12 June 2018   Leave a comment

The UN has released its report on extreme poverty in the United States, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his mission to the United States of America”.  It is a searing and sobering indictment of poverty in one of the richest countries in the world.  It points out that

“The United States is a land of stark contrasts. It is one of the world’s wealthiest societies, a global leader in many areas, and a land of unsurpassed technological and other forms of innovation. Its corporations are global trendsetters, its civil society is vibrant and sophisticated and its higher education system leads the world. But its immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.  It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.

“The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality. The consequences of neglecting poverty and promoting inequality are clear. The United States has one of the highest poverty and inequality levels among the OECD countries, and the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks it 18th out of 21 wealthy countries in terms of labour markets, poverty rates, safety nets, wealth inequality and economic mobility. But in 2018 the United States had over 25 per cent of the world’s 2,208 billionaires. 6 There is thus a dramatic contrast between the immense wealth of the few and the squalor and deprivation in which vast numbers of Americans exist. For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

The report goes into detail about how race and gender affect the character of poverty in the US and how incarceration is used to disguise the extreme poverty in the country.  It is a report that everyone should read.


The media has been totally fixated on the meeting between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim.  Some outlets call the meeting “historic”, and, in some sense, it was, since it was the first time that an American President has met with a leader of North Korea.  We should keep in mind that Kim, his father, and his grandfather were all eager to be treated as leaders of a sovereign state, and that previous US Presidents had held that such recognition had to be earned.  Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, forced the matter by developing nuclear weapons and Kim Jong-un made the matter of recognition urgent by developing a ballistic missile capability that threatened the US homeland.  Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama did not face the missile capability but all of them tried to reach an accommodation with North Korea.  The Arms Control Association has an excellent chronology of previous agreements.  Here are some key events in the chronology.


“The two Koreas sign the South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under the declaration, both countries agree not to ‘test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons’ or to ‘possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.’ They also agree to mutual inspections for verification.”


“The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the ‘Agreed Framework’ in Geneva. To resolve U.S. concerns about Pyongyang’s plutonium-producing reactors and the Yongbyon reprocessing facility, the agreement calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors, two of which are still under construction. North Korea also allows the IAEA to verify compliance through “special inspections,” and it agrees to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country.

In exchange, Pyongyang will receive two LWRs and annual shipments of heavy fuel oil during construction of the reactors. The LWRs will be financed and constructed through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a multinational consortium.

Calling for movement toward full normalization of political and economic relations, the accord also serves as a jumping-off point for U.S.-North Korean dialogue on Pyongyang’s development and export of ballistic missiles, as well as other issues of bilateral concern.


“Following a historic summit, North and South Korea sign a joint declaration stating they have ‘agreed to resolve’ the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The agreement includes promises to reunite families divided by the Korean War and to pursue other economic and cultural exchanges. No commitments are made regarding nuclear weapons or missile programs or military deployments in the Demilitarized Zone.”


“In a press release, President Bush announces the completion of his administration’s North Korea policy review and its determination that ‘serious discussions’ on a ‘broad agenda’ should be resumed with Pyongyang. Bush states his desire to conduct ‘comprehensive’ negotiations, including ‘improved implementation of the Agreed Framework,’ ‘verifiable constraints’ on North Korea’s missile programs, a ban on North Korea’s missile exports, and ‘a less threatening conventional military posture.'”


“In his State of the Union address, President Bush criticized North Korea for ‘arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.’ Bush characterized North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, as constituting an ‘axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.’”


“North Korea accuses the United States of violating the spirit of the 1992 Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, calling the agreement a ‘dead document’ in a KCNA statement.


“The participants in the six-party talks conclude a joint statement of principles to guide future negotiations.

“According to the statement, North Korea commits ‘to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.’ It also calls for the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which forbids the two Koreas from possessing uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation facilities, to be “observed and implemented.” Washington affirms in the statement that it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea.

“The statement commits the participants to achieving ‘the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner’ and says that the parties agree ‘to take coordinated steps to implement’ the agreed-upon obligations and rewards ‘in a phased manner in line with the principle of ‘commitment for commitment, action for action.’”

“The statement says that North Korea ‘stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy’ and that the other parties ‘expressed their respect and agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of the provision’ of a light-water nuclear power reactor to Pyongyang. This issue had been controversial during the negotiations and the final agreement was the result of a compromise between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea insisted that the statement recognize its right to a peaceful nuclear energy program and commit the other participants to provide it with light-water reactors while the United States argued that North Korea should not receive any nuclear reactors.”


“North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test near the village of P’unggye. Most early analyses of the test based on seismic data collected by South Korean, Japanese, and U.S. institutes estimates the yield to be below one kiloton. Russian estimates differed significantly, and Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov said Oct. 10 that the estimated yield was between 5 and 15 kilotons.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states that its ‘nuclear test was entirely attributable to the US nuclear threat, sanctions and pressure,’ adding that North Korea ‘was compelled to substantially prove its possession of nukes to protect its sovereignty.’ The statement also indicates that North Korea might conduct further nuclear tests if the United States ‘increases pressure’ on the country.

However, the Foreign Ministry also says that North Korea remains committed to implementing the September 2005 joint statement, arguing that the test ‘constitutes a positive measure for its implementation.’ Additionally, Pyongyang ‘still remains unchanged in its will to denuclearize the peninsula through dialogue and negotiations,’ the Foreign Ministry statement says, adding that the ‘denuclearization of the entire peninsula was President Kim Il Sung’s last instruction and an ultimate goal’ of North Korea.

The chronology highlights the fact that there have been many contacts between the US and North Korea over the last 26 years.  There have been many agreements and none has succeeded.  Each agreement was greeted with a lot of hope.  We should keep this chronology in mind as we assess the agreement reached between President Trump and Leader Kim.

Posted June 12, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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