Tuesday, June 5, 2018

RLPB 458. North Korea: US-NK Summit, Tuesday 12 June

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 458 | Wed 06 Jun 2018

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by Elizabeth Kendal

Doubtless motivated by the huge success of the 27 April Inter-Korea Summit, Kim Jong-un, in a goodwill gesture aimed at easing tensions before the US-NK Summit, released three American citizens incarcerated in North Korea. Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song flew home with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on 9 May. But no sooner had one source of tension been removed, than US First National Security Adviser John Bolton stoked another by suggesting that Libya could serve as a model for NK's denuclearisation [see NOTE below]. Though President Trump refuted the comment, even publicly asserting that regime-change was not on the agenda, tensions exploded. Belligerent rhetoric filled the air; the talks were off! Then, on 1 June, after weeks of intensive diplomatic activity, President Trump announced that the talks were back on.

US Pres. Donald Trump (l) to meet
Kim Jong-un (r) in Singapore, 12 June
In a sure sign that Kim Jong-un is serious about leading North Korea out of isolation, he has replaced NK's top three military officials. Reportedly deemed to be 'lacking flexibility in thinking', they have been replaced with younger leaders who are reportedly more amenable to economic development and increased engagement with the world. South Korea's Yonhap News (3 June) thought the move could be aimed at 'taming the military' ahead of a deal with the US, adding it will give the ruling party greater control over the Korean People's Army (KPA), thereby ensuring KPA co-operation at this crucial time. North Korea Leadership Watch likewise assessed that the ruling party was tightening its control over the KPA, noting that Kim had also reshuffled the leadership of the KPA's General Political Bureau (GPB), which handles the military's personnel and finances. 'There is a speculative case to be made that the GPB, if not properly reined in, could present a formidable challenge to Kim Jong- un's authority.' Thus the reshuffle 'represents the final phase of this process of reasserting ... the Party's power over the GPB'. As Korea analyst Ken Gause explains: 'If Kim Jong-un is set on making peace with the US and South Korea and dealing away at least part of the nuclear program, he will have to put the KPA's influence in a box and keep it there. This reshuffle has brought to the fore the officers who can do just that. They are loyal to Kim Jong-un and no one else.'

If all goes according to plan, then US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet in Singapore on Tuesday 12 June to take the first of many steps on what we hope will be the road to a brighter future. The US's stated goal is complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation (CVID); this is a big step. In reality, the most likely outcome would be a series of smaller steps or interim accords with more modest achievements, such as a freeze on missile tests and a suspension of missile production in exchange for an easing of sanctions [see RLPB 446 North Korea: A Step in the Right Direction  (14 March 2018)].

Russia FM Sergey Lavrov with
Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, 31 May
Similarly, 'reunification' (as in a borderless Korean Peninsula) is also a very big step. In reality, 'reunification' will involve a series of smaller steps of rapprochement involving diplomacy, trade and tourism, with openness carefully managed (possibly for decades) as NK's economy takes shape and catches up with the South’s. Ultimately, prospects are good for, with peace, NK could 'become plugged into one of the globe's most dynamic economic regions'. Also, ignore all the conspiracy-theory-laden Russophobia; for Russia could and surely will play a hugely important and valuable role in the opening up and development of North Korea [see RLPB 446 (14 March 2018)].
People opposed to this path of peace -- both in the KPA and the US government -- will doubtless seek to undermine and even derail what is, in the words of Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, 'an important but fragile process'. The greatest opponent is sure to be Satan himself, for he knows full well that East Asia is not merely 'one of the globe's most dynamic economic regions', but one of the globe's most spiritually dynamic, mission-focused regions as well. Peace on the Korean Peninsula is about far more than geopolitics. Be assured; 'principalities and powers' (see Ephesians 6:12) are committed to its failure. Therefore we pray!

North Korean children in a
WFP-supported nursery.
For more on the humanitarian situation,
see: Asia Times online 15 May

* bind and restrain all evil forces that would seek to sow chaos and sustain repression where God seeks to sow peace and deliver liberty.

* take and use North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, US President, Donald Trump and South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, as his instruments, for his purpose, in answer to the prayers of many.

* sustain and richly bless the long-suffering and severely persecuted remnant Church in North Korea.

May religious freedom be realised. May the Church's days of suffering soon be over. May the Church be free to serve NK's 'harassed and helpless' and bring Gospel light to those in darkness.

'Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.' (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)


US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are due to meet in Singapore on Tuesday 12 June to take the first of many steps on what we hope will be the road to a brighter future. In North Korea, Kim Jong-un has replaced the state's top three military leaders with younger leaders more amenable to economic development and engagement with the world. However, peace on the Korean Peninsula is about far more than geopolitics; spiritual 'principalities and powers' are committed to its failure. East Asia is not merely one of the globe's most dynamic economic regions, but one of the world's most spiritually dynamic, mission-focused regions. Therefore we pray for the Lord's will to prevail and that peace and religious freedom will be realised on the Korean Peninsula.


NOTE: Libya's denuclearisation and the West's subsequent betrayal of Muammar Gaddafi -- who was handed to his Islamist enemies and violently lynched -- is covered at length in After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, pages 78-79, and chapter 6, 'The Arab Spring'. This is why North Korea will not denuclearise (see also, RLPB 423, North Korea: Talks the Only Option, 13 Sept 2017).


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com