US-NORTH KOREA RELATIONS
After Hanoi, US Re-thinks “Sequencing” While North Korea Considers Suspending Talks
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 18 that the United States and North Korea are trying to get the “sequencing” right in their bilateral talks. In an interview with KCMO, a radio station in his home state of Kansas, he said, “I can’t say much about the details of the negotiation as those are important private conversations. But it’s clearly a range of issues around timing and sequencing and how it is we achieve this.”
Pompeo’s comments come days after North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui’s announcement that North Korea is considering suspending talks with the United States and may rethink a freeze on missile and nuclear tests. At a press conference in Pyongyang on March 15, Choe blamed top U.S. officials for the breakdown of last month’s Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi and said, “We have no intention to yield to the U.S. demands in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind.” Adding that Washington had thrown away a “golden opportunity” at the summit, she said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will make an announcement soon on his position on the talks with the United States and warned that he may rethink a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests. “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger,” she said. However, she aded, “Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good, and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.”
A 1.5 track—semi-governmental and semi-private—multilateral forum including North Korea, expected to take place in Germany, has been indefinitely suspended, according to the Yonhap News Agency in France. Universities based in Berlin and Hamburg had planned to invite 10 countries to the meeting including the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China, Russia, Germany, Great Britain, France and Mongolia. The German Foreign Ministry was reportedly involved in the project. The forum had to be called off at the last minute, however, as North Korea did not respond to requests for its participation.
Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, had told Fox Business Network following the Hanoi summit that the United States may consider ramping up sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang refuses to give up its “nuclear weapons program and everything associated with it.” He said, “If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear … they’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact.”
US State Department Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun also advocated a hardline approach toward the North and ruled out incremental denuclearization. At a press conference on March 7, he said, “Nobody in the administration advocates a step-by-step approach. In all cases, the expectation is a complete denuclearization of North Korea as a condition for all the other steps being – all the other steps being taken.”
Meanwhile, two U.S. senators reintroduced a bill to impose sanctions on any bank that does business with North Korea. Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democrat Chris Van Hollen introduced the “Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act” days after the Hanoi summit broke down.
South Korean Parliamentarians and Peace Advocates in DC call for Diplomacy and End to Korean War
A delegation of South Korean women parliamentarians and civil society leaders traveled to Washington DC on March 11-13 to meet with U.S. members of Congress about getting diplomacy back on track for peace on the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean Parliamentarians — Kwon Mi-hyuk, Lee Jae-jung, and Je Youn-kyung, all members of the Democratic Party of Korea — spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations and had robust discussions with members of Congress about the importance of inter-parliamentarian cooperation for peace in Korea. Among the members of Congress they met with are Rep. Barbara Lee, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Andy Kim, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.
The delegation was part of the official launch of the global campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to the End the War—co-founded by Women Cross DMZ, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the South Korean Women’s Movement for Peace.
Over sixty Korean American and peace activists also gathered in Washington DC on March 13-14 for the annual Korea Peace Network conference and advocacy day. Congressman Ro Khanna, who recently introduced House Resolution 152 “Calling for a formal end to the Korean War,” and South Korean National Assemblywoman Kwon Mi-hyuk spoke at the conference. Both stressed the importance of diplomacy and ending the Korean War. The activists met with over sixty House and Senate offices to advocate for: diplomacy with North Korea; support for House Resolution 152 ; and sanctions exemptions for humanitarian aid to North Korea.
CIA May Be Linked to Attack on North Korean Embassy in Madrid
Investigators from the Spanish police and National Intelligence Center (CNI) have linked an attack on the North Korean embassy in Madrid to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais. On February 22, 10 masked men carrying alleged imitation weapons broke into the embassy, located north of the capital in the residential area of Aravaca. They tied up the eight people inside and put bags on their heads, then beat and interrogated them. A woman managed to escape from a window on the second floor and screamed for help, prompting a neighbor to call the police. At least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy have been identified as having connections to the US intelligence agency, reports El Pais. The CIA has denied any involvement in the incident.
North and South Korea Pursue Unification through Sports
North and South Korea have told the International Olympic Committee they would like to march together at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and enter joint teams in women’s basketball, women’s hockey, the judo mixed team event and men’s and women’s rowing.
Japanese Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada told the Japanese parliament on March 13 that the government will review allowing North Korean athletes to take part in the games. His comments mark a change from last year when he said that solving the abduction issue should be a pre-requisite for the North’s athletes to take part.
The two Korea’s also expressed an interest in jointly bidding to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
US-South Korea Continue Annual War games under Changed Name
South Korea and the United States have renamed their annual Key Resolve Foal Eagle exercises, according to the Yonhap News Agency. The Key Resolve command post exercise, renamed the “19-1 Exercise,” kicked off its two-week schedule on March 4. The name of the Foal Eagle field training exercise, which usually occurs between March and April, will no longer be used, but battalion-level portions of the exercise are expected to proceed as they have in the past.
Chemical and Biological Laboratory Discovered at Camp Humphreys
A chemical and biological laboratory is in full operation at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, the world’s largest U.S. military base, according to South Korean media. The discovery of the laboratory comes despite years of protests in South Korea denouncing the US military’s JUPITR program, a biological and chemical defense program, as a threat to public safety. In 2015, the US military had accidentally sent live anthrax samples through FedEx to a base in South Korea, exposing 22 personnel to the deadly bacteria.
South Korea Spent $4.8 billion in 2015 for US troops in Korea
South Korea spent more than 5.4563 trillion won (4.8 billion USD) to support U.S. troops stationed in Korea in 2015, according to the Korea Central Daily. The combined cost of direct and indirect support for US Forces in Korea amounts to 15 percent of South Korea’s defense budget and, the Korea Central Daily noted, is greater than Japan’s contribution for US forces stationed in Japan.
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