You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

As Trump Pulls Out of N. Korea Summit, Women Activists Head to DMZ to Promote Korean Peace Process

Media Options

President Trump has canceled plans for a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. A top official in North Korea’s foreign ministry said Friday that Kim Jong-un is still willing to meet with Trump at any time and that the cancellation of the summit was “extremely regrettable.” In a letter to Kim, Trump cited Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent comments as his reason for canceling the talks. Trump went on to write, “You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.” Trump sent the letter just hours after North Korea declared it had destroyed one of its nuclear weapons test sites. According to a report from NBC, the decision was made so abruptly the Trump administration did not have time to notify congressional leaders or foreign allies, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in. In Seoul, South Korea, we speak with Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. And in Washington, D.C., we speak with investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, correspondent for The Nation and the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism in Seoul.

Related Story

StoryJul 01, 2019Trump Makes History by Walking into North Korea. Could This Help to Finally End the Korean War?
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show on the Korean Peninsula, one day after President Trump canceled plans for a June 12th summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Earlier today, a top official in North Korea’s foreign ministry said Kim Jong-un is still willing to meet with Trump at any time, saying the cancellation of the summit was “extremely regrettable.” In a letter to Kim Jong-un, President Trump cited Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent comments as his reason for canceling the talks. Trump went on to write, “You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.” President Trump sent the letter at 9:43 a.m. on Thursday Eastern time, just hours after North Korea declared it had destroyed one of its nuclear weapons test sites. According to a report from NBC, the decision was made so abruptly the Trump administration did not have time to notify congressional leaders or foreign allies, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had just been in Washington.

NBC reports Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has privately blamed National Security Adviser John Bolton for torpedoing the talks. North Korea first threatened to pull out of the talks after Bolton said the U.S. should use the Libyan model for denuclearization. In 2003, Libya negotiated sanctions relief from the United States in exchange for renouncing its nuclear program and welcoming international inspectors to verify the dismantlement. Eight years later, the U.S. and other nations attacked Libya, toppling and killing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump have also talked about the Libyan model in recent weeks. On Thursday, President Trump warned the U.S. military is ready to act if North Korea should take any “foolish” acts.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’ve spoken to General Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world, that has been greatly enhanced recently, as you all know, is ready, if necessary. Likewise, I have spoken to South Korea and Japan, and they are not only ready, should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea, but they are willing to shoulder much of the cost of any financial burden, any of the costs associated by the United States in operations, if such an unfortunate situation is forced upon us.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by two guests: from Seoul, South Korea, Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, and in Washington, D.C., we’re joined by investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, who grew up in Tokyo and Seoul and has been writing about the U.S. role in Korea since the late ’70s, a correspondent for The Nation and the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism in Seoul.

But let’s go to Seoul first. Christine Ahn, talk about your reaction and the reaction in South Korea right now to President Trump canceling the summit.

CHRISTINE AHN: Hi, Amy. It’s quite a time to be in South Korea. As you know, I have been leading a delegation, Women Cross DMZ, along with the Nobel Women’s Initiative, 30 women peace activists from 16 countries, including Russia, China, Mongolia, Japan, Guam, Hawaii. We’ve come from all around the world—there’s a huge delegation from the United States—to be here in South Korea at this historic juncture, since the Panmunjom Declaration leading up to the June 12th summit. And so we’re here to support the Korea peace process.

And it was quite devastating news to learn last night that, you know, Moon Jae-in got a—basically, was notified that this letter had been sent to North Korea. And it is really—it started out very sad. I mean, a lot of tears were shed. We’ve been spending several days with the South Korean women. We’re organizing another women’s peace walk along the DMZ tomorrow. And, you know, 80 million hearts are broken across the Korean Peninsula. You know, the Korean people—we know Moon Jae-in has about 85 percent support rate in South Korea. The people, you know, are very heartened by the gestures of peace and diplomacy by the two Korean leaders. And so, to suddenly kind of pull the carpet that way—you know, I just came from a candlelight vigil in Gwanghwamun Square. And, you know, a lot of the speakers at the demonstration were angry. I mean, you know, it’s basically throwing sand in the gears of a train that is already in motion.

So, I would say that that’s the upside to this, is that we know that the Panmunjom Declaration is a bold agreement, it is a sweeping agreement. And since the joint war drills between the U.S. and South Korea will come to an end, that we’ve heard that the inter-Korean peace talks will resume. But, you know, this train has left the station. The people of North and South Korea want very much peace to prevail on the Korean Peninsula. And I think that’s our role as the international community, especially from the United States, is to support them in this critical hour.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week—last week, President Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and could suffer the same fate as former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi if he refuses to give up his nuclear weapons.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now, that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was President Trump. Let’s bring Tim Shorrock into this discussion. Who do you feel is to blame for the cancellation of the summit? Do you think it could possibly move forward? And also, what does this mean for the South Korean president, who was just in Washington to meet with Trump to try to move the summit forward? Does this delegitimize him, bring China into a more prominent role?

TIM SHORROCK: Well, this is a terrible insult to the South Korean leadership and President Moon, in particular, the fact that they did not tell him in advance, though he’d been there just a few hours before. That’s an incredibly—I mean, it’s really historic incompetence, colossal incompetence, on the part of Trump, on the part of Bolton, on the part of Vice President Pence, to repeat these—you know, Libya solution, which is basically regime change on steroids for the North Koreans. And they keep talking about this sort of Libya option, as if it’s not going to faze North Korea. Well, of course it will. And they spoke out very strongly.

So I think it’s very, very damaging for U.S.-South Korean relations, for one thing. I think there’s a hotline between Moon and Kim, and I’m hopeful that they’re going to be using it. I’m not quite sure about the—you know, how this is going to affect China, but, certainly, by just abruptly pulling out like this, for very odd reasons, it’s going to tell countries like China, that have been enforcing sanctions against North Korea, that the U.S. is simply not serious. So I think, you know, altogether, it’s a fiasco.

But, you know, I do think there are signs here. I mean, you read the North Korean statement. And you also—you read through the lines of what Trump wrote yesterday, there still is openness to talk. So, I think—you know, Moon is a very skilled politician, very skilled negotiator. I have a feeling he can get things on track. But I think that the meeting in Singapore is clearly going to be delayed or, you know, never happen, it will happen somewhere else.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this came—this letter and the announcement of the letter came out yesterday within hours after—well, it’s not been completely verified, but Kim Jong-un had international journalists there, wouldn’t allow in international nuclear inspectors, but they blew up one of the nuclear testing sites. And soon after, the North Koreans released three U.S. prisoners. Can you talk about the significance of this?

TIM SHORROCK: Well, yeah. This was like the first step toward denuclearization. They made it very public. They had all kinds of reporters there, from South Korea, Japan, the United States. You know, CBS and CNN were there. And so, you know, this is a signal that they’re beginning this process. And the fact that the disinvitation to meet came almost at exactly the same time as this was happening was—you know, at least you could say it’s quite ironic, isn’t it? But the fact—

AMY GOODMAN: Or, most significantly, right after both of those actions took place, on the part of North Korea, preparing for the summit.

TIM SHORROCK: Exactly, exactly. And, you know, before all this blew up in Trump’s face, the North Koreans had unilaterally stopped their tests, you know, nuclear tests and missile tests. As you said, they had closed the test site. They released these people. And they had also said they’re not opposed to normal military exercises, meaning without strategic bombers and without strategic aircraft carriers. What did the U.S. do? It brought in—tried to bring in B-52s for these exercises. North Korea called them on it, and they withdrew the B-52s. But it shows that this hostile policy that the North Koreans keep talking about—years and years of talking about they will negotiate if the U.S. removes its hostile policy—well, that hostile policy has yet to change. And we see it with Bolton. We see it with Pence. And the fact that Pompeo, the secretary of state, actually told NBC News and other news outlets that he thought Bolton was responsible for this collapse and it was Bolton who engineered this withdrawal from the talks is very, very significant. And so, I think, you know, Pompeo and—probably and the CIA, which he just left, are going to try to put the pieces together again.

AMY GOODMAN: Christine Ahn, you said you are headed to the Demilitarized Zone with a group of women. Explain.

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, three years ago, as you know, Amy, I helped lead a delegation of 30 women activists, including Gloria Steinem and some Nobel Peace laureates, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright and others across the Demilitarized Zone from North Korea to South Korea, calling for a peace treaty to end the Korean War, the reunion of families, and women’s leadership in the peace-building process. And three years later, this is also a significant year. Then was the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division. This is the 70th anniversary of the creation of two separate states. May 24th is International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. And we’re in a critical window right now.

And so we wanted to bring to the world’s attention that not only do the people of the Korean Peninsula want peace, women support the peace process. We are calling for our inclusion in the peace process. We know that when women’s groups are involved in a peace process, that it actually leads to a peace agreement. And when we help draft it, it leads to a far more durable and sustainable one. So, here we are. We actually met with the U.S. Embassy this morning, before we held a protest outside of the Embassy. But, you know, we’re here in the service. We’re here to help all sides, between the DPRK and the U.S., try to come to some understanding, because, clearly, we know that there is, within the Trump administration, tremendous fissures. On the one hand, you have the Bolton and the Pence hard-liners that want to derail the process, and then you have the Pompeos on the other side. And, you know, clearly, this round, that they won. But, you know, the message that we got from the U.S. Embassy is, you know, we see that—we want very much for there to be talks.

And so, there’s a part of me that—we know that Trump is very unhinged, and he makes very wild remarks and tweets, but Mike Pence is very calculated. So there must have been a reason that he brought up the Bolton statement—I mean, sorry, yeah, the Bolton statement again about Libya. And I think that probably is because they’re not prepared, because they still don’t have a U.S. ambassador to South Korea. They’re just—you know, we know, just from the last year of having Rex Tillerson completely decimate the State Department, that they don’t have an adequate diplomatic corps. And so, I think that the way that they have spun it is, you know, North Korea is not responding to our calls, that they are the ones that reneged on their part of the deal. And as Tim so astutely pointed out, all these things have taken place that definitely is not preparing the table for peace talks.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Tim Shorrock, the issue of Mike Pence, the vice president, reiterating what John Bolton said about the Libyan model—again, if people remember, after the denuclearization deal, U.S. allies attacked Libya, and Muammar Gaddafi was not only overthrown, he was murdered in the streets of Libya by U.S.-backed rebels. This history with Mike Pence, the vice president, and North Korea, can you talk about that?

TIM SHORROCK: Well, you know, I call him the grouch of the Pyeongchang Olympics. He’s the guy that went to the Olympics and refused to even make any kind of eye contact, shake the hands of the North Koreans who were there, insulted his hosts. This is just a very simpleminded, hard-line guy.

And, you know, clearly, Bolton understands, when he talks about the Libya solution, there’s two parts to it. You know, Libya gave up its nuclear weapons without making—you know, gave up its nuclear weapons before receiving any kind of economic aid or support. So that was one part of it. And then, of course, after he did give them up, his regime was overthrown by the U.S. and NATO. So, it’s a two-edged sword that he’s throwing at the North Koreans, and they reject them both.

And when he talks about this, the North—he knows how the North Koreans are going to react. And I am assuming Pompeo—I’m assuming the vice president, Pence, is intelligent enough to have gotten those kind of briefings, that he knows exactly what Bolton’s line means to the North Koreans, and that’s why he’s saying it. I mean, this is what I mean by colossal, colossal incompetence. I mean, you can’t have these people saying these kinds of things and expect the North Koreans to, you know, just respond in a friendly way. Of course they’re going to get angry.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, colossal incompetence or extremely deliberate sabotaging of this?

TIM SHORROCK: Well, it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: Bolton came into office, national security adviser, not approved by the Senate. He has two major issues he has harped on for years: attacking Iran and dismantling the nuclear deal there—that, he succeeded in getting done—and not making a deal with North Korea.

TIM SHORROCK: Well, yeah, yeah, I think it is sabotage on the part of Bolton. But I think—when I talk about incompetence, I’m talking about the very top, with Trump. To have people saying one thing, on one hand, and then something completely opposite, on the other, that’s incompetence. And just to withdraw, you know, because Bolton came running in there at 10 p.m. saying, “You know, look at this piece of paper! Look what they said! Look at the mean things that North Korea is saying about Vice President Pence!” I mean, it’s like childish. It’s like having a child president, and it’s like having a child national security adviser.

AMY GOODMAN: We have just 30 seconds. Do you have hope, Tim Shorrock, that this summit could get back on track?

TIM SHORROCK: I do. And I want to say that I was there three years ago when Women Cross DMZ actually crossed the DMZ. I was there in South Korea when they crossed the border. They helped put this on the map. And, you know, I think all credit must be due to these women activists in North and South Korea for doing this. And I think, actually, you know, that kind of push is necessary to keep these talks on track. And, yes, I do believe that they can get back.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Christine—

TIM SHORROCK: I do believe that it will happen.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Christine Ahn, how do you see that happening? Thirty seconds.

CHRISTINE AHN: It takes a global movement. Let’s not forget, the Korean War was an international conflict. Twenty-four countries participated in this war. And so, we’re here. We need to build the people’s movement. Just like the Candlelight Revolution is shining a light to the world, let’s shine a light back to Korea. Let’s support the peace process. July 12th—I mean, sorry, June 12th is the global day of solidarity with the Korean people for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Let’s sign a peace treaty now.

AMY GOODMAN: Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of the Women Cross DMZ, global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, so many decades later, speaking to us from Seoul, South Korea. And Tim Shorrock, Washington-based investigative journalist, we’ll link to your piece in The Nation, a reporter for The Nation and the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism in Seoul.

When we come back, disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has turned himself in to New York police on charges of raping a woman and forcing another to perform oral sex on him. We’ll speak with one of his victims. Stay with us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

“It Is About Bloody Time”: Harvey Weinstein Assault Survivor Reacts to Arrest in NYC on Rape Charges

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation