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US strike on Iran could have consequences in North Korea


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top military commander may have had an indirect casualty: a diplomatic solution to denuclearizing North Korea.

FILE – In this June 12, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore. The U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top military commander may have had an indirect casualty: a diplomatic solution to denuclearizing North Korea. Experts say the escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran will diminish already fading hopes for such an outcome and inspire North Korea’s decision-makers to tighten their hold on the weapons they see, perhaps correctly, as their strongest guarantee of survival. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Experts say the escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran will diminish already fading hopes for such an outcome and inspire North Korea’s decision-makers to tighten their hold on the weapons they see, perhaps correctly, as their strongest guarantee of survival.

North Korea’s initial reaction to the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani has been cautious. The country’s state media was silent for several days before finally on Monday issuing a brief report on the attack that didn’t even mention Soleimani’s name.

The Korean Central News Agency report didn’t publish any direct criticism by Pyongyang toward Washington, instead simply saying that China and Russia had denounced the United States over last week’s airstrike at the airport in Baghdad.

The North’s negotiations with the U.S. have been at a stalemate since last February, when a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump collapsed over disagreements about exchanging sanctions relief for nuclear disarmament. The North has recently pointed to that lack of progress and hinted it may resume tests of nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

While the killing of Soleimani may give Pyongyang pause about provoking the Trump administration in such a way, the North ultimately is likely to use the strike to further legitimize its stance that it needs to bolster its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against American aggression.

The North has often pointed to the demises of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi while justifying its nuclear development, saying they would still be alive and in power had they successfully obtained nuclear weapons and didn’t surrender them to the U.S.

Solemani’s name will soon be mentioned with them too, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University.

“North Korea would say that the ‘imperialist’ nature of the United States would never change, and that there is no other option for them other than to strengthen its nuclear deterrent while bracing for long-term confrontation,” said Koh, an adviser to current South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

It’s clear Pyongyang has been closely watching the developments between Washington and Tehran since the Trump administration in May 2018 abandoned a nuclear agreement Iran reached with world powers in 2015.

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published more than 30 articles analyzing the U.S.-Iran tensions since last August, reflecting the keen interest of Pyongyang’s decision-makers, Hwang Ildo, a professor from South Korea’s National Diplomatic Academy, recently wrote.

Kim and Trump exchanged insults and threats of war during a highly provocative run in North Korean weapons tests in 2017. But then in 2018, Kim initiated diplomatic talks with Washington and suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests. The opening came after months of concerns that the Trump administration could consider preventive military action against the North.

There are views that North Korea’s measured brinkmanship of 2019, highlighted by tests of shorter-range weapons and defiant statements on overcoming U.S.-led sanctions, were influenced by Tehran’s calibrated provocations against Washington, which coincided with efforts to retain European countries participating in the 2015 deal.

Washington’s decision not to retaliate against Iran’s interception of a U.S. surveillance drone last June could have emboldened Pyongyang, which possibly concluded it wouldn’t have to fear U.S. military action as long as it avoids directly threatening American lives or more crucial assets, some experts say.

The U.S. airstrike that took out Soleimani came after Iranian proxies fired rockets onto an Iraqi base, killing an American contractor, and those proxies then helped generate a mob that attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

In comments published New Year’s Day, Kim said there were no longer grounds for the North to be “unilaterally bound” to its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests, which Trump has repeatedly boasted as a major foreign policy accomplishment.

But Kim gave no explicit indication that he was abandoning negotiations entirely or restarting the suspended tests. He seemed to leave the door open to diplomacy, saying North Korea’s efforts to bolster its deterrent will be “properly coordinated” depending on future U.S. attitudes.

The U.S. killing of Soleimani will make the North more hesitant about crossing a metaphorical “red line” with the Trump administration by restarting such tests, said Du Hyeogn Cha, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Kyung Hee University.

“The airstrike does serve as a warning to North Korea about taking extreme actions as the presumption that the Trump administration refrains from using military force when concerned about consequences has been shattered,” said said Cha, an ex-intelligence secretary to former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.


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U.S. defense secretary urges N.K. leader to exercise restraint

This AFP file photo shows U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. (Yonhap)

Yonhap News  |   By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to exercise “restraint” after the communist nation threatened to reveal a “new strategic weapon” in protest over stalled nuclear talks.

Kim made the remark in a New Year’s message that expressed his frustration over stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S. Experts have said the “strategic weapon” Kim said the world will see in the near future could be an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“We would urge restraint by Kim Jong-un,” Esper said in an interview with Fox News, noting that the best path forward is still a political agreement on denuclearizing North Korea.

“We are on that path. We want to remain on that path, and we would obviously urge Kim Jong-un and his leadership team to sit back down at the negotiation table to do that,” he said.

Esper made clear, however, that the U.S. military stands ready to “fight tonight” if necessary.

“We have a full array of forces. They are ready. They’re Air and Naval, Marine, Army forces. We have our South Korean partners with us, and then we have a broader set of allies and partners out there as well,” he said. “So I’m confident in the readiness of our forces to deter North Korean bad behavior and should that fail, to fight and win as necessary.”

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Esper also said the U.S. has been monitoring the situation very closely but would not say whether there have been indications of an imminent test or launch.

“I obviously don’t talk about intelligence matters,” he said.

Pressed to respond to Kim’s threat to showcase a new strategic weapon, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley weighed in, “We’ll see what happens.

“Our military defensive capabilities are adequate to defend the homeland.” he added.

Questions have been raised about the readiness of South Korean and U.S. forces in the wake of the allies’ decision to scale back some joint military exercises in support of the diplomatic process.

North Korea denounces the drills as rehearsals for an invasion of the regime, and in his New Year’s message, Kim complained that the allies continue to conduct their exercises despite what he said was a personal promise from U.S. President Donald Trump to stop them.

Kim added that under such conditions he sees no reason to be bound by his self-declared moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disputed the effectiveness of downsizing the drills.

“I do believe that having canceled the military exercises was an enormous gift to Kim Jong-un without any benefit,” he said in an interview with CNN.

The senator also accused Trump of having weakened the sanctions regime against North Korea.

“You have to engage China vigorously because China is probably the key to whether or not you can have a successful outcome with North Korea,” Menendez said. “None of that, from my perspective, is going on right now.”

Trump and Kim have had three meetings to try to reach a deal on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. sanctions relief and security guarantees.

But negotiations between the sides have faltered since the leaders’ second summit in Vietnam in February due to wide gaps over how to match their steps.

Trump said Tuesday following Kim’s remarks that he still believes the North Korean leader will stick to his commitment to denuclearize.

“I think he’s a man of his word,” he said.

The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the U.S. hopes Kim will “take a different course.”

“We’re hopeful that Chairman Kim will make the right decision, (that) he’ll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war,” he said.

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Opinion: North Korea Is Not Done Trolling Trump

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

New York Times  |   By

Mr. Eberstadt is a political economist.

Kim Jong-un just restarted his dance of death with America.

Is anyone surprised? On the last day of 2019, after months of threatening the United States to ease its nuclear standoff with “a bold decision” by year’s end — or else — the leader of North Korea darkly announced that the country would unveil a new strategic weapon “in the near future.” Kim Jong-un also declared an end to a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile tests. On the first day of 2020, he did not deliver his customary, often fiery, New Year’s address. In other words, he interrupted his regularly scheduled program to bring us his latest threat.

The false calm is over; the old North Korean nuclear crisis is back on — only, it has just entered a deadly serious phase. The government in Pyongyang is looking to establish a new normal: One where it gets to threaten San Francisco with incineration, and we get to do nothing. The United States’ only option for precluding this nightmare is to bring down the hammer on the Kim regime before its capabilities expand even further.

As usual, North Korea is setting the scene and the tempo for the dance of death now unfolding. Mr. Kim has just personally decreed an end to the season of diplomacy — after personally summoning it into existence at the start of 2018.

In his New Year’s address that year, he publicly declared that the North Korean arms industry “should mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles” — the power and reliability of which had been well established, he also said. In the perverse logic of North Korean signaling and gamesmanship, this actually was an indirect overture: a suggestion that Mr. Kim might now agree to an invitation that he halt tests of both nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It was also a hint that he might be willing to enter into talks with the United States and South Korea.

The gambit was a tactical probe, pure and simple. It cost Mr. Kim nothing, yet it allowed him to find out how much he could game America for.

Apparently he is not satisfied by the results of his experiment in concession-trolling: The United States has failed to lift sanctions, provide protection money or abandon South Korea. So Mr. Kim is shifting back to bare-fanged confrontation in hopes of obtaining those things the old-fashioned way.

By now we should all know the script to the North’s shakedown film. Yet many in Washington and various media outlets seem ready to blame Mr. Kim’s latest move on an American president they detest rather than on the time-honored North Korean playbook from which it is so obviously drawn. Blinded by their loathing of Mr. Trump, these people cannot see that his North Korea denuclearization policy has been more serious — and more promising — than those of previous administrations.

Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of 2017–8 is the closest thing to a strategy for crippling North Korea’s war economy that Washington has devised to date. His diplomatic courtship with Mr. Kim, despite its inerasable creepiness, also had a rationale: The voluntary denuclearization of the world’s most totalitarian state could never occur without the assent of its ultimate decision maker.

That experiment has now been run, and we know, conclusively, the result. Hardly surprising, but arguably worth establishing without a doubt.

Pyongyang will never denuclearize voluntarily. Ever. It, too, says that it supports “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but for the North Korean government that is code language for an end to Seoul’s defense treaty with Washington and the withdrawal of American troops and missiles from South Korea. Pyongyang wants nuclear weapons and ICBMs, and lots of both, because these are the indispensable instruments for achieving the unconditional unification the North has been relentlessly pursuing since its surprise attack against the South in June 1950.

If we are to protect ourselves and our allies from North Korea’s evermore credible nuclear blackmail, we must respond now — with an aggressive long-term program to reduce its killing power overseas and eventually neuter the Kim threat. Many of the pieces for such a program are already in place. What is needed now, in the words of David Maxwell, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is “Maximum Pressure 2.0.”

North Korea’s weapons programs are built on a precarious and highly vulnerable economic base. The country arguably is the world’s most distorted and highly dependent economy. It is desperately in need of foreign subsidies and illicit revenue from abroad, and now it is in a sanctions vise. The United States and the United Nations have enacted broad and punitive strictures that are already beginning to throttle Mr. Kim’s war economy, forcing Pyongyang to spend down its foreign currency reserves and strategic stockpiles of food and energy.

The beauty of this trap, from an American standpoint, is that these sanctions cannot be relaxed unless Washington says so: Only Mr. Trump can alter America’s, and the United States can veto any resolution to water down the United Nations sanctions. China and Russia are currently lobbying for relief, but America can brush this off.

Moreover, with our unique resource — the dollar, still the world’s main reserve currency — we can force reluctant sanctioneers to get religion on squeezing the North if they hope to have access to trade and finance in the dollar zone. We have much more leverage on China than many realize, by the way: Numbers from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year show that China transacts a higher share of its trade in American dollars that do Indonesia or Brazil.

Yet with all its summit-chasing over the past year and a half, Washington has been unfathomably lackadaisical about implementing its own sanctions: Since the first Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore in June 2018, the number of people and entities officially designated as sanctions-busters has plummeted. We urgently need to make up for lost time.

Getting serious about paralyzing North Korea’s economy also means cutting off its illegal revenues — from terrorist states and organizations in the Middle East, from cybercrime and from the rackets that its embassies run all over the world with diplomatic immunity. The United States and its allies should also be on a permanent hunt to freeze and seize North Korean assets that are stashed or hidden overseas. The Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act that Congress recently passed and the $500 million court judgment in 2018 against North Korea for Mr. Warmbier’s death bolster our license for this dragnet.

North Korea’s killing power can be further reduced through diplomacy and deterrence, by strengthening our alliances with South Korea and Japan, enhancing civil defense in both countries, and ramping up missile defense overseas and at home. Better deterrence in the Korean Peninsula also means schooling Pyongyang that it has much to lose through its studied brinkmanship. Why not see to it that any North Korean submarines that venture into the open seas never return to port?

Now that the United States is out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, why not start placing medium-range missiles within reach of North Korea? Those would be in reach of China, too, of course. Could this incentivize Beijing to be more helpful with what we mean by North Korea’s denuclearization?

Human rights should also figure in our threat-reduction program. Did anyone notice Pyongyang’s shrill reaction last month after Washington criticized its human rights record at the United Nations? It threatened that America would “pay dearly.” The Kim regime gets frantic when the issue comes up; it seems to fear few things as much as the prospect of having to face its own Nuremberg trials.

Mr. Trump’s declarations on North Korea’s human rights abuses were splendid at first, but then he let the matter slide as he chased a nuclear deal. Yet Pyongyang’s terrorism at home and its terrorism abroad are two sides of the same coin, inextricably linked. Reducing the threat Mr. Kim poses to his subjects will help reduce the threat he poses to the rest of us, too.

Success in this endeavor will require nerve and constancy. But we should be prepared for nothing less.

Nicholas Eberstadt is a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute and a founding director of the United States Committee on Human Rights in North Korea.


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S. Korea, US to adjust combined drills for diplomacy with N. Korea: defense ministry

Yonhap News

South Korea and the United States will continue to stage their combined exercises in an adjusted manner to support efforts for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Seoul’s defense ministry said Thursday.

The allies have either canceled or scaled back joint drills since 2018 to back diplomacy with North Korea.

“We’ve maintained our stance that combined exercises with the US shall be adjusted in close coordination between the two sides in order to support diplomatic efforts for the denuclearization,” ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a regular briefing.

Asked about any plan to resume their springtime exercise that had usually been staged in March, Choi said she has “nothing to comment on the issue as of now,” adding that details would be decided “in consideration of how things go.”

Last year, Seoul and Washington decided to end their large-scale springtime Key Resolve and Foal Eagle maneuvers, and instead staged a modified command post exercise called Dong Maeng.

But local media have reported that the two sides have been reviewing an option to resume a field training exercise around March this year to add pressure on North Korea.

Amid stalled negotiations with Washington on its nuclear weapons program, Pyongyang hinted at the resumption of nuclear and long-range missile tests, while warning of “a new strategic weapon” and “a shocking actual action.”

The communist country has strongly denounced the allies’ joint drills, claiming that such a joint maneuver is nothing but a rehearsal for invasion into the North. (Yonhap)


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Why North Korea’s Kim Jong Un May Be Leaving The Door Open To Nuclear Talks

Visitors celebrating the New Year use binoculars to watch North Korean territory Wednesday, near the border between North and South Korea. Ahn Young-joon/AP

NPR  | 

After keeping the world waiting and watching, first for a “Christmas present” to the U.S., and then for a New Year’s shift to a harder line on nuclear negotiations, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered neither.

Some analysts believe a key reason behind his calculations may be President Trump’s prospects for surviving an impeachment process and possibly winning a second term in the White House.

“Donald Trump happens to be the first sitting U.S. president to view North Korea as a source of political victory, for domestic purposes,” says Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow and expert on North Korea at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank.

Pyongyang has said it has no intention of handing President Trump any victories on denuclearization, but officials see Trump’s eagerness to tout achievements to his domestic audience as a source of leverage.

In remarks carried by state media, Kim on Tuesday had plenty of tough words for the U.S. as he addressed a plenum of the ruling Workers Party Central Committee. He acknowledged the countries’ current stalemate on nuclear talks, but insisted he would not passively wait for things to improve.

“We should never dream that the U.S. and the hostile forces would leave us alone to live in peace, but we should make [a] frontal breakthrough with the might of self-reliance,” he told the plenum as it wrapped up four days of meetings.

He also asserted that North Korea is no longer constrained by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and long-range missile testing.

Still, Kim said Pyongyang had unilaterally halted nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests in order to build confidence with the U.S. And he appeared to leave the door open for concessions and further talks.

North Korea expert Park Hyeong-jung predicted that outcome even before the speech.

Park is with the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government think tank in Seoul, and says Pyongyang will not “take any action to damage its relationship with the U.S. irreparably.”

Pyongyang had warned it could take a tougher “new way” if the U.S. failed to meet its demands for concessions by year’s end.

“Kim Jong Un will have to stage some anger at the U.S. and chastise them” for ignoring his year end deadline, Park predicts, but could be willing to return to the negotiating table by summer if the U.S. shows signs of accommodating Pyongyang.

Still, a lot could happen in U.S. politics by summer. “If they calculate that President Trump won’t be re-elected next year,” says analyst Go, “then their approach is going to fundamentally change.” At that point, Go says, Pyongyang could unleash provocations that leave little room for compromise.

Prolonged stalemate likely

For now, analysts see a prolonged stalemate over North Korea’s nukes as all but inevitable.

“Nuclear weapons are very good for self-defense, and for preserving the existing status quo,” argues Texas A&M University political scientist Matt Fuhrmann. But he says they’re not especially useful for forcing changes to the status quo, as in “using nuclear threats to blackmail your adversaries.”

Fuhrmann says that Kim has been “relatively successful” in acquiring nuclear weapons in order to ensure the survival of his regime, and it is unlikely that he could be compelled to give them up.

But using nuclear threats to extract concessions from the U.S., such as security guarantees or the sanctions relief Pyongyang seeks, would be far more difficult. This is because actually using the nukes would all but ensure the regime’s extinction, Fuhrmann says, even if they continue to build their arsenal.

North Korea’s only remaining tool is nuclear brinksmanship — essentially bluffing opponents into thinking Pyongyang might actually use atomic weapons, even though it is plainly evident that the cost of doing so is prohibitive for both sides.

Fuhrmann’s theory has implications for policy: a nuclear-armed North Korea is not the apocalyptic event some fear, “even if we might prefer a situation where they were not to have nuclear weapons.”

He advises that a complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament is “somewhat unrealistic.” Better, he says, for the U.S. to “look for a deal that allows us to place meaningful limits on North Korean capabilities.”


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John Bolton urges US to resume military exercises in South Korea after Kim Jong Un remark

New York Post   |   By Mark Moore

Former national security adviser John Bolton said the US should resume military exercises with South Korea and hold hearings to determine US troop readiness on the Korean peninsula following Kim Jong Un’s remarks that he no longer has to abide by a ban on testing nuclear weapons.

“How to respond to Kim Jong Un’s threatening New Year’s remarks? The U.S. should fully resume all canceled or down-sized military exercises in South Korea,” Bolton, who’s been highly critical of President Trump’s handling of Kim’s nuclear ambitions, wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

“Hold Congressional hearings on whether US troops are truly ready to ‘fight tonight.’” he added, referring to the motto of the US military in South Korea.

Kim, speaking at a Workers’ Party meeting, said North Korea is no longer bound by a self-imposed ban on testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and announced that his regime would unveil a “new strategic weapon” soon.

He accused the US of making “gangster-like demands” and conducting a “hostile policy” by continuing to participate in joint operations with South Korea’s military.

Trump, speaking Tuesday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, said he believes Kim will keep to the agreement the two leaders signed during the June 2018 summit in Singapore not to test weapons.

“But he did sign a contract. He did sign an agreement, talking about denuclearization.  And that was signed. Number-one sentence: denuclearization. That was done in Singapore. And I think he’s a man of his word. So we’re going to find out, but I think he’s a man of his word,” Trump told reporters before attending a New Year’s Eve celebration.

Pyongyang hasn’t tested a long-range missile or conducted a nuclear test in more than two years, even as it continued to launch short-range rockets.

Recently, North Korea warned the US that it would deliver a “Christmas gift.”

Bolton, in an interview with Axios last month, blasted Trump’s policy on North Korea as “more rhetorical” than real.

“We’re now nearly three years into the administration with no visible progress toward getting North Korea to make the strategic decision to stop pursuing deliverable nuclear weapons,” he said.

Bolton left the White House in September after butting heads with Trump over his foreign policy decisions in North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan.


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Pompeo says U.S. is watching N. Korea closely amid threat of ‘Christmas gift’

This AFP file photo shows U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Yonhap)


WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (Yonhap) — The United States is watching North Korea closely and hoping the regime will choose a path of peace as it approaches its year-end deadline for denuclearization talks between the two countries, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday.

Pompeo made the remark in an interview with Fox News amid concerns North Korea may stage an intercontinental ballistic missile test or other provocation as a threatened “Christmas gift” for the U.S.

“We’re watching it closely. We’re monitoring,” he said, noting that key meetings of the North Korean ruling party are currently under way in Pyongyang.

“We’re watching very closely … we maintain our view that we can find a path forward to convince the leadership in North Korea that their best course of action is to create a better opportunity for their people by getting rid of their nuclear weapons,” he continued.

“We’re watching what they’re doing here in the closing days of this year, and we hope that they’ll make a decision that will lead to a path of peace and not one towards confrontation,” the top U.S. diplomat added.

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Kim Jong Un calls for measures to protect North Korea

In this Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, photo provided Monday, Dec. 30, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a Workers’ Party meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for his military and diplomats to prepare unspecified “offensive measures” to protect the country’s security and sovereignty, the North’s state media said on Monday, before his end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to make major concessions to salvage a fragile nuclear diplomacy.

Kim during a ruling Workers’ Party meeting Sunday also “comprehensively and anatomically analyzed” problems arising in efforts to rebuild the North’s moribund economy and presented tasks for “urgently correcting the grave situation of the major industrial sectors,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

The plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee, which began on Saturday, is being closely watched amid concerns that Kim could suspend his deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the United States and take a more confrontational approach by lifting a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

The North has said the meeting, which will continue for at least another day, is intended for discussions on overcoming “manifold and harsh trials and difficulties.”

Kim, who has said the North would pursue a “new path” if Washington persists with sanctions and pressure, is expected to announce major policy changes during his New Year’s address on Wednesday.

The KCNA report did not describe any decisions made at the meeting or mention any specific remarks by Kim about the United States.

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of Kim, wearing a white dress shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, speaking from a podium as hundreds of government and military officials jotted down his comments.

“Emphasizing the need to take positive and offensive measures for fully ensuring the sovereignty and security of the country as required by the present situation, (Kim) indicated the duties of the fields of foreign affairs, munitions industry and armed forces of the DPRK,” the agency said in its English report, referring to North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

KCNA’s Korean-language report said Kim called for “active and offensive” measures.

Kim also “comprehensively and anatomically analyzed the problems arising in the overall state building including the state management and economic construction in the present time,” the agency said.

“He stressed the need to reasonably straighten the country’s economic work system and order and establish a strong discipline and presented the tasks for urgently correcting the grave situation of the major industrial sectors of the national economy,” the report said.

It added that Kim stressed the need for a “decisive” increase in agricultural production and gave out instructions for improving science, education and public health standards.

Lee Sang-min, a spokesman of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said Seoul is closely watching the North Korean party meeting, but he didn’t speculate on what Kim’s call for active and offensive security measures would have meant.

Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior analyst at South Korea’s private Sejong Institute, said it was the first time under Kim’s rule that a plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee continued for more than a day.

Kim has an urgent need to make major policy changes in the face of persistent U.S.-led sanctions and pressure, especially with a global crackdown on North Korean labor exports further straining his broken economy, Cheong said.

It’s also likely that Kim during the party meeting reaffirmed a commitment to strengthen his nuclear and missile program, considering the commander of the North Korean army’s strategic force was seen during Saturday’s meeting, Cheong said.

Kim has met President Donald Trump three times in two years of high-stakes summitry, but the diplomacy has progressed little beyond their vague aspirational goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. At their last meeting in June, they agreed to resume talks. A working-level meeting in Sweden in October broke down with the North Koreans blaming their American counterparts for maintaining an “old stance and attitude.”

The North said earlier this month it conducted two “crucial” tests at its long-range rocket launch facility, raising speculation it has been developing a new long-range missile or preparing a satellite launch.

This article was written by KIM TONG-HYUNG from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to


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U.S. promises action on any North Korea missile test: White House

Reuters  |  By: Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States would be very disappointed if North Korea tested a long-range or nuclear missile and would take appropriate action as a leading military and economic power, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Sunday.

Washington has many “tools in its tool kit” to respond to any such test, O’Brien said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

“We’ll reserve judgment but the United States will take action as we do in these situations,” he said. “If Kim Jong Un takes that approach we’ll be extraordinarily disappointed and we’ll demonstrate that disappointment.”

North Korea has asked Washington to offer a new initiative to iron out differences over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. It warned Washington this month that failure to meet its expectations could result in an unwanted “Christmas gift.”

U.S. military commanders have said the North Korean move could involve the testing of a long-range missile – something North Korea has suspended, along with nuclear bomb tests, since 2017.

O’Brien said the United States and North Korea had open channels of communication but did not elaborate. He said Washington hoped North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would live up to his commitments to denuclearize the Korean The United States was still the leading military power in the world and had tremendous economic power, said O’Brien. “There’s a lot of pressure that we can bring to bear,” he said.

North Korea threatened a Christmas surprise, despite the fact that Trump and Kim have engaged in personal diplomacy over the years and have a good personal relationship, O’Brien said.

“So perhaps he’s reconsidered that,” O’Brien added. “But we will have to wait and see. We’re going to monitor it closely. It’s a situation that concerns us, of course.”

Kim convened a meeting of top ruling party officials on Saturday to discuss important policy matters ahead of the year-end deadline set by Kim for the United States, the state news agency said on Sunday.

Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said meetings between the two leaders have produced “very little” on denuclearization.

“So what I want to see, I want to see is the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, make a full declaration of his nuclear weapons program and make a real commitment to start to dismantle that,” he said. “We haven’t seen any of that during the Trump administration.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Tom Brown

Image Credit: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
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U.S. flies spy planes again over Korean Peninsula amid concerns over N.K. provocations

This photo, captured from the website of the U.S. Air Force on Dec. 6, 2019, shows America’s RC-135S Cobra Ball surveillance aircraft. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) — The United States has flown spy planes around the Korean Peninsula again, an aviation tracker said Thursday, at a time of speculation that North Korea could carry out a major provocation amid stalled denuclearization talks.

According to Aircraft Spots, a RC-135S Cobra Ball plane was presumed to have carried out a surveillance mission over South Korea’s East Sea after taking off from the Japanese territory of Okinawa. Another RC-135S aircraft was spotted flying in the same route later.

An E-8C plane or JSTARS was also seen flying over the peninsula at some 31,000 feet, the aviation tracker said.

The flights came after the U.S. flew four spy planes at the same time over the peninsula earlier this week in an unusual move to intensify its surveillance on North Korea amid concerns that the North could test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea has threatened to take a “new way” if Washington fails to come up with a new proposal in denuclearization talks before the end of this year, hinting that it otherwise will end diplomacy and revert to provocative behavior.

With the deadline drawing closer, the North earlier said it is entirely up to Washington what “Christmas gift” it wants to get, spawning speculation that it might be preparing a major provocation during the holiday season this week.

North Korea did not carry out a threatened “Christmas” provocation but observers say that things are not over yet, as Pyongyang could announce a major policy shift with regard to its denuclearization talks with the U.S. in a party meeting set for later this month or the New Year address its leader Kim Jong-un is to deliver.

The Seoul government said that it is closely monitoring any developments in North Korea in cooperation with the U.S. and remains ready to address any possible situations.

Earlier in the day, Meari, a North Korean propaganda outlet, denounced the stepped-up surveillance activities by the U.S. and South Korea on the communist state’s military targets, calling them “provocative” moves.

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