Experts: Misunderstanding between US and DPRK leaders brings two countries’ negotiations to deadlock
Penza, 8 September 2018. PenzaNews. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with the help of South Korean president's special envoy Chung Eui-yong have exchanged written messages, the content of which was not disclosed, said South Korean Yonhap news agency on Thursday, September 6th.
Photo: Shealah Craighead, Wikipedia.org
“Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims ‘unwavering faith in President Trump.’ Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!” Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.
However, earlier American experts accused North Korea of insufficient progress in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, after which Trump canceled a visit to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month.
Commenting on the difficult situation, Bonnie Glaser, former consultant for US Departments of Defense and State, Senior Adviser for Asia, Director, China Power Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that today US-North Korea relations are in a stalemate.
“The main reason is that their priorities and objectives differ, and the Singapore agreement did not provide a workable roadmap,” the expert told PenzaNews.
“Pyongyang wants a declaration to end the Korean War and other political steps. The US seeks concrete moves toward denuclearization, including a declaration of all nuclear and missile programs,” Bonnie Glaser explained, stressing that she’s pessimistic that the gap will be narrowed.
Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow at Brookings University and an author of several publications for the National Interest magazine, shared the view that the negotiations are stuck but expressed hope that Pyongyang and Washington would still be able to reach agreement.
“North Korea wants to keep its weapons and only do enough diplomacy to get sanctions relief. […] But there is still a potential compromise,” the analyst noted.
“US and North Korea may delay the removal of actual North Korean warheads while first dismantling all of its nuclear and long-range missile and chemical weapon production capability, in return for suspension then lifting of some – but not all – sanctions,” Michael O’Hanlon suggested.
In turn, Jonathan Berkshire Miller, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, said the situation in the relations between Washington and Pyongyang was not surprising.
“It is not surprising that there have been setbacks in the discussions between the US and DPRK as there remain massive gaps on the crucial areas on contention. Namely, the Kim regime never explicitly or implicitly agreed to CVID at the Singapore meeting with Trump earlier this year – although the impression that the Trump administration is trying to frame is that this has been ‘agreed to,’” the expert explained.
According to him, the North Koreans “feel offended by the constant wording of CVID and the lack of movement on sanctions reduction.”
“The sequencing – who moves first – has always been an issue in previous US-DPRK talks and will continue to trouble future discussions as the trust deficit is so large and historical,” Jonathan Berkshire Miller added.
Meanwhile, Grant Newsham, Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo, with experience as a US Diplomat and US Marine Officer, expressed the view that the Kim regime sees no need to denuclearize.
“Especially now: the PRC has removed even the limited sanctions it had in place, and the Russians never had any to start with. Add to this, the ROK Moon administration’s eagerness to appease North Korea in order to somehow draw the North into a unified Korea,” the analyst said.
At the same time, in his opinion, Kim Jong-un has not given up his objective of a unified Korea – under North Korean control.
“The necessary prerequisite, from Kim’s point of view, is to get the Americans off the Korean peninsula. This isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but we’re seeing more friction between the ROK government and the United States than we’ve seen for a long time, if ever,” Grant Newsham said.
South Korean authorities also see the Americans as the problem that keeps Korea separated, he said.
“This does not bode well for future US-ROK relations if Moon Jae-in keeps at his efforts to play nice with Mr. Kim. But ROK politics, like US politics are not static. And Moon’s popularity is on a downslope, so maybe a less naïve ROK leader will come along next,” former US Diplomat suggested.
He also added that it’s hardly possible to restore impetus to the process.
“It would require a jaw-dropping concession from Mr. Kim, such as removing his artillery and missiles from out of range of Seoul. […] It’s hard to think what else Kim might do as a sign of good faith that would cause thinking people to believe he’s serious about denuclearizing and ‘turning over a new leaf,’” Grant Newsham explained.
In turn, Masashi Nishihara, President of Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS) in Tokyo, former President of National Defense Academy, expressed the view that North Korea fails to respect the talks between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
“North Korea wants to get US support for a declaration of the end of the Korean War before moving ahead for denuclearization. The US mistrust of North Korea is growing fast. The US is now shifting back to the military pressure by suggesting that the US may resume a large military drill,” the expert said.
Moreover, in his opinion, the summit of the US and the DPRK leaders was initially poorly thought out.
“Prospects for the future talks are dim. Both sides have expected different gains. […] The whole thing was ill-prepared. The Trump-Kim talks in Singapore were ill-prepared and should have been held after careful negotiations at lower level first,” Masashi Nishihara explained.
Meanwhile, Denny Roy, Senior Fellow, East-West Center, expressed confidence that there is no mutual understanding between the parties.
“Washington understood Kim Jong-un as wanting to make a radical change in his foreign relations, including denuclearization. Thus, during the Singapore summit Trump declared that the nuclear weapons problem was solved and emphasized that North Korea was about to enter an economic golden age. But we soon learned that what the North Koreans really wanted was not a radical change. Rather, they wanted economic sanctions removed, the danger of a US preventive military strike alleviated, and progress toward their goal of getting US forces off the Korean Peninsula. Consequently, the post-Singapore negotiations broke down when the disconnect become clear,” the expert explained.
“The Americans pushed for immediate and concrete steps toward removing the DPRK [nuclear] arsenal and its infrastructure. The North Korean position was they had already made a major concession by halting testing, and it was the Americans' turn to make the next move, which should be a peace treaty,” Denny Roy added.
Future prospects for a real breakthrough are poor, he believes.
“The DPRK has already achieved its immediate goals: Washington is no longer talking about a preventive military strike, and China and South Korea are resuming economic cooperation with North Korea. Furthermore, the Trump Administration is resistant to publicly admitting failure, making it easy for the North Koreans to drag out the negotiation process without making significant or permanent concessions. Tensions on the Peninsula are much reduced, but North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons is entrenched more deeply,” the analyst concluded.