North Korea says talks with Pompeo were ‘regrettable’

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PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — High-level talks between the United States and North Korea appeared to hit a snag on Saturday as Pyongyang said a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been “regrettable” and accused Washington of making “gangster-like” demands to pressure the country into abandoning its nuclear weapons.

The statement from the North came just hours after Pompeo wrapped up two days of talks with senior North Korean officials without meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but with commitments for new discussions on denuclearization and the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.

While Pompeo offered a relatively positive assessment of his meetings, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the U.S. betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and Kim by making “unilateral and gangster-like” demands on “CVID,” or the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.

It said the outcome of the follow-up talks was “very concerning” because it has led to a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm.”

“We had expected that the U.S. side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders’ summit … we were also thinking about providing reciprocal measures,” said the statement, released by an unnamed spokesman and carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“However, the attitude and stance the United States showed in the first high-level meeting (between the countries) was no doubt regrettable,” the spokesman said. “Our expectations and hopes were so naive it could be called foolish.”

According to the spokesman, during the talks with Pompeo the North raised the issue of a possible declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice and not a peace treaty. It also offered to discuss the closure of a missile engine test site that would “physically affirm” a move to halt the production of intercontinental range ballistic missiles and setting up working-level discussions for the return of U.S. war remains.

However, the spokesman said the United States came up with a variety of “conditions and excuses” to delay a declaration on ending the war. The spokesman also downplayed the significance of the United States suspending its military exercises with South Korea, saying the North made a larger concession by blowing up the tunnels at its nuclear test site.

In criticizing the talks with Pompeo, however, the North carefully avoided attacking Trump, saying “we wholly maintain our trust toward President Trump,” but also that Washington must not allow “headwinds” against the “wills of the leaders.”

In comments to reporters before leaving Pyongyang, Pompeo said his conversations with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol had been “productive,” conducted “in good faith” and that “a great deal of progress” had been made in some areas. He stressed that “there’s still more work to be done” in other areas, much of which would be done by working groups that the two sides have set up to deal with specific issues.

Pompeo said a Pentagon team would be meeting with North Korean officials on or about July 12 at the border between North and South Korea to discuss the repatriation of remains and that working level talks would be held soon on the destruction of North Korea’s missile engine testing facility.

In the days following his historic June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Trump had announced that the return of the remains and the destruction of the missile facility had been completed or were in progress.

Pompeo, however, said that more talks were needed on both.

“We now have a meeting set up for July 12 — it could move by one day or two — where there will be discussions between the folks responsible for the repatriation of remains. (It) will take place at the border and that process will begin to develop over the days that follow,” he said as he boarded his plane for Tokyo.

On the destruction of the missile engine plant, Pompeo said, “We talked about what the modalities would look like for the destruction of that facility as well, and some progress there as well, and then we have laid out a path for further negotiation at the working level so the two teams can get together and continue these discussions.”

Earlier, Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol both said they needed clarity on the parameters of an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula that Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to in Singapore. The trip was Pompeo’s third to Pyongyang since April and his first since the summit.

Unlike his previous visits, which have been one-day affairs during which he has met with Kim Jong Un, Pompeo spent the night at a government guesthouse in Pyongyang and did not see the North Korean leader, although U.S. officials had suggested such a meeting was expected. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said no meeting had been planned.

As they began their talks on Saturday, Kim Yong Chol alluded to the fact that Pompeo and his delegation had stayed overnight in Pyongyang.

“We did have very serious discussions on very important matters yesterday,” Kim said. “So, thinking about those discussions you might have not slept well last night.”

Pompeo, who spoke with Trump, national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff John Kelly by secure phone before starting Saturday’s session, replied that he “slept just fine.” He added that the Trump administration was committed to reaching a deal under which North Korea would denuclearize and realize economic benefits in return.

Kim later said that “there are things that I have to clarify” to which Pompeo responded that “there are things that I have to clarify as well.”

There was no immediate explanation of what needed to be clarified, but the two sides have been struggling to specify what exactly “denuclearization” would entail and how it could be verified to the satisfaction of the United States.

Pompeo and Kim met for nearly three hours Friday and then had dinner amid growing skepticism over how serious Kim Jong Un is about giving up his nuclear arsenal and translating the upbeat rhetoric following his summit with Trump into concrete action.

___

Lee reported from Tokyo. Kim Tong-Hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed.

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At the Singapore summit, President Trump got played

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President Trump got played.

After all the hoopla and pageantry and Trump braggadocio at the Singapore summit, with Kim Jong Un standing alongside the U.S. president in front of thousands of journalists, the North Korean leader came out the winner.

Kim had already racked up points just by standing alongside the U.S. president as an equal, showered with Trump’s praise and transformed from pariah to international rock star.  In recent weeks he was welcomed to Beijing and Seoul, and invited to Moscow. China and Russia have already started to loosen up sanctions.

All this might have been an acceptable cost for achieving the U.S. goal: to get Kim to commit specifically to shedding his nuclear weapons within a reasonable time frame, in a verifiable fashion.  But, on this, Trump failed big time: The joint statement that emerged from the summit included no such firm commitments, using vague language on denuclearization that is interpreted very differently by the two sides. “It does not meet the minimum requirements in terms of what we expected them to do,” Ambassador Joseph Y. Yun, the former Special U.S. Representative to North Korea, told CNN.

>> READ MORE: Analysis: By Trump’s own yardstick, North Korea pact falls flat

Instead, Trump made a huge concession up front stopping joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea, a key tool for keeping pressure on the North. And he didn’t even inform the Seoul government beforehand, leaving it publicly grasping for information on U.S. intentions.

“I gave up nothing,” the president insisted in a press conference. He was clearly oblivious to the fact that he was playing into North Korea’s longtime game plan: to emerge as an internationally recognized state, recognized by America and the world — without surrendering all of its nukes.

Let’s look at what the president did give up.

In the run-up to the summit, U.S. and Korean negotiators were wrestling over whether North Korea would make a substantial pledge of denuclearization up front, including details of its nuclear program and a timeline for dismantling it.

But, going into the summit, the two sides could not even agree on a common definition of the term  “denuclearization.”

“Our definition of denuclearization is they give up all their fissile material, facilities, nuclear material taken out, irrevocably and verifiably,” says Dr. Jung Pak, top Korea expert at Brookings and former senior CIA Korea analyst.

The joint statement, however, contained only a vague commitment to “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” – terminology favored by Pyongyang and Beijing.  In North Korea’s interpretation, say North Korea experts, this means an end to the U.S. troop presence in South Korea and nuclear umbrella over that country and Japan – without any corresponding specifics on eliminating its own nuclear program.

By using this language – and ending joint exercises – Trump acceded to Kim’s game plan. He went even further, repeating his desire to pull U.S. troops out of Korea (although not immediately) and emphasizing his desire to save money by so doing.  All this before North Korea makes any firm commitment to giving up its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

True, Kim has frozen his nuclear tests and missile tests – for now.  And he has destroyed an already collapsing nuclear test site and promised Trump more on other sites.  But none of this speaks to the onetime American demand that North Korean completely, irrevocably and verifiably destroy its weapons.

Negotiations will now commence, but if the past is history, they could drag on for a very long time and never reach a firm conclusion.  Meanwhile, U.S. leverage on North Korea is declining,  as China and Russia push to loosen sanctions.  A push for a formal peace between North and South Korea will further weaken any future pressure.  And Trump’s eagerness to halt joint military excercises – and remove U.S. troops – undermines U.S. leverage further.

This gives North Korea little reason to swiftly negotiate an end to its weapons program.  After all, the U.S. president has told the world that Kim is “very smart” and “honorable” and “wants to do the right thing.”  Trump even sloughed off questions at the press conference about North Korean forced labor camps where thousands are tortured and murdered, saying such things happen elsewhere.

How embarrassing it would be for Trump to resume insulting the great Korean leader.  Much easier to insult a democratic prime minister like Justin Trudeau.

The irony here is that, contrary to Trump’s exaggerated claims, Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush got much more specific commitments from Pyongyang. In 1992, 1994 and 2005, the North Koreans pledged to eliminate all their nuclear weapons.  They reneged.

When asked why he’d do better, Trump bragged: “This is a much different president.”  Clearly this president believes his smarts will get results from North Korea, where previous presidents met failure.

The good news is that war on the Korean peninsula looks far less likely than a few months ago. But judging from the Singapore summit, it is Kim Jong Un who has mastered the art of dealing with Trump.

By Trudy Rubin/Phillynews

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

The Iran Deal Is Still a Good Bargain It’s in America’s national security interest to stay in the agreement.

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The case against the nuclear deal with Iran is reminiscent of what Woody Allen once said: “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering—and it’s all over much too soon.” The agreement, critics insist, is terrible and doesn’t last long enough.
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said on NPR Tuesday, “The problem is that the restrictions that the deal puts in place are automatically removed in a few years. This was the core problem of the deal from the beginning.”
If it’s not a good deal for the U.S. and Israel, shouldn’t we prefer that it be over as quickly as possible? The weird logic of the opponents is that because parts of the accord will end too soon, we should end the whole thing even sooner—right now. Their implication is that all the flaws would be acceptable if only they would remain in effect until the end of time.

At his briefing Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood beside a giant screen filled with two words: “Iran lied.” This assertion was a surprise on the order of finding snow in Siberia. The United States entered negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program precisely because we didn’t believe the claim that it had only peaceful purposes.
Had the Obama administration taken the Iranians to be paragons of honesty, it would not have held out for the most intrusive inspections regime ever imposed on a country. National security adviser Susan Rice said in 2015, “Our approach is distrust but verify.”
The Israelis point out that the inspectors didn’t unearth the files Netanyahu released. They didn’t need to. “All of it was information that the International Atomic Energy Agency already had and has already commented on,” Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told CNN.
“Even if the documents assembled by Israel are genuine, they do not appear to reveal that prohibited nuclear weapons research and design activities continued in an organized fashion beyond 2003,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told me.

Besides, the nuclear inspectors aren’t supposed to spend their time finding out what the Tehran government did 15 years ago. They are supposed to ensure that Iran is complying with its current obligations, and they’ve found over and over that it is.
The important part of the session was what Netanyahu didn’t say. He didn’t say Iran has violated the agreement.
The White House responded to his slide show with a statement that the disclosures prove Iran “has a robust, clandestine nuclear program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people”—and then had to correct the statement to say Iran “had” such a program. Meaning: It no longer does. That would be thanks to the accord.
The deal put severe limits on Iran. It had to give up 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, dismantle its plutonium reactor, and surrender 70 percent of its centrifuges. Inspectors can gain access to any site where they detect suspicious activity. The curbs on Iran are why Donald Trump’s own defense secretary, James Mattis, has said it’s in our national security interest to stay in the agreement.
The president, however, says it must be revised or he’ll withdraw. But why would Iran agree to changes without new concessions on our part? And why would Iran see any point in amending an agreement with a government that feels free to renege on its established commitments?
Some restrictions on Iran’s activities expire after 10 or 15 years. But if the administration would like to see those limits extended, the best hope is to abide by our obligations. Over time, Iran might grow more confident that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons and agree to longer terms.
Trump’s threats are likely to have the opposite effect. They tell the Iranian government it can’t rely on multilateral agreements and had better have a good military deterrent against its enemies.
Trump accuses Barack Obama of sticking him with “a terrible deal.” If the U.S. abandoned the deal, Iran would be free to evict the inspectors and resume the very activities that Netanyahu decried.
At that point, we would be presented with the same choice that the agreement served to avert: Allow Iran to proceed with its nuclear program or start a war to try to prevent it. Talk about a terrible deal.

By Steve Chapman/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Russia to build 2 nuclear power plants in Iran

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Russian experts will help the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) construct two new nuclear power plants in the country’s southern city of Bushehr, according to Iran’s Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian.

“The contract has been signed between the AEOI and Russia, and includes building two 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants, the construction of which is about to start,” said Chitchian.

can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ confirms https://www.rt.com/news/382523-russia-iran-bases-use/?utm_source=browser&utm_medium=aplication_chrome&utm_campaign=chrome#.WNoi8dXwm_U.twitter 

Photo published for Russia can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ Tehran confirms — RT News

Russia can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ Tehran confirms — RT News

Russia can use Iranian military bases for airstrikes targeting terrorists in Syria on a “case by case basis,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters.

rt.com

Russian energy major Gazprom has sealed a cooperation agreement with its Iranian counterpart for the development of local gas deposits.

During his visit to Moscow last month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani highlighted the importance of the energy sector in bilateral relations and the possible creation of a free trade zone between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union that includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Nuclear threats in US worse than previously known — study

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Conflicting with a prior industry study, a new analysis claims 96 nuclear facilities in the US are less safe than reported, citing risks such as terrorism and sabotage. The study says there remain lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.
Neglect of the risks posed by used reactor fuel, or spent nuclear fuel, contained in 96 above ground, aquamarine pools could cost the US economy $700 billion, cause cancer in tens of thousands of people as well as compel the relocation of some 3.5 million people from an area larger than New Jersey, a study released May 20 finds.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s study, ‘Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of US Nuclear Plants,’ is the second installment of a two-part study ordered by Congress on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It not only cites, but also outright challenges a 2014 study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US industry’s regulator and enforcer of safety standards.

The spent fuel, The Academies’ study recommends, is safer in dry casks rather than pools, because of the risk of leaks, drawing water away from the irradiated nuclear rods. An accident, terrorist attack or malicious employee all pose greater dangers to the pools, the study says.

Aside from calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to offer a better evaluation of the health risks posed, The Academies study conducted by 17 engineers, nuclear physicists and other scientists demands the commission fulfill a 10-year-old promise to put together an impartial review of the surveillance and security policies on spent nuclear fuel.

“Even with the recommendations that the Academies’ board has put together,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell responded, “we continue to conclude that spent fuel is being stored safely and securely in the US.”

“Nothing in the report causes immediate concern,” Burnell added, although the commission is planning a more formal follow-up later this year, according to The Center for Public Integrity.

Congress felt compelled to fund the study on Japan’s natural-turned-nuclear disaster to help prevent a similar accident from occurring in the US. On March 11, 2011, the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima was thrashed by an earthquake and tsunami, leaving three reactors without power or coolants, which resulted in their radioactive cores melting down.

Pure luck kept the disaster from becoming even worse, The Acadamies found. Instead of Daiichi’s highly radioactive rods being exposed to oxygen, which would have sent over 13 million people packing from as far as 177 miles south in Tokyo, a leak happened to be situated between a fuel rod pool and a reactor core, which sent just enough coolant to keep the vulnerable rods from rising above the water. In the end, 470,000 people were evacuated and the still ongoing cleanup is estimated to cost about $93 billion.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 2014 study put the highest odds of an earthquake happening near spent fuel storage at one in 10 million years, boasting that “spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking,” while the odds of a terrorist attack or internal subversion were deemed incalculable and left out of any risk assessment.

Calling that cost-benefit analysis “deeply flawed,” The Academies panel member Frank von Hippel, also an emeritus professor and senior research physicist at Princeton University, complained that the commission’s study also left out the impact on property contamination in a 50-mile radius of an accident, tourism rates and the economy, The Center for Public Integrity reported.

The new analysis also calls for new officially designated risk assessments of safety and financial impacts at the federal level as well as what improvements aboveground dry casks may bring compared to pools. The latter is estimated to cost upwards of $4 billion by the industry.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Netanyahu calls nuclear deal ‘mistake of historic proportions’

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the nuclear deal announced by world powers and Iran on Tuesday a “mistake of historic proportions” and vowed to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

EPA ISRAEL NETANYAHU PRESSER POL GOVERNMENT ISR

Image: Ahikam SerI, EPA

“I call on all of Israel’s leaders to set aside petty politics and to unite around the most fateful issue for the security of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem later Tuesday, the Israeli leader said his nation is not bound by the deal and reserves the right to defend itself.

The deal makes the world a “much more dangerous place,” Netanyahu said, adding it will free up billions of dollars that Iran can use to support terrorism.

More from USA Today

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Netanyahu’s Great Fear: Iran Will Comply With Nuclear Deal

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Image: newsantiwar.com

Israeli officials have loudly and repeatedly condemned the Iran deal as insufficient, but those familiar with the situation have revealed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s great fear is not Iran violating the deal, but rather them abiding by it.

“Netanyahu said at the meeting it will be impossible to catch the Iranians cheating simply because they will not,” noted one of the officials. This is in direct contrast to his repeated claims Iran could not be trusted on the deal.

The big problem from the Israeli perspective is that this changes the status quo over the last 35 years, where new sanctions were easy and Israel could threaten to attack Iran all it wanted.

More from Newsantiwar.com

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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