According to a breaking AP report, the Trump administration has been quietly engaging in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, addressing Americans imprisoned in the communist country, such as released Otto Warmbier, and deteriorating relations between the long-time foes.
It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of the American university student. But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have discussed other topics, matters other than U.S. prisoners, heavily.
However, officials familiar with the contacts say the interactions have not diluted tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, should President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the militaristic rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialogue.
According to the Associated Press report, the two key contacts in the secret back channel are Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and “spoke on condition of anonymity.”
Officials called it the “New York channel,” and claim Yun is the only U.S. diplomat in contact with any North Korean counterpart. The communications largely serve as a way to exchange messages, allowing Washington and Pyongyang to relay information without public knowledge.
Drowned out by the furor over Trump’s warning to North Korea of “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has expressed a willingness to entertain negotiations. His condition: Pyongyang stopping tests of missiles that can now potentially reach the U.S. mainland.
In recent days, President Trump doubled down on his threats to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea.
On Thursday, Trump said the following about his previous statement:
“Maybe it wasn’t tough enough. It’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So, if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough. And we’re backed 100 percent by our military, we’re backed by everybody and we’re backed by many other leaders.”
In terms of what could be tougher than “fire and fury,” according to a USA Today report, Trump said only: “You’ll see. You’ll see.”
Trump said he would consider negotiations with North Korea and declined to discuss the possibility of a preemptive strike against Pyongyang. “We don’t talk about that. We never do.”
Making a brief statement from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Tuesday, President Trump directed remarks at North Korea in response to the rogue nation’s latest nuclear provocation. The president stated unequivocally that the United States is prepared to take action, if necessary
Riled up over new sanctions leveled against North Korea by the United Nations, brutal dictator Kim Jong Un released a threatening message to the U.S. on Monday. Although the U.N. noted that North Korea’s unyielding testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) was the reason for the sanctions, Kim vowed to take “righteous actions” that would make America pay “thousands of times” in a statement released through his dictatorship’s official news agency.
Reportedly, North Korea views the sanctions as “crimes” that violate its sovereignty.
While North Korea has been known to threaten to send “gift packages” to the U.S., President Trump recently vowed to meet any such gifts with fury. In a brief statement, the president said:
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. [Kim Jong Un] has been very threatening, beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”
President Trump’s warning comes after U.S. intelligence officials concluded Tuesday that North Korea has successfully created a small nuclear warhead, crossing “a key threshold” to becoming a fully-fledged nuclear power.
Reportedly, an analysis completed by the Defense Intelligence Agency in June estimates that North Korea possesses up to 60 nuclear weapons, meaning the regime’s military capabilities are advancing rapidly.
Recently, an ICBM believed capable of hitting the U.S. mainland was tested by North Korea, raising concerns in the U.S. and Canada.
After the sanctions were announced, Kim Jong Un vowed revenge in his statement, and said, “There is no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean.”
President Trump was proud of the unanimous United Nations Security Council vote to impose the tough new sanctions on North Korea, and for gaining the support of China and Russia, who blocked such sanctions in the past.
Following President Trump’s statement on Tuesday against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his regime, North Korea is continuing its wringing threats of nuclear strikes against the U.S.
On Wednesday, state-run media warned that North Korea would “turn the U.S. mainland into the theater of a nuclear war” if there were any indications of a possible American attack, according to a report from The Hill.
Many critics have condemned Trump’s comments, including Sen. John McCain. According to McCain, Trump’s statement is not likely to help the situation. Asked by a local Arizona reporter if he’s surprised that North Korea may have a nuclear weapon that could be mounted on a ballistic missile, McCain said he’s not surprised by the news, but he finds the announcement worrisome.
“I’m usually one who puts a lot of blame on President Trump,” McCain said. But he quickly admitted that the president can’t be blamed for the current state of relations between the United States and North Korea.
Mainstream media elites have also been attempting to quiver their audience with fear, following the trading of verbal statements between the two countries’ leaders, even going as far as suggesting a new, imminent Cold War era is coming.
Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is usually rather supportive of Trump, said the president’s comments about how he would deal with North Korea were “over the top.”
However, some have shown support toward Trump’s rhetoric. During an appearance on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “President Trump has basically drawn a red line, saying that he’ll never allow North Korea to have an [intercontinental ballistic missile] that can hit America with a nuclear weapon on top.”
Graham, who doesn’t often have nice things to say about Trump, appeared to hold a high level of confidence in the president’s ability to keep North Korea at bay. When speaking about how Trump will handle the threat posed by North Korea, Graham said, “He’s not going to let that happen. He’s not going to contain the threat, he’s going to stop the threat.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said he doesn’t believe there is “any imminent threat” from North Korea, and urged Americans to remain calm.
“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un can understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said. “I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime on the U.S.’ unquestionable ability to defend itself … will defend itself and its allies.”
Trump tweeted Wednesday about his successful boosting of the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal since he was elected into office. In addition, a recently resurfaced 1999 interview video of then-Trump Organization CEO Donald Trump proves he has the right mindset to handle the threat of North Korea.
And if North Korea is attempting to bolster an image of defiance, it is clearly lacking since it just released a highly-coveted Canadian prisoner early Wednesday morning, following Trump’s declaration.
On Friday, Trump used his Twitter account to send a very clear message to North Korea and its rogue leader, Kim Jong Un.
In the tweet, he said the United States military, which is the most powerful in the world, is ready to strike if necessary.
The tweet reads: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
The president sent out the tweet on the heels of a report wherein China says it will protect North Korea and the Kim regime if the U.S. attacks first. China made the statement through its state-run news agency.
Meanwhile, Defense Sec. James Mattis told reporters on Thursday that he will not reveal his plans to the enemy, but emphasized the United States military stands ready.
The tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to mount as Kim Jong Un warns that he will fire missiles at the island of Guam.
The president’s tweet on Friday morning follows a series of strong-worded warnings he’s sent to North Korea this week, including the “fire and fury” comment.
The president has been praised by some in the media for taking a strong position and sending a clear message that America will not be a victim of a nuclear attack by North Korea, and that the U.S. will protect its allies. Others, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), believe the president’s rhetoric is too strong and unnecessary.
DML NEWS launched a poll on Friday morning asking readers if America should fire the first shot at North Korea. So far, more than 70% of respondents state the U.S. should not take a preemptive strike. The poll is available by clicking here.
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
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