Inside Pompeo’s Fraught North Korea Trip


Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol in Pyongyang on July 7.Photographer: Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty Images

Bloomberg, by Nick Wadhams, July 8, 2018:

As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Pyongyang at 10:54 a.m. on Friday he had few details of his schedule in the North Korean capital — even which hotel he and his staff would stay in.

Not much was clear aside from lunch with counterpart Kim Yong Chol to start filling in the “nitty-gritty details’’ from the Singapore declaration signed between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, according to his spokeswoman Heather Nauert. A handshake with Kim Jong Un, at least, seemed certain.

In the end, Pompeo stayed at neither of the hotels where he thought he’d be. The North Koreans took him, his staff and the six journalists traveling with the delegation to a gated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital, just behind the mausoleum where the bodies of regime founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il lie embalmed and on occasional display.

It was the start of a confused visit of less than 30 hours, marked by a pair of lavish banquets that the secretary and his staff appeared to dread for their length and the daunting number of courses presented by unfailingly polite waiters. He only learned of his own schedule hours ahead of time, and the meeting with Kim Jong Un never happened — despite strenuous efforts from his staff

Read more: U.S.-North Korea Talks Stumble

The trip reflects the difficulty for Pompeo in dealing with one of the world’s most reclusive and unpredictable regimes, which can shift from threats to warm words and back again at speed. It comes as pressure mounts on him to show progress on the delicate task of getting North Korea to move forward on nuclear disarmament, including the issue of verification, and make good on President Donald Trump’s claimed accomplishments from the Singapore summit.

Amid talk of goodwill and Trump’s repeated tweets of the bond he has developed with Kim, it was also a jarring reminder that North Korea’s approach may not have changed as much as U.S. officials — and Pompeo in particular — had hoped. The U.S. is seeking to persuade the world the North Koreans are genuinely prepared to give up the weapons they have developed in the face of years of false starts and broken promises to successive U.S. administrations.

From the moment Pompeo landed in Pyongyang, North Korean officials quickly asserted control. Kim Yong Chol set the optics during their first meeting, which took place around a long wooden table in one of the many conference rooms off the carpeted hallways of the guesthouse complex.

Read more: North Korea Expanding Missile-Manufacturing Plant

Normally, media handlers from the host country would let reporters witness the first 30 seconds or so of such a meeting. But Kim’s staff allowed reporters to stay for several minutes.

“The more you come, the more trust we can build between one another,” Kim said.

Pompeo, who has yet to gain a taste for such theater, murmured a few pleasantries but quickly lost patience and called on Nauert to usher all media — North Korean reporters included — from the room.

Between the many hours of talks, the North Koreans sought to put forward an image of bounty and wealth, an alternate reality in a country where much of the population lives in hunger, lacks electricity and has little to no access to the internet or foreign television.

Bearing Fruit

In the guesthouse, each room had bowls of bananas, grapes, oranges and pears that were replenished whenever the occupant was out. The internet speed was fast in each room and the BBC played on flat-screen televisions. In a country laden with the iconography of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, there were no portraits of either man in the compound.

Still, the reminders were there. Guests could roam the grounds and walk a path that surrounded a lake, but were blocked from approaching workers erecting a building nearby. Guards watched surreptitiously from behind a stand of trees.

The lack of U.S. control clearly rankled Pompeo. A former military officer accustomed to short, focused meetings, he was made to sit through multi-course meals with Kim and his staff, as waiters brought plate after plate of food — foie gras, turkey, pea soup, boiled oak mushrooms, kimchi, watermelon and ice cream, plus a drink branded “American Cola.”

By the morning of his second day, Pompeo had enough. Instead of the elaborate breakfast prepared for him, he ate toast and slices of processed cheese.

Read more: U.S. Upgrading Korea Missile Defense Even as ‘War Games’ Halted

Despite the lack of progress, the North Koreans showed a keen awareness of broader politics in the U.S. under Trump. On the way from the airport, riding in a Dodge Ram van, a minder was noncommittal about what the talks might bring.

“We’ll have to see, like your president says,” he said. He paused and added: “In this van, no fake news?”

The specifics of what happened behind closed doors remain unclear. Whether Pompeo somehow annoyed his counterpart, or pressed too hard, or whether the North Koreans are simply reverting to their hot-and-cold tactics, is hard to say. But the regime made sure to have the final word, and it was not pleasant.

As he was leaving, Pompeo told reporters the conversations were “productive and in good faith.” Hours later North Korean state media issued a statement that did not mention him by name but called the demands he presented “gangster-like.”

Days before the trip began, reporters traveling with Pompeo had to rush to get new passports with a special endorsement allowing entry to North Korea. In the end, authorities in Pyongyang never stamped them and the documents were returned unblemished. It was as if the secretary had never visited at all.

Also see:

U.S. Prepares Timeline of ‘Specific Asks’ for North Korea

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Jon Hayward,  June 26, 2018:

A senior defense official giving a background briefing to reporters on Sunday stated that the Trump administration will soon present North Korea with a “specific timeline” for denuclearization filled with “specific asks,” and will judge Pyongyang’s degree of “good faith” by how well the timeline is received.

“We’ll know pretty soon if they’re going to operate in good faith or not,” the anonymous official said, as recounted by Reuters. “There will be specific asks and there will be a specific timeline when we present the North Koreans with our concept of what implementation of the summit agreement looks like.”

Reuters implies the promise of “specific asks” was, to some degree, a response to criticisms that President Donald Trump has not made enough specific demands of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un yet, and most of the concessions offered by Kim to date have been symbolic gestures of little real cost to the North Korean regime.

The press briefing was held on Sunday in advance of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s trip to Asia, during which he will visit China, South Korea, and Japan. As he departed, Mattis confirmed that both the major Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill and two smaller training exercises with South Korea have been suspended, a gesture intended to keep negotiations with North Korea on track.

The timetable presented to North Korea will probably be quite aggressive, as Reuters notes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated major disarmament should be underway before the end of President Trump’s first term. Some analysts have said full and irreversible disarmament could take 15 years or more, so the Trump administration’s goal is presumably to complete solid initial steps that will demonstrate North Korea is truly committed to following that long path.

One of the goals Mattis outlined for his trip to China is ensuring Beijing will remain committed to enforcing strong sanctions against North Korea until denuclearization is achieved. China will almost certainly wish to reward North Korea with immediate sanctions relief if progress on denuclearization is made, so it will be important to ensure China understands and agrees with the timetable presented to Pyongyang.

Mattis will also push for more regional security cooperation from China by pointing out that the suspension of U.S. military exercises with South Korea satisfies a major Chinese strategic objective, which is the real reason China has insisted so strongly on its “freeze-for-freeze” plan that made suspension of American exercises a precondition for nuclear talks with North Korea.

Also see:

Key White House official advocated for ‘limited use of military force’ in North Korea

Fred Fleitz, left, and national security adviser John Bolton, right. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, AP, Getty Images)

Yahoo News, by Hunter Walker, June  6, 2018:

WASHINGTON — In a book published just three months ago, Fred Fleitz, the recently appointed chief of staff of the White House National Security Council advocated the “limited use of military force” against North Korea, whose leader President Trump will meet in Singapore next week.

Fleitz also described the president’s top national security adviser, John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as believing the U.S. must “soon” use force against North Korea. It’s a stark contrast from the president’s optimism about the possible outcome of the summit with Kim Jong Un:

“There are some conservative experts who believe the North Korean government is so corrupt, malevolent and obsessed with taking over the South that it is pointless to negotiate with it. These experts include Ambassador John Bolton, who believes regime change is the only solution to the North Korean threat and that it is vital that the U.S. use force soon to end this regime before the costs of doing so and the risks to the U.S. homeland become unacceptable,” Fleitz wrote.

Fleitz offered these views in his book “The Coming North Korea Nuclear Nightmare,” published on March 8, exactly one day before the White House announced that Trump would hold talks with Kim, the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Kim’s family has led a brutal regime in the country since it was founded after World War II. America and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations and have technically been in a state of war since the outbreak of the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty. Tensions between the two nations have increased in recent years as North Korea made advances in its nuclear weapons program and threatened to attack the U.S.

The comments in Fleitz’s book are particularly noteworthy given both his position in the administration and his long association with Bolton. Fleitz, who has been described as a Bolton loyalist, was named as the NSC chief of staff and executive secretary late last month. When Bolton was an undersecretary of state under President George W. Bush, Fleitz was his chief of staff. Fleitz has also served as a CIA analyst, made frequent appearances on Fox News, and worked as a senior vice president at the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank notable for its strident warnings about Islamic expansionism. The Center for Security Policy published Fleitz’s book on North Korea.

In his description of Bolton’s position, Fleitz wrote that the national security adviser knows an American strike against North Korea could lead Kim to launch attacks on other countries in the region, including American allies South Korea and Japan, and, even potentially on the United States itself. Still, Fleitz said both Bolton and Trump think it’s worth the risk.

“Bolton concedes that attacking North Korea could result in deadly North Korean attacks against regional states, but he believes such attacks are inevitable if the world allows North Korea to complete its nuclear weapons and missile programs. President Trump has made statements suggesting that he also may hold this view,” Fleitz wrote.

Yahoo News contacted the White House to ask if the characterizations of Bolton’s positions in Fleitz’s book were accurate and whether the views he described reflect administration policy. National Security Council spokesperson Garrett Marquis responded by simply saying Bolton and Trump are united in their approach.

“President Trump’s policy is Mr. Bolton’s policy. There is no daylight between them,” said Marquis.

Bolton, who has a well-established reputation as a foreign policy hawk, became Trump’s top national security adviser in April, the third person to hold that position since Trump took office in January 2017.

Bolton was considered a hard-liner on North Korea and skeptical about the summit, which was briefly canceled before being reinstated. He was reportedly not going to attend the meeting, but top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that he will be there. The White House did not respond to questions from Yahoo News about whether Fleitz will also be at the meeting with Trump and Kim.

While different officials and ideas rapidly fall in and out of favor in the White House, Fleitz’s book sheds light on what exactly Bolton and his allies could be pushing for on one of the most crucial foreign policy issues facing the Trump administration.

Fleitz also discussed one of the more controversial North Korea strategies that has been considered by the Trump administration — a so-called bloody nose strike. In February, there were multiple reports White House officials were clashing over whether or not to launch a limited strike against North Korea that would get the country to reconsider its nuclear weapons program. White House officials subsequently denied considering the idea. However, Fleitz said sources told him the plan was considered and remains on the table.

“Although the bloody nose strategy was supported by many conservatives, Trump officials began to deny its existence in mid-February 2018, probably in response to the negative publicity it received and concerns raised by South Korean officials. … The author is skeptical about those denials,” Fleitz wrote, adding, “This strategy is consistent with what President Trump told a senior foreign policy expert (relayed by this expert to the author) during a December 2017 meeting: that [former National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster] and [Secretary of Defense James Mattis] favored some kind of limited attack on North Korea. … Although some Trump officials … always opposed the bloody nose strategy, the author believes this was and continues to be a Trump administration policy option for dealing with North Korea.”

Fleitz shared his own views on North Korea in the book. He makes a lengthy indictment of President Obama’s North Korea policy, which he dismisses as “dithering” and “disinterest[ed].” The previous administration’s policies “significantly worsened the threat from the rogue state by giving it eight years to develop advanced missiles and nuclear weapons with almost no opposition from the U.S. and the international community,” he writes.

Fleitz also criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in as “a liberal politician who favors a more conciliatory approach to North Korea.” The U.S. faces “difficulties” when “relying on South Korean President Moon,” he wrote.

The president was dealt a “bad hand” by Obama, Fleitz wrote, and praised Trump for making “the best of a difficult situation.” He argues that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” that included stiff economic sanctions and threats of “fire and fury” was successful, encouraging North Korea to come to the negotiating table.

Fleitz suggested that, when it comes to North Korea, there are two major “sobering questions” facing Trump.

“Are there ways to use military force to contain or roll back North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs without sparking a war? What is the actual purpose of North Korea’s nuclear and missile efforts? Deterrence? Blackmail to extort concessions? Or as a means to one day force the reunification of the Korean Peninsula on Pyongyang’s terms?” asked Fleitz.

Fleitz was unambiguous in his answer to the latter question.

“My view is that North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs are offensive in nature, not a deterrent and not simply blackmail tools,” Fleitz wrote.

Rather than a tool to extract foreign aid, Fleitz said he viewed the weapons as an arsenal North Korea “will one day use to force the reunification of the Korean Peninsula on its terms and expel American forces from the region.”

On the question of whether America can use force to deter North Korea’s nuclear program without sparking a catastrophic conflict, Fleitz offered a more nuanced answer. In the end, he recommended what he described as “limited” military action.

According to Fleitz, “before the U.S. considers military action, every option short of war must be fully explored and exhausted.” But, somewhat contradictorily, he repeatedly dismissed the idea negotiations would yield meaningful results.

“The Kim family’s 70-year legacy of tyranny, belligerence, corruption and criminality, coupled with its iron grip on power controlling North Korea makes negotiating a meaningful nuclear agreement with the Kim regime difficult, if not impossible,” wrote Fleitz.

The likely outcome of negotiations, he wrote, is “cutbacks or halts in its missile and nuclear programs that Pyongyang has no intention of implementing.” For Fleitz, anything short of full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “amounts to appeasement.” He described overtures North Korea made during the Winter Olympics, which were held in South Korea earlier this year, as “a propaganda ploy and a charade.”

“If diplomacy and sanctions fail … my recommendation is that President Trump consider carefully calibrated, limited use of military force to change the dynamics of the North Korea situation and compel it to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Fleitz wrote. “This limited use of force could include declaring a missile no-fly zone over North Korea, shooting down any missiles Pyongyang tests, a naval blockade and stopping and searching North Korea ships for WMD-related cargo.”

While he said Bolton hopes to see “regime change” in North Korea, Fleitz did not directly state his own view on that possibility. But he noted “many experts believe the only real solution to the threat from North Korea’s nuclear program is regime change.” Fleitz also discussed “the idea of letting China take out the Kim regime or invade North Korea.” He described the prospect of war as a “horrifying thought given the massive loss of life that would occur if North Korea was to attack South Korea, especially Seoul, with its huge artillery arsenal, missiles, chemical and biological weapons as well as nuclear weapons.”

“A major outbreak in hostilities could also include North Korea attacking U.S. bases in the region and Japan,” Fleitz added.

If anything, Fleitz is more pessimistic about North Korea’s ability to retaliate than other experts. Due to the reclusive nature of the Kim regime, it’s difficult to verify the extent of North Korea’s weapons program. However, Fleitz seems to take the view that the country will be imminently capable of striking the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. He cited one estimate that “a military conflict with North Korea by 2020 could result in 8 million dead in North and South Korea, Japan and the U.S., due to North Korean nuclear strikes against Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland.”

Fleitz’s recommendation of “limited” military action is based on a belief that it “hopefully” would not spark a counterattack against the U.S. or even South Korea. He predicted carefully calibrated measures would “change the policy assumptions of North Korea’s leadership by demonstrating that America now has a decisive president who will use — and will escalate — military force to protect the security of the United States and its allies.” Fleitz acknowledged that “the U.S. cannot be sure whether limited military action would result in North Korean retaliation and escalation.” Still, Fleitz argued that “limited military action is a risk worth taking” to avoid a future war with a nuclear North Korea.

Victor Cha is a policy expert on North Korea who was Trump’s original pick to be ambassador to South Korea. The White House did not submit his nomination after he expressed opposition to a potential bloody nose strike. In a phone conversation with Yahoo News, Cha said he believes Fleitz’s description of Bolton’s views is accurate and said he was “not surprised” to hear it, given some of the national security adviser’s past statements. Cha noted the more hawkish approach to North Korea “was sort of where we were in 2017,” before Kim’s Olympic overtures and the plans for talks with Trump.

“I think if this summit fails spectacularly we could end up going back to those sorts of things,” Cha said.

While Cha doubted that Bolton supported the summit, he said the national security adviser was unlikely to oppose Trump’s wishes.

“Bolton is a smart man,” Cha said, adding, “He knows that if the president wants to do a meeting he’s not going to get in the way.”

In the meantime, Cha predicted Bolton’s “influence will be felt” mainly through the national security adviser resisting attempts to “lift the sanctions too early.”

And if the meetings with Kim don’t reach a successful conclusion does Cha see Bolton and his team pushing for a military solution in North Korea?

“I don’t know. I mean I just don’t know,” Cha said. “It’s impossible to say.”


Also see:

Trump and the diplomatic trap

Asia Times, by Angelo M. Codevilla, June 3, 2018:

When President Donald Trump canceled the projected June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on May 24, he seemed to have stepped out of the classic diplomatic trap into which it seemed he had fallen. But by May 27 he seemed to step right back in it. Regardless of how this venture turns out, understanding this trap, and how North Korea has used it, is essential.

Any government subject to public opinion that commits to a negotiation with an authoritarian one with any degree of optimism thereby certifies the other party’s legitimacy and raises expectations among its own people. It acquires an interest in protecting its own judgment about the other party’s legitimacy and intentions. Hence, it becomes vulnerable to the other’s pressure to make concessions to keep the negotiations going lest their failure impeach that judgment and those who made it. By paying for continuing negotiations with unrequited concessions, the democratic side becomes complicit in creating illusions of progress. Falling into such traps is a hallmark of the US foreign policy establishment, whose representatives were Trump’s principal counselors at the time he committed to the meeting.

It is of scarce relevance whether Trump canceled the summit because he realized that agreeing to it had been a mistake, or because Mike Pompeo had replaced Rex Tillerson as Secretary  of State and John Bolton Replaced H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, or whether he withdrew from the meeting and then resumed interest in it as a negotiating ploy. Regardless of reasons, Trump stepped into a diplomatic trap that is anything but a novelty.

Rather, Kim’s trap (more below about the 2018 version’s peculiarities) is a variation of North Korea’s standard approach to America, practiced successfully time and again since 1985, which must be seen in the larger context of US foreign relations in Asia. The focus of these relations is China – not North Korea.

China’s role

It has ever been so. In 1950-53, North Korea was not the problem – and insofar as it was, it was dealt with quickly. What caused America’s preponderant military force to produce stalemate and armistice in Korea was discord among American policymakers – specifically within the Democratic Party – about China (and the Soviet Union). This discord, thereafter ingrained in the US foreign policy establishment, eventually made it possible for today’s North Korean regime to threaten America with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Today as ever, North Korea is what it is and does what it does because China makes it possible. China has gained is gaining, and expects to gain more from what North Korea has done and is doing.

Today as in 1950, the main objective of China’s foreign policy is to remove US political-military influence from the Western Pacific. The northern sector of that policy has two components that exist in tension with one another, which North Korea serves as a pawn. 1) The Kim regime, by showing that the US cannot protect itself or anybody else from North Korea’s missiles and nukes, makes it possible for China to present itself to South Korea and Japan as the only party capable of protecting them. 2) North Korea’s existence as a Damocles’ sword over peaceful, prosperous South Korea lets China present itself to South Koreans as the only force capable of realizing their fondest hopes for “sunshine,” peace, and reunification. China only asks South Korea to shed its military alliance with the US and Japan and points to its own excellent commercial relations with America. This foreign policy is founded on fear. But China knows that fear can be over-done. Were Japan – and South Korea as well – frightened enough of Kim, they might choose to protect themselves with their own nukes rather than trust China. Hence the tension, and China’s need to modulate the Kim regime’s bellicosity.

By the same token, China must tread carefully in its strong, fundamental opposition to Japan’s and South Korea’s acquisition of better anti-missile devices. China presents that opposition as being strict to American missile defense. But the Japanese don’t buy that at all. Nor is that claim inherently credible to South Koreans.

That is why China’s strategy is best served by the Kim regime’s policy of luring Americans into endless negotiations that continue to sap their alliances with Japan and South Korea.

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Zumwalt: A Pyongyang Defector May Give Trump an Upper Hand in Negotiations with Kim


Breitbart, by James Zumwalt, May 9, 2018:

In a totally unexpected development, the defection of a high-level North Korean official has caught both North Korea and the U.S. by surprise days before the yet-to-be-scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and dictator Kim Jong-un.

Its impact on negotiations to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program remains to be seen.

If Pyongyang delays, it may well be due to an advantage Trump will have gained beforehand. If so, the advantage will be eerily similar to one President John F. Kennedy attained over the Soviets during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis negotiations.

Tipped off earlier by a spy working for the U.S. in Moscow that the Soviets were deploying nuclear missiles to Cuba, U.S. Navy ships began patrolling the waters off the island, preparing to intercept additional Soviet vessels en route to bring missiles to the island nation. As Kennedy and his Soviet counterpart, Premier Nikita Khrushchev, stared eyeball-to-eyeball in a game of nuclear poker, the world appeared to be on the brink of war.

But if Kennedy were to force Khrushchev to blink first, he needed to know what cards the Soviet leader was holding. Kennedy needed to know if the missiles photographed on launchers were operational and guidance systems functioning.

For this critical intelligence, Kennedy turned to his spy in Moscow, who was not an American but a colonel in the Soviet military intelligence (GRU): Oleg Penkovsky. Getting the intelligence back to Washington in a timely manner, however, risked Penkovsky’s identity being uncovered.

Knowing the risk, Penkovsky sent Kennedy the answers he needed. Now knowing the missiles were not operational, the President could demand Khrushchev remove them. Kennedy negotiated a quid-pro-quo with the Soviets (removing missiles in Turkey) so they would not lose total face. Later, however, the Soviets were able to determine Penkovsky’s identity, for which he was brutally executed. The means of execution, if true, only underscores the inhumanity of which humanity is capable. Tied down on a slab, he was allegedly slowly inserted into a raging furnace fire, feet first to draw out the pain. The execution was witnessed by others to get the message out as to the fate awaiting traitors. While an unsung hero of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Penkovsky ultimately paid a heavy personal price helping to avoid nuclear war.

This brings us to what recently happened in North Korea. Kim Jong-un received the unpleasant news in February that a high-ranking official had defected, not only taking with him a large amount of cash but, more importantly, a treasure trove of nuclear secrets. He apparently fled to England but could be anywhere in Europe or, even possibly, the U.S. Undoubtedly, the documents he had with him are eagerly being translated and shared with U.S. intelligence agencies. Kim Jong-un knows whatever the documents contain will give Trump an advantage as far as what demands to make of Kim at the talks.

The defector, only identified as “Mr. Kang,” is believed to be a colonel and senior counter-espionage official. He defected while in China, disappearing on February 25th from a facility operated by both the North Korean and Chinese governments, reportedly serving as an office for the former’s hackers working in China. It is said Kang was responsible for getting information for the North’s nuclear program to scientists.

Kang must not have had much concern about getting caught as he also is said to have taken with him a counterfeit machine used to print U.S. currency.

Based on Kang’s knowledge alone and, thus, the intelligence he could provide the U.S. and its allies, Kim, reportedly, has dispatched a ten-man hit squad to locate and execute Kang. It is an act Kim has no reluctance to do as evidenced by the execution he is believed to have ordered last year of his half-brother while he was in an airport terminal in Malaysia.

The hit squad, undoubtedly, has motivation to be successful as their failure would probably result in their own execution upon returning to North Korea.

While there are some espionage similarities between the Cuban Missile Crisis and this incident, there is one major difference concerning the motivation of the two colonels involved. Colonel Penkovsky’s motivation was ideological in nature; Colonel Kang’s is believed to be financially-driven. Apparently, evidence was discovered in North Korea that Kang had been taking money while out of the country. Rather than return home to plea for his life, he opted to go rogue, leaving his family behind. Unfortunately, it is they from whom a heavy price will undoubtedly be extracted.

Defections are somewhat common in North Korea, a sufficient number over the past few decades probably to populate a small country. It is estimated there have been about 30,000 defections. But those by high-level officials, who enjoy living the high life of the elites, are rare.

Kang’s defection offers us a great opportunity to learn much more about North Korea’s nuclear program. Coming on the heels of Israel’s release of over 100,000 pages on Iran’s secret nuclear arms program it surreptitiously smuggled out of that country, both caches of documents should prove most illuminating – not only about their own individual programs but about their contributory efforts to arm two members of the Axis of Evil with nuclear weapons.

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.

John Bolton: EMP Threat Is One Reason ‘We’ve Got to Consider the Military Option Against North Korea First’


Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sept. 7, 2017:

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about the North Korean nuclear missile crisis, the threat of electromagnetic pulse attack, China’s relationship with the United States, and the latest news from the United Nations.

Bolton described North Korea as “a 25 million-person prison camp.”

“While I think the leadership might be willing to ‘eat grass’ before giving up their way of life, if anybody bothered to ask the people, I think you’d get a very different answer,” he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comment that North Koreans would rather eat grass than give up their nuclear weapons.

“They are cut off from the rest of the world by the design of their government. Back in the day, when radios were the only way people could learn about the outside world, you could buy a radio in North Korea. It only had one channel on it,” he recalled.

“I think, increasingly, the people of North Korea – we know this from defectors who come out, make their way through China down to Southeast Asia, and then back to South Korea – that they’re increasingly aware that they could have a different kind of life and that the dictatorship of the Kim family really has deprived them of anything like a normal life,” he said.

“This is kind of a laboratory study. You don’t get this around the world. It’s very rare to have a North Korea and a South Korea. I think word has gotten into North Korea that life in South Korea is very different,” he said.

Bolton said China particularly fears the consequences of the Kim regime collapsing.

“Although the dictatorship in North Korea looks very strong, like many authoritarian governments, it’s really kind of like a rotten door frame. If you kick it hard enough, it would come down,” he judged.

“I don’t want to see the United States have to use military force against the North Korean nuclear weapons program any more than anybody else, but I also don’t intend to allow America to be vulnerable to it as far as the eye can see, once they are able to hit any target in the continental United States,” Bolton said of his policy recommendations to resolve the crisis.

“I think we’ve got to go to China,” he advised. “I think you can see, increasingly, the Chinese recognizing North Korea is an ugly piece of baggage. China has got to apply the pressure that they uniquely have.”

“My view is the best thing to do is reunite the peninsula, effectively under South Korea, but I would take as a second-best solution China knocking off the Kim family in and putting in someone else,” he said.

“I think North Korea is much like East Germany: when the Communist rule goes, its life expectancy goes with it. It would be better just to eliminate North Korea entirely by merging it with South Korea. That’s the natural course of history. Failing that, getting rid of the current dictatorship would at least be a step forward,” said Bolton.

Bolton predicted the U.S. was “unlikely to get a meaningful oil sanction against North Korea” from the U.N. Security Council.

“Let’s say they do, just hypothetically. Do you think Iran is going to let North Korea fall?” he asked. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. Iran couldn’t care less about U.N. sanctions. That’s why this fascination with sanctions really is not just ineffective; it’s misleading and dangerous because it gives a lot of people – especially in Congress – the kind of warm and fuzzy feeling that they’re dealing with the North Korean threat, when, in fact, they’re not.”

As for China, widely seen as the key to solving the North Korean problem, Bolton said they are “pursuing a mercantilist trade policy in a free trade organization like the WTO.” He added, “And I think for years we haven’t called them out on it.”

“There’s no doubt they’re in massive violation. We could spend hours talking about it. But the notion that the United States can exert economic pressure on China, to, in turn exert economic pressure on North Korea, I think is doomed to failure,” he anticipated.

“Not that it’s not a worthwhile idea, but imagine this: Let’s say you impose really powerful sanctions on China – not pinprick sanctions, sanctioning Bank X or Bank Y. Let’s just say we’re going to exclude the Chinese banking system from the United States to get their attention. Within minutes of that being announced, the chairman of Goldman Sachs, the chairman of JP Morgan, the chairman of Morgan Stanley, the chairman of Citibank are going to be on the phone to Steve Mnuchin, and probably the president himself,” said Bolton.

“Amazon, Facebook, Google – all these people are saying, ‘You’re taking that market away from us!’ That’s what people have to understand about sanctions. To impose pain – and that’s what we’re talking about, pain – on a big economy like China, you’ve got to be willing to bear some corresponding amount of pain in our economy. America’s business leadership, I am sorry to say, isn’t into pain,” he said.

Bolton viewed China’s latest crackdown on dissent, rife with human rights violations, as evidence that President Xi Jinping “for years, has been planning, with many allies in the Chinese Communist Party, a re-authoritarianization of the government there.”

“Increased political control, increased economic control – it may not be in strict compliance with Marxist ideology, but it’s classic authoritarianism,” he noted. “Westerners have just been goo-goo over Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption efforts, thinking, ‘Oh, how wonderful this is’ – not realizing that since the entire governmental system in China is fundamentally corrupt, this was a way for Xi Jinping to go after his political enemies because you can pick and choose who you’re going to prosecute for corruption.”

“We’ve been pursuing, I think, a very misguided policy on China, strategically and economically, for decades. The human rights piece, honestly, it’s been there that entire time. Look at what China’s doing to Tibet. I’m not overstating this: it’s a kind of cultural genocide. What has the United States said about it in the last 20 or 25 years? Almost nothing,” he observed.

Marlow asked for Bolton’s opinion of the electromagnetic pulse attack threat from North Korea, a permutation of nuclear terrorism about which analysts such as Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, another frequent Breitbart News Radio guest, long warned.

“It absolutely is a threat,” Bolton replied. “A high-altitude nuclear detonation that could bring down a substantial part of the electrical grid of the United States, at least in particular geographic regions, would have a huge impact on us.”

“It’s one of the things people have said, ‘Well, North Korea doesn’t have the range in its missiles, it doesn’t have the thermonuclear capacity, it doesn’t have the reentry vehicle, and it doesn’t have the guidance systems. EMP, you don’t need really precise guidance systems. If you just detonate something, let’s say, over the West Coast of the United States, the EMP effects could be significant,” he explained.

“It ties into the strategic question of what happens if North Korea fires a nuclear weapon at the United States. People have said, ‘Look, North Korea is never going to commit suicide. They would never do that.’ Well, what if the attack is not obliterating Los Angeles? What if it’s an EMP attack, where actual destruction on the ground from the blast itself is minimal, maybe no casualties at all, but the knock-on effects of impairing the electrical grid could be very substantial? What do you do then?” he asked.

Bolton said there was no good answer to that question, which is “why we’ve got to consider the military option against North Korea first.”

“It’s why I wrote about Franklin Roosevelt’s famous statement made in a fireside chat on September the 11th, 1941 – 60 years to the day before our 9/11 – when he said, ‘When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until it has struck before you crush it,’” Bolton recalled.

“People say, ‘But my goodness, if you use a military option, terrible things will happen on the Korean Peninsula,’” he continued. “And I agree that this is an enormous concern, and we would have to do everything possible to mitigate that. But these same people also say, ‘Well, of course, if North Korea attacked the United States, then we should respond with devastating force,’ which would likely have the same consequences in South Korea.”

“So if you’re with me this far, what is the difference between their position and mine? It’s their insistence that before we strike, there have to be dead Americans. I reject that,” he declared.

Marlow asked Bolton about Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s sudden refusal to attend a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, contrary to previous commitments.

“One of the proudest moments in my government career was in 2006, voting against the creation of the new U.N. Human Rights Council,” Bolton replied. “It was a mistake, and it was a wise decision by President Bush to vote against it. It was a wise decision to stay off the Human Rights Council.”

“We should withdraw from it now,” he advised. “I’m very surprised the Trump administration hasn’t withdrawn. It’s an outfit with no legitimacy. It’s our presence that gives it what little legitimacy it has. We should get off of it.”

“Let me make one other point if I could, coming back to the nuclear stuff: Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Israel destroying a nuclear reactor being built in Syria,” Bolton observed. “Being built by whom? Being built by North Koreans. Why did the North Koreans build a nuclear reactor in Syria? Was it because of their close cultural and historical relationship? Of course not. It was because somebody, quite likely Iran, was trying to hide their illicit activities where they thought nobody was looking.”

“This is the sort of thing that people don’t like to talk about, the connection between Iran and North Korea, but I believe it’s real, and I believe that Israel – which has twice in its history destroyed nuclear projects in hostile states, that one in Syria and in Iraq in 1981 – has shown that if everything else fails, preemptive military force is required to defend your people from nuclear extortion,” he contended.

“It’s terrible that we may be at the last ditch here and that our options are limited, but if you believe that the fundamental duty of the President of the United States is to protect Americans, that option has to be on the table,” said Bolton.

John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and head of his own political action committee, BoltonPAC.

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern.


Korea Nuclear Test Furthers EMP Bomb

North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifts off / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, Sept. 6, 2017:

North Korea for the first time this week revealed plans for using its nuclear arms for space-based electronics-disrupting EMP attacks, in addition to direct warhead ground blasts.

The official communist party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published a report Monday on “the EMP might of nuclear weapons,” outlining an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack produced by detonating a nuclear warhead in space.

“In general, the strong electromagnetic pulse generated from nuclear bomb explosions between 30 kilometers and 100 kilometers [18.6 miles and 62 miles] above the ground can severely impair electronic devices, electric machines, and electromagnetic grids, or destroy electric cables and safety devices,” said the article authored by Kim Songwon, dean of Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang.

“The discovery of the electromagnetic pulse as a source of high yield in the high-altitude nuclear explosion test process has given it recognition as an important strike method,” he stated.

The official discussion by North Korea of plans to conduct EMP strikes will likely fuel debate over the threat. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has said North Korea is capable of orbiting an EMP nuclear weapon in a satellite.

Some liberal arms control advocates have dismissed the EMP threat from Pyongyang as far-fetched, such as arms control advocate Jeffrey Lewis, who in April dismissed the threat of an EMP attack by laughing at a reporter’s question. “This is the favorite nightmare scenario of a small group of very dedicated people,” he told NPR.

Disclosure of North Korea’s intention to use its nuclear force for EMP attacks comes as U.S. intelligence agencies are continuing to analyze the latest underground nuclear test by North Korea on Sept. 3 that the regime said was its first hydrogen bomb explosion.

Senior administration officials said initial assessments of the nuclear blast in northeastern North Korea indicate it was the largest test detonation so far, and much larger than an underground test carried out last year. It was the regime’s sixth nuclear test.

U.S. nuclear technicians have not made a definitive conclusion about the specifics of the device. Specialists are trying to determine if the test involved a hydrogen bomb, as Pyongyang asserted, or a device designed for EMP attack. They are also assessing whether the test used boosted fission technology.

Hydrogen bombs are advanced devices that use a two-stage explosion process to produce a massive explosion. Boosted fission devices are less sophisticated technologically and require more nuclear fuel.

“We’re highly confident this was a test of an advanced nuclear device—and what we’ve seen so far is not inconsistent with North Korea’s claims,” a U.S. intelligence official said.

However, a final conclusion on the type and yield of the blast is not expected for several days. Data from the test is being analyzed by nuclear weapons experts at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Also, the large explosion—perhaps more than 100 kilotons, or the equivalent of 100 tons of TN—likely produced significant venting of radioactive particles into the air.

Special U.S. intelligence aircraft, including the WC-135 nuclear “sniffer” jets, are conducting flights near the test zone to gather samples of particles from the test.

Kim, the North Korean technical university dean, stated that high-altitude explosions can be conducted in the stratosphere or in space where the blast wave is limited by the lack of air or the thinness of air.

“In explosions occurring at such altitudes, large amounts of electrons are released as a result of ionization reactions of high-energy instant gamma rays and other radioactive rays,” he said. “These electrons form a strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP) through interaction with the geomagnetic field.”

“The detonation would create a strong electric field of 100,000 volts per meter when it approaches the ground and “that is how it destroys communications facilities and electricity grids,” the report said.

The EMP report was published Monday, a day after the same state-run outlet reported on a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to a nuclear weapons facility that also mentioned plans for using nuclear weapons in EMP attacks.

“Our hydrogen bomb—whose power as a nuclear bomb can be adjusted at will from tens of kilotons to hundreds of kilotons according to the targets of strike—is a multifunctional thermonuclear warhead which not only has enormous lethality and destructibility, but also can even carry out super-powerful EMP attack over an expansive area through detonation at high altitudes according to strategic goals,” the report said.

EMP was discovered by the U.S. military during above ground nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean during the 1960s.

EMP waves produced from nuclear tests were found to disrupt electronics throughout areas up to 1,000 miles from the center of the blast.

Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst who has been active in urging greater defenses against EMP attack, said a congressional commission on EMP has been warning for years about the North Korean EMP threat.

“EMP attack, by blacking-out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures, could kill far more people than nuclear blasting a city,” Pry said.

According to Pry, the Congressional EMP Commission warned that nationwide blackout and subsequent disruption from an EMP strike could kill 90 percent of the U.S. population through starvation, disease, and societal chaos.

“North Korea knows this, which is why state media describes their new nuclear warhead as capable of both blasting cities and EMP,” he said.

William R. Graham, chairman of the commission, also has warned that North Korea’s two satellites orbiting over the U.S. could be armed with EMP weapons and detonated over the United States or U.S. allies.

Pry said despite the increasing danger from EMP, the commission will cease functioning Sept. 20 unless its charter is renewed.

“No one at the Pentagon or DHS has asked for the EMP commission to be extended,” he said, adding that the commission has produced the best expertise on the threat.

The commission has urged the United States to harden the nation’s electric grid and other critical infrastructure against EMP attack. But those efforts have been thwarted as the result of lobbying from the electric power industry that opposes the cost of expensive upgrades and stockpiling of transformers and other equipment.

In other developments related to North Korea, U.S. officials also said there are signs North Korea is preparing to conduct another long-range missile test. Two earlier long-range missile tests demonstrated new strike capabilities.

South Korean press reports said the next ICBM test could be launched over the Pacific and timed to a North Korean anniversary marking the communist state’s founding on Sept. 9.

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that in response to the nuclear test the United States will sell advanced arms to both South Korea and Japan as part of its policy of seeking to pressure the Pyongyang regime into giving up its nuclear arms.

“I am allowing Japan and South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Trump said.

The president also said tougher economic sanctions are being considered. “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” he said Sunday.

Trump also criticized China for failing to rein in its ally. “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success,” he said.

China maintains a defense alliance with North Korea that requires defending Pyongyang from any attack. China also provides some 90 percent of North Korea’s trade.

The Trump administration recently imposed sanctions on Chinese and Russian entities supporting North Korea’s arms programs. But the sanctions did not hit a Chinese company known to have supplied mobile missile launchers to the North Koreans for its long-range missiles.

Among the options being considered are an oil embargo on North Korea that would severely cripple the country’s ability to provide energy resources. Additional sanctions also could target Chinese banks that have been working covertly with North Korea.

South Korea also is considering requesting that the United States return stockpiles of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the country. The weapons were withdrawn in the early 1990s.

Another step announced by the administration is the loosening of restrictions on the payload weight of missile warheads, agreeing not to oppose Seoul’s plan to build bigger warheads for its short-range missiles.

South Korea had sought U.S. approval for exceeding both the range and payload limits for missiles under informal international Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines.

The MTCR limits signatories from building missiles with ranges greater than 186 miles and with warheads larger than 1,100 pounds.

In Japan, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday initial assessments indicate North Korea may have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, as the regime claimed.

Nuclear experts said the basis for early judgments about the nuclear test are based on seismic data.

Initial estimates of the blast registered the explosion as causing a tremor ranging from 5.8 magnitude to 6.1 magnitude on the earthquake scale. Later estimates put the blast at 6.3, indicating a much larger explosion.

David S. Maxwell, a North Korea expert and associate director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, said he did not think an underground test is a useful way to test an EMP bomb.

“An underground or ground burst has less EMP effects but as I understand it all nuclear explosions create EMP,” he said, noting that during Army training in Europe, troops took down antennas and turned off all electric devices to protect them from a Soviet nuclear strike.

“It was hard back then and it will be even harder now that we are so much more dependent on electrical devices for every aspect of war fighting, and life in general,” he said.

Maxwell said the rapid testing of North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles is likely designed to rapidly advance its programs in anticipation of a future negotiated freeze on the programs.

“I think the Kim family regime is banking on Russia and China being able to pressure the U.S. into a freeze, and the regime will agree to that if it believes it possesses a significant nuclear deterrent that it will not give up,” he said.

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