ROK-U.S. News

FM says S. Korea, U.S. still have ‘big’ gaps in defense cost talks

Yonhap News  |   By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) — Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Thursday that South Korea and the United States still have “big” gaps in their negotiations over Seoul’s share of the cost for stationing American troops here despite a broadening of “mutual understanding.”

Her remarks came as the two countries are preparing for the seventh round of negotiations expected to take place in Seoul this month to determine Korea’s payments for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea under the cost-sharing deal, called the Special Measures Agreement (SMA).

“Though gaps are still big, the two countries have deepened mutual understanding much more, and we are in a situation where we have to make an agreement based on that understanding,” Kang said in a press briefing.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a press briefing at her ministry in Seoul on Feb. 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a press briefing at her ministry in Seoul on Feb. 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

The two countries held the latest round of negotiations in Washington last month but failed to reconcile differences on key sticking points, such as the total amount of Seoul’s financial contributions and what should be covered by the new SMA.

Kang said that both sides are well aware of the need to swiftly reach a new deal as it is subject to a ratification process by South Korea’s parliament, whose deliberation process can come to a halt during the April general elections and the subsequent reorganization of its standing committees.

“Though there have not been face-to-face talks (since the last negotiation last month), the two sides have continuously communicated via email or phone, and both countries are well aware that there is a shortage of time given the parliament’s schedule,” Kang said.

Kang also said that Seoul’s negotiating team has been taking into account the concerns that a delay in clinching a new deal could force South Korean workers at U.S. bases to go on unpaid leave and hamper USFK operations.

The U.S. military has already sent a notice of potential furloughs to its nearly 9,000 Korean employees, saying that absent a new SMA, they could be furloughed starting in April.

“I can’t predict when a deal will be struck, but we will engage in the negotiations with the protection of our workers’ rights in mind,” she said.

Later in the day, the union of the Korean employees held a press conference at the National Assembly, calling for an early conclusion of the SMA negotiations and the immediate withdrawal of potential furlough notices.

A major fault line has been whether to expand the scope of the SMA.

Seoul has insisted that the negotiations should proceed within the existing SMA framework, while Washington has demanded that its coverage be expanded to include extra costs such as those for rotations of American troops to the peninsula.

Last year’s SMA, which expired in December, called for Seoul to pay around US$870 million.

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US Forces Korea imposes mandatory 14-day quarantine for US troops returning from China

At nearly $11 billion, Camp Humphreys is a “slice of America” inside South Korea. (Army)

Military Times  | 

U.S. troops headed to South Korea after visiting China must undergo a 14-day quarantine to avoid the spread of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, according to U.S. Forces Korea.

“We are taking all appropriate precautionary measures to prevent any potential spread of the virus,” U.S. Forces Korea commander Army Gen. Robert Abrams tweeted Sunday. “Key for everyone is to follow standard hygiene protocols, and if not feeling well—get screened ASAP!”

Although there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus among members of U.S. Forces Korea, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Korea have identified a total of 15 confirmed cases throughout South Korea.

As a result, the command is requiring all service members returning to South Korea from China’s mainland on or after Jan. 19 to follow a 14-day self-quarantine — even if symptoms are not immediately apparent. Family members and other DoD personnel are also advised to participate in the quarantine following travel from China.

“The directed self-quarantine implementation is mandatory for US servicemembers, regardless if they reside on or off USFK installations, and is highly encouraged for family members, DoD civilians, contractors, United Nation Command military personnel and Korean National employees to follow as well in the interest of public health safety,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement Feb. 2.

While the command said U.S. Forces Korea personnel remain at low risk for contracting the virus, the command added the quarantine is being imposed “out of an abundance of caution.”

On Friday, the Pentagon issued a memo outlining ways service members can reduce the risk of contracting the virus, a move that came after the State Department released a travel advisory to not travel to China.

The Pentagon said DoD personnel returning from China over the past two weeks should receive medical attention immediately, as should those who have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus or are exhibiting symptoms like a fever, in accordance with CDC recommendations.

Likewise, the Pentagon said commanders of “individually affected geographic commands” would issue further guidance.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Friday that Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of INDOPACOM, has restricted all DOD travel to China.

“This restriction is specific to the geographic confines of the [People’s Republic of China], and applies to all U.S. military, civilians and DOD contractors,” INDOPACOM spokesperson Maj. Cassandra Gesecki said in an email to Military Times. “There are no travel restrictions from INDOPACOM for DOD personnel in the remainder of the INDOPACOM area of operations.”

“Additionally, all DOD personnel currently in China on temporary duty and in leave status are directed to depart mainland China immediately,” Gesecki said.

On Saturday, the Pentagon said it is ready to provide housing support for 1,000 people who could be quarantined in the U.S. after traveling from China.

Evacuees could be housed at Travis Air Force Base in California; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California; Lackland Air Force Base in Texas; and the 168th Regiment, Regional Training Institute at Fort Carson in Colorado.

As of Feb. 2, the World Health Organization said there are more than 14,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, and more than 300 deaths resulting from the virus. There are 146 confirmed cases outside of China, and one death.


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Camp Humphreys: Prepare for installation service delays while US, South Korea negotiate cost-sharing agreement

At nearly $11 billion, Camp Humphreys is a “slice of America” inside South Korea. (Arm)

The sprawling Camp Humphreys Army base in South Korea gave a heads up that some installation services are expected to encounter delays, thanks to the expiration of host-nation support last month that helps keep more than 28,000 U.S. troops there.

The 2019 Special Measures Agreement, which expired on Dec. 31, required South Korea to pay nearly $1 billion to offset stationing costs of U.S. troops — amounting to $70 million more from what Seoul paid the previous year. But President Donald Trump is pushing Seoul to pay even more in a 2020 deal, prompting both states to remain at odds with one another over a future arrangement.

“Due to the Special Measures Agreement lapse and implementation of [U.S.Forces Korea] austerity measures, including cessation of overtime pay for Korean National employees, USAG Humphreys will experience some delays to certain installation services, most notably post office hours and after-hours work performed by the Directorate of Public Works,” Camp Humphreys wrote in a Facebook post on Jan. 24.

Additionally, a new bus schedule recently employed that stops several bus routes after 1 a.m. will continue until Washington and Seoul hash out an agreement, Camp Humphreys said.

Camp Humphreys, the largest U.S. base overseas, did note “all matters involving life, health and safety will continue without interruption.” This includes all fire and emergency services.

“We greatly value our Korean National workforce and their contributions to making USAG Humphreys a valued installation, and will continue to provide our community with timely updates that impact installation services,” Camp Humphreys said in the post.

Camp Humphreys did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military Times requesting a full list of installation services likely to face delays, and whether readiness will suffer until the U.S. and South Korea wrap up a deal.

The base’s notice comes after U.S. ambassador to South Korea, retired Navy admiral Harry Harris, told reporters Jan. 16 South Korean employees working at U.S. installations could receive furlough notices in coming weeks if an agreement isn’t reached, according to Bloomberg.

They’re more likely to complain that the retired Navy four-star is rude and undiplomatic.

U.S. officials additionally said last week the last bit of funding remaining from the previous deal will completely dissolve soon, Bloomberg also reported.

Trump has regularly stated he wants allies to bolster their financial contributions to support U.S. troops. For example, he claimed in February 2019 South Korea was costing the U.S. $5 billion annually, and tweeted in August 2019 that South Korea is a “very wealthy nation that now feels an obligation to contribute to the military defense provided by the United States of America.”

It’s unclear exactly how much money the U.S. is currently seeking from Seoul, but multiple media outlets reported in November the U.S. was requesting $4.7 billion in host-nation support for 2020 — nearly five times the amount South Korea paid in 2019.

On top of that, South Korea has also assisted with major U.S. projects like building Camp Humphreys. The base cost nearly $10.8 billion and former commander of United States Forces Korea, Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, said Seoul paid for approximately 90 percent of the project.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 16, titled “South Korea is an ally, not a dependent.” The op-ed did not disclose a specific amount, but said both parties must “find a better way to share costs of defense.”

“The current special measures agreement captures only a portion of the cost of defending South Korea,” Pompeo and Esper wrote. “The U.S. believes it should cover more. As we improve the burden-sharing arrangement, both sides will benefit.”

“South Korea’s taking on a greater share of the load will ensure the alliance remains the linchpin of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia — and across the world,” they wrote.

Host-nation support agreements have typically lasted five years, but the 2019 negotiations only resulted in a one-year deal. That’s why Washington and Seoul are back at the negotiating table now.

Retired Army Col. David Maxwell, who has several decades of military service in Asia, told Military Times in December that “ongoing problems” would emerge if the Special Measures Agreement expired like it has.

For example, he predicted military personnel would be forced to conduct logistical and administrative essential services in order to keep United States Forces Korea operational, absent host-nation support.

This would continue to be an issue if annual agreements continue, he said.

“There are going to be ongoing problems if the [Special Measures Agreement] needs to be negotiated every year,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell told Military Times on Jan. 25 that once South Korean employees are furloughed, base services and military units will be impacted as service members provide “borrowed military manpower” to conduct assignments that are “outside their normally assigned duties and units.”

“Unit training and readiness will be impacted,” Maxwell said.


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N. Korea ranks No.1 in military spending as percentage of GDP


SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) — North Korea ranked No.1 in the world in terms of the proportion of military spending in gross domestic product between 2007-2017, though the total amount accounts for only one-tenth of South Korea’s military expenditure, a U.S. State Department report showed.

According to the State Department’s World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2019 report, the North’s military expenditure averaged about US$3.6 billion a year. That accounts for 13.4 to 23.3 percent of the country’s average GDP of $17 billion during the period.

The percentage is expressed as a range due to the different methods of converting currencies to U.S. dollars, the report said.

Oman was a distant second on the list, spending around 12.1 percent of its GDP on the military, followed by Saudi Arabia with 9.3 percent, according to the report.

In absolute terms, however, the North’s annual military spending during the period ranked only 47th at $3.6 billion, nearly one tenth of the average $34.8 billion South Korea spends on the military.

South Korea’s military spending accounts for about 2.6 percent of its GDP.

The U.S. ranked No. 1 in the world with $741 billion a year on average, followed by China’s $176 billion.

It was also the biggest arms exporter in the world, selling an average $143 billion worth of weapons to foreign countries annually during the period, followed by Russia’s $97 billion.

N. Korea ranks No.1 in military spending as percentage of GDP - 1


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Trump reaffirms commitment to N. Korea’s denuclearization

Yonhap News

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed his commitment to achieving North Korea’s denuclearization in a letter to South Korea’s new ambassador to Washington, the South Korean Embassy here said Tuesday.

Trump wrote a note Monday in response to Amb. Lee Soo-hyuck’s letter accompanying his credentials, the embassy said in a press release. Lee presented his credentials to the U.S. president the same day.

“President Trump said Amb. Lee’s appointment demonstrates the resilience of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and takes on significance in various ways,” the embassy said.

Trump hailed the alliance as a “linchpin” of regional peace and security, it said, and noted the development of the bilateral relationship into a global partnership.

“Moreover, he reaffirmed the commitment of South Korea and the U.S. to achieve the joint goal of North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearization, and expressed hope that South Korea-U.S. economic cooperation relations will deepen with the implementation of the 2019 revised free trade agreement,” the embassy said.

Lee took over as ambassador in October.

He asked Trump during the credentialing ceremony to continue to show leadership on the North Korean nuclear issue and the president said in response that he would do so, the embassy said in an earlier press release.

This photo, provided by the South Korean Embassy in Washington, shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Soo-hyuck at a credentialing ceremony at the White House in Washington on Jan. 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

This photo, provided by the South Korean Embassy in Washington, shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Soo-hyuck at a credentialing ceremony at the White House in Washington on Jan. 6, 2020. (Yonhap)



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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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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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