October 07, 2019 12:42
Fresh working-level talks between the U.S. and North Korea after the failed Hanoi summit seven months ago ended without agreement. Former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho sensed early on that the talks would break down and said, "Kim Jong-un has no intention of giving up his nuclear weapons." He added that North Korea is only interested in continuing dialogue with the U.S. to appease China by going through the motions, and not because it has any interest in discussing other options.
The U.S. apparently drew up a road map for denuclearization, including a final goal, and clearly explained each stage together with offers of a partial easing of sanctions or a declaration of an end to the Korean War. But North Korea simply refused to engage in any denuclearization dialogue and insisted on a "complete" end to sanctions and "regime guarantee." If Kim had any intention of getting rid of his nuclear weapons, he should have no reason to shy away from calls to report, verify and shut down nuclear facilities. They were only to be expected. If anything was gained from the latest dialogue it was the realization that the North has absolutely no intention of scrapping its nuclear weapons.
Kim seems to believe that he can get U.S. President Donald Trump, who desperately needs to win diplomatic points ahead of the U.S. presidential election, to end sanctions in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear weapons development. That would turn North Korea into a nuclear power. The North has given the U.S. an end-year deadline to come up with a better offer or risk a resumption of nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Until now, Trump had touted the halt in nuclear and long-range missile tests as one of his greatest diplomatic achievements, so there is a chance that he may take this bait.
But no matter what the U.S. and South Korea do, the North will never give up his ambition to become a nuclear power. U.S. and South Korean security plans must be drawn up based on this premise. Of course talks with North Korea must continue, while strengthening leverage with tougher sanctions. But they also need to come up with military strategies that will render Kim's nuclear weapons useless.
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