Peace Dividend may be accrued on Korean Peninsula, but Prisoners of Conscience Remain Hostage
Michael Ireland - Assist News
In an hour-plus news conference after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, President Trump said the U.S. will be stopping the war games it holds with South Korea.
CBS News reports Mr. Trump said that will save the U.S. “a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should. … Plus, it’s very provocative.” Mr. Trump also signaled for the first time that the U.S. could begin to lift sanctions against North Korea before Pyongyang’s “complete denuclearization” is verified — possibly long before.
President Trump declared success after a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that resulted in an understanding that Pyongyang would work toward denuclearization and the U.S. would end joint military exercises with South Korea. Mr. Trump and Kim signed a document agreeing to a handful of key provisions.
CBS News went on to say the future remains unclear — the U.S. and North Korea did not reach any agreement on the details of how to achieve or verify that denuclearization, Mr. Trump said. “We’ll be verifying,” the president remarked in a rare, extended news conference after the summit. Mr. Trump also claimed Kim told him North Korea has destroyed a “major” missile testing site, although he didn’t expand on that.
Mr. Trump said the U.S. will be continuing sanctions until denuclearization occurs — but suggested sanctions might be lifted earlier than many experts thought possible.
Earlier in the day, the president claimed the summit went “better than anybody could have expected.” The president also claimed Kim has a great personality, and said he will “absolutely” invite Kim to the White House.
Trump campaign adviser and Mr. Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump said in a statement following the summit that the “historic” meeting with Kim “was an end product of President Trump’s bold and vigilant leadership on behalf of the American people.”
“Already, the President has achieved more than expected, with an agreement from North Korea to return the remains of American POWs and destroy a missile testing site, while economic sanctions remain in place for the time being,” the statement added.
Trump says that the developments with the North Korean regime “are yet another validation that the American people were right to entrust Donald Trump to change the course and direction of our country that had been commanded by the political class in Washington for decades.”
“President Trump will continue to succeed in dramatic ways because he will always put America First and wishes only to succeed on behalf of the American people,” she added.
Members of the Defense community appear to be caught off guard following Mr. Trump’s decree that the U.S. would be halting its joint exercises in South Korea.
Christopher Sherwood, spokesperson for the Department of Defense said in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday, “The Department of Defense continues to work with the White House, the interagency, and our allies and partners on the way forward following the U.S./DPRK summit.”
Meanwhile, the United States Forces Korea who conducts the exercises, said in a statement that they have received “no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises.”
“In coordination with our ROK partners, we will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance from the Department ofDefense (DoD) and/or Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM),” the statement added.
Mr. Trump claimed that he made no concessions to Kim, but is ending the “war games” consisting of joint military exercises with South Korea. On top of that, CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe pointed out, Mr. Trump has invited Kim to the White House.
“I don’t quite understand why Trump felt the need to stop the war games,” a senior fellow at the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. “They are something that shows U.S. resolve in the region, not only to North Korea but also more importantly to China. And it seems like there’s this whole idea of Trump as this great negotiator and yet he gave up one of the most important cards we have in the region, seemingly for free. So I think I am baffled by that and I am baffled by a lot of things that came out of Trump’s mouth.”
Mr. Trump also suggested his desire to remove troops from South Korea eventually, although that wasn’t a part of the agreement Mr. Trump and Kim signed. Mr. Trump and Kim agreed to a basic framework, in an unexpected meeting between the two leaders.
Here are the four components of the agreement outlined in the document:
- “The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.”
- “The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula.”
- “Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
- “The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
The New York Times reports President Trump said Tuesday that he was suspending military exercises on the Korean Peninsula and that he expected the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to move “very quickly” to dismantle his nuclear arsenal after a day of discussions in Singapore.
But Mr. Trump said economic sanctions against North Korea would remain in place.
The summit meeting was the first of its kind between a sitting American president and a leader of North Korea, and it ended in a joint statement that opened the door to ending seven decades of hostility between the two countries.
Mr. Trump said at a news conference that the United States would stop “the war games,” in what appeared to be a concession to the North. Mr. Trump said the exercises were expensive and “very provocative.”
In their joint statement, the United States “committed to provide security guarantees.” In exchange, Mr. Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Here’s what happened:
- The two leaders first met privately for less than an hour in a one-on-one session with interpreters present, before breaking off for a larger meeting and then a working lunch with aides. • The leaders signed their joint statement, in which the United States committed to providing guarantees of security to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization.
- “We had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Mr. Kim said as he and Mr. Trump signed the joint statement, adding, “The world will see a major change.”
Mr. Trump was similarly optimistic about the progress they achieved, saying, “We are going to take care of a very big and very dangerous problem for the world.”
In the joint statement, Mr. Trump “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea. Mr. Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
But the statement was short on details and did not lay out potential next steps or a timetable. The joint statement was not immediately released to reporters, but it was legible in a photo of Mr. Trump holding it up at the ceremony.
The statement said the two nations would hold “follow-on negotiations” led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a high-level North Korean official “at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes” of the summit meeting.
The statement also said the two nations would “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the divided Korean Peninsula, meaning talks to reduce military tensions that could eventually lead to a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War.
Faith McDonnell, IRD (Institute on Religion and Democracy) International Religious Liberty Director said Tuesday’s historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un resulted in promises of nuclear disarmament and security.
“However, it is uncertain if protecting and advancing human rights was among the leaders’ commitments. There are deep concerns, and reports, that the summit between the presidents of the United States and North Korea would not touch on North Korea’s egregious human rights abuses,” she said in a statement released to the media.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report ranks North Korea as a “Tier One” country. The situation remains especially alarming for Christians living under North Korea’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Examples of North Korea’s atrocious persecution of Christians given by IRD International Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J.H. McDonnell include:
- A former DPRK prison guard testifying before Congress confirmed the regime’s intense hatred for Christians. In one incident he recounted a woman, in prison because she was a Christian, was kicked repeatedly and left for days because a prison guard overheard her praying for a child (Yes, children are in prison camps because the regime imprisons three generations of a family for the transgression of one member.)
- In prison factories, guards poured molten steel on Christians to kill them because believing in God instead of Kim Il-sung was the biggest crime in the eyes of the officials.
- 2004 BBC documentary Access to Evil interviewed several defectors, former prison officials, who revealed that North Korea conducts deadly experiments on prisoners with gas chambers and chemicals. They indicated that those prisoners the regime considered “enemies of the state,” particularly Christians, were selected for the experiments. The former prison camp official watched a Christian family die in the gas chamber, with parents trying to shield their children from the fumes to the very end.
McDonnell commented: “Try as it might, North Korea’s government has never wiped out Christianity. Some experts say that there are as many as 400,000 secret believers, most of whom became Christians in China or through contact with Chinese or South Korean Christians. They live in constant threat of imprisonment or execution.
“Few American Christians lose sleep over their fellow Christians in North Korea – if they even know they exist.”
McDonnell continued: “Perhaps American Christians don’t know that the same regime that threatened to turn the United States into a pile of ash turns its own wretched citizens who die in political prison camps into piles of ash? It then uses them as fertilizer. In that appalling action, North Korea demonstrates one way in which it wipes out the very existence of Christians, as well as other political prisoners.
McDonnell says that while U.S. Christian organizations like the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals have ignored the plight of Christians in North Korea and focused on a pacifistic approach to the summit, those who track North Korea’s human rights abuses approached the summit as an opportunity to help the country’s Christians, and indeed, all of the beleaguered citizens of the DPRK.
“We urge the Trump Administration to follow the example of President Ronald Reagan who rightly linked the advancement of human rights, including religious freedom, with nuclear disarmament,” she said.
“Barring divine intervention, only a drastic, verifiable change in the way that Kim Jong-un treats his own people, including the so-called ‘hostiles,’ the Christians, may indicate the possibility of North Korea ending its own hostility towards the free world.”
International journalist, Dan Wooding, who is one of the few Christian reporters ever allowed to report from inside of North Korea, urged President Trump to speak out on behalf of the heavily-persecuted North Korean Christians in summit with Kim Jong-un.
Wooding, 77, the founder of the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net) made his plea to the American president during a live Skype interview with Perry Atkinson of Dove TV based in Medford, Oregon, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, from his new home in North Wales, UK.
“There are thousands of believers in appalling labor camps inside the Hermit Kingdom, and it would be great if President Trump could get them freed and also speak out on behalf of the millions of other Christians who are forced to meet in secret,” said Wooding.
The journalist also shared that there are even “underground believers” who each Sunday, take shovels into the country side, dig a hole, and literally hold their worship services underground.
Wooding also talked about how, near the end of his life, North Korean founder, Kim Il-sung, began to recall his childhood when his Christian mother would sit him on her lap and teach him the Bible.
“Billy Graham once told me how, during a visit to North Korea, that Kim told him that he would having dreams about this and asked him to share more about having a relationship with Jesus, and even allowed him to preach the Gospel on North Korean Television,” he said. ”Mr. Graham told me that he would not be surprised to see Kim Il-sung in heaven.”
Wooding then said that maybe even Kim Il-sung may have shared about Jesus with his grandson. To watch the entire interview, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMnoL6HLukY
Editor’s Comment: North Korea is listed by humanitarian organizations as one of the worst offenders in the arena of Human Rights violations and is particularly egregious in their treatment of Christians. Image courtesy New York Times.
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