Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit North Korea on Thursday at the invitation of counterpart Ri Yong-ho, according to the reclusive nation’s state news agency. The foreign ministry statement said Lavrov and the North’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri will discuss the reclusive state’s nuclear programme, bilateral cooperation and other key international problems during the meeting.
It’s the second time in as many months that the pair will meet, after Ri flew to Moscow in May for talks with the Russian foreign minister. Lavrov at the time floated the possibility of a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sometime in the future.
Lavrov’s trip on Thursday comes amid preparations for a high-stakes summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim set for June 12. Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in return for sanctions and economic relief.
Pyongyang has a different view of denuclearisation and remains deeply worried that abandoning its deterrent would leave it vulnerable, especially while the US maintains a military presence in South Korea. Lavrov said he hoped the meeting between Kim and Trump would not degenerate into a trading of accusations.
News of Lavrov’s visit came after Putin called for restraint to keep Kim at the negotiating table for the Trump meeting. Russia is a traditional ally of North Korea, along with China. Putin said on Friday that finding a solution to the North Korea nuclear tensions is of great importance to Russia and North Korea’s sovereignty should be guaranteed.
[South China Morning Post]
One of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s top officials is traveling to the United States and will meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the two countries lay the groundwork for on-again, off-again talks between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.
Once he touches down on American soil, Kim would be the most senior official to visit the United States since 2000.
Kim Yong Chol and Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, have been two of the most visible and important players in Pyongyang’s push for rapprochement with South Korea and the United States this year.
Kim Yong Chol is the vice chairman of North Korea’s Party Central Committee, and is Kim Jong Un’s top official in charge of relations between North and South Korea. He’s often pictured with the North Korean leader and attended his two recent meetings with South Korea’s President Moon at the DMZ that divides the two Koreas. Kim Yong Chol was also part of the delegation from the North that traveled South in February for the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, a decision that surprised many considering he was believed to have masterminded the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors while serving as North Korea’s top intelligence official.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed their hopes for a U.S.-North Korea summit at a previously unannounced meeting, South Korean officials announced. The two leaders met for two hours Saturday and “frankly” discussed how to make the U.S.-North Korea summit a success, the presidential Blue House said.
President Trump canceled his meeting with Kim on Thursday, though he later said both sides are “having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating” it, leaving the door open for further negotiation. This came after several roller-coaster days in which Trump canceled the summit, set for June 12 in Singapore. Moon was blindsided by Trump’s decision to abruptly announce he was canceling the summit, less than a day after returning from meeting in the Oval Office.
Moon and Kim met at Panmunjom, the truce village in the demilitarized zone and the site of their first meeting in April. The two met on the northern side of the line. The North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong awaited Moon’s motorcade on the north side of the demilitarized zone. Once he arrived, he shook hands with Kim Yo Jong and walked down a red carpet as members of the North Korean military saluted. Moon then walked inside and shook hands with Kim Jong Un and posed for a photo.
The two leaders also discussed a successful implementation of the inter-Korean “Panmunjom Declaration.” The two signed the three-page agreement at their earlier meeting, stating that “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” officials said Saturday.
Last Saturday morning, two North Koreans, including a military officer, defected to the South. The officer and a civilian defected by boat and were picked up by the South Korean military in the Yellow Sea, near the inter-Korean sea border, after expressing willingness to defect, reported the South’s newswire, Yonhap.
The defection, the first of a North Korean military officer since 2008, is awkward timing for Seoul, which has a longstanding policy of accepting any North Korean defectors who want to live in the South.
Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, has been at pains to keep this year’s diplomatic détente between North and South on track. But despite a friendly first meeting between Kim Jong-Un and Mr Moon at the end of April, during which they held hands as they crossed their shared border, the diplomatic thaw that began in January, the latest defections could raise tensions further.
A CNN crew at the remote mountain site in the country’s north witnessed explosions at nuclear tunnels 2, 3 and 4, from observation decks about 500 meters away. They were among two dozen journalists invited into the country to observe the apparent destruction of the site.
Hours later, the White House canceled a planned meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump which had been billed as a historic opportunity to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.
President Donald Trump today called off the planned summit with North Korea, writing in a letter to Kim Jong-Un that he didn’t want to go forward with the meeting because of “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement.”
In the run-up to the proposed summit, Mr. Trump had said that if North Korea cooperated and relinquished its nuclear weapons, the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, could expect that his regime would remain intact and the country would experience an economic revival.
But increasingly combative statements from North Korea’s leadership in recent days dimmed prospects for the summit.
On Monday, Vice-President Pence suggested that Mr. Kim would be overthrown like Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi if he doesn’t make a deal on U.S. terms. “This will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Mr. Pence told Fox News.
North Korea’s senior envoy for U.S. affairs threatened to cancel the summit and warned that the country could inflict on America an “appalling tragedy that it has never experienced nor even imagined.”
One official said that it was “wise” of Mr. Trump “to walk away for the time being.” Even after the U.S. and North Korea agreed on a summit date and venue, it was clear that substantial gaps remained. A major gap, according to experts, is whether the U.S. and North Korea shared the same understanding of “denuclearization.” The Trump administration envisioned a rapid process—perhaps taking less than a year—in which important sanctions relief would come only at the end. Mr. Kim spoke about a prolonged process in which sanctions relief would come earlier.
On Tuesday, South Korea’s president met with Mr. Trump in a bid to keep the summit planning on track. China’s foreign minister said Wednesday that he also hoped the summit would take place. On Thursday White House officials said the summit could be revived at some point, suggesting that Mr. Trump’s letter was only the latest turn in a continuing negotiation.
North Korean defectors now living in South Korea Seoul are concerned that Pyongyang could demand that defectors be forcibly returned to their homeland as a condition for the resumption of talks with Seoul, and thus that their lives might be at risk.
James Brown, an associate professor at Tokyo’s Temple University, agrees that the aggressive demands that North Korea is making of the South will inevitably be of serious concern to the defector community.
“Moon is under great pressure and clearly wants the talks with the North to resume and succeed, but he built his reputation on being a lawyer for human rights so I doubt he will actually order the repatriation of any defectors,” he said. “I imagine that Pyongyang has reached a similar conclusion, so they will soon ask for something else instead,” he suggested.
And because that request will be more palatable than sending defectors back to a deeply uncertain future, the South may give in to that request. And then, Brown expects, they will make another demand to test Seoul’s resolve.
North Korea is demanding the return of 13 defectors as a condition for the resumption of talks with Seoul, with support groups for thousands who have fled the repressive regime in the North saying there is genuine fear that Seoul might give in to Pyongyang’s demands and that their lives might be at risk.
Pyongyang is demanding that 12 women who had worked at a North Korean restaurant in China and their manager be returned to the North after it was claimed on a television program that the women had not been told they were being taken to South Korea in 2016 and that they have been tricked into going by the South Korean intelligence services.
The demands coincide with Pyongyang cancelling a high-level meeting scheduled for last week that was designed to build on the agreements reached when South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, at the border village of Panmunjom late last month.
When 13 North Korean workers defected en masse from a restaurant in China in April 2016, it was a propaganda boost for South Korea and a huge embarrassment for their homeland.
Heo Gang-il, the manager of the restaurant in the Chinese port city of Ningbo has told CNN that the young women didn’t defect — he tricked them into going to South Korea at the bidding of South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS). He says he had become an informant for the intelligence agency after becoming disillusioned with Kim Jong Un’s regime.
The South Korean government maintains that the 12 young women defected of their own free will, and took the unusual step of publicizing their decision stating it was the largest group defection since Kim took power in 2011.
Heo says the NIS told him to lie to the waitresses and bring them to South Korea. He told the workers they were relocating to better accommodations. The 12 waitresses and Heo flew to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, with tickets, he says, were paid for by the NIS.
Heo says they were given South Korean passports with false names and they flew to Incheon, South Korea’s main international airport. A journey that takes months for most defectors took these North Koreans just two days.
The much-anticipated summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, scheduled for June 12, is in trouble. After National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week that the US would seek complete and total North Korean nuclear disarmament, North Korea said publicly that it would never accept such an outcome — and threatened to pull out of the meeting if Washington didn’t adjust its expectations.
North Korea experts see this as a long-overdue reckoning. The truth is that the United States and North Korea have long expected diametrically opposed outcomes from the talks — with the US wanting North Korea to give up its nukes and North Korea demanding recognition as a legitimate nuclear power. But neither side was willing to confront the reality of the situation. We’ve just been stumbling toward negotiations with no clear sense of how this yawning gulf could be resolved.
How did we get here? Robert E. Kelly, a professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University, gave a really clear explanation in a series of Monday morning tweets, as per the following excerpts:
1) It increasingly looks like the Moon administration overstated North Korea’s willingness to deal.
2) Trump accepted the NK summit offer 45 minutes after he was told of it, without even telling the White House staff, and then drank his own kool-aid watching Fox telling him for weeks that he deserved a Nobel. Now comes the hang-over.
3) It is an open secret in South Korea that this was just flattering Trump to prevent him from starting a war.
4) Moon’s approval rating has shot up into the 80s%, even though he won with just 41% a year ago, and approval of the summit process is in the 90s%. [Note: Moon is a leftist who took office in May of last year, back when Trump was threatening war with North Korea. He made a deep and concerted effort to try to broker negotiations between Trump and Kim to defuse the tension. The problem, as Kelly points out, is that this was always a kind of shell game: Moon could never change the fact that the US and North Korea want fundamentally different things. Basically, he argues, this was a gambit to try to convince Trump not to go to war with North Korea — one that may yet fail.]
5) The problem, of course, is that … NK is not going to denuclearize; NK was not driven to negotiate by maximum pressure (they chose to negotiate, because they established nuclear deterrence with the US mainland);
6) Trump likely desperately wants this summit for the TV, attn, & a political ‘win’ he can market at home to change the story f/ his scandals & blunt a looming blue wave. So the summit will [probably] still happen, even tho, scarily, w/ 3 weeks to go, no one really knows how it will unfold.