Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Kim Jong-un's Sudden Threats : Never Under-estimate the Ego of a Dictator
TODAY'S REAL NEWS IS ABOUT THE TROUBLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. North Korea. • • • NORTH KOREA THREATENS TO CANCEL SUMMIT. The NK state media KCNA reports that North Korea is canceling high-level talks with South Korea because of the military exercises between the US and South Korea. Fox News reported the NK statement : "This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula. The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities." The NK-US summit is scheduled for Singapore on June 12. • State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a Tuesday briefing that they had not received any "formal or even informal notification of anything" : "I will say that Kim Jong Un had said previously that he understands the need and the utility of the United States and the Republic of Korea continuing in its joint exercises. They're exercises that are legal, and they're planned well, well in advance. We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month." She also added that the exercises are "certainly not provocative." A statement from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Tuesday said the White House was "aware of the South Korean media report" and that the US "will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies." • A source from the National Security Council told Fox News earlier that the White House didn't yet know what to make of North Korea's statements, adding "this is the way they operate." The US and North Korea had been advancing toward talks about Kim Jong-un giving up his nuclear program, according to the source. And while they said it's possible that North Korea could be thinking about derailing the summit, at the moment, "we don't think so," the source said. • The Wednesday meeting at Panmunjom between officials from North and South Korea was expected to be a follow-up to the historic summit held in late April between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April, in which they discussed the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. On Wednesday, they were going to discuss infrastructure aid that South Korea would provide to North Korea as part of their broader detente. The North was going to send Ri Son Kwon, who leads the North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean exchanges and was present at the summit, and the South was going to send senior officials from the Transport Ministry and forest service. • The Pentagon confirmed to Fox News that the joint military training was already underway and "has not changed. Republic of Korea (ROK) and US military forces are currently engaged in the recurring, annual ROK-US spring exercises, to include exercises Foal Eagle 2018 and Max Thunder 2018." Department of Defense Spokesperson Colonel Rob Manning told Fox News : "The purpose of the training is to enhance the ROK-US Allilance's ability to defend the ROK and enhance interoperability and readiness. While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed." The Pentagon has previously said that the annual joint military exercises with South Korea would continue despite the recent thaw in tensions between the US and North Korea. Kim Jong-un recently told South Korean representatives that "he could understand why the joint exercises must resume in April on the same scale as before," South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong told the New York Times. The North's military was also reportedly informed of the planned drills. • But, according to the Washington Post, North Korea on Wednesday "cast doubt on next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump over joint air force drills taking place in South Korea, which it says are ruining the diplomatic mood. The sudden announcement by the communist government -- issued in the middle of the night in North Korea -- said the military exercises were a 'provocation' that could affect the fate of the unprecedented summit. North Korea always reacts angrily to the joint US-South Korea military exercises, considering them a rehearsal for an invasion. But this year, with the sudden burst of diplomacy, had appeared to be different." • The WP also reported that South Korea says it wants American troops to remain on the Korean Peninsula whether or not a peace treaty is signed with North Korea, quoting Reuters : "The South Korean and US militaries had scaled back and played down the exercises, declining the news media the usual access to the drills. North Korea said barely a word about the drills during the computer simulation exercises that took place through April. But the two-week-long Max Thunder drills between the two countries’ air forces, an annual event that began Friday and involve about 100 warplanes including B-52 bombers and F-15K jets, have clearly struck a nerve." The WP said that North Korea suggested that the drills were putting the proposed summit between Trump and Kim, scheduled for June 12, in jeopardy : “The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities,” according to KCNA, the North’s Korean Central News Agency. • Analysts told the WP they were not surprised by this latest twist in what has been a year of diplomatic whiplash. “Kim Jong-un releases three detainees. What does he get in return?” said Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership expert at CNA, a Virginia-based consulting firm. “The US and South Korea hold an exercise, which contains some strategic strike elements to it....At some point, North Korea was going to cry foul.” • The Washington Post also reported that : "By mentioning the Panmunjom Declaration, North Korea was referring to the agreement signed last month by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in following their historic summit. They agreed to work to turn the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953 into a peace treaty that would officially bring the war to a close, and also to pursue the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Trump and his top aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, both previously known for their hard-line views on North Korea, have expressed optimism that a denuclearization agreement can be worked out. In surprising detail, Pompeo -- who says Kim watches foreign news reports -- has laid out the economic and development aid that would flow to the North Korean regime if it permanently and verifiably gives up its nuclear weapons program." • • • WEDNESDAY'S STATUS. The UK Daily Mail reported on Wednesday afternoon that the White House is ready to walk away from North Korea. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump will stay with a "maximum pressure campaign" to force Kim to the table. The White House says it remains optimistic that a sit-down will take place between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, despite a flare-up in hostilities over joint military exercises the US and South Korea are conducting. Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday morning that North Korean outrage was par for the course and the US was moving ahead with preparations for a June 12 summit in Singapore : "We're ready to meet, and if that happens that's great. And if it doesn't, we'll see what happens. We're still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we'll continue down that path," she told Fox & Friends. 'If it doesn't, we'll continue the maximum pressure campaign that's ongoing." • A senior White House official repeated Sanders's words, telling the DailyMail that North Korea's jockeying wasn't unexpected : "The President said he wants to have the meeting," the official said. "But if we don't, he'll continue the ongoing maximum pressure campaign." The Daily Mail said : "President Trump ignored reporters asking for an update twice on Tuesday as he came and went from the White House to Walter Reed hospital, where his wife was recovering from a benign kidney surgery....Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang on a mission to retrieve three Americans held prisoner in the communist nation. He returned a day later with Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim on board his government jet....The prisoner release was seen as a first step toward the planned summit, which Trump announced last week would take place June 12 in Singapore." • • • DEAR READERS, one question being raised by analysts is whether the sudden announcement was the act of Kim Jong-un alone, or whether the hardliners in his military have dug in their heels about denuclearization. • But, we might ask another set of questions. If denuclearization is the real sticking point, then we may assume that it is coming from Kim or his military. In the past few days, the media has reported that the US has demanded that Kim give up his already-existing 5 nuclear warheads. Did that create a snapback in Kim's mind, especially about the domestic value of his nuclear missiles as a major tool useful in reminding his enslaved people how well he is protecting them form the monster US and its allies. We should not forget just how totalitarian the Kim regime is and therefore how unstable, too. • But, if the sticking point is the US - South Korea annual joint military exercises, then we must wonder if China is behind the sudden shift in Kim's position. China does not like the joint military exercises and could be using the Trump-Kim summit as a bargaining chip to get rid of the exercises, coming as it does right after Kim visited Chinese presidentr Xi Jinping for the second time in a month. It could also lead to Kim demanding that the US withdraw its troops from South Korea at China's behest, something the South does not want and President Trump would surely not agree to. • The sudden threat by North Korea to cancel the summit contradicts the message that South Korean national security advisor Chung Eui-yong brought to the White House in March, when Kim volunteered to meet with Trump. At that time, Kim’s message was that North Korea would refrain from additional nuclear or missile testing and understood “that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.” It seems wise to look at the many possibilities for Kim's hesitation -- face-saving in what had been a very public stand-down, pressure from China to use the summit to get what China wants before Kim agrees to denuclearization, open mutiny by the military leadership Kim must keep happy, or perhaps some unknown domestic unrest that needs to be squelched with boasts of Kim's "powerful" postion vis-à-vis the United States "agressor." • There is also one other possible explanation for Kim's action. Could it be that he has suddenly realized that if he goes ahead with the summit and honors his agreement to open the dismantling of his nuclear facilities to western observers and media, then the United States and the world will see up-front-and-personal just how badly damaged North Korea's nuclear facilities are and would then scale back significantly on what they would offer him to denuclearize. Fox News reported last Friday that : "scientists used sophisticated technology to compile detailed radar data to show the devastating impact of North Korea's largest underground nuclear test. North Korea has scheduled a 'ceremony' to dismantle its nuclear testing site on May 23-25 ahead of President Trump’s summit with leader Kim next month, state media said Saturday. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that all the tunnels at the country’s northeastern testing ground will be destroyed by explosion and that observation and research facilities and ground-based testing units will also be removed. The dramatic and symbolic event is part of the Hermit Kingdom’s pledge to discontinue nuclear tests." Kim had said they plan to invite journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain to inspect the process. • Never under-estimate the ego of a dictator.