North Korea's explosive, "peace-loving" gesture of dismantling its nuclear site

Henrietta Strickland
May 25, 2018

Edward J. Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, referring to national security adviser John Bolton and other officials saying Libya would be used as a denuclearization model in the talks - language that angered North Korean officials.

Last week, the White House sent its deputy chief of staff and his advance team to the city state, the official said. "I know the president is (optimistic) as well", he said. The message came after a key aide to Kim hit out at comments from Vice President Mike Pence, saying they were "ignorant and stupid" and warning the talks could be cancelled.

North Korea on Thursday "completely dismantled" its Punggye-ri nuclear test ground to "ensure the transparency of discontinuance of nuclear tests", after blowing up tunnels at the site, it said.

"But that promise was broken", the official said. Journalists are not nuclear experts. (News1/Pool via Reuters) A tunnel of Punggye-ri is seen before it is blown up. They and the other journalists who flew into the country were all photographers or television crews. CNN reported that there was no equipment in the huts that were destroyed, "anything that was previously there had been removed".

Just a month ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was smiling with pride as he grasped the hands of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, a young and brash leader with a nuclear arsenal, as they announced aspirations for a nuclear-free peninsula and permanent peace.

"After all, those of us living on the Korean peninsula suffer the consequences of your action, you Yankee!", Kim said.

But on Friday, Mr Trump was asked whether the talks could still go ahead and said that negotiations with North Korea were already under way.

The meeting - scheduled for June 12 in Singapore - would have been the first between a North Korean leader and a sitting USA president.

For decades, North Korea has been pushing a concept of "denuclearization" that bears no resemblance to the American definition, vowing to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its troops from South Korea and the American "nuclear umbrella" defending South Korea and Japan.

The North Koreans also questioned the level of interest, but on the side of the White House. "Is it your opinion that this decision by Kim Jong-un is a result of a weak leader who lacks the internal support to go forward with a meeting on denuclearisation?"

Meanwhile, commenting on what lies ahead, Dr Sojin Lim, a senior lecturer in Korean studies told The Independent that "It will now be up to South Korea to try to bring the two countries back into some sort of dialogue - however, North Korea's burgeoning relationship with China means that it is now far less dependent on the USA, so it will be even more hard to re-establish negotiations between the two countries".

Cheshire said Mr Kim was reportedly "unruffled" and the North Koreans had responded to Mr Trump's move with "equanimity". "Or was this just poor negotiating strategies by Kim Jong-un?" More so because he would then have to return to Pyongyang to hardline loyalists who would resist true efforts to pull back on their long-held nuclear ambitions.

"I'm not so distressed since I thought something may happen again [because it's North Korea]", she said. "The North Koreans were likely hoping for a "step by step" approach, because this is how they have been able to delay implementation of past accords while still drawing benefits from the United States and its allies".

Trump, in scrapping the June 12 summit in Singapore, sounded a bellicose note, warning Kim of the United States' greater nuclear might, reminiscent of the president's tweet previous year asserting that he had a "much bigger" nuclear button than Kim.

"Kim and his cohorts have now had to regroup", Bechtol said. "Our president should be commended for insisting that North Korea has benefits available to it and concessions that the U.S. can make, but none of it starts until North Korea transparently dismantles its nuclear weapons program".

Both sides have left the door open to talks and the possibility of rescheduling the summit, but at the same time, hostilities remain. Pompeo told lawmakers on Thursday that the "pressure campaign continues" and signaled that more sanctions would be put in place.

"We would like to do it", Trump said of the summit, and "they very much would like to do it".

"There will have to be a deal to get us to that point. Would it get worse?"

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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