Category Archives: Asia

(ABC) Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak arrested over 1MDB investigation

(ABC

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at de-radicalisation conference.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has been arrested, Malaysia’s anti-corruption task force told the ABC, amid an investigation into how billions of dollars went missing from a state fund he founded almost a decade ago.

Authorities picked Mr Najib up from his home after serving him with a remand order, two sources close to the family said.

Charges, including embezzlement and bribery with government money, are expected to be handed down early Wednesday morning.

Mr Najib was arrested at his Kuala Lumpur home at 2:35pm (local time) today, sources said.

Mr Najib has been under investigation over the misappropriation of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB infrastructure fund.

He has consistently denied wrongdoing claiming no knowledge of how the money had found its way into his personal account.

But raids of homes linked to the former prime minister recovered $370 million in cash and goods.

It took three days, six counting machines and 22 officials from the central bank to count the seized cash, totalling $39.2 million.

Millions of dollars worth of jewellery, handbags, watches and other items were also seized.

Family under suspicion

Mr Najib’s wife is also under investigation and his stepson, Riza Aziz, was brought in for questioning earlier today along with a Hollywood film producer, as part of the probe into alleged theft and money-laundering.

The metaphor that illustrates the graft and sleaze of Najib Razak’s reign is 300ft yacht Equanamity. 4 Corners reporter Linton Besser asks whether Mr Najib will finally have to answer the corruption allegations which surrounded his prime ministership.

Mr Riza was solemn as he arrived at the anti-graft office and did not speak to reporters.

US investigators say Mr Riza’s company, Red Granite Pictures Inc., used money stolen from 1MDB to finance Hollywood films including the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street.

Red Granite agreed in March to pay the US Government $60 million to settle claims it benefited from the 1MDB scandal.

Since his shock election loss to Mahathir Mohamad in May, Mr Najib has been barred from leaving the country, quizzed by the anti-corruption agency and had his personal and family houses searched as part of the 1MDB probe.

Mr Mahathir said in an interview last month that embezzlement and bribery with government money were among the charges that Malaysia was looking to bring against Mr Najib, adding they had “an almost perfect case” against him.

It is unclear how many charges Najib will or if he will be allowed to apply for bail.

Founded by Mr Najib in 2009, 1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and corruption.

Civil lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice allege that nearly $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB.

(Time) President Trump and Kim Jong Un Just Agreed to Work Toward Denuclearization. Read the Full Text Here

(Time) President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded their historic summit in Singapore Tuesday by signing a joint document that included a pledge to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The document, which hailed the summit as an “epochal event of great significance,” is broken down into four bullet point resolutions, including unspecified “security guarantees” from the U.S. in exchange for a “firm and unwavering commitment” from North Korea to pursue “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the White House confirmed. The leaders also agreed to commit to recovering and repatriating the remains of prisoners of war.

Trump described the “comprehensive” document as “very important,” and the leaders signed English and Korean copies.

The paper affirmed intentions to “establish new U.S.-DPRK relations” and agreed to future negotiations “at the earliest possible date.” The two countries are still technically at war since an armistice rather than a peace agreement ended the Korean War in 1953, and the two nations do not have formal diplomatic relations.

America’s goal for North Korea is complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Kim had offered to discuss denuclearization in April, but North Korea threatened to cancel the summit late last month over concerns that giving up nucelar weapons was the only item on a “one-sided” negotiating agenda.

Read moreWhy Negotiating With North Korea Was Never Going to Be Easy

Read the full document below:

Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-up negotiations, led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

(Signed)

DONALD J. TRUMP
President of the United States of America

KIM JONG UN
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

June 12, 2018
Sentosa Island
Singapore

(CNBC) Donald Trump lands in Singapore ahead of meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un

(CNBC)

President Donald Trump waves next to Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan after arriving in Singapore June 10, 2018.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Donald Trump waves next to Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan after arriving in Singapore June 10, 2018.

President Donald Trump landed in Singapore Sunday evening local time — ahead of his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The U.S. president, fresh off of a tumultuous G-7 meeting in Canada, is set to meet with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday. On Tuesday, he’ll go toe-to-toe with Kim to try and push for North Korea’s denuclearization.

Those arriving with the president aboard Air Force One into Singapore’s Paya Lebar Air Base reportedly included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Asked by a reporter how he felt about the upcoming meeting with Kim, Trump said: “Very good.” He then got into his waiting limousine.

During his time in the city-state, Trump is expected to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel. Kim, for his part, is reportedly staying at the nearby St. Regis hotel. Both men will travel on Tuesday to the island of Sentosa — just off of Singapore’s main island — to hold their summit at the Capella hotel there.

When Trump and Kim meet they will be making history even before they start. Enemies since the 1950-53 Korean War, the sitting leaders of North Korea and the United States have never met previously.

The two countries were on the brink of war last year, with their leaders trading insults and threats, until Kim made a dramatic offer in March to meet Trump and discuss nuclear disarmament, which the American president accepted.

Trump said he and Kim may even sign an agreement to end the Korean War, which was concluded only with a truce, not a peace treaty.

(BBC) North Korea: US will offer ‘unique’ security guarantees, says Pompeo

(BBC)

Media captionBig planes and jogging guards: Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have arrived in Singapore

The US will offer North Korea “unique” security assurances in return for denuclearisation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s US-North Korea summit in Singapore, Mr Pompeo said preliminary talks between senior officials were continuing and moving quite rapidly.

He insisted the US would accept nothing less than complete denuclearisation.

North Korea’s state media has talked of a “new relationship” with the US.

What did the secretary of state say?

Mr Pompeo, Donald Trump’s top diplomat, said that the president was fully prepared for his meeting with Kim Jong-un.

He said the US would be satisfied with nothing less than the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula – with verification the key part of any deal.

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump arrive separately in Singapore on 10 July 2018Image copyrightREUTERS/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe two leaders arrived in Singapore several hours apart

The US was prepared to offer certainty to North Korea so they could be “comfortable that denuclearisation isn’t something that ends badly for them”.

He would not be drawn on what might be on offer.

Mr Pompeo stressed that economic sanctions would remain in place “until North Korea completely and verifiably eliminates its weapons of mass destruction programmes”.

What is happening now?

Both Mr Trump and Mr Kim arrived in Singapore on Sunday.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who met Mr Trump and Mr Kim separately on Sunday evening, told the BBC that both leaders were feeling “supremely confident” ahead of their meeting.

The US president and North Korean leader are staying in separate hotels, not far from each other, and will meet on Tuesday at a hotel on Sentosa, a popular tourist island a few hundred metres off the main island of Singapore.

Map showing location of summit on Sentosa in Singapore

Their first meeting will be just the two men, with their translators, without any advisers present.

Mr Trump has said he has a “good feeling” about Tuesday’s much-anticipated summit.

Mr Balakrishnan confirmed that Singapore was paying for the North Korean delegation’s stay, describing it as “hospitality that we would have offered”.

What has North Korea said?

Highly unusually, North Korea’s state-run media are already reporting on Mr Kim’s trip to Singapore to meet Mr Trump. As a rule, they would only report on the leader’s movements after the event.

An editorial in Rodong Sinmun confirmed that Mr Kim had travelled to Singapore to meet Mr Trump and that “we will establish a new relationship to meet the changing demands of the new era”.

It continues: “Even if a country had a hostile relationship with us in the past, our attitude is that if this nation respects our autonomy… we shall seek normalisation through dialogue.”


Why North Korea’s comments matter

Analysis: Laura Bicker, BBC News, Singapore

Media captionWhat should Donald Trump call Kim Jong-un?

For decades the US has been a sworn enemy. There are even anti-American museums in Pyongyang.

But the state is now trying to sell the idea of talking to what it once described as “the incarnation of all sorts of evil, the empire of devils”. And that was some of its milder language.

So let’s examine a couple of key phrases from Rodong Sinmun.

In the English version, the summit is sold as a chance to realise “the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern, as required by the changed era”.

It’s the “changed era” that is important. North Korea has spent decades building up a nuclear arsenal at great cost. Kim Jong-un needs to tell his people why he’s willing to negotiate.

His New Year speech – the one that kick-started this diplomatic process – was all about North Korea’s strategy of building the economy having achieved the goal of becoming a nuclear power. This has echoes of that.

These pages in the paper are significant because they pave the way for a possible change in the state’s message and it helps those watching argue that this time with North Korea, things could be different.


How did we get here?

The two leaders have had an extraordinary up-and-down relationship over the past 18 months.

Mr Trump’s first year in office was marked by bitter exchanges between himself and Mr Kim – as North Korea conducted several ballistic missile tests in defiance of the international community.

The US president successfully sought to tighten UN sanctions on the North, and to get its traditional ally, China, to go along. He also famously vowed to unleash “fire and fury” if Pyongyang kept threatening the US. Mr Kim has called him “mentally deranged” and a “dotard”.

A defiant North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test in September 2017. Soon after, Mr Kim declared that his country had achieved its mission of becoming a nuclear state, with missiles that could reach the US.

In early 2018, a remarkable turnaround in the relationship occurred. It started with significant diplomatic overtures from North Korea towards South Korea during the Winter Olympics. In March, Mr Trump shocked the world by accepting an invitation from Mr Kim to meet in person.

What do both sides want?

Denuclearisation has been the central issue in the run-up to the talks. The US wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but North Korea is widely expected to resist that and it is unclear what it might ask for in return.

Mr Kim has also said he wants to focus on building the North Korean economy – and thus wants sanctions relief and international investment. The question is what concessions he is willing to make, and whether he will stick to any promises made.

Still, the US is not necessarily expecting to get a final deal in Singapore. President Trump has described it as a “get-to-know-you situation” and said “it’s going to be a process”.

(ZH) US Plans “Significantly More” South China Sea War-Drills To Counter China’s “New Reality”

(ZH) After an exciting weekend of comments from U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chinese People’s Liberation Army Lieutenant General He Lei at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, a civilian and military defense summit in Singapore, it appears the United States had to have the last word.

On Sunday, two U.S. officials told Reuters that the Pentagon is considering increased naval war drills in the South China Sea near China’s heavily disputed militarized islands. The officials, who are working jointly with Asian diplomats — declined to comment about the Pentagon’s progress in finalizing the plan for the new drills.

Such a move could further increase geopolitical tensions in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

Officials explained to Reuters that the naval drills could involve more extensive patrols, ones involving a large number of warships or operations including closer surveillance of the Chinese military bases on the islands, which now includes anti-ship cruise missiles, radar-jamming equipment, and strategic bombers.

U.S. officials said they are not doing this alone. They are aligning international allies and strategic partners to increase “naval deployments through the vital trade route as China strengthens its military capabilities on both the Paracel and Spratly islands.”

“What we have seen in the last few weeks is just the start, significantly more is being planned,” said one Western diplomat, referring to a freedom of navigation patrol late last month that used two U.S. ships for the first time.

“There is a real sense more needs to be done.”

While the Pentagon does not directly comment on future classified operations, there is a reason to believe that more naval drills are set to intensify in the second half of 2018. Last month, we reported that the U.S. Navy conducted its “freedom of navigation” patrols near the islands to demonstrate the right to sail through the international waters, even as President Donald Trump asked Beijing for cooperation on North Korea.

Even though the naval operation had been planned for many months in advance, this was the first time where two U.S. warships used the “freedom of navigation” card to sail miles from the heavily disputed islands.

In response to Beijing’s recent militarization of its islands, the Pentagon withdrew an invitation for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to participate in a massive multinational naval exercise off Hawaii’s coast this summer.

During the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue summit on Saturday, Mattis blasted Beijing for the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea and warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the near term. He said China’s militarization in the region was now a “reality” but that Beijing would face unspecified consequences.

Last month, China conducted military drills over – and on – heavily disputed islands in the South China Sea, as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) for the first time landed several strategic bombers on the islands, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines.

People’s Daily,China

@PDChina

Chinese bombers including the H-6K conduct takeoff and landing training on an island reef at a southern sea area

At the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, Senior Col. Zhao Xiaozhou, of the People’s Liberation Army’s, hinted in a question to Mattis that the U.S. Navy’s recent freedom of navigation around the islands could be defined as militarization.

“Mattis’ speech was negative,” Zhao said in an interview afterward.

“If China’s islands and reefs are continuously threatened by activities under the name of so-called freedom of navigation, China will eventually station troops on these reefs.”

Speaking to reporters at the Singapore conference, Lieutenant General He Lei defended Beijing’s military build-up in the South China Sea, blasting the “irresponsible comments” made by Mattis, who on Saturday accused Beijing of threatening its neighbors in the heavily disputed waters and warned China of “consequences” if it continues weaponizing the South China Sea.

“It is China’s sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there. We see any other country that tries to make noise about this as interfering in our internal affairs,” He said.

Singapore-based military strategist Tim Huxley told Reuters while increased international pressure might slow China’s militarization efforts, however, the momentum will be hard to stop.

China has created a new reality down there, and it is not going to be rolled back,” Huxley said.

“They are not doing this to poke America or their neighbors in the eye but they are almost certainly doing this to serve their long-term strategic objectives, whether that is projecting their military power or securing energy supplies.”

The amount of insight from Mattis and General He Lei at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue this past weekend has provided us with the understanding that tensions in the South China Sea are about to significantly flare up in the second half of 2018 and beyond. Nevertheless, the clues from Reuters about their conversation with U.S. officials familiar with the situation confirms that one of the world’s most volatile areas could soon be much closer to war than we thought.

(BBC) US-North Korea: Trump says summit with Kim is back on

(BBC)

Media captionDonald Trump: ‘It’s a get-to-know-you situation’

Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June is back on, the US president says, a week after it was scrapped.

Mr Trump made the announcement after talks with a senior North Korean envoy at the White House.

The envoy, General Kim Yong-chol, hand-delivered a letter from the North Korean leader to President Trump.

Mr Trump at first said the letter was “very interesting” but later said he had not yet opened it.

He also said the issue of formally ending the Korean War would be on the table in Singapore.

The 1950-53 conflict only ended with a truce, not a final peace treaty.

“We’ll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore. It went very well,” President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn.

“We’ve got to know their people very well,” he added.

Mr Trump cautioned that the summit might not achieve a final deal on the North’s controversial nuclear programme.

Media captionUS-North Korea: Trump gets an unusually large letter

“I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it’s going to be a process, but the relationships are building and that’s very positive,” he said.

The historic meeting between Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders. President Trump has offered to help rebuild the North’s economy if it scraps its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un says he is committed to “denuclearisation” in some form but his precise demands are unclear.

Two weeks of on-off negotiations

16 MayNorth Korea says it may pull out of the summit, accusing the US of reckless statements and sinister intentions

24 MayDonald Trump cancels the summit, blaming “tremendous anger and open hostility” from the North

26 May: Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in meet for surprise talksat the demilitarised border between the two countries

1 June: Senior North Korean envoy General Kim Yong-chol delivers a letter from Mr Kim in person at the White House. Mr Trump says the summit on 12 June is back on

Media captionSingapore has been getting ready for the US-North Korea summit

Gen Kim Yong-chol’s visit to Washington came a day after he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York.

Mr Pompeo described their talks about denuclearisation “substantive”.

“President Trump and I believe Chairman Kim is the kind of leader who can make those kinds of decisions. And that in the coming weeks and months, we will have the opportunity to test whether or not this is the case,” he said.

Mr Kim’s letter reportedly expresses his interest in meeting without making any significant concessions or threats in regards to denuclearisation, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing a foreign government official who was briefed on the contents.

Trump the diplomat basks in the spotlight

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

This is Trump diplomacy, unfolding in real time. If it’s not what the world expects, if it’s statecraft as we’ve never seen it before, that’s because this is a president unlike any the American people have elected before.

From “fire and fury” to a relationship “as good as it’s been in a long time”. The summit is on, then it’s off, now it’s on again. The president, as witnessed by his impromptu 16 minute question-and-answer session with gathered reporters, is basking in the world’s spotlight as he conducts these historic negotiations.

Passing legislation is hard. Coping with the Russia investigation is infuriating. Welcoming to the White House the “second most powerful man in North Korea”, as Mr Trump called Kim Yong-chol, is comparatively easy.

Even as Mr Trump heralded the progress being made, he was downplaying expectations for the upcoming summit, which he said was never planned to end in some grand signing ceremony.

For the moment, it appears the Singapore meeting will be only a first step – a chance for a historic photo-op and a hope for breakthroughs to come.

For a president who many thought last year was barrelling toward war, however, that appears more than enough.

How did we get here?

North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests and numerous tests of ballistic missiles, all the while maintaining a barrage of belligerent rhetoric against its enemies, particularly the US.

Media captionThe nuclear word Trump and Kim can’t agree on

It claims to have developed a nuclear weapon small enough to be carried by a long-range missile, although this remains unverified.

Previous attempts to negotiate with North Korea have failed, but earlier this year Pyongyang held direct talks with Seoul and the two Korean leaders held a historic summit in April.

With relations thawing, the US has pledged to help rebuild North Korea’s economy if it agrees to give up its nuclear weapons.

But the US wants denuclearisation first and it is unclear whether Mr Kim will agree to fully abandon his nuclear arsenal.

(ZH) North Korea Comes Crawling Back: Stresses “Desperate Need” For Summit “Whenever, However”

(ZHUpdate: As if the earlier begging was not enough, it appears Kim wants to make sure that President Trump is aware of his efforts and desire to meet.

Yonhap reports that North Korea’s state media said Friday the demolition of its only known nuclear test site has demonstrated its “peace-loving” efforts and pursuit of a “total halt” to nuclear tests.

As we detailed yesterday, North Korea officially demolished the test-site overnight, inviting a number of reporters to witness the event.

And today, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in English.

“The dismantlement of the nuclear test ground is a vivid manifestation of the DPRK government’s fixed peace-loving stand to join in the international aspiration and efforts for total halt to the nuclear test and make positive contribution to building a nuclear free world,”

The KCNA added that the demolition of the tunnels and other surrounding facilities, including a communications center, power systems and observation centers, was carried out “completely” and “with transparency.”

*  *  *

It appears that Trump “jilted North Korean lover” approach may have been just what the doctor ordered.

Literally minutes after we said that most experts expected a violent, angry outburst from North Korea’s president in response to Trump’s unexpected cancellation of the Singapore June 12 summit, such as this comment from Senator Jack Reed…

… a shocked North Korea is virtually begging for a meeting.

In a statement issued by state-run Korean Central News Agency, citing Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea announced it was willing to sit with the U.S. “whenever, however” through any method to try to resolve the outstanding issues.

Gwan said that whereas President Trump’s announcement to one-sidedly cancel the planned summit is unexpected and very regrettable, “North Korea’s goal and will to do everything for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and mankind remains unchanged, and we are always willing to give time and opportunity to the US side with a big and open mind,” according to the statement. He added that “We express our intent that there is a willingness to sit at any time, in any way to resolve issues” and noted that President Trump’s decision to cancel the summit is “not what the world wants” and the summit is necessary to resolve the current hostile bilateral relationship.

Furthermore, North Korea appears to be backtracking on the recent diplomatic escalation and has effectively apologized, stating that “its previous remarks regarding the U.S.-North Korea summit had been in protest against strong US remarks towards North.

While we await the full KCNA statement, here are the key bullet points courtesy of Reuters and Bloomberg:

  • NORTH KOREA SAYS TRUMP’S SUMMIT CANCELLATION IS UNEXPECTED
  • NORTH KOREA SAYS IT’S WILLING TO MEET WITH U.S. AT ANY TIME
  • NORTH KOREA SAYS IT IS STILL WILLING TO RESOLVE ISSUES WITH UNITED STATES WHENEVER, HOWEVER
  • NORTH KOREA SAYS U.S.-N.KOREA SUMMIT IS NECESSARY TO RESOLVE CURRENT HOSTILE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP
  • NORTH KOREA SAYS IT HAD WISHED `TRUMP MODEL’ COULD RESOLVE ISSUES
  • NORTH KOREA SAYS IT HAD HOPED FOR ISSUES REGARDING N.KOREA TO BE RESOLVED “TRUMP-STYLE”
  • NORTH KOREA SAYS NO CHANGE IN N. KOREA’S WILL TO DO BEST FOR PEACE
  • NORTH KOREA SAYS ITS PREVIOUS REMARKS REGARDING U.S.-N.KOREA SUMMIT HAD BEEN IN PROTEST AGAINST STRONG U.S. REMARKS TOWARDS NORTH
  • N.KOREA HAS WILLINGNESS TO GIVE CHANCE, TIME TO U.S.
  • NORTH KOREA HAS WILLINGNESS TO GIVE CHANCE, TIME TO U.S.

And the punchline:

  • NORTH KOREA SAYS CURRENT SITUATION REFLECTS DESPARATE NEED FOR SUMMIT

Or, to summarize North Korea’s response to Trump’s “dear John” letter:

And now the ball is in Trump’s court.

+++ (BBG) Trump Says ‘We’ll Have to See’ as Doubts Swirl on Kim Summit

(BBG) President Donald Trump said North Korea hasn’t directly raised concerns about his proposed summit with its leader Kim Jong Un, after the country threatened through its state-run news agency to pull out of the meeting.

“We haven’t been notified at all,” Trump said Wednesday during a meeting with Uzbekistan’s president at the White House, in response to questions from reporters about whether the summit would go on. “We’ll have to see.”

North Korea’s vice foreign minister and a top disarmament negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, said in a statement published Wednesday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency that Kim’s regime felt “repugnance” toward National Security Adviser John Bolton and rejected a “Libya model” in which the country quickly surrenders its nuclear weapons.

“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,” Kim said. He added that Trump risked becoming a “more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors” if he didn’t accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

Asked if he would continue to insist North Korea denuclearize, Trump said “yes.” The White House said it was proceeding with planning for the landmark meeting.

“He’ll be there, and he’ll be ready” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Trump in a Fox News interview Wednesday, adding that North Korea’s threat to back out of talks isn’t out of the ordinary amid heated discussions between adversaries.

“We’re ready to meet, and if it happens that’s great, but if it doesn’t we’ll see what happens,” she said. “If it doesn’t we’ll continue the maximum pressure campaign that has been ongoing.”

China, North Korea’s top trading partner and ally, called on both sides to “avoid further provocation.”

“The amelioration of the situation on the Korean Peninsula is hard won and should be cherished,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing.

Trump’s planned June 1 summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore is shaping up to be one of the biggest foreign policy tests of the Trump administration. It comes after a year in which the two countries’ leaders traded personal insults and threats of war as North Korea ramped up its tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks over the steps needed for the U.S. to ease sanctions against North Korea: The Trump administration wants Kim to give up his weapons before getting anything in return, while the regime favors a more phased approach.

“The original conflict of interests endures,” said Van Jackson, a strategy fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, and a former U.S. Department of Defense adviser. “The bottom line is that Kim isn’t going to give up nukes, and the reason is pessimism; it’s that North Korea has no theory of its own security without nukes.”

Earlier Wednesday, North Korea abruptly canceled talks with South Korea and warned the U.S. to “think twice” about the Trump summit. The moves undercut the optimism after Kim agreed to discuss his nuclear weapons program in a first-of-its-kind meeting.

Seoul’s financial markets took the threats in stride, with traders viewing it as a negotiating tactic on the part of the North Korean leader. The benchmark Kospi index gained 0.2 percent, while the won parred the day’s loss to 0.3 percent, after weakening as much as 0.8 percent earlier.

Libya Comparison

The comments from Kim Kye Gwan indicated broader dissatisfaction with the U.S. approach to talks, and Bolton’s comparisons to Libya in particular. The national security adviser, who advocated a military strike on North Korea before joining the administration last month, has described a denuclearization deal similar to one in which Libya allowed its weapons to be packed up and shipped to the U.S. in return for sanctions relief.

The comparison only underscores the fears of the Kim regime, which views nuclear weapons as insurance against any U.S.-led military action. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was brutally killed by NATO-backed rebels two years after the last remnants of his nuclear program were removed.

“Our country is neither Libya nor Iraq, which have met a miserable fate,” Kim Kye Gwan said. “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.”

Military Drills

The earlier KCNA report announcing the decision to “indefinitely” suspend talks with South Korea cited the allies’ “Max Thunder” military drills and other “improper acts” by authorities in Seoul. “There is a limit in showing goodwill and offering opportunity,” the report said.

North Korea has in recent weeks issued repeated complaints about Trump administration efforts to maintain its “maximum pressure” campaign against the regime in the run up to the meeting. The KCNA statement specifically cited the deployment of B-52 bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear bombs, and F-22 fighter jets as evidence of threatening behavior by the U.S.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday that the U.S. won’t send B-52 bombers for the military drills, citing unidentified local military and government officials. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense said in a text message that the allies would proceed with the exercises as planned.

Colonel Rob Manning, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement that the exercises now underway are annual drills aimed at maintaining “a foundation of military readiness.” He said the drills’ defensive nature “has been clear for many decades and has not changed.”

(Time) ‘World Peace!’ President Trump Reveals Kim Jong Un Meeting Will Take Place in Singapore on June 12

(Time) President Donald Trump revealed the date and location of his upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, announcing Thursday that they will meet in Singapore on June 12.

In typical fashion, Trump first revealed the news on Twitter. “The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th,” he tweeted Thursday morning. “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”

The details of the sit-down came two days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea to prepare for the meeting, which Trump noted on Tuesday as he withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. “The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them,” Trump said in his speech at the White House that day. “In fact, at this very moment, Secretary Pompeo is on his way to North Korea in preparation for my upcoming meeting with Kim Jong Un. Plans are being made. Relationships are building.”

Some foreign policy experts worry that backing out of the Iran deal will make it harder for the Trump Administration to convince North Korea to enter into a deal with the U.S. But as TIME reported earlier this week, Trump and his aides think the decision will show North Korea that the United States won’t accept any deal that would allow Kim to restart a nuclear program.

+++ (BBG) Nearly 80 Percent of South Koreans Say They Trust Kim Jong Un

(BBG) One summit has changed the perceptions of a nation.

Friday’s meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un prompted 78 percent of respondents to a Korea Research Center poll published this week to say they trusted the North Korean leader. That’s a far cry from the 10 percent of South Koreans who said they approved of Kim in a Gallup Korea poll conducted just a month-and-a-half ago.

The summit was filled with unprecedented scenes: Kim’s step over the ankle-high concrete slab dividing the Korean Peninsula — and then his walk back across the border hand-in-hand with Moon; a 30-minute private chat in the woods in front of television cameras; the first ever live remarks to reporters by a North Korean leader; Kim’s sense of humor and his deferential manner toward Moon, who is more than 30 years his senior.

And that’s just the optics. More significantly, the two leaders signed a declaration to finally end a seven-decade war this year, and pursue the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Kim also called for frequent meetings between the leaders — a major shift given only three summits have taken place since the war.

Border Hop

More than 35 percent of respondents to the poll conducted earlier this week on behalf of national broadcaster MBC said the biggest accomplishment was the pledge to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons. Nearly 30 percent said Moon’s hop over the border at Kim’s impromptu suggestion was the most impressive moment of the summit.

Support for Kim is now nearly as high as it is for Moon, who scored an 86 percent rating. The South Korean president has been enjoying the highest popularity among all South Korean presidents in history since his inauguration a year ago .

The question now is whether this positive perception of Kim will continue through and beyond a planned summit between the North Korean leader and U.S. President Donald Trump, possibly later this month.

(ABC) North Korea, South Korea agree to end war, denuclearize peninsula

(ABC)

PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in as both of them arrive for the inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjom, April 27, 2018. Reuters

North Korea and South Korea have agreed to denuclearize the peninsula and later this year formally end the war between the two nations that began in 1950.

The nations signed an armistice when the fighting ended in 1953, but they’ve now agreed to pursue a proper peace agreement tied to the “common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”

Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, has pledged a “new history” with the South Koreans. Together with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, he has agreed to work on a permanent peace agreement and work toward a “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

“We talked about peace and prosperity,” Moon said. “A bold decision has been made. Big applause should be given to Kim Jong Un.”

PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in walk together at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, April 27, 2018.Korea Summit Press Pool via AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in walk together at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, April 27, 2018.more +

Moon called the meeting “historical” and “a valuable time.” To achieve a complete peace the two nations will collaborate and “change the order of the Korean peninsula.”

Moon also said this process included “a bold and courageous decision” by Kim and that the two leaders “have confidence in each other.”

“There is no turning back,” he added.

Kim similarly praised Moon, saying this moment has been a long time coming.

“Same people, same blood, so we cannot be separated and should live together in unification,” Kim said. “I hope we live together soon as a new path forward.”

With the rest of the world watching, he added, “We will never repeat the past mistakes.”

The event-packed day was well choreographed, providing emotional and video-friendly moments including a red-carpet honor-guard review, planting a pine tree together, sharing a walk in the Demilitarized Zone and then a lengthy private talk at a picnic table on a newly painted bright blue bridge.

The two men spoke for more than half an hour as media watched from afar.

Perhaps the day’s biggest highlight was when Kim, wearing a black Mao suit, first appeared in the morning, walking from the North size of the DMZ to meet Moon at the border with the South. It was the first time a North Korean leader stepped on South Korean soil.

Shortly thereafter, Moon said to Kim, “You’ve come to the South today, when can I go to the North?” Kim responded: “Why not try now?”

Holding hands, as more than 3,000 journalists, mostly from South Korean looked on, the leaders jumped across the boundary.

Kim and Moon may request three-way talks with Washington or four-way talks that include Beijing to convert the armistice from 1953 into a peace treaty, hopefully by the end of this year.

Both nations have agreed to expand civilian exchanges and pursue join sporting and cultural events.

Family reunions may happen in mid-August, an anniversary for both nations’ celebrating liberation from Japanese colonial rule after the end of World War II.

+++ P.O.V.V.I. (BBG) North Korea Set to Mothball Nuclear Site, Suspend Missile Tests

P.O.

Dear All

I personally think this summit between President Trump and President Kim is for good.

And i think that, against all previous odds, a comprehensive agreement in ending the nuclear threat will come out of it.

I wonder how the media that systematically criticises President Trump will react to a success…

Are they going to swallow their own words…?

Or are they going to say the issue was not that important after all…?

I am really curious…

And i remember perfectly President Obama’s last advice to President Elect Trump on North Korea being the most important and immediate problem he would have to face…

All things being equal i think this summit will be a success.

And a major one.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

Please revisit our articles on North Korea

Thank you for your patience.

(BBG) North Korea has achieved its goal of developing a nuclear arsenal and is suspending further tests of atomic weapons or intercontinental ballistic missiles, its state-run media reported, citing leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim said the regime’s nuclear test site will be shuttered, according to the Korean Central News Agency. Punggye-ri, built in a secluded mountain valley northeast of Pyongyang and the site for all six of the regime’s nuclear blasts, has already been in doubt amid signs of structural weakness, and some observers have said it would be unsafe to do more tests there.

“I solemnly declare that we have accomplished credible weaponization of nuclear forces,” Kim was quoted as saying at a Friday ruling party meeting. “Our decision to suspend nuclear tests is part of the world’s important steps for nuclear disarmament and our republic will join global efforts to completely suspend nuclear tests.”

The comments come ahead of his talks on April 27 with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and a planned summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in May or June. While Kim’s statement that he has achieved his desired deterrent is largely a reiteration of prior claims — and he made no commitment to giving up the weapons he has already acquired — the pledge to mothball the test site suggests he’s seeking to further ease tensions ahead of those meetings.

Trump Response

A spokesman for Moon said Kim’s statement was a positive sign, while Trump praised it in a tweet, calling it “very good news for North Korea and the World.”

“Big progress!” he added. “Look forward to our Summit.” In a later tweet he noted that North Korea would “shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s Northern Side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests.”

North Korea has already effectively halted weapons tests for about five months, after firing a missile on Nov. 29 believed to be capable of reaching any city in the U.S. After that launch, which prompted the most restrictive United Nations sanctions yet, Kim declared his regime’s decades-long quest for nuclear weapons “complete.”

Commercial satellite imagery of Punggye-ri from March 17 showed no evidence of tunneling operations or personnel or vehicles in key areas, according to the 38 North website, which monitors North Korea.

Tunnels at the site suffered cave-ins during and after each nuclear test, said Hong Tae-kyung, a professor of geophysics at Seoul’s Yonsei University.

“A fair amount of tunnels have collapsed and there’s even a possibility of radioactive leaks there,” said Hong. “Realistically, it’s highly unlikely they can be used for nuclear tests any more.”

If North Korea resumed nuclear testing at some point it would probably pick another site in the less-populated east with lower risk of contamination for Pyongyang, Hong added.

Friday’s meeting of the Workers’ Party agreed that the suspension of nuclear tests was “an important process for the worldwide disarmament,” KCNA reported. “The DPRK will join the international desire and efforts for the total halt to the nuclear test,” it added, using the initials for North Korea’s formal name.

Shin Beomchul, a professor at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy, called Kim’s comments a “very carefully coordinated calculation to build hopes of the world that it’s open to changes that could possibly follow the summits.”

“It’s still hard to tell from the statement if it has genuine intent to denuclearize,” Shin said. “Contents-wise, there’s no real change in its position.”

Kim has long said he wants his country to be recognized as a nuclear power, but nations including South Korea and the U.S. want him to dismantle his arsenal. Any progress on that front is likely to be slow and fraught, and prior efforts involving Kim’s late father when he was leader collapsed in acrimony. The weapons are Kim’s only serious card in dealing with the outside world.

In a speech on Thursday, Moon warned that implementing any deal with North Korea would be challenging, even if he was optimistic about reaching an “in-principle” agreement.

“Realistically speaking, we’re just entering the threshold for a dialogue,” Moon said.

Still, the regime is feeling the economic squeeze of sanctions, including by neighbor and ally China. And Kim at the party meeting spoke of the need to prioritize the development of his impoverished country.

The North Korean leader has placed greater emphasis on the economy since taking power in 2011, a shift that could make any offers of outside aid more appealing in negotiations. In 2013, Kim for the first time declared his goal of “simultaneously‘’ pushing forward economic development and his nuclear force.

Kim’s statement is a “major opportunity to bring the Korean Peninsula out of the Cold War shadows,” China’s state-run Global Times said in a commentary. “It is hoped that Washington will take real action to consolidate the upbeat atmosphere, which includes scrapping U.S.-South Korea joint military drills or considerably reducing the size and frequency of the drills at the very least.”

The U.S., South Korea and Japan should immediately lift sanctions on North Korea except for broader UN-agreed penalties, it said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement that Kim’s actions would help promote a political settlement to the tensions.

Japan though expressed some skepticism.

“We have made many promises with North Korea, we paid money on the condition that they would end a test facility and such,” Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters in Washington. “But I remember that they just took our money.” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters it won’t change how Japan handles the regime, Kyodo News reported.

Two U.S. officials who asked not to be identified said there was no reason not to believe Kim’s pledge was genuine. U.S. pressure had changed the calculus for Kim, one official said.

“This is a very serious initiative, it fits right in with North Korean policy and what they’ve been saying for a while,” said Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies who was involved in North Korea talks from 1993 to 1995. “They’ve decided that this is the moment to shift gears and to focus on developing their economy, end of story.”

North Korea won’t give up its nuclear weapons without reciprocal steps from the U.S. and others, he added. “But this is another sign that they are serious.”

(BBG) Two Koreas Set April 27 for Kim Jong Un’s Historic Walk South

(BBG) Kim Jong Un could become the first North Korean leader in history to enter South Korea in just over four weeks, when he steps across the heavily fortified border for a summit with President Moon Jae-in.

The April 27 meeting on the southern side of the demilitarized zone will be the first between leaders of the two nations in 11 years. Leaders of the two nations — which are still technically at war — have only met twice since the peninsula was divided in 1948.

Next month’s summit — a precursor to a potential meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump — is the culmination of diplomatic efforts after North Korea fired a flurry of missiles last year. Kim got the ball rolling with a call for talks in a News Year’s Day speech, which led to his nation’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics and a series of meeting between the two Koreas.

“As the date for the inter-Korean summit is finalized now, we will do our best to be fully prepared for it during the given time,” Moon’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, said in a text message. “We hope all South Koreans will be united in making a groundbreaking turning point for peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula at the summit.”

Trump, Xi

The question now is whether the summit can lay the groundwork for a successful Trump-Kim meeting and a return to multi-nation talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean leader paid a surprise visit to Beijing this week to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, with China saying Kim expressed an openness to discussions over his nation’s nuclear program.

Trump welcomed the meeting between Kim and Xi, while calling for continued pressure against the isolated regime. “Maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!” Trump said.

Trump has also threatened military action to prevent Kim from obtaining the ability to achieve its stated goal of being capable of striking the continental U.S. with a nuclear weapon.

Earlier Thursday, Moon’s office released a statement praising China’s participation in discussions to help stabilize the situation on the peninsula. “We expect the upcoming inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summits to provide a clear turning point for eternal denuclearization and a peace system on the Korean Peninsula,” spokesman Kim said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told parliament that his nation would consider holding talks with North Korea in the context of the other summits taking place. The Asahi newspaper said earlier that Kim Jong Un’s administration was seeking a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The yen weakened to a two-week low against the dollar after the report.

QuickTake on North Korea’s nuclear program

The last inter-Korean summit was held in October 2007 between then President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader. The pair signed a peace declaration calling to end the armistice with a permanent treaty, but progress stalled and the two sides remain in a stalemate.

The first summit was in June 2000 between the elder Kim and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, a proponent of the so-called Sunshine Policy. The meeting led to family reunions until ties soured under conservative President Lee Myung-bak.

(SCMP) Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to hold historic face-to-face meeting

(SCMP) After months of trading insults and threats of nuclear annihilation, Donald Trump agreed to meet Kim Jong-un. No American president has ever met with a North Korean leader.

US President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un for a historic face-to-face meeting, a surprise development that could mark a potential breakthrough in North Korea’s nuclear stand-off with America and its allies.

South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong made the announcement of Kim’s offer in Washington on Thursday (Friday morning Hong Kong time).

Chung said Kim was “committed to denuclearisation” and would refrain from any further nuclear and missile tests.

He said Kim wanted to meet Trump as “soon as possible” and that Trump said “he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula.

Kim “understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea [South Korea] and the United States must continue”, Chung said.

No American president has ever met with a North Korean leader.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later confirmed Chung’s comments. She said Trump would “meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”

Chung headed a delegation that met Kim at a historic meeting in Pyongyang late on Monday, Kim’s first with South Korean officials.

Korea Society president Thomas Byrne hailed the announcement.

“What we’re seeing here is that the alliance is working. Both the US and the ROK [South Korea] are on the same page,” Byrne, who’s now in Seoul for meetings with government and business officials, told the South China Morning Post.

“There’s unison in ends. There may be flexibility in ways to meet that end but the end remains unchanged: The denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the use of maximum pressure. The joint military drills between South Korea and the US will go on and that’s been assured from the highest levels here.”

Trump’s aides have been wary of North Korea’s diplomatic overtures because of its history of reneging on international commitments.

Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!

But Trump himself declared the developments as “great progress” in a tweet, adding that “sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached”.

Earlier Thursday he boasted to journalists that South Korea would be making a “major statement” about North Korea.

After his announcement to reporters in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, Trump was asked whether the announcement would be about talks with North Korea and he told ABC reporter Jon Karl: “It’s almost beyond that. Hopefully, you will give me credit.”

A meeting between Kim and Trump, who have exchanged bellicose insults in the past year that have raised fear of war, would mark a dramatic breakthrough in efforts to resolve the tense stand-off over North Korea’s effort to develop nuclear missiles capable of hitting the US mainland.

Chung and South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon flew to Washington to explain North Korea’s stance on possible future talks with Washington and the prospect of Pyongyang suspending nuclear tests if the security of the North’s government is assured.

Earlier Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that though “talks about talks” might be possible with Pyongyang, denuclearisation negotiations were likely a long way off, adding “we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in made similar comments, saying: “This is just a start, and we can’t be optimistic just yet.”

Japan’s prime minister on Friday welcomed the surprise announcement of the summit between Trump and Kim.

“I highly appreciate North Korea’s change that it will begin talks on the premise of denuclearisation,” Shinzo Abe said, adding that he planned to visit the United States to meet Trump “as early as April”.

The United States and North Korea were foes throughout the cold war and fought on the opposite side of a bloody war in the 1950s.

In the last two decades, they have been engaged in what is perhaps the world’s most dangerous nuclear stand-off, with 30,000 US military personnel stationed just over the border in the South.

“It’s a stunning development, something that’s caught everyone by surprise,” Paul Stares, a senior fellow for conflict prevention and director of the Centre for Preventive Action at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, said.

“People will liken this to the possibility of a Nixon to China move, but maybe Reagan to Reykjavík is more appropriate,” Stares said, referring to a meeting between then US President Ronald Reagan and former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev in the Icelandic capital in 1986.

“The two of them came very close to agreeing to abolish nuclear weapons forever … It was a real breakthrough in terms of subsequent developments.

“Kim Jong-un is looking for legitimacy and status. North Korean leaders have been wanting for many years to be seen on the same level as the US president, so this would give him a tremendous domestic boost.”

The full statement by Chung Eui-yong

“Good evening. Today, I had the privilege of briefing President Trump on my recent visit to Pyongyang, North Korea. I’d like to thank President Trump, the Vice-President, and his wonderful national security team, including my close friend, General [H.R.] McMaster.

“I explained to President Trump that his leadership and his maximum-pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture. I expressed President Moon Jae-in’s personal gratitude for President Trump’s leadership.

“I told President Trump that, in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearisation. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue. And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.

“President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation.

“The Republic of Korea [South Korea], along with the United States, Japan, and our many partners around the world remain fully and resolutely committed to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Along with President Trump, we are optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution.

“The Republic of Korea, the United States, and our partners stand together in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions. Thank you.”

(BBC) Kim Jong-un to meet S Korea leader in landmark summit

(BBC)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un greets a member of the delegation of South Korea's president on March 6, 2018Image copyrightREUTERS

Image captionKim Jong-un was pictured welcoming delegates to a dinner on Monday

The leaders of North and South Korea are due to meet at a summit of the two countries next month, Seoul’s envoy has said after a rare trip to Pyongyang.

N Korea’s Kim Jong-un also said he was willing to talk to the US about getting rid of nuclear weapons, the envoy said.

There have been previous programmes to halt the North’s nuclear ambitions, but it has failed to keep its promises.

It will be the first meeting between the leaders of the two countries for more than a decade.

The two men will meet on the heavily fortified border next month, at the truce village of Panmunjom. The two countries also agreed to open a hotline between the leaders.

On their return from Pyongyang, South Korean officials said Kim Jong-un told them he was now willing to talk about getting rid of the North’s nuclear weapons, if he felt that the regime’s security could be guaranteed.

Mr Kim also said there would be no missile tests while diplomacy continued.

This is a huge turnaround for North Korea’s young leader, the BBC’s Laura Bicker reports from Seoul.

The United States had said talks with North Korea would only go ahead if it was willing to discuss denuclearisation.

The US has said it is “cautiously optimistic” about improving North-South contacts, but ruled out formal talks with Pyongyang unless it was ready to give up its nuclear weapons.

Throughout the Olympics, the US maintained that North Korean gestures of rapprochement would carry little weight without such a commitment – particularly following last year’s nuclear and missile tests carried out by the North.

South Korean officials had dinner with the normally reclusive leader on Monday. Among the delegation were intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong.

They were the first officials from Seoul to meet Mr Kim since he came to power. They returned to Seoul on Tuesday morning, Yonhap news agency said.

The trip was part of a wave of rapprochement moves surrounding last month’s Winter Olympics.

Throughout the Olympics, the US maintained that North Korean gestures of rapprochement would carry little weight without commitment to give up nuclear weapons.

The South Korean delegation is expected to visit Washington later this week to brief US officials on their talks in the North.

Surprising imagery

Kim Jong-un has met very few foreign officials since he became leader in 2011 and the last time envoys from the South visited Pyongyang was in 2007.

Two previous summits were held in 2000 and 2007, under South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun who met Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il.

South Korean officials have dinner with Kim Jong-un, his wife Ri Sol-ju (5L) and sister Kim Yong-sol (3L)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

So the sight of a southern delegation smiling, shaking hands and sitting down for dinner with him is significant.

They were aiming to capitalise on the reduced tensions after the Games, which saw the Koreas march together under a single flag.

The hope is that future formal talks will break the diplomatic standoff between the US and North Korea and persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, something it has fiercely resisted despite ever-increasing punitive sanctions.

The North’s KCNA news agency said Mr Kim had “warmly welcomed” the delegates and held an “openhearted talk” with them.

Image provided by South Korean president's office, Kim Yong-Chol (2nd right), vice-chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, talks with South Korean delegation in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photo: 5 March 2018Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe visiting envoys (left) held talks with their North Korean counterparts before the dinner hosted by Kim Jong-un

They passed on a letter from South Korean President Moon Jae-in in which he invited Mr Kim to attend further talks.

KCNA said Mr Kim had “exchanged views and made a satisfactory agreement” on the letter and gave orders for it to be acted on.

The dinner, which lasted four hours, also featured Ri Sol-ju, Mr Kim’s wife who rarely appears at official events, and his sister Kim Yo-jong, who was part of a North Korean delegation to the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The South’s response to the apparently cordial meeting is likely to remain muted until the delegates return to Seoul.

Officials have stressed the talks were only preliminary, but the parties had “somewhat shared” views on some issues.

When asked whether nuclear disarmament had been discussed, a senior officials from Mr Moon’s office said “I assume so”, the Yonhap news agency reports.

(Reuters) Japan’s Abe, Trump agree to keep up pressure on North Korea

(Reuters)

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to keep up pressure on North Korea until Pyongyang abandons its nuclear and missile programmes, Japan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
  • The two leaders confirmed in phone talks on Wednesday night that there would be “no meaningful dialogue” unless North Korea agreed on “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.”
US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the inter-delegation meeting in Japan on November 6, 2017.

Kiyoshi Ota | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the inter-delegation meeting in Japan on November 6, 2017.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trumpagreed to keep up pressure on North Korea until Pyongyang abandons its nuclear and missile programs, Japan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The two leaders confirmed in phone talks on Wednesday night that there would be “no meaningful dialogue” unless North Korea agreed on “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” the ministry said in its statement.

“Dialogue for the sake of dialogue would be meaningless,” Abe told reporters after the phone talks.

South Korea said its president, Moon Jae-in, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the North Korea standoff, was offered a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. The offer was made via Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who visited South Korea last week for the Winter Olympics.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who was also in South Korea for the Olympics opening, said on Wednesday the United States was open to talks with Pyongyang, but only to convey that it must give up its nuclear weapons.

Separately, Japan reported that it had identified another suspected illegal ship-to-ship transfer involving a U.N. blacklisted vessel.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said it had reported to the United Nations that North Korean-registered tanker, the Rye Song Gang 1, was engaged in a transfer of goods with the Belize-registered tanker “Wan Heng 11”, in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

The transfer took place early Tuesday in the East China Sea about 250 km (155 miles) east of Shanghai, the ministry said in a statement issued late on Wednesday.

“Japan must be united with the international community to enhance pressure on North Korea to the maximum degree,” it said.

The Rye Song Gang 1 was also spotted last month in the East China Sea engaging in a suspected transfer of goods with the Dominican-flagged tanker “Yuk Tung”, which Tokyo also reported to the United Nations.

(BBG) Attacking North Korea Is Unthinkable. Or Is It?

(BBG) If radical concessions like pulling troops off the peninsula won’t work, the U.S. will have to take out Kim’s nukes and artillery from the air.

For any number of foreign-policy punditsnonproliferation zealotslate-night chatterbots and enterprising T-shirt vendors, the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un feud has been the gift that keeps on giving career advancement.

Yet for all the debate over how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons, there are really only three options. The first, to which the vast majority of national security and military professionals are resigned, is remarkably unsatisfying: live with it. North Korea apparently already has a small arsenal of functioning warheads and its missile tests show an ability to reach the continental U.S. It’s too late to turn back the clock. Let’s try to keep Kim in a box and focus on not getting into the same pickle with Iran. (Although some of us think that’s inevitable as well.)

The second is to reinvent the wheel and come up with a form of statesmanship that will succeed where decades of other policies have not. Bill Clinton tried carrots (oil and aid). George W. Bush tried sticks (sanctions and opprobrium). Barack Obama tried something called “strategic patience,” which was as ineffective as it was rhetorically nonsensical. Donald Trump’s approach, unsurprisingly, has been all over the place, but mostly centers on nasty tweets and undermining his own secretary of state.

To be fair, some people have been thinking outside the diplomatic box. Last week, this column featured eminent law professor and former White House staffer Philip Bobbitt, who argued that the U.S. and China should cut a bilateral deal in which Beijing would take North Korea under its security umbrella in return for Kim putting his nuclear program in mothballs. Others call for revivifying the moribund six-nation talks, or for letting the North keep its fissile material but give up its long-range missiles, or a long term plan of “deterrence and gradual rollback.”

As for the third option — a military solution — it’s been pretty much discarded as a nonstarter. Even if we somehow avoided a nuclear exchange, the damage to Seoul from North Korean artillery be would so vast as to render the idea unthinkable. Or would it?

This week I tracked down somebody who has actually been thinking quite a bit about it: retired Air Force General Merrill “Tony” McPeak. McPeak has the distinction of being the only person to have served as both Air Force chief of staff (from 1990 to 1994, during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield) and also as the service’s acting secretary. Prior to that, he was commander of all Pacific air forces, so he knows a thing or two about what a “hard target” North Korea is. With a three-volume memoir of his military career finally completed, McPeak took time to share his contrarian views on how both diplomacy and hard power could finally break the logjam with the Kim Jong-un regime. Here is an edited version of our chat:

Tobin Harshaw: Tony, we first met in early 2003 in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, and there was a big debate at the time over whether airpower alone could win a war — remember Shock and Awe? You said something to the effect that that, yes, airpower could win wars, but the one place where it absolutely couldn’t was North Korea. And I think we’re learning that lesson again today, right?

Merrill McPeak: Well, I’m not sure I will give you the same answer today — airpower has changed a good bit in the last 15 or so years. We are much more precision-oriented now as far as munitions go.

The real problem that I had in the early 21st century was the guns that are dug in on the reverse slope of the hills just above the DMZ. There are thousands of them; they’re on rails and they’ve got blast doors. They can run them into a cave, close the doors, load and cock, open the doors, run them out and shoot, run them back in. So they are tough targets to attack. And some subset of the whole actually ranges Seoul, which means millions of people and, what, two-thirds of the net worth of South Korea. So my concern was that Seoul would be very, very badly damaged in the opening minutes of any encounter.

Yet the advantage that those guns have — being in caves and protected by blast doors — it also has a big disadvantages. They’re not mobile; other than a few feet to get in and out of a cave, they’re not going anywhere. And they are at known positions. We know the coordinates of every gun. Nowadays, we can drop GPS-guided ordinance on coordinates with a miss-distance of just 10 meters. A 10-meter miss with a 2,000-pound conventional bomb means that gun is out of action, because the blast doors would cave in. The people inside will likely be out of commission for a while. This is a different kind of a threat to those guys.

I still think that in the opening moments of any aerial campaign against the North there will be some damage in Seoul, probably considerable. But I no longer think that you have to go in and take those guns out with ground forces. I think you could probably silence the guns pretty rapidly from the sky, especially those that range Seoul.

TH: Of course, those guns aren’t the whole shooting match.

MM: Yes. In the meantime, you have to go after the nuclear infrastructure as a very high priority. And also you have to go after the command-and-control, including decapitating the major national command authority at Pyongyang. And I’m a little less confident about some of those targets because they are mobile. Kim himself is mobile. And the last rocket shots I saw from their nuclear program were mounted on mobile platforms. So we’re going to depend on a lot of intelligence that has to be real-time, whereas the coordinates of these artillery pieces are not going to change.

TH: So what would taking out the nuclear-weapons infrastructure involve?

MM: It involves everything from beginning to end in their nuclear-munitions category and in the transportation category. The rocket-production infrastructure and the bomb-production infrastructure. That is a target set that is end-to-end attackable. Some of it may be deeply buried, which means you probably can’t get at it, but you don’t need to break every link in the chain, just enough that it stops production. You want to attack launch-pads, you want to attack the warehouses that the rockets are in, you want to attack the factories that are producing rockets, you want to attack them en route to a launch site.

So there’s an end-to-end target chain that you can interrupt at any point and disable the whole system, but it depends on real-time intelligence, and to some degree that means intelligence that’s not under Air Force control — a lot is CIA.

TH: Would this require things other than air power like Special Forces on the ground?

MM: No. Special Forces are really good, although a lot of times they get in trouble and then you’ve got to divert everything else you’ve got to save them. But I believe we can put together an air campaign that A) brings an end to the artillery threat to Seoul rather rapidly and B) disrupts and disables their nuclear-munitions delivery capability rather rapidly. And that can be done totally by air. I’m not talking about just U.S. Air Force, but Navy air and Marine air — everybody has got an air force, the CIA has its own air force — so we are going to have to cooperate here.

TH: Assuming there is no nuclear exchange, is there any way of estimating how bad the damage to Seoul would probably be?

MM: I think it depends on how skillful we are at handling this problem. And that’s a whole other thing, because we’re not showing a lot of cleverness these days.

One idea would be to say to Kim, “OK, we are setting a deadline here” — say it’s next January — “and by the end you will either be dismantling your nuclear capability under international inspection or we will help you dismantle it.” If you give that kind of deadline, in the meantime you continue all your diplomatic efforts, all your economic sanctions, the effort to get the Chinese and the Russians to help, and everything else. All the other instruments of national power need to be brought to bear on this problem before we resort to military attack.

If you set a date final by which we have to see a solution or we will intervene, then you’ve got time to try to minimize the damage to Seoul through defensive measures. Evacuate people, in the worst case. I think there’s a real limit to how much you can do there. But you could do something. And then we need to really meticulously plan the attack on these artillery positions to make sure that they’re as damaged as possible as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, we will get some damage, but it won’t be Stalingrad. We’ve had fights like this before. We’ve had the Blitz in London. We’ve rebuilt Seoul before.

TH: During the Cold War, there was a cynical saying that the U.S. was willing to fight the Soviets “down to the last German.” This could be seen as fighting Kim down to the last South Korean.

MM: For the U.S., the threat here is to Chicago and to New York City. We can’t allow the North Korean government to get the capability to hold major American cities hostage. And if they don’t have it already, they soon will.

TH: Throughout the Cold War we were able to live with the Soviet Union, in effect, holding our cities hostage in that same way. And we managed, through containment and deterrence, to wait them out. Why can’t we live with a nuclear-armed North Korea?

MM: I think it’s possible that we can. So you have to say, “Well, what are the odds that we can’t, that he’s not deterrable?”

We know there are non-state actors that are not deterrable, right? That’s the definition of a suicide bomber. You can’t deter him because he doesn’t care — he’s ready to give up on life entirely. And we don’t know what category Kim is in. Let’s say we think the odds are very good that he’s deterrable — let’s say 90 percent. So do we want to take a 10 percent risk on losing New York City?

TH: Are you looking for me to answer that? I’m the one who lives there.

MM: Hah. As I’m sure you know, the problem with deterrence is that the other guy has to have something at stake. Certainly we were able to live with Joseph Stalin. He had something to lose. Even Mao Zedong did. They didn’t want to see Moscow and Beijing evaporated.

What does Kim Jong-un have to lose? I don’t know. I think he’d probably rather live than die. He’s not a suicide bomber in my opinion. But I don’t know how to calculate the odds.

TH: So we have to err on the side of intervention?

MM: Look, we would be much safer as a country if the world contained zero nuclear weapons. They do not enhance our security. We have very superior conventional warfighting capabilities, so we’d be much better off if nobody had nuclear weapons. Now, we’re not going to get there — not least because Israel won’t give up its weapons, and if even one country insists on keeping them, then we can’t achieve a nuclear-free world.

So our problem is, what steps do we take to keep ourselves safe in a proliferating world? We’ve already made a huge mistake by not insisting that India and Pakistan stop their programs. We have been lucky so far with Iran because Barack Obama was smart enough to give us a 10-year breathing period, which Donald Trump seems for some reason anxious to give away.

But here we have a case with North Korea that appears to me to represent more or less the classic case of when we should intervene pre-emptively. We have military forces precisely for a case like this, where someone who is unpredictable, maybe crazy, who executes his uncle with an anti-aircraft gun, and we have no reason to think that he’s not fully capable of doing what he says he’s going to do. He says he’s got a red button — it may be smaller than Trump’s, but he’s got a red button, and we shouldn’t allow that position to continue.

TH: You warned about proliferation. Do you think that allowing North Korea to continue to develop its arsenal would actually push Japan and South Korea toward building their own nukes?

MM: I don’t know, but I think that if you can’t stop North Korea, a poor nation with starving people, who can you stop? Why shouldn’t Singapore want nuclear weapons?

TH: Let’s get back to this potential military intervention and giving Kim a deadline to denuclearize. Of course, it’s not just the U.S. and North Korea that are involved here. Obviously South Korea, Japan and China are right there …

MM: And Russia’s got a common border. People don’t realize that — it’s just a few kilometers of border, but Vladivostok is certainly more threatened than San Francisco.

TH: Exactly. How do you think those various parties would react to this idea?

MM: I don’t know, in large part because I don’t think we’re handling ourselves very well in this regard. We should be working very closely with China. What Chinese interest is served by North Korea’s possession of nuclear arms? Or Russia’s? Our inability to work with the major powers on this issue more adroitly is one measure of how clumsy this administration has been.

TH: I agree that the Chinese should have no interest in a nuclearized North Korea. But they’ve certainly not done everything they can to keep it from happening.

MM: Nor have we. We took our nuclear weapons off of the peninsula decades ago. We used to have tactical nuclear munitions there. When I was commander of the Pacific air forces, those weapons were under my supervision. And there are a lot of other steps that we could take with North Korea right now toward a peaceful resolution. We could officially end the war. The current armistice is not a peace agreement. I’m sure the North would love it.

On the economic side, we could lift the embargo. When I was on the Joint Chiefs of Staff we were saddled up to do something about Korea. And Jimmy Carter went up there and negotiated an agreement under which we were supposed to provide fuel oil and they wouldn’t have to build nuclear power plants. But we let that come apart largely because of maladroitness on our side.

We could even take our forces off the peninsula. From my point of view, that’s a negotiating point.

TH: Honestly?

MM: I’d rather do that than watch San Francisco evaporate.

So there are plenty of steps that we could take in a negotiation, and we ought to make it clear to Beijing that we do have this kind of flexibility. And if that won’t convince them to help, then nothing will, and we’ll simply have to do this militarily on our own.

TH: You spoke favorably just now about the Iran nuclear deal. If we did go ahead and “dismantle” the North Korean program, how do you think the Iranians would react to that? My concern would be that they would drop out of the deal and try and build up their own arsenal as quickly as possible.

MM: I don’t know why that would happen. If they saw that we were serious about stopping nuclear proliferation, why would that give them an incentive to proliferate? I would think it would be just the reverse — that they would say, “OK, maybe these guys are adults, serious enough to do serious work.”

TH: What I mean is that under the deal, they able to build their own program after it sunsets. But I think they would no longer be able to trust that would happen if they saw us stop at nothing to get rid of the North Korean arsenal.

MM: Well, frankly, I think it’s a bigger question whether you can trust this administration in any respect. Pulling out of Nafta and the Pacific trade negotiations and the Paris accords on global warming and so on. So you just say to yourself: Well are these guys good negotiating partners or not?

TH: So do you think the Iranians can just wait out Trump?

MM: I don’t see what Iranian purpose is served by not waiting.

It’s a 10-year deal. Now it’s clear that on our side we want to extend it forever. It doesn’t work for us to let them have a large stock of nuclear weapons starting 10 years from now. So we would like to negotiate a nuclear-free Persian Gulf zone and get everybody to agree to it. Now Israel, as I say, would never come into that. But maybe you could get Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and everybody else to shake hands and say, OK, if we have a fight, we’ll do it with conventional weapons.

Again, it’s a mystery to me why people want nuclear weapons. They think it gives them a voice at the table I suppose. But it’s subversive. It eventually will end in disaster. I think everybody knows that. And the more people that have nuclear weapons, the sooner we’ll end in disaster. I don’t believe in nuclear winters and stuff like that, but it would be a game-changer in the history of humankind if we go to the mat with nuclear weapons. People ought to just understand that and do something else.

TH: I don’t think I agree in terms of the lessons learned so far. Obviously Israel, which we believe has nuclear weapons, has been able to maintain its security in a rough neighborhood. India and Pakistan, neither of which needs nuclear weapons, have not been punished by the international community for having them. I don’t think it’s ended poorly for anyone yet.

MM: It ended poorly for the Japanese. It’s just hard for me to see an upside to a nuclear-armed world. We’ve gotten through it so far. Breathe a deep sigh of relief. The doomsday clock stopped inside five minutes to midnight. But I don’t know how often we can go to the brink — how many Cuban Missile Crises we have to have before somebody really does go crazy.

(BBG) Trump Warns China Over Prohibited Fuel Sales to North Korea

(BBG) President Donald Trump warned that alleged illicit Chinese oil sales to North Korea may jeopardize a peaceful resolution to the confrontation over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

“Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” Trump said on Twitter Thursday while at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!

U.S. spy satellites had observed Chinese vessels allegedly transferring oil to North Korean ships in the sea between the two countries about 30 times since October, Seoul-based newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Dec. 26, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. Fox News, which Trump regularly watches, summarized the paper’s report on Wednesday. China on Friday denied reports of oil sales to North Korea.

Speaking later to the New York Times, Trump said he had “been soft” on China regarding trade in the hope that its leaders would do more to stop North Korea’s nuclear program. He called on China “to help us much more” and signaled he might otherwise take punitive trade actions.

“If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do,” Trump told the Times in an interview.

Trump has long been pressuring China to cut off all oil supplies to North Korea in a bid to halt Kim from gaining the ability to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon. China, North Korea’s main trading partner, has resisted any moves that could cause the regime to collapse and has called for a negotiations to resolve the conflict.

A United Nations resolution from September prohibited ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean vessels. A new round of sanctions passed this month also said North Korea is selling coal and other prohibited items “through deceptive maritime practices” and is getting fuel via ship-to-ship transfers, which are used in the petroleum industry to move liquids from one tanker to another at sea, avoiding on-shore infrastructure.

China strictly implements UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing Friday in Beijing. She saidearlier this week China would prosecute violations if solid evidence is presented, and questioned whether other countries were implementing parts of the resolution that call for a peaceful settlement to the North Korean conflict.

Chinese ‘Crackdown’

“I expect before long we will see a public Chinese crackdown on several transfer ships, or the refineries that feed them,” Bill Brown, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said by email. “The main story is that China is publicly drawing a very tough line on North Korea.”

The U.S. in September sought to persuade the UN Security Council to pass a resolution banning oil exports to North Korea. That provision was dropped in the final document, which established limits on exports of petroleum products such as diesel and kerosene, but didn’t cut off crude sales.

Last week, the Security Council approved tighter sanctions on North Korea, including measures aimed at slashing deliveries of petroleum products to the equivalent of 500,000 barrels per year starting Jan. 1. North Korea on Sunday described the UN move as an “act of war” and vowed to take revenge on the U.S. and other Security Council members.

Deeper Cuts

The latest sanctions constitute a deeper cut than the September resolution, which demanded imports be lowered to the equivalent of 2 million barrels from 4.5 million. It also limits crude imports at current levels of about 4 million barrels annually, which the U.S. has said China provides via the Dandong-Sinuiju pipeline.

The U.S. Treasury Department last month accused North Korea of employing such methods and identified North Korea’s Korea Kumbyol Trading Co. as a firm that has attempted ship-to-ship transfers, possibly of oil.

In addition to the Chosun Ilbo report, Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper this week reportedNorth Korea has been utilizing these methods more frequently, using boats from nations including China, citing U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials it didn’t name.

To help stop the practice, the UN measure says that countries can seize, inspect, or impound any vessel in their ports if there are grounds to believe the ship is being used to transport banned items.

Vessel Seized

South Korea on Friday disclosed that it seized the Hong Kong-flagged vessel Lighthouse Winmore, accusing it of transferring refined oil products to North Korea in October. The incident will be reported to the UN Security Council, according to a South Korean foreign ministry official. Local media reported the incident earlier on Friday.

The vessel loaded oil products from Japan on Oct. 11 in South Korea’s southern port of Yeosu, according to Yonhap News, citing government officials it didn’t identify. It then transferred 600 tons to a North Korean vessel, Sam Jong 2, on Oct. 19. The ship’s transponder didn’t signal a location between Oct. 15 and Oct. 25, according to Bloomberg data.

An official with Hong Kong government’s Transport and Housing Bureau said they’re aware of the report but have no further information on it. A call to a number for Hong Kong-based Win More Shipping Ltd., which is listed as the owner of the Lighthouse Winmore, went unanswered. Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group, which Yonhap News reported had charted the vessel, could not be reached for comment.

(Reuters) North Korea fires ICBM, splashes in Sea of Japan: Pentagon

(Reuters) North Korea launched a missile that landed close to Japan on Wednesday, the first since a missile fired over its neighbor in mid-September, and the Pentagon said its initial assessment was that Pyongyang had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea fired the missile a week after U.S. President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a U.S list of countries that Washington says support terrorism. The designation allows the United States to impose more sanctions, although some experts said it risked inflaming tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said the Pentagon’s initial assessment was an ICBM launched from Sain Ni in North Korea and traveled about 1,000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. The missile did not pose a threat to the United States its territories or allies, the Pentagon said.

Japan’s government estimated that the missile flew for about 50 minutes and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japanese broadcaster NHK said. A North Korean missile on Aug. 29 was airborne for 14 minutes over Japan.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday’s missile was fired from Pyongsong, a city in South Pyongan Province, at around 1817 GMT over the sea between South Korea and Japan. The South Korean military said the missile had an altitude of around 4,500 km and flew 960 km.

Minutes after the North fired the missile, South Korea’s military conducted a missile-firing test in response, the South Korean military said.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile reached an estimated altitude of 4,000 kilometres and broke up before landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. He said it was judged to be ICBM class given the missile’s lofted trajectory.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported three projectiles were fired, the nearest landing 210 kilometres west of Japan’s northern mainland, suggesting the missile broke into pieces.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency, quoting the defense ministry, said there were no reports of any damage.

The White House said Trump was briefed while the missile was still in the air.

U.S. stocks pared gains after reports of the missile launch. The S&P 500 index was up half a percent in midafternoon.

Two U.S. government sources said earlier that U.S. government experts believed North Korea could conduct a new missile test within days.

After firing missiles at a rate of about two or three a month since April, North Korea paused its missile launches in late September, after it fired a missile that passed over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island on Sept. 15.

The U.S. officials who spoke earlier declined to say what type of missile they thought North Korea might test, but noted that Pyongyang had been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States and had already tested inter-continental ballistic missiles.

Last week, North Korea denounced Trump’s decision to relist it as a state sponsor of terrorism, calling it a “serious provocation and violent infringement.”

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and warned in his maiden speech to the United Nations in September that the United States would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.

Washington has said repeatedly that all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea, including military ones, but that it prefers a peaceful solution by Pyongyang agreeing to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

To this end, Trump has pursued a policy of encouraging countries around the world, including North Korea’s main ally and neighbor, China, to step up sanctions on Pyongyang to persuade it to give up its weapons programs.

North Korea has given no indication it is willing to re-enter dialogue on those terms.

North Korea defends its weapons programs as a necessary defense against U.S. plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at Washington’s conservative Center for the National Interest, said he thought North Korea might hold off on missile testing until about the time of the Winter Olympics, which South Korea is hosting next February, but added that North Korea had to keep testing to refine its weapons program.

“I am surprised, but not shocked,” he said. “North Korea tested two missiles in the fourth quarter last year and will have to continue to test its missile capabilities for years to come if it wants a nuclear deterrent that can hit the U.S.”

(Reuters) South Korea warns North not to repeat armistice violation

(Reuters) North Korea violated an armistice agreement with South Korea this month when North Korean soldiers shot and wounded a North Korean soldier as he defected across their border and it must not do so again, South Korea’s defence minister said on Monday.

North Korean soldiers keep watch toward the south next to a spot where a North Korean has defected crossing the border on November 13, at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone, South Korea, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The defector, a North Korean soldier identified only by his surname, Oh, was critically wounded but has been recovering in hospital in South Korea.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between North Korea and the international community over its nuclear weapons programme, but the North has not publicly responded to the defection at the sensitive border.

South Korean Minister of Defence Song Young-moo issued his warning to the North while on a visit to the border where he commended South Korean soldiers at a Joint Security Area (JSA), in the so-called Truce Village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone, for rescuing the defector.

A North Korean border guard briefly crossed the border with the South in the chase for the defector on Nov. 13 – a video released by the U.N. Command (UNC) in Seoul showed – a violation of the ceasefire accord between North and South at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Shooting towards the South at a defecting person, that’s a violation of the armistice agreement,” Song said.

“Crossing the military demarcation line, a violation. Carrying automatic rifles (in the JSA), another violation,” he added as he stood near where South Korean soldiers had found Oh, collapsed and bleeding from his wounds.

“North Korea should be informed this sort of thing should never occur again.”

Since the defection, North Korea has reportedly replaced guards stationed there. Soldiers have fortified a section of the area seen aimed at blocking any more defections by digging a trench and planting trees.

As Song was speaking 10 metres away from the trees North Korean soldiers planted, four North Korean soldiers were spotted listening closely.

South Korean military officials pointed out two bullet holes in a metal wall on a South Korean building, from North Korean shots fired at Oh as he ran.

Oh has undergone several operations in hospital to remove bullets. His lead surgeon, Lee Cook-jong, told Reuters his patient has suffers from nightmares about being returned to the North.

In South Korea, six soldiers, three South Korean and three American, were given awards by the U.S. Forces Korea last week in recognition for their efforts in rescuing the defector.

After inspecting the site on Monday, Song met troops stationed there for lunch and praised them for acting ‘promptly and appropriately’.

South Korea has been broadcasting news of the soldier’s defection towards North Korea via loudspeakers, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

South Korean military officials have declined to confirm that.