Zero Progress in Denuclearization 1 Year After N.Korea-U.S. Summit

  • By Cho Yi-jun

    June 12, 2019 11:47

    A year to the day after the backslapping and photo ops of the historic U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore there is zero progress in efforts to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

    The U.S. and South Korea struggle to agree on a concerted strategy to engage the North, with Seoul continuing to call for another inter-Korean summit as the best way to restart dialogue, while the U.S. insists on palpable progress in denuclearization and tougher sanctions.

    The U.S. State Department has reiterated that sanctions will remain against the North as long as it refuses to give up its nuclear weapons. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Monday that the U.S. continues to hope for North Korean denuclearization and the door remains open for negotiations.

    Even the belligerent White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who now appears to dictate President Donald Trump's foreign policy and has borne the brunt of North Korea's ire, said Tuesday that a third U.S.-North Korea summit is possible and that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "holds the keys. We're ready when they are ready."

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) and U.S. President Donald Trump /AFP

    But Seoul favors the old salami-slicing approach. Kang Jeong-sik, a deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, said in the Stockholm Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and the Non-Proliferation Treaty Tuesday, "Nuclear disarmament must be pursued gradually considering the security situation facing each country." North Korea may seek to use that stance to its advantage and try to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.

    Already Seoul seems to be drifting away from its most important ally amid U.S. pressure to join its boycott of China's Huawei and a campaign against Beijing's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.

    Growing conflict between the U.S. and China could have a negative impact on denuclearization efforts as Beijing grows closer to Pyongyang.

    Park Won-gon at Handong Global University said, "If there's no progress in resolving the trade war between the U.S. and China, Beijing could open its back doors to allow North Korea to evade U.S. sanctions. In that case the U.S. could increase its pressure on South Korea to stand by its side."

    But Seoul continues to insist on resolving the impasse through an inter-Korean summit. Moon Chung-in, special adviser to President Moon Jae-in for foreign affairs and national security, said on Tuesday that a failure to hold an inter-Korean summit this month could make the situation "extremely difficult" and insisted that Moon meet Kim before U.S. President Donald Trump visits South Korea.

    But North Korea has so far spurned any overtures from the South.

    A former Foreign Ministry official said, "Appearing to beg North Korea" for a summit "will only put South Korea in a weak position in talks."  

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