North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency commented Tuesday that a war-ending declaration is not a gift from one to the other, emphasizing that it is not to be exchanged with denuclearization. It added that if Washington is not ready and not willing to make a war-ending declaration, the North would not take any further step, either. The North Korean media criticized the U.S. government’s argument for denuclearization as a precondition. “There are nonsensical and absurd talks of submission of a nuclear report, verification and decommissioning of nuclear and missile facilities including the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, in exchange for war-ending declaration,” it said.
Such audacious threats by the North are often intended to get something way more than it verbally wants. It may be confident that a war-ending declaration is only a few steps away, which makes it go further to call on a lessening of North Korea sanctions. The North defined a war-ending declaration as the most fundamental and preceding step to be taken while reproaching the United States for playing a ridiculous farce where it demands returns on what it should have done 60 years ago. It is no news that the North intends to receive more concessions after making a war-ending declaration a fait accompli.
The North’s audacity behind the ever-heightening voice is based on its calculations that the inter-Korean summit has led Washington to take a conciliatory stance while enabling the stalled U.S.-North Korea dialogue to pick up steam. Added to this, as China, Russia and even South Korea seem to be on its side, the North mistakenly believes that it has the upper hand. South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha addressed Monday at the National Assembly that the U.S. government has to take corresponding measures before the North’s nuclear report is submitted, which only makes the North triumphant.
There has been little progress in the U.S.-North Korea dialogue, except a rare meeting in New York between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho. The same goes with a U.S.-offered working-level meeting in Vienna, Austria. Explicitly, North Korea intends to take a top-down approach, by which Mr. Pompeo visits Pyongyang and Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have a second summit. However, Washington is cautious about the risks involved with senior-level talks without sufficient working-level meetings. Under these circumstances, the South Korean government should realize that there is no benefit to siding with one of the two under the pretext that it helps proceed next talks. As the dialogue channel has just opened, it is better to wait and see what plays out.