US plans for dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal may face resistance

US President Donald Trump has reiterated that he thought North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was serious about denuclearization. (KCNA via KNS/AP)
Updated 02 July 2018
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US plans for dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal may face resistance

  • Doubts over North Korea’s intentions have deepened amid reports that it is continuing to produce fissile material for weapons
  • US President Donald Trump reiterated in an interview broadcast Sunday that he thought Kim Jong Un was serious about denuclearization

WASHINGTON: The US has a plan that would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a year, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday, although US intelligence reported signs that Pyongyang doesn’t intend to fully give up its arsenal.
John Bolton said top US diplomat Mike Pompeo will be discussing that plan with North Korea in the near future. Bolton added that it would be to the North’s advantage to cooperate to see sanctions lifted quickly and aid from South Korea and Japan start to flow.
Bolton’s remarks on CBS’ “Face the Nation” appeared to be the first time the Trump administration had publicly suggested a timeline for North Korea to fulfill the commitment leader Kim Jong Un made at a summit with President Donald Trump last month for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
Despite Trump’s rosy post-summit declaration that the North no longer poses a nuclear threat, Washington and Pyongyang have yet to negotiate the terms under which it would relinquish the weapons that it developed over decades to deter the US.
Doubts over North Korea’s intentions have deepened amid reports that it is continuing to produce fissile material for weapons.
The Washington Post on Saturday cited unnamed US intelligence officials as concluding that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile. Evidence collected since the June 12 summit in Singapore points to preparations to deceive the US about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, according to the report.
It said the findings support a new, previously undisclosed Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize. Some aspects of the new intelligence were reported Friday by NBC News.
A US official told The Associated Press that the Post’s report was accurate and that the assessment reflected the consistent view across US government agencies for the past several weeks. The official was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.
Bolton on Sunday declined to comment on intelligence matters.
He said the administration was well aware of North Korea’s track record over the decades in dragging out negotiations with the US to continue weapons development.
“We have developed a program. I’m sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future about really how to dismantle all of their WMD and ballistic missile programs in a year,” Bolton said. “If they have the strategic decision already made to do that, and they’re cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he added.
He said the one-year program the US is proposing would cover all of the North’s chemical and biological weapons, nuclear programs and ballistic missiles.
Even if North Korea is willing to cooperate, dismantling its secretive weapons of mass destruction programs, believed to encompass dozens of sites, will be tough. Stanford University academics, including nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker, a leading expert on the North’s nuclear program, have proposed a 10-year roadmap for that task; others say it could take less time.
Pompeo has already visited Pyongyang twice since April to meet with Kim — the first time when he was still director of the CIA — and there are discussions about a possible third trip to North Korea late next week but such a visit has not yet been confirmed.
Trump reiterated in an interview broadcast Sunday that he thinks Kim is serious about denuclearization.
“I made a deal with him. I shook hands with him. I really believe he means it,” the president said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.”
Trump defended his decision to suspend “war games” with close ally South Korea — a significant concession to North Korea, which so far has suspended nuclear and missile tests and destroyed tunnels at its nuclear test site but not taken further concrete steps to denuclearize.
“Now we’re saving a lot of money,” Trump said of the cancelation of large-scale military drills that involve flights of US bombers from the Pacific US territory of Guam.
“So we gave nothing. What we are going to give is good things in the future. And by the way I really believe North Korea has a tremendous future. I got along really well with Chairman Kim. We had a great chemistry,” Trump added.
Pressure will now be on Pompeo to make progress in negotiations with North Korea to turn the summit declaration into concrete action. He spoke with the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea in recent days about the situation with the North, according to the State Department, which has declined to comment on any upcoming travel.
Pompeo postponed plans to meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their counterparts from India on July 6, citing unavoidable circumstances, which has fueled speculation he will make a third trip to Pyongyang.


Over 400 Afghan women aim to break male stranglehold on Parliament

Updated 18 October 2018
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Over 400 Afghan women aim to break male stranglehold on Parliament

  • Of 2,691 candidates vying for seats in Afghanistan's parliament, more than 400 are women
  • Their aims are to encourage a consensus among female members of Parliament and to end the reliance on factional leaders and strongmen with power and wealth

KABUL: For women in Afghanistan’s Parliament, what a difference a year makes.

Last December, the government proposed 12 candidates for ministerial positions; only one was female, and she failed to win enough votes.

Now hundreds of women aim to be agents of change by standing for Parliament in elections on Saturday.

More than 400 of the 2,691 candidates are women. Their aims are to encourage a consensus among female members of Parliament and to end the reliance on factional leaders and strongmen with power and wealth.

“The young and new candidates are a powerful tool to make Parliament exercise its rights as stipulated in the constitution,” said Zahra Nawabi, 28, a candidate from Kabul who has two master’s degrees.

“Our priority should be women, first and foremost addressing their health. Parliament should not become a source of shame for the nation.”

The practice of wealthy figures and men with power supporting their own choice of female nominees was a greater threat to Afghan democracy than the threatened attacks on the election process by Taliban insurgents, she said.

“The government needs to intervene to stop this, otherwise the next Parliament could be worse than the current one.”

Shinkay Karokhail, who was elected as an MP in 2005, was re-elected in 2010 and is standing again, admitted that female MPs had failed to form a powerful bloc in Parliament. Some of them regarded themselves “as extra-ordinary,” she said, and it was too early to say whether any of the new batch of candidates would be an improvement.