UN chief says planned US-NKorea summit shows vision

South Korea says the two leaders will meet before May. (AP)
Updated 10 March 2018
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UN chief says planned US-NKorea summit shows vision

NEWYORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the announcement of a planned summit between the United States and North Korea, saying the breakthrough showed “leadership and vision.”
Guterres has repeatedly called for talks to address the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, which the UN chief has described as the most pressing global security threat.
President Donald Trump agreed on Thursday to a first face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which could take place by the end of May.
Guterres “is encouraged by the announcement of an agreement” to hold a summit meeting, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“He commends the leadership and vision of all concerned,” he added. 
The decision by trump came after months of trading insults and threats of nuclear annihilation. President Donald Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by the end of May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, South Korean and US officials said Thursday. No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korea leader.
The meeting would be unprecedented during seven decades of animosity between the US and North Korea. The countries remain in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
“Great progress being made,” Trump tweeted after the South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, announced the plans to reporters in a hastily called appearance on a White House driveway.
Trump added that sanctions will remain in place until there’s a deal.
Trump took office vowing to stop North Korea from attaining a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the US mainland, a goal that Pyongyang is on the cusp of reaching. He’s oscillated between threats and insults directed at Kim that have fueled fears of war, and more conciliatory rhetoric.
The historic announcement comes during a period of unparalleled tumult in the West Wing, with the president’s policy agenda stalled and morale sinking as staff departures proliferate and disrupt efforts to instill more discipline and order.
Trump clearly relished the news of the planned summit. He had made a surprise visit to the White House press briefing room on Thursday afternoon to alert reporters of a “major statement” on North Korea by South Korea. When asked by an ABC reporter if it was about talks with North Korea, he replied: “It’s almost beyond that. Hopefully, you will give me credit.”
Earlier Thursday, Chung had briefed Trump and other top US officials about a rare meeting with Kim in the North Korean capital. During that meeting, the rival Koreas agreed to hold a leadership summit in late April, the first in a decade.
Kim “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Chung told reporters. “President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”
The White House said Trump’s meeting with Kim would take place “at a place and time to be determined.”
“Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” Trump said in a tweet. “Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time.”
It marks a dramatic shift in Trump’s stance toward North Korea. He has threatened the pariah nation with “fire and fury” if its threats against the US and its allies continued. He has derided Kim by referring to him as “Little Rocket Man.” Kim has pilloried Trump as “senile” and a “dotard.”
After Kim repeated threats against the US in a New Year’s address and mentioned the “nuclear button” on his office desk, Trump responded by tweeting that he has a nuclear button, too, “but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!“
North Korea appeared to confirm the summit plans. A senior North Korean diplomat at the United Nations in New York, Pak Song Il, told The Washington Post in an email that the invitation was the result of Kim’s “broad minded and resolute decision” to contribute to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.
By the “great courageous decision of our Supreme Leader, we can take the new aspect to secure the peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region,” Pak wrote.
On Tuesday after leaving Pyongyang, Chung had publicized that North Korea was offering talks with the United States on denuclearization and normalizing ties. But the proposal for a summit still came as a surprise, and will raise questions about whether the two sides are ready for such a high-level meeting.
Just a few hours earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is traveling in Africa, had said the adversaries were still a long way from holding negotiations.
Chung, who credited Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign for the diplomatic opening on the nuclear issue, said Kim understands that routine US-South Korea military drills “must continue.”
The drills were suspended during the Winter Olympics recently hosted by South Korea, which provided impetus for the inter-Korea rapprochement. The drills are expected to resume next month and had widely been seen as an obstacle to talks. North Korea has long protested the military maneuvers south of the divided Korean Peninsula as a rehearsal for invading the North.
When the South Korean delegation briefed Trump in the Oval Office, he was joined by a number of top advisers, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, chief of staff John Kelly and the director of national intelligence, among others, according to a senior Trump administration official who briefed reporters after the announcement. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the sensitive diplomatic issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no letter from Kim to Trump, just an oral briefing from the South Korean officials.
The planned summit was welcomed by arms control advocates, but got varying responses from Republican lawmakers.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said the invitation was a sign that sanction pressure was working but he was skeptical of North Korea’s motives. Sen. Lindsey Graham warned Kim that “the worst possible thing you can do is meet with President Trump in person and try to play him. If you do that, it will be the end of you — and your regime.”
Darryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said it was too much to expect a single Trump-Kim summit could immediately resolve the nuclear issue that has bedeviled US administrations since the early 1990s, when the North first began producing fissile material for bombs.
“But if the US works closely and intensively with our South Korean allies in its approach to North Korea, a summit offers the potential for starting a serious process that could move us decisively away from the current crisis,” Kimball said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the announcement of a planned summit between the United States and North Korea, saying the breakthrough showed "leadership and vision."
Guterres has repeatedly called for talks to address the crisis over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, which the UN chief has described as the most pressing global security threat.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Guterres "is encouraged by the announcement of an agreement" to hold a summit meeting, and added that "he commends the leadership and vision of all concerned."
 


US moves 100 coffins to North Korean border for war remains

Updated 24 June 2018
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US moves 100 coffins to North Korean border for war remains

  • From 1996 to 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains
  • The transfer of remains is usually done in a somber, formal ceremony, and that is what officials said was being planned

SEOUL, South Korea: The US military said it moved 100 wooden coffins to the inter-Korean border to prepare for North Korea’s returning of the remains of American soldiers who have been missing since the 1950-53 Korean War.
US Forces Korea spokesman Col. Chad Carroll also said Saturday that 158 metal transfer cases were sent to a US air base near Seoul, South Korea’s capital, and would be used to send the remains home.
North Korea agreed to return US war remains during the June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. While the US military preparations suggest that the repatriation of war remains could be imminent, it remains unclear when and how it would occur.
Earlier Saturday, Carroll denied a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that US military vehicles carrying more than 200 caskets were planning to cross into North Korea on Saturday. He said plans for the repatriation were “still preliminary.”
US Forces Korea said in a statement later in the day that 100 wooden “temporary transit cases” built in Seoul were sent to the Joint Security Area at the border as part of preparations to “receive and transport remains in a dignified manner when we get the call to do so.”
From 1996 to 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains.
But efforts to recover and return other remains have stalled for more than a decade because of the North’s nuclear weapons development and US claims that the safety of recovery teams it sent during the administration of former President George W. Bush was not sufficiently guaranteed.
US officials have said earlier that the remains are believed to be some or all of the more than 200 that the North Koreans have had for some time. But the precise number and the identities — including whether they are US or allied service members — won’t be known until the remains are tested.
The transfer of remains is usually done in a somber, formal ceremony, and that is what officials said was being planned.
Richard Downes, executive director of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, said last week that he had been told the North may have the remains of more than 200 American service members that were likely recovered from land during farming or construction and could be easily returned. But he said the vast majority have yet to be located and retrieved from various cemeteries and battlefields across the countryside.
More than 36,000 US troops died in the conflict, including those listed as missing in action. Close to 7,700 US troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, and about 5,300 of those were lost in North Korea.
The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.
According to Chuck Prichard, spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, once the remains are turned over, they would be sent to one of two Defense Department facilities — Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska — for tests to determine identification.