Following his latest summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has agreed to take concrete, verifiable steps toward eventual denuclearization.
These measures would include dismantling key missile engine and launch facilities, as well as a commitment to denuclearize the peninsula, as long as the United States takes measures as well.
The Associated Press reported:
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced a sweeping set of agreements after their second day of talks in Pyongyang on Wednesday that included a promise by Kim to permanently dismantle the North’s main nuclear complex if the United States takes corresponding measures, the acceptance of international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and a vow to work together to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.
Declaring they had made a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, the two leaders were side by side as they announced the joint statement to a group of North and South Korean reporters after a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning.
“We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat,” Kim said at Moon’s side at the guesthouse where Moon is staying.
“The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can’t anticipate. But we aren’t afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation.”
Also included in the agreements:
According a joint statement signed by the countries’ defense chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes. They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones.
The announcements generated a positive response from President Trump, who tweeted shortly after midnight:
“Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing. Hero remains to continue being returned home to the United States. Also, North and South Korea will file a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics. Very exciting!”
Analysis: Not everyone is as pleased with the announcements as the president appears to be. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said the visit could possibly undermine efforts by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to impose “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang.
“While North Korea has stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearization,” he tweeted.
Other analysts have noted that the North has yet to reveal where all of its nuclear facilities are located, a move they say is necessary to ensure compliance with eventual denuclearization pledges.
But it’s not realistic at this point to expect Kim to do that. We’re still very early in this process, and while progress appears to have been made after this third summit between the two Korean leaders, it’s just not practical to expect Kim to simply agree to full disclosure and nuclear disarmament short of receiving assurances from the U.S. that Washington is playing straight.
That means that the Trump administration is going to have to take some concrete steps as well in order to earn Kim’s trust. And even then, it’s foolhardy to believe that things could progress much more quickly than they are at present.
Any concessions by the North that have anything at all to do with its nuclear program, such as the offer to dismantle missile testing facilities under the watchful eye of international inspectors, are significant in and of themselves. But to expect Kim to unilaterally make concessions is not reasonable.
Plus, there is the fact that a bevy of sanctions are still being imposed on North Korea by the U.S. and the UN. Granted, Kim has found ways to circumvent those sanctions, but as we’ve stated before he’s got a country to run and people to take care of so that kind of behavior is to be expected.
One analyst even said the fact that Moon and Kim are even talking is good news.
“The best result that can come from this summit isn’t who gave what concession but that talks such as these become the new normal — something that was hinted at during President Moon and Chairman Kim’s comments,” Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, in an email to Washington Examiner defense reporter Jamie McIntyre, from Seoul.
“Frequent communication is the only path to ensure that when Washington or Seoul has differences of opinion with Pyongyang we never go back to the days of ‘fire and fury.’ History would not be kind in its judgment if we made such a tragic mistake.”
Others noted that even if the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon is “frozen,” that won’t spell the end of the North’s nuclear program or its ability to produce nuclear weapons. But it’d be a great start.