For a country that hasn’t been conquered since Tamerlane rolled through, Afghanistan has sure been shaped by all those who tried to control it. Today, there’s even a little strip of land in the country’s northeast that forms a panhandle – strange for such a small strip considering the major powers who fought for control of the area.
It was those major powers who created the panhandle in the first place. Today it borders China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. But during a period of time in Afghan history known as “The Great Game,” those countries were parts of China, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire, respectively.
A treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1873 made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan’s northern border. In 1893, the Durand Line became Afghanistan’s border with British India. A mostly independent Afghanistan was a buffer zone between the two growing empires.
It’s an area even more ungovernable than the rest of Afghanistan. At elevations as high as 17,000 feet in some areas, the area is inaccessible to most Afghans – and even the Taliban and the Soviet Union were unable (or unwilling) to fully move into the area.
The form of Islam practiced in the Wakhan is very hostile to the Taliban, a further explanation of the lack of central interference from Kabul.
The 3,500-mile area used to be a route along the Silk Road and was traversed by great historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. People there still depend on trade, but this remote part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province sees little in the way of tourists or even Afghan visitors.
Today the area has few roads, no government, and is home to roughly 12,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic people.
Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.
With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.
But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.
This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.
According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.
“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”
See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.
Three of Australia’s warships were “challenged” by the Chinese navy in the South China Sea early April, 2018, according to an ABC report.
Defense sources told ABC that Australia’s navy was en route to Vietnam when it encountered polite but “robust” challenges from the People’s Liberation Army, but the specific nature of the challenges is not described. HMAS Toowoomba had departed from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, while HMAS Anzac and HMAS Success travelled through the South China Sea after leaving the Philippines.
It’s believed the interaction happened around the same time China was conducting its largest-ever naval parade on April 12, 2018. The massive show of force involved 10,000 naval officers, 48 naval vessels, submarines, the country’s only aircraft carrier.
During the event President Xi Jinping was on board one of the destroyers, overseeing the parade.
When questioned about the incident, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t reveal any details.
“All I can say to you is we maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world,” Turnbull said. “In this context, you’re talking about naval vessels on the world’s oceans including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law.”
Numerous countries — including China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — have territorial claims, making the South China Sea one of the most disputed places on the planet. For its part, China has been criticized for building artificial islands in the region and militarizing them with missile sites and air bases.
This isn’t the only problem Turnbull has faced with China of late.
The Battle of Verdun lasted for nearly ten months in 1916 and according to some estimates, resulted in almost 950,000 casualties. In essence, it was perhaps the epitome of the trench warfare that dominated World War I.
Indeed, trench warfare really didn’t end until the emergence of the early tanks at the Battle of the Somme. Could some of America’s most modern armored fighting vehicles do better? Specifically, the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles.
The Germans committed over a million troops to the battle. The Stryker Brigade would have roughly 4,500 troops and 300 vehicles, most of which are M1126 Infantry Combat Vehicles. The vehicles couldn’t roam in the enemy rear — resupply would be very difficult at best. But those vehicles have technology that would enable them to decisively rout the German offensives.
The key to what the Stryker would use, would not be in mobility, but in the M151 Protector Remote Weapons Station. The Strykers primarily use the M2 heavy machine gun and Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. These outclass the MG 08 by a significant margin. Furthermore, they can be fired from within the Stryker, which negates one of Germany’s most powerful weapons in 1916: poison gas.
This is the second advantage the Stryker would have. The NBC protection capabilities in the Strykers would enable the defense to hold despite German chemical weapons. In essence, rather than facing incapacitated – or dead – defenders, the German troops would be going across “no man’s land” into mission-capable defenders.
Worse for them, the M2 heavy machine gun and the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher would tear massed infantry attacks apart. The optics of the Protector remote weapons stations would allow the Americans to pick out the guys with flamethrowers first. In essence, the Strykers would be able to bleed the Germans dry.
It gets worse for the Germans when the inevitable counter-attack comes. The same optics what would let a Stryker gunner pick out a machine gun position and take it out. Here, the M1128 Mobile Gun Systems and M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicles would also come into play, destroying bunkers. The M1129 Stryker Mortar Carrier Vehicles would be able to lay down a lot of smoke and high-explosive warheads on targets.
In essence, the Stryker would drastically alter Verdun, not by its mobility, but by virtue of being a poison gas-proof pillbox.
In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.
In 1976, the Navy discovered the USS Maine was actually sunk by a fire that hit its ammunition stores, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.
In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.
Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.
Someone should have told Spain that white was a bad choice of uniform color.
Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.
You can’t spell “counterattack” without the letters ‘T’ and ‘R.’
The weapon is valued at over id=”listicle-2628915902″ million and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”
The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.
When you’re the closest neighbor to a country like North Korea, you tend not to put up with a lot of provocative behavior from unfriendly countries. It should be no surprise that there’s a huge difference between how the United States and South Korea respond to violations of their airspace. The U.S. will send the most advanced fighters to intercept the perpetrator and escort them back to international airspace.
South Korea comes in guns blazing.
In late July 2019, Russian military aircraft, two Tu-95 bombers and one A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, flew into South Korea’s air defense identification zone off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. But the Russians didn’t stop there. The A-50 flew closer to South Korea, entering its airspace. In response, the South launched interceptor planes who scrambled into the area firing flares and live ammo at the intruder.
The Russian got the message and quickly evacuated the area – and maybe his pants. But he didn’t stay gone for very long. Just a few minutes later the Russian returned to South Korean airspace.
The Russian Tu-95 “Bear” Bomber
Scrambled South Korean fighters again rolled out the red carpet for the visiting Russian A-50, this time with twice as many flares and many, many more rounds fired in the Russian’s direction. The Russians, of course, deny all of this.
“If the Russian pilots had identified such a threat to themselves, they would have immediately given an appropriate response,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash told Russian state news media.
Although it’s unclear what the “appropriate response” from the Russian fighters might be, the Russians did say their aircraft were flying over international waters and not violating any treaty obligations. Kobylash said the South Korean air defenses scrambled and merely escorted the Russians, but they did it over neutral airspace. He described the South Korean Air Force’s actions as “aerial hooliganism.”
Russia’s A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
No matter what the South Koreans did or did not do in the face of the Russian aircraft, South Korea lives in what has become a rough neighborhood in recent years, with provocations from North Korea increasing in number and in the severity of potential threats, along with a more aggressive China and Russian air and naval forces, South Korea takes its defense very seriously.
South Korea’s presidential national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told Russia as much, saying another incident will warrant a much stronger response from the Republic. This was the first foreign military violation of its airspace since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Many troops enlist with hopes of finding something bigger than themselves. After their contract is up, it’s not uncommon for the battle-hardened grunt to feel lost in a world now unfamiliar. All the while, they’re told that there’s nothing out there for them but flipping burgers or greeting customers at some supermarket.
Then, there’s the world of law enforcement. The police force is, and always will be, trying to scoop up as many of these former-military badasses as possible. In terms of transitions, going from the armed forces into law enforcement isn’t that much of a stretch: you’ll face similar hours, do similar tasks, and be surrounded by similar camaraderie all in attempts to promote greater good.
With the utmost respect to law enforcement officers, however, many infantrymen aren’t interested in waiting at the local doughnut shop until it’s time to write parking tickets and toss the same village drunk into the lockup — again. They want something bigger, something badass, something that rewards their ability to kick in doors. This is where the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team comes in.
For many, the only real change between the infantry and SWAT is the uniform. Here’s why:
You’ll even do the exact same training. Being an infantryman just gets you ready for the same ol’ ride.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The job description is nearly identical
Heavy ballistic armor? Check. Assigned weapon? Check. Breaking down doors to catch bad guys? Oh, yeah — check.
The SWAT team’s objective is to keep the peace at a level higher than is expected of the average cop. While every police officer should be trained and ready to fight at a moment’s notice should the situation arise, the SWAT team provides that extra oomph needed in intense situations, like bank robberies, hostage negotiations, and high-level drug cartel activities.
Instead of infiltrating a compound in Kandahar to catch an HVT bomb maker, SWAT officers are infiltrate compounds back home to catch drug kingpins.
Did I mention that you’ll spend a lot of time training at the range?
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The requirements are basically the same
Potential applicants must be physically fit, hard working, excellent shots, mentally and emotionally strong, decisive under stress, and able to communicate under hazardous conditions.
The help-wanted ad reads almost exactly like a description of a post-deployment infantryman.
The only thing holding an infantryman back from immediately joining the SWAT team is that, typically, membership requires three years of prior experience in law enforcement. I can’t speak for every police department, but that requirement can be lessened for exceptionally badass applicants.
You really will be training… a lot. Which shouldn’t be too far off from infantry life.
(Photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt)
The structure almost mirrors the military
Between SWAT teams and military life, the chain of command is identical and the organizational structure is the same.
Being selected for SWAT isn’t easy. Potential recruits go through a grueling process and only the best of the best can make it through to the end. But if you do, you’re basically in the military again.
You’ve still got a battle buddy (you’ll call them “partner” instead), you still work in four-man teams (squads) and there’ll be, on average, 15 teams per district. Since high-stakes situations aren’t happening every day, you’re going to be training and continually honing your skills with your team.
Officers got each other’s back, literally and figuratively.
(Photo by Sgt. John Crosby)
The brotherhood is just as tight
If there’s one thing that damn-near every veteran misses about the military, it’s the camaraderie. Knowing that the people to your left and right would die for you without a second thought is hard to come by at some desk job.
SWAT is not a place to go if you’re looking to make a name for yourself at the expense of others. Real SWAT teams live as a unit, work as a team, and train until everyone becomes as close as family.
This level of trust in another human can only be formed in groups like the military and SWAT.
Military service is very common among law enforcement officers — especially in SWAT. You’ll fit right in.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The good you do is in your community
As a SWAT officer, you’re not deploying for 12 months at a time and leaving your family behind. You’re still going to come home and sleep in your own bed most nights.
Now, don’t get that twisted: There will be bad nights. There will be moments that go horribly wrong. There will be missions that require you to be gone for extended periods of time. SWAT officers, like infantrymen, are over-worked and under-appreciated.
But doing the difficult thing to promote the greater good is exactly what you’re signing up for — again.
Macron ran as part of a centrist party of his own creation with globalist goals, and has grown increasingly close with Trump despite their fundamental policy differences.
A cheery public image and the successful joint airstrike by the US, Britain, and France on Syria’s government forces in response to the chemical attack set an optimistic stage for the state visit and future partnerships in policy. But the reality of future potential could be overblown, Brookings Institution foreign policy fellow Célia Belin warned.
“There are areas where the French/American cooperation can be strong and immediate, especially when they share a common, precise goal like in the small, punitive strikes on Syria,” Belin said. “But overall they won’t have the same approach on a number of things.”
Macron founded the République en Marche, or the Republic on the Move, to provide France with a reformist alternative to far-right parties that share Trump’s suspicion toward globalism and favoring of closed borders.
“Macron was just talking last week about how there’s a civil war in Europe between a liberal democracy and authoritarianism,” Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider. “If he was being honest about the US, he’d say the same thing and Trump would be on the other side.”
The roots of their bromance
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump and Macron’s strong relationship is due in no small part to their common backgrounds, said former US diplomat and Global Situation Room President Brett Bruen.
Macron rose to prominence in French banking, an uncommon path to the presidency comparable to Trump’s roots in real estate.
“He understands intrinsically this kind of language that Trump needs to hear,” Bruen said. “Trump needs to hear profit and loss, he needs to hear return on investment.”
Their personal relationship is at the center of Macron’s state visit, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said ahead of the French president’s arrival April 23, 2018, the administration expected an “open and candid discussion because of the relationship they built.”
Other world leaders could learn from Macron
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
Though their personal chemistry is often in the spotlight, it’s Trump’s high-profile legal troubles that could hinder the kind of progress Macron is hoping for, Bremmer said. Macron notably wants Trump to keep the US in the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has called “the worst deal ever.”
“Trump is under an enormous amount of pressure domestically,” he said. “No matter who Trump meets with, his focus is mostly on the investigation. You see that with his tweets, you see that with his statements.”
As for their partnership so far, Macron has already succeeded in getting close to the president in a way no other world leader has, Bruen said, and that could serve as an example to other world leaders in how to deal with Trump because of his unique approach to policy.
“It’s a model for other world leaders to look at if they want to get things done, not just get along,” Bruen said. “They have to find a way to establish that common ground with an unconventional leader — and Trump won’t be the only unconventional leader.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korea may be planning one of the most powerful nuclear explosions in history, if the nation’s foreign minister is to be believed.
Ri Yong Ho, the foreign minister of the isolated nation, reportedly told journalists that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is considering such a test blast.
“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Yong Ho told reporters at the United Nations in New York on Thursday, according to a story by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”
The suggestion came in response to bellicose rhetoric exchanged between US President Donald Trump and Jong Un.
In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump called Jong Un a suicidal “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the US is “forced to defend itself or its allies.” Jong Un allegedly responded with a written statement, in which he called Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” and said that “a frightened dog barks louder.”
Many experts have denounced Trump’s speech, suggesting his words could provoke Jong Un to take dramatic action.
“Trump is basically creating audience costs for Kim to back down,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Vox. “If you dare Kim, it creates pressure for him to respond with his own provocation.”
North Korea has set off several powerful nuclear test blasts in recent years, but they all occurred deep inside a mountain. A nuclear explosion in the air, on the ground, underwater, or in space has not happened in decades.
If the nation sets off an above-ground nuclear explosion — and the most powerful ever detonated in the Pacific — the Cold War’s rich history of test blasts suggests what might happen.
Why atmospheric nuclear tests are dangerous
The US, Russia, China, and other countries have set off more than 2,000 nuclear test blasts since 1945.
More than 500 of these explosions occurred on soil, in space, on barges, or underwater. But most of these happened early in the Cold War — before the risks to innocent people and the environment were well-understood. (Nearly all countries now ban nuclear testing.)
Only a fraction of a nuclear weapon’s core is turned into energy during an explosion; the rest is irradiated, melted, and turned into fine particles. This creates a small amount of fallout that can be lofted into the atmosphere and spread around.
But the risk of fallout vastly increases when a blast occurs close to the ground or water. There, a nuclear explosion can suck up dirt, debris, water, and other materials, creating many tons of radioactive fallout — and this material rises high into the atmosphere, where it drifts for hundreds of miles.
Yong Ho did not specify where or how high North Korea’s hypothetical Pacific “H-bomb” test might occur. However, the foreign minister did reportedly suggest it could be the most powerful ever detonated in the Pacific.
If this is not a matter of imprecise wording, such a blast would exceed the US’ strongest-ever nuclear test explosion.
On March 1, 1954, the US military set off the “Shrimp” thermonuclear device on a platform in the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands (about 2,300 miles southeast of Japan and 2,700 miles southwest of Hawaii).
This was part of the US military’s Castle Bravo test series, and the blast was equivalent to exploding 15 million tons of TNT, or roughly 1,000 times as powerful the US attack on Hiroshima that inflicted some 150,000 casualties.
While the military considered Shrimp and Bravo a success, its repercussions were disastrous. Researchers underestimated the device’s explosive power by nearly three-fold — and many were nearly killed when an artificial earthquake shook their concrete observation bunker 20 miles away.
“About ten seconds after Shrimp exploded, the underground bunker seemed to be moving. But that didn’t make any sense. The concrete bunker was anchored to the island, and the walls were three feet thick.
“‘Is this building moving or am I getting dizzy?’ another scientist asked. ‘My God, it is,’ O’Keefe said. ‘It’s moving!’
“O’Keefe began to feel nauseated, as though he were seasick, and held on to a workbench as objects slid around the room. The bunker was rolling and shaking, he later recalled, ‘like it was resting on a bowl of jelly.’ The shock wave from the explosion, traveling through the ground, had reached them faster than the blast wave passing through the air.”
The scientists ultimately escaped alive, but Marshall Islanders located 100 miles from the blast were not so lucky.
Shrimp’s four-mile-wide fireball destroyed about 200 billion tons of Bikini Atoll coral reef, turning much of it into radioactive fallout that spread all over the world. The worst of it sprinkled over atolls to the east, killing many people by causing radiation sickness.
Today, the 250-foot-deep, 1-mile-wide crater left by the blast is visible from space.
If North Korea decides to blow up a hydrogen or thermonuclear device — and the most powerful in the Pacific — we could only hope it is not close to the ground.
Missile or no missile?
All of these scenarios assume North Korea sets off a thermonuclear device in a controlled way — via airplane, barge, balloon, or some kind of stationary platform.
But the risk to people also largely depends on whether or not North Korea launches a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile or a shorter-range rocket, such as one launched from a submarine.
If successful, such a missile test would show North Korea has miniaturized its weapons. And if the blast appears to be caused by a hydrogen bomb, it would show North Korea could pull off a devastating thermonuclear strike on US soil.
But missiles are prone to failure in multiple ways, especially those in early development. A North Korean ICBM tipped with a nuclear warhead might miss its target by a significant distance, or explode en route. This could lead to detonation in an unintended place and altitude.
This is especially true if the missile has no self-destruct capability — ICBMs maintained by the US don’t. In that case, only hacking the missile’s software in mid-air, or destroying it with another weapon, could stop the launch.
“The stakes and heat in this conflict have not been this high since the Korean War,” Tristan Webb, a senior analyst for NK News, said in a story published by the outlet on Friday. “Kim Jong Un said in July that the … showdown was entering its final phase. He appears psychologically prepared for conflict.”
Graffiti is not a new concept in the military. From creative drawings on the inside of guard posts in Afghanistan, to the famous “Kilroy was here” of WWII, to stone carvings in the walls of Roman barracks in England, soldiers and folks supporting the military find ways to leave their personal mark. The Tooele Army Depot discovered one such mark on an old box of ammo from WWII.
Located in Tooele County, Utah, the depot first opened in 1942 to support WWII. Today, it is the DoD’s western region conventional ammunition hub. The depot stores, demilitarizes and distributes ammo to and from all four branches of the military.
On March 18, the Tooele Army Depot Twitter account shared a surprising discovery. The tweet included photos of a .50-cal ammo box from WWII. On the bottom of the box was a handwritten message that read, “May the contents of this box of blow the s*** out of Hitler.” The tweet itself said, “Sorry for the salty language, but when that message was scribbled inside a box of .50 cal rounds 77 years ago, we were a nation at war. The demil furnace crew found the message while destroying rounds from #WWII. We are eager to see what else they find. #greatestgeneration.”
The ammo box was produced at the Ogden Arsenal in 1944 according to Tooele Army Depot Public Affairs Officer Jeremy Laird. In a later tweet, Tooele Army Depot announced that it planned to preserve the ammo box and put it on display.
North Korea hasn’t fired a missile for 60 days, but that may have more to do with its own winter training cycle than with Pyongyang easing off on provocations.
Since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011, only five of the isolated nation’s 85 rocket launches have taken place in the October-December quarter, according to The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ North Korea Missile Test Database.
The Korean People’s Army regularly enters its training cycle every winter “and getting ready for it involves a calm before the storm,” said Van Jackson, a strategy fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.
“Fall is the harvest season, and a lot of military labor is dedicated to agricultural output when not in war mode; inefficient, but it’s the nature of the North Korean system,” said Jackson, a former U.S. Department of Defense adviser. “It’s a routine, recurring pattern, which means we should expect a surge in provocations in the early months next year.”
North Korea’s last launch was on Sept. 15, when the isolated state fired its second missile over Japan in as many months. That missile flew far enough to put the U.S. territory of Guam in range.
Joseph Yun, the United States’ top North Korean official, was reported by The Washington Post as saying on Oct. 30 that if the regime halted nuclear and missile testing for about 60 days, it would be the signal Washington needs to resume direct dialogue with Pyongyang. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Nov. 10 denied the U.S. had any such window.
Yun arrived in South Korea on Nov. 14, a visit that comes as hopes rise for an easing of tensions on the peninsula in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit and a lull in missile testing.
Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, will meet with South Korean and international officials, according to the U.S. State Department, although there is no indication his visit will include talks with the North.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Yun is scheduled for talks with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, on Nov. 17 on the sidelines of an international conference on disarmament, jointly hosted by the ministry and the United Nations on the resort island of Jeju.
South Korea-born Yun has been at the heart of reported direct diplomacy in recent months with the Kim regime.
Using the so-called New York channel, he has been in contact with diplomats at Pyongyang’s United Nations mission, a senior State Department official said earlier this month.
Even as Trump called talks a waste of time, Yun has quietly tried to lower the temperature in a dangerous nuclear standoff in which each side shows little interest in compromise.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Oct. 30, Yun reportedly said that if the North halts nuclear and missile tests for about 60 days, it would be a sign that Washington needs to seek a restart of dialogue with Pyongyang.
Some analysts say it is too early to read much into the break in testing, which is the longest lull so far this year.
And there is no sign that the behind-the-scenes communications have improved a relationship vexed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests as well as Trump’s heated statements.
During his visit to Seoul last week, Trump warned North Korea he was prepared to use the full range of U.S. military power to stop any attack, but in a more conciliatory appeal than ever before he urged Pyongyang to “make a deal” to end the nuclear standoff.
Trump also urged North Korea to “do the right thing” and added that: “I do see some movement,” though he declined to elaborate.
While his comments seemed to reassure many in South Korea, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called Trump a “destroyer of the world peace and stability,” and said his “reckless remarks” only made the regime more committed to building up its nuclear force.
Trump muddied the water later on his Asia visit by Tweeting that North Korean leader Kim had insulted him by calling him “old” and said he would never call Kim “short and fat.”
He also said “it would be very, very nice” if he and Kim became friends.
“It is indeed noteworthy that the president, at several junctures, seemed to open the door to negotiations with North Korea,” said David Pressman, a partner at the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner who helped lead North Korea sanctions negotiations as ambassador to the United Nations under former President Barack Obama.
“However, it is entirely unclear if the president’s suggestions are reflective of a strategic shift or merely reflective of what the last person he happened to speak with about North Korea said before the president made those comments.”