- - Thursday, March 21, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump rejected the offer of leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea to lift virtually all the international sanctions in exchange for a partial denuclearization that will leave the crown of the nuclear state on Mr. Kim’s head. Mr. Trump showed his strength by delivering his message directly to Mr. Kim that he has to give up the nuclear program in exchange for the prosperity of North Korea. Now Mr. Kim is back home empty-handed but with a mind full of next moves that he has to take. The negotiation ultimately will go on and, I am sure that Mr. Trump still has the key to North Korean denuclearization.

In a sense, the breakup of the summit was of no surprise because Mr. Kim already made it clear in his New Year’s Statement that he will not give up the nuclear program by revealing his position that he “will not build more, test, or proliferate nuclear weapons.” Further still, U.S. intelligence found that, even at the time of serious negotiations with the United States, Mr. Kim was continuing to expand his nuclear arsenal. All this indicates that North Korea has failed to earn trust from the international community. Therefore, until Mr. Kim proves he has made any significant change of positions, Mr. Trump should tighten sanctions so that Mr. Kim realizes denuclearization is the only choice. At the same time, Mr. Trump should exercise extreme caution in interpreting Mr. Kim’s revised offers that will be coming to strike a deal.

It is particularly critical to understand the danger hidden in Mr. Kim’s scheming pledge of “non proliferation.” Sure, it can be tempting in that it would be easier to deal with if we can contain his nuclear program within North Korea. However, given the fact that it is practically impossible to seal off North Korean proliferation activities with 100 percent certainty, Mr. Kim will try to use the threat of proliferation as negotiating leverage whenever he needs to in the future. We also have to be reminded that North Korea has already stockpiled enough nuclear weapons to threaten neighboring countries such as the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Japan.

The Continental United States also cannot be free from such a threat from North Korea. If, however, Mr. Trump overlooks Mr. Kim’s attempt to negotiate as a “nuclear state”and accepts a compromised “arms reduction” deal that falls short of a Final, Fully Verified Denuclearization (FFVD), it will inevitably force South Korea to develop its own nuclear program to deter for itself the North Korean nuclear threat, which is within arms reach from Seoul. There is a possibility that Japan and Taiwan will follow suit triggering a domino process of nuclearization in North East Asia and beyond, which will eventually end up destabilizing U.S. security as well.

The bottom line should be complete dismantlement of all nuclear capabilities of North Korea including not only further development and non-proliferation “in the future” but also all “existing” nuclear threats. The first steps should be to make sure that North Korea agrees to a specified and verifiable dismantlement road map with a clear timetable including the final end point.

In return, we can consider supporting North Korea to join the road to prosperity. Lifting the international sanctions on North Korea can also be considered to encourage its denuclearization. Even at this juncture, any laxity cannot be allowed because it will easily lead us to play into Kim Jong-un’s game plan to remove sanctions while hiding nuclear weapons. That is, we have to make sure to sustain enough pressure on North Korea until it comes to terms with the international community, not the other way around. Any small loopholes in U.N. sanctions on North Korea can undermine the tower of international efforts to denuclearize North Korea and allow it to “muddle through” as a nuclear power.

Mr. Kim is reportedly requesting, as part of compensation for North Korean partial denuclearization, the declaration of the end of the Korean War. In itself it can give a wrong signal that the United States is recognizing North Korea, not as a rogue regime which it actually is, but as a normal nuclear state which it actually is not. There is a further possibility that Mr. Kim will demand, as follow up to the declaration, the dissolution of the United Nations Command (UNC) and the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) which, joined by pro-North Korean socialists in South Korea, will unleash domestic instability in South Korea.

For the past year or so, Kim Jong-un has been running a disguised denuclearization show, rather than undertaking genuine denuclearization. President Donald Trump has the key to change Kim Jong-un’s decision. And he must be aware that the security of both South Korea and the United States is at stake.

• Congressman Sanghyun Yoon is chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the Korean National Assembly.

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