Kim Jong Un could give up ICBMs but keep some nuclear forces

This combination of photos shows a file photo taken on June 11, 2018 of US President Donald Trump (L) during his meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (not pictured) at The Istana, the official residence of the prime minister, in Singapore; and a file image of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (R) during his meeting with the Singaporean leader the day before on June 10, 2018, in Singapore. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2018
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Kim Jong Un could give up ICBMs but keep some nuclear forces

  • North Korea’s attitude toward dialogue in the past two years has seemed to shift with setbacks or progress in its weapons tests
  • Kim is probably modeling a nuclear future after Pakistan, which began building a nuclear arsenal in the 1990s to deter India

SEOUL, South Korea: After years of effort to develop nuclear missiles that can target the US mainland, is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un really ready to pack them away in a deal with President Donald Trump?
Perhaps, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean Pyongyang is abandoning its nuclear ambitions entirely.
Tuesday’s meeting in Singapore between Kim and Trump comes after a sharp turn in North Korea’s diplomacy, from rebuffing proposals for dialogue last year to embracing and even initiating them this year. The change may reflect a new thinking about its nuclear deterrence strategy — and how best to secure the ultimate goal of protecting Kim’s rule.
A look at how Kim’s appetite for talks swung amid the North’s ups and downs in weapons development and what that says about how he might approach his negotiations with Trump:

TESTS AND TALKS
North Korea’s attitude toward dialogue in the past two years has seemed to shift with setbacks or progress in its weapons tests.
Even after starting a rapid process of weapons development following a nuclear test in January 2016, Pyongyang constantly invited rivals to talks that year.
It proposed military meetings with Seoul to reduce tensions and indicated it could suspend its nuclear and missile tests if the US-South Korean military drills were dialed back. Washington and Seoul demurred, saying Pyongyang first must show genuine intent to denuclearize.
At the time, North Korea’s quest for a credible nuclear deterrent against the US was troubled. The military conducted eight tests of its “Musudan” intermediate-range missile in 2016, but only one of those launches was seen as successful. The country’s path toward an intercontinental-range ballistic missile appeared cut off.
North Korea’s stance on dialogue changed dramatically, though, following the successful test of a new rocket engine in March 2017, which the country hailed as a significant breakthrough.
The engine, believed to be a variant of the Russian-designed RD-250, powered a successful May flight of a new intermediate-range missile, the Hwasong-12, reopening the path to an ICBM. That was followed in July by two successful tests of an ICBM, the Hwasong-14.
Pyongyang’s demands for talks disappeared. Proposals to meet from a new liberal government in Seoul were ignored. Determined to test its weapons in operational conditions, the North flew two Hwasong-12s over Japan and threatened to fire them toward Guam, a US military hub.
The North’s state media brought up President Richard Nixon’s outreach to Beijing in the 1970s following a Chinese test of a thermonuclear bomb, saying it was likewise inevitable that Washington will accept North Korea as a nuclear power and take steps to normalize ties.
Kim talked of reaching a military “equilibrium” with the US By all signs, he was fully committed to completing an ICBM program he intended to keep.

THE DETERRENCE GAME
Kim’s turn toward diplomacy this year suggests he may have concluded the nuclear deterrence strategy was failing, some analysts say.
After a November test of a larger ICBM, the Hwasong-15, Kim proclaimed his nuclear force as complete, but his announcement may have been more politically motivated than an assessment of capability.
Although the Hwasong-15 displayed a greater range than the Hwasong-14, there was no clear sign the North had made meaningful progress in the technology needed to ensure that a warhead would survive the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry.
New US National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy reports released in December and January respectively also seemed to reduce the credibility of Kim’s deterrence plans, said Hwang Ildo, a professor at Seoul’s Korea National Diplomatic Academy.
In the documents, the US assesses it could sufficiently defend against the small number of North Korean ICBMs — believed to be about 10 or fewer — with its 44 ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska. Missiles fired from North Korea would have to pass Alaska to reach the US mainland.
Experts are divided on whether the interceptors, which Washington plans to deploy in larger numbers soon, can be counted on to destroy incoming warheads. However, Hwang said, real capability doesn’t matter as much as Trump believing that the system works, which reduces the bargaining power of the ICBMs.
Kim can’t be the Mao Zedong to Trump’s Nixon if the US sees his weapons as containable. With North Korea’s limited resources, as well as the threat of a pre-emptive US attack, it’s difficult for the North to mass produce enough ICBMs to overwhelm the interceptors in Alaska.
Rather than prolonging his nation’s economic suffering, Kim may have concluded it would be better to deal away his ICBMs at the cusp of operational capability, especially when it was no longer clear the missiles would guarantee his survival.
“North Korea always tries to maintain flexibility and increase its options from step to step,” Hwang said.

A PAKISTANI MODEL?
What never changes for North Korea is that the survival of the Kim regime comes first.
Nam Sung-wook, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Korea University, said Kim is probably modeling a nuclear future after Pakistan, which began building a nuclear arsenal in the 1990s to deter India. Pakistan is now estimated to have more than 100 warheads that are deliverable by short- and medium-range weapons and aircraft.
Kim may be seeking a deal where he gives up his ICBMs but keeps his shorter-range arsenal, which may satisfy Trump but drive a wedge between Washington and its Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo. In drills with shorter-range weapons in 2016, the North demonstrated the potential to carry out nuclear attacks on South Korean ports and US military facilities in Japan.
In negotiations, Kim may try to exclude submarine technologies from a freeze or verification process to leave open a path toward sub-launched ballistic missile systems, Hwang said.
Then, if diplomacy fails and Kim goes back to building nuclear weapons, the systems would expand their reach and provide a second-strike capability to retaliate if North Korea’s land-based launch sites are destroyed.
North Korea successfully tested a submarine-launched missile that flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) in August 2016. Analysts believe the solid-fuel missile can hit targets as far as 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) away.
That said, it would take years for the North to develop a fleet of submarines that can quietly travel deep into the Pacific.
The immediate outcome of the summit in Singapore is likely to be a vague aspirational statement on the North’s denuclearization, Nam said. When it comes to details, Washington and Pyongyang are destined to “muddle through” a lengthy process, wrestling over the terms of monitoring and inspections, he said.
Still, such a process would halt the growth of the North’s nuclear program and prevent it from using its weapons to flex its diplomatic muscle, Nam said. It could take a decade or so for Kim to find his next move in nuclear deterrence if he’s eyeing a submarine-launched system. That could be enough time for Washington, Seoul and others to convince Kim he just can’t win the nuclear game.


Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

Updated 18 September 2018
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Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

  • The report says an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure
  • Investigators said the Tatmadaw should be restructured and the process should begin by replacing the current leadership

YANGON: Myanmar’s powerful army should be removed from politics, UN investigators said Tuesday in the final version of a damning report reiterating calls for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
A brutal military crackdown last year forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh. Demands have mounted for those who waged the campaign to face justice.
The UN’s 444-page probe is the most meticulous breakdown of the violence to date. It says the military’s top leadership should be overhauled and have no further influence over the country’s governance.
Myanmar’s military dominates the Buddhist-majority nation, holding a quarter of seats in parliament and controlling three ministries, making their grip on power firm despite political reforms which began in 2011.
But the report said the country’s civilian leadership “should further pursue the removal of the Tatmadaw from Myanmar’s political life,” referring to the nation’s armed forces.
The UN’s analysis, based on 18 months’ work and more than 850 in-depth interviews, urges the international community to investigate the military top brass for genocide, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Myanmar’s army has denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting its campaign was justified to root out Rohingya insurgents who staged deadly raids on border posts in August 2017.
But the UN team said the military’s tactics had been “consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.”
The report says an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure.
Investigators said the Tatmadaw should be restructured and the process should begin by replacing the current leadership.
Myanmar only recently emerged from almost a half century of military junta rule and Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government remains in a delicate power balance with the generals.
Their presence in parliament gives them an effective veto on constitutional changes, making any transition to full civilian control extremely difficult.
Three key ministries -– home affairs, border and defense –- are also in their hands, giving them carte blanche to conduct security operations with little oversight.
“It is impossible to remove the army out of political life without changing the constitution, and the military have a veto over constitutional changes,” Mark Farmaner, from Burma Campaign UK, told AFP.
The UN team said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the atrocities — including systematic murder, rape, torture and arson -– were committed with the intention of destroying the stateless Rohingya, warranting the charges of genocide.
The mission, created by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, did not focus its sights entirely on the army.
It directed specific criticism at Suu Kyi, whose global reputation has been shattered by her failure to speak up for the Rohingya against the military.
While acknowledging that the civilian authorities have little influence over military actions, the report said that their “acts and omissions” had “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.”
Pointing to “deeply entrenched” impunity in Myanmar, the investigators said the only chance to obtain accountability was through the international justice system.
They also pointed to failings of the UN’s office within Myanmar, alleging that “quiet diplomacy” was prioritized and that those who tried to push the UN’s Human Rights Up Front approach were “ignored, criticized, sidelined or blocked in these efforts.”
The independent UN team will present its findings to member states of the Human Rights Council in Geneva later on Tuesday, after which Myanmar will have a chance to respond to the allegations.
It also repeated suggestions that crimes against the Rohingya be referred to the International Criminal Court, which concluded in August that it had jurisdiction to investigate even though Myanmar is not a member of the treaty underpinning the tribunal.
Myanmar has dismissed the tribunal’s authority and analysts have pointed to the court’s lack of enforcement powers.
The investigators also recommended an arms embargo and “targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible.”