Int'l Experts Debate N.Korean Denuclearization in Seoul

  • By Bang Hyeon-cheol, Kim Jin-myung, Pak Soo-chan

    May 16, 2018 13:28

    Two dozen international security experts gathered at the Walkerhill Hotel in Seoul on Tuesday for a debate on the denuclearization of North Korea.

    Held under Chatham House rules, the debate allowed experts to address their views without revealing the identities of speakers in the minutes.

    The debate was chaired by Victor Cha, the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Other participants included Joseph Yun, a former special representative for North Korea policy at the U.S. State Department, and Evans Revere of the Brookings Institution, another ex-State Department official. Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Institution, Sue Mi Terry at CSIS and Jung Pak at the Brookings Institution also took part. Both used to spy on North Korea for the CIA.

    The participants shared their views on the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12, ranging from optimistic to pessimistic. Some of the unattributed points are excerpted below.

    International security experts talks during a debate at the Walkerhill Hotel in Seoul on Tuesday.

    ◆ "What kind of agreement could come out of Singapore? A ceasefire agreement and a denuclearization pledge could be the first step, and then we may see North Korea allowing inspections of its nuclear facilities in the early stages of a nuclear freeze. We may see the start of negotiations over a peace framework. U.S. President Donald Trump could boast that he did something nobody had ever done."

    ◆ "What objective evidence do we have that the North Korean leader has decided to scrap his nuclear arsenal? Other than announcements by Cheong Wa Dae, we cannot find any evidence of that. Kim Jong-un declared his country a 'nuclear-armed state' at the Workers Party meeting in April and is trying to act as a nuclear power."

    ◆ "There is no telling what will happen. We are in uncharted waters. We may be shocked by the outcome of the summit. If Kim comes in with a bold agreement, we could have a real eye-opening, jaw-dropping agreement."

    ◆ "Kim won't be able to deceive the U.S. on such a large scale. There is no reason why we may not see another 'Gorbachev moment' being reprised in Singapore. Just as Gorbachev led reforms in the former Soviet Union, Kim could have made such a strategic decision."

    ◆ "The U.S.-North Korea summit could produce very positive or very negative results. That's why we need to hedge. Negative results will heighten tensions for a prolonged period of time. Positive results also require policy planning. We might need to be ready to 'snap back’ North Korea with reimplementation of sanction if it does not denuclearize, as well as making backup plans in the event that Kim resumes nuclear weapons development."

    ◆ "Kim will try to hold on to his nuclear weapons for as long as possible, so a deadline must be included in any agreement that comes out of the U.S.-North Korea summit. An agreement without a deadline is meaningless."

    ◆ "In late 2017, North Korea boasted that it produced a missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. But the effects of international sanctions became evident after China took part in earnest last year and it became necessary to ease those sanctions. Contrary to his big talk, Kim may have grown genuinely afraid of a preemptive U.S. strike."

    ◆ "We need to focus on the fact that Kim embraced dialogue after announcing in December of last year that the North was now a nuclear-armed state. The young North Korean leader is thinking about his position 30 to 40 years from now. Kim knows that economic development will be impossible without a nuclear agreement. Now denuclearization doesn't mean as much as it did three years ago. He could rebuild the nuclear arsenal at any time now."

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