ACTION ALERT: North Korea Offers Diplomacy Not War. The US Should Respond Constructively
March 7, 2018 Benjamin Haas and David Smith / The Guardian & Win Without War
North Korea has agreed to discuss relinquishing its nuclear weapons and will freeze its nuclear and missile programs if it begins direct talks with the US, in a dramatic easing of tensions after a visit by senior South Korean politicians. The key question: with Trump's State Department in tatters and no qualified diplomats on hand, will the US drop its plans for an unprovoked "bloody nose" attack on the North and also cancel the impending joint-military exercises aimed at toppling the regime in Pyongyang?
North Korea Open to Relinquishing
Nuclear Weapons, Says Seoul Benjamin Haas and David Smith / The Guardian
SEOUL and WASHINGTON (March 6, 2018) -- North Korea is willing to discuss relinquishing its nuclear weapons, and will freeze its nuclear and missile programs if it begins direct talks with the US, in a dramatic easing of tensions after a visit by senior South Korean politicians, officials said on Tuesday.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, will also meet his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, in late April in the first summit of its kind in more than a decade, Moon's office said. The two leaders will hold talks at Panmunjom on the highly militarised border.
North Korea pledged to not use conventional or nuclear weapons against its neighbour, despite frequent threats from Pyongyang. The two sides have remained in a technical state of war since the 1950-53 Korean war.
"The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed," a South Korean presidential spokesman said, according to the Yonhap news agency.
"The South and the North have agreed to set up a hotline between their leaders to allow close consultations and a reduction of military tension, while also agreeing to hold the first phone conversation before the third South-North summit."
The development was welcomed in the US. Donald Trump tweeted: "Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the US is ready to go hard in either direction!"
Vice-President Mike Pence, who attended the recent Winter Olympics in South Korea, issued a more cautious statement. "Whichever direction talks with North Korea go, we will be firm in our resolve," he said. "All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable, and concrete steps toward denuclearization."
The announcement came as a South Korean delegation returned from a two-day trip to Pyongyang, where they met Kim and other senior North Korean officials.
Kim said he wanted to "vigorously advance" relations with South Korea during the visit led by Chung Eui-yong, the head of the South's national security office. Photographs of the meeting showed Kim with a wide smile as he met the delegation, where he said he wanted to "write a new history of national reunification".
Kim rarely meets foreign visitors, making his appearance highly significant, and his decision to personally host a dinner for the South Koreans was even more striking. But observers warned there were still serious issues that would need to be resolved for any progress to be made.
"He . . . made an exchange of in-depth views on the issues for easing the acute military tensions on the Korean peninsula and activating the versatile dialogue, contact, cooperation and exchange," the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported, referring to Kim.
The visit follows a period of easing tensions between the South and North, which sent a high-level delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last month. A meeting between the two leaders would be the first since Kim came to power after the death of his father in 2011. A previous summit was held with his father in 2007.
Until now Trump has resisted overtures by Pyongyang on the subject of talks. Washington has continued its "maximum pressure" campaign and on Monday announced a further round of largely symbolic sanctions over the North's use of chemical weapons.
The US has said any talks must centre on North Korea abandoning its nuclear and missile programme, while Pyongyang views the weapons as necessary for its survival.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, welcomed the development as "positive" but warned that "we must view it with the necessary skepticism born of such talks in the past. On multiple occasions, Pyongyang has seemingly opted for the path of negotiation, only to reverse course after pocketing concessions from Seoul or the international community."
Schiff urged the White House to pursue a diplomatic resolution to ascertain whether Kim is serious, adding a quote attributed to Winston Churchill: "To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war."
During the visit, the envoys were taken to the Workers' party headquarters, the first time South Korean officials had visited the building, according to Seoul's presidential office. Kim later hosted with his wife a dinner, set at a round pink and white table with matching chairs. His younger sister and close adviser, Kim Yo-jong, also attended the meal, which lasted more than four hours.
A photograph of Kim posing with five members of the South Korean delegation was splashed across the front page of the Rodong Shinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers' party.
Before leaving for Pyongyang, Chung said he would stress the need to "denuclearise the Korean peninsula" and that he would encourage direct dialogue between North Korea and the US.
Analysts urged caution. James Hoare, a former British diplomat who previously served as the UK representative in Pyongyang, said: "North Korea wants the impossible, a total guarantee of security, that no one will attack them with impunity. They want US military forces out of South Korea and likely Japan as well, and those alliances have been built over decades."
Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said: "We're still at a stage where the atmosphere is characterized by extreme mistrust. Words alone won't be enough to impress people in Washington. It's going to be a long, hard slog if the US does enter in to negotiations and that is still a long way off from concluding an agreement."
ACTION ALERT: Demand the US
Pursue Diplomacy with North Korea.
A Potential North Korea Gamechanger: South Korea just announced a
diplomatic breakthrough on North Korea! Win Without War
Tell Congress: The US must support diplomacy -- not war -- with North Korea
(March 6, 2018) -- Today's diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea is a potential game changer. Now, the world is looking to the United States to respond.
But Donald Trump couldn't have put us in a worse place to seize this breakthrough moment. After more than a year in office, Trump hasn't even appointed an ambassador to South Korea. And the State Department's point person on North Korea resigned just last week.
It's clear that Donald Trump won't pursue American diplomacy with North Korea unless he's forced to. That's where we come in.
Today's news gives us a major opening to demand Congress use its megaphone to speak out for diplomacy. But we need to act fast -- before the news cycle moves on. Tell Congress: Demand that President Trump pursue diplomacy with North Korea.
Instead of appointing key diplomats to lead our response to North Korea, Trump has spent the past year throwing people with zero diplomatic training -- like Ivanka Trump and Mike Pence -- into the middle of the incredibly delicate situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Even scarier? When Trump's original choice for an ambassador to South Korea refused to go along with his dangerous plans to attack North Korea, the White House rescinded his nomination.  Then just last week, the State Department's senior diplomat in charge of North Korea resigned, leaving his crucial position empty.
We have a chance to follow South Korea's lead and win real diplomatic solutions. But Trump is on the path to plunge us straight into war instead.
Congress can play a critical role in shutting down the Trump administration's diplomatic stonewalling by demanding real diplomacy. And today's breakthrough gives us a narrow window to push Congress into speaking out.
To: The United States Congress
The news of South Korea's diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea is a historic opportunity for the United States to pursue diplomacy. In light of this, I am deeply concerned that President Trump has not yet appointed an ambassador to South Korea and that the resignation of Joseph Yun last week leaves a crucial State Department position on North Korea empty.
I urge you to speak out and demand the immediate nomination of qualified candidates to all key diplomatic positions with North and South Korea.
Thank you for working for peace,
Cassandra, Erica, Stephen and the Win Without War team
 "Victor D. Cha, an academic who served in the George W. Bush administration, raised his concerns with National Security Council officials over their consideration of a limited strike on the North aimed at sending a message without sparking a wider war -- a risky concept known as a "bloody nose" strategy."
"Disagreement on North Korea policy derails White House choice for ambassador to South Korea," , January 30, 2018.