The meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and President Trump in Singapore in June is being presented by the U.S. Administration as something of a triumph in its effort to defuse the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsular.
But is it?
The long history of negotiations with Communist leaders is all too familiar; they consist of lengthy and laborious discussions with much delayed outcomes, if successful at all.
The fact is that North Korea’s Kim has scored heavily thus far.
By seducing Washington into direct negotiations – something the U.S. has avoided for years – Kim has lifted his role from a bankrupt Communist satellite state totally dependent on Chinese and Russian aid – and presumably policy guidance – to one of international parity with the world’s No. 1.
Only a few months ago, it was obvious North Korea faced a desperate situation.
The U.S. blockade, with some of our allies and even nominally the UN were observing, had further crippled the already fragile economy, a quarter of which is dedicated to its military of almost a million actives and 5,500,000 reserves in a population of only 26 million. [South Korea has double that population but maintains a standing army of only 600,000 with a reserve of 3,100,000. There are, of course, some 25,000 U.S. military “permanently” based in South Korea.]
Pyongyang was able to skirt the sanctions to some extent through worldwide black market operations dealing with pariahs such as Iran. But it was China, itself facing a declining growth rate with increasing economic woes, which must now face the increasing economic burden of the North Koreans.
Japanese gossip – there apparently is no confirmation in Washington or the West or American spokesmen do not want to reveal their methodology if they have acquired the same information – has it that a catastrophic accident occurred in North Korea’s nuclear/missile establishment. It not only destroyed essential parts of the weapons infrastructure but killed some of the small but essential North Korean nuclear/missiles technocrats. These speculations would, of course, ascribe this as the reason behind the recent inactivity of the North Koreans in missile testing rather than a decision to begin to meet the U.S. and its allies for a negotiated reduction of tension and, presumably, a peace treaty rather than the current 60-year-armistice that holds force.
Whether the Japanese tittle-tattle is correct, the logic of North Korea’s current negotiations with the Americans is less than clear. If the North Koreans are sincere in negotiating with the U.S. for a further cessation of their nuclear and missile aggressive programs, they would be aiming at a position of peaceful coexistence with South Korea and the U.S. They would also have almost inevitably to disassemble one of the most cruel and oppressive regimes the world has ever known.
Granted that they have had some success persuading South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other elements in South Korea – including the large population originally native to North Korea – of a change of attitudes in the North, the fact remains Pyongyang has so far made no major concession except to abandon proactive tests and missile launches over Japan.
In fact, according to a report by the UN atomic watchdog, North Korea is continuing to develop its nuclear weapons program, raising questions over the regime’s country’s commitment to denuclearization. It is the destruction of the North’s current nuclear warfare capabilities which is the aim of American policymakers.
But in one of the most specific reports on Pyongyang’s recent nuclear activities, the International Atomic Energy Agency the enrichment of uranium and construction at the country’s main nuclear site.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” the report said.