North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile Over Japan

In this file photo, people watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on September 25, 2022.  (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

 

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years Tuesday, prompting Tokyo to activate its missile alert system and issue a rare warning for people to take shelter.

The latest launch comes in a record year of sanctions-busting weapons tests by North Korea, which recently revised its laws to declare itself an “irreversible” nuclear power.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres condemned the test as “clearly an escalation”, while US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida decried it “in the strongest terms”.

The launch was “destabilizing to the region, and a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Biden and Kishida said in a joint statement.

Biden also reiterated the United States’ “ironclad commitment to Japan’s defense”.

The last time Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan was in 2017, at the height of a period of “fire and fury” when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traded insults with then US president Donald Trump.

South Korea said the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) flew some 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) — possibly a new distance record for North Korean tests, which are usually conducted on a lofted trajectory to avoid flying over neighbouring countries.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called the launch a “provocation”, and vowed a “stern response”.

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Later Tuesday, South Korean and US fighter jets carried out a “precision bombing drill” in response, Seoul’s military said, with South Korean F-15Ks dropping joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) at a target in the Yellow Sea.

The drills aimed to demonstrate the allies’ “capabilities to conduct a precision strike at the origin of provocations”, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

On the same day, eight Japanese and four US fighter jets carried out a joint drill in airspace west of the country’s Kyushu region, according to Japan’s Joint Staff.

The forces “confirmed their readiness and demonstrated domestically and abroad the strong determination of Japan and the United States to deal with any situation”, it said in a statement.

Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile could have been a Hwasong-12.

Pyongyang used Hwasong-12s the last two times it fired missiles over Japan — in August and September 2017 — tweeted Chad O’Carroll of specialist site NK News.

Japan activated its missile warning system and urged people in two northern regions of the country to take shelter early Tuesday.

Nuclear message

The Tuesday test is Pyongyang’s fifth missile launch in 10 days and sends a clear message to the United States, Park Won-gon, professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha University in Seoul, told AFP.

The missiles “put South Korea, Japan, and Guam within range” and show that Pyongyang could hit US bases with nukes if war broke out on the Korean peninsula, he said.

“As these are missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, the launch also has a political goal of once again declaring North Korea a de facto nuclear power and showing its complete denuclearisation is impossible,” Park added.

Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have been ramping up joint military drills to counter Pyongyang’s growing threats, staging the first trilateral anti-submarine drills in five years Friday.

That came just days after the US and South Korean navies conducted large-scale exercises.

Such drills infuriate North Korea, which sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.

US Vice President Kamala Harris visited Seoul last week and toured the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula, on a trip to underscore her country’s commitment to South Korea’s defence.

About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea to help protect it from the North.

‘Very aggressive’

Firing a missile over Japan represented a “significant escalation” by North Korea, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University.

“Pyongyang is still in the middle of a provocation and testing cycle,” he added.

South Korean and US officials have been warning for months that Kim is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, saying last week that this could happen soon after Pyongyang’s key ally China holds a Communist Party congress from October 16.

Pyongyang has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006, most recently in 2017.

“North Korea always starts with a low-level provocation and gradually raises the level to attract media attention from all over the world,” said Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

“Their final provocation will probably be a nuclear test,” he said, adding that North Korea had taken the unusual and “very aggressive” step of overflying Japan to attract more attention.

“By launching the missile over Japan, they are showing that their nuclear threat is not just targeting South Korea.”

AFP

US Condemns N.Korea Launch, Calls For Dialogue

People watch a television news broadcast showing file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on January 5, 2022, after North Korea fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast according to the South’s military. PHOTO: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

The United States on Wednesday condemned North Korea’s firing of a suspected ballistic missile and urged Pyongyang to sit down for talks.

“This launch is in violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and poses a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community,” a State Department spokesperson said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on them to engage in dialogue,” he said.

The spokesperson also said that the US commitment to defend both South Korea and Japan, two treaty-bound allies, was “ironclad.”

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are already set to meet virtually Thursday for regular security talks with their Japanese counterparts.

They will be joined by the new US ambassador to Tokyo, Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor who was confirmed by the Senate despite opposition.

President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly said it is open to talks with North Korea, which has pursued a series of mostly low-level projectile launches.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un held three high-profile meetings with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump but the unusual personal diplomacy did not bring any lasting agreement.

The South Korean military said the North fired what is “presumed to be a ballistic missile” towards the sea east of the peninsula from Jagang province, which borders China.

AFP

South Korea’s Seoul Submits Bid To Co-Host 2032 Olympics With Pyongyang

File photo: The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The municipal government of South Korean capital Seoul on Thursday formally notified the International Olympic Committee of its bid to co-host the 2032 Games with North Korea’s Pyongyang, Yonhap news agency reported.

The IOC said in February that Brisbane was its preferred candidate to host the Games, adding it would enter “targeted dialogue” with the Australian bid organisers.

But the Seoul municipal government Thursday urged them to reconsider the bid for the two Koreas to co-host the Games, agreed to at a summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in September 2018.

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Yonhap reported Seoul’s bid emphasised the peace-building potential of the co-hosting, as well as a “combination of cutting-edge technologies and Korean culture”.

North Korea has not publicly commented on the bid, which comes amid markedly frosty relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

The two have not held formal talks in over two years, and last week saw North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s influential sister slam the South’s president as “a parrot raised by America” after he criticised a missile test by Pyongyang.

South Korea last hosted the Olympics in 2018, during which the two Koreas’ teams marched under a united flag. North Korea has never hosted the Olympics.

AFP

Nearly 60 Bridges, 2,000 Houses Wrecked By Typhoon In North Korea

In a photo taken on September 7, 2020, a man holding an umbrella walks next to the Taedong river during overcast weather brought by Typhoon Haishen in Pyongyang. (Photo by KIM Won Jin / AFP)

 

A typhoon that struck North Korea wrecked nearly 60 bridges and destroyed or inundated more than 2,000 houses, state media reported Wednesday, with leader Kim Jong Un saying the damage had disrupted central planning for the rest of the year.

Typhoon Maysak brought days of heavy downpours to the country’s east coast last week even as the North was still reeling from earlier flooding and typhoon damage, and this week it was followed by Typhoon Haishen.

Maysak “destroyed or inundated” more than 2,000 houses and tens of public buildings in the affected regions, the official KCNA news agency said, while 60 kilometres of roads and 59 bridges collapsed, with over 3,500 metres of railway roadbeds “swept away”.

Natural disasters tend to have a greater impact in the North due to its creaking infrastructure, and the country is vulnerable to flooding as many mountains and hills have long been deforested.

The damage obliged the authorities to “change the direction of our struggle after comprehensively considering the year-end tasks that were underway”, Kim told a top committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, according to KCNA.

It did not give specific details.

– Pyongyang march –

Kim has ordered some 12,000 Pyongyang-based party members to help with recovery efforts in affected rural regions, and they attended a rally on Tuesday before being dispatched.

“We are afraid of nothing,” said Kang Chol Jin, a party member at the event in front of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the giant mausoleum that holds the bodies of Kim’s grandfather and father, the North’s founder Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il.

“We firmly confirm our determination to go to the typhoon-afflicted areas and complete our missions as soon as possible,” Kang added.

Residents cheered and waved flowers as the rally participants marched in uniform through the streets of the capital.

Kim stressed the importance of completing the recovery efforts before next month’s commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party founding on October 10.

Authorities have previously promised to open the Pyongyang General Hospital, currently under construction, on that date, and according to reports preparations are underway for a possible military parade.

It was not clear whether the “change” Kim mentioned was a reference to either of those.

While localised, the typhoon damage is testing the North’s state capacity and resources, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“The political risk to Kim of failing to deliver promised reconstruction may be limited, but an accumulation of economic failures will strain his regime.”

The impoverished country is subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions over its banned weapons programmes.

AFP

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

North Korea Welcomes Cuban President To Pyongyang

File Photo: Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

 

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel was due in Pyongyang on Sunday, North Korea’s state media reported, describing the visit as a “historic event” highlighting the “invincible friendship” of the two allies.

The visit comes amid stalled talks between North Korea and the United States and only days after Washington imposed fresh economic restrictions on Cuba.

Washington’s ties with Havana were fully restored in 2015 after more than half a century of enmity, but have deteriorated since President Donald Trump took office.

Communist Cuba is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies.

“The Korean people warmly welcome the visit to Pyongyang by Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez,” said an editorial carried by the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

“His current visit… is a historic event which powerfully demonstrates invincible friendship and unity and comradely friendship,” it added.

The paper featured a separate profile and photo of Diaz-Canel, who took office in April in a historic transition of power on the Caribbean island, succeeding Raul Castro, who took over from his elder brother Fidel, father of the 1959 revolution.

No further details were given on the itinerary of his visit.

Fidel Castro visited North Korea in 1986 to meet founder-leader Kim Il-Sung, and Pyongyang held three days of official mourning when Castro died in November 2016.

North Korea sent a delegation led by Choe Ryong-Hae, a senior aide to its leader Kim Jong Un, to Havana for Castro’s funeral.

Cuba in the past has flouted international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme.

In 2013 Panama seized a North Korean ship carrying an undeclared Cuban arms shipment of Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets hidden under sacks of sugar.

North Korea insisted the weapons were being shipped for repair, prior to their return.

Moon Says Pyongyang Summit To Be ‘Bold Step’ Towards Ending War

Moon Says Pyongyang Summit To Be 'Bold Step' Towards Ending War
South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 73rd anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul on August 15, 2018. Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday his visit to Pyongyang next month will be a “bold step” towards formally ending the decades-old war with the nuclear-armed North.

The two Koreas agreed earlier this week to hold a third meeting between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in September as a rapid diplomatic thaw builds on the peninsula following their first summit in April.

Moon’s trip to the North Korean capital will be the first visit by a South Korean head of state to Pyongyang since 2007.

The leaders will “take a bold step towards declaring an end to the war and a peace treaty”, Moon said at a ceremony marking the 73rd anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two neighbours technically still in a state of conflict.

The signatories to the armistice included the US-led United Nations Command — that fought alongside the South’s troops — as well as China and North Korea.

Declaring an end to the war was one of the agreements at the groundbreaking April summit, but little progress has been made with the United States and North Korea at loggerheads over Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.

The US State Department said Tuesday that while Washington supports “a peace regime”, its prime goal was ending North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

“Our main focus is on the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” State Department spokeswomen Heather Nauert told reporters.

China welcomed the September summit Wednesday, saying it believed the talks “will help promote the denuclearisation of the peninsula”.

Moon brokered the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore in June where the two leaders signed a vague agreement on denuclearisation.

“Deeply-rooted distrust” must be removed for each side to carry out the agreements, Moon said, but added the two Koreas must lead the current diplomacy on the peninsula.

“An improvement in inter-Korean ties is not a collateral benefit to better relations between the US and the North,” he said.

The dovish South Korean leader offered his vision for economic cooperation with the North once the peninsula is denuclearised, stressing that true liberation will only be achieved by ending the division.

“We must overcome division for our survival and prosperity,” Moon said.

“Even if political reunification is still far away, for the South and the North to establish peace, freely travel back and forth and to form a joint economic community will be true liberation for us,” he added.

The rapid rapprochement between the two neighbours began this year ahead of the Winter Olympics in the South and cross-border exchanges have significantly increased since then, with planned reunions for war-separated families for the first time in three years.

However, international sanctions against the North for its nuclear and missile programmes have kept economic cooperation between the two Koreas from taking off.

Although Trump touted his summit with Kim as a historic breakthrough, the North has since criticised Washington for its “gangster-like” demands of complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

The US has urged the international community to maintain tough sanctions on the isolated regime.

AFP

North Korea Threatens To Scrap Trump Summit

North Korea's Kim Says No More Nuclear, Missile Tests
This April 20, 2018 picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 21, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivering a speech while attending the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang. KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea threatened Wednesday to cancel a much-anticipated and unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Pyongyang also cancelled high-level talks due Wednesday with Seoul over the Max Thunder joint military exercises between the US and the South, Yonhap said citing the North’s official news agency KCNA.

Release Of Detainees Tops Agenda As Pompeo Visits Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang. HO / US Government / AFP

 

America’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo held meetings with senior North Korean officials in Pyongyang Wednesday, with speculation swirling around the fate of three US detainees ahead of a planned US-North Korea summit.

Pompeo was dispatched on an unannounced visit — his second in weeks, but first as secretary of state — to advance preparations for Donald Trump’s unprecedented meeting with Kim Jong Un over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

He told reporters that he hoped to agree on a date and venue for the summit — even though Trump said they had already been chosen.

But optimism over the process was dealt a blow by Trump’s pullout from a nuclear deal with Iran Tuesday.

Pompeo‘s visit came with rumours flying over three US citizens being held in the North, fuelled by South Korea where the president’s office said they expected the men to be freed.

The trio are a significant domestic political issue in the US and Trump hinted last week of imminent news after sources said they had been relocated.

In previous cases, detainees have been set free into the care of high-profile US visitors, but there was no immediate indication they would be released after Pompeo held talks with Kim Yong Chul, director of the North’s United Front department, one of the organisations handling relations with the South.

The US hoped “we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve”, Pompeo told him, but added: “There are many challenges along the way.”

The rapid detente on the Korean peninsula triggered by the Winter Olympics is a marked contrast from last year when Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war over the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

“We think relationships are building with North Korea,” Trump said in televised comments from the White House. “We will see how it all works out. Maybe it won’t. But it can be a great thing for North Korea, South Korea and the entire world.”

But the American president spoke as he yanked the US out of a nuclear deal with Iran, complicating the prospects of persuading Pyongyang to surrender its atomic arsenal.

Trump poured scorn on the “disastrous” 2015 accord, reached after a decade and a half of careful diplomacy by Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and past US administrations, describing it as an “embarrassment” to the United States.

Other signatories and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran has complied with its obligations under the deal, and Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists said: “Amazing to think that Secretary Pompeo will arrive in Pyongyang today bearing the following message: ‘If you eliminate your nuclear weapons, we’ll lift sanctions and won’t attack you. You can trust us’.”

‘Chairman Un’ 

The details of any North Korean deal appear to be still under discussion.

At a historic meeting in the Demilitarized Zone last month, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed their commitment to a “common goal” of “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula in their Panmunjom Declaration.

On Tuesday, Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping in China — the second time in six weeks — highlighting efforts by the Cold War-era allies to mend frayed ties, and with Beijing keen to avoid being left out in the cold.

China’s official Xinhua news agency cited Kim as telling Xi there was no need for North Korea to be a nuclear state “as long as relevant parties abolish their hostile policies and remove security threats against” the country.

Kim also expressed hope that the US and North Korea would take “phased and synchronous measures”, signalling Pyongyang wanted a quid pro quo.

Pompeo’s itinerary — including whether he would meet the North Korean leader in Pyongyang — was not clear.

He told reporters he would look to prepare for the summit between Trump and “Chairman Un”, prompting mockery from observers.

“Pompeo doesn’t know the surname is Kim, but he’s definitely on top of all the conceptual and semantic nuances associated with the phrase ‘denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula’,” arms control specialist Jeffrey Lewis tweeted derisively.

Three-way summit 

Also Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang backed the Panmunjom Declaration at a tripartite summit with Moon in Tokyo, Seoul said.

But the three neighbours have differing positions on the North, with Japan taking by far the hardest line but finding itself largely watching the diplomatic frenzy from the sidelines, left uneasy by the pace of events and by what it sees as an unwarranted softening towards an untrustworthy Pyongyang.

The North should not be given a reward for closing its nuclear test site or not launching long-range missiles, Abe said after talks with Moon, according to the Blue House.

“The North should take additional and concrete actions,” it cited him as saying.

AFP

N. Korean Leader, Kim Attends S. Korean Concert In Pyongyang

File photo: This file photo taken on May 10, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un waving from a balcony following a military parade in Pyongyang. Sanctions,
Ed JONES / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong un and his wife Sunday attended the first concert in Pyongyang for more than a decade by South Korean performers, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The agency cited the south’s culture ministry as its source.

The visit to the North’s capital was the latest gesture of reconciliation before a scheduled summit on April 27.

The rapprochement follows months of high tensions over the North’s missile and nuclear programmes.

Trump Spy Chief Defends North Korea Talks, Says Pyongyang Bends To Pressure

Trump Spy Chief Defends North Korea Talks, Says Pyongyang Bends To Pressure
(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 11, 2017, the heads of the United States intelligence agencies, including Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo (C) testifiy before the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Donald Trump deployed his spy chief Sunday to sell his snap decision to engage North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in momentous nuclear talks that the president himself predicted would be a “tremendous success” but others warn carry big risks.

CIA director Mike Pompeo portrayed North Korea as buckling under the pressure of US-led international sanctions and insisted there would be no let-up for the duration of the negotiations.

“Never before have we had the North Koreans in a position where their economy was at such risk, where their leadership was under such pressure,” he said on Fox News Sunday.

“Make no mistake: while these negotiations are going on, there will be no concessions made,” he said.

The Sunday talk show appearances by Pompeo and others served to answer critics who warn that the talks, entered into by an impulsive, inexperienced president, carry high risks.

If they fail, the two nuclear-armed states could then be left with few options short of military confrontation, experts on the years-long impasse with North Korea say.

Pompeo suggested that Trump understood the dangers. “The president isn’t doing this for theatre, he is going there to solve a problem.”

Trump used a Saturday night campaign rally in Pennsylvania steel country to defend his decision to sit down with Kim after months of insult-filled brinkmanship, replete with nuclear threats.

He said the United States had “shown great strength” when tensions were high but the regime’s leaders “want to make peace.”

“I think it’s time,” Trump told supporters.

Before boarding his Marine One helicopter for the rally, he told reporters: “I think North Korea is going to go very well, I think we will have tremendous success … We have a lot of support.”

“The promise is they wouldn’t be shooting off missiles in the meantime, and they’re looking to de-nuke. So that’d be great.”

– What next? –

Trump accepted the invitation Thursday after it was relayed to him in an impromptu White House meeting with the South Korean national security adviser, Chung Eui-Yong.

Chung, who had met with Kim previously, told Trump that the North Korean leader had pledged to halt missile and nuclear tests during the negotiations, to discuss denuclearization and to raise no public objections to scheduled US-South Korean military exercises.

What comes next is unclear.

Deputy press secretary Raj Shah would not rule out a White House summit or Trump going to North Korea for the talks, although he said on ABC’s “This Week” that the latter venue was not “highly likely.”

Pompeo said “channels are open” but he shed no light on how the United States will proceed or even whether it has heard back from the North Koreans on Trump’s agreement to talk to Kim.

Two key Trump advisers were out of the country, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson being in Africa and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Oman.

Neither Tillerson, Mattis nor National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has commented substantively on the North Korea talks.

– ‘Potential for misunderstanding’ –

“I do not want to talk about Korea at all. I will leave it to those who are leading the effort,” Mattis told reporters during a flight to Oman, “because it’s that delicate, when you get into a position like this.”

“The potential for misunderstanding remains very high or goes higher.”

Pompeo said there wasn’t “any doubt about who is going to take the lead on this.”

“The president of the United States is going to take the lead,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Trump reached out to the leaders of China and Japan in phone calls Friday, and later said he had received encouragement for the diplomatic gambit.

He tweeted that Chinese President Xi Jinping “appreciates that the U.S. is working to solve the problem diplomatically rather than going with the ominous alternative. China continues to be helpful!”

He described Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as “very enthusiastic.”

A White House readout of the conversation with Xi said the two leaders committed to keeping the pressure on North Korea until it takes “tangible steps toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.”

– Skepticism –

Not everyone was so sanguine about the prospects of a breakthrough, however, and some Democrats shuddered at the thought of such sensitive — and potentially explosive — negotiations being in Trump’s hands.

“I am very worried that he’s going into these negotiations and be taken advantage of,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading liberal voice, said on CNN.

She said that while diplomacy was good, the State Department has been “decimated” with no US ambassador in South Korea or an assistant secretary for the region.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona was skeptical that North Korea would abandon its nuclear weapons.

“I don’t think anybody really believes that North Korea is prepared to denuclearize,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Now, maybe a freeze where they say, ‘All right. We are a nuclear power. Let’s get some security guarantees.’ But denuclearization, [as] I’ve heard it suggested, that that’s what the North Koreans have already agreed to, I would question that.”

AFP

South Korea’s Moon Says ‘Too Early’ For Pyongyang Summit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong (C) as they watch a concert of Pyongyang’s Samjiyon Orchestra at a national theatre in Seoul on February 11, 2018.
YONHAP / AFP

 

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Saturday said it was too early to think about a summit with North Korea despite the Olympic-driven rapprochement with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

Moon last week received an invitation from the North’s leader Kim Jong Un for a summit in Pyongyang. The invitation was extended by his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, who visited as part of a high-level delegation to attend the Winter Games in the South.

“There are high hopes for a North-South summit but I think it is a bit rushed,” Moon told reporters in Pyeongchang during a visit to the main press centre.

“We have a Korean saying (on acting prematurely), which is ‘looking for hot water beside the well’,” he added.

The North is subject to multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and conducted dozens of weapons test last year.

But the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have seen Moon and Kim’s younger sister cheering a unified Korean women’s ice hockey team, enjoying a concert and dining together.

However Moon said the so-called “Peace Olympics” have highlighted the need for engagement between Washington and Pyongyang.

“The general consensus on the need for dialogue between the US and North Korea is gradually increasing,” he said.

“We are waiting for the current inter-Korean talks to lead to dialogue between the US and North Korea, and to denuclearisation.”

Washington insists that Pyongyang must take concrete steps towards denuclearisation before any talks can begin, while Moon has long argued for closer involvement to bring it to the negotiating table.

AFP