North Korea restoring missile site, threats of further sanctions from US

The meeting in Vietnam last wee between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un ended abruptly last week, with a luncheon and signing ceremony cancelled.

Now relations between North Korea and US seem to be deteriorating.

Wall Street Journal –  North Korean Launch Site Is Being Built Back Up Again

Disclosure comes in the wake of failed U.S.-North Korean summit in Hanoi last week

North Korea is restoring a missile launch site it previously claimed to be dismantling as an overture to the U.S., according to newly released commercial satellite photos and people briefed on South Korean intelligence.

The move has sparked concerns that North Korea may be wavering on some of the gestures it made to demonstrate its willingness to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Reuters – U.S. will look at ramping up sanctions if North Korea does not denuclearize: Bolton

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said on Tuesday that the United States would look at ramping up sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang did not scrap its nuclear weapons program.

Bolton told Fox Business Network that following the Hanoi summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Washington would see whether Pyongyang was committed to giving up its “nuclear weapons program and everything associated with it.”

“If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear … they’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact,” said Bolton, a hardliner who has advocated a tough approach to North Korea in the past.

His comments came days after the Feb. 27-28 denuclearization summit between Trump and Kim broke down over differences on how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of U.S. willingness to ease sanctions.

Earlier on Tuesday, two U.S. think tanks and South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that North Korea had restored part of a missile launch site it began to dismantle after pledging to do so in the first summit with Trump last year.

Yonhap quoted lawmakers briefed by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) as saying that the work was taking place at the Tongchang-ri launch site and involved replacing a roof and a door at the facility.

Satellite images seen by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, showed that structures on the launch pad had been rebuilt sometime between Feb. 16 and March 2, Jenny Town, managing editor at the project and an analyst at the Stimson Center think tank, told Reuters.

That alleged rebuilding was taking place in the lead up to the meeting between Trump and Kim in Hanoi.

It looks like peace in Korea may be more difficult to achieve that Trump anticipated, but North Korea’s history suggests it was always going to be difficult.

Trump and Kim predict success in Vietnam, media excluded

It’s hard to know what will actually come out of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Young Un in Vietnam. It will take time to see what progress is made.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose before their meeting during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

An odd looking pair – photo from Reuters

Reuters:  Trump and North Korea’s Kim predict success in high-stakes nuclear summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Vietnam on Wednesday for a second summit that the United States hopes will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of peace and development.

Kim and Trump shook hands and smiled briefly in front of a row of their national flags at the Metropole before heading to dinner together.

Trump told reporters he thought the talks would be very successful, and when asked if he was “walking back” on denuclearization demands, said “no”.

Kim said they had overcome obstacles to hold the second summit and praised Trump for his “courageous decision” to begin a dialogue.

“Now that we’re meeting here again like this, I’m confident that there will be an excellent outcome that everyone welcomes, and I’ll do my best to make it happen,” Kim said.

Trump and Kim held a 20-minute, one-on-one chat before sitting down to dinner with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy, Kim Yong Chol, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Reuters:  White House excludes reporters from Trump-Kim dinner after they asked questions

The White House barred reporters from Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg from covering a dinner between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday after two of them asked Trump questions during his initial interactions with Kim.

The pool was present when Trump and Kim first met and shook hands. During that short initial meeting, while cameras were rolling, Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason asked Trump what he wanted to achieve at the summit and whether he had backed away from his demand for North Korea’s denuclearization.

Reporters in the pool regularly shout out questions to leaders and on Wednesday they asked Trump about the summit and the testimony in Congress of his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, in two separate opportunities known as “pool sprays.”

The reporters were later excluded from covering the dinner because of what White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said were “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays,” the Washington Post reported.

It’s unlikely media will get much from answers from Trump and Kim, but this looks petty from the White House. And it iis an attack on the freedom of the press and their essential role in reporting and holding to account.

Reuters said it was “deeply troubled” by the exclusion of Mason and other reporters from covering the dinner.

“We believe it is essential that government provide access to – and the ability to ask questions of – officials and hold them to account,” Reuters said in a statement.

The Associated Press said it opposed White House efforts to restrict access to the president.

“It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad,” said AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton.

While Trump appears to be working on peace with North Korea he looks a long way from making peace with US media.

Second Trump-Kim Yong Un summit announced, North Korea “will become a great economic powerhouse”

After the location for a second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un was announced (It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 and 28) Trump tweeted that “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Yong Un, will become a great economic powerhouse”.

NY Times: Trump says North Korea talks productive, summit will be in Hanoi

President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S. diplomats had a “very productive meeting” with North Korean officials, and he announced his summit later this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be held in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.

“My representatives have just left North Korea after a very productive meeting and an agreed upon time and date for the second Summit with Kim Jong Un. It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 & 28,” Trump said on Twitter.

“I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!” he said.

Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, held three days of talks in Pyongyang to prepare for the summit, the State Department said on Friday.

In their talks in Pyongyang, from Wednesday to Friday, Biegun and Kim Hyok Chol “discussed advancing President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming U.S.-DPRK relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the State Department said.Its statement, which referred to North Korea by the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave no indication of any progress in the talks.

While in the U.S. view North Korea has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons, it complains that Washington has done little to reciprocate for its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some facilities.

North Korea has repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees.

Trump, eager for a foreign policy win to distract from domestic troubles, has been keen for a second summit despite a lack of significant moves by North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. He and Biegun have stressed the economic benefits to North Korea if it does so.

One can only wonder what thoughts are behind this tweet.

US officials claim North Korea increasing nuclear production

Lost in translation?

Despite apparent assurances by Kim Yong Un at the Singapore summit, and confidence expressed by Donald Trump that North Korea will denuclearize, US officials claim that North Korea has been improving secret nuclear facilities and  increasing it’s production of nuclear fuel.

The Hill: Satellite images raise alarms about North Korean nukes

Satellite images showing North Korea making substantial improvements to one of its nuclear research facilities are raising alarms that the government has little interest in actually giving up its nuclear arsenal.

Just two weeks after President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a deal committing the U.S. to security guarantees in exchange for North Korea denuclearizing, satellite images show the country making “rapid” improvements to its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, according to 38 North, which monitors the country.

“There is no way North Korea will ever give up its nuclear weapons — ever,” said Harry Kazianis, director of The Center for the National Interest think tank, in response to the latest news.

He argued that the latest satellite imagery is evidence that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, which it has long seen as key to its survival.

“Since the summit we have learned that North Korea is looking for one thing only from the Trump administration: nuclear acceptance, not disarmament,” Kazianis said.

NBC News: North Korea has increased nuclear production at secret sites, say U.S. officials

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The intelligence assessment, which has not previously been reported, seems to counter the sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted after his historic June 12 summit with Kim that “there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

Analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don’t see it that way, according to more than a dozen American officials who are familiar with their assessments and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration — while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival.

NBC on 12 June 2018: Trump, Kim sign agreement after North Korea summit; war games put on hold

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint statement Tuesday agreeing to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The pact came at the end of a historic half-day round of negotiations that marked the first time a sitting U.S. president had met with his North Korean counterpart.

“From the beginning, we got along,” Trump later told reporters.

The president said the pair had “developed a very special bond,” describing Kim as “a very talented man.”

Trump said his meeting with Kim was “honest, direct and productive.”

Earlier, Trump said the agreement would “absolutely” lead to the denuclearization of North Korea — and “very quickly.”

“We had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind and sign a historic document,” Kim said through a translator. “The world will see a major change.”

North Korea being unreliable is not a change at all.

The seem to have very quickly resumed nuclear production despite the vague agreement made with the US and despite Trump’s optimism.

Image result for cartoon kim trump

 

Is Trump experienced or expert enough to stuff things up more?

President Donald Trump is having some successes and some things are going his way, but he also looks like an incompetent disaster waiting to happen. But despite his obvious inexperience and lack of expertise, is their much risk of him stuffing things up any more than past US administrations?

The US has made a mess of many things over the last half century and more – the Korean war was in the 1950s and still isn’t resolved. Cuba, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Russia…

Mathew J. Petersen at Intellectual Takeout: Thank God Trump Isn’t a Foreign Policy Expert


What Trump Lacks
In fact, many on the Right and Left over the past two years have suggested their main worry about Donald Trump is the fact he now represents America to the rest of the world and will cause a devastating disaster, nuclear or otherwise.

I propose some simple, evaluative questions and a thought experiment to set the minds of the nation at ease the morning after the most significant moment of the Trump presidency.

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to give away as much to North Korea as the American foreign-policy establishment, with all its experience, top-shelf degrees, and stratospheric test scores, has given away in the past 30 years?

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to keep the hostile stalemate the American foreign-policy establishment created and fostered with North Korea since America first waged the Korean War?

For that matter, does Trump even have the experience and caste of mind to start a war, say, in the Middle East, that costs trillions of dollars and disrupts and inflames the region as President Bush and his entourage did? Does he even know how?

Does Trump have the expertise to take over the wreckage of such a war and support jihadist rebels, help create ISIS and a global refugee crisis, and give Russia the most power it’s had in the region since the peak of the Cold War, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did?

The truth may alarm you. Trump has never even started a war before—not even a little one.

Trump is such an ignoramus, forget war—for decades the uniparty American foreign policy establishment’s most basic solution to problems overseas has been to supply the gift of training and weapons to people in other countries who then end up becoming terrorists or some other version of our worst nightmare. That’s an inside the beltway American tradition, for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Does Trump even know this?

Departing from “the Norm”

There’s sure as hell no way Trump knows yet how to meet with a foreign dictator like Kim Jong-un and come to an agreement that ultimately doesn’t change anything or makes things worse, like all our sane and competent leaders have been doing since the Cold War ended. Thus, we should indeed all consider the possibility that Trump might somehow be different.

Assuming North Korea has some desire to reform itself—admittedly, the very assumption we are now testing—the biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean Peninsula is the disastrous legacy of Hillary-Obama foreign policy, which mimics decades of earlier, similar American failures.

Regardless of the spin on both sides, remember: whatever the ultimate result of the Singapore summit, it will not be determined, as it has been in the past, by the slow-moving, Byzantine maneuvers of the foreign-policy expert class, the members of which Michael Anton aptly calls “priests” in “America and the Liberal International Order.” This priest class has tried to make a science of “international relations” that somehow abstracts from prudence and the plain old study of human nature, history, and politics.

Trump upended their order. What matters now is the result of two men in a room, representing their respective people, sizing each other up, and speaking directly to one another.


There is no guarantee this will work any better (or less worse) than past military and diplomatic attempts, and there will almost certainly be some negatives to the inexpert bluster of Trump, but he doesn’t need to achieve much to improve on past efforts.

Ok, there is a risk that Trump will blunder bigly and something really crappy will happen in Korea, the Middle East or with Russia, or somewhere else the US has been involved or decides to interfere, but those risks were there under past presidents too.

In shaking the old norms up Trump may create chaos, but out of that we may end up with a better world. May.

Trump follows up summit with pledge to end military exercises

Donald Trump has followed up a promising but fairly sparse statement from his summit with Kim Yong Un – see Joint statement of Trump and Kim – ‘work toward complete denuclearization’ – with an offer to end military exercises in South Korea.

Reuters: Trump offers to end Korea war games after historic Kim summit

Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a largely symbolic summit on Tuesday, and the U.S. president offered an unexpected concession to the North, saying he would halt joint military exercises with South Korea.

The two men smiled and shook hands before pledging at their historic summit to work toward the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. The United States promised its Cold War foe security guarantees.

The meeting in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was in stark contrast to a flurry of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and angry exchanges of insults between Trump and Kim last year that fueled global worries about war.

But in a joint statement afterward, the two men offered few specifics about the relationship would evolve.

At a news conference later, Trump made a surprise announcement that was sure to rattle South Korea and Japan, which rely on a U.S. security umbrella, saying he would halt the regular military exercises the United States holds with South Korea because they were expensive and “very provocative”. North Korea has long sought an end to the exercises.

That’s a useful concession from Trump, and a promising message that he wants to move forward with resolving tensions in Korea.

But there is still a lot of uncertainty at how this may play out.

The Trump administration said repeatedly before the summit that Washington was seeking steps by North Korea toward complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of a nuclear program that is advanced enough to pose a threat to the United States.

Several experts said the meeting failed to secure any concrete commitments by Pyongyang toward this. The statement also did not refer to human rights in one of the world’s most repressive nations.

It didn’t say anything about human rights in the US, nor in Guantanamo, nor in countries that the US is involved in militarily

Trump said at the news conference he expected the denuclearization process to start “very, very quickly” and it would be verified by “having a lot of people in North Korea”. He said Kim had announced that North Korea was destroying a major missile engine-testing site, but sanctions on North Korea would stay in place for now.

So progress perhaps, but a long way to go.

Another point on all of this – a lot is being made of grand statements like ‘peace in our time’ – but there was no actual war going on in Korea, apart from wars of words and military posturing. There was an uneasy peace, and it may be enhanced by what Trump, Kim (and South Korea and China) are doing, but it is hardly like a cessation of war.

If Trump really wants to earn credit for achieving peace he should try the Middle East – where his moving of the US embassy in Israel did the opposite.

Joint statement of Trump and Kim – ‘work toward complete denuclearization’

Joint statement of President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Yong Un:

It includes:

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 US-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.

  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire 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 Pan Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

 

Trump-Kim summit today

The preliminaries continue leading up to today’s historic summit between Kim Yong-un and Donald Trump in Singapore.

US Secretary of State Mile Pompeo continues to spin a hard line.

Having stated such an absolute objective gives Trump plenty of room to walk away from the talks claiming a lack of agreement was Kim’s fault.

Reuters: Trump upbeat ahead of North Korean summit; Kim visits Singapore sites

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore could “work out very nicely” as officials from both countries sought to narrow differences on how to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.

Officials from the two sides held last-minute talks aimed at laying the groundwork for a meeting that was almost unthinkable just months ago when the two leaders were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.

But after a flurry of diplomatic overtures eased tension in recent months, the two leaders are now headed for a history-making handshake that U.S. officials hope could eventually lead to the dismantling of a North Korean nuclear program that threatens the United States.

Offering a preview to reporters, Pompeo said it could provide “an unprecedented opportunity to change the trajectory of our relationship and bring peace and prosperity” to North Korea.

However, he played down the possibility of a quick breakthrough and said the summit should set the framework for “the hard work that will follow”, insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

North Korea, though, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim’s dynastic rule.

Kim has used his time in Singapore to do some sight seeing, something that will be a novelty for him.

Kim, one of the world’s most reclusive leaders, made an evening tour of sites on Singapore’s waterfront, on the eve of the summit that is due to get underway on Tuesday morning at a nearby resort island.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un waves to the crowd in Singapore, June 11, 2018
in thispicture obtained from social media. JO CHAMERLAIN /via REUTERS

A lot of world attention will be on Singapore today.

 

Trump-Kim pre-meeting (still)

Kim Yong Un and Donald trump have both arrived in Singapore ahead of their meeting scheduled for tomorrow. There’s a lot of interest, not surprisingly, but theirs also a lot of conjecture and speculation, which all seems a bit pointless until the meeting takes place and something comes out of it.

And then the meeting is bound to be over-analysed. There are thousands of journalists in Singapore who will all feel compelled to justify their trip.

I hope something good comes of the meeting, but I think it’s likely any possible progress will take a lot more than a single meeting preceded by presidential posturing.

‘Spur of the moment’ Trump on North Korean meeting

Donald Trump has been all over the place leading up to the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Yong-un in Singapore shortly. He now seems to be playing down expectations, and shows that he seems to be winging it.

Reuters: Any agreement with North Korea will be ‘spur of the moment’: Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday any agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at next week’s summit would be “spur of the moment,” underscoring the uncertain outcome of what he called a “mission of peace.”

“I have a clear objective, but I have to say – it’s going to be something that will always be spur of the moment,” Trump told reporters at a news conference at the G7 summit in Quebec.

That seems like a bit of a contradiction.

“You don’t know. This has not been done before at this level.”

The main issue for the June 12 summit in Singapore, which he departed for before the end of the G7 meeting, is the U.S. demand for North Korea to abandon a nuclear weapons program that now threatens the United States.

Trump said it would probably take time to reach an agreement with Kim on denuclearization, but at a minimum he believed the summit could produce a “relationship” between the United States and North Korea, which do not have diplomatic ties.

It would be remarkable if Trump and Kim made significant progress at the meeting towards a lasting solution on Korea.