The Extinction Chronicles

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The Extinction Chronicles

North Korea warns US of ‘very grave situation’ over Joe Biden speech

By Hyung-Jin Kim Associated PressSunday, May 2, 2021 6:39AMabout:blankEMBED <>MORE VIDEOS 

President Joe Biden detailed topics including the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign policy, the American Rescue Plan and more in his first address to a joint session of Congress.SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday warned the United States will face “a very grave situation” because President Joe Biden “made a big blunder” in his recent speech by calling the North a security threat and revealing his intent to maintain a hostile policy against it.

Last week, Biden, in his first address to Congress, called North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs “serious threats” to American and world security and said he’ll work with allies to address those problems through diplomacy and stern deterrence.
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“It is certain that the U.S. chief executive made a big blunder in the light of the present-day viewpoint,” Kwon said. “Now that the keynote of the U.S. new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation.”

What could denuclearization look like on the Korean Peninsula?

Kwon still didn’t specify what steps North Korea would take, and his statement could be seen as an effort to apply pressure on the Biden administration as it’s shaping up its North Korea policy.

The White House said Friday administration officials had completed a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, saying Biden plans to veer from the approaches of his two most recent predecessors as he tries to stop North Korea’s nuclear program. Press secretary Jen Psaki did not detail findings of the review, but suggested the administration would seek a middle ground between Donald Trump’s “grand bargain” and Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches.

Kwon’s statement didn’t mention Psaki’s comments.

After a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests in 2016-17, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launched summit diplomacy with Trump on the future of his growing nuclear arsenal. But that diplomacy remains stalled for about two years over differences in how much sanctions relief North Korea could win in return for limited denuclearization steps.

In January, Kim threatened to enlarge his nuclear arsenal and build more high-tech weapons targeting the U.S. mainland, saying the fate of bilateral ties would depend on whether it abandons its hostile policy. In March, he conducted short-range ballistic missile tests for the first time in a year, though he still maintains a moratorium on bigger weapons launches.

“If Pyongyang agrees to working-level talks, the starting point of negotiations would be a freeze of North Korean testing and development of nuclear capabilities and delivery systems,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said. “If, on the other hand, Kim shuns diplomacy and opts for provocative tests, Washington will likely expand sanctions enforcement and military exercises with allies.”

Also Sunday, an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman vowed a strong, separate response to a recent State Department statement that it would push to promote “accountability for the Kim regime” over its “egregious human rights situation.” He called the statement a preparation for “all-out showdown with us.”

Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, also slammed South Korea over anti-Pyongyang leaflets floated across the border by a group of North Korean defectors in the South. The group’s leader, Park Sang-hak, said Friday he sent 500,000 leaflets by balloon last week, in a defiance of a new, contentious South Korean law that criminalizes such action.

“We regard the maneuvers committed by the human waste in the South as a serious provocation against our state and will look into corresponding action,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement.

She accused the South Korean government of “winking at” the leaflets. Seoul’s Unification Ministry responded later Sunday saying it opposes any act that creates tensions on the Korean Peninsula and it will strive to achieve better ties with North Korea.

Easley said the North Korean statements by Kwon and Kim Yo Jong show that “Pyongyang is trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States” ahead of the May 21 summit between Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

What N Korean missile tests mean for US relations


1 of 4FILE – This Aug. 29, 2017, file photo provided by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the test launch of a Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — New U.S. president, same old North Korean playbook. Almost.

Two months after President Joe Biden took office, North Korea is again turning to weapons tests to wrest outside concessions. But the tests so far have been relatively small compared to past launches. That indicates Washington has a window of engagement before North Korea pursues bigger provocations.

This week, North Korea’s neighbors reported the country fired four short-range missiles into the sea in its first missile launches in about a year. The launches — two on Sunday, two on Thursday — came after the North said it had rebuffed dialogue offers by the Biden administration, citing what it called U.S. hostility.ADVERTISEMENT

Here’s look at North Korea’s recent missile launches and their motives.


North Korea has a long history of performing major weapons tests around the time new governments take power in the United States and South Korea.

In February 2017, less than a month after Donald Trump assumed the U.S. presidency, North Korea tested a mid-range missile that observers said showed an advance in weapon mobility. Later in 2017, four days after current South Korean President Moon Jae-in was inaugurated, North Korea fired what it called a newly developed, nuclear-capable intermediate-range missile.

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In 2009, North Korea conducted a long-range rocket launch and a nuclear test within the first four months of the first term of the Obama administration.

This week’s weapons tests largely appear to follow that playbook, but experts believe the country held back from a more serious a provocation because the Biden administration is still evaluating its North Korea policy.

The four missiles fired this week were all short-range and don’t pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland. According to South Korea’s assessment, the first two weapons launched Sunday were believed to be cruise missiles. But Japan said the two fired Thursday were ballistic missiles, more provocative weapons that North Korea is banned from testing by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“The basic pattern isn’t much different. But while North Korea in the past focused on showing off its maximum capability when a new government came in the United States, I feel the North is trying to control the level of (its provocation),” said Du Hyeogn Cha, an analyst at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies.MORE STORIES:




What it has always wanted: for “the United States to lift sanctions while letting it maintain its nuclear capability,” said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

Because the Biden administration is unlikely do that anytime soon, some experts say North Korea may stage bigger provocations, like a long-range missile test or a nuclear detonation.

For now, it is ramping up its rhetoric along with the short-range missile launches.

In January, about 10 days before Biden took office, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced he would enlarge his nuclear arsenal and beef up the country’s fighting capability to cope with a hostile U.S. policy and military threats. He also pressed South Korea to suspend regular military drills with the United States if it wants better ties.

When U.S. and South Korean militaries pressed ahead with their springtime drills this month, Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned the U.S. to “refrain from causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington reached out to Pyongyang starting in mid-February, but Pyongyang hasn’t responded. Coupled with the overture, however, Blinken continued to slam North Korea’s human rights record and nuclear ambitions when he visited Seoul last week. North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said her country will keep ignoring such U.S. offers because of what she called American hostility.

The recent launches seem to be an example of North Korea “putting Kim Yo Jong’s threats into action as she said the United States can’t sleep in peace if it doesn’t accept its demands,” said Moon Seong Mook.Full Coverage: North Korea



Experts say it’s highly unlikely for the Biden administration to back down and make concessions in the face of North Korea’s short-range missile launches. Biden, who has called Kim “a thug,” also isn’t likely to sit down for one-on-one talks with Kim unless he gets a pledge that North Korea will denuclearize — and officials confirm the country is sincere.

Amid the standoff, North Korea could end up launching bigger weapons tests, especially if it isn’t satisfied with the Biden administration’s North Korea policy review that is expected to be publicized soon, experts say.

“Biden won’t likely do a Trump-style ‘reality show summit’ with Kim. Kim’s agony in the next four years will be subsequently deepened and his nuclear gambling cannot help continuing,” said Nam Sung-wook, a professor at South Korea’s Korea University.

North Korea could turn to long-range missile and even nuclear tests, which Kim Jong Un suspended when he began engaging diplomatically with Washington. While Kim Jong Un has claimed to have achieved the ability to attack the U.S. homeland with nuclear missiles, outside experts said the North hasn’t mastered everything it would need to do that.

Such a major provocation would certainly prompt the United States and its allies to seek additional U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

But tougher sanctions may be difficult because of China, the North’s major diplomatic ally and economic lifeline, wields veto power on the U.N. Security Council. Given its current tensions with Washington, China may not easily agree to more sanctions even if North Korea engages in long-range missile or nuclear tests, analyst Cha said.

South Korea Is Packing Submarines With Rockets For Taking Out North Korea’s Nukes

South Korea’s got some weird submarines. And they’re about to get weirder … and more powerful.

As part of a sweeping, five-year defense plan costing $250 billion, Seoul plans to develop a new class of attack submarine carrying non-nuclear ballistic missiles.

Conventional ballistic missiles are a rarity on submarines. For land-attack missions, most navies arm their undersea boats with cruise missiles, as cruise missiles are more accurate—albeit slower and less powerful—than ballistic missiles are.

But Seoul has some, ahem, unique defense needs owing to the presence on its border of a heavily-armed and belligerent nuclear state. South Korea’s submarines and their hard-hitting ballistic missiles give the country some ability to prevent a North Korean attack.

North Korea suffers major bird flu outbreak as Kim Jong-un admits first coronavirus case

NORTH KOREA has reported a major avian flu outbreak that has decimated poultry across many of the nation’s farms.

North Korea declares ’emergency’ after suspected COVID-19 case

Avian flu viruses have the potential to infect humans and cause a pandemic. It has not been reported that this outbreak has mutated and made the jump from animal to human. A  source said: “An outbreak of avian influenza led to mass deaths at eight chicken farms, including a farm in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province.”

The source spoke to the online publication Daily NK, they added: “The incident was reported all the way up to the central authorities.”

The informant who covertly contacted the publication from within North Korea said: “The government ordered agencies focused on livestock in each province to sterilise facilities and regularly monitor the implementation of disease control measures concerning livestock.”

In North Korea many citizens keep livestock in their homes as a necessity to survive in a country that has had frequent famines caused by mismanagement by central government.

The insider said: “Given that many North Koreans raise chickens or geese at home, municipal and district animal disease prevention offices have been told to make sure they also check animals living in these homes.”

Avian flu outbreak in North Korea

Avian flu outbreak in North Korea (Image: GETTY)

North Korea authorities have given owners of poultry farms only one chance to rid their premises of avian flu.

If inspectors return and discover that the premises are still infected then it will be deemed, “not a mistake” and a direct violation of party orders.

This avian flu outbreak has come at the same time the reclusive nation announced that it had its first coronavirus infection.

Totalitarian leader Kim Jong Un then declared a state of emergency in the country.

READ MORE: Coronavirus map LIVE: New dangerous mutation spreading faster in UK

Poultry farms are being checked

Poultry farms are being checked (Image: GETTY)

The last major avian flu outbreak in North Korea was in February.

Scientists have created experimental H5N1 vaccines to combat avian flu if it makes the jump to humans.

The disease has a much higher fatality rate than coronavirus.

The mortality rate for humans with H5N1 is a shocking 60 percent.

North Korea fires missiles amid coronavirus pandemic

Tokyo says Pyongyang appeared to have fired a missile, which landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone waters.

The United States and China have repeatedly appealed for North Korea to return to talks on ending its nuclear and missile programmes [File: Lee Jin-man/AP]
The United States and China have repeatedly appealed for North Korea to return to talks on ending its nuclear and missile programmes [File: Lee Jin-man/AP]

North Korea fired two projectiles that appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s military said on Saturday, after what analysts said was a show of confidence during the coronavirus pandemic by announcing an April legislature session.

The launch follows two earlier this month, when North Korea launched short-range missiles and multiple projectiles, according to South Korea’s military, drawing US and Chinese appeals for Pyongyang to return to talks on ending its nuclear and missile programmes.

The suspected missiles were fired from North Pyongan province, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The province is above Pyongyang on the northwest corner of the Korean peninsula, bordering China.


Japan’s coast guard said on Saturday that North Korea appeared to have fired a missile, which landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone waters.

Earlier on Saturday, North Korea announced it will hold in April a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, its rubber-stamp legislature, in Pyongyang, which analysts had said would involve gathering almost 700 of the country’s leaders in one spot as the coronavirus spreads worldwide.

North Korea: strategy shift expected after nuclear talks stall

“If it goes ahead, it would be the ultimate show of [North Korea’s] confidence in managing the coronavirus situation,” Rachel Minyoung Lee, of the North Korea monitoring website NK News, said on Twitter this week.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the new coronavirus that was first detected in China late last year, though a top United States military official said last week he is “fairly certain” there were infections in North Korea.

State media KCNA also said on Saturday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guided an artillery fire competition between combined units of the North Korean army on Friday, displaying photos of him watching with high-ranking military officers, all unmasked.

It was unclear whether Saturday’s launch was part of the drill.

Amid Breakdown In Nuclear Talks, North Korea Threatens U.S. With ‘Christmas Gift’

A woman watches a news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Lee Jin-man/AP

In what could be a reference to a new missile test, North Korea is threatening to give the U.S. a “Christmas gift” unless Washington abides by an end-of-year deadline set by Pyongyang for concessions in exchange for a possible deal to curb its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea accused the U.S. of stalling on diplomatic efforts between the two countries because of the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

“The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep [North Korea] bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.,” the statement from Ri Thae Song, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said.

The statement, published in North Korean state media on Tuesday, said it was up to Washington “what Christmas gift it will select to get.” It did not clarify what the statement meant.

However, on July 4, 2017, Kim successfully carried out North Korea’s first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. According to The Associated Press, he described it at the time as part of a “package of gifts” on the U.S. Independence Day holiday.

Speaking on Tuesday, President Trump said he hoped that Kim would get rid of his country’s nuclear weapons. Kim “likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? … That’s why I call him Rocket Man,” the president said at a NATO meeting in London, reprising a pejorative he first used for Kim during a period of especially tense relations that began in 2017.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump met in June inside the Demilitarized Zone separating South and North Korea.

Getty Images

The two leaders first met in June 2018 in Singapore. They expressed mutual admiration, and Trump announced that Kim had agreed in principle to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February ended abruptly, with Kim and Trump leaving with no agreement.

Since then, working-level talks aimed at resolving the nuclear issue have all but broken down. As NPR’s Anthony Kuhn has reported, the basic disagreement is this: “The U.S. wants North Korea to give up its nukes first, and North Korea wants the U.S. to lift sanctions first.”

In May, after news that North Korea tested new ballistic weapons, Trump said, “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me.” He expressed “confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me.” Trump made the statement after his national security adviser at the time, John Bolton, warned that the tests violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

In recent weeks, senior State Department officials have downplayed the seriousness of North Korea’s year-end deadline. For example, special envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun told lawmakers last month that “we do not have a year-end deadline.” He described it as an “artificial deadline set by the North Koreans, and unfortunately, it’s a deadline that they’ve set upon themselves now.”

The statement from Ri said North Korea “has heard more than enough dialogue rhetoric raised by the U.S. whenever it is driven into a tight corner. So, no one will lend an ear to the U.S. any longer.”

Last week, North Korea fired two projectiles as it tested what it called a “super-large multiple-rocket launcher,” as the BBC reported. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described them as ballistic missiles, but North Korean state media mocked him, saying Japan “may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not-distant future.”

Kim has warned that if the U.S. does not come up with a more attractive offer to North Korea by the end of the year, his country will adopt a policy he’s calling the “new way.”

While it’s not clear what he means exactly, a researcher at a think tank affiliated with South Korea’s intelligence services recently told Kuhn that the options are worrying. Choi Yong-hwan, from the Institute for National Security Strategy, said, “North Korea may choose to strengthen its nuclear capabilities, deploy nuclear weapons they already have or work on completing advanced missile technologies they haven’t completed yet.”

Kim Jong Un tells N. Korea military to keep “full-combat posture” after second missile launch in week

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has told his military to maintain a “full-combat posture” as tensions continue to rise with the U.S. His order follows the firing of three missiles Thursday, the second missile launch in a week.

North Korea says the test was part of its regular military training. South Korea claims they may be part of a new weapons system. As North Korean missile tests go, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer says Thursday’s was less a show of force than an attempt to grab attention.

North Korean state media released pictures Friday morning showing a gleeful Kim apparently watching those missile launches — the second such drill he had observed in five days.

North Korea’s state media avoided specifying what the weapons were, but the U.S. military says they were three short-range ballistic missiles.


President Trump said it was not enough to ruin his relationship with Kim Jung Un.

“They were smaller missiles, they’re short range missiles,” President Trump said. “Nobody’s happy about it, but we’re taking a good look and we’ll see, we’ll see. The relationship continues, but we’ll see what happens.”

But the missile launches of the past week have been the first since 2017, and a sure sign that Kim is becoming frustrated after the last summit with President Trump collapsed.

Analyst Thomas Sanderson says the launches won’t be enough of a provocation to derail future talks.

“They certainly are not going to prevent another summit; it’s not as if it is an intercontinental range missile and it’s not the testing of a nuclear warhead,” Sanderson said. “These are the two elements that Kim Jong Un promised he would put a moratorium on.”

Technically that moratorium still holds, but Kim has already warned the U.S. to change its position, or there will be no third summit with Mr. Trump.

Ratcheting up tensions between the countries even further, the U.S. revealed Thursday that it had seized a huge North Korean cargo ship off the coast of Indonesia.

The 17,000 ton ship, called the “Wise Honest,” was caught carrying North Korean coal for export — in direct defiance of international sanctions. Its seizure shows U.S. resolve to cut off North Korean trade that might fund its nuclear program.

Trump Walks Away From North Korea Nuclear Talks

A historic summit to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula ended without an agreement Thursday, after talks between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un fell apart. Their second summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, failed after Kim Jong Un demanded that the U.S. lift all sanctions on North Korea in exchange for dismantling the Yongbyon enrichment facility — an important North Korean nuclear site. We speak with Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War.


AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Hanoi, Vietnam, where talks between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un came to an abrupt end Thursday, after the leaders failed to reach a denuclearization agreement. Their second summit meeting fell apart over Kim Jong-un’s demand the U.S. lift all sanctions on North Korea. This is President Trump speaking at a news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I could have done a deal today, but it would have been a deal that wouldn’t have been a deal that—it would have been something that I wouldn’t have been happy about, Mike would not have been happy about. We had some pretty big options, but we just felt it wasn’t appropriate. And we really want to do it right.

AMY GOODMAN: Trump said Kim had demanded sanctions be lifted in exchange for dismantling the Yongbyon enrichment facility, an important North Korean nuclear site. During the news press conference, Trump was questioned by David Sanger of The New York Times.

DAVID SANGER: So, can you just give us a little more detail? Did you get into the question of actually dismantling the Yongbyon complex?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I did. Yes, absolutely.

DAVID SANGER: And does he seem willing, ultimately—


DAVID SANGER: —to take all of that out?


DAVID SANGER: He does? He just wants all the sanctions off first, before—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He would do that, but he wants the sanctions for that. And as you know, there’s plenty left after that. And I just felt it wasn’t good. Mike and I spent a long time negotiating and talking about it to ourselves. And just I felt that that particular—as you know, that facility, while very big, it wasn’t enough to do what we were doing.

DAVID SANGER: So he was willing to do Yongbyon, but you wanted more than that, I assume, including—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We had a have more than that, yeah. We had to have more than that—

DAVID SANGER: And so, you needed both—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: —because there are other things that you haven’t talked about, that you haven’t written about, that we found and we have to have, that was done a long time ago but the people didn’t know about.

DAVID SANGER: Including the uranium—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And we brought—yeah.

DAVID SANGER: Including the second uranium enrichment plant.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Exactly. And we brought many, many points up that I think they were surprised that we knew. But we had to do more than just the one level, because if we did the one level and we gave up all of that leverage, that’s been—taken a long time to build—

DAVID SANGER: So, he was—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I want to take—by the way—

DAVID SANGER: He was not willing to take out that second—that second—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: David, I want to take off the sanctions so badly, because I want that country to grow. That country has got such potential. But they have to give up more. We could have done that deal.

AMY GOODMAN: The working lunch was canceled between the two leaders. The summit’s collapse comes just days after House Democrats introduced a resolution to end the Korean War, after nearly 70 years of conflict. Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna, who introduced the resolution, said in a statement, “Historic engagement between South and North Korea has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to formally end this war. … President Trump must not squander this rare chance for peace,” he said.

Well, for more, we turn to Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. She’s in Hanoi, Vietnam, for the summit.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Christine. Can you respond to the collapse of the summit?

CHRISTINE AHN: Hi, Amy. Well, it’s obviously a very sad day for 80 million Korean people around the world, especially on the peninsula, as we’ve been long waiting—67 years—for the U.S. and North Korea to declare an end to the Korean War. And many people, many pundits, many—I think President Moon—were expecting a breakthrough today, you know, including things such as the establishment of opening liaison offices in Washington and in Pyongyang. So, the sudden decision to cut short the meeting, to basically shut down the talks, and—it came as a sudden surprise. And the mood, which started out celebratory, was soon overshadowed by the sudden decision and the announcement that Trump made, that North Korea was demanding the full lifting of sanctions.

And so, I mean, I want to first start by saying we don’t know what the full picture is. And, in fact, there have been now some reports coming out, especially from South Korea, the former minister of unification is suggesting that Bolton—of course—I mean, once we saw the picture of the table and we saw Pompeo and we saw Bolton, I mean, we had to—that was a red flag that something was going to be derailed. And so, what we understand from the South Korean side is that Bolton was insisting that biological and chemical weapons were to be part of the package. And so North Korea obviously shifted their position and called for full lifting of sanctions.

So, we don’t know what the full picture is. We obviously have to hear from the North Korean side. But I wouldn’t just quickly, you know, take Trump’s line that North Korea was asking for something that is—was unreasonable, because, clearly, a lot of work had been done. I think Stephen Biegun, who is the special representative and envoy, clearly spent a lot of time. He gave a speech at Stanford a few weeks ago. It was perhaps one of the most thoughtful, comprehensive understanding of the situation, and it seemed as if we were on the brink of a diplomatic breakthrough.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to President Trump speaking earlier today.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The inspections on North Korea will take place and will, if we do something with them—we have a schedule set up that is very good. We know things that—as David was asking about, certain places and certain sites. There are sites that people don’t know about, that we know about. We would be able to do inspections, we think, very, very successfully.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting, Christine. President Trump was not extremely critical of the North Korean leader. He was not being defiant. He got some help from Sean Hannity, who was in the audience, almost reminding him, saying something along the lines of, “President Trump, you know, of course, President Reagan walked away at Reykjavík, and that was just a strategy,” he said. But your thoughts on where you think this will head, President Trump saying maybe they’ll meet again soon, or maybe it will be a very long time from now?

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, I mean, there are two things that give me hope in this current moment. One is, I mean, actually, the rapport, if you actually see the rapport that Trump and Kim have established. I mean, you need the leaders of the two countries to have good rapport. And clearly there is something there.

And, you know, the fact that Trump said two things in his press conference really surprised me. One was, he put a dollar bill, the amount, a price tag, on the U.S. war drills. He said they cost $100 million. It’s a huge waste of money. The other thing he said was that the sanctions harm the people of North Korea and that he wouldn’t be adding more new sanctions. I think that’s a great outcome. It’s a great foundation. But we need to continue to build on it. We need to push for it.

The other thing that obviously gives me hope is that the peace—the historic peace that’s taking place between North and South Korea. The Korean people want an end to this Korean War. Nine out of 10 South Koreans want a declaration to the end of the war. They have made tremendous progress.

So, one of the key outcomes that we were hoping for was the lifting of sanctions, that are definitely getting in the way of inter-Korean economic progress. And so, I think that we have to take it to the International Court. We have to take it to the world of public opinion. Sanctions is not some kind of sterile thing. This is something that is having a daily impact on the lives of North Korean people. Sixty thousand North Korean children can starve as a result of sanctions. We’ve heard the special rapporteur on human rights say that the sanctions are impacting the day-to-day life of North Korean people.

You know, this is not just a game of politics. This is a game of people’s lives. This is not a game. And I think that there’s an urgency, not just for the people that are living in North Korea, but think about the people of the Korean Peninsula, where they have lived for 70 years of a constant threat of war breaking out, intentionally or accidentally. This is not a game. And this is a moment where the international community must put pressure, whether at the U.N. level, and put pressure on the countries that have been siding with the United States, and say, “This is enough. This is enough.” Korea wants peace. And the international community has a responsibility to support it.

AMY GOODMAN: Christine Ahn, can you talk about the role of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, in facilitating the North Korea-U.S. negotiations?

CHRISTINE AHN: I mean, he’s been absolutely essential. And the good news is that Trump asked his support after he left today, that he really wanted his support in, you know, continuing to play this facilitating role. But, you know, we would not be in this place were it not the incredibly effective diplomacy by President Moon.

And, you know, we have to take a hard look at what is a true alliance. And is it alliance of the military? Is it alliance of the corporations? Or is it alliance of the people? And if the people of South Korea are asking the American people to support this historic peace, that won’t happen for another lifetime—and the stars are aligned right now. And so, I speak with—you know, having worked on this issue for most of my adult life. We are not going to have this opportunity.

And so that’s why another thing that gives me hope is that Congressman Ro Khanna, Andy Kim, the first Korean-American Democrat, and several women congresswomen, including Barbara Lee, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jan Schakowsky—they have all stepped forward to introduce this congressional resolution calling for an end to the Korean War and urging the president to establish a process towards the signing of a peace agreement. We’re not going to get to denuclearization, we’re not going to get to the improvement of human rights, until we get to peace. And, you know, declaring an end to the Korean War was going to be a first step, but it’s not enough. It’s not a legally a binding agreement. And we need to push for this.

And as I wrote in an op-ed with Gloria Steinem in The Washington Post, the Korean War is America’s oldest war. It inaugurated the military-industrial complex. It set forth the U.S. foreign policy to be the world’s military police. I don’t think Americans want that anymore. And we have this historic opportunity to end America’s oldest war.

We have a U.S. Congress that is the most representative ever of the American population, and we have the greatest number of women in Congress right now. This is the moment now to push for this war. It’s not just a symbolic thing. But think about—I live in Hawaii, where there’s the U.S. Pacific Command. Think about how much is invested in preparation for war with North Korea. Clearly, there’s China behind that. But think about what we can do. We’ll never be able to achieve the bold vision for Medicare for all or free college tuition or New Green Deal, unless we tackle the $700 billion budget that is currently being invested. And North Korea is the greatest—allegedly the greatest U.S. foreign policy challenge.

We have a golden opportunity. The Korean people want peace. It’s time for the American people to stand up with them and urge the president. And if not, and if President Trump is not movable, then we have to try the U.S. government, and that’s where Congress has a role to play, not just to authorize war, but they have a role to declare peace.

AMY GOODMAN: Christine Ahn, you were among hundreds of women who wrote a letter jointly to Donald Trump and to Kim Jong-un, calling for peace and saying peace women should be at the table. Can you explain?

CHRISTINE AHN: Absolutely. I mean, I think right now the fragility of the talks shows that we have to democratize this process. We can’t leave it just in the hands of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. It needs to have—it’s not just a war, a 70-year war, between the leaders of the two countries. We have had generations of propaganda. We’ve always seen North Korea through a prism of war. And we need to have people-to-people engagement. That is what’s going to bring genuine peace.

And we know that when women are included in the peace process, it leads to a peace agreement—and not just a peace agreement, but a really durable one. And when half the world’s population isn’t part of shaping a peace agreement that reflects the desire of half the world’s population, it’s not going to, obviously, be a just and sustainable one. So we’re demanding that there is a process that includes civil society and that includes women’s rights groups, because we have seen the record. In 40 conflicts around the world, in all but one case, when women’s groups were involved in the peace process, it led to a peace agreement. And we want to see denuclearization. We want to see peace. We want to see the improvement of human rights. We’ll never get there, until there is a true peace, until war is taken off the table.

AMY GOODMAN: Christine, finally, I want to ask about Otto Warmbier, the American student who was imprisoned for more than 17 months for trying to steal a propaganda sign in a North Korean hotel, died in June 2017, a week after he was released from a North Korean prison and returned to the U.S. in a coma. When Trump was asked if he discussed Warmbier with Kim Jong-un at the Hanoi news conference, Trump said, quote, “He tells me he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word. Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places, and bad things happen. But I don’t believe he knew about it,” he said. Your response?

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, I believe that it’s very possible that Kim Jong-un wouldn’t know and that perhaps those that were overseeing Otto Warmbier’s condition didn’t know what to do, when—you know, if—what they’re saying is that he fell into a coma and that they didn’t have the proper medical ability to treat him.

But what we do know is that when he returned, when his body was returned back to the United States, the doctor that received him conducted—like basically did a full examination. And she basically held a press conference, after the Warmbiers did, and said, “I examined his body, and this is not the sign of—there wasn’t torture. In fact, you know, for his condition, he was actually—he was very well taken care of.” And that, unfortunately—there was a really great piece—I think it was in GQ, because the author couldn’t find another publication, but people should read that. It’s an incredibly insightful view into the complexity of what took place. But I think that’s a really important point that is obscured in the media and definitely hidden, is that the doctor that received him said—had a completely different narrative about the condition when he returned to the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Although, of course, there was the question—

CHRISTINE AHN: I mean, it is a tragic situation. And—

AMY GOODMAN: There was the question of why he was held at all, for that length of time.

CHRISTINE AHN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, it’s an absurd thing. North Korea should have released him. There was no reason to do that. But I think, you know, it’s back to the issue of North Korea, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula is one of a state of war. And North Korea is a garrison state. It is in a siege mentality. And if we want to see progress towards that, isolating them, doing aggressive military exercises, you know, conducting sanctions that prevent the development of the economy—I mean, we look at the U.N. Security Council sanctions, for example. You know, it bans exports of textiles. I mean, who do you think works of these textile factories, but women? And so, we know that when women have access to the resources, when they control the purse, that the conditions of their families and their communities improve. So, how are we not seeing this broader geopolitical context of the conditions in North Korea? We have to say we have some culpability in this.

AMY GOODMAN: Christine Ahn, I want to thank you very much for being with us, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, speaking to us from Hanoi, Vietnam, where the U.S.-North Korea summit has broken down. President Trump has left. But we will continue, of course, to cover this story. And we’ll link to the joint letter to both leaders from hundreds of women around the world calling for an end to the Korean War.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, highlights from the testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday of Michael Cohen. Stay with us.

North Korea Agreed to Denuclearize, but When Will the US?

A powerful economic incentive continues to drive the nuclear arms race. After the Singapore Summit, the stock values of all major defense contractors — including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics — declined.

Given his allegiance to boosting corporate profits, it’s no surprise that Donald Trump is counterbalancing the effects of the Singapore Summit’s steps toward denuclearization with a Nuclear Posture Review that steers the US toward developing leaner and meaner nukes and lowers the threshold for using them.

The United States has allocated $1.7 trillion to streamline our nuclear arsenal, despite having agreed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 to work toward nuclear disarmament.

Meanwhile, the US maintains a stockpile of 7,000 nuclear weapons, some 900 of them on “hair trigger alert,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“If weapons are used they need to be replaced,” Brand McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network has argued. “That makes war a growth story for these stocks, and one of the big potential growth stories recently has been North Korea. What the agreement does, at least for a while, is take military conflict off the table.”

Moreover, economic incentives surrounding conventional weapons also cut against the promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Eric Sirotkin, founder of Lawyers for Demilitarization and Peace in Korea, has pointed out that South Korea is one of the largest importers of conventional weapons from the United States. If North and South Korea achieve “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” as envisioned by the agreement between Trump and Kim Jong Un, the market for US weapons could dry up, according to Sirotkin.

Even so, US defense spending will continue to increase, according to Bloomberg Intelligence aerospace expert George Ferguson. “If North Korea turns from a pariah state to being welcomed in the world community, there are still enough trouble spots that require strong defense spending, supporting revenue and profit growth at prime defense contractors.”

The US Lags Behind on Denuclearization

Last year, more than 120 countries approved the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

Since the treaty opened for signature on September 20, 2017, 58 countries have signed and 10 have ratified it. Fifty countries must ratify the treaty for it to enter into force, hopefully in 2019.

The five original nuclear-armed nations — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote. During negotiations, in October 2016, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

In advance of the Singapore Summit, dozens of Korean American organizations and allies signed a statement of unity, which says:

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula means not only eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons but also denuclearizing the land, air, and seas of the entire peninsula. This is not North Korea’s obligation alone. South Korea and the United States, which has in the past introduced and deployed close to one thousand tactical nuclear weapons in the southern half of the peninsula, also need to take concrete steps to create a nuclear-free peninsula.

Prospects for Denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula

The jury is out on whether the statement signed by Trump and Kim after months of hurling incendiary nuclear threats at each other will prevent future nuclear threats and pave the way for global denuclearization.

On April 27, 2018, the Panmunjom Declaration, a momentous agreement between South Korea and North Korea, set the stage for the Singapore Summit. It reads, “The two leaders [of North and South Korea] solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.”

The Trump-Kim statement explicitly reaffirmed the Panmunjom Declaration and said North Korea “commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

However, when the summit was in the planning stages and before Trump anointed John Bolton as National Security Adviser, Bolton skeptically predicted the summit would not deter North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Bolton wants regime change in North Korea. His invocation of the Libya model — in which Muammar Qaddafi relinquished his nuclear weapons and was then viciously murdered — nearly derailed the summit. Bolton cynically hoped the summit would provide “a way to foreshorten the amount of time that we’re going to waste in negotiations that will never produce the result we want.”

Sirotkin told Truthout, “Sadly, [the summit] may be set up in this way to please the John Bolton neocon wing as this offers nothing but the peace we agreed to after World War II for all countries of the world in the UN Charter.”

Meanwhile, Trump claims he has achieved something his predecessors — particularly his nemesis Barack Obama — were unable to pull off. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted upon landing in the United States after the summit. Five minutes later, he again took to Twitter, declaring, “Before taking office people were assuming we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight.”

In an analysis shared via Facebook, H. Bruce Franklin, professor emeritus at Rutgers University, pointed out that — in a sideways fashion — Trump was correct when he tweeted there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea:

[Trump] of course omitted the simple fact that there never was a realistic nuclear threat from North Korea, which has been frantically building a nuclear capability to act as a deterrent against U.S. aggression. If the U.S. stops threatening North Korea, North Korea will have no motive to threaten the U.S. with retaliation. The United States never faced any nuclear threat until we forced the Soviet Union to create one in 1949 to serve as a deterrent against our aggression.

The significance of the Singapore Summit should not be underestimated. Trump is the first US president to meet with the leader of North Korea. Trump showed Kim respect, and Kim responded in kind. Trump and Kim made a major commitment to peace. We should applaud and support it, and encourage Trump to sit down with Iran’s leaders as well.

The joint agreement signed by the two leaders in Singapore was admittedly sketchy, and denuclearization will not happen overnight. But the agreement was a critical first step in a process of rapprochement between two countries that have, in effect, been at war since 1950.

Indeed, the United States has continued to carry out military exercises with South Korea, which North Korea considers preparation for an invasion. In a critical move, Trump stated at the post-summit press conference that the United States would suspend its “very provocative” war games.

Trump also announced a freeze on any new US sanctions against North Korea and indicated that the United States could lift the current harsh sanctions even before accomplishing total denuclearization. Kim promised to halt nuclear testing and destroy a testing site for ballistic missile engines.

Ultimately, however, it is only global denuclearization that will eliminate the unimaginable threat of nuclear war.

Donald Trump Has History of Contradictory Statements on Nuclear Weapons

Campaign Flashback: Trump’s 2016 Nuclear Weapons Stance1:45

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. drastically increase its nuclear arsenal follows a presidential campaign in which he made a number of contradictory statements about weapons of mass destruction.

As a candidate, he called nuclear proliferation the “single biggest threat” facing the world while also suggesting Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons as a defense. During one debate he ruled out a “first strike” but in the same breath said he would not take anything off the table.

Related: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military

His desire to increase the country’s nuclear capabilities nearly tenfold, voiced during a meeting with top national security leaders in July, came as North Korea continued to escalate nuclear tensions with more weapons tests.

As a candidate and as president, Trump has been fairly consistent in calling for the modernization of the country’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s how Trump has talked about nuclear weapons since launching his presidential run and entering the White House.

Trump Claims to Have Ordered the Modernization of the Country’s Nuclear Weapons

My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….

…Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!

As a Candidate, He Criticized the Country’s Nuclear Arsenal as Outdated

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

Trump Has Given A Variety of Answers on Using Nuclear Weapons

  • “I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” — Presidential DebateSept. 26, 2016
  • “I don’t want to rule out anything. I will be the last to use nuclear weapons. It’s a horror to use nuclear weapons. The power of weaponry today is the single greatest problem that our world has.” — TODAY, April 28, 2016
  • “I will do everything within my power never to be in a position where we have to use nuclear power because that’s a whole different ballgame.” — Interview with The New York Times, July 21, 2016
  • “Nuclear should be off the table, but would there be a time when it would be used? Possibly. Possibly. … I would be the last one to use the nuclear weapons. Because that’s sort of like the end of the ballgame. … I’m not going to use nukes, but I’m not taking any cards off the table.” — Town Hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, March 30, 2016
  • “Well, it is an absolute last stance. And, you know, I use the word unpredictable. You want to be unpredictable.” — Interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Jan. 3, 2016
  • “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them.” —Interview with GQ, Nov. 23, 2015

He Has Called Nuclear Proliferation the “Greatest Threat” Facing the U.S.

  • “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.” — Interview with The New York Times, March 26, 2016
  • “Our single biggest problem we have is nuclear weapons, you know, countries with them.” — Town Hall on Fox News, March 3, 2016
  • “The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.” — Republican Presidential Debate, Dec. 15, 2015

But He Has Also Suggested Japan, South Korea and Even Saudi Arabia Should Have Them

  • As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody in the — we’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century. All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons.” — Presidential Debate, Oct. 19, 2016

CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: But — but you’re ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers?

TRUMP: I am prepared to — if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are, right now, the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.

You know, when people look at our military and they say, “Oh, wow, that’s fantastic,” they have many, many times — you know, we spend many times what any other country spends on the military. But it’s not really for us. We’re defending other countries.

So all I’m saying is this: They have to pay.

And you know what? I’m prepared to walk, and if they have to defend themselves against North Korea, where you have a maniac over there, in my opinion, if they don’t — if they don’t take care of us properly, if they don’t respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what’s going to have to happen, Wolf?

It’s very simple. They’re going to have to defend themselves.

— Interview on CNN, May, 4, 2016

CNN’s ANDERSON COOPER: So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have …

COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.

Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.

Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.

— CNN Town Hall, March 29, 2016

Trump Even Said He Would Not Take Using a Nuclear Bomb in Europe Off the Table

  • “Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability. Now, our capability is going down rapidly because of what we’re doing. It’s in bad shape. The equipment is not properly maintained. There are all lot of talk about that. And that’s a bad thing, not a good thing. The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don’t want to take anything off the table. We have to negotiate. There will be times maybe when we’re going to be in a very deep, very difficult, very horrible negotiation. The last person — I’m not going to take it off the table. And I said it yesterday. And I stay with it.” — Interview on Fox News, March 31, 2016