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Nuclear North Korea Wants Less Talk, More Action

June 20, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — The great metropolis of Seoul sits
barely thirty miles from the Demilitarized Zone. The city is the
canary in the mine for the state of inter-Korean relations. All
seemed well in late May as residents were frenetically active,
paying little attention to events across the border in North Korea.
However, those in government and the broader policy community were
less certain.

South Koreans should be confident about the future. Their nation
is two years removed from a catastrophic political meltdown by the
ruling conservatives. Transitions between the ruling and opposition
parties have become routine. Although slowing, the economy remains
one of the dozen largest on earth. South Korea has become a
cultural as well as commercial powerhouse.

Nevertheless, the country’s international situation remains
unsettled. Relations with Japan are awful; those with China are a
bit better but still embittered after Beijing sanctioned the
Republic of Korea over its installation of America’s THAAD missile
defense system. Although the Moon government officially praises
relations with Washington, private assessments of President Donald
Trump’s commitment to the alliance are far more negative.

Then there is North Korea. One aide to President Moon Jae-in,
who asked not to be identified, complained that the last two years
were “like a roller coaster ride.” Expectations were
high for the February Kim-Trump summit. Virtually everyone
predicted that President Trump and North Korea’s Supreme
Leader Kim Jong-un would broaden ties and begin denuclearization
and sanctions relief, which in turn would speed inter-Korean
cooperation. The meeting’s collapse left South Koreans in
shock. Presidential Special Adviser Moon Chung-in called the
situation “pretty bad, with North Korea not responding to us,
and not responding to the U.S.”

Skeptics of the opening to the Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea, which they view as more of the same—with
the likely outcome more DPRK promises unfulfilled—were
happier. A breakdown would make further allied concessions
unlikely. However, the pessimists were outnumbered by those like
the Blue House official who allowed: “I worry that we have a
unique opportunity that could be lost.”

If there is any chance of
achieving Washington’s objective of comprehensive verifiable
irreversible denuclearization, then it requires addressing
conditions set by Pyongyang.

If the current “stalemate,” as today’s
situation was commonly termed, is not broken, then Kim could shift
course, as he threatened to do in his New Year’s address. The
best-case scenario would be a return to a low-key cold war, with
reinvigorated arms development. The worst-case scenario would be
resumption of nuclear and missile testing next year as the U.S.
presidential race heats up. Facing public humiliation in an
election year, President Trump would be tempted to return to a
policy of “fire …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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