North Korea’s choiceIn a visit to Vietnam on Monday following his third trip to North Korea, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that denuclearization will surely lead to peace and prosperity for the recalcitrant state. In a dinner with Vietnamese businessmen, he urged North Korea to seize the opportunity for prosperity like that seen in Vietnam. He added that if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un takes that path, he will be remembered as a hero of the Korean people.
In an earlier press conference in Tokyo with the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan, Pompeo said he will simultaneously pursue regime security and improved relations with North Korea while the denuclearization process is underway. His remarks could be seen as an acceptance of Pyongyang’s persistent demand for an action-to-action approach on denuclearization. Pompeo also reaffirmed the U.S. government’s determination to not ease up on sanctions until denuclearization is complete.
In a statement from the foreign ministry, North Korea criticized the United States for repeating its “gangster-like demands” for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID). Without expressing its position on nuclear dismantlement, the North desired a declaration to end the war. Despite North Korea’s tough rhetoric, Pompeo made it clear that he is willing to build momentum for dialogue, which can translate into a step back from President Donald Trump’s original principle based on a “single stroke” and “top-down” solution.
In the U.S. Congress, suspicions over Kim dragging his feet on denuclearization and criticism of the Trump administration’s North Korea policy are deepening. Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she will immediately discuss the resumption of the suspended joint drills if the negotiations fail. Rep. Ted Lieu of the House Foreign Affairs Committee called for a Congressional hearing after expressing concerns about the North’s turnaround, saying a fundamental difference between Washington and Pyongyang was exposed over the agreement in Singapore. The U.S. Congress is suspicious that the North is aiming for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea and a rift in the alliance.
Nevertheless, the Blue House played down such worries. It said the game has just begun between the two, saying, “This is the first time for the two countries to exchange their views on denuclearization and all issues are on the table.”
The Singapore summit was a historic moment as it offered a chance for the leader of a reclusive state to debut on the international stage. The meeting offered hope that Pyongyang could take a path toward denuclearization. But optimism is giving way to pessimism. We hope North Korea makes a wise choice for a better future.