“We are making progresses in talks to reduce threats against American citizens. Our final goal is safety of our citizens,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday regarding the denuclearization talks with North Korea. “We need to reach complete and final denuclearization while reducing threats from North Korea.”
His remarks are interpreted as that the priority of the U.S-North Korea negotiations is moving from complete denuclearization to disposing intercontinental missiles (ICBM), which is a threat to the U.S. Washington could agree upon ICBM disposal first, putting the nuclear list declaration on the back burner. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said at his New Year’s press conference Thursday that ICBM or IRBM(intermediate range ballistic missile) could be disposed” before nuclear declaration.
Prioritizing safety of American citizens does not necessarily mean that the U.S. is giving up the final goal of denuclearization. But there is a possibility of the U.S. opting out of negotiations or making no more efforts after eliminating long distance missile threats as the journey towards denuclearization is long and thorny.
The South Korean government is making a lot of effort to bring North Korea to the negotiation table. “We need to find a way to resolve the Kaesong Industrial Complex issue without cash inflow,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Friday. It is to receive an exemption from sanctions by finding a way to pay in kind such as rice to circumvent the UN’s prohibition on bulk cash flow into the North.
A second U.S-North Korea summit is just around the corner. “We are not excluding the possibility of surprise announcements,” said Kang. We should welcome the resumption of the U.S.-North Korea talks. But the focus should be on denuclearization. If South Korea and the U.S. talk about rewards or a change of priorities, it would only send out a wrong message to the North, which has not mentioned anything about denuclearization. We should not repeat the mistake that was made in Singapore.