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Meaning of Denuclearization For North Korea

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Kim Jong Un is on the TV screen.
FILE - A visitor walks by a TV screen showing file footage of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 29, 2018. VOA
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At the upcoming inter-Korean summit slated for late April, South Korea should seek a clear understanding of North Korea’s interpretation of what the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will mean, said former U.S. officials who have dealt with North Korea extensively.

As President Donald Trump appears to be optimistic about the prospects of potential talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the former U.S. officials remain skeptical Washington and Pyongyang share the same meaning of denuclearization.

U.S. officials confirmed on Sunday that North Korea directly told the White House that Kim would be interested in talks and was prepared to discuss denuclearization at a summit with Trump.

Kim Jong un and Donald Trump
North Korea plans on Denuclearization.

On Monday, Trump said, “I think there’ll be great respect paid by both parties, and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea.” Trump said he’ll meet with Kim in late May or early June, but the date and place have not been confirmed.

Differing interpretations

Mitchell Reiss, director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department during the George W. Bush administration, urged caution until it is better known what Kim means when he says he is willing to talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“What North Korea means by denuclearization is very different than what the United States and what South Korea traditionally has meant by denuclearization,” said Reiss, who negotiated with the North over the nuclear issue in 1990s. “And in my conversations with North Koreans over the years, it is clear that the United States has to take a number of steps first, such as ending the alliance with South Korea, removing all of its military troops off the Korean Peninsula.”

Also Read: North Korea may have stopped its n-reactor, satellite images show

Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said South Korean President Moon Jae-in should seek out North Korea’s view of denuclearization during the inter-Korean summit as a way to pave the way for the U.S. to discuss denuclearization at the anticipated U.S.-North Korea summit.

“It’s a very important question to deal with – [North Korea’s] perception of denuclearization – before the president of the United States meets with Kim Jong Un,” said Wilder. “If the South Korean president could get more specifics as to how the North Koreans are looking at this question, that will help the United States set up the summit.”

Other former U.S. officials think that while Seoul should ask Pyongyang to clarify its meaning of denuclearization at the inter-Korean summit, the actual denuclearization talks should be left for the U.S. to discuss with North Korea.

“Denuclearization is, no doubt, going to be … a U.S. angle,” said William Brown, a former intelligence official who is now an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University. “The Moon and Kim summit should be getting ready for the denuclearization talks but not actually doing it for themselves.”

The extent of the discussion on denuclearization at the inter-Korean summit, according to Gary Samore, former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction under president Barack Obama, should be limited to “South Korea having a statement, a communique of a North Korean intent to pursue denuclearization.”

Samore thinks Pyongyang’s written denuclearization intent “will be sufficient for the first meeting.”

Kim Jong Un, the north korean leader.
FILE – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). VOA

‘Broad terms’

Robert Gallucci, chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis in 1994, said the inter-Korean summit should create an atmosphere for “future conversations between experts” by touching up on a general framework of talks. He said, “It’s less important that they make a detailed progress in their meeting than it is that they agree on broad terms of what they are trying to accomplish and where they end up.”

Christopher Hill, who negotiated with the North as head of the U.S. delegation during the George W. Bush administration, said close coordination and cooperation between Seoul and Washington are critical when discussing security issues in particular.

“It’s especially important that the South Korean and the U.S. governments continue to have a pattern of close cooperation” and “an adequate consultation to make sure that there’s an agreed pace of progress,” Hill said.

Former U.S. officials are concerned that Seoul would get too far ahead in engaging Pyongyang at the inter-Korean summit and offer incentives such as economic and humanitarian aid and the easing of sanctions imposed against North Korea.

Denuclearization on the mind of Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong-un reportedly declares he is ‘committed to denuclearization’ on the Korean Peninsula

They particularly cautioned that Seoul must stay tough on sanctions. Trump has repeatedly credited sanctions imposed on North Korea as the impetus behind the current thaw in relations.

“I think it will be a big problem if the South Korean side starts to cut back on sanctions,” Brown said.

Also Read: Tense US-North Korea Standoff Slowly Escalates

Wilder voiced similar concerns and warned, “Do not lift the sanctions too soon. The past mistake was to get too easy on North Korea too soon.” Brown and other experts are worried that if Seoul eases sanctions before Kim agrees to take concrete action toward denuclearization, South Korea will undermine Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign.

Seoul and Pyongyang will hold their summit on April 27 in the border village of Panmunjom.

Kim’s intent to discuss denuclearization was initially conveyed by South Korean envoys who traveled to Washington in early March to brief Trump on their meeting with Kim in Pyongyang held a few days earlier.

Christy Lee contributed to this report.  VOA

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Donald Trump Open to Meeting Kim Jong-un Again

The letter, she said, showed a "commitment to continuing conversations"

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Donald Trump
Trump open to meeting Kim again. (Wikimedia Commons)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has said that President Donald Trump was open to another meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un despite National Security Adviser John Bolton’s assertion that Washington is still waiting for Pyongyang to take steps toward denuclearization.

Donald Trump has received another letter from Kim, which Sanders described on Monday as “very warm” and “very positive”, noting that the White House will not release the letter unless Kim agrees, reports CNN.

The primary intent of the letter, she said at Monday’s briefing, was to “request and look to schedule another meeting” between the two leaders, something the White House is “open to”.

She said that the White House is “already in the process of coordinating” another meeting, but declined to provide further details on a time or location.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018. VOA

Sanders cited the letter as “further evidence of progress” toward denuclearization, noting that the latest parade was “not about their nuclear arsenal”.

The letter, she said, showed a “commitment to continuing conversations”.

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Sanders’ comments came hours after Bolton said Trump has “tried to hold the door open” for Kim to denuclearize, but the US is still waiting on Pyongyang to take those steps, CNN said.

South Korean officials also said last week that Kim has “unwavering trust for President Donald Trump” and wants to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula before the US leader finishes his term. (IANS)