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DPRK media steps up criticism of U.S. for “interference” in inter-Korean affairs, By Dagyum Ji
North Korean outlets accuse Washington of “autocratic interference,” call for sanctions relief.
North Korean state-run media has in recent days ratcheted up criticism of the U.S. for interfering in inter-Korean economic cooperation projects and its reported opposition to a recent North-South military agreement.
Pyongyang’s DPRK Today on Monday denounced the Trump administration for “putting the brakes” on the South Korean government’s attempts to implement September’s Pyongyang Joint Declaration.
The outlet reported that the U.S. had “outspokenly expressed its intention to oppose” the September inter-Korean military agreement.
Washington had also “ruthlessly ignored” calls from Seoul to approve a joint on-site survey for rail and road cooperation, it continued, and refused to grant exemptions from international sanctions that would allow the resumption of Mount Kumgang tourism and work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
Washington had disregarded South Korea’s requests citing the “complete implementation of UN ‘sanctions resolution,’’’ the media said, in a commentary headlined “Autocratic interference in the form of ‘alliance’.”
Seoul and Pyongyang at high-level talks held last Monday agreed to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the connection and modernization of cross-border railways and roads between late November and early December.
To that end, the two Koreas plan to conduct a joint on-site survey of the Gyeongui railway and the Donghae railway respectively from late October and early November – a move which requires approval from the United Nations Command (UNC).
August, however, saw the UNC disallow South Korean trains from crossing the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) to conduct a joint on-site survey of sections of track between Munsan and Kaesong.
“Such U.S. behavior show that it regards South Korea just as a colony and its puppet although the country outwardly says the ‘strengthening of the ROK-U.S. alliance’ and ‘watertight cooperation’,” the DPRK Today said.
“But what went on behind the scenes was not mutual respect and cooperation but the ruler’s outrageous coercion and tyranny with domination and interference.”
North Korean media also condemned President Donald Trump’s comments last week that Seoul would not be able to lift its unilateral May 24 sanctions “without our approval.”
“Whenever an opportunity was created to improve inter-Korean relations due to our active efforts, the U.S. was displeased with it and used any means to destroy it,” DPRK Today said.
“There is no end if we list such practical examples,” it continued. “The U.S. strengthens its criticism and pressure, expressing its discomfort over the South Korean authorities’ stance on North Korea as an anti-unification scheme.”
Two Koreas to hold general-level military talks on Friday, By Dagyum Ji
Pyongyang, Seoul to discuss continued implementation of September agreement: MND.
The two Koreas will hold general-level talks this Friday on the implementation of September’s military agreement, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Monday.
Friday’s talks will begin at 1000 local time and will be held at Tongilgak on the northern side of Panmunjom, the MND said, and will see the two sides discuss the Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain, signed as an annex to the Pyongyang Joint Declaration in September.
Friday’s meeting will be the third of its kind this year since inter-Korean general-grade military talks in June and July.In its statement, the defense ministry said the two Koreas will make an interim evaluation on the implementation of the military agreement and discuss a timeline for next steps.
Other topics for discussion include the establishment and operation method of a planned inter-Korean Joint Military Committee aimed at reducing tensions.
The North and South Korean military on Friday also plan to discuss measures for the shared use of Han River (Imjin River) Estuary, in accordance with the military agreement.
Under the plans, a stretch of 70 km within the Han River Estuary will be designated a joint utilization zone, with “all practical military issues” arising from the area to be handled through consultation between the two Koreas.
Seoul and Pyongyang plan to conduct a joint field survey of the joint utilization zone by the end of the year.The two Koreas at high-level talks last Monday agreed to hold general-level military talks “at an early date.”The South Korean defense ministry said Seoul had proposed the talks and Pyongyang had accepted.
Seoul and Pyongyang will dispatch five-member delegations, with head of the North Korea Policy Bureau at the ROK defense ministry Kim Do-gyun and Army Lieutenant General of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) An Ik San serving as chief delegates for their respective sides.
Both Kim and An have engaged in the general-level military talks this year in the capacity of chief delegate.Kim — who served as presidential secretary for national defense reform until May — participated in inter-Korean working-level military talks in February 2011 and high-level talks in February 2014.An previously served as the chief delegate to the first and second inter-Korean general-level military talks in 2004.
Meanwhile, the second round of trilateral meetings between the North, the South, and the UNC began at Freedom House on the southern part of Panmunjom at 1000 local time, the ROK defense ministry announced on Monday. The three parties plan to assess ongoing mine clearance efforts in the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom, which they previously agreed to have finished by October 20.
The MND said the trilateral consultative body will discuss “practical issues including the schedule for withdrawal of firearms and guardposts, measures to adjust the number of guard duty personnel, and plan to proceed with joint verification.”
U.S. and South Korea agree to suspend Vigilant Ace drills, By Leo Byrne
The move will “give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue” DOD says.
Correction at 1720 KST on 23/10: A previous version of this article said Mattis had said in June that there were no further plans to pause other joint exercises, when it fact he said this in August. It has been amended to reflect this.
Washington and Seoul on Friday agreed to suspend the Vigilant Ace joint military exercises in light of the ongoing diplomatic outreach with North Korea.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and South Korea’s Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo agreed to the suspension while attending the annual ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus in the Philippines.
It’s hoped the suspension will “give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue,” Pentagon press secretary Dana White said in a statement carried to U.S. media.“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces. They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises,” White added.
Earlier this year Washington also suspended the large-scale Ulchi Freeedom Guardian joint exercises and two exchange program training exercises, giving a similar explanation to Friday’s suspension.“To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Secretary Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises,” White said at the time.“This includes suspending FREEDOM GUARDIAN along with two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months.”
The most recent suspension comes despite Mattis saying in August that there were no further plans to pause other joint exercises.The Vigilant Ace joint exercises are primarily air power exercises though typically ground troops are also involved.
According to the Defense Post, last year’s drills involved over 230 aircraft including F22 Raptor stealth jet fighters.The announcement follows earlier news from Seoul that the U.S. and South Korea would resume joint ROK-U.S. Korean Marine Exchange Program (KMEP) military drills next year.
Though the KMEP training exercises were originally slated to be staged 19 times this year, the number of the drills was eventually reduced to 11 in light of ongoing DPRK-U.S. and inter-Korean dialogue, the South Korean military confirmed to NK News on Friday.2016 and 2017 saw the KMEP training exercises be conducted 14 and 17 times respectively, the ROK military added.
During the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. also said they would work together on preventing North Korean ship-to-ship transfers at sea.South Korea is not currently part of efforts to enforce UN resolutions at sea which prohibit North Korea from transferring fuel or other cargos directly from one vessel to another, but no further details on Seoul’s contributions to the enforcement efforts were available.
Currently, the U.S., the UK, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have contributed military assets to track North Korea’s illicit activities in the waters around the Korean Peninsula and northeast China.
U.S. may invite DPRK foreign minister to DC for summit preparation meeting, By Chad O’Carroll
State Department does not confirm possible Washington meeting, however.
The United States may host its DPRK “counterpart” in Washington DC soon to facilitate preparations for a second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a U.S. broadcaster about a potential meeting on Friday amid news that a second summit would most likely take place in early 2019.
“I’m very hopeful we’ll have senior leader meetings here in the next week and a half or so between myself and my counterpart to continue this discussion so that when the two of them get together, there is real opportunity to make another big step forward on denuclearization,” Pompeo told the Voice of America on Friday. Though Pompeo didn’t specify it would be Washington, it is the most likely interpretation given it is the usual location of his day-to-day work.
Technically, Pompeo’s counterpart would be DPRK foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, though it is possible he may also be referring to Kim Yong Chol, who has been one of his regular DPRK interlocutors.
Pompeo said, however, that he was not “prepared” to share details as to when any second summit may take place, but that the “president’s committed to doing that”.“We’re working on finding dates and times and places that will work for each of the two leaders.”
Pompeo made the remark en route to Mexico City as a senior U.S. official was quoted Friday by Reuters as saying that “a (summit) meeting is likely sometime after the first of the year”.
Pompeo last met his foreign ministry counterpart Ri Yong Ho during the United Nations General Assembly in September.But while he expressed hope to VOA about a potential Washington meeting on Friday, a State Department spokeswoman declined to confirm whether such a meeting would actually go ahead, Reuters said.
Meanwhile, it also emerged on Friday that the U.S. would suspend its annual December Vigilant Ace air power exercise to “give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said.
“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” White explained. “They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises.”
Denuclearization talks between the U.S. and DPRK face significant hurdles given the gulf between the two on the issue of sanctions relief, which Pyongyang has been calling for on the basis of not testing nuclear devices or ballistic missiles for nearly a year.
President Moon goes to Europe: what was, and wasn’t, achieved, By Ramon Pacheco Pardo
While differences remain stark, the mood among EU leaders is shifting in Seoul’s favor.
President Moon Jae-in has just returned from a five-country trip to Europe, with North Korea at the top of the agenda.His recent trip reinforced that Europe is sympathetic towards President Moon’s diplomatic push, but Seoul also saw first-hand that the EU is not fully supportive of every aspect of Seoul’s North Korea policy.
A good starting point to understand where Europe stands is the fact that there was no joint statement following Friday’s EU-ROK bilateral summit.
This is highly unusual. Essentially, the lack of a joint statement was due to one factor: the EU’s insistence on including the phrase “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)” or a similar wording in the statement. South Korea was opposed to this: Moon would have accepted the use of “complete denuclearization,” but CVID ended up being a step too far.
In the weeks prior to the summit, there were discussions about the joint statement referring to support for the Iranian nuclear deal and denouncing Russia’s interventionism in Ukraine. Within the South Korean government, there were discussions regarding providing support to Brussels on these matters in exchange for the joint statement toning down its message on CVID, as well as on sanctions. Once it became clear that Brussels would not budge on CVID, however, the scene was set for no joint statement.
Indeed, European leader after European leader conveyed the same message: CVID is the basis of UNSC resolutions. This is key to the EU, and informs Brussels’ decision to stand by it. In his remarks opening the EU-ROK summit, President of the European Council Donald Tusk referred to CVID and North Korea’s denuclearization in the context of “full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions.”
For Brussels, full implementation of UNSC sanctions is necessary to discourage others from following North Korea’s steps – particularly would-be nuclear powers in the Middle East. It is also a matter of international law, for one of the key tenets of the EU is respect for the rule of law. The official position thus remains that if UNSC sanctions are in place, they should be applied.
But this should not hide the fact that there are divisions in Europe regarding full implementation. Support for maximum pressure is waiving as inter-Korean relations move forward and President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un prepare for a second summit.
Most EU member states would much rather concentrate on Russia, China and a host of other foreign policy and domestic issues rather than sanctions on North Korea.
In this context, and very importantly for Seoul, President Moon’s trip has helped to move Europe towards sequencing. It has been barely discussed that French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that there could be moves towards sanctions relief if North Korea takes “meaningful steps” towards denuclearization.
Similarly, a press release from the UK government following President Moon’s meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that North Korea had to take “concrete steps” towards denuclearization, but, crucially, did not directly link sanctions relief to CVID. Also, in conversations behind closed doors, different European diplomats linked sanctions relief to a denuclearization process rather than CVID itself. This can be considered a diplomatic victory for Seoul.
Overall, President Moon can be mildly satisfied with his trip to Europe. On the positive side from Seoul’s perspective, the EU has moved towards accepting sequencing. Furthermore, the EU and several European countries expressed their willingness to provide concrete support for diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula, whether through their technical expertise or the facilitation of dialogue.
But CVID and full implementation of sanctions remain official EU policy. Seoul still has to decide how to make the EU trust Pyongyang’s intentions, as well as how to convince Europe that sanctions relief should come earlier than the EU is willing to contemplate right now.