Posts Tagged ‘denuclearization’

North Korea may have made more nuclear bombs, but threat reduced due to talks with US

February 12, 2019

North Korea has continued to produce bomb fuel while in denuclearization talks with the United States and may have produced enough in the past year to add as many as seven nuclear weapons to its arsenal, according to a study released just weeks before a planned second summit between the North Korean leader and U.S. President Donald Trump.

However, the country’s freeze in nuclear and missile testing since 2017 mean that North Korea’s weapons program probably poses less of a threat than it did at the end of that year, the report by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation found.

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the U.S. Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico who is now at Stanford and was one of the report’s authors, told Reuters analysis of satellite imagery showed North Korea’s production of bomb fuel continued in 2018.

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He said spent fuel generated from operation of the 5 megawatt reactor at its main nuclear plant at Yongbyon from 2016-18 appeared to have been reprocessed starting in May and would have produced an estimated 5-8 kg of weapons-grade plutonium.

This combined with production of perhaps 150 kg of highly enriched uranium may have allowed North Korea to increase the number of weapons in its arsenal by between five and seven, the Stanford report said.

Hecker’s team had estimated the size of North Korea’s arsenal in 2017 at 30, bringing a possible current total of 37 weapons. U.S. intelligence is not certain how many nuclear warheads North Korea has. Last year, the Defense Intelligence Agency was at the high end with an estimate of about 50 nuclear warheads, while analysts have given a range of 20-60.

The Stanford report said that while North Korea was likely to have continued work on warhead miniaturization and to ensure they can stand up to delivery via intercontinental ballistic missiles, the halt in testing greatly limited its ability to make such improvements.

“They have continued the machinery to turn out plutonium and highly enriched uranium,” Hecker said, “but it also depends on weaponization – the design, build and test and then the delivery.

“When they ended missile testing, those things rolled backwards. So when I look at the whole spectrum, to me North Korea … is less dangerous today than it was at the end of 2017, in spite of the fact that they may have made another five to seven weapons worth of nuclear material.”

The Stanford experts said it was their assessment that “North Korea cannot deliver a nuclear warhead with any measure of confidence to the U.S. mainland,” although Hecker said its nuclear weapons were a real threat to Japan and South Korea.

Hecker said it was understandable that North Korea should have continued its weapons work, given that it had reached no specific agreement in the latest talks with the United States to stop that work.

U.S. Secretary State Mike Pompeo told Congress in July that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs in spite of its pledge to denuclearize, even as he argued – as he has continued to do – that the Trump administration was making progress in talks with Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged during an unprecedented first summit with Trump last June to work towards denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

There has been little concrete progress since, but in September, Kim expressed willingness to take steps, including the permanent dismantlement of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, in return for “corresponding measures” by the United States.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun held three days of talks in Pyongyang last week to prepare for a second Trump-Kim summit due to be held in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28. He said before the talks they would include discussion of corresponding steps North Korea has demanded.

Trump described those talks as “very productive” but the State Department has offered no sign of progress and Biegun and his counterpart have agreed to meet again before the summit.

Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Reuters

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Trump: Kim Jong Un will transform North Korea

February 9, 2019

President Trump endorsed North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s leadership, weeks ahead of their second summit in Vietnam.

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Trump, who previously dubbed Kim “Rocket Man” for the country’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, offered a new description of the country and its leader Friday.

“North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket – an Economic one!” Trump wrote, also saying the hermit kingdom has the ability to become “a great Economic Powerhouse” under Kim.

It’s a drastic turn from his State of the Union address last year, in which Trump condemned the country’s human rights abuses.

“No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship of North Korea,” Trump said at the time.

In his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Trump claimed the U.S. would be at war with North Korea if he had not been elected president, noting that his relationship with Kim is “a good one.”

Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 27-28. The two met for the first time in Singapore in June.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/trump-kim-jong-un-will-transform-north-korea

North Korea protecting nuclear missiles, U.N. monitors say, ahead of summit talks

February 5, 2019

North Korea is working to ensure its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities cannot be destroyed by military strikes, U.N. monitors said ahead of a meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials to prepare a second denuclearization summit.

The U.S. special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, will meet his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday in Pyongyang to prepare for a summit later this month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.Biegun has said he hoped the meeting with new North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol would map out “a set of concrete deliverables” for the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Korean People's Army (KPA) soldiers salute as they watch a mass rally

Biegun, who held talks with South Korean officials in Seoul on Sunday and Monday, said he would be aiming for “a roadmap of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcomes of our joint efforts”.

South Korean officials said they and the United States could be looking at a compromise that could expedite North Korea’s denuclearization – the dismantling of the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear complex, which could be reciprocated by U.S. measures including formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War and setting up a liaison office.

But U.N. sanctions monitors said in a confidential report, submitted to a 15-member U.N. Security Council sanctions committee and seen by Reuters on Monday, that they had “found evidence of a consistent trend on the part of the DPRK to disperse its assembly, storage and testing locations”, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report, which was submitted to Security Council members on Friday.

The first summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un last June in Singapore yielded a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, where U.S. troops have been stationed since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Vietnamese resort town of Danang is seen as the most likely location for the next summit.

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Trump last Thursday hailed “tremendous progress” in his dealings with North Korea, but the view in the United States is that it has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons program.

‘SANCTIONS INEFFECTIVE’

North Korea has complained the United States has done little to reciprocate its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some nuclear facilities.

It has also repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees.

The U.N. report said sanctions were proving ineffective.

“The country continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal,” the sanctions monitors found.

“These violations render the latest U.N. sanctions ineffective.”

The monitors said they had evidence of one unprecedented prohibited petroleum product transfer of more than 57,600 barrels, worth more than $5.7 million.

North Korea has said it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States first removes any threat to it. North Korea has long demanded U.S. troops be withdrawn as a condition for peace.

The Korean War ended with an armistice that left the two Koreas technically still at war.

The United States has stressed that U.S. troops are not a bargaining chip and South Korea has said U.S. troops in the South were unrelated to any future peace treaty and that American forces should stay even if such an agreement is signed.

The U.S. State Department said on Monday that Washington and Seoul had reached an agreement “in principle” on sharing the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the Asian country.

CNN quoted a State Department official as saying that under the revised agreement, South Korea would boost its contribution to nearly $1 billion.

A 2014 deal that expired last year required South Korea to pay about 960 billion won ($848 million) a year for keeping some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea. The allies had appeared unable to strike an accord to renew the deal despite 10 rounds of talks since March.

(This story has been refiled to amend wording in paragraph six)

Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Robert Birsel

Reuters

US seeks full account of North Korea weapons

February 1, 2019

A US negotiator called Thursday on North Korea to provide a detailed account of its weapons to seal a peace deal, saying President Donald Trump was ready to offer a future that includes diplomatic relations and economic aid.

Trump is set to hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in around a month and said Thursday that he would announce the exact date and venue early next week.

“I think most of you know where the location is. I don’t think it’s a great secret,” he told reporters at the White House.

Vietnam has offered to host the talks.

“We’ve made tremendous progress with North Korea,” said Trump, whose June summit with Kim in Singapore was the first ever between leaders of the two countries that never formally ended the Korean War.

The meeting produced a document in which Kim pledged to work toward the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

As skeptics voice worry that Trump is overly eager to make a legacy-building deal and enjoy the spotlight of meeting the reclusive leader again, the US special representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, said the administration is “clear-eyed” and prepared for contingencies if talks fail.

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On Tuesday Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” an analysis counter to Trump’s position that there is “a decent chance” of the North giving up its nuclear weapons.

Biegun painted an upbeat picture at ending decades of hostility despite repeated failures in the past, saying that Trump “is unconstrained by the assumptions of his predecessors.”

Dan Coats, right, at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 29, 2019. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

“I have this perfect outcome moment where the last nuclear weapon leaves North Korea, the sanctions are lifted, the flag goes up in the embassy and the treaty is signed in the same hour,” Biegun said at Stanford University.

“Now that’s an ideal, I know, and these things are going to move haltingly along different courses. But they can also be mutually reinforcing,” he said.

Preparing the summit, the State Department said Biegun would head Sunday to South Korea and also meet his North Korean counterpart.

Promises on all nuclear sites

Biegun said the United States would ask North Korea for negotiations on verifying that the totalitarian state is giving up its nuclear weapons.

“Before the process of denuclearization can be final, we must have a complete understanding of the full extent of the North Korean WMD and missile programs through a comprehensive declaration,” Biegun said.

“We must reach agreement on expert access and monitoring mechanisms of key sites to international standards, and ultimately ensure the removal or destruction of stockpiles of fissile material, weapons, missiles, launchers and other weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Rejecting criticism that the Singapore declaration was vague, Biegun said that Kim has committed — both at the summit and in follow-up talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — to “the dismantlement and destruction” of all plutonium and uranium sites, not only its signature Yongbyon facility.

North Korea watchers believe the regime is foremost interested in easing international sanctions, which were tightened in 2017 after the regime’s missile and nuclear tests raised fears of a new war.

Biegun said Trump was prepared to assist Kim in building “a brighter economic future” and gave nuance to the repeated US insistence that it will not ease sanctions until denuclearization.

“We say we will not lift sanctions until denuclearization is complete. That is correct. We didn’t say we won’t do anything until you do everything,” he said.

Kim Jong Un during an address to mark the New Year 2019 in Pyongyang.   Photographer: KCNA/EPA-EFE

US troops to stay in South Korea

Biegun assured North Korea that Trump — who in 2017 threatened in front of the United Nations to “totally destroy” the country — wanted to end the state of war.

“We are not going to invade North Korea. We are not seeking to topple the regime,” he said.

He also said that the United States had no intention to pull its 28,500 troops out of South Korea.

“We are not involved in any diplomatic discussion — full stop — that would suggest this tradeoff. It has never been discussed,” Biegun said.

With Trump known both for his impulsiveness and his criticism of US defense alliances, observers have wondered whether the nearly seven-decade US troop presence could up for debate.

The United States and South Korea remain at loggerheads on a new agreement on how much Seoul contributes to maintain the troops.

AFP

Schumer calls for CIA to stage ‘intervention’ with Trump

January 31, 2019

Chuck Schumer on Wednesday night called for US intelligence chiefs to “stage an intervention” with President Trump just hours after the president called them “naive” in a tweet.

The Democratic Senate minority leader delivered a missive to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats that said Trump’s frequent disregard for their research puts the country at risk.

Schumer asked that Coats — along with CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray — set up a meeting with Trump to give him a reality check.

Dan Coats, right, at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 29, 2019. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

“You cannot allow the President’s ill-advised and unwarranted comments today to stand,” Schumer wrote.

“He is putting you and your colleagues in an untenable position and hurting the national interest in the process. You must find a way to make that clear to him.”

During a Wednesday morning tweet session, the president disparaged the intelligence community and specifically took issue with its assessments on Iran and North Korea.

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump tweeted. “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a gathering of the Basij, an all-volunteer force under the Revolutionary Guard, in Tehran, October 4, 2018. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

The intelligence chiefs testified before Congress on Tuesday where it declared that Iran is abiding by the 2015 nuclear deal and North Korea is unlikely to dismantle its weapons program.

https://nypost.com/2019/01/30/schumer-calls-for-cia-to-stage-intervention-with-trump/

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Kim Jong Un during an address to mark the New Year 2019 in Pyongyang.   Photographer: KCNA/EPA-EFE

Afghanistan’s government losing its grip on the country as the Taliban gain upper hand in peace talks — Plus More Pentagon News

January 30, 2019

The newest quarterly report from the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, just out this morning, continues to show a slow, but steady decline in the Afghan government’s control or influence over its population.

Citing the latest data from the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support, the SIGAR reports 63.5 percent of Afghans live in areas under government control, down 1.7 percent from the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the Taliban insurgency slightly increased its influence, and now controls areas where 10.8 percent of the population lives. That leaves 25.6 percent of Afghans, living in contested areas.

Measured by district, the trends look worse. In the three months since the last report, the Afghan government lost control or influence over seven districts — leaving 53.8 percent under government control, 12.3 percent under Taliban control and 33.9 percent contested.

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US President Donald Trump and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. Photo: AFP

OTHER METRICS: The strength of the Afghan security forces continues to the decline, numbering 308,693, down 3,635 since last quarter. The force levels of the ANDSF are now at 87.7 percent, the lowest level since the RS mission began in January 2015.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is bombing more to try to help Afghan troops beat back the Taliban. The U.S. dropped 6,823 munitions in the first 11 months of 2018, a 56 percent increase over 2017, and is more than five times the total in 2016.

Taliban. (Reuters)
PENTAGON DOUBTS ITS OWN DATA: The SIGAR reports that for the first time the Department of Defense and Resolute Support officials questioned the usefulness of measuring population control and argued the data is “not indicative of the effectiveness of the South Asia strategy or progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan.”

The Pentagon also suggested that there is “some uncertainty in models that produce [the data]” and subjectivity in the assessments that underlie it.”

APPREHENSION RISING: In the Afghan capital of Kabul, there is a feeling of apprehension that the Trump administration, in its zeal to seal a deal that will allow the withdrawal of U.S. troops, is cutting the Afghan government out the process, and is too willing to accept dubious promises from the Taliban.

Reports from the region indicate government officials and ordinary Afghans fear the country may return to Taliban rule or the chaos that followed the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in the late 1980s.

At the Pentagon yesterday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was asked about U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s unilateral negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, which have led to a “framework” for a peace agreement. What happened to the “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process?” a reporter asked.


In this file photo taken on April 27, 2016, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

“I’ll give you an unsatisfactory answer, in that let’s let Ambassador Khalilzad roll out his framework and strategy. And, you know, this is really State-led,” Shanahan said at his first news conference since taking over from Jim Mattis Jan 1. “There are some very encouraging possibilities, but we need to give them time and space before we, in our rush to close certain doors.”

THIS LOOKS LIKE SURRENDER: Under Khalilzad’s plan, the Taliban would guarantee to prevent Afghan territory from being used by terrorists, which could lead to a full pullout of U.S. troops in return for larger concessions from the Taliban.

“This current process bears an unfortunate resemblance to the Paris peace talks during the Vietnam War,” writes Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, in a Washington Post op-ed. “Then, as now, it was clear that by going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our surrender. The Taliban will offer any number of commitments, knowing that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of them.”

Crocker, who is now is diplomat-in-residence at Princeton University, says the U.S. appears ready to betray the Afghanistan government in its desperation to end the 17-year war. “The framework was reached without the involvement of the Afghan government. The Taliban has said all along that it refuses to negotiate with the government, considering the government the illegitimate puppet of the U.S. occupation. By acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support.”

MCCONNELL ISSUES WARNING: Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. wants Congress to have a say when it comes to President Trump’s plans to pull U.S. forces out of both Afghanistan and Syria. Including he says, “a thorough accounting of the risks of withdrawing too hastily.”

“Simply put, while it is tempting to retreat to the comfort and security of our own shores, there is still a great deal of work to be done,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate yesterday. “And we know that left untended these conflicts will reverberate in our own cities.”

McConnell’s comments came as he announced that he would unveil an amendment to the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.”

“It would recognize the danger of a precipitous withdrawal from either conflict,” McConnell said. “We’ve seen the cost of a precipitous withdrawal before Iraq. In Afghanistan, we’ve seen the downside of telling the enemy they can just wait us out.”

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre(@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by David Mark (@DavidMarkDC). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.

ISIS DOWN, NOT OUT: While Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan declared ISIS is just weeks away from losing the last bit of territory it controls in Syria, the nation’s top intelligence official told the Senate, “ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified yesterday at a Select Senate Committee hearing on worldwide threats, “While ISIS is nearing territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the group has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned Congress on Tuesday that he expects foreign nations to try new techniques of interference in the 2020 elections.   Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

NORTH KOREA NOT DENUCLEARIZING: It wasn’t the only reality check delivered by Coats yesterday. He also cast doubt on whether President Trump will be able to secure a deal to get North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to give up his missiles and nuclear weapons programs.

“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities. It is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” Coats said in his opening statement. “Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization.”

IRAN NOT NUCLEARIZING: “While we do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device, Iranian officials have publicly threatened to push the boundaries of [the Iran nuclear deal] restrictions if Iran does not gain the tangible financial benefits is expected from the deal,” Coats said in his annual assessment, noting that Iran maintains the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East.

“The Iranian regime will continue pursuing regional ambitions and improved military capabilities even while its own economy is weakening by the day,” he said.

HAPPENING THIS MORNING, TRUMP WEIGHS IN: “When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant. Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting,” President Trump tweeted at 6:30 a.m. “Fighting continues but the people of Afghanistan want peace in this never ending war. We will soon see if talks will be successful? North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization.”

COATS ON CHINA: “China’s actions reflect a long-term strategy to achieve global superiority,” Coats said. “In its efforts to diminish U.S. influence and extend its own economic, political and military reach, Beijing will seek to tout a distinctly Chinese fusion of strongman autocracy and a form of Western-style capitalism as a development model; an implicit alternative to democratic values and institutions. These efforts will include the use of its intelligence and influence apparatus to shape international views and gain advantages over its competitors, including especially the United States.”

COATS ON RUSSIA: “Even as Russia faces a weakening economy, the Kremlin is stepping up its campaign to divide Western political and security institutions and undermine the post-World War II international order. We expect Russia will continue to wage its information war against democracies and to use social media to attempt to divide our societies. Russia’s attack against Ukrainian naval vessels in November is just the latest example of the Kremlin’s willingness to violate international norms, to coerce its neighbors and accomplish its goals.”

SLOW MOTION WITHDRAWAL: The Pentagon insists it’s in the process of complying with President Trump’s December order to begin withdrawing all U.S. ground troops from Syria. “We are on a deliberate, coordinated, disciplined withdrawal,” Shanahan said yesterday.

But people in Syria don’t see any sign of it. “There has been no change in the situation on the ground,” Ilham Ahmed told the Washington Post. Ahmed, who heads the executive committee of the Syrian Democratic Council said the situation is “just like before” Trump’s announcement.

Shanahan indicated yesterday that the hold-up may be figuring out who is going to fill the vacuum left by the departure of U.S. troops, so that Russia, Iran or Syria regime forces don’t move in, or worse ISIS reconstitutes.

“The phase that this moves to is how do you sustain local security?” Shanahan said. “You know that’s, that’s where the support of the coalition, that’s where these partnerships are so critical,” he said.

5,000 TROOPS TO COLOMBIA: Shanahan punted when asked about the mysterious notation seen on John Bolton’s legal pad Monday with the words, “5,000 troops to Colombia,” scrawled on it, just as Bolton asserted that “all options are on the table.”

“I didn’t bring a notepad today,” Shanahan joked, but when pressed he repeated refused either confirm or deny whether President Trump is seriously considering dispatching American troops to Colombia to turn up the heat on Nicolas Maduro, the embattled president of neighboring Venezuela.

This morning Trump tweeted, “Maduro willing to negotiate with opposition in Venezuela following U.S. sanctions and the cutting off of oil revenues. [Juan] Guaido is being targeted by Venezuelan Supreme Court. Massive protest expected today. Americans should not travel to Venezuela until further notice.”

Read the rest:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/afghanistans-government-losing-its-grip-on-the-country-as-the-taliban-gain-upper-hand-in-peace-talks

North Korea Unlikely to Give Up Nuclear Weapons, Coats Warns

January 29, 2019
Spy chief also says adversaries look to disrupt 2020 election — Allies said to seek their own path in an ‘America First’ era

North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear capabilities, the top U.S. intelligence official said, even as President Donald Trump expresses confidence he can persuade Kim Jong Un to disarm.

Kim Jong Un during an address to mark the New Year 2019 in Pyongyang.   Photographer: KCNA/EPA-EFE

While Trump prepares for a second summit with Kim, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a report to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday that “we continue to observe activity inconsistent with full denuclearization.”

Dan Coats.  Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

The intelligence community “continues to assess that it is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities,” Coats said, referring to weapons of mass destruction. “North Korean leaders view nuclear arms as critical to regime survival.”

Beyond North Korea, Coats said in a written summary of the intelligence community’s annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that threats to national security will “expand and diversify in the coming year” as China and Russia “compete more intensely” with the U.S. — and as their interests converge.

He also cited strains with allies under Trump’s “America First” policies.

Without naming the president, Coats said some U.S. allies and partners are “seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions of changing U.S. policies on security and trade” and are pursuing their own new partnerships.

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This Nov. 29, 2017, image provided by the North Korean government on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, third from left, and what the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, in North Korea (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Cybersecurity Threats

Coats also highlighted cybersecurity threats.

“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways — to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure,” he said.

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Coats said Moscow is preparing cyber attack capabilities that would “allow it to disrupt or damage U.S. civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis” and Iran and North Korea pose increasing threats to the U.S. government and companies.

Predicting a continuation — and potentially an escalation — of interference in U.S. elections, he said “our adversaries and strategic competitors probably are already looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-29/chinese-and-russian-threats-converging-u-s-spy-agencies-warn

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Kim Jong Un Upbeat on Denuclearization After Receiving Letter From Trump

January 24, 2019

Trump sent a response after receiving a letter from the North Korean leader

Kim Jong Un during an address to mark the New Year 2019 in Pyongyang.

Photographer: KCNA/EPA-EFE

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SEOUL—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed “great satisfaction” after receiving a letter from President Trump, following the return of a nuclear envoy who traveled last week to Washington where the two sides agreed to a second summit in late February.

Mr. Kim said Pyongyang “will believe in the positive way of thinking of President Trump” and “together with the U.S. advance step by step” toward their shared goal of denuclearization, according to a statement from North Korea’s state media early Thursday.

The North Korean leader’s upbeat tone echoes a message Mr. Kim signaled in his New Year’s address, when he declared his country is refraining from making nuclear weapons. Despite pledges made in June in Singapore, when Messrs. Trump and Kim met for the first time, there has been no discernible progress in removing North Korea’s nuclear weapons—the chief U.S. goal.

Mr. Trump’s letter was delivered on Wednesday by Gen. Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s lead negotiator and its former spy chief, according to North Korean state media. Gen. Kim visited the White House on Friday and met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr. Trump, delivering a letter from the North Korean leader. The White House confirmed late Wednesday that Mr. Trump had sent a response.

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Kim Yong Chol, of North Korea, meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  (U.S. State Department)

Neither side has announced the location for a second summit, though people familiar with the talks say sites from Vietnam to Sweden have been under consideration.

North Korea is seeking relief from economic sanctions that have limited its access to the global financial system and hurt the country’s economy. The U.S. wants to see North Korea give up its nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang has advocated for a staged process to achieve denuclearization, in which the Kim regime expects the U.S. to first provide sanctions relief in return for North Korean steps toward disarmament. Next month’s face-to-face talks between Messrs. Trump and Kim are expected to explore whether either side is willing to budge.

High-level talks between U.S. and North Korean officials continued over the weekend in Sweden. Mr. Pompeo, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said the weekend discussions resulted in “a little bit more progress” but added “an awful lot of work” remained.

Not much to show for the first one. —  Photographer: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

“There are many steps yet along the way towards achieving the denuclearization that was laid out in Singapore,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Write to Timothy W. Martin at timothy.martin@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/kim-jong-un-upbeat-on-denuclearization-after-receiving-letter-from-trump-11548301182

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This Nov. 29, 2017, image provided by the North Korean government on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, third from left, and what the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, in North Korea (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Don’t Waste Another North Korea Summit

January 22, 2019

If Trump wants a better result this time, he’ll need a different approach.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have agreed to meet for a second summit at the end of next month. Agreeing to this was probably a mistake — but to have any hope of producing results, Trump will have to prepare much more carefully than he did last time.

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There’s been virtually no progress in meeting even the vague goals set out in the communique from the first summit. The North has taken only cosmetic steps toward dismantling its nuclear and long-range missile programs, while continuing to produce missiles and fissile material. And it has so far refused to provide an inventory of its arsenals — a minimum starting point for more detailed negotiations.

Not much to show for the first one.

Photographer: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

In addition, the president goes into this new summit weaker than before. He is battling a newly empowered opposition in Congress and assorted scandals. The coalition confronting North Korea looks increasingly shaky: Ties between South Korea and Japan are fraying, and China might withhold support to gain leverage in trade talks with the U.S. Meanwhile, leaders in Seoul and Beijing are eager to resume business with the North, undermining the “maximum pressure” campaign Trump insists will continue until the North denuclearizes.

Given all this, there’s a heightened risk that Trump will agree to any deal he can tout as a win. Some experts fear he may trade the U.S. troop presence in South Korea — for which he wants Seoul to pay more — for a ban on North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles. That might reduce the immediate threat to the U.S., but would leave the North a de facto nuclear power and leave Japan and South Korea less safe.

For the U.S., the challenge remains to establish a plan to identify, cap, freeze and eventually dismantle North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile capabilities. This may require some diplomatic creativity, for instance by splitting talks into two tracks, one focused on negotiating a peace treaty and the other on denuclearization. It will certainly demand judicious concessions from the U.S. as well as the North, and close coordination between the U.S., China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

Trump needs to go into this new meeting with a framework of this kind fully worked out. That will take diligent work by diplomatic staff — effort that Trump tends to disdain. If the president won’t empower his aides to do what’s needed ahead of time, he’d have been wiser to deny Kim another public-relations win.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net .

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-01-20/trump-shouldn-t-waste-second-north-korea-summit-with-kim-jong-un

Related:

North Korean base serves as missile headquarters

January 22, 2019

“It looks like they’re playing a game.”

One of 20 undeclared ballistic missile operating bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published on Monday.

“The Sino-ri missile operating base and the Nodong missiles deployed at this location fit into North Korea’s presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability,” said the report co-authored by analyst Victor Cha.

Image result for news for Sino-ri

The discovery of an undeclared missile headquarters comes three days after U.S. President Donald Trump said he “looks forward” to another summit to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February.

Kim vowed to work toward denuclearization at his first summit with Trump in June, but there has since been little concrete progress.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CSIS, which last reported on the 20 missile bases in November, said the Sino-ri base has never been declared by North Korea and as a result “does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations.”

The report said that missile operating bases would presumably be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any nuclear deal.

“The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don’t disclose,” said Cha.

“It looks like they’re playing a game. They’re still going to have all this operational capability,” even if they destroy their disclosed nuclear sites.

Located 132 miles (212 km) north of the demilitarized zone, the Sino-ri complex is a seven-square-mile (18-square-km) base that plays a key role in developing ballistic missiles capable of reaching South Korea, Japan, and even the U.S. territory of Guam in the Western Pacific, the report said.

It houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1 medium-range ballistic missiles, the report added.

Satellite images of the base from Dec. 27, 2018 show an entrance to an underground bunker, reinforced shelters and a headquarters, the report said.

The No-Dong-A (also named No-Dong 1 or Rodong 1)

In South Korea, the Sino-ri facility has long been known as one of the bases housing the Nodong, also called the Rodong, a medium-range missile based on Soviet-era Scud technology that the North began deploying in the mid-1990s.

 

Kim Jong Un during an address to mark the New Year 2019 in Pyongyang.

Photographer: KCNA/EPA-EFE

 

“It is a facility we’ve been monitoring with interest, in cooperation with the United States,” Kim Joon-rak, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news briefing on Tuesday.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL; Editing by Chris Sanders, Sandra Maler and Darren Schuettler

Reuters

Related

See also:

Secret North Korean missile base Sino-ri found – and there could be 19 more, say researchers

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2183077/secret-north-korean-missile-operating-base-sino-ri-found-one

kimjongun-four-0.jpg
This Nov. 29, 2017, image provided by the North Korean government on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, third from left, and what the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, in North Korea (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)