‘Gangsterism’ or ‘Progress’? Examining North Korea’s Latest Statement on Denuclearization | Mel Gurtov

Most U.S. news reports are suggesting that the North Koreans may be backtracking on their commitment to denuclearization, calling the U.S. position “gangster-like” following the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang.

What the North Korean foreign ministry actually said in its statement of July 7 is far more nuanced, and speaks directly to the longstanding differences between Pyongyang and Washington.

I urge readers to judge for themselves whether or not it is a rational, reasoned statement — and then consider Pompeo’s assessment of progress in the talks with the North Koreans.

Here are my brief assessments:

• The North Koreans believe Trump promised “a new way” to deal with U.S.-DPRK relations and denuclearization, namely, step by step. Their view is clear: denuclearization comes last, not first — a longstanding position. Instead, Pompeo brought only renewed U.S. insistence on the old U.S. position: CVID (comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization).

• In the North Koreans’ mind, the joint U.S.-DPRK statement out of Singapore laid out three priorities (and in this order): creating a “peace regime” on the Korean peninsula, improving relations, and denuclearization. But the U.S. is riveted on the last, they say, and has offered nothing on the other two.

• What does a “peace regime” mean? Some observers think it means terminating the U.S. military presence in and defense obligation to South Korea. But the North Korean statement says otherwise. “Peace regime” means a “declaration of the end of [the Korean] war at an early date” — replacing the armistice with a peace treaty, which “is the first process of reducing tension…” The statement makes no demands about the U.S.-South Korea relationship other than to dismiss as inconsequential Trump’s decision to suspend (not end) the joint exercises that had been scheduled for August.

• The statement emphasizes trust building. That’s the key argument for a phased approach to denuclearization: establish a peace regime to defuse tension and build trust. Only then will the North Koreans feel secure enough to take action — exactly what kind, we still don’t know — on denuclearizing.

And the North Koreans maintain that they have taken a few trust-building actions, listing dismantlement of a test area for a new ICBM engine and discussion of returning the remains of U.S. POWs and MIAs.

To those of us who watch North Korea closely, this picture is not in the least surprising. Kim Jong-un had staked out his notion of the proper timeline for denuclearization months ago, and the North Korean quest for security via normal relations with the U.S. and a peace treaty to end the Korean War is well known.

The Trump-Kim summit was a breakthrough in terms of direct dialogue, but unless the U.S. gets beyond “CVID,” the North Koreans will continue work on nuclear weapons and missiles and the dialogue with Washington will revert to an ugly form.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

More in Opinion

The Mighty Pen Strikes Out | Peter Funt

His portfolio of editorial cartoons in hand, Burris Jenkins Jr. arrived for… Continue reading

Republicans are Complicit in Trump’s Racism | John L. Micek

The next time a Republican tries to tell you that he or… Continue reading

‘Full Faith’ For Now | The Petri Dish

The men and women responsible for running elections in Washington’s 39 counties… Continue reading

Apollo 11 Golden Anniversary: Something for Everyone? | Tyrades!

I feared that the upcoming 50th anniversary of the first manned moon… Continue reading

Today’s cartoon for Saturday, July 20

Today’s cartoon is by Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle.… Continue reading

Shameless | Tom H. Hastings

Trump rally participants chanted about Ilhan Omar: “Send her back! Send her… Continue reading

Trump’s Racist Tweets: A Foretaste of Toxic 2020 | Dick Polman

White racism was at the root of Donald Trump’s 2016 candidacy, and… Continue reading

Today’s cartoon for Friday, July 19

Today’s cartoon is by RJ Matson, CQ Roll Call.… Continue reading

Greenwashing the White House | Raging Moderate

In a recent speech by the president, the former golf resort magnate… Continue reading

Most Read