Andrew Kim, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea Mission Center, said North Korea had asked to withdraw strategic assets such as U.S. strategic bombers from South Korea, Guam and Hawaii during the negotiation with the U.S. This confirms that the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” that Pyongyang has talked about was to eliminate the nuclear umbrella of the U.S. while North Korea refused to define denuclearization.
North Korea’s exorbitant request renders the possibility of cutting a deal with the U.S. remote. Guam and Hawaii are core bases of U.S. Forces in the Asia Pacific region and withdrawing strategic assets from the two regions means giving up the entire East Asia strategies. This reflects the strategic interest of China that tries to hold hegemony in East Asia by backing up North Korea. Pyongyang would even ask to withdraw U.S. troops in Korea and Japan if it has a chance.
The Hanoi summit broke down because North Korea was unreasonable in its demands while refusing to discuss nuclear decommissioning, which is an international obligation. The North has demanded for the withdrawal of strategic assets since the first summit with the U.S. in Singapore last year, but neither the U.S. nor South Korea responded to it. The two countries would have expected the North to realize the demand was nonsensical. There would be no progress in negotiations for denuclearization if North Korea insists on the demand and refuses to scrap its nuclear programs. International cooperation should continue until the North raises a white flag and decides to denuclearize after facing the harsh reality of isolation and poverty.