Category Archives: Asia

(Reuters) South Korea to work with U.S. and North Korea after failed nuclear talks

(Reuters)

SEOUL/HANOI (Reuters) – South Korea will work with the United States and North Korea to ensure they reach agreement on denuclearisation, the South’s president said on Friday, a day after talks between the U.S. and North Korean leaders collapsed over sanctions.South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during a ceremony celebrating the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule, in central Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

A second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Vietnam, was cut short after they failed to reach a deal on the extent of sanctions relief North Korea would get in exchange for steps to give up its nuclear programme.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has been an active supporter of efforts to end confrontation on the Korean peninsula, meeting Kim three times last year and trying to facilitate his nuclear negotiations with the United States.

“My administration will closely communicate and cooperate with the United States and North Korea so as to help their talks reach a complete settlement by any means,” Moon said in a speech in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

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Moon also said South Korea would consult the United States on ways to resume joint projects with the North including tourism development at Mount Kumgang and the Kaesong industrial complex, both in North Korea.

The Hanoi summit came eight months after Trump and Kim met for the first time in Singapore and agreed to establish new relations and peace in exchange for a North Korean commitment to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Trump said two days of talks had made good progress but it was important not to rush into a bad deal. He said he had walked away because of unacceptable North Korean demands.

“It was all about the sanctions,” Trump told a news conference after the talks were cut short. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”

‘BIGGEST STEP’

However, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told a midnight news conference after Trump left Hanoi that North Korea had sought only a partial lifting of sanctions “related to people’s livelihoods and unrelated to military sanctions”.

He said North Korea had offered a realistic proposal involving the dismantling of all of its main nuclear site at Yongbyon, including plutonium and uranium facilities, by engineers from both countries.

“This is the biggest denuclearisation step we can take based on the current level of trust between the two countries,” Ri said.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told the briefing she had the impression that Kim “might lose his willingness to pursue a deal” after the U.S. side rejected a partial lifting of sanctions in return for destruction of Yongbyon, “something we had never offered before”.

Speaking to South Korean media later on Friday, Choe appeared more pessimistic chances for progress.

“Having conducted the talks this time, it occurs to us that there may not be a need to continue,” she said, adding that North Korea had taken “many steps” to try to reach a deal.

“We’re doing a lot of thinking,” she said while adding, the situation would change “if our demands can be resolved”.

But despite raising that doubt, both sides have indicated they wanted to maintain the momentum and press on.

“We are anxious to get back to the table so we can continue that conversation that will ultimately lead to peace and stability, better life for the North Korean people, and a lower threat, a denuclearised North Korea,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news conference in Manila.Slideshow (4 Images)

North Korean media adopted a conciliatory tone.

The state KCNA news agency said Kim and Trump had a constructive, sincere exchange and decided to continue productive talks, without mentioning that the talks ended abruptly with no agreement.

Kim, who is due to leave Vietnam on Saturday, also expressed gratitude to Trump for putting in efforts to get results, KCNA said.

‘OPPORTUNITY TO TALK’

A U.S. State Department official said the North Korean media coverage had been constructive, indicating “ample opportunity to talk”.

U.S., N. Korea spar over talks breakdown

The United Nations and the United States ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea when the reclusive state conducted repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017, cutting off its main sources of hard cash

The United States has demanded North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation before sanctions can be lifted. North Korea has denounced that position as “gangster like”.

The U.S. official said North Korea had proposed closing part of its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for the lifting of all U.N. sanctions except those directly targeting their weapons of mass destruction programmes.

The U.S. side said “that wouldn’t work”, he said.

“The dilemma that we were confronted with is the North Koreans at this point are unwilling to impose a complete freeze on their weapons of mass destruction programmes,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

“So to give many, many billions of dollars in sanctions relief would in effect put us in a position of subsidising the ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Analysts estimate North Korea may have a nuclear arsenal of 20 to 60 weapons which, if fitted to its intercontinental ballistic missiles, could threaten the U.S. mainland.

The collapse of the summit leaves Kim in possession of that arsenal though Trump said the North Korean leader had agreed to maintain his moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Failure to reach an agreement also marks a setback for Trump, a self-styled dealmaker under pressure at home over his ties to Russia and testimony from Michael Cohen, his former lawyer who accused him of breaking the law while in office.

Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Jeff Mason, Soyoung Kim, James Pearson, Josh Smith, Ju-min Park, Mai Nyugen, Khanh Vu, Jack Kim in HANOI; Martin Petty and Karen Lema in MANILA; Editing by Robert Birsel and Lincoln Feast

(BBC) Pakistan-India: Pakistan ‘shoots down two Indian jets’ over Kashmir

(BBC)

Pakistan soldiers by what Pakistan says is a downed Indian jet
Image captionPakistani soldiers by what Pakistan says is wreckage from a downed Indian jet

Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian Air Force jets in a major escalation of the Kashmir conflict.

A spokesman said one plane had fallen inside Pakistani territory and two pilots had been captured. India has not yet given details. Pakistan has denied reports one of its jets was shot down.

Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, but control only parts of it.

The nuclear powers have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. All but one were over Kashmir.

The aerial attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian and Pakistani territory are the first since a war in 1971.

They follow a militant attack in Kashmir which killed 40 Indian troops – the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir. A Pakistan-based group said it carried out the attack.

The BBC’s Soutik Biswas, in Delhi, says the challenge for India and Pakistan now is to contain the latest escalation before things get completely out of control.

What’s the latest?

Pakistan’s information ministry published but subsequently deleted a video purporting to show one of the Indian pilots that the Pakistani military says it has captured.

In the video, the pilot – who is blindfolded and appears to have blood on his face – identifies himself as Wing-Commander Abhinandan.

Image purportedly showing captured Indian pilot
Image captionPakistan’s information ministry tweeted a video purporting to show a captured Indian pilot

The ministry also tweeted what it said was footage of one of the downed Indian jets.Skip Twitter post by @MoIB_Official

Embedded video

Information Ministry@MoIB_Official

Wreckges of Indian fighter planes burning. Well done Pakistan Air Force. The entire nation is proud of you.7646:59 AM – Feb 27, 2019298 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyReport

End of Twitter post by @MoIB_Official

Pakistan’s assertion that it had shot down two Indian aircraft came shortly after Islamabad said its warplanes had struck targets in Indian territory.

Pakistan said it had “taken strikes at [a] non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage”.

Indian authorities said the Pakistani jets had been pushed back.

In a briefing, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that Pakistan “had no alternative to respond” to Tuesday’s Indian air strikes on its territory.

However he said Pakistan had not hit Indian military targets because “we don’t want to go on the path of war”.Skip Twitter post by @OfficialDGISPR

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor@OfficialDGISPR

In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.88.8K6:19 AM – Feb 27, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy65K people are talking about thisReport

End of Twitter post by @OfficialDGISPR

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has also said that her country will act “with responsibility and restraint”.

“India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation,” she said, speaking from a meeting with Russian and Chinese foreign ministers in China.

India said Tuesday’s air strikes on Balakot in north-western Pakistan killed a large number of militants but Pakistan said there had been no casualties.

The US, EU and China have all called for restraint.

Are flights affected?

Pakistan has closed its entire airspace, its civil aviation authority said. Nine airports in northern India have been closed, reports in India said.Skip Twitter post by @AirportPakistanView image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

CAA Pakistan@AirportPakistan

🇵🇰

Civil Aviation Authority of #Pakistan has officially closed its airspace until further notice & issued NOTAM. 1268:05 AM – Feb 27, 2019164 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyReport

End of Twitter post by @AirportPakistan

The flight monitoring group Flight Radar says international flights are also avoiding the area.Skip Twitter post by @flightradar24View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Flightradar24@flightradar24

International flights that transit between Indian and Pakistani airspace now being affected. Some flights returning to origin, while others appear to be seeking alternate routing. https://www.flightradar24.com/multiview/1fa269b4,1fa270f4,1fa21283,1fa21c61,1fa20062,1fa25484 …7366:39 AM – Feb 27, 20191,013 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyReport

End of Twitter post by @flightradar24

Presentational grey line

‘These are uncharted waters’

By Soutik Biswas, BBC News, Delhi

The challenge for India and Pakistan now is to contain the escalation before things get completely out of control.

It is almost unprecedented for two nuclear-armed countries to carry out air strikes into each other’s territories.

“We are in uncharted waters,” Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US and adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers, told me late on Tuesday.

An Indian defence analyst believes Indian security forces will now have to be prepared for a “full spectrum of conflict”.

However Daniel Markey from Johns Hopkins University in the US says we are “several steps away” from nuclear escalation.

A further escalation, he believes, will happen if Pakistan’s “next step were to raise the stakes by hitting Indian civilian targets”.

That is highly unlikely.

Read more from Soutik on this story

Presentational grey line

What else is happening?

Troops have been shelling across the LoC. Four Pakistani civilians were killed and 10 others were injured in cross-border shelling on Tuesday.

On the Indian side, five soldiers were also injured in the firing, officials told the BBC. Schools in at least two districts along the LoC – Rajouri and Poonch – have been closed.

People living along the de facto border have been asked to leave their homes.

Map of region
Grey line

Timeline of India-Pakistan tensions

Media captionIn December Yogita Limaye examined why there had been a rise in violence in Kashmir

October 1947: First war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir just two months after they become independent nations.

August 1965: The neighbours fight another brief war over Kashmir.

December 1971: India supports East Pakistan’s bid to become independent. The Indian air force conducts bombing raids inside Pakistan. The war ends with the creation of Bangladesh.

May 1999: Pakistani soldiers and militants occupy Indian military posts in Kargil mountains. India launches air and ground strikes and the intruders are pushed back.

October 2001: A devastating attack on the state assembly in Indian-administered Kashmir kills 38. Two months later, an attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi leaves 14 dead.

November 2008: Co-ordinated attacks on Mumbai’s main railway station, luxury hotels and a Jewish cultural centre kill 166 people. India blames Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

January 2016: Four-day attack on Indian air base in Pathankot leaves seven Indian soldiers and six militants dead.

18 September 2016: Attack on army base in Uri in Indian-administered Kashmir kills 19 soldiers.

30 September 2016: India says it carried “surgical strikes” on militants in Pakistani Kashmir. Islamabad denies strikes took place.

(NYT) In North Korea, Missile Bases Suggest a Great Deception

(NYT

A satellite image of a secret North Korean ballistic missile base. The North has offered to dismantle a different major missile launching site while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others.CreditCreditCSIS/Beyond Parallel, via DigitalGlobe 2018

WASHINGTON — North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat.

The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.

The existence of the ballistic missile bases, which North Korea has never acknowledged, contradicts Mr. Trump’s assertion that his landmark diplomacy is leading to the elimination of a nuclear and missile program that the North had warned could devastate the United States.

“We are in no rush,” Mr. Trump said of talks with the North at a news conference on Wednesday, after Republicans lost control of the House. “The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.”

His statement was true in just one sense. Mr. Trump appeared to be referring to the halt of missile flight tests, which have not occurred in nearly a year. But American intelligence officials say that the North’s production of nuclear material, of new nuclear weapons and of missiles that can be placed on mobile launchers and hidden in mountains at the secret bases has continued.

And the sanctions are collapsing, in part because North Korea has leveraged its new, softer-sounding relationship with Washington, and its stated commitment to eventual denuclearization, to resume trade with Russia and China.

Moreover, an American program to track those mobile missiles with a new generation of small, inexpensive satellites, disclosed by The New York Times more than a year ago, is stalled. The Pentagon once hoped to have the first satellites over North Korea by now, giving it early warning if the mobile missiles are rolled out of mountain tunnels and prepared for launch.

But because of a series of budget and bureaucratic disputes, the early warning system, begun by the Obama administration and handed off to the Trump administration, has yet to go into operation. Current and former officials, who said they could not publicly discuss the program because it is heavily classified, said there was still hope of launching the satellites, but they offered no timeline.

The secret ballistic missile bases were identified in a detailed study published Monday by the Beyond Parallel program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a major think tank in Washington.

Image
The existence of a series of ballistic missile bases contradicts President Trump’s assertion that his diplomacy with North Korea is leading to the elimination of its nuclear and missile program.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

The program, which focuses on the prospects of North-South integration, is led by Victor Cha, a prominent North Korea expert whom the Trump administration considered appointing as the ambassador to South Korea last year. His name was pulled back when he objected to the White House strategy for dealing with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

A State Department spokesman responded to the findings with a written statement suggesting that the government believed the sites must be dismantled: “President Trump has made clear that should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people.” A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to comment.

The revelation of the bases comes as Mr. Trump’s signature piece of diplomacy, based on his meeting exactly five months ago with Mr. Kim, appears in peril. Publicly, Mr. Trump remains relentlessly optimistic, to the point that he said at a campaign rally that he and Mr. Kim, one of the world’s most brutal dictators, “fell in love.” But last week, talks with the North hit another snag, as it declared that it would not send its chief negotiator to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York to plan the next summit meeting.

Since the initial meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, on June 12 in Singapore, the North has yet to take the first step toward denuclearization: providing the United States with a list of its nuclear sites, weapons, production facilities and missile bases. North Korean officials have told Mr. Pompeo that would amount to giving him a “target list.”

American officials have responded that they already have a detailed target list — one that goes back decades — but want to use the North’s accounting to determine whether it is revealing all the known facilities and moving honestly toward denuclearization.

The new satellite imagery suggests the opposite.

“It’s not like these bases have been frozen,” Mr. Cha, the leader of the team that studied the images, said in an interview. “Work is continuing. What everybody is worried about is that Trump is going to accept a bad deal — they give us a single test site and dismantle a few other things, and in return they get a peace agreement” that formally ends the Korean War.

Mr. Trump, he said, “would then declare victory, say he got more than any other American president ever got, and the threat would still be there.”

The North Korea experts who have examined the images believe that the North’s motivations are fairly easy to interpret. “It looks like they’re trying to maximize their capabilities,” Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.,a co-author of the report and a veteran analyst of satellite images of North Korea, said in an interview. “Any missile at these bases can take a nuclear warhead.”

“The level of effort that North Korea has invested in building these bases and dispersing them is impressive,” he added. “It’s very logical from a survival point of view.”

Weapons experts, as well as Mr. Pompeo, say that North Korea, despite engaging in denuclearization talks, continues to produce the fissile material that fuels nuclear arms. The North is believed to have about 40 to 60 nuclear warheads.

The new report profiles a missile base known as Sakkanmol, a little more than 50 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. It is one of the closest to South Korea. Seoul, the capital, is about 80 miles away, as are American troops.

Image

Support facilities within the base, which is a little more than 50 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone.CreditCSIS/Beyond Parallel, via DigitalGlobe 2018

The report contains a dozen or so satellite images of Sakkanmol — each heavily annotated to show the base checkpoint, headquarters buildings, barracks, security areas, maintenance depots and the entrances to the warrens of underground tunnels that hide mobile missiles and their transporter trucks.

The base runs through a narrow mountain valley over an area of three square miles. Each tunnel entrance, the report says, is protected by a neighboring berm of rock and dirt about 60 feet high and two outward-opening doors about 20 feet wide. They are meant to protect the tunnel entrances from artillery fire and aerial attack.

The report says the Sakkanmol base conceals seven lengthy tunnels that can accommodate up to 18 transporters that move the missiles. Each is typically fitted with one warhead.

If tensions rose, the report says, the missiles would be transported from the base to prearranged launching sites — often no more than a wide spot in a road. The mobile launchers can move quickly — they can be ready to fire in under an hour — which is why the United States has been trying to get the small satellites into the sky for early warning. The satellites have a special kind of sensor using “synthetic aperture radar” that cuts through clouds.

The current, multibillion-dollar constellation of large satellites that keep an eye on North Korea is often out of position, and officials say the country’s ballistic missile sites are under surveillance less than 30 percent of the time. (The exact figure is classified.)

A map of North Korea in the report shows three belts of missile bases that run from short-range tactical emplacements, to sites with midrange missiles that could strike most of South Korea, Japan and American bases in the Pacific, to strategic ones for missiles that threaten to reach American shores.

The strategic bases appear to be home to the intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea test-fired in 2017, alarming the world. The North’s tests, while demonstrating significant progress, did not prove that it had solved all the technical problems inherent in launching a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental United States. That is why Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo have argued that the halt to missile testing is a major accomplishment: It prevents Mr. Kim from demonstrating that he can take those last steps.

The report, which was also written with Lisa Collins, a research fellow at the center, supplemented the satellite imagery with interviews of North Korean defectors and government officials around the world.

The North’s missile bases, with few exceptions, are “in mountainous terrain, often spread out within narrow dead-end valleys,” Mr. Bermudez said. He added, “These bases simply do not look like missile operating bases as seen in the United States, Russia, China or Europe.”

Major nuclear powers tend to house their land-based missiles in underground silos, which can be vulnerable to pre-emptive attack. The North’s heavy reliance on missiles that can be repositioned with the changing circumstances of war is part of an effort to avoid that mistake, while giving the country a stronger hand in the game of nuclear diplomacy and brinkmanship.

“The bases are clearly active,” Mr. Cha said. “It’s not like these things have been frozen and are decaying.”

(Newsweek) ARE KOREAS ABOUT TO FINALLY MAKE PEACE? U.S. HELPS DISARM WORLD’S MOST HEAVILY FORTIFIED BORDER

(Newsweek) North and South Korean personnel have completed disarming an important section of the massive demilitarized zone that lies between them, an unprecedented step amid a warming of relations between the longtime foes.

Officials from both sides of what has been described as the world’s most heavily fortified border—alongside members of the U.S.-led United Nations Command—completed the removal of defense posts, landmines and armed soldiers Thursday from the Joint Security Area, where troops from both Koreas have stood face-to-face since the ceasefire that ended their mid-20th-century conflict. Despite technically remaining at war, North and South Korea have embarked on a series of top-level meetings this year aimed at settling their decades-long feud.

In the most recent inter-Korea summit last month, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to begin scaling down their countries’ military presence on the border. As a result, personnel began demining activities at the beginning of the month.

“The military authorities of the two Koreas and the UNC will make joint efforts to ensure that the JSA disarmament, stated in the Sept. 19 military agreement, will be implemented normally,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Thursday in a statement, according to the official Yonhap News Agency.

GettyImages-1053241776A South Korean soldier (center) carries a coffin containing a piece of bone believed to be the remains of an unidentified South Korean soldier killed in the Korean War in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), in Cheorwon, South Korea, on October 25. The excavation project is part of a comprehensive military agreement that the two Koreas signed last month.JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The U.S. has cautiously supported peace efforts between its ally South Korea and foe North Korea. The U.S.-led U.N. Command that assisted in the recent demilitarization efforts fought alongside South Korea in battles against North Korea and its Chinese allies in the 1950s, a war that ended in an armistice along the border that stands today. With the Cold War long over, however, Washington’s main concern is North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons.

After a year of challenging Kim, President Donald Trump ultimately embraced the young ruler’s peace overture toward Moon in January, a move that led to two inter-Korean summits before Trump himself in June became the first sitting U.S. president to meet a North Korean head. In exchange for peace, Kim vowed to give up the weapons of mass destructions his country has long argued were necessary for its protection.

The U.S. and North Korea have accused one another in recent months of making insufficient progress toward their pledge of bettering relations. Washington wants North Korea to completely shutter its nuclear program before lifting international sanctions and making peace. Meanwhile, Pyongyang argues that the suspension of nuclear and missile tests, the return of U.S. soldiers’ remains and prisoners as well as the partial or whole destruction of certain key military sites was enough to warrant concessions.

Despite U.S. apprehensions, South Korea has moved forward with an ambitious plan to forge ties with its northern neighbor. Moon has green-lit the restoration of cross-border military communications, the linking of the two countries’ railroad systems and various projects designed to unify the economies of the Koreas.

GettyImages-1036438018North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (from left) walk together during a visit to the Samjiyon guesthouse in North Korea, on September 20. Since the beginning of this year, the two countries have met more times than in any previous period in their history.PYONGYANG PRESS CORPS/POOL/GETTY IMAGES

In a reminder of the bloodshed that took the lives of millions on the Korean Peninsula, personnel demilitarizing the border this month discovered what the South Korean Defense Ministry said Thursday was likely the remains of at least two soldiers who died fighting in the Korean War. One of them was found with dog tags intact, reading “Pak Je Kwon,” who was believed to be a South Korean sergeant.

Both Koreas have pledged to conduct joint searches for other war casualties once they complete the removal of mines from the area.

(Economist) Chinese and American warships nearly collide

(Economist) Tempers are flaring as the South China Sea grows crowded

IT IS getting hard to sail across the South China Sea without bumping into a warship. On September 30th an American destroyer (the USS Decatur, pictured) passed within 50 metres of a Chinese naval vessel which was conducting “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvres, according to the Americans. Earlier in the month Japan sent a submarine to conduct drills in the sea for the first time. In August a British warship was confronted there by Chinese ships and jets. And this month ships from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Britain will take part in more than two weeks of joint naval drills in the same crowded waters.

The maritime hubbub is an attempt to push back against China’s claim to the entire South China Sea, which other littoral states dispute and which a UN tribunal has rubbished. China wants military vessels and aircraft to notify it before passing through the sea, something America and others would view as an infringement of international norms even if China’s claims had been upheld. To make matters even more fraught, China has reclaimed land around a series of reefs and rocks in the sea to build bases teeming with guns, missiles and radar. Should these constructions be deemed rocks or islands under international law, and rightful Chinese territory, then certain restrictions would apply to military vessels passing within 12 nautical miles. But America and the UN tribunal, among others, consider several of them “low-tide elevations”—shoals, in effect—that do not enjoy the same rights. America and its allies keep sending warships to sail around the sea in ways that demonstrate that they do not accept China’s position.

Since 2015 America has conducted 12 of these “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPs, in Pentagon jargon). These flout China’s claims in several different ways. By sailing within 12 nautical miles of genuine islands, for example, America’s navy demonstrates that it does not need and will not seek permission to exercise its right of “innocent passage”. By conducting military manoeuvres within 12 nautical miles of other fortified specks it shows that it considers them mere elevations around which no restrictions are warranted. And by entering the sea at all, it rejects China’s stance that it has any say in military activity in open waters within the area it claims.

FONOPs have grown “more regular and strident” under the Trump administration, says Alessio Patalano of King’s College London. America’s European and regional allies are not quite as confrontational. They do not trumpet the details of how they have affronted China and they tend to keep a greater distance from its bristling baselets (although France and Britain have grown a little bolder lately). But simply by showing up, they help to demonstrate a united front. Australian, Japanese, British and French vessels have all sailed across the sea together, in various pairings. The hitch is that there are a lot more warships ploughing around, and so a lot more scope for dangerously heated encounters.

(Reuters) Two Koreas plan third summit of Kim, Moon next month

(Reuters) North and South Korea agreed on Monday to hold a summit in the North in September, another step towards boosting cooperation between the old rivals, even as doubts grow over efforts to end the North’s nuclear weapons program.

Officials from both sides meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, reached an agreement on a September summit between the countries’ leaders in the North’s capital of Pyongyang.

No date was announced for what will be the third meeting this year between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

They first met in April in Panmunjom, a remarkable thaw in ties after more than a year of rising tension and fears of war over the North’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

There they agreed that Moon would visit the North’s capital in the autumn, though the pair met again in May in an unannounced meeting at Panmunjom.

No details on an agenda for next month’s talks were announced, but the two Koreas have been discussing a range of issues, from a possible peace declaration to joint economic and infrastructure projects.

The progress between the two Koreas comes as North Korea and the United States are struggling to agree on how to bring about the North’s denuclearization, after Kim vowed to work toward that goal at a landmark summit in June in Singapore with U.S. President Donald Trump.

U.S. officials have told Reuters that North Korea had yet to agree to a timeline for eliminating its nuclear arsenal or to disclose its size, which U.S. estimates have put at between 30 and 60 warheads.

After Monday’s talks, Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of a North Korean committee aiming for the “peaceful reunification” of the peninsula, told his South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, it was important to clear “obstacles” preventing inter-Korean relations from moving forward.

“If the issues that were raised at the talks aren’t resolved, unexpected problems could emerge and the issues that are already on the schedule may face difficulties,” Ri said, without giving details.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, arrive for their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone, North Korea, August 13, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

PROBLEMS

One issue that has angered North Korea recently has been the case of a dozen North Korean restaurant workers who came to the South in 2016 via China.

The North says they were abducted by the South and should be returned, and has raised the possibility of the issue creating an obstacle to the reunion of some families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War, planned for next week.

Cho did not say if North Korea had raised the case of the restaurant workers on Monday, merely saying it had not brought up new issues.

“There were mentions that if there are problems to be resolved by both sides, on humanitarian issues or for the development of inter-Korean relations, we should do it,” the minister told reporters.

Cho said the two sides had exchanged views on the North’s denuclearization and on a peace mechanism to replace the armistice that ended fighting during the Korean War.

Moon and Kim agreed during their first summit to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War together with the United States this year, but Washington has said it would only be possible after the North abandons its nuclear program.

Last month, the North’s state media criticized the South accusing it of only caring only about the views of the United States and failing to take practical steps to advance inter-Korean relations.

South Korea hopes to restart efforts on a cross-peninsula railway and a joint industrial park but has been cautious about major projects due to international sanctions chiefly engineered by Washington over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

The North has urged the United States to end the sanctions, saying it had made goodwill gestures, including a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, the dismantling of a nuclear site, and the return of the remains of some U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War.

“The North is asking the South to play a bridging role as they want the United States to speed up progress in declaring an end to the war officially,” said Seo Yu-seok, a researcher at the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Christopher Green, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, said the North could try to increase pressure on the South to deliver on economic promises made at the April summit, while widening the distance between Seoul and Washington.

Ri said the two sides had agreed on a date for the summit, but he declined to elaborate.

Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman of South Korea’s presidential office, said it would be difficult for the summit to happen before the Sept. 9 anniversary of North Korea’s founding, a major holiday there.

(BBC) Korea remains: Pyongyang returns US troops slain in Korean War

(BBC)

US military airplane arriving at base in South KoreaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe remains arrived at a US airbase in South Korea

North Korea has returned remains believed to be of 55 US troops killed during the Korean War, bringing renewed hope to families who have waited decades for closure.

The return of the remains, brought to a US base in South Korea, is the latest move in the cautious diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang.

The repatriation was agreed at the June summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

It is hoped more will follow.

“It’s hard to live your life not knowing what happened to your loved one,” the daughter of one missing serviceman told the BBC ahead of Friday’s news.

The Singapore summit, where Mr Trump and Mr Kim agreed to work towards the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, has been criticised for a lack of detail on when or how Pyongyang would renounce nuclear weapons.

Media captionTrump thanks Kim Jong-un for repatriation of fallen troops

But the return of US remains was one of four points actually listed in that June declaration, and comes on the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War.

It is believed that 55 soldiers have been returned this time, but their remains will need to be forensically tested to ensure they are indeed slain US troops – and it’s possible the identification process could take years.

John Zimmerlee, the son of a US serviceman who is among the missing, told the BBC there was no guarantee these were the remains of American soldiers.

Mr Zimmerlee, the founder of the Korean War Prisoners Of War and Missing In Action Network, said: “Keep in mind that these 55 remains that are coming back, these are people that they [North Korea] suspected were their enemy during the (Korean) war – not necessarily Americans.

“They could be British, they could be Australians, Belgians – could be a lot of different people.”

Presentational grey line

‘An emotional and symbolic gesture’

By Laura Bicker, BBC Seoul correspondent, Osan air base

The small wooden caskets were draped in the UN flag and carried carefully one by one from the aircraft onto US soil.

Hundreds of US soldiers and some of their families from the Osan base came to salute and line the route of their final journey.

Before the ceremony they’d been told they would be watching a key moment in history. They stood silently and watched.

Earlier I’d asked Korean War veterans from the US and the UK what this meant to them. Amazing news, they told me.

“This is an emotional and symbolic gesture,” said another.

Presentational grey line

Why are US remains in North Korea?

More than 326,000 Americans fought alongside soldiers from South Korea and a UN coalition during the war to support the South against the Communist North.

Thousands of US military personnel from the Korean war remain unaccounted for and most of them – about 5,300 – were lost in what is now North Korea.

The missing US soldiers are among around 33,000 coalition troops still unaccounted for.

US troops during the Korean warImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThere are thought to be around 5,300 remains of US soldiers in North Korea

The remains are believed to be located at:

  • prisoner of war camps – many perished during the winter of 1950
  • the sites of major battles, such as the areas around Unsan and Chongchon in the north-west of the country – said to contain approximately 1,600 dead
  • temporary UN military cemeteries – China and North Korea returned about 3,000 dead Americans in an effort called Operation Glory in 1954, but others remain
  • the demilitarised zone that separates North and South Korea – said to contain 1,000 bodies

Between 1990 and 2005, 229 sets were returned, but this halted as relations deteriorated with the development of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

What happens now?

A US military aircraft took the remains to the US base at Osan in South Korea where, according to the White House, a repatriation ceremony will be held on 1 August after some initial testing.

The remains will then be brought to the US to undergo thorough forensic testing.

The White House said it was “a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner”.

What has the reaction been?

The US government said it was “encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change”.

The return of the dead soldiers was “a significant first step to recommence the repatriation of remains from North Korea and to resume field operations in North Korea to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who have not yet returned home”.

Media captionNukes, Trump Towers and human rights – what might peace look like between the US and North Korea?

The repatriation will be welcomed by relatives who have waited decades for progress.

But Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador who secured the return of six bodies in 2007, remains sceptical.

He told the Washington Post: “They’ll give a certain amount of remains for free right away, but then they’ll say, ‘The next ones, we need to find them, locate them, restore them.’ And then they’ll start charging.”

It is thought North Korea has about 200 sets of remains collected already.

What about North Korea’s wider intentions?

The 12 June summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un saw both sides speak with ambition about concrete steps to improve relations but experts have cast doubt on whether Pyongyang is genuine in its apparent commitment to “denuclearise”.

Last week North Korea appeared to begin dismantling part of a key rocket launch site but there have been reports it secretly continues its weapons programme. Meanwhile, Pyongyang has accused the US of “gangster-like” tactics.

There’s also been little clarity about what exactly the two sides mean by “complete denuclearisation” and no details on a timeline for this to take place.

Nevertheless, Friday’s repatriation will likely be seen as a concrete goodwill gesture after years of efforts by relatives and US authorities to retrieve the remains.

(Reuters) North Korea making bomb fuel despite denuclearization pledge: Pompeo

(Reuters) North Korea is continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs in spite of its pledge to denuclearize, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, even as he argued that the Trump administration was making progress in talks with Pyongyang.

Asked at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing whether North Korea was still making bomb fuel, Pompeo responded to Democratic Senator Ed Markey by saying: “Yes, that’s correct … Yes, they continue to produce fissile material.”

Pompeo declined to respond when asked whether North Korea was continuing to pursue submarine-launched ballistic missiles or whether its nuclear program was advancing generally.

He said he would be happy to answer the latter question if necessary in a classified setting, but suggested public statements on the issue would not help “a complex negotiation with a difficult adversary.”

Pompeo defended what he termed progress in talks with North Korea stemming from an unprecedented June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in sometimes testy exchanges with skeptical lawmakers from both parties.

He said the United States was engaged in “patient diplomacy” to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but would not let the process “drag out to no end.”

Briefing on his July 5-7 visit to North Korea, Pompeo said he had emphasized this position in “productive” discussions with his North Korean interlocutor, Kim Yong Chol.

He said Trump remained upbeat about the prospects for North Korean denuclearization, but Kim needed to follow through on his summit commitments.

Pompeo said U.S. North Korea policy was guided by a principle stated by Trump on July 17 that “diplomacy and engagement are preferable to conflict and hostility.”

Trump has hailed his summit with Kim as a success, even saying the day after that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, but questions have been mounting about Pyongyang’s willingness to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States.

Kim committed in a broad summit statement to work toward denuclearization but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about this.

Pompeo left Pyongyang on July 7 saying he had made progress on key issues, only for North Korea to accuse his delegation hours later of making “gangster-like” demands.

Pompeo reiterated that North Korea had agreed to denuclearize. However, he did not respond when asked by Senator Bob Menendez whether Pyongyang agreed with the U.S. definition of denuclearization, except to say he was fully confident North Korea understood this.

DEMOCRAT DENOUNCES “REALITY TV ‘SUMMIT’”

Menendez, the ranking member of the committee, called Trump’s meeting with Kim “a reality TV ‘summit’ that was little more than a photo-op with a brutal dictator.”

“We have seen only a vague agreement of promises to make more promises – but with weaker commitments than North Korea has previously made,” he said.

Pompeo conceded that there was an “awful long way to go” with North Korea but in answer to a question, said the U.S. goal was for North Korea’s complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization by the end of Trump’s current term in office, which runs until January 2021, and “more quickly if possible.”

Trump said last week there was “no rush” and “no time limit” on the denuclearization negotiations, but Pompeo has given varying statements about how patient Washington might be.

He rejected Markey’s suggestion that the United States was being “taken for a ride” by North Korea, replying, “fear not senator, fear not.”

However he indicated that no progress had been made on a key U.S. demand – that North Korea disclose the range of its nuclear capabilities, saying: “An initial declaration … is something that is at the very forefront of what … we think, makes sense to get them to a point where we can verify their full denuclearization.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Republican chairman of the committee, Bob Corker, criticized Trump for saying that Kim was “very talented” and that “he loves his people,” given the country’s serious human rights abuses and the death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier after imprisonment there.

“Really?” Corker said.

(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.