Getting the short end of the stick

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Getting the short end of the stick

Kang Cha-ho
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“That’s the worst negotiation in 70 years of U.S. diplomacy with North Korea,” said a former high-level diplomat in Seoul. The four agreements from the Trump-Kim summit show he is not wrong. North Korea is responsible for nuclear provocations but has gotten two rewards — establishment of U.S.-North Korean relations and a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

In the agreement, denuclearization referred to the Korean Peninsula, not just North Korea. That can be used by North Korea to argue that it would denuclearize if and when U.S. Forces Korea and their nuclear umbrella withdraw.

Another bad move was the reaffirmation of the Panmunjom Declaration as it could allow for the interpretation that the United States indirectly supports the declaration of the end of the Korean War.

Naturally, criticism is spreading in Washington that the impromptu diplomacy of an amateur president who doesn’t know the basics of summits fatally hurt the security of the United States. When a CNN reporter asked what Trump gained from the summit, Joseph Yun, former U.S. State Department’s special representative on North Korea policy, said, “Nothing.”

In contrast, Kim Jong-un got so much. As his grandfather or his father could not have a meeting with incumbent U.S. presidents, Kim Jong-un’s summit with Trump itself was the biggest accomplishment in the Kim dynasty. When former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited North Korea, Kim Il Sung was very moved and welcomed him with his wife. He had Carter on his yacht and sailed the Taedong River and named a street in Pyongyang after Carter. So, having met with a current U.S. president and having made a diplomatic victory, Kim’s status must be higher than ever. It could be a green light for his plan to stay in power for 50 years.

The Korean government has made great contributions to the U.S.-North Korea summit. South Korean Democratic Party lawmaker Song Young-gil — who is close to the foreign policy and security lineup in the Blue House — mentioned CVIG, which refers to the complete, verifiable and irreversible guarantee of the North Korean regime, in a televised interview on March 12. Not long after, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began mentioning the term. The head of U.S. foreign policy advocated the slogan of the South Korean government.

Diplomatic sources say that the Korean security lineup — including the National Intelligence Service (NIS), in particular — put in a lot of effort to work with Pompeo. Crucial information related to U.S. security interests was obtained and passed onto Washington so that the Trump administration could prevent dangerous situations in advance. Pompeo greatly appreciated the support and became great friends with Suh Hoon, the chief of the NIS. Despite opposition from hawks in Washington, Pompeo accepted advice from the Korean government — including CVIG, offering consideration towards North Korea and then pursuing denuclearization — Pompeo facilitated the U.S.-North Korea summit.

The future poses more challenges. I am worried about a potential catastrophe if inter-Korean relations move too quickly to fix the negotiation. The government wants to promote a South-North-U.S. declaration for July 27, when the truce agreement was signed. If it doesn’t happen, the declaration should take place at the UN General Assembly in New York in late September.

The timing is great. If the three leaders declare to end the Korean War after nearly 70 years at the UN headquarters, it would be a major boost for the midterm elections in the United States in November and a plus for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is to be announced two months after. However, it can only happen if North Korea proves its sincerity with denuclearization measures.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 30
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