Trump blaming China for hurting U.S.-North Korean relations

President Trump appears to be blaming China for derailing a U.S.-North Korea rapprochement, implying that it’s placing “tremendous pressure” on Pyongyang as a result of ongoing trade disputes between Washington and Beijing.

In a quartet of tweets on Wednesday, Trump issued what he called a White House statement saying he “feels strongly that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government. … At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with … considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities. This is not helpful!” he continued.

Even so, Trump said he believed his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “a very good and warm one” and referred to “China’s great President Xi Jinping.”

The Trump statement also said Washington had “no reason” to resume the war games with South Korea that Trump agreed to suspend in June at the Singapore Summit with Kim. Those remarks seemed to contradict Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who told reporters on Tuesday that “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded Thursday to the latest series of tweets, calling them an “irresponsible distortion of facts and logic,” Reuters reported.

After the conclusion of the historic June summit with Kim Jong Un, Trump noted past U.S. diplomatic failures with North Korea, saying, “Honestly, I think {Kim]’s going to do these things. I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ ”

“I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that,” Trump added, “but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”

[NPR]

North Korean defector uses art as his weapon

Choi, 39, grew up blindly worshipping the Kim regime. His career in cartooning began when he drew a “patriotic” picture about Americans invading Korea and his artistic talents were spotted by a secondary schoolteacher. He went on to become an animator at North Korea’s premier animation studio.

Then, amongst second-hand computers smuggled from China, Choi discovered South Korean TV dramas. But watching such material is a crime in the North and the authorities banished him from the capital to the countryside when they discovered his activities.

“In North Korea, being banished from Pyongyang is the same as dying. People say Pyongyang and Seoul are 70 years apart, but Pyongyang and the countryside are separated by a century,” he said. “…The countryside exists only to support Pyongyang.”

Life outside the capital was so difficult that Choi decided to leave the country and head to the South via China. His family went ahead of him, but he spent six months in a camp as collective punishment. Choi made it out and reached the South in late 2010.

After settling in Seoul, Choi was determined to have an impact on people on both sides of the military demarcation line. He took up the pen to illustrate the deprivations of the North and the plight of North Korean women sold to Chinese men. He has also tried to bridge the cultural divide between the two people, making fun of the social differences between the North and South.

He smuggles the cartoons into North Korea in the hope of changing the population’s outlook, one mind at a time. He said smuggling from China is so rampant that it had created “an infrastructure” to influence North Korea.

[South China Morning Post]

Conservative writer calls Trump summit with Kim Jong Un a ‘giant blunder’

Conservative writer Bre Payton on Monday said she was dismayed by President Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, asking how the president could not talk about “human rights abuses at all.”

“I was really upset when Donald Trump decided to meet with Kim Jong Un, shake his hand on the stage, have North Korean and American flags hung next to one another, I was honestly very, very upset by that — not talking human rights abuses at all, I mean how can you even do that?” Payton told Hill.TV’s Ned Ryun and Krystal Ball on “Rising.”

“However, I think the American people are willing to forgive that, in my opinion, giant blunder if it does result in better relations between North Korea and the United States,” she added.

Payton also said she wasn’t surprised by Trump’s decision to call off Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned visit to North Korea, which was scheduled for next week.  “We all knew that North Korea wasn’t going to denuclearize. … This is the one trick that they have,” she said.

Trump announced on Friday that Pompeo won’t be going to North Korea after all, saying the meeting was not appropriate “at this time” due to the lack of “sufficient progress” on denuclearization. This marked a rare admission by Trump that denuclearization is not going as well as hoped. But the president left talks open and didn’t rule out a future meeting with North Korea.

[The Hill]

The market in the North Korean bastion of socialism

In theory, North Korea is a bastion of socialism, a country where the state provides everything, housing, health care, education and jobs.

In reality, at this point in time the state economy barely operates. People working in factories and fields find there is little for them to do, and they are paid almost nothing. Meanwhile, a vibrant private economy has sprung up out of necessity, one where people find ways to make money on their own, whether through selling homemade tofu or dealing drugs, smuggling small DVD players with screens called “notels” over the border, or extracting bribes.

As a university student who defected in 2013 related, “North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market. No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.”

While men had to continue to show up for work in dormant factories, women would turn corn into noodles, and homeless children would steal manhole covers to sell as scrap metal.

A farmer who defected in 2014 recalls, “We lived in the city center, but we rented some land in the foothills and grew corn there. During planting and harvest season, we would wake up at 4 a.m. and walk three hours to reach the farmland. Besides a little break for lunch we’d work until 8 p.m. before walking home again. We’d then buy beans from the market and make tofu that we’d sell from our house. Our profit was less than 5,000 won [60 cents at the blackmarket rate] a day.”

Another defector adds, “It’s the women who can really make money in North Korea. My aunt was the main earner in the house. My uncle is in the military, so his position provided protection for my aunt’s business which was selling beans in the market. You also have to smooth the way with money.”

[Washington Post]

Defectors in Japan sue North Korea for millions over rights abuses

Five North Korean defectors in Japan filed a suit in Tokyo demanding Pyongyang pay ¥500 million [4.5 Million US Dollars] in damages over its alleged human rights abuses.

The suit was filed with Tokyo District Court and was the first legal action against the North Korean government by defectors, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The five claimed that North Korea asked Koreans living in Japan to return between 1959 and 1984 when the country advertised repeatedly through the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) that it was a “heaven on earth” where things such as clothing, food and shelter were secure.

The plaintiffs said they returned to North Korea between 1960 and 1972, but they were forced to live under harsh conditions including not being able to get food. They claim that North Korea committed an act of state-sponsored kidnapping by deceiving victims. They also said that their right to see their families in North Korea had been violated.

[Japan Times]

North Korea is planning a September celebration

North Korea is planning a party. Next month, the reclusive country will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. And there are signs that the event, which will take place Sept. 9, will be a celebration to watch.

Those observing the preparations for the event have spotted practice for a military parade, while tourist visas to the country have apparently been blocked–sparking speculation about who, exactly, the VIP guests could be.

The North Korean state cherishes anniversaries, using them to reinforce the tale of how their small, embattled state fought off bigger foes such as imperial Japan and the United States. This year’s DPRK anniversary event will be different, however. In many ways, the messaging behind it will be more complex.

North Korea was previously happy to menace the United States and other rivals with visions of military might as tensions escalated rapidly. Now, Pyongyang clearly views things differently. As such, although relations are nominally warmer with the United States, a surprise Trump visit to Pyongyang on Sept. 9 looks unlikely. Instead, many are expecting a different guest–Chinese President Xi Jinping–whose presence would send a message to Washington that it isn’t the only game in town.

[Washington Post]

After detente with North Korea, Trump increasingly takes aim at a new foe — China

After 18 months of treating North Korea as the top national security threat, President Trump has increasingly turned his attention to China, taking a more confrontational approach that experts said shows a risky shift in U.S. policy.

Last week, Trump cited the Chinese military as the rationale for creating a new “Space Force” at the Pentagon, and injected China into the specter of foreign influence of U.S. elections. “All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China,” the president wrote, without offering evidence of any Chinese conspiracy.

Analysts said the rise in hostility suggests that Trump and his advisers have come to view the communist nation as a malign power and direct competitor and adversary whose expanding influence must be blunted through more extreme countermeasures.

Trump had talked tough on China throughout his campaign, but he pulled back after taking office and inviting Xi to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in the spring of 2017. But the president has soured on Beijing as his bid to force Pyongyang to live up to commitments made with leader Kim Jong Un in a nuclear summit in Singapore has faltered. As Trump’s relationship with Kim has appeared to enter an uneasy detente, analysts suggested the president sees China as a convenient political foil to juice his domestic political base.

“The Trump administration is trying surgery with a chain saw in making threats and demanding unconditional surrender,” said Daniel Russel, an analyst at the Asia Society who served as a top Asia policy official in the Obama administration.

[Washington Post]

The beautification campaign of Kim Jong-Un

“I had experience in … six prison camps in China and North Korea,” said Joo Seong-ha, who escaped North Korea in 1998 after facing prosecution. A friend with powerful connections to the regime was able to get him out of detention — a chance for an escape to China. He immigrated to South Korea in 2002 and now works as a journalist in Seoul.

Joo Seong-ha says he has hope for President Trump’s efforts but warns America’s strategy needs to change. “The U.S. does not understand North Korea,” he said.

Fellow defector Hyun Inae hopes for more dialogue that will lead to results but says it will be difficult to achieve unification. “We had high hopes for the summit, but actually it was a little bit disappointing,” she said— explaining that she wished more progress would’ve have happened in the weeks following the summit in Singapore.

Hyun Inae says it’s important to not forget the brutality of the Kim regime especially amid what is being described as a media beautification campaign of the dictator. “I think the South Korean government is shying away from the human rights issue because it doesn’t want to get on bad terms with North Korean regime, so North Korean defectors are all worried about that,” she said.

The beautification campaign — as it’s called — is on display in both print and broadcast journalism in South Korea. It seems many South Koreans are willing to temporarily turn a blind eye on the evils of the Kim regime as a means to eventually achieve better relations.

[Fox]

Christians incarcerated in concentration camps in North Korea due to their faith

Religion is cracked down on in North Korea, with citizens encouraged to treat the ruling Kim dynasty as demigods. North Korea persecutes Christians, regarding believers as hostile elements that need to be eradicated, according to Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians.

Some 70,000 Christians are incarcerated in concentration camps in North Korea with many coming to an untimely death in squalid conditions, Open Doors has revealed.

When Christian Hea Woo, whose name has been changed for her safety, was forced into a camp there was a sign that warned ‘Do not try to escape, you shall be killed’. Speaking about the way she was treated at the camp, Ms Woo told Open Doors: “The guards were merciless. They kicked me and beat me with sticks. Christians are sometimes killed or locked up for the rest of their lives in concentration camps.”

And the threat of death always lurked. Ms Woo said: “Constantly there were people dying. Death was a part of our daily life. The bodies were usually burned and the guards scattered the ashes on the path. Every day, we walked down that path and I always thought, one day the other prisoners will be walking over me.”

But despite the threats faced at the camp Ms Woo was not deterred form practicing her faith. Using the toilet as a church, Ms Woo held short services for five other people, which included teaching the Bible verses and singing songs of praise.

Ms Woo was eventually released from the camp and now lives in South Korea.

{Express – UK]

North and South Korean leaders to meet in Pyongyang in September

The leaders of North and South Korea will hold a summit in Pyongyang in September, both countries announced Monday.

It will be the third in-person meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The two first met in April, pledging to forge closer relations and work to formally end the Korean War in an agreement called the Panmunjom Declaration. They then held an impromptu meeting in May at the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

When he does go, Moon will be the third South Korean president to travel to the North Korean capital, and the first in more than a decade. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung met Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang in 2000 for the first inter-Korean summit. Former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun also met Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in 2007.

[CNN]