N Korean nuclear strike could cause chaos in US

North Korea warms to South after visit, volume down on border...
A positive step from the DPRK. The volume of their broadcasts has been turned down since the Olympics started:
A senior South Korean military official stationed at the border between North and South Korea told Reuters North Korea had lowered the volume of its border propaganda broadcasts since the Olympics’ opening ceremony on Feb. 9.

“I still hear it, but it is much less than before,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Time is apparently running out according to Coats, Dir National Intelligence:
On Tuesday, the U.S. director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said North Korea presented “a potentially existential” threat and said time was running out to act.

“Decision time is becoming ever closer in terms of how we respond to this,” Coats told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “Our goal is a peaceful settlement. We are using maximum pressure on North Korea in various ways.”


Coats said in an annual threat assessment report North Korea was likely to continue weapons testing in 2018 and noted that it had said it was considering an atmospheric nuclear test. The report said Pyongyang’s repeated statements that nuclear weapons were the basis for its survival “suggest the regime does not intend to negotiate them away.”
KCNA et al still silent on the summit proposal
More news on North Korean athletes at the Olympic Games in South Korea. 'I want to talk to them': North Korean Olympians enthrall South Koreans, who follow their every move

North Korea figure skaters are seen as having the best chance of any athletes from their country to win any medals, although that chance is admittedly still not too good. They are however being well received by the public in South Korea.
Polite applause typically follows pairs Olympic figure-skating teams during these routine training sessions. But lately, there's a heightened anticipation when the announcer introduces one particular team at the rink: "Tae-ok Ryom and Ju-sik Kim, from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

"Ohh, North Korea!" several female South Korean volunteers murmured excitedly, holding their smartphones aloft. It was the only practice the volunteers bothered to record that day, they conceded.
One of them is being called "Angel of Smiles" by the South Korean press.
Ryom earned the nickname "Angel of Smiles" in the South Korean press after she gave a cheery wave to reporters upon arriving at the athletes village.

The skaters and other North Korean athletes have fallen into a good-natured camaraderie with fellow Olympians, including their South Korean competitors.
The pair of Tae-ok Ryom and Ju-sik Kim have a Canadian coach Bruno Marcotte and trained in Montreal.
Ryom and Kim have been billed as North Korea's best chance at getting on the podium, but that chance is still remote. Their Canadian coach, Bruno Marcotte, trained them in Montreal and hopes they'll place within the top 10 or 12 teams.

One way or another, Marcotte said, they deserve their shot after qualifying for the Olympics in Oberstdorf, Germany, last year.
The two are seen below on the left, with Marcotte behind them.

The story notes that current feelings of good will may not last too long beyond the close of the Olympics. I don't think this should be too surprising a conclusion, given the ups and downs in relations between the two countries over the years. In my opinion, any lasting effects will depend upon the success of any diplomatic follow up later on this year.
Kim Jong Um made a surprise visit to the Olympics in South Korea.

Kim Jong "Um" being the stage name of an Australian Kim Jong Un impersonator who normally goes by the name of "Howard".
Meet Kim Jong 'Um,' the Kim impersonator angering North Korea's Olympic delegates

The South Koreans seem to have had a sense of humour failure over this however, and kicked him out of the opening ceremony of the Olympics when he showed up with another friend posing as Donald Trump.
In Pyeongchang, though, neither the South Korean organizers nor the North Korean delegation were amused by Howard's antics over the past two weeks. Security ejected him from the opening ceremony when he showed up acting chummy with a lookalike posing as U.S. President Donald Trump.

Although perhaps we shouldn't be too critical of the South Koreans, as he was in questionable company in that instance.
An apparent meeting between North Korean officials and US VP Pence to take place during the Olympic Games was cancelled at the last minute, reportedly by the North Koreans.
North Korea calls off meeting with Pence, White House says
U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was all set to hold a history-making meeting with North Korean officials during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but Kim Jong-un's government cancelled at the last minute, the Trump administration said Tuesday.
I say "apparent meeting", because there is no clear information indicating that the North Koreans had ever confirmed any definite plan to meet.
There was no indication that a meeting had indeed been planned — and then cancelled on short notice — until Tuesday, more than a week after Pence returned to the United States. The State Department said that Pence had been "ready to take this opportunity" but would have used it to insist Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

"At the last minute, DPRK officials decided not to go forward with the meeting," said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, using an abbreviation of the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "We regret their failure to seize this opportunity."
Indeed the North Koreans had previously said they had no intention of meeting with Pence during the Olympic Games.
North Korea had no immediate response to the news out of Washington. But North Korean officials had said previously that they had no interest or intention of meeting with Pence in Pyeongchang during the games.
On the other hand, the US reported that North Korea had "dangled" the possibility of a meeting. The US says that they believe the North Koreans weren't serious, and so backed out when Pence agreed to meet.
Pence's office, acknowledging the scrapped meeting on Tuesday, said North Korea had "dangled a meeting" in hopes that doing so would entice the vice-president to ease up on the North. Pence's office suggested that North Korea later bailed because it became clear he would hold firm on the U.S. stance if a meeting did occur.
Alternatively, the North Koreans may have heard the US was planning on delivering a lecture to them and they weren't interested in hearing one.
Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said that the planned meeting — first reported by the Washington Post — would have included an "uncompromising message" delivered by Pence about the "maximum pressure campaign" the Trump administration is waging to try to deter North Korea from proceeding with its nuclear program.

"Perhaps that's why they walked away from a meeting, or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down," Ayers said.
Given the lack of preparation and the lack of an actual negotiating team, any such meeting would simply have been a platform for both sides to reiterate their existing positions. That would have left the event an exercise in propaganda, making it no great loss anyway in my opinion.
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White House: Talks with North Korea must lead to ending nuclear...
End of the Games. Still no news on a summit and obviously the US has initiated some unilateral sanctions which has led to some statements. Anyway, despite what some hoped for, the US and S Korea still seem united in the goal of a denuclearised (okay, weapons) Korea. The two (RoK and DPRK) delegations met during the closing ceremony. The US and RoK are (currently) singing off a similar songsheet and it looks like talks will happen:
Responding to the meeting, the U.S. State Department said improved relations between South and North Korea hinged on resolving Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“We are in close contact with the Republic of Korea about our unified response to North Korea. As President Moon stated, ‘the improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot advance separately from resolving North Korea’s nuclear program,'” a State Department spokesman said.
Obviously DPRK (and others) are upset by the unilateral sanctions:
But the closing days of the Games were overshadowed by the U.S. announcement that it was imposing its largest package of sanctions aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

“Thanks to our supreme leadership’s noble love for the nation and strong determination for peace, long-awaited inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation have been realized and the Olympics took place successfully by the inter-Korean collaboration,” the North’s KCNA state news agency said, citing North Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs.

“On the eve of closing of the Olympics, United States is running amok to bring another dark cloud of confrontation and war over the Korean peninsula by announcing enormous sanctions against the DPRK,” it said, using the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
No mention is made by them of their choice of delegate to the closing ceremony:
The North’s decision to send former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol as delegation leader to the closing ceremony has enraged families of 46 sailors killed in the torpedo attack on their ship and threatens the mood of rapprochement that Seoul wants to create at what it calls the “Peace Games”.

North Korea has denied its involvement in the sinking.
No idea what 'Phase 2' will be but everyone can guess. DPRK saying a blockade will be considered an act of war:
U.S. President Donald Trump, in announcing the new sanctions on Friday, warned of a “phase two” that could be “very, very unfortunate for the world” if the sanctions did not work.

North Korea denounced the sanctions in a statement carried on its state media and said a blockade by the United States would be considered an act of war.

China also reacted angrily to the new U.S. measures, saying on Saturday the unilateral targeting of Chinese firms and people risked harming cooperation on North Korea.

Moon won election last year promising to try to improve relations with the North.
'My life is in danger,' North Korea leader's half-brother quoted as...
The trial continues. Back to Court next month on the fourteenth. He clearly knew his life was in danger and repeated this to a driver:
Kim arrived in Malaysia on Feb. 6 last year and was picked up at the airport by the driver of friend Tomie Yoshio, lead police investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz said.

The driver was instructed to take Kim to his lodgings and other places he wanted to go after Kim told Yoshio his “life was in danger” during a prior visit to Malaysia.

“Six months before the incident on Feb. 13, Kim Jong Nam said ‘I am scared for my life and I want a driver’,” Wan Azirul said, citing police interviews with Yoshio.

He did not give any other details about Yoshio or his whereabouts.
Exclusive: North Korean leaders used Brazilian passports to apply...
Seems Tubby's II and III used Brazilian passports to try and get Visa's into western countries. Tubby III known as Josef PWAG and Tubby II as Ijong Tchoi. Passports issued by the Brazilian Embassy in Prague allegedly:
“They used these Brazilian passports, which clearly show the photographs of Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Il, to attempt to obtain visas from foreign embassies,” one senior Western security source said on condition of anonymity.

“This shows the desire for travel and points to the ruling family’s attempts to build a possible escape route,” the security source said.

The North Korean embassy in Brazil declined to comment.

Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was investigating.
The US diplomat responsible for maintaining US contact with North Korea has announced he is retiring. U.S. envory North Korea diplomat suddenly retiring
Joseph Yun, the 30-year veteran of the U.S. foreign service who retained quiet contacts with North Korea amid the Trump administration's turbulent first year, is retiring as Washington and Pyongyang step up considerations for formal diplomatic talks.
This comes just as South Korea has told the US that the North is open to direct negotiations with the US.
Yun told The Associated Press he will stand down as special representative for North Korean policy on Friday. He said his decision to retire is entirely his own but it comes at a surprising juncture, just as American ally South Korea relayed that the North is open to direct discussions with the United States.
US contact with North Korea went through Yun, who did this via North Korea's diplomatic mission to the UN in New York.
Yun, a former U.S. ambassador to Malaysia, has been the State Department's point-man for its limited contact with the North Korean government through a back channel at the nation's diplomatic mission to the UN in New York.

The adversaries from the Korean War don't have formal relations, and the so-called "New York channel" is the primary means for conveying messages between the two governments.

"One of my accomplishments has been to open the New York channel soon after the Trump administration got in," Yun told AP. "That allowed for direct talks and direct communication. Really, there is no problem with communicating. It's problems of engagement that have been difficult."
Experts have said that Yun was one of the few US officials who had experience of dealing with North Korea at a senior level.
Experts described Yun as one of the few U.S. officials with experience dealing at a senior level with North Korea. They predicted his departure will add to doubts about U.S. willingness to conduct diplomacy with Pyongyang, while compounding the depletion of the State Department's top ranks since Trump took office.
Yun is one of a large number of senior US foreign ministry officials who have left or are leaving, and will be hard to replace.
"Although U.S. strategy is supposedly maximum pressure 'and engagement,' Joe Yun was the only one seriously trying engagement," said Mark Fitzpatrick at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank . "He is joining a large exodus of senior State Department officials who will be hard to replace."
In addition to the above, the post of US ambassador to South Korea has been vacant for a year.
It was not immediately clear who would replace Yun or if the vacancy would be filled with a U.S. official maintaining closer ties to Trump. The ambassador post in South Korea has been vacant for the past year, adding to questions about the direction of U.S. policy as Trump has vacillated between talk of war and willingness to speak directly with leader Kim Jong-un.
US president Trump said that if sanctions do not produce the desired result the US would move on to "phase two", which he said would be "very unfortunate for the world."
Trump warned last week that if sanctions fail, the U.S. would move to "phase two" in its pressure campaign, which could be "very rough" and "very unfortunate for the world."
The following was also posted on the Syria thread.

A UN report has outlined North Korean arms trade with Syria.
North Korea violated sanctions, sent banned weapons, items to Syria, Myanmar: UN experts

The overall news story is too long and detailed to adequately summarise here, so I recommend reading the story at the link for details. A brief summary though is that North Korea has in the past sold ballistic missile and chemical weapons technology to Syria. That however shouldn't surprise anyone who has been reading the news.

What I do find particularly interesting though is the breadth of technology manufactured and exported by North Korea.
North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted: U.N. report
UN report regarding the intercept of two shipments from DPRK to Syria:

Parts for Scuds and SAMs allegedly:

I'm sure someone will be along soon enough to deny the UN report, say it was a 'fit up' and the evidence was planted based on previous posts
North Korea denies chemical weapons link with Syria - state media
Further to the above and other posts, DPRK have obviously denied assisting Assad's govt in producing CW. They also (have the cheek to) deny any development, production or stockpiling of CW:
State run KCNA news agency cited a spokesman at the foreign ministry’s research institute of American studies arguing that the United States made a “nonsensical argument” that it helped Syria produce chemical weapons.

“As we have clearly said several times, our republic does not develop, produce and stockpile chemical weapons and opposes chemical weapons themselves,” the spokesman said, via KCNA.
At U.N., China delays U.S. bid to blacklist ships, companies over...
China mulling the list of ships the US want to blacklist. 33 ships, 17 DPRK. 27 companies and one individual are also on the list.

Like all UNSC Resolutions on N Korea, they have a consensus, the US discuss with GB and France, China discusses with Russia. No explanation for the delay. It could be Russia not being happy, China not being happy, both not being happy, China's own investigations into those ships or something else like the unilateral US sanctions or even the recent discussions on trade wars. Whatever it is, there's currently a delay:
China did not give a reason for placing a hold on the U.S. request. A hold can be lifted and is often used when a Security Council member wants more information, but sometimes it can lead to a permanent blocking of a proposed blacklisting.

The Security Council North Korea sanctions committee works on the basis of unanimity.

If agreed, the 33 ships proposed by the United States, 19 of which are North Korean vessels, would be subjected to a global port entry ban. Countries would also be required to deregister the 14 ships that are not North Korean.

The 27 proposed companies and the one individual would be subjected to an asset freeze.
The following is a rather interesting story on the difficulties which North Koreans have in trying to fit in in South Korea. A North Korean's unexpected challenges in the South: Learning the language, ditching the accent

One big problem is that the version of Korean they speak isn't the same. A North Korean in Seoul said that he could understand perhaps 70% of what the people there said, while South Koreans couldn't understand him at all.
"I could understand maybe 70 per cent" of the Korean conversations on the streets of Seoul, Eom, 37, said recently in an interview at an English school in the South Korean capital. "But on the different side, the South Koreans couldn't understand me! They couldn't understand our language."
Also, South Korean employers want nothing to do with immigrants from North Korea. Even once they learn the grammar and vocabulary, North Koreans stand out due to their accent.
Eom recalled phoning a gas station to inquire about job openings. The prospective employer, detecting an accent, cut him off and asked if Eom was from China.

"I said, 'Uh, I'm not Chinese people. I'm actually North Korean,'" Eom said. The gas station manager made it clear he wasn't interested.

"I don't know what exactly he feels when he heard my dialect, my accent. But I think he's afraid to get employees who are North Korean refugees."
"It's easy to recognize we're from North Korea, but the way people regard North Koreans is not good, so it's really challenging to find a job," she said.
Some are able to learn to talk with a South Korean accent in order to hide the fact they are from the North.
Some of his defector friends can mask their Northern accents and use a "Seoul dialect," he said, "but some of them, they're afraid to reveal their identity ... [that] they're from North Korea."
More than 40 per cent of North Koreans living in South Korea said that communication is a major barrier to assimilating in the South.
In a 2014 poll, South Korea's Ministry of Unification found that more than 40 per cent of North Korean refugees cited communication challenges as a major challenge for assimilating.
It's more than just difficulties in communicating though, South Koreans are antagonistic to Northerners, and characterise them as being "uneducated, uncouth or untrustworthy".
A Northern accent, however, can invite antagonism. Some South Koreans may view North Koreans as uneducated, uncouth or untrustworthy.

"It's about perception, and about all the baggage that comes with being perceived as North Korean," said Young-Key Kim-Renaud, professor emeritus and former chair of the East Asian languages and literatures department at George Washington University.
This is a rather interesting future problem with regards to the potential reunification of Korea.
South Korea is sending a delegation to Pyongyang for negotiations on how to promote peace.
South Korea to send high-level officials to Pyongyang for talks

South Korea's presidential office says a 10-member government delegation is to visit North Korea this week for talks on how to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Topics for discussion would also include how to restart talks between North Korea and the US.
It said the talks would also deal with how to restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
These talks between South and North Korea came as a result of the recent Olympic Games. North Korea have said they are willing to talk with the US.
Senior North Korean officials came at the start and close of the games, and they met Moon and invited him to visit Pyongyang. They said they were willing to resume talks with Washington.
In a meeting with senior South Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has agreed to meet with the president of South Korea next month. North Korea opens door to talking about nuclear disarmament, South says

He has also agreed to a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests if the US will meet with North Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has agreed to meet with South Korea's president next month and impose a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests if his country holds talks with the United States, a senior South Korean official said Tuesday after returning from the North.
The US has so far not made any clear response to this offer.
Trump, reacting to a Drudge Report tweet on the Korea talks, said simply: "We will see what happens!"

In a subsequent tweet he hailed the "serious effort" from "all parties concerned." He said the U.S. "is ready to go hard in either direction!" though it wasn't entirely clear what he meant by that statement.
The two Koreas will also establish a hot line between the two to reduce military tensions, and will speak together before the summit between the leaders.
Chung Eui-yong, South Korea's presidential national security director, said after returning from North Korea on Tuesday that the two Koreas agreed to hold their summit at a tense border village in late April. He also said the leaders will establish a "hotline" communication channel between them to lower military tensions, and would speak together before the planned summit.
This was the first high level visit by the South to the North in at least 11 years.
Chung led a 10-member South Korean delegation that met with Kim during a two-day visit to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. They were the first South Korean officials to meet the young North Korean leader since he took power after his dictator father's death in late 2011. Chung's trip also was the first known high-level visit by South Korean officials to North Korea in about 11 years.
North Korea has agreed to conduct "candid dialogue" regarding nuclear disarmament and establishing diplomatic relations. They also said they would not conduct any nuclear weapons or missile test while such talks were under way.
Chung said North Korea also expressed willingness to hold a "candid dialogue" with the United States to discuss its nuclear disarmament and establish diplomatic relations. While such talks with the United States are underway, Chung said North Korea "made it clear that it won't resume strategic provocations like additional nuclear tests or test-launches of ballistic missiles."
North Korea also said that they would not need to keep their nuclear weapons if the military threats against it were removed, and if they received credible security guarantees. They also promised to not use their nuclear or conventional weapons against South Korea.
North Korea also said it would not need to keep its nuclear weapons if military threats against it are removed and it receives a credible security guarantee, Chung said. He said the North promised not to use its nuclear and conventional weapons against South Korea.
A South Korea analyst was quoted in the news story as saying that this paves the way for meaningful dialogue between North Korea and the US.
Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang of South Korea's Sejong Institute said the agreements "potentially pave the way for meaningful dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang," and offer an opportunity to stably manage the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapon and missile programs.

"Getting North Korea to agree to halt additional nuclear weapons and missile tests while the dialogue goes on is the biggest achievement of the visit to Pyongyang by the South Korean presidential envoys," he said.
My own opinion on this is that there is a strong chance of this being either simply turned down or otherwise derailed by erratic behaviour at high levels in Washington. Because of this, we will likely not get the chance to see how serious this offer from North Korea is.
BREAKING NEWS: POTUS has accepted a meeting with Kim Jong Un at place and time to be decided.
Message from NK was delivered by a delegation from South Korea who broke the news at the Whitehouse.

US press mixed, part hopeful but critical of POTUS ability. No loss in anti Trump bias from various media of course so caveat emptor. Various reporters cautioning that Kim is a master of propaganda.
Have not heard anyone mention the Japanese perspective on this, so here is an opinion from the Japan Times. The Japanese are after all stakeholders in the matter of NK nukes.

An opening — nothing more — with North Korea | The Japan Times

Edited to say BBC now mentioning Japan.

I recalled reading Scott Adam's thoughts from January this year. It may make interesting reading in the context of these potential developments:

How North Korea Can Become Switzerland of the East - Dilbert Blog
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