North Korea 2019 – June 2023

Written by  //  June 5, 2023  //  North Korea, U.S.  //  Comments Off on North Korea 2019 – June 2023

CIA World Factbook
North Korea Cyber Profile
North Korea 2018

Kim Jong-un’s new border wall could be a sign that his grip on North Korea is slipping
Timothy Cho – campaigns for religious freedom in North Korea with the charity Open Doors
The route I used to escape is now closed – but new technology makes it increasingly hard to keep the population under control
(The Guardian) … Extraordinary satellite images published by Reuters last week have revealed Kim’s secret pandemic project: a 489km (304 miles) reinforced security blockade along the country’s northern frontier with China, complete with watchtowers, concrete walls, double fencing and barbed wire.
Kim’s giant wall is a step in a larger grand project: to create a “clean” digital environment. In this project, control of smartphone technology is key. About 3 million North Koreans do own smartphones – brands like the Pyongyang and the Arirang, which are developed by the state. They cannot make international calls, or connect to the internet. Their software – cunningly – disables foreign files: clips, sound files, text files or apps not created within North Korea’s Red Star operating system.
It is a “closed” environment, in which you see and hear only what Kim wants you to. And the phones have one fiendishly clever feature: the automatic capture of the user’s activity history with continual random screenshots of messages, which the user cannot delete.

2 June
US, allies clash with Russia, China over North Korea’s failed military spy satellite launch
(AP) — The United States and its allies clashed with Russia and China on Friday over North Korea’s failed launch of a military spy satellite this week in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, which Moscow and Beijing refused to condemn.
The confrontation was the latest over the North’s escalating nuclear, ballistic missile and military programs, which U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood warned are threatening international peace and security. The failed launch “not only disrupted maritime and air traffic in the region, but it also caused alarm for its neighbors in Japan and the Republic of Korea,” he said.
Pyongyang is threatening another launch soon.

18 February
North Korea fires a missile as the U.S. and South Korea prepare for military exercises
(NPR) North Korea on Saturday [Feb 18] fired a long-range missile from its capital into the sea off Japan, according to its neighbors, a day after it threatened to take strong measures against South Korea and the U.S. over their joint military exercises.
According to the South Korean and Japanese militaries, the missile was fired on a high angle, apparently to avoid reaching the neighbors’ territories, and traveled about 900 kilometers (560 miles) at a maximum altitude of 5,700 kilometers (3,500 miles) during an hourlong flight.
The details were similar to North Korea’s Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile test flight in November, which experts said demonstrated potential to reach the U.S. mainland if fired on a normal trajectory.

9 February
Kim Jong Un shows off daughter, missiles at N. Korean parade
(AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his young daughter took center stage at a huge military parade, fueling speculation that she is being primed as a future leader of the isolated country as her father showed off his latest, largest nuclear missiles.
Wednesday night’s parade in the capital, Pyongyang, featured the newest hardware in Kim’s growing nuclear arsenal, including what experts said was possibly a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile he could test in the coming months.
That missile was part of around a dozen ICBMs Kim’s troops rolled out at the event — an unprecedented number that underscored how he continues to expand his military capabilities despite limited resources in the face of deepening tensions with his neighbors and the United States.
The parade was the fifth known public appearance by Kim’s daughter, Kim Ju Ae, his second-born child who is believed to be around 10 years old.

8 February
North Korea displays enough ICBMs to overwhelm U.S. defense system against them
Administration after administration has failed to stop North Korea from developing such large numbers of an ICBM that could possibly reach the United States.
(Politico) North Korea has just revealed a large enough number of missiles to conceivably overwhelm the United States’ defense against them, blowing a hole in decades of denuclearization and homeland security policies.
Images from state-run media show North Korea’s military rolling 10 to 12 Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles down the streets of Pyongyang during a Wednesday night parade. The U.S. only has 44 ground-based interceptors to launch from Alaska and California to destroy an oncoming ICBM in flight. Assuming North Korea’s weapons can fit four warheads atop them, it’s possible Pyongyang can fire more warheads at the U.S. than America has interceptor


2 November
North Korea fires another missile as South salvages parts of Soviet-era weapon
(Reuters) – North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday, as South Korea said it had identified debris from an earlier launch as part of a Soviet-era SA-5 surface-to-air missile.

2 November
North Korea launched 23 missiles on Wednesday — in what some are calling a record number of daily missile tests — as tensions continue on the Korean peninsula.
S.Korea president vows N.Korea will ‘pay the price’
N.Korea calls allied military drills ‘provocative’
(Reuters) – North Korea fired at least 17 missiles into the sea on Wednesday, including one that landed less than 60 kilometres off South Korea’s coast on Wednesday, prompting South Korea to issue rare air raid warnings and launch its own missiles in response.
It was the first time a ballistic missile had landed near the South’s waters, and the most missiles fired by the North in a single day.
Nuclear-armed North Korea has tested a record number of missiles this year, and officials in Seoul and Washington say the North has completed technical preparations to conduct a nuclear weapon test for the first time since 2017.

26 October
U.S., Japan, S. Korea warn of ‘unparalleled’ response if N. Korea holds nuclear test
(Reuters) – Washington and its allies believe North Korea could be about to resume nuclear bomb testing for the first time since 2017.
North Korea tensions: Why is Kim Jong-un upping the pressure?
(BBC) Periods of tension with North Korea come and go, but the situation on the Korean peninsula right now is the most volatile it has been in five years and it looks likely to get worse.
Over the past month the North has fired a missile over Japan, forcing residents to seek shelter; a hostile and provocative act. It has launched several other ballistic missiles, flown warplanes close to its border with South Korea and fired hundreds of shells of artillery into the sea, which have landed in a military buffer zone, created by the two Koreas in 2018 to keep peace. The two countries are technically still at war.
On Monday a North Korean merchant ship crossed the countries’ sea border, causing both sides to fire warning shots. South Korea says the incursion was intentional.
State media has reported several times that the recent launches and drills are in response to military exercises being run by the US, South Korea and Japan. The North has blamed its enemies for escalating tensions and says its launches are a clear warning they should stop.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have been holding large-scale military exercises, separately and together, for the past two months, to show they are ready for a North Korean nuclear attack.
But there is a less explicit reason he could be upping the pressure now. Some believe may be preparing the ground for a more provocative test – the detonation of a nuclear weapon for the first time in five years, or even a small-scale attack on South Korea.
26 May
China and Russia veto new UN sanctions on North Korea
(AP) — China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution sponsored by the United States on Thursday that would have imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea for its spate of intercontinental ballistic missile launches that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.
The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 13-2 and marked a first serious division among the five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N.’s most powerful body on a North Korea sanctions resolution.

17 May
North Korea on brink of Covid-19 catastrophe, say experts
Number to have fallen ill reportedly at almost 1.5 million as country grapples with what it calls ‘fever’
(The Guardian) The isolated country reported another big rise in new cases of what it continues to refer to as “fever” on Tuesday, days after it admitted it had identified Covid-19 infections for the first time since the start of the global pandemic.
A significant Covid-19 outbreak could unleash a humanitarian crisis in North Korea, where the economy has been battered by the pandemic-enforced closure of its border with China – its main trading partner – natural disasters, and years of international sanctions imposed in response to ballistic missile tests.
The regime is not thought to have vaccinated any of its population and does not have access to antiviral drugs that have been used to treat Covid-19 in other countries. Its hospitals have few intensive-care resources to treat severe cases, and widespread malnourishment has made the population of 26 million more susceptible to serious illness.
A massive North Korea military parade has been identified as a Covid super-spreader event in the country
Soldiers who marched in the event last month tested positive for Covid, Radio Free Asia reported.
The country has now topped 1.2 million cases of “fever,” state media KCNA reported Monday.
North Korea May Be Trapped Between Famine and Plague
As COVID-19 sweeps through the country, outside help is desperately needed.
By Ankit Panda, the Stanton senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. (paywall)

24-25 March
Kim Jong-un gets Top Gun treatment in North Korea’s missile coverage
Under Kim, North Korea has sought to give its state media a makeover with digital effects, seeking more modern ways to tell its stories.
North Korea test-launches its ‘largest intercontinental ballistic missile yet’
Japan calls testing ‘unforgivable’ as regime fires one of biggest missiles for first time since 2017
North Korea has launched what is thought to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile to date, in a dramatic return to long-range testing that marks the regime’s most serious provocation for years.
South Korea’s military fired a missile barrage into the Sea of Japan in response to the ICBM launch – the first full-range test of Kim Jong-un’s most powerful missiles since 2017. The launch will lead to fears that the North has made significant progress in developing weapons capable of sending nuclear warheads anywhere in the US.

14 January
N.Korean hackers stole $400 mln in cryptocurrency in 2021 – report
By Josh Smith
(Reuters) – North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms that extracted nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year, one of its most successful years on record, blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis said in a new report…which was released on Thursday.

5 January
North Korea fires ballistic missile, in 1st test in 2 months
(AP) — North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, its first weapons launch in about two months and a signal it isn’t interested in rejoining denuclearization talks anytime soon and would rather focus on boosting its weapons arsenal.
The launch came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to further strengthen his military capability — without disclosing any new policies toward the United States or South Korea — at a high-profile ruling party conference last week.


19 October
North Korea has fired ballistic missile into sea, says South
Launch, possibly from a submarine, comes as US, South Korean and Japanese spy chiefs meet for talks in Seoul
One ballistic missile was launched about 10:17am local time from the vicinity of Sinpo, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for test firing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

12 October
Does one year make a difference?
Flanked by missiles, North Korea’s Kim says U.S. and South Korea threaten peace
(Reuters) – Standing beside North Korea’s largest missiles, leader Kim Jong Un said his country’s weapons development is necessary in the face of hostile policies from the United States and a military buildup in South Korea, state media said on Tuesday.
Pyongyang was only increasing its military in self-defence and not to start a war, Kim said in a speech at the Defence Development Exhibition on Monday, according to a report by state news agency KCNA.

22 September
‘Pushing the nuclear envelope’: North Korea’s missile diplomacy
Analysis: Fear and uncertainty of the Obama years could return as Kim Jong-un revives nuclear ambitions
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
(The Guardian)…after a six-month pause Pyongyang last weekend launched what it claimed were new long-range cruise missiles capable of hitting Japan, followed hours later by the test launch of two ballistic missiles into the sea, apparently from a train.
Then came the clearest sign since its last nuclear test in 2017 that the North is not about to abandon its project to build a viable deterrent, with satellite images showing it was expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex.

27 August
North Korea Cyber Profile
The internet doesn’t exist in North Korea outside of the offices of government agencies. Find out what this country is up to and why no one in North Korea can access the Web.
Stephen Cooper
(Comparitech) The internet is not a public medium in North Korea; it is a government resource. The regime of Kim Jong-un keeps the country isolated from the rest of the world. So the only truth is that disseminated by the government-controlled media. The world is a dangerous place, and with all they have been told, North Koreans are grateful to be shielded from it.
It is doubtful that you will ever go to North Korea either for business or pleasure. So, this country profile will focus on the encounters that the outside world has with the state-sponsored hackers of North Korea.

30 June
North Korea Covid-19 outbreak fears after Kim Jong-un warns of ‘huge crisis’ in ‘antivirus fight’
Leader speaks of a grave incident and sacks officials for neglecting duties in fighting ‘global health crisis’


12 October
Analysis: ‘I have failed’ – Kim Jong Un shows tearful side in confronting North Korea’s hardships
(Reuters) Speaking at a military parade on Saturday, Kim became emotional as he paid tribute to troops for their response to national disasters and preventing a coronavirus outbreak and apologised to citizens for failing to raise living standards. … Kim – who broke into wide smiles when huge new ballistic missiles were displayed in the parade – blamed North Korea’s continuing economic hardships on international sanctions, the coronavirus crisis and a series of damaging typhoons and floods.

10 October
North Korea holds military parade with missiles
(BBC) The parade marked the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party.
North Korea typically uses its parades to show off new missiles and weaponry. Experts say intercontinental ballistic missiles were evident during Saturday morning’s event.
It is the country’s first parade in two years and … North Korea had not featured ballistic missiles in its parades since President Donald Trump and Mr Kim held their first summit in 2018.

22 June
South Korea says Bolton’s memoir on Trump-Kim summit is distorted
(Reuters) – Accounts by former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton of discussions between leaders of the United States and the two Koreas in his upcoming book are inaccurate and distorted, South Korea said on Monday.
Reports have cited Bolton as writing that Moon, who is keen to improve relations with North Korea, had raised unrealistic expectations with both Kim and Trump for his own “unification” agenda.

16 June
Timeline: From historic summit to building destruction, North Korea unsettles U.S
(Reuters) – North Korea on Tuesday blew up a building set up in 2018 in a border town as a joint liaison office to foster better ties with South Korea, the latest in a series of actions by Pyongyang that have increased concerns in Washington.
It was a major setback to efforts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to coax North Korea into cooperation and also appeared to be a further blow to Trump’s hopes of persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
North Korea’s hostilities have included missile tests and harsh rhetoric since an unprecedented summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in 2018.

12 June
Exactly two years today, Donald Trump boasted, “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Two years later, the scope of Trump’s failure is coming into sharp focus.
(MSNBC) North Korea said it was pulling away from its relationship with the U.S. two years after a historic handshake between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in Singapore, saying there had been no actual improvement in ties.
This comes six months after North Korea said it saw no reason to continue with a moratorium on missile testing, and it would soon move forward with plans to develop “a new strategic weapon.”
…this continues to be one of Trump’s most glaring foreign-policy failures. For reasons he’s never been able to fully explain, he gambled on a curious strategy in which he’d make a series of bold concessions to an adversary, in exchange for nothing.

1 May
Kim Jong-un Resurfaces, State Media Says, After Weeks of Health Rumors
The North Korean leader was said to have visited a factory on Friday, after a series of unsubstantiated news reports suggested that he was gravely ill.

23-26 April
Amid death rumours, train possibly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un spotted in resort town
(Reuters) Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung
“The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast,” the report said.
Kim Jong-un: China sends doctors to check on health – report
Speculation continues about dictator’s condition after reports of heart surgery and absence from important events
(Reuters) Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported earlier this week that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on 12 April. It cited one unnamed source in North Korea.
South Korean government officials and a Chinese official with the liaison department challenged subsequent reports suggesting that Kim was in grave danger after surgery.
On Thursday the US president, Donald Trump, also played down earlier reports that Kim was gravely ill. “I think the report was incorrect,” Trump told reporters, but he declined to say if he had been in touch with North Korean officials.
On Friday a South Korean source told Reuters their intelligence was that Kim was alive and would likely make an appearance soon. The person said he did not have any comment on Kim’s current condition or any Chinese involvement.
Bloomberg: Kim Jong Un Has Put North Korea in Position to Outlast His Reign
Eight years after Kim filled the power vacuum left by the death of his reclusive father, Kim Jong Il, North Korea is more secure and less isolated. The 36-year-old supreme leader has achieved two key marks of legitimacy long sought by his predecessors: a nuclear arsenal that can credibly deter an American attack and a personal relationship with the U.S. president, including three face-to-face meetings with Donald Trump.
While North Korea is still among the world’s most impoverished nations, living standards are rising for the ruling elite in Pyongyang. Kim has shown he can endure crushing economic sanctions, illustrated by a United Nations report published Tuesday accusing the regime of widespread evasion. Moreover, the Kim dynasty holds a renewed pledge of strategic support from its ultimate guarantor, China.

20 January
Bloomberg Politics:  Donald Trump has had a lot going on. Impeachment at home, a re-election campaign picking up speed, trade tensions with China, military tensions with Iran, plus bubbling issues in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.
So it’s not surprising that, after an end-year bout of mutual mud-slinging, North Korea seems to have slipped down the White House’s priority list. Years of talks, including two summits, haven’t shown much progress curtailing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
That doesn’t mean North Korea can’t make trouble for the U.S. president as he moves into high gear for the election. Kim Jong Un’s regime might be secretive and isolated, but it doesn’t like being ignored. Above all, Kim wants international recognition of North Korea as a nuclear state and a seat at the table with the bigger players.
North Korea has a long history of doing dramatic things to force countries to interact with it or to give it economic concessions.
There are signs it has quietly restarted some mothballed nuclear operations. It has refrained from testing very long-range missiles (that, in theory, could hit the U.S.), but that doesn’t mean it won’t if it really wants Trump’s attention.
There are other clues Pyongyang is ready to shake things up. It has reportedly replaced its foreign minister — who’d been in the role since 2016 — with Ri Son Gwon, a former army officer. That could suggest a harder line ahead.
— Rosalind Mathieson

17 January
North Korea’s Economy Expanded 1.8% in 2019, UNCTAD Says
(Bloomberg) North Korea’s economy expanded in 2019 for the first time in three years, and is forecast to accelerate in 2020, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
North Korea’s isolation, secrecy and dearth of official statistics make estimates difficult. Its downturn in 2018 was the worst performance since 1997 when a series of droughts, floods and botched economic policies caused a deadly famine, according to South Korea’s central bank.

9 January
North Korean nuclear threat is here
By Eric Brewer, deputy director of the Project on Nuclear Issues with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He previously served as director for counterproliferation on the National Security Council staff.
(The Hill) Kim Jong Un has done a good job keeping the United States guessing about his next nuclear provocation. North Korea had threatened that it would pursue a more hardline “new path” by the end of last year unless the United States dropped its “hostile” policies toward the country. This was followed by promises of a “Christmas gift” in December, which was widely speculated to be the test of a more advanced long range missile system. Kim most recently announced that North Korea would no longer be bound by its own limits on long range missile and nuclear testing, and stated that “the world will witness a new strategic weapon” system soon.
The days when North Korea was thought of having a handful of nuclear weapons that may not be deliverable with a missile are over. The bigger issue is how the United States and its allies need to adapt to rapidly expanding North Korean nuclear capabilities.
While Trump is right that North Korea has not tested a long range missile since his first summit with Kim back in 2018, North Korea has been busily advancing other elements of its nuclear deterrent. Kim has continued to churn out more nuclear warheads and missiles during this interim period. According to one estimate in 2018, he had as many as 60 warheads, and his stockpile has likely grown since. The pace of North Korean missile testing also kept up with some of the most aggressive years on record.
… There is little the United States can do to stop Kim from going down this pathway of renewed provocations if that is his intention. A subpar deal that provides substantial sanctions relief, but without verifiable limits on his ability to grow the program, is worse than no deal at all. Conversely, raising pressure will not prevent North Korea from building weapons. The task to prioritize now is analyzing how Kim might leverage his increasingly sophisticated capabilities to challenge and undermine deterrence in East Asia, and then begin working with American allies to repair those gaps.

Bloomberg: Nuclear power | North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will probably cling to his atomic arsenal even more tightly after Trump’s decision to kill one of Iran’s top commanders. Unlike Iran, North Korea has shown its ability to set off nuclear bombs, and the U.S. move reinforces Pyongyang’s view that Washington only takes such action against states that lack a credible nuclear deterrent. (Bloomberg)


27 December
Kim Jong-un Is Plotting a Not So Happy New Year
(New York) Kim Jong-un is back, with all the subtlety of a Christmas tree lighting, to let us know that he and his nuclear weapons are planning to take another turn in the spotlight in 2020. While we were focused on other horrors, like tedious impeachment hearings and the Cats movie, the Pyongyang regime has been engaged in its own warped holiday preparations.
North Korean and U.S. negotiators have not met since October, and communications have grown increasingly sour since then. Chief U.S. negotiator Stephen Biegun (who was just confirmed as deputy secretary of State) made a December trip to the peninsula and waited several days in South Korea hoping for a meeting in vain. Meanwhile, Pyongyang has clearly continued to make progress both in accumulating material for nuclear weapons and in improving and testing missile systems that can threaten the continental U.S. as well as Hawaii and our ally Japan (along with the U.S. troops stationed there).
The North has a history of describing its missile tests as “gifts” to the U.S., so when, in early December, a senior North Korean official declared, “It is entirely up to the U.S. what gift it will select to get,” some analysts braced for a December 25 announcement or test.
The Trump administration is usually — and fairly — criticized for a lack of finesse in foreign affairs. But it has actually worked hard recently to avoid another buildup of alarming fire-and-fury rhetoric and to draw a subtle red line that would let Kim show off some of his hardware to buttress his standing at home without drawing a massive reaction from the U.S.
If that approach were linked to a strategy for what to do next, it wouldn’t be a bad start. Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe the administration has a plan and a pretty good reason to think President Trump himself doesn’t have one. In his own words, “It may work out, it may not … I hope [Kim] lives up to the agreement, but we’re going to find out.”

20 December
‘Before it is too late’: Diplomats race to defuse tensions ahead of North Korea’s deadline
(Reuters) – A last minute flurry of diplomacy aimed at engaging with North Korea ahead of its declared year-end deadline for talks has been met with stony silence from Pyongyang so far, with the looming crisis expected to top the agenda at summits in China next week.
…China and Russia teamed up this week to propose a resolution that would ease some United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea as a way to jumpstart talks.
Next week, Chinese, South Korean and Japanese leaders are due to meet in China, with North Korea likely to top the agenda.

10 December
Jonathan Swan: Bolton knocks Trump administration for latest North Korea decision
(Axios) John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, is publicly criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to stymie a United Nations Security Council meeting on North Korea’s human rights abuses. We should take the lead, not obstruct other nations,” Bolton tweeted on Tuesday. Bolton, who’s already spoken out about what he views as Trump’s misguided courtship of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, tagged me in his tweet — a sign that his latest criticism was in reference to the recent Trump administration decision at the UN.

8 December
The Guardian view on North Korea: a brewing nuclear crisis
Pyongyang’s truce with Washington could end with terrible results. To avoid that, international efforts – notably from the US – are needed
North Korea often appears to have styled itself upon a James Bond adversary. We have seen the dramatic announcement of a deadline (New Year), followed by the arch threat that “it is up to the US what Christmas gift it will choose to get”. (Experts predict a missile test.) Its fondness for baroque menace is matched by its flair for provocation – Sunday saw the announcement of a “very important” test at its Sohae site, which the US said it had agreed to destroy. A flurry of pictures of Kim Jong-un mounted on a white horse, at the sacred site of Mount Paektu, surely herald, according to state media, “a great operation to strike the world with wonder again”. The theatricality is intentional: Pyongyang wants international attention. It should also be taken seriously. The North walked out of talks in October, frustrated that there is no sign of sanctions relaxation. The White House has reminded people that the US could use force and described Mr Kim as “Rocket Man” again – and warned he had “everything to lose”.

18 October
Why North Korea walked away from negotiations in Sweden
Jung H. Pak
(Brookings) Sixteen months after the Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, nuclear negotiators finally met for eight hours in Stockholm earlier this month. The talks fell apart after just one day, with North Korea’s representative Kim Myong Gil blaming the U.S. for its “failure to abandon its outdated viewpoint and attitude.” North Korea’s foreign ministry rejected the U.S. Department of State press release that described the conversations as “good discussions” and proposed resuming talks in two weeks. Instead, the foreign ministry stated that it has “no intention to hold such sickening negotiations…before the U.S. takes a substantial step to completely and irreversibly abandon the hostile policy” against North Korea.

16 October
Kim Jong Un rides white horse on sacred mountain – and plans ‘great operation’
Experts speculated that the dictator’s trip up Mount Paektu could signal a major announcement, amid faltering nuclear diplomacy with the United States. Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst with the NK Pro website based in Seoul, said Pyongyang’s coverage of Kim’s ride emphasized power and a hard line against concessions to the outside world.
(Wapo) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was shown riding a white horse in the snow on a sacred mountain, in several photographs released by state media Wednesday that experts said could presage a major announcement.
“His horseback march in Mount Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.
In North Korea’s state mythology, Mount Paektu is supposed to be the spiritual home of the Kim dynasty and the birthplace of Kim Jong Un’s father.
Kim purportedly “climbed” the 9,000-foot peak in shiny black leather shoes in December 2017, about 10 days after launching the country’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile and less than a month before delivering a key speech that opened a diplomatic window for engagement with South Korea.

2 October
North Korea fired what may have been a submarine-launched ballistic missile from off its east coast, a day after it announced the resumption of talks with the United States on ending its nuclear program. If confirmed, it would be the most provocative test by North Korea since it started the talks with the United States in 2018. Analysts said it was likely a reminder by Pyongyang of the weapons capability it had been aggressively developing.

9 September
North Korea says it is willing to resume nuclear talks with U.S. in late September
(Reuters) – North Korea said on Monday it was willing to restart nuclear talks with the United States in late September, but warned that chances of a deal could end unless Washington takes a fresh approach.

14 August
By Robert Einhorn
US-DPRK negotiations: Time to pivot to an interim agreement
Editor’s Note: This report was first published at 38 North, a project of the Stimson Center. It is republished with permission.
(Brookings) If and when U.S.-North Korea working-level talks resume, as agreed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un at their brief June 30 meeting at the Demilitarized Zone, prospects for overcoming the current impasse will depend heavily on whether the Trump administration is now prepared to recognize that the North is unwilling, at least at the present time, to give up its nuclear weapons—and whether, as a result, the administration is now prepared to consider an agreement that imposes significant constraints on DPRK capabilities but falls short of requiring complete denuclearization in an agreed time frame.
To be sure, such an agreement is not the ideal outcome that the U.S. government and all other interested governments would like to see. However, a less ambitious agreement should be compared not with the ideal but unattainable goal of complete, time-bound elimination but with its most likely alternative—a U.S. strategy of pressure, containment and ultimately regime change. Full Report

30 June
Trump takes historic step into North Korea with Kim Jong Un

After the theatrical gesture, both leaders pledged to restart stalled nuclear negotiations between the two countries
(Politico) It was a made-for-TV moment for the reality show-groomed president that unfolded at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Trump approached the border from the south, while Kim approached from the north. The two met at the line demarcating the two countries, grinned and shook hands.
Trump said Kim then asked him if he would like to cross into North Korea. Trump said he would be honored and walked about 20 steps into the country.
The two leaders then decamped to Freedom House, a small building on the southern side of the border that has been used for occasional talks between North and South Korean officials for two decades. They emerged 53 minutes later and announced they would appoint teams to restart nuclear negotiations.

30 May
North Korea envoy executed over failed Trump-Kim summit: report
(The Hill) Bloomberg News reported Thursday citing a South Korean newspaper that Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the U.S., was executed in March along with four other North Korean foreign ministry officials involved in the Hanoi, Vietnam, summit.
A fifth official, Kim Jong Un’s top deputy, Kim Yong Chol, has reportedly been sentenced to hard labor, according to the newspaper.
An unnamed North Korean source told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper that Kim Yong Chol and four other officials were executed at a North Korean airport for allegedly spying on behalf of the U.S.

4 May
NKorea says leader Kim oversaw drills of rocket launchers
(AP) — North Korean state media on Sunday said leader Kim Jong Un observed a live-fire drill of long-range multiple rocket launchers and unspecified tactical guided weapons, a day after South Korea’s military detected the North launching several unidentified short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast.
The weapons launches were a likely sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington meant to provide coveted sanctions relief in return for nuclear disarmament. They also highlighted the fragility of the detente between the Koreas, which in a military agreement reached last September vowed to completely cease “all hostile acts” against each other in land, air and sea.

25 April
Putin says U.S. guarantees unlikely to prompt North Korea to de-nuclearize
(Reuters) That would mean including Russia, China, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States and North Korea, a long-standing format that has been sidelined by unilateral U.S. efforts to broker a deal.
The talks between Putin and Kim did not appear to have yielded any major breakthrough. But with Moscow committed to upholding international sanctions until North Korea dismantles its nuclear program, Russia’s room for maneuver, beyond putting on a show of camaraderie, was limited.

North Korea issued $2 million bill for comatose Otto Warmbier’s care
North Korea issued a $2 million bill for the hospital care of comatose American Otto Warmbier, insisting that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay it before being allowed to fly the University of Virginia student from Pyongyang in 2017.
The presentation of the invoice — not previously disclosed by U.S. or North Korean officials — was extraordinarily brazen even for a regime known for its aggressive tactics.

24 April
Reuters: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in the Russian city of Vladivostok for a summit he is likely to use to seek support from Russian President Vladimir Putin while Pyongyang’s nuclear talks with Washington are in limbo. Earlier, at a stop on the border, Kim told Russian state television he was hoping for useful and successful discussions with Putin.
For Putin the summit is an opportunity to show that Russia remains a major global player despite being under sanctions itself over its intervention in Ukraine and allegations that it meddled in U.S. elections. But analysts predicted that Kim is unlikely to emerge from the summit with any substantial promises of sanctions relief. The meeting is likely to focus more on showing camaraderie.

13 April
Kim open to another summit with Trump, with conditions
(AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is open to a third summit with President Donald Trump, but set the year’s end as a deadline for Washington to offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage the high-stakes nuclear diplomacy, the North’s state-run media said Saturday.
Kim made the comments during a speech Friday at a session of North Korea’s rubber stamp parliament, which made a slew of personnel changes that bolstered his diplomatic lineup amid stalemated negotiations with the United States. His speech came hours after Trump and visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in Washington and agreed on the importance of nuclear talks with North Korea.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, Kim blamed the collapse of his summit with Trump in February on what he described as unilateral demands by the United States, which he said raised questions over whether Washington has genuine willingness to improve relations. But Kim said his personal relationship with Trump remains good and that they could exchange letters at “any time.”

28 February
PBS experts go to the heart of the problem:
How ‘overreach’ by Trump and Kim set summit up for failure
Frank Jannuzi: “For President Trump, the summit should be about denuclearization. But for Kim Jong-un, it’s really about legitimacy, prestige and a sense of security. And this is why he will have third summit, fourth summit, fifth summit, because each summit actually bestows a certain amount of additional legitimacy and stature upon this North Korean dictator.
— is that in the interest of the United States to have summit after summit after summit, if it’s not going anywhere?
FJ: Only if it leads to concrete steps, which is why I would hope that this summit should have been better prepared in terms of having an agreement in place before the two leaders met.
If there’s going to be a third summit, you should be darn sure that the working level talks should nail down what’s going to happen before it happens. And maybe that’s part of the learning curve with this president.
Jung Pak: I hope, if there is a next summit — and I suspect that there will be a next summit — that we let the working level discussions move forward and advance the conversation, rather than having the two leaders in the room again, so we could have another set of status quo situation.
So I think the lesson learned here is that the top level leadership conversations are good, they’re OK for maintaining goodwill and momentum, but the working level processes are just as important, if not more.

Trump gets praise from unlikely corners for walking away from Kim
(Politico) “President Trump did the right thing by walking away and not cutting a poor deal for the sake of a photo op,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. It was a rare bipartisan outpouring of compliments — even if some of them came with caveats — for a president who has alarmed global leaders with his erratic foreign policy decisions, his desire to engage in trade wars and his threats to pull out of NATO. “For the United States to have agreed to lift all sanctions in the absence of real and complete denuclearization would have been a tremendous mistake,” former national security adviser Susan Rice, who also served as ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, said Thursday

US and North Korea give conflicting accounts of summit collapse
Pyongyang disputes Trump’s claim that Kim sought end to all sanctions
(Nikkei Asia Review) The world had been expecting the two leaders to make at least symbolic progress at their second summit, and they had appeared to be in good spirits until the early afternoon. But as the talks entered the final stretch, each side stuck to demands the other found unacceptable, prompting the abrupt cancellation of a planned signing ceremony for a “joint agreement.”
“Basically, [North Korea] wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that,” Trump explained at a news conference afterward.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho gave a different account after Trump left Hanoi, saying that Pyongyang had sought only a partial lifting of sanctions.
Trump’s Talks With Kim Jong-un Collapse, and Both Sides Point Fingers
(NYT) The premature end to the negotiations leaves the unusual rapprochement between the United States and North Korea that has unfolded for most of a year at a deadlock, with the North retaining both its nuclear arsenal and facilities believed to be producing additional fissile material for warheads.
It also represents a major setback at a difficult political moment for Mr. Trump, who has long presented himself as a tough negotiator capable of bringing adversaries into a deal and had made North Korea the signature diplomatic initiative of his presidency.
Trump Was Right to Walk Away From North Korea, But Kim Won’t Be Ignored
(New York) Trump’s next step was also shrewd: calling South Korean president Moon Jae-in from Air Force One to ask him to take the lead in further efforts with Kim. The South Koreans said Trump “asked President Moon to actively perform the role of a mediator that may entail talking with Chairman Kim and letting him know the outcome of his dialogue.” This calms Moon, who has staked his own political survival on the process moving forward, and may provide some incentives for North Korea to keep talking. It also, of course, gives Trump someone else to blame if progress does not ensue.
Keen observers noted that Trump’s North Korea envoy, Stephen Biegun — who recently made the case for a steady, slow, and mutual move toward denuclearization — was not present at the major summit dinner. It’s an odd choice that seems to signal he is not a key Trump adviser and may limit his future effectiveness. Washington still has cards — the lifting of sanctions, a declaration ending the Korean War, the removal of some or all troops from the Korean Peninsula — that Kim badly wants. But those cards just got harder, not easier, for Trump to play.
No deal reached between Trump, Kim at 2nd summit
(AP via CBC) The nuclear summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un collapsed Thursday after the two sides failed to reach a deal due to a standoff over U.S. sanctions on the reclusive nation, a stunning end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global threat.
Trump, in a news conference after the abrupt end to the talks, said the breakdown occurred over North Korea’s insistence that all punishing sanctions the U.S. had imposed on North Korea be lifted without Pyongyang committing to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal.

27 February
Robin Wright: Will Trump Give Away Too Much to North Korea—and Get Too Little?
(The New Yorker) Eight months after the first summit, the two countries have not even defined what “denuclearization” means. They’re “still at the starting point of the lengthy and arduous process,” Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, in Washington, told me. “Trump cannot afford to squander the time spent getting to this point and come away with just pictures and pleasantries with Kim. This summit can and must emphasize substance over pageantry.”

It had been dubbed a brilliant move in a grand game of diplomatic chess: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had booked the same hotel being used by the White House press corps during his meeting with President Trump in Vietnam this week. South Korean media and experts hailed it as a “heroic” and “deliberate strategy” for Kim to reveal more of himself to the American press. But minutes after Kim Jong Un arrived, the Vietnamese foreign ministry announced the Melia Hanoi Hotel, where North Korean leader is staying, would no longer host the press center for hundreds of visiting American journalists assigned to cover his second summit with Trump.

Trump: Kim Jong Un Is a Super Well-Adjusted Dictator
(Vanity Fair) According to new report from CNN, the last time the two leaders met, Trump told Kim that he’d known “plenty of people who’d grown up wealthy and whose families were powerful,” life circumstances that led to them being total f–kups. But Kim, in Trump’s mind, wasn’t one of them. (As a reminder, we’re talking about a guy who runs a country that’s been described as “the world’s biggest open prison camp,” who’s starved his own people to pay for nuclear weapons, and who ordered the execution of his half brother and uncle.)
Trump, of course, has a vested interest in flattering Kim. The two are currently rubbing shoulders in Vietnam, at a summit that no one expects will yield much of anything for the U.S., save for, at best, a “gesture that would help signal that Kim may actually be serious about dismantling [his nuclear] program eventually.” As a leader for whom ass-kissing goes a very long way, Trump presumably expects the strategy to work on his little authoritarian friend. None of which is to say he doesn’t truly believe that Kim is an accomplished dictator people should look up to. Last year, he told reporters how impressed he was with Kim’s ability to “take over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and run it, and run it tough,” and earlier this month he informed his followers that an economic miracle is about to take place in North Korea—one that only he saw coming.

Susan Rice: Can Trump Avoid Caving to Kim in Vietnam?
The United States can make progress toward reducing the North Korean nuclear threat if Mr. Trump is disciplined in his diplomacy.
For Mr. Trump, diplomacy with North Korea has always been about theater and politics. In falsely declaring after his first summit with Mr. Kim that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” while bragging that the risk of war — which he foolishly stoked — is now diminished, the president is intent on creating the illusion of progress. In fact, there has been none toward our core goal of full denuclearization.
… the risk of the Hanoi summit is twofold. First, in a rush to generate good optics and distract from unpleasant developments at home, Mr. Trump may make further concessions to the North Korean dictator, like a peace declaration, partial sanctions relief, or continued limitations on United States military exercises or troop presence without receiving tangible, irreversible concessions in return. Second, Mr. Trump risks squandering an opportunity to make real headway toward denuclearization.

North Korea warns U.S. skeptics as Kim heads for summit with Trump
(Reuters) …their vaguely worded [Singapore] agreement has produced few results and U.S. Democratic senators and U.S. security officials have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The North’s KCNA state news agency said such opposition was aimed at derailing the talks.
The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up its nuclear weapons program, which, combined with its missile capabilities, pose a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions. But in recent days Trump has signaled a possible softening, saying he would love to be able to remove sanctions if there is meaningful progress on denuclearization.
Trump also said he was in no rush and had no pressing schedule for North Korea’s denuclearization, hinting at a more gradual, reciprocal approach, long favored by Pyongyang.
Trump Is Misleading the American People About North Korea
Kim Jong-un is a threat. It’s time for the president to say so.
By Tom Donilon, national security adviser to President Barack Obama from 2010 to 2013.
There are two basic problems heading into the summit. First, the president is either misleading the public or is dangerously mistaken about North Korea, falsely promising that its nuclear program is constrained and that the threat has receded. Second, and relatedly, the president’s repeated claims to be in “no rush” to reach a deal reflect a serious analytical error, since, despite a pause in nuclear and missile tests, North Korea’s nuclear program is in fact advancing by the day. At a minimum, the United States should insist that North Korea meaningfully freeze its program during the pendency of the talks.

22 February
(Bloomberg Politics) Kim Jong Un may have his own art-of-the-deal game plan at next week’s meeting with the U.S. president in Vietnam: Get Donald Trump in a room alone.
Ever since their landmark summit in Singapore last year – Trump said he and Kim “fell in love” – the North Koreans have preferred dealing directly with the president. . As Nick Wadhams reports, U.S. officials fear Trump may make concessions on the fly if Kim offers something that sounds good at the moment.
Trump has a track record of doing just that – he suddenly agreed to pull U.S. troops out of Syria on a December phone call with Turkey’s president, and dismissed his own intelligence community’s findings on Russian election-meddling at a press conference with Vladimir Putin in July.
In Hanoi, administration officials worry about the fate of some 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. Kim could seek to exploit Trump’s distaste for overseas deployments to win a commitment to withdraw some or all of them as part of a denuclearization accord.
Since his real-estate days, Trump has relished the intimacy of the one-on-one chat to cut the best deal. Some of his closest aides fear that’s precisely what Kim is counting on in order to set Trump up. – Karl Maier

21 February
North Korea warns of food crisis, slashes rations before next leaders’ summit
(Reuters) – North Korea has warned that it is facing a food shortfall of some 1.4 million tons in 2019 and has been forced to almost halve rations, blaming high temperatures, drought, floods and United Nations sanctions in a memo seen by Reuters on Thursday. … Margareta Wahlstrom, president of the Swedish Red Cross, told Reuters after a trip to North Korea in November that, as far as the areas in which they operated were concerned, the maze harvest was only 65 percent of what should be normal due to the combination of an influenza outbreak, a heat wave and a typhoon.

18 February
North Korea’s ‘socialist utopia’ needs mass labor. A growing market economy threatens that
(Reuters) The labor units, called dolgyeokdae or youth brigades, were created by Kim’s late grandfather Kim Il Sung to build railways, roads, electricity networks and other infrastructure projects after the Korean peninsula was liberated from Japan’s 1910-45 occupation.
Young workers get no pay, poor food and are forced to work more than 12 hours a day for up to 10 years in return for better chances to enter a university or join the all powerful Workers’ Party. But as private markets boom and more people cherish financial stability above political standing, the regime has been struggling to recruit the young laborers in recent years, they say.

15 February
Singapore to Hanoi: The bumpy diplomatic road since Trump and Kim first met
(Reuters) – the statement that came out of the meeting was light on specifics, opting instead for four general commitments:
-The two countries will establish “new relations” for peace and prosperity.
-The United States and North Korea will work together to build a “lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula”.
-North Korea committed “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.
-The two countries will recover and repatriate the remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Throughout all [subsequent] talks, as well as other behind-the-scenes negotiations, neither side announced major new steps toward denuclearization, easing sanctions, or establishing a new “peace regime” for the peninsula.
Statements carried by North Korean state media complained about Washington’s opposition to signing a peace declaration or easing sanctions until North Korea takes more steps toward denuclearization.
American and North Korean officials have been tight-lipped about what agreement might come from the second Trump-Kim summit, but analysts say Washington needs to be open to taking interim steps for any deal to be possible. Stephen Biegun, the top U.S. envoy to North Korea, told South Korean lawmakers that most of the recent discussions with Pyongyang had revolved around summit logistics, and that more talks were needed to address the substantive issues

North Korea has continued to produce bomb fuel while in denuclearization talks with the United States and may have produced enough in the past year to add as many as seven nuclear weapons to its arsenal, according to a study released just weeks … But the country’s freeze in nuclear and missile testing since 2017 means that North Korea’s weapons program probably poses less of a threat than it did at the end of that year, the report by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation found.

5 February
State of the Union: Second Trump-Kim Summit set for Vietnam on Feb 27, 28
(Straits Times) United States President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un are set to meet in Vietnam on Feb 27 and 28, Mr Trump told Congress in his second State of the Union (SOTU) address. The site of the meeting with the North Korean leader was not mentioned, but is widely believed to be the seaside city of Da Nang.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Mr Trump said.
“Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months.”
“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one. And Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam.”
While North Korea has refrained from testing missiles or nuclear devices since the two leaders met in a breakthrough summit in Singapore in June last year, and has returned the remains of many Americans killed in the Korean War, official talks on denuclearisation have not made any progress and official rhetoric on either side has been at odds.

UN monitors find North Korea protecting nuclear missiles and easily skirting U.S. sanctions
Trump hailed ‘tremendous progress’ in his dealings with North Korea, but the view in the U.S. is that it has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear program

18 January
Trump, North Korea’s Kim to hold second summit in late February
(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February but will maintain economic sanctions on Pyongyang, the White House said on Friday after Trump met Pyongyang’s top nuclear negotiator.
The announcement came amid a diplomatic flurry in Washington surrounding the visit of Kim Yong Chol, a hardline former spy chief, and marked a sign of movement in a denuclearization effort that has stalled since a landmark meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader in Singapore last year.

1 January
Kim and Trump Back at Square 1: If U.S. Keeps Sanctions, North Will Keep Nuclear Program
Nearly two years into his presidency and more than six months after his historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, President Trump finds himself essentially back where he was at the beginning in achieving the ambitious goal of getting Mr. Kim to relinquish his nuclear arsenal.
That was the essential message of Mr. Kim’s annual New Year’s televised speech, where he reiterated that international sanctions must be lifted before North Korea will give up a single weapon, dismantle a single missile site or stop producing nuclear material.
The list of recent North Korean demands was a clear indicator of how the summit meeting in Singapore last June altered the optics of the relationship more than the reality. Those demands were very familiar from past confrontations: that all joint military training between the United States and South Korea be stopped, that American nuclear and military capability within easy reach of the North be withdrawn, and that a peace treaty ending the Korean War be completed.
Kim Jong-un, Ready to Meet Trump ‘at Any Time,’ Demands U.S. End Sanctions
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, said Tuesday that he was willing to have a second summit meeting with President Trump, but he paired the offer with a threat that if international sanctions against his country were not lifted, the North would “have no choice” but to return to nuclear confrontation.
“I am willing to meet the United States president at any time for the betterment of our international community,” Mr. Kim said in his New Year’s Day speech, broadcast on North Korea’s state-run television.
There were sparse direct references in the speech to denuclearization. But Mr. Kim said the country would not be willing to take further steps toward removing its nuclear weapons unless the United States reciprocated. … Since the Singapore meeting, Mr. Trump has occasionally seemed to waver on the question of lifting some sanctions before the North dismantles its facilities and gives up its weapons and missiles. Now, with Mr. Kim’s demand, he must decide whether to back down — and take steps similar to those of his predecessors.

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