June 13, 2019 13:42
President Moon Jae-in said during his visit to Norway on Wednesday that the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea "agreed to complete denuclearization, a new U.S.-North Korea relationship and and peace on the Korean Peninsula at their summit in Singapore a year ago." He added that a "peace process" is underway on the Korean Peninsula that will bring "fundamental changes" in the security situation here. But is that really what's happening?
When the Singapore summit was held a year ago, expectations were high that the dark clouds of nuclear confrontation will finally be lifted. Moon and security experts said the summit "clearly confirmed Kim Jong-un's resolve to scrap nuclear weapons." U.S. President Donald Trump also claimed North Korea will get rid of its nuclear weapons soon. But the agreement that resulted from the summit was in fact a step back even from the vague commitments of the six-party nuclear talks 13 years ago. It did not even contain a deadline for the North to scrap its nuclear weapons.
Observers' fears soon became reality. North Korea has not taken a single step toward actually scrapping its nuclear arms program. Instead, it continued to produce fissile materials, and some experts now estimate that North Korea will have 100 nuclear warheads by next year. The only clear outcome of the summit is the confirmation that Kim is not willing to scrap his nuclear program. During the Hanoi summit in February, Kim demanded the lifting of U.S.-led sanctions in exchange for shutting down the decrepit Yongbyon nuclear reactor. Even Trump realized that that was not good enough and walked out. The Kim dynasty pushed on with the development of nuclear weapons even as hundreds of thousands of North Koreans starved to death. Kim believes they are the only guarantee of his regime's existence. It is foolish to think that he will give them up.
The only process that is underway is the unraveling of South Korea's security. Annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. were practically scrapped, as were artillery fire drills to protect the Demilitarized Zone and the West Sea islands. The Seoul-Washington alliance is being challenged as the South calls on the U.S. to ease its sanctions against the North by allowing tours to Mt. Kumgang to resume and the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex to reopen, prompting some U.S. officials to question whose side South Korea is on.
Meanwhile the government delays the full deployment of the U.S.' Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery due to opposition from China while refusing to commit fully to U.S. requests to take part in the Huawei boycott. U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Harry Harris worries that problems may arise in the sharing of information between Seoul and Washington. The Seoul-Washington alliance cannot be allowed to weaken at a time when South Korea remains fully exposed to the North Korean nuclear threat.
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