What Did Special Envoy's Visit to N.Korea Achieve?

      September 07, 2018 13:32

      National security adviser Chung Eui-yong returned from Pyongyang on Wednesday from a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other officials. Pretty much the only thing to emerge from the flying visit was that the next inter-Korean summit is to take place on Sept. 18-20. Yet before the delegation left, it appeared as if all the hopes of the nation's future rested in its hands. Kim was given a letter sent from President Moon Jae-in, but did not even bother to have a meal with the special envoys. This is not the proper way to treat senior officials who traveled to North Korea on behalf of the president.

      The purpose of the visit by a delegation that was after all composed of South Korea's national security adviser, National Intelligence Service chief and unification minister was to ensure that denuclearization talks get back on track. The U.S. is willing to declare an end to the Korean War if the North submits a list of its warheads, fissile materials and nuclear facilities to be verified. They had to convince North Korea that no progress can be made without that list, yet they made absolutely no mention of the list in its briefing and only mentioned that they reaffirmed Kim's firm determination for denuclearization. That is exactly the same thing they said after returning from Pyongyang in March, and Kim's father and grandfather used much the same formula.

      Chung quoted Kim as saying that denuclearization can be realized "within President Trump's first term in office" which ends in January 2021. That is a very tight deadline, so the North urgently needs to turn in a list of its nuclear arsenal and facilities to meet it. Nobody can trust North Korea's verbal pledges unless it backs them up with actions.

      Chung also said Kim expressed frustration over the international community's skepticism over his denuclearization pledge. But all he has done so far is to demolish a nuclear test site that was moribund anyway and blow up a missile launch facility he no longer needs. He has done nothing about the scores of nuclear facilities and weapons of mass destruction and is in fact refusing to say how many there are and where. Chung and his cohorts should have convinced the North Korean leader to at least start the process of denuclearization, but all they did was to give a louder voice to Kim's apparent frustration, as if anyone owed it to him to understand his predicament. Looking at what Chung said about the meeting, it is dubious that he engaged in any serious discussion with Kim but rather as if he went all the way to Pyongyang simply to lend a kindly ear and relay his comments to the outside world.

      The U.S. has warned that South Korea's efforts to pursue cross-border economic projects could undermine the denuclearization process. But the government insists on opening a liaison office in Kaesong, even though the U.S. warned that this could violate sanctions, and plans to discuss cross-border economic projects at the summit. It is to be hoped that this special envoy achieved more during the visit than meets the eye.

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