North Korea ‘No Longer Interested’ In US Summits After Trump Tweets

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 15, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Yangdok hot spring resort under construction in South Pyongan Province. KCNA / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP
This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 15, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Yangdok hot spring resort under construction in South Pyongan Province. KCNA / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea is “no longer interested” in summits with the US unless Washington offers new concessions in their nuclear negotiations, Pyongyang said Monday, hours after Donald Trump hinted at the prospect.

“You should act quickly, get the deal done,” Trump tweeted Sunday, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “See you soon!”

Kim and Trump have met three times since June last year, but talks have been gridlocked since their Hanoi summit in February broke up in disagreement over sanctions relief, while October’s working-level talks rapidly broke down in Sweden.

Pyongyang has set Washington a deadline of the end of the year to come forward with a fresh offer, and foreign ministry advisor Kim Kye Gwan said the US was stalling while “pretending it has made progress”.

He interpreted Trump’s tweet as a signal for a new summit, he said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA, but declared: “We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us.”

“We will no longer gift the US president with something he can boast of,” he went on, adding the North should be compensated for the “successes” that President Trump touted as his own achievements.

The implied criticism of Trump by name is a departure for Pyongyang, which has long limited its frustration to other administration officials.

Last month, adviser Kim declared: “Contrary to the political judgment and intention of President Trump, Washington political circles and DPRK policy makers of the US administration are hostile to the DPRK for no reason,” using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

In September he was fulsome in his praise for the US leader, saying that Trump was “different from his predecessors” and that he placed his hopes in “President Trump’s wise option and bold decision”.

But as the North’s deadline approaches it has issued a series of increasingly assertive statements — while also carrying out a number of weapons launches.

Washington should withdraw its “hostile policy” if it wants dialogue to continue, Kim said Monday, without elaborating further.

Trump’s tweet came after Washington and Seoul agreed to postpone annual joint aerial exercises to create space for diplomacy with Pyongyang, which condemns such drills as preparations for invasion.

 

AFP

Trump Departs South Korea After Historic Meeting With Kim Jong Un

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to depart South Korea in Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, following his meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un at the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump left South Korea on Sunday after a trip to Asia that took in a G20 summit in Japan and a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula.

Trump departed on Air Force One just before 1000 GMT (7 pm local time) en route to Washington, a few hours after he became the first sitting US president to step onto North Korean soil.

Moments after becoming the only sitting US president to set foot inside North Korea on Sunday, Trump brought Kim back over the dividing line for a meeting where they agreed to start working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Trump also said he had invited the young leader to the White House “anytime he wants to do it”.

“It’s a great day for the world and it’s an honour for me to be here,” Trump said. “A lot of great things are happening.”

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As they sat down for discussions, Kim said their “handshake of peace” in a location that was “the symbol of the division of north and south” showed that “we are willing to put the past behind us.”

The impromptu meeting in the DMZ — after Trump issued an invitation on Twitter on Saturday — came with negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at a deadlock.

Their first summit took place in a blaze of publicity in Singapore last year but produced a vaguely-worded pledge about denuclearisation. A second meeting in Vietnam in February intended to put flesh on those bones broke up without agreement.

Contact between the two sides has since been minimal — with Pyongyang issuing frequent criticisms of the US position — but the two leaders exchanged a series of letters before Trump turned to Twitter to issue his offer to meet at the DMZ.

Trump’s entry onto North Korean soil — which he said was uncertain until the last moment — is an extraordinary sequel to the scene at Kim’s first summit with Moon last year when the young leader invited the South Korean to walk over the Military Demarcation Line, as the border is officially known.

Moon seized on last year’s Winter Olympics to broker the process between Pyongyang and Washington after tensions soared in 2017 as the North carried out multiple missile launches and its biggest nuclear test to date, while Trump and Kim traded mutual insults and threats of war.

The significance of the meeting in the no-mans-land often referred to as the world’s last Cold War frontier was “obvious”, said Stimson Centre Asia analyst David Kim.

“It’s historic for Trump to be the first US President enter North Korea soil, historic for Moon to meet, albeit briefly, with both leaders.”

The meeting had the “potential to kick-start stalled negotiations”, he told AFP but added that working-level discussions would be crucial.

“What we need is substance, not theatrics.”

The Hanoi summit foundered amid disagreements on what the North — which has carried out six nuclear tests and developed missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland — would be willing to give up in exchange for relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst now with RAND Corporation, said the North’s “gravitational force has pulled Trump across the DMZ”, calling it an “alluring elixir of wile, threatening rhetoric, stalling, and dangling of the remote possibility of resuming dialogue”.

Such a meeting has long been sought by the North, but “Kim didn’t have to lift a finger to get Trump to cross the DMZ”, she added. “It was, in all appearances, by Trump’s volition.”

The DMZ has been a regular stop for US presidents visiting the South, a security ally — although Trump’s helicopter was forced to turn back by fog in 2017 — while Panmunjom saw the first two summits between Moon and Kim last year.

AFP

Kim Jong Un Leaves Vladivostok After Putin Summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Far Eastern Federal University campus on Russky Island in the far-eastern Russian port of Vladivostok on April 25, 2019. Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left the Russian city of Vladivostok on Friday after a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin where the two vowed to pursue closer ties.

Kim took part in a departure ceremony at Vladivostok station before his armoured train departed around 0530 GMT.

Kim and Putin met Thursday in the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok for their first face-to-face talks.

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The two men agreed to seek stronger relations between Moscow and Pyongyang and Kim accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” in negotiations over the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Putin left the city on Thursday for another summit in Beijing while Kim stayed on overnight for events including a wreath-laying ceremony.

AFP

Putin, Kim Jong Un To Hold First Talks In Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin (and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un / AFP

 

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un will meet in Russia’s Far East on Thursday, the Kremlin said, as the North Korean leader looks to rebuild ties with an old ally amid a standoff with the United States.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said the meeting — the first between the two men — would take place in the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok, before Putin heads to Beijing for another summit.

“The focus will be on a political and diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula,” Ushakov told a briefing on Tuesday.

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“Russia intends to help consolidate positive trends in every way,” he said.

Anticipation for the summit had been building since the Kremlin announced last week the two men would meet by the end of April.

Russian and North Korean flags were already flying on lamp posts Tuesday on Vladivostok’s Russky Island, where the summit is expected to take place at a university campus.

Ushakov said the talks would begin one-on-one and then move into an “expanded format”, without providing further details.

He said no joint statement or signing of agreements was planned.

Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency quoted sources in the country’s rail service as saying a train carrying Kim was expected to arrive at Vladivostok station at 6:00 pm local time (0800 GMT) on Wednesday.

Kim, who travels to international meetings on an armoured train, was expected to cross into Russia at the border town of Khasan, news agency Interfax reported.

The talks follow repeated invitations from Putin since Kim last year embarked on a series of diplomatic overtures.

Since March 2018 the formerly reclusive North Korean leader has held four meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with the South’s Moon Jae-in, two with US President Donald Trump and one with Vietnam’s president.

– Cold War ties –
Analysts say he is now looking for wider international support in his standoff with Washington.

At Kim’s last summit with Trump in Hanoi in February, Pyongyang demanded immediate relief from sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

But the talks broke down over what North Korea was prepared to give up in return.

Last week Pyongyang launched a blistering attack on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, demanding he be removed from the negotiations just hours after announcing it had carried out a new weapons test.

Moscow has called for the sanctions to be eased, while the US has accused it of trying to help Pyongyang evade some of the measures — accusations Russia denies.

The Vladivostok meeting appears to have been discussed with Washington.

Ushakov met last week in Moscow with Fiona Hill, a foreign policy adviser to Trump, for talks on North Korea. The US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun was also in Moscow at the time for meetings with Russian officials.

The summit will be the first between the two neighbours since Kim’s father Kim Jong Il met Dmitry Medvedev in Russia eight years ago. Putin previously met Kim Jong Il in Vladivostok in 2002.

Ties between Pyongyang and Moscow, once its most important ally, go back decades.

The Soviet Union installed Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung as North Korea’s leader and was a crucial backer and main aid provider to Pyongyang during the Cold War.

The USSR started to reduce funding to the North as it began to seek reconciliation with Seoul in the 1980s, and Pyongyang was hit hard by the demise of the Soviet Union.

China has since stepped in to become the isolated North’s most important ally, its largest trading partner and crucial fuel supplier.

Analysts say that by reaching out to Russia Kim could be looking to balance Beijing’s influence, while Putin is keen to project Russian influence in another global flashpoint

Trump Considers Holding Third North Korea Summit

US President Donald Trump (L) listens to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 27, 2019. Saul LOEB / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump said Thursday he is considering a potential third nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader.

“We will be discussing that and potential meetings, further meetings with North Korea and Kim Jong Un,” Trump said in the Oval Office at the start of talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A third summit would follow on Trump’s historic breakthrough last year when he met Kim in Singapore and a follow-up this February in Hanoi that ended without progress in getting North Korea to give up nuclear weapons.

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Both Trump and Moon are heavily invested in bringing North Korea out of the cold. But the unsuccessful summit in Vietnam was a setback for the two allies that has yet to be resolved.

At the White House, Trump insisted that a peaceful resolution of the North Korea standoff remains within reach and that he continues to place considerable hope in his personal brand of diplomacy.

“I enjoy the summits, I enjoy being with the chairman,” he said.

Kim is “a person I’ve gotten to know very well, and respect and hopefully, and I really believe over a period of time, a lot of tremendous things will happen. I think North Korea has tremendous potential,” Trump said.

The Vietnam summit ended without Trump being able to extract major concessions from Kim on the country’s nuclear arsenal or Kim getting the reduction he wanted in heavy economic sanctions brought to pressure him into cooperating.

Despite the sanctions, Trump said Thursday that he supports unspecified South Korean moves to bring humanitarian relief.

“We are discussing certain humanitarian things right now. I’m OK with that, to be honest,” he said.

Although the broader sanctions should “remain in place,” he said he opposes any further tightening and noted that he had stopped planned new measures.

There was “the option of significantly increasing them…, but I didn’t want to do that,” he said.

 Vietnam fallout 

Trump has emerged as an unlikely peacemaker in the Korean peninsula, reversing his initially bellicose approach with a determined effort to put Washington and Pyongyang on a historic path to reconciliation.

But the Hanoi meeting was a letdown. The two leaders cut their talks short, skipping a scheduled final lunch and the expected issuing of a joint statement.

In Washington, that outcome brought Trump praise from Republican legislators who’d worried he would give too much away in pursuit of big headlines.

Trump continues to face criticism that he is out of his depth in talks with Kim and that sitting down with the dictator has yet to bring many benefits.

But he insists that while he retains an unusually good personal relationship with Kim, he will maintain a tough negotiating line.

“Sometimes, you have to walk,” Trump said, slipping into his real estate dealer’s lingo, after the Hanoi meeting.

Moon optimistic, Kim unbowed 

For Moon, the aftermath has been even more complicated.

In his talks with Trump, he insisted that the summits have produced important results, especially “the dramatic, significant reduction of military tension on the Korean peninsula.”

“In this sense, I believe that the Hanoi summit is not actually — was not a source of disappointment, but it is actually the part of a bigger process that will lead us to a bigger agreement.”

But Moon has staked his presidency on concrete engagement with isolated North Korea, pushing for a resumption of South Korean tourism to the North’s Mount Kumgang and operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, where companies from the South used to be staffed by workers from the North.

Plans to unveil details of such projects on March 1, right after the Hanoi summit, had to be shelved and he is under pressure from opponents on the right. One lawmaker branded him the North Korean’s “top spokesman.”

Kim himself has used the impasse to speak out against international sanctions and warn in colorful, defiant terms that his country will not bow to pressure.

The state-led economy will “deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees,” a state media report quoted him as saying on Thursday, using the acronym for the North’s official name.

Shortly after the Hanoi summit, a series of satellite images emerged suggesting increased activity at the North’s Sohae rocket site, triggering international alarm that the nuclear-armed state might be preparing a long-range or space launch.

North Korea Pulls Out Of Inter-Korean Liaison Office

 

North Korea pulled its staff out of an inter-Korean liaison office Friday, Seoul said, weeks after leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with US President Donald Trump ended without agreement.

The office in the Northern city of Kaesong was opened in September as the two Koreas knitted closer ties, but the South’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters Pyongyang had “notified the South they are pulling out of the liaison office”.

The decision had been taken “in accordance with an order from an upper command”, he said, adding: “They said they didn’t care whether we stayed at the liaison office or not.”

The South’s President Moon Jae-in was instrumental in brokering talks between the nuclear-armed, sanctions-hit North and Washington, Seoul’s key security ally.

Moon has long backed engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, and has been pushing the carrot of inter-Korean development projects, among them the restarting of an industrial zone also in Kaesong and lucrative cross-border tourist visits by Southerners to the North’s picturesque Mount Kumgang.

But the sanctions currently in place effectively block their resumption, while a preliminary study for a plan to renovate the North’s decrepit rail system was repeatedly delayed.

Questions were even raised over whether supplies provided to set up the liaison office were a sanctions violation.

The failure by Kim and Trump to reach agreement in Hanoi last month on walking back Pyongyang’s nuclear programme in exchange for relaxation of the measures against it has raised questions over the future of the wider process.

In Vietnam both sides expressed willingness to talk further, but it has since emerged that Washington presented Kim with a wider definition of what it regards as denuclearisation.

A senior Pyongyang diplomat told reporters last week that the North was considering suspending nuclear talks with the US.

Analysts said Friday’s decision could be a sign Pyongyang felt Seoul was unable to exert sufficient influence on Washington.

“With the pull-out, the North is pressuring the South to do more as a middle man between Pyongyang and Washington after it didn’t get the resumption of the Kaesong industrial complex and Mount Kumgang tours,” said Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of North Korean studies at Korea University.

“It could be seen as either pressure or a warning,” he told AFP.

“Internally, Pyongyang could use the withdrawal as a propaganda message to its people that it is taking a lead when it comes to inter-Korean relations.”

The North has recently summoned several of its top diplomats around the world back to Pyongyang.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the private Sejong Institute, said that move and Friday’s pull-out could signal “that the North is considering a shift in denuclearisation strategy and foreign policy”.

It was “hard to rule out a hardline statement”, he added.

In his New Year speech — a key political event in the North — Kim said without giving details that Pyongyang might see a “new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state” if the US persisted with sanctions.

‘Round-the-Clock Consultation’

Seoul sought to keep the door open to more contact.

“We regret the North’s decision,” vice minister Chun said. “Though North Korea has pulled out, we will continue to work at the liaison office as usual.”

The facility opened three months after Kim signed a vague pledge at his first summit with Trump in Singapore to work towards “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, and shortly before Moon went to Pyongyang for his third summit with Kim last year.

It stands in a city that was initially part of the South after Moscow and Washington divided Korea between them in the closing days of World War II, but found itself in the North after the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

The four-storey building includes separate Northern and Southern offices and a joint conference room.

When it opened Seoul’s unification ministry said it would become a “round-the-clock consultation and communication channel” for advancing inter-Korean relations, improving ties between the US and the North, and easing military tensions.

But the Hanoi summit took place without the usual several rounds of preliminary negotiations between lower-rank officials and broke up without even a joint statement.

A top security adviser to Moon, Moon Chung-in, told AFP last week that Pyongyang needed to take “actual action” on denuclearisation to persuade the US to grant concessions.

The South’s presidency held an emergency meeting of the National Security Council after the North pulled out of the liaison office on Friday.

North Korea Is Rebuilding Satellite Launch Site, Research Shows

North Korea's Kim Says No More Nuclear, Missile Tests
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un/ AFP

 

Activity has been detected at a North Korean long-range rocket site, suggesting Pyongyang may be pursuing the “rapid rebuilding” of the facility after the collapse of the Hanoi summit, according to the analysis of satellite imagery.

Another research website suggested the rebuilding of the site may have started even before last week’s meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.

The summit ended abruptly after the pair failed to reach an agreement on walking back Pyongyang’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

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The renewed activity was recorded two days after the talks and may “demonstrate resolve in the face of US rejection” of the North’s request for an easing of sanctions, said researchers at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“This facility had been dormant since August 2018, indicating the current activity is deliberate and purposeful,” it said.

Kim had agreed to shutter the Sohae missile-testing site at a summit with the South’s President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang, as part of confidence-building measures, and satellite pictures in August suggested workers were already dismantling an engine test stand at the facility.

But CSIS said building activity is now “evident” at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, from where Pyongyang launched satellites in 2012 and 2016.

North Korea was later banned by the UN security council from carrying out the space launches, as some of its technology was similar to that used for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The respected Washington-based 38 North project, another independent research website specialising in North Korea, also reported building work at the Sohae facility, based on commercial satellite imagery.

The pictures show a moving structure that had been used to carry launch vehicles to a launch pad on rails has been restored, it said.

“Two support cranes are observed at the building, the walls have been erected and a new roof added. At the engine test stand, it appears that the engine support structure is being reassembled,” the 38 North reported.

In a briefing to parliamentarians this week, Seoul’s spy agency said it had detected signs of work at the site.

 ‘Timing matters’ 

But Joel Wit, the director of the 38 North project cautioned that the evidence was not necessarily “consistent with preparations for an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) test”.

“Aside from the fact that (North Korea) has never tested an ICBM from Sohae — it’s a space vehicle launch site — preparation for any launch would require a wide range of activities not observed in the imagery,” it said.

Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists agreed the imagery does not suggest an imminent sign of an ICBM launch, but it could be a “reminder of when times were worse and what stands to be lost if the process collapses.”

According to 38 North, the efforts to rebuild structures at the Sohae facility started sometime between February 16 and March 2 this year, based on what commercial satellite imagery shows.

“Timing matters. … the imagery tells a story that this took place amid the Biegun-Kim Hyok Chol working-level talks in the weeks leading up to Hanoi,” Panda tweeted.

“Choe Son Hui warned of Kim Jong Un’s waning ‘will’ and Kim Jong Un himself warned the US not to test his ‘patience’ on Jan 1.”

 No deal in Hanoi 

Impoverished and isolated North Korea conducted its first successful nuclear test in 2006 followed by a string of increasingly successful ICBM launches.

In 2017, it claimed it had become a nuclear state, capable of fitting a viable nuclear weapon on an ICBM that could reach as far as the United States’ eastern seaboard.

In response, the UN Security Council later banned the North’s main exports — coal and other mineral resources, fisheries and textile products — to cut off its access to hard currency.

At their groundbreaking first summit in Singapore last year, Kim and Trump produced a vague statement on the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

There were high expectations for Kim and Trump’s second meeting in Hanoi, but no agreement was reached. Despite the stalemate, both sides said they were open to further talks.

John Bolton, the US national security adviser, however, said on Tuesday that the US would look at “ramping those sanctions up” if Pyongyang did not give up its nuclear weapons program.

AFP

White House Security Chief Defends Trump-Kim Summit

US National Security Advisor John Bolton addresses a press conference following a meeting with his Russian counterpart at the US Mission in Geneva on August 23, 2018.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

US national security advisor John Bolton denied Sunday that last week’s nuclear summit with North Korea was a failure, despite President Donald Trump coming home empty-handed.

A high-stakes second meeting to strike a nuclear disarmament deal between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and Trump broke up in disarray Thursday, without even a joint statement.

But Bolton told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Trump’s failure in getting commitments from Pyongyang on destroying its nuclear capability should be seen as “a success, defined as the president protecting and advancing American national interests.”

The White House aide said the issue was whether North Korea would accept what the president called “the big deal” — denuclearizing completely or something less, “which was unacceptable to us.”

“So the president held firm to his view. He deepened his relationship with Kim Jong Un. I don’t view it as a failure at all when American national interests are protected.”

The outcome in Hanoi fell far short of the pre-meeting expectations, after critics said their initial historic meeting in Singapore — which produced only a vague commitment from Kim to work “toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” — was more style over substance.

Others pointed to a lack of preparation, with the two sides unable to bridge the gaps between them in time.

According to senior US officials, in the week leading up to the Hanoi summit the North Koreans had demanded the lifting of effectively all the UN Security Council economic sanctions imposed on Pyongyang since March 2016.

‘Barbaric and unacceptable’

In return, Pyongyang was only offering to close a portion of the Yongbyon complex, a sprawling site covering multiple different facilities — and the North is believed to have other uranium enrichment plants.

“Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times,” an unusually downcast Trump told reporters on Thursday, adding that he would “rather do it right than do it fast.”

After returning to Washington, the US president tweeted Friday that his relations with Kim were “very good”.

“What President Trump was trying to do was look at what was possible for them overall,” Bolton told CBS.

“He remains optimistic this is possible. Kim Jong Un himself said in our last meeting, you know, we’re going to go through many stations before we achieve this deal. The meeting in Hanoi was one such station.”

Bolton repeated the US position that it would help North Korea’s economic progress if it committed to complete denuclearization and closing its chemical and biological weapons programs.

Compounding criticism of the summit, Trump sparked a firestorm by his remarks on the case of an American student tortured and left in a coma in North Korea.

The president said he believed Kim’s claim that he didn’t know what happened to 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, who died days after being sent back to the United States in 2017.

After a stern rebuke from Warmbier’s parents, Trump took to Twitter, insisting he held North Korea responsible for the student’s death — but without directly blaming Kim or even mentioning him.

“The president’s been very clear he viewed what happened to Otto Warmbier as barbaric and unacceptable,” Bolton told CBS.

“And I think the best thing North Korea could do right now would be to come up with a full explanation of exactly what happened to him.”

Kim Commences Vietnam Visit After Trump’s Nuclear Summit

A motorcade transporting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un makes its way to the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on March 1, 2019, a day after the second US-North Korea summit. Nhac NGUYEN / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un kicked off an official visit to Vietnam Friday, three days after arriving in the country for a nuclear summit with US President Donald Trump that ended deadlocked.

Kim put aside the troubled negotiations for the pageantry of a formal diplomatic occasion in Hanoi, where — accompanied by his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong — he was received by Vietnam President and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.

The smiling leader walked before rows of children waving Vietnamese and North Korean flags outside the mustard-yellow colonial-era Presidential Palace, before inspecting an honour guard.

The long-isolated North is increasingly seeking to portray itself as a country like any other, and Vietnam is Kim’s fourth foreign destination in less than 12 months, after not leaving his borders for more than six years following his inheritance of power.

He has travelled to China four times for meetings with President Xi Jinping, walked across the border with South Korea for a summit with President Moon Jae-in, and went to Singapore for his first summit with Trump.

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But for protocol purposes Kim’s trips do not rank as state visits, as he is not North Korea’s head of state — his grandfather Kim Il Sung retains the title of Eternal President even though he died in 1994.

Instead Kim is officially chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission, although he is most commonly referred to as the “Supreme Leader”.

The North’s state KCNA news agency described it as an “official goodwill visit” to Vietnam.

Curious onlookers lined the streets Friday to catch a glimpse of Kim — the first North Korean leader to visit Vietnam since his grandfather in 1964.

But not all were impressed.

“The summit failed. I don’t know how much Vietnam has spent on this, but it must be a lot,” Hanoi resident Tu Mai, 40, told AFP.

Train journey 

The North Korean leader later met the head of the southeast Asian country’s rubber-stamp parliament, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, telling her that the warm relationship between their nations was established by Kim Il Sung and Vietnam’s revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.

“I was deeply moved by the fervent welcome from the Vietnamese people and felt our 70-year history of friendly ties,” Kim said.

During the Cold War, Vietnam and North Korea were both members of the Communist bloc, with Pyongyang sending Hanoi pilots and psychological warfare specialists to help it in the Vietnam War.

Hanoi has since embraced market economics and been rewarded with rapid growth, while it now counts the US as an ally.

Kim is expected to lay wreaths at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and war martyrs monument on Saturday ahead of his planned departure by train for the marathon return journey home.

Kim undertook a 4,000-kilometre (2,500-mile) two-and-a-half day rail journey through China to Vietnam to attend the summit.

The streets of Hanoi have been lined with heavy security along with military equipment and armoured vehicles for the summit, and some said it was exhausting work.

“It’s tiring, we’ve been on high alert for two weeks now,” a police officer told AFP.

“I really wish it would end soon as it really disrupts people’s lives.”

AFP

UN Praises ‘Courageous Diplomacy’ At US-North Korea Summit

This file photo taken on June 12, 2018 shows US President Donald Trump (R) posing with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit,/ AFP

 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the US-North Korean summit as “courageous diplomacy” on Thursday even though no agreement was reached, and expressed hope that talks will continue.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended their second summit in Hanoi with no deal after Pyongyang demanded a full lifting of sanctions.

Guterres “appreciates the effort that was made in those discussions, regardless of the results, of the outcome that we saw,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Courageous diplomacy has established the foundation to advance sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

“We all very much hope that these discussions will continue in that direction.”

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The UN spokesman stressed that world diplomats were clear-eyed about the prospects for a quick deal on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“No one, and that includes the secretary-general, ever thought that this process of engaging with the DPRK would be an easy one,” said Dujarric.

The leaders walked away with no set plans for a third meeting, though Trump said he hopes to see Kim again soon.

“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said before leaving Vietnam aboard Air Force One to head back to Washington.

Before the summit, there was talk that there could be a political declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War which finished technically with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

There were also hopes Kim could pledge to destroy North Korea’s decades-old Yongbyon nuclear complex, which has long been at the heart of Pyongyang’s atomic development but remains shrouded in secrecy.

AFP

Trump ‘Walks’ As North Korea Talks End Abruptly Without Deal

Trump Delays Speech Until Government Shutdown Ends
File Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFPtrump

 

The US-North Korea nuclear summit in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal Thursday, with President Donald Trump saying he had decided to “walk” in the face of Kim Jong Un’s demands to drop sanctions.

The much-anticipated second meeting between the two leaders was supposed to build on their historic first summit in Singapore, but they failed to sign a joint statement as initially scheduled and the talks ended in deadlock.

“Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times,” an unusually downbeat Trump told reporters.

“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said before leaving Vietnam aboard Air Force One to head back to Washington.

But Trump insisted he was “optimistic that the progress we made” before and during the summit left them “in position to have a really good outcome” in the future.

“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” he added.

He noted Kim had vowed not to resume nuclear or ballistic missile testing — something he previously identified as a yardstick for success — and reiterated their “close relationship”.

“We just like each other… there’s a warmth that we have and I hope that stays, I think it will,” he said.

‘Major failure’

The outcome in Hanoi fell far short of the pre-meeting expectations and hopes, after critics said their initial historic meeting in Singapore was more style over substance.

The leaders walked away with no set plans for a third meeting, though Trump said he hopes to see Kim again soon.

Ankit Panda, from the Federation of American Scientists, warned on Twitter that the White House’s expectation of further talks “does not have to be a perception shared in North Korea”.

“Kim may have left irate, for all we know. He may have no intention of continuing this,” added Panda.

In the original White House programme, a “Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony” had been scheduled in Hanoi and a working lunch for the leaders.

Instead, both men left the summit venue without signing anything and Trump moved up his news conference by two hours.

“This is a major failure,” tweeted Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund peace foundation, saying it showed the limit of summitry, with “not enough time or staff” to work out a deal.

Trump flew around the world for the meeting and Kim undertook a mammoth two-and-a-half-day trek through China in his olive green train, travelling 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles).

Kim will stay on in Vietnam for a state visit, which will include a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, before his expected departure Saturday.

The US president, who touted his “special relationship” with Kim, frequently dangled the prospect of a brighter economic future for a nuclear-free North Korea, at one point saying there was “AWESOME” potential.

From the outset, he had appeared to downplay expectations of an immediate breakthrough in nuclear talks, saying he was in “no rush” to clinch a rapid deal and was content if a pause in missile testing continued.

But Harry Kazianis, Director of Korean Studies at the Centre for the National Interest, said that no agreement was better than a bad one.

“The challenge is North Korea’s nuclear weapons are already a reality,” he said. “Getting a deal that does little to nothing to remove that threat would be far worse than a flawed deal.”

In a phone call to South Korean President Moon Jae-in soon after the meeting ended, Trump “expressed regret” at not striking a deal with Kim, the South’s presidential office said.

‘Rocket man’

In Singapore Kim and Trump signed a vague document in which Kim pledged to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Progress subsequently stalled, with the two sides disagreeing on what that means, as the North sought relief from sanctions and Washington pressed for concrete steps towards it giving up its weapons.

As in Singapore, the two men put on a show of bonhomie in Vietnam, appearing to share jokes in front of reporters.

Looking relaxed but appearing to say little, they indulged in a poolside stroll Thursday around the gardens of the luxury Metropole Hotel.

It was a far cry from the height of missile-testing tensions in 2017 when Trump slammed Kim as “rocket man” and the younger man branded the American president a “mentally deranged US dotard”.

In apparently unprecedented scenes, Kim answered unscripted questions from foreign reporters, saying he would welcome the establishment of a US liaison office in Pyongyang, which would be a step on the way to diplomatic normalisation.

Before the summit, there was talk that there could be a political declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War which finished technically with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

There were also hopes Kim could pledge to destroy North Korea’s decades-old Yongbyon nuclear complex, which has long been at the heart of Pyongyang’s atomic development but remains shrouded in secrecy.

A patent distraction from the summit was a scandal back home in Washington with Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen calling him a “racist” and a “conman” during a congressional hearing.

“He lied a lot,” the president said simply in response on Thursday.

Trump, Kim Optimistic Over Nuclear Talks

US President Donald Trump (L) listens to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 27, 2019. Saul LOEB / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled, shook hands and dined Wednesday in Hanoi, expressing optimism that their highly personal brand of diplomacy will lead to a deal on the totalitarian state’s nuclear weapons.

At the start of around two hours of talks and dinner at a luxury hotel in the Vietnamese capital, Trump predicted a “very successful” summit, due to resume Thursday and end in a still unspecified signing ceremony.

The two-day get-together follows up on the leaders’ initial historic meeting in Singapore in June, where Trump launched his charm offensive to try and get Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

Shaking hands and smiling in front of a bank of a dozen alternating the US and North Korean flags, they briefly took questions from reporters before starting one-on-one talks, then the dinner.

Critics said the Singapore summit was light on concrete results but Trump said the Hanoi talks would be “equal or better than the first” time. Kim said: “I am certain that a great outcome will be achieved this time that will be welcomed by all people.”

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The White House said that on Thursday Trump and Kim will meet again one-on-one, before continuing talks alongside advisers throughout the morning.

This will culminate in a “Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony,” the White House said without providing further detail.

A press conference is also scheduled before Trump returns to Washington.

But the president has been dogged by scandal at home, where his former lawyer Michael Cohen described him as a “conman” in nationally televised testimony to Congress starting shortly after Trump finished Wednesday’s negotiations on the other side of the world.

Asked by reporters if he had any reaction to Cohen’s bombshell testimony about hush money payments and murky business dealings in Russia, Trump simply shook his head.

 Bidding to make history 

Seeking a big foreign policy win to push back against domestic troubles, Trump believes he can make history with North Korea and claims Japan’s prime minister has already nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize.

His goal is to persuade Kim to dismantle his nuclear weapons and resolve a stand-off with the deeply isolated state that has bedeviled US leaders since the end of the Korean war in 1953.

To lure Kim into radical change, Trump is believed to be considering offering a formal peace declaration — though perhaps not a formal treaty — to draw a line under the technically still unfinished war.

At the same time, Washington faces mounting pressure to extract significant concessions from Kim, who has so far shown little desire to ditch his nuclear capability.

Washington and Pyongyang disagree even on what denuclearisation means precisely. And while North Korea has now gone more than a year without conducting missile and nuclear tests, it has done nothing to roll back the weapons already built.

From insults to love 

A former real estate tycoon who often boasts he is one of the world’s best negotiators, Trump is pitching a vision of North Korea as a new Asian economic tiger if it surrenders its nuclear status.

He said the country could quickly emulate the summit’s host, Vietnam — a communist state once locked in devastating conflict with the United States, but now a thriving trade partner.

Trump sent a tweet touting North Korea’s “AWESOME” potential if his “friend” Kim takes the non-nuclear route.

And Trump has invested himself personally in the relationship with Kim, creating the diplomatic equivalent of a Hollywood odd-couple bromance.

Before Singapore, they were slinging bizarre insults — Trump calling Kim “rocket man” and Kim calling him a “dotard.”

With North Korea then busily testing missiles and conducting underground nuclear tests, analysts feared the duo were egging each other on towards a catastrophic confrontation.

Now, Trump talks of “love” and claims that his ground-breaking policies defused the threat posed by Kim.

Critics warn Trump is so keen to score a deal that he could give away too much, too quickly, endangering US allies South Korea and Japan.

In Singapore, Trump took his own generals by surprise when he announced a suspension of military exercises with the South — something the North badly wanted.

Washington would ideally like Kim to dismantle a key nuclear facility at Yongbyon, allow in international inspectors, or even hand over a list of all his nuclear assets — something the North Koreans have categorically refused to do.

In return, Trump is believed to be considering dangling relief from tough international sanctions. Opening diplomatic liaison offices is another possible US concession.

Another possibility is a joint declaration to end the Korean War — a hugely symbolic gesture which some analysts fear would upset the delicate power balance in a region where the US and China are already struggling for influence.

Those pushing for a scaled-back US foreign policy footprint around the world would welcome the gambit.

“If you get an end of the war declaration, I think that’s really important symbolically because it starts to change the mentality,” Daniel Davis, at the conservative Washington-based Defense Priorities think tank, told AFP.

And Trump deserves credit, he said.

“You just can’t ignore the fact that he’s the only one of the last nine American presidents that has even gotten to this point. No one else has even had the conversations, no one else has had these summits.”

AFP