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Pyongyang proposed all-in deal in Stockholm

Nov 07,2019
North Korea proposed an all-in deal around the time of the working-level negotiations in Stockholm last month, in which it takes major steps toward denuclearization while simultaneously receiving concessions from the United States, according to multiple diplomatic sources on Tuesday.

Pyongyang’s nuclear envoys, led by Kim Myong-gil, asked that U.S. President Donald Trump make a decision to hold a third U.S.-North Korea summit in parallel to ongoing working level talks. According to one source who requested anonymity, the North’s stance departed from its past preference for a gradual process - in which the two sides would take concurrent measures before moving onto bigger steps - to one in which all actions are implemented at once.

“To my knowledge the offer was relayed sometime between State Affairs Commission Chairman Kim Jong-un’s dispatch of a personal letter to U.S. President Donald Trump last August and last month’s working-level contact in Stockholm, Sweden,” the source said.

Another source said the shift in the North’s negotiation strategy came directly out of the failure of the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last February. North Korea at the time reportedly asked for relief from several U.S.-led economic sanctions in exchange for the dismantling of its nuclear complex at Yongbyon, but the offer was declined by the United States. Such earlier negotiation tactics from the North were seen by many observers and analysts as an attempt to drag out the talks and receive piecemeal concessions without fully enforcing denuclearization - a strategy often dubbed “salami tactics.”

The comprehensive plan Pyongyang presented instead appears closer to Trump’s call for a “big deal.” Yet given the talks in Stockholm failed to move forward and resulted in a continued stalemate, it remains unclear as to whether the North is truly committed to such an objective or may just be angling to obtain better concessions from Washington.

With the clock ticking down to the end-of-year deadline for negotiations threatened by the regime, the all-in proposal may be a way to raise the stakes of the dialogue, which, if fails, may result in Pyongyang returning to testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The various public remarks and statements from its officials - including former United Front Department Director Kim Yong-chol and the regime’s No. 2 Choe Ryong-hae, its continued weapons tests and Kim Jong-un’s recent order to remove all South Korean facilities at the Mount Kumgang tourist area may all be aimed at adding pressure towards the United States as negotiations dither.

“After the all-in offer was presented to the United States, both sides have only been in contact through their liaison channel in New York,” said one source familiar with the situation. This dearth of contact puts into question whether the two countries may be able to resume working-level dialogue by early December, which appears to be the objective for both sides.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]


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