If one were to make a list of “what Kim really wants” in his discussions with the U.S., such would be quite straightforward, however — at least so far — they have not been expressed as such.
The most important thing for us to understand is that we can prevent Kim Jong-un from getting most of what he wants. And this translates into perhaps our best longer-term leverages for the upcoming high-level discussions — and any subsequent negotiations with the DPRK.
1) To transform the DPRK from an essentially slave labor camp to a capitalistic-like economy, using China as a model but with much more centralized control for the Kim family dynasty. This will not be possible, but Kim Jong-un probably does not yet understand it. Why? Even the PRC political and commercial model, while perhaps Communist-inspired, is not consistent with the absolute money control the Kim family has had for 70-plus years.
2) An even more optimistic goal would be to accrete some of the more lucrative parts of the robust ROK commercial market economy into the North. However, this would likewise be difficult because of Mr. Kim’s totally corrupt political system, which would insist on “managing” the money.
3) To secure some large-scale investments (public or private) in the North. However, the hardest part of this goal — especially as viewed from capitalistic markets — would be the fundamental and inbred corruption of the Kim regime.
4) To “open” the ROK — and the world — to much more of the DPRK’s political and social information operations so as to increase the North’s credibility and political influence. Much of this has already happened, and for “free” — and Mr. Kim wants to continue this without any kind of “cost” or reciprocity for access. He knows that It should be “costing” him now and wants to avoid discussions on this subject.
5) To secure the departure of U.S. military forces from the ROK. He may still see this as a possibility largely because of President George H.W. Bush’s unilateral removal of U.S. nuclear weapons in the early ‘90s. This, together with the very sad record of our diplomatic negotiations with the DPRK — all of which enabled them to continue their covert nuclear weapons program — must continue to encourage Mr. Kim.
In short, he will promise most anything with absolutely no intention of access or compliance — he will, as the Russians say, “leave the water totally dry.”
6) To break the U.N. connection with the military presence in the ROK. This is a Korean War holdover issue, caused when Russia boycotted the U.N. Security Council discussion of the North Korean invasion and when China was represented by Taiwan on the Security Council. We should never forget about the meaning and value of this leverage, albeit a relic of a bygone political era.
7) To “unify” Korea, under whatever false pretenses are necessary and whatever assurances are required, including an “official end” to the Korean War. Implicit in this status change would be more strategic access to the South and ability to influence the government and politics there. Their model? Russian absorption of Crimea and the fomenting of internal dissent in the Ukraine have not gone unnoticed by the Kim regime.
8) To maintain the DPRK nuclear weapon program and capability — no matter what subterfuge or complicity is required. However, the idea that they would/will somehow give up their nuclear capability will remain a pure fantasy for arms controllers East and West.
9) To never abandon the structure and basic concept of the Kim dynasty in the North, which assures centralized and perpetual control of all aspects of power. In our dealings with Mr. Kim, our model should be the hypothetical of dealing with Lenin — because that’s his political model as well.
In sum, dealing with the Kim regime will not, under any set of conditions or assumptions, be a “diplomatic” discussion. Essential to our “going in” negotiating strategy should be a focus on their behaviors.
As I wrote in an earlier column for this newspaper, while there are a number of scenarios that should be addressed, there are a few that deserve special attention. In this category should be a pre-planned nuclear response option for each North Korean action:
• Preparations for a massive artillery attack on Seoul.
• Massing troops at the border.
• Interception of ocean or coastal traffic.
• Interception of aviation.
• Launch of any ballistic missile with an aggressive trajectory.
Longer-term strategies: These should be developed with urgency, but on a different track from the shorter-term ones. In this category should be:
• Discussions with the Japanese for a cooperative nuclear relationship.
• Re-positioning nuclear assets — and nuclear-capable assets — to and around the Korean peninsula.”
This critical step is required to “get their attention” — this before there is any discussion of the items and issues that may be on Mr. Kim’s “wish list.” Meantime, we must never lose sight of Mr. Kim’s basic longer-term strategy, which is to control all of Korea.
• Daniel Gallington served through 11 rounds of bilateral negotiations in Geneva as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Nuclear and Space Talks with the former Soviet Union.