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3 Scenarios for Kim Jong Un’s Mysterious Absence

The United States and South Korea should be ready to cooperate whether Kim is dead, sick, or about to reappear.

This picture, taken on July 4, 2017, and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) celebrating the successful test fire of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location.

This picture, taken on July 4, 2017, and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) celebrating the successful test fire of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location. STR/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The recent spate of rumors and thinly sourced reports about Kim Jong Un’s status shows how the leader’s health is a wild card in the North Korean system. Whenever one of the three generations of Kim leaders was not seen in public for a prolonged period, speculation has run rampant. The current leader is only in his mid-30s but has visible health problems and has been out of sight for over two weeks. Notably, for the first time since coming to power in 2011, Kim missed national ceremonies on the April 15 holiday memorializing his grandfather, regime founder and eternal president Kim Il Sung.

Official sources in Pyongyang remain silent about Kim’s status, albeit not unusual for the secretive regime. It may be that he is recovering from an illness or medical operation or is distancing himself from a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea. The regime may be taking time to regroup from recent setbacks, strategizing after South Korea’s legislative election and before the presidential election in the United States, or simply looking to keep its rivals guessing to test how they will react. Or perhaps the propaganda department is struggling how to explain the unexplainable—a grievously ill, or even dead, Kim.

From a policy perspective, while it is important to be cautious about uncorroborated reports, it is necessary to prepare for major scenarios. Kim might reappear sometime soon, apparently in control of North Korea. He might remain out of sight, potentially incapacitated, for a prolonged period of time. Or he might be confirmed dead or incapable of governing. The challenges and expectations for allied responses to each of these three scenarios are not mutually exclusive. Whatever the fate of the North Korean leader, close cooperation between the United States and South Korea is essential.

Scenario 1: Kim reappears in full control.

One scenario is that after completing his recovery or other tasks out of the public eye, Kim visibly returns to the helm of the North Korean state. In the face of North Korea’s policy continuity, Washington and Seoul still need to coordinate their strategic approach toward Pyongyang. Enduring objectives would be to avoid military escalation, prevent the unraveling of sanctions enforcement, and seek opportunities to resume diplomacy.

The challenge, however, will be to smooth over differences between Seoul’s priority of cross-border engagement and Washington’s priority of denuclearization. U.S. President Donald Trump is preoccupied with his reelection campaign and the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States. In contrast, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is determined to double down on inter-Korean cooperation after Seoul managed to flatten the curve of its COVID-19 epidemic and Moon’s party won a landslide victory in legislative elections. For starters, Moon reiterated that public health cooperation with North Korea is the most urgent task during a meeting with his advisors on April 27, the two-year anniversary of the inter-Korean summit’s Panmunjom Declaration.

While it makes sense for Seoul to test for opportunities to improve relations, it remains to be seen if Pyongyang will respond favorably to Seoul’s overtures.

While it makes sense for Seoul to test for opportunities to improve relations, it remains to be seen if Pyongyang will respond favorably to Seoul’s overtures.

But the U.S.-South Korea alliance could experience friction if cross-border projects require the easing of key sanctions or are perceived as diverging from a coordinated approach to incentivize denuclearization. If the Koreas successfully cooperate on a coronavirus response via a reopened liaison office in Kaesong and resume other cultural and humanitarian exchanges, these would be relatively uncontroversial. Gradually resuming inter-Korean rail and road connection projects would then be diplomatically plausible as Seoul is likely to coordinate with United Nations bodies and consult with Washington.However, if the Moon government attempted to restart larger economic projects—like tours to North Korea or the Kaesong Industrial Complex—those efforts could contradict significant U.N. and U.S. sanctions. Washington will want Pyongyang to take credible denuclearization steps to justify the sanctions relief required. The United States and South Korea need to stay on the same page in order for the alliance to effectively support meaningful diplomacy with Pyongyang and prevent North Korean wedge-driving and extortion tactics.

Scenario 2: Kim remains unseen, potentially incapacitated for longer.

A second scenario is that Kim Jong Un remains out of sight and potentially incapacitated for an indefinite period of time, increasing uncertainty about the stability of North Korea, which, in turn, could raise the risks of miscalculation, miscommunication, and unintended escalation. As Kim’s de facto chief of staff and closest confidante sharing the Mount Paektu bloodline, his sister Kim Yo Jong could step in as the acting leader. Or a power struggle might ensue, as it is unprecedented for a woman in her early 30s to lead the North Korean regime. The leadership structure will be highly uncertain until there is official confirmation from Pyongyang—and even then, the interim leader’s position may not be secure. Neighboring countries will likely take a wait-and-see approach until there is concrete evidence on North Korea’s internal dynamics.

Seoul and Washington must closely share intelligence while responding together in a timely manner in the event of any North Korean provocation. Pyongyang might turn inward but then test more missiles to reinforce domestic order as well as show strength internationally. If Kim Yo Jong is at the helm, North Korea might continue with the current level of military exercises and missile tests (short- and medium-range) in line with her brother’s strategy ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November. However, there might be competing voices as government elites jostle to establish themselves in the temporary order, producing pressure for a more hawkish weapons-testing agenda, more aggressive sanctions-busting, and more provocative rhetoric toward South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

In this case, the alliance may be at a disadvantage owing to existing political strains and the currently reduced schedule of combined military exercises, particularly full-scale field exercises. If the alliance looks weakened or underfunded, it will also lack credibility. Washington and Seoul should thus swiftly conclude negotiations on the Special Measures Agreement to provide defense cost-sharing for hosting U.S. troops in South Korea. And if Pyongyang ramps up missile launches, Japan and South Korea must overcome recent spats to allow smooth intelligence-sharing. While the allies need to maintain readiness and deterrence, they must also be careful not to misinterpret shows of force that are aimed at rivals or the North Korean public, rather than at the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

Scenario 3: Kim is dead or incapable of governing.

A third scenario is that North Korea confirms Kim Jong Un is dead or incapable of governing. Who leads the country will first depend on whether Kim anointed someone to take over or if someone can credibly claim to have received his dying injunction for how the country should be governed. The likelihood of an immediate regime collapse is slim because the North Korean state and even national identity have been institutionalized, with overlapping interests between the Kim family and North Korea’s political, economic, and military elites.

This scenario leaves more room for political power struggles among various domestic factions and the possibility that international actors may misread the situation inside North Korea. Possible candidates jockeying for power besides Kim’s sister include his uncle Kim Pyong Il, who despite being effectively exiled for decades as an ambassador in European capitals, returned to North Korea last year and may have support among the elite of his generation. A dark horse could emerge from the Kim lineage, Workers’ Party officials, or military generals, especially if there were initially a collective leadership arrangement that narrowed over time. Even if Kim’s sister were elevated, it would be unclear how long she would be able to maintain her grip on power.

Amid the pandemic, Washington, Seoul, and Beijing are not adequately prepared for another crisis.

Amid the pandemic, Washington, Seoul, and Beijing are not adequately prepared for another crisis.

Clarity about the facts on the ground needs to be established (and mutually understood) by all sides. Beijing will likely respect North Korea’s decision on a leadership succession or transition without directly injecting itself to influence the outcome. However, it would probably send humanitarian assistance and prevent a mass exodus of refugees across its border in the event of North Korean instability. As Beijing could move quickly on a range of actions, Washington and Seoul need to be in close and constant consultation.Both allies would be well advised to send condolences to the Kim family and North Korean people, even if this sticks in the throat and provides ammunition to political rivals. Washington should reaffirm its commitment to the 2018 Singapore vision shared by Trump and Kim on a new relationship, peace regime, and denuclearization. South Korea should likewise reaffirm its commitment to inter-Korean agreements, and both allies ought to express hope for working with the new North Korean leadership to fulfill those goals. An attempt to intervene in North Korea and force change would be an exceedingly dangerous move that not only risks clashes with North Korean forces but a broader conflict between China and the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

U.S.-South Korea coordination at all levels of government must be ironclad, from the big political questions to the technical command and control issues. Seoul and Washington will need to review and calibrate contingency plans, such as Operational Plan 5029, for conducting joint military maneuvers in the event of instability or regime collapse, including efforts to secure North Korea’s strategic assets. The feasibility of the plan remains an open question, and progressive South Korean governments tend to prefer avoiding conversations regarding a North Korean regime collapse. The United States and South Korea have a working group on North Korea that will need to remain adequately staffed with officials from both sides who are empowered to coordinate policy.

Seoul and Washington would also need a unified message, setting expectations for China’s role and inviting Beijing, Tokyo, and Moscow to discuss and coordinate a range of contingency plans in advance. Such coordination will be more difficult because of the recent deterioration in U.S.-China relations with Beijing’s increased assertiveness, the trade war, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Beijing has historically refused discussing North Korean contingency plans with Washington and Seoul, but private consultations will be necessary to prevent miscalculation over possible dangers if there is a loss of control in Pyongyang, including the safety and security of weapons of mass destruction and fissile materials, weapons exports, and a refugee crisis across North Korea’s shared borders with China, Russia, and South Korea.

Regional coordination will be imperative to prevent any instability or crisis in North Korea from escalating into a regional conflict. The allies need the concerted will—despite all the political distractions—to coordinate very closely with Beijing, Tokyo, and Moscow in any emergency situation. Intelligence cooperation will be particularly important between Washington and its allies, as well as between Seoul and Tokyo using their General Security of Military Information Agreement. If a flow of U.S. forces to the Korean Peninsula is necessary, U.S. bases in Japan will be indispensable. Washington and Seoul will also need to work closely with the U.N. Security Council and various organizations that can provide humanitarian and financial assistance during a crisis.

The latest mystery behind Kim’s health and whereabouts will be solved with North Korea’s confirmation in due course. If he is alive, this will not be the last time rumors fly regarding a premature death. Still, this episode can serve as a wake-up call to the U.S.-South Korea alliance on the need for close and advance coordination on scenarios surrounding the health of the North Korean leader.

Kim palace intrigue is not gossip about a photogenic royal family or an entertaining Korean drama. It’s a matter of life and death for the North Korean people and how a human rights-abusing and nuclear missile-pursuing regime will persist or fall, with implications for peace and security in Asia and beyond. If and when the time comes, the U.S.-South Korea alliance needs to be ready.



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ESPN nearing deal to broadcast S. Korean baseball games: source

YONHAP NEWS  |  By Yoo Jee-ho and Shin Chang-yong

SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) — The U.S. sports media giant ESPN is nearing a deal to broadcast South Korean baseball games to its American audience this season, an industry source told Yonhap News Agency on Monday.

The source, who requested anonymity because the deal wasn’t finalized as of Monday afternoon, said ESPN could air multiple Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) games per week. The exact duration of the deal and proposed financial terms weren’t immediately clear.

A Korea Baseball Organization preseason game takes place at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul between the Doosan Bears and the KT Wiz on April 25, 2020. (Yonhap)

A Korea Baseball Organization preseason game takes place at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul between the Doosan Bears and the KT Wiz on April 25, 2020. (Yonhap)

The KBO’s regular season will begin on May 5, pushed back by more than a month from the original March 28 Opening Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the second pro baseball league to begin during the pandemic, after the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan.

If completed, the deal would represent a turnaround from last week, when talks between ESPN and Eclat, which holds international distribution rights to KBO games, reached a stalemate over ESPN’s demand for free games. Sources had told Yonhap at the time that ESPN was seeking monthly deals, rather than a longer deal that would cover the whole 2020 season. Those month-to-month deals would allow ESPN to drop KBO games once Major League Baseball (MLB), currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, begins its season.

Both the KBO and Eclat balked at the initial ESPN demand for free rights. One source said there was “a feeling of being disrespected among KBO ranks.” One KBO official said the league would rather not have Eclat shoulder production costs just to put games on ESPN.

Since then, ESPN has apparently changed its stance. ESPN first indicated interest in KBO games earlier this month amid its struggles to fill dead air, with the coronavirus pandemic having put all professional and amateur sports on hold.

When reached by Yonhap on Monday, an Eclat official declined to provide specifics of the potential deal, saying negotiations were still ongoing.


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Kim Jong Un ‘alive and well,’ South Korean official says amid new reports North Korean leader is ill

USA TODAY  |  Deirdre Shesgreen

WASHINGTON South Korean government officials tried again to quell persistent rumors that Kim Jong Un, the authoritarian leader of North Korea, is in poor health.

On Monday, South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-chul, told a closed-door forum in Seoul the government has “enough intelligence to confidently say that there are no unusual developments” in rival North Korea to corroborate speculation about Kim’s health.

“Kim Jong Un is alive and well,” Chung-in Moon, foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told Fox News on Sunday. “He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”

North Korea is one of the world’s most secretive nations in the world and information about its repressive leader is extremely difficult to verify.

Speculation about Kim’s health began to swirl after the North Korea leader failed to attend the April 15 celebration of his grandfather’s birthday, an important national holiday that he had not previously missed since his rise to power in 2011.

Last week, a Seoul-based website called Daily NK reported that the North Korean leader had undergone heart surgery on April 12 and was recuperating at a villa outside the capital, Pyongyang. The Daily NK’s story was based on a single source inside North Korea. Other media outlets, including CNN, have reported that Kim’s health may be in “grave danger.”

The state-controlled North Korean media has been silent about Kim’s whereabouts in recent weeks. The state-run Korean Central News Agency released a photo of him, dated April 11, which it said shows Kim attending a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang. However, neither the content nor the date of the photo could be independently verified.

Media reports say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is believed to be in "grave danger" after surgery, but officials in South Korea believe otherwise.

Some media reports about North Korea and its leadership have previously turned out to be inaccurate. President Donald Trump said last week that he thought the CNN story was “inaccurate,” but he declined to comment further on what information the Trump administration has about Kim’s health status.

“I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report,” said Trump, who has met directly with Kim in an unsuccessful effort to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

South Korea’s unification minister did not reveal the specific intelligence behind his conclusion that Kim is not ill, but he said it was reached after a thorough analysis.

38 North, a website that tracks developments in North Korea, reported that a train likely belonging to Kim has been parked at a railway station that services the leader’s Wonsan compound since at least April 21. North38 cited commercial satellite imagery and said the approximately 250-meter long train is reserved for use by the Kim family.

“The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health, but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast,” the website said.

Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard and the Associated Press


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N.K. leader sends gratitude to workers at tourist zone amid health rumors

YONHAP NEWS  |  By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his gratitude to workers building a tourist zone in the east coast region of Wonsan, state media said Monday, amid reports his special train is parked at the area amid persisting speculation about his health.

“Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has sent his appreciation to the workers who devoted themselves to building the Wonsan-Kalma tourist zone,” the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s main newspaper, said. The Korean Central Broadcasting Station carried a similar report.

Later in the day, the state-run Korean Central News Agency also reported that Kim sent a congratulatory telegram message to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.

“I, in the days around Freedom Day, the meaningful national holiday of the people of your country, send out heart-felt congratulations to you, the government of South Africa and the people in the name of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Korean people,” the report quoted Kim as saying in the telegram.

“On this occasion, I express my confidence that the traditional friendship between the two countries would be furthered continuously,” Kim said.

The reports came amid lingering speculation about Kim’s health since he missed an important annual ceremony on April 15 commemorating the birthday of late state founder and his grandfather Kim Il-sung.

Some unconfirmed media reports have speculated that Kim could be “in grave danger” after surgery. But South Korean officials have dismissed such speculation as untrue, saying nothing unusual was going on in the North and Kim is believed to be staying in the Wonsan region.

Corroborating the intelligence was a report by the U.S. monitoring website 38 North that satellite imagery showed what appeared to be Kim’s special train parked at a station in “his Wonsan compound since at least April 21.”

“The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health, but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast,” it added.

Moon Chung-in, a special security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, also said Sunday in an interview with Fox News that Kim is “alive and well.”

Newsweek reported Saturday that the United States has seen no indications that would allow it to make a conclusive assessment on the status of the North Korean leadership or Kim’s health, citing an unidentified senior Pentagon official.

The official also said there are no signs of unusual military activity in the North, and the U.S. and its partner countries in Asia and the Western Pacific “remain at readiness levels consistent with historical norms,” according to the report.

The unification ministry on Monday reaffirmed no unusual signs have been detected in the North.

“We have nothing to confirm in regards to speculation over leader Kim Jong-un’s health. However, our stance that there is no unusual activity currently in North Korea, as announced by the National Security Council, is still in effect to this point,” Cho Hey-sil, the ministry’s deputy spokesperson, told a regular press briefing Monday.

The Wonsan-Kalma tourist zone is one of Kim’s key pet construction projects. Kim, who sent a similar thank-you message to the workers in February, has sought to develop the North’s tourism in an effort to beef up an economy faltering under international sanctions.

Kim was last seen in state media on April 11 presiding over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, calling for strict measures against the coronavirus.

But his absence from a key ceremony commemorating the 108th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung on April 15 has sparked speculation over his health. He has never skipped his trip to the mausoleum since taking office in late 2011.

North Korean state media have recently put out reports on Kim sending diplomatic letters and conveying gifts to honored citizens. But no reports on the leader’s “field guidance” trips or photos on his public activities have been released by state media for more than two weeks.

This photo, carried by North Korea's state news agency on April 6, 2019, shows its leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

This photo, carried by North Korea’s state news agency on April 6, 2019, shows its leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)



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Kim Jong Un might have been injured during April 14 missile tests

The Dong-A ILBO  |

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might have been injured during the tests of short-range cruise missiles on April 14, according to a former high ranking official of Room 39, an organization run by the Workers’ Party of North Korea that maintains foreign currency of “the Kims.”

In an article he wrote for this newspaper on Saturday, Lee Jeong Ho who defected from North Korea to the United States said that missile tests such as the ones carried out on April 14 could not go ahead without the order of commander-in-chief, which suggests that Kim was well until 7 a.m. when the missiles were fired.

“Kim was absent from the reports of the tests while no footage of the missile launch and the training of combat aircrafts was released, which points to a possibility of an unexpected accident that might have been caused by debris or fire,” said Lee. His thinking is that Kim might have fallen ill shortly after the missile launch given that Rodong Sinmun or the Korean Central Broadcasting Committee cannot publish footage of missile tests without the permission of Kim.

Regarding the rumors that Kim is brain dead after having heart surgery, he said they did not seem accurate or credible. “Kim Jong Un’s doctors are all from the Bonghwa hospital in Pyongyang, and other hospitals do not have first doctors,” said Lee about the claims that Kim’s surgery was performed by first doctors from other hospitals at the Hyangsan hospital near Mount Myohayng.


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S. Korea pushing to pay wages in advance for USFK workers on forced furloughs


SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) — South Korea has notified the United States of its plan to pay wages in advance for its citizens who work for the U.S. Forces Korea but have been furloughed amid a deadlock in their defense cost-sharing negotiations, a government source said Sunday.

Around 4,000 employees were furloughed indefinitely starting on April 1, as Seoul and Washington have failed to bridge differences over a new Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that stipulates how much Seoul would pay for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong USFK.

“The South Korean government is pushing to pay wages for those workers first, and then deduct the amount from its due payment to the U.S. under the SMA framework,” the Seoul source said.

About 70 percent of their salaries could be provided if the government maximizes the country’s employment insurance program, the source said, adding the idea was conveyed to the U.S. side, and the Seoul government is waiting for its response.

According to the Labor Standard Act, employers should pay non-duty allowances to employees of at least 70 percent of their average wages when they take a leave of absence.

But this cannot be implemented if the U.S. raises an objection, as the South Korean workers are hired by the U.S. military.

South Korea has sought diverse measures to support the livelihood of the affected workers, such as extending emergency loans.

During the latest and seventh round of talks last month, South Korea proposed concluding a separate agreement to first address the wage issue, but the U.S. rejected the idea over concerns that such a move could further delay a comprehensive deal, Seoul’s top negotiator Jeong Eun-bo has said.

Uncertainty over the negotiations was renewed last week, as U.S. President Donald Trump said he had rejected Seoul’s offer regarding the SMA deal. South Korea had reportedly offered to pay at least 13 percent more than last year’s contribution.

The U.S. initially demanded a more than fivefold increase in Seoul’s contributions to US$5 billion.

The indefinite furloughs are feared to have disrupted day-to-day USFK operations and affected the allies’ combined readiness posture.

Members of a union representing South Korean employees of the U.S. Forces Korea rally at the entrance of the U.S. base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, on April 1, 2020, to demand that the United States revoke its implementation of unpaid leave for such employees. (Yonhap)

Members of a union representing South Korean employees of the U.S. Forces Korea rally at the entrance of the U.S. base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, on April 1, 2020, to demand that the United States revoke its implementation of unpaid leave for such employees. (Yonhap)


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Death of Kim Jong Un could create refugee crisis, require military response

Rumors swirling that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has fallen critically ill have sparked fears that his demise would destabilize the region and lead to a refugee crisis that would draw in the US, South Korea and possibly other allies, according to a report.

Questions about the reclusive dictator’s health flared after he missed an April 15 commemoration of the 108th birthday of his grandfather, the Hermit Kingdom’s founder Kim Il Sung.

On Wednesday, North Korean state media published some past comments by Kim without mentioning his current whereabouts — while rival South Korea repeated that no unusual developments had been detected in the North.

But even if the 36-year-old overweight despot isn’t moribund, he does have health issues and a possible end to his rule would create turmoil, experts told the Military Times.

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un (center)Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

Although Kim has no named successor or heir apparent, his younger sister — senior ruling party official Kim Yo Jong — appears to be the most likely candidate to step in.

However, some experts believe a collective leadership, which could end the family’s dynastic rule, also could be possible.

The lack of a designated heir means there will be “chaos, human suffering, instability,” retired South Korean special operations chief Lt. Gen. Chun In-Bum told Military Times. “It’s bad news for everyone.”

David Maxwell, a retired Special Forces colonel and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, told the outlet that an American and South Korean military reaction to such an upheaval could require an effort that “will make Afghanistan and Iraq pale in comparison.”

“It is unknown whether Kim Jong Un has designated a successor,” Maxwell said. “We can speculate that perhaps his sister Kim Yo Jong has been designated as his successor based on her recent promotion and the fact she has begun making official statements in her name beginning last month.”

But it is unknown, he added, “whether a woman, despite being part of the Paektu bloodline could become the leader of the Kim family regime.”

A lack of a clear successor could lead to a regime collapse that the US and South Korea must be prepared to handle, said Maxwell, who added that military planners, including himself, have long briefed senior leaders on what could happen.

There is a “humanitarian disaster that will unfold in North Korea,” adding to the upheaval wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, Maxwell told Military Times.

“South Korea, China, and Japan (via boat) are going to have to deal with potential large scale refugee flows,” he said. “Units of the North Korean People’s Army are going to compete for resources and survival. This will lead to internal conflict among units and could escalate to widespread civil war.”

And despite such internal turmoil, North Korea’s military would continue to fight to defend the nation, he said.

“Since North Korea is a Guerrilla Dynasty built on the myth of anti-Japanese partisan warfare, we can expect large numbers of the military (1.2 million active duty and 6 million reserves) to resist any and all outside foreign intervention including from South Korea,” Maxwell told the outlet.

Complicating matters, he added, the US and South Korea would have to be prepared to secure Pyongyang’s “entire (weapons of mass destruction) program, nuclear, chemical, biological weapons and stockpiles, manufacturing facilities, and human infrastructure (scientists and technicians).”

Chun mostly backed Maxwell’s grim predictions about refugees and a possible civil war in the north, but did not see a US-South Korean military incursion past the 38th Parallel.

“What are we going to do? March in there? Let the Chinese do it,” Chun said.

“The DPRK is a sovereign country. Anyone going in there, including the Chinese, would be crazy. The ROK-US has a bad plan with bad assumptions. It will get us into a nuclear war,” he added.


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S. Korea, U.S. reaffirm efforts for ‘fair, mutually acceptable’ defense cost-sharing deal

Yonhap News  |  By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States called Wednesday for a fair and mutually acceptable deal from their defense cost talks as the negotiations remain deadlocked since U.S. President Donald Trump rejected Seoul’s offer to increase its contribution as insufficient.

The defense cost issue was one of the agenda items for the 17th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) that the two countries held via a videoconference, along with North Korea issues and joint efforts to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting came a day after Trump said he turned down Seoul’s offer in the negotiations to work out a new cost-sharing pact, known as the Special Measures Agreement (SMA). The South had reportedly offered to increase its share by 13 percent from last year.

“The two sides jointly assessed joint efforts made so far for the conclusion of the 11th SMA, and stressed that the deal should be clinched at a fair and mutually agreeable level so as to continue to strengthen the alliance and a joint readiness posture,” Seoul’s defense ministry said in a release.

The U.S. initially demanded a more than fivefold increase in Seoul’s contributions to US$5 billion.

Absent an agreement, the U.S. put around 4,000 South Koreans working for the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) on indefinite furloughs starting on April 1.

Also on the table during Wednesday’s dialogue was the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the ministry.

Heino Klinck, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, who led the U.S. delegation, praised South Korea’s response to the coronavirus situation, saying its active leadership has been a model for the world.

The U.S. also expressed gratitude for Seoul’s support for the USFK population, according to the ministry.

Speaking of the security situation on the peninsula, Seoul and Washington vowed continued close coordination to assess North Korea’s movements and to achieve the complete denuclearization of the North.

The communist country has sought to beef up its defense capabilities and conducted a series of major weapons tests amid stalled denuclearization talks with Washington. In the latest muscle-flexing maneuver, Pyongyang launched what appeared to be cruise missiles off its east coast and air-to-ground missiles from fighter jets into the East Sea last week.

Over the past week, the health of leader Kim Jong-un has been an issue amid mounting speculation that he may be seriously ill.

“In particular, the two sides agreed to explore ways to enhance the allies’ deterrence posture through the Deterrence Strategy Committee consultations,” the ministry said.

The Pentagon also released a joint press statement, saying that Seoul and Washington reaffirmed that KIDD continues to play a “critical role” in coordinating defense policies between the allies.

“They also pledged to continue close communication and cooperation to maintain and strengthen the combined readiness posture of the ROK-U.S. alliance, which serves as the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian region,” it added.

ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, Republic of Korea.

Launched in 2011, KIDD is a comprehensive defense meeting between the two sides that integrates a set of consultative mechanisms, such as the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee and the Security Policy Initiative.

In this file photo, taken on Sept. 26, 2019, South Korean Deputy Defense Minister Chung Suk-hwan (L) and Heino Klinck, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, pose for a photo as they hold the 16th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue at the defense ministry in Seoul to discuss regional security and other pending alliance issues. (Yonhap)

In this file photo, taken on Sept. 26, 2019, South Korean Deputy Defense Minister Chung Suk-hwan (L) and Heino Klinck, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, pose for a photo as they hold the 16th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue at the defense ministry in Seoul to discuss regional security and other pending alliance issues. (Yonhap)

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Trump Admits Rejecting Korea’s Defense Cost-Sharing Offer

Chosun  |  By Cho Yi-jun, Kim Jin-myung

U.S. President Donald Trump has admitted turning down Korea’s latest and probably best offer to share the upkeep of the U.S. Forces Korea.

“They’ve offered us a certain amount of money and I’ve rejected it,” Trump said Monday. “We’re asking them to pay for a big percentage of what we’re doing.”

Reuters reported on April 10 that Korea had offered a 13 percent increase from the last agreement to W1.17 trillion this year, countering Trump’s exorbitant demand of US$5 billion (US$1=W1,231).

Donald Trump /AFP-Yonhap

Trump boasted in a press briefing that he was holding out for a better deal. “I just said it’s just, look, you know, we’re doing a tremendous service,” he said. “We have a wonderful feeling and a wonderful relationship with each other, but we have to be treated equitably and fairly.”

“We think that, before I came aboard, they paid very little if anything,” he added, falsely.

Trump’s mastery of briefs was on proud display in other ways on Monday. “We have 32,000 soldiers there… We’re paying for the military… to defend another nation that’s 8,500 miles away,” he said. “We’ve been defending them for many, many decades.”

The actual number is 28,500.

“South Korea is a very wealthy nation. They make our television sets. They make ships. They make everything,” he informed his audience.

Calling President Moon Jae-in “a friend of mine,” Trump said he congratulated Moon on his “wonderful election victory,” and added, “I was very happy about that.”

But Korea signaled that the negotiations are going to be protracted. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said Seoul “has maintained a principle of fair burden sharing at a reasonable level, and is holding fast to it.”


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Top U.S. military official assumes N.K. leader still in control of armed forces

Yonhap News  |  By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, April 22 (Yonhap) — A top U.S. military official said Wednesday he assumes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is still in full control of his country’s armed forces despite reports he may be seriously ill.

“I can tell you that in the intel, I don’t have anything to confirm or deny anything along those lines, so I assume that Kim Jong-un is still in full control of the Korean nuclear forces and the Korean military forces,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten said during a press briefing. “I have no reason not to assume that.”

This AFP file photo shows U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten. (Yonhap)

This AFP file photo shows U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten. (Yonhap)

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