How to turn away from an allyIn a recent interview with the Washington Post, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong stressed the need for the United States to present detailed incentives to North Korea to bring the recalcitrant state to the negotiating table. The incentives Chung mentioned certainly refers to an easing of sanctions. In response, the U.S. State Department immediately underscored the need for the international community to send a strong and unified message to the North.
During a visit to Washington last month, Chung highlighted the need for the United States to compensate for the North’s suspension of nuclear tests and long-range missile launches. He suggested that the time has come for Washington to do its part, starting with easing sanctions, as North Korea has abided by the suspension of nuke tests and missile launches since the 2018 U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore.
Chung seems to believe that the U.S. must make concessions to Pyongyang and accept its demands if Washington really wants talks to resume. How can our foreign minister represent North Korea in his trip to the U.S.? Even if dialogue resumes this way, it can hardly ensure denuclearization. North Korea has been beefing up efforts to develop new tactical nuclear weapons, as clearly seen in its recent test of a cruise missile. If North Korea can continue to develop its nuclear weapons, even under international sanctions, what will happen if they are lifted?
The incentives Chung mentioned most likely include what President Moon Jae-in said earlier — a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War. Chung said the Biden administration must clarify its conditions for talks, including an end-of-war declaration. Chung and Moon believe the declaration will open the door to denuclearization, but reality points in the opposite direction.
North Korea is more interested in forcing the U.S. to withdraw its hostile policy toward the North than in making an end-of-war declaration, as clearly revealed by the demand by the North Korean ambassador to the UN that America permanently stop its joint military drills with South Korea and the deployment of U.S. strategic assets to its ally as a precondition for dialogue for denuclearization.
North Korea increasingly makes clear its strategic goal of being recognized as a nuclear power. To cope with such an exsistential threat, the world must unite and pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The international community needs to provide compensation for North Korea at some point. But if South Korea continues to widen the schisms in the alliance, denuclearization is impossible. Only North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would be happy to see the strange developments in the South.