The path to self-destructionPyongyang is weighing whether to suspend further denuclearization talks with Washington as it has “no intention to yield to the U.S. demands in any form,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said in a press conference in Pyongyang. It was Pyongyang’s first formal response after the U.S.-North summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, fell apart in late February. Choe’s comments show the North Korean leadership’s refusal of Washington’s big deal proposal in Hanoi and are a threat to throw away the momentum behind the year-long dialogue. Choe said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would be making a formal statement on future actions. Her comment suggests Pyongyang is watching Washington’s response to its latest offensive.
It is unlikely that the United States will concede in its demand for complete denuclearization in exchange for easing sanctions. Even the U.S. Democratic Party has approved of the way President Donald Trump called off the deal when Kim refused to comply with the U.S. terms. Even Trump’s envoy to North Korea, Special Representative Stephen Biegun, reaffirmed that Washington remained steadfastly behind the full implementation of sanctions and backed a “total solution.” The international consensus is the same. A United Nations report showed North Korea continues to develop nuclear and missile programs after evading sanctions through elaborate methods to import oil, export coal, and hack into foreign banks.
Kim would be making a worst-possible mistake if he announces suspension of dialogue with the United States and resumes weapons testing. He would lose favor with Trump and invite even tougher sanctions and human rights challenges from the United States and the rest of the world. Even with the help of Beijing and Moscow, the North Korean economy that has been halved by trade sanctions would be wrecked beyond repair, putting the regime in danger.
Kim must have realized the big difference between his and U.S. concepts of denuclearization. Since Washington has no intention of conceding, Kim must stop missile and nuclear development activities and present a concrete roadmap to complete denuclearization.
The Moon Jae-in administration must not side with Pyongyang in any way. It has talked of restarting the Kaesong Industrial Park and tours to Mount Kumgang even after Pyongyang continued nuclear development while promising denuclearization. A scholar who steadfastly opposed sanctions has been nominated to head the unification ministry. Moon Chung-in, the special adviser to President Moon Jae-in on unification, security and foreign affairs, even said the president wished to pursue his path on North Korea regardless of U.S. policy. Seoul’s defiance of the international trend will send the wrong message to Pyongyang and undermine its alliance with Washington. If President Moon really wants to play a mediating role, he must stand by international sanctions and demand complete denuclearization.
JoongAng Sunday, March 16-17, Page 30