Sep 14, 2020

Watch Report No.24

Watch Report No.24   August 13, 2020

§Regardless of Bolton’s Criticism against Trump, the Singapore Agreement Serves as a Basic Document for Denuclearization and Peace on the Korean Peninsula
A memoir entitled, “The Room Where It Happened,” by John Bolton, former National Security Advisor to the US President Donald Trump, casts doubt on Trump’s qualifications as President and has been drawing attention around the world. Disclosing inside stories of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, Bolton’s memoir covers a number of episodes that show President Trump prioritized his “reelection” and “publicity” over “national interests,” and this was the case with US foreign policy toward the DPRK as well.
Regarding the first US-DPRK summit in history held in Singapore in June 2018, Bolton reveals that in a staff meeting, Trump said, “This is an exercise in publicity,” writing “which is how he saw the entire summit” and adds that, “he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, have his press conference to declare victory, and then get out of town” [1]. Bolton also writes about an episode in which Chairman Kim Jong-Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) called for scaling back US-ROK joint military exercises. Trump agreed with him saying, “the exercises were provocative and a waste of time and money” as he has been arguing and made Kim Jong-Un laugh by saying that, “Kim had saved the United States a lot of money” [2]. Regarding the Hanoi Summit held in February 2019, Bolton describes in detail Trump fluctuating between “a deal” and “walking away from the table” to distract public attention from impact of US Congressional testimony about Trump’s Russia scandal by his former attorney Michel Cohen. Bolton notes that this is an example of Trump’s “personal problems bleed[ing] into national security” [3]. On the other hand, regarding the Singapore Summit, Bolton argues that (the summit was) South Korea’s creation; relating more to its “reunification” agenda than a serious strategy on Kim’s part or ours” [4].
As mentioned above, Bolton’s memoir leaves its readers with the impression that the US-ROK summit was a historic fiasco, from the point of view of Trump’s qualifications as President and his attitude toward the Summit as well as its overall framework. It is true that part of his description of Trump’s qualifications resonate with many readers; however, this opinion should not result in underestimating the significance of the US-DPRK agreement in Singapore.
To avoid this misjudgment, we need to know how Bolton has viewed US-DPRK negotiations since 2018. As he writes in his memoir many times, Bolton is a hardliner who argues that the only appropriate course is to maintain sanctions and military pressure until the DPRK gives in, leading to the collapse of its regime. For instance, during the period leading up to Singapore being chosen as the site for the US-ROK summit, regarding the Summit, Bolton stated that, “My hope may be the whole thing would collapse” [5]. He writes that after that he struggled to prevent Trump from making a major concession or an end-of-war declaration, with the support of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Japanese government. As well, regarding the US-DPRK summit held in Hanoi, Bolton writes that he was able to block a draft joint statement prepared by Stephen Biegun, US State Department Special Representative for North Korean Policy (at the time), who had virtually accepted a policy of step-by-step denuclearization by the DPRK. As a result of Bolton’s briefings before the summit in which he repeatedly drilled into Trump the option of “walking away from the table”, Bolton writes that, “I think this second briefing also went extremely well, accomplishing all we could expect to get Trump into the right frame of mind so as not to give away the store in Hanoi.” [6]
Japanese society tends to perceive Bolton’s tough stance positively which demands that only the DPRK denuclearize in the US-DPRK summit as well as behaviors of Bolton who blocked an end-of-war declaration and an agreement on phased denuclearization. However, should we really feel relieved that thanks to Bolton, President Trump who seeks reelection didn’t easily reach an agreement with the DPRK?
Bolton is famous for his militaristic foreign policy based on the coercive attitude toward less powerful countries. As a result of policies led by Bolton, people in many countries around the world have suffered. Recently, the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and resumed sanctions on Iran, and as a result, the Iranian people have suffered from shortages of medicine, skyrocketing prices and other problems. In an op-ed entitled, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” published in the New York Times [7], Bolton criticized the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran and argued that, “only military action … can accomplish what is required,” and in 2019, as National Security Advisor, he actually proposed that Trump take military action against Iran. Additionally, Bolton has been a leading advocate of policies which damage some countries and threaten world peace, including a coup plot against Venezuela’s regime and US abrogation of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia.
Regarding US foreign policy toward the DPRK, Bolton’s tough stance has resulted in a situation harmful to the peace and security of East Asia. Despite the fact that the Agreed Framework between the US and the DPRK had completely frozen DPRK plutonium production, Bolton disliked the Agreed Framework made during the Clinton administration and led to its abrogation under the Bush administration, leveraging alleged DPRK uranium enrichment program with poor evidence. As a result, the DPRK resumed its nuclear programs, which have resulted in its current possession of nuclear weapons.
Additionally, as mentioned above, Bolton worked to stop Biegun and others’ preparation for the Hanoi Summit that would facilitate Trump’s agreement on a phased approach for the denuclearization with the DPRK in order to implement the Singapore agreement. This obstruction has led to the current deadlock of US–DPRK negotiations.
DPRK First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-Hui who held a press conference for foreign media a few weeks after the Hanoi Summit, stated that, despite the fact that “(w)hen we made a practical proposal in the talks (in Hanoi), President Trump adopted the flexible position that an agreement would be possible if a clause was added stating that the sanctions could be re-imposed if North Korea resumed nuclear activities after the sanctions were lifted,” “because of their continuing hostility and mistrust, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton created obstacles to the two leaders’ efforts to have constructive negotiation and, ultimately the summit didn’t produce meaningful results.” Clearly expressing her sense of distrust for the US, Choe Son-Hui reached the conclusion that, as to the future of negotiations, the DPRK would not “have the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.” [8] Regarding “a practical proposal” which Choe Son-Hui mentioned, the DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong-Ho explained in an emergency press conference right after the Hanoi Summit, saying that, “if the US lifts some of the UN sanctions, or in other words those aspects of the sanctions that impede the civilian economy and the people’s livelihood, we will completely and permanently dismantle the production facilities of all nuclear materials, including plutonium and uranium, in the Yongbyon complex, through joint tasks done by technicians from both our countries, in the presence of American experts,” and “(w)e also expressed our willingness to make a written pledge to permanently halt nuclear tests and long-range missile test launches.” [9] The New York Times reported that in the Hanoi Summit Bolton and Pompeo advised President Trump to demand the DPRK dismantle all the nuclear facilities, knowing that the DPRK side would not agree to such condition [10], and Bolton’s memoir confirms the testimony of the North Korean side mentioned above and the coverage in the New York Times.
In summary, Bolton and other hardliners have been working to scrap the Singapore agreement just like they did with INF and the Iran nuclear deal.
The Singapore agreement cannot necessarily be interpreted as an example of Trump’s mix of public and personal motivations. Whether Trump’s first priority is reelection or not, what matters most for us is what the leaders of the US and the DPRK agreed in Singapore and whether the resulting agreement will contribute to peace and security of people in the US, the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia in the future.
Further, no matter how hard Bolton criticizes the agreement, the Singapore agreement has landmark significance. The historic significance of the Singapore Summit itself is that the leaders of the two countries, which had been in a state of war over some 70 years, held a summit for reconciliation for the first time. In particular, the young leader of a secretive country who had just made his diplomatic debut, appeared on TV and showed his facial expressions as an ordinary human being while the whole world paid attention. Such event itself signaled the possibility of future changes.
The joint statement agreed upon at the summit contains essential points, which serve as a basis for our expectations of promising future developments. The two countries made two basic agreements for the future: “to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire…for peace and prosperity,” and “to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” As a starting point, “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.” [11] The content of the US-DPRK joint statement at the Singapore Summit can serve as a basis for negotiations and will be something which every US administration is supposed to make efforts to realize, as long as the administration seeks to improve the US-DPRK relations. In the US, the next administration as a result of the presidential election in November 2020 should not repeat the folly of the Bush administration’s abrogation of the agreement reached by the previous Clinton administration.
Since the Hanoi summit failed to reach agreement, the DPRK waited for the US to abandon its hostile policy toward the DPRK, setting the end of 2019 as a deadline.
Additionally, based on the assumption that the economic sanctions would be kept in place, the DPRK made it clear that it would make advances on the difficult course of economic self-reliance. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DPRK peoples’ lives must be getting harder. However, while the DPRK has refused to continue negotiations with the US given the current US approach, it hasn’t closed the door for denuclearization negotiations. On July 10, while saying it is unlikely that the DPRK-US summit talks would happen this year, the first vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Yo-Jong stated the following: “We would like to make it clear that it does not necessarily mean the denuclearization is not possible. But what we mean is that it is not possible at this point of time. I remind the US that the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula can be realized only when there are major changes on the other side, i.e. the irreversible simultaneous major steps to be taken in parallel with our actions [12].” (Hajime MAEKAWA & Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI)
[1] John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened (Simon & Schuster, 2020) p.106.
[2] See note [1], p.110
[3] See note [1], p. 324
[4] See note [1], p.78
[5] See note [1], p.79
[6] See note [1], p.322
[7] John Bolton, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”, The New York Times, March 26, 2015
[8] “Remarks by DPRK First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-Hui,” NEWSIS, March 15, 2019 (in Korean)
[9] “Full text of a press conference by DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho,” Hangyoreh, March 1, 2019 (in Korean)
[10] David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, “How the Trump-Kim Summit Failed: Big Threats, Big Egos, Bad Bets,” The New York Times, March 2, 2019
[11] “Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the DPRK at the Singapore Summit,” June 12, 2018
[12] KCNA, July 10, 2020 Search for the article by date.


Jul 31, 2020

Watch Report No.23

Watch Report No.23   June 30, 2020

§If the Korean War Ends, the United Nations Command Will Also End.

In the April 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) agreed to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula by creating a lasting peace regime, including the denuclearization of the peninsula. At the June 2018 Singapore Summit, the United States and the DPRK also agreed on the mutual goal of establishing new US–DPRK relations for peace and prosperity to create a stable and lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. In the Panmunjom Declaration, the ROK and the DPRK agreed to declare an end to the Korean War before the end of the year, and during a press conference at the Singapore Summit, President Trump said, “Now we can all have hope that it (Korean War) will soon end. And it will.” [1] The two summits held in 2018 placed the end of the Korean War, which began in June 1950 and entered a ceasefire in July 1953 via an armistice agreement, on the table as a concrete international agenda item.

The end of the Korean War would improve the prospect for peace in East Asia. For that to happen, however, consensus must be carefully obtained regarding the future of the United Nations Command (UNC).

The UNC was established by UN Resolutions in 1950 when the Korean War began. Today, the UNC remains deployed in South Korea and has its rear command in Japan. If the Korean War transitions from armistice to conclusion through an end-of-war declaration or a peace treaty, it will mean that the UNC’s mission is accomplished and it follows that the UNC is to be dissolved. However, some in the Pentagon are now arguing that the UNC should stay in South Korea for post-Korean War peacekeeping. 

This article reflects on the circumstances leading to the establishment of the UNC and the path the UNC needs to take upon the conclusion of the Korean War.

The UNC is not the UN Forces that was Envisaged by the UN Charter
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, multinational forces, led by the US under the UN flag, supported the ROK against the invasion by the DPRK, which aimed to unite the Korean Peninsula through military operations. These multinational forces, known as the UNC, are not the UN forces envisaged by the United Nations Charter. 

Chapter VII, Articles 39–51, of the UN Charter authorizes the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security in case of a breach of the peace or an act of aggression. Article 42 enables the Security Council to use force to maintain or restore international peace and security if the non-military measures provided for in Article 41 are inadequate. Article 43 says that, “All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.” In other words, each UN member is obligated to lend a portion of its armed forces to the UN in response to the Security Council’s call. These forces provided by UN members under the authorization and direction of the Security Council constitute the UN forces as envisaged by the UN Charter. 

However, such UN forces have never officially existed. For the UN to assemble these forces, UN members must make their militaries available to the UN through the special agreements mentioned in Article 43. From 1946 to 1948, the Military Staff Committee, being the Security Council’s advisory body comprised of chiefs of staff or their representatives from the permanent members of the Security Council, attempted to hash out the details of these special agreements. However, no consensus emerged among the permanent members of the Security Council, especially between the US and the Soviet Union. Thus, to this day, no UN member has ever entered a special agreement to make its armed forces available to the Security Council, and the UN forces have never been assembled as described in Article 43.

The UNC, on the other hand, was established pursuant to the 1950 UN Resolutions 82 [2], 83 [3], and 84 [4]. The Security Council passed these resolutions without the participation of the full permanent members; the Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council in protest against Taiwan (the Republic of China) representing China’s seat at the Council. 

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began. The Security Council passed Resolution 82 in which it determined that North Korea’s aggression constituted a breach of the peace and demanded the withdrawal of the North Korean army. North Korea did not comply, and the Council passed Resolution 83 to call on UN members to provide assistance necessary for the ROK to repel the North Korean attack. Finally, on July 7, 1950, the Council passed Resolution 84 to recommend forces provided by UN members to be committed to a unified command under the US and to authorize the unified command to use the UN flag. On July 25, 1960, in accordance with Resolution 84, the UNC was established and Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the US Far East Command, was appointed as the commander of the UNC.

It is important to note that Resolutions 83 and 84, which pertain to providing assistance for the ROK and the commanding role of the US under the UN flag, were not adopted as decisions but as recommendations under Article 39 [5] of the UN Charter. As noted earlier, the special agreements required to create UN forces were never concluded, and thus, the Security Council could not use any language more demanding than “recommendations,” and they certainly could not impose any “decisions.” Thus, the UNC is not comprised of forces provided by UN members based on special agreements; it is comprised of forces from the US and 15 states that had close ties with the US (the UK, Thailand, Canada, Turkey, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Greece, France, Colombia, Belgium, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) [6]. In other words, the UNC really is a US-led coalition of multinational forces.

The Debate within the UN about the UNC’s Dissolution
Due to the reasons above, the legitimacy of the UNC’s existence has been called into question and its continual deployment in the ROK subject to frequent debates.
First of all, the Korean Armistice Agreement, signed and enforced in Panmunjom in July 1953, recommends the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Korean Peninsula:

“In order to insure the peaceful settlement of the Korean question, the military Commanders of both sides hereby recommend to the governments of the countries concerned on both sides that, within three (3) months after the Armistice Agreement is signed and becomes effective, a political conference of a higher level of both sides be held by representatives appointed respectively to settle through negotiation the questions of the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea, the peaceful settlement of the Korean question, etc.” [7]

Thereafter, the ROK and the DPRK had talks on the withdrawal of multinational forces at the 1954 Geneva Conference, lasting from April to July 1954. However, the ROK had signed the US-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty in October 1953 and approved US forces to remain in the country. During the Geneva talks, the DPRK demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops, the negotiations ultimately fell apart, and the dispute over the withdrawal of foreign troops from the ROK remains unresolved to date.

In September 1954, after the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, China announced its intent to withdraw its People’s Volunteer Army from the Korean Peninsula and completed the withdrawal by 1958. Other countries, excluding the US, that had provided troops to the UNC also began withdrawing their troops from the ROK and Japan; by June 1972, they completely withdrew their soldiers except for liaison officers.

In 1957, the UNC’s headquarters was moved from Tokyo to Seoul, and the commander of the US Forces Korea, stationing in the ROK pursuant to the US-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty, assumed UNC commandership. The UNC also continued to hold operational command authority over ROK forces pursuant to the July 1950 Taejon Agreement. Since the ROK/US Combined Forces Command (CFC) was created in November 1978, the commander of the CFC has assumed UNC commandership, while at the same time holding operational command authority over ROK forces.

The call for the dissolution of the UNC persisted within the UN throughout the 1970s and thereafter. In 1971, when the People’s Republic of China replaced the Taiwanese government to occupy China’s UN seat, it began pressing for the dissolution of the UNC. In 1975, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 3390A [8], as introduced by the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries, calling for the dissolution of the UNC and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Korean Peninsula. However, the effect of this resolution was canceled out by the General Assembly’s adoption of Resolution 3390B [9], which was introduced by Western countries that opposed Resolution 3390A. After both the ROK and the DPRK were admitted into the UN in 1991 and throughout the 1990s, the DPRK repeatedly demanded that the Security Council dissolve the UNC. However, the UN never seriously considered this issue.

Today, once again, circumstances warrant debate about the UNC’s dissolution, given that ROK-DPRK and US-DPRK summits held in 2018 have resumed discussions about the end of the Korean War.

“Revitalization” of the UNC
The campaign for the “revitalization” of the UNC that the US has been advocating is highly significant. This revitalization campaign (called “yushin” in Korean) was initiated around 2015 by the commander of the UNC and US Forces Korea to revive the UNC, which has been in a near dormant state ever since the Korean War entered a ceasefire and has had more of a ceremonial existence since then. The campaign entails a drive for more active contributions from international participants besides the US.

For example, in July 2018, Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre of the Canadian Army was appointed as the first non-American deputy commander of the UNC. Eyre was succeeded by Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer of the Royal Australian Navy in July 2019, making two consecutive deputy commanders who are not from the US forces. Furthermore, there has been a reduction in the number of dual officer posts, wherein officers of the US Forces Korea simultaneously hold positions in the UNC. This has been done to allow more appointments of US allies—especially the UK, Australia, and Canada—in important UNC positions.

One of the reasons behind the US campaign for the revitalization of the UNC is the ROK’s demand for a return of wartime operational control of the combined ROK-US forces. The ROK and the US agreed in 2012 that the control would be returned to the ROK; however, the actual return has been delayed. President Moon Jae-in wants the transfer of control to be completed before his term ends in 2023.

By making the UNC appear more like real UN forces with international participation, the US is probably aiming to maintain control over military operations on the Korean Peninsula through the commandership of the UNC, even after it returns the wartime operational control of the combined ROK-US forces to the ROK.

In other words, it is likely that behind the US and US allies’ revitalization campaign is their plan to keep the UNC after the end of the Korean War and to maintain US influence on the Korean Peninsula through the UNC. In February 2019, the UNC’s deputy commander Eyre, in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo, emphasized that the UNC’s mission would go on after the conclusion of the Korean War. He stated that the UNC would stay deployed after the conclusion of the Korean War with a 2-3 times increase in personnel and that it would continue to play a support role until a permanent peace regime is established on the Korean Peninsula [10].

To be perfectly clear, the UNC is not the UN forces envisaged by the UN Charter, and the justification for its existence is dubious at best. Therefore, if the end of the Korean War is declared by an agreement among all parties to the war, the UNC’s mission ought to be terminated forthwith at that point—this is the only natural and logical outcome that should be expected in such an eventuality.

Some argue that even if the Korean War ends, some level of troops that have a connection to the UN should remain deployed for peacekeeping. We have no objection to this argument provided that the central parties to the war—especially both the two protagonists on the Korean Peninsula, the DPRK and the ROK—wish for the continued presence of such troops. Certainly, such troops would have missions, roles, and structures that are completely different from those of the UNC.

This article was written following the discussions among several members of the Citizens’ Watch project.

[1] Press Conference by President Trump, White House, June 12, 2018 
[5] UN Charter Article 39: The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
[6] The ROK, still not admitted to the UN, agreed to assign operational control of its military forces to the UNC via the Taejon Agreement of July 15, 1950.
[7] The Korean Armistice Agreement, the United Nations 
[10] Chosun Ilbo, February 8, 2019 (in Korean)

May 29, 2020

Watch Report No.22

Watch Report No.22   April 24, 2020

§Self-sustaining Development of National Industries is what “The Offensive for Making a Breakthrough Head-on” Means; however, the Situation in which Denuclearization Hinges on US Withdrawal of Its Hostile Policy Remains Unchanged.

At the 5th Plenary Meeting of the7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea of last year, Chairman Kim Jong Un declared, “the offensive for making a breakthrough head-on”[1]. Subsequently, attention has been paid to the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Although, since last month, the DPRK has repeatedly conducted missile drills and test-fires, the situation remains unchanged as to whether denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be realized peacefully or not and is dependent on US actions.

Regarding the 5th Plenary Meeting of the7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, in Japan, Kim Jong Un’s statement that, “the world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future” [2] drew attention [3]. However, the main points of Kim Jong Un’s speech are based on the assumption that the US will not roll back its hostile policy towards the DPRK. And thus, Kim proposes that the DPRK must “break through head-on” the tough sanctions imposed by the international community and develop socialism through “self-reliance” and “self-sufficiency.” As well, his speech emphasizes problems to be tackled by each front to realize that goal.

Specifically, Kim Jong Un said that, “if there were not the nuclear issue, the US would find fault with us under other issue, and the US military and political threats would not end.” He said, “We should launch an offensive for making a breakthrough head-on aimed at neutralizing the sanctions and pressure by the hostile forces and opening a new avenue for social construction,” and he clearly stated that, “the key front in the offensive for frontal breakthrough today is economic front,” and especially, “the agricultural front is the major thrust area in the offensive for making a breakthrough head-on” [4]. Kim Jong Un’s following statement at the end of the Plenary Meeting reveals most clearly the meaning of “the offensive for making a breakthrough on-head.”

“The basic idea, the basic spirit of the 5th Plenary Meeting of the7th Central Committee of the WPK is to conduct the offensive for frontal breakthrough, not to wait for the situation to turn better. In other words, we should never dream that the US and the hostile forces would leave us alone to live in peace, but we should make frontal breakthrough with the might of self-reliance to tide over the difficulties lying in the way of advancing the socialist construction” [5].

In fact, by reading the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the DPRK state-run news agency, we can learn that Kim Jae Ryong, Premier of the Cabinet, which is positioned as headquarters of the economy, has frequently visited some industrial facilities [6], and “responding to the declaration of “the offensive for making a breakthrough on-head,” the workers of the DPRK have “strived” and “made innovation in production.”

For instance, “In hearty response to the important tasks set forth at the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea, officials and workers of the Sangwon Cement Complex strive to boost the production,” [7] and “Workers of the Pyongyang Kim Jung Suk Textile Mill make innovation in production.” [8]

The KCNA also reported that on the agricultural front, the major thrust area in the offensive for making a breakthrough on-head, “the tasks and ways for attaining the new goal of grain productions set by the Workers’ Party of Korea this year, the first year of the offensive for making a breakthrough on-head,” was discussed in “the conference for reviewing the work in the field,” [9] and construction of a new phosphatic fertilizer factory and tideland reclamation have been vigorously conducted [10]. The phosphatic fertilizer factory seems to be intensely focused upon as not only Kim Jae Ryong, but also several senior officials of the DPRK government have visited there [11].

Military aspects mentioned by Kim Jong Un in his speech were only intended to identify the need to provide a guarantee that promotion of those industries will not be hampered by foreign aggression. The KCNA [12] reported that Kim Jong Un said in his speech that, “There have to be powerful political, diplomatic and military guarantee in order to ensure victory in the offensive for frontal breakthrough to brave unprecedented harsh challenge and difficulties.”

Regarding repeated missile drills and test-launches by the DPRK, the DPRK government refuted the criticism of five European nations which expressed “grave concern” about the actions of the DPRK after the UN Security Council meeting. The stance of the DPRK government is that those actions are conducted for self-defense purposes against US and South Korean forces aimed at the DPRK ever since the beginning of the Korean War. In response to the statement of the five European nations, the spokesperson of the DPRK Foreign Ministry released the following statement.

“If even a routine drill of multiple launch rocket system by artillerymen should be a target of condemnation and alleged as ‘violation of resolutions,’ then with what do we hold in check the military forces of the US and south Korea in front of us and how do we defend our state…if they blindly call our self-defense acts into question as now, it is, in the long run, tantamount to asking us to abandon the defense of our own state” [13].

The military policy of the DPRK, which has been modernizing the Korean People’s Army (KPA) based on “the Juche idea” proclaiming independence, self-sustenance and self-defense, is restrained in its scale and intention as compared not only to the policy of the US, a state of hegemonism, but also to the policy of Japan, which has strengthened its capabilities to attack enemy territory unconstitutionally while deepening cooperation with the US forces under the “US nuclear umbrella”. However, as long as a state of war with the US continues, the DPRK will have no other choice but to maintain responsive military measures which can deal with that situation.

Just because the DPRK has shown no interest in negotiations with the US and has made it clear that it will advance on the course of “self-reliance” and “self-sufficiency” and has started to put those practices into action, it should not be concluded that the way for the realization of 2018 Singapore agreement, in which both US and DPRK governments committed to peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, has been completely closed off.

Kim Jong Un also stated in his speech at the end-of-last year:

“If the US persists in its hostile policy towards the DPRK, there will be never be the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and the DPRK will steadily develop necessary and prerequisite strategic weapons for the security of the state until the US rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and lasting and durable peace-making mechanism is built.” And further, “The scope and depth of bolstering our deterrent will be properly coordinated depending on the US future attitude to the DPRK.” [14]

If the US ceases its hostile policy towards the DPRK and shows its willingness to rebuild a relationship of trust with the DPRK as evidenced by its actions, the way for peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through negotiations would be opened again. (Hajime MAEKAWA)

[1] “Fifth Plenary Meeting of Seventh Central Committee of Workers' Party of Korea Held,” KCNA, January 1, 2020
[2] See, note [1].
[3] See, for example, “’The world will witness a new strategic weapon," North Korea's 4-day long Plenary Meeting ends,” Asahi Shimbun, January 3, 2020 (Japanese article); “Kim Jong Un says ‘the world will witness a new weapon,’  ‘in the near future,’ threatening US: Central Committee of WPK,” Mainichi Shimbun, June 3, 2020 (Japanese article).
[4] See, note [1].
[5] See, note [1].
[6] See, for example, “Kim Jae Ryong Inspects Various Fields of National Economy,” KCNA, January 21, 2020, “Kim Jae Ryong Inspects Various Fields of National Economy,” KCNA, February 16, 2020.
[7] “Sangwon Cement Complex,” KCNA, January 9, 2020
[8] ”Kim Jong Suk Textile Mill,” KCNA, February 20, 2020
[9] “Conference for Reviewing Work in Agricultural Field in 2019 Opens,” KCNA, January 18, 2020
[10] Regarding Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory: “Construction of Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory Progresses Apace in DPRK,” KCNA, February 22, 2020. Regarding Tideland Reclamation: “Tideland Reclamation in Full Swing,” KCNA, April 6, 2020
[11] For example, “Kim Jae Ryong Inspects Various Fields of National Economy,” KCNA, January 21, 2020; “Pak Pong Ju Inspects Various Units,” KCNA, February 3, 2020; “Choe Ryong Hae Inspects Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory under Construction,” KCNA, February 5, 2020.
[12] See, note [1].
[13] “Spokesperson for DPRK Foreign Ministry Issues Statement,” KCNA, March 7, 2020
[14] See, note [1].

Mar 16, 2020

Watch Report No.21

Watch Report No.21   Feb. 17, 2020

§We Support the January 7th Statement by Korean Civil Society Groups, and Call on Japanese Civil Society to Take Action

North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un’s deadline for the US government’s decision regarding denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has passed as of the end of 2019. During the General Assembly of the Korean Labor Party Central Committee at the end of last year, Chairman Kim stated that, “there will never be denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula if the US continues to persist in its hostile policy towards the DPRK” [1]. However, the US shows no sign of retracting its hostile policy, causing concern over the bilateral negotiations for peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

We cannot give up on peace and denuclearization promised by US and Korean leaders at the Singapore Summit in June 1918. We, as citizens, need to act if we want to achieve peace, regional stability, and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We cannot let US-Korean negotiations continue to degrade, relying solely on the personal relationship between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un. It is up to civil society organizations and individuals in the countries involved to demand that their governments take the necessary actions for peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The following is a joint declaration made by several South Korean civil society organizations that was sent out to the governments of South Korea, North Korea, and the United States, as well as the rest of the international community [2]. The statement calls for a resumption of the US-North Korea dialogue and the relaxation of sanctions on North Korea in order to achieve the Singapore Summit Agreement.


We cannot possibly go back to times of competition and hostility.
At the beginning of 2020, the 70th new year since the outbreak of the Korean War, the situation of the Korean peninsula stays gloomy. The DPRK-U.S negotiations have been stuck at a deadlock for the past year without a seemingly possible breakthrough. In the meanwhile, DPRK that has recently announced “a new path” have resolved a “frontal breakthrough” in the latest Workers’ Party Central Committee plenum and emphasized economic self-help strategies and development of new strategic weapons. 

Two years have barely passed since 2018, when hope that this age of hostility and contention would end, was plated. As we all know, the road to peace establishment in the Korean peninsula should be a trust-building process through perpetual conversations and patience. We are now facing the uneasy obstacles along the road, but we cannot possibly abandon patience for a return for antagonism. Today, the civil society organizations have gathered here in a united wish to never go back to the time before the Panmunjom Inter-Korean Summit in any circumstances, when dangers of war were imminent. We assert that conversations between DPRK-U.S. and South-North should reconvene as soon as possible, and difficultly reached agreements between them should be fulfilled, and we hereby suggest to governments of ROK, DPRK, and the U.S.

DPRK and the U.S. should both work to form adequate preconditions to resume dialogue.
DPRK and the U.S. have not been able to progress meaningful discussions, neither after last year’s Hanoi Summit nor after the meeting at Panmunjom in June 2019. During Singapore, the two parties have declared that a mutual trust-building will expedite denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but such resolutions have not been abided by. Above all, we pinpoint the fact that the U.S. has not taken any measures to show their trust compared to DPRK’s set of actions including a freeze of nuclear and missile experiment conducts. This is also a reason why there have been no points of contact – none among packaged, phased, or concurrent settlements – between the two. We are strongly against a practical muddling-through of the U.S. by insisting “denuclearization first”, and North’s missile tests conduct that creates militaristic tensions. Both the U.S. and DPRK should do their best to establish conditions that will continue the dialogue, and clarify the principles of denuclearization and peace regime establishment. We ask for the U.S.’s political, militaristic, economic trust-building mechanisms that will allow for greater agreements, and also for DPRK to halt from taking further militaristic actions.

The UN and the U.S. should lift the sanctions against the DPRK that are related to humanitarian aid at least
The United Nations and the U.S. have constantly maintained or built up the levels of economic sanctions against DPRK since it was first enacted. The U.S. is standing firm on the position that without prior denuclearization of DPRK, Washington cannot lift the sanctions. It has been testified that the economic sanctions have been aggravating the situation for especially the underprivileged. Now that the sanctions are outpacing their original purpose to act as a medium of problem-solving, the trust-building process between DPRK and the U.S. is even more injured. Moreover, these sanctions are keeping inter-peninsula cooperation. We hope that the unsuccessful history of insisting ‘denuclearization first, sanction alleviation next’ kind of solution without any fruit will not repeat itself. At the minimum, the sanctions that accelerate the humanitarian crisis should be lifted. We’d like to appeal to the UN Security Council for proactive discussions about the resolution of China and Russia partially lifting economic sanctions, which could lead to the negotiation table.

Communication and militaristic actions cannot coexist.
We remember the fact that the postponement of ROK-U.S. joint military exercise worked as a driving force for the peace process on the Korean peninsula. Raising militaristic threats and confrontations are no good for the negotiation. We hereby urge Seoul and Washington to pause another joint exercise planned in March. This decision will ignite the dying ember of negotiation between the DPRK and the U.S.

We urge for a resolute action for the ROK government to carry out the agreements.
When DPRK-U.S. negotiations have been stopped, South-North relations also chilled down. Including the exchanges and cooperation projects, the parts the two sides have agreed on has not been able to take a single step due to maintained economic sanctions of the UN and the U.S. This is a very lamentable situation. Operation of Gaeseong Industrial Complex, Mount Geumgang tours, humanitarian cooperation for solving separated families’ problems, road and railway connection projects should not be postponed any longer. This includes the formation of the Joint South-North Military Committee and other parts of the agreements that pertain to military issues. The ROK government should proactively ask for broad sanctions lift and exercise some autonomy in solving the problem. Though it will not be easy, the government should lead to provide room for problem solving and engine to change the current situation. 

We will take up the civic society’s responsibility to cease the war and to make peace.
This is the 70th year since the Korean War. It is time to put an end to contentions and hatred as results of the divide and cease-fire that have been regenerating itself. The Korean civil society is the agent directly involved that will form the peace on this peninsula. We hold the responsibility to stimulate dialogue for permanent peace regime and denuclearization to continue. We will gather desperate voices for peace and deliver them not only to the DPRK and the U.S. but to the whole international community. We will ask the international community to be with us on our peace-forwarding actions. We will strive to mark 2020 a year to be one that will halt the war and open the way to a new age of peace.

7 January 2020

Civil Society Organization Network in Korea - Civil Peace Forum
Korean Conference of Religions for Peace
Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation
Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea
The Southern Committee on June 15 Joint Declaration


We, as Japanese, agree with this statement. At the same time, we believe Japanese Civil Society needs to acknowledge that this is the time for action.

The current situation on the Korean Peninsula presents a problem not just to its neighbors, but to Japanese society as well. Japan, which colonized the Korean peninsula during the era of Imperial Japan, holds historical responsibility for the division and later hostilities of North and South Korea. Even now, Japan still bears some responsibility for the continued war regime in Korea, as the US military forces maintain their war readiness by means of military bases located in Japan. If we wish for peace and stability in our region, we ourselves must take action.

We believe that in our current situation, it would be effective for Japanese civil society to take the following actions: 

  • We ask that civil organizations and NGOs in Japan, Korea, and the US collaborate to request the UN Security Council to review its sanction resolutions against DPRK in order to advance US-DPRK negotiations, by utilizing the “continuous review” provisions included in the resolutions (e.g. Section 28 of Security Council Resolution 2397 (2017). Additionally, we request that the Security Council work to adopt a draft resolution calling for partial easing of sanctions, which was proposed by Russia and China at the end of last year.
  • We must reach out to the various sectors which make up Japanese civil society, including: municipalities, religious groups, lawyers, physicians and medical scientists, journalists and writers, and others, in order to emphasize the historic importance of this issue for Japan and to encourage all to take action.

(Hajime MAEKAWA)

[1] “Report on 5th Plenary Meeting of 7th C.C., WPK,” KCNA, January 1, 2020

Watch Report No.24

Watch Report No.24   August 13, 2020 § Regardless of Bolton’s Criticism against Trump, the Singapore Agreement Serves as a Basic Documen...