Korean leaders appear to have taken a few steps toward denuclearization of the peninsula during Tuesday’s inter-Korean summit part three, which continues today from Pyongyang.
The good news: North Korea’s Kim Jong-un “promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad,” the Associated Press reports from Pyongyang.
Where’s this site that inspectors can watch being demolished? the Dongchang-ri missile engine and ICBM test site in northwestern North Korea. The New York Times calls it “a key test center for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program.” However, one researcher at the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul told Reuters the Dongchang-ri site is “almost obsolete.” And, he added, “the North has mobile missile launchers that are easier to use and harder to detect.”
And if the U.S. plays along (more on that below), the North could dismantle their “main nuclear test site” at a location called Yongbyon. A bit more on Yongbyon from South Korea’s Yonhap News agency, here.
Also apparently included in the Wednesday agreement:
- Terms “to establish buffer zones along [both countries’] land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes…”
- Plans to reduce the number of guard posts along the Demilitarized Zone by 11 and by December;
- And the creation of a “no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones,” according to AP. (Here are some maps of that DMZ.)
- On the less kinetic side of things, Yonhap writes “They also agreed to break ground for a joint project to connect railways and roads across their border this year.”
- And the two leaders said they want to jointly host a future Summer Olympics.
The big picture view, according to Kim (emphasis added): the two leaders “have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat. The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can’t anticipate. But we aren’t afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation.” And you gotta admit that sounds pretty fantastic. President Trump was certainly excited about all that — perhaps a little too excited, according to arms control researcher Melissa Hanham.
There’s just one rather big catch: What are the “corresponding steps” or “measures” the U.S. must also take to trigger North Korea’s “permanently dismantl[ing]” its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon, as AP reported out of the Moon-Kim deal? No one seems to publicly know what those are right now. And at any rate, a loss of the Yongbyon facility is not widely seen as an obstacle to North Korea continuing to grow its nuclear arsenal, as The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda notes.
Worries “arms control wonk” Jeffrey Lewis: “The longer this goes on, the worse I fear it will be when it collapses under its own weight. Kim is burning through gestures fast. We don’t have six years of these things.”
Adds a cynical Vipin Narang from MIT: “Kim is playing this brilliantly: verify that I dismantle a single site that I no longer need anyway while I mass produce the missiles the site helped me develop.”
So what’s next? Moon and Kim have today to hang out and work through whatever else they want to make public out of the inter-Korean summit, pt. 3.
As for the U.S. role, Presidents Trump and Moon are set to meet next week in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
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Welcome to this Wednesday 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. On this day in 1912 and 1927, U.S. troops fought in the battles of Masaya and Telpaneca, respectively, while occupying Nicaragua during an interventionist streak that began in 1898 and extended through 1934.
A Polish Fort Trump? The U.S. president expressed openness to permanently basing U.S. forces in Poland after a meeting with that country’s President Andrzej Duda. For Warsaw, it’s the latest turn in a decade-long quest to bring American defenders closer at hand.
Trump: “Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland. If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about.”
Duda: “I said that I would very much like to ask to set up a permanent American base in Poland, which we would call ‘Fort Trump.’ ”
How we got here — and how Poland is preparing for 15 years of increased tensions with Russia, here.
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles to the southeast: Some 950 troops from nine militaries will converge in and around at Starokostiantyniv Air Base, Ukraine, in mid-October for the first-ever Clear Sky exercise, featuring the U.S. Air Force, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The USAF press release has a bit more.
“Congress to buy 3 more LCS than the Navy needs but gut funding for sensors that make them valuable” is the no-nonsense headline atop a Defense News report that notes that this is not the first time lawmakers have undermined the littoral combat ship program by defunding the mission modules that allow them to do their jobs. “The annual cutting spree has created a baffling cycle of inanity wherein Congress, unhappy with the development of the modules falling behind schedule, will cut funding and cause development to fall further behind schedule,” writes David Larter, here.
America’s expanding war in Tunisia. From MENA analyst Héni Nsaibia, writing at The National Interest: “The United States has maintained a military presence in Tunisia for at least four-and-a-half years, rendering it unlikely that the events of Mount Semmama were an isolated incident limited to a mere advisory role, as the AFRICOM spokesperson claimed. The [February 2017] battle involving U.S. troops occurred amid an intense campaign aimed at dislodging militants from their mountain stronghold. Eleven days before the jointly conducted U.S.-Tunisia operation, another operation had taken place at a nearby location at Mount Semmama, also resulting in the killing of two militants. It is presently unknown whether U.S. troops participated in the preceding operation.” Read, here.
Sailor dies in flight-deck mishap. That’s all the Navy has said about the incident Monday afternoon aboard the aircraft carrier George W. Bush, except that the ship was operating at sea and performing routine flight operations.
The sailor is the 13th Navy or Marine Corps service member who has died in 2018 in a work-related mishap or in combat, by USNI News’ count. Just a bit more, here.
Hey #BigData companies and CEOs: Is your firm interested in cooperative research with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? NOAA may be interested in you. Details here.
The Saudi-backed coalition in Yemen has renewed its battle for the port city of Hodeida, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday from the southern city of Aden. “Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior coalition official told AFP the operation was being fought on multiple fronts. Residents in and around the city, home to 600,000 people, reported hearing explosions throughout Monday night.” A bit more, here.
And finally today: Here’s a look at Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaking Tuesday outside the Pentagon about job security (his, anyway) in the Trump era: "I don't think about leaving, I love it here. I'm thinking about retiring here, getting a little place down on the Potomac." (h/t @Julio_Rosas11)