Seoul: North Korea Open to Denuclearization, Offers to Halt Missile Tests

Seoul: North Korea Open to Denuclearization, Offers to Halt Missile Tests

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.

 

Korean Peninsula — Extending the progress made at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, officials from South Korea said on Tuesday that the North is now open to the idea of abandoning its nuclear weapons program and would even halt missile tests while negotiations with the United States were underway.

The announcement comes after a rare two-day visit by South Korean envoys to the North’s capital of Pyongyang in which they met directly with leader Kim Jong-un. During that meeting, it was also agreed that Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit at the two countries’ border in late April.

Additionally, a hotline will be established between the North and South to better allow for communication. All this good will, however, is contingent upon the U.S. guaranteeing the safety of the Kim regime.

“The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,” President Moon’s office said in a statement. “It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed.”

The statement also said that as long as peaceful negotiations continue, the North would freeze its nuclear program:

“The North expressed its willingness to hold a heartfelt dialogue with the United States on the issues of denuclearization and normalizing relations with the United States. It made it clear that while dialogue is continuing, it will not attempt any strategic provocations, such as nuclear and ballistic missile tests.”

President Donald Trump was guardedly optimistic about the news but was also certain to reference the possibility of military action in a Tuesday tweet:

“Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

The tone was similar, if a bit more hard-edged, in a statement from Vice President Mike Pence:

“Whichever direction talks with North Korea go, we will be firm in our resolve. The United States and our allies remain committed to applying maximum pressure on the Kim regime to end their nuclear program. All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable, and concrete steps toward denuclearization.”

The Trump administration has consistently stated that it’s only open to idea of normalizing relations with North Korea if the country first agrees to abandon its nuclear ambitions. If the Hermit Kingdom agreed to that condition, Trump has said he’d be willing to meet with Kim Jong-un.

As for the joint U.S.-South Korea military drills that were postponed during the Winter Olympics, those will proceed in April. Chung Eui-yong, director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service and the man who led the Pyongyang delegation, told reporters Tuesday Kim was surprisingly flexible on this front:

“Kim Jong-un simply said he could understand why the joint exercises must resume in April on the same scale as before. But he said he expected them to be readjusted if the situation on the Korean Peninsula stabilizes in the future.”

In fact, Chung said that beyond asking that the U.S. guarantee his country’s safety, Kim had no other demands during his meeting with the South.

“There was no other specific demand from North Korea in returning to dialogue,” he said. “They only said they wanted to be treated like a serious dialogue partner.”

While analysts and commentators are already speculating about how seriously the North’s overture can be taken, the very fact that Kim Jong-un met with South Korean delegates — the first such occurrence since the leader came to power in 2011 — is cause enough for hope that the situation on the Korean peninsula won’t devolve into conflict.

Seoul: North Korea Open to Denuclearization, Offers to Halt Missile Tests

North Korea madness on pause after Kim Jong-un buys himself time

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media. 

 

Hours after Secretary of Defense James Mattis said it would be “game on” if North Korea lobbed missiles at Guam — and following a week of heightened tensions between the United States and the regime of Kim Jong-un — North Korea’s state media appeared to suggest on Tuesday that Kim is willing to delay his launch on the U.S. territory.

The report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim had “examined the plan for a long time and discussed it with the commanding officers” but that the leader would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before giving the go-ahead.

Though using typically bellicose language, North Korea does appear to be saying the U.S. has an opening to de-escalate the situation by cancelling annual 10-days joint military drills with South Korea, scheduled to begin August 21:

“If the planned fire of power demonstration is carried out as the US is going more reckless, it will be the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks.”

Indeed, Kim appears to be communicating that a cancellation of those drills would be a significant good faith gesture:

“In order to defuse the tension and prevent dangerous military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, it is necessary for the U.S. to make a proper option first and show it through action.”

That option appears dead on arrival, though, as the U.S. and South Korea have confirmed the drills will continue as scheduled.

On Monday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that if North Koreans “shoot at the United States” or its territories “then it’s ‘game on’” as far as military conflict. “It could escalate into war very quickly — yes, that’s called war,” Mattis said.

Also on Monday, the most senior official in the U.S. armed forces, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, told South Korean president Moon Jae-in during a 50-minute discussion that plans had been formulated in case of the worst.

“He conveyed America’s readiness to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the US homeland,” military spokesman Darryn James told reporters following the two men’s private discussion.

Prior to that discussion, however — and despite his assurances to Moon that the U.S. military was indeed “locked and loaded,” as Donald Trump recently asserted — Dunford insisted to reporters that “we’re all looking to get out of this situation without a war.”

Peace was the message put forth by President Moon on Tuesday while speaking at a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of South Korea’s liberation from Japanese control.

“The government will prevent a war at all cost,” Moon said. “We must peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue no matter how many ups and downs there are.”

On the issue of diplomacy, Moon vowed his government would “further step up its diplomatic efforts to make sure the international community’s principle of peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue will not waiver.”

And as for any kind of military operation against the North, Moon stated any such action by the United States would have to first be approved by South Korea:

“Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by the Republic of Korea and no one may decide to take military action without the consent of the Republic of Korea.”

Moon is referring to the 1953 U.S.-South Korean defense treaty, which requires the two nations to consult each other before taking military action when either one is threatened. Hinting at the South’s reluctance over going along with increasing pressure on the Kim regime, Moon says the North’s behavior is leaving few options on the table:

“Should North Korea continue down this path, there will only be isolation and a dark future for the North. We, too, cannot but increase our sanctions and pressure against the North even if we do not wish to.”

Seoul: North Korea Open to Denuclearization, Offers to Halt Missile Tests

Senior Military Official: North Korean Missiles Aren’t a Threat to U.S. Cities

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.

 

Geopolitical moves are being made on the issue of North Korea. A day after South Korea’s new government offered to hold military talks with its neighbor to the North, the United States’ second-highest ranking military official admitted Tuesday that North Korean missiles lack the accuracy to effectively target U.S. cities.

On Monday, South Korea’s defense ministry proposed that representatives from both the South and North Korean militaries meet at the border village of Panmunjom in North Korea for talks.

“We make the proposal for a meeting…aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border,” South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The man in charge of North Korean affairs, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, said his country “would not seek collapse of the North or unification through absorbing the North” and suggested a positive response from Kim Jong-un’s government would represent a show of good faith.

“North Korea should respond to our sincere proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Cho said, adding that ifNorth Korea chooses the right path, we would like to open the door for a brighter future for North Korea, together, by cooperating with the international community.

The defense ministry’s overture falls in line with the approach advocated by new South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who supports diplomatic talks with the North led by South Korea.

Recently, ahead of the G20 summit in Germany, Moon stated that the need for dialogue” with North Korea is “more pressing than ever before because the situation had “reached the tipping point of the vicious cycle of military escalation.”

North Korea has yet to respond to the South’s proposal.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the primary driver of the “evil North Korea” narrative, United States appeared to go against the grain and actually downplayed the effectiveness of Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons program — or, at least, one senior defense official did. From Reuters:

“North Korea does not have the ability to strike the United States with ‘any degree of accuracy’ and while its missiles have the range, they lack the necessary guidance capability, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Paul Selva said North Korea’s July 4 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test showed that the country has no hope of hitting a U.S. target with any “reasonable confidence of success” and that recent talk about its ability to strike Alaska or the Pacific Northwest is overblown:

“What the experts tell me is that the North Koreans have yet to demonstrate the capacity to do the guidance and control that would be required.”

While the general’s admission isn’t on the same level as the actual act of diplomacy just demonstrated by South Korea, the fact that the U.S. military is walking back — even if only just a step or two — a narrative it fought so hard to establish is itself worthy of commentary.

So what gives? Why, in the last two days, have both the U.S. and ally South Korea suddenly taken a softer line — again, in their own ways — on the North Korea issue? Are all parties concerned about to knock off the rhetoric and allow the Hermit Kingdom to continue to fire missiles into the sea?

Not likely. As with most other issues of geopolitical significance in that region of the world, these moves likely have far more to do with China.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in Washington, D.C., for annual bilateral talks, this year dubbed the “U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue.” It will be the third meeting between the two men, after Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago three months ago and their discussions on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.

Recently, Trump reignited concern over a trade war between the U.S. and China when he said he was considering slapping import tariffs on steel. But these kinds of tactics are nothing new ahead of economic negotiations, as the Washington Post noted last Friday:

“In 1981, the Reagan administration convinced Japan to reduce the number of cars it was exporting to the United States in a bid to boost the U.S. auto sector. In 1984, the administration used the tactic again with the steel industry, as it told dozens of countries to either limit their steel shipments to the United States or lose access to the American market.

In an article published Sunday titled “U.S.-China trade talks sputtering at 100-day deadline,” Reuters outlined how results from economic negotiations between the two countries have been less than encouraging since Trump and Xi first met at Mar-a-Lago. The general consensus is that Donald Trump needs a major win with China to prove he’s sticking to the “America first” guns that got him into the White House.

Noting that “North Korea has cast a long shadow over the relationship between Trump and Xi, Reuters points out that the Hermit Kingdom and its nuclear weapons program has been a hindrance to cooperation for the U.S. president:

“Trump has linked progress in trade to China’s ability to rein in North Korea, which counts on Beijing as its chief friend and ally.”

On Tuesday, the Associated Press also highlighted how Trump has used the issue of North Korea as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table with China:

“As a presidential candidate, Trump attacked China for refusing to pressure Pyongyang to back off from developing nuclear weapons. After the Mar-a-Lago summit, though, Trump praised Beijing for agreeing to help deal with North Korea. As a reward, he abandoned his vow to accuse China of manipulating its currency to benefit Chinese exporters.

So it may be that this one-two punch from the United States and ally South Korea was a coordinated effort to ease tensions and create an atmosphere conducive to cooperation ahead of critical negotiations between the U.S. and China.

It may be that the Trump administration is signaling that it would be willing to back off on pressuring China to rein in Kim Jong-un if China is willing to make concessions on the economic front — and give Trump the win he needs.

Seoul: North Korea Open to Denuclearization, Offers to Halt Missile Tests

Senior Military Official: North Korean Missiles Aren't a Threat to U.S. Cities

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.
 
Geopolitical moves are being made on the issue of North Korea. A day after South Korea’s new government offered to hold military talks with its neighbor to the North, the United States’ second-highest ranking military official admitted Tuesday that North Korean missiles lack the accuracy to effectively target U.S. cities.
On Monday, South Korea’s defense ministry proposed that representatives from both the South and North Korean militaries meet at the border village of Panmunjom in North Korea for talks.
“We make the proposal for a meeting…aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border,” South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.
The man in charge of North Korean affairs, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, said his country “would not seek collapse of the North or unification through absorbing the North” and suggested a positive response from Kim Jong-un’s government would represent a show of good faith.
“North Korea should respond to our sincere proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Cho said, adding that ifNorth Korea chooses the right path, we would like to open the door for a brighter future for North Korea, together, by cooperating with the international community.
The defense ministry’s overture falls in line with the approach advocated by new South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who supports diplomatic talks with the North led by South Korea.
Recently, ahead of the G20 summit in Germany, Moon stated that the need for dialogue” with North Korea is “more pressing than ever before because the situation had “reached the tipping point of the vicious cycle of military escalation.”
North Korea has yet to respond to the South’s proposal.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the primary driver of the “evil North Korea” narrative, United States appeared to go against the grain and actually downplayed the effectiveness of Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons program — or, at least, one senior defense official did. From Reuters:
“North Korea does not have the ability to strike the United States with ‘any degree of accuracy’ and while its missiles have the range, they lack the necessary guidance capability, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Paul Selva said North Korea’s July 4 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test showed that the country has no hope of hitting a U.S. target with any “reasonable confidence of success” and that recent talk about its ability to strike Alaska or the Pacific Northwest is overblown:
“What the experts tell me is that the North Koreans have yet to demonstrate the capacity to do the guidance and control that would be required.”
While the general’s admission isn’t on the same level as the actual act of diplomacy just demonstrated by South Korea, the fact that the U.S. military is walking back — even if only just a step or two — a narrative it fought so hard to establish is itself worthy of commentary.
So what gives? Why, in the last two days, have both the U.S. and ally South Korea suddenly taken a softer line — again, in their own ways — on the North Korea issue? Are all parties concerned about to knock off the rhetoric and allow the Hermit Kingdom to continue to fire missiles into the sea?
Not likely. As with most other issues of geopolitical significance in that region of the world, these moves likely have far more to do with China.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in Washington, D.C., for annual bilateral talks, this year dubbed the “U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue.” It will be the third meeting between the two men, after Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago three months ago and their discussions on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.
Recently, Trump reignited concern over a trade war between the U.S. and China when he said he was considering slapping import tariffs on steel. But these kinds of tactics are nothing new ahead of economic negotiations, as the Washington Post noted last Friday:
“In 1981, the Reagan administration convinced Japan to reduce the number of cars it was exporting to the United States in a bid to boost the U.S. auto sector. In 1984, the administration used the tactic again with the steel industry, as it told dozens of countries to either limit their steel shipments to the United States or lose access to the American market.
In an article published Sunday titled “U.S.-China trade talks sputtering at 100-day deadline,” Reuters outlined how results from economic negotiations between the two countries have been less than encouraging since Trump and Xi first met at Mar-a-Lago. The general consensus is that Donald Trump needs a major win with China to prove he’s sticking to the “America first” guns that got him into the White House.
Noting that “North Korea has cast a long shadow over the relationship between Trump and Xi, Reuters points out that the Hermit Kingdom and its nuclear weapons program has been a hindrance to cooperation for the U.S. president:
“Trump has linked progress in trade to China’s ability to rein in North Korea, which counts on Beijing as its chief friend and ally.”
On Tuesday, the Associated Press also highlighted how Trump has used the issue of North Korea as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table with China:
“As a presidential candidate, Trump attacked China for refusing to pressure Pyongyang to back off from developing nuclear weapons. After the Mar-a-Lago summit, though, Trump praised Beijing for agreeing to help deal with North Korea. As a reward, he abandoned his vow to accuse China of manipulating its currency to benefit Chinese exporters.
So it may be that this one-two punch from the United States and ally South Korea was a coordinated effort to ease tensions and create an atmosphere conducive to cooperation ahead of critical negotiations between the U.S. and China.
It may be that the Trump administration is signaling that it would be willing to back off on pressuring China to rein in Kim Jong-un if China is willing to make concessions on the economic front — and give Trump the win he needs.

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