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Contrary to Pyongyang’s belief that nuclear weapons and missile programs safeguard its security and ensure its survival, experts said they make the country less safe because they leave it prone to U.S. military targets.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “thinks that nuclear weapons are the guarantee of his regime survival,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. research center. “In reality, they’re the guarantee of his regime destruction.”

Although Kim promised he will commit to denuclearization since he began engaging with the U.S. in 2018, North Korea has not shown a serious willingness to reach a deal agreeing to forgo nuclear weapons.

Experts said North Korea’s reluctance to reach a denuclearization deal stems from its dogmatic view of nuclear weapons as essential for its security.

Evans Revere, a former State Department official who had negotiated with North Korea extensively, said, “I am convinced that North Koreans believe nuclear weapons guarantee their security.”

“And as long as that is the case, there is no chance that Pyongyang will give them up,” he added.

Stalling

Rather than committing itself toward reaching a viable denuclearization deal with Washington, Pyongyang has been stalling while blaming Washington for refusing to make concessions.

North Korea said on Monday it is not interested in having another summit with the U.S. in an apparent response to President Donald Trump’s Sunday tweet urging Kim to “act quickly” to “get a deal done.” 

Mr. Chairman, Joe Biden may be Sleepy and Very Slow, but he is not a “rabid dog.” He is actually somewhat better than that, but I am the only one who can get you where you have to be. You should act quickly, get the deal done. See you soon! https://t.co/kO2k14lTf7

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2019

North Korean Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan said, “We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us,” in a statement carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).“As we have got nothing in return, we will no longer gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of.” 

Progress on denuclearization talks has been stalled since the Hanoi Summit held in February failed when Trump denied Kim’s request for sanctions relief in exchange for partial denuclearization. Trump, instead, asked Kim to fully denuclearize before any lifting of sanctions can be granted.

After months of stalled negotiations, working-level talks were held in Stockholm in October, but the talks ended quickly without a deal reached when North Korea walked away from the negotiating table.

Revere said North Korea had used negotiations in the past as a cover-up to further develop its nuclear weapons.

“Even when negotiations seemed to be moving in a positive direction, such as in 1994 and 2005, we now know that the North Koreans are determined not to give up their nuclear weapons and used the negotiations to cover their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Revere said.

While North Korea has been engaged with the U.S. this year, it demonstrated it has been developing advanced missile technologies through a series of missile tests it conducted since May.

Missile launches

Amid a flurry of missile launches in August, Pyongyang said it “will never barter the strategic security of the country” even for the sanctions relief it has been seeking since the Hanoi Summit, apparently referring to nuclear weapons when it said the security of the country.

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said, “Kim Jong Un, like his father and other North Korean leaders view nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent against the U.S.” He continued, “That’s why they have poured so much of their scarce resources into their missile and nuclear programs over the past four decades.”

According to experts, Pyongyang adheres to the doctrine of nuclear security because it does not think the U.S. will launch an attack against a country that has nuclear weapons to retaliate.

“The North Koreans have long believed that nuclear weapons are an insurance policy against an attack or invasion by the United States,” Revere said. “They have convinced themselves, with good reason, that the United States will not attack a country that has the ability to respond to a U.S. attack with nuclear weapons.”

Thomas Countryman, former acting undersecretary of arms control and international security at the State Department, said, “The DPRK has developed nuclear weapons because it believes this is the ultimate effective deterrent against what it sees as a risk of U.S.-ROK attacks on the DPRK.”

The DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name in English, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The ROK is an acronym for South Korea’s official English name, the Republic of Korea.

Furthermore, Pyongyang thinks even if it were to launch an attack against South Korea targeting American troops stationed there, the U.S. will not retaliate against North Korea or defend South Korea, Bennett, of Rand Corp., said.

This view, he said, comes from Choi Ju Hwal, a high-ranking military official of the North Korean army who defected to South Korea in 1995 and testified to the U.S. Congress in 1997.

In the testimony Choi said, “Some Americans believe that even if North Korea possessed the ability to strike the United States, it would never dare to because of the devastating consequences.”

Choi continued that North Korea’s then-leader Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s father, “believes that if North Korea creates more than 20,000 American casualties in the region, the U.S. will roll back and the North Korea will win the war.” Kim Jon Il ruled North Korea from 1994 until 2011.

Bennett said, “I worry that we have not tried to convince Kim Jong Un that that’s a wrong view because an even more senior military defector much more recently has told me that that view continues within the North Korean regime.” ((ACT 2))

‘Alliance of convenience’

Bennett said Pyongyang holds this view because it believes the alliance of the U.S. and South Korea is “an alliance of convenience” rather than “an alliance of commitment.”

“If indeed, [North Korea] were to kill 20,000 Americans, which is more than 10 times the number of Americans killed at Pearl Harbor, I think you get an idea of what the Americans are likely to do to [North Korea],” Bennett said, pointing out the U.S. policy toward North Korea in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

The U.S. policy, according to the review, is to end the regime if North Korea were to use nuclear attacks against the U.S. or its allies.

“Our deterrent strategy for North Korea makes clear that any North Korean nuclear attack against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime,” the review said. “There is no scenario in which the Kim regime could employ nuclear weapons and survive.”

It also said the U.S. will target North Korea military forces hidden underground and in natural terrains “at risk.”

Manning, of the Atlantic Council, said, “Any North Korean use of nuclear weapons would be suicidal, as would a major conventional attack on the ROK.” He continued, “Any nuclear use would mean their demise.”

Ken Gause, director of the Adversary Analytics Program at CNA, said, “Once North Korea uses forces in large measure against Seoul, the U.S. would likely take steps to end the North Korean regime.”

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In 1990, a bikini-clad Madonna wrapped in a U.S. flag urged MTV viewers to vote in Senate elections as the youth television network partnered with a “Rock the Vote” campaign that mixed pop culture and politics.

Thirty years on, with Millennials and Gen Z poised to outnumber the Baby Boomer generation for the first time in a U.S. presidential election, MTV on Tuesday launched its most ambitious turnout campaign ever, reaching beyond celebrities to tap into burgeoning youth activism.

The year-long “+1thevote”  initiative across MTV’s multiple TV platforms, social media and live events includes plans to open new polling stations at college campuses, sponsor school proms that host registration drives, and integrate voting messages into shows.

“You need to look no further than the climate change strikes and what is happening in the streets to see that this is a fired-up generation,” said Brianna Cayo Cotter, SVP of social impact for MTV and its affiliate platforms VH1, CMT and Logo.

“But they have to vote in this election to take that passion and turn it into political power. That’s the aim of this campaign – how do we help young people, who are so passionate but for whom voting today was not really designed,” she told Reuters.

The campaign is aimed at first time voters, especially the 4 million Americans who will turn 18 in time for the Nov. 8 presidential elections. It aims to make voting an experience to be shared with friends, or a “plus one.”

Millennials and Gen Z – those born between 1981-96 and after 1996, respectively – will make up 37 percent of the U.S. electorate, according to a January report from the Pew Research Center, outnumbering for the first time Boomers born between 1946-64.

FILE - Various logos of the different cable channels from the MTV Networks are pictured at the Cable Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, July 13, 2006.
FILE – Various logos of the different cable channels from the MTV Networks are pictured at the Cable Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, July 13, 2006.

MTV, a unit of Viacom, is well-placed to catch their attention as the most-watched non-sports U.S. cable network in primetime with 18-34 year olds, according to Nielsen data.

The past three years have seen a boom in youth activism on issues ranging from climate change, partly inspired by 16 year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, to gun control, civil rights and immigration.

Yet for the two generations raised on the internet and smart phones, the process of registering and voting can seem bewildering, MTV found during months of research.

“People have questions that are like, ‘What do I wear to vote?’, and ‘Where do I go?’ To young people who can order anything on their phones automatically, the fact that in a lot of places they would have to go to a post office and get a stamp feels crazy,” said Cayo Cotter.

Part of the +1thevote campaign involves a partnership with Campus Vote Project and two other grassroots groups to create dozens of new polling stations on college campuses and in local communities nationwide to make youth voting more accessible.

Voters cast their ballots in state and local elections at Pillow Boro Hall in Pillow, Pennsylvania, Nov. 5, 2019.
Voters cast their ballots in state and local elections at Pillow Boro Hall in Pillow, Pennsylvania, Nov. 5, 2019.

Some 1,200 polling stations have been shut down across the Southern United States since 2014, according to a September report by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The MTV initiative also includes a drive to integrate voting messages in TV shows across the industry and plans to register voters waiting in line at MTV events like the Video Music Awards.

“If we can use our platforms’ superpowers to reach an untapped and largely ignored audience, we’re going to be able to unlock an incredible amount of first time voters that otherwise would probably sit this election out,” said Cayo Cotter.

 

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Croatia’s first-ever presidency in the European Union will come at come at a “critical period” for the 28-nation bloc, outgoing EU leader Donald Tusk said Tuesday.

The EU’s newest member could end up in charge of launching the bloc’s post-Brexit negotiations with Britain, the European Council president said after talks with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, takes over the bloc’s six-month rotating chairmanship at the beginning of January while Britain’s departure from the bloc is now set for Jan. 31.

“Your task is not easy,” said Tusk. “It will be a critical period for the EU and we will be relying on your steady leadership.”

Tusk expressed confidence in Croatia’s preparation for the job, adding that Croatia also needs to focus on the EU’s enlargement agenda and the volatile Western Balkans.

EU aspirations in the Western Balkans have been dealt a blow after France and the Netherlands blocked the opening of membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

“I deeply believe that you (Croatia) will do everything in your power to restore EU unity and enlargement while demonstrating positive EU engagement in the region,” Tusk said.

Tusk was in Zagreb, the Croatian capital, for a meeting of the European People’s Party, the main center-right bloc in the European Parliament. The Polish politician is expected to be elected the leader of the alliance during the two-day gathering.

“I am leaving the EU in good hands,” he said.

 

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Less than 200 student protesters remain barricaded inside a Hong Kong university that has been surrounded by riot police since Sunday. Over the past 24 hours, a slow trickle of pro-democracy demonstrators have left the campus, either by attempting to flee or by surrendering to police, as VOA’s Bill Gallo reports from Hong Kong

 

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A Moscow City Court has upheld a decision to prolong the pretrial detention of Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen charged in Russia with espionage, until December 29.

Lawyers for the detained former U.S. Marine, who has rejected the charges, had argued at an appeal hearing on November 19 that Whelan should be subjected to a less restrictive detention, such as house arrest.

“The resolution of the Moscow Lefortovo district court is upheld, and the appeal is dismissed,” the Moscow City Court said in its ruling, according to Interfax.

Whelan, who also holds Canadian, Irish, and British citizenship, has accused prison guards of abuse during his incarceration.

The 49-year-old was arrested in a hotel room in Moscow in December 2018 and accused of receiving classified information.

He was charged with espionage, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Whelan’s family said he was in Moscow at the time for a wedding.

Whelan in the past has complained of poor conditions in prison and of abuse and his lawyer has said that his client needs surgery.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on July 1 said its request for an independent medical examination of Whelan had been denied, noting that his condition had deteriorated.

In April, the embassy called on Russia to “stop playing games” and provide proof of Whelan’s alleged espionage.

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Less than 200 student protesters remain barricaded inside a Hong Kong University that has been surrounded by riot police since Sunday. Over the past 24 hours, a slow trickle of people have left the campus, either by attempting to flee or by surrendering to police, as VOA’s Bill Gallo reports.

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Residents in several Bolivian cities are reporting food and gasoline shortages because of protests by supporters of ousted President Evo Morales, who resigned after a disputed election and nationwide unrest.
                   
Bolivia’s interim government said Monday that its efforts to resupply La Paz face challenges because demonstrators have cut off some transport routes. The new leadership is also struggling to open dialogue with opponents, particularly after the shooting deaths of nine pro-Morales coca growers during a confrontation with security forces on Friday.
                   
Furious over the shootings, backers of Morales demand the resignation of Jeanine Anez, Bolivia’s self-proclaimed interim president. She was a Senate vice president thrust into prominence after the resignations of senior leaders in Morales’ administration.
                   
Bolivian church leaders announced plans for talks on Monday afternoon involving U.N. envoy Jean Arnault. They appealed for the participation of Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party and said topics will include new elections and calls for a new election panel.
                   
The new hydrocarbons minister, Victor Hugo Zamora, told Bolivia’s ATB television that a gasoline supply convoy is having difficulty reaching the city because of roadblocks and ditches dug by protesters.
                   
Many shops in La Paz are closed and the few that are open are charging double the normal price, said resident Guillermina Chura.
                   
“What are we going to give to our families if things continue this way?” Chura said.
                   
Vendor Ana Gonzales said she had packed up her vegetable stand in the street because she had nothing to sell.
                   
“What am I going to live from?” Gonzales said.
                   
She also said Morales, who is in Mexico after seeking asylum there, should take steps to calm the situation. So far, Morales has remained defiant, condemning the interim government and saying he was ousted in a coup.
                   
Blockades around the major city of Santa Cruz have also disrupted commerce. Producers say fruit and vegetables are rotting on trucks that have been unable to reach markets.
                   
Bolivia’s pro-Morales faction has set up the blockades as part of a concerted effort to destabilize the interim government, said Alberto Bonadona, an economic analyst and professor at the Higher University of San Andres.
                   
A total of at least 23 people have been killed in violence that erupted after a disputed election on Oct. 20, according to the public defender’s office.
                   
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, claimed victory after the vote, but opponents alleged fraud and massive protests began. An international audit concluded there were election irregularities and Morales resigned Nov. 10 and left for Mexico.
                   
Bolivia’s crisis has exposed racial, ethnic and geographic divides that some thought had been largely overcome after 14 years of Morales’ rule as well as the introduction of a more inclusive constitution.
                   
Analysts say the movement to oust Morales was an urban middle-class revolt against the former president’s efforts to hang onto power.
                   
Morales quit after weeks of protests and a military statement that it was time for him to go. But since his departure, racist discourses and regional rivalries have re-emerged in a nation divided between a wealthier, more European-descended lowland east and a more indigenous, poorer, highland west.

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The United States on Monday granted another 90 days for companies to cease doing business with China’s telecoms giant Huawei, saying this would allow service providers to continue to serve rural areas.

President Donald Trump in May effectively barred Huawei from American communications networks after Washington found the company had violated US sanctions on Iran and attempted to block a subsequent investigation.

The extension, renewing one issued in August, “will allow carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark,” US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

“The department will continue to rigorously monitor sensitive technology exports to ensure that our innovations are not harnessed by those who would threaten our national security.”

American officials also claim Huawei is a tool of Beijing’s electronic espionage, making its equipment a threat to US national security — something the company denies.

Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder and CEO, was arrested in Canada last year and is now fighting extradition to the United States on fraud and conspiracy charges tied to US sanctions.

The battle over Huawei has also landed squarely in the middle of Trump’s trade battle with Beijing.

US officials initially said the two were unrelated as the Huawei actions were strictly law enforcement and national security matters but Trump has suggested a resolution could involve some common ground concerning Huawei.

Following the near-collapse of US-China trade talks in May, Washington added Huawei to a list of companies effectively barred from purchasing US technology without prior approval from the US government.

But, since companies have said they need time to begin to comply with the change, Trump has granted a series of limited reprieves, which officials say allow only “specific, limited” transactions involving exports and re-exports.

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