Trump declares victory over North Korea

Trump declares North Korea’no longer a nuclear threat’

By Veronica Stracqualursi and Stephen Collinson, CNN

Updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed June 13, 2018

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that the North Korean regime no longer poses a nuclear threat following his summit with Kim Jong Un, even though the meeting produced no verifiable proof that the rogue regime will discontinue its nuclear program.

In a series of tweets, Trump sought to take political credit for the summit but risked undermining the US strategy in the region.

“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted as he arrived back in Washington. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Trump also said that his meeting with Kim was an “interesting and very positive experience” and that “North Korea has great potential for the future!”

Trump also said in a separate tweet that North Korea is “no longer” the US’ “biggest and most dangerous problem,” telling Americans and the rest of the world they can “sleep well tonight!”

After returning to the White House Wednesday, Trump also defended his decision to halt the joint military exercises with South Korea, which he called “war games” — a term used by Pyongyang — arguing on Twitter that the US will “save a fortune.”

Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!

Trump’s tweets pointed to one of the chief gains at the summit from the US point of view — that its scheduling and the establishing of a relationship between the President and Kim have eased fears that the two sides are on a slide toward a disastrous war.

The argument also allows Trump’s political allies and supporters in conservative media to claim ahead of the midterm elections that the President has engineered a triumph overseas that was beyond all his predecessors and has made America and the world much safer.

But much of the fear over imminent war last year was stoked in the first place by Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric and boasts about the size of the US nuclear button.

No guarantees from summit

After nearly five hours of unprecedented talks between Trump and Kim on Tuesday, the two leaders signed a document in which Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and the US agreed to “provide security guarantees.”

However, there was no mention of the previous US aim of “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” from Pyongyang. Kim’s commitments did not appear to go beyond what he already pledged to do in April when he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in along their countries’ border.

Following the summit, Trump told reporters during a news conference in Singapore that Kim agreed to “destroying a major missile engine testing site” and that it would be done “very soon,” without elaborating further on which testing site or timing.

The President also added that North Korea’s promise to complete denuclearization “will be verified,” though the document the two leaders signed did not lay out details of that process.

Trump left the discussions assured that Kim would begin dismantling his country’s missile sites in the immediate future, telling ABC News that Kim “trusts me, and I trust him.”

Risk of weakening US position

Any lessening of tensions is positive but an assurance that the threat of war is removed based simply on a relationship between a President who is term-limited and a volatile dictator who leads a criminal regime lacks the certainty and permanence of verifiable disarmament that the administration says is its goal.

By claiming that the North Korean nuclear threat has disappeared, Trump also risks weakening the US negotiating position in talks on denuclearization that were mandated by the summit and will be led from the US side by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. After all, if there is no threat, why would the North Koreans need to give up their arsenal?

Trump’s rush to claim credit for the supposed disappearance of the North Korean nuclear threat may also give nations like China and Russia an incentive to ease stringent implementation of the “maximum pressure” sanctions that helped bring Pyongyang to the table.

Some analysts are likely to see the comments as part of a worrying trend since North Korea showed no public sign at the summit or since that it is now willing to implement the complete, irreversible and verifiable destruction of its nuclear programs. Ultimately, in the short term, at least while diplomacy continues, Trump’s tweets seem to indicate he is ready to live with the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons and potentially the capacity to fire them at the United States, in an implicit erosion of the US strategic position.

Ultimately, that may end up being the only option that the US has short of war. But Trump’s triumphalism is not based on concrete commitments by Kim that were established by his own administration’s expectations setting before the talks.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

North Korea Makes Good on Nuclear Promise

This picture from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on August 29, 2017, and released on August 30, 2017, shows North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off from the launching pad at an undisclosed location near Pyongyang. In April, Kim announced that North Korea would unilaterally halt ballistic missile and nuclear testing.



By Cristina Maza On Wednesday, June 6, 2018 – 13:41

North Korea destroyed a missile test stand at one of its main testing facilities, new satellite imagery reveals.

A new analysis by 38 North, a North Korea monitoring group affiliated with the Washington, D.C.-based Stimson Center, shows that a missile test stand north of the city of Kusong was razed to the ground after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to halt the country’s weapons testing.

In April, Kim announced that North Korea would unilaterally halt ballistic missile and nuclear testing. The announcement came after nearly a year of frequent tests. In 2017, experts said North Korea launched 23 missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets in the United States. The country’s nuclear program also appeared to be developing swiftly, and some experts began speculating whether the country would soon have the ability to fit a nuclear weapon onto a ballistic missile.

Since then, however, the situation appears to have calmed substantially. Both North and South Korea have expressed an interest in pursuing peace, and President Donald Trump is expected to meet with North Korea’s Kim for the first time in Singapore next week to discuss the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang also recently invited foreign journalists to witness the demolition of one of its nuclear sites, although international inspectors were not there to verify whether the site had been completely decommissioned by the blast.

But regardless of whether the nuclear testing site and the missile test stand are completely destroyed, experts argue that the moves show Pyongyang is taking the peace process seriously.

“Like the demolition of North Korea’s nuclear testing site, this move isn’t irreversible, but it does demonstrate seriousness about North Korea’s stated commitment to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests for the time being,” Daniel Wertz, associate director of the National Committee on North Korea, told Newsweek.

“All of the long-range missiles that North Korea has tested thus far have been liquid-fueled. North Korea’s development of a solid-fueled ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] would represent a significant new challenge to U.S. military planners, as solid-fueled missiles are more easily transported and can be launched with shorter preparation times than liquid-fueled missiles,” he said.

Wertz added: “If North Korea has decided not to move ahead with the development of these next-generation ICBMs, it would be a positive development.”

Others, however, argued that the destruction of a testing stand does not signify that North Korea is suddenly dismantling its weapons program. The real test will be whether North Korea gives up its nuclear capabilities.

“While any destruction of any materials in North Korea’s missile program is a great thing, we should not get too excited. It’s a missile stand, not eliminating a whole class of weapons systems or missile platforms,” Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., told Newsweek. “It might just be that Pyongyang does not need it anymore, [or] is moving to another type of testing.”

Korea Prepares to Make a Nuclear Deal

North Korea sacks top three military officials, as nuclear summit nears

US officials believe there was dissent over Kim Jong-un’s approach to foreign diplomacy

Benjamin Haas in Seoul, and agencies


Mon 4 Jun 2018 02.22 EDT

First published on Sun 3 Jun 2018 19.27 EDT

North Korea’s top three military officials have been removed from their posts, a senior US official said on Sunday, a shakeup that could signal the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is working to silence dissent ahead of a summit with Donald Trump in Singapore next week.

The US official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, was commenting on a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that all three of the North’s top military officials were believed to have been replaced.

Trump on Friday revived the proposed 12 June summit after cancelling it a week earlier. The US is seeking a negotiated end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

US officials believe there was some dissent in the military about Kim’s approaches to South Korea and the US. Kim likely wants to ensure any deal struck in his meeting with Trump will not face opposition at home.

Since coming to power in 2011, Kim has conducted several purges in an effort to consolidate power. The young leader was just 27 years old when he took power in a society that reveres older cadres.

Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat who focused on North Korea policy, said Kim might be using the upcoming summit “as leverage to get rid of internal hardliners”. It was also possible the “summit created such a risk to his internal power he felt he had to protect himself by moving people around”.

“It’s worth considering whether this round of summit diplomacy has given Kim Jong-un an opportunity to get a more favourable group of people at the top,” Oba said.

Kim had his uncle and potential rival for control, Jang Song-thaek, tried and executed in 2013. Kim’s older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, was assassinated last year in an operation widely believed to have been directed from Pyongyang.

The US official did not identify the three military officials. Yonhap identified them as defence chief Pak Yong-sik; chief of the Korean People’s Army’s (KPA) general staff, Ri Myong-su and Kim Jong-gak, the director of the KPA’s General Political Bureau.

Trump wants North Korea to “denuclearise,” meaning to get rid of its nuclear arsenal, in return for relief from economic sanctions. North Korea’s leadership is believed to regard nuclear weapons as crucial to its survival.

Citing an unnamed intelligence official, Yonhap said No Kwang-chol, first vice minister of the Ministry of People’s armed forces, had replaced Pak Yong-sik, while Ri Myong-su was replaced by his deputy, Ri Yong-gil. It said army general Kim Su-gil’s replacement of Kim Jong-gak was confirmed in a North Korean state media report last month.

The White House, State Department, CIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to requests for official comment.

Lower-level US-North Korean talks to prepare for the summit are continuing but have made only “halting progress,” according to a second US official briefed on the discussions.

In a remarkable shift in tone eight days after cancelling the summit, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility,” Trump welcomed North Korea’s former intelligence chief Kim Yong-chol to the White House on Friday, afterward exchanging smiles and handshakes

Pompeo Tries to Make a Deal with Korea

Let’s call it microwave diplomacy.

The proposed venue and date are clear — June 12 in Singapore. Hotel rooms are tentatively booked. Planes are at the ready. Logistics teams are working out kinks. To the bemusement of late-night comedians, the commemorative coin for the Trump-Kim summit is already minted.

All that is missing is the deal: The North Koreans have not agreed to the immediate — or even the staged — dismantlement of their nuclear weapons arsenal and infrastructure that the White House has demanded.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Pompeo and North Korean emissary Kim Yong Chol will discuss “the denuclearization of the peninsula” and as long as that remains the focus “we’re going to continue to shoot for June 12.”

Yet Pompeo faces many obstacles.

Although the New York session marks Pompeo’s third sit-down with Kim Yong Chol, a four-star general who is North Korea’s former spy chief, Pompeo is a neophyte in nuclear diplomacy. The former Kansas congressman has been secretary of State for barely a month, after serving a little more than a year as CIA director.

Kim Yong Chol has been a top aide of North Korea’s ruling dynasty since the days of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader. He headed North Korea’s principal arms dealing apparatus and has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for that and other action. To visit New York, he had to obtain a special waiver from the State Department.

“Pompeo is a smart guy, but he doesn’t have experience with this. Kim Yong Chol has been involved in every negotiation since 1992. He can beat any American who goes up against him,’’ said a veteran U.S.-Korea negotiator who asked not to be quoted by name.

Pompeo also faces opposition in Washington. Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, a longtime advocate of a change of government in Pyongyang, nearly sabotaged the summit with provocative comments suggesting the surrender of Libya’s nuclear infrastructure in 2003 would be a model for North Korea.

North Korean leaders recoiled at the comparison with Libya, whose leader Moammar Kadafi was ignominiously killed and mutilated by rebels aided by Western air power less than a decade after he had given up his nuclear program.

It didn’t help that the CIA, which Pompeo headed until last month, concluded in a recent intelligent assessment that North Korea has no intention of denuclearizing. The assessment did note that the North Koreans would like an American hamburger restaurant in Pyongyang, according to NBC, which broke the story.

Experts debate whether North Korea will eventually give up its nuclear arsenal but there is near unanimity that it won’t do it upfront without significant U.S. concessions in return.

“To eliminate everything upfront and virtually all at once is tantamount to a North Korean surrender scenario. It is unimaginable,’’ concluded a report released this week by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. The report said it could take at least a decade to fully dismantle the nuclear program.

North Korea has said it will not give up what it calls its “treasured sword” unless it is certain the United States has abandoned a “hostile policy” against it.

“It will take them watching American behavior over a long period of time, through more than one administration,’’ said Leon V. Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project of the New York-based Social Science Research Council.

The Trump administration has veered between demands for instant denuclearization and a step-by-step approach. The White House position is that North Korea must agree to complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization, or CVID in diplomatic shorthand.

“Trump would like to get it all at once, but if he can’t, he’s making space for a phased in denuclearization,’’ said Scott Snyder, North Korea analyst with the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations.

Echoing several analysts, Jung Pak, senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institute think tank, cautioned against the evident lack of preparation.

“Usually with a summit, the rule is no surprises: Every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed before it starts,” said Pak, a former CIA analyst specializing in the Koreas. “This time we can’t even agree on what denuclearization means.”

Pak said she expects the summit to go forward because Trump is so invested, and the North Koreans are so determined that it happen. “Kim Yong Chol will dangle just enough in front of Pompeo [so] that he can go back to Trump and say, without lying, they’re sincere,” Pak said.

Other points of contention have to do with whether to include North Korea’s biological and chemical weapons in a deal and whether North Korea would be allowed to maintain a civilian nuclear or space program.

The Trump administration has cobbled together a new team of North Korea specialists, trying to make up for the exodus of seasoned experts during the tumultuous last year.

Sung Kim, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, has been temporarily reassigned from his post as envoy to the Philippines to lead a U.S. advance team now meeting a counterpart North Korean team in the buffer zone between the two Koreas. (The Trump administration has no ambassador in Seoul. Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, was nominated on May 18 and he awaits Senate confirmation.)

Andrew Kim, head of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, formed last year when Pompeo was CIA director, has been assigned to work with the secretary of State. He accompanied Pompeo on his two trips to Pyongyangand is with him in New York.

While other teams are still working out logistics, the meetings in New York between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol on Wednesday and Thursday will deal with the substance of the proposed summit. They most likely will determine whether this on-again, off-again summit will actually take place.

Administration officials declined to discuss in detail the issues that Pompeo and Kim will debate in New York, but the potential agenda is wide open.

“Trump is focused on having a historic meeting, but unless that event translates into setting mutually defined objectives, it will be meaningless,’’ said Snyder.

The Art of the Deal – Part 4

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and his entourage including Kim Yong Chol, left, at the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone on April 27.Trump Confirms North Korean Official Is Headed To New York To Discuss Nuclear Summit

The Trump administration said preparations for the summit are moving ahead after it was abruptly canceled last week.

President Donald Trump confirmed on Tuesday that Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, was on his way to New York to discuss a proposed nuclear summit between the countries.

Kim plans to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sometime this week, according to the White House.

Trump canceled the summit, set to take place on June 12 in Singapore, on Thursday, citing “the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed” in a statement North Korea had released that attacked the U.S. Trump changed his tune a day later, hinting the summit could still take place.

“We’re talking to them now,” he said Friday. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”

American and North Korean officials have been conducting a series of meetings that were ongoing as of Tuesday, the White House confirmed, adding that a team is already in Singapore preparing for the summit.

Kim will be the highest-level North Korean official to step foot in the country since 2000. Currently in charge of inter-Korean relations, he was the longtime head of North Korea’s intelligence agency, making him one of leader Kim Jong Un’s most trusted advisers.

South Korea blamed him for the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean military ship, in 2010, which killed 46 South Koreans.

He attended the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics earlier this year as part of the North Korean delegation and was photographed sitting next to White House adviser Ivanka Trump, the president’s oldest daughter, during the opening ceremony.

This story has been updated with details about Kim.

Ivanka Trump and Kim Yong Chol of the North Korea delegation attend the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics o

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Ivanka Trump and Kim Yong Chol of the North Korea delegation attend the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25.

The Art of the Deal – Part 3

Trump raises hopes that North Korea nuclear talks will go forward

By Catherine Lucey, Matthew Lee, Hyung-Jin Kim and Foster Klug
Updated 7:47 pm, Sunday, May 27, 2018

President Trump said Sunday a U.S. team was in North Korea to plan a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, raising expectations that the on-off-on meeting would indeed take place.

The State Department said earlier that a team was in Panmunjom, which straddles the border inside the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, separating the North and South Korea. One can cross the border simply by stepping across a painted line, but moving beyond several footsteps into the North at Panmunjom would be rare for U.S. officials.

Trump withdrew from a planned June 12 Singapore summit with Kim last Thursday, but quickly announced that it could get back on track. His tweet Sunday, which offered praise for the longtime U.S. adversary, was the latest signal that his concerns about the North’s stance toward the summit had been allayed.

“Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself,” he tweeted. “I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day. Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!

South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, on Sunday described his surprise meeting the day before with Kim in the Panmunjom truce village, saying Kim had committed to sitting down with Trump and to a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tapped veteran American diplomat Sung Kim to handle pre-summit negotiations. On a separate but complementary track was the CIA team Pompeo set up last year when he headed the spy agency. And on a third track was a White House logistical group sent to Singapore on Sunday to prepare in case the summit takes place. It was led by Joe Hagin, White House deputy chief of staff for operations.

Moon has insisted Kim can be persuaded to abandon his nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way in exchange for credible security and economic guarantees. Moon said Sunday that the North’s disarmament could still be a difficult process even if Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul don’t differ over what “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula means.

Catherine Lucey, Matthew Lee, Hyung-Jin Kim and Foster Klug are Associated Press writers.

The Art of the Deal – Part 2, Shifting Tone, Tweets Hopefully About North Korea

Vivian Salama, Michael C. Bender 1 hr ago
The U.S. cancellation came after a series of aggressive statements from North Korean officials in recent days, including personal attacks on Vice President Mike Pence and White House national security adviser John Bolton and a warning that Pyongyang would inflict “appalling tragedy” on the U.S.WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump struck a more optimistic note on Friday after North Korea said it remained willing to meet with him despite his decision a day earlier to scrap plans for a June 12 summit with leader Kim Jong Un.

“Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea,” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter message. “We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!”

Later Friday morning, Mr. Trump told reporters that dialogue with North Korea continued.

“We are talking to them now,” he said before boarding the Marine One helicopter for a trip to Annapolis, Md. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”

Asked whether North Korea was playing games, Mr. Trump replied, “Everybody plays games.”

Secretary of State Jim Mattis, speaking Friday at the Pentagon with a visiting Danish defense official, said the latest round of comments may represent “possibly some good news on the Korea summit, where it may, if our diplomats can pull it off, may have it back on, even. That is a usual give and take, of trying to put together big summits.”

Mr. Mattis reiterated earlier comments diplomats are “in the lead and in charge” of the process and there has been no change in U.S. military posture.

The remarks marked yet another reversal in the tenor of rhetoric between the two countries as Messrs. Trump and Kim have moved haltingly toward a possible summit meeting to discuss long-term peace and denuclearization.

Mr. Trump unilaterally canceled the summit plans Thursday, citing “open hostility” from the North Korean regime, as his administration outlined plans to resume and accelerate a campaign of economic pressure against North Korea. He also warned Pyongyang that the U.S. holds military and nuclear superiority.

After canceling the planned summit, Mr. Trump also said he was open to reconsidering the decision.

In a restrained and cordial response to Mr. Trump on Friday, North Korea said it is still willing to meet.

“We express our willingness to sit down face-to-face with the U.S. and resolve issues anytime and in any format,” Kim Kye Gwan, a senior North Korea foreign ministry official and a longtime interlocutor with the U.S. on nuclear issues, said in a statement published by the North’s official state media.

Kim Kye Gwan is the same official whose harsh words last week against Mr. Bolton darkened the tone between the two adversaries.

The White House National Security Council held an afternoon meeting Thursday to discuss potential military action, new sanctions, and other paths forward, a White House official told The Wall Street Journal.

The administration is looking to impose dozens of new sanctions on North Korea early next week, one official briefed on the discussions said.

“If and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday. “In the meantime, our very strong sanctions—by far the strongest sanctions ever imposed—and maximum-pressure campaign will continue.”

Write to Michael C. Bender at