Category Archives: North Korea

(KJD) Unification funds are a hot ticket

(KJDHoping for improved relations, investors bet on infrastructure

As hopes for peace sweep the Korean Peninsula ahead of the historic North Korea-U.S. summit on June 12, investment firms are hoping to cash in on optimism through so-called unification funds.

These funds mostly invest in construction and steel companies, which are projected to rise in value if the two Koreas agree to economic cooperation.

The HI Korea Unification Renaissance Class A stock fund, one unification fund from investment firm HI Asset Management, recorded 8.15 percent year-to-date (YTD) returns between January and May of this year, according to investment consulting firm KG Zeroin on Sunday. During the same period, Korean equity funds posted negative returns of 1.15 percent on average.

Not counting exchange-traded funds (ETFs), there were only 12 funds, including HI Korea Unification Renaissance, that posted over 8 percent returns among all the 543 active equity funds in Korea.

The HI Korea Unification Renaissance fund invests in construction and railway shares that are expected to grow if South Korean firms help build infrastructure in North Korea.

“Before, unification funds invested in shares related to government support, like consumer goods, food, fertilizer and biopharmaceuticals, as well as infrastructure and underground resources,” said Kim Yeon-su, a manager at HI Asset Management.

“Now, we’ve revamped the fund’s portfolio to focus on investing in firms that will benefit the most from each stage of inter-Korean cooperation, with the end goal of North-South unification in mind.”

In the past month, total investment in the HI Korea Unification Renaissance fund doubled from 1.4 billion won ($1.3 million) to 2.8 billion won.

Investors also put 2 billion won into Shinyoung Asset Management’s Shinyoung Marathon Unification Korea stock fund in May, as the upcoming North-South summit boosted investor sentiment.

The fund recorded 3.47 percent YTD returns, and had a total investment size of 28.3 billion won as of the end of May.

Unification funds initially emerged in 2014, when former President Park Geun-hye said in a speech that riches could be made in unification. However, they faded into obscurity as North-South relations worsened.

The May North-South summit was a boon for the HI Korea Unification Renaissance fund, which was on the verge of liquidation earlier this year.

“As return rates improved and customers showed high interest, we decided to reorganize the fund and nurture it,” said Kim.

HI Asset Management no longer charges investors redemption fees on the fund. It also makes donations to the Korean Red Cross, which has historically worked on projects to assist North Koreans.

Other investment companies are scrambling to launch their own unification funds.

On May 14, UBS Hana Asset Management launched the Hana UBS Greater Korea stock fund, based on the Hana UBS FirstClass Ace fund, which came out in 1999. Though the Greater Korea fund invests in large-cap shares, including Samsung Electronics, KB Financial Group and Posco, the rest of the investment is in shares related to inter-Korean cooperation.

Samsung Asset Management is also redesigning the Samsung My Best fund – made up of large-cap and blue-chip stocks – into a unification fund. BNK Asset Management’s BNK Brave New Korea fund, which is scheduled to start accepting investments this month, will invest in shares from companies that are planning on entering North Korea, according to industry sources.

Hopes for peace are also helping to buoy ETFs related to inter-Korean cooperation. Samsung Asset Management’s KODEX Construction stock ETF posted 16.52 percent in one-year returns as of Monday, one of the highest among all the equity funds.

Other ETFs that invest in construction shares, like Mirae Asset Global Investments’ Tiger 200 Construction stock ETF, posted returns of over 14 percent as well.

Some consulting firms are even coming up with products that will allow clients to invest in hand-picked high-return ETFs. NH-Amundi Asset Management’s Great Korea ETF-Managed Portfolio, unveiled on May 23, invests in several ETFs related to inter-Korean cooperation.

“Because there will be a large structural change in the domestic economy as North-South economic cooperation materializes, investors need to think long-term and invest with insight,” said Lee Jin-young, a marketing manager at NH-Amundi Asset Management. “We are also planning to launch a new open-ended public offering fund that will invest in shares that will benefit from inter-Korean cooperation.”

(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”.

(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.

(BBC) Trump cancels Kim summit amid North Korea ‘hostility’

(BBC)

Media captionTrump: “US military is ready if necessary”

US President Donald Trump has cancelled a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, blaming “tremendous anger and open hostility” from the North.

He said it was possible a meeting could still take place but warned North Korea against committing “foolish” acts.

The summit aimed to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and would have been the first time a sitting US president met a North Korean leader.

But doubts had emerged on both sides whether the talks would take place.

Mr Trump’s announcement marks a fresh twist in the turbulent relationship between him and Mr Kim.

Last year saw the two exchange lurid insults. This year though has seen warmer relations, including the release of three US detainees in North Korea.

The move came just hours after North Korea said it had dismantled tunnels at its only nuclear test site.


Diplomacy in disarray

Analysis by Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent

The Trump administration insists that North Korea was not responding sufficiently in the summit preparations, raising doubts that the meeting would be able to achieve a positive outcome.

The big question is what happens now?

Prior to the thaw in relations between North and South Korea that began the process that led to the summit date, wild rhetoric was being exchanged between Pyongyang and Washington raising serious fears of a renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

Will North Korea now resume its long-range ballistic missile testing? Will the war of words be renewed? Or might there be a slim chance of some kind of diplomatic process being maintained?

And finally, can relations between North and South Korea be insulated in any way from the growing tensions between Pyongyang and Washington?


What did Mr Trump say?

Mr Trump said he had been looking forward to the now-cancelled summit in Singapore on 12 June.

“I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have the long-planned meeting,” Mr Trump said in a letter to Mr Kim.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he added.

But he called the meeting a “missed opportunity”, saying “someday, I look very much forward to meeting you”.

In a later statement at the White House, Mr Trump said the step was a “tremendous setback for North Korea and the world”, adding the US military was “ready if necessary” to respond to any “reckless” act from North Korea.

What was he referring to?

Mr Trump was apparently responding to statements from North Korea attacking his administration and casting doubt over the meeting.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korean official Choe Son-hui dismissed remarks by US Vice-President Mike Pence – who had said North Korea “may end like Libya” – as “stupid”.

Media captionPompeo – US was ready but North Korea had gone silent on preparations

Ms Choe, who has been involved in several diplomatic interactions with the US over the past decade, said the North would not “beg” for dialogue and warned of a “nuclear showdown” if diplomacy failed.

A White House official quoted by Reuters described the comments about Mr Pence as the “last straw”. They stressed, however, there was a “backdoor that’s open still”.

References to Libya have angered North Korea. There, former leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear programme only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

What’s the reaction been?

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said “I am very perplexed and it is very regrettable that the North Korea-US summit will not be held”, the Yonhap agency reported.

This year has seen improving ties between North and South Korea, with the leaders of both holding a summit just last month.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the US and North Korea should not give up, saying “nerves of steel” were required.

In the US, Republican Senator Tom Cotton praised President Trump for “seeing through Kim Jong-un’s fraud”. But Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said the move was what happened “when amateurs are combined with warmongers”.

(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.”

+++ (BBG) Pompeo Says U.S. Can Send ‘Capital’ to North Korea Once Nukes Go

(BBG) The U.S. is ready to allow investments in North Korea once it has verifiable proof of the Asian nation’s denuclearization, two of President Donald Trump’s top national security officials said.

“We’re prepared to open the trade and investment with North Korea as soon as we can,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of two appearances on Sunday political shows.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further in an interview on CBS. He talked of the potential for U.S. investment in the North Asian nation from America’s “entrepreneurs, our risk takers, our capital providers” to help North Korea’s people “get the opportunity that they so richly deserve.”

Before any such benefits flow, though, Bolton and Pompeo said the U.S. must have proof that the denuclearization process is complete, verifiable, and irreversible.

The remarks come ahead of a historic summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore on June 12 that may pave the way for the North Korean dictator to give up his nuclear arsenal. It will be the first time a sitting U.S. president meets the leader of North Korea.

Not Seeing Stars

Kim is expected to seek swift relief from severe economic sanctions in exchange for steps to shut down its nuclear program. The U.S. has insisted that Pyongyang completely abandon its nuclear program before easing its “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

“He sees the chance of a breakthrough, but I don’t think he has stars in his eyes over this,” Bolton said of Trump.

Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday” that North Korea would be allowed access to private-sector U.S. capital for infrastructure projects if “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” occurs.

“We can create conditions for real economic prosperity for the North Korean people that will rival that of the south,” Pompeo added.

That will be a heavy lift, however: The Central Intelligence Agency estimates 2017 per-capita gross domestic product for South Korea at $39,400 against North Korea’s $1,700 in 2015, the most recent figure available. North Korea’s per-capita GDP ranked it 214 out of 228 countries.

Energy Grid

“Private-sector Americans, not the U.S. taxpayer” would go into North Korea to “help build out the energy grid,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.” “To work with them to develop infrastructure. All the things that the North Korean people need.”

The Singapore summit comes amid a broader warming of North Korea’s relations with the U.S. and South Korea that’s gained momentum in amid steps by Kim to ease tensions. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in late April to finally put an end to the seven-decade war between the two nations and seek a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Pompeo has spent“a great deal of time with Chairman Kim” on two recent visits to Pyongyang, he said. “He’s able to deal with complexity when the conversation requires it,” he said of Kim, whose age is estimated at 34 to 36.

North Korea on Saturday said it would dismantle its nuclear test site and invite foreign journalists to observe, a largely symbolic move ahead of the meeting with Trump. North Korea also freed three U.S. citizens who’d been imprisoned there.

On “Face the Nation,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said getting North Korea to denuclearize is complicated, because its program is “dramatically larger” than Iran’s, with miles of tunnels, multiple sites and existing weapons. Gates put the odds of immediate success as “very low.”

But Trump goes into the meeting “with a lot of cards to play,” Gates said, including a possible peace treaty, diplomatic recognition and a promise not to overthrow the regime.

(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) North Korea Denies U.S. Pressure Is Behind Denuclearization

(BBG) North Korea said U.S. sanctions aren’t the reason behind its willingness to remove nuclear weapons from peninsula, accusing its adversary of trying to ramp up tensions ahead of a summit between leaders of the countries.

The U.S. is misleading the public by saying its sanctions are working, KCNA said on Sunday. America isn’t being helpful if it continues to characterize North Korea’s steps as a sign of weakness, while pressuring and making military threats, the North’s state-run news agency said.

The warnings from North Korea are a reminder that it will seek to project an image of strength for domestic and overseas audiences, even as the country says it’s moving forward with rapprochement with the U.S. and South Korea. KCNA’s missive follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement on Friday that a date and place have been set for his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

While official details haven’t been released, South Korean newspapers have reported that the meeting will most likely take place in the third week of June in Singapore.

In a separate KCNA report, North Korea gave credit to Kim for the diplomatic breakthroughs, saying that his “boldness, patriotism and leadership” contributed to building the peace talks. North Korea warned that U.S. claims of forcing change on the country is a deliberate provocation that will pour “cold water onto the current atmosphere of dialog and reverse the situation to square one,” KCNA said.

The détente between the two Koreas culminated in Kim crossing the demarcation line separating the countries for a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-In on April 27. In a statement that day, they said they would seek to formally end the war between them and pursue “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

Separately, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that Mike Pompeo, the new U.S. Secretary of State who met with Kim more than a month ago, ruled out a Trump-Kim meeting at Panmunjom, the border village.

Trump is set to meet Moon in Washington on May 22, in advance of the planned historic summit. North Korea will also be high on the agenda when the leaders of Japan, South Korea and China meet in Tokyo on Wednesday for their first trilateral summit in three years.

+++ (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.”

+++ V.I. (BBG) Trump Hails ‘Big Progress’ as Kim Vows to Extend Freeze on Tests

…Looking good…

(BBG) U.S. President Donald Trump hailed “big progress” as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to halt nuclear testing, a largely symbolic gesture that appeared aimed at softening the ground for talks between the two leaders.

Kim told a ruling party meeting in Pyongyang on Friday his regime would suspend tests of atomic bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles after achieving its goal of building a nuclear arsenal, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. North Korea will shutter its Punggye-ri test site, a secluded mountain facility believed to be damaged after a hydrogen bomb test in September.

While the moves mostly affirm the status quo — North Korea hasn’t conducted a major weapons test in almost five months — Kim’s remarks to a domestic audience could signal flexibility in upcoming talks with the U.S. and South Korea. He’s set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 at a border village, possibly paving the way for an unprecedented summit with Trump in May or June.

Trump called Kim’s statement “very good news for North Korea and the World.” “Big progress!” Trump said in a tweet. “Look forward to our Summit.”

Later, 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.” A spokesman for Moon called Kim’s moves a positive sign.

Although U.S. and South Korean officials say Kim has expressed a willingness to discuss “denuclearization,” North Korea’s media has steered clear of the term. Kim’s remarks made no commitment to give up the estimated 60 nuclear bombs and the unknown number of ICBMs he already has.

Read more: Here Are Nine Potential Locations for Trump-Kim Summit

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.”

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.

North Korea’s arsenal represents the achievement of three generations of Kims and is so central to the regime that its status as a “nuclear state” is enshrined in the constitution. The weapons provide a potent deterrent to any U.S.-led military action similar to what occurred in Iraq, Libya or Syria.

Read more: How to Tell If North Korea Is About to Test a Nuclear Bomb

Past negotiations with Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, over North Korea’s weapons program collapsed amid disputes over inspections, economic aid and U.S. security guarantees.

The Workers’ Party meeting expressed only general support for “worldwide disarmament.” “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,” Kim said.

North Korea has already effectively halted weapons tests since firing a missile in late November 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” and opened talks with South Korea.

Read more: Why Hope Battles History as Trump, Kim Plan to Meet

Meanwhile, commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri site has shown no recent evidence of major activity, according to the 38 North website, which monitors North Korea. Tunnels there have caved in after each of the country’s six nuclear tests, said Hong Tae-kyung, a professor of geophysics at Seoul’s Yonsei University.

“There’s even a possibility of radioactive leaks there,” Hong said. “Realistically, it’s highly unlikely they can be used for nuclear tests any more.”

Still, North Korea has been feeling the weight of economic sanctions and Kim’s statements to the party meeting signaled a desire to prioritize the development of his impoverished country. That shift that could make any offers of outside aid or sanctions relief more appealing in negotiations.

China’s Global Times newspaper, which is published by the Communist Party, called on Japan, South Korea and the U.S. to immediately lift all unilateral sanctions on North Korea. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement that Kim’s promises would help promote a political settlement to the tensions.

Japan, however, expressed skepticism. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Kim’s pledge wouldn’t change how Japan handles the regime, Kyodo News reported.

“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.”

+++ V.I. (BBG) Trump Trades `Fire and Fury’ for Diplomacy to Set Up Kim Meeting

(BBG) President Donald Trump is methodically laying the groundwork for a landmark meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a sharp contrast to the haphazard process that has followed previous policy announcements.

The White House’s preparations, including an unannounced trip to Pyongyang a few weeks ago by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, indicate that the meeting is increasingly likely to occur by early June — an ambitious timeline originally met with skepticism by many Korea experts and even some within the administration after Trump accepted Kim’s invitation last month.

The two sides are working out sticky details of timing and location for the meeting while cooling their rhetoric. A handful of countries are under consideration, including Sweden, Switzerland and in Southeast Asia, according to people familiar with the matter.

The president has meanwhile replaced threats to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea with far more conciliatory and diplomatic language toward the regime. For his part, Kim has not tested a nuclear weapon or ballistic missile since November.

“I look forward to meeting with Kim Jong Un. And hopefully that will be a success,’’ Trump said Tuesday during a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “I can say this: They do respect us. We are respectful of them.’’

Climbing Toward Summit

There remains considerable uncertainty and work to do ahead of a summit, and Trump has warned the meeting might yet be called off. It isn’t clear what the president hopes to win from Kim in their first meeting or what the North Korean dictator may demand from the U.S. Trump has said he expects the North to eventually surrender its nuclear arsenal, long a point of pride to Kim’s family and his only real deterrent against a military attack.

“If I don’t think it’s a meeting that’s going to be fruitful we won’t go,” Trump said at a news conference with Abe on Wednesday. “If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.”

But Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang is “another sign that the administration is taking this seriously,’’ said Patrick Cronin, director of the Center for a New America Security’s Asia-Pacific security program.

“I’m impressed with what they’re doing,’’ he said. “You can never be sufficiently prepared, really, for the president of the United States meeting for the first time with a leader of a country that’s been essentially closed off.’’

Many challenges remain. Pompeo has been nominated to be secretary of State, but it is not certain the Senate will confirm him and the department he would lead has several key vacancies on the Korean Peninsula. Trump also has a new national security adviser, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, whose office is hemorrhaging staff.

Trump has an erratic history as a negotiator and many of his bold declarations of new policies have flamed out because of chaotic implementation or backlash from opponents. He had to issue three different versions of a travel ban involving several Muslim-majority nations last year after repeatedly running into legal challenges.

Why Hope Battles History as Trump, Kim Plan to Meet: QuickTake

He tweeted out a policy banning transgender people from serving in the military, only to retreat and order the Defense Department to study the issue. The president also floated new gun restrictions and a deal to protect young undocumented immigrants this year — only to reverse course after backlashes from conservative voters.

He may also discard any script for the Kim summit laid out by his advisers, said Adam Mount, a senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists.

“On the U.S. side, it looks like there’s a headlong rush into talks,’’ he said. “The president has at times seemed naïve about what he can achieve.’’

Reassuring the Japanese

But this week’s meetings with Abe are an example of the White House’s preparations. Japan considers itself one of the countries most at risk from North Korean aggression and wants short- and medium-range missiles included in any disarmament agreement. Abe wants Trump to pressure Kim to provide information on Japanese citizens abducted by the regime years ago, a request the president readily agreed to on Tuesday.

Trump also gave his “blessing” to peace talks between North and South Korea, who technically remain at war 65 years after a cease-fire ended the Korean conflict, and praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for helping to pressure Kim’s regime into talks.

While few expect the summit itself will immediately lead to Kim giving up his nuclear program, it could be the start of a long process aimed at achieving denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

To that end, each side may come prepared with some symbolic offerings and concessions to put on the table as a goodwill gesture, said Michael Pillsbury, the director of the Center for Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute.

Trump’s decision to meet with Kim is itself a diplomatic victory for the North Korean leader, who will benefit from being seen as an equal with an American president. There is also the risk that Kim is buying time for his nuclear and missile programs to advance further.

Matt Pottinger, the Asia director for the National Security Council who is helping to coordinate planning for the summit, said Trump would not be duped.

“President Trump has a team of people working for him now who have extensive experience dealing with the North Korea menace,’’ Pottinger told reporters on Tuesday. “If there is any intention by the North to merely buy time for this program, there will be an unhappy result.’’

Kim Sets Stage

Kim is making his own preparations. He traveled to Beijing last March to consult with Xi and other Chinese leaders and will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at Panmunjom next week, the first trip south of the border by a North Korean leader.

The two leaders are expected to declare an end to military hostilities, according to the South Korean news service South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday, citing a senior presidential official. South Korea and the U.S. would consider a peace treaty if Kim completely gives up his nuclear ambitions, the official said.

“It’s clear that North Korea is saying all the right things to enable the summit with Trump to happen — both to Seoul and to Washington,’’ said Mount.

While the historic meeting appears closer to reality, the most critical work won’t happen until after it concludes, Cronin said. That’s when officials from both countries will engage in complex negotiations to translate terms like denuclearization and de-escalation into concrete actions.

One of the biggest obstacles will be persuading Kim to agree to inspections of his nuclear program and verification of any steps he takes to scale it back, Cronin said. Past talks with North Korea have broken down after the regime refused to allow international inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities.

That would be “the worst situation,” Cronin said, returning the U.S. “to the threat of kinetic action, and that creates a new regional crisis.”

(BBC) Kim Jong-un ‘moved’ by K-pop peace concert in Pyongyang

(BBC)

Media captionNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un clapped along, like many others at the concert

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was deeply moved by a concert in Pyongyang featuring South Korea artists, the North’s state news agency KCNA reports.

It said the leader’s heart had swelled when he saw the North Korean audience respond enthusiastically to the performances of famous K-pop groups.

He said the musical exchange was a significant occasion giving the appearance of a united country.

The concert came amid improving relations between the Koreas.

The North sent performers to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year, and the leaders of the two countries are due to hold a summit on the border later this month.

The performers are in Pyongyang for two shows, the first South Korean musical delegation to visit in more than a decade.

The first concert, titled Spring is Coming, took place on Sunday evening local time at the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre.

The delegation, which combines K-pop, rock and other genres, is set to perform again on Tuesday.

A picture released by the North Korean Central News Agency shows leader Kim Jong-un (C), together with his wife Ri Sol Ju, with South Korean artists at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, 1 April 2018Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, posed for photos with some of the musicians after the event

Mr Kim is the first North Korean leader to attend a performance by an artistic group from the South, said South Korea’s official news agency, Yonhap.

His sister Kim Yo-jong and the country’s nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam are also said to have attended.

Kim Jong-un “showed much interest during the show and asked questions about the songs and lyrics”, the South’s Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan told journalists.

Rare apology

Meanwhile, one of North Korea’s top officials, Kim Yong-chol, has apologised to South Korean reporters who had hoped to cover the performance after all but one were barred from entering the Grand Theatre, South Korean Yonhap news agency reports.

Mr Kim, who is in charge of affairs with South Korea and head of the North’s national intelligence organisation, said that he thought that “there might have not been sufficient co-operation between the chairman’s security guards and concert organisers” at the event.

“It was wrong to hinder the free media coverage and filming,” he said, in what Yonhap reported as “a rare apology”.

Mr Kim offered an apology on behalf of North Korean authorities, saying that the restriction was “not intentional”, Yonhap reported.

Military exercise

Mr Kim has agreed to hold summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump.

He met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week during his first foreign trip as leader.

The third inter-Korean summit – there were also meetings in 2000 and 2007 – is due to be held on 27 April. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit.

Meanwhile, the US and South Korea have begun their annual military drills, which have been scaled down compared with previous years as both countries prepare for talks with North Korea.

Although nearly 300,000 South Korean troops and 24,000 American troops will take part, the drill will be a month shorter than usual and will not involve nuclear submarines.

In the past, the drills have infuriated North Korea but correspondents say that this time Pyongyang is keeping relatively quiet. Mr Kim reportedly told visiting South Korean officials that he understood that the exercises had to go ahead.

(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.

(BBG) China Says North Korea’s Kim Open to Discussing Nukes With Trump

(Bloomberg) — Kim Jong Un is willing to talk with U.S.
President Donald Trump about giving up his nuclear weapons,
China said, after the North Korean leader made a surprise visit
to Beijing to patch up ties with his neighbor.
Kim expressed an openness to U.S. talks during meetings
with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the official Xinhua News
Agency said Wednesday, in what was his first foreign trip since
taking power in 2011. North Korean state media reports also
confirmed Kim’s visit — and his return to Pyongyang — without
mentioning denuclearization or the potential Trump summit.
“North Korea sees an opportunity with these summits to
message to the world that it’s not isolated and that it has
diplomatic options,” Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. State Department
official who worked on North Korean issues, said by email. “The
Kim-Xi summit is the latest step in that game.”
Kim’s clandestine visit — Chinese officials refused for
two days to confirm reports of his motorcade and train movements
— shakes up the diplomatic landscape ahead of a potential
meeting by the end of May with Trump. Chinese media reports
included Kim’s first public remarks indicating he’d discuss his
nuclear arsenal with Trump, who has upended decades of U.S.
policy by agreeing to meet the North Korean leader without a
clear disarmament plan.
“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula can
be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our
efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and
stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for
the realization of peace,” Kim said, according to Xinhua.
Bloomberg News first reported Kim’s arrival in the Chinese
capital Monday.
Kim also shored up his alliance with China, which has been
strained since he came to power and executed his uncle, who was
a key communications channel with Beijing. His missile and
nuclear tests have exasperated China, which supported Trump’s
“maximum pressure” campaign against Kim’s weapons program.
While China remains a key ally of Pyongyang and an economic
lifeline for the isolated regime, their leaders hadn’t met since
Kim’s ailing father visited in 2011.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who’s expected to see
Trump in the U.S. next month, told parliament in Tokyo Wednesday
that it was important to maintain sanctions on the regime while
pursuing substantive talks. White House Press Secretary Sarah
Huckabee Sanders said that Chinese officials had briefed the
U.S. about Kim’s visit.
“We see this development as further evidence that our
campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate
atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea,” Sanders said in a
statement.
Trump’s summit decision risked sidelining China from the
discussion, and may have acted as an impetus for Xi to meet with
Kim.
Xi pledged support for “Comrade Chairman” Kim and North
Korea’s “peaceful development.” He described the relationship
between their predecessors as “the precious wealth of both
sides” that must be sustained.
“This is a strategic choice and the only right choice both
sides have made based on history and reality, the international
and regional structure and the general situation of China-DPRK
ties,” Xi said, referring to North Korea’s formal name. “This
should not and will not change because of any single event at a
particular time.”
Kim invited Xi to visit North Korea “at a convenient time”
and the invitation was accepted “with pleasure,” the official
Korean Central News Agency said.
The Beijing meeting comes amid a diplomatic flurry in Asia
that has seen officials shuttling around various countries:
Besides the potential summit with Trump, Kim’s due to have talks
with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April. Abe has
indicated that he would like to have a summit.
Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan said Kim’s meeting with Xi
bodes well for the South Korean and U.S. summits. South Korea
would know more after Chinese envoy Yang Jiechi visits this
week, Yoon added.
Xi’s move to preempt Trump by seeing Kim comes at a time of
strain in China-U.S. ties. Xi has found himself preparing for a
trade war with Trump, even after supporting United Nations
sanctions to crimp the flow of energy and cash to Kim. Trump has
also indicated a greater willingness to challenge Chinese
territorial claims in the South China Sea and upgrade ties with
Taiwan, a democratically-ruled island that Beijing considers a
province.
While China opposes North Korea’s nuclear weapons, it also
doesn’t want to see Kim’s regime collapse or war break out on
the Korean Peninsula. Any instability could lead to a refugee
crisis or potentially U.S. troops on its border.
Dennis Wilder, a senior director for Asia at the National
Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said
that China wanted to firm up its role in any negotiations.
“They’ve been kept out of this early period of this
process,” Wilder said. “It was more a reminder to Kim, and a
reminder to Washington, that you’d better keep us in the loop.”