China Calls For Sanctions Relief

China has revealed that sanctions relief could be considered for North Korea. China signed up for increasingly tough UN sanctions against its isolated neighbour following Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests but has always said sanctions should be accompanied by talks for a political resolution.

China is North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, despite its anger at Pyongyang’s saber rattling.

China’s call for sanctions relief came after the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Speaking in Beijing following Trump and Kim’s signing of a joint statement at the end of their historic summit in Singapore, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated that China has always strictly abided by all UN resolutions on North Korea.

“The UN Security Council resolutions that have been passed say that if North Korea respects and acts in accordance with the resolutions, then sanction measures can be adjusted, including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions,” Geng told a daily news conference.

“China has consistently held that sanctions are not the goal in themselves.

“The Security Councils actions should support and conform to the efforts of current diplomatic talks towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and promote a political solution for the peninsula.”

Beijing has key strategic interests when it comes to North Korea, and has long feared that a collapse of its isolated neighbour could push waves of refugees into northeastern China, or that nuclear war on the Korean peninsula could contaminate swathes of the country.

North Korea also serves as a valuable buffer state between China and U.S. forces in South Korea.

Speaking earlier in the day also in Beijing, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said China hoped the U. S. and North Korea can reach agreement on a peace deal.

“We hope that the two countries’ highest leaders can dispel interference, establish mutual trust, overcome difficulties and can reach a basic consensus on promoting and achieving the denuclearization of the peninsula and promoting and establishing a peace mechanism for the peninsula,” Wang told newsmen.

“Of course, we are willing to see all relevant sides making positive efforts on this. China will continue to play our constructive role,” he added.

Wang said China views the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue as a security issue, and what is most important is for the U. S. and North Korea to sit down to find a way to resolve their problems.

“At the same time, there needs to be a peace mechanism for the peninsula, to resolve North Korea’s reasonable security concerns.

“I think nobody can doubt the extremely unique and important role China has played. And this role will continue.”

The 1950 to 1953 Korean War ended with an armistice and a state of war still technically exists between the two Koreas.

Lasting peace has obvious benefits for China, especially in bolstering the development of its rust-belt and landlocked northeast which borders North Korea and would suffer in the even of conflict.

North Korea Removes Top Military Officials Ahead Of Submit

North Korea leader Ki, Jong Un has removed top military officials ahead of the submit between the United States and North Korea.

According to  reports by a Senior US official, the move was to ‘s jump-start economic development and engage with the world. Recall that Kim Jong Un is preparing for a high-stakes summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12, the first such meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president.

 Kim’s motivation remains unclear but analysts said the shake-up allows him and the ruling party to tighten control over the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at a critical time of international engagement and domestic development.

“If Kim Jong Un is set on making peace with the US and South Korea and dealing away at least part of the nuclear programme, he will have to put the KPA’s influence in a box and keep it there,” said Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at CNA, a non-profit research and analysis organisation.

“This reshuffle has brought to the fore the officers who can do just that. They are loyal to Kim Jong Un and no one else.”

Trump revived the Singapore summit on Friday after cancelling it a week earlier.

U.S. Hopeful North Korea Summit Will Still Take Place

The U.S. is still very hopeful about a planned summit with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un.

White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said on Wednesday however that President Donald Trump is prepared for a tough negotiation process.  North Korea threw the June 12 summit between Kim and Trump into doubt on Wednesday, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it may reconsider if Washington insists it unilaterally gives up its nuclear weapons.

“We’re still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we’ll continue down that path but at the same time we’ve been prepared that these could be tough negotiations,” Sanders said.

“The president is ready if the meeting takes place. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue the maximum pressure campaign that’s been ongoing.”

Sanders said the comments from North Korea were “not something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations.”

“The president’s fully prepared and fully ready to carry on in these conversations both leading up to and if the meeting takes place,” she said.

“He’ll be there and he’ll be ready.”

According to North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, Pyongyang’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Gwan, specifically criticised U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, who has called for the North to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that mirrors Libya’s abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction.

Sanders played down those concerns. “I haven’t seen that as part of any discussions so I’m not aware that that’s a model that we’re using,” she told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.

The Trump- Jong-Un meeting is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

Nuclear Test Site Closure: North Korea To Invite Journalists From South Korea, China, Russia, UK And US

North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a press release, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) saying it will make a public show of its promise to close its nuclear testing site, north of the country.

According to South Korean news agency, Yonhap, North Korea it is taking “technical measures” to dismantle its nuclear test site, moving closer to honouring an offer made by its leader Kim Jong-un during the inter-Korean summit last month.

Detailing the country’s plans to shut down its Pyunggye-ri nuclear test ground the English-language statement said the ruling Workers’ Party and other relevant institutions are “taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test ground” in order to “ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test.”

During the third inter-Korean summit on April 27, Kim told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he would “carry out the closure of the northern nuclear test site in May,” according to Seoul’s presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae. Kim also offered to make the dismantling public. And the North’s foreign ministry said the ceremony for the occasion has been scheduled for between May 23 and 25, depending on weather conditions.

Given the limited space, only journalists from South Korea, China, Russia, the United States and Britain will be invited to cover the dismantling on-site, the ministry added.

China’s Foreign Minister To Visit North Korea

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to visit North Korea this week.

According to reports from his office on Monday Wang will be in the neighboring country at the invitation of his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday and Thursday, the foreign ministry said in a brief statement.

He will be the first Chinese foreign minister to visit the North since 2007, a lapse that highlights the rough patch that relations between the Cold War-era allies has gone through in recent years.

China has backed a series of United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

But Beijing is likely eager to avoid being marginalised in the wave of diplomacy that has led to last Friday’s historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae.

Kim and Moon agreed to pursue the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula.

They also agreed to pursue a peace treaty by the end of the year and hold talks with the United States, and possibly China, to achieve it.

The Korean War ceased in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. China fought on the North’s side.

Will Kim Jong-Un Trade His Nuclear Arsenal to Rebuild Economy?

SEOUL, South Korea — For as long as Kim Jong-un has been North Korea’s leader, he has called for the simultaneous pursuit of nuclear weapons and economic growth with the aim of making the nation a “great socialist nuclear power.”

On Saturday, however, Mr. Kim abruptly announced he was retiring his signature policy, known as byungjin, or “parallel advance.”

The strategy has been at the center of his government’s propaganda and is enshrined in the charter of the governing Workers’ Party. But Mr. Kim said it was now time to adopt a “new strategic line” and focus the nation’s resources on rebuilding its economy.

As for nuclear weapons, he essentially declared that mission accomplished, saying North Korea no longer needed to test long-range missiles or atomic bombs and would close its only known nuclear test site. The byungjin policy, he said, already had achieved a “great victory” — an arsenal capable of deterring the nation’s enemies.

Mr. Kim’s pivot away from nuclear testing and toward the economy came just days before a scheduled meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and weeks before his planned summit meeting with President Trump.

 

As Economy Grows, North Korea’s Grip on Society Is Tested APRIL 30, 2017
Despite lingering doubts about his nation’s ability to strike the continental United States with a nuclear weapon, Mr. Kim appeared to be making clear he intends to enter negotiations with Washington the way the Soviets did decades ago, as an established nuclear power.

The big question is whether he will relinquish his nuclear weapons.

South Korean policymakers argue that Mr. Kim is signaling a willingness to dismantle his nuclear arsenal for the right incentives, including economic aid, a peace treaty and other security guarantees from Washington — measures he needs to rebuild the North’s economy.

Mr. Kim is willing to discuss denuclearizing his country if provided with the right incentives, according to South Korean policymakers. Credit Korean Central News Agency

“He is seeking the kind of rapid economic growth seen in China,” said Lee Jong-seok, a former unification minister of South Korea. “The North Korea he envisions is different from his father’s North Korea.”

Mr. Lee also noted: “We have looked only on the nuclear side of Kim Jong-un’s rule, trying hard not to look at the other side. He is ready to bargain away nuclear weapons for the sake of economic development. If he were content with just feeding his people three meals a day, he would not give up his nuclear weapons.”

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute, a research think tank in South Korea, said Mr. Kim’s announcement would further raise “his people’s expectation for economic improvement.”

But North Korea has long said that its nuclear weapons are not bargaining chips, and Mr. Kim himself has called them “a treasured sword of justice” and “a powerful deterrent firmly safeguarding” his people’s “rights to existence.”

Lee Sung-yoon, a Korea expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, called Mr. Kim’s decision just a replay of an old North Korean tactic — trying to confuse enemies with dramatic gestures in an attempt to win concessions, without ever intending to give up nuclear weapons.

“History repeats itself as farce,” he said, adding: “Kim Jong-un’s ploys are unoriginal and rather lazy.”

American officials say they have been repeatedly cheated by the North in previous talks on denuclearization. A deal in 1994 eventually collapsed when the United States accused the North of secretly enriching uranium. Another deal in 2005 fell apart in a dispute over how to verify a nuclear freeze. In 2012, the North launched a long-range rocket after agreeing to a moratorium on missile testing.

Mr. Kim’s decision to make the economy the nation’s priority and suspend nuclear tests was unanimously adopted at a Workers’ Party meeting on Friday. He also pledged to neither use nor proliferate nuclear weapons unless faced with a nuclear threat.

Washington, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo welcomed the move, although they cautioned that the suspension of tests was just one step toward denuclearization. The announcement made no mention of further steps.

Mr. Kim did pledge to create an “international environment favorable for the socialist economic construction.” Analysts said that will give him political cover for negotiating reductions in his arsenal.

“This reads more like an arms-control offer from a nuclear nation than an isolated regime coerced into disarmament,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists.

“It is a carefully circumscribed statement. It describes a partial cap of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs but not disarmament. Even under these restrictions, North Korea could continue to expand its capabilities significantly.”

Culled From The New York Times

North Korea Sends Team to Next Two Olympics

North Korea President Kim Jong Un is committed to sending teams to the next two Olympics, the IOC chief Thomas Bach said Saturday.

He unveiled the commitment of North Korea after a rare meeting with the leader of the nuclear-armed regime in Pyongyang.

Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, also said the IOC will make a proposal for a “potential joint march” and other shared activities between the North and South Korean teams at the Tokyo games.

Last month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea saw competitors from the two countries march together at the opening ceremony and field a joint women’s ice hockey team.

The Winter Games triggered a fast-moving rapprochement that will see Kim sit down with the South’s President Moon Jae-in in late April — with a US summit with President Donald Trump planned for May.

Japan: Getting set for the Olympics
Getting set for the Olympics
Bach told reporters after landing in Beijing that his talks with Kim on Friday had been “very open and fruitful”.

“They announced (to) us that they will definitely participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as well at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022” and all editions of the Youth Olympic Games, Bach said.

“And this commitment was fully supported by the supreme leader of DPRK,” he said, using the official abbreviation for the country.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said Kim thanked Bach for helping to bring about a “dramatic thawing” of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Bach arrived in the country on Thursday and his visit, which concluded Saturday, was the result of an invitation extended by Pyongyang in January.

The isolated regime rarely hosts foreign dignitaries but recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomacy, with Kim making his first foreign trip as leader to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and inviting him to visit Pyongyang.

Kim told Bach that the Olympics had “opened a new chapter of concord between the north and the south”, KCNA said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
“He said that the once frozen north-south relations greeted a dramatic thawing season with the Olympics as a momentum and it was totally attributable to the efforts of the IOC which offered an opportunity and paved a path for it,” the agency reported.

Bach told reporters the IOC “will continue to support the athletes from DPRK to prepare well” for the next Olympic Games.

“The IOC will make a proposal for a potential joint march, for potential other joint activities for Tokyo and maybe also for Beijing, at the appropriate time,” he said.

The two men also held discussions about the development of sport in the North and attended a women’s football match.

North and South Korea plan to hold a summit on April 27.

Trump is then due to meet Kim before the end of May for talks on Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.

Bach has hailed the reconciliatory mood, saying previously that the Olympic spirit “brought two sides together” and the two neighbours sent a “powerful message of peace” to the world.

Read more: AFP

North And South Korea Leaders To Meet For Summit

South Korea has announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27.

According to reports this meeting is coming after the nations agreed on a rare summit that could prove significant in global efforts to resolve a decades-long standoff over the North’s nuclear program.

The announcement was made after officials met at the border village of Panmunjom. Few other details were immediately released, but the Koreas plan to hold another preparatory meeting on April 4 to discuss protocol, security and media coverage issues.

The leaders of the two Koreas have held talks only twice since the 1950-53 Korean War, in 2000 and 2007, under previous liberal governments in Seoul. The Korean Peninsula was divided in 1945 into a US-dominated south and Soviet-backed north.

Seoul’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, one of the three South Korean participants in today’s talks, told reporters beforehand that setting up discussions between the leaders on ways to rid the North of its nuclear weapons would be a critical point. The North’s three delegates were led by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of a state agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.

The South’s delegation arrived in Panmunjom after their vehicles crossed the heavily guarded border near the southern city of Paju.Greeting the South Korean officials at the North Korea-controlled Tongilgak building, Ri said that the past 80 days have been filled with “unprecedented historic events” between the rivals, referring to the Koreas resuming dialogue before the Winter Olympics in the South and the agreement on the summit. He expressed hopes for an outcome that would meet the “hope and desire of the nation.”

Cho, in response, said officials in the preparatory talks should do their best to set up a successful summit as the “current situation was created by decisions from the highest leaders of the North and South.”

The talks follow a surprise meeting this week between Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which appeared to be aimed at improving both countries’ positions ahead of Kim’s planned meetings with Moon and President Donald Trump.

In setting up separate talks with Beijing, Seoul, Washington, and potentially with Moscow and Tokyo, North Korea may be moving to disrupt any united front among its negotiating counterparts.

By reintroducing China, which is the North’s only major ally, as a major player, North Korea also gains leverage against South Korea and the United States, analysts say.

In his talks with Xi, Kim may have discussed economic cooperation with China or requested a softening of enforcement of sanctions over the North’s nukes and missiles. North Korea also wants Beijing to resist tougher sanctions if the talks with Washington and Seoul fall apart and the North starts testing missiles again.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi is spending two days in Seoul brefing South Korean officials on the results of the talks between Kim and Xi.

Yang is expected to meet Seoul’s presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong on Thursday before meeting President Moon on Friday. Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom in a statement said Seoul welcomes the meeting between Kim and Trump and called it an encouraging sign that Kim expressed a firm willingness for dialogue with South Korea and the United States during his visit to Beijing.North Korea has yet to officially confirm its interest in a summit between Kim and Trump.

In its coverage of the Kim-Xi meeting, the North’s state media didn’t carry Kim’s reported comments about opening dialogue with the United States that were carried in Chinese state media.It’s unclear whether the leaders’ meetings could lead to any meaningful breakthrough.

The North’s diplomatic outreach comes after an unusually provocative year where it conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date and three intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to target the US mainland.

The change in tactics could be an attempt to ease pressure from heavy sanctions and improve its economy.

Washington and Seoul have said Kim previously told South Korean envoys that he was willing to put his nukes up for negotiation in his talks with Trump. However, the North has yet to officially confirm its interest in a summit between Kim and Trump.

There’s deep skepticism among some analysts that the North, after years of dogged weapons development, will commit to real denuclearization and then agree to a robust verification regime.

North Korea over the past two decades has been repeatedly accused of using disarmament talks as a way to ease outside pressure and win badly needed aid, while all along secretly pushing ahead with its weapons development.

The Koreas agreed to a summit when Moon’s envoys visited Kim in Pyongyang earlier this month.

The meeting followed a sudden period of inter-Korean warmth over February’s Winter Olympics in the South, where the North sent hundreds of officials, including Kim’s sister who met with Moon to deliver his brother’s desire for a summit.Using a subsequent visit to the United States, Moon’s envoys also brokered a potential meeting between Kim and Trump, who said he would meet the North Korean leader “by May.”

The planned summit between Moon and Kim will be preceded by performances of South Korean pop singers in North Korea this Sunday and Tuesday.

About 70 South Korean officials and technicians flew to Pyongyang on Thursday to set up the performance equipment. The South Korean artists performing in the North will include some of the country’s most popular pop singers, including Cho Yong-pil, who performed in Pyongyang during a previous era of detente, and girl band Red Velvet.

 

Donald Trump Gives Positive Plans On Relationship With North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump has revealed that there might be an improvement in the relationship with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un after saying North Korean leader looked forward to meeting with him.

Trump also tweeted

“Received message last night from XI JINPING of China that his meeting with KIM JONG UN went very well and that KIM looks forward to his meeting with me,”

“In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!”

“Look forward to our meeting!”

After two days of speculation, China announced on Wednesday that Kim had visited Beijing and met Xi, who elicited a pledge from Kim to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The trip was Kim’s first known journey abroad since he assumed power in 2011 and is believed by analysts to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States.

The White House said on Tuesday that China briefed Trump on the meetings and that the denuclearisation pledge was “further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea.”

“For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity.”

Earlier this month, Trump surprised the world by agreeing to meet Kim at a place and time to be determined. South Korea’s national security chief said the first-ever meeting between U.S. and North Korean presidents would take place in May but details of potential talks have not been made public and the White House has said they will only happen if North Korea keeps “several promises.”

 

North Korean Leader Meets South Korean Government Officials

According to North Korea’s Official news agency, its leader Kim Jong Un has met with senior South Korean government officials for the first time and said it is his “firm will to vigorously advance” inter-Korean ties and pursue reunification.

The National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong lead the 10-member South Korean delegation to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, on Monday in hopes of encouraging North Korea and the U. S. to talk to one another.

Washington and Pyongyang have been at loggerheads for months over the North’s nuclear and missile programs, with U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un trading insults and threatening war.

Tensions between the two Koreas eased during the recent Winter Olympics in South Korea, where President Moon Jae-In hosted a high-level North Korean delegation. Kim Jong Un invited Moon to North Korea for a summit, which Moon said the two sides should work towards.

“Hearing the intention of President Moon Jae In for a summit from the special envoy of the south side, (Kim Jong Un) exchanged views and made a satisfactory agreement,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said of the meeting.

The agency did not provide details on what that agreement was but an official from the presidential Blue House in Seoul said it partially addressed the summit offer made by the North.

North Korea has been developing nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the U. S. but Pyongyang and Washington both say they want a diplomatic solution.

Seoul’s delegation met Kim Jong Un, his sister Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s wife and other officials on Monday, said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the South’s presidential office. Kim Yo Jong attended the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in February.

The delegation will wrap up a two-day trip to Pyongyang later on Tuesday after another meeting with North Korean officials, the spokesman said.

Blue House officials could not confirm whether Kim Jong Un would be present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Chung said in Seoul before leaving on Monday his team would deliver the South Korean president’s wish to bring about denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and permanent peace.

Kim Jong Un gave orders for “practical steps” regarding the letter from Moon that was delivered to him by the delegation, KCNA said without elaborating.

“He also made an exchange of in-depth views on the issues for easing the acute military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and activating the versatile dialogue, contact, cooperation and exchange,” the report said.

Both North Korea and the United States have said they are open to talks but the U.S. position has been that dialogue must be aimed at North Korea’s denuclearisation, something Pyongyang has rejected.

Moon has also remained vigilant against North Korea’s weapons ambitions, saying on Tuesday South Korea should bolster its defenses in tandem with talks with Pyongyang.

The Pentagon has nevertheless said it was “cautiously optimistic” about the North-South talks, which resumed in January for the first time in two years.

North Korea has vowed never to give up what it calls an essential deterrent against U.S. hostility. Pyongyang has not carried out any nuclear or missile tests since November.

Although the North is carrying out annual winter military exercises, it has not engaged in unusual behavior, according to South Korea’s defence ministry.

The Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, 38 North, said satellite images indicated North Korea’s main nuclear reactor may be operating, meaning that it had resumed production of plutonium, presumably for its nuclear weapons program.

Steam plumes were observed from the reactor in images from Feb. 17 and Feb. 25 and such vapor plumes had “generally been a useful indicator of reactor operations”, 38 North said in a report on Monday.

However, the report said no cooling water discharges had been observed.

That could mean the plumes were unrelated to reactor operations, or that the discharge pipeline had been extended into a nearby river in an attempt to disguise activity.

“The presence of ice melt on the river supports the conclusion that the reactor is indeed operating and that the outfall pipeline has been extended,” it said.

 

North Korea To Send Athletes To Paralympic Games In South Korea

Following North Korea’s first visit to South Korea during the Winter Olympics, it seems that the tension between the two countries might have reduced as it is been reported that North Korea plans to send athletes to compete in next month’s Paralympic Games in South Korea.

Now, officials from North and South Korea met on Tuesday at a village along the heavily-fortified border to discuss logistics for the Paralympics, which begin on March 8.

The Winter Games was held in PyeongChang in South Korea from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25 with North Korea participating for the first time.

South Korean leaders see Pyongyang’s participation in the Games as key to lowering tensions on the peninsula and possibly leading to diplomatic negotiations over the North’s nuclear programme.

The 2018 Winter Paralympics, officially known as the XII Paralympic Winter Games, and commonly known as the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics, is an international winter multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities.