World watching for signs of North Korea nuke deal at 2 summits

2018-04-23 21:41
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency, Korea News Service via AP, File)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency, Korea News Service via AP, File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday the world will have a single overriding interest: How will they address North Korea's decades-long pursuit of nuclear-armed missiles?

Success, even a small one, on the nuclear front could mean a prolonged detente and smooth the path for a planned summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in May or June. Optimists hope that the two summits might even result in a grand nuclear bargain.

North Korea's announcement on Saturday to suspend further nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and close its nuclear test site raised hopes in Washington and Seoul for a breakthrough in the upcoming nuclear negotiations. However, the North's statement stopped well-short of suggesting it has any intentions to give up its nukes or halt its production of missiles.

Failure to reach a nuclear agreement would raise serious questions about the sincerity of Kim's recent outreach to Seoul and Washington and rekindle the fears of war that spread across the Korean Peninsula last year.

A look at the prospects of a North Korean disarmament deal ahead of the two impending summit talks:

Inter-Korean summit

Although North Korea has expressed a willingness to have "candid" talks with the United States about the denuclearisation of the peninsula, there's rampant skepticism about whether Kim will give up his nukes.

Those weapons are the core of his authoritarian rule, a "powerful treasured sword" meant to neutralise US nuclear threats. And the North's call for "the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula" has been linked to a demand for the withdrawal of the 28 500 US troops in South Korea.

Kim suggested during a trip to Beijing in March that he prefers step-by-step disarmament in return for corresponding concessions. That, critics say, could allow the North to covertly continue its weapons programmes while winning badly needed aid, which occurred during now-dormant six-nation nuclear talks from 2003-2008.

Analysts say it's likely that Kim will make similar commitments during the inter-Korean summit as a way of reaching out to the United States. Go Myong-Hyun of the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies said Kim may also offer up a rough timetable for denuclearisation.

North Korea-US Summit

North Korea argues that it needs its nukes because of the US military presence in South Korea and annual US-South Korean military exercises that the North claims are an invasion rehearsal.

During the two summits, Kim may demand a security guarantee for his government, the scrapping of what he calls US hostility and the easing or lifting of international sanctions on the North. The Kim-Trump meeting, not the Korean summit, will be the main venue for dealing with nukes because the United States must largely determine whether to accept the North's demands.

Kim therefore has an interest in making his meeting with Moon a success, especially following reconciliation in recent months that saw athletes from both countries parade together during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony and South Korean pop stars perform in Pyongyang.

It's much less clear how the Kim-Trump meeting will go. Trump's pick for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said recently that "no one is under any illusions that we will reach a comprehensive agreement." Pompeo made a secret trip to meet with Kim and discuss the summit in recent weeks.

Trump seemed more optimistic after North Korea's announcement on Saturday, to which he responded with a tweet saying, "This is very good news for North Korea and the World" and "big progress!" He added that he's looking forward to his upcoming summit with Kim.

US officials have said they want complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament by North Korea. Kim won't likely accept that anytime soon because he's closing in on his goal of developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the continental US after decades of struggle and sacrifice.

After his country's most-powerful-to-date long-range missile test in November, Kim said the North had "finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force". Foreign experts, though, say the North still has a couple of technological barriers to overcome to build reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles.

What kind of deal?

One disarmament step Kim might have in mind is to freeze or dismantle an ICBM programme that poses a direct threat to the United States. Go said Kim could also offer to allow international nuclear inspectors back into his country and promise to dismantle the North's old plutonium-producing reactor at its main nuclear complex because it has a uranium-enrichment plant that can also manufacture bombs.

North Korea could also submit a list of facilities or equipment to be disabled or dismantled and then allow the United States to inspect disarmament procedures. This process, however, could easily be disrupted if the North asks for excessive rewards for partial disarmament steps or the country fails to let outsiders inspect military bases or other sensitive places with possible nuclear weapons.

Kim Taewoo, a former president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, also warned that a deal freezing the North's nuclear capability at current levels or scrapping an ICBM programme while leaving intact shorter-range missiles that place South Korea within striking distance won't change security threats South Korea faces. The North already likely has the technology to mount atomic warheads on shorter-range missiles targeting South Korea and Japan.

He said the two upcoming summits are a "huge gamble" for all three leaders if they don't produce a breakthrough. If the summits fail, the world won't tolerate any future Kim Jong Un charm offensive because of a belief that he tried to use the summits to weaken sanctions or buy time to perfect his nuclear programme. Trump would be seen as being duped. And Moon would have to choose whether to risk undermining ties with Washington by continuing to improve ties with North Korea.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    korea  |  nuclear weapons

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.