ROK-U.S. News

Yonhap – U.S. open to dialogue with N. Korea at any place, any time: U.S. diplomat

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) — The United States remains ready to meet with North Korea at any time and any place, a senior U.S. diplomat said Tuesday, adding that resolving the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue is “absolutely” important.

Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, also highlighted the importance of the U.S. and South Korea working together to denuclearize the communist state.

“(It is) critically important that our two countries stay in lockstep and that we are fully lashed up going forward,” he said in a webinar jointly hosted by the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council and Seoul-based think tank East Asia Foundation.

The captured image shows Marc Knapper, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, speaking in a webinar co-hosted by the Atlantic Council and East Asia Foundation on Oct. 27, 2020, using the video communication platform Zoom. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The captured image shows Marc Knapper, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, speaking in a webinar co-hosted by the Atlantic Council and East Asia Foundation on Oct. 27, 2020, using the video communication platform Zoom. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

His remarks come amid stalled denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

U.S. President Donald Trump has held three meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but their talks have stalled since their second bilateral summit, held in Hanoi in February 2019, ended without a deal.

Knapper said his country remains ready to resume the talks at any time.

“I just make the point that while we have had three leader-level meetings between President (Trump) and Chairman Kim, we have also emphasized constantly, virtually every day, that the door to diplomacy remains open, and that we are ready to sit down with the North, you know, any place in any time, because we regard a dialogue and resolving these issues through diplomacy in a peaceful manner as being absolutely paramount,” the U.S. diplomat said during the virtual seminar.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R, Florida) also highlighted the importance of dialogue, claiming Trump has done what no one else had accomplished in over 30 years.

“I think what Donald Trump did, meeting with him one-on-one outside of diplomats … to sit down, because go back over the last 30 years, 30 years of people sitting down to the diplomatic channels, it did not work,” the U.S. lawmaker said.

“You do business with people you know, like and trust, and I think that’s true for nations, and you can’t press people if you don’t meet with them,” Yoho added.

He also stressed the need to rid the North of its nuclear weapons but in a way that will not threaten the country’s communist regime or its leadership.

“Kim Jong-un has to have the security and the certainty that he can move into a market economy by maintaining power, kind of like what we saw happen in Vietnam,” said Yoho, noting Vietnam remains a communist country but is the United States’ 16th-largest trading partner.

“And I think the same thing can happen with Kim Jong-un if he opens up his horizon and looks around,” he added.

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Yonhap – USFK requires flu shots for all members, stresses vaccine safety

SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) — The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) called on its members Tuesday to get flu vaccination, stressing that its flu vaccine is safe without reports of serious adverse effects.

All U.S. military members are required to receive the seasonal flu vaccine annually, and Commander Gen. Robert Abrams has directed all of the USFK members to get their flu shots by Dec. 1.

“The potential exposure of the COVID-19 virus is something we cannot afford to risk by delaying or avoiding the flu shot. Do your part to protect the force, and get your shot today,” Abrams said according to the USFK statement.

The commander also said the flu vaccine, distributed by the U.S. Department of Defense, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is safe.

“Unlike other global reports regarding various vaccines potentially linked to illness and death, there have been zero reports of serious adverse effects or reactions reported across the DoD medical system associated with this vaccine,” the statement read.

The South Korean government has been implementing a free flu shots program for elderly and young citizens and called for the need to expand the program, as the country has been working hard to stem the spread of the new coronavirus and seasonal influenza.

Concerns, however, have grown over potential side effects of the vaccination after dozens died recently after taking flu shots, though the government has said there is no direct link between those deaths and vaccines.

A nurse shows a flu vaccine at a clinic in Seoul on Sept. 22, 2020. (Yonhap)

A nurse shows a flu vaccine at a clinic in Seoul on Sept. 22, 2020. (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – U.S. flies surveillance aircraft near Korean Peninsula: aviation tracker

SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) — A U.S. spy plane flew near the Korean Peninsula early Tuesday, an aviation tracker said, in what appeared to be an effort to monitor North Korea just days ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

The U.S. Air Force’s E-8C Joint Stars was spotted in skies above the Yellow Sea from late Monday to early Tuesday, No callsign tweeted.

The same type of the aircraft was also seen carrying out operations Saturday night above the western waters.

The flights came amid speculation the North could test its new strategic weapons near the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election with the two countries’ nuclear negotiations remaining deadlocked since last year.

On Oct. 10, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to continue strengthening the country’s self-defense “war deterrent” and showed off a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and other weapons during a massive military parade in Pyongyang.

This image captured from the U.S. Air Force's website shows a USAF E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This image captured from the U.S. Air Force’s website shows a USAF E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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Yonhap – U.S. pushing for flexible adjustment of troop levels overseas: defense ministry

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) — The United States did not commit to maintaining its troop level in South Korea in a recent joint statement between their defense ministers because it is adjusting its overseas troop presence in a flexible manner, the defense ministry said Monday.

The two countries issued a joint communique after annual talks between Defense Minister Suh Wook and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier this month, but the statement did not include a usual U.S. commitment to keep American troops at the current level.

That raised speculation the U.S. may be considering troop cuts.

“Instead of keeping a certain level of American troops at a particular country, it is pushing for a policy flexibly adjusting troop levels in consideration of security situations,” the defense ministry said in an answer to a question from Rep. Kang Dae-sik of the main opposition People Power Party about why the troop commitment was missing.

Still, Suh said the U.S. has pledged an “unshakable commitment” to the security of South Korea at the Security Consultative Meeting, and there were no discussions on the possible reduction of the USFK force level.

Asked to comment on the omission of the expression on keeping USFK troop levels, Suh said the Pentagon appears to have received guidelines to have a more flexible stance on the level of its troops dispatched overseas.

“The issue is bound by the U.S.’ National Defense Authorization Act, so that no discussions (about the possible reduction in the number of USFK troops) took place during the meeting,” Suh noted.

The NDAA disallows the reduction of the number of American troops in South Korea below the current level unless the U.S. defense secretary certifies that reduction is in the U.S. national security interest.

The defense ministry also issued a separate statement on Monday and stressed that “there have not been any discussions on the USFK troop level between the two sides up until now.”

“A senior U.S. official who attended the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) also confirmed that the omission of the sentence about the maintenance of the current level of American troops in South Korea does not mean any reduction,” the ministry said.

Talk of the troop reduction came as the two sides have failed to narrow differences over their cost sharing for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong USFK under the bilateral deal, called the Special Measures Agreement.

On Oct. 5, USFK informed South Korean employees of a furlough that could occur in April next year in case the two countries fail to reach an agreement on their defense cost-sharing deal.

More than 4,000 South Korean workers already experienced unpaid leave from April to June this year before the U.S. accepted South Korea’s proposal to fund the labor costs for all USFK Korean workers through the end of the year.

The U.S. has been pushing for greater “strategic flexibility” for its forces deployed around the world.

Esper said earlier that he wants to pursue more rotational force deployments into theaters as it gives the U.S. greater strategic flexibility in terms of responding to challenges around the globe, though he stressed that he has not issued an order to withdraw forces from the Korean Peninsula.

Defense Minister Suh Wook speaks during a parliamentary audit session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 26, 2020. (Yonhap)

Defense Minister Suh Wook speaks during a parliamentary audit session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 26, 2020. (Yonhap)

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Defense News – Trump, Biden trade barbs over North Korea’s nukes

WASHINGTON ― In the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle, former Vice President Joe Biden attacked President Donald Trump over his chummy relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who recently unveiled a new, larger intercontinental ballistic missile.

Trump claimed that Biden and President Barack Obama had left him with a foreign policy mess, and then falsely claimed that Obama had tried and failed to secure a meeting with Kim. “We have a different kind of relationship. We have a very good relationship, and there’s no war,” Trump said of himself and Kim.

Biden shot back: “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he, in fact, invaded the rest of Europe. The reason [Kim] wouldn’t meet with President Obama is because [Obama] said we’re going to talk about denuclearization.”

Biden said he would only consent to meet if Kim agreed to draw down his nuclear capacity, and that Biden would maintain pressure on China, which has leverage over the Kim regime.

“What has he done?” Biden said of Trump. “He’s legitimized North Korea, he’s talked about his good buddy, who’s a thug, a thug. And he talks about how we’re better off, and they have much more capable missiles, able to reach U.S. territory much more easily than ever before.”

The exchange occurred days after Kim rolled out a new ICMB during a nighttime parade in Pyongyang.

North Korea is continuing to produce nuclear material, according to a Congressional Research Service report. In addition, between May 2019 and late March 2020, North Korea conducted multiple short-range ballistic missile tests in violation of United Nations Security Council prohibitions.

This image made from video broadcast by North Korea's KRT, shows a military parade with what appears to be possible new intercontinental ballistic missile at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, Oct. 10, 2020. (KRT via AP)

This image made from video broadcast by North Korea’s KRT, shows a military parade with what appears to be possible new intercontinental ballistic missile at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, Oct. 10, 2020. (KRT via AP)

Multiple diplomatic initiatives during both Democratic and Republican administrations have failed to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump dared to be different, opting for in-person meetings with Kim in Singapore, Hanoi and the Demilitarized Zone.

But despite the summits and exchanges of what Trump called “love” letters, his administration has been unable to get traction on denuclearizing North Korea. The last known working group meeting was last October.

The coronavirus pandemic dominated the debate, and Trump said that the military would distribute an eventual vaccine, highlighting the role of Gen. Gustave Perna, the former head of U.S. Army Materiel Command, as chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed.

Asked about reports of Russia and Iran have sought to influence the U.S. election, Biden accused China as well and vowed to ensure any country interfering in the U.S. election would “pay a price, if I’m elected.”

When Biden questioned why Trump hadn’t confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said nobody had been tougher on Russia than himself ― touting U.S. sales of Javelin anti-tank weapons and claiming credit misleadingly for an agreement by NATO members to increase spending on their own defense.

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Stars & Stripes – Biden calls North Korean leader a ‘thug’ but says he’d meet Kim if denuclearization is agreed


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump shake hands across the line separating North and South Korea on June 30, 2019. KCNA

SEOUL, South Korea — During the final debate before the election, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called North Korea’s leader a “thug” but said he would meet with Kim Jong Un if the communist state agrees to denuclearize.

The comment came during a testy exchange Thursday evening between Biden and President Donald Trump over how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The former vice president accused his Republican rival of cozying up to Kim, whose regime is ranked as one of the worst human rights abusers, with a policy that has allowed the North to continue improving its arsenal.

The North showed off a huge new intercontinental ballistic missile during an Oct. 10 military parade, although it has not conducted a long-range missile or nuclear test in nearly three years.

Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader during a June 2018 summit in Singapore during which they agreed to a vague promise to “work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The leaders met twice more in Vietnam and on the Korean border, although nuclear talks between the two nations deadlocked after they failed to agree on details about sanctions relief and disarmament steps.

The president reiterated his usual talking points that his engagement with Kim prevented a new war from breaking out on the divided peninsula, which is home to some 28,500 U.S. troops.

“We have a very good relationship and there’s no war,” he said.

Biden criticized Trump’s top-down approach.

“What has he done? He’s legitimized North Korea. He’s talked about his good buddy who’s a thug, a thug,” Biden said. “And he talks about how we’re better off and they have much more capable missiles able to reach U.S. territory much more easily than it ever did before.”

Biden said he would maintain pressure on China to help rein in its communist ally if he wins the Nov. 3 vote.

In response to a question about whether he would meet with Kim, Biden said only “on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity.”

However, Biden offered few details about how his policy would be different after decades of initiatives by administrations from both parties have failed to prevent the North from developing nuclear weapons.

Trump said Biden and then-President Barack Obama had left him “a mess” and claimed that Obama had tried to meet with Kim but was rejected because Kim “didn’t like him.”

Former Obama administration officials have vehemently denied that claim, saying the Democratic leader never considered meeting with Kim as U.S. policy at the time was to rely on economic sanctions to pressure the regime to give up nuclear weapons.

“We had a good relationship with Hitler before he, in fact, invaded Europe,” Biden said. “Come on. The reason [Kim] would not meet with President Obama is because President Obama said, ‘We’re going to talk about denuclearization. We’re not going to legitimize you and we’re going to continue to push stronger and stronger sanctions on you.’”
Twitter: @kimgamel


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VOA – Former Commander Brooks “Declaration of the end of war, it’s worth considering even if you take risks”

Former US-ROK commander, Vincent Brooks.
Former US-ROK commander, Vincent Brooks.

Former ROK-U.S. coalition commander Vincent Brooks said the ROK government’s declaration of an end to the war is worth considering if there are any signs of a change in relations. However, he emphasized that the risks of North Korea’s abuse, such as easing sanctions, should be fully considered. Reporter Kim Dong-hyun covered it. 

Former Commander Brooks said on the 20th, “I believe that the declaration of an end to the Korean Peninsula is worth considering at any risk.” 

 [Recording: Former Commander Brooks] “Now not all agree with this. I acknowledge that this is not widely accepted but I do believe that it is worthy of consideration and worthy of taking some degree of risk. If it does indeed signal a change of relationship, it allows South Korea to approach North Korea in a certain way. It allows changes in the military posture in both places, including the commitment of US forces. It allows North Korea to speak internally to its own population… ” 

Former Commander Brooks was invited as an interlocutor to the regular autumn general meeting of the Korea-American Institute (ICAS) held on the same day as a video, discussing various topics with renowned experts on the Korean Peninsula. 

Former Commander Brooks “If there are signs of relationship change, it is worth considering the end of the war” 

Former Commander Brooks responded to a question from Tara Oh, chairman of the East Asia Research Center, who asked about the impact on the UN Command if the Korean government’s declaration of end of war would become a reality, “It is not a widely accepted idea, it is a difficult problem, but it is worth considering.” I answered. 

He said that if the end of the war is really a sign of a change in relations, it will give South Korea a specific approach to North Korea.

The headquarters of the UN and USFK headquarters in Camp Humphreys, Pyeongtaek, opened on the 29th.
The headquarters of the UN and USFK headquarters in Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek


He added that it will bring about a change in the military posture of both South and North Koreas, including the pledges of the USFK, and that North Korea can also provide an environment for public relations to residents internally. 

Former Commander Brooks said that North Korea will promote propaganda internally by decorating the declaration of end of war as a victory, but on the other hand, it will open the door of dialogue again to resume the discovery of remains, and the implementation of the 9.19 inter-Korean military agreement will be an opportunity to lead to cooperation in various fields. I predicted that it could be 

“The US government keeps in mind the possibility of interfering with sanctions against North Korea following the declaration of end of war” 

“Even if the end of the war declaration becomes a reality, it is necessary to maintain the UN military command” 

However, he said the US government and the Western world understand that the declaration of an end to the war may be an opportunity to hinder effective sanctions against North Korea. 

[Record: Former Commander Brooks] “This is certainly a concern of the United States and the West, as I understand it, not being in government now that that can also be the first way to slip loose the knot of effective sanctions and the essential ingredient of a pressure and engagement campaign. Too much engagement, not enough pressure can be where we end up. I would submit to you that right now, we’re on pause because we have too much pressure and not enough engagement. But as we go in opposite direction with something like the end of war declaration, it is possible that it goes too far and the North Korea simply pockets it as has been the case in the past.” 

Former Commander Brooks said he believes the current cessation of inter-Korean or US-North Korea dialogue is due to excessive pressure and insufficient engagement. 

However, he said things such as the Declaration of War could go in the opposite direction as in many cases of failure in the past, and that the concern of the US government is North Korea’s abuse due to excessive involvement and insufficient pressure. 

It also stressed that the UN Command will play a role as a base for international efforts, and that even if the end of the war agreement comes into force, it needs to continue for the time being. 

US President Donald Trump unveiled a letter he received from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a White House cabinet meeting in January.
US President Donald Trump unveiled a letter he received from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a White House cabinet meeting in January last year.


Siegfried hacker, former head of the US nuclear research institute, Los Alamos, in a new book’Rage’ by Bob Woodward, deputy editor-in-chief of the Washington Post, in a new book’Rage’, referring to the proposal that North Korea’s nuclear weapons research institute was abolished by sending a letter to President Trump just before the Hanoi talks. I did. 

Dr. Hacker “Rejected the proposal to dismantle the North Korean nuclear weapons research center… If true, a big mistake” 

Hacker Jeon, who has visited North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility four times, said that if this is true, he believes it was a big mistake for the US to reject the North Korean proposal. 

 [Recording: Dr. Hacker] “If that was true. If the US did not follow up that potential offer that was an incredible, incredible error because I would think their Nuclear Weapons Institute is like my alma mater at Los Alamos National Laboratory. A design place you know for the nuclear weapons. And so, were you aware of that and what do you think of that offer? 

Hacker Jeon said that North Korea’s nuclear weapons research institute proposed by Chairman Kim was known as a nuclear weapons design institute similar to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and asked if he was aware of the information in advance or asked for an evaluation. 

In response, former Commander Brooks said the proposed date was after his retirement, and because he had not seen the letter, he was not sure whether it was true. 

But if it is true, he said, it is highly likely that what the North Korean proposed is a symbol that is not a real North Korean version of the Los Alamos Institute, or a fake that has no real value for disposal. 

[Record: Former Commander Brooks] “If it’s a sham Los Alamos and it’s being given up for symbolic purposes, not for effective purposes, then it would not be an acceptable offer and wouldn’t be deemed as serious, I don’t know , Sieg. Honestly, I wasn’t there so I can’t say, but I have to believe that there’s something that caused that to be viewed as not good enough.” 

I don’t know the specifics, but I believe there is a reason for the US government’s refusal, and I think it’s because I certainly didn’t see such an offer as a good enough deal.  

Former Commander Brooks “Although balanced diplomacy with China can maintain alliance”

Brendon Mulbani, head of the China Aerospace Research Institute of the U.S. Defense University, asked for an assessment of the situation in which Korea is refusing to participate in the recent US-led Indo-Pacific strategy, considering its relationship with China. 

Former Commander Brooks said South Korea had already made a choice between the United States and China in 1950, and when it signed the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1953, it made a decision long ago to become an alliance with the United States. 

In addition, he said that the view that demands an alternative is very shallow, and the US government needs to be aware of this. 

Former Commander Brooks said he believes that maintaining a balanced relationship with China will not end the alliance, but he has heard a lot of opinions from acquaintances in the South Korean government that the United States is pressing the alternative. 

Former Commander Brooks pointed out earlier this day that Defense Minister Esper emphasized the importance of the alliance in public cooperation, and not mentioning South Korea while referring to 10 countries as key partners outside the Quad

He said this could also be seen as a response to the US government’s distancing in Korea. 

This is VOA News, Donghyun Kim. 


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UPI – U.S., South Korea alliance facing setback, ex-U.S. commander says

By Elizabeth Shim

U.S. Gen. Vincent Brooks, former commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command, said Tuesday the U.S. alliance with South Korea is in danger of unraveling. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
NEW YORK, Oct. 21 (UPI) — A standoff in defense burden-sharing negotiations between the United States and South Korea is raising concerns of an unraveling of the alliance, as both sides look toward upcoming elections.U.S. Gen. Vincent Brooks, former commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command, said Tuesday at a virtual symposium hosted by the Institute for Korean-American Studies in Washington the emphasis on national self-interest is endangering a 70-year-old “blood-forged” alliance.“There is a drifting right now” amid political motivation in most countries, Brooks said. U.S. and South Korean administrations need to “hold a high standard.”Brooks, who served as U.S. Forces Korea commander from 2016 to 2018, also said the increase in nationalistic views on the alliance is an “anathema.” Self-interest above alliance will weaken the alliance and can cause the relationship to come apart altogether, the former commander said.

“Things like the Special Measures Agreement are clearly on pause,” he said, referring to defense cost negotiations.

Brooks’ comments come at a sensitive time in U.S.-South Korea relations. Since the beginning of U.S. President Donald Trump‘s term, he has lamented a perceived lack of financial commitment from allies to the global U.S. military presence. South Korea, meanwhile, has struggled to justify U.S. demands for a five-fold, or $5 billion, annual contribution to U.S. troops.

Brooks said Tuesday the U.S. policy toward South Korea misses the mark. Seoul is “by far and away a global exemplar” among alliances, in terms of percentage of GDP spent on defense.

Trump’s views have become U.S. policy amid the impasse, however.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said at an Atlantic Council event that he would continue to push for increasing burden sharing, less than a week after meeting with his South Korean counterpart in Washington. Esper also said the Pentagon continues to prioritize the strengthening of alliances.

The 52nd Security Consultative Meeting held last Wednesday ended with a U.S.-South Korea joint statement that did not include references to maintaining current troop levels on the Korean Peninsula. The phrase was included in last year’s statement.

Last week’s meeting of top defense officials drew criticism in Seoul, where main opposition lawmakers said the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in was not in lockstep with Washington. The statement issued last week shows “discord” on various issues, including a threat assessment for North Korea, trilateral cooperation with Japan and conditions-based transition of wartime operational control from the U.S.-led United Nations Command, or OPCON, lawmaker Cho Tae-yong said, South Korean news service EDaily reported Sunday.

OPCON has become a hot-button issue for both sides. According to the JoongAng Ilbo last week, U.S. defense officials were not in agreement to complete the transfer before May 2022, the end of Moon’s term.

Brooks said he is concerned about misunderstandings regarding the transition. OPCON does not imply the “sudden giving of sovereignty to South Korea,” as it is “incorrectly perceived by the body politic.” Neither does OPCON subjugate U.S. forces to foreign command, Brooks said.

But the former U.S. commander also said South Korea could be lowering standards for conditions of transition as a response to perceived political pressure. Moon could be aiming for a completed transition before he leaves office despite U.S. reservations. Seoul’s progressive government could also be sensing pressure from Pyongyang to demonstrate a higher degree of autonomy from the United States.

“The North has clearly put pressure on South to show independence,” Brooks said.

South Korean independence from U.S. decision-making has been demonstrated in Moon’s call for an end-of-war declaration with North Korea. Skeptics have said the proposal would be a dangerous move.

But Brooks, who has said North Korea is waiting until after the U.S. presidential election Nov. 3 to resume talks, said an end-of-war declaration is not widely accepted but worthy of consideration.

An end-of-war declaration is far short of a peace treaty, he said.

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Yonhap – Esper says U.S. continues to face threats from N. Korea, other rogue states

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) — The United States continues to face ongoing threats from rogue states such as North Korea, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday, highlighting the need to further enhance his country’s alliances and defense capabilities.

“Since my confirmation as secretary of defense well over a year ago, my No. 1 priority has been implementing the national defense strategy (NDS). The NDS tells us that we are now in an era of great power competition, with our primary competitors being China and Russia,” the U.S. defense chief said in a webinar hosted by a Washington-based think tank, the Atlantic Council.

“At the same time, we face ongoing threats from rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran. Finally, regrettably, we’ll be dealing with violent extremist organizations for years to come,” he added.

In the photo, taken Oct. 14, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (L) is seen speaking in the annual defense ministerial talks, known as the Security Consultative Meeting, held with his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, in Washington. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

In the photo, taken Oct. 14, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (L) is seen speaking in the annual defense ministerial talks, known as the Security Consultative Meeting, held with his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, in Washington. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

It marks the first time in months that the U.S. defense chief has referred to North Korea as a rogue nation, a term that angers the communist state, nearly without fail.

Publicly, Esper last referred to Pyongyang as a rogue nation in August.

North Korea has maintained and continues to maintain a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests since November 2017, but its leader, Kim Jong-un, has said he no longer feel bound by such restrictions.

Esper’s use of the term against North Korea comes after the communist state unveiled a new, longer-range intercontinental ballistic missile at its recent military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party on Oct. 10.

His remarks also come amid stalled negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. President Donald Trump has held three meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, including two bilateral summits held June 2018 and February 2019 in Singapore and Hanoi, respectively.

Their talks, however, have stalled since their second summit ended without a deal.

Turning to what the U.S. calls growing competition from China and Russia, Esper called on U.S. allies to share a greater burden in ensuring their common goal of security.

“We also expect them to be ready, capable and willing to deploy when trouble calls. We expect them to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in confronting Chinese bad behavior and Russian aggression,” he said.

“To overcome the increasingly complex threats in the 21st century and defend our shared values, there can be no free riders in our common security,” added the U.S. defense secretary.

His remarks mostly dealt with the U.S.’ NATO allies, but they come amid a deadlock in burden-sharing negotiations between South Korea and the United States.

Seoul has offered to increase its burden-sharing in maintaining some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea by up to 13 percent from the US$870 million it paid under last year’s agreement.

The U.S., on the other hand, is said to be demanding a 50 percent spike to $1.3 billion per year.

Esper noted the U.S. has been asking its NATO allies to boost their defense spending to 2 percent of their gross domestic product as part of their burden-sharing efforts.

South Korea spent over 46 trillion ($40.4 billion) in defense spending in 2019, the 10th largest amount in the world that accounted for 2.6 percent of its GDP.

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Yonhap – N. Korean leader vows to further develop ties with China

SEOUL, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to further boost friendly relations with China, the North’s state media said Tuesday.

Kim said he would make positive efforts with Chinese President Xi Jinping to “further consolidate and develop the traditional DPRK-China friendly relations,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency reported, using the acronym of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim made the remarks on Monday in a reply message to Xi, who sent a congratulatory letter to Kim earlier this month to mark the 75th founding anniversary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

Xi expressed China’s intent to “successfully defend, consolidate and develop” the bilateral relations.

China is North Korea’s most important trading partner and a key source of food, arms, and fuel, giving Beijing significant leverage over Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, North Korea showcased a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking any part of the continental U.S. during a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party.

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