There seems to be a real fascination with Kim Jong Un's security and how exactly he goes about his business while paranoid of assassination attempts and decapitation strikes from afar and from potential competition within his own circle of power. It turns out that Kim doesn't just have a Secret Service-like agency tasked with his protection. He has his own 100,000 man army with a stove-pipe command structure that reports directly to him. This elite unit is known as Guard Command.

Kim Jong Un’s Praetorian Guards Are Really A 100,000 Man Personal Army

The security we saw in Singapore is nothing compared to the immense personal security force that serves the Kim family back at home –
TYLER ROGOWAY:Tyler Rogoway’s Articles twitter.com/Aviation_Intel

There seems to be a real fascination with Kim Jong Un’s security and how exactly he goes about his business while paranoid of assassination attempts and decapitation strikes from afar and from potential competition within his own circle of power.

It turns out that Kim doesn’t just have a Secret Service-like agency tasked with his protection. He has his own 100,000 man army with a stove-pipe command structure that reports directly to him. This elite unit is known as Guard Command.

Kim’s personal protection unit, which is made up of the best that Guard Command has to offer, usually melts into the shadows during his appearances. But recently, members of a select offshoot of this special outfit have become something of an international sensation, as they have appeared running in unison alongside the Supreme Leader’s Mercedes Pullman Guard armored Limousine on multiple high-profile occasions.

This human phalanx of fit North Korean commandos dressed in tailored business suits with earphone pigtails dangling from their heads definitely appears to mean business when it comes to defending their principal, but they also serve a major propaganda tool. The spectacle visually highlights Kim’s near-sacred importance and the might of his sprawling security apparatus. 

Back home, Guard Command serves to protect the ruling family’s interests throughout the country and includes a range of capabilities, as well as a large assortment of equipment used to carry out its unique missions. In the fabulous research document North Korea House Of Cards: Leadership Dynamics Under Kim Jong Un, the Committee For Human Rights In North Korea describes Guard Command as such: 

The GC (Ho-wi Sa-ryeong-bu), which is also referred to as the Bodyguard Command, is responsible for the safety and welfare of Kim Jong-un, his family, and senior North Korean officials. Its origins begin in 1946, when elements of the 90th Training Command were made responsible for providing security for North Korea’s emerging leadership. It has been restructured several times. 

Since the 1990s, it has been growing in importance as the center of the regime’s Praetorian Guard. The GC numbers close to 100,000 personnel dispersed across the country in a number of battalions, regiments, and brigades. In addition to providing for the personal security of Kim Jong-un and other high-ranking officials, it conducts surveillance on high-ranking political and military officials. It also shares responsibility for the defense of the capital with the Pyongyang Defense Command and the Pyongyang Anti-Aircraft Artillery Command.

Located in Puksae-dong, Moranbong District, Pyongyang, the corps-sized GC is equipped with tanks, artillery, and missiles. It has several combat brigades stationed at the Kim family’s residences and other critical facilities throughout the country.

Various subunits within the GC’s structure execute a wide variety of roles. These include maintaining and guarding the Kim family’s palaces and shrines, controlling access to the Capital via checkpoints, providing medical care not available to any other North Korean in order to prolong the “Dear Leader’s” life, and protecting other North Korean elites. A logistics group supports all these endeavors in a traditional sense but also procures the luxury items and consumables only available to the Kim family and the regime’s top power brokers.

One unit, the Rapid Response Force, is made up of a couple thousand hardened soldiers with a fleet of armored personnel carriers and heavy weaponry who are dispersed throughout Pyongyang. Their sole responsibility is to counter a coup attempt at a moment’s notice, by grabbing and holding strategic command and control and information facilities to ensure that the regime is not successfully overturned. 

Another unit focuses on communications and is likely the force that would convey Kim’s nuclear weapons release commands if they were issued. It is described by North Korea Leadership Watch as such:

The Guard Command’s Security Department manages and monitors all telephone and Internet communications by members of the DPRK leadership. One section of the Security Department is tasked with meeting KCI’s communication needs (telephone, fax, Intra/Internet) to issue instructions and orders. In cooperation with the Ministry of People’s Security, the Guard Command’s Security Department also manages the personnel and technical maintenance of hardwired telephone and fax lines used by senior government, party and military leadership in Pyongyang and provincial capitals.

The Second Guard Department of the Guard Command works to protect Kim and his family directly and has some of the most capable troops in the entire order. They work directly with an even more select group of bodyguards that are part of the so-called Office Number Six, to coordinate Kim’s personal protection operations. 

Office Number Six is made up of highly experienced GC operatives with at least a decade of dedicated service and provides the innermost protective circle around Kim Jong Un. They also provide a key administrative function—planning and executing the Supreme Leader’s events and travel arrangements. The CFHRINK report describes this shadowy unit in detail:

The Office of Adjutants (Office 6) coordinates the protection of the Supreme Leader. It presumably liaises with the Guard Command and other elements of the internal security apparatus. Adjutants from this office accompany Kim Jong-un on his guidance inspections. According to one source, the adjutants form the inner circle of security around the Supreme Leader and are the only people allowed to carry guns in his presence. Under Kim Jong-il, this office had approximately 1,200 officers and soldiers, the size of a KPA battalion.

Office 6, which reports directly to Kim Jong-un’s Personal Secretariat through the GC, takes the lead in all of Kim Jong-un’s public appearances. It is responsible for the protection of the Supreme Leader at the closest range. As such, it provides security inside the first two layers of security in a seven-layer cordon every time the Supreme Leader travels outside of his Party headquarters or one of his residences.

In addition to providing physical security, which is the responsibility of the Bodyguard Department, Office 6 has a number of other functions. The Plans Department coordinates the Supreme Leader’s events in terms of the list of participants and the operational aspects of the protection plan. An editorial bureau attached to Office 6 is responsible for how the images and news of the Supreme Leader are crafted by North Korean media.

Here is a chart showing how Kim’s security is organized for events:

In some ways, this arrangement is somewhat analogous to America’s Secret Service Uniform Division and the President’s Protection Detail, but in North Korea, the whole operation is highly militarized and operates on a much grander scale.  

It turns out that Kim doesn't just have a Secret Service-like agency tasked with his protection. He has his own 100,000 man army with a stove-pipe command structure that reports directly to him. This elite unit is known as Guard Command.
It turns out that Kim doesn’t just have a Secret Service-like agency tasked with his protection. He has his own 100,000 man army with a stove-pipe command structure that reports directly to him. This elite unit is known as Guard Command.

The SSD, or State Security Department, that is mentioned in the organizational chart above, doesn’t have to do with Kim’s personal protection primarily, but considering we are talking about the North Korean police state, their involvement in Kim’s travel planning and protection during visits is worth noting. The CHFRINK report states:

SSD carries out a wide range of counterintelligence and internal security functions normally associated with the secret police. It is responsible for finding anti-state criminals—those accused of anti-government and dissident activities, economic crimes, and disloyalty to the political leadership. In addition, it runs political prisons and has counter-intelligence and intelligence collection responsibilities. It monitors political attitudes and maintains surveillance on people who have returned from foreign countries. Department personnel escort high-ranking officials, guard national borders, and monitor international entry points. The degree of fear it instills in the political security bureaus of the KPA, which have representatives at all levels of command, is uncertain. However, it occasionally takes actions against members of the elite.

The MPS, or Ministry of People Security, acts as the state police in North Korea, so their involvement with Kim’s movements doesn’t need explanation. 

Guard Command supposedly goes to North Korean highs schools to find the best specimens to fill out its ranks. According to defector Lee Young Kuk who was the personal bodyguard for Kim Jong Il for over a decade, well-proportioned bodies and the lack of scars are desirable features for candidates, and they must come from families with impeccable loyalty to the party dating back multiple generations. 

Training, which lasts years, includes smashing granite slabs on your chest with a sledgehammer, breaking light bulbs with a single finger, and crushing tiles with your head, as well as a lot of fairly brutal martial arts. 

CNN did an interview with Lee Yong Kuk, it stated:

Lee says he went through very similar training before he was considered fit to protect a leader. “It’s tough training,” says Lee. “But why do it? It’s to build up loyalty. A handgun won’t win a war and taekwondo serves nothing but the spirit, but it creates loyalty.”

His training also involved more traditional methods. Target practice, physical, tactical and weight training, swimming and using a boat. But that’s only part of the preparation.

A large part of the training, he claims, is ideological brainwashing. Lee says he was trained to believe Kim Jong Il was a god — and that the only reason he was born was to serve and protect the “Dear Leader.”

Lee noted that even with all his power, Kim Jong Il was an uneven and violent man that was struck with fear at all times:

He recalls “two faces” to the man, describing him as someone who could give out gold when he was happy, and death sentences when he was not. 

“When Kim Jong Il would arrive in his vehicle, 60- to 70-year old advisors would run away and throw themselves onto the grass. They had dust on their clothes but they wanted to hide from him,” says Lee.

“They are scared because even when he was happy he would be rude and could chop off their heads. “He remembers a senior official who once used Kim Jong Il’s private elevator and ashtray. When Kim found out, he sent him to a concentration camp, where the man died.

But his successor, the man now negotiating on equal footing with the U.S., is even more brutal according to the veteran bodyguard:

Lee knew the North Korean leader was cruel when he was serving him. But, he says, it was only after he escaped to South Korea, his new home, that he realized Kim was a true dictator, as his father Kim Il Sung had been before him, and his son and current leader Kim Jong Un is now. 

But he is worried that Kim Jong Un may be the worst of all. “Kim Jong Un ended up killing his uncle, who even Kim Jong Il could not kill,” said Lee. “As power was handed down to the third generation, it became crueler. Kim Jong Un has created loyalty, but it is fake and based on fear.” 

Regardless of who in the Kim family is crueler, the massive security apparatus surrounding the top echelons of the regime is a manifestation of what it takes to sustain a reclusive military dictatorship with a royal-like family at its pinnacle. And all of it costs gobs of money, which could be used to satisfy the basic needs of North Koreans, namely clean water, consistent electricity, and especially a steady diet of basic nutrition. 

Yet considering the closed society they come from, one in which the common man must be an idolator of the Kim family and the party they rule, as well as their extreme training, indoctrination, and not lack of distractions, North Korea’s top bodyguards are no laughing matter and their dedication is likely among the most extreme on the planet. 

Guard Command’s workload and repertoire seems to be on the precipice of a drastic expansion as Kim Jong Un’s profile rises on the world stage. Just the idea of a “Young General” that travels outside of North Korea’s own borders is a new concept, at least in the years since Kim Jong Un rose to power, and his father wasn’t much of a globetrotter either as he hated to fly. But the unit was behind the impressive logistics ballet that brought the young ruler to Singapore for the historic, albeit hollow, summit with the American President. 

With all this in mind, we are likely to be seeing a lot more of the General Guard and Office Number Six’s ‘unique’ capabilities, and they may even be descending onto Washington, D.C. in the not so distant future. 

While the Secret Service may be the best-known head of state protective unit in the world, and the Pope’s Swiss Guard is certainly the most colorful, Kim Jong Un’s force is by far the most expansive. 

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

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"The V-shape formation is usually used when going through a crowd of people. But on Friday, it was likely used as a show of North Korea's meticulousness," the official told local news. The guards are the most elite soldiers of the North Korean army, reports say. While most North Korean male citizens are obligated to 10 years of military service, Kim's guards serve for at least 13 years.

Why is Kim Jong Un considered paranoid and unpredictable?

Kiran Joyce studied International Relations at the University of Denver: ‘The paranoid is a given. He’s a dictator, literally everyone in that position is a bit paranoid. As for the unpredictable, I think that label comes from the media portrayal that he’s insane. Insane people tend to be labelled insane because of their unpredictability. Kim is actually very predictable, and behaving exactly how a dictator would. Perhaps the insanity stuff comes from some of the executions he’s ordered, but again that’s just standard dictator fare.

Kim Jong Un is considered paranoid and unpredictable because it makes good press and good politics.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un accompanied by running bodyguards on his way to Hanoi

It’s not that he isn’t a little paranoid, and it’s not like people are able to completely predict what he’ll do, but any paranoia is a natural consequence of being the dictator in an impoverished country, and any unpredictability is not really true if you actually take a look at him and his circumstances.

Kim Jong-un on May 5, smiling and standing in front of seemingly joyous citizens
Image copyrightSTR/AFP/GETTY IMAGESImage captionLaunching missiles is not the way to get into talks with Washington, the US says
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has accused North Korean leader Kim Jong-un of being in a “state of paranoia”, following another ballistic missile test

The State Department, the CIA and various other intelligence agencies compile dossiers on every world leader, no matter how small the country. They spend a lot of time and money to figure out these leaders for reasons of influence, diplomacy and war, because knowing is usually a lot less expensive than not knowing when it’s crunch time.

I do not currently know anybody who works in intelligence, and I have no access to classified information (never had, as far as I know). However, Kim Jong Un is understandable in the context of his situation: he’s an absolute dictator with some expensive tastes and some Western-normative wants, who enjoys good attention, is sometimes thin-skinned about bad attention, wants recognition and respect on the global stage, and cannot afford to let his iron grip on his country slip even a little bit. His country is impoverished, so he looks for ways to make money. Since he is already viewed as a rogue actor he goes by the maxim of might makes right. Arming rogue terrorists, selling expertise in banned research, cybertheft, all are money-makers for a country that’s hungrier than a pack of starved wolves at a sheep convention.

Put all that together and what would you expect him to do? In light of those factors, what he is doing is actually quite rational. Horrible, but rational.

The pattern is there. It’s actually not a particularly complicated one if you look at all the factors, and the very limited number of influential people in North Korea—including Dennis Rodman when he visits—keeps down the factors.

"The V-shape formation is usually used when going through a crowd of people. But on Friday, it was likely used as a show of North Korea's meticulousness," the official told local news. The guards are the most elite soldiers of the North Korean army, reports say. While most North Korean male citizens are obligated to 10 years of military service, Kim's guards serve for at least 13 years.

North Korea: ‘Nobody—not even the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how Kim Jong Un thinks’

Kim Jong Un’s running bodyguards are back
Erin Burnett Out FrontKim Jong Un brings his running bodyguards while a Kim impostor runs his mouth in Hanoi. CNN’sJeanne Moos reports.
Source: CNN

North Korea’s ‘black box’ – CJR Editors jallsop@cjr.org via mailchimpapp.net

AIWA! NO!|Following the abrupt collapse of his nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, President Trump, addressing reporters in Hanoi, said he walked because North Korea wanted full sanctions relief in exchange for partial denuclearization. It was a concession, Trump said, that the United States could not make. Later in the day, at a rare news conference, Ri Yong-ho, North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, denied Trump’s account, saying that his country asked only for a partial lifting of sanctions. In America, commentators argued over why Trump’s strategy failed, and whether he was right to bail. In North Korea, there was no such debate. State media glossed right over the collapse of the summit, describing it as an event of “great significance” that furthered “mutual respect and trust.”

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) toast with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (2nd R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during the official dinner at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) toast with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (2nd R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during the official dinner at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.


Since Trump entered the office, US relations with North Korea have swung between extreme hostility and unlikely rapprochement. In two meetings with Kim, Trump has broken diplomatic ground. Yet the international reporters covering North Korea have little idea what Kim’s regime is really thinking, or—at moments like this one—what it might do next. At this week’s summit, Kim, for the first time ever, took questions from Western reporters; his answers were short and terse, though they were symbolically important, and offered some (albeit limited) insight into the situation. But now that the summit is over, the normal silence will resume.
 
The information climate of North Korea is dire. For the past two years, Reporters Without Borders has ranked it the worst country in the world for press freedom. The state controls the internet; citizens caught accessing foreign media are sometimes sent to concentration camps. The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse have established bureaus in the country, in conjunction with state media, yet foreign reporters are tightly controlled. Before the summit, Andrew McCormick, my CJR colleague, spoke with journalists about their experiences covering North Korea. Several of them described it as “a black box.” The constant challenge, Simon Denyer, Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post, said, was resisting the temptation to provide complete narratives and limiting oneself to what is actually knowable.
 
In the absence of reliable sources, reporters, as well as academics and other experts, have had to get creative. In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that American scholars in Seoul fed North Korean state media through a high-powered mathematical engine for clues about the regime’s plans. Doug Bock Clark wrote for The New Yorker that advances in commercial satellite photography have allowed civilian think tanks to source their own imaging of North Korea’s nuclear sites. A month after Trump and Kim’s first summit, in Singapore, Joby Warrick, a Post reporter, turned to the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies to verify a tip from an intelligence source. Analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and 38 North, a news-site-think-tank hybrid with a roster of high-powered experts, has been widely cited in the press.
 
These sourcing workarounds have been useful in challenging the Trump administration’s official narrative that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. With talks now collapsed, the value of such sleuthing is even higher. But satellite cameras can only see Kim’s test sites, not inside his head.
 
Below, more on North Korea:

  • Thumbs up: The Post’s David Nakamura became the first foreign reporter to ask Kim a question on Wednesday. “Once he began to speak, in his surprisingly deep voice, the Disney-like veneer faded,” Nakamura writes. “The bubble had been pierced, a reclusive control freak had revealed something, however small—the fundamental currency between a reporter and his subject had been exchanged.”
     
  • “The risk of nuclear war”: In 2017, with tensions between the US and North Korea running high, Evan Osnos was granted access for what became a terrifying piece in The New Yorker. “In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks,” he wrote.
     
  • Diplomatic overture: Last year, Evan Ramstad, a former Journalreporter in Seoul, wrote for CJR on his coverage of a New York Philharmonic goodwill concert in North Korea in 2008. “Competitive news organizations lower their reporting standards in return for access to a place that is exotic, scary, bizarre and even entertaining,” he observed. “Unfortunately, often enough, it has been able to count on journalists’ shortcuts and short memories for some extra polishing of its reputation in the world.”
     
  • Covering the Koreas: In our Fall 2018 magazine, E. Tammy Kim wrote about the role of the world press in shaping diplomacy with North Korea. In South Korea, the administration of Moon Jae-in “worries that its peace-first approach to North Korea could be undermined by the American media’s cynicism.”

PSA: The Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights at Columbia Journalism School is offering two $10,000 fellowship opportunities. Fellows work under Jelani Cobb, the Center’s director and a staff writer at The New Yorker, to report a 5,000-word story or series linked to civil and human rights. For information on how to apply, click here.

Kim-Trump summit exposes frailties over North Korea As the dust settles in the wake of the much-vaunted and, ultimately, failed second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, are the two countries now back at square one?

Kim-Trump summit exposes America frailties over North Korea and international political order

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with U.S. President Donald Trump during their second summit in Hanoi on Friday in a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. | KCNA /REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with U.S. President Donald Trump during their second summit in Hanoi on Friday in a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. | KCNA /REUTERS

One of the biggest net losers in all of this is South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said that he was “perplexed” at how things had fallen apart so quickly – TAKASHI YOKOTA AND JONATHAN BERKSHIRE MILLER , Japan Times

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|As the dust settles in the wake of the much-vaunted and, ultimately, failed the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, are the two countries now back at square one?

Before the summit, the U.S. president had hoped to make a deal with his “friend” Kim, raising speculation of a more solid denuclearization agreement — possibly even an “end-of-war declaration” of the Korean War, which has technically continued even after an armistice agreement in 1953.

Kim, having made an arduous 65-hour train journey from Pyongyang to Hanoi, had hoped to have crushing sanctions eased to help lift his economy. Prior to the meeting, North Korean state media presented their leader’s trip as a “long march” to his countrymen, but now that Kim has come out empty-handed, he’s likely to face some criticism back home.

Trump and his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, insist they made “progress” at their meeting with Kim and his lieutenants, but the reality is that the summit ended as a flop. While Trump was arguably right to walk away from a “bad deal,” his lack of progress — at the very least, a thin joint statement — is a crippling indictment of his policy on North Korea.

How did the high-stakes diplomacy unravel at the last minute? Regional experts and analysts have long pointed to the dangers of holding a top-level summit while progress on hashing out details between working-level diplomats remained questionable.

One possible theory for Trump’s decision to walk away may be tied to domestic matters. As Trump himself complained after the summit, his meeting with Kim coincided with damning congressional testimony by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who under oath, called him a “cheat” and a “con man.”

Whether Cohen’s testimony had any effect on Trump’s decision is anyone’s guess. However, the harsh testimony no doubt pushed Trump into a corner in which he could not afford to appear weak or pandering to the North Korean leader.

The hype was also amplified by the misguided analogy that the White House peddled regarding Vietnam and North Korea. Trump stressed before and after the summit that North Korea could one day become an “economic powerhouse” if it followed the Vietnamese model.

The problem with this narrative, however, is that it’s both simplistic and incomplete. Vietnam is a country that fought — and won — a vicious war against the United States and forcibly reunited the country. North Korea, on the other hand, remains a state that is not recognized by Washington (or Seoul) and is still technically at war, despite the armistice. Although both have communist backgrounds, Vietnam has partially embraced market capitalism. North Korea has not.

Trump may have been prematurely optimistic about the bilateral process, but what about Kim?

According to the U.S. leader, one of the key factors in the summit’s failure was Kim’s demands to lift all existing sanctions on the country. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho later disputed that account, arguing that Pyongyang had only demanded a partial easing of the measures.

Kim had to know that a full-scale lifting of sanctions is off the table — at least in a more expansive sense — unless he was able to guarantee a time-bound and verifiable commitment to denuclearize. Furthermore, Ri is a seasoned diplomat who has negotiated with the United States since the 1990s and knows the issues inside and out.

The U.N. Security Council sanctions are the international community’s main source of leverage to pressure Kim to relinquish his nuclear material and missiles. To give those up at this point for apparent concessions on the Yongbyon nuclear complex would be foolish, some observers have said.

Ri told reporters that if recent U.N. sanctions — the ones with real teeth — are lifted, North Korea was ready to “permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium.” Translation: If Trump and the international community agree to lift the most crippling sanctions, North Korea will partially destroy its nuclear production facilities, but still keep its weapons.

So it’s perplexing that Kim held such a maximalist position if he knew those demands were a nonstarter for the United States. If Kim equally had as much at stake, he couldn’t afford to set Trump up for failure.

Another theory was that maybe there was internal dissent in Pyongyang. As far-fetched it may seem, it’s plausible that Kim himself was set up for defeat, being played by his own generals and diplomats who want to prevent the 35-year-old dictator from giving up their hard-earned nuclear weapons. Just weeks before the Hanoi summit, several career diplomats and officials were purged, allegedly having been critical of Kim’s approach on the nuclear issue, a report by a Seoul-based think tank said.

Regardless of the domestic political machinations, however, the Hanoi talks may have merely been doomed from the start due to the lack of a clear definition of “denuclearization” — without which, the chances of Washington and Pyongyang coming to an agreement remain minimal at best.

This ambiguity is the result of the vaguely worded joint statement signed at last year’s summit in Singapore, which says North Korea will “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” That statement can mean many things. While Washington has viewed it as meaning that North Korea would give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities in a verifiable way, Pyongyang sees it in more expansive terms.

For North Korea, “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” ultimately involves removing America’s extended deterrence commitments to its allies in the region as well as its military presence in South Korea and Japan.

As long as there’s a conceptual divide on denuclearization, no matter how many times the Trump administration insisted that North Korea had agreed to “denuclearize,” the reality remains that Pyongyang has never made such a commitment — not in Singapore and certainly not in Hanoi.

With the process having so many fundamental problems, what now? One possibility is that Kim eventually reverts back to the regime’s time-tested tactic of brinkmanship.

To be sure, the chances of immediately returning to the days when Trump thundered about unleashing “fire and fury” on North Korea remains remote. Trump said that Kim promised him that he won’t conduct further nuclear or missile tests.

Still, a verbal agreement like that is tenuous, especially with North Korea. Back in February 2012, Pyongyang verbally promised to halt its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food aid. Two months later, Kim conducted what his regime claimed was a “satellite launch” that many said was a veiled test of ballistic-missile technology.

For another, although the diplomatic process between the United States and North Korea is still alive, the chances of serious talks resuming anytime soon are bleak. With Trump clearly shifting his focus to domestic politics as election season looms, Kim may see little benefit in dealing with a politically distracted leader.

In spite of the North Korean state media’s claim that the two leaders agreed to “continue having productive talks,” the country’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, told reporters that she felt that Kim had “lost the will” to deal with Trump.

One of the biggest net losers in all of this is South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said that he was “perplexed” at how things had fallen apart so quickly.

Moon has invested deeply in bringing the U.S. and North Korea together and has tied his legacy — and his political fortunes — to progress in the relationship with his country’s northern neighbor.

While Moon felt a need to act fast last year due to Trump’s escalating war of words with Pyongyang, he essentially painted himself into a corner, having put all his eggs in the reunification basket. In the process, Moon also isolated Tokyo and berated Japan over historical issues, alienating a democratic neighbor that should be a natural ally.

On the other hand, Tokyo, which has been sidelined from the North Korea problem for sticking to its realistic — or cautious — view on the rosy view of talks emanating from Washington, Pyongyang and Seoul, has suddenly emerged as retaining the most credibility on the matter.

Indeed, if there’s one positive to take from the summit’s failure, it’s that it has forced many to come to their senses about the reality of the North Korea problem — that there are no easy answers, and that a “bromance” between two leaders can only get one so far.

North Korea's Kim arrives in Vietnam

North Korea’s Kim arrives in Vietnam, awaits US President Donald Trump for the second summit

Vietnamese residents take photos while North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un goes past in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/KHAM
Vietnamese residents take photos while North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un goes past in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/KHAM

Story spiked – Kim’s Hanoi hotel masterstroke undone as White House press evictedREUTERS

  • US journalists were abruptly booted from the hotel where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is staying ahead of his summit with President Donald Trump.
  • Kim, who was booked into the Melia Hanoi Hotel, arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday local time to a throng of journalists eagerly anticipating his arrival to the city.
  • “They had about an hours notice that they all had to get out,” CNN correspondent Will Ripley reported on Tuesday. “Kim Jong Un understandably didn’t like the idea of sharing a hotel with a large group of American reporters.”

|AIWA! NO!|North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump where they will try to reach agreement on how to implement a North Korean pledge to give up its nuclear weapons.

Trump is due in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on Tuesday evening.

They will meet for a brief one-on-one conversation on Wednesday evening, followed by a dinner, at which they will each be accompanied by two guests and interpreters, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Air Force One.

The two leaders would meet again on Thursday, she said.

North Korea’s Kim awaits Trump in Vietnam for second summit

Their talks come eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

There is likely to be pressure on both sides to move beyond the vaguely worded commitment they made in Singapore to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Domestic critics have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, urging specific, verifiable North Korean action to abandon the nuclear weapons that threaten the United States.

In return, Kim would expect significant U.S. concessions such as relief from punishing sanctions and a declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is at last formally over.

Kim, who travelled from the North Korean capital by train, arrived at the station in the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang after crossing over the border from China.

Vietnamese officials were on hand to receive him at the station with a red-carpet welcome, including a guard of honour and fluttering North Korean and Vietnamese flags.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has emerged as an important aide, arrived with him.

About a dozen bodyguards ran along side Kim’s car as he departed for the two-hour journey to the capital, Hanoi.

Roads were closed off with Vietnamese security forces equipped with armoured-personnel carriers guarding the route to the city’s Melia hotel where he is staying.

Both Kim Jong Un and Trump are also due to hold separate talks with Vietnamese leaders.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also arrived in Hanoi, on Tuesday. He has been Trump’s top envoy in his efforts to improve ties with the reclusive North and has made several trips to Pyongyang to negotiate an ending of its nuclear programme.

Pompeo was due to meet U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun in Hanoi later.

Trump told reporters before he left the and Kim would have “a very tremendous summit”.

Tweeting on Monday, he stressed the benefits to North Korea if it gave up its nuclear weapons. “With complete Denuclearisation, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!” Trump said.

In a speech late on Sunday, Trump, however, appeared to play down any hope of a major breakthrough in Hanoi, saying he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained its pause on weapons testing.

“I’m not in a rush,” he said. “I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”

North Korea conducted its last nuclear test in September 2017 and last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

Analysts say the two leaders have to move beyond summit symbolism.

“The most basic yet urgent task is to come to a shared understanding of what denuclearisation would entail,” said Gi-Wook Shin, director of Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center.

“The ambiguity and obscurity of the term ‘denuclearisation’ only exacerbates the scepticism about both the U.S. and North Korean commitments to denuclearisation.”

While the United States is demanding that North Korea give up all of its nuclear and missile programmes, North Korea wants to see the removal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea.

A South Korean presidential spokesman told reporters in Seoul on Monday the two sides might be able to agree to a formal end of the Korean War, which was concluded with an armistice not a peace treaty, a move North Korea has long sought.

While a formal peace treaty may be a long way off, the two sides have discussed the possibility of a political declaration stating that the war over.

Protesters in Seoul tore up photographs of Kim and threw them to the ground to highlight their dismay that North Korea’s grim record on human rights was not expected to figure in the discussions.

About half of 451 North Korean defectors questioned in a survey endured physical violence at the hands of North Korean authorities before they fled, a rights group.

Rights group Amnesty International said Trump had disregarded human rights to gain favour with Kim.

“His silence in the face of relentless and grave human rights violations has been deafening,” it said.