Geopolitics

Next On The Korean Peninsula: Trump And Pyongyang Nukes

Kim and Moon and a historic handshake
Kim and Moon and a historic handshake

Kim Jong Un's historic call for peace also included an unspoken message to U.S. President Donald Trump: North Korea won't surrender its nuclear weapons easily.

The agreement Kim reached Friday with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in declared "a new era of peace" and sought a formal end to the seven-decade-old Korean War. While it said both countries committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, it gave no details on concrete steps to achieve it.

More ominously, North Korean's state-run media released a commentary shortly after the agreement was announced calling on the U.S. to drop its "anachronistic hostile policy" and "bad manners." It declared North Korea a "world-level politico-ideological and military power" and said it would contribute to building "a world without nuclear weapons."

"If North Korea gets a deal with the United States that serves their interests, they'd be happy with that," said Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. State Department official who worked on North Korean issues. "But in the event that things fall apart, they want to be able to blame the United States and alienate it from its South Korean ally in the process."

Trump expressed optimism on Friday -- even declaring "KOREAN WAR TO END!" -- while simultaneously sounding a note of caution. "Good things are happening, but only time will tell!" he said on Twitter.

Friday was filled with unprecedented scenes, starting with Kim's step over the ankle-high concrete slab dividing the Korean Peninsula -- and then his walk back across the border hand-in-hand with Moon. Later, the leaders planted a tree and talked privately for 30 minutes in front of television cameras.

Kim called for frequent meetings between the leaders, which would be a major shift given only three summits have taken place since the war. And he capped it off with live remarks to reporters, something no other North Korean leader had done before.

"We will continue to make efforts so that this agreement doesn't repeat the bad history of the other North-South agreement," Kim said.

Now the attention turns to Kim's meeting with Trump. No date or place has yet been set for what would be the first ever summit between leaders of North Korea and the U.S., although Trump has said it will be held by early June.

Trump's optimism stems in part from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's secret trip to North Korea over Easter weekend to meet with Kim. Earlier this month, the president said the visit "went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed" while hailing the merits of denuclearization.

The commitment to ‘complete denuclearization" is ambiguous.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the agreement will lead to lasting change. Past negotiations have fallen apart over inspections, weapons tests and disputes over economic aid.

It's also unclear what each side means by the word "denuclearization." Kim may insist that the U.S. removes its nuclear assets that defend allies South Korea and Japan before he gives up his weapons.

"The commitment to ‘complete denuclearization" is ambiguous, and subject to different interpretations," said Youngshik Bong, a researcher at Yonsei University's Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul. "It can be interpreted as North Korea getting rid of all warheads, or North Korean demands on the U.S. military in South Korea."

So far, it's not apparent if any of those sensitive topics have been discussed. Trump has vowed to maintain sanctions on North Korea until he gives up his nuclear weapons, raising questions over the sequencing of any disarmament.

The next few months are crucial. For all the warm words, Kim still claims to possess the capability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon -- and Trump has threatened war to stop him.

"Considering the level of North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities now, the declaration today falls short of expectations," said Shin Beomchul, a director at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies who studies North Korea's military. "The two leaders left most of the details for denuclearization on Trump."

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Geopolitics

"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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