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The U.S.-North Korea Summit: Some Daunting Obstacles

June 11, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The on-again, off-again summit meeting between President Donald
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is on again. However,
crucial conditions must be met for the event to become anything
other than a brief photo opportunity that later descends into an
exchange of vitriol. Various experts have argued that Kim must
commit to his country’s complete de-nuclearization for the
summit to succeed. That may well be true, and it is highly
uncertain whether he is willing to take such a drastic step. Even
if he does, there also must be important changes in U.S. policy.
Two shifts are imperative.

One is that Washington must abandon its fixation on the
“Libya model” as the outcome it seeks. Vice President
Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security
Advisor John Bolton have all invoked that model in recent weeks.
Their citation of the Libya agreement has led critics to wonder
whether those outspoken hawks are trying to sabotage the
negotiations. One could scarcely come up with an argument less
likely to induce Kim to compromise than highlighting the Libya

Even if President Trump
is willing to embrace maximum diplomatic flexibility, the odds
still are against a comprehensive agreement emerging from the

An accord was reached between Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi
and the Western powers in 2003 following the U.S.-led invasion and
occupation of Iraq. The Libyan leader appeared to be trying to
avoid Saddam Hussein’s fate. Qaddafi agreed to abandon
Libya’s embryonic nuclear program and revive Tripoli’s
adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In exchange, the
Western powers agreed to lift the economic sanctions they had
imposed on Libya, normalize their relations with Tripoli, and
welcome Qaddafi’s government back into international forums
and institutions.

There are two problems with an attempt to apply the Libya model
to North Korea. First, there is a massive difference between the
Libyan and North Korean nuclear programs. Tripoli’s effort
was in its infancy, so agreeing to abandon it was not a huge
concession. Pyongyang’s program is far advanced. Indeed, most
experts believe that the country has enough nuclear material to
build more than a dozen weapons, and the regime very likely has
built and deployed nearly that number already. North Korea has
conducted several underground nuclear tests as well as multiple
tests of ballistic missile delivery systems. In other words,
Washington is asking Kim to give up an existing, albeit still
modest, nuclear arsenal. That is a much greater concession than
Qaddafi was expected to make.

But there is a second, even more important, reason why the Libya
model is sheer poison to North Korea. Kim and his colleagues
remember all-too-well what happened to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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