Nothing suggests North Korea has the intention of denuclearizing

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in says U.S. President Donald Trump told him he wants to grant Kim Jong Un his wishes if he denuclearizes. So where are we regarding NK nuclear program six months after Trump-Kim meeting? It seems Kim is waiting for some consessions from the US and on the other hand it seems that Trump believes he was able to solve NK problem, at least partially. Read few comments.

President Donald J. Trump meets with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. Credit: https://www.instagram.com/whitehouse/

Malcolm Cook, Senior Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

What we are seeing is that the majority of experts were right in their criticism of the joint statement released after the Trump-Kim summit. It is shorter and less detailed than previous agreements by the US and North Korea on North Korean denuclearization and is more open to divergent interpretation by Pyongyang, Washington, Beijing and Seoul. It is hard to see how a second Trump-Kim summit will advance the denuclearization of North Korea beyond a cosmetic show of good relations between the two leaders. President Trump and President Moon of South Korea have publicly expressed their belief that Chairman Kim is willing to denuclearize and have used this personal belief as a centrepiece of their diplomatic approaches to North Korea. So far, it looks like both may be wrong.

Ronald HuiskenSenior Fellow, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

When Kim Jong-un returned from Singapore he took the greatest possible advantage of the fact that he had not agreed to any sequence of steps, nor clarified what he understood ‘denuclearisation’ to mean. Kim stressed that, having secured a nuclear weapon capability, he would focus his attention exclusively on economic development. When Pompeo turned up to negotiate the details of denuclearization – starting with a detailed inventory of the DPRK’s nuclear facilities – the DPRK pretended to be astonished and said that nothing of that kind could happen until there had been a substantial phase of trust-building between the US and the DPRK, starting with steps like converting the armistice into a peace treaty and easing the sanctions on the DPRK. This recalled something Kim was reported to have said in the lead-up to Singapore (to show that he was serious about denuclearization)  – namely, when the US and the DPRK had close and trusting relations, he would expect the DPRK to decide that its nuclear weapons were unnecessary.

Washington retaliated by extending the ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions but Kim made this look especially harsh through his conspicuous emphasis on economic development and by looking ‘peaceful’ through agreeing to some tension-reduction measures with South Korea (but leaving the critical nuclear plants – those producing fissile material and components for long-range ballistic missiles – unaffected). In addition, it appears that China’s brief support for ‘hard’ sanctions has evaporated, making it very hard to really hurt the DPRK.

It would appear that Washington was prepared to risk the long-shot – that the DPRK, having experienced maximum pressure sanctions, would find the lure of major rewards irresistible and denuclearize promptly – and learned that they had indeed been taken for a ride. Trump has also made clear that he thinks Xi Jinping played an important role in this ‘sting’. One can only believe that this also fed into the US decision to engage in overt geo-strategic competition with China (the Mike Pence speech on 4 October).

Tong Zhao, Fellow, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy

Six months after the Singapore summit, North Korea has taken some meaningful measures to limit the further development of its nuclear and missile programs, but those measures do not undermine North Korea’s capacity to keep and maintain its already-acquired strategic deterrent capabilities.

President Trump still seeks to lure Chairman Kim into completely giving up his nuclear weapons in the near-term future, by promising all the good things that could happen to North Korea, including economic prosperity. But it is highly questionable whether Kim Jong Un wants to trade away the nuclear weapons for economic prosperity. He clearly wants both simultaneously. Even if the second Trump-Kim summit would take place as planned, it is likely to be more symbolic than substantive. The international community should not set its expectations too high.

Daniel Pinkston, Lecturer in International Relations, Troy University

I don’t know what Moon means or what Trump said. But Trump is an extreme narcissist who seems to be cognitively impaired. I also think Trump is in serious legal and political jeopardy, and he might not last long in the White House. That said, any agreement on denuclearization would be very complicated and difficult to implement. It almost certainly would take considerable time to negotiate. As for NK, I have not seen any sign that would suggest NK has the intention of denuclearizing before the rest of the world does.

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