Get the facts straightBehind-the-scenes stories of the U.S.-North Korea summit for denuclearization, which have been revealed by former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, have stirred up controversy. In his upcoming “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton described the “Yongbyon deal at Hanoi” as a “schizophrenic idea of President Moon Jae-in.” In the second U.S-North summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in February 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proposed Washington lift sanctions in return for dismantling nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, which was rejected by U.S. President Donald Trump, who demanded North Korea take more actions. The denuclearization talks collapsed.
Nevertheless, shortly after the Hanoi summit, Blue House National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong told Bolton over the phone that if North Korea scraps nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, it means “entering the phase of irreversible denuclearization,” Bolton recalled. If Bolton’s memories are correct, that means Chung ignored a big difference between North Korea and the United States over what denuclearization meant.
In the memoir, Bolton also writes that Chung delivered “Kim Jong-un’s agreement to complete denuclearization” and “President Moon Jae-in’s ability to persuade Kim” to him when Chung visited the White House in May 2018 to explain the results of the Panmunjom Declaration between Moon and Kim. Bolton went on to say that Chung told him that Moon strongly pushed Kim to agree to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) in Panmunjom. Encouraged by Chung’s reassurance, the United States decided to have the first U.S.-North summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018, Bolton wrote.
However, North Korea has never agreed to denuclearization based on the CVID formula. Therefore, if what Bolton said is correct, Chung cheated the United States. Up until now, North Korea insisted on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not of North Korea, which includes the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Korea and removal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
Another controversy involves a declaration to end the Korean War. Bolton said that Moon, not Kim, wanted the declaration. In the beginning, he thought it was the idea of North Korea, but began to suspect that it was part of Moon’s “unification agenda.” Bolton’s disclosure of the process of the talks is not appropriate. But if his claims are true, they suggest the Moon administration attempted to reap the fruits of denuclearization — peace on the Korean Peninsula — even before they were anywhere near ripe.
As a result of the rush, North Korea not only refuses to denuclearize but is scrapping the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. And yet, Chung merely accuses Bolton of “distorting the facts” in his memoir. Chung and the Blue House must get their own facts straight. Only then can there be any realistic hope for peace.