Upon meeting Kim Jong Un on July 7 during his visit to North Korea, US Secretary of State Pompeo said that he “good productive conversations” with Kim Jong Un and progress for North Korea’s denuclearization had been made through the acceptance of inspections.
However, it is not known whether the inventory of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, a point that the US has been pushing for as North Korea’s primary step towards denuclearization, was discussed at all during his visit to the North.
The Punggye-ri nuclear testing site that North Korea has offered to be inspected by the US, is the site that was demolished in May in the presence of only foreign journalists and no experts as a “first step towards denuclearization.”
And the Tongchang-ri missile launch platforms that were discussed to be dismantled, had already been promised through the Singapore Agreement between the US and North Korea in June.
There are some who are choosing to spin this positively by saying that North Korea’s acceptance to allow inspections of even futile facilities is “real progress.”
However, if we begin to accept North Korea’s ‘Salami Tactic’ of taking a “step-by-step approach to things that are possible,” then we are not going down the path of denuclearization but rather the path of accepting North Korea as a nuclear power.
There are two types of nuclear negotiations.
Denuclearization negotiations to completely abandon nuclear weapons; and nuclear reduction negotiations to reduce the nuclear threat.
Throughout history, during the nuclear disarmament process in other countries an inventory of nuclear facilities was received first, and a dismantlement of all nuclear facilities was simultaneously carried out based on this list. Using this method, the US dismantled 176 ballistic missiles and about 1,800 nuclear warheads in Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union over the course of two years between 1991 and 1993.
In this way Ukraine, which was the third greatest nuclear power, completed its nuclear dismantlement process in two years.
Likewise, if North Korea has the willingness to denuclearize, it can without a doubt complete the process within two years.
If North Korea follows the genuine procedures for denuclearization, North Korea will also be able to gain a great deal by receiving not just billions of dollars but tens of billions of dollars worth of economic aid from the international community including the US and South Korea.
If Kim Jong Un really wants to complete denuclearization as quickly as possible so that he can concentrate on the economy, then there is no need to deliberately avoid the reporting of its nuclear facilities.
In order for denuclearization to be accomplished, the starting point of the process should be a report and inspection of North Korea’s inventory of all its nuclear weapons, its production and storage sites.
But if we do as some are pushing for, and exchange the end-of-war declaration for Yongbyon and push reporting of North Korea’s nuclear inventory to after trust has been built, then we are temporarily creating the acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power.
The problem now is that despite South Korea’s demands of asking the US to push for the list of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, the US did not utter a word.
The method of North Korea’s denuclearization that we choose to pursue and the demands that are made by the United States will determine the direction that Northeast Asia’s new order is built.