Sounding naiveIn a recent interview with the Washington Post, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the United States should hold off its demand for an inventory of nuclear weapons and facilities from North Korea. She may have feared the possibility of denuclearization talks falling apart due to a call for such an inventory, as was the case in the Sept. 19 agreement in the 2008 inter-Korean summit. Simply put, she wants the United States to first agree to a declaration ending the Korean War in return for North Korea dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear facility before forcing Pyongyang to submit a list of its nuclear stockpiles. We are concerned at her remarks.
North Korea’s declaration of its nuclear facilities is the first step toward denuclearization. Pyongyang’s sincerity hinges on that action. Only then can a timetable for denuclearization be set. That’s why we criticized the Pyongyang Declaration between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un for lack of a roadmap to denuclearization.
Moon raised our expectations by mentioning the possibility of Kim taking extra denuclearization steps in his latest summit with Trump. But the situation seems to be going backward. If Washington deals with the reporting and verification issue after Pyongyang has gained stronger diplomatic and economic leverage thanks to an easing of sanctions, it will only embolden North Korea.
Let’s go back to before the June 12 U.S.-North summit in Singapore. Our government officials underscored Kim’s determination to give up nuclear weapons. They even hinted at the possibility of Kim taking the so-called “front-loading” action of shipping some of his ICBMs and nuclear warheads overseas.
But our foreign minister has come forward to urge Washington to take corresponding measures to help Pyongyang denuclearize and also put off the inventory declaration. In their declaration in Pyongyang, Moon and Kim vowed to closely cooperate in the process of denuclearization. Is Seoul siding with Pyongyang on such a critical issue?
Ahead of his fourth visit to Pyongyang on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that completion of denuclearization by 2021 was an agreement between Moon and Kim, not between Washington and Pyongyang. Could his remarks mean Washington’s priority is in resolving an immediate threat to its security — such as ICBMs — over complete denuclearization? Kang said the Moon administration is not naïve. If she really wants to prove it, she must first demand Pyongyang offer some front-loading actions.