North Korean official: Kim rethinking US talks, launch moratorium
By ERIC TALMADGE
Friday, March 15
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon decide whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said Friday, adding that the U.S. threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media, including The Associated Press, in Pyongyang said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.
She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation.”
Choe, who attended the Feb. 27-28 talks in Hanoi, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the U.S. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust was created by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate.
Even so, she said personal relations between the two leaders are still good “and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.”
She said it was entirely up to Kim whether to continue the launch and test moratorium, and said she expects he will “clarify his position” within a short period of time.
“On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said. ‘For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?’” she said. “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger. We have neither the intention to compromise with the U.S. in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.”
Choe questioned the claim by Trump at a news conference after the talks in Hanoi broke down that the North was seeking the lifting of all sanctions against it, and said it was seeking only the ones that are directed at its civilian economy. After the summit had ended, State Department officials clarified that was indeed the North’s position, but said the lifting of economic sanctions was such a big demand that it would essentially subsidize the North’s continued nuclear activity.
Choe said it was the U.S. that was being too demanding and inflexible and called the demand that denuclearization come before sanctions are eased “an absurd sophism.” She added that while South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to help bring the U.S. and North Korea together to talk, the South is “a player, not an arbiter” because it is an ally of Washington.
She said even though the people, military and officials of the munitions industry have sent Kim thousands of petitions to never give up the nuclear program, he went to Hanoi to build trust and carry out mutually agreed commitments “one by try and step by step.”
“What is clear is that the U.S. has thrown away a golden opportunity this time,” she said. “I’m not sure why the U.S. came out with this different description. We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety.”
“This time we understood very clearly that the United States has a very different calculation to ours,” she added.
She refused to comment directly when asked by one of the ambassadors about news reports the North may be preparing for another missile launch or satellite launch.
“Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission,” she said, using one of Kim’s titles. “He will make his decision in a short period of time.”
Journalists were not allowed to ask questions during the briefing, which lasted nearly an hour.
Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: EricTalmadge
DENUCLEARIZATION IN NORTH KOREA?
Political Affairs Expert Mark Tokola to Discuss Prospects for Disarmament April 4 at Ohio Wesleyan
DELAWARE, Ohio – Mark Tokola, vice president of the Korea Economic Institute of America in Washington, D.C., will discuss “The Prospect of North Korea’s Denuclearization” April 4 at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Tokola will speak at 7 p.m. in the Bayley Room on the second floor of OWU’s Beeghly Library, 43 Rowland Ave., Delaware.
Prior to joining the Korea Economic Institute, Tokola worked for more than 38 years in the U.S. Department of State, including serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassies in South Korea, Mongolia, and Iceland. Most recently, he served as the Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in London.
Tokola earned the State Department’s Superior Honor Award for his work on the Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia-Herzegovina and served as director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office in Baghdad from 2007-2008.
He was involved in planning the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, the 2010 G20 Summit in Seoul, and the 2009 G20 Summit in London.
Tokola holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Pomona College in Claremont, California, and a Master of Laws (post-graduate law degree) in European Community Law from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
His talk is sponsored by Ohio Wesleyan’s East Asian Studies Program, International Studies Program, and Department of Politics and Government. Learn more at www.owu.edu/eastasianstudies, www.owu.edu/internationalstudies, or www.owu.edu/politics.
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 25 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.
Opinion: Rebellion in North Korea Not Likely
By Donald Kirk
SEOUL — The Demilitarized Zone that’s divided North Korea from South Korea since the Korean War evokes images of the Berlin Wall that divided East Berlin from West Berlin from 1961 to 1991, but it shows no signs of going down after the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Oblivious to the symbolism of the double barbed-wire barriers that stretch 250 kilometers across the Korean peninsula, Kim is determined to suppress rebellious instincts that might inspire revolt against his rule.
With no one to question anything, Kim does not appear aware of calls by his grandfather, the North’s founding leader Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, for destruction of what he called a wall between North and South that “runs diametrically counter to the desire and demand of the nation and the trend of the times.”
That was presumably a reference to the four-kilometer-wide DMZ on each side of which North and South Korean forces stare from guard posts that Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in agreed in their last summit in Pyongyang in September to tear down. So far only 10 of 160 guard posts, 100 on the North Korean, 60 on the South Korean side of the “military demarcation line” that bisects the zone, are gone.
Those who have worked in North Korea or examined what’s going on get the impression that North Koreans basically have no idea how to respond to reports that South Koreans are leading better lives. Nor do they see much chance of really penetrating the barriers despite exchanges engendered by the summits.
“Authorities (in the North) don’t want it,” said David Hawk, author of “The Hidden Gulag,” a classic study on the North’s human rights record. The opaque nature of the North “may change a bit if President Moon gets his way,” he said, but opening up the hermit kingdom will be “a long and slow process” even if Kim “is hoping to improve the North Korean economy enough to keep people happy.”
No one doubts that conditions in North Korea are far more severe than they ever were in East Germany before the fall of its communist regime or the downfall of communist rule in the former Soviet Union and other eastern European countries in 1989 and 1990. It’s a tribute to the power of the Kim dynasty that the failure of communism in the old Soviet bloc was a deep and dark secret to his people, who heard not a word about it on the state broadcast and print media.
Kim Jong Un’s stubborn opposition to softening of tensions that might lead to removal of the demilitarized zone helps explain why life in the North is hardly improving despite his stated goal of focusing on the economy. Revolt is not an option.
“I have talked to nearly 150 defectors,” said Robert Collins, reflecting on a career analyzing North Korea, first as a U.S. Army soldier and then as a senior civilian with the U.S. and U.N. commands. “Most of them did a lot of wondering about the South when in the North, but few actually understood what they heard or saw on videos.”
As for bringing about change in the North, that’s a non-starter. People are “too worried about consequences,” said Collins, who has written three revelatory books on life there. “The surveillance — political, ideological and physical — by the Korean Workers’ Party and the internal security services is far too great.” Collins is sure George Orwell, the British author of “Animal Farm” and “1984,” “never imagined this.” The dictatorship “is so pervasive” — “outside the elite, they know nothing” of the fate of communist regimes in eastern Europe.
Ken Eom, who defected from North Korea 10 years ago, vividly recalls his ordeal. “My mother and brother had already escaped,” said Eom, who studied English in the “Teach North Korean Refugees” program established in Seoul by a Harvard-trained educator, Casey Lartigue. Though Eom rose to master sergeant in the army, he was “not accepted as a party member” — prerequisite to success — probably because his loved ones had defected. A broker, for $4,000, got him on the way to South Korea.
“Our people do not believe in the regime,” Eom told me. “The public distribution system outside Pyongyang is completely closed. People make money through the black market.” Kim Jong Un may be “in more danger,” he believes, but citizens “could not start a movement” against him. In that atmosphere, nobody cares about nuclear warheads and missiles — not a concern for a hungry people battling to live another day.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspapers and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Trump-Kim Summit — Was It a Con Game?
By Donald Kirk
SEOUL — No matter what he does or says, Donald Trump is playing a losing game with his critics on North Korea and probably on just about everything else.
If he had joined Kim Jong-un in signing a piece of paper agreeing to give up sanctions while Kim promised to shut down the main nuclear complex at Yongbyon, a chorus of Trump-haters would have hissed and booed him down. Those same people, of course, blamed him for “failure” when he rejected Kim’s phony offer, shook hands and walked out at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi.
Aside from hard-core columnists and panelists and pundits who make a living blasting Trump from their perches on editorial pages and TV shows, a slew of experts, scholars and retired diplomats also joined in the fun. Some of them hate Trump less than others. A few are quite measured in their criticism.
The overwhelming sense from all of them is that Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing, should have done his homework, should have known what to expect and been more astute in debating the fine points of a deal. Some, notably former White House officials, say he would have benefited from more advance work by staffers who would have finessed the finer points after weeks or maybe months of “preparation.”
But didn’t Sung Kim, once the State Department envoy on North Korea and now the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, spend hours and hours with Choe Sun-hui, North Korea’s vice foreign minister, before Trump met Kim in Singapore last June? Sung Kim knows the ins and outs of this game as well as anybody. He got nowhere with Choe. That’s why the paper that Trump and Kim Jong-un signed in Singapore contained the empty promise of “complete denuclearization,” which might sound pretty definitive but meant nothing.
The newly appointed U.S. envoy on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, retired vice president for international affairs at Ford, would appear inexperienced for such a high-profile role but does have a background with the national security council. He also served as foreign policy adviser to Sarah Palin when she was governor of Alaska and John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate in 2008. Thus he was in a position to tell her which countries were the good guys and have her say on TV, “You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska” — a line later satirized as, “You can see Russia from my house.”
In fact, Biegun could have done no better, no worse, than Sung Kim for one basic reason. Whatever either of them said, Kim Jong-un was not and is not about to relent on his precious nuclear program. Just this week, the silliness of his offer to “close” the Yongbyon complex became clear when South Korean intelligence analysts said the North Koreans haven’t been using it for fabricating warheads since last year. Instead, they make them from highly enriched uranium at sites elsewhere. Kim’s refusal to shut down those sites torpedoed the summit. No wonder he was willing to close Yongbyon.
At the International Media Center in Hanoi, we sensed the bust-up of the summit as Trump and Kim shook hands well before the game was to have ended. About an hour later, when he and Kim were to have had a farewell lunch, the president held forth at the American team’s headquarters. That was a 40-minute ride through swarms of motorcycles from the media center, where I was glued to a wide-screen TV along with hundreds of others. We already knew there would be no “Hanoi Declaration” — an immense relief since any such statement would only show the vacuity of the performance.
Much to his annoyance, Trump was upstaged hours earlier by convicted attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony before a congressional committee in Washington. I saw the back-and-forth live on CNN and BBC in my hotel room. Presumably Trump was watching too. There was Cohen denouncing his former client as a “con man.” You had to wonder if the president’s walkout was all in some con game.
The outcome was anti-climactic, a one-day story. Too bad for the Trump-haters, who would have loved analyzing a final statement as evidence he’d been conned. Sadly, they had to settle for bashing Trump for his “failure” to get anything.
Actually, as Cohen had wanted, he had bigger things to worry about as he left for “wonderful Washington, D.C.” — his final words before walking out of the news conference.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspapers and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Death penalty moratorium in California – what it means for the state and for the nation
March 20, 2019
Author: Hadar Aviram, Professor of Criminal Justice and Corrections, University of California, Hastings
Disclosure statement: Hadar Aviram does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Both celebration – and ire – followed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of a moratorium on the death penalty in California.
California’s 737 death row inmates constitute more than a quarter of the national number. Keeping them on death row costs US $150 million a year more than sentencing them to life without parole.
California’s death penalty has been at an impasse for decades. The state has not put anyone to death since Clarence Ray Allen’s execution in 2006.
The state’s use of lethal injections was fiercely debated for years. Twice – once in 2012 and again in 2016 – Californians voted on measures to repeal the death penalty, and rejected them. Newsom’s step, which in many ways echoes his historical move as then-San Francisco mayor to marry same-sex couples in 2004, pushes the state in a new direction.
As a criminal justice scholar interested in death and life sentences in California and in criminal justice policy generally, I see Newsom’s order as a sign that the death penalty may soon end nationwide.
Let me explain.
Losing public support
While the United States Supreme Court found the death penalty constitutional in 1976, nationwide support for the death penalty is at its lowest point since the 1960s. With this moratorium, California joins a growing list of states who moved away from putting people to death.
Twenty states have abolished the death penalty – eight of them recently. Four more, including California, have placed a moratorium on its use.
Most of these states were already refraining from executing anyone when they abolished the death penalty. In addition to this wave of abolitionism, the death penalty is used less frequently in the 26 states that still have it, partly because drug companies increasingly refused to provide their drugs for use in executions.
This shift matters because attempts to challenge the legality of the death penalty rely on the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. What counts as cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled in 1958, changes over time with our evolving standards of decency.
A good example of this evolution is the gradual change in approach toward extreme punishment for juveniles.
In 2004, the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for juveniles. Five years later, it abolished life without parole for offenses other than homicide by juveniles. It then dismantled mandatory life without parole schemes for juveniles – even those who had committed murder. Subsequently it declared these policies retroactive – meaning that even people who were sentenced decades ago, when they were juveniles, can still benefit from these new rules.
The Supreme Court has also wavered over extreme punishment for adults. It ruled the death penalty unconstitutional for most non-homicide crimes in 2007, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have recently expressed the view that the death penalty’s constitutionality should be reconsidered. When examining “evolving standards of decency,” the Supreme Court looks at state policies. In this respect, Newsom’s announcement may be of huge importance.
California holds a unique position as a criminal justice pioneer. Because of the sheer size of its prison population, any policy change that increases – or decreases – incarceration in California can have dramatic effects nationwide.
In 1976, California moved from sentences set by the legislature to “indeterminate sentences” that allow judges to choose from a sentencing range. The state adopted the Three Strikes law in 1994. These two changes were among the important factors leading to a nearly 900 percent spike in the California prison population between 1976 and 2006.
During the Great Recession, California’s lawmakers began to doubt the state could afford such a large prison population. The Criminal Justice Realignment, a law passed in 2011, resulted in a reduction of approximately 40,000 inmates in California’s prisons. In fact, it is estimated that California’s recession-era reforms have accounted for much of the total nationwide decline in prison population.
California is also unique in its political makeup. The contrast between its vehemently progressive coast and deeply conservative center makes for big differences in policies from county to county – and for surprising support for punitive policies in a state that is widely seen as liberal.
It also means that legislating is often conducted by voter initiatives, which are notoriously vulnerable to manipulation through misleading appeals to anger and fear.
California’s mercurial political climate and the size of its death row mean it might influence other states and, possibly, the Supreme Court in the future.
What might happen next
Several important questions loom.
First, would the more conservative makeup of the Supreme Court affect its willingness to reexamine the constitutionality of the death penalty?
Justice Kennedy, who was especially sensitive to punishment questions and skeptical of the death penalty, has retired. Justice Gorsuch seems to support the death penalty. The jury is still out on Justice Kavanaugh’s position.
Second, how might the moratorium impact the strategy of death penalty abolitionists in the state seeking to reform the two other types of extreme punishment – life with and without parole?
On one hand, the distinction between the death penalty and life without parole, which was already tenuous, becomes even more blurred now that no one on California’s death row will be executed. Because policy is made incrementally, it is arguably time for abolitionist states to take a hard look at their other draconian sentencing practices.
On the other hand, in many cases abolition and moratoria are palatable to people who are on the fence about the death penalty precisely because of the existence of an alternative punitive sentence.
Third, there is plenty of work to be done in California. The powerful image of the death chamber being dismantled is a reminder that behind the death penalty lies a giant machine of lengthy and expensive litigation, dilapidated housing conditions and arcane regulations, which must now be considered. With less need to fund representation in these expensive cases, there might be room for other criminal justice reform.
Fourth, while Newsom’s announcement provoked anger and frustration in some victims, it brought relief to others. In an abolitionist era, reformers should come up with solutions that treat victims with respect and award them solace and closure – albeit not necessarily through harsh punishment.
And finally, careful analysis of homicide rates in the next few years should be conducted in order to learn whether, as many have come to assume, capital punishment does not deter crime.
The dismantlement of the death chamber is not the official end of the death penalty in California. But it could be the harbinger of abolition.