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Member since: Sat Mar 14, 2009, 08:45 PM
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The administration is taking a piecemeal approach to negotiation

The so called phased or step by step approach with reciprocal concessions. Therefore it would be difficult to characterize it as a sweeping success, even if there are positive concessions from North Korea. Early on Bolton castigated this approach and preferred the unrealistic "one bundle" or "Libyan approach," to negotiations which demonstrates his incompetence in Asian affairs if not in diplomacy generally.

The negotiations will begin to look like what occurred before in the six party talks, and agreed framework. This has been the inevitable trend all along, although the administration denied it at the outset because it contradicted their campaign promises. The negotiating approach will look more and more like the previous democratic approach to North Korean denuclearization in the past.

Whether the second summit is a "success" or not, will be more about the spin put on it by the media than anything else. Negotiations are a process, they can fail in a moment, but they can only "succeed" over a protracted period of hard work by people who know what they are doing. Any concessions by the US in return for concrete steps to disable nuclear production facilities and open them to inspection will predictably result in a media and MIC think tank uproar.

Fortunately, Biegun appears to be at this point, more competent, than any other person the administration has. We can tell this from the criticism from the Washington Post's Josh Rogin:

The State Department has been working on better coordination with Seoul, establishing a working group under special envoy Stephen Biegun, the lead U.S. negotiator. But recent reports suggest the United States is moving closer to Moon’s position, not the other way around.

The negotiations should be left to Biegun and his working group. But inevitably whatever happens at the summit will become a domestic political football disconnected from the real issues.


Absolutely no relief on sanctions guarantees failure

Marginal sanctions relief on a step by step basis with substantial concessions from the North on denuclearization, allowing inspectors to verify denuclearization steps, etc., is a way to proceed with negotiations.

The sanctions waivers that South Korea needs to reopen Kumgansang, and Kaesong are a good starting point. The North needs to deliver to get those.

The North doesn't really have any hard and set demands regarding US troop withdrawal, that issue concerns the deployment of "strategic assets," like aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and long range bombers. The US has a nuclear strike capability that can reach anywhere in the world, with or without the visibility of such assets in the immediate region.

Conducting massive military joint military exercises in their neighborhood is obviously a reason for them not to denuclearize and US military leadership understands that as well.

The notion that South Korea might have objected to the suspension of joint military exercises by Trump after the first summit is absurd. This is what the South Korean administration wanted.

There is an inherent conflict between maintaining the greatest possible sanctions and proposals for normalization of relations with the US. These kinds of contradictions are typical of US Asia policies in which the left hand doesn't like what the right hand is doing.

Linking denuclearization negotiations to human rights issues in North Korea is another formula for failed talks. The idea that lobby groups in the UN and the US, and political opposition in Korea itself care or know more about human rights abuses or what to do about them than the current administration in South Korea is off base as well.

Trump undercuts his ROK conservative supporters with imperial remark

South Korea says no change on North Korean sanctions
Joyce Lee, Hyonhee Shin

Kang’s remarks on sanctions, retracted after criticism from South Korean lawmakers, prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to say South Korea would need U.S. approval to relieve sanctions.

“They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” Trump told reporters, when asked about her comments.

Trump has said sanctions will remain in place until North Korea it denuclearizes.

Kang backtracked on her remarks after facing criticism from some conservative lawmakers that the sanctions cannot be removed unless North Korea first apologized for the attack, a stance adopted by former South Korean governments.


It's obvious that South Korea is trying to get ready for a time in the future when sanctions are eased in some respect. ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Hwa mentioning this outright was to blunder into the radical minority conservative party's trap, of making any reconciliation with the north dependent on approval from the surviving families of the Chonan incident. This would furnish an additional delaying tactic after any easing of international sanctions to the minority party which adamantly opposes the current democratic party administration on all fronts. Ironically, Trump's dumb remarks discredited and undermined his conservative South Korean supporters by painting them as tools of an outside great power that seeks to dominate South Korea's internal political policies. The minority conservative parties, whose corrupt former presidents are in prison, suffered additional political losses during the last off year election. They have been desperately seeking to get some traction against the Moon administration.

Trump's remarks fall right into the North Korean ideological criticism of the South as a "lackey of the imperialist US," and diminish South Korea's posture both with the North and internationally. Korean conservatives, especially in the Liberty Korea Party, continue to play the role of spoiler for the US and Japan in South Korean internal politics.

However, some Korean conservative lawmakers are trying to distance themselves from Trump's remarks calling them "insulting."

Six Party Alignment at Singapore ASEAN FM Meeting re: North Korea

South Korea's News A morning news Aug. 4 "US- 'maintain sanctions' vs. China- 'ease sanctions.' "

China's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi said: “China all along has believed that the consensus reached by U.S. and North Korea’s leaders meeting in Singapore is very precious...”

“That is, at the same time as realizing denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, to establish a peace mechanism. This direction is without a doubt correct.”

Here's the relevant portion of the summit statement:

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.–DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.–DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

The words "at the same time" reflect the position that Russia, China, North Korea, and South Korea, see from a similar perspective, emphasizing trust building, performance reciprocity, and concrete measures to build a "peace regime." The US and Japan, on the other side, emphasize what North Korea criticized as a "one sided approach," namely "complete denuclearization" first. The US and Japan are primarily focused on (3), the North's commitment to denuclearize.

To get the summit Pompeo had proposed a Complete Verifiable Irreversible Guarantee for North Korean security. (CVIG for CVID) Trump said he would consider a declaration to end the state of war represented by the armistice. Since the summit, nothing positive has been said about this on the US side. Pompeo didn't discuss it the last time he was in Pyongyang. The US wants the inventory of nuclear weapons facilities in North Korea and an inspection and verification process to facilitate concrete denuclearization measures by North Korea. In other words, they want, from a North Korean perspective, for North Korea to disarm, without addressing statements (1) and (2) in the summit communique. Easing of sanctions, waivers of sanctions, normalization of relations, and a declaration of the end of the Korean conflict fall within this realm. The US had to this point, suspended joint military exercises with South Korea. There appears to be a consensus in the US and Japan that that is enough and the burden is now on North Korea to perform.

At the Singapore ASEAN Foreign Ministers (AFM) Meeting this week, the North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, met with the Chinese Minister and his delegation. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Hwa met with Sergei Lavrov's delegation from Russia, and separately, with Taro Kono's delegation from Japan. Late reports are that Pompeo and Wang met also.

It is relevant in respect to the timing and reciprocity issues, that Pompeo is being reported in the South Korean media this morning as having invited Seo Hun, the S.Korean National Intelligence Director, to a previously undisclosed meeting in Washington D.C. last week. At that meeting it is said that Pompeo requested that South Korea refrain from pressing the pace on the desired declaration for an end to the Korean conflict, and the same for Korean requests to ease the sanctions regime. It is also reported by A News, in South Korea, that a similar request was made by Pompeo, in a phone call to Cho Myung Kyun the South Korean Unification Minister.

On August 2, South Korean A News reported that there will be no exception to the sanctions, and that a South Korean waiver request for the North South Liaison Office proposed to be opened at Kaeseong, North Korea, was refused. Statements from Anthony Ruggiero at the NSC, and also from Cory Gardner at the U.S. State Department East Asia Desk, indicated that sanctions relief would not be forthcoming.

South Korean National Security Advisor's Visit to DC: A Mistake?

Chung Eui Yong avoided questions about the results of his most recent trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with National Security Advisor John Bolton, other than to say their talks had been productive. Specifically, he refused to answer the question about whether he had discussed a declaration to end the Korean War at the meeting. An anonymous South Korean foreign office news source said that Chung's trip to Washington was a mistake. According to this source, he was told, "Don't persuade us, persuade North Korea first," which sounds a lot like a rebuke. This raises Moon's recent comment at the Singapore ASEAN conference concerning the stalemate, of "which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" This the South Korean president's reference to the timing of denuclearizaton measures desired by the US and UN, and establishment of a "peace regime," on the Korean peninsula, desired by the North Koreans, including a declaration that the Korean war is over. As the reporter at the airport persisted in his question about the declaration of the end of the Korean war issue, Chung just made a wry smile, and said goodbye.

As the US returned to a hard line in the negotiations with North Korea, South Korean Kang Kyung Hwa met with Pompeo at the UN, to make a "no daylight" presentation on stiffening the sanctions regime on North Korea. Her normally serious demeanor was replaced by an ebullient touchy feely posing with Secretary Pompeo which seemed oddly inappropriate under the circumstances. Sources in the White House had made suggestions that South Korea somehow shared responsibility for sanctions violations involving importation of coal from two foreign registry ships from Panama and Sierra Leone, respectively, that were allegedly transhipped from Russia, disguising the identity of the North Korean bulk shipment. The issue was why didn't the South Koreans investigate the brokers and seize the shipments?

Apparently, Kang got some concessions from the US regarding pending issues agreed to between North and South Korea at Panmunjeom. One exception to the sanctions being the exception for the shipment of military communications materials and vehicles to North Korea for communications between North Korean and South Korean military commands aimed at avoiding provocations or incidents that could jeopardize security. The second exemption involves resources necessary to support a civil liason office at the Kaeseong Industrial zone in North Korea. The third exemption requested was for materials, equipment and other resources necessary to renovate the Kumgangsan Resort facility to be used for the separate families reunion schedule for August 20. This latter event is currently on hold on the North Korean side, who have been critical of Moon's ASEAN speech for merely "chanting in unison" with his "American master" and flippantly advising Kim what to do to avoid a "serious judgement from international society."

It is unlikely that National Security Advisor Chung's trip to meet Bolton was a mistake, but it may have been futile. The discussion about what the North Korean dissatisfaction is really all about has been covered in South Korean media and couldn't be clearer to anyone who follows North Korean official media. It's definitely not something to which the hardliners in the administration are receptive, as they line up to conform to the avalanche of criticism in the US media after the summit and the suspension of joint military exercises.

Before the summit when Trump and Pompeo met with Kim Yong Chol, the Vice Chairman of State Affairs in North Korea, they told him they would consider an announcement ending the Korean War. In fact, Pompeo had already announced publicly that there would be no CVID, (complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization) without guarantees of North Korean security, CVIG, complete verifiable irreversible guarantee of (North Korean) security.


Shortly after the summit in Singapore, they again demonstrated that they understood North Korean concerns about security and the notion of reciprocity and trust building by suspending joint military exercises with South Korea.

After the wave of criticism here in the US from the usual interested parties and opposition, Pompeo and Trump retreated for political cover to the "one sided, ganster like demand," for nuclear disarmament by the North. When Pompeo got to Pyongyang for post summit negotiations, he refused to consider North Korean requests oriented toward normalizing diplomatic relations and ending the war. That put everything on hold. It is likely it was known this would happen before Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang.

It's possible that the serviceman's remains repatriation issue is still on track. S.Korean news reports on the 21st suggested that the talks had been successful. The date set for repatriation is July 27, the 65th Anniversary of the Armistice.

Here's another indication that the North Korean's aren't giving up on what the US promised at the summit in Singapore.

"A declaration of the end of the war to relieve tension on the Korean peninsula, and to construct a peace regime, is the first process. In order to build trust with the United States, this is an indispensable demand." (Our People North Korean web site)

Perhaps the White House wants to forget the joint statement President Trump signed in Singapore with Kim Jong Un.

CIA Assessment Sways Trump?

South Korea's A Channel Top Ten program is reporting based upon an Asahi Shin Moon (Japanese newspaper) story, that Trump's decision to meet Kim, was based upon a CIA assessment that he was attracted to western culture, affected by his education in Switzerland, and would be easier to deal with than previous North Korean leaders in negotiations. Wow, what a brilliant observation! Dennis Rodman figured this out a few years back. What was the giveaway? The empty beach and ski resorts or the fact that he loves basketball?

On the other hand, the powerful attraction of westerners for eastern culture is also playing a role. South Korea has played an enormous role in this development over decades propagating their Korean culture internationally. The active efforts of President Moon's administration to capitalize on South Korean media sophistication in its messaging to both the North and the US have used this experience to drive recent diplomacy.

The idea that the CIA unlocked this possibility is an overstatement, but I'll give the devil due credit for a certain level of intelligence if he saw the opportunity while listening to his CIA experts, and grabbed it.

It's the Lawrence of Arabia hubris lurking in the heart of westerners that is being seduced as well. So now we are treated daily to the spectacle of endless politicians and pundits purporting ludicrously to be experts on negotiating with the far east.

Will Bibimbap Be Served in Singapore?

The fundamental misrepresentation from pundits and a large number of "experts," is that North Korea isn't going to denuclearize. Further, that Trump is "being played," and other critiques. Lately, the recent North Korean statements reflecting that attitude, are stated in the conditional, "if the US doesn't ..." The joint statement coming out of the Moon Kim summit at Panmunjeom clearly stated that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was their policy objective. Of course, the cynical rejoinder is "well we've heard that before, if their lips are moving, they're lying..."

To his credit, even Pompeo gets that the real stumbling block is coming up with US guarantees of North Korean security, normalization of relations, replacing the armistice with a peace agreement, and how to stage these reciprocal moves, in addition to relaxation of sanctions. Pompeo calls it CVIS, complete, verifiable, irreversible, security for North Korea. Without CVIS you won't get CVID.

While there is a notion of bringing out ICBMs, or warheads, in a "bundle" in a relatively short period of time, a framework, (if you'll excuse the term) is going to have to be adopted which presents a structure for negotiations and the execution of any agreement reached, in terms of subject matter, scope and process. It will involve steps, definitions of the scope and timing of those steps, and how US reciprocal concessions will need to be integrated with those steps. The problems here are both political and practical. Various experts with experience have stated that a truly full blown "irreversible denuclearization" of unlimited scope could take "ten years" Some of this has the sound of advertising copy. One expert has said, in the existential sense, there is no such thing as irreversible denuclearization as long as there are scientists who know how to do it. The political side of the problem is that any phased structure with reciprocity will arguably appear similar in design to other agreements that both Trump and neocons have criticized. When making bibimbap, whatever the ingredients, and whoever the chef, it still looks like bibimbap when it's done.
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