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Haw Haw Haw … “Played like a Fiddle!”


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Author Topic: Haw Haw Haw … “Played like a Fiddle!”  (Read 36 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: June 17, 2018, 12:04:49 pm »




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« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2018, 08:51:27 pm »


ROFLMAO....Kim Jong-un and President Xi Jinping are plotting the next episode in the ongoing saga of “playing Donald J. Trump like a fiddle!”



from The New York Times....

Kim Jong-un Visiting China for Third Time Since March

The North Korean leader's trip, announced on Tuesday by Chinese state media,
comes a week after his landmark summit meeting with President Trump in Singapore.


By JANE PERLEZ | 11:16PM EDT — Monday, June 18, 2018

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, visited China in March and May this year. Chinese state media reported that he would make a two-day visit to China starting on Tuesday. — Photograph: Korean Central News Agency/via Reuters.
North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, visited China in March and May this year. Chinese state media reported that he would make
a two-day visit to China starting on Tuesday. — Photograph: Korean Central News Agency/via Reuters.


BEIJING — North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, arrived in China on Tuesday to begin a two-day visit, his third such trip since March.

Mr. Kim's trip comes one week after his landmark summit meeting in Singapore with President Trump.

Xinhua, China's official news agency, announced the visit on Tuesday amid reports that a special flight of Air Koryo, the North Korean state-run airline, was expected to land in Beijing. Mr. Kim's previous trips to China were not announced until after they were over.

Mr. Kim's visit comes as a trade war between the United States and China is intensifying, giving him an opening to play one power against the other — a tactic he appears to be using as the United States presses him to destroy his nuclear arsenal.

“The visit is taking place against the backdrop of the upcoming full-blown trade war,” said Cheng Xiaohe, a Korea expert at Renmin University in Beijing.

On his first visit to China, in March, Mr. Kim arrived to Beijing aboard an armored train, and he spent two days in the capital for talks with President Xi Jinping. In May, Mr. Kim visited the port city of Dalian, also spending time with Mr. Xi.

In recent weeks, Mr. Kim has seemingly reversed years of North Korean foreign policy. Last week he met with President Trump in Singapore, the first time a leader of North Korea and a sitting American president have held talks.

Now, Mr. Kim finds himself in what analysts see as an enviable position, with leverage over the region's two great rivals.

In their joint declaration after meeting in Singapore, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim pledged to move ahead with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But the wording of the agreement has been widely criticized as vague, with no clear timelines.

The Americans insist that sanctions will remain in place until the North completely dismantles its weapons program. But China has suggested that the Singapore meeting alone was a good-will measure than should prompt the easing of sanctions.


__________________________________________________________________________

Jane Perlez is The New York Times bureau chief in Beijing. She writes about China's foreign policy, in particular its relations with the United States and its Asian neighbors. Her first foreign assignment for The N.Y. Times was in East Africa covering civil conflict and famine. She has served as bureau chief in Kenya, Poland, Austria, Indonesia and Pakistan. She was a member of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for reporting in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on June 19, 2018, on Page A9 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Kim in China For 3rd Visit Since March”.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • The Trump-Kim Summit Was Unprecedented, but the Statement Was Vague

 • Trump and Kim See New Chapter for Nations After Summit

 • Kim's Second Surprise Visit to China Heightens Diplomatic Drama

 • Kim Jong-un Met With Xi Jinping in Secret Beijing Visit


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/world/asia/kim-jong-un-china-north-korea.html
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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2018, 04:35:12 pm »


Fuck, I'm still pissing myself laughing over how Kim Jong-un “played Donald J. Trump like a fiddle” 'cause Trump is so dumb he doesn't even know when he is being played.







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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2018, 06:48:44 pm »


from The Seattle Times…

Trump asks Pompeo to delay visit to North Korea

By MATTHEW LEE and ZEKE MILLER — Associated Press | 10:53AM PDT — Friday, August 24, 2018

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington D.C. on Friday, August 24, 2018, to board Marine One helicopter for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, en route to Columbus, Ohio. — Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington D.C. on Friday, August 24, 2018,
to board Marine One helicopter for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, en route to Columbus, Ohio.
 — Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press.


WASHINGTON D.C. — President Donald Trump said on Friday he has directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to delay a planned trip to North Korea, citing insufficient progress on denuclearization.

Trump put some blame on Beijing, saying he does not believe China is helping “because of our much tougher Trading stance.”

The surprise announcement appeared to mark a concession by the president to domestic and international concerns that his prior claims of world-altering progress on the peninsula had been strikingly premature.

“I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Trump tweeted on Friday, barely two months after his June meeting with the North's Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

Trump's comment followed a report issued on Monday by the International Atomic Energy Agency outlining “grave concern” about the North's nuclear program. It came a day after Pompeo appointed Stephen Biegun, a senior executive with the Ford Motor Company, to be his special envoy for North Korea and said he and Biegun would visit next week.

The State Department never confirmed details of the trip, but it had been expected that Pompeo would be in Pyongyang for at least several hours on Monday, according to several diplomatic sources familiar with the plan.

White House officials declined to specify what prompted Trump to call off Pompeo's trip or what had changed since the president's rose-colored-glasses assessments of the nuclear situation just days ago.

A senior White House official said Trump made the decision to cancel the visit on Friday morning during a meeting with Pompeo, Biegun, chief of staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton, who joined by phone. Intelligence and defense officials were not in the meeting, the official said, seeming to indicate that the breakdown was diplomatic in nature. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

The State Department had no immediate comment on the matter and referred questions to the White House.








Trump laid unspecified blame on China, North Korea's leading trade partner, which is widely believed to hold the greatest sway over Kim's government.

The U.S. and China have been locked in a trade dispute for months, with each side ratcheting up tariffs on imports from the other country in what may be the opening salvos of a trade war.

Trump tweeted that “Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved.” He added: “In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!”

After more a year of escalating tensions defined by nuclear and missile tests, new sanctions and “fire and fury” rhetoric, Trump made history meeting Kim earlier this year. In the run-up to the summit both nations engaged in hard-nosed negotiation, with Trump publically calling off the meeting in an effort to push Kim to agree to nuclear concessions. During the summit, the pair signed a vague joint statement in which the North agreed to denuclearize, but which left nearly all details undefined.

“There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump declared on Twitter after the meeting.

“Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem,” he added. “No longer — sleep well tonight!”

Pompeo would have been hard pressed to return from Pyongyang with anything resembling progress on the denuclearization front.

Although it has halted nuclear and missile testing and taken some unrelated steps — dismantling portions of a missile engine facility and returning the suspected remains of American servicemen killed during the Korean War — its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile development remain intact, according the U.N.'s atomic watchdog and intelligence agencies.


President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland on Friday, August 24, 2018, for a trip to Columbus, Ohio to visit the National Children's Hospital, and to speak at the Ohio Republican State Party dinner. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.
President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland on Friday, August 24, 2018, for a trip to
Columbus, Ohio to visit the National Children's Hospital, and to speak at the Ohio Republican State Party dinner. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.


In addition, recent statements from North Korean officials have ruled out any new concessions until it sees a reciprocal gesture from the U.S. beyond suspending military exercises with South Korea. North Korea has been demanding that the U.S. ease or lift crippling sanctions — something Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have flatly ruled out until the its nuclear program is fully and verifiably dismantled.

Other than sanctions relief, the North, backed by South Korea, has been seeking a declaration of the end of the Korean War. The conflict stopped with the signing of an armistice rather than a peace treaty, meaning the war is not technically over. Both the North and South have vowed to end the open state of hostilities, and Seoul had been hoping to persuade the Trump administration to sign off on a non-binding end-of-war declaration as a goodwill gesture that would give Kim Jong Un domestic cover to proceed with denuclearization moves.

Pompeo and other administration officials have suggested some concessions short of easing or lifting sanctions are possible before verified denuclearization, but have refused to be specific about what they could be. And they have been skeptical about an end-of-war declaration in the absence of any progress on the nuclear matter.

At the same time, lawmakers from both parties, including GOP hawks who generally support Trump, have expressed concerns about such a move, as it could be used by the North to demand the removal of U.S. troops from South Korea and potentially Japan without anything in return.

Trump had kept up the positive tone as recently as Tuesday at a campaign rally in West Virginia. There Trump maintained “we're doing well with North Korea.”

“There's been no missile launches. There's been no rocket launches,” he added.

At the same rally, Trump seemed to take a different tone too on China, saying he had withheld some criticism of China because “I wanted them to help us with North Korea and they have.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

• Matthew Lee is a State Department correspondent at Associated Press.

• Zeke Miller is a White House reporter at Associated Press.

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/trump-asks-pompeo-to-delay-visit-to-north-korea
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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2018, 12:19:43 pm »


from The Washington Post…

A ‘massive’ spike in oil smuggling has eased
the economic pressure on North Korea


As sanctions enforcement eases, Kim Jong Un may secure
enough breathing room to avoid moving on denuclearization.


By JOBY WARRICK and SIMON DENYER | 6:40PM EDT — Thursday, September 20, 2018

Farmers work their fields outside the Sungri Chemical Factory, an oil refinery in the Rason Special Economic Zone near North Korea's borders with Russia and China. — Photograph: Eric Talmadge/Associated Press.
Farmers work their fields outside the Sungri Chemical Factory, an oil refinery in the Rason Special Economic Zone near North Korea's borders
with Russia and China. — Photograph: Eric Talmadge/Associated Press.


LAST SPRING, as the Trump administration was preparing for the historic U.S.-North Korea summit, a flotilla of strange-looking tanker ships steamed out of North Korea's Nampo harbor on a series of clandestine missions off the Chinese coast.

Many of the vessels bore crude disguises, from fictitious names painted on their bows to fake hatches built of canvas and wood to give them the look of a cargo ship. Once at sea, they would rendezvous at night with a foreign tanker, toss hoses over the rail and fill their hulls with illicit oil before sailing home again.

Such fuel-smuggling runs are not uncommon in the South China Sea, yet the scale of activity over the spring and summer startled U.S. and East Asian intelligence officials who tracked the ships' movements by satellite. By late August, spy agencies had counted 148 of these secret maritime transfers — for a total of between 800,000 and 1.4 million barrels of oil, gasoline and diesel — with the volume increasing in recent months as diplomacy with North Korea picked up steam.

A confidential U.N. report last month identified 40 vessels and 130 companies, many with Chinese or Russian ties, as contributing to a “massive” spike in smuggling that analysts say has helped stabilize North Korea's economy just as U.S. diplomats are attempting to compel leader Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear arsenal.

The flurry of activity is coinciding with what intelligence officials described as a steady erosion in sanctions enforcement in the region: With tensions on the Korean Peninsula cooling — and with a U.S.-China economic cold war looming — Russia and China have shown little enthusiasm for cracking down on the profiteers who are helping supply crucial fuel for Pyongyang's vehicles and factories, U.S. officials and independent analysts said in interviews.

“Neither China nor Russia are doing what they should to stop this,” said a Trump administration official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. “The Russians are even trying to block our efforts to do something about” the spike in oil deliveries to North Korea.

To Western diplomats, the tanker convoy partly explains the faltering progress of the Trump administration's disarmament efforts with North Korea. Last fall, as part of a U.S.-led “maximum pressure” campaign against Kim's government, the United Nations imposed new sanctions that slashed the country's imports of oil and gas while also banning it from selling coal, its main source of foreign revenue. The harsh measures are believed to have contributed to Kim's decision to meet with President Trump at the June 12 summit in Singapore, where he promised to seek the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

Yet, since then, Kim has made no significant moves to destroy his nuclear stockpile or long-range missile fleet. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday that Kim wants to hold a second summit with Trump soon to “speed up the denuclearization process.”

But Kim has also demanded that Washington take “corresponding steps” in exchange for the North dismantling some nuclear sites. Among Kim's goals is a declaration by South Korea and the United States that the Korean War is formally over.


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks with Wu Haitao, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, before a Security Council meeting on North Korea in December 2017. — Photograph: Kena Betancur/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks with Wu Haitao, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations,
before a Security Council meeting on North Korea in December 2017. — Photograph: Kena Betancur/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was “prepared to engage immediately” with North Korea to move dialogue ahead.

Whether he intends to disarm or not, Kim appears to have taken advantage of the diplomatic thaw to improves ties with neighbors and blunt the impact of the sanctions, weakening Washington's hand in future negotiations, the diplomats and independent experts said. Any attempt at regaining the lost leverage may prove difficult, analysts said, as long as Kim avoids provoking his neighbors with new missile tests.

“It's hard to see how you can put any steam back into the sanctions discussion, given the dynamics with the Russians and Chinese,” said Andrea Berger, a North Korea expert and senior researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “Can you have a ‘Maximum Pressure, Version Two?’ I don't think you can, at least not any time soon.”


No visible traces

With more than three decades of experience flouting international sanctions, North Korea has mastered using clever ruses to move illicit goods on the black market. Yet in recent months, Pyongyang has exceeded its own lofty standards.

In the past, the movements of North Korean ships could be tracked through harbor records and electronic signals, specifically data from transponders that automatically broadcast each ship's unique identification code and destination as it navigates the seas. But the oil-smuggling ships that departed Nampo over the spring and summer left few visible traces; most never entered a foreign harbor, and most never turned on their transponders — except to mislead.

Lately there have been scores of such voyages, and nearly as many methods of concealment, a panel of U.N. sanctions experts concluded in a confidential report, based in part on intelligence assessments provided by the United States and other U.N. Security Council members.

“These transfers have increased in scope, scale and sophistication,” the report said. The release of the report, completed last month, has been delayed by a dispute between Moscow and Washington over Russian efforts to insert changes in the text, parts of which were shown to The Washington Post. Foreign Policy and The Wall Street Journal also obtained the report.

One example cited by the panel is the North Korean-flagged An San 1, a tanker with a long history of running petroleum between Chinese, Russian and North Korean ports. When it left Nampo in late June, it transmitted signals falsely identifying itself as a Sierra Leonean ship called Hope Sea — an upbeat moniker that was painted on top of the real name on the ship's hull, the report said. On June 29, the vessel pulled alongside a small, unidentified foreign tanker in the South China Sea to take on a load of petroleum before heading back to its home port.

Similarly, in May, the coal-carrying ship Kal Ma broadcast a series of contradictory signals over several days. It changed its name twice, while also falsifying its identifying code and destination, the U.N. report said.


In a surveillance photo provided to U.N. investigators, the crew of an unidentified North Korean tanker is seen taking on oil from a second vessel in a night-time operation somewhere in the South China Sea. A fake hatch has been constructed on the North Korean ship, giving it the appearance of an ordinary cargo ship. U.N. investigators say such ship-to-ship transfers have occurred scores of times this year, helping shield North Korea from some of the effects of economic sanctions. — Photograph: United Nations.
In a surveillance photo provided to U.N. investigators, the crew of an unidentified North Korean tanker is seen taking on oil from a second
vessel in a night-time operation somewhere in the South China Sea. A fake hatch has been constructed on the North Korean ship, giving it
the appearance of an ordinary cargo ship. U.N. investigators say such ship-to-ship transfers have occurred scores of times this year,
helping shield North Korea from some of the effects of economic sanctions. — Photograph: United Nations.


The document cited multiple attempts to change the physical appearance of ships. A sequence of surveillance photos shows crew members on one tanker removing what appears to be a false cargo hatch on the ship's deck. Hoses can be seen running from the hatch's opening and into the hold of a second tanker, which had anchored itself adjacent to the first.

North Korea “has been disguising tankers as cargo ships through the construction of fake cargo hatches,” the report said.

Many of the foreign vessels that delivered the oil operated with equal stealth, the investigators found. Some were smaller vessels that could pass as fishing boats but were modified to carry oil or gas in their holds. Among the larger ships involved in smuggling, many simply opted to go dark, shutting off their transponders for hours or even days at a time.

In one such instance cited by the U.N. panel, the Russian-flagged vessel Patriot allegedly stopped transmitting a signal on April 10 before linking up with the Wan Heng 11, a North Korea-bound tanker that had been previously blacklisted for sanctions violations. The Russian ship later reported a change in its draft, an indication that it had discharged its cargo, the report said.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Monday specifically cited the Patriot as an example of Russian complicity in the erosion of North Korean sanctions enforcement. Such violations are “not one-offs; they are systematic,” Haley said in a blistering critique delivered at a Security Council session. Russian officials disputed the claim, joining Chinese counterparts in denying any softening of support for sanctions enforcement.

“Russia has not simply looked the other way as its nationals and entities engage in activities explicitly prohibited by U.N. sanctions,” Haley said. “Russia has engaged in a concerted campaign to cover up violations of sanctions.”


The appearance of stability

Despite their complaints about lapsed enforcement, Trump administration officials insist that sanctions continue to work and that the pressure against North Korea is both unprecedented and sustained. And there is independent data suggesting that they are correct.

While it is difficult to obtain accurate measurements, a recent analysis by South Korea's central bank found that North Korea's economy shrank by about 3.5 percent last year, a drop that economists have attributed almost entirely to sanctions. Today, three months after the Kim-Trump summit, North Korea still struggles to find markets for its coal and iron ore, two critical sources of revenue. Increased sanctions-busting efforts have helped only marginally, as the bulk of North Korea's marketable coal remains on the docks, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and co-editor of North Korean Economy Watch.

“There is still a great deal of pressure,” Silberstein said. Bulky items such as coal “don't seem to be getting across,” he said.


A gas pump attendant fills up a taxi with gasoline at a fuel station in Pyongyang. — Photograph: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
A gas pump attendant fills up a taxi with gasoline at a fuel station in Pyongyang. — Photograph: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

Yet other, smaller items may be getting over the long border with China, where smuggling is a way of life for many traders, analysts say. There are also multiple signs that conditions in North Korea have stabilized, at least for now. Kim Byung-yeon, a Seoul National University economics professor who developed an index for gauging the effectiveness of sanctions, said North Korea's overall economy has been under severe stress since last fall, when the harshest U.N. restrictions went into effect. And yet, surprisingly, he said, conditions for ordinary North Koreans don't seem to be getting any worse.

Indeed, prices for staples such as rice and gasoline have dropped since the spring, returning to close to normal levels after soaring to near-record levels over the fall and winter. Currency exchange rates in North Korea also have remained stable, according to data collected by Kim and other economists. If the last round of sanctions had been properly implemented, conditions should be worse than this, Kim said.

While coal exports are down, North Korea appears to be expanding its economic cooperation with China in other spheres, according to Lucas Kuo, an analyst for C4ADS, a Washington non-profit agency that researches black-market networks.

Some experts suggest that the apparent economic gains are temporary. One theory holds that North Korean officials are burning through foreign currency reserves at an extravagant rate in attempt to stabilize the economy and make up for losses in income from coal. In any case, the improvements in inflation rates roughly coincided with the diplomatic thaw, which began with the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February and gained momentum with the secret summit between the leaders of China and North Korea in March.

Kim, the economist, said the United States could have increased its leverage if it had slowed the pace of diplomacy for a few more months to allow the “maximum pressure” campaign to take full effect. He also argues that Washington made a costly error by launching a trade war against its chief Asian trading partner China instead of seeking to preserve a united front against the North Korean leader and his nuclear weapons.

That moment has clearly passed, he said. Now, whether North Korea continues to feel real pressure to change its behavior could hinge on a far less consequential dispute: bickering between Washington and Beijing over tariffs on soybeans and steel.

“If the trade war is really hot and destroys the relationship between the two countries, China may want to use [its] stick — sanctions — as a negotiating chip,” the professor said. “Then this game becomes rather complex and difficult to solve.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Simon Denyer reported from Seoul. Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

Joby Warrick joined The Washington Post's National staff in 1996. He has covered national security, the environment and the Middle East and writes about terrorism. He is the author of two books, including 2015's Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, which was awarded a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. His first book, The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA recounts the 2009 suicide attack by an al-Qaeda informant on a CIA base at Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven U.S. intelligence operatives. Before joining The Post, Warrick covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe as a UPI correspondent and worked as a reporter at the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Daily Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. While in Raleigh, he co-authored “Boss Hog”, a series of investigative stories that documented the political and environmental fallout caused by factory farming in the Southeast. The series won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for public service.

Simon Denyer is The Washington Post's bureau chief in Beijing. He previously worked as The Post's bureau chief in New Delhi; a Reuters bureau chief in Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad, Pakistan; and a Reuters correspondent in Nairobi, New York and London.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • U.S. military ready to recover war remains in N. Korea but calls requests unreasonable​

 • Kim wants new summit with Trump soon

 • Kim pledges to dismantle nuclear site — but only after the U.S. acts

 • Spy satellites show North Koreans working on new missiles

 • Scattered, hidden nuclear facilities pose a challenge to disarmament talks


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/a-massive-spike-in-oil-smuggling-has-eased-the-economic-pressure-on-north-korea/2018/09/20/1f6b684a-bc35-11e8-8792-78719177250f_story.html
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2018, 06:19:15 pm »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

Pompeo returns to North Korea

Two months after a canceled trip, he'll try again to jump-start denuclearization push.

By TRACY WILKINSON | Saturday, October 06, 2018

Senior officials greeted Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on his last visit to North Korea in July, but leader Kim Jong Un refused. The two are expected to meet when Pompeo arrives on Sunday in Pyongyang. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.
Senior officials greeted Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on his last visit to North Korea in July, but leader Kim Jong Un refused. The two are expected
to meet when Pompeo arrives on Sunday in Pyongyang. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.


WASHINGTON D.C. — With talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear arsenal at an impasse, U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo is heading to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Un in hopes of reviving the process — and to set up a potential second summit with President Trump.

Pompeo said he was confident his fourth visit to North Korea this year would “advance the commitment” Kim and Trump made when they met in Singapore on June 12. But at least in public, he did not set high objectives for his trip.

“The mission is to make sure that we understand what each side is truly trying to achieve,” Pompeo said on Friday, according to a reporter aboard his flight to Tokyo, his first stop on a trip that also will take him to Seoul and Beijing. He is scheduled to meet Kim early on Sunday in Pyongyang.

Pompeo said he might be able to set up a tentative date and location for a second summit between Kim and Trump.

Kim had declined to meet Pompeo when he last visited the North Korean capital in July, and state media later denounced what it called Pompeo's “gangster-like” demands. Trump abruptly cancelled another planned visit by his secretary of State in August amid concerns that Pompeo would again fail to achieve progress.

Since then, Kim has sent Trump what the president has called “beautiful letters,” and Pompeo met his North Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week. Trump also sought to downplay criticism that his efforts had yet to produce a timetable or any other sign of denuclearization.

“If it takes two years, three years or five months — doesn't matter,” Trump said. Several days later, he offered effusive public praise for Kim, saying at a campaign rally last weekend that he and the North Korean leader “fell in love.”

On Tuesday, apparently emboldened by those comments, state media in Pyongyang signaled that Kim's government was toughening its negotiating position. It said the U.S. must make a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, replacing the armistice that halted the conflict, for talks to proceed.

U.S. officials long have resisted formally ending the decades-old war amid concerns it would pressure Washington to remove its military forces from South Korea.

The White House has considered a “declaration for declaration” proposal, in which the United States would agree to formally end the war in exchange for Pyongyang producing a detailed inventory of nuclear equipment and arsenal that U.N. inspectors could then verify. But North Korea has resisted that, indicating it was not prepared to disclose those details.

“Without any trust in the U.S., there will be no confidence in our national security, and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first,” Ri said at the U.N. last week.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in then suggested a compromise. In exchange for the U.S. end-of-war declaration, he offered, North Korea would agree to dismantle its vast Yongbyon nuclear facility. Kim had pledged to shut the facility, or at least parts of it, in a summit with Moon last month.

A delegation of South Korean legislators, in Washington this week to lobby Congress and State Department officials, came away with the impression that the Trump administration was still not willing to formally end the war.

Trump has repeatedly cited “tremendous progress” with North Korea, citing the release of three American prisoners in May, the return of about 50 sets of human remains from the Korean War, and the absence this year of new missile or nuclear weapons tests by Pyongyang.

After the Singapore summit, Trump surprised allies — and the Pentagon — by suspending annual joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea, and even using North Korea's rhetoric in calling them “war games.”

But U.N. nuclear monitors and other experts say they have seen no evidence that North Korea has taken significant steps to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure or weapons facilities, and that production of fissile material that can be used as bomb fuel has not ceased.

“They cannot come out of these trips anymore with broad statements of principles,” Victor Cha, an Asia specialist in the George W. Bush White House, said Friday. “There needs to be some actual, tangible movement on the nuclear issue.”

Several U.S. experts said Kim appears increasingly determined to work only with Trump, not his deputies.

“They think they can get [the] best possible deal by directly dealing with President Trump himself,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst specializing in the Korean peninsula who is now a fellow at the non-partisan Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“They truly believe this is a once-in-lifetime opportunity that they have” with Trump, Terry said. She said she believed Pompeo's visit would focus almost exclusively on making arrangements for the next summit.

Trump's praise for one of the world's most ruthless and brutal dictators has jarred even some of the president's supporters.

“I'm worried that we're being played here,” Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said this week. “So I'm telling President Trump: Enough with ‘I love you’. This is not a guy to love. … From my point of view, this ‘love’ crap needs to stop.”

The administration also has come under pressure to ease economic sanctions, including those that target trade of fuel and minerals.

Russia and China have begun allowing some shipments into North Korea in what critics say are violations of U.N. Security Council sanctions. At the General Assembly, Russia said it would continue to do so, and Pompeo said there would be no sanctions relief until denuclearization occurs.


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• Tracy Wilkinson has covered wars, crises and daily life on three continents. Her career began with United Press International, where she covered the Contra war in Nicaragua. She moved to the Los Angeles Times in 1987, first as a writer on the Metro staff, then as a foreign correspondent based in San Salvador. In 1995, she moved to Vienna, where she covered the war in the Balkans, winning the George Polk Award in 1999, and then to Jerusalem. From there, she went to Rome, where she covered two popes and did several stints in Iraq. In 2008, she became Mexico bureau chief, where her coverage was part of a team Overseas Press Club Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Wilkinson was also the 2014 winner of the Maria Moors Cabot Award for coverage of Latin America. She earned her bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University. Her book “TheVatican's Exorcists: Driving Out the Devil in the 21st Century” has been translated into a dozen languages. She joined the L.A. Times' Washington, D.C., bureau in 2015 to cover foreign affairs.

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=d7f1dd39-ac1c-47a4-ac08-f3bb7368ad40
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