(GUA) UN watchdog’s report raises questions over Pyongyang’s position on denuclearisation
North Korea is continuing to develop its nuclear weapons programme, according to a report by the UN atomic watchdog, raising questions over the country’s commitment to denuclearisation.
In one of the most specific reports on Pyongyang’s recent nuclear activities, the International Atomic Energy Agency observed actions consistent with the enrichment of uranium and construction at the country’s main nuclear site.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] nuclear programme and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” the report said.
At a historic summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June, the US president and North Korean leader agreed to work towards the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula.
But experts warned that without a formal deal between the US and North Korea, Kim would continue developing his nuclear and missile programmes.
Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said: “The Singapore summit wasn’t a nuclear deal and there’s no agreement between Washington and Pyongyang that would encourage North Korea to act any differently.
“Negotiating with North Korea is always going to be a long, bumpy and twisty process, and they are savvy negotiators. They want to hold on to their nuclear weapons as long as possible while extracting as many concessions along the way.”
Speculation is growing that the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is preparing to make a fourth visit to Pyongyang for nuclear negotiations. That trip could lead to North Korea giving the US a list outlining its nuclear arsenal and production facilities, according to the Korea Times.
“North Korea plans to hand over a list of its secret nuclear test sites as well as information about its nuclear warheads to Mike Pompeo when he visits Pyongyang this month,” the paper said, citing an unnamed source. Kim was likely to meet Pompeo face to face, the newspaper added.
Establishing a comprehensive list of the size of the nuclear programme and the locations involved has long been a demand of US negotiators, and would represent a significant concession from North Korea. In return, Pyongyang would likely seek an formal declaration of the end of the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
North Korean state media has repeatedly mentioned this as a key roadblock to moving talks forward. But without inspectors on the ground, the list could fail to detail all the sites involved in the programme.
Duyeon Kim said: “A nuclear inventory will always be imperfect. North Korea will never give a complete accounting because they want cards in their hand and to maintain some degree of leverage.”
While talks between the US and North Korea have stalled, South Korea has pushed ahead with its own diplomatic efforts. Reunions were held for divided families this week, and Seoul’s defence ministry is considering removing a reference to North Korea as its “enemy” in an annual white paper.
(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
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.
Reuters quotes an official as saying it is unclear how far the work has gone.
Donald Trump met North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June.
After the first meeting between sitting leaders from the two countries, the two men pledged to work towards denuclearisation. Mr Trump later said North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat”.
But Mr Trump was criticised at home for making concessions without securing any firm commitment from Mr Kim to end the nuclear and missile programmes.
These are not the first reports that North Korea may be continuing its weapons programme, casting doubt on the real impact of the summit in Singapore.
What do the latest reports say?
On Monday, the Washington Post newspaper quoted officials as saying North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at the Sanumdong facility near the capital, Pyongyang.
The factory is known to have produced the Hwasong-15, the first North Korean ICBM capable of reaching the US.
However, a US official told news agency Reuters that a liquid-fuelled ICBM didn’t “pose nearly the threat that a solid-fuelled one would because they take so long to fuel”.
Reuters also added that satellite imaging showed vehicles moving in and out of the facility, but not the extent of any missile construction.
What are experts saying about this?
Satellite imagery of the Sanumdong facility shows that the site is “active”, Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) told the Washington Post.
“[The facility] is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination,” said Mr Lewis. “We see shipping containers and vehicles coming and going. This is a facility where they build ICBMs and space-launch vehicles.”
Another North Korean expert from MIIS, Melissa Hanham, told the BBC that the facility had “regular traffic in and out of the building”, adding that this “traffic pattern” on the site stayed “about the same through the Panmunjom and Singapore meetings”.
This indicated that there had not been a complete stop in activity during the summit talks.
She also noted that large “brightly coloured containers” also showed up in satellite imagery, saying that “containers similar to these have appeared during previous ICBM inspections by Mr Kim.”
Ms Hanham added that while that experts at MIIS could not “find a way to confirm the [intelligence] leak”, the information has matched evidence from satellite imagery.
What was agreed on in the Singapore summit?
North Korea has carried out a total of six nuclear tests, the most recent of which took place in September last year. It has in the past two years quickly advanced its nuclear programme.
But at their landmark meeting in Singapore, Mr Trump and Mr Kim agreed to work towards the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.
It’s been unclear what both sides mean by “complete denuclearisation”, and no further details have been released about when or how Pyongyang would renounce its nuclear weapons nor how the process would be verified.
Experts have also cast doubt on whether Pyongyang has been genuine in its apparent commitment to “denuclearise”.
Last week, it appeared North Korea had begun dismantling part of a key rocket launch site, but according to recent reports based on US intelligence leaks, Pyongyang might still secretly be continuing its nuclear weapons programme.
Reports had indicated that North Korea was upgrading its only official nuclear enrichment site, and was stepping up enrichment at other secret sites.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was forced to admit that North Korea was continuing to produce nuclear fissile material, though he insisted that “progress is happening”.
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.
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.”
‘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.
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.
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”.
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.
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”.
(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.
(KJD) Hoping 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
“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.
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
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.
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.
“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”.
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.
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) Update: 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…
Spoke w/ @BloombergTV’s @kevcirilli about Pres Trump pulling out of planned nuclear summit w/ North Korea & how if Pres Trump had taken a more considered approach to Mr. Kim’s initial offer for a summit, we wouldn’t be in this position.https://t.co/vY7HOiFYXf
… 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:
(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.
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.”
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) 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.
“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) 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!”
Donald J. Trump
The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. 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 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) 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.
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.
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.”
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.
(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.
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.”