North Korea
November 3, 2018

North Korea on Friday threatened to resume development of nuclear weapons if the United States does not lift economic sanctions.

"The U.S. thinks that its oft-repeated 'sanctions and pressure' leads to 'denuclearization,'" said a statement from Pyongyang. "We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea." The statement argued lifting sanctions would be an appropriate reciprocation of North Korea's "proactive and good-will measures" since opening denuclearization talks with the U.S. and South Korea.

Also Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated sanctions will continue. "A lot of work remains," he said, "but I'm confident that we will keep the economic pressure in place until such time as [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] fulfills the commitment he made to President Trump back in June in Singapore." Bonnie Kristian

September 29, 2018

"Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first," said North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the United Nations Saturday.

"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe-dream of the people who are ignorant about us," he continued, reiterating a regular complaint from the Kim Jong Un regime. "But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust" in the United States.

Ri argued Washington has not reciprocated goodwill gestures — like "stopping nuclear and ICBM tests, dismantling the nuclear test site in a transparent manner, and affirming not to transfer nuclear weapons and nuclear technology under any circumstances" — from Pyongyang. The Trump administration says sanctions will continue until denuclearization is complete.

Read more here at The Week on what President Trump wants from North Korea, why "peace or war" may be a false dichotomy here, and what a plausible roadmap to peace might look like. Bonnie Kristian

August 4, 2018

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Saturday insisted his country is proceeding in good faith with leader Kim Jong Un's pledge to denuclearize, pushing back on Friday comments from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"The DPRK stands firm in its determination and commitment for implementing the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement in a responsible and good-faith manner," he said, using an acronym for Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "What is alarming, however, is the insistent moves manifested within the U.S. to go back to the old, far from its leader's intention."

While President Trump has expressed complete optimism about Kim's denuclearization promise, Pompeo said Friday "we still have a ways to go to achieve the ultimate outcome we're looking for." Satellite images gathered earlier this week showed North Korea working on new ballistic missiles, as did a United Nations report obtained by CNN Friday. Bonnie Kristian

July 9, 2018

From the outside, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's strange trip to North Korea Friday and Saturday did not look like a success. He didn't get an audience with Kim Jong Un, despite the White House saying he would — Pompeo said afterward he hadn't expected to meet with Kim — and North Korea issued a statement Saturday calling it a "regrettable" visit in which Pompeo's "gangster-like" demands "might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm." On Sunday, Pompeo sounded upbeat about the meeting, saying he refused to pay attention to what people are saying in the press, so he doesn't "go nuts."

"When we spoke to them about denuclearization, they did not push back," Pompeo said in Japan on Sunday. "The road ahead will be difficult and challenging and we know that critics will try to minimize the work that we've achieved." He said if his demands were "gangster-like," then "the world is a gangster," and said he believes the North Koreans are negotiating in good faith "because they were, and they did." In Hanoi on Monday, Pompeo held up Vietnam as a model Pyongyang should emulate of economic success after making peace with the U.S.

The North Korean statement "was a fairly serious insult directed against Pompeo," says Christopher Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and lead negotiator with North Korea. "I think it was a pretty bad start to the process, but it doesn't mean it's over yet," because with North Korea, "most of the time you come back empty-handed." On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blamed China for "pulling the North Koreans back" in the peace talks. "And to our North Korean friends, I can't say the word 'friend' yet," he added. "You asked Pompeo: 'Did he sleep well?' If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn't sleep very well." Peter Weber

July 6, 2018

President Trump is clearly an Elton John fan. "Tiny Dancer" was a campaign rally staple, he referred to North Korea's Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man" on Twitter and before the United Nations General Assembly, John had to shoot down a hopeful Trump team rumor that he was performing at Trump's inauguration, and at a rally in Montana on Thursday evening, Trump bragged about his crowd sizes, telling the audience:

I have broken more Elton John records — he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don't have a musical instrument. I don't have a guitar or an organ — no organ. Elton has an organ, and lots of other people helping. ... So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully, the brain attached to the mouth, right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important. [President Trump, Montana rally]

But it's the "Rocket Man" nickname that is making actual news. During Trump's lunch with Kim in Singapore last month, "Kim mentioned that Trump referred to him as 'Rocket Man' when tensions ran high last year," and "Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no," a diplomatic source in Washington tells South Korea's The Chosunilbo. So Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is bringing a CD with "Rocket Man" with him to Pyongyang on Friday, reportedly bearing a note for Kim from Trump and Trump's signature. Pompeo, who is under mounting pressure to get Kim to agree to concrete denuclearization steps, is also apparently bringing a letter from Trump to Kim. Many experts are skeptical that Kim is open to destroying his nuclear weapons program. Read more about Trump's gifts for Kim at The Chosunilbo. Peter Weber

June 23, 2018

The Pentagon announced Friday it has come to an agreement with South Korea to indefinitely suspend two more joint training exercises. The two countries previously announced the suspension of "large-scale" military exercises following President Trump's promise to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to stop "provocative, inappropriate, and expensive" war games.

"To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Secretary Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises" that were scheduled for this summer, said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White.

"This includes suspending Freedom Guardian, along with two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months," she continued. "In support of upcoming diplomatic negotiations led by Secretary Pompeo, additional decisions will depend upon the DPRK [North Korea] continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith." Bonnie Kristian

May 27, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still very much committed to his maybe on-again summit with President Trump in Singapore on June 12, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday. The two Korean leaders met Saturday for an unannounced discussion of how to keep the summit and inter-Korean relations on track after Trump's surprise Thursday cancellation of the scheduled negotiations.

Moon also reported Kim reaffirmed his promise to pursue "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Kim's uncertainty, he said, "is not the will for denuclearization, but the concern that if [North Korea] denuclearizes, whether the U.S. can end hostile relations and guarantee the security of the [Kim] regime." Pyongyang has long cast its nuclear development as insurance against U.S.-orchestrated regime change, and in late April, Moon's government said Kim promised to denuclearize if the U.S. pledges not to invade.

Meanwhile, Trump told reporters late Saturday that if the summit proceeds, the time and location will remain unchanged. Bonnie Kristian

May 26, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in gathered for a surprise meeting Saturday to discuss the fate of inter-Korean relations given the new uncertainty over Kim's proposed summit with President Trump.

The two-hour talks happened in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) bordering the two Koreas and focused on how to keep the Trump-Kim conversation on track. "We see it as fortunate that the embers of dialogue between North Korea and the United States weren't fully extinguished and are coming alive again," said Moon's office. "We are carefully watching the developments."

Trump said Thursday the June 12 summit in Singapore was canceled, only to indicate Friday it may be back on. "We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date," he tweeted Friday evening. On Saturday morning, Trump posted another tweet attacking The New York Times and claiming there is "ZERO disagreement within the Trump Administration as to how to deal with North Korea...and if there was, it wouldn't matter." Bonnie Kristian

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