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Kelsey Davenport

Hanoi Summit Ends Abruptly: What's Next? | North Korean Denuclearization Digest, March 6, 2019

Hanoi Summit Ends Abruptly: What’s Next? The second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump ended abruptly on day two without any interim agreement and without clarity about the next steps to advance denuclearization and peacebuilding on the Korean peninsula. Nonetheless, both leaders appear confident that negotiations will continue. U.S. and North Korean officials offered different explanations for why the two leaders were unable to make any announcements during the Feb. 27-28 Hanoi meetings, which originally included a scheduled signing ceremony. The...

Trump-Kim Summit Ends With No Deal

March 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended abruptly Feb. 28 in Hanoi without agreement on the next steps to advance denuclearization and peace-building on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) and U.S. President Donald Trump stroll in a Hanoi hotel garden during a break from their second summit on February 28.  (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” Trump told reporters following the meeting, but he did not provide any details on the next steps in the negotiating process.

Trump attributed the meeting’s failure to North Korea’s demand for U.S. sanctions to be lifted “in their entirety” in return for just a partial rollback of North Korea’s nuclear program. The United States “couldn’t
give up all of the sanctions for that,” Trump said, so he “had to walk away.” It is unclear if this gap over sanctions relief between the United States and North Korea existed in the lead up to summit meeting, or if Trump or Kim insisted on last-minute changes.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho disputed Trump’s characterization of the summit at a March 1 press conference. He said North Korea had asked for “partial” removal of sanctions that “hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood or our people” in exchange for the permanent dismantlement of all nuclear material production facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex in the presence of U.S. experts, but the United States demanded “one more measure.”

He warned that Kim may have lost “the will” to continue negotiations.

Despite the setback, Trump expressed optimism for reaching an agreement with Kim in the future, citing “a warmth that we have.” Trump said the two nations would continue the conciliatory measures each adopted last year: North Korea would maintain its moratorium on testing missiles and nuclear weapons announced in April, and the United States would continue to suspend or modify military exercises with South Korea that Pyongyang finds provocative. The testing moratorium prevents North Korea from making certain qualitative advancements to its nuclear warhead designs and ballistic missiles, but Pyongyang is free to continue expanding its arsenal as
talks continue.

The summit’s failure to produce a concrete outcome is not surprising. Talks stalled for several months after the June 2018 Singapore summit, and negotiating teams had little time to prepare for the Feb. 27–28 meeting in Hanoi. Ahead of the meeting, U.S. officials downplayed expectations, but did include a signing ceremony in the summit schedule.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo implied that the U.S. and North Korean negotiating teams had failed to resolve all of the differences between the two countries ahead of the Hanoi meetings. Speaking at the post-summit press conference with Trump, Pompeo said that “we made even more progress when the two leaders met over the last 24, 36 hours,” but Kim was “unprepared” to do more. Pompeo said that progress made at the summit puts the United States “in a position to get a really good outcome,” but he did not provide any details on plans for follow-up talks.

Trump did not provide any details on what denuclearization steps North Korea was willing to take, but the offer likely involved the dismantlement of the Yongbyon complex that houses the nuclear reactor that North Korea uses to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons and a uranium enrichment facility.

Kim reportedly offered to dismantle Yongbyon in exchange for “corresponding measures” during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018. He did not provide details at that time about the “corresponding measures” North Korea was seeking, but commentary from state-run media outlets emphasized the importance of sanctions relief.

Initially, the Trump administration emphasized that North Korea would not receive any sanctions relief until the denuclearization process was complete. This strategy, which front-loaded North Korean commitments early in the process, contributed to the stalemate in negotiations after the Singapore summit.

In the last several months, however, U.S. officials appear to have shifted their approach and eased up on requiring that North Korea fully and verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program prior to receiving any relief. Pompeo said Feb. 21 that sanctions could be eased if North Korea “substantially reduced” its nuclear program.

An agreement exchanging limited sanctions relief for a verifiable halt to fissile material production and the dismantlement of facilities at Yongbyon would have been a significant step toward denuclearization, but North Korea maintains a number of covert sites that
are part of its nuclear weapons program. In his press conference, for example, Trump alluded to an additional North Korean uranium enrichment facility. “I think they were surprised we knew” about the site, he said.

If the United States had lifted all sanctions in return for only partial dismantlement of select sites, the Trump administration would have far less leverage to negotiate the remaining steps necessary for complete, verifiable denuclearization.

Moon described the summit outcome as “unfortunate” on Feb. 28, but expressed hope that dialogue will continue. He also said that South Korea will “do all it can to ensure that the United States and North Korea can maintain momentum for dialogue while continuing their close communication and cooperation.” In the end, Trump remained hopeful for future progress. “This wasn't a walk-away, like you get up and walk out,” he said.
“No, this was very friendly. We shook hands.”


The second Trump-Kim summit ended with no agreement on any topic.

EU Trade Tool Seeks to Save Iran Nuclear Deal

March 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom established a trade mechanism in January designed to facilitate commercial transactions with Iran as the United States ratchets up pressure on Tehran. The new structure aims to allow European entities to maintain trade with Iran, but it remains unclear how the new arrangement will affect Iran’s commitment to the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (left), UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (center), and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met the press in Romania on Jan. 31 to announce the creation of a financial mechanism to enable European trade with Iran in the face of U.S. sanctions.  (Photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced in September 2018 that the European Union would pursue a trade mechanism, known then as the Special Purpose Vehicle, to bypass sanctions imposed by the United States following its May 2018 withdrawal from the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). (See ACT, June 2018.) Originally described as a tool for preserving legitimate trade with Iran, including oil sales, the mechanism, now known as the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), will initially be limited to trade exempt from U.S. sanctions. INSTEX will operate like a barter system to coordinate payments for imports and exports, bypassing U.S. sanctions targeting Iranian banks and financial messaging services.

In a Jan. 31 statement announcing INSTEX, the French, German, and UK foreign ministers said the mechanism would focus “initially on the sectors most essential to the Iranian population,” such as pharmaceutical and agricultural goods and medical devices. They described INSTEX as a “first step” and committed to explore opening the mechanism to countries outside the EU interested in legitimate trade with Iran.

For INSTEX to become operational, Iran will need to set up a similar institution to coordinate payments in Tehran.

U.S. officials quickly dismissed and condemned INSTEX. At a Feb. 13–14 international ministerial summit on the Middle East in Warsaw hosted by the United States and Poland, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called INSTEX “an effort to break” U.S. sanctions against Iran and an “ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and the United States.” He called on Europe to “stop undermining U.S. sanctions on Iran” and to join the United States “as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed INSTEX on Feb. 14, saying that if it remains focused on humanitarian aid, INSTEX will “have nearly no impact” on the U.S. sanctions regime and U.S. goals to counter Iran.

Tehran welcomed the creation of INSTEX, said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Feb. 1, but he added that the mechanism comes “too late” and Iran has “not seen tangible results” from EU actions to preserve the nuclear deal. He called for the EU to accelerate its efforts so that Iran can “reap the economic benefits” of the nuclear deal.

Iran is likely referring to efforts to preserve oil sales, which INSTEX will not initially cover. U.S. sanctions that took effect in November require states importing oil from Iran to receive waivers from the United States or face sanctions. To be eligible for a waiver, states must make a “significant reduction” in oil purchases from Iran every 180 days. The United States granted waivers to eight states in November, but U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook said on Feb. 6 that “Iran’s oil customers should not expect new waivers to U.S. sanctions.” The current waivers expire in May.

Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, head of Iran’s Plan and Budget Organization, said in January that the country is already in “dire straits when it comes to exporting oil,” and Iranian officials have stated they will resume nuclear activities limited by the deal if implementing the agreement is no longer in Tehran’s interest.

Hook’s comment ruling out a second round of oil waivers is just one element of U.S. efforts to further isolate Iran and urge the remaining parties to the JCPOA (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the EU) to withdraw from the nuclear agreement.

At the Warsaw summit, for example, Pence urged Europe to “withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal” and said leaders agreed that Iran poses the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East.” The summit, however, does not appear to have eroded Europe’s commitment to the nuclear deal.

Although German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas did not attend the Warsaw summit, he defended the Iran nuclear deal at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 15 and said Europe would be “a step closer to open confrontation” without the nuclear agreement. Mogherini also skipped the Warsaw summit, but said at the Munich conference that the nuclear deal is “fundamental and crucial” to Europen security and is “a fundamental pillar for the nuclear nonproliferation architecture globally."

Iran was not invited to the Warsaw summit, and Zarif dismissed the meeting’s attempt to isolate Iran as “dead on arrival,” describing it as “another attempt by the United States to pursue an obsession with Iran that is not well founded.”

The United States may also be pressuring the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit sites in Iran where past activities related to nuclear weapons development may have occurred.

 IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano warned against pressing the international nuclear watchdog, saying on Jan. 30 that “if attempts are made to micromanage or put pressure on the agency in nuclear verification, that is counterproductive and extremely harmful.”

He said that “independent, impartial, and factual safeguards implementation is essential to maintain that credibility.”

Although Amano did not refer to any specific state, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the IAEA to investigate sites Israel identified as housing materials documenting Iran’s past nuclear weapons-related activities and follow up on information Israel took from Iran in 2018. U.S. officials reportedly told the Israeli government that the Trump administration would be more aggressive in pushing the IAEA to follow up on the information provided by Israel.

The documents Israel removed from Iran appear to relate to Iran’s past nuclear weapons development activities, and there is no indication from U.S. intelligence or the IAEA that Iran has resumed such activities. U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in the intelligence community's 2019 global threat assessment report that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”


Iranian Space Launch Attempts Draw U.S. Criticism

Two Iranian attempts to put satellites in orbit earlier this year drew quick condemnation from the United States, which wrongly charged that the launches defied a UN Security Council resolution.

A Jan. 15 launch attempt failed to orbit a satellite, Iran acknowledged. But Tehran has not publicly described the second launch, which took place in late January or early February based on satellite imagery of the Imam Khomeini Space Center. It is unclear if the second launch went as planned, but historically Iran has announced its successful attempts.

The Jan. 15 launch used the Simorgh three-stage launch vehicle, which failed during a prior launch attempt in 2017. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister of communication and information technology, said afterward that the first two stages of the rocket fired successfully, but the third stage failed to place the Payam satellite into orbit approximately 500 kilometers above the earth.

The second launch likely used the two-stage Safir launch vehicle, which Iran has successfully used to launch satellites in the past.

The U.S. State Department condemned both launches and warned Iran against “continued defiance” of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which approved the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Neither the nuclear deal nor the resolution prohibits Iranian satellite launches. Resolution 2231 calls on Iran to refrain from activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, but the language is nonbinding and does not limit satellite launches.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Jan. 3 that rockets used to launch satellites “incorporate technologies that are virtually identical to that used in ballistic missiles, including in intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

Satellite launches can provide Iran with data relevant to ballistic missile development, but there are significant technical differences between satellite launch vehicles and long-range ballistic missiles, which must, for example, protect warheads during re-entry into the atmosphere.

Valdimir Ermakov, director of nonproliferation and arms control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, defended Iran’s right to launch satellites. He said on Feb. 12 that “UN Security Council resolutions do not prohibit Iran from independently” developing, testing, and producing space launch vehicles or ballistic missiles. —KELSEY DAVENPORT

European powers have developed a trade mechanism to enable commercial transactions with Iran
despite U.S. sanctions.

Saudi Arabia Seen to Build Missile Factory

Satellite imagery suggests that Saudi Arabia has built its first facility to produce ballistic missiles, according to U.S. open-source analyses completed in late January. Such a factory would augment Riyadh’s existing arsenal of Chinese-supplied, intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Images of the al-Watah missile base analyzed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey indicate that Saudi Arabia has expanded the facility to include a rocket-engine production and test facility, although it is unclear if the facilities are actually producing missiles at this point. The plant’s characteristics indicate that the Middle Eastern power is pursuing ballistic missiles with solid-fueled rocket engines, which can be launched more quickly than liquid-fueled systems. Analysts asked by The Washington Post to study the images concurred with the Middlebury team.

The existence of a Saudi ballistic missile production facility and the uncertain future of the Iran nuclear deal raises concerns that Riyadh may be pursuing capabilities needed for a covert nuclear weapons program. Saudi Arabia is currently negotiating a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States and has been reluctant to forgo uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing for fuel production or agree to more stringent international oversight as part of the deal.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in March 2018 that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible."

Saudi Arabia already possesses ballistic missiles that it purchased from China. Riyadh displayed one system, the DF-3 with a range of 3,000 kilometers, at a parade in 2014. Beijing reportedly took steps to ensure that the missiles could not be used to deliver nuclear warheads. The al-Watah base was likely built in 2013 to house these systems.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Saudi Arabia Seen to Build Missile Factory

North Korea: What’s Next For Nuclear Diplomacy After the Trump-Kim Summit Ends in Failure

News Source / Outlet: 
UN Dispatch
News Date: 
March 4, 2019 -05:00

Trump talks with leader of Vietnam

News Source / Outlet: 
Taipei Times
News Date: 
February 28, 2019 -05:00

Nuclear arms control expert explains elements necessary for Hanoi Summit success

News Source / Outlet: 
News Date: 
February 27, 2019 -05:00

4 Ways North Korea Fell Short of Its Nuclear Promises After the First Trump-Kim Summit

News Source / Outlet: 
TIME Magazine
News Date: 
February 26, 2019 -05:00

Kim arrives in Hanoi for nuclear summit with Trump

News Source / Outlet: 
The Guardian
News Date: 
February 26, 2019 -05:00

The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, Feb. 25, 2019

Pence Calls on Europeans to Leave JCPOA U.S. Vice President Mike Pence explicitly called on “our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal” in remarks at the Feb. 13-14 Warsaw summit on peace and security in the Middle East and at the Munich Security Conference Feb. 16. Pence’s criticism of the Iran deal did not appear to gain any traction with the major European powers, some of whom put forward a robust defense of their Iran policy and the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In separate remarks at the Munich conference, German Minister...


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