See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

US ramps up pressure on N. Korea

The US appears to be turning up the heat on North Korea amid stalled denuclearization talks, with US Defense Secretary James Mattis hinting at a resumption of US-South Korea military drills.


Written by

Updated: August 30, 2018

As the US reportedly responds to a “belligerent letter” from North Korea by stepping up the pressure, prospects of negotiations between North Korea and the US appear bleak unless the communist state makes a major concession, experts say.

US President Donald Trump suspended the drills while talks with North Korea are underway in “good faith,” following his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, a decision critics viewed as a premature concession to the North.

“We took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit,” Mattis told reporters Tuesday. “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.”

In the wake of the news report, South Korean authorities said Wednesday that they are closely coordinating with the US on the issue.

“For now, South Korea and the US have not discussed the matter,” presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters. “It is an issue that should be discussed and decided upon between South Korea and the US while watching progress on North Korea’s denuclearization.”

The US signaled a possible resumption of the military exercises, which North Korea has denounced as “rehearsals for invasion,” after Trump canceled Pompeo’s planned trip to Pyongyang citing “insufficient” progress on denuclearization talks.

US media reported that a “belligerent” letter sent by North Korean senior official Kim Yong-chol to Pompeo, only hours before he was scheduled to leave for Pyongyang with his new special envoy Stephen Biegun, had led Trump to cancel Pompeo’s trip.

In the letter, North Korea warned the US that denuclearization talks are “again at stake and may fall apart” because “the US is still not ready to meet (North Korea’s) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty,” CNN reported, citing three unnamed sources.

Follow-up negotiations to the US-North Korea June Singapore summit have shown little progress, with the two countries divided over the sequence of the denuclearization process.

North Korea has demanded that the US declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War as the first step to building trust in return for the goodwill gestures it has made, while the US has reportedly asked North Korea to hand over an inventory of its nuclear weapons programs first.

While toughening its stance on North Korea, the US also signaled that it is still open to engaging with North Korea.

Pompeo’s spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, cited a statement from Pompeo that said, “America stands ready to engage when it is clear that Chairman Kim stands ready to deliver on the commitments that he made at the Singapore summit with President Trump to completely denuclearize North Korea.”

She also said “there is progress being made” on denuclearization.

The US appears to be seeking to prompt a change in North Korea’s attitude through pressure and appeasement amid a deadlock in their negotiations.

“President Trump canceled Pompeo’s trip, but kept alive a momentum for dialogue. In line with the move, the US is sending a warning to North Korea by hinting at a resumption of the joint military drills,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

“With the momentum for diplomacy still alive, the US would not want to enrage North Korea for now, so it will not immediately resume the military exercises but wait for the North’s action until after the midterm elections in November.”

The US is not likely to make any more concessions until North Korea acts, he said.

“In the worst scenario, North Korea may not make any concession either. The US then resumes the joint military drills with South Korea, and North Korea in response accuses the US of breaking its promise and makes a provocation, which could fuel tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea on Wednesday blasted the US for its sanctions against the North, calling it an “outdated confrontation policy” in its state-run newspaper the Rodong Sinmun.

But it has remained silent on Pompeo’s canceled trip to Pyongyang, which experts said may be a sign of the reclusive country’s frustration.

Lim Eul-Chul, professor at Kyungnam University’s Graduate School of North Korean Studies, stressed the role the South Korean government should play in order to break the impasse between the US and North Korea.

“Both the US and North Korea want to see progress, but they cannot make concessions anymore, given their domestic political schedules,” he said, referring to the US midterm elections in November and the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea in September. “So it appears to be difficult to advance their negotiations any further.”

“But I think their negotiations could gain speed to some extent if South Korea more actively serves to bridge the gap as a mediator,” he said.

With talks between the US and North Korea in a stalemate, South Korea — which helped broker talks between North Korea and the US — has stressed the need for President Moon Jae-in’s scheduled summit with Kim in Pyongyang next month.

“I believe that the role of the inter-Korean summit has become much greater in solving the problem and overcoming the hurdle as North Korea-US relations are in a deadlock,” presidential spokesperson Kim told reporters.

 



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

Brexit deal refusal to have limited impact on Korean economy

Seoul vows to speed up efforts for Korea-Britain bilateral trade deal, bracing for post-Brexit era. The British parliament’s latest rejection of the government’s proposed Brexit deal is likely to have a limited impact on global financial markets as well as the South Korean economy, Seoul’s government said Wednesday. Vowing pre-emptive steps to counter a possible fallout, Korean authorities will work on preparations for a bilateral free trade deal with Britain, as the latter will no longer be subject to the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement upon Brexit. “The vote to reject the Brexit deal was seen to have a limited impact on global financial ma


By The Korea Herald
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Beijing rebukes French, German ambassadors

Beijing says award for Chinese lawyer is politically motivated. Beijing on Wednesday slammed the French and German ambassadors to China after they granted a human rights award to a detained Chinese lawyer, saying their wrongdoing gravely violated China’s internal affairs. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that China has lodged stern representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction, as well as firm opposition, to the ambassadors’ action. The relevant case is purely judicial, which has nothing to do with human rights, the ministry said. The wrongdoings of Germany and France gravely interfered with China’s internal affairs and judicial sovereignty, the ministry said. China urges the ambassadors of relevant countries to do more to develop bilateral relations and enhance political mutual trust, not the opposite, it added. The lawyer, Yu Wensheng, was detained


By China Daily
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Singapore-Malaysia relations still ‘good’, says Malaysian Foreign Minister

Ties between Malaysia and Singapore are still “good” despite ongoing air and maritime disputes between the two countries. “Our relations with Singapore remain good. There are some issues but we are talking to each other, and that is very important,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Wednesday (Jan 16), “Most importantly, the discussions are going on. I am confident the discussions are moving in the right direction.” He said five senior government officials will meet with their Singaporean counterparts to discuss ongoing issues. Besides Mr Saifuddin, the others are Transport Minister Anthony Loke, Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Foreign Ministry secretary-general Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob. Both Singapore and Malaysia are currently locked in two separate disputes – over 


By The Straits Times
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy

China accuses Canada of double standard

Beijing slams Justin Trudeau’s criticism of drug smuggler’s death sentence. China on Tuesday expressed strong dissatisfaction at the Canadian prime minister’s criticism of a drug smuggler’s death sentence, urging the country to respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that drug crimes are recognized worldwide as serious crimes and are extremely harmful to the society. She said all countries severely crack down on the issue and so does China. Remarks made by a “relevant Canadian person” lack the spirit of rule by law, she said, urging the Canadian side to correct the mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian national convicted of smuggling over 222 kilograms of methamphetamines, was sentenced to death on Monday at


By China Daily
January 16, 2019

Diplomacy

South Korean defense paper doesn’t label north an enemy

Ministry also says the north has specialized battalion for assassination of key figures. The Defense Ministry does not directly refer to North Korea as an enemy and takes a less hostile tone toward the communist state in its 23rd white paper published Tuesday. The ministry’s latest biennial white paper — the first to be published since the Moon Jae-in administration came to power in 2017 — addresses security threats, military policies and the regional security environment. Perhaps most notably, the Defense Ministry eliminated the phrase specifically describing North Korea as South Korea’s “enemy,” a move that appears to reflect


By The Korea Herald
January 16, 2019

Diplomacy

Rohingya issue will not be solved easily

Bangladeshi foreign minister says the road to a solution will be long and paved with difficulty. The much-talked-about Rohingya issue will not be solved easily, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on Monday. “I have directed to conduct a study on the Rohingyas which will try to find out the impacts of Rohingyas on our country’s social, economic and security system,” said the minister while talking to the journalists at his office in Dhaka. Urging the international community to step forward for a logical solution to the crisis, he said, “The international community has also responsibilities to solve the crisis. If Rohingya crisis is continued, interest of everybody including India and China will be hampered.” India and Russia are much positive over the Rohingya issue right now, the minister informed. About the resistance from several countries including China over the issue, he s


By Daily Star
January 15, 2019