Kim Jong Un Warns Trump He May Take ‘New Way’ Unless US Removes Sanctions

President Trump was quick to celebrate peace on the Korean Peninsula after his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un last year. Since then, however, progress has been mixed as North Korea refrained from nuclear testing and held high-level talks with the South but also failed to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Now, in his New Year’s address, Kim Jong Un is warning President Trump that unless the United States “takes genuine measures for building trust” the North may return to its old ways.

In the speech, reported by Politico, Kim noted steps that he had taken toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula saying that he agreed “that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures” to fulfill this promise. He then challenged President Trump with two words: “Your turn.”

What Kim wants is illustrated by a statement issued in December through North Korean state media. “When we refer to the Korean peninsula, they include both the area of the DPRK and the area of South Korea where aggression troops including the nuclear weapons of the U.S. are deployed,” the statement said and then continued, “When we refer to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, it, therefore, means removing all elements of nuclear threats from the areas of both the north and the south of Korea and also from surrounding areas from where the Korean peninsula is targeted.” The statement called on the US to lift the sanctions on North Korea as well as for “completely removing the nuclear threats of the U.S. to the DPRK.”

Essentially, Kim is telling President Trump that the North Korean position on denuclearization is unchanged. The North rejects unilateral denuclearization and wants the US to remove its nuclear weapons from the Korean theater. The US removed its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, but in his speech, Kim said that “strategic assets,” which North Korea often understands to include anti-ballistic missile systems as well as submarines and aircraft carriers, “should no longer be permitted” in or near the Korean Peninsula.

Kim also wants to be rewarded for the actions that he has already taken over the past year. His price for the détente with South Korea is the removal of US sanctions.

Kim also sought to drive a wedge between the US and South Korea. While President Trump is pushing South Korea to based on the peninsula, Kim encouraged the South to participate in several bilateral projects that exclude the United States.

In the speech, Kim warned that North Korea “might find ourselves in a situation where we have no other choice but to find a new way” if the US did not uphold its end of the bargain. While Kim was not specific about what “new way” the North might take, most observers doubt that it would involve a resumption of nuclear testing.

“One thing is clear: Kim is not going to return to any sort of posture where the US or its allies would consider a military attack, and that means no missile or nuclear tests for the foreseeable future,” Harry Kazianis of the Washington-based Centre for the National Interest told the South China Morning Post.

Ruediger Frank, an analyst at 38 North, believes that the entreaties to South Korean President Moon provide a clue as to what Kim’s “new way” would be. The speech was a message to Donald Trump, he writes, saying, “You are not our only option for security and economic development. If you refuse to be cooperative, we will ignore you and turn to China. Oh, and we will take South Korea along.”

Kazianis agreed, “Kim can present Trump with a choice: Either play ball with me on a negotiated nuclear settlement and reduce sanctions or I will go to China for help and get the economic development I want and keep my nukes.”

President Trump’s trade war now places him in an awkward position with respect to Korea. President Trump signed a new trade deal with South Korea last year that limits South Korean steel and aluminum exports to the US. The trade spat with China means that Trump now has less leverage with the Chinese against the North Koreans. The three geographical neighbors may become closer trading partners at the expense of US influence in the region.

If North Korea can pull the South into China’s orbit, it would be a major blow to the United States. South Korea is one of America’s largest trading partners in terms of both imports and exports. The nation is also home to 15 US military bases that provide a counterbalance to China as well as protecting South Korea from Northern aggression.

President Trump responded to Kim’s challenge with a New Year’s Day tweet, saying, “I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!”

North Korea Says No Thanks To Denuclearization

A week of policy failures and missteps for President Trump just got worse as North Korea announced that it would never denuclearize unless the US first removes its nuclear threat. After Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in June, the president claimed that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat and even suggested that he deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on nuclear disarmament.

Now, six months later, North Korea’s official Korean Central News statement says that the rogue nation will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons. Instead, the North Koreans place conditions on disarmament that include a complete or partial withdrawal of American soldiers and nuclear weapons from near the Korean peninsula. This has been the traditional North Korean position in negotiations with past administrations as well.

“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the North Korean statement said per the AP.

“When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula,” the statement continued.

Meanwhile, as talks deteriorated between the US and North Korea, the Trump Administration raised the possibility of humanitarian relief from sanctions in exchange for nuclear concessions. In the past, the West has given sanctions relief to the North Korean regime in deals on which the hermit kingdom failed to follow through.

Last spring and summer, there were reports that the North was dismantling some nuclear test facilities. Other reports in recent months have indicated that the Koreans were continuing to work on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at secret sites.

“If we unilaterally give up our nuclear weapons without any security assurance despite being first on the U.S. list of targets for pre-emptive nuclear strikes, that wouldn’t be denuclearization — it would rather be a creation of a defenseless state where the balance in nuclear strategic strength is destroyed and the crisis of a nuclear war is brought forth,” the North Korean statement said.

What many experts predicted now seems obvious: The North Koreans will never willingly surrender their nuclear capability which is the one weapon that ensures the survival of the Kim regime. The talks with the Trump Administration seem to have been nothing more than a play for time and a ploy to negotiate for the removal of sanctions.

Expectations of a Nobel Prize for President Trump appear to have been very premature.

Trump Says This Is The ‘Calm Before The Storm’

Speaking before a dinner with military leaders and their spouses on Thursday night, President Trump said that the gathering may represent “the calm before the storm.” The comment occurred at the White House State Dining Room before a group of reporters.

Bloomberg reports that the president asks the reporters, “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

When asked what he meant, President Trump answered, “You’ll find out.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had said that his Administration was focused on “challenges that we really should have taken care of a long time ago, like North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, ISIS, and the revisionist powers that threaten our interests all around the world.”

At that point, the president made what seemed to be a warning to North Korea. “We cannot allow this dictatorship to threaten our nation or our allies with unimaginable loss of life,” Trump said. “We will do what we must do to prevent that from happening. And it will be done, if necessary — believe me.”

The president’s comments may be the latest in a series of attempts to convince the North Korean regime that Trump is unhinged. Over the past few months, President Trump has engaged in a rhetorical war of words with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in which the two men seemingly try to one-up each other’s martial boasts. Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump’s nickname for the North Korean leader.

Axios recently reported that President Trump had urged his staff to portray him as “crazy” as a negotiating tactic with South Korea. According to the report, Trump told diplomats pressing for a renegotiation of the US trade pact with South Korea, “This guy’s so crazy he could pull out any minute.”

The tactic appears to have worked with the South Koreans. On Thursday, South Korea agreed to amend the trade deal.


Why Is Donald Trump Undermining Rex Tillerson on Twitter?

Rex Tillerson was picked by Donald Trump to be his Secretary of State. Tillerson represents the president in foreign policy matters and serves at the pleasure of the president. So, why then, is President Trump publicly undermining his handpicked representative in a pair of tweets today?

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted.

A second tweet followed a short time later, saying, “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

The pair of tweets raise many questions about the inner workings of the Trump Administration. Has Rex Tillerson gone rogue in his negotiations with North Korea? If President Trump does not support the negotiations with North Korea then why is Tillerson conducting them? Why is Trump raising the issue in a public forum like Twitter rather than in private?

If President Trump doesn’t have faith in his Secretary of State or if Tillerson is disobeying the president’s instructions then why keep him on the job? For that matter, why would Tillerson want to continue to serve a president who publicly undercuts him in such a humiliating fashion?

Has President Trump given up on negotiations? Is he signaling the North Koreans that he doesn’t want a deal and is ready to turn to a military option?

The most likely answer is that Trump’s tweets are a clumsy attempt at a good cop-bad cop routine. Trump is playing the bad cop who is eager to attack North Korea. Tillerson is the good cop who is attempting to restrain Trump and find a diplomatic solution.

It’s easy to imagine the scene in a police interrogation room. Trump turns over a table in a fit of rage and storms out, slamming the door behind him. Tillerson, sleeves rolled up and wearing a shoulder holster turns to a shackled Kim Jong Un.

“He’s crazy,” Tillerson says. “He’s going to go nuclear on you. I’m trying to help you, but you’ve got to give me something to work with. I need some concessions.”

Tillerson, who is in China, has not responded publicly to Trump’s tweets. In a press conference on Saturday, Tillerson told CNN that the United States was pursuing a peaceful resolution to the dispute with North Korea.

When asked about President Trump’s warnings to Kim Jong Un, Tillerson answered, “I think the whole situation is a bit overheated right now. I think everyone would like for it to calm down.”


Otto Warmbier’s parents share horrifying details of how their son was returned to them

“They destroyed him,” Cindy Warmbier stated. “No mother, no parent, should ever have gone through what we went through. And the fact that Otto was alone all that time, with no one to comfort him, is inexcusable.”

Last year, college student Otto Warmbier was arrested in North Korea and sentenced to 15 years hard labor for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster. After a little more than a year, the North Korean government abruptly returned Warmbier, in a coma, to the United States. He died days later on June 19, 2017.

This morning on Fox and Friends, Otto’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, shared truly horrifying details of their experience seeing the state in which their son was returned to them.

They were told their son had severe brain damage, but they were unprepared for what they were about to see.

“We heard this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound,” Fred described, as they were walking up the steps to the plane. “He was jerking violently, making these inhuman sounds,”

“They are terrorists,” Otto’s dad said of the communist nation who had tortured his son for over a year. “It looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”

As a parent, I cannot imagine seeing my child in a state like this. Fred and Cindy will have to process this for years to come, wondering about all of the things their son endured, “alone all that time.” This is more than a story where we can hear gruesome details about what an evil government did to someone.

Pray for Fred and Cindy. And pray for the people of North Korea, whose names we don’t know, but countless numbers of whom have experienced the same thing, or worse, because it is their own government. For them there is no hope of rescue.

Communism is evil. We would be wise to remember that the vast majority of murders and torture committed in the whole of human history were done by governments — usually by a person’s own government, and always by a government who has too much power to do so.

One Thing We Must Do With North Korea

There is no longer any American tourism to North Korea, after the Trump administration’s travel ban (the one that isn’t stuck in endless court battles) went into effect. Before Sept. 1st, Americans could book tours through a number of Chinese agents.

From what I gather from people who have been, the tours were mostly the same. A nice hotel in surprisingly modern (and empty) Pyongyang, probably similar to a Hyatt or high-end Marriott in America; visits to various places of interest including massive shrines to the deified Leaders; a parade; a trip to the DMZ; possibly a theme park where all the customers are foreigners; a river cruise with fireworks; a movie; then off to home.

Of course, it’s all more carefully managed than a trip to the Magic Kingdom. Nothing is real in the sense of tourists don’t get to talk to real North Korean citizens. Visitors are shunned and feared like aliens from a far-off world. Even cute little children are given stern warnings about the “stranger danger” of friendly round-eyed tourists. Whatever limited contact with indigenous people is allowed, it’s stage-managed and assiduously observed by trained “minders.”

But the people are real, and the children are cute. They are someone’s sons and daughters. Their parents most certainly love and cherish their children, although everyone in North Korea understands that kids belong to the state, as does everyone in the Hermit Kingdom. Even visitors.

Ask the parents of 22-year-old Otto Warmbler, who was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to 15 years at hard labor. After 17 months, in June of this year, he was sent home in a coma, never to reawaken. He died shortly afterwards, with no explanation from his “hosts.” His crime? They claim he stole a poster while on one of those visitor tours.

This brings me, in a roundabout way, to my main point. Warmbler’s parents are rightly upset and grieved at their son’s fate. In North Korea, there’s no difference between the American boy’s treatment and their own citizens—run afoul of the state and disappear forever. The show trial was purely for propaganda.

In many countries in the world, life doesn’t carry the same sacred meaning and value as it does here. Parents love their children all over the world, because human beings are hard-wired that way. But some cultures venerate having sons over daughters, leading to infanticide of girls. Some cultures elevate certain “honor” codes above the value of life, leading to murder of teenagers who violate the codes.

Just because other cultures don’t attach the same values to the love of their children, as little kids or adults, doesn’t mean we should love their kids less than our own.

Patriotism and nationalism and sovereignty are wonderful concepts and stirring to the emotions and the soul. They are necessary to the proper ordering of the world as God has given it to us (remember the Tower of Babel?). But as Mark Twain wrote in The War Prayer, our beseeching of the Holy One to answer our requests carries with it the unuttered portion that is heard by God as well, since He sees our hearts.

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. He loves us and our children, and our enemies’ children, more than we are capable of as limited humans with our limited moral lens.

It is with supreme difficulty and supreme humility that I must summit the mountain of God to peer over the far side where I have never set foot, into the dark valley of my enemy’s camp, and see Him lovingly smiling upon North Korean children, Palestinian children, the children of terrorists, the children of despots and butchers. We pray that our children might be protected from all harm, yet hurricanes afflict us, and earthquakes claim schools in Mexico.

Only God is sovereign to give and reclaim life on earth. Children do not belong to us as parents, or to the church, or to the state. They belong to Him.

When we speak of war, and immigration, and refugees, and the consequences of our own decisions; of the great and important tasks we feel have been laid upon us by God, we must understand that we may only be His instruments, never the Master of them.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. So must we.

“Rocket Man” Threatens H-Bomb Detonation in Pacific

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has responded to President Trump’s recent speech at the United Nations by releasing a meandering statement calling Trump the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” as well as threatening to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

This is the latest in the tit-for-tat war of words between the United States and North Korea.  North Korea has a history of ratcheting up international tensions following perceived insults and increased sanctions against it.  Most recently, it had responded to new U.N. sanctions by launching a missile over Japan.  In response, Trump – during his U.N. speech on September 19th – called the North Korean regime to task for its human rights violations and weapons tests and referenced Kim Jong-un, saying:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

Thus, North Korea’s newly threatened hydrogen bomb (H-bomb) test is yet another step in the escalating tensions with the country.  North Korea seeks to develop working H-bombs due to their greater power and ability to be miniaturized to place within warheads on land and submarine-launched missiles.

While North Korea claims to have detonated an H-bomb on September 3rd, some analysts are skeptical.  Its previous nuclear weapons tests, begun in 2006, were atomic bombs (A-bombs).  A-bombs are older technology and less powerful than H-bombs, working through nuclear fission rather than the nuclear fusion of H-bombs.  An H-bomb dropped on Seoul, South Korea would kill an estimated two million people as well as spark a war which would see many more casualties and cause great turmoil in the region.

The international community as a whole is increasing the pressure on North Korea in an effort to get it to cease its weapons tests.  Most significantly, China – North Korea’s erstwhile ally – is now implementing the new U.N. sanctions by prohibiting its banks from conducting business with the country or its people.  President Trump has also stated that additional sanctions are coming.

Where will all this lead?  Will the war of words escalate into a shooting war?  Will North Korea’s actions eventually cause the United States and its allies to decide that the risk of a pre-emptive strike is worth taking in order to prevent a greater tragedy?  The U.S., Japan, and China seem to be preparing to get their citizens off the Korean peninsula in anticipation of the situation deteriorating further.


Trump Decides to Decertify Iran Deal

Donald Trump spent a great deal of time campaigning against Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Nine months into the Trump Administration, the rubber on the Iran deal is about to meet the road. President Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the deal. Under US law, the president must certify Iran’s fulfillment of the deal to Congress every 90 days. Trump has made the certification twice, but there are indications that this time may be different.

The president told reporters on Wednesday that he had made up his mind about the deal, but declined to reveal his decision. Trump is keeping his cards close, telling reporters, “I’ll let you know what the decision is,” but without saying when he would do so. Politico reported that the president even declined to share his decision with British Prime Minister Teresa May.

NBC News reports that the president is leaning toward decertifying Iran’s compliance with the deal, citing four unnamed sources within the White House. The sources indicate that the president has resolved to change the “status quo.”

If the president decertifies Iran’s compliance with the deal, it would not necessarily mean that the entire deal would be scrapped. NBC’s sources indicate that the president would use the decertification to attempt to persuade the European partners to renegotiate the deal. At this point, Britain, France and Germany are strongly opposed to ending the deal.

There are other options if the president decertifies the deal as well. If the president decertifies the deal, then Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to impose sanctions on Iran. The president could also choose to withdraw from the deal entirely as Ambassador John Bolton has urged.

Trump’s position is awkward. The president has spoken out strongly against the treaty, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday, “Perhaps the technical aspects have (been met), but in the broader context the aspiration has not.” Tillerson said that reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency “continue to confirm that Iran is in technical compliance with the agreement.” A common complaint is the fact that Iran continues to test ballistic missiles, which are not covered under the agreement.

President Trump’s decision will be closely watched by North Korea, where the president is currently engaging Kim Jong Un in a tit-for-tat over the country’s missile tests. How the president handles the agreement with Iran will almost certainly impact the resolution of the North Korean problem.

Whatever direction Trump is leaning now, nothing is certain until a formal announcement is made. Last spring, the president reportedly changed his mind on withdrawing from NAFTA at the last minute. More recently, the president’s commitment to withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty and his hardline immigration policy have been called into question as well.

Time will tell how strong President Trump’s resolve to confront Iran is and which faction of White House advisors have his ear.