Trump accuses China of sabotaging North Korea ‘deal’

Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un made a fairly vague agreement in Singapore a month ago.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just visited North Korea and the outcome of that meeting looks shaky, despite Pompeo’s positive report:

“We had many hours of productive conversations. These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”

See North Korean denuclearisation talks with US Secretary of State – “regrettable”. It has also been reported that North Korea accused Pompeo of acting like a gangster.

Since then Trump has tried to blame China, and added trade to the mix of rhetoric.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has also accused China of interfering: China Sabotaging North Korea Nuclear Talks Over Tariff Trade War

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I see China’s hands all over this. We are in a fight with China. We buy $500 billion worth of goods from the Chinese. They buy $100 billion from us. They cheat and President Trump wants to change the economic relationship with China.

So, if I were President Trump, I would not let China use North Korea to back me off of the trade dispute. We’ve got more bullets than they do when it comes to trade. We sell them $100 billion, they sell is $500 billion, we can hurt them more than they will hurt us. And all we’re looking for is for them to stop cheating when it comes to trade.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the Chinese pulling a North Koreans back. And to our North Korean friends, can’t say the word friend yet. You asked Pompeo, did he sleep well? If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn’t sleep very well.

Threatening words from Graham on top of Trump’s Twitter bombast.

China and North Korea border each other and have been closely connected politically for a long time. China supported the north in the Korean war in the 1950s.

Kim visited China before his summit with Trump, and he has been back to China since.

So of course China has some sort of influence in North Korea. Are they “exerting negative pressure”? I guess that depends what side of the political and international fence you are on.

Threatening “more bullets” in the escalating trade war with China and threatening “If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn’t sleep very well” could be  interpreted as a bit of negative pressure too.

I just hope trade and military relations don’t go into a negative spiral that ends up in a crash and burn.

North Korean denuclearisation talks with US Secretary of State – “regrettable”

After a meeting in North Korea with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commitments for denuclearisation look shaky.

Reuters:  North Korea says resolve for denuclearisation may falter after talks with U.S.

North Korea said on Saturday its “firm, steadfast” resolve to give up its nuclear programs may falter after the United States demanded unilateral denuclearisation during two days of talks in Pyongyang, state media said.

The North’s official KCNA news agency said the result of talks with the delegation headed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was “extremely troubling,” accusing it of insisting on complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

Fox News: North Korea says denuclearization talks with Pompeo ‘regrettable’:

North Korea on Saturday accused the U.S. of undermining the spirit of last month’s summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un after what it says were “regrettable” talks with a delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry, accusing the U.S. of trying to unilaterally pressure the country into abandoning its nuclear weapons, came shortly after Pompeo’s delegation left the country.

“We had expected that the U.S. side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders’ summit … we were also thinking about providing reciprocal measures,” Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

“However, the attitude and stance the United States showed in the first high-level meeting (between the countries) was no doubt regrettable,” the spokesman said.

Pompeo seemed to think things had gone well, or at least that’s what he claimed.

Pompeo had struck a different tone, telling reporters as he left that the talks with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol had been “productive.”

“We had many hours of productive conversations,” he said. “These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”

I doubt that many people will be surprised with difficulties in progress towards Korean denuclearisation.

It looks like more negotiation  will be required, if not more threats and bluster.

Historic meeting in Korea, an end to the war?

For the first time since North and South Korea split into separate countries after the 1950-53 war the leaders of the two countries have met, at the demilitarised zone that separates the two countries.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have said they will formally end the war (which has never been done to date) and will work towards complete de-nuclearisation of both countries.

This is just a step – many meetings have been held over the years (just not between leaders) – but it is a promising step in the right direction. Credit should be given to both leaders for this.

RNZ: North and South Korea announce end of Korean War

The two countries plan to sign a peace treaty, formally ending the Korean War this year, the 65th anniversary of the armistice.

“There will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun,” the statement says.

The two leaders agreed to work for the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Smiling and holding hands, the leaders met at the heavily fortified demilitarised zone between the countries on Friday, pledging to pursue peace after decades of conflict.

Mr Kim became the first North Korean leader since the 1950-53 Korean War to set foot in South Korea, stepping over a concrete curb marking the border at the truce village of Panmunjom to shake hands with his counterpart.

“We are at a starting line today, where a new history of peace, prosperity and inter-Korean relations is being written,” Mr Kim said before the two Korean leaders and top aides began talks.

Mr Kim told Mr Moon he would be willing to visit the presidential Blue House in Seoul, invited Mr Moon to Pyongyang, and said he wanted to meet “more often” in the future, the official said. Just days before the summit, Mr Kim said North Korea would suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantle its only known nuclear test site.

So a promising move but a lot to happen yet, including a meeting between Kim and Donald Trump planned for next month. Trump may have helped nudge the Korean leaders towards this meeting and pledges, but he is still a loose cannon who could as easily make trouble as make a historic move for the US.

Reuters:  From nuclear weapons to peace: Inside the Korean summit declaration

In the agreement, the two Koreas “confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete decentralization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and “agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard”.

Such language is similar to past declarations, however, and South Korea offered no additional details beyond saying it would closely cooperate with the United States and the international community on the issue.

Past efforts to entice Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program have failed in part due to North Korean demands the United States withdraw its troops from the peninsula and remove its “nuclear umbrella” of support for the South. South Korea has said Kim may be willing to compromise on this traditional sticking point, but no new details were announced at the summit.

Trump and the US will have to play a part in this.

South Korea and a U.S.-led U.N. force are technically still at war with North Korea and the idea of an official peace deal to change that is not something that can be resolved by the Koreas alone. So the declaration calls for meetings with the United States and possibly China, which were both involved in the conflict.

South Korean leaders at the time opposed the idea of a truce that left the peninsula divided, and were not signatories to the armistice, which was officially signed by the commander of North Korea’s army, the American commander of the U.N. Command and the commander of the “Chinese People’s volunteers”, who were not officially claimed by Beijing at the time.

North and South Korea have seriously discussed the idea before. In 1992, the two sides agreed to “endeavor together to transform the present state of armistice into a solid state of peace”.

The last inter-Korean summit in October 2007 concluded with a declaration by the two Koreas to “recognize the need to end the current armistice regime and build a permanent peace regime” and “to work together to advance the matter of having the leaders of the three or four parties directly concerned to convene on the Peninsula and declare an end to the war”.

Again Trump and the US are important to this.

A Reuters analysis shows the five decades of communication between the two Koreas.

North and South Korea are technically still at war, and contact between them was almost nonexistent after they accepted a truce at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Since the early 1960s they have held hundreds of official meetings.

The more frequently the two sides have communicated, the fewer incidents there have been between them. But the number of meetings has yet to recover from a peak of nearly 90 sessions in 1992, the year after the Soviet Union collapsed.

In the past, the volume of communication varied dramatically depending on who was in charge in the South. From the late 1990s to 2007, there was a prolonged period of increased dialogue under policies driven by an approach in the South known as “Sunshine.”

That came to an end in 2008. Now Kim Jong Un is presiding over an accelerated missile programme and has tested a rocket which could reach Alaska. Southern president Moon Jae-in has pledged new efforts to boost dialogue, but sceptical analysts have dubbed his efforts “Moonshine.”

Here’s a look at the history of every discussion, agreement and major incident – from spy submarines to bombs on planes – between the two sides.

Progress will depend on the intent and determination of both leaders, and also of their main allies China and the US.