Archive for the ‘North Korea – negotiations’ category

Trump cancels Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

May 24, 2018

by By Mike Calia | May 24, 2018 CNBC

Source Link: Trump cancels Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Bonus Link: Donald Trump Tells Kim Jong Un: Summit Canceled — but Thanks for the Hostages

Bonus Link: Trump says U.S. military ready if North Korea’s Kim acts foolishly

{Kim scared to leave country? Who knows for sure, but I’m not surprised the meeting is off for now. Trump is positioning for more sincerity on the part of Kim Jong Un. – LS}

President Donald Trump has canceled his historic summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month.

The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, which was released Thursday morning.

The news came as North Korea made a show of dismantling a nuclear test site, but also on the heels of some sharp words from the North Korean government about America denuclearization demands.

Doubts had grown in recent days about whether the summit would actually happen. North Korea abruptly canceled talks with South Korea out of anger over joint military tests with the U.S. in the Korean peninsula. While Trump had repeatedly played up the historic significance of the meeting, he also often leavened his optimism with a cautious “we’ll see.”

Much of the letter was written in conciliatory terms, including praise for North Korea’s recent release of three American prisoners, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote in the letter.

Earlier Thursday, a top North Korean official, Choe Son Hui, called Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks likening Pyongyang with Libya “ignorant” and “stupid.”

Pence had said North Korea could end up like Libya if it doesn’t make a nuclear deal with Washington.

“As a person involved in U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” Choe said, according to KCNA.

The vice president’s comments also echoed those of Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, who had suggested the U.S. could pursue a Libya-style denuclearization plan with North Korea. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was eventually violently overthrown, a move the U.S. supported. North Korea’s Kim is concerned about regime change.

Trump left the door open for arranging a new meeting with Kim, however.

“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” the president wrote. “This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”

Read the full text of the letter here:

May 24, 2018

His Excellency
Kim Jong Un
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democractic People’s Republic of Korea

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that i pray to God they will never have to be used.

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.

Sincerely yours,

Donald J. Trump
President of the United States of America


Moon: N. Korea Wants Peninsula Without Nukes

April 19, 2018

A U.S. Army soldier stands guard in front of the Peace House at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 18, 2018.

April 19, 2018 5:31 AM Reuters via VOA News

Source Link: Moon: N. Korea Wants Peninsula Without Nukes

{Even though the outcome is unknown at this point, you have to admit this is historic. Of course, the MSM will never give Trump any credit. Besides, imagine the impact on Iran if the North Koreans disarmed and made peace with the USA and South Korea. – LS}

North Korea has expressed its desire for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula and is not seeking conditions such as U.S. troops withdrawing from the South first, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday.

Moon said big-picture agreements about normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through planned summits between North and South, and between the North and the United States, in a bid to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

“North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon told reporters. “They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

Workers plant flowers in the shape of the Korean Peninsula on the lawn to wish for a successful inter-Korean summit at Seoul Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, April 13, 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in April 27 at the border.

Armistice change

North Korea has defended its weapons programs, which it pursues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived U.S. hostility. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

South Korea announced Wednesday that it is considering how to change a decades-old armistice with North Korea into a peace agreement as it prepares for the North-South summit this month.

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Moon also said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement, or even international aid for the North’s economy, if it denuclearizes.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends a luncheon in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 27, 2018. Moon said agreements on big-picture issues between the Koreas should not be difficult to reach.

‘A lot of constraints’

But he also said the summit had “a lot of constraints,” in that the two Koreas could not make progress separate from the North Korea-United States summit, and could not reach an agreement that transcends international sanctions.

“So first, the South-North Korean summit must make a good beginning, and the dialogue between the two Koreas likely must continue after we see the results of the North Korea-United States summit,” Moon said.

U.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea last week and met leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he formed a “good relationship,” U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday, ahead of a summit planned for May or June.

North Korea meanwhile will hold a plenary meeting of its ruling party’s central committee Friday, state media KCNA said Thursday. The meeting was convened to discuss and decide “policy issues of a new stage” to meet the demands of the current “important historic period,” KCNA said.



U.S. moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Winter Olympics

January 15, 2018

U.S. moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Winter Olympics, CBS News, January 15, 2018

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.


TOKYO — The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier and a new amphibious assault ship to the region. Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.

“Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations,” the North’s ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.

Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Monday near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.

The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials. Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.

(Video at the link. –DM)

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reported that the meetings were a fairly stunning turn of events; the South has been trying to engage North Korea for months, but Kim Jong Un’s regime wasn’t interested in talking.

Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.

The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with “deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”

But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.

Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order. The B-2 is more threatening.

It’s the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It’s also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force’s biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram, about 30,000-pound, FGBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The “MOP,” capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.

(Video at the link — DM)

The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.

The Marines announced on Sunday the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps’ new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.

The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.

Congress ignores Trump’s deadline on Iran nuclear deal

December 12, 2017

Congress ignores Trump’s deadline on Iran nuclear deal, Washington Times December 11, 2017

President Trump said on Oct. 13 that Iran is not living up to the “spirit” of the nuclear deal that it signed in 2015. (Associated Press/File)

Congress is about to miss what was widely seen as a deadline to deal with President Trump’s demands for a harder line on the Iran nuclear deal, failing to agree on new sanctions against Tehran and punting the future of the deal back to Mr. Trump.

A Republican legislative push to establish new “triggers” that could reimpose harsh sanctions on Iran lifted under the Obama-era deal has gone nowhere ahead of Tuesday — the end of a 60-day unofficial deadline set by the administration for Capitol Hill to weigh in on the situation after Mr. Trump declared he could no longer certify that the accord was in the U.S. national interest.

Congressional aides say lawmakers still have time to propose something before Mr. Trump is mandated to decide again whether to weigh in on the deal, but White House aides say the president is rankled by the lack of progress on Capitol Hill and likely will pull the United States out of the deal entirely when it comes up for review on Jan. 13.

In October, Mr. Trump called on Congress and American allies party to the 2015 accord — including Britain, France and Germany — to propose ways to address what he called the deal’s “serious flaws,” including its failure to reimpose sanctions should Iran continue to carry out ballistic missile tests in violation of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions. Russia and China also signed the accord and, to date, none of the other signatories has followed the U.S. lead in trying to overhaul the agreement.

U.N. monitors have also repeatedly said Tehran is honoring the letter of the 2015 agreement in curtailing its suspect nuclear programs.

“Come January, the president may be extremely frustrated that neither Congress nor the Europeans have responded to his request for ways to fix the deal,” Mark Dubowitz, an analyst on Iran sanctions and CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in an interview. “It’s entirely possible at that time that the president will walk away from the deal.”

According to a law enacted by Congress in 2015, the president must certify every 90 days that Iran is honoring the deal and that it is in the U.S. national interest. Mr. Trump, in the early days of his administration, twice formally certified Iran’s compliance, but he clearly chafed at seeming to endorse an agreement that he harshly criticized on the campaign trail last year.

He made clear his unhappiness when announcing his Iran deal decision two months ago.

“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Mr. Trump said on Oct. 13. The deal “is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.”

Some of the president’s top aides, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, have advocated staying in the deal out of concern about the negative effects an American pullout could have on Middle East security and on U.S. allies that remain committed to the deal.

The Obama administration strongly backed the agreement, which gave major sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for limits to its nuclear programs. For decades before the accord, the Islamic republic was suspected of developing nuclear weapons in violation of U.N. resolutions.

Legislative fix

Critics say the restrictions on Tehran will expire over the coming decade and that Iran has not moderated its policies in other areas the way President Obama and other supporters of the deal had hoped.

Mr. Trump moved in October to decertify the deal but stopped short of fully pulling Washington out of the agreement. Instead, he called on lawmakers to come up with legislative fixes “to strengthen enforcement, prevent Iran from developing an … intercontinental ballistic missile and make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law.”

Several senior administration officials told reporters on background ahead of Mr. Trump’s announcement in October that the White House was giving Congress 60 days to deliver on such legislation, but congressional aides argued Monday that the president never put a hard deadline on the request.

Aides to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, say he is negotiating with key lawmakers such as Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the panel’s ranking Democrat, and Sen. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who is one of the most prominent critics of the deal on Capitol Hill, to meet Mr. Trump’s demands for legislative action.

“Sen. Corker remains engaged in productive discussions with Sen. Cardin, Sen. Cotton and the administration about the appropriate path forward,” Micah Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Corker, said Monday.

If the legislation comes to the fore and passes before Jan. 13 — an unlikely scenario given the limited number of congressional working days until then — there are concerns about how U.S. allies in Europe who signed the nuclear accord would react.

Analysts say any legislation calling for a reimposition of sanctions on Iran could trigger a demand from Iran for a renegotiation of the entire nuclear accord. There is little appetite for reopening the accord in Europe, where concerns are high that it would lead to an all-out collapse of the existing deal.

European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini has firmly rejected the idea of trying to renegotiate the agreement in hopes of getting new concessions from Iran. After a closed-door briefing to lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month, Mrs. Mogherini told reporters flat out that “renegotiation [of the nuclear deal] is not an option.”

She also stressed that European nations “wish to see the United States continue in the implementation of the deal.”

There are also concerns about the impact a Trump administration pullout from the Iranian accord may have on U.S. efforts to engage in a negotiated solution to another nuclear-related crisis — that with North Korea.

Donald Trump’s undermining of the Iran nuclear deal only shrinks U.S. options for dealing with North Korea,” said Andray Abrahamian, a visiting fellow with the Jeju Peace Research Institute, a South Korea-based think tank.

“The U.S. president’s decertification of Tehran’s compliance will be well noted in Pyongyang, giving North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a credible excuse for refusing to negotiate with Washington,” Mr. Abrahamian wrote in a recent commentary published by Reuters.

Trump’s Biggest Challenge in Seoul

November 7, 2017

Trump’s Biggest Challenge in Seoul, American Thinker,  Daren Jonescu, November 7, 2017

There is no equivalency here. North Korea’s hostilities are their essence, not a product of outside provocation, real or imagined. Anything they do will be on their own heads, as will any destruction that gets unleashed upon them due to their actions. Theirs is a regime that has no moral legitimacy, and hence, while no one is obliged to do anything about that, neither does anyone owe their rule, their aspirations, or their tender feelings any respect.

The only moral considerations that have any weight in this issue are related to whether annihilating Kim’s national death camp — inherently justifiable — is worth the risk it may bring to the lives of other nations’ citizens.


Donald Trump is in South Korea today.  All focus, of course, is on whether Trump and recently-elected Korean president Moon Jae-in will present a unified position against North Korean aggression. Or let me restate that in words that make sense within the current zeitgeist: “a unified position on how to avoid an escalation of tensions with North Korea.”

In our worldwide progressive paradigm, suggesting that the problem to be solved here is the threat posed by a tyrannical rogue state’s immoral behavior is considered inflammatory. Rather, we are all supposed to pretend that North Korea is “a sovereign state” with “legitimate concerns about being threatened by the U.S. military presence in Asia,” and that its outrageous provocations, unprovoked violence, and frequent promises to annihilate its democratic enemies are merely “understandable responses to its increased global isolation.”

Demonstrators reacting to Trump’s visit

(Even many conservatives of the libertarian bent are wont to ask, “How would you feel if your neighbors were all discussing how to end your regime?” — as though rationalizing a killing machine’s sensitivities were anything but a moral absurdity.)

As for President Moon, a progressive appeaser in the mold of his old ally and boss, Roh Moo-hyun (of North-South “Sunshine Policy” fame), he may be a tough sell on taking a stronger stand against North Korea. He would likely accept the inevitable if necessary, however, especially since Japan has already signed onto America’s “all options on the table” position, and since China has remained largely aloof from the situation so far.

But President Moon probably will have to be dragged to a harder stance by events — a bizarre thing to have to say about the president of a nation that is technically at war with a communist madhouse dictatorship that tore his own country in half, has starved and enslaved millions of his countrymen, and has carried out repeated acts of murderous aggression against the South in recent years, in addition to its constant threats of all-out attack. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

But the depth of the moral problem facing this world — in which most governments, media voices, and academics are progressive in their underlying principles and perspective — may be seen in the sheer silliness with which people speak of what might cause an “escalation of hostilities” with North Korea.  Here is a perfect example, from Professor Koo Kab-woo at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. (Imagine the political perspective likely to prevail at a university with such a name.)

Addressing the concern that Trump might say or do something careless or bombastic during his South Korean trip, Professor Koo says, “If Trump says anything that can provoke North Korea, it could send military tensions soaring again.”

Right. North Korea is calm and trying to restore a peaceful coexistence. But what if Trump goes and blows it with a stupid remark?

You see, the tensions, whatever might have caused them (who can say?), have settled recently, but if they rise again due to Trump’s rhetoric during his visit to Seoul, then the resulting danger will be on America’s head for having “provoked” it.

This is a classic moral equivalency argument (and an excellent preview of exactly how China will respond if an armed conflict begins on the Korean peninsula): “Both sides need to calm down. If Nation A (the world’s oldest republic and traditional leader of the free world) causes things to escalate again by speaking too harshly, then Nation B (a bloody tyranny starving its own broken people and threatening the world with nuclear war) cannot be held solely responsible for the resulting rise in tensions.”

This is the same argument used for decades to frame the Cold War as a battle between “two noble experiments,” rather than between good and evil. It is the same argument used to equate the pro-Palestinian efforts by much of the Middle East (along with the UN and Europe and most of academia and the North American left) to wipe Israel off the map, to Israeli efforts to push back in defense of a nation the size of New Jersey.

Moral equivalency in international relations — “both sides are to blame,” or “both sides have understandable concerns” — is the last refuge of the morally bankrupt. In this case, expressing peevishness that somehow Donald Trump’s words might provoke North Korean hostilities is a convenient way of implying that North Korea is not inherently, essentially hostile to begin with, but rather that any hostility they display is merely a response to outside instigation. Thus, a tyranny is falsely portrayed as an equal participant in difficult diplomacy, rather than a victim of its own obsession with power and destruction. This in turn creates an aura of legitimacy around one of the most illegitimate regimes of modern times.

I myself have been critical of Trump’s often careless rhetoric on North Korea, but my concern has always been that by speaking too cavalierly, Trump risks tipping his administration’s hand unnecessarily, or painting himself into a strategic corner with Obama-like “red lines.” My concerns, in other words, are related to American interests, not North Korea’s “feelings.” Under no circumstances would I ever suggest Trump’s words or actions were to blame for North Korea’s behavior.

Similarly, appeasers like Moon Jae-in, who has used moral equivalency arguments against his own nation and yet has somehow been elected president under the guise of a “champion of the people” — reminiscent of Barack Obama in that regard, both in policy and in manner — exacerbate a national tragedy by emboldening a dictatorship. But by no means would I suggest such appeasers are to blame for the murderous aspirations of Kim Jong-un’s illegitimate regime.

North Korea is a brutal dictatorship with fantasies of eventually uniting the Korean peninsula under their communist bloodlust regime. They, and they alone, are to blame for their aggression; their aggression is not a response to anything, but rather their regime’s raison d’être.

Progressives constantly use moral equivalency arguments and moral relativism to obscure the crimes committed in the name of their death cult ideology. They have thereby obliterated an extremely proper and reasonable category of political discourse: illegitimate power.

In this age, any tyranny that survives long enough to become stable in its authority, or that exists as a protectorate of a bigger tyranny, is regarded as “sovereign,” in the sense of unassailable. The UN exists largely to reinforce and defend the “right” of unjust regimes to exist unchallenged, or to set strict limits on the conditions in which such regimes may be confronted by the so-called “international community.”

North Korea, under its current and permanent government, is not a sovereign nation. It is an illegitimate tyrannical regime, a state governed by men without even a pretense of concern for the well-being of their trampled population, which exists not at all as citizens, but rather as slaves, without any modicum or memory of self-determination or self-ownership.

To legitimize that regime by worrying about whether Donald Trump might say something to “raise tensions” is to miss the point. Tensions are permanent and unavoidable when a tyranny feels its power threatened. But tyrannies deserve to feel their power threatened, and in fact they always will. As Plato taught us long ago, the tyrannical man is the most frightened man in the world, for he lives in the knowledge that his power is not deserved, and that everyone hates him for it. He cannot sleep at night, because he cannot even trust his own guards, or his own brother.

But today, we are told not to speak too loudly, lest we disturb the tyrant’s sleep and make him angry, as if we would be to blame if our would-be killer’s anger were roused. Thus, progressives defend one of their own — an extreme and ridiculous one to be sure, but one of them nonetheless — with moral equivalency arguments.

There is no equivalency here. North Korea’s hostilities are their essence, not a product of outside provocation, real or imagined. Anything they do will be on their own heads, as will any destruction that gets unleashed upon them due to their actions. Theirs is a regime that has no moral legitimacy, and hence, while no one is obliged to do anything about that, neither does anyone owe their rule, their aspirations, or their tender feelings any respect.

The only moral considerations that have any weight in this issue are related to whether annihilating Kim’s national death camp — inherently justifiable — is worth the risk it may bring to the lives of other nations’ citizens.

Daren Jonescu lives in South Korea where he writes about politics, philosophy, education, and the decline of civilization at

Mattis Vists Korean DMZ: ‘Our Goal Is Not War’

October 27, 2017

Mattis Vists Korean DMZ: ‘Our Goal Is Not War’, Washington Free Beacon , October 27, 2017

“When generals and secretary of defenses and ministries of defense are done talking, it relies on your young shoulders to make this alliance work,” Mattis said to South Korean soldiers.

“We’re doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically,” he added. “But ultimately our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers.”




Defense Secretary James Mattis addressed North Korea’s threat to the world on Thursday during a visit to the Demilitarized Zone, calling for “verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” in the region.

Mattis addressed South Korean troops and the media, reiterating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s message by saying “our goal is not war,” CNN reported.

“As the U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, yet rather the complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.

The defense secretary’ trip to the region comes ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia next month and as tension grows between North Korea and the United States and its allies. The United Nations has repeatedly condemned North Korea’s illicit nuclear program and defiance of international calls to stand down.

“North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and world peace, and despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations’ Security Council, they still proceed,” Mattis said.


“When generals and secretary of defenses and ministries of defense are done talking, it relies on your young shoulders to make this alliance work,” Mattis said to South Korean soldiers.

“We’re doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically,” he added. “But ultimately our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers.”

How we got to a nuclear North Korea

October 16, 2017

How we got to a nuclear North Korea, Washington Times, William C. Triplett II, October 15, 2017

Illustration on the history leading up the North Korean nuclear crisis by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times


President Trump and his Cabinet have said repeatedly that the present state of affairs with North Korea represents 25 years of American foreign policy failure going back over at least three presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Reviewing this disaster, there are at least three major mileposts.

The first of these would be the Dec. 1, 1994 hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Clinton administration’s “Agreed Framework” with North Korea. The regime had agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program and in return, the United States pledged hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to substitute forms of energy for Pyongyang. Late in the hearing, Sen. Larry Pressler, South Dakota Republican, was pressing the Clinton administration’s spokesman, Ambassador Robert Gallucci, over whether the agreement permitted a “go anywhere in North Korea, anytime” inspection regime. It didn’t, as he was forced to admit.

At that moment, Sen. Pressler asked me to flip open a prepared chart standing on an easel. There was an audible gasp in the room because written on the chart was this: “Based on North Korean actions to date, DIA assesses that North Korea will continue its nuclear weapons program despite any agreement to the contrary.” The statement was made by Lt. Gen. James Clapper, then the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. At the time, Gen. Clapper had the reputation as a straight shooter and everyone in the Foreign Relations Committee hearing room knew that the emperor had no clothes: The Agreed Framework was not going to work, ever, because the Kim regime would cheat on it from the get-go.

The Clinton administration then had a choice: It could go with the judgment of Gen. Clapper and mount a worldwide diplomatic effort to shut down the North Korean nuclear program through trade sanctions and other harsh measures, or it could heed the advice of Mr. Gallucci, State Department Counselor Wendy Sherman, U.N. Ambassador and later Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and pretend that the Agreed Framework was fully clothed. Gen. Clapper lost.

The second milepost came in early October 2002. The incoming Bush ‘43 administration had learned disturbing information about North Korea, but the events of Sept. 11, 2001 had distracted top policymakers. They were just then sending out Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific James Kelly to Pyongyang. Mr. Kelly confronted North Korean diplomat Kang Sok-ju about accusations that North Korea was secretly building nuclear weapons. Kang was equally direct: “Not only yes, but hell yes, and you tell that to your president!”

At this point, the Bush ‘43 story gets murky. We know that strong, decisive action was not taken but not why it was not taken. We know that the North Koreans set off their first weapon in 2006 on George W. Bush’s watch. We know that the Bush administration launched new negotiations with the North Koreans under Ambassador Christopher Hill, National Security Adviser and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s old colleague from the George H.W. Bush administration. Those negotiations failed spectacularly.

Conversation among former Bush ‘43 veterans suggests that in addition to Mr. Kelly, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Security Adviser Scooter Libby also favored a get-tough policy toward North Korea before the Kim regime passed the nuclear threshold, but Mr. Bush sided with Secretary Rice and Ambassador Hill. We will have to await the opening of the Bush ‘43 files to determine what really happened, but certainly we can say that the pressure of the Iraq War sucked the air out of Bush administration policymakers on North Korea and other pressing matters.

In the case of the third milepost, the warning came from outside the U.S. government. In the early Obama administration, Stanford University professor Siegfried S. Hecker, a proponent of negotiations with North Korea, was permitted to see the inside of the North Korean nuclear weapons production facilities and he was “stunned,” he said, by what he saw. North Korea had graduated from essentially an experimental set-up to a full-scale industrial program, and they did it with outside help. As late as 2012, Mr. Hecker was ringing the alarm: “It is important, therefore, to stop Pyongyang from importing large quantities of key centrifuge materials and components to prevent it from building large additional centrifuge facilities now that it has apparently mastered the art of manufacture and operations.”

For whatever reason, neither Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman heeded his call. Nor was the State Department alert under Mrs. Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, when the North Koreans managed to obtain a supply of Soviet-era rocket engines that make a North Korean nuclear weapon deliverable to the United States.

At the end of the day, Harry Truman was right: The buck stops at the Oval Office, but in the case of the North Korean disaster, it has had a number of stops along the way.

• William C. Triplett II is the author of Rogue State (Regnery, 2004).