Tag Archives: North Korea

Why, for Kim and Trump, domestic politics dominated the Hanoi meeting

Most people would agree that domestic politics affect diplomatic negotiations, and last month’s Hanoi summit was interesting because it provided some visible clues as to the relationship between what goes on at home and foreign policy.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that the congressional hearing of Michael Cohen — which took place during the summit — might have contributed his decision to walk away.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, too, seems to have been driven by domestic politics — albeit from the different direction. He sent two kinds of messages as the summit ended, a bitter one for the world, and a rosy one for his people.


Most of the U.S. media described the result of the summit as an “abrupt collapse” and there were some grounds for this headline. However, the reactions from both leaders were very different from the “collapse” narrative.

President Trump said that the summit was productive and ended in friendly manner, even though no deal was reached with the North, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he hopes that both sides can resume negotiations within a few weeks.

Kim Jong Un had a similar message: North Korean media stressed the summit was successful, though high-level DPRK diplomats publicly contested the U.S.’s claims that the North had demanded the total lifting of economic sanctions.

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Posted by on March 11, 2019 in Asia



Why Trump doesn’t always get it wrong on the Middle East

Must one talk of Donald Trump? One must and not just because of the power of his position as US president, but because the nature of his foreign policy is misunderstood.

I was answering questions about the future of the Middle East at a meeting of Independent subscribers on Tuesday evening when there was a predictable question about the impact of Trump on the region.

I had the impression, perhaps unfairly, that the person who made this very reasonable and important query was expecting a reply that would be a blend of denunciation and derision.

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Posted by on January 24, 2019 in Asia, Middle East, North America


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The Korean Peace Process

In late June, just a few weeks after Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un shook hands and watched a propaganda film about themselves in Singapore, several news outlets excitedly reported that the American President had been duped. Their source was 38 North, a nonpartisan website that publishes North Korea analysis and that had found, through examining satellite imagery, that North Korea was continuing to expand and improve the infrastructure at its nuclear research facility in Yongbyon. “Hold the champagne on North Korea, President Trump,” chided a Washington Post editorial headline. NBC News described Trump’s decision to suspend military training exercises on the Korean peninsula in the wake of the Singapore summit as “a major concession,” one that didn’t look so good in light of this new satellite imagery. On the basis of these editorials and the 38 North satellite imagery analysis, a consensus soon emerged: the Kim regime had been negotiating in bad faith, and Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have to respond accordingly. “The observed activity appears inconsistent with a North Korean intent to abandon its nuclear weapons programs,” a North Korea wonk from the Heritage Foundation told NBC. “There seems little reason to continue expansion plans if the regime intended to dismantle them as would be required under a denuclearization agreement.”

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Posted by on December 18, 2018 in Asia


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Two sons of Rev. Moon have split from his church — and their followers are armed

Sanctuary Church — whose proper name is World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, but which also goes by the more muscular-sounding Rod of Iron Ministries — stands inconspicuously on a country road that winds through the village of Newfoundland, Pa., 25 miles southeast of Scranton. The one-story, low-slung building used to be St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Before that, it was a community theater, which is why there are no pews, only a semicircle of tiered seats facing the old stage, now an altar.

On a Sunday morning in late February, 38-year-old Pastor Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, entered stage right wearing a white hoodie and cargo pants. He strapped on a leather headband and picked up a microphone. “Okay, take it away,” he said to the electric pianist and two female vocalists who function as the choir. They launched into the first of four songs: “O, light of grace, shining above / lighting my dim shadowed way …”

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Posted by on September 14, 2018 in North America


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Axes of Evil

The poplar was a problem. One of the few survivors from a deciduous forest bombed into oblivion during the Korean War, the tree towered 40 feet over a stripped, scrubby landscape; in the summer, its leaves formed a thick green crown. A stranger to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the skinny belt of no-man’s-land that has divided the Korean peninsula since 1953, might have seen this as evidence of nature’s resilience. To the U.S. soldiers patrolling the area, however, it represented a conspicuous security risk.

That’s why, at 1030 on August 18, 1976, a 2.5-ton truck—a deuce and a half, in U.S. Army lingo—rolled up to the poplar and parked in its shadow. Out climbed a crew of five civilian maintenance workers, all of them Korean, and a ten-man security platoon led by Lieutenant Mark Barrett, a South Carolinian who’d been in Korea only a few weeks. Barrett’s boss was there, too. Captain Arthur Bonifas had arrived in a jeep and now stood to the side as the workers ascended the tree with axes and clippers and began to cut the branches.

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Posted by on August 14, 2018 in Asia, Uncategorized


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Charm offensive: Kim out to wield soft power at Winter Games

It started with a surprisingly – indeed, shockingly – conciliatory broadcast from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Now, some in South Korea are calling the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics “the Pyongyang Games.”

Following 2017’s soaring nuclear tensions and rhetorical conflict between Washington and Pyongyang, the news that North Korea would participate in the Winter Olympics electrified the world. Since then, developments have proceeded at warp speed. Observers are now torn between feverish hopes for some kind of a breakthrough, and weary cynicism that we have seen it all before.

While credible rumors circulating in the South suggest that North Korea’s inclusion in the Games was, in fact, initiated by South Korea – during secret talks with North Korean officials in China – it is North that has been dominating headlines, both on the peninsula and globally. And it is North Korean officials who labelled, splendidly, the country’s appearance at Pyeonchang a “New Year’s gift” to the Korean people.

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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Asia


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North And South Korea Reach Breakthroughs In First High-Level Talks In 2 Years

Cocooned by cameras, North Korea’s negotiating team crossed the border Tuesday by foot, walking about 100 yards to a conference building for the first high-level talks with South Korea in two years. Seated across from one another at a long rectangular table, diplomats from both sides expressed the need to improve frosty ties.

“It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say the inter-Korean relationship is more frozen than the natural climate. But despite the cold weather, the people’s desire for the improvement of the inter-Korean relationship remains unfrozen,” North Korea’s chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon, said.

Early into the talks, North Korea agreed to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea. About 11 hours of negotiations later, the two sides announced even more: future military talks, reinstatement of a hotline and other dialogue to ease tensions between the countries.

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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in Asia


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North Korean Businesses in China Start Countdown as Deadline for Closure Looms

When the Alaska pollock, the “national fish of the Korean peninsula,” started disappearing from menus at Beijing’s North Korean restaurants in late August, it was a sign China’s trade sanctions on Pyongyang had taken effect.

Now, some of the restaurants themselves are on the brink of closure after China ordered all North Korean businesses in the country to wind down by mid-January. This has been Beijing’s sixth and toughest sanction since April 2016 in response to Pyongyang’s repeated ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

“All of our staff will be sent back to North Korea when the restaurant closes in three months,” said a waitress at Unban, a popular restaurant near the sprawling North Korean embassy in downtown Beijing.

The waitress, whose nametag read Jin Runzheng, was mixing a bowl of naengmyeon — North Korean cold noodles served in a tangy iced broth with cucumber, slices of Korean pear, strips of lightly pickled radish and shredded freshwater eel.

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Posted by on November 15, 2017 in Asia


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How the DPRK Riddle is Freaking out the US Establishment

The 19th Party Congress has made it very clear that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” – as codified by President Xi Jinping – is China’s roadmap ahead. Not only the strategy graphically eschews those much-lauded “Western values”; it will, in Xi’s own words, offer “a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”

Xinhua even dared to venture, “the 21st century is likely to see capitalism lose its appeal while the socialist movement, led by China, rapidly catches up”.

To say this won’t go down very well in the West, especially in the US, may be the understatement of the century – even considering that the Chinese system is more like “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics.”

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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Asia, North America


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Is the United States Planning to Attack North Korea?

The aircraft carriers USS Nimitz, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and USS Ronald Reagan—three of the most powerful warships in the world—have now converged on the western Pacific in a mighty show of force on the eve of President Trump’s 10-day trip to Asia. The three carriers, along with their accompanying cruisers, destroyers, and submarines—all armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles or other advanced munitions—are capable of raining immense destructive force on any nation targeted by the commander in chief. Not since 2007 has there been such a concentration of US firepower in the Asia-Pacific region. There can be only two plausible explanations for this extraordinary naval buildup: to provide Trump with the sort of military extravaganza he seems to enjoy; and/or to prepare for a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea.

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Posted by on November 5, 2017 in Asia, North America


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