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This week, from Monday, August 20 through Sunday, August 26, 2018, Korean families separated by war and totalitarianism have been able to reunite for the first time since the 1950s.

Stars and Stripes have republished an Associated Press article describing the emotional, tear-filled, yet happy, reunions between ageing relatives who wondered if their kinsmen were still alive.

For some older South Koreans crossing the northern border, this was the last opportunity to find out. An excerpt follows from ‘Brief Korean reunions bring tears for separated families’. Emphases mine below:

The 92-year-old South Korean woman wept and stroked the wrinkled cheeks of her 71-year-old North Korean son on Monday, their first meeting since they were driven apart during the turmoil of the 1950-53 Korean War.

“How many children do you have? Do you have a son?” Lee Keum-seom asked her son Ri Sang Chol during their long-awaited encounter at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort.

The emotional reunion came after dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea to meet with their relatives. The weeklong event, the first of its kind in nearly three years, was arranged as the rival Koreas boost reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve a standoff over North Korea’s drive for a nuclear weapons program.

Hugging the woman he’d last seen as a child, Ri showed his mother a photo of her late husband, who had stayed behind in the North with him as a boy.

Most of the participants in the reunions are in their 70s or older and are eager to see their loved ones once more before they die. Most have had no word on whether their relatives are still alive because they are not allowed to visit each other across the border or even exchange letters, phone calls or email.

The visits are comprised of two rounds. One group reunited between Monday and Wednesday. The second set of reunions will take place between Friday and Sunday.

Noon in Korea has marvellous tweets showing the importance of these meetings:

There have been 20 reunion sessions since 2000, comprising 20,000 people. Another 3,700 have been able to exchange video messages with relatives. However:

None of them has had a second chance to see or talk with their relatives.

The South Korean government has been trying to persuade North Korea to grant more reunions. Analysts believe that North Korea is reluctant to do so because their people might get too much of an idea about a world of freedom and prosperity.

It is interesting that South Korea holds a lottery to determine reunion participants. The North, on the other hand, determines participants on the basis of their loyalty to the North Korean government.

That says it all.

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On August 1, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence presided over the  Honorable Carry Ceremony for 55 returned remains of US soldiers from the Korean War.

On Tuesday, August 14, President Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, explained what will happen next.

What follows are excerpts from that day’s press briefing. Emphases mine below.

MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. The images from the Honorable Carry Ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor this month made us all proud to be Americans.

President Trump is committed to getting the almost 8,000 left behind from the Korean War home, and bringing closure to the families who have been waiting for more than 60 years. The process of identifying and verifying the remains is challenging but one that this administration is committed to.

Overseeing this process is Kelly McKeague, the Director of the Defense for POW and MIA Accounting Agency. Leading DOD’s worldwide operation of research, investigation, recovery, and identification, and supporting functions, Director McKeague strives to provide the fullest possible accounting of our missing personnel.

The Director, along with his colleagues, Dr. John Byrd, the Defense POW and MIA Accounting Agency Laboratory Director, and Dr. Timothy McMahon, Director of DOD DNA Operations, have joined us today to offer remarks and take your questions on this topic …

Kelly McKeague then spoke. He noted that the 55 cases returned do not 55 soldiers’ corpses but rather a collection of remains, which might or might not be human (e.g. personal effects):

MR. MCKEAGUE: Thank you, Sarah. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

The August 1st repatriation and homecoming in Hawaii of the remains of the Korean War unaccounted for was a poignant manifestation of the commitments secured by President Trump and pledged by Chairman Kim at the Singapore Summit.

For the families of the 7,700 still unaccounted for from the Korean War, this first step in fulfilling this commitment has undoubtedly provided a seed of hope.

Last week, over 700 of these family members gathered in Arlington, Virginia to receive government updates, and they were resoundingly appreciative of the successful advocacy of the President and his administration.

Two of those family members who attended, Charles and Larry McDaniel, were the recipients of the dog tag their father, Master Sgt. Charles McDaniel, of Indiana. It was the sole personal effect returned by the North Koreans.

The remains of those 55 cases are well into the painstaking multi-faceted analyses by Dr. John Byrd and his forensic science team in Hawaii. And in the coming weeks, Dr. Tim McMahon and his dedicated DNA specialists in Delaware will begin their meticulous testing.

The met[tle] of our scientists and the capabilities of our labs will be challenged. But in the months and years ahead, they will make identifications from these remains and give families long-sought answers.

We are guardedly optimistic the 1 August repatriation is the first tangible action of others with which we will be able to account for more of our missing from the Korean War.

The second aspect of the Korean — of the Singapore commitment was the recovery of remains in North Korea, which DPRK officials reaffirmed last month. We are in the midst of exploring next steps as well as discussions with the Korean People’s Army for the express purpose of resuming joint field operations and having additional repatriations.

But our mission to search for, find, and account for missing Department of Defense personnel from World War II through Operation Iraqi Freedom is one not limited to the Korean Peninsula.

Today, 186 personnel from DPA and private partners are deployed in seven nations. And yesterday, 50 of those members returned from Laos and the Philippines.

Our global mission is humanitarian in every respect, because the impact of a missing American to their family is not constrained by time or generations. And it leaves an enduring pain and void. This is why former enemies, like Vietnam, used cooperation on the POW/MIA mission as a bridge to normalization in today’s thriving bilateral relationship with the United States.

The fact that the United States of America vigorously pursues the fullest-possible accounting of our missing reflects our values as a nation.

The sacred obligation, if not moral imperative, remains a high priority for the Department of Defense. Inherent to the exceptional teamwork, resources, and resoluteness provided by multiple agencies is a solemn vow that those were sent off in harm’s way and are missing will not be forgotten. And their families will receive answers to their decades of uncertainty.

John Byrd, in responding to Major Garrett of CBS News, further confirmed that the 55 boxes contain the partial remains of more than 55 soldiers. He also explained the forthcoming painstaking forensic analysis:

DR. BYRD: … what our lab specializes in is making identifications in circumstances where you have very little to work with. And so I’m confident that we’re going to do well with the remains in these 55 boxes over the coming months and maybe the next several years.

When you look at what’s at stake, we’re going to be doing a lot of DNA sampling. And that’s what Dr. McMahon’s lab does, is they process the samples and then they go into a mass database where they can be compared to all of the other samples that we’ve generated from remains from North Korea, and also compared to the family members.

And so it takes some time to get the samples processed through the lab at AFMES; it takes some time to get them into the mass comparison. But once they’re in there, we’ll start looking for the quick identifications that can be made where you have compelling matches that show themselves early on.

We also look for comparisons to dental records that can be distinctive. We look for individuals that are unusual, in the sense of being very tall, very short, very old. Anything that distinguishes somebody, we can usually get a good clue and identify them faster.

But because of the preservation of the remains, that will just sort of guide the kinds of methods that we can bring to bear on the case. And the case will be very DNA — or very DNA-intensive in terms of the way that we’re going to go about this.

Q And did the number of 55, is that — what does that number represent

DR. BYRD: It’s the number of boxes.

Q Is that 55 individuals?

DR. BYRD: No. It’s the number of boxes that the remains came in. And at no time did we expect there to be one body, one box. Nor did the North Koreans try to pitch it that way to us when we were in Wonsan.

The question arose whether the remains of soldiers of other nationalities were included in the 55 boxes. It is highly possible that not all of these remains are 100% American:

MR. MCKEAGUE: We have a high confidence. So in the early ‘90s, for five years, the North Koreans would repatriate, unilaterally, remains that they had recovered. Out of those 208 boxes over those five years, we estimated, after DNA sampling, 400 individuals.

Now, from that, 200 were Americans. So the likelihood is — you’re correct, there may be some of U.N.-sending forces, there may be some South Korean soldiers — remains, as well as Chinese and North Korean.

What our laboratories — both DNA and the forensic laboratory have the technology and the capabilities by which to differentiate those remains over the course of the next several years.

McKeague explained to another reporter that the US halted the joint search for remains in 2005 (under Bush II), because of the increased nuclear threat from North Korea. He also emphasised that the searches and returns requiring co-operation from both countries:

MR. MCKEAGUE: So for 10 years, we operated between 1996 and 2005, over time conducting 33 joint activities with the North Koreans. Security is primarily our responsibility for our personnel. We also pay attention to communications — having communications abilities as well as having an ability to medevac our personnel should they get hurt.

What we would be looking for from the North Koreans is, again, a commitment from them that communications, medical evacuation requirements can be met, and more importantly, that we can conduct these joint operations in a collaborative way, as we had done for 10 years.

It all comes down, back into 2005, to their behavior on the international stage. The President, rightfully so, was concerned that their nuclear activities, their missile activities, were countermanding and counterproductive to our joint operations, which is why we suspended —

In his talks with the North Koreans, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been working to resume the searches, which are considered to be a humanitarian mission:

MR. MCKEAGUE: … So, Secretary Pompeo, in getting a reaffirmation from the North Koreans last month, affirmed that they do want to establish communications with us and to conduct joint operations. We have not started those negotiations. We will do so. It is on a separate track.

However, as you well pointed out, it could be drawn into the greater geopolitical stream. But for now, we’re treating it as a military-to-military contact, but more importantly, as a humanitarian endeavor that’s separate and distinct from anything else.

And, by the way, the 45 countries that we work with all rightfully recognize this as a humanitarian endeavor, including countries like Russia and China, where we have tremendous cooperation with them.

A reporter asked whether the search for the remaining missing in Vietnam was closed:

MR. MCKEAGUE: It has. So, right now, there are close to 1,700 — 1,600 that remain missing and unaccounted for. Within that set of unaccounted for is what we call “last known alive.” It’s a small subset of individuals who, for whatever reason, were seen alive at a certain point during the war and will remain unaccounted for.

Our priority with the Vietnamese is to get at that subset — small subset. I think it’s down to 25 — not necessarily prisoners of war, but again, last known alive at the time that they were seen.

Another reporter asked whether animal remains had been inadvertently included in the 55 boxes or whether everything pertained to humans:

DR. BYRD: Yes, we did a cursory inspection of the remains in Wonsan before we loaded them onto our military aircraft just to ensure that at least some of what was in each box was human. When we got to Osan, in South Korea, we spent two days going through every box in detail, conducting what we call a field forensic review. The purpose of that review is to ensure that every item is consistent with being human. And if there were any animal remains, we would have pulled them at that point. As it was, we did not find any animal remains.

No one knows at this point the number of soldiers whose remains could be in the 55 boxes. It will take some time to find out:

DR. BYRD: … You know, there is a scientific process to estimate that. And I wish it were very fast, because I think a lot of people would really like to know. The families would love to know that information. But unfortunately, it’s going to take months of analysis to start to get a refined estimate.

Although there is no future timetable at present, it is hoped that the searches will continue now in light of the successful Singapore Summit in June:

DR. BYRD: Okay, so the first question, as Mr. McKeague mentioned, we’re in the process of planning next steps. So we can’t say we have any timeline today for bringing back more remains. We’re hopeful that we will be in the not-too-distant future.

I will say, though, in terms of having worked there — I worked there in the past, during the 1996 to 2000 — five years. I spent a lot of time in the field there. And then I went into Wonsan with our team on July 27th, and there was a very different feel to it this time. It was a much more friendly, welcoming, and collegial approach this time compared to the way it used to be.

I hope that the explanations from the White House press briefing go some way to answering various questions about the remains of soldiers from the Korean War.

I also hope to post the next instalment of Forbidden Bible Verses tomorrow.

My past two posts have been about the US, North Korea and China.

The first post discussed developments that immediately followed the US-North Korea Singapore Summit held on Monday, June 12, 2018.

Yesterday’s concerned Mike Pompeo’s meetings in North Korea and Japan early in July as well as the trade war between the US and China.

Today’s entry looks at events from the past month.

On July 19, news emerged that China was nearly doubling the amounts of crude oil they were sending to North Korea, possibly jeopardising UN sanctions. From OilPrice.com via South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper (emphases mine):

The surge in Chinese shipments to North Korea is raising additional concerns that China could undermine the international sanctions against Kim’s regime.

Pipeline volumes of between 30,000 tons to 40,000 tons are enough in the summer to keep the pipeline from China to North Korea unclogged, while this volume is around 80,000 tons in the winter, Chosun Ilbo’s source said. Although it’s summer, China has recently increased the oil flow to the winter levels, the source told the South Korean outlet …

If China sends 80,000 tons of oil to North Korea every month, this volume already brings the amount to 960,000 tons a year—above the 525,000 tons limit for a 12-month period in the sanctions, Chosun Ilbo argues.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley met with the UN Security Council the next day. The crude oil shipments were one of Pompeo’s first topics. He reminded the UN of the collective responsibility member nations have in enforcing sanctions. From the State Department transcript:

Right now, North Korea is illegally smuggling petroleum products into the country at a level that far exceeds the quotas established by the United Nations. These illegal ship-to-ship transfers are the most prominent means by which this is happening.

These transfers happened at least 89 times in the first five months of this year and they continue to occur. The United States reminds every UN member-state of its responsibility to stop illegal ship-to-ship transfers, and we urge them to step up their enforcement efforts as well.

We must also crack down on other forms of sanctions evasion, including the smuggling of coal by sea, smuggling by overland borders, and the presence of North Korean guest workers in certain countries. North Korean cyber thefts and other criminal activities are also generating significant revenues for the regime, and they must be stopped.

President Trump remains upbeat about the prospects of denuclearization of North Korea. So do I, as progress is happening. It is the Trump administration’s hope that one day the DPRK could be in our midst here at the United Nations – not as a pariah, but as a friend. Imagine UN Security Council meetings in which the DPRK nuclear and missile programs were not the agenda time and time again. We’ll be able to focus our energy on so many urgent problems that face our world.

I believe this reality is possible, and so does President Trump. But it will take full enforcement of sanctions for us to get there. It will also take Chairman Kim following through on his personal commitments that he made to President Trump in Singapore. The path ahead is not easy; it will take time. But our hopes for a safer world for all of us and a brighter future for North Korea remains our objective, and that hope endures.

That day, President Trump signed into law House Resolution (HR) 2061, the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorisation Act of 2017:

At the end of the month, things began happening in North Korea, not all of which made sense.

On July 23, North Korea began dismantling key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station:

However, on July 25, Mike Pompeo said the country was still producing fuel for nuclear bombs:

Asked at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing whether North Korea was still making bomb fuel, Pompeo responded to Democratic Senator Ed Markey by saying: “Yes, that’s correct … Yes, they continue to produce fissile material.”

Pompeo declined to respond when asked whether North Korea was continuing to pursue submarine-launched ballistic missiles or whether its nuclear program was advancing generally.

He said he would be happy to answer the latter question if necessary in a classified setting, but suggested public statements on the issue would not help “a complex negotiation with a difficult adversary.”

The following day, a new North Korean military chief of staff was appointed:

On July 27, as North Korea pledged, remains of US soldiers from the Korean War landed in Hawaii. US Air Force veteran flying ace Chuck Yeager tweeted a tribute:

On August 1, Vice President Mike Pence presided over a ceremony and reception of the fallen soldiers’ remains in Hawaii, their return being part of the Singapore Summit agreement.

Meanwhile, interesting discussions took place between South Korea and China regarding the Korean War Armistice. Noon in Korea has an excellent Twitter thread from July 31, excerpted below:

Excellent news! The Korean War could finally come to an end!

Meanwhile, back in China — North Korea’s controller — an article on American Thinker excerpted another from the Financial Times, which says the Chinese think that President Trump is ‘a genius’. On July 29, American Thinker‘s Monica Showalter wrote:

Has anyone ever called the Chinese ‘stupid’? Not those guys.

So now they’re reading President Trump, and unlike the childish Eurotrash of western Europe, they see a shrewd, wily, chess-playing, Sun Tzu-grade genius, who could easily checkmate them, and they’ve got a lot of reasons for thinking so.

That’s the report from a European policy-domo, who actually went to Beijing and asked the local leaders what they were seeing.

Instapundit also has excerpts from the FT article, written by the European Council of Foreign Relations President Mark Leonard:

I have just spent a week in Beijing talking to officials and intellectuals, many of whom are awed by his skill as a strategist and tactician. . . .

Few Chinese think that Mr Trump’s primary concern is to rebalance the bilateral trade deficit. If it were, they say, he would have aligned with the EU, Japan and Canada against China rather than scooping up America’s allies in his tariff dragnet. They think the US president’s goal is nothing less than remaking the global order

In Chinese eyes, Mr Trump’s response is a form of “creative destruction”. He is systematically destroying the existing institutions — from the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement to Nato and the Iran nuclear deal — as a first step towards renegotiating the world order on terms more favourable to Washington.

Once the order is destroyed, the Chinese elite believes, Mr Trump will move to stage two: renegotiating America’s relationship with other powers. Because the US is still the most powerful country in the world, it will be able to negotiate with other countries from a position of strength if it deals with them one at a time rather than through multilateral institutions that empower the weak at the expense of the strong.

My interlocutors say that Mr Trump is the US first president for more than 40 years to bash China on three fronts simultaneously: trade, military and ideology. They describe him as a master tactician, focusing on one issue at a time, and extracting as many concessions as he can. They speak of the skilful way Mr Trump has treated President Xi Jinping. “Look at how he handled North Korea,” one says. “He got Xi Jinping to agree to UN sanctions [half a dozen] times, creating an economic stranglehold on the country. China almost turned North Korea into a sworn enemy of the country.” But they also see him as a strategist, willing to declare a truce in each area when there are no more concessions to be had, and then start again with a new front.

Why don’t Westerners view Trump the same way the Chinese do?

Nevertheless, China isn’t going to go down without a fight.

On August 4, Trump posted a series of tweets about the success his tariffs on Chinese goods. This was the first:

The Conservative Treehouse correctly predicted what lay ahead:

Do not be surprised if North Korea launches another provocative missile test soon. Watch China, not N.Korea. It’s Chairman Xi’s people in the DPRK who are taking action. Kim Jong-Un is an expendable proxy regime. The war is the U.S. -vs- China trade and economic confrontation. North Korea is the Potemkin backdrop for the Beijing puppeteer.

The following day, Reuters reported:

China’s state media on Monday lashed out at the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump in an usually direct attack, accusing him of “starring in his own carefully orchestrated street fighter-style deceitful drama”.

Trump’s wish for others to play along with his drama is “wishful thinking,” the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

The editorial said the United States had escalated trade friction with China, and turned international trade into “zero-sum game”.

“Governing a country is not like doing business,” the editorial said, arguing that Trump’s actions imperiled the national credibility of the United States.

The Conservative Treehouse explained what was going on:

Each time China takes aggressive action (red dragon) China projects a panda face through silence and non-response to opinion of that action;…. and the action continues. The red dragon has a tendency to say one necessary thing publicly, while manipulating another necessary thing privately.  The Art of War.

President Trump is the first U.S. President to understand how the red dragon hides behind the panda mask

It is specifically because Trump understands Panda is a mask that President Trump messages warmth toward the Chinese people, and pours vociferous praise upon Xi Jinping, while simultaneously confronting the geopolitical doctrine of the Xi regime.

In essence Trump is mirroring the behavior of China while confronting their economic duplicity.

On August 6, ZeroHedge confirmed Trump’s strategy in an article about the continuing decline of China’s currency, the renminbi: ‘China Is Now Left With Just Three Options, And They Are All Equally Bad’ (emphases in the original):

  1. intervene in currency markets to offset market pressures risking a new wave of reserve depletion;
  2. raise interest rates to defend the currency causing monetary tightening and risking economic weakness; or
  3. let the currency depreciate beyond the above critical levels along with market pressures risking capital outflows and a more abrupt move

It goes without saying that all three choices have severely adverse consequences for the market and the global economy, and yet Donald Trump would be delighted with any of the three. After all, recall what One River CIO Eric Peters … laid out what may be the best long-term foreign policy recommendation for Trump, or any other administration: crash China…

Engineering a decade of rolling Chinese financial crises would be the most effective foreign policy the US could run.” Forget about the South China Sea, don’t bother with more aircraft carriers, just let Beijing try to cope with their financial system.

“And we’re 80% of the way there – we instigated a trade war, implemented a massive fiscal stimulus, which created the room to raise interest rates. The combined policy mix makes capital want to leave at the same time it makes the dollar more attractive and effectively shuts down new investment inflows to China.”

On August 7, ZeroHedge discussed the aforementioned dismantling of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and disparaged the lack of Big Media coverage on it, especially as the dismantling goes beyond what the US and North Korea negotiated:

activity at the launch pad appears to go beyond that commitment.

ZeroHedge said:

As we previously noted, these stories of supposed North Korean betrayal by NBC, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal are egregious cases of distorting news by pushing a predetermined policy line. But those news outlets, far from being outliers, are merely reflecting the norms of the entire corporate news system

As we concluded previously, a media complex so determined to discredit negotiations with North Korea and so unfettered by political-diplomatic reality seriously threatens the ability of the United States to deliver on any agreement with Pyongyang. That means alternative media must make more aggressive efforts to challenge the corporate press’s coverage... and today’s news seems positive (but we will see what spin it gets).

Last weekend, North Korea and the United States held working meetings in Panmunjom. Mike Pompeo was not there, although it is now thought he could be making another trip to North Korea.

On Monday, August 13, representatives from North and South Korea met in the city. It is now thought that a summit between the two countries could be held in September.

On August 15, Yonhap News Agency reported that South Korea’s:

President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday used his Liberation Day address to pitch his Korea peace drive, calling for railway, energy and economic cooperation with the North as a cornerstone for Northeast Asian peace and prosperity.

Speaking at a ceremony marking Korea’s independence from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule 73 years ago on the day, he renewed his commitment to end the division of the Koreas, saying “true liberation” can only be achieved when the two countries establish a lasting peace and economic community.

On August 16, CNBC reported that a fresh round of trade talks between the US and China could take place later in August. This was good news for the Dow Jones.

Coming next week:

These families have been separated for over 60 years.

All of these news stories lead to a conclusion best voiced by entrepreneur and media host, Jon Taffer:

I couldn’t agree more, Jon! This is an exciting, positive time in world history! What’s not to like?

Yesterday’s post discussed developments that immediately followed the US-North Korea Singapore Summit held on Monday, June 12, 2018.

Much went on with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to South-east Asia and the US-Chinese trade war early in July.

Keep in mind this explanatory graphic about the relationship between North Korea and China from The Conservative Treehouse:

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/us-vs-china-7-e1502656780990.jpg?w=465&h=650

On July 7, the US state department’s impression of the two nations’ talks was different to that of North Korea, according to an unnamed North Korean official who called them ‘regrettable’. Townhall reported:

Just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that his talks during the past two days with the North Korean government were “productive” and beneficial regarding “central issues,” the communist nation’s Foreign Ministry categorically disagreed, calling the meetings in Pyongyang “regrettable.”

The Associated Press reports that an “unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman” claims that the United States “betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by making unilateral demands” regarding denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. 

The North Koreans issued a lengthy official statement along those lines, which ended with this:

If the objective situation does not stand in favor of the denuclearization against our wills, this would rather cast a heavy cloud over the atmosphere of developing bilateral relations which had shown its good movement in its beginning.

Should the headwind begin to blow, it would cause a great disappointment not only to the international society aspiring after global peace and security but also to both the DPRK and the U.S. If so, this will finally make each side seek for another choice and there is no guarantee that this will not result into yet another tragedy.

We still cherish our good faith in President Trump.

The U.S. should make a serious consideration of whether the toleration of the headwind against the wills of the two top leaders would meet the aspirations and expectations of the world people as well as the interests of its country.

The Conservative Treehouse pointed out (emphases mine):

Keep in mind that Secretary Pompeo was not permitted to meet with Kim Jong-un.  If our ongoing thesis is accurate it is likely Red Dragon (Chairman Xi) is positioning the DPRK for maximum trade and economic leverage.  It would be against Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping’s interests for Pompeo and Kim Jong-un to have a public display of agreement.

Until there is an empirical or factual reason to counter what seems like an obvious geopolitical strategy, we should consider all events through the prism that the primary leadership within the DPRK, the officials controlling Kim, are under the control of China.

The trade confrontation is China’s biggest geopolitical risk.  The primary weapon China holds toward demanding terms from the U.S. would be their ability to change the dynamic in North Korea at any given moment.  From this frame-of-reference things begin to make more sense.

On the surface it appears the U.S. is negotiating terms for a denuclearized North Korea; however, under the surface the bigger issue is the ongoing economic confrontation between the U.S. and China.   The DPRK is Red Dragon leverage.

That day, Mike Pompeo had left North Korea for Japan:

He also met with foreign ministers Kong and Kang, from China and South Korea, respectively:

The US-China trade war also attracted attention.

US tariffs on Chinese goods went into effect on July 6. To mask what was really going on in their economy, the Chinese maintained that Americans did not support this policy:

In fact, the truth is that most Americans want tariffs on foreign goods:

The Rasmussen survey of March 12 says:

89% of American Adults believe it is at least somewhat important for the United States to have a major manufacturing and industrial base, including 63% who believe it is Very Important. Only eight percent (8%) say it is not very or Not At All Important to keep a manufacturing base at home. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

On July 6, White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro appeared on Fox Business to explain the American view of trade with regard to China. As The Conservative Treehouse explained:

Almost all of the financial media and economic punditry are intentionally obfuscating the underlying nature of China’s economic model.

China is a communist central government controlled economic system. Free-market principles do not apply when dealing with China; therefore trade strategies based on ‘free markets’ cannot succeed against the centralized planning of a communist regime.

Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, active on university campuses, put it bluntly:

On July 8, Mike Pompeo met with Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Kang Kyung-wha, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea in Tokyo. The full State Department transcript of their press conference is here. Interestingly, some of the media correspondents there asked about the ‘abductions’ by the North Koreans of the Japanese (emphases in the original, video here):

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: (Via interpreter) …

Now on the question of abduction, from Secretary Pompeo this time around the issue was raised, and I’d like to thank him for raising the issue at the meeting. Regarding the reaction from North Korea, I will refrain from making any comment.

As far as Japan is concerned, the U.S. and North Korean negotiations should advance furthermore, and we’d like to work in tandem with the international community so that Security Council resolution-based sanction can be solidly implemented regarding North Korea.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: … On the abduction issue, yes, my president has also raised this in two rounds of discussions with Chairman Kim, and we urge them to engage in bilateral discussions with Japan on this issue. After all, it’s a bilateral issue. We also have a couple of our nationals detained in North Korea, so it’s an issue that concerns us as well. 

SECRETARY POMPEO: … I did raise the issue of the abduction of Japanese. I’ve done it at each conversation I’ve had with my North Korean counterparts, whether it was on my first two trips with Chairman Kim or on this trip with Kim Yong-chul. I’ve raised it repeatedly. I won’t go into any of the details about particular parts of that element of our discussion. Know that it is important to the United States; it’s part of our discussions each and every time we interact with our North Korean counterparts. 

Pompeo and US officials also met privately with Kono and his delegation:

On July 9, the South China Morning Post reported that China responded to the imposition of tariffs by the United States with tariffs on American goods going into the country. The main thrust of the article, however, was that the Chinese government thought it would be a good idea to go easy on Trump (emphases mine):

After answering Washington’s 25 per cent levy on US$34 billion of Chinese goods with equivalent tariffs on US products, Beijing has directed state media to watch how they report on US President Donald Trump, mainland media sources said.

“It’s been said that we should not use aggressive language for Trump,” said one of two sources who declined to be named because internal directions often are regarded as confidential information.

Even though Chinese officials and state media have attacked the trade policies of the Trump administration, so far they have not laid blame on the US president or his officials – a move seen as an attempt to avoid antagonising Trump and further complicating negotiations.

While the Beijing directive may not have been issued across the board – two other state media sources said they were not instructed how to write about Trump with regards to trade – it mirrored one of the guidelines on an official propaganda instruction widely circulated on social media.

The edict called on media outlets not to make vulgar attacks on Trump to avoid “making this a war of insults”.

Breitbart had more. One way the Chinese are able to criticise Trump is by quoting Westerners:

Reuters’ sources also said they were “instructed not to mention the impact of the trade war on Chinese companies” because they don’t want to give the impression pressure against China might be working

China might need to restrict the market access of American companies. But to purge American companies that are already operating in China might be a very bad idea. Those companies generate jobs and revenue for China. Most Apple products are made in China. To do something to harm American firms that are already operating in China would be very stupid,” ventured trade expert Wang Jiangyu of the National University of Singapore.

The Communist Party People’s Daily provided an interesting example of the tightrope walked by Chinese media on Wednesday, publishing an article that attacked Trump for accusing China of sabotaging talks with North Korea but using a few Westerners plucked from Twitter at random to do it, rather than editorializing against Trump directly or quoting Chinese social media users.

That day, the tension surrounding Pompeo’s meetings with North Korea was still in play. Trump tweeted:

CNBC reported that, after leaving south-east Asia, Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he told the media:

We still have a long ways to go. But that commitment that the North Koreans made, frankly that Chairman Kim personally made to President Trump, remains as when reinforced,” he said.

Pompeo also stressed that North Korea’s remarks were “mixed,” and represented an expression of Kim’s continuing “desire to complete the denuclearization to which he is so committed.”

Meanwhile, the North Koreans were still committed to strengthening ties with their fellow travellers:

On July 12, Trump received a gracious letter from Kim Jong Un …

… which Big Media ignored:

On July 15, the US and North Korea held meetings to discuss the return of American soldiers’ remains, the first since 2009:

Korean media reported:

The North Koreans agreed to transfer the remains already in their possession to the United States on:

July 27, which is the 65th anniv of the Armistice Agreement

This was another result:

The Premium Times said that the head of the North Korean government occasionally grants amnesty. The last time was in 2015. This year’s is part of marking North Korea’s 70th anniversary:

The Communist Leadership in Pyongyang would grant amnesty to those convicted of crimes against the state in light of North Korea’s 70th anniversary, the state-run KCNA reported on Monday …

Similar to other instances in which amnesty has been granted, it remained unclear exactly which groups the announcement applied to and how many prisoners would be affected.

The following day, the Trump – Putin Helsinki Summit of July 16 included discussions about North Korea and China.

Two days later:

Trump tweeted:

He enjoys solving problems:

His 2020 campaign manager made an excellent point:

Tomorrow’s post will cover the most recent developments between the United States, North Korea and China.

Two months ago, after writing about the Singapore Summit of Monday, June 12, 2018, I said I would analyse it the following week, largely because the media will not focus on this historic event:

Other meetings have taken place since then, and it seemed apposite to wait a while to see how things were progressing between the United States and North Korea as well as China.

Most recently, on August 1, Vice President Mike Pence presided over a ceremony and reception of fallen soldiers’ remains in Hawaii, part of the Summit agreement.

Going back to the Summit, it was reported that President Trump showed a special video about the United States to President Kim Jong Un and his negotiators:

The following day, North Korea’s state-run news bureau reported that Kim accepted Trump’s invitation to visit Washington for denuclearisation talks. This was hailed as a ‘radical switchover’ in relations between the two nations.

On June 13, Trump tweeted:

It wasn’t just Fake News. The cancer had spread earlier in the month to other television programmes, such as this one:

In an interview that day, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived White House communications director from 2017, focussed on trade:

Despite the positive developments …

… on June 21, Trump renewed the ‘national emergency’ declaration regarding North Korea for another year. BT.com reported:

In an executive order on Friday, the president extended for one year the so-called “national emergency” with respect to the nuclear-armed nation, authorising economic restrictions against it …

It states that “the existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material” and the actions and policies of the North Korean government “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”.

The national emergency has been in place since 2008 …

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said on Friday evening that it has “indefinitely suspended” a major military exercise with South Korea, known as Freedom Guard and scheduled for August, as well as two Korean Marine exchange training exercises.

Officials had announced on Monday that planning for Freedom Guard had been suspended in line with Mr Trump’s decision to halt what he called US “war games” in South Korea.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana W White, said further decisions about military exercises in South Korea “in support of diplomatic negotiations” led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will depend on North Korea “continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith”.

Air Force veteran Lisa Mei Crowley noted that change was in the air:

Fox News and The Daily Caller also reported on this welcome development, which the US secretary of state acknowledged:

Not surprisingly, ‘tensions’ were rising in China — North Korea’s controller — and defence secretary James Mattis visited the country, with subsequent stops in Japan and South Korea:

Meanwhile, the two Koreas had tensions of their own over human rights legislation.

The White House issued a strong statement about China and tariffs, which reads in part:

To stop China’s predatory attacks on America’s innovation base, President Trump is instituting a program of tariffs and is considering investment restrictions and strengthened export controls. These tariffs will help pressure the Chinese to stop engaging in unfair practices and fully open up its markets to U.S. products, including U.S. technologies. The correct response from China would be to stop stealing from Americans and give American products a level playing field to compete in China, not to retaliate and reinforce its own position.

Bloomberg asked how prepared China’s Xi was for a trade war. Hmm:

Xi Jinping vowed to match Donald Trump blow for blow in any trade war. Now as one gets closer, some in Beijing are starting to openly wonder whether China is ready for the fight — an unusually direct challenge to the leadership of the world’s second-largest economy.

In recent weeks, prominent academics have begun to question if China’s slowing, trade-dependent economy can withstand a sustained attack from Trump, which has already started to weigh on stock prices. The sentiments are being expressed in carefully worded essays circulated on China’s heavily censored internet and — according to interviews in recent days with ministry officials and foreign diplomats who asked not to be identified — repeated in the halls of government offices, too.

The Conservative Treehouse explained:

China has focused so intensely on durable-goods manufacturing, their consumable goods market (food) is dependent; they cannot feed themselves.  The U.S. can survive without exporting food, China cannot survive without importing food.  The U.S. economy can survive without importing durable goods; the Chinese economy cannot survive without exporting durable goods.  This is the unavoidable trade reality.  As a consequence President Trump has all the factual leverage.

June 28 was the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mike Pompeo gave a speech about North Korea and Iran in this regard. Concerning the former, he said:

The next day, controversy arose as to whether North Korea was being honest and Obama’s national security advisor tried to make Trump into a chump:

On July 3, Trump refuted Rice and others:

Pompeo had returned to South-east Asia:

According to one South Korean press outlet, Pompeo had with him as a gift for Kim a CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man, a song he said he’d never heard. The State Department said that was false:

The State Department kept Americans updated:

On July 6, the other big news item was the US-China trade war. CNBC’s Jim Cramer said the American people supported Trump’s perspective:

“We simply, as a people, seem to be united that the president’s position is wrong. I hear more of that on TV than I hear reality. I think that there are a lot of people [who say], ‘Thank you for standing up for us,’” Cramer said on CNBC …

“There are a lot of companies that are doing quite well in the country. And I think if you’re going to take on the Chinese you do it from strength. And we have much more strength than they do,” he said. “Look at 211,000 jobs on average the last three months, this economy is very strong.”

Wall Street trader and Sarge986 President Stephen Guilfoyle agreed. He told Fox News that day:

President Trump’s trade policies have China “by the short hairs” and “right where we want them” in the bid to win any impending trade wars.

“They have retail sales in the hole… they’ve got industrial production in the hole,” Guilfoyle said. “The Shanghai Composite [stock index] is down 17 percent year-to-date. We’ve got these guys where we want them.

News about Pompeo’s trip and the trade war circulated, so they will comprise tomorrow’s post.

That said, most of the established media wanted to focus on the Mueller probe:

No wonder Trump got shirty about that and the short shrift he received for the Singapore Summit:

At least Asian nations appreciate his sterling efforts:

True. One cannot say better than that.

Yesterday’s post was about American soldiers’ remains from the Korean War.

On Wednesday, August 1, in Hawaii, Vice President Mike Pence presided over the latest return of 55 remains from that war, which never officially ended. For a number of American families, the past six decades have been troubling, as they cannot be sure whether their loved ones’ remains will ever be recovered.

The Singapore Summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim produced this latest return of remains:

This video has the full Honorable Carry Ceremony:

The Vice President was honoured to preside over the ceremony:

The following tweets summarise his tribute:

President Trump tweeted his appreciation:

The vice president and Mrs Pence had special guests accompany them:

Fox News has more:

The vice president said that when Sanfilippo was 4 years old she lost her father in the Korean War during a recon mission, and that when Downes was just 3 years old he lost his father operating radar on a B-26 bomber …

Fox News’ Pete Hegseth, who was traveling with Pence in Air Force Two, recalled the touching stories of the heroes’ now-grown children.

“We picked up probably the two most important passengers on that plane: a man and woman who were 4 and 3 years old — little girl and little boy in the 1950s  — when they sent their fathers, then young men, both pilots, both first lieutenants, both went to fight in the Korean War,” he said on “Fox & Friends.”

“They dedicated their lives for the last 60 years finding out what happened to their fathers, what happened though those patriots, warriors who went to fight for us, for every generation of Americans,” Hegseth continued.

I hope they find peace and closure.

The remains now need to be analysed in order to identify them — a painstaking process that will take weeks, if not months.

Many more remains are still in North Korea, yet to be discovered. I pray that they are discovered soon. This long and painful chapter of history must come to a close — as does the Korean War.

One of the outcomes of the Singapore Summit on June 12, 2018, was North Korea’s release on July 27 of 55 remains of US soldiers.

On July 31, the New Yorker reported that this is not the first time North Korea has released soldiers’ remains from the Korean War. Also note that the US has funded these recovery operations (emphases mine):

The United States has paid North Korea twenty-two million dollars to fund recovery operations. Between 1990 and 1994, Pyongyang handed over two hundred and eight boxes of remains. Between 1996 and 2005, another two hundred and twenty sets of remains were recovered. It’s a tiny fraction of the missing.

The latest remains will be analysed, a painstaking task:

On July 27th, North Korea turned over fifty-five remains of U.S. soldiers. There were no pallbearers; there were no caskets. There was no need. The remains—mostly fragments of bones—were in medium-sized boxes draped in blue-and-white U.N. flags. On August 1st, they are scheduled to be flown to a military lab in Hawaii that specializes in identifying remains. It’s a process that can take years, even decades. Vice-President Mike Pence, the son of a Korean War veteran, is scheduled to attend the repatriation.

The New Yorker‘s reporter, Robin Wright, interviewed 85-year-old Noreen Loper, the sister of Air Force airman James O’Meara, who wrote his family that he had one more air mission to complete before returning home early in 1953. However, no one ever saw him again after that mission.

Robin Wright also interviewed an Air Force trainee, Jerry Abrahamson, 85, who was on O’Meara’s flight. The crew of 14 had completed their mission in a B-29 and were half an hour from base when their plane was attacked by enemy fire on January 29, 1953:

O’Meara jumped right before Abrahamson. “That was the last time I saw him,” Abrahamson told me. “We were still at twenty thousand feet. It took a long time for us to come down. We got scattered.” Abrahamson and three other Americans were captured, separately, by the North Koreans. At each transfer site, often after gruelling marches, Abrahamson asked other prisoners of war about O’Meara. No one had seen him. Abrahamson ended up in a harsh Chinese-run P.O.W. camp near the Yalu River. Of those four men, one died in captivity and another was repatriated to the United States three months later, during Operation Little Switch. Abrahamson and one other were freed during Operation Big Switch, after the Korean War armistice, seven months later. Abrahamson, now eighty-five, is the last crew member still alive.

At one point, 149 American POWs were released by China to the United States in 1953. They were ill and/or seriously injured. This short news reel shows the relief the parents and friends of New Yorker George Hart felt when he, being one of these men, rang home to say he would be with his family soon:

The O’Meara family was less fortunate, and the New Yorker interview explains their anxiety. Not having heard any news about James, they finally decided to assume that he was dead. A special memorial ceremony for those who had died during the war took place at Arlington Cemetery in 2006, at which point the O’Mearas decided to place a gravestone for him there:

“The boys said we should have something official while a few of us were still living,” his eighty-five-year-old sister, Noreen Loper, told me. They arranged for a simple white cross with O’Meara’s name on it. They had no body to bury in 2006, however. They still don’t.

Even today, Noreen Loper yearns for certainty:

“It’s been a long, long time now,” Loper told me. “For most people, Korea is the forgotten war. For me, there’s never been any closure. These days, I keep thinking, Am I going to find out in my lifetime? I’ve got to know what happened to him, even if it’s only some bones.”

She said that she could not understand why any country would want to hold on to POWs’ remains. I cannot help but agree with her. What purpose does it serve?

I hope that her brother’s remains are among the 55.

The Daily Mail has more information on the return of these remains.

President Trump expressed his gratitude to Kim Jong Un for fulfilling his promise:

Donald Trump thanked North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on Friday for ‘fulfilling a promise’ to return the remains of American servicemen who died during the Korean War.

‘At this moment a plane is carrying the remains of some great fallen heroes from America back,’ he said following a press announcement about the domestic economy, calling the matter one ‘of profound importance.’

‘I want to thank Chairman Kim for keeping his word. We have many others coming, but I want to thank Chairman Kim in front of the media for fulfilling a promise that he made to me,’ Trump declared.

‘And I’m sure that he will continue to fulfill that promise as they search and search and search.’

A US Air Force C-17 aircraft brought the remains back after a memorial ceremony at the Osan Air Base in South Korea:

The ceremony saw U.S. servicemen and a military honor guard line up on the tarmac of the air base to receive the remains, which were carried in boxes covered in blue United Nations flags.

A total of 36,000 American soldiers were killed in the devastating Korean War from 1950 to 1953, and 7,700 bodies are listed missing in the war. A total of 5,300 are believed to still be in North Korea

As July 27 was the date the armistice — not an official treaty — was signed in 1953, North Korea held commemorative ceremonies of their own. Kim Jong Un visited the graves of Chinese People’s Volunteers who died in the war.

All being well, the Korean War will finally come to an end in the foreseeable future.

Until then, it is essential to remember that China still pulls North Korea’s strings.

Yesterday’s post covered the Inter-Korean Summit, which took place on April 27, 2018 and resulted in the Panmunjom Declaration between the two nations (great photos here and here).

Today’s looks at the Singapore Summit between the US and North Korea, which took place on Monday, June 12, 2018 at the Capella Hotel, Sentosa Island.

President Trump understands the complexity of negotiations with North Korea, because China controls that country. Graphic below courtesy of The Conservative Treehouse (CTH):

Consider the magnitude of the events of this year, so far. This was Dilbert’s Scott Adams’s take early in April:

After the Inter-Korean Summit, Trump was careful to remember China’s Xi:

After six decades, the Korean War is finally ending. Trump was a little boy when the last shot was fired. Even CNN acknowledged that he’s been instrumental in making it happen, although he humbly tweeted (emphases mine):

KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!

This was the scene in South Korea after the two Korean leaders met:

Trump spoke with South Korea’s Moon and Japan’s Abe with a view to US talks with North Korea.

Although military-industrial sector stocks dipped, on Monday, April 30, President Moon said that Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. From Reuters:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said U.S. President Donald Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, a South Korean official said on Monday.

“President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. What we need is only peace,” Moon told a meeting of senior secretaries, according to a presidential Blue House official who briefed media.

Conservative commentator Charles Payne took a Twitter poll: 83% agreed with Moon.

As a US trade delegation headed to China, Trump toyed with the idea of holding the US-North Korea summit at Peace House, where the Inter-Korean Summit took place.

On May 3, the South Koreans were still thinking about their president’s words on Trump’s deserving the Nobel Peace Prize:

If only Trump were as highly regarded in his own country …

The following day, North Korea switched to South Korea’s time zone in a significant step towards reunification:

Meanwhile, John Bolton met with South Korea’s national security office director Chung Eui-Yong about the Inter-Korean Summit as well as plans for President Moon’s trip to the White House on May 22.

On May 9, Trump held a cabinet meeting:

On May 10, North Korea released three American hostages. They returned to the United States, where President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were on hand to greet them and Mike Pompeo, who had secured their release.

The next day Pompeo pledged American help to North Korea, under certain conditions:

Pompeo also met with South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the White House that day. She was the one who told CNN’s Christine Amanpour that President Trump deserved much credit for the Inter-Korean Summit.

On May 12, news circulated that North Korea would dismantle its nuclear site on May 23, with rumours that only journalists from selected countries could cover the event. Trump tweeted:

On May 15, a North Korean statement put the Singapore Summit into doubt:

This was Trump’s response:

On May 17, CTH offered this analysis:

President Trump met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House today for a bilateral meeting on EU security and trade issues. During the Oval Office press availability both made remarks but president Trump took the opportunity to have an impromptu presser on other current issues …

It was not coincidental the stompy-feet assertions of Kim Jong-un and the DPRK were timed at the exact moment Chinese Vice-Premier Liu arrived in the U.S. for important trade talks. Once again Chairman Xi Jinping is using his proxy province of N-Korea to leverage economic benefits

POTUS Trump knows exactly what Chairman Xi is doing. Xi is leveraging the N-Korea talks for a better trade outcome.

On May 21, a commemorative coin to mark the Singapore Summit appeared:

President Moon arrived at the White House as scheduled, on May 22. CTH offered this analysis:

An important meeting today in the Oval Office between U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Obviously the primary discussion was over the issues of North Korea nuclear program, and the possible denuclearization summit between President Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un …

After a second meeting with Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping, the voices behind Chairman Kim Jong-un changed their tone in media presentations and and became more hostile toward the goal of a denuclearization summit. This example showcase Beijing exerting control over the DPRK to gain strategic trade and economic benefits.

Trump and Moon held a press conference. Trump answered a question on trade with China:

… President Xi and I have a great relationship, as President Moon can attest. But there is no deal. We will see what happens. We are discussing deals. We’re discussing various deals. We can do a 301. We can do — where we don’t need China, where we can just say, look, this is what we want, this is what we think is fair. That’s always a possibility if a negotiated deal doesn’t work out.

As I said, we lost $500 billion a year for many years. And then it varied from $100 billion to $500 billion. When you’re losing $500 billion a year, you can’t lose in terms of a negotiation. It’s really easy to win. But I want this to be a great deal for the United States, and I want it to be a very good deal for China, too, if that’s possible. It may not be possible

On May 24, Kim Jong-Un cancelled the Singapore Summit.

Trump responded in writing. The last two paragraphs are absolutely brilliant — and personal. The AP said that national security adviser John Bolton dictated the text of the letter:

CTH had this take:

Ultimately the decision to withdraw is an outcome of changes in posture initiated strategically by China and Chairman Xi Jinping. China hoping to leverage a U.S. trade outcome by playing the strings on DPRK Chairman Kim Jong-un.

The timing of the meetings between China and DPRK, mirrors the changes in posture by the DPRK and reflects a transparency. Communist Beijing is engaging with the Trump administration in traditional dragon-mode their zero-sum outlook. In response, President Trump drops the Panda approach and confronts the manipulation directly.

Likely President Trump will immediately increase sanction enforcement and reposition again for a pending naval blockade.

Earlier that day, North Korea blew up its nuclear test site. No inspectors were present, and the White House said that was the reason for Trump’s letter:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he received no North Korean response to earlier requests about setting up meetings during the summit. From the Daily Mail:

The North Korean government completely ignored the Trump administration’s efforts to nail down details of a planned June 12 nuclear arms summit in Singapore, effectively disappearing in the middle of pre-meeting protocol negotiations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had met personally in April with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, sketching out the contours of the face-to-face that President Donald Trump canceled Thursday morning.

In testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Pompeo said there was no chance of ‘a successful outcome,’ in some part because Kim’s team was AWOL when it counted.

‘Over the past many days we have endeavored to do what Chairman Kim and I had agreed, [which] was to put teams, preparation teams together, to begin to work to prepare for the summit,’ he told senators. ‘And we had received no response to our inquiries from them.’

By May 25, the talks were on again, with a North Korean statement. CTH reported:

Within minutes of President Trump withdrawing from the June 12th summit, Beijing realized all of their trade leverage was just wiped out. Playing deceptive panda isn’t going to work this time …

This is a battle, a massive economic battle, between U.S. President Trump and Chinese Chairman Xi. Period.

Whenever this geopolitical economic trade confrontation is resolved; that’s when Chairman Xi will instruct Chairman Kim to take the knee. Not a moment before.

Until the U.S. -vs- China economic confrontation is solved, Xi will continue to use the DPRK threat as his principle leverage in the negotiations.

CTHTheLastRefuge — had more on Twitter. From May 25:

Kim’s back in Beijing for next set of instructions. LOOK=>: “A high-ranking North Korean official appears to be visiting Beijing, a source with knowledge of the matter said Thursday, as the country has been bolstering ties with China.”…

Finally, at least one media outlet — Fox News — understood:

By May 26:

On May 27, CTH reported:

President Trump has announced via Twitter the U.S. advance team has arrived in North Korea to position for a possible June 12th summit between President Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un.

Yesterday South Korean Prime Minister Moon Jae-in and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un held an impromptu summit/meeting in the DPRK to display their unified smiles.

Trump gave a bit more detail:

We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Yong Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!

On May 29, Kim Yong Chol flew to Beijing first, then on to New York. Pompeo was his host:

On June 1, Kim Yong Chol went to the White House to meet with President Trump and deliver a large, mysterious envelope:

Kim Yong Chol arrived in North Korea on June 3. Interestingly, North Korea replaced their top three military officials the same day.

On June 5, Trump was looking forward to the Singapore Summit. On June 7, he tweeted that he was looking forward to meeting his ‘good friend’, Japan’s Shinzo Abe, at the G7 to discuss trade and North Korea.

Trump left the G7 early for the Singapore Summit:

Air Force One landed in Crete for refuelling. Meanwhile, Air China provided Kim Jong Un with an Airbus A330 to get him to Singapore. Kim received a cordial welcome when he arrived (motorcade photo here).

China sent best wishes:

Pompeo was already conducting preliminary meetings:

The White House issued a statement saying that discussions were going very well indeed, ‘more quickly than expected’.

North Korea’s state media was also positive:

Here’s the historic handshake between Trump and Kim (a photo here of the room beforehand):

This composite video of the two leaders at the summit marks pivotal, historic moments for both countries and the world:

Trump and Kim met privately. This is what happened on the way:

They also made brief statements:

They took a walk after lunch:

Bilateral meetings also took place:

This is worth noting:

Talks went so well that Trump was able to leave Singapore earlier than expected.

Who would have expected these results only a few months ago?

Kim also pledged to finally return the remains of Americans who died in the Korean War.

Ultimately:

Incidentally, here is a bit more about the large, mysterious letter Kim Yong Chol delivered to the president on June 1. On June 11, just before the Singapore Summit began, the Straits Times reported:

According to South Korean daily Joongang Ilbo, citing a source in Singapore, Mr Kim has invited Mr Trump to North Korea to hold a second summit in July.

The invitation was in a letter written by Mr Kim to Mr Trump and hand delivered by Mr Kim’s right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, to the White House on June 1.

While Mr Trump has not revealed what was written in the letter, he seemed happy to get it. He told reporters then it was “a very nice letter” and “a very interesting letter”.

Although Trump flew back to Washington after the Singapore Summit, Pompeo’s work was far from over:

In closing, the impact of the Singapore Summit was not lost on the world.

In India:

In Los Angeles:

Amazingly, in North Korea:

This is a very exciting time for not only North Korea, South Korea, Asia and the United States — but also for the world.

It will be interesting to see how North Korea develops, particularly since the nation is sitting on trillions of dollars of mineral resources.

Post-Summit analysis to follow next week.

The Singapore Summit took place in June 2018.

Before then, the historic Inter-Korean Summit took place on April 27.

How far things progressed over the past six months!

This post covers the events and negotiations that led to the Inter-Korean Summit.

On December 28, 2017, President Trump tweeted his disappointment that China was ‘allowing oil to go into North Korea’.

Who can forget this tweet from the New Year in 2018?

Four days later:

A week later, Trump rightly took the Wall Street Journal to task for misquoting him:

… I said “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters…

Then he began consulting with geopolitical veterans, including Henry Kissinger:

On March 5, Reuters reported (emphases mine):

Feeling the pressure of sanctions, North Korea seems “sincere” in its apparent willingness to halt nuclear tests if it held denuclearization talks with the United States, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday as U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials voiced skepticism about any discussions …

Word of possible talks was delivered by a South Korean delegation on its return from a first-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim in Pyongyang on Monday.

The following day, the AP reported that talks between North and South Korea would be scheduled for April:

Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean official who spoke after participating in talks with Kim in Pyongyang, also said the North Korean dictator had agreed to meet with South Korea’s president at a border village in late April.

North Korea didn’t announce what South Korea on Tuesday described as agreements between the rivals. But the North’s state media earlier reported Kim had “openhearted” talks with South Korean envoys, expressed his willingness to “vigorously advance” North-South relations and made a “satisfactory” agreement on the inter-Korean summit talks.

On March 7, the AP featured a timeline article on progress, including this:

South Korea also said North Korea has agreed to halt tests of nuclear weapons and missiles if it holds talks with the United States on denuclearization.

The Conservative Treehouse (CTH) said that this had been in the works since at least August 2017 — when Charlottesville occurred — and that other countries, particularly China, were involved:

All of this was generally under-reported and took place months before President Trump arrived in Asia last year.  The U.S. media was busy pushing racism and Charlottesville narratives.  More importantly this quiet activity took place while President Trump directed US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer to begin a section 301 trade investigation (Intellectual Property theft) into China.

President Trump was ramping up the economic pressure on Chinese President Xi Jinping; but more specifically Lighthizer’s action was targeting Beijing’s command and control economy along with the behavior of North Korea.

China -vs- U.S. moves have been taking place in Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cuba, Venezuela, India, Libya as well as Mexico, Canada and ASEAN nations.  When dragon puts a footprint in Mexico, eagle puts a footprint in Vietnam.   When eagle puts a print in India, dragon puts a print in Pakistan…. this has been going on for well over a year, well beyond the media horizon, and almost no-one’s paying attention.

On March 9, BT.com reported that Trump and Kim were to meet in May:

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump plan to meet in May for nuclear disarmament talks …

It would have been an unthinkable suggestion just a few months ago, when the insults were at their peak — Mr Trump was a “senile dotard” and Mr Kim was “Little Rocket Man”.

Trump officials had received a briefing in Washington from the South Koreans beforehand.

Even normally critical media pundits acknowledged that Trump’s ‘madman approach’ to North Korea was working.

The South Koreans issued an affirmative statement. The South China Morning Post reported:

South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong made the announcement of Kim’s offer in Washington on Thursday (Friday morning Hong Kong time).

Chung said Kim was “committed to denuclearisation” and would refrain from any further nuclear and missile tests.

He said Kim wanted to meet Trump as “soon as possible” and that Trump said “he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula.

The White House posted Chung Eui-yong’s full statement, including this:

Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue

The Republic of Korea, along with the United States, Japan, and our many partners around the world remain fully and resolutely committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Along with President Trump, we are optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution.

The Republic of Korea, the United States, and our partners stand together in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions.

A video of his announcement can be found here.

That Sunday, March 11, the news shows were abuzz with analysis of the upcoming US-North Korea talks, including perspectives from John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

Even the anti-Trump Independent in the UK had praise for the American president:

… during a recent, daily grumble about The Donald, I got thinking; if you look past the ridiculous Twitter pronouncements, and the President’s general veneer – what has he actually done? How bad has the 45th President of the United States actually been for the country?

The answer, it might surprise you, is not that bad at all.

Stock market up, unemployment down. After plateauing for much of 2015 and 2016, numbers of manufacturing jobs have been on the rise since Trump’s inauguration …

On foreign policy, he’s been brash and unpredictable, but successful. He can’t take full credit for the defeat of Isis in their traditional strongholds, but they have been defeated. He can’t take full credit for defusing tensions with North Korea – but under President Trump, Kim Jong-un is becoming more receptive to talks with South Korea, and even sent a team to the Winter Olympics. His “quirky” style of diplomacy has led to, in the past few days, talk on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the closest thing to a peaceful North Korea we’ve seen in years. On Friday it was even announced that Trump will be meeting with Kim Jong-un

On Wednesday, March 14, news emerged that North Korea was involved with Syria. The Washington Free Beacon reported:

Regional reports have begun to surface indicating North Korea has neared completion of the construction of an underground military base located near Qardaha in Syria, the hometown of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“According to … satellite images and a military source the underground facility has been under construction for seven years, started by the beginning if the Syrian revolution in March 2011,” Zaman Al Wasl, a Syrian news outlet, reported earlier this month. “The high level of secrecy and tight guard in the North Korean base raise speculations whether it’s a nuclear facility or overseas depot for North Korean weapons.”

U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon they are monitoring these reports and efforts by North Korea to help Assad rebuild Syria’s chemical weapons factories.

“We are aware of reports regarding possible DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] assistance to Syria to rebuild its chemical weapons capabilities,” a State Department official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon. “We take these allegations very seriously and we are working assiduously to prevent the Assad regime from obtaining material and equipment to support its chemical weapons program.”

The Trump administration has been engaged in efforts to counter North Korea’s proliferation in Syria, particularly its efforts to supply Assad with chemical weapons.

On Friday, March 23, Legal Insurrection reported that Trump signed the Omnibus Bill with North Korea — and Iran — in mind:

Why the need for government funding for at least 6 months? That could have waited for another short term funding bill, some more muddling through, perhaps even muddling through until the November elections.

What was the rush to sign a bill with increases in authorized military spending NOW?

While Trump ran as someone who wasn’t looking at foreign policy as his reason for election, his presidency and attention increasingly are turning to foreign potential conflicts. In the next couple of months Trump will be dealing with two major potential conflict areas: North Korea and Iran.

As to North Korea, Trump is gearing up for talks with “Little Rocket Man.” As to Iran, Trump is facing fights both with the Europeans and the Iranians as to whether Obama’s Iran Nuclear deal survives. Trump already has made moves to strengthen the U.S. posture. Adding John Bolton as National Security Advisor sends a get-tough signal, a message that Trump will not repeat the appeasement mistakes of Obama-Kerry.

As Trump approaches potential conflict with North Korea and Iran, he could spend the prior months rolling through one “shutdown” after another, one-month spending bills, an inadequate military budget held hostage by Democrats, and the prospect of months more such turmoil at least through the midterm elections.

Alternatively, Trump could approach the North Koreans and Iranians with government funding in place including substantial increases for the military.

Do you think the North Koreans and Iranians care about the domestic spending fights that now occupy media coverage? I doubt it. I do think they care about a Trump focused on rebuilding the military and a U.S. military which has just been given additional resources. Trump wants to be the strong horse, a dramatic change from the Obama administration posture. Add to this increased military aggressiveness by Russia and China.

Elsewhere, speculation returned to a soundbite from the end of 2017 about ‘freeing 25,000,000 slaves worldwide’. Was it about human trafficking or was it about North Korea, as Q commented? (Image below courtesy of Reddit’s Q-oriented GreatAwakening)

On March 28, Trump tweeted:

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had this to say:

That day, the KORUS trade agreement between the US and South Korea was agreed upon in principle:

On March 29, the AP announced that a highly historic summit between North and South Korea would take place on April 27:

Summit meeting will be only the third time leaders of the divided Koreas have met in the 65 years since the end of the Korean War.

On April 9, WND interviewed Peter Schweitzer, author of Secret Empires: How Our Politicians Hide Corruption and Enrich Their Families and Friends, who said that China was a huge part of the North Korea picture:

“My view has always been that absent China skirting the rules and going fast and loose with commercial ties, North Korea would be on the brink of collapse,” Schweizer told WND in an interview.

“I think that’s the opportunity that Trump has, to go to the Chinese and say: ‘Look, the bottom line is you need to deal with this. You need to cut off trade, you need to cut off commercial ties to help us deal with North Korea. Nobody else is in the position to do it the way that you are.’”

Schweizer said critical sectors such as minerals and energy “are what keeps North Korea bumping along while the people are starving.”

“You take that stuff away and the regime has a massive, economic problem,” he said.

On April 17, just days before the summit between the two Koreas, CNBC reported:

North and South Korea are in talks to announce a permanent end to the officially declared military conflict between the two countries, daily newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed South Korean official.

Ahead of a summit next week between North Korean premier Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, lawmakers from the neighboring states were thought to be negotiating the details of a joint statement that could outline an end to the confrontation

Pyongyang and Seoul have technically been at war since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended with a truce — and not a peace treaty. Geopolitical tensions have occasionally flared up since the armistice, although to date both countries have managed to avoid another devastating conflict.

CTH’s TheLastRefuge — aka Sundance — pointed out the change in 12 months:

That day, Trump welcomed Japan’s prime minister Abe to Mar a Lago along with a delegation. CTH told us:

The formal bilateral meeting began shortly before 4 p.m. POTUS Trump and PM Abe together with translators and delegations. The U.S. side: Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser John Bolton, US Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty and National Security Council Asia director Matthew Pottinger.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said their one-on-one meeting was productive. On North Korea, “for the first time in the history of the world there will be a summit meeting between the United States and North Korea”, Abe said. Prime Minister Abe said “Trump has applied maximum pressure on the North and credited it for leading to the direct talks.”

Trump described their meeting as ‘great’.

The next day, we found out that Mike Pompeo had already been in North Korea on secret talks:

The White House declined further comment.

On April 19, South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in was optimistic about the upcoming summit. NBC reported:

Moon said big-picture agreements about denuclearization, establishing a peace regime and normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through summits between the North and South, and between the North and the United States.

“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies. “The North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization.”

“They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” he continued. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

On April 21, Yonhap News Agency reported:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced that the country will suspend nuclear and missile tests and shut down a nuclear test site in the northern area, state media said Saturday.

From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

Trump was delighted.

Even CNN had to acknowledge this was yuge news — ha ha — on Wolf Blitzer’s show no less. Mediaite has a report and video:

CNN’s Will Ripley, one of the few journalists who regularly reports from the repressive Hermit Kingdom, phoned in to Wolf Blitzer’s show on Friday night to cover the breaking news …

“Wolf, I have to say, I am really almost speechless here at the pace at which North Korea has done this U-turn,” Ripley reacted. “This all started with Donald Trump agreeing to sit down with a summit with Kim Jong Un.”

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo was able to guarantee North Korea’s release of three American citizens that day. They returned home on May 10.

On April 22, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin met with the South Koreans:

Productive discussion with South Korean DPM KIM Dong-Yeon. The US remains committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

That day, we found out more about Mike Pompeo’s secret trip to Pyongyang from the Korean Noon news agency:

Mike Pompeo met with KJU 3-4 times during his 3-day stay in Pyongyang per Asahi Shimbun. KJU reportedly said he’s on the same wavelength with Pompeo: “This is the first time I’m meeting someone who has the same fire in the belly as I do” (loose translation)

Also:

Per Asahi, KJU conveyed to Pompeo NK could “completely denuclearize” and that USFK would not have to leave. KJU wants full diplomatic relations with US and easing of UNSCR & bilateral sanctions in return. Pompeo went with 5 CIA staff and was aided by NIS

Pompeo first met with Kim on April 1:

The meetings were very successful per Asahi. Pompeo first met KJU on April 1 and that’s when he was told about “complete denuclearization”. Pompeo was aided by NIS chief Suh Hoon, who has formed working relationships with both Pompeo and NK’s Kim Yong-chol

Not everything was 100% successful:

But there are still differences: Asahi says while KJU may have expressed “willingness to denuclearize,” he was reluctant to include specific, time-based clauses as part of summit agreement, while calling for diplomatic relations and easing of sanctions.

Noon also told us of an ongoing CIA presence in North Korea:

CIA employees in Pyongyang? You don’t have to travel that far down the memory lane to realize this happened before: Avril Haines and Michael Morel were both in Pyongyang in 2012 during Obama’s term but they didn’t get to meet KJU. But they’ve had contacts

Pompeo was finally confirmed as Rex Tillerson’s replacement at State on April 26:

The historic Inter-Korean Summit between the two Korean leaders took place as planned on April 27 (videos here, here and here):

Kim walked across the border to South Korea for the summit, which was held in Panmunjom in the DMZ.

Kim wrote this message in the guest book at Peace House:

‘new history starts now; age of peace, from the starting point of history’

The leaders issued a joint statement:

The description for that video reads, in part:

During the Friday summit, the first between the two Koreas’ leader in more than a decade, Kim was accompanied by his sister and confidante, Kim Yo-jong, and the 90-year-old nominal head of the North Korean state, Kim Yong-nam.

During the meeting, the South Korean president expressed hope for achievement of a “bold agreement.”

The White House sent this message:

On the occasion of Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-ins historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, we wish the Korean people well. We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks.

By the end of the day (full video here):

The Korean leaders then shared dinner together.

Ambassador Chris Hill summed up the first day as follows:

President Trump sent his congratulations. The South Korean foreign minister remembered Trump in an interview with CNN’s Christine Amanpour:

South Korea’s Foreign Minister tells me in Seoul that “clearly credit goes to President Trump” for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table. “He’s been determined to come to grips with this from day one,” Kang Kyung-wha says.

The Straits Times published the full text of the Panmunjom Declaration for peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean Peninsula which resulted from the Inter-Korean Summit. Excerpts follow:

1) South and North Korea affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord and agreed to bring forth the watershed moment for the improvement of inter-Korean relations by fully implementing all existing agreements and declarations adopted between the two sides thus far.

2) South and North Korea agreed to hold dialogue and negotiations in various fields including at high level, and to take active measures for the implementation of the agreements reached at the summit.

3) South and North Korea agreed to establish a joint liaison office with resident representatives of both sides in the Gaeseong region in order to facilitate close consultation between the authorities as well as smooth exchanges and cooperation between the peoples.

4) South and North Korea agreed to encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels in order to rejuvenate the sense of national reconciliation and unity.

5) South and North Korea agreed to endeavour to swiftly resolve the humanitarian issues that resulted from the division of the nation, and to convene the Inter-Korean Red Cross Meeting to discuss and solve various issues, including the reunion of separated families.

6) South and North Korea agreed to actively implement the projects previously agreed in the 2007 October 4 Declaration, in order to promote balanced economic growth and co-prosperity of the nation.

The two leaders agreed, through regular meetings and direct telephone conversations, to hold frequent and candid discussions on issues vital to the nation, to strengthen mutual trust and to jointly endeavour to strengthen the positive momentum towards continuous advancement of inter-Korean relations as well as peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean Peninsula.

In this context, President Moon Jae In agreed to visit Pyongyang this fall.

Tomorrow’s post will feature analysis and the events that led to the Singapore Summit, which President Trump attended after the G7 in mid-June.

When someone tells you something ‘can’t be done’, do not believe them. DO IT.

Consider:

Who would have thought that a former pro basketball player and a real estate mogul could do this?

Of course, it’s a work in progress:

Yet, it has moved forward from a meeting of two leaders to this:

Please join me in praying for success and peace.

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