Category: DPRK Government

North Korea offers its own version of Summit collapse

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As President Trump headed home dealless from Vietnam following his aborted summit with Kim Jong Un, North Korean officials held an impromptu middle-of-the-night news conference at a Hanoi hotel, offering an account about the failed talks that differed from Trump’s.

“What we proposed was not the removal of all sanctions but the partial removal,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said through an interpreter in Hanoi. He said North Korea sought relief from five U.N. sanctions imposed in 2016 and 2017 that hurt the country’s economy, out of a total of 11, in exchange for disabling its main nuclear complex.

He said that in exchange for partial sanctions relief, North Korea was willing to “permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium, in the presence of U.S. experts.” In addition, Ri said the North would also put a “permanent halt” on nuclear and long-range missile testing “in order to lower the concerns of the United States.”

“However, during the meeting, the United States insisted that we should take one more step besides the dismantlement of nuclear facilities in the Yongbyon area,” Ri said. “Therefore, it became crystal clear that the United States was not ready to accept our proposal.”

Ri did not specify what that extra step was.

Ri indicated that another meeting may well be fruitless as the North will not budge. “Our proposal will never be changed.”

[NPR]

No deal summit no surprise to North Korean defectors

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The abrupt end to the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un came as no surprise to North Korean defectors in the south.

Cha Ri-hyuk, 33, told AFP that he was not shocked by the no deal outcome. “I knew that Kim Jong Un would never give up the nukes. If the two countries were to make an agreement, I think they would have done it in Singapore last year,” added Cha, who left North Korea in 2013.

Jo Young-hwa, aged 39, who defected a year earlier, said his countrymen “don’t care” about the summits. “Whenever I talk to them in the North, they are not interested. They don’t bother trying to learn anything about it,” he said.

The no deal outcome will come as a huge disappointment for South Korea’s president, who had touted the summit as a “remarkable breakthrough” for peace negotiations on the Korean peninsula. And in Seoul’s main railway station, dozens of people of all ages were glued to TV screens, sombre faced as Trump explained why he and Kim had failed to reach an agreement.

Some expressed sympathy for the North Korean leader. “I feel bad for Kim Jong Un who made a very long train journey to get to Hanoi only to walk away from the meeting with empty hands,” said Jang Ho-su, 36, a government employee.

Lee Gap-yong, a 71-year-old a taxi driver, said Trump could have been “more flexible. I think he wanted too much out of Kim, to an extent that Kim could not agree to.”

[AFP] 

Trump and Kim Jong un cut short their summit

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President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly cut short their two-day summit in Hanoi Thursday after the two leaders failed to reach an agreement to dismantle that country’s nuclear weapons.

Although Kim said he was ready in principle to denuclearize, his talks with Trump collapsed unexpectedly as the two men and their delegations departed their meeting site in Vietnam’s capital city without sitting for a planned lunch and or participating in a signing ceremony.

Trump said he felt he had to “walk” from the negotiating table, in part because Kim wanted the United States to lift economic sanctions on North Korea in their entirety.

“It was about the sanctions,” the president said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.”

For Trump, the surprising turn of events amounted to a diplomatic failure after he had hoped his second summit with Kim, following their meeting last summer in Singapore, would produce demonstrable progress toward North Korea’s denuclearization.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “I wish we could have gotten a little bit further,” but added that he was optimistic about the progress that was been made simply by meeting.

Sitting beside Kim on Thursday morning, Trump said the pair had enjoyed very good discussions over dinner the night before, with “a lot of great ideas being thrown about,” adding that “importantly, I think the relationship is, you know, just very strong. And when you have a good relationship, a lot of good things happen.”

Asked if he was confident the pair would reach a deal, Kim was equally guarded. “It’s too early to tell. I won’t prejudge,” Kim said in reply to the question from a Washington Post reporter, a rare response from a North Korean leader to an independent journalist. “From what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come.”

White House aides have said the president is determined to sell Kim on a vision of modernization and present him with a choice between continued isolation or burgeoning economic growth if he gives up the North’s nuclear weapons program.

Both Kim and Trump also said they would welcome the idea of opening a U.S. liaison office in the North Korean capital. Washington does not have direct diplomatic representation in Pyongyang.

[Washington Post]

Kim Jong Un and Trump’s Tuesday arrivals in Vietnam 

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China blocked off roads along train tracks and censored online mentions of the train’s whereabouts. Vietnam repaved roads, decked out its capital with flowers and flags, and literally rolled out the red carpet.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday morning after taking the long route from Pyongyang for his second, closely watched summit with President Trump. He made the 2½-day, 2,800-mile journey through China by his preferred mode of transport: armored train.

Kim’s train arrived early Tuesday in the border town of Dong Dang, where he was greeted with fanfare by Vietnamese authorities. From there, a stretch limousine took him the rest of the way to Hanoi, where he arrived 2½ hours later in a motorcade that included at least a dozen police motorcycles and cars. Onlookers stood behind street barricades and waved North Korean, Vietnamese and American flags.

President Trump arrived on Air Force One later Tuesday. Landing in darkness, he waved as he disembarked Air Force One and was met by senior Vietnamese and U.S. officials. His motorcade passed crowds waving the flags of Vietnam, the United States and North Korea on its way to the JW Marriott Hotel, his accommodation for the two-day summit.

The two leaders are scheduled to dine together Wednesday evening before the summit gets underway on Thursday.

[Los Angeles Times]

North Korea pushing new loyalty campaign

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North Korea is stepping up a new loyalty campaign as leader Kim Jong Un prepares for his second summit with President Donald Trump. The campaign began last month with the introduction of a song in praise of the nation’s flag.

A video now being aired on state-run television to promote the song — called “Our National Flag” — shows repeated images of the flag being raised at international sports competitions and being formed by a sea of people holding up colored lengths of cloth at a parade and rally on Kim Il Sung Square. Other images show recent improvements in the economy and standard of living, a reflection of a current government policy shift that focuses on development and prosperity.

The video is a departure from the tone of the propaganda that dominated just two years ago, when tensions with Washington were escalating and the focus was on North Korea’s successful missile tests. In the summer of 2017, the country’s most popular musical group, the all-female Moranbong Band, released “The Song of the Hwasong Rocket” to commemorate the successful launch of North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. They also performed at concerts with big-screen images of the ICBM behind them.

Lyrics to “Our National Flag” have been distributed widely. Large posters showing the flag and the lyrics are being displayed in factories. The song opens with the lines, “As we watch our blue-red banner flying sky high, our hearts are bursting with the blood of patriotism. We feel the breath of our nation as the flag strongly flaps in the wind. The flag as important as life carries the fate of our people. We will love the shining flag of our nation. Please fly until the end of this world.”

Coming after years of what had seemed to be deepening hostility, Kim’s outreach to Washington and his Chinese and South Korean neighbors presents a bit of a conundrum for North Korea’s propaganda chiefs. Few details of Kim’s negotiations with Trump over the future of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal have been made public in the North. The official media have instead focused on how Kim has been welcomed on the world stage and asserted that he is leading the way to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

[Associated Press]

Key challenges at Trump-Kim February summit

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US President Donald Trump has said he will hold a second nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam on 27-28 February. The two leaders face a number of challenges as they prepare for the meeting:

1: Getting past the pageantry – Both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un made the most of the press extravaganza surrounding their choreographed reconciliation at the Singapore summit in June 2018. But the vaguely worded statement it produced hasn’t resulted in any concrete action towards the US goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and Pyongyang is frustrated by Washington’s refusal to ease sanctions. So the pressure’s on for them to come up with something tangible.

2: Getting on the same page – At the Singapore summit, the US and North Korea agreed to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”. But they didn’t say what that meant, which gets to the heart of whether a deal is even possible. But last week the State Department’s North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun at least acknowledged the disconnect over disarmament goals, and said coming to an agreement with the North Koreans would have to happen “over time”.

3: Getting action on denuclearization – Pyongyang has offered to destroy all its facilities for making nuclear bomb fuel, according to Mr Biegun, if the Trump administration takes “corresponding measures”. The Americans seem to be softening their demands for significant denuclearization steps upfront, apparently adopting more of the action-for-action approach advocated by Mr Kim.

4: Getting realistic? – Virtually anyone in Washington who knows anything about North Korea thinks that Kim Jong-un won’t abandon his nuclear weapons programme. It’s too important a deterrent, director of national intelligence Dan Coats told a Senate committee last week. He said the country’s leaders “ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival”, especially against a US attempt to overthrow it. Some former Pentagon officials go so far as to argue that it would make more sense to pursue dialogue on arms control, rather than arms elimination.

[BBC]

US envoy reveals North Korea nuclear pledge

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North Korea has pledged to destroy all its nuclear material enrichment facilities, according to the US special envoy for the country, Stephen Biegun. He said the promise had been made to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited North Korea in October. Biegun added that Kim Jong-un had committed, in his talks with Mr Pompeo, to “the dismantlement and destruction” of all its plutonium and uranium facilities, which provide the material for nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang has not confirmed making any such pledge.

Mr Biegun also said that North Korea must provide a complete list of its nuclear assets before any deal can be reached.

President Donald Trump had earlier claimed “tremendous progress” in talks between the countries. Speaking in the Oval Office on Thursday, the president said he would soon announce the date and location of a planned second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Stephen Biegun has been Washington’s top envoy to North Korea for five months but he gave a detailed public accounting of his approach for the first time in a speech at Stanford University in California.

Mr Biegun said President Trump was “ready to end this war”.

“We’re not going to invade North Korea. We are not seeking to topple the regime,” he said.

But Biegun reiterated that the US would not lift sanctions until denuclearisation was complete, demanding “a complete understanding of the full extent of the North Korean WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programmes through a comprehensive declaration”.

He also admitted that North Korea and the US did not have a shared definition of what denuclearisation actually meant.

[BBC]

Kim Jong Un has played Donald Trump ‘like a fiddle,’ Ex-CIA Chief says

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Former CIA Director John Brennan has blasted President Donald Trump’s criticism of his own intelligence community, claiming it has allowed foreign leaders like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to play him “like a fiddle.”

The assessment from Brennan, who has been a fierce critic of the president, came on a day in which the president launched an extraordinary attack on United States intelligence chiefs. Responding to the attack, Brennan said the president’s actions posed a danger to the U.S.

“Your refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of U.S. Intelligence on Iran, North Korea, ISIS, Russia, & so much more shows the extent of your intellectual bankruptcy,” Brennan wrote on Twitter. “All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security.” Trump, Brennan said, “should be ashamed of himself” over the comments, “but I know he knows no shame.”

Brennan later appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball and was asked for specific ways that Trump’s ignoring of intelligence concerned him. “I don’t think he understands the complexities of the problems associated with North Korea’s nuclear program,” he told host Chris Matthews. “We have not gotten anything from the North Koreans.

“Kim Jong Un has demonstrated just how easy it is to play Donald Trump like a fiddle, which is what he has done, and there’s going to be another summit, and I think he has been duped by Kim Jong Un,” Brennan added.

North Korea has not conducted any missile tests since Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to sit down with a North Korean leader last June. However, experts have noted that Trump emerged from the historic summit with no firm commitment for North Korean denuclearization. Trump and Kim are set to sit down for a second summit next month.

[Newsweek]

Trump disputes US intelligence on North Korea

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President Trump continues to plan a second summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – date and location to be determined – and expresses confidence that Kim is committed to junking his nuclear weapons programs.

The U.S. intelligence community does not share that optimism.

During her Senate testimony, CIA Director Gina Haspel said the evidence shows that North Korea “is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that, while Kim is expressing “openness” to the idea of eliminating weapons of mass destruction, “we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities, and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.”

In tweets, Trump said the U.S. relationship with North Korea is “the best it has ever been.” He said they have stopped nuclear testing, and claimed a “decent chance of Denuclearization.”

Saying “I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly,” Trump claimed “progress (is) being made-big difference!” 

[USA Today]

North Korea reminds citizens they will be killed for watching South Korean TV

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North Korea has been trumpeting its thawing relations with South Korea, with images of Kim Jong Un meeting his counterpart Moon Jae-in shown in state-controlled media. But that doesn’t mean its punishments will be any less harsh for citizens who dare to watch TV programs from across the border. People who commit that crime can still face prison, labor camp, or death, as police officials have been reminding residents during lectures in the South Hwanghae province this month.

Radio Free Asia recently reported on the lectures, in which officials demanded that residents “abstain from watching decadent video materials of capitalism … that have found their way in from the South,” according to one source.

Those materials can reach North Koreans in a variety of ways, including via black markets and even the skies above. South Korean activists have long used balloons to carry leaflets deriding North Korea’s government and USB flash drives loaded with South Korean soap operas. Such shows can reveal to North Koreans how much better off their southern counterparts are.

North Koreans close to the border with South Korea can also receive broadcast signals from the south by manipulating frequencies on their TVs.

The police, in their lectures, have reminded people that anyone, regardless of their status, will be punished. In 2014, 10 officials of the ruling party were reportedly executed for watching South Korean soap operas.

[Quartz]