two sides have agreed on a definition of complete and verifiable “denuclearization.” “I can’t answer that question yes or no,” Pompeo told Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “We’ve had extensive conversations with North Korea about” that question. When Cardin noted the North had yet to turn over an accounting of its nuclear arsenal, Pompeo replied: “There is still a great deal of work to do.” Democrats pressed Pompeo over whether the administration was being manipulated. “My perspective is that Kim merrily rolls along with development of his nuclear program,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told Pompeo at the hearing. “I see Kim Jong Un trying to play out the string until the end of your administration with absolutely no results that can be pointed to in reducing the nuclear threat.” Pompeo defended the administration’s actions. Countering suggestions from lawmakers that economic sanctions on the North are faltering, Pompeo said: “You should move to the outskirts of Pyongyang, because those folks think it’s very effective.” Behind the scenes, however, administration officials have said Trump’s negotiating team, led by Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea, has had little communication with Pyongyang. The U.S. side has sent the message that it is prepared to resume working-level talks, but the negotiators have heard “nothing back,” said one Asia policy expert in Washington who was briefed by administration officials. The expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, added that the Trump team is running out of time. “Realistically, if we’re not in a serious negotiation process by this summer, this will collapse, and then you’re in the 2020 [campaign] cycle,” the expert said, adding the North probably will want to wait to see whether Trump wins reelection. “We have about three or four months to get sustainable traction and momentum. They may do it, but I see no reason to think they’re going to get there.” At the Senate hearing, Pompeo also appeared to offer a bit of wiggle room on sanctions relief. “I want to leave a little space there,” he told the lawmakers. “From time to time, there are particular provisions, if we are making substantial progress, where one might think it’s the right thing to do . .. But yes, the enforcement regime, the core U.N. Security Council resolutions, need to remain in place.” (David Nakamura, “No Meetings, Little Contact: Trump Administration Faces Dwindling Options on Stalled North Korea Nuclear Talks,” Washington Post, April 10, 2019)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged that he saw North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “tyrant,” potentially throwing cold water on dialogue with a regime that considers its supreme leader unassailable. Speaking to the Senate Appropriation Committee, Pompeo’s comments came as an affirmative answer to a senator’s question on whether he considers Kim a “tyrant” in the likes of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. “Sure. I’m sure I’ve said that,” Pompeo replied. Pompeo also said at the hearing to assess the State Department’s budget request for 2020 that the administration remained committed to a “final, fully-verified denuclearization of North Korea,” and that sanctions would continue to be enforced on Pyongyang until it was reached. This unwavering stance by the United States could be a problem for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who, at the time of hearing, was en route to Washington to nudge Trump toward some kind of compromise to revive the stalled negotiations with Pyongyang. While a Blue House official yesterday said that both Seoul and Washington remained aligned in regards to the “end state” of North Korea’s denuclearization, Lee Do-hoon, the South’s top official in charge of negotiations on the North, earlier this month brought up the idea that some kind of an “early harvest” was necessary. The analogy, according to Lee, was meant to highlight the necessity of showing progress, big or small, in the dialogue, likely a reference to Seoul’s preference for a phased approach in which Pyongyang is given gradual economic incentives to encourage it to scrap its nuclear and missile programs. The North, for its part, appears to be bracing itself for the long game, with a series of national-level political events taking place ahead of today’s first plenary meeting of the country’s newly-elected rubber stamp legislature, the Supreme Peoples’ Assembly. It opened a plenary meeting of the central committee of its ruling Workers’ Party, a day after Kim Jong-un called for self-reliance from party members in the face of a “prevailing tense situation” faced by the country. Presiding over an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the party’s central committee yesterday, Kim made a “deep analysis of the matters pending urgent solution in the party and state” and called on officials to follow through on a “new strategic line” for the party with an attitude of “self-reliance and fortitude,” according to a KCNA report. The new strategic line is believed to refer to Kim’s call for a concentration of all the country’s efforts toward “socialist economic construction,” raised during the third plenary meeting of the party’s seventh central committee last April 20. In that meeting, Pyongyang officially announced it had completed its parallel pursuit of nuclear weapons development and economic growth, termed the “byongjjn line,” and would henceforward solely focus on the economy. Kim’s renewed affirmation of this agenda suggests the North may refrain from nuclear and missile tests to avoid losing the hard-won diplomatic gains reached through engagement with Seoul and Washington. (Shim Kyu-seok, “Pompeo Admits Kim’s a ‘Tyrant,’” JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, 2019)

A ranking Cheong Wa Dae official said Moon and Trump will likely discuss whether the countries should offer phased rewards to the North when they meet this week, apparently acknowledging a possible gap between the allies and what should be offered to the North in exchange for its denuclearization, and the timing of those concessions. The Cheong Wa Dae official refused to call the Hanoi meeting a failure, calling it “a part of a long process that helped both sides identify what the other side needs and what their future negotiations should look like.” (Byun Duk-kun, “President Heads to U.S. for Meeting with Trump over North Korea,” Yonhap, April 10, 2019)

Once Air Force One was wheels-up from Hanoi, Vietnam, last February, the American president phoned his South Korean counterpart and asked for help. Donald Trump had just walked out on nuclear negotiations with North Korea’s leader, but he hadn’t given up on diplomacy just yet. Trump told Moon Jae-in that “you need to talk to Kim Jong Un,” recalled a senior South Korean official who was aware of what was said during the call. Trump said “‘call him’ … something like six times.” Then, as the call was wrapping up, the U.S. president extended an invitation: “After that, come over to Washington, D.C. Let’s have lunch. We’ll talk about stuff, moving ahead.” A different South Korean official, the presidential adviser Moon Chung-in, said that Trump had another request during the phone call. He wanted President Moon to persuade Kim to embrace the “big deal” that the United States proposed at the Vietnam summit, involving complete denuclearization in exchange for peace and economic transformation, rather than North Korea’s smaller offer to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear facility in return for the lifting of most sanctions. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Trump-Moon call. It’s not immediately clear whether the Moon-Kim call took place. Regardless, the South Korean president is now in Washington, on a mission to first persuade Trump, not Kim, to consider a compromise between the big and small deals. After meeting with Trump, President Moon is likely to hold a fourth summit with Kim, or send envoys to Pyongyang, according to four South Korean officials. President Moon’s biggest potential obstacle in his meeting with Trump concerns economic sanctions against North Korea. U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton argue that maintaining sanctions is the key to compelling Kim to make a deal, while South Korean officials contend that easing sanctions could encourage the North Korean leader to strike an agreement. This is a fundamental philosophical difference that will have to be resolved for negotiations to progress. The senior South Korean official who spoke about the Trump-Moon call suggested that Trump’s decision to walk away from the Vietnam summit was a response to political pressures back home to not strike a bad deal. The official noted that in Hanoi, the United States and North Korea had “strong agreement” on formally declaring an end to the Korean War, opening liaison offices in the other country’s capital, and providing North Korea with an economic-incentives package. U.S. negotiators, however, “crushed North Korea with their maximalist position” that Pyongyang completely give up not just nuclear weapons but also its biological and chemical weapons. “A small deal is not a bad deal,” the senior South Korean official argued. If the Yongbyon complex were to be dismantled, North Korea would be eliminating its sole facility for producing plutonium and tritium for use in nuclear bombs, the official said. (The North has other suspected sites for producing highly enriched uranium and plenty of warheads and delivery systems for those bombs, which would all still exist if Yongbyon were destroyed. Experts disagree on how substantial a component Yongbyon is in the entire North Korean nuclear program.) Taking the facility out means “critically crippling North Korea’s nuclear capacity,” the official said. While the Trump administration might want North Korea to swiftly dismantle its weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2020 election, and Kim might favor a longer timeline, the South Korean government might seek a middle ground, said Moon Chung In, who is also a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul and said he was speaking in an unofficial capacity. He offered an example: “Within three years, major decisions to dismantle [the North Korean nuclear program] and normalize” relations, and then, over the “much longer term,” the “verifiable, complete, and permanent dismantling of nuclear facilities, materials, and weapons.” Another aspect of the good-enough deal is jump-starting this process through an “early harvest.” (President Moon is headed to Washington not just with a phalanx of advisers, but also with plentiful buzzwords.) The harvest could include North Korea allowing foreign experts to inspect the destruction of a nuclear test site or missile-engine test site that it had promised to scrap. Or it could entail dismantling the North’s signature Yongbyon nuclear facility, plus what South Korean officials cryptically refer to as “alpha”: some additional denuclearization steps that the parties have yet to determine. In return, North Korea would receive political and economic benefits from Washington. South Korean officials have been signaling that President Moon is likely to encourage Trump to be flexible on sanctions if the harvest is bountiful enough. “Sanctions are a means to deter North Korea from making bad decisions. But sanctions themselves cannot fundamentally resolve our problems,” said Lee Do Hoon, South Korea’s lead nuclear negotiator, at a conference last week in Seoul, in his first public speech since the Hanoi summit. In an apparent rebuke of U.S. hard-liners such as Bolton, Lee added, “North Korea has persisted [with] nuclear development through decades of sanctions and pressure. To believe that stronger sanctions and more pressure alone would make North Korea suddenly give up its entire nuclear program is an illusion.” “I believe President Moon may suggest the idea that the United States ease sanctions on North Korea,” Moon Hee-sang, the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly and a member of Moon’s party, told me. While the United States and South Korea are aligned on their goals for denuclearization and peace, he noted, they have some differences on how to achieve those objectives. Moon Chung-in said that Kim needed to deliver on his promises to dismantle his other nuclear test sites and missile-engine test sites in the presence of outside inspectors. If he were to do so, Moon reasoned, the Trump administration could permit some “relaxation of sanctions … not U.N. Security Council sanctions per se, but at least the U.S. can tolerate some kind of inter-Korean economic exchange and cooperation” or humanitarian assistance. (Reopening two of the most prominent inter-Korean projects, a resort and an industrial complex in North Korea, would require a raft of complicated exemptions to international sanctions.) If the United States continues to take the position that it won’t lift sanctions until North Korea’s complete denuclearization, then “incremental implementation won’t work,” he conceded. And so, after what the senior South Korean official described as “a very harsh internal debate” within the Moon administration about which aggrieved party to consult first, the South Korean president has gone to Washington. Asked whether President Moon had talked with North Korea’s leader about his plans for getting nuclear talks back on track, Moon Chung-in responded, “I don’t think so.” Lee Soo-hyuck, a member of Moon’s party and of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, also told me he didn’t think that Moon and Kim had been in contact. The senior South Korean official would not confirm whether the two leaders have spoken since the Vietnam summit, though the official added that the South Korean government has been sending messages to North Korea through various means—including an inter-Korean military channel and liaison office, along with the Chinese and Russian governments—to “calm down” in the aftermath of Hanoi and not “do anything stupid,” such as abandoning negotiations or ending its suspension of nuclear and missile tests by launching a rocket. “Some people have been arguing that President Moon should meet Kim Jong Un first—that is what President Trump wanted—and then go to Washington. But we can talk with the American president much more easily because we’re allies,” Moon Chung In said. He added that North Korea “wouldn’t accept” meetings with South Korean envoys if those envoys couldn’t speak to why Trump walked out of the Hanoi summit and what he now wants from North Korea. President Moon is eager to meet with Trump “because the mood in Washington is getting worse,” and he’s trying to “separate” the president, who still seems to favor dialogue, from more and more vocal hard-liners around him, Joon Hyung Kim, a former foreign-policy adviser to Moon’s presidential campaign and a professor at Handong Global University, told me. Whether he’ll succeed in his mission is uncertain, but at the very least, Moon will seek to limit the damage from the Vietnam summit’s collapse. Since the abrupt end of the Trump-Kim Vietnam meeting, military relations between the Koreas are “not as great as we had hoped,” another senior South Korean official observed. Whether they are good enough, the official did not say. (Uri Friedman, “The Plan to Resurrect the North Korea Talks,” The Atlantic, April 11, 2019)


4/11/19:
President Trump signaled he remains open to an incremental deal with North Korea that would help further the negotiations over nuclear disarmament, but he emphasized his administration remains focused on “the big deal.” Ahead of a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters that there are “various smaller deals that maybe could happen,” and that the two leaders would be discussing potential increases in humanitarian aid, including food assistance, to the North. But he also emphasized he expects economic sanctions to remain in place until Pyongyang agrees to a deal to eliminate its nuclear weapons. Asked if he would accept a “smaller deal” that fell short of that goal to keep talks going, Trump responded: “I’d have to see what the deal is. There are various smaller deals that could happen. . .. You could work out step-by-step pieces, but at this moment we’re talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of nuclear weapons.” The president said that a third summit “could happen,” but he did not offer a timeline and added that the negotiations are “step-by-step” and “not a fast process.” “I enjoyed the summits. I enjoyed being with the chairman,” Trump said of Kim. “They’ve been really productive. But this is not going to go fast. . . . If it goes fast, then it’s not the proper deal.” In brief remarks, Moon said the Hanoi summit was “not a source of disappointment,” suggesting that it was part of a longer negotiation process that could lead to a “bigger agreement.” He added that there will be “no daylight” between the United States and South Korean governments, attempting to dampen reports of friction. Moon invited Trump to visit Seoul “in the near future,” according to a summary of the meeting released by South Korea’s Blue House, but there was no announcement that such a trip was being scheduled. Trump is tentatively scheduled to make two trips to Japan in the next two months — to Tokyo for a ceremony marking the changing of the emperor in May and the Group of 20 summit in Osaka in June — where he will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has more conservative views on North Korea. (David Nakamura, “Trump Signals Openness to Smaller Deal with North Korea,” Washington Post, April 12, 2019, p. A-4) South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to maintain their strategy of personally persuading North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up nuclear arms at their seventh official meeting in Washington. Moon told Trump of his plan to hold a fourth summit with Kim in the near future, while Trump left open the possibility of a third summit between him and Kim. “The two leaders agreed that the top-down approach will continue to be crucial in the process of the Korean Peninsula’s peace,” Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office of the Blue House, said after the summit. “In that regard, President Trump stressed that the door for dialogue with Kim is always open. “Moon explained his plan to push forward an inter-Korean summit soon,” Chung said. “He also reaffirmed his intention to closely cooperate with Trump so that the next North-U.S. summit will serve as a new milestone in the denuclearization negotiation.” While the two leaders agreed to continue their personal diplomacy with Kim, they appeared to have disagreed on strategies. Moon has pitched an idea that the United States accept smaller deals to keep the process going, but Trump made clear before the summit that he wants a comprehensive, one-shot deal to denuclearize the North, as he presented to Kim in the failed Hanoi summit. “At this moment, we’re talking about the big deal,” Trump said before the summit. “The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.” He still left some room. “There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen,” he said. “Things could happen. You can work out, step by step, pieces.” Trump also said it was premature to give the North economic concessions, such as restarting an inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong or cross-border tours to Mount Kumgang. “This isn’t the right time,” he said. “But at the right time, I’d have great support with North Korea.” Trump made clear he has no intention of easing sanctions on the North to revive talks. “And frankly, I had the option of significantly increasing them. I didn’t want to do that because of my relationship with Kim,” he said, referring to additional sanctions that were withheld a couple weeks ago. “I think that sanctions are, right now, at a level that’s a fair level,” he said. “And I really believe something very significant is going to happen. We could always increase them, but I didn’t want to do that at this time.” Instead of easing sanctions to allow inter-Korean economic projects, Trump said he is willing to offer humanitarian aid to the North. “Well, we are discussing certain humanitarian things right now, and I’m okay with that, to be honest,” he said. “And South Korea is doing certain things to help out with food and various other things for North Korea.” Seoul and Washington are discussing a plan to send a South Korean $8 million aid package through the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Food Program to support children and mothers in the North. “Moon said during the summit that after he returns to Korea, the South will contact the North and try to arrange an inter-Korean summit as soon as possible,” a senior Korean government official said. “The time and venue are yet to be decided.” “At the end of the summit, Trump asked Moon to inform him as soon as possible about the North’s position that the South has grasped through an inter-Korean summit or other inter-Korean contacts,” he said. The official said Moon and Trump had a candid discussion on specific plans for a third North-U.S. summit. He also said their talks removed various uncertainties raised after the collapse of the Hanoi meeting. “We confirmed the U.S. intention to have follow-up talks with the North,” he said. Meanwhile, Trump repeatedly stressed before the summit that he will discuss with Moon Korea’s arms purchases from the United States. “President Moon and South Korea have agreed to purchase a tremendous amount of our military equipment, from jet fighters to missiles, to lots of other things,” he said. “I look forward to talking about other things also, and in particular, all of that equipment that you’re buying,” Trump also said. “We like that in the United States. We like that you buy our great equipment. So again, thank you very much. And thank you for your leadership.” A senior Seoul official, however, said no agreement was made at the summit for Korea to make any new purchases of U.S. arms. (Ser Myo-ja, “Moon, Trump Discuss the Way Forward,” JoongAng Ilbo, April 12, 2019)

Trump: “ … We are discussing many, many important things, including, obviously, North Korea, the relationships with North Korea. I had, in many respects, a very good meeting. We did not fulfill what we wanted to, but in many ways, we — certain things were agreed to. My relationship is very good with, as you know, Chairman Kim. And I think that it will go on that way. We’ll see. We’ll probably know. But we’ll be discussing that. We’ll be discussing trade, military, military purchases. South Korea buys a great deal of equipment from us, especially military equipment. We’ve just recently completed a new and very, very large trade deal with South Korea, and it’s just now going into effect. And it will very much increase trade both ways between our two countries. It’s a very important transaction and something we’ve been working on for quite a while. I know that, for years, they’ve been working on trying to redo it. And we have a new deal and it’s been, I think, very, very good for both our countries. Big difference. President Moon and South Korea have agreed to purchase a tremendous amount of our military equipment, from jet fighters to missiles, to lots of other things. And we make the finest equipment in the world by far, and we appreciate the purchase. It’s a very large purchase. And we always appreciate that. I think I can say that our relationship has never been better. Our relationship is, on a personal basis, very, very close. Our First Ladies, likewise — extremely close. And I think that that will continue to for a long time into the future — forever. So we’ll be having individual meetings later on and all throughout the day with different people from different departments and representatives. The President and myself will be meeting right now in the Oval Office. Then we’ll meet with our groups in the Cabinet Room, as you know. And I think it’ll be very productive. It’s going to be a very productive day. I just do want to tell you that great progress has been made and a great relationship has been made in North Korea too. Kim Jong Un has been, really, somebody that I’ve gotten to know very well and respect, and hopefully — and I really believe that, over a period of time, a lot of tremendous things will happen. I think North Korea has a tremendous potential, and I believe that President Moon agrees with that. And we will be discussing that and even potential meetings, further meetings, with North Korea and Kim Jong Un. So I want to extend my warmest wishes to the people of South Korea, and I think indirectly I can truly say I want to extend my warmest wishes to Kim Jong Un and the people of North Korea. I think the relationship has become far different and far better than it was when I first took office or at the end, certainly, of the Obama administration. And it’s a great honor to be with you, Mr. President. And thank you very much. PRESIDENT MOON: (As interpreted.) Mr. President, I would like to thank you for inviting our couple to the White House and also warmly welcoming us. In particular, last night at the Blue House, I saw the flowers — the beautiful flowers that you had sent — with a personally signed card. I was really moved by your meticulous care, and especially my wife was moved. In particular, I have two accounts on which I would like to express my gratitude to the United States. First, recently, there was a big forest fire in Korea, in the province of Gangwon. At the time, the USFK supported us through the provision of many helicopters, and this really helped us put out the fire. … MOON: (As interpreted.) And after you had met Chairman Kim in Singapore on June 12th, last year, we have witnessed a dramatic turnaround regarding the political situation on the Korean Peninsula. Previously, because of the repeated nuclear and missile test from North Korea, we saw that the military tension at the time had been at its greatest, and we were in a very precarious situation. However, since you met Chairman Kim and you initiated personal diplomacy with him, we saw the dramatic, significant reduction of military tension on the Korean Peninsula, and now peace has prevailed. And also, in terms of North Korean nuclear problem, all Korean people have now — now we believe that you will be able to solve this problem through a dialogue. So I have to say that this dramatic turnaround that we have witnessed is solely down to your strong leadership. TRUMP: Thank you very much. MOON: (As interpreted.) Well, in this sense, I believe that the Hanoi Summit is not actually — was not a source of disappointment, but it is actually the part of a bigger process that will lead us to a bigger agreement. So the important task that I face right now is to maintain the momentum of dialogue and also express the positive outlook, regarding the third U.S.-North Korea Summit, to the international community that this will be held in the near future. So, in this regard, I’d like to express my high regard for how you have continued to express your trust towards Chairman Kim. And also, you have made sure that North Korea does not deviate from the dialogue track. I would like to express my gratitude for this. And let me reiterate that the Republic of Korea is absolutely on the same page when it comes to the end state of the complete denuclearization of North Korea. And I can reassure you that we will remain in such great collaboration with the United States. There will be no daylight until we achieve our ultimate goal. TRUMP: Thank you very much. I have to go just one step further and I want to thank China, who’s really helped us a lot at the border. I also want to thank Russia because they have helped us, and they’ve helped us quite a bit more than people think, at the border. So both China and Russia have really been quite good. That doesn’t mean they can’t get better, but they’ve been quite good at the border. And I just want to thank both of those countries. As we’ve said, a lot of progress has been made. We will have further dialogue and I look forward to it. My relationship with Kim Jong Un has been a very strong relationship. I’ve had some very strong relationships with others, but I have a very, very good relationship with Kim Jong Un, and I think you see that. And we’ll see what happens. Hopefully, it will end up in a great solution for everybody, and ultimately a great solution for the world. Because it is about the world. It’s more than just this area. It’s about the world. And, frankly, the world is watching. I want to thank you for your leadership. Your leadership has been outstanding. And I look forward to talking about other things also, and in particular, all of that equipment that you’re buying. We like that in the United States. We like that you buy our great equipment. So again, thank you very much. And thank you for your leadership. Q Mr. President, on economic projects for South Korea and North Korea, are you willing to allow some leeway in relaxing sanctions so that South Korea can pursue some more economic projects with North Korea? TRUMP: Well, we are discussing certain humanitarian things right now, and I’m okay with that, to be honest. I think you have to be okay with that. And South Korea is doing certain things to help out with food and various other things for North Korea. And we’ll be discussing different things inside. Again, the relationship is a much different relationship than it was two years ago — you remember what that was all about — and certainly during the Obama administration, where nuclear weapons were being tested often, where rockets and missiles were being sent up, in many cases, over Japan. And we are in a much different situation right now. So we’ll be discussing that very much, actually. … Q Mr. President, do you have the third summit with North Korea’s Chairman in mind? And does that also include — TRUMP: It could happen. A third summit could happen. And it’s step by step. It’s not a fast process; I’ve never said it would be. It’s step by step. I enjoy the summits. I enjoy being with the Chairman. I think it’s been very productive. And it really is — it’s a step by step. It’s not going to go fast. I’ve been telling you that for a long time. If it goes fast, it’s not going to be the proper deal. Q Is a three-way summit with the leaders of the two Koreas also (inaudible)? TRUMP: Well, that could happen also. I think that would be largely dependent on Chairman Kim, because President Moon will do what’s necessary. I know President Moon has been fighting this battle for a long time. He’s done an excellent job. I consider him a great ally. And a lot of good things are happening. A lot of good things are happening in the world. Our economy is the best it’s ever been. Our employment numbers — unemployment and employment — are the best they’ve ever been. We have more people working right now in the United States than we’ve ever had before — almost 160 million people. And likewise, South Korea is doing very well. Their economy is doing very well, and I think our trade deal has helped that process. So, we’re sitting on two great countries right now, and we’re leading two great countries. And we think that — I can speak for myself, and I think I can speak for President Moon: We think that North Korea has tremendous potential and, really, potential under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. Let’s see how it all works out. Q Mr. President, have you communicated with Kim Jong Un in the last few weeks since you told us — TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on that. But we have a very good relationship. … Q Yes. Shared defense cost with South Korea — are you thinking a long-term agreement instead of year by year? TRUMP: No, we’re talking about long term, and we always talk about long term. We want to have long term. Our relationship South Korea is extraordinary, and we only think in terms of long term with South Korea. Okay? Q (As interpreted.) How much do you support my President’s push for economic concessions, which include the resumption of the joint inter-Korean industrial complex and perhaps even the (inaudible)? TRUMP: Well, at the right time, I would have great support. This isn’t the right time. But at the right time, I’d have great support with North Korea. Great support. I think that South Korea, and I think Japan, and I think that the U.S. — I think a lot of countries will be helping. China, I really believe, will help. I think that Russia will help. I think a lot of countries will help. When the right deal is made, and when the nuclear weapons are gone, I just think that North Korea has potential as great as anything I’ve ever seen in terms of potential. They have an unbelievable location — surrounded by sea on two sides, and on the other side, Russia, China, and over here, South Korea. You just can’t do better than that. And they have magnificent land. It has tremendous potential. Q (As interpreted.) If North Korea actually submits a roadmap regarding complete denuclearization, are you two — are the two Presidents — will you be discussing this issue at the summit meeting today? TRUMP: Yes, we will. We will be discussing it, certainly. That’s a very prime topic for our meeting today. And we hope that’s going to happen. Q Is your position still that sanctions should stay in place on North Korea until there is denuclearization? Or are you willing to consider easing sanctions to keep the talks going? TRUMP: No, we want sanctions to remain in place. And frankly, I had the option of significantly increasing them. I didn’t want to do that because of my relationship with Kim Jong Un. I did not want to do that. I didn’t think it was necessary. As you know, a couple of weeks ago, I held it back. But I think that sanctions are, right now, at a level that’s a fair level. And I really believe something very significant is going to happen. We could always increase them, but I didn’t want to do that at this time. Q Mr. President, would you accept smaller deals to “keep the process going,” as President Moon called it? TRUMP: I’d have to see what the deal is. There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen. Things could happen. You can work out, step by step, pieces. But, at this moment, we’re talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.” (White House Press Office, Remarks by President Trump and President Moon Jae-in before Bilateral Meeting,” April 11, 2019)

In one of the biggest leadership shake-ups in years, North Korea named a new nominal head of state and a new premier, and gave leader Kim Jong Un a new title, state media reported on Friday, moves analysts said solidify Kim’s grip on power. In an expected move, Kim Jong Un was re-elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission at a session of North Korea’s rubber-stamp legislature that took place today, KCNA said. For the first time, however, state media referred to Kim as “supreme representative of all the Korean people.” That title was approved by special decree in February, according to the Associated Press, but has not been used publicly until now. It’s unclear whether the changes will be codified in the constitution, but analysts said the shake-up shows Kim has fully come into his own, eight years after he inherited rule from his father, Kim Jong Il. “The transition and power consolidation of the Kim Jong Un regime is complete,” said Michael Madden, a nonresident North Korea leadership expert with the Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank. “This is probably the largest party-government shake-up in many years,” he said. Choe Ryong Hae was named President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, replacing Kim Yong Nam. The person holding that position is constitutionally considered North Korea’s head of state and usually represents the country at diplomatic events, though experts say real power remains concentrated in Kim Jong Un’s hands. Kim Yong Nam, who was born in 1928, has been one of the longest serving senior officials, having held the position since it was created for him in 1998, Madden said. His replacement, Choe, was subjected to political “re-education” in the past, but in recent years appeared to be gaining more influence since he was promoted in October 2017 to the party’s powerful Central Military Commission, South Korean intelligence officials previously said. Choe was one of the three officials sanctioned by the United States in December over allegations of rights abuses. Several officials who have played leading roles in negotiations with the United States were also promoted, including Choe Son Hui, who was named first vice foreign minister and a member of the State Affairs Commission. North Korea also replaced the premier of its cabinet, an official at the center of efforts to jumpstart the economy. Pak Pong Ju had served his current post as premier since 2013. According to analysts at NK News, a website that monitors North Korea, Pak helped oversee a process of “radical reform” in the economy that enabled it to survive sanctions. Among those reforms were loosening control of state-run enterprises, allowing them to operate more freely in the market and to seek private investment, according to a 2017 profile of Pak in NK News. Some of those reforms earned the ire of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, who led North Korea at the time. But the younger Kim has more openly embraced many of those market changes, and North Korea has sought to ease sanctions and attract more private investment. Pak will now serve as a vice chairman of the ruling party, meaning that those economic reforms are still being embraced, said Hong Min, senior researcher of Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “It means Pak Pong Ju-nomics, or Pak Pong Ju-style economic reform is continuing,” he said. There is little known about Pak’s replacement, Kim Jae Ryong, who has been serving as a party leader in Jagang Province, a mountainous area home to some munitions factories. The province is known within North Korea, however, for having a spirit of overcoming hardship, which may fit with Kim Jong Un’s message of persevering under sanctions, Hong said. (Joyce Lee and Josh Smith, “Kim Jong Un Consolidates Power as North Korea Shuffles Leadership,” Reuters, April 12, 2019) In the parliamentary meeting, North Korea’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, was replaced by Choe Ryong-hae. The 91-year-old Kim had served as president of the Presidium of the SPA since 1998. Choe, known as No. 2 and a close aide to leader Kim, will also take the post of first vice chairman of the SAC, apparently bolstering his influence on the country’s diplomacy. Under his wing come top nuclear negotiator Kim Yong-chol and others involved in February’s summit with the U.S., who were elected as members of the SAC. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui has been promoted to first vice foreign minister, signaling she will have greater clout in diplomacy with the U.S. going forward despite the breakdown of February’s summit between leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump. Choe was also elected as a member of the State Affairs Commission (SAC) and the SPA’s foreign affairs commission. She is believed to have replaced Kim Gye Gwan as first vice foreign minister. Kim, a 76-year-old veteran diplomat involved in negotiations with the U.S., was excluded from the list of the parliamentary foreign affairs commission, spawning speculation that he might retire from work due to age and health issues. Experts see the North’s latest personnel reshuffle as focusing on strengthening the lineup of its nuclear negotiating team in preparations for future talks with Washington on its nuclear weapons program. “This appears to reflect leader Kim’s intention to actively pursue negotiations with the U.S. aimed at easing sanctions going forward,” Cheong Seong-chang, vice president at the Sejong Institute think tank, said. (Koh Byung-joon, “N.K. Leader Re-Elected as Chairman of State Affairs Council,” Yonhap, April 12, 2019)


4/12/19:
KCNA: “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un made a policy speech “On Socialist Construction and the Internal and External Policies of the Government of the Republic at the Present Stage” at the First Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Friday. … In fear of the security of its own land in the face of the rapid development of the nuclear armed forces of the DPRK, the U.S. floated the idea of improved relations and peace at the negotiations and on the other hand, made desperate efforts to create the conditions for forcing the DPRK to drop arms and toppling its social system after making it run off its way through persistent application of economic sanctions. Now that the U.S. describes its demands running counter to the fundamental interests of our country as conditions for the lift of sanctions, the stand-off with the U.S. will naturally assume the protracted nature and sanctions by the hostile forces will also continue. Sanctions come to be a last resort for those forces finding it hard to bring down the DPRK by force, but constitute an intolerable challenge to the DPRK that can never be overlooked but must be weathered and foiled. As the protracted nuclear threats were done away with nuclear weapons, it is necessary to sweep away the whirlwind of sanctions by the hostile forces with the hot wind of self-supporting and self-reliance. The strategic policy maintained by our party and the DPRK government in socialist economic construction is to put the national economy on a Juche, modern, IT and scientific basis. The independent and Juche character of the national economy have to be augmented in every way. We have to definitely turn the country’s economy into knowledge-based economy through an active drive for putting it on a modern and IT basis. It is required to develop local economy and activate external economic affairs. The economy of the country has to be carried out under the unified control, strategic operation and command of the state. Talents and science and technology serve as key engines for the development of self-supporting economy. The political and military might of the country has to be further increased. The DPRK government should train all the members of society to be genuine Kimilsungists-Kimjongilists and further consolidate the politico-ideological unity and cohesion of the country by giving definite precedence to the political and ideological work as required by the intrinsic nature of the socialist society. It has to perfect the legal system of the country and strengthen the role of laws in the state activities and social life. Self-reliant national defense capabilities constitute a powerful treasured sword for defending the sovereignty of the country. The climate of peace that began settling in the Korean peninsula is not durable and the hostile forces’ attempt at invasion of the DPRK has not gone. We have to always keep in mind that peace can be ensured only by powerful military capabilities, and firmly maintain the principle of self-defense and keep increasing the defense capabilities of the country. … Noting that our historic struggle for the reunification of the country, the long-cherished desire of the nation, has now entered a new phase, he continued: The three historic north-south summit meetings and talks and the adoption of north-south declarations last year meant a great event of exceptionally huge significance that turned back the serious situation from inching close to a war and declared the start of a new journey toward national reunification. Now the entire nation ardently hopes that the historic Panmunjom Declaration and the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration would be thoroughly implemented to lead to the continued peaceful atmosphere on the Korean peninsula and the steady improvement of the north-south ties. However, the conservative forces of south Korea are responding to the desire of the nation and the unanimous expectation of the international community with untrustworthy words and acts and making desperate struggle to turn the north-south ties back to those in the period before the publication of the Panmunjom Declaration. The U.S. is openly forcing the south Korean authorities to “control speed” and moving in every way to subordinate the implementation of the north-south agreement to its policy of sanctions and pressure on the DPRK. Because of this, we now face a serious situation of whether to defuse tension and keep maintaining the atmosphere of improving the north-south ties or to go back to the past when the ties plunged into a catastrophe with the danger of a war increasing. I make it clear once again that it is my unwavering determination, as clarified before, to turn the north-south ties into those of durable and lasting reconciliation and cooperation by holding hands with the south Korean authorities and to write a new history of the nation, peaceful and co-prosperous, as wished by all the fellow countrymen. In order to give further momentum to the good atmosphere of improved relations which the north and the south provided with much efforts after putting inglorious situation under control and to lead them to the meaningful result of peace and reunification, we have to put an end to the nature of sycophancy tarnishing the spirit of independence and the policy of relying on outsiders damaging the interests common to the nation, and subordinate everything to the improvement of the north-south ties. I think that the south Korean authorities should come back to their stand at the time of the Panmunjom meeting and the September Pyongyang meeting and fulfill their responsibility before the nation through the sincere implementation of the north-south declarations if they truly wish for the improved north-south ties and peace and reunification. The south Korean authorities should not act an officious “mediator” and “booster” that adopt a vacillating stand depending on the trend and engage themselves in an array of visits, but be a party advocating the interests of the nation with its own spirit and voice, being part of the nation. It is our consistent stand that in order to give further momentum to the atmosphere of improving the north-south ties, it is prerequisite to foil the moves of hostile forces against reunification and peace at home and abroad. It is important to understand before it becomes too late that it will be hard to expect any progress in the north-south ties and any result of peace and prosperity as long as the war-like south Korean military forces are left intact in their disguised persistent hostile acts including the resumption of the joint military exercises with the U.S. in other codenames, though they were agreed to be stopped, and unless a fundamental liquidation is put to the anachronistic arrogance and hostile policy of the U.S. which creates a deliberate hurdle in the improvement of ties while coming forward with unilateral gangster-like demands. All the Koreans in the north and the south and abroad have to resolutely foil the moves of the U.S. and the south Korean conservative forces challenging the historical trend toward the improvement of the north-south ties and peace and reunification, for the sake of the destiny and future of the nation. If the south Korean authorities have a true intent to head for the improvement of the north-south ties and peace and reunification, they have to sympathize with our stand and will and keep pace with them and take a bold decision proving their sincerity in practical acts, not in words. The Singapore DPRK-U.S. summit and talks that were held in June last year for the first time in history in the limelight of the world served as an eventful occasion that instilled the hope of settlement of peace on the Korean peninsula where the exchanges of fire had been observed, and the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement commanded full support and approval by the international community desirous of peace as it marked a historic declaration that communicated to the world that the two countries DPRK and U.S. would write a new history of relations. The DPRK took the first step of confidence-building, a key to defusing the hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. through crucial and meaningful measures like a moratorium on the nuclear test and test-fire of ICBM, and demonstrated its will to sincerely follow through on the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement, a landmark in establishing the new DPRK-U.S. relations through such a bold measure of facilitating the repatriation of the remains of GIs as requested by the U.S. president. But the second DPRK-U.S. summit in Hanoi in February became an occasion which aroused a strong question if we were right in taking the steps with strategic decision and bold resolution, and evoked vigilance as to the U.S. true willingness to improve its relations with the DPRK. At the second DPRK-U.S. summit, we expressed our decision to take more prudent and trustworthy measures after setting stages and courses indispensable for the implementation of the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement and expected a response from the U.S. to it. But the U.S. came to the talks, only racking its brains to find ways that are absolutely impracticable. In a word, the U.S. did not ready itself to sit face to face with us and settle the problem nor had a clear direction and methodology. If it keeps thinking that way, it will never be able to move the DPRK even a knuckle nor gain any interests no matter how many times it may sit for talks with the DPRK. There are now open hostile moves running counter to the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement, as exemplified by the U.S. recent test simulating the interception of ICBM from the DPRK and the resumption of the military exercises whose suspension was directly committed to by the U.S. president. These seriously rattle us. As wind is bound to bring waves, the U.S. open hostile policy toward the DPRK will naturally bring our corresponding acts. Now the U.S. is strongly suggesting its thinking of holding the 3rd DPRK-U.S. summit talks and the settlement of the issue through dialogue. Yet, it is still shunning the withdrawal of its hostile policy, the fundamental way of establishing the new DPRK-U.S. relations, and miscalculating that it can bring us to our knees if it puts maximum pressure on us. Of course we also attach importance to the settlement of the issue through dialogue and negotiations, but American-style way of dialogue to impose its unilateral demand upon the dialogue partner does not suit our constitution and we have no interest in it. The U.S. is further escalating the hostility to us with each passing day despite its suggestion for settling the issue through dialogue. It is as foolish and dangerous an act as trying to put out fire with oil. Given the existence of deep-rooted hostility between the DPRK and the U.S., in order to implement the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement it is necessary for both sides not to table their unilateral demands but find out a constructive solution to meeting each other’s interests. To this end, it is essential for the U.S. to quit its current calculation method and approach us with new one. The U.S. is now talking a lot about the 3rd DPRK-U.S. summit meeting, but the resumption of such summit as the Hanoi summit is not inviting to us nor [do] we have an intent. But as President Trump keeps saying, the personal ties between me and him are not hostile like the relations between the two countries and we still maintain good relations, as to be able to exchange letters asking about health anytime if we want. If the U.S. adopts a correct posture and comes forward for the third DPRK-U.S. summit with a certain methodology that can be shared with us, we can think of holding one more talks. However, what I feel now is if there will be any need to keep an attachment to the summit with the U.S. just because of the issue of sanctions relief. Anyway, we will wait for a bold decision from the U.S. with patience till the end of this year but I think it will definitely be difficult to get such a good opportunity as the previous summit. Only when there provided written content favorable for the interests of both sides and acceptable to each other, I will sign the agreement without reserve and this depends on in what position and with what calculation method the U.S. would come forward. What is clear is that if the U.S. persists in its present political calculation method, the prospect of settling the issues will be gloomy and very dangerous. I anticipate that the U.S. would make a wise decision at the crucial moment today and hope that the second hand of the confrontation between the DPRK and the U.S. brought to a stop with much effort will not run again forever, he said. He emphasized that the DPRK government would develop friendly and cooperative relations with all the countries that respect the DPRK’s sovereignty and are friendly to it and join hands with the world peace-loving forces in order to establish a lasting and durable peace mechanism on the Korean peninsula. He called for making a general advance to successfully accomplish the cause of building a powerful socialist country in close unity around the Party and the government of the Republic under the uplifted banner of great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.” (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Makes Policy Speech at First Session of 14th SPA,” April 13, 2019)


4/15/19:
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said that he wanted to meet again with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, making the overture three days after Kim dismissed Moon’s mediating efforts between the North and the United States as “officious.” “Now is the time to begin the preparations in earnest for an inter-Korean summit,” Moon said. “As soon as the North becomes ready, I hope the two Koreas will be able to sit down together, regardless of venue and form, and hold detailed and substantive talks on how to achieve further progress that goes beyond the previous two summits between Chairman Kim and President Trump.” Moon has repeatedly argued that a nuclear disarmament deal is possible, insisting that Kim is willing to give up his weapons and focus on economic growth should Washington provide the right incentives. Trump said that while he was willing to meet with Kim for a third time, he was in no hurry. United States officials hope that the tightening vise of international sanctions will eventually force North Korea back to the negotiating table with a more palatable offer. “It’s not going to go fast,” Mr. Trump said. “If it goes fast, it’s not going to be the proper deal.” On April 12,speaking to his country’s rubber-stamp parliament, Kim ridiculed Moon’s efforts. He said South Korea should abandon its “sycophancy” toward the United States and “subordinate everything to the improvement of North-South ties.” Kim added, “The South Korean authorities should not act as officious ‘mediators’ and ‘boosters’ that adopt a vacillating stand depending on the trend and engage themselves in an array of visits, but be a party advocating the interests of the nation with its own spirit and voice, being part of the nation.” Moon did not respond to Mr. Kim’s characterization of his efforts as “officious.” Instead, he put a positive spin on Mr. Kim’s speech, in which the North Korean leader also expressed his “unwavering determination, as clarified before, to turn North-South ties into those of durable and lasting reconciliation and cooperation.” Moon expressed “high regard for Chairman Kim’s unwavering commitment” in considering a third summit meeting with Trump. He even interpreted Kim’s speech as declaring “his firm commitment toward achieving denuclearization,” although Kim did not use the word “denuclearization” in his address. Moon said keeping dialogue open and building peace on the Korean Peninsula was “a matter of survival” for South Koreans, and he defended his diplomatic role. “As the architect of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, we have done what we have to and what we can do in a way that befits our status as the master of the fate on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “My government will not shrink from this responsibility.” Moon also benefited from North Korea’s decision not to stage a military parade on Monday to mark the birthday of Kim Il-sung, Mr. Kim’s late grandfather and the founder of North Korea. But with inter-Korean economic projects still frozen, Kim may see little incentive to meet with Mr. Moon anytime soon. “It is not clear if what South Korea can offer under the sanctions regime is enough to entice North Korea back to talks,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul. (Choe Sang-hun, “Seeking Another Summit, Even After a Snub,” New York Times, April 16, 2019, p. A-8)


4/16/19:
Activity has been detected at North Korea’s main nuclear site, suggesting Pyongyang may be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel since the collapse of a summit with Washington, a US monitor said today. The Center for Strategic and International Studies said satellite imagery of the Yongbyon nuclear site on April 12 showed five railcars near its uranium enrichment facility and radiochemistry laboratory. “In the past these specialized railcars appear to have been associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns,” the Washington-based monitor said. “The current activity, along with their configurations, does not rule out their possible involvement in such activity, either before or after a reprocessing campaign.” (AFP, “Activity Detected at North Korea Nuclear Site: U.S. Monitor,” April 16, 2019)


4/17/19:
KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the Armed Forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, supervised and guided a test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon conducted by the Academy of Defense Science on Wednesday. Looking round the new-type tactical guided weapon, Kim Jong Un was told by officials concerned of the Academy of Defense Science about the formation of the weapon system and its operation mode. Saying that the completion of the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army, he noted that it is a very good thing that the field of national defense science has waged a dynamic struggle for attaining core research goals set forth by the Party at the 8th Conference of Munitions Industry and thus conducted brisk activities for developing our own style weapon system which embodies four elements. He mounted an observation post to learn about a plan of the test-fire of the new-type tactical guided weapon and guided the test-fire. The design indexes of the tactical guided weapon whose advantages are appreciated for the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead were perfectly verified at the test-fire conducted in various modes of firing at different targets. After watching the power of the new-type tactical guided weapon, he pointed out that our national defense scientists and workers in the field of the munitions industry performed another great work in increasing the country’s defense capabilities, saying with pride that he had always been struck with admiration at them in the period of developing strategic weapon and our scientists, technicians and workers are, indeed, great and there is no weapon impossible to make when they are determined to do. He set the phased and strategic goals for keeping munitions production going on and putting national defense science and technology on cutting edge level and indicated detailed tasks and ways to attain them. He was accompanied by Kim Phyong Hae, O Su Yong, Jo Yong Won, Ri Pyong Chol, Kim Jong Sik and other senior officials of the Party Central Committee and commanding officers of the Korean People’s Army including Kim Su Gil, Ri Yong Gil, No Kwang Chol, Pak Jong Chon and Pak Kwang Ju. (KCNA, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Guides Test-Fire of New-Type Tactical Weapon,” April 18, 2019)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the testing of a new tactical guided weapon, state media said on April 18, the North’s first public weapons test since a second summit with the United States ended without agreement in February. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not describe exactly what weapon was tested, including whether it was a missile or another type of weapon. “Tactical” implies a short-range weapon rather than the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States. Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said the description that the test was “conducted in various modes of firing at different targets” likely meant that it could be launched from the ground, sea and air. “It’s highly likely that it’s a short-range cruise missile that can be transformed into a surface, an air-to-surface, an air-to-ship, a ship-to-ship, as well as a surface-to-surface cruise missile,” Kim Dong-yub said. Kim Jong Un also oversaw the test of an unidentified tactical weapon in November that could protect North Korea like a “steel wall”, according to state media. It was not clear whether it was the same weapon tested this week. Experts said in November it was part of Kim’s initiative to shift the mainstay of the North’s conventional military power from a nearly 1.3 million-strong army to high-tech weapons. Kim Jong Un said in April 2018 North Korea would stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) because Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities had been “verified”. “This does serve as a useful reminder of one critical fact: Chairman Kim Jong Un never promised to stop testing all weapons in his military arsenal, just nuclear weapons and ICBMs that have the potential to hit the U.S. homeland,” said Harry Kazianis of the Washington-based Center for the National Interest. A U.S. official said that, according initial information, U.S. Northern Command and Strategic Command did not detect a missile launch from North Korea. Further checks were underway, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. A White House official said: “We are aware of the report and have no further comment.” Spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said the Pentagon was also aware of the report. There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the U.S. State Department. Kim Jong Un’s visit to the tactical weapon testing site came after he visited the North Korean Air and Anti-aircraft Force on Tuesday, according to KCNA, where he inspected a flight drill and expressed “great satisfaction” at their combat readiness. Kyungnam University’s Kim Dong-yub said the latest test appeared to be a message to the United States that North Korea would not bow to sanctions and go its own way. “That’s part of it, but it’s also an internal message to the North Korean people and to the military” to instill trust in their own security by reinforcing conventional weapons, Kim Dong-yub said. (Reuters, “North Korean Media: Kim Oversees New Tactical Weapons Test,” April 18, 2019)


4/18/19:
KCNA: “Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the Department of American Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave the following answer to a question raised by the KCNA {today] as regards the fact that Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of the State, is letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds against us every day: In his historic policy speech at the First Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly, Comrade Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has clarified the principled stand on the DPRK-U.S. relations and settlement of the nuclear issue and said he would wait in patience till the end of this year to see whether the United States makes a courageous decision or not. Everyone has a clear interpretation of his speech which says that the U.S. should change its way of calculation and come up with responsive measures before the end of this year. Just at this time, only Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of the State, is talking nonsense that its meaning is to finish the working level negotiation between the DPRK and the U.S. by the end of the year, which subjects him to public ridicule. We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks; whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose. However, it is a very dangerous situation if he really did not grasp the meaning. If his behavior is intended, I think it is none other than silly calculation to be free from the constraint that the U.S. should make a move until the end of the year, misrepresenting the meaning of our requirement as the finalization of the working level negotiation by the end of the year by help of his talented skill of fabricating stories like a fiction writer. As our Chairman of the State Affairs Commission has clarified, the U.S. cannot move us one iota by its current way of thinking. In his previous visits to Pyongyang, Pompeo was granted audiences with our Chairman of the State Affairs Commission for several times and pleaded for the denuclearization. However, after sitting the other way round, he spouted reckless remarks hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership at Congress hearings last week to unveil his mean character by himself, thus stunning the reasonable people. I would like to take this opportunity to make clear o