North Korea 2018

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See North Korea 2017
2018 Olympics Pyeongchang
Randy Rainbow:How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea?

(Quartz) Pyongyang responded with uncharacteristic restraint to Trump’s cancellation letter.  North Korea expressed “great regret” and said it was still open to talks. It added that it had “hoped that what is called ‘Trump formula’ would help clear both sides of their worries.”

Trump cancels nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

(WaPost) President Trump on Thursday canceled a planned summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” from the rogue nation in a letter explaining his abrupt decision.
“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump said to Kim in a letter released by the White House on Thursday morning.
The summit — which had the potential to be a major diplomatic victory for Trump — had been planned for June 12 in Singapore.
South Korea’s government seemed blindsided by Trump’s announcement.
“We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means,” said government spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.
The decision came amid hostile warnings from North Korea in recent days that it was reconsidering participation, including a statement that the United States must decide whether to “meet us in a meeting room or encounter us at [a] nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
A close aide to Kim unleashed a torrent of invective against the Trump administration Thursday morning, calling Vice President Pence a “political dummy” for remarks he made Monday in a television interview that referred to the downfall of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

21 – 23 May
Among Kim Jong Un’s worries about a summit in Singapore: a coup back home
Kim worries that a trip so far from Pyongyang could expose him to a military coup or other attempts to unseat him back home, according to the Washington Post, which cites people familiar with the deliberations
Trump’s not sure his North Korea summit will happen: “You never know about deals”
(Quartz) Donald Trump cast further doubt on his upcoming summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un today, telling reporters, “it may not work out.” The summit was planned to take place on June 12.
“If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later,” he said at a meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae-in, according to a White House pool report. After the meeting’s date and location in Singapore were set, both sides have stalled over the question of whether North Korea will commit to complete denuclearization.
Can the ‘dealmaker’ president deliver on North Korea?
(AP) — Weeks before his planned North Korea summit, President Donald Trump is staring down a dealmaker’s worst nightmare: overpromising and under-delivering.
Going into the North Korea meeting, senior administration officials say, the president has been almost singularly focused on the pageantry of the summit —including the suspenseful roll-out of details. He has not been deeply engaged in briefing materials on North Korea’s nuclear program, said three people with knowledge of the White House efforts.
Trump Grappling With Risks of Proceeding With North Korea Meeting
(NYT) President Trump, increasingly concerned that his summit meeting in Singapore next month with North Korea’s leader could turn into a political embarrassment, has begun pressing his aides and allies about whether he should take the risk of proceeding with a historic meeting that he had leapt into accepting, according to administration and foreign officials.
Mr. Trump was both surprised and angered by a statement issued on Wednesday by the North’s chief nuclear negotiator, who declared that the country would never trade away its nuclear weapons capability in exchange for economic aid, administration officials said. The statement, while a highly familiar tactic by the North, represented a jarring shift in tone after weeks of conciliatory gestures.
Mr. Trump’s aides have grown concerned that the president — who has said that “everyone thinks” he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts — has signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much. The aides also worry that Mr. Kim, sensing the president’s eagerness, is prepared to offer assurances that will fade over time.
Moreover, Mr. Trump’s decision this month to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal raises the stakes for the North Korea negotiation.
The aides are also concerned about what kind of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korea program, and what he must insist upon as the key components of denuclearization. Mr. Moon and his aides reported that Mr. Kim seemed highly conversant with all elements of the program when the two men met, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made similar comments about Mr. Kim, based on his two meetings with him in Pyongyang, the North’s capital.
But aides who have recently left the administration say Mr. Trump has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production and missile programs that Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through.
Why Trump’s North Korea summit is going off the rails, explained by an expert
“Trump is loathed here.”
(Vox) The truth is that the United States and North Korea have long expected diametrically opposed outcomes from the talks — with the US wanting North Korea to give up its nukes and North Korea demanding recognition as a legitimate nuclear power. But neither side was willing to confront the reality of the situation. We’ve just been stumbling toward negotiations with no clear sense of how this yawning gulf could be resolved.
How did we get here? Robert E. Kelly, a professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University, gave a really clear explanation in a series of Monday morning tweets: It’s all because of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
… He made a deep and concerted effort to try to broker negotiations between Trump and Kim to defuse the tension, and part of his strategy was making grandiose promises about what talks could accomplish — even floating the possibility that Trump could win a Nobel Prize to entice him to the table.
The problem, as Kelly points out, is that this was always a kind of shell game: Moon could never change the fact that the US and North Korea want fundamentally different things. Basically, he argues, this was a gambit to try to convince Trump not to go to war with North Korea — one that may yet fail. Trump and Moon are meeting in Washington on Tuesday to try to fix things, and no one really knows how that conversation will go:

17 May
(The Alantic) Peace May End an Alliance: Chung In Moon, a special advisor to the South Korean president, said that South Korea may eventually like to see its alliance with the U.S. dissolve in an exclusive interview with Uri Friedman. Moon said that if North Korea agrees to dismantle their nuclear weapons to secure a peace treaty with South Korea and the U.S., the alliance between the latter two is unnecessary; however, he still supports the continued presence of American forces in South Korea if such an accord is adopted. As the potential summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un approaches and the past dramas of Trump’s Korea policy loom large, David Frum writes that in order for the Trump administration to retain respect, they may just have pretend negotiations are still on track.

Perception and Misperception on the Korean Peninsula
How Unwanted Wars Begin
(Foreign Affairs May/June issue) North Korea has all but completed its quest for nuclear weapons. It has demonstrated its ability to produce boosted-fission bombs and may be able to make fusion ones, as well. It can likely miniaturize them to fit atop a missile. And it will soon be able to deliver this payload to the continental United States. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has declared his country’s nuclear deterrent complete and, despite his willingness to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, is unlikely to give it up. Yet Washington continues to demand that Pyongyang relinquish the nuclear weapons it already has, and the Trump administration has pledged that the North Korean regime will never acquire a nuclear missile that can hit the United States. The result is a new, more dangerous phase in the U.S.–North Korean relationship: a high-stakes nuclear standoff.

12 May
Donald Trump to meet Kim Jong Un in Singapore: What you need to know about the historic summit
(Straits Times) Experts said “neutrality” was the keyword behind the venue choice, as it could offer a comfortable environment for the summit without both leaders stepping on each other’s “home turf”.
“Singapore is the best alternative option for both nations because it has maintained close diplomatic ties to the US and has also established relations with North Korea with a North Korean embassy on its soil,” Dr Shin Beom Chul, a senior fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, said.
Mr Shin said the North would have preferred other countries that were on the shortlist such as China, Russia, and Mongolia, but the US would have minded their positions as global rivals or as an unfamiliar third party.
Malaysia was likely ruled out due to the allegations that Mr Kim had ordered the murder of his half brother there, while Indonesia lacks the necessary infrastructure, according to the Seoul-based expert.
Experts flagged three possible locations in Singapore for the summit: The Shangri-La Hotel, Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa.
Shangri-La Hotel, which hosts the annual high-level Shangri-La security dialogue is said to be the top contender with its know-how in terms of logistics and security.
MBS is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp, whose chairman and chief executive is Mr Sheldon Adelson, one of Mr Trump’s major donors.
A Japanese newspaper on Friday raised the possibility of Chinese President Xi Jinping also travelling to Singapore on June 12.
North Korea’s nuclear test site to be dismantled within weeks
The dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site will take place between May 23-25, North Korean state media says.
(Al Jazeera) It will involve the removal of all research buildings, observation facilities and security posts.
“The Nuclear Weapon Institute and other concerned institutions are taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK [The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] in order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test,” KCNA said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged to close the site during a landmark summit last month with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but experts have warned verifying any dismantling may prove difficult.

8 – 9 May
Moon, Abe discuss N. Korea’s denuclearization
(WaPost) China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to work together to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and on a three-way and regional free trade agreements.
North Korea’s Kim wants to talk to Trump about mutual nuclear issues, says Chinese media
(WaPost) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants to talk to President Trump about “phased and synchronous measures” to deal with their nuclear standoff, Chinese state media reported Tuesday after Kim made his second visit to China in as many months.
This wording, coupled with Kim’s desire to “eventually achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula,” will ring alarm bells in Washington as it reinforces suspicions that the North Korean leader will ask Trump to take simultaneous steps to reduce tensions
Abe reiterated Japan’s position that it would normalize ties with North Korea only if the latter took concrete steps toward abandoning its nuclear and missile programs and resolved the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents.
A Japanese official said the leaders agreed to work toward both a free trade pact among themselves and the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with Southeast Asian nations.
Kim’s Second Surprise Visit to China Heightens Diplomatic Drama
(NYT) The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, flew to Dalian on Monday, where he held long rounds of discussions with Chinese officials, attended a formal banquet, and took a stroll on a beachfront sidewalk with China’s president, Xi Jinping. The pageantry was shown at length on China’s state-run evening television news, with the two men looking like friends, if rather stiff ones.
The Chinese leader appeared intent on showing that the frayed relationship with North Korea was now repaired, and that China was as important to resolving the problems of North Korea’s nuclear weapons as the United States. President Trump … tweeted hours after the meeting in Dalian that he expected to talk shortly on the phone with Mr. Xi about North Korea, as well as trade.

1 May
Christopher Hill: What to Expect From the Trump-Kim Summit
(Project Syndicate) Since the April 27 summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, US President Donald Trump has sought, unsurprisingly, to portray himself as the mastermind behind inter-Korean diplomacy. But, despite the rays of hope emanating from the peninsula, Trump may come to regret having taken center stage, especially as his own summit with Kim draws closer.
… the emotional Moon-Kim meeting in Panmunjom, the “peace village” on the border of the two Koreas, poses an enormous challenge for Trump, who wants a big, showy display of his own deal-making magic, so that he can tell the world, “Now you see the crisis; now you don’t.” Unfortunately, North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons cannot simply be conjured away.
At best, a Trump-Kim summit will produce more vague formulations of what might be possible through further talks. For a preview of just how vague and imprecise such diplomatic pronouncements can be, consider Moon and Kim’s joint statement from their bilateral summit, in which they claim to share the dream of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Most likely, Kim will offer Trump assurances that sound even more encouraging than what he offered Moon – but not by much. Specifically, the North Koreans will argue that their nuclear arsenal is for self-defense – a logical response to decades of supposed US enmity. They will frame Trump’s willingness to meet Kim as a welcome first step along the road to denuclearization; and they will return the gesture with some corresponding concession, such as a freeze on testing nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.
But on the question of whether North Korea will return to the status of a non-nuclear state and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Kim will demur. …
At any rate, to prove that he is not being played “like a fiddle,” Trump will need to carry out several tasks simultaneously. For the sake of public opinion in South Korea, he will have to chart a course between upholding the spirit of the inter-Korean summit and not giving in on sanctions relief. He also must not do anything to weaken the US’s alliances with South Korea and Japan, which will require him to maintain close contact with both Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe throughout the process, lest either leader feels ignored or undermined.

30 April
South Korea’s president wants a Nobel Peace Prize for Trump for putting pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
(Salon) Much as it may pain liberals to admit it, Trump will indeed have achieved something historic if he is able to bring about a lasting and meaningful peace between North and South Korea.
… At the same time, the task is nowhere near complete. And as Salon learned when it spoke with North Korea policy experts from both parties earlier this month, Trump will have his work cut out for him when he meets with Kim Jong-un at some point in the next few weeks.
“Previous administrations have been through this cycle of escalation and negotiations in the past, and it hasn’t produced any significant change in the trajectory of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction or its missile programs,” Jamie Fly, a North Korea expert who served as foreign policy adviser to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio during the 2016 presidential campaign, told Salon earlier this month.
(The Atlantic) The Two Koreas: Last week’s historic meeting between the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in follows a period during which Kim has evaded all diplomatic efforts. His sudden pivot toward greater engagement could indicate that he’s attempting to manipulate the world. Meanwhile, South Koreans are attempting to spread Christian messages across the northern border through an illicit radio station. And a new documentary follows a South Korean violinist’s attempt to stage a peace concert at the demilitarized zone.

28 April
North Korea’s reformer?
(Quartz) Prior to yesterday’s landmark Korea summit, Kim Jong-un announced that North Korea would stop launching missiles and halt its reactor tests, instead shifting its focus to economic growth. Amid all the talk of denuclearization, that line went broadly unnoticed.
If Kim is serious about building North Korea’s economy, Deng Xiaoping would be the most telling example. If Kim was to attempt to follow in Deng’s footsteps, he would have to embark on a system of massive economic change like the so-called Four Modernizations, a huge undertaking to transform China’s agriculture, science, and technology sectors to put the country on par with the West. Deng gave power to individuals, not knowing whether it would work, to “cross the river by feeling the stones.”
North Korea is still a command economy, and a war economy at that. It has an annual GDP of around $1,700 per person, roughly a tenth of China’s. Any attempts to integrate it into the world’s economy would be even more risky than what China tried.
Following Deng’s reforms would also involve doing what North Korea’s leadership has never done: admit it can be wrong. Almost immediately on taking power in 1977, Deng allowed the criticism of the Cultural Revolution and the disastrous Great Leap Forward, famously saying that Mao was “70% right and 30% wrong.”
North Korea has an analogous disaster— the Arduous March, a state-induced famine in the 1990s that killed up to 10% of the population (paywall). But it’s impossible to imagine Kim repeating that phrase, or ever allowing anyone to blame his father for that nightmare in public.
How Trump can build on historic Korean summit. After this week’s meeting between leaders from South and North Korea, Michael O’Hanlon offers cautious optimism for peace on the peninsula as well as some guiding parameters for a final deal on denuclearization as President Trump prepares for his turn to meet with Kim Jong-un.

27 April
North and South Korea Set Bold Goals: A Final Peace and No Nuclear Arms
(NYT) The leaders of North and South Korea agreed on Friday to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and, within the year, pursue talks with the United States to declare an official end to the Korean War, which ravaged the peninsula from 1950 to 1953. At a historic summit meeting, the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South, the leaders vowed to negotiate a treaty to replace a truce that has kept an uneasy peace on the divided Korean Peninsula for more than six decades. A peace treaty has been one of the incentives North Korea has demanded in return for dismantling its nuclear program.
(The Atlantic) Peace on the Peninsula? At a summit on the south side of the border dividing their two countries, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in made a historic pledge not only to officially end the Korean War by the end of this year, but also to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. Here are the diplomatic challenges they’ll need to overcome. After President Trump’s many controversial statements about North Korea’s nuclear program, does the promise of a Korean peace treaty mean that he’s achieved a major foreign-policy success or that he’s falling into a familiar trap for U.S. leaders? David Graham lays out the case on either side.

26 April
This Could Be The Real Reason Why North Korea Stopped Its Nuclear Missile Tests
(Forbes) While it is unclear whether this is a political move in preparation for meeting with the United States president Donald Trump, recent evidence suggests the country may have been forced to halt testing.
A recent study by a group of geologists discovered that the mountain used by North Korea for its nuclear bomb testing has collapsed as a result of the explosions. The collapsed mountain is raising concerns about radioactive fallout, which could make its way into China.
Scientists from the University of Science and Technology of China believe this could be the true reason North Korean President Kim Jong-un announced the halt of their nuclear testing program.

23 April
An Unpredictable Trump and a Risk-Prone Kim Mean High Stakes and Mismatched Expectations
(NYT) As if to underscore the growing uncertainty over how talks will proceed and what they will produce — the opposite of standard procedure, in which months of pre-negotiations align expectations and telegraph the response to victory or failure — both sides already appear to misunderstand one another on basic terms
The countries are already treating the meeting less as the start of a long and difficult process, in which both would need to make painful compromises for narrow gains, but as the culmination of what each seems to see as its glorious triumph over the other.
But those two imagined victories are mutually exclusive and, barring a drastic strategic shift by either country, categorically unacceptable to the other side

20 – 21 April
North Korea says it will suspend nuclear and missile tests, shut down test site
Trump welcomes “big progress,” but analysts doubt that North Korea will be true to its word.
(WaPost) The surprising announcement comes just six days before Kim is set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a precursor to a historic summit between Kim and President Trump. The U.S. president is set to meet Kim at the end of May or beginning of June, although a location has not yet been set.
Both Moon and Trump have been saying that North Korea is now willing to “denuclearize,” a term that means different things to the two sides. Suspicious factory underscores challenge of verifying North Korea’s nuclear promises

27 March
Live lobster, French wine and entertainers. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, met secretly with President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing. The surprise discussions came weeks before planned summit meetings with American and South Korean leaders. It was Mr. Kim’s first trip outside North Korea since taking power six years ago, and adds another layer of complexity to the rush of diplomacy around North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Mr. Kim’s trip was confirmed this morning, only after he left Beijing on the same armored train that stirred rumors when it arrived mysteriously in the Chinese capital on Monday. (Both Mr. Kim’s father and grandfather, the North’s former leaders, used similar ultraluxury trains.)
If the North is reaching out to China, it may be trying to soothe strained relations ahead of a possible summit meeting with President Trump. For Mr. Trump, the diplomatic hurdles are only getting higher: A new North Korean reactor appears to be coming online.

14 March
Brookings: Something’s not right about the Trump-Kim summit. Kim Jong-un’s sudden willingness to discuss denuclearization with President Trump defies the North Korean dictator’s last six years of behavior. As a result, former CIA analyst Jung Pak argues we may have a false or incomplete understanding of how this proposed meeting came to be.
“… President Trump and others in his administration seem confident that in a potential summit with Kim, the United States will be in a position of strength and that the president, with his deal-making skills and charisma, will be able to achieve North Korean denuclearization, an elusive goal for the presidents who came before him. I suspect that Kim also will approach a possible summit thinking that he is in the driver’s seat. And when these two leaders come together, armed with false assumptions about the other side’s intentions, and combined with their respective desire for quick results, reluctance to back down when confronted, and personal ownership of the issue, we could very well face a combustible situation that would be difficult to fix.”

9 March
Quartz: Donald Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un. It would be the first time a sitting US president has met with a North Korean leader. South Korean officials, speaking at the White House, said the meeting would take place by May. They added that Kim had agreed to halt nuclear and missile tests and was committed to denuclearization.
The Economist: Responses to the news that President Donald Trump wants to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, can be put in three groups. Some deplore Mr Trump as the worst man to negotiate with the ruthless North Korean regime. Some see the announcement as proof of the potency of his tough-cum-crazy foreign policy. And others, in the middle, say that as an intelligence-gathering mission the summit could be useful
The AtlanticSurprising Summit: If President Trump follows through on the promise to meet with Kim Jong Un, which South Korea announced Thursday night, the meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korea’s leader will be unprecedented. But as former Defense Secretary Bill Perry can attest, plenty of history suggests that a denuclearization agreement will be hard to come by. One of the terms Kim might propose is a full withdrawal of American troops from the Korean peninsula, which would likely come at great cost to the U.S.—but Trump might be tempted to accept it.
LA Times: There’s no question that Trump considers the North Korean invitation to a summit meeting a personal triumph.  Credit or blame, whichever history assigns, Trump surely will get: Virtually no one else in his administration even knew the announcement was coming, let alone was prepared for it. At the State Department and the White House’s National Security Council, the ranks of Korea experts have thinned with retirements and other departures. Trump’s first choice as ambassador to Seoul, Victor Cha, a respected Korea expert, was derailed in late January after he disagreed with a policy that, at the time, appeared to be drifting toward a possible preemptive U.S. attack on North Korean nuclear sites.
By contrast, the North Koreans appear, at least from the outside, to have followed a carefully plotted course in which they successfully tested nuclear warheads and the missiles that could deliver them and now will receive a one-on-one meeting with a U.S. president — a goal the Kim dynasty has pursued for decades. Nearly two decades ago, then-President Clinton and his aides pondered whether to meet with Kim Jong-Il, the father of the current North Korean leader. By then, they had negotiated with the North for more than five years, carefully building the foundations of a nuclear agreement.
… Now, Trump will try the process in reverse — a summit first, with less than three months to prepare. He hopes he can have a breakthrough where others have failed; skeptics say he’s being played by the North Koreans, who have given up nothing of value and are getting a summit meeting in return.

7 March
Talking’s Tough: How should Donald Trump’s administration approach North Korea’s reported offer to negotiate on its nuclear program? This week’s breakthrough might be merely an attempt to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, although that could be all the more reason to give direct diplomacy a try. If that happens, the president may have to resist the impulse to demand a full rollback of the program. Strategy aside, the diminished staff at the State Department leaves an immediate practical question: Who would lead the negotiations?

Kim Jong Un is suddenly talking about peace. Here’s why.
(WaPost) With the announcement of a summit between North and South Korean leaders as a possible prelude to talks with the Trump administration, Kim has maneuvered within view of a victory his forefathers only dreamed of: membership in the world community, on North Korea’s terms. Many things can still go wrong. But his path forward seems pretty clear.

6 March
(The Atlantic) A Big Step Forward? Not only did North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, host South Korean officials in Pyongyang, he also indicated that he might be willing to negotiate with the U.S. about ending his country’s nuclear program, according to South Korea. If confirmed, this could be a sign that President Trump’s bellicose rhetoric toward North Korea has worked—or it could mean that Kim is trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.
The New York Times is equally skeptical: A Korean breakthrough or more of the same?  North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said that his country was willing to begin talks with the United States on giving up its nuclear weapons — at least according to South Korean officials. President Trump welcomed the “possible progress,” but he and others were cautious. After all, negotiations with North Korea have led only to dashed hopes for the last quarter-century.

24 February
(Quartz) Aside from providing the usual entertainment, the games this year served another purpose: They gave the world a breather from worrying about North Korea.
But, sadly, there’s little reason to think the saber-rattling and weapons tests won’t resume. North Korea, judging by past behavior, is overdue to launch at least four missile tests in the first quarter of this year.
The Trump administration yesterday announced its largest sanctions package yet against the rogue nation. Next month, the US and South Korea will announce the dates of military exercises that were delayed out of respect for the Olympics. Either of those announcements could give Pyongyang another excuse to act—last September it threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
Or, its weapons tests could be timed more randomly, to keep the world on its toes. Either way, the Trump administration will respond with stony faces and fiery rhetoric, even as its North Korea policy remains incoherent
North Korea did use the occasion of the Olympics to invite South Korean president Moon Jae-in to a summit. Such trips are rare, but not unprecedented. …  Such a summit could be the best thing to come out of these Olympics, and lead to future plans for talks or cooperation that could reduce future provocations.
Until that happens though, the Kim regime will be busily improving its missile and nuclear technology, with the ability to obliterate US cities very much in mind. And we’ll be back to stressing out about the next unpredictable move from either side.—Steve Mollman

23 February
Pyeongchang 2018: The Olympics that lived up to the Olympic ideal (or did they?)
(The National Post) Professor Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at Tufts University: “For the 2018 Olympics to be remembered as a pivotal point in the advent of genuine peace in the Korean peninsula, two things need to happen before the year’s end: First, Kim Jong Un dies unexpectedly in a coup, illness or accident,” he says.
“Second, whoever assumes power in a post-Kim world makes the strategic decision to seek help from and, in due course merge with, the incomparably richer, freer and more legitimate South.”

20 February
Pence was set to meet with North Korean officials during the Olympics before last-minute cancellation
(WaPost) Vice President Pence departed for a five-day, two-country swing through Asia earlier this month having agreed to a secret meeting with North Korean officials while in South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. But on Feb. 10, less than two hours before Pence and his team were to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, the North Koreans pulled out of the scheduled meeting, according to Pence’s office.

Study reveals North Korean cyber-espionage has reached new heights
Spying unit is widening its operations into aerospace and defence industries, according to US security firm
FireEye, a US private security company that tracks cyber-attackers around the world, has identified a North Korean group, which it names APT37 (Reaper) and which it says is using malware to infiltrate computer networks.
The report suggests the group has been active since 2012, but has now graduated to the level of an advanced persistent threat.
Until now, the group has substantially focused its cyber-espionage efforts on South Korea, but FireEye outlines evidence that it “has expanded its operations in both scope and sophistication”.
“We assess with high confidence that this activity is carried out on behalf of the North Korean government,” the report says.
The group’s cyber operation is now said to be targeting Japan, Vietnam and the Middle East and is attempting to steal secrets from companies and organisations involved in the chemical, electronics, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and healthcare industries.

17 February
(Brookings) The Korean calm won’t last. Despite a perceived warming of North-South relations during the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, things are about to get very complicated on the Korean peninsula. For that reason, Jung Pak argues the United States needs a special envoy to North Korea now more than ever

13 February
Kim Yo-jong and North Korea’s secret weapon
(BBC) It turns out North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un doesn’t need to fire off a missile to get the world’s attention. He has a number of far more powerful weapons in his arsenal: his female envoys.
And on this latest so-called charm offensive, he saved the best for last. His sister.
Kim Yo-jong mesmerised South Korean audiences. As she strode into the presidential palace carrying a handwritten note from her brother, every detail was scrutinised live on television. Her sparkly top, how she wore her hair, each small gesture. The news networks even decided to discuss her freckles, rather than mention that she is on a US blacklist for human rights abuses.
You could almost feel the ripple of excitement as she walked into the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Necks craned and mobile phones were held aloft to catch a glimpse.

10 February
Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics
(CNN) With a smile, a handshake and a warm message in South Korea’s presidential guest book, Kim Yo Jong has struck a chord with the public just one day into the PyeongChang Games.
“I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in our people’s hearts and move forward the future of prosperous unification,” she said in her guest book message, referring to the capitals of North and South Korea.
Seen by some as her brother’s answer to American first daughter Ivanka Trump, Kim, 30, is not only a powerful member of Kim Jong Un’s kitchen cabinet but also a foil to the perception of North Korea as antiquated and militaristic.

17 January
North and South Korea agreed to have their athletes march together under a “unified Korea” flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics next month. The nations will also field a joint women’s ice hockey team.The moves are “the most dramatic gesture of reconciliation between the two nations in a decade,” said our Korea correspondent.

9 January
(Quartz) North and South Korea held breakthrough talks. Delegates from the two countries met for the first time since December 2015 in the border village of Panmunjom. North Korea said it would send a delegation of senior officials and athletes to the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, while South Korea proposed a reunion next month for families divided by the Korean War.
(The Atlantic) The Korean Peninsula: North Korea announced it will be sending a team to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea after the two countries held their first talks in two years. The gesture could ease the way for further negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but the historical success of conducting diplomacy through sports has been mixed. Meanwhile in the White House, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster has been arguing that the U.S. must stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons at any cost, even if that means war. Here’s what’s shaped his thinking.

4 January
At last, some good news on North Korea
(WaPost Editorial) It is heartening that Mr. Kim coupled his latest threats with an offer to open a dialogue with South Korea — an opening quickly seized by the South’s president, Moon Jae-in. On Wednesday a hotline between the two governments was reopened for the first time in nearly two years, and face-to-face talks could begin next week. There are plenty of risks in this diplomacy and little chance that it will lead to a permanent solution to the crisis caused by the Kim regime’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons. But it should be welcomed as a chance to reduce tensions and prevent a slide toward war. … the Trump administration is wrong to treat the new dialogue skeptically, as the State Department did this week, or to reject anything short of maximal results, as did U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said “we won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea.”
(The Atlantic) The ‘Nuclear Button’: President Trump responded to Kim Jong Un’s boast of North Korea’s nuclear program with a tweet that declared, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his.” While America’s nuclear launch codes are actually contained in a briefcase, Trump’s tweet summed up American strategists’ long-held theory of nuclear deterrence. Yet Twitter—a platform that encourages glib and impulsive comments—adds an extra element of volatility to the delicate balance that deterrence requires. The president’s comments could lead South Korea to decide that China is a more reliable ally. They could even, writes Eliot A. Cohen, be a sign of impending war.
Donald Trump and North Korea: Big Button, Small President
(The New Yorker) For seventy years, North Korea has baited America with threats of mayhem, and, for seventy years, American Presidents, with rare exceptions, understood that squabbling with a pariah state whose economy is smaller than that of Rhode Island would diminish their own stature and America’s standing. Trump, by contrast, summoned the world’s attention and then sawed himself off at the knees. … In the short term, Trump’s taunts will almost certainly compel North Korea to respond in words or actions. …
Trump’s announcement about his button also provided an unexpected boost to North Korea’s strategy against the United States. In his New Year’s Day speech, Kim sought to drive a wedge between Washington and its partners, including Beijing and Seoul. He did so by offering to hold talks with South Korea about potential North Korean participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics. As expected, Seoul accepted that offer, cheered on by Beijing, over the protests of Washington, which is seeking to isolate North Korea as much as possible. By heightening the tension at the moment that Seoul and Beijing are trying to resolve it, Trump succeeded only in isolating himself.

2 January
Kim Jong Un’s choice of a Western-style suit may indicate a desire to change his image
(Business Insider) When Kim Jong Un announced he was open to dialogue with South Korea about the upcoming Winter Olympics during his New Year’s Day address, some experts were more focused on Kim’s attire.
During the televised speech, the North Korean leader did away with his normal button-up tunic and instead wore a Western-style light-grey suit, matching tie, and tortoise-shell-patterned glasses. He also ditched a lapel pin he nearly always wears above his heart, depicting his predecessors Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
The outfit was likely selected to portray a “softer, more relaxed image” according to Reuters.

America’s UN ambassador dismisses proposed North-South Korea talks
Nikki Haley distances US from Seoul’s plan to hold cross-border talks
Haley’s remarks in clear contrast to state department’s cautious stance
(The Guardian) The US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has distanced the Trump administration from proposed contacts between North and South Korea, saying it would not take any talks seriously if Pyongyang did not abandon its nuclear arsenal.
Haley’s dismissive assessment of planned high-level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, was in clear contrast with the state department’s more cautious response – the latest example of Haley taking an independent line on foreign policy issues from the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
The White House and the state department denied that – in offering to send a delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in February – the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had succeeding in driving a wedge between South Korea and the US.
South Korea Proposes Border Talks With North Korea After Kim’s Overture
(NYT) South Korea on Tuesday responded to an overture from the North and proposed holding high-level talks between the countries on their border next week. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had suggested on Monday that the countries open dialogue on easing military tensions and on the possibility of the North’s participating in the Winter Olympics in the South.
Cho Myoung-gyon, the South’s point man on the North, proposed that the Korean governments hold their meeting next Tuesday in Panmunjom, a village straddling the border north of Seoul, the South Korean capital.

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