June 19, 2018

Foreign media head to N. Korea to witness nuclear site destruction

24 May 2018, 02:41 | Yvette Williams

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It's not unusual for North Korea's official media to turn to hyperbole to make a point and the rhetorical barrage coincides with a visit to Washington by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

South Korea anxious about Kim's bellicose weapons testing and Trump's similarly bellicose warnings about a looming war, was instrumental in convincing the two Cold War foes to sit down and talk.

"This is make-or-break", said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest. Remarks by senior members of the Trump administration about how any theoretical denuclearization of North Korea could play out also angered the Kim regime last week.

Since North Korea's return to hostile talk, Trump has reportedly considered dropping out of the summit, and he has offered back some strong words of his own, implying the USA could "decimate" North Korea if no deal is reached.

But Pyongyang has cut off high-level contact with Seoul over the exercises with the United States military.

"Realistically, it seems hard for the South Korean journalists to enter [North Korea] via Beijing today", said the official. He quizzed his aides on the wisdom of the meeting, then called Moon in Seoul on Saturday night for advice.

Cheon said this is North Korea's idea of denuclearization, while the United States has been using the term to mean total nuclear disarmament, or as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts it, "complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization".

About two dozen journalists from Western and Chinese news organizations arrived in North Korea on Tuesday to witness the closure of its nuclear test site, an indication that the shutdown will go ahead amid renewed diplomatic uncertainty. The South's Yonhap news agency reported the North refused to accept a list of the reporters on Monday, making it "technically hard' for the South Korean media to join the event".

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The summit ended with a joint declaration that both countries are committed to denuclearization and officially ending the war 65 years after the armistice. Pyongyang insists the precondition for denuclearization is for the end its "hostile policy". -North Korean diplomacy afloat. "I don't like that", Trump said. "What Moon is going to try to do is try to say this is just a negotiating tactic on the part of the North". This would be with Kim Jong-un - something where he'd be there, he'd be in his country, he'd be running his country. Moon's office would only say "the two leaders will work closely and unwaveringly for the successful hosting of the North Korea-U.S. summit".

The North claimed the exercises involved USA strategic nuclear assets - including nuclear-capable B-52 bombers - and violated the spirit of detente on the peninsula.

The Russian expert speculated as to what turn the situation could take if Trump and Kim Jong-un finally met. "Trump would state that he did what other presidents were unable to do, particularly clinching an agreement that would ensure that North Korean missiles didn't pose a threat to American cities anymore and Pyongyang started abandoning its weapons, though that might not be the whole truth", Toloraya said.

North Korea could build a new site if it decides it needs more testing or could dismantle the tunnels into Punggye-ri's Mount Mantap in a reversible manner.

Still, while the meeting is important for the U.S. South Korea expressed regret that its journalists had not been included after earlier being invited.

"If the US and the South Korean authorities persist in the confrontation policy and war moves against the DPRK, oblivious of this fact, they will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences", said a commentary in the daily Minju Joson.

"I do not worry about Bolton", said Mr Moon Chung In, a usually outspoken adviser to the South Korean president.

"I think a lot of people who were involved with the Roh administration are concerned about Bolton because he was such a neoconservative at the time, and it seems that he hasn't changed", said Dr Lee Geun, a professor of political science at Seoul National University. But even some of his advisers worry he would settle for much less just for the sake of a deal he can flaunt, perhaps with the goal of a Nobel Peace Prize that, as he puts it, "everyone thinks" he deserves.

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