Connect with us
Kim-Jong-Un Kim-Jong-Un

America

‘He’s such a dreamer:’ Skepticism dogs U.S. envoy’s North Korean peace efforts

Published

on

Saddled with the toughest job in American diplomacy, the chief U.S. negotiator with North Korea stands between a U.S. president who insists he doesn’t want to talk and an enemy who shows no interest in listening.

While veteran State Department Asia hand Joseph Yun might be Washington’s best diplomatic hope for reducing the risk of a devastating war on the Korean peninsula, he serves an administration riven by divisions over how to handle Pyongyang.

Image result for joseph yun north korea

On the other side, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, shows little interest in negotiating either, at least not until he has developed a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Despite the daunting obstacles, South Korean-born Yun has told colleagues and others he hopes his diplomatic efforts can lower the temperature in a dangerous nuclear stand-off, according to Reuters interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. officials and South Korean diplomats.

Most were deeply skeptical about his chances.

“He’s such a dreamer,” a White House official said, with a note of sarcasm.

“We don’t think this is going anywhere,” said another U.S. official, although he suggested it was still worthwhile to keep engaging at some level with the North Koreans as long as Yun does not appear to be undermining President Donald Trump’s public rejection of direct negotiations.

Trump has told aides that his military threats will drive North Korea to capitulate and rein in its nuclear and missile programs, four White House officials said, a view not shared among most U.S. intelligence agencies.

Yun, however, is quietly pursuing direct diplomacy with North Korean officials at the United Nations and has a mandate to discuss issues beyond the release of U.S. citizens, a senior State Department official told Reuters this week. In June, he secured the release of U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who returned to the United States in a coma and died days later.

‘RUNNING OUT OF TIME’

Trump headed to Asia on Friday as a senior aide warned the world is “running out of time” on the North Korea crisis. Behind the scenes, Yun is trying to keep open a fragile line of communication that could be used to prevent any miscalculation by one side or the other from spiraling into military conflict.

Further aggravating tensions, two U.S. strategic bombers conducted drills over South Korea on Thursday. That followed word from South Korea’s spy agency that North Korea may be preparing another missile launch.

U.S. officials have said privately that intercepting a test missile is among options under consideration, though there is disagreement within the administration about the risks.

In the midst of this is Yun, a soft-spoken, 32-year foreign service veteran who took on the job a year ago, near the end of the Obama administration.

He is grappling with Trump’s strident rhetoric as well as disagreement among the president’s top aides over whether saber-rattling will force Kim to capitulate and what the threshold for any military actions should be, according to several U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Concern about Yun’s difficulties has surfaced in Seoul, where he visits regularly and where Trump will travel next week on the second stop of his Asian tour.

Several South Korean officials expressed worry that Yun’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea lack any real underpinning of support from the White House.

“Things are clearly not easy for him,” one South Korean diplomat said. “Yun is precisely that person (to talk to North Korea), but Trump is killing the whole process.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Sept. 30 the United States was probing for a diplomatic opening, only to be slapped down by Trump, who told him via Twitter this was a waste of time.

At the same time, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who regularly briefs Trump on intelligence matters and is considered one of the most hawkish voices on North Korea in the president’s inner circle, has apparently gained stature.

Several officials familiar with those discussions say Pompeo is feeding Trump assessments that U.S. military threats will force Kim to bow to U.S. demands for nuclear disarmament, a position that some U.S. intelligence officers privately contest.

The CIA declined comment.

NORTH KOREAN NEGOTIATOR ‘SHOCKED’

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Yun has become diplomatically “untethered,” not fully connected to a core U.S. approach that is emphasizing economic sanctions and the threat of military action rather than diplomacy.

The one tangible achievement of Yun’s diplomatic efforts in the past year was winning the release of 22-year-old Warmbier in secret talks with North Korean officials in Oslo and New York. Yun flew to Pyongyang in June to medically evacuate Warmbier.

When Choe Son Hui, head of the North Korean foreign ministry’s North America bureau, met Yun in Oslo, she was unaware of how serious Warmbier’s condition was, a source in Washington knowledgeable about the matter said.

But once she learned about it she was “shocked” and Yun was summoned urgently to meet a North Korean diplomat in New York, which quickly led to Warmbier’s return home, the source said.

Warmbier’s death complicated Yun’s efforts as it contributed to a chilling of U.S.-North Korean contacts around that time, the State Department official said.

STUMBLING IN THE DARK

Despite Trump’s threats of military action against Pyongyang, the State Department official said Yun’s view was “the less you engage diplomatically, the more likely you are in the dark.”

Even so, Trump’s rhetoric has raised questions among allies, and possibly even in North Korea, about how serious, if at all, his administration is about diplomacy and how much of a mandate Yun may have to pursue it.

Trump “personalized” the conflict – deriding Kim as “Little Rocket Man” – against the advice of his national security and intelligence experts, some of whom warned it could be counterproductive, a senior national security official said.

Another official pointed out, however, that Trump, who in May said he would be honored to meet Kim, had not hurled any fresh insults at Kim in recent days, raising hopes for an altered approach.

A South Korean official in Seoul said it was necessary for Washington to have someone in contact with North Korea to help spur future negotiations if they are ever to take hold.

But Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told Japan’s NHK television this week: “What we cannot afford to do is enter into these long, drawn-out negotiations that allow North Korea to use these negotiations as cover for continuing their nuclear and missile programs.”

Former U.S. negotiators sympathize with Yun, whose authority to negotiate has been undercut by the tug-of-war between a White House breathing fire and a State Department pushing a peaceful solution.

“Nobody doubted my authority,” said Wendy Sherman, one of the lead U.S. negotiators who achieved the 2015 deal under which

Iran agreed to restrain its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions. “All of this undermines our ability to do the job.”

Robert Gallucci, who was chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994 and has had recent contact with Yun, said the envoy is “realistic about the challenges of negotiating in the current atmosphere, including the tone set by the president, but he believes in the mission even as his approach is guided by realism.”

America

FBI should have informed me of Manafort investigation: Trump

Manafort has been under house arrest since he surrendered to the FBI in November 2017 after being indicted by a federal grand jury as part of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

Published

on

Donald Trump

Washington, June 4 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has questioned the fact that the FBI did not inform him about the investigation of his then campaign manager Paul Manafort ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign?” Trump said on Sunday on Twitter.

“Should have told me!” The President also said that Manafort joined his campaign “very late” and that he worked with him for “a short period of time,” specifically, between June and August 2016, Efe news reported.

Manafort has been under house arrest since he surrendered to the FBI in November 2017 after being indicted by a federal grand jury as part of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

The indictment charged Manafort with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts and being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, among others.

Manafort had to step down as Trump’s campaign manager after it was discovered that he had failed to report receiving a $12.7 million payment for providing counsel to deposed pro-Moscow Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych (2010-2016).

Manafort’s trial, after he pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court appearance on October 30, 2017, is set for July 24 in the state of Virginia.

Continue Reading

America

Ex-English teacher finds errors in White House letter

According to the former teacher, the letter she received did not address her concerns.

Published

on

White-House

New York, May 28 (IANS) A retired English teacher found many errors in a White House letter bearing President Donald Trumps signature and mailed it back after making corrections, a media report said.

The letter, dated May 3 and printed on White House stationery, was addressed to Yvonne Mason, 61, who retired in 2017. After she made the corrections, she snapped a picture, posted the letter on Facebook and mailed it back to the White House.

“It was a poorly worded missive,” she told The New York Times on Sunday.

“Poor writing is not something I abide. If someone is capable of doing better, then they should do better.”

Mason, a Democrat who lives in Atlanta, had written to Trump to ask that he visit each family of those who died in the shooting that killed 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, in February.

“I had written to them in anger, to tell you the truth,” she said. “I thought he owed it to these grieving families.”

According to the former teacher, the letter she received did not address her concerns.

Instead, it listed a series of actions taken after the shooting, like listening sessions, meetings with lawmakers and the STOP School Violence Act, a bill that would authorise $500 million over 10 years for safety improvements at schools but had no provisions related to guns.

Some of the things Mason wrote in the letter were: “Have y’all tried grammar & style check?”

“Federal is capitalised only when used as part of a proper noun.”

There was more, but she did not correct everything.

“I did not mention the dangling modifier… I focused mainly on mechanics,” Mason told The New York Times.

“Nation” was capitalised, so was “states”. She circled both the words.

The letter stood in contrast to other letters she has received from politicians, Mason said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, sent “beautiful” letters that struck a tone that “makes me more important than him”, she said.

Continue Reading

America

George H.W. Bush hospitalised with low pressure

Published

on

George H.W. Bush

Washington, May 28 (IANS) Former US President George H.W. Bush was hospitalised to be treated for low blood pressure and fatigue, a family spokesman said.

“The former President is awake and alert, and not in any discomfort,” spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted on Sunday, adding that the 93-year-old will likely remain at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, Maine, “for a few days for observation”.

Bush was released from Houston Methodist Hospital this month after being admitted for a virus just a few hours after attending the funeral of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died on April 17, reports Efe news.

Bush suffers from a type of Parkinson’s that hampers his ability to walk and has been hospitalised several times over the last few years for a variety of health conditions.

Last year, he was admitted in January and April for respiratory complications and had to undergo surgery.

In 2015, he fractured a neck vertebrae and in 2012 he spent Christmas at Houston Methodist Hospital due to bronchitis and a viral infection.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Most Popular