North, South Korea vow to end the Korean War. North Korean autocrat Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met, took a walk, and planted a tree before issuing a joint declaration that put a bow on a remarkable day. Reuters: “The declaration included promises to pursue phased arms reduction, cease hostile acts, transform their fortified border into a peace zone and seek multilateral talks with other countries including the United States.”
International reaction: Applause from Tokyo, wary encouragement from Beijing, and offers of help from Moscow. Reuters has that, here.
“KOREAN WAR TO END!” tweeted President Trump, misstating the actual state of affairs.
For there’s a long way to go to make any of this come true. “I saw this movie in ‘95, ‘05 and ‘09 and ‘11. I hope Kim 5 is better than the prequels,” tweeted Jon Wolfsthal, who led nonproliferation efforts for Obama’s National Security Council and now runs the Nuclear Crisis Group. “North-South Summit has done the best it could — lay out a vision, but leaves the heavy lifting to the future. After 65+ years of tensions and war, resetting the atmospherics helpful. But not enough. Goals have to be put into motion, details negotiated. Pressure on Trump.”
Next up: Kim-Trump summit. North Korea’s isolation makes it difficult to compile the customary deep profile for a U.S. president preparing to undertake hard negotiations with another head of state. Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit will be mined for clues, but so will Kim’s relationships with his boarding-school roommates and peerless NBA rebounder Dennis Rodman.
Here’s a fascinating look inside the U.S. effort to figure out what makes the hereditary dictator tick. Reuters, again: “The emerging U.S. consensus on Kim is similar to what many outside experts have publicly concluded. He is seen as a ‘rational actor,’ said U.S. officials – not the ‘total nut job’ that Trump once branded him. He craves international stature but his main aim is ‘regime survival’ and perpetuating his family dynasty, suggesting it will be hard for him to agree to full nuclear disarmament, the officials said. He is ruthless enough to have had relatives executed but now feels secure enough in power to gamble on Trump, they said.”
Statue of Liberty as visual aid. The piece also talks about how U.S. officials might work to prepare Trump for the talks. Noting the president’s preference for visual learning rather than reading, it reports that national-security aides once used a scale model of the Statue of Liberty in an effort to convey the dimensions of a North Korean nuclear site. More, here.
PACOM, Japanese PM: keep the pressure on. Adm. Harry Harris — potentially the next U.S. ambassador to Seoul — met with Shinzo Abe the day before the Koreas’ summit. “The multilateral relationship between Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea and other friends and partners in the region to keep the pressure campaign active on North Korea, I believe, is important to regional stability throughout the Indo-Pacific,” Harris said at the outset of the talks. Japan Times has more, here.
Great timing. China says it has officially added the “advanced DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile” to its military, the Associated Press reported Thursday from Beijing.
“The missile is capable of lofting both conventional and nuclear warheads,” AP reports, and it is “believed to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles), leaving vulnerable the crucial U.S. military installations on the island of Guam, along with other bases in the region.”
The DF-26 joins China’s “DF-21D, which is built to take out an aircraft carrier, and a new air-to-air missile with a range of some 400 kilometers (249 miles) that could attack assets such as early warning aircraft and refueling tankers crucial to U.S. Air Force operations.” A bit more from AP, here.
Rounding out our week in national-security podcasts, we’re pleased to present “Defense One Radio,” our very own new weekly national security podcast about the news, strategy, tech, and business trends defining the future of the military. It’s all the stuff we cover here at Defense One.
Discussed in this week’s episode: the Moon-Kim meeting at the DMZ, why talking about the Pentagon’s budget behind closed doors is concerning to some (and not to others), and quite a bit more.
Then later, from Baghdad, Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron interviews U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Robert “G-Man” Sofge, the deputy commander of the war on ISIS and the ops room in Iraq. (Find a transcript of that discussion near the bottom, here.)
Subscribe now either on iTunes or Overcast, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And let us know what you like to hear by emailing us your feedback to email@example.com.
From Defense One
A Law Meant to Punish America’s Foes Is Hurting Its Partners: Mattis // Caroline Houck: The secretary asked senators to punch a hole in the sanctions law they passed last year.
The Pentagon’s New R&D Chief Has a Mandate for Change // Patrick Tucker: Michael Griffin has orders to concentrate the Defense Department’s diverse research and development efforts on a few key technologies.
The US Does Not Need New Tactical Nukes // William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina: There’s a false narrative afoot: that we lack the weapons to deter a Russian nuclear strike.
The Global Business Brief, April 26 // Marcus Weisgerber: Six takeaways from earning calls; Pentagon is still refusing new F-35s; Earnings recap, and a bit more.
Report: Insecure Contractor Emails Leave Government Vulnerable // Joseph Marks: Federal IT contractors aren’t using an email security tool that’s now mandated for agencies.
The Iran Regime-Change Crew Is Back // Vali Nasr: That probably spells doom for the nuclear deal.
The Difference Between a Killer and a Terrorist // J.M. Berger: Two mass murders reveal how difficult—and important—it is to correctly identify terrorism when it occurs.
The United States now has its 70th Secretary of State. Former CIA Director Mike Pompeo breezed through his Senate confirmation process Thursday, advancing on a 57-42 vote. And “wasting no time,” Pompeo began a four-day, four-nation trip by arriving in Brussels this morning for talks with NATO officials, the New York Times reports.
In Brussels, NATO’s old digs will play host to talks on “Russia, a fresh peace effort in Afghanistan and a new training mission for Iraq,” the Associated Press reports as the 28-member alliance meets for the last time in its old HQs. “The ministers, holding their 70th and final meeting before moving across the road to NATO’s new, sprawling billion-dollar premises, will also discuss Georgia and Ukraine’s aspirations to join the world’s biggest military alliance.”
On the docket: “NATO’s top military officer and civilian official in Afghanistan will brief the ministers on peace efforts there as they try to bring Taliban fighters to the table and end the yearslong stalemate on the battlefield.”
About Afghanistan: It is reeling from “a new wave of attacks,” AP adds. “An Islamic State suicide bomb attack Sunday on a voter registration center in Kabul, the capital, killed 57 people and wounded more than 100 others. In addition, at least 18 troops and police officers have been killed in Taliban attacks this week.” More here.
The view from Russia: “Spring is definitely in the air here in Moscow, along with the rumbling of S-400s, intercontinental ballistic missiles and tanks through the streets,” The Wall Street Journal’s Thomas Grove reports this morning on location, along with a couple videos of Russia’s Victory Day military parade rehearsals, here.
After Brussels, SecState Pompeo moves on to “Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet King Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir” on Saturday. “On Sunday, he will travel to Israel, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he will then go to Amman, Jordan, for talks with King Abdullah II. He is scheduled to return home Monday.” More from NYTs, here.
The U.S. would likely “regret” leaving Syria if it did so soon and quickly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers at the Senate Armed Services committee Thursday. Why? No one wants a repeat of post-2011 Iraq, Mattis said.
But more importantly, said Mattis, “This is an ongoing fight right now… We’re continuing the fight, and we’re going to expand it with more regional support.”
Picking up the pace. What’s more, “operations against ISIS, which have largely stalled in recent months, should surge in the coming days,” Stars and Stripes reports Mattis told lawmakers. The reasons for that: “The French have added special forces to the fight and some Middle Eastern nations will soon increase their contributions… Mattis did not elaborate on what that additional support would include.” A bit more from Stripes, here.
The U.S. military will try “indirect means” to stop Iranian influence from spreading in Syria, the Washington Post reported Thursday after speaking by phone with CENTCOM’s Gen. Joseph Votel.
He wasn’t clear on exactly what that means — since the U.S. military is understandably loathe to discuss “future operations” — but here are a few clues: “seeking to deter proxy activity by positioning troops in the region, deploying naval vessels in waters contested by Iran, and providing support to allied nations’ defenses, such as ballistic missiles in Saudi Arabia.” Read on, here.
Exchange an imprisoned U.S. preacher for a 5th-generation aircraft? That’s what some U.S. senators want when it comes to relations with Turkey at the moment, The Hill reported Thursday. “Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced a bill to prevent the transfer of the Lockheed Martin–made F-35 to Turkey and to block Ankara’s role as a maintenance depot for the aircraft.”
The pastor, Andrew Brunson, “had been working in Turkey for 23 years as the pastor of the Resurrection Church and has denied the allegations… The bill is the latest attempt from lawmakers to force Turkey to release Brunson, who was jailed 18 months ago after being accused of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in a failed coup attempt against Erdoğan.” More here.
In Pakistan, a member of the U.S. military cannot leave the country because “his sport utility vehicle struck a motorcycle and killed one of its riders this month,” the NYTs reports from Islamabad, calling the fatal episode “another flare-up of diplomatic tensions between the two countries.”
The individual: Col. Joseph E. Hall, a U.S. attaché who was “briefly detained by the police after the crash, but was later released because of his immunity.”
A bit more: “Video of Colonel Hall’s truck running a red light as it struck the motorcycle, killing Mr. Baig and seriously injuring the other rider on April 7, has gone viral in Pakistan,” the Times reports. “The outrage it is causing has resonated in a way similar to the case of the American C.I.A. security officer Raymond A. Davis, who in 2011 shot and killed two armed men in Lahore, leading to a serious and lasting fallout between the United States and Pakistan.” Read on, here.
And now for something completely different: U.S. and Colombian naval forces retrieved half a ton of cocaine from a burning small boat, Business Insider reported Thursday. “A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7… The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.”
What happened next: “The crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.” After about 90 minutes of fire-fighting, four of the suspected smugglers were snatched up out of the waters. No word where they are now, but their last known location — according to the U.S. Coast Guard — was the Zephyr. Read on, here.
Be safe out there this weekend, gang. And don’t forget to set aside 50 minutes for Defense One Radio. Thanks for reading and listening — and we’ll catch you again on Monday!