The CVIG cardTwo working-level communication channels are hard at work in preparation for a June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit. Discussions are underway simultaneously on two tracks: the agenda for the meeting is being discussed at Panmunjom, while matters of protocol and security are being dealt with in Singapore. Based on the results of these conferences, Kim Yong-chol, director of North Korea’s United Front Department and the apparent architect of North Korea’s foreign policy, is set to fly to the United States to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to finalize the details of the summit. At one point, the summit appeared to be off, but it is back on track and that’s a relief.
In the middle of all this, the Trump Administration is pursuing the idea of giving the Kim Jong-un regime a “complete, verifiable and irreversible guarantee (CVIG).” That suggests some kind of sealing of the results of the summit into law. The JoongAng Ilbo has repeatedly underscored the necessity of exactly this kind of CVIG to realize a genuine denuclearization of North Korea. A negotiating card that matches complete denuclearization is required to correct North Korea’s belief that nuclear weapons are necessary for its survival. That is why a Congress-ratified CVIG appears to be a good idea.
Despite an improving atmosphere, North Korea’s statements are a threat to the ongoing rapprochement. On Tuesday, The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, called the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea “the root of evil which heightens tensions on the Korean Peninsula and provokes nuclear war,” and called for its suspension. The UFG is conducted on a yearly basis by South Korea and the United States. Kim Jong-un has already said it was alright to continue these drills. In addition, North Korea is demanding that the South send back the female workers from the Ryugyong restaurant who defected to South Korea. If Pyongyang continues to be so stubborn, we can only doubt the sincerity of its commitment to denuclearization. Recently, according to interviews of 30 experts on the Korean Peninsula done by the news agency Voice of America (VOA), not one believed that the complete denuclearization of North Korea was possible. This testifies to just how mistrusted North Korea is. Pyongyang would do well to realize its habitual stubbornness does no benefit to negotiations with the United States and, in the worst case scenario, may truly lead to the cancellation of its summit with the United States.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 30