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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun with his wife Ri Sol Ju in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 9. (Str/AFP/Getty Images)

We are stuck in a rut on North Korea. The absence of any forward progress on denuclearization diplomacy is the result of a unique intersection of American distraction and North Korean disinterest. Now, by test-firing two short-range ballistic missiles and a long-range cruise missile, the North Koreans have signaled that they aim to shake things up, confronting President Biden with a predicament he’s so far been able to dodge. There are two paths out of it — one that the United States and its allies can control and another that they cannot.

The Biden administration has kept its North Korea policy deliberately low-key.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Biden administration has pledged to pursue "calibrated" diplomacy to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to halt his mad dash toward a deliverable nuclear weapon. But that is a vain hope. Instead, the world and especially the United States must find a way to live with a North Korea armed with The Bomb. And keep Kim from using -- or selling -- it.

Discussions with a number of individuals who have dealt with the North Korean government or monitored the actions of its ruling family have convinced me that no Kim -- neither Kim Jong Un, nor his father nor his grandfather -- ever has or will give up a quest for a deliverable nuclear weapon.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks past a television screen at Suseo railway station in Seoul on March 26 showing news footage of North Korea's latest tactical guided missile test. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast, calling these a “new type of tactical guided missile.” This latest provocation, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans Pyongyang from conducting ballistic missile tests, follows combative rhetoric and actions in recent weeks.

North Korean officials issued a statement criticizing U.S.-ROK military exercises this month, warning the Biden administration not to “cause a stink” as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Japan for their first official trip to Asia. And North Korea fired two short-range cruise missiles last weekend — a move the United States and South Korea downplayed in an apparent effort not to overhype the tests.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends a ruling party congress in Pyongyang, North Korea Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un resurfaced last week at the eighth Congress of his ruling Workers’ Party, where he admitted “almost all sectors” of his country’s economy had fallen short of their goals. Speaking for nine hours, Mr. Kim also said North Korea should bring its “arch-enemy” — the United States — “to its knees.”

Mr. Kim’s weapons of mass destruction program, which has long denied North Korea a path to economic prosperity because of punitive sanctions, reflects the internal contradiction of his policy of “byngjin” — developing the economy while simultaneously expanding its nuclear weapons deterrent. Mr. Kim has embraced his family’s tradition of seeking to hoodwink the world into lifting economic sanctions in return for empty denuclearization promises.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, meeting on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone in June.Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Time

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.…  Seguir leyendo »

What is North Korea doing and what does it mean?

North Korea has taken a series of escalatory steps by conducting 13 missile tests (short-range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles) since May and lodging threats including an unwelcome “Christmas gift” it will present if the U.S. fails to propose a new deal by the end of the year. Pyongyang upped the ante again on 8 December, by claiming to have conducted a “very important” test at the Sohae satellite launching ground – likely of a rocket engine; five days later, it carried out another such test at the same facility to strengthen its “strategic nuclear deterrent”, another way of describing capabilities relevant for a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).…  Seguir leyendo »

A picture of Mao Zedong and Kim Il-sung on a remaining section of the Hekou Broken Bridge, which connected China and North Korea before it was bombed by the United States Army during the Korean War.CreditEuropean Pressphoto Agency

As President Xi Jinping of China left North Korea on Friday afternoon, much attention was focused on whether he had obtained any concession on denuclearization from Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader — and how he might leverage that when he meets President Trump this week on the margins of the G-20 summit. But this focus on nuclear weapons and China’s trade war with the United States obscures the real significance of Mr. Xi’s trip, and it mistakes his weakness for strength.

As notable as the pomp and ceremony of the rare meeting — the first visit to Pyongyang by a Chinese head of state in 14 years — was the lack of specifics about policy to emerge from it.…  Seguir leyendo »

A second U.S.-North Korea summit

There are reasons for concern about a second U.S.-North Korea summit. If there is no tangible movement on denuclearization, public support for dialogue with North Korea will erode quickly, with the potential for a return to a policy of “maximum pressure.” If this were to happen, it would be a major diplomatic failure with far reaching consequences.

In 2017, when North Korea had 18 ballistic missile launches, to include two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) launches capable of reaching the United States, and a test of a thermonuclear warhead, the prospect of military conflict with North Korea was real.

Fortunately, Kim Jong-un quickly pivoted, in his January 2018 New Year’s address, to an appeal for better relations with South Korea and the United States, stating that a nuclear North Korea could now focus exclusively on economic development.…  Seguir leyendo »

Major Gen. Kim Do-gyun of South Korea, center, shaking hands with a North Korean officer as he crossed the military demarcation line in June. South Korean Defense Ministry, via Getty Images

South Korea and North Korea recently announced plans for a third summit meeting between their two leaders, to take place in Pyongyang in September. From family reunions to fielding a joint sports team in the upcoming Asian Games, the two Koreas are moving forward with steps to further détente on the peninsula.

By contrast, the United States has done very little in the two months since the Singapore summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to advance the relationship.

The United States appears to be waiting for the North to take the next step. But the Trump administration is ignoring the reality that to reach a final deal on the eventual denuclearization of North Korea, the United States must give something substantial in return.…  Seguir leyendo »

Trump, el antiestadounidense

El encuentro entre Donald Trump y Kim Jong-un pasará a la historia como una de las páginas más siniestras del Imperio Americano. Singapur 2018, Múnich 1938: ¿cómo no comparar estas dos infamias? En Múnich, el Gobierno británico y el francés entregaron los Sudetes checos a Adolf Hitler con la esperanza, debido a su cobardía y a su incomprensión del adversario, de comprar la paz. Winston Churchill declaró entonces: «Entre la guerra y el deshonor, habéis elegido el deshonor, y tendréis la guerra». De la misma manera, Trump, aunque no lo sabe, ha sacrificado en Singapur el honor de EE.UU. y la vida del pueblo norcoreano, esclavizado por uno de los regímenes más demenciales del mundo.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, arriving in Singapore for a summit meeting with President Trump.CreditSingapore's Ministry of Communications and Information, via Reuters

North Korea has arrived as a nuclear power, and there is no going back. Once the reality-show theatrics of the Singapore summit meeting subside, we are left with the reality that North Korea was just recognized as a de facto nuclear weapons power.

President Trump went to the meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea to try to take the keys to Mr. Kim’s nuclear kingdom. Whatever the terms of the statement released at the end of the meeting, Mr. Kim has not committed to anything concrete. He is not surrendering North Korea’s nuclear weapons and has walked away the big winner.…  Seguir leyendo »

The document signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un after their meeting in Singapore. Photo: Getty Images.

If success is to be defined in terms of starting a high-level negotiation process, then the summit meeting of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un was a success. But if success is defined in terms of content, then the summit has failed because it did not deliver any substance that went beyond what has been agreed previously.

President Trump did mention that North Korea will destroy a missile engine test site as a practical step – and they have already destroyed the warhead test site. But this is not necessarily an indication of long-term policy change. Neither leader made a public commitment that North Korea will halt its nuclear weapons programme – a promising indicator would have been Kim Jong-un agreeing to provide an inventory of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea embracing North Korea’s Kim Jong-un on Saturday, in a handout picture provided by the Presidential Blue House.CreditSouth Korea Presidential Blue House, via Reuters

On Saturday evening in Seoul, images of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea embracing North Korea’s Kim Jong-un lit up tens of millions of smartphones. The Presidential Blue House announced that Mr. Moon had just met with Mr. Kim on the northern side of the border — their second encounter in a month. At a press briefing Sunday morning, Mr. Moon explained that Pyongyang had made the request, via the inter-Korean hotline, to speak “informally.”

It was a bold recovery for Mr. Moon, who had been perceived as a tragic middleman since President Trump canceled a planned summit with North Korea last week.…  Seguir leyendo »

A South Korean soldier’s view of North Korea from an observatory near the Demilitarized Zone.CreditJeon Heon-Kyun/European Pressphoto Agency

I almost died in North Korea, once, and I don’t mean during my diplomatic trip in 2014 to free two Americans imprisoned there.

It was 1985, and I was the chief of intelligence for United States forces in South Korea. I was in a helicopter, on my way to check out what we suspected was a North Korean tunnel, when I heard a sound like popcorn popping and saw white puffs below us. This was followed by a loud alert in my earphones — “Red dog fox! — indicating someone had crossed the Demilitarized Zone. That someone was us.

After some evasive maneuvering, our pilot returned us to South Korean airspace and then home.…  Seguir leyendo »

A South Korean soldier passing TV images of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Seoul, South Korea, on March 9, 2018. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

When drinking in Korea, things turn perilous on the cry of “One shot!” It’s a call made in English that means “Bottoms up!” Everyone in the group has to dispatch their drinks in one fell swoop. No one gets a pass. Rarely does the cry come but once.

En route to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., last June, the newly elected South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, told reporters on the presidential plane that he favored a “one-shot” approach to the North Korean nuclear problem—something dramatic, overarching, and beyond the careful and not very successful diplomacy of the past.…  Seguir leyendo »

John Bolton at the White House last month.CreditMandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Image

John Bolton will assume office Monday with his first controversy as President Trump’s national security adviser awaiting him. Six weeks ago, he outlined his advocacy of an attack on North Korea in a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”

“Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea,” he wrote, “we should not wait until the very last minute” to stage what he called a pre-emptive attack.

Mr. Bolton’s legal analysis is flawed and his strategic logic is dangerous. As he did before the 2003 Iraq war, he is obscuring the important distinction between preventive and pre-emptive attacks.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a photo from March, people at a rail station in Seoul watch a TV screen showing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center, and President Trump. Korean letters on the screen read: “Thawing Korean Peninsula.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

President Trump has made much of his “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea. One element of that policy — and one that long predates Trump — is a set of tough international sanctions.

Last week, a U.N. Security Council committee added 22 new entities and 27 ships to the North Korean sanctions list. Are these incremental steps having any material effect?

This will be an important question in the run-up to Kim Jong Un’s planned summits with the South Korean and U.S. presidents. While North Korea’s young leader has played a brilliant diplomatic hand, he may have miscalculated the bite that sanctions are about to take.…  Seguir leyendo »

A military parade in Pyongyang in 1992 celebrated the 60th anniversary of the North Korean Army, as documented in a government photo.CreditKorean Central News Agency/Korea News Service, via Associated Press

There has been a lot of talk lately about Kim Jong-un’s willingness to discuss the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. It’s a cumbersome word and one that has given rise to more than a few misunderstandings.

Many people, including President Trump, seem to hear “denuclearization” and imagine a promise by Mr. Kim to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, recently acquired at great cost. But the term means more than the North’s disarmament. It imposes obligations on the United States, too — even if Americans don’t want to hear that part.

The word “denuclearization” is more or less native to the Korean Peninsula.…  Seguir leyendo »

A TM-61C Matador being assembled at Osan Air Base, Pyeongtaek, South Korea, in 1958. Matadors could be armed with nuclear warheads. Credit Associated Press

As President Trump prepares for a possible meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, many American are raising warnings that North Korea has walked away from previous arms agreements. But those skeptics should remember that it was the United States, in 1958, that broke the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, when the Eisenhower administration sent the first atomic weapons into South Korea.

By the mid-1960s, the United States had more than 900 nuclear artillery shells, tactical bombs, surface-to-surface rockets and missiles, antiaircraft missiles and nuclear land mines in South Korea. Even nuclear projectiles for Davy Crockett recoilless rifles were for several years based in South Korea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los gobernantes a los que se considera “locos” siempre han sido los más difíciles de evaluar para los observadores políticos. Pero en realidad, rara vez es un problema de psicopatología: por lo general, el rótulo sólo señala una conducta diferente a lo que los analistas convencionales esperaban.

Fue sin duda el caso del líder religioso sirio Rashid al-Din Sinan, en el siglo XII. Durante la Tercera Cruzada, el supuestamente loco “Viejo de la Montaña” (como se lo conocía) logró obstaculizar el avance de los cruzados sobre Jerusalén enviando a sus seguidores a cometer asesinatos selectivos. Tras cumplir las órdenes, los asesinos solían quedarse en el lugar a la espera de ser capturados, bien a la vista de la población local, para que su líder recibiera el debido reconocimiento por el acto.…  Seguir leyendo »