August 07, 2018 13:32
U.S. White House national security adviser John Bolton claimed on Fox News on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told South Korean President Moon Jae-in he would complete denuclearization "within a year" during their April 27 summit. "Kim Jong-un promised South Korean President Moon Jae-in at Panmunjom on April 27 that he would do it and that he would do it within a year," Bolton said. He added that the comment definitely "comes from Kim Jong-un."
Bolton is an eccentric official and was North Korea's most vocal critic when he became involved in diplomacy leading up to U.S. President Donald Trump's summit with Kim, only to turn into a vocal defender of Trump's lackluster achievements at the event. Who knows which side of his persona was coming to the fore in the interview? If Kim pledged to scrap his nuclear weapons within a year and told Moon so, it would be very welcome indeed. But the process of how this putative revelation became public and the fact that it came from the White House at this point in time is rather troubling.
In North Korea, Kim's word is more important than any law or decree. If Kim really intends to do this, there should have been some progress by now, three months after the inter-Korean summit. But the only thing the North has shown the world is to shut down a useless nuclear test site and a missile test facility. The U.S. gave Kim a lot of gifts, such as suspending joint military drills with South Korea, but the North gave it nothing in return in follow-up talks. At this point, the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization is close to being thrown out of the window.
What is even stranger is that the South Korean government, which has been eagerly touting the results of the inter-Korean summit, did not announce Kim's pledge right away. Is Bolton making it up? Or did President Moon Jae-in misquote Kim when he conveyed his comments to the White House?
Cheong Wa Dae has declined to respond to Bolton's comments, claiming that it does not know exactly what words were exchanged between Kim and Moon during their summit. It is common for governments not to reveal the contents of conversations between their leaders, but now that the cat is potentially out of the bag, it seems strange that the presidential office will not confirm it. The issue is directly related to the safety and welfare of South Korean citizens, so the government must reveal exactly what Kim said.
If Seoul and Washington rushed to negotiate with Pyongyang without clearly understanding each other, they need to set things straight now. A good starting point would be to clarify exactly what Kim said.
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