A plan emergesA blueprint for North Korea’s denuclearization is being drawn up fast. U.S. officials have started discussing how to ship nuclear weapons out of North Korea and provide economic aid in return. That’s a remarkable step. In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton mentioned elimination of the North’s ability to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium as well as transferring its scrapped nuclear weapons to the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in Tennessee.
Complete denuclearization means giving up all nuclear materials and facilities as well as missile facilities. Bolton made specific remarks on the location for storing nuclear materials and weapons for the first time. Even after making big progress in denuclearization talks in 2005 and 2007, the United States had to watch it all go down the drain due to disagreements over how to collect nuclear specimens for testing overseas.
Bolton is demanding from North Korea that it send “finished products” to the United States, not simply nuclear materials. As Washington can hardly make such a bold request to Pyongyang without deep discussions behind the scenes, Bolton’s demand is ratcheting up our expectations for the upcoming summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jumped on the bandwagon in a diplomatic way. Appearing on Fox News on Sunday, he said the U.S. government will allow private companies to invest in North Korea if it totally scraps its nuclear programs. His suggestions include building up the North’s power grid, infrastructure and agricultural sectors. On Friday, Bolton promised to North Korea that the United States will help it achieve economic prosperity like South Korea. The U.S.-set deadline for denuclearization is 2020.
The denuclearization clock is ticking fast enough to simultaneously discuss relocation of the North’s nuclear weapons and offering an aid package. The Moon Jae-in administration must closely watch the developments in U.S.-North relations to prepare for the Moon-Trump meeting next Tuesday.
The Oak Ridge nuclear facility has been storing 25 tons of Libyan nuclear equipment since 2004 after Muammar Gaddafi agreed to give up his nuclear program. Libya is a model for the “dismantlement first and compensation later” principle, which is applicable to North Korea. If Pyongyang agrees to ship its nuclear weapons to the United States, that not only marks unprecedented progress in cutting the Gordian knot, but can also confirm Kim Jong-un’s determination to denuclearize. We hope Kim makes a wise choice.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 15, Page 30