Posted tagged ‘North Korean nukes’

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).

It’s time to deploy US ships off North Korea to knock out missiles when they’re launched

October 14, 2017

It’s time to deploy US ships off North Korea to knock out missiles when they’re launched, Fox News, Michael Fabey, October 14, 2017

(Please see also, N.K. missiles mounted on TEL being transported in 3 to 4 regions

The Ohio-class USS Michigan, an 18,000-metric ton submarine, arrived in the South Korean port of Busan Friday. The USS Ronald Reagan also arrived here in South Korea for a joint drill with South Korean military, which will be held in the East and West sea off South Korea from Oct 16 to 20, to prepare for the North’s naval provocations. As many as 40 navy vessels, including the Aegis destroyer and submarines, combat aircrafts, attack helicopters and JSTARS will be deployed for the joint drill. “The North may carry out a simultaneous launch of ICBM and IRBM within a few days in protest against the U.S.’s show of military might,” another source said.

— DM)

North Korea renewed its threat Friday to fire ballistic missiles in the direction of the American territory of Guam, following ominous earlier threats by the rogue regime to launch missiles topped with hydrogen bombs to wipe out cities on the continental United States.

We need to be prepared to defend against new North Korean missile launches – and there is a way to do this short of full-scale war.

One U.S. military option would be to deploy a special team of two or three guided-missile destroyers – ships especially equipped to target, track and shoot down ballistic missiles – to strategic locations off the North Korean coastline. The ships would be positioned outside the 12-mile internationally recognized maritime territorial limit, or at other locations that intelligence indicates would be effective.

Sources intimately familiar with the operations and deployments of those destroyers – and the vast capabilities of their top-secret ballistic missile defense systems – tell me such a plan could work. They say a similar strategy is one of the military options being considered at the Pentagon and at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii. At the very least, this action would increase the costs to North Korea of continuing its missile program.

Erecting what amounts to a destroyer “fence” to contain North Korean missiles and knock them out of the sky might seem like a farfetched scheme. Can a handful of small warships really perform such a huge task?

America’s ballistic missile defense warships are outfitted with systems and weapons that have been proven in rigorous testing, including SM-3 missile interceptors. Since 2002, the Aegis combat system – a powerful weapons system used by the U.S. Navy that utilizes computer and radar technology to find, track and destroy enemy targets – has recorded 35 successful ballistic-missile intercepts in 42 test attempts. And in the last dozen tests, the SM-3s have only missed once.

While U.S. tests of our missile defense system are admittedly choreographed, the characteristics of a targeted ballistic missile in a test situation closely match those of a missile that has been deployed with bad intentions.

Nearly all of the tests pit a single U.S. missile interceptor against a single ballistic missile. Against an actual launch, the Navy could send up numerous interceptors, dramatically increasing its chances for a hit.

Up to now, North Korea has failed to prove it has the capability to launch and control a sufficiently large salvo of missiles to overwhelm a single Aegis ballistic missile defense ship, let alone two or three. Some experts speculate that North Korea, slowed as it is by international economic sanctions, might not develop that capacity until near the end of the decade or beyond.

The U.S. missile destroyers that could be formed into a team and used to knock down North Korean missiles overhead would be those outfitted with the latest version of the four-decades-old Aegis combat system. The newest series of upgrades was certified in January 2015.

All U. S. Navy destroyers and cruisers possess Aegis combat systems, which were first developed to protect ships – especially aircraft carriers – against air threats such as cruise missiles and aircraft.

However, ballistic missile defense requires different sensor settings, algorithms and missiles. Only 40 percent of the U.S. Navy’s Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers are designed for ballistic missile defense.

The ballistic missile defense ships depend on SM-3 missile interceptors to blow apart enemy ballistic missiles relatively soon after they enter what’s called flight midcourse, at their most vulnerable point where the atmosphere ends. This starts about 400 miles above the Earth’s surface and extends out to a few thousand miles.

SM-3s have no explosive warhead. Instead they work through sheer force, colliding with the targeted missile with the power of a 10-ton truck traveling 600 miles per hour. For very short-range missiles, SM-2 interceptors can potentially be used. New interceptors, called SM-6s, are being tested that are designed to hit longer-range ballistic missiles later in flight as they descend and re-enter the atmosphere.

Every ballistic missile defense destroyer has the capacity to launch up to 96 missiles. Each ship would have to retain some Aegis capacity for self-defense and that missile number would depend on the mission.

For argument’s sake, assume a destroyer making up part of the “fence” could aim 80 interceptors at a launched North Korean missile. That would mean two ships could unleash a fusillade of 160 missiles and three ships could fire 240. If North Korea were to triple its single-day launch rate, which with sanctions seems extremely difficult, it could possibly send a dozen missiles aloft. In that case, the odds still favor the Aegis interceptors.

Recently North Korea has focused mainly on short- and medium-range missile tests. The North has yet to prove it can launch an intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a payload that can reach the United States, despite its boasts.

If Pyongyang does deploy such missiles and they break though the fence created by U.S. ships and head toward America, the U.S. Air Force could meet them with a total of 36 ground-based interceptors launched from Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Those interceptors have hit targets in 10 of 18 tests, including the last two in June 2014 and May this year.

To execute such an aggressive plan for an Aegis-ship ballistic missile defense, some parts of which appear to be already in the works, the U.S. would have to place even greater focus on ballistic missile defense missions. American fleet commanders will need to make sure destroyer captains improve their skill in basic seamanship – a proficiency called into question after the Navy recently lost two of its valuable ballistic missile defense destroyers in collisions with commercial ships.

An important step in making the fence operational would be for the U.S. to adopt rules of engagement that allow the Navy destroyers to shoot down North Korean missiles as soon as leave the country’s airspace. Current rules only allow for tracking and monitoring.

If an SM-3 misses, there’s little concern of collateral damage. The interceptor would burn up harmlessly as it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. Even if an interceptor collided with a nuclear warhead there would likely be no nuclear explosion, experts say.

While North Korea could be counted on to rail at the “recklessness” of an Aegis interceptor taking out one of its missiles, the hornet’s nest would be stirred up far less than in the case of a U.S. invasion of North Korea’s territory or attack on a land target.  In the latter two cases, the North Korean reprisal might be catastrophic, inflicting heavy casualties in South Korea.

If the moment for the destroyer fence to show its capability ever arrives, the U.S. Navy will have to make absolutely certain its missile-killing missiles don’t miss. North Korea would only feel emboldened if its greatest adversary seemed not up to the task of backing up its rhetoric with effective action.

Of course, a destroyer fence is only a short-term fix. North Korea will build more missiles and it’s only a matter of time before more countries acquire such weapons.

In the longer term, the Navy should consider upgrading more ships for ballistic missile defense.  The Navy should also push forward an idea broached by shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries to develop a missile-defense variant of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship that can be fitted out with a massive strategic antimissile battery of more than 400 interceptors or other missiles.

Similarly, more thought should be given to accelerating testing and deployment of systems that support and enable Aegis. These include the SBX-1 – a huge golf ball-shaped radar dome mounted on an oil platform that can track ballistic missiles – and additional satellites that can be used to track intercontinental ballistic missiles as they travel through space.

With bold use of proven, off-the-shelf missile-defense technology, the U.S. can turn the tables on Pyongyang, neutralizing its strategic missile threat without launching a war. The goal would be to buy enough time for cooler heads to prevail.

N.K. missiles mounted on TEL being transported in 3 to 4 regions

October 14, 2017

N.K. missiles mounted on TEL being transported in 3 to 4 regions, Dong-A-Ilbo, October 14, 2017

South Korean and American intelligence agencies are gearing up for North Korea’s another provocation as the transport and deployment of transporter-erecter-launcher (TEL) has been spotted in three to four regions in North Korea.

According to a government source Friday, a U.S. satellite recently captured images of North Korean ballistic missiles mounted on TEL being transported out of a hangar to somewhere in areas near Pyongyang and North Pyongan Province. Korean and U.S. military officials are keeping an eye on the situation as they view this as a sign of preparation for the launch of a missile comparable to Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). Another probability is the North might be preparing for the launch of a new Hwasong-13 ICBM (solid engine) that has a longer maximum range than Hwasong-14.

Initially, it was expected that the North will carry out provocative actions on Tuesday, celebrating the anniversary of its ruling party’s foundation. Sources claim that the North will push ahead with another missile provocation in response to the deployment of U.S. carrier strike group and nuclear-powered submarine to the Korean Peninsula.

The Ohio-class USS Michigan, an 18,000-metric ton submarine, arrived in the South Korean port of Busan Friday. The USS Ronald Reagan also arrived here in South Korea for a joint drill with South Korean military, which will be held in the East and West sea off South Korea from Oct 16 to 20, to prepare for the North’s naval provocations. As many as 40 navy vessels, including the Aegis destroyer and submarines, combat aircrafts, attack helicopters and JSTARS will be deployed for the joint drill. “The North may carry out a simultaneous launch of ICBM and IRBM within a few days in protest against the U.S.’s show of military might,” another source said.

Viewing Enemy Regimes as They Are, Not as We Wish They Were

October 10, 2017

Viewing Enemy Regimes as They Are, Not as We Wish They Were, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, April 10, 2017

Experience has shown that soft rhetoric and so-called “smart diplomacy” have served only to enable North Korea and Iran to produce more nuclear weapons and better ballistic missiles.

Not only has the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) been prevented from monitoring Iranian compliance, but it is not pushing the issue for fear that “Washington would use an Iranian refusal as an excuse to abandon the JCPOA.”

During his first press conference after taking office in January 1981, US President Ronald Reagan called détente a “one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims.” Echoing this remark while addressing reporters later the same day, Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that the Soviets were the source of much support for international terrorism, especially in Latin and Central America.

The following day, both Reagan and Haig were criticized for their remarks, with members of the media describing the president’s words as “reminiscent of the chilliest days of the Cold War,” and appalled that the administration’s top diplomat was accusing the Russians of backing terrorist activities.

Nearly four decades later, in spite of the successful defeat of the Soviet empire, the White House is still frowned upon when it adopts a tough stance towards America’s enemies. Today’s outrage is directed at President Donald Trump’s warnings about — and to — North Korea and Iran. The Washington Post called his recent “fire and fury” threats to Pyongyang a “rhetorical grenade,” for example, echoing top Democrats’ attacks on his remarks for being “reckless” and “irresponsible.”

Critics of Trump’s attitude towards Tehran go equally far, describing his opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the nuclear deal with Iran — as “rushing headlong into war.”

Trump’s detractors, however, are just as wrong as those who berated Reagan in 1981. Experience has shown that soft rhetoric and so-called “smart diplomacy” have served only to enable North Korea and Iran to produce more nuclear weapons and better ballistic missiles.

Although the JCPOA stipulates that Iran is not permitted to produce more than a certain quantity of enriched uranium or to enrich uranium beyond a certain level, not only has the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) been prevented from monitoring Iranian compliance, but it is not pushing the issue for fear that “Washington would use an Iranian refusal as an excuse to abandon the JCPOA.”

Furthermore, among its many other flaws, the JCPOA does not address Iran’s ballistic-missile capabilities or financing of global terrorism.

Nevertheless, it is the administration’s rhetoric that is under attack. Isn’t it high time for the media and foreign-policy establishment to wake up to the reality that seeing regimes as they are, rather than as we wish them to be, is the only way to confront our enemies effectively, and with the least number of casualties?

Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981

Military options strengthening Trump’s diplomatic hand with North Korea?

October 9, 2017

Military options strengthening Trump’s diplomatic hand with North Korea? Fox News via YouTube, October 9, 2017

(Please see also, Britain leaks battle planning for war North Korea. — DM)


Trump is Right, Tillerson is Wasting His Time on North Korea

October 2, 2017

Trump is Right, Tillerson is Wasting His Time on North Korea, Power LinePaul Mirengoff, October 2, 2017

(Please see also, China openly discussing collapse of North Korea. — DM)

If there is any hope of changing North Korea’s behavior, it rests not with Tillerson’s diplomacy or with the direct effect of threatening Kim Jong Un. Rather, it rests with China acting out of self-interest.


A day after Secretary of State Tillerson said he was reaching out to North Korea in hopes of starting a new dialogue, President Trump belittled the idea. He tweeted:

I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

Trump is right. North Korea isn’t going to negotiate away its nuclear arsenal and it’s not going to freeze its nuclear program until the program has the capacity to inflict the level of damage Kim Jong Un deems necessary to deter the U.S. — namely the capacity to hit major U.S. cities.

Michael Green, President George W. Bush’s chief Asia adviser, acknowledged that “the president is right on this one in the sense that Pyongyang is clear it will not put nuclear weapons on the negotiating table, nor will the current level of sanctions likely convince them to do so. . . .”

The incoherence of Tillerson’s approach is underscored by this incoherent statement by Sen. Bob Corker:

I think that there’s more going on than meets the eye. I think Tillerson understands that every intelligence agency we have says there’s no amount of economic pressure you can put on North Korea to get them to stop this program because they view this as their survival.

If no amount of economic pressure can induce North Korea to stop its nuclear program because of its centrality to the regime’s survival, then what are the likely outcomes of Tillerson negotiating with the regime? The likely outcomes are (1) no agreement or (2) acceptance of North Korea continuing its program, in effect on North Korean terms.

These have been the outcomes of past U.S. diplomacy with North Korea. As Trump tweeted: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now?”

The question remains, though, why did Trump publicly undercut his Secretary of State on Twitter. According to reports, the president was furious at Tillerson for contradicting his public position that now is not the time for talks. That seems like reason enough for the president’s tweeting. It may be reason enough to sack Tillerson.

Some have suggested that Trump is attempting a good cop, bad cop approach to Kim Jong Un. It seems to be true that the North Koreans are mightily confused by conflicting signals coming from Washington. According to a number of sources, they are frantically talking to American sources in an attempt to understand the true intentions of the Trump administration. And Trump has often touted the advantages of keeping our adversaries uncertain about his intentions.

It’s far from clear, however, that this is the right approach in the context of a fledgling nuclear power led by an inexperienced ruler about whom we don’t know much. My guess is that Trump’s rhetoric will unsettle North Korea, but is no more likely than Tillerson’s diplomacy to deter it from expanding its nuclear program.

At the same time, it will not prompt Kim Jong Un to start a war he otherwise doesn’t want, as Trump’s critics suggest might happen. Where’s the advantage to the regime in that?

If one is inclined to view Trump’s rhetoric as rationally calculated to achieve a positive purpose, I think that purpose would be to influence China. If China believes Trump might launch a preemptive attack on North Korea, it might apply a stranglehold on the regime, especially if it also sees South Korea and Japan possibly moving towards developing a nuclear arsenal.

If there is any hope of changing North Korea’s behavior, it rests not with Tillerson’s diplomacy or with the direct effect of threatening Kim Jong Un. Rather, it rests with China acting out of self-interest.

North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages

September 26, 2017

North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages, Washington PostAnna Fifield, September 26, 2017

Spectators listen to a television news broadcast of a statement by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a public television screen in Pyongyang on Friday. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

 North Korean government officials have been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington, in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime.

The outreach began before the current eruption of threats between the two leaders but will probably become only more urgent as Trump and Kim have descended into name-calling that, many analysts worry, sharply increases the chances of potentially catastrophic misunderstandings.

“Their number one concern is Trump. They can’t figure him out,” said one person with direct knowledge of North Korea’s approach to Asia experts with Republican connections.

There is no suggestion that the North Koreans are interested in negotiations about their nuclear program — they instead seem to want forums for insisting on being recognized as a nuclear state — and the Trump administration has made clear it is not interested in talking right now.

At a multilateral meeting here in Switzerland earlier this month, North Korea’s representatives were adamant about being recognized as a nuclear weapons state and showed no willingness to even talk about denuclearization.

(Video at the link. — DM)

But to get a better understanding of American intentions, in the absence of official diplomatic talks with the U.S. government, North Korea’s mission to the United Nations invited Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst who is now the Heritage Foundation’s top expert on North Korea, to visit Pyongyang for meetings.

Trump has close ties to Heritage, a conservative think tank that has influenced the president on everything from travel restrictions to defense spending, but no personal connection to Klingner.

“They’re on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials,” said Klingner, who declined the North Korean invitation. “While such meetings are useful, if the regime wants to send a clear message, it should reach out directly to the U.S. government.”

North Korean intermediaries have also approached Douglas Paal, who served as an Asia expert on the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and is now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

They wanted Paal to arrange talks between North Korean officials and American experts with Republican ties in a neutral location such as Switzerland. He also declined the North Korean request.

“The North Koreans are clearly eager to deliver a message. But I think they’re only interested in getting some travel, in getting out of the country for a bit,” Paal said.

(Video at the link. — DM)

North Korea currently has about seven such invitations out to organizations that have hosted previous talks — a surprising number of requests for a country that is threatening to launch a nuclear strike on the United States.

Over the past two years in particular, Pyongyang has sent officials from its Foreign Ministry to hold meetings with Americans — usually former diplomats and think-tankers — in neutral places such as Geneva, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

They are referred to as “Track 1.5” talks because they are official (Track 1) on the North Korean side but unofficial (Track 2) on the American side, although the U.S. government is kept informed of the talks.

But since Trump’s election in November, the North Korean representatives have been predominantly interested in figuring out the unconventional president’s strategy, according to almost a dozen people involved in the discussions. All asked for anonymity to talk about the sensitive meetings.

Early in Trump’s term, the North Koreans asked broad questions: Is President Trump serious about closing American military bases in South Korea and Japan, as he said on the campaign trail? Might he really send American nuclear weapons back to the southern half of the Korean Peninsula?

But the questions have since become more specific. Why, for instance, are Trump’s top officials, notably Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, directly contradicting the president so often?

“The North Koreans are reaching out through various channels and through various counterparts,” said Evans Revere, a former State Department official who dealt with North Korea and is a frequent participant in such talks. There are a number of theories about why North Korea is doing this.

“My own guess is that they are somewhat puzzled as to the direction in which the U.S. is going, so they’re trying to open up channels to take the pulse in Washington,” Revere said. “They haven’t seen the U.S. act like this before.”

Revere attended a multilateral meeting with North Korean officials in the picturesque Swiss village of Glion earlier this month, together with Ralph Cossa, chairman of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and another frequent interlocutor with Pyongyang’s representatives.

The meeting is an annual event organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a government-linked think tank. But it took on extra significance this year due to the sudden rise in tensions between North Korea and the United States.

All the countries involved in the now-defunct six-party denuclearization talks — the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and the two Koreas — were represented, as were Mongolia, the Swiss government and the European Union. The Swiss invited the U.S. government to send an official, but it did not.

The North Koreans at the meeting displayed an “encyclopedic” knowledge of Trump’s tweets, to the extent that they were able to quote them back to the Americans present.

Pyongyang’s delegation was headed by Choe Kang Il, deputy director of the Americas division in the Foreign Ministry, and he was accompanied by three officials in their late 20s who wowed the other participants with their intellectual analysis and their perfect American-accented English. One even explained to the other delegates how the U.S. Congress works.

“They were as self-confident as I’ve ever seen them,” said Cossa. Revere added: “They may be puzzled about our intentions, but they have a very clear set of intentions of their own.”

The participants declined to divulge the contents of the discussions, as they were off the record.

But others familiar with the talks said the North Koreans completely ruled out the “freeze-for-freeze” idea being promoted by China and Russia, in which Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear and missile activities if the United States stopped conducting military exercises in South Korea. The United States, Japan and South Korea also outright reject the idea.

Participants left the day-and-a-half-long meeting with little hope for any improvement anytime soon.

“I’m very pessimistic,” said Shin Beom-chul, a North Korea expert at the South’s Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, after participating in the meeting in Glion. “They want to keep their nuclear weapons, and they will only return to dialogue after the United States nullifies its ‘hostile policy.’ They want the U.S. to stop all military exercises and lift all sanctions on them.”

Ken Jimbo, who teaches at Keio University in Japan and was also at the meeting, said that North Korea may still be interested in dialogue, but on terms that are unacceptable to the other side.

“North Korea wants to be recognized as a nuclear-weapons state,” Jimbo said. “But when is North Korea ready for talks? This is what I kept asking the North Koreans: How much is enough?”