An end to the Korean War could be on the horizon, South Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported this weekend after President Trump met with North Korea's Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol in the White House.
Where that comes from: An unnamed “diplomatic source” told JAD “Preparations are already underway for President Moon to declare a formal end to the Korean War with the two leaders on June 12, the date of the North-U.S. summit, or the next day on the 13th.”
From President Trump’s own mouth, speaking from the south lawn on Saturday: “We talked about ending the war. And you know, this war has been going on — it’s got to be the longest war — almost 70 years, right? And there is a possibility of something like that. Can you believe that we’re talking about the ending of the Korean War? You’re talking about 70 years.”
And the nuclear question — which is to say, what to do about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program? “Well, I think they want to do that,” Trump said, referring to denuclearization. “They want other things along the line. They want to develop as a country. That’s going to happen. I have no doubt.”
FWIW: North Korea may have just sacked “three top military officials,” South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reported Sunday — calling the North’s new defense minister a “moderate,” according to an unnamed intelligence source.
Who’s in and who’s out: “No Kwang-chol, first vice minister of the Ministry of People's Armed Forces, replaced Pak Yong-sik as defense chief, while Ri Myong-su, chief of the KPA's general staff, was replaced by his deputy, Ri Yong-gil,” Yonhap reported. “These changes are in addition to Army Gen. Kim Su-gil's replacement of Kim Jong-gak as director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army.” Read on, here.
For the U.S. military’s part, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis returned from Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue to tell reporters on Sunday that everyone he’d spoken to was on the same page when it comes to “denuclearizing” North Korea.
Said Mattis: “In almost all of my discussions, but it was a surprising commonality about, you know, a complete verifiable, irreversible, removal of [weapons of mass destruction], of nuclear weapons and WMD... So we'll see how it goes, but a lot of support across the board. Some challenges on other issues, but I disagree — I did not hear any disagreement on this."
That, of course, is a bit of a surprise, considering this is still little indication North Korea is actually willing to give up its nuclear weapons.
It’s also a bit surprising considering this weekend report from CNN suggesting “What first appeared to be a gesture indicating North Korea might be willing to dismantle its nuclear weapons program [on May 24] appears to have been little more than a propaganda effort for the world's cameras.” Details here.
And the “other issues” Mattis alluded to include the status of U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula. To be clear, he said those troops are not going anywhere. “[O]ne thing that keeps coming up is about our troop strength on the peninsula,” the defense secretary continued. “I'll say it again, I'm not making news here, the same thing — we're not going anywhere. It's not even a subject of the discussions. You know, obviously there are there because of security conditions 10 years ago, five years ago, this year.
Mattis also said there’s no tension between his team and China, saying he enjoyed a “Coca-Cola together” with the Chinese delegation this weekend. And there was “Nothing adversarial at all” about the shared moment.
And in case you were wondering, President Trump’s tariffs have “no effect on the military-to-military” relationships between Mattis’s team and U.S. allies, the SecDef told reporters. Read the rest of the transcript — which concludes with staff being ordered to “Kill the cameras and recorders” — here.
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Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. On this day in 1855, U.S. Army Maj. Henry Wayne departed New York on the USS Supply to procure camels to establish the U.S. Camel Corps.
India just tested another nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of more than 3,000 miles, the Economic Times reported Sunday from Balasore, India. The missile, called the Agni-5, was launched from India’s Abdul Kalam Island missile testing facility, and reportedly performed as expected — capping five previous tests of the newer design for India’s military.
Find photos of the launch, via India’s Ministry of Defense, here. Or read a tiny bit more from Fox News, here.
The U.S. military may “intensify” its freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea, “two U.S. officials and Western and Asian diplomats close to discussions” told Reuters on Sunday.
On the table: “[L]onger patrols, ones involving larger numbers of ships or operations involving closer surveillance of Chinese facilities in the area, which now include electronic jamming equipment and advanced military radars,” Reuters reports. “U.S. officials are also pushing international allies and partners to increase their own naval deployments through the vital trade route as China strengthens its military capabilities on both the Paracel and Spratly islands, the diplomats said, even if they stopped short of directly challenging Chinese holdings.”
Said one of those diplomats: “There is a real sense more needs to be done.” Read the rest, here.
For your eyes only: China’s military conducted a large demonstration of 56 drone boats swarming in unison “near the Wanshan islands” in the South China Sea, state-run news agency Global Times tweeted on Friday with an accompanying video.
Involved: The boats navigating through a hologram of a bridge, boats forming the outline of an aircraft carrier, and an ominous, symphonic soundtrack. Video, here.
Food for thought: It’s time to sanction China over its expansionism in the South China Sea, Hofstra University School of Law Professor Julian Ku argued in Lawfare on Friday.
Why now? The other approaches don’t seem to be working, Ku writes. “The current U.S. policy of conducting FONOPS and loudly emphasizing U.S. commitment to a 'rules-based international order,' which was recently reiterated by Defense Secretary James Mattis, is not succeeding in deterring Chinese expansionism, much less roll back existing Chinese gains, in the South China Sea.”
So who gets sanctioned? "[C]ompanies involved with facilities on islands that are inconsistent with international law as defined by the 2016 U.N. arbitral tribunal ruling. This would include construction on land features, such as Mischief Reef, which are not entitled to a territorial sea under international law.”
What’s more, Ku argues, “the U.S. and China are already on the precipice of an all-out trade war. Whatever one thinks of the merits of this trade war, It is odd that the U.S. is willing to invoke ‘national security’ as a justification for punishing Chinese theft of intellectual property, but it is not willing to use the same rationale to defend its interests in the South China Sea. Put another way, if we must have a trade war with China, we might as well defend U.S. national security while we are at it.” Read the rest, here.
Google won’t renew Project Maven contract. Enough employees were mad enough about the Silicon Valley giant’s work with the Pentagon’s “AI factory” that the company has decided that it will do no more work on the project after next year — earning at least $15 million from a deal that could have netted a quarter-billion dollars, Gizmodo reports.
Some context: “But it is not unusual for Silicon Valley’s big companies to have deep military ties. And the internal dissent over Maven stands in contrast to Google’s biggest competitors for selling cloud-computing services — Amazon.com and Microsoft — which have aggressively pursued Pentagon contracts without pushback from their employees.” That’s from the NYT, here.
How we got here: Patrick Tucker reported on the growing discontent in April.
All about Project Maven: Mid-2017: gets its first mission. December 2017: draws first blood. April: evolves into an “AI product factory.”
Flashback: Two years ago, then-SecDef Ash Carter tried to defuse the opposition with an appeal to patriotism.