North Korea reportedly launches short–range ballistic missile. South Koreamedia is reporting North Korea has launched a missile. North Korea reportedly launched multiple unidentified short–range “projectiles” off its eastern coast Saturday.
“North Korea fired several short-range projectiles off its east coast on Saturday, in a move likely to raise tensions as denuclearization talks with the United States remain stalled,” the New York Times reports.
“The South Korean military said in a statement that the North had fired several short-range projectiles between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. from near Wonsan, a coastal town east of Pyongyang, the capital. The projectiles flew 70 to 200 kilometers before they landed in the sea between North Korea and Japan, it said.”
Seoul, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia by train on Wednesday, a day before his much-anticipated summit with President Vladimir Putin. The visit comes as Kim’s recently-feverish diplomacy with the Trump administration, aimed at ridding the North Korean regime of its nuclear weapons, remains deadlocked.
Kim, dressed in a black coat and a fedora, met Russian officials at Russia’s Khasan train station near its border with the North. The official website of the Primorye governor released pictures of Kim stepping off the train and being given the traditional Russian gifts of bread and salt at the station.
Speaking to Russia’s state-owned Rossiya-24, Kim said on arrival that he was hoping for a “successful and useful” visit and would like to discuss with Putin, “settlement of the situation in the Korean Peninsula” as well as bilateral ties with Russia.
Kim then sat down with local officials, as well as a Russian deputy foreign minister, before setting off again for the Pacific port city of Vladivostok for his summit with Putin, set to begin on Thursday. It is Kim’s first visit to Russia, and the first by a North Korean leader since his late father, Kim Jong Il, visited in 2011.
“I have heard a lot about your country and have long dreamt of visiting it,” Kim was quoted as saying. “It’s been seven years since I took the helm, and I’ve only just managed to visit.”
Kim evoked his father’s “great love for Russia” and said that he intended to strengthen the ties between the two countries.
Earlier Wednesday, the North’s state media confirmed Kim’s departure aboard his khaki-green armored train from an undisclosed location in North Korea. Yonhap, citing an analysis of North Korean photos on Kim’s departure, speculated Kim may have left from a rural area, not Pyongyang.
Kim was expected to arrive in Vladivostok around late Wednesday afternoon and attend a dinner reception hosted by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev, according to South Korean media. After his summit with Putin, Kim may tour neighbouring facilities or landmarks before departing for home on Friday, the reports said.
Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian media the summit would focus on North Korea’s nuclear program, noting that Russia would seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from President Trump’s meetings with Kim.
In February, Kim’s second summit with Trump in Hanoi ended without any agreement because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions. There have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the U.S. and North Korea, though both sides say they are still open to a third summit.
Despite the failure to make any significant progress in their last meeting, and the fact that North Korea appears to have resumed some of its nuclear work, Mr Trump himself has said another meeting with Kim, “would be good in that we fully understand where we each stand.”
Kim wants the U.S. to ease the sanctions to reciprocate some partial disarmament steps he took last year. But the U.S. maintains the sanctions will stay in place until North Korea takes more significant denuclearization steps.
Some experts say Kim could try to bolster his country’s ties with Russia and China. Others say it’s not clear how big of a role Russia can play in efforts to restart the nuclear negotiations. The summit could allow Putin to try to increase his influence in regional politics and the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program.
“Kim wants to show that he’s cooperating with Russia too, rather than looking to only the U.S. and China. But I think it’s not easy for Russia and China to provide North Korea with practical assistance that leads to the inflow of dollars,” said Chon Hyun-joon, a former senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.
North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations. Last week, North Korea tested a new weapon and demanded U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be removed from nuclear talks.
Putin’s adviser added that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula.”
Ushakov pointed at a Russia-China roadmap that offered a step-by-step approach to solving the nuclear standoff and called for sanctions relief and security guarantees to Pyongyang. He noted that the North’s moratorium on nuclear tests and scaling down of U.S.-South Korean military drills helped reduce tensions and created conditions for further progress.
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.
|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.
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 te 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.