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“The Art of the Deal”: To Donald with lots & lots of love from Kim…

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Author Topic: “The Art of the Deal”: To Donald with lots & lots of love from Kim…  (Read 102 times)
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« on: December 22, 2019, 01:50:51 pm »

from The New York Times…

U.S. Braces for Major North Korean Weapons Test
as Trump's Diplomacy Fizzles

President Donald J. Trump's summits with Kim Jong-un have failed to bring concrete results,
and the diplomatic vacuum has given North Korea more time to build its nuclear arsenal.

By DAVID E. SANGER, EDWARD WONG and MICHAEL CROWLEY | 1:47PM EST — Saturday, December 22, 2019

President Donald J. Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, in June 2019 on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone. — Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times.
President Donald J. Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, in June 2019 on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.
 — Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times.

WASHINGTON D.C. — American military and intelligence officials tracking North Korea's actions by the hour say they are bracing for an imminent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching American shores, but appear resigned to the fact that President Trump has no good options to stop it.

If the North goes ahead with the test in the coming days — Pyongyang promised a “Christmas gift” if no progress had been made on lifting sanctions — it would be a glaring setback for Mr. Trump's boldest foreign policy initiative, even as he faces an impeachment trial at home.

American officials are playing down the missile threat, though similar tests two years ago prompted Mr. Trump to suggest that “fire and fury,” and perhaps a war, could result.

Mr. Trump often cites the suspension of long-range missile and underground nuclear tests for the past two years as evidence that his leader-to-leader diplomacy with the North was working — and that such negotiating skills would persuade the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, to give up his arsenal.

The administration's argument has now changed. Should Mr. Kim resume tests, American officials say, it will be a sign that he truly feels jammed, and has concluded Washington will not lift crushing sanctions on his impoverished nation anytime soon.

Left unaddressed, however, is the challenge that a new missile test would represent, and what that would mean for the sanctions strategy. Over the past week, Stephen E. Biegun, the North Korea envoy who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday as the next deputy secretary of state, has traveled across East Asia to also try to stem new efforts by Russia and China to weaken those sanctions.

Military officials say there are no plans to try to destroy a missile on the launchpad, or intercept it in the atmosphere — steps both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama considered, and rejected. It is unclear if the military's Cyber Command is still trying to sabotage the launches from afar, as it did under the Obama administration, with mixed results.

Instead, officials say, if the North resumes its missile tests, the Trump administration will turn to allies and again lobby the United Nations Security Council for tightened sanctions — a strategy that has been tried for two decades.

Beneath the recent threats is the onset of a cold reality: In the 18 months after Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim first met in Singapore, with declarations of warmth not seen since the suspension of the Korean War in 1953, the North has bolstered its arsenal of missiles and its stockpile of bomb-ready nuclear material.

New estimates from a leading authority suggest that Mr. Kim has expanded his arsenal substantially since Mr. Trump announced on Twitter after Singapore that “there is No Longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Siegfried S. Hecker, the former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of the few Westerners who has seen the North's uranium production facilities, says he believes the country has fuel for about 38 warheads — double an earlier estimate that he and other scientists and intelligence analysts had issued.

Ribbons are hung for peace near the Demilitarized Zone this month. Pyongyang promised a “Christmas gift” because no progress had been made on lifting sanctions. — Photograph: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Ribbons are hung for peace near the Demilitarized Zone this month. Pyongyang promised a “Christmas gift” because no progress had been made on lifting sanctions.
 — Photograph: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

In recent weeks, the North has conducted ground tests of what appear to be new missile engines that Pyongyang said would bolster its “nuclear deterrent,” suggesting that it has little intention of giving up its ability.

“I think part of this may be bluff on their part,” John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, said to NPR on Thursday. “They think the president's desperate for a deal, and if they put an artificial time constraint on it, they may think they’re going to get a better deal. We'll just have to wait and see.”

“But,” he noted, “this is all part of the North Korean playbook.”

A new element of the playbook could be that Mr. Kim is calculating that impeachment has weakened Mr. Trump, making him more desperate for a policy victory.

Senior foreign policy officials and military commanders are bracing for perhaps the most serious cycle of crisis yet.

“What I would expect is some kind of long-range ballistic missile would be the ‘gift’,” General Charles Q. Brown Jr., the commander of Pacific Air Forces, said on Tuesday. “Does it come on Christmas Eve? Does it come on Christmas Day? Does it come after the new year? One of my responsibilities is to pay attention to that.”

With no diplomatic progress between Washington and Pyongyang since the implosion of the last summit in February between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, administration officials are loath to see Mr. Trump leap into another face-to-face negotiation. While Mr. Trump's initial diplomatic outreach to Mr. Kim raised hopes and generated positive headlines, the president accepted vague language calling for the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” as an ironclad commitment by the North to rid itself of its own weapons.

The expected North Korean escalation will leave Mr. Trump with an unpalatable choice. He could reprise his alarming threats of military action from late 2017, infusing the 2020 election year with a sense of crisis, which could cost him votes — and risk real conflict.

Or he could endure the new provocation and double down, betting that greater sanctions could somehow force the North to abandon its decades-long course toward a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental United States.

Hopes for a Speedy Disarmament, Dashed

WHEN Mr. Trump emerged from his day-long Singapore summit with Mr. Kim, the first time the leaders had ever met, he sounded certain that progress would be swift.

“I think he will do these things,’’ Mr. Trump said. “I may be wrong. I may stand before you in six months and say, hey, I was wrong.”

Roadblocks appeared almost immediately. The North refused to turn over an inventory of its weapons and delivery systems. However, there were signs Mr. Kim wanted to open up his nation's economy, analysts said.

After exchanging warm letters, the leaders met again in Hanoi, with Mr. Trump offering a grand bargain — an end to all sanctions for full disarmament. The president even offered to help build hotels along North Korea's east coast.

Mr. Kim said he would agree to dismantle the main nuclear site at Yongbyon, the heart of the North's nuclear program, in return for relief from the most onerous sanctions, which Mr. Obama began in 2016 and Mr. Trump accelerated. Mr. Trump was tempted to accept, former aides said, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr. Bolton stopped him, arguing that important uranium enrichment sites of the North's were outside the walls of the facility. The talks ended in failure.

A news report last month broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of a projectile fired by the North. — Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters.
A news report last month broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of a projectile fired by the North. — Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters.

In the months that followed, the administration debated whether it should soften its demand that the North dismantle all of its nuclear infrastructure before receiving substantial benefits. There was talk of negotiating an interim “nuclear freeze”; while that would keep the problem from worsening, it ran the risk of enshrining a nuclear arsenal already a third the size of Pakistan's and India's.

It took until October for a new North Korean team to assemble and meet with Mr. Biegun. He thought the meeting went well until, at the end of the day, the North's delegation returned to read a clearly pre-written statement denouncing the United States.

The teams have not met since.

Mr. Kim Plays His Hand

THE recent threats from Mr. Kim come as he is preparing for two important political events — a year-end plenary session of the Workers' Party of Korea and a New Year's speech. Mr. Kim had declared at the start of 2019 that North Korea would not give up a single weapon until the United States lifts sanctions. He then gave Mr. Trump a year-end deadline.

Now Mr. Kim finds himself empty-handed, unable to stride into the party plenum in triumph or deliver a pronouncement of victory on January 1. Backed into a corner, he is trying once again to use his main leverage — the threat of weapons tests or military action — to coerce Mr. Trump into sanctions relief, analysts say.

“Things have not worked out the way he has anticipated,” said Jean H. Lee, a Korea expert at the Wilson Center. “I suspect that he will keep provoking President Trump to compel him to get back to negotiations, but try to avoid overtly confronting him, because he wants to leave open an opportunity.”

In signing a major defense bill on Friday evening, Mr. Trump put into place new sanctions on North Korea, including the possibility of financial penalties on Russia and China in 120 days if they trade with the North.

“We will be keeping a very close eye on that,” Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, who wrote the provisions, said in an interview. “It would be a huge mistake for the president to waive these sanctions unless he can certify progress on major issues.”

Mr. Kim visiting the Changrindo defensive position in a photograph provided by the official Korean Central News Agency. — Photograph: KCNA/via Reuters.
Mr. Kim visiting the Changrindo defensive position in a photograph provided by the official Korean Central News Agency. — Photograph: KCNA/via Reuters.

Mr. Kim could choose to launch a satellite rather than an intercontinental ballistic missile on the bet that might push Mr. Trump to loosen sanctions without inciting a violent reaction.

Mr. Kim could also coax China and Russia into further easing sanctions at the United Nations. Both nations are eager to reassert a leadership role on the North Korea issue.

On Thursday, Luo Zhaohui, China's vice minister of foreign affairs, said at a news conference in Beijing that easing sanctions, as China and Russia had proposed on Wednesday at the United Nations, was the “best solution” to “break the deadlock on the peninsula.”

Analysts say China does not appear to be forcing all North Korean workers to leave its borders, as it is required by a United Nations resolution. China said it complies with the sanctions resolutions. American officials say Beijing also must stop ship-to-ship transfers carried out by North Korea of energy products.

American efforts to maintain a common front against the North may be further complicated next week when President Xi Jinping of China hosts a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. Mr. Trump's efforts to get the South to cover the full cost of the American troops based there has strained relations between the allies.

Containment or War

MR. TRUMP contemplated attacking North Korea early in his administration, when officials floated the idea of a “bloody nose” strategy intended to signal that Washington would never allow the North to reach the point when it could hold American cities hostage with nuclear weapons. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” Mr. Trump tweeted in August 2017.

More recently, Mr. Trump has shown a keen interest in winding down conflicts rather than starting new ones. Mr. Trump has also forced out hawkish senior advisers, including Mr. Bolton, who once argued for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.

But Mr. Trump's current approach — gradual diplomacy backed by the “boa constrictor” of sanctions, perhaps toward an interim freeze — is unfolding in the shadow of similar efforts by four presidents who failed to stop the North.

The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in June 2019. — Photograph: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in June 2019. — Photograph: Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

Mr. Trump has essentially shrugged off the 13 short-range missile or rocket tests that North Korea has conducted since May. An intercontinental missile launch would be more difficult to ignore, though, and it is unclear how he might respond, especially if such a test intensifies criticism that Mr. Kim has manipulated him.

Thus far, Mr. Trump is showing little appetite for a return to the “fire and fury” tensions of two years ago.

“I have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House this month before adding, in what could prove to be wishful thinking, “I think we both want to keep it that way.”


Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Beijing, and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South Korea.

David E. Sanger is a national security correspondent and a senior writer. In a 36-year reporting career for The New York Times, he has been on three teams that have won Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 2017 for international reporting. His newest book, The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age,’ examines the emergence of cyberconflict as the primary way large and small states are competing and undercutting each other, changing the nature of global power. He is also the author of two New York Times best sellers on foreign policy and national security: The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power, published in 2009, and Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, published in 2012. For The N.Y. Times, Mr. Sanger has served as Tokyo bureau chief, Washington economic correspondent, White House correspondent during the Clinton and Bush administrations, and chief Washington correspondent. Mr. Sanger spent six years in Tokyo, writing about the emergence of Japan as a major American competitor, and then the country's humbling recession. He wrote many of the first articles about North Korea's emerging nuclear weapons program. Returning to Washington, Mr. Sanger turned to a wide range of diplomatic and national security issues, especially issues of nuclear proliferation and the rise of cyberconflict among nations. In reporting for The Times and Confront and Conceal, he revealed the story of Olympic Games, the code name for the most sophisticated cyberattack in history, the American-Israeli effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear program with the Stuxnet worm. His journalistic pursuit of the origins of Stuxnet became the subject of the documentary “Zero Days” which made the short list of Academy Award documentaries in 2016. With his Times colleague Bill Broad, he also described, in early 2017, a parallel cybereffort against North Korea. Mr. Sanger was a leading member of the team that investigated the causes of the Challenger disaster in 1986, which was awarded a Pulitzer in national reporting the following year. A second Pulitzer, in 1999, was awarded to a team that investigated the struggles within the Clinton administration over controlling technology exports to China. He has also won the Weintal Prize for diplomatic reporting for his coverage of the Iraq and Korea crises, the Aldo Beckman prize for coverage of the presidency, and, in two separate years, the Merriman Smith Memorial Award, for coverage of national security issues. “Nuclear Jihad” the documentary that Mr. Sanger reported for Discovery/Times Television, won the duPont-Columbia Award for its explanation of the workings of the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. That coverage was also a finalist for a Pulitzer. A 1982 graduate of Harvard College, Mr. Sanger was the first senior fellow in The Press and National Security at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. With Graham T. Allison Jr., he co-teaches Central Challenges in American National Security, Strategy and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government.

Edward Wong is a diplomatic and international correspondent for The New York Times who reports on foreign policy from Washington. He has spent most of his career abroad, reporting for 13 years from China and Iraq for The N.Y. Times. As Beijing bureau chief, he ran The Times's largest overseas operation. He has filed dispatches from North Korea, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia, among other places. He was on the final flight of the Concorde. Mr. Wong began reporting for The New York Times in 1999 and worked for four years on the metro, sports and business desks before going overseas. His first posting was to Iraq to cover the American invasion and civil war, from 2003 to 2007. He then reported from China for nine years. During that period, he also wrote stories on a trek on foot through the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan and a cruise to North Korea run by a state-owned enterprise based in Pyongyang. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University from 2017 to 2018 and taught international reporting at Princeton University as a Ferris Professor of Journalism in 2017. He is an associate at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Mr. Wong has appeared in documentary films by Laura Poitras and Vanessa Hope and produced his own short film on China. He has spoken on PBS NewsHour, NPR, BBC, CBC and ARTE. He has given talks at American universities on journalism, war and foreign policy. Mr. Wong received a Livingston Award for his coverage of the Iraq War and was on a team from The New York Times's Baghdad Bureau that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. He has two awards from the Society of Publishers in Asia for coverage of China. He was on The N.Y. Times team that received an award for best documentary project from Pictures of the Year International for a series on global climate change migrants. The project was also nominated for an Emmy Award. He has a prize from the Associated Press Sports Editors. Mr. Wong graduated with honors from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He has dual master’s degrees in journalism and international studies from the University of California at Berkeley. He has studied Mandarin Chinese at the Beijing Language and Culture University, Taiwan University and Middlebury College. He was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Alexandria, Virginia.

Michael Crowley is a White House correspondent in the Washington bureau, where he covers President Trump's foreign policy. He joined The New York Times in June 2019 from Politico, where he had been the White House and national security editor, and previously senior foreign affairs correspondent. A Washington journalism veteran, Crowley has also worked for TIME magazine, The New Republic and The Boston Globe.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Sunday, December 22, 2019, on page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “New Missile Test Looms as Trump Fails to Sway Kim”.


Related to this topic:

 • Time Is Running Out for Trump's North Korean Diplomacy, Analysts Say — November 28, 2019.

 • North Korea Missile Tests, ‘Very Standard’ to Trump, Show Signs of Advancing Arsenal — September 02, 2019.

 • Trump Steps Into North Korea and Agrees With Kim Jong-un to Resume Talks — June 30, 2019.

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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2019, 11:41:25 pm »

from The Washington Post…

North Korea never halted efforts to build
powerful new weapons, experts say

Even before nuclear talks with the Trump administration faltered,
Kim Jong Un's scientists were at work on the next “surprise”.

By JOBY WARRICK | 5:50PM EST — Tuesday, December 24, 2019

People in Seoul watch a news report after North Korea fired two projectiles, possibly missiles, on October 31. — Photograph: Heo Ran/Reuters.
People in Seoul watch a news report after North Korea fired two projectiles, possibly missiles, on October 31.
 — Photograph: Heo Ran/Reuters.

JUST BEFORE North Korea launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in 2017, scientists strapped their newest rocket engine to a test stand to see how it would perform. The liquid-fueled engine burned successfully for 200 seconds and generated enough thrust to propel a warhead halfway around the world.

Two years later, on December 13, a new missile engine was lit up on the same test stand while scientists watched. This time the burn lasted 400 seconds — almost seven minutes — according to an official statement.

For analysts who closely track such tests, the results were both startling and mystifying. North Korea's last ICBM was powerful enough to reach the U.S. East Coast. Was this a new booster for the same ICBM? Or something different? No one knew, but experts fear that the world could soon find out.

“Seven minutes,” said one U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss North Korea's capabilities, “is a long time.”

The experiment at North Korea's Sohae test stand — one of two at the complex in the past month — has fueled speculation about the nature of the “Christmas gift” that leader Kim Jong Un promised if nuclear talks with the Trump administration remained stalled. Satellite cameras in recent weeks have spotted preparatory work at several locations where North Korea assembled or tested missiles in the past.

President Trump was dismissive on Tuesday about what that gift might be. “Maybe it’s a nice present,” he told reporters. “Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test, right?”

But the recent surge in activity also appears to confirm something that U.S. intelligence agencies have long suspected: Despite a self-imposed moratorium on testing its most advanced missiles over the past two years, North Korea has never halted its efforts to build powerful new weapons. Indeed, Kim's scientists appear to have used the lull to quietly improve and expand the country's arsenal, U.S. and East Asian officials say.

U.S. analysts say the two tests at Sohae appear to reflect months of continued work on North Korea's arsenal of potent liquid-fueled missiles, which already includes two ICBMs, the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, capable of striking the United States. But the country's scientists have demonstrated progress on other kinds of missiles as well. In the months since the failed U.S.-North Korean summit in Vietnam, Pyongyang has tested five new short- and medium-range missiles, all of which use solid propellants. Solid-fueled missiles are more mobile and easier to hide compared with similar rockets that use liquid fuel.

One of the newly unveiled additions to North Korea's arsenal, the KN-23, is a highly maneuverable short-range missile that flies at low altitudes and is difficult to intercept. Another, the medium-range Pukguksong-3, can be launched from submarines.

“No one thinks they developed all these systems in a few months,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a weapons expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, in California. Satellite photos and numerous tests — many of them publicly announced and photographed — have shown repeatedly that “North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities kept operating during the moratoria,” he said.

“They have built up capabilities over time,” Lewis said, “and they choose to reveal them when it's politically desirable.”

A demonstration of any of these technologies would be intended in part to express frustration over the stalled nuclear talks and to prod the Trump administration into new concessions at the negotiating table. But implicit in any new missile launch would be a larger message directed at Americans themselves, experts said.

“It would be a way of highlighting our vulnerability — to show they have the range to reach us,” said Robert Litwak, director of international security studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The same message, delivered in the form of back-to-back ICBM tests, helped lead the United States and North Korea to the brink of crisis in 2017. Litwak said he worries that a new round of missile tests — or a Christmas surprise — could be the start of a new escalatory cycle, with an uncertain outcome.

“We do not respond well to vulnerability,” he said.

A string of hints

Assuming he follows through on his threat, Kim's choice of a Christmas gift ultimately will be a political calculation. East Asian diplomats and some Western analysts think he will opt for something less dramatic than an ICBM launch or nuclear weapons test, to avoid completely sabotaging U.S.-North Korean negotiations and possibly damaging ties with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

In any case, Kim appears to have numerous options, and in recent months, he has left a string of tantalizing hints.

Since the fall, amid faltering talks with the Trump administration, U.S. satellites have monitored ongoing work at two navy shipyards where North Korea keeps special barges used to test submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs. Beginning in early December, there has been a spike in activity around a test barge at the Nampo shipyard near Pyongyang, suggesting that North Korea might be preparing to test a missile that can be launched at sea.

The last publicly announced test of an SLBM occurred just three months ago, when North Korea unveiled the Pukguksong-3. Launched from a submerged barge, it flew in a high arc, traveling 600 miles above Earth before splashing into the sea. If it had flown in a normal trajectory, it would have crossed Japan's northern islands and covered a distance of up to 1,200 miles, making it the most powerful solid-fueled missile built by North Korea so far.

The test revealed substantial progress with a kind of missile that military analysts regard as especially worrisome. Liquid-fueled missiles such as North Korea's Hwasong-15 generally must be filled before launch, so they are vulnerable to being spotted in advance by satellites or reconnaissance aircraft. But solid-fueled missiles can be hidden in bunkers or containers and launched with little warning. The solid-fueled Pukguksong-3 is designed to be fired from submarines that, by definition, are even harder to detect.

“They are clearly moving toward having a survivable deterrent,” or a capability that can't be easily neutralized, said Victor Cha, a former adviser on North Korea to the George W. Bush White House and now a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “Solid propellant, SLBMs and submarines would be one way of showing that they now have such a deterrent.”

North Korea has a modest fleet of Soviet-era Romeo-class submarines, some of which are being re-engineered to carry SLBMs. Pyongyang also is developing a line of missile-capable Sinpo-class submarines with a range of up to 1,500 nautical miles. Some North Korea experts say Kim's Christmas gift may be the unveiling of a submarine that could launch missiles at sea without warning.

The SLBMs to be carried by those submarines also have undergone a significant upgrade. A new report about the Pukguksong-3 suggests that the missile's solid-propelled engine is bigger and more capable than many experts initially thought. The study, by Middlebury's Lewis, analyzed North Korean images to more precisely calculate the dimensions of the new SLBM as well as an earlier land-based version of the same missile. The diameter was judged to be about 13 percent wider than experts previously thought, a sign that North Korea's engineers may have overcome a key technological barrier that limits the size of solid-fueled missiles. If so, the overall program may be “at a more advanced stage than we realized,” Lewis wrote.

“We believe North Korea could conduct a first flight-test of an intermediate- or intercontinental-range ballistic missile using solid-propellant some time in 2020,” said the analysis, according to a pre-publication draft obtained by The Washington Post. “We cannot predict whether such a test would be successful.”

‘A big unknown’

But the year-end gift could also be of an entirely different nature — and perhaps a true surprise, analysts said. North Korean scientists have been chipping away at multiple technical barriers that hamper Kim's ability to strike the United States with a nuclear warhead, analysts said, and the communist leader may decide to showcase a breakthrough.

The two missile-engine tests at Sohae — a facility that Kim had pledged to dismantle — sparked speculation that North Korea is preparing to unveil a more powerful multistage rocket to launch satellites into space.

Other experts, citing the unusual seven-minute burn time during the December 13 experiment, theorized that Pyongyang is working on an improved re-entry vehicle to sit atop one of the new ICBMs. To reach the United States, the missile and its nuclear warhead would have to survive intense heat as they slice through the upper atmosphere. Perhaps the North Koreans were using a rocket engine's fiery exhaust to simulate re-entry conditions, analysts said.

Kim could also demonstrate an ability to use decoys to fool the expensive anti-missile systems built by the United States to intercept incoming warheads, said Vann Van Diepen, a top non-proliferation official in the Bush and Obama administrations. The decoys, called “penetration aids” or “penaids,” could include inflatable balloons or clouds of metal chaff that can confuse missile-tracking radars on land.

The Kim regime has not yet demonstrated that it has such devices, but “it would be consistent with North Korea's historical missile development philosophy to deploy at least simple penaids” on its long-range missiles, Van Diepen wrote in an essay published by 38 North, a website that serves as a forum for North Korea analysts.

Even a more modest demonstration — a new test of one of North Korea's older ICBMs, for example — would make a political statement by breaking the self-imposed freeze. But Van Diepen said it would be a mistake to rule out the possibility of other, bigger surprises if Kim resumes an active testing program in the months ahead.

“A big unknown is how much technical help they got from others, but they've been able to do an awful lot on their own,” he said. “There's a whole cottage industry of people who underestimated North Korea.”


Simon Denyer in Seoul 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.


Related to this topic:

 • REUTERS VIDEO: Trump says ready for any N.Korean ‘Christmas gift’

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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2019, 11:40:09 am »

from the Los Angeles Times…

Trump's North Korea gamble leaves U.S. back at square one.
Where'd it go wrong?

Three summits and many smiling photos later, Trump's North Korea strategy
has the U.S. in a familiar place: an impasse, bracing for provocations.

By VICTORIA KIM | 9:35AM PST — Friday, December 27, 2019

President Donald J. Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a break in talks at their historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018. — Photograph: Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/via Getty Images.
President Donald J. Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a break in talks at their historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
 — Photograph: Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/via Getty Images.

SEOUL — When President Trump agreed to met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, flying in the face of all past precedent and protocol, both Koreas jumped at what appeared to be the biggest opportunity in decades to shake up the situation on the Korean peninsula.

After all, for 25 years, U.S.-led efforts to curtail North Korea's nuclear ambitions had been seemingly stuck in a cycle of provocation, panic, attempts at diplomacy with simultaneous hand-wringing about the wisdom of it, and the subsequent unraveling of the fruits of those efforts. Each go-around ended with increased U.S. skepticism about engagement, followed by years of impasse during which North Korea would surprise the world by making strides in its development of nuclear weapons and powerful missiles to deliver them.

Trump's willingness to flout all that came before him was welcomed by the leaders of North and South Korea. After his first summit with Trump in Singapore, North Korea's Kim praised the U.S. president's “unique approach”; a couple of months later, South Korean president Moon Jae-in told Trump he was “the only person who can solve this problem”.

Trump himself also touted the idea that he was singularly positioned to reach a breakthrough with North Korea.

“People said, ‘Trump is crazy’,” he told reporters at a Rose Garden press conference in February, ahead of his second meeting with Kim. “And you know what it ended up being? A very good relationship…. Nobody else would have done that.”

Three summits, several praise-filled letters and many months later, the U.S. finds itself back in familiar waters with North Korea.

This undated picture released by Korean Central News Agency in October 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse in the first snow at Mount Paektu, a place of symbolic and historic importance for North Korea. — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/via Getty Images.
This undated picture released by Korean Central News Agency in October 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
riding a white horse in the first snow at Mount Paektu, a place of symbolic and historic importance for North Korea.
 — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/via Getty Images.

After a hiatus, North Korea has returned to regular testing of ballistic missiles, firing off more than a dozen rounds of short-range missiles this year. It has turned a cold shoulder to entreaties from U.S. negotiators to engage in working-level talks on the details of a potential agreement, and to all outreach by South Korea. In increasingly ominous pronouncements in state media, North Korean leaders have warned the U.S. has until year's end to come up with a new proposal for a resumption of nuclear talks. Analysts, negotiators and military officials in the U.S. and South Korea are bracing for renewed military provocation from the North in coming days.

Stephen Biegun, the chief U.S. negotiator, during a visit to South Korea this month urged North Korea to “seize this moment,” calling it a “window of opportunity”, “We are here and you know how to reach us,” he said — a plea that fell on deaf ears.

The stalemate in some ways harks back to President Clinton's second term, when a 1994 nuclear freeze-for-energy assistance deal teetered amid U.S. suspicions that North Korea was cheating, and North Korea's accusations that the U.S. was not holding up its end of the bargain. In 1998, North Korea fired off its first ballistic missile over Japan as Washington was preoccupied in the midst of an impeachment and negotiators were deadlocked.

In a speech in Seoul last month, Robert Carlin, who was then an advisor in the State Department on negotiations with North Korea, quoted a memo from the time, saying it could just as well describe the situation today as it did in October 1998.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is rapidly deteriorating. It could become extremely dangerous within a few months. Once the present structure of agreements and negotiations collapses, there are few if any safe exits and no safety nets,” Stanford political scientist John Lewis wrote at the time, Carlin noted.

In a flurry of diplomatic efforts to save the deal in the final days of his administration, Clinton weighed visiting Pyongyang to finalize the agreement at the eager invitation of Kim Jong Il — the current leader's father — but decided against it. The George W. Bush administration, with John Bolton as undersecretary of State for arms control, scrapped the deal with the nation it had newly termed part of the “axis of evil,” and started at square one.

Now, it's North Korea thumbing its nose at additional summits with Trump.

“We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us,” Kim Kye Gwan, a North Korean foreign ministry advisor, said in a statement last month, according to state media. “As we have got nothing in return, we will no longer gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of.”

President Donald J. Trump during a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on February 28, 2019, in Hanoi. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.
President Donald J. Trump during a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on February 28, 2019, in Hanoi.
 — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.

Before Trump, diplomats and negotiators would have met for days or weeks on end to work out an agreement before the leaders would even consider meeting. In agreeing to meet with Kim on the spot, and putting outsized emphasis on his own role in the talks, Trump turned that process on its head, setting in motion a summit before any details about what the two men would agree to were discussed by their respective staff.

The four-paragraph agreement in Singapore last June was, as a result, without teeth, with North Korea only vaguely pledging that it “commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” — far less than it had agreed to in 1994. This February's second summit in Hanoi was hamstrung by the same problem, with both sides discovering only after traveling thousands of miles, with hordes of international media eagerly awaiting, that their positions were too far apart to be bridged in one afternoon.

The impromptu meeting at the DMZ between the two Koreas this summer, again, yielded myriad photos and proclamations of history being made, and little by way of concrete steps or agreements to curtail North Korea's nuclear program, improve relations and communication and lessen the threat of military conflict on the peninsula.

Each time, when U.S. negotiators tried to follow up to talk specifics, they said they were rebuffed.

Carlin, of Stanford, said he was concerned Kim had since written off diplomacy with Trump and would make a bold move to signal as much, miscalculating the potential U.S. response with rapid escalation the result.

“Kim looks like he's made completely new decisions that have been in place for months,” he said. With the U.S. focused on the Senate impeachment trial into the new year, he said, “my concern is that he figures this is an open road. You have to hope that he doesn't lunge into something stupid.”

David C. Kang, director of USC's Korean Studies Institute, said despite the fanfare surrounding the summits, Trump's approach to North Korea was ultimately not all that different from that of his predecessors — that North Korea must give up its nuclear program in its entirety first, before the U.S. will agree to sanctions relief or normalized relations.

“Isn't that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing and expecting a different result?” he said. “The idea that somehow North Korea is going to be scared into backing down, that little bit of more pressure and they'll crack, is false.”

This September 23, 2017, photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency shows an anti-U.S. rally in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/via Getty Images.
This September 23, 2017, photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency shows an anti-U.S. rally
in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/via Getty Images.

In the meantime, North Korea continues to add to its nuclear arsenal, producing fissile material for 10 additional bombs in the last 18 months for a total of about 40, according to Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford nuclear scientist who has visited North Korea to inspect its plutonium enrichment facilities.

“The longer the United States waits, the more the overall nuclear threat will grow,” he wrote in September on the site 38 North. “The dialogue will need to get past its herky-jerky phase and, through a series of smaller steps, create the momentum crucial to overcoming inevitable bumps in the difficult road ahead.”

Trump says he continues to have faith in Kim. Earlier this month, Trump tweeted: “He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November.”

Kang said North Korea had already proved itself inured to the various economic sanctions placed on the country for its weapons and nuclear testing. Kim doesn't have an upcoming election or term limits; if he doesn't get a deal he wants with the current U.S. president, he can wait for the next.

“This regime has found many, many ways to survive,” he said. “Time has been on North Korea's side forever.”


Victoria Kim is the Seoul correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Since joining the paper in 2007, she has covered state and federal courts, worked on investigative projects and reported on Southern California's Korean community. She has previously written for the Associated Press out of South Korea and West Africa, as well as for the Financial Times in New York. Kim was raised in Seoul and graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history.

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If you aren't living life on the edge, you're taking up too much space! 
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Having fun in the hills!

« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2019, 11:42:23 am »

Kim Jong-un has shown up Donald J. Trump to be a stupid, gullible simpleton.

Kim has played America's “fake president” like a fiddle … over and over and over and over again.

So much for Trump being the “ultimate” deal-maker, eh? Hilarious!!!

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