A strange turnWith only four days left before the historic summit between the United States and North Korea, a strange development has arisen. U.S. President Donald Trump may propose a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida following the first one in Singapore. Trump pledged to cut the Gordian knot in a single stroke.
In an interview with a U.S. media outlet, Kellyanne Conway, the U.S. president’s counselor, said on Wednesday that Trump can have more than one summit for negotiations to resolve nuclear problems. Some security analysts regarded that as a highly-calculated strategy to induce North Korea to take a step towards complete denuclearization. But others are expressing concerns about Washington being dragged into Pyongyang’s signature strategy of procrastination.
The news media also reported that North Korea started to dismantle a launch pad aimed at testing its advanced long-distance ballistic missiles. If that’s true, it’s good news following the demolition of a major nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong. To build trust with the United States, North Korea could be taking one step after another as proof of its sincerity about denuclearization.
Trump was also briefed about the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program in which the United States bore the cost of dismantling nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union after its collapse in the early 1990s. At the time, the U.S. government even funded the relocation of former Soviet nuclear scientists into the civilian sector. If Washington applies such a program to North Korea, it could help discourage it from developing nuclear weapons again.
But if the United States is considering the idea, South Korea will most likely end up bearing the cost. Nevertheless, the Moon Jae-in administration is not even aware of that possibility. Instead, it is bent on achieving a declaration to end the Korean War, which may lead to a reduction of U.S. Forces in South Korea. Even when Washington now wants to reach a basic agreement on denuclearization in Singapore, Seoul has been rushing toward a tripartite declaration to end the war. Such a move only deepens public concerns.
We urge the Moon administration to check if there is any hindrance in the path toward denuclearization. Our top priority is removing the nuclear threat from North Korea. Establishing a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula comes next. Coincidently, the House of Representatives in the United States has proposed a bipartisan bill for the Trump administration to regularly submit a report on the progress of denuclearization. It is time for the Moon administration to act wisely.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 8, Page 30