“Iran Does Not Seek A Nuclear Weapon.”

“Iran does not seek a nuclear weapon. If we wanted to build a nuclear weapon, we could have done it some time ago, but we decided that nuclear weapons would not augment our security and are in contradiction to our ideological views.” (Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif)

                          by David Parmer / Tokyo

America’s new Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Sunday, January 31, in an NBC news interview, that Iran could be “weeks” away from having enough fissile nuclear material to build an atomic weapon. Blinken’s assessment was soundly rebutted by Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour the following day, February 1.

Zarif said that if Iran wanted a nuclear weapon, it would already have one, but this was not their intention. In the interview with Amanpour, Zarif was asked about Iran and the US negotiating their differences. Zarif said that the US must come back into compliance with the JCPOA “Iran Deal.”

Certain things were NOT agreed upon at the time of the negotiating and signing of the agreement; Iran has concerns about US arms sales to the region which were not on the table. Iran’s missile program which was of interest to the US was not on the table (Zarif did not mention the word “missiles.”)

The US and Iran are at a stalemate, and the foreign minister offered a possible solution. The top EU official, Josep Borrell, Chairman of the Joint Commission could broker an agreement by saying what each side must do. This would be a face-saving mechanism to eliminate such thinking as “before we negotiate, you must…” on both sides.

Zarif noted that time was running out for the US. The Iranian parliament has approved further drawing back by Iran from the 2015 JCPOA as is its right when the other side is not in compliance. As for existing nuclear material enriched to a higher percentage, it could be dealt with swiftly and eliminated if conditions were favorable and concessions on both sides were made.

From the two meetings with the press, it was clear that Iran was better prepared and knew what it wants and how to move things forward. Secretary Blinken simply repeated an old contention about nuclear weapons common under the Trump administration.

Blinken did not seem either well informed or well prepared to deal with one of America’s three vital foreign policy challenges. Even given the fact that Blinken must staff, coordinate and re-build a hollowed-out State department, his first appearance out of the gate was not very impressive. The problem is that US-Iran relations need the full attention of the US government, and as Mr. Zarif has said: time for the US to act is not unlimited.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mfarussia/50879955528/in/faves-117355407@N08/

DPRK–No News Is Good News.

                          by David Parmer / Tokyo

Well, it’s not like there isn’t any news from the DPRK in 2019, because there is, in fact, some news. There is just not the same kind of “end of the world nuclear holocaust” news that there was just a short time ago. 

But “normal” is relative, and like the weather in East Asia itself, subject to change without notice. Nevertheless, at mid-year we can look back to February 2019 and a failed US-DPRK summit meeting in Hanoi with two of the world’s biggest summiteers; Donald Trump, President of the United States, and Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Reports indicated that the deal breaker for this meeting was the lifting of US sanctions against the DPRK and the United States’ refusal to do so. Post summit there were no recriminations or finger pointing; everyone just packed up and went home after offering their side of the story.

Things with the DPRK were pretty quiet until May 9, when they fired off two short-range ballistic missiles. Launched from around Wonson, they flew into the Japan Sea, and not over “hostile” territory like South Korea or Japan. It may be that testing was on the schedule for this year regardless, or it might have been a thinly-veiled threat to remind the US and the world that the DPRK has a nuclear arsenal and the vehicles to deliver nuclear payloads.

Things remained quiet until June 12 when Donald Trump announced that on June 11 that he got a “beautiful letter” from Kim Jong-un. Trump expressed his ongoing confidence in the negotiations with the DPRK.

Sources also say that in his letter Kim proposed a third summit with the US. About the same time media reports suggested that Kim’s late brother, Kim Jong-nam was a CIA source. Trump explained that such a thing would not happen during his watch.

And finally to round-out the slow-news cycle, President Xi Jinping will make a trip to the DPRK on June 20 and 21 for discussions with Chairman Kim. This is the first visit of a Chinese leader to the country in 14 years. Clearly both men will have a lot on their minds including how to deal with the United States and its mercurial leader, Donald Trump.

So, looking back, we can see that there has not been much news of a sensational nature from North Korea in the first half of 2019. Maybe the old adage is right: no news is good news.



Photo: Rodong Sinmun